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Further Proof That Terrance Moore Knows Less About Football Than You (And That Mark Richt Knows More)

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Since it's Friday, and it's just over a week until kickoff, and the University of Georgia held a "practice game" type scrimmage yesterday, I'm sure you've all already clicked or thumbed through this morning's Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports section. If you haven't, and you're not in the emergency room or a foxhole, please go to your nearest sports bar or bait and tackle shop and turn in your Bulldog card now.

One of the requisite hazards of reading the AJC is being exposed to what Terrance Moore thinks he knows about football. This morning, for example, we were treated to ole' Less is Moore's thoughts on the possibility of Knowshon Moreno returning punts, at least on a partime basis, this season. No, I'm not going to link to it because I only do that to informative newspaper commentary (like that provided by David Hale of the Ledger-Enquirer, for example).

The whole piece can be summed up in one sentence: "If Knowshon returns punts he might get hurt." Of course since it's Terrance Moore and there's an editor involved (again, another unavoidable hazard of newspaperdom) the whole thing goes on a lot longer and includes the obligatory mention of Florida (several, in fact).

Now, I could go blow by blow and explain why Moore is not only wrong, but as we say in south Georgia, "flat ass wrong". But that would be petty and unproductive and would call attention to him (which is just what he wants to begin with) . . .

Oh heck, let's just do it anyway for funzies.

  • Moore argues that punt coverage teams will "run faster and hit harder", especially "the evil Gators". Huh? So you mean when Mikey Henderson and Thomas Flowers were back there nobody on the other team was really trying? This argument is so stupid it doesn't even really deserve a reply. But I learned in debate to always address your opponent's weakest argument first to create the impression right off the bat that the other guy is a buffoon (so, show of hands, did it work?) What Moore doesn't raise and what is far more of a concern is a Keenan Jones on Mikey Henderson type of situation, in which a gunner comes in and shows that he's not just a two-bit criminal off the field, but on it as well, thereby taking out our star tailback. But the same thing could happen with a late hit out of bounds on any given rushing play, or blocking downfield on a pass. This is football. People get lit up, and they work through it. That's why football is the most popular sport in America and soccer is the pastime of communists and effete nancyboys (except Kanu, he's totally the exception to that stereotype. But only because he's a fan of both pigskin and Chick-Fil-A). And I think that 207 pound Knowshon is perfectly capable of defending himself, thank you very much.
  • Ad hominems aside, let's get to the crux of Two Bit Terrance's latest waste of column space (OK, maybe we'll keep the ad homs a little longer . . . ), i.e., "Waaahhhhh!!! He might get an ouchey!!!!!". This argument (using the term charitably) is wrong for a variety of reasons. First, the average punt returner only gets to really return 2-4 punts a game, max. The rest are touchbacks, fair catches, and directional punts where he fields it, gets the 5 yards that he can, and heads out of bounds. So the exposure is minimal, far less than he would get returning kickoffs. Second, as Coach Richt pointed out yesterday, the chances of getting cracked by a safety with a full head of steam are far greater on your average running play than on a punt, where it's very rare for a defender to come totally unblocked. Third, you rarely see "moving the pile" situations on punt returns, and those are also a prime situation for injuries. Finally, I guarantee you that Knowshon is far more likely to be injured dancing on someone's kitchen island or fending off overzealous Student Conduct Board apparatchiks.
  • Now for the positives he fails to mention. First, football players play football. Nobody ever won a national championship by keeping their best players under museum glass. If Knowshon is the best we've got at returning punts, then I say we give him the shot.If Knowshon wants to return kicks, I'm all in favor of letting him try. And I don't recall there being any sort of single platoon rule that states that we have to use the same punt returner every time. Let's keep in perspective that you're probably not going to see Knowshon on every punt return anyway.
  • Second, special teams is critical. Remember the Tennessee game in 2005? Thomas Flowers electric punt return broke that game open. Chick-Fil-A bowl 2006? Onside kick turns the tide. I don't have the statistics to back it up, but I tend to think that big plays in the kicking game have more to do with the outcomes of football games (especially close ones, like the ones we'll be playing a lot of this year with our brutal schedule) than Terrance Moore lets on, or maybe even realizes. This is why, asPaul Westerdawg astutely pointed out last week, the other two best running backs in the conference last season (Darren McFadden and Felix Jones) were returning punts at Arkansas for Big Daddy Giggity Hisself Houston Nutt. I know, you're thinking "but if McFadden got hurt they still had Jones and we don't have that embarrassment of riches at tailback." Infact, I would read the fact that Knowshon is being looked at as proof that the coaches have weighed the risk and determined that if we had to go with Caleb King and Richard Samuel at tailback, we'd be OK.
  • Third, the Bush factor. Moore points out that Reggie Bush returned punts while at USC. He doesn't mention that Bush's status as the Swiss Army knife of college football had a lot to do with him winning the Hesiman Trophy. I hate to admit it, but there's a reasonable chance that Knowshon Moreno will not be playing in Athens next season. There's also a reasonable chance that he'll be at the Downtown Athletic Club when they present the Timmy Tebow Is So Thankful that Dennis Dixon Got Hurt, But Hey, At Least He Feels A Little Guilty About It Award Heisman. I'd like to see him get every chance possible to showcase his talents.
  • Finally, Knowshon would likely just be dangerous returning kicks. His vision, change of direction and breakaway speed would be deadly in the open field if he got past the first wave of tacklers. The correllary to this is that after he returned one (and perhaps even before), teams would be less likely to kick to him, meaing less wear and tear on Knowshon, and better field position for the offense.

Obviously, this issue has been kicking around for a week or more now. But I don't get the sense that there is any consensus among Bulldog fans on whether Knowshon should be used in that capacity, or how much. I'm going on record in favor of it. Am I wrong or am I right? Until later . . .

Go 'Dawgs!!!