ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has been in the crosshairs of fans for two seasons. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has seen his play-calling critiqued by a bevy of Internet pundits. Even head coach Mark Richt has earned the scorn of fans unhappy with the team’s 4-4 start to the season and its 10-7 record during the past 17 games.
But the most recent coach to come under the microscope at Georgia is strength and conditioning coordinator Dave Van Halanger, a longtime assistant for numerous successful programs. With Georgia’s struggles on the offensive and defensive lines and problems running the football or bringing down opposing rushers, some critics have wondered whether Georgia is strong enough this season. Richt thinks that’s just par for the course.
“Everybody wants us to win; everybody wants to find some kind of angle to see where they think we’ve got issues,” Richt said. “So if everybody’s going to start chiming in on what we need to do, then it’s obvious that every part of our program is going to be looked at and questioned.”
Richt said his staff works to keep up with advances in college football, whether it be strength and conditioning, play-calling or coaching methodology.
“Coaches go to conventions, strength coaches go to conventions — everybody goes to the seminars trying to stay on top of the cutting edge,” Richt said. Rambo impresses
For the past month, Georgia’s coaches have given redshirt freshman safety Baccari Rambo increased playing time and have been pleased with the results. But despite the struggles of starters Reshad Jones and Bryan Evans in coverage against Florida and Tennessee, Richt said it’s unlikely Rambo will move past either veteran.
“I don’t know if he’ll move into the starting lineup, but he’s earned playing time, and he’s playing well,” Richt said. “He’s continued to practice well, and that’s good, good for us.
Richt said this week he planned to continue playing veterans that give the Bulldogs their best chance to win their remaining four games, despite many of the team’s preseason goals now being defunct.
Rambo offers the option for Georgia to help keep a quality product on the field this season, Richt said, while also giving playing time to a younger player projected to see a bigger role next year. But Richt doesn’t think Rambo needs to be in the starting lineup to be prepared for next season.
“I don’t think he would have to start to say that would make him more ready a year from now,” Richt said. “He’s playing plenty to help us be ready for next year.”
Wooten to start for Green
While sophomore receiver A.J. Green is out this week with a bruised lung, freshman Rantavious Wooten is slated to make his first start against Tennessee Tech, but the fast rise up the depth chart isn’t a surprise to Wooten’s teammates.
Richt said that veterans raved about Wooten’s performance during the summer, giving Richt an early indication that the true freshman would be in position to help out immediately.
“They loved Wooten from the get-go — his quickness, ability to change direction and just how quickly he was picking up the route running,” Richt said.
Wooten has just four catches in minimal duty backing up Green, but that will change this week, and Richt said he expects Wooten to make the most of his chance.
“He’s going to get a really outstanding opportunity this weekend,” Richt said. “Wooten playing a position behind A.J., certainly hasn’t given him a ton of opportunities. This will be the biggest opportunity to this point for him, and I think he’s excited; he’s up for it.”