Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Let the second-guessing begin

Thursday July 30, 2015

It’s unavoidable that Brian Schottenheimer will be compared with Mike Bobo. Hopefully the transition will go well, and we’ll only have to tune out the minority that is already hard at work dreaming up the clever equivalent of “Coach Booboo.” If things go less smoothly, you can already hear the Bulldog Hotline calls asking about this:

Post An unlikely key to Georgia’s offense

Thursday July 30, 2015

Which player on offense could Georgia least afford to lose this season?

Yes, the discussion pretty much starts and stops with Nick Chubb. I’d put Malcolm Mitchell up there too.

But in terms of Georgia’s offensive identity, the running back position is still fairly deep. Productivity would reasonably fall without Chubb (knock wood), but I could see the approach remaining the same. I’m thinking more in terms of which players the coaches need in order to run what they want to run.

We’ve read more this offseason about the possible role of the tight end in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense. The Dawgs targeted big, tall targets in the 2016 recruiting class including Garrett Walston and Charlie Woerner, and they might be back in the picture for the nation’s top HS tight end, Isaac Nauta. Georgia is placing an emphasis on the position in recruiting, and Schottenheimer won’t waste much time involving the current tight ends in his offense. With that in mind, I tend to focus in on Jay Rome.

Rome, now a senior, was as much a part of that heralded 2011 class as Malcolm Mitchell or Ray Drew. Rome made an impact right away as a freshman with 11 catches, 152 yards, and touchdowns against both Tech and Alabama. But that promising freshman campaign remains his most productive. Much like Mitchell, another key veteran in 2015, injuries have derailed Rome’s attempts to top that freshman season. And again like Mitchell, Rome is as healthy as he’s been. More important, Rome’s had time to regain the conditioning and strength that were missing last year in the wake of his injury.

With a healthy and conditioned Rome, Georgia is deep at tight end. He and Blazevich have starting experience. Jordan Davis has paid his dues and showed at G-Day that he won’t be lost in the new offense. Jackson Harris might be a true freshman, but he was an early enrollee who went through spring and was among the top 10 high school tight ends a year ago. Quayvon Hicks(*) is now in his second season at the position. It’s not hard to imagine some effective multiple TE combinations from that group.

Without Rome, the picture changes. The position becomes much younger. Though Hicks and Davis are upperclassmen, they’re very much unproven. Harris is a true freshman. Blazevich had a fantastic freshman season but is still only entering his second season. Can he carry a position from which much more is expected this season? There is still depth, but you start to wonder if the group behind Blazevich is ready for a multiple tight end look to be a regular and dependable part of Georgia’s offensive approach. With Rome, you’re much more comfortable with a younger or less-experienced player being used situationally.

For their own sakes, I really hope Rome, Mitchell, and also Keith Marshall can put their injuries and frustrations behind them and enjoy some personal success as seniors. If Georgia plans on using the tight end position to compensate for a thin group of receivers and a newcomer at quarterback, it would be much more difficult, if not impossible, without a healthy Jay Rome.

(*) – Hicks. Barrels of ink and enough bytes to fill a server farm were spilled last August with the news that Hicks was moving to H-back. Oh, the possibilities. I don’t think many of us expected he’d have fewer receptions as an H-back than he did in 2013 as a fullback. Maybe I’m still numb from his adventures on the kick return team, but Hicks is another player who can really change his legacy at Georgia with a productive senior year.

Post Going from good to great: outside linebackers

Monday July 13, 2015

Like a lot of you, I spent some of the holiday weekend enjoying Georgia’s takeover of the SEC Network. I have a DVR backlog now that should clear up just in time for the season.

One of the featured games was the 2005 SEC Championship – Georgia’s first game against Les Miles and the second SEC title in four years. The Tigers were slight favorites and the higher-ranked team, but Georgia jumped on LSU with a couple of D.J. Shockley bombs to Sean Bailey. Georgia’s defense knocked Jamarcus Russell out of the game, and Tim Jennings sealed the win with a late pick six. It was a great win that salvaged a season disrupted by the midseason injury to Shockley.

While Shockley was the focus of that team both in terms of leadership and performance, Georgia’s running game took a bit of a back seat. It was a transitional period between dominant feature backs: Musa Smith left after 2002, and Knowshon Moreno made his debut in 2007. The 2005 running game was a tailback-by-committee with four players (Shockley included) getting at least 65 rushing attempts. Thomas Brown, Danny Ware, and Kregg Lumpkin made up the trio getting most of the carries with Brown leading the way in both attempts and yardage.

These were good backs. You had a three-star Rivals.com prospect (Ware), a four-star (Brown), and even a five-star (Lumpkin). All three eventually spent time on an NFL roster. All three had at least 1,500 career rushing yards at Georgia. Brown finished his career as one of Georgia’s top 10 backs in career attempts and yardage.

It was still a period of Georgia football where you were left wanting more from the running game. The committee approach wasn’t bad, but neither was it greater than the sum of its parts. It wasn’t obvious until 2007 when Moreno (with substantial help from Brown) reminded us what a running game operating at a high level looked like. The 2005 running game, including Shockley, put up 2,108 yards. That total increased by over 500 yards in 2007 without a mobile quarterback (never mind 3,352 rushing yards in 2014). The trio of Brown, Lumpkin, and Ware put up 1,563 yards in 2005. Nick Chubb alone had 1,594 last season.

As I watched that great 2005 game and that group of capable tailbacks, my mind wandered to the present and to, of all things, Georgia’s outside linebackers. Again we have a highly-recruited group with obvious talent and pro potential that seems to be on the cusp of something more. Certainly there have been moments of individual brilliance, but there have also been several games where the outside linebackers have been non-factors or even weaknesses.

It raised some eyebrows in the spring when Lindy’s quoted an anonymous SEC coach who said,

I think those two guys at outside linebacker (Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins) are talented, but not superstars. I think they are a product of the recruiting machine and hype.

While our first instinct is to get defensive about a quote like that, I admit I see where it’s coming from. The last bit about recruiting hype is inflammatory, but the “talented but not superstars” line hits a little too close to home.

Jenkins appeared to be the heir apparent to Jarvis Jones after a standout 2012 Florida game. His tackles have increased each year, but his sack totals haven’t. Floyd contributed right away as a freshman, but his numbers stayed level in his second season. Carter made the most of his time as a true freshman playing behind more experienced players, and he’s testing the creativity of the coaches as they try to get all of these talented linebackers on the field.

There have been injuries along the way, and Floyd especially was derailed by a shoulder injury towards the end of last season. That injury had a silver lining: selfishly, we are glad to see Floyd back for another year. It also opened the door for Carter to see much more playing time during the bowl game, and he didn’t disappoint. The players have also been used in different roles. Jenkins has drifted towards more of a traditional 4-3 defensive end role, leading one NFL scout to want to see more out of him as an edge rusher. Floyd has been that edge rusher, but he’s also been versatile enough to drop back into the difficult star position at times. He’s listed as both an outside and inside linebacker on the preseason depth chart.  Carter hasn’t had time to settle into much of a defined role, and he’s been lined up all over the place to cause mayhem in the pass rush.

Seth Emerson put it well last week when he concluded that “Jenkins and Floyd have to hear the time ticking on their chance to become stars.” They’re gifted players with certain NFL futures – the shoulder injury is probably the only thing that kept Floyd from entering the 2015 draft. We’re not going to get into ESPN “elite” territory by trying to define exactly what would meet Emerson’s definition of a star player, but Jarvis Jones and his 155 tackles and 28 sacks over two seasons wasn’t that long ago. That followed Justin Houston’s 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in 2010.

Even ignoring specific numbers, a high standard was in place for the outside linebacker position, and all three of Georgia’s current OLB standouts have shown the ability to play to that standard. With Carter gaining experience, Floyd healthy, and Jenkins stepping into the leadership role of a senior, each is in a place for production to skyrocket and, more importantly, for the unit as a whole to carry an improving defense.

Post Preseason depth chart

Monday July 13, 2015

With SEC Media Days underway this week, news about the 2015 season is starting to trickle out.  Marc Weiszer has a photo of Georgia’s 2015 preseason depth chart.

Of note:

  • Of the freshmen and transfers, only the early enrollees are listed. So you’ll see Jackson Harris but not Trenton Thompson or Greyson Lambert.
  • Ramsey as the first quarterback listed (Weiszer noted that it was not co-#1s).
  • Kublanow starting at center, Wynn starting at guard.
  • Isaiah McKenzie as a starting WR.
  • Aaron Davis holding onto a starting CB spot. 

Not too many suprises – this is basically the post-spring depth chart and consistent with the little bit of news since then.  The newcomers haven’t shaken things up yet, and we know better than to chisel these things in stone before the season opener.  Still, it sets the pole position for some of the more interesting positional battles that will unfold over the next six weeks.   

Post Ruga Retirement

Monday July 13, 2015

It was mentioned almost as an afterthought at Saturday’s Countdown to Kickoff event in Athens: “Oh, yeah.  Uga IX will be retiring this year.  Here’s his likely successor.”

Details of the relatively low-key announcement were soon reported.  Uga IX, formerly known as Russ, will hand over mascot duties at some point during the 2015 season.  The successor hasn’t been determined yet, but there is a pool of three candidates.  At Saturday’s event, fans got to meet Que, a two-year-old grandson of Uga IX, and Que was observed to see how he’d handle crowds and the heat.  It wasn’t mentioned whether the other candidates would get a similar tryout, but Picture Day in August would be one possible opportunity.  

[Click here for a gallery of pictures of Que from UGASports.com]

At over 11 years of age, Uga IX has had some health issues and is in the later years of the lifespan of an average bulldog.  Russ served as an interim mascot beginning in 2009 between Uga VII and VIII, and he resumed interim duties after Uga VIII died in 2011.  He was promoted to Uga IX in 2012 and has served as mascot since.   

The date of the transition wasn’t announced either.  Sonny Seiler indicated that it would likely happen later in the season after the weather cools. But that brings up a very important question:

Post SEC Network Takeover on July 3rd

Wednesday July 1, 2015

The SEC Network is giving each school a day to take over the network, and Georgia’s turn will be on Friday July 3rd. Kick off the holiday weekend with 24 hours of nonstop Georgia programming.

Here’s the schedule.

There’s a lot of football of course but also a significant men’s and women’s basketball game. I would have liked to have seen some baseball (1990 CWS win? Keppinger’s Coastal Carolina game in 2001?), but they can only work with the video they can get. At any rate, the DVR will be busy on Friday.

Post Breaking down Georgia’s run blocking

Wednesday June 24, 2015

I love stuff like this. Before we see Nick Chubb break off a long run, there’s usually been some good work done by the blockers up front.

Saturday Down South has clips showing several of Georgia’s run blocking concepts, and they introduce us to the likely starters on the 2015 offensive line. They’re high on Pyke, and they expect Georgia’s solid run blocking to continue under Schottenheimer and Sale.

If you expect Chubb, Marshall, Michel, and the rest of the backs to be the focal point of the offense, it starts with these linemen.

Post What I meant to say…

Friday June 19, 2015

One of the first topics that came up during our roundtable discussion was our concerns for the upcoming season. “What keeps you up at night?” was the way the question was put. I went right for the familiar answers – quarterback, receiver, even defensive back (side note – is it me, or has the secondary kind of been lost in the shuffle?). When I had some time to think about it though, there’s something else that this team is going to have to work through that’s bigger than any one position.

What keeps me up at night? October.

It’s not just the schedule, though that’s a big part of it. October has not been kind to Georgia over the past couple of seasons. You can go back to the shocking implosion at South Carolina in 2012 setting off a couple of shaky weeks that threatened to derail the season until Shawn Williams spoke his mind. Georgia was riding high after the LSU win in 2013, but October brought injuries and losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt(!) that all but erased the momentum from two big wins in September. Last season of course we spent October dealing with the drama of the Gurley investigation and suspension, and the bombshell at the end of the month that the suspension would be four games rather than two was not the best way to head into the WLOCP.

So…October. A tough rematch with South Carolina is the biggest obstacle between Georgia and an undefeated September. But even if Georgia can navigate the first month of the season, they’ll then have a stretch of three weeks featuring:

  • The most hyped game in Athens since 2013 LSU (and probably another Gameday visit)
  • A trip to face Tennessee in a classic letdown situation
  • A return home to play the defending SEC East champs in front of a sleepy Homecoming crowd

That’s enough of a potential roller coaster even without the additional handicap of injuries or suspensions or whatever curveballs October has thrown at us lately. Top it off with a trip to Jacksonville with the unknown of a new Gator coach and the memory of last season’s horror still fresh, and it all makes for a lot of sleepless nights – and an exciting challenge.

Post Bulldog Bytes blogger roundtable

Friday June 19, 2015

Many thanks to Marc Weiszer and Fletcher Page of the Athens Banner-Herald for having me on the first summer installment of their Bulldog Bytes podcast blogger roundtable. Bernie and I talk about the upcoming season, our expectations for Mark Richt, and our thoughts on out-of-conference scheduling.

You can head over to Dawg Sports Radio to catch the podcast – and listen to other episodes too.

UPDATE: You can also catch Part 2 of the roundtable with the guys from the Georgia Sports Blog and Get the Picture.

Post Park on the way out?

Wednesday June 10, 2015

Rumors are flying that redshirt freshman quarterback Jacob Park is leaving the Georgia program, and UGASports.com reports confirmation (since deleted) from Park himself. 

There’s no official confirmation yet from the program.

Park was a 4* U.S. Army All-American and rated the nation’s #12 quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class by Rivals.com.  He was signed a year after Brice Ramsey and was expected to provide additional depth and compete for the starting job in 2015. Park redshirted in 2014 and received recognition for his work with the scout team. 

Park’s destination is unknown. He could follow his former coordinator and position coach Mike Bobo to Colorado State. He’s a South Carolina native and could also look to return to his home state. Georgia fans would probably prefer to see him head outside of the SEC.

Post Georgia adds quarterback Greyson Lambert

Thursday June 4, 2015

What else to do in June but lose our collective heads over the addition of a reserve quarterback? There haven’t been so many “but what does it meeeeeean?” takes since the final scene of Mad Men.

I get it – Georgia’s quarterback situation is as unsettled as it’s been since 2006, and there isn’t a first-round draft pick waiting in the wings (until next season, anyway.) The 2015 starter has been fretted about and over-analyzed since the bowl game ended, and adding another variable at this late hour has only added to the uncertainty. The reaction has ranged from panic to indifference, and it boils down to (in order of least plausible):

  • The QB situation is so dire that Georgia is desperately trolling the graduate transfer pool to find their 2015 starter.
  • Lambert is being brought in as a hedge against another quarterback transferring.
  • Georgia’s just trying to build their quarterback depth – didn’t you see what happened to Ohio State last year?

The first reaction is a byproduct of Georgia not only speaking with Lambert but with Everett Golson also. Why is Georgia so intent on adding a quarterback? What’s wrong with the guys in the system? That leads to the second reaction. Is someone leaving? We’ve all heard the chatter, and we know that the depth chart only gets more crowded next season. But we’re not in the business of pushing people out the door, so we’ll take the roster as-is.

That leaves the depth angle, and it’s where most people seem to be landing. We know Ohio State had to go three deep to win the national title, and their depth was exceptional. Not many (if any) programs have that kind of quarterback depth, and we’re not suggesting that Lambert puts Georgia in that league. But it does give the staff some options, and – for better or worse – he is now the only quarterback on Georgia’s roster with starting experience for a BCS conference program.

Lambert’s transfer gives Georgia six quarterbacks. Lambert joins Park, Bauta, and Ramsey. Sam Vaughn, a one-time Georgetown commitment, walked on and redshirted last season. Georgia will add another walk-on this year in Californian Nick Robinson who had a couple of mid-major offers. Vaughn and Robinson won’t figure into the starting job, but Georgia will have plenty of arms for practice and scout team work. This isn’t 1998. The expectation isn’t that Lambert will leapfrog to the top of the depth chart, nor is there the pressure and need for him to do so. That’s a good thing – Lambert won’t arrive at Georgia until July 13th, and someone showing up less than a month before camp opens shouldn’t be counted on as an immediate contributor.

We’re getting some good insights from the Virginia crowd about what to expect from Lambert. Good size, capable arm, but a tendency for poor decisions that lead to crippling turnovers. He earned the starting job but then lost it – not encouraging for anyone expecting Lambert to grab the UGA starting job. If that’s the bar you’ve set for this transfer or what you think Georgia needs, you’re likely to be disappointed.

That said, the Georgia starting job is still up for grabs, and Lambert will be given as much of a shot as the others. Again, he’s not going to have much time to get up to speed, but all of the quarterbacks are still learning the system of first-year coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

So why Georgia? Though the starting job is nominally open, a newcomer with Lambert’s track record isn’t likely to come in and claim the job in Athens. Lambert also had interest from Florida, though it’s not a given that he’d start there either. He’d be nearly a sure thing to start for an FCS or Sun Belt-level program. There were still a couple of things in Georgia’s favor.

Lambert is a southeast Georgia native who played his high school ball for Wayne County. The message boards are all over reports that his girlfriend attends Georgia. So at the very least, he has his undergraduate degree from Virginia and can earn a graduate degree in two years while finishing out his career much closer to home. But if Lambert wants to make the most of his final two seasons, there’s a history with he and Mark Richt.

Lambert was a 3* prospect in the 2012 class. He had offers from Alabama, Clemson, South Carolina, and, among others, Georgia. The Dawgs eventually went with Faton Bauta in 2012, but there were several factors that made Lambert consider Georgia’s offer. First was the style of offense. “I like all the schools with pro-style offenses,” he said. “Basically, I could see myself playing in that offense.” Second was Georgia’s success developing quarterbacks. “I’m looking at player and quarterback development in all the schools that have offered me and definitely Georgia is right up there at the top, especially with Matthew Stafford going #1 overall in the draft,” he explained.

Richt only strengthened Georgia’s pro-style identity with the addition of Schottenheimer. And if Lambert was frustrated by the Virginia offense and his development there, it makes sense to turn to a coach and a program whose quarterback development Lambert has held in high esteem since he was a prospect. Whether Lambert can flourish and develop under Richt or make a dent in the depth chart is yet to be seen. It would be nice, but it’s not a make-or-break issue for the 2015 season.

What interests me most is that this is one of Schottenheimer’s first public stamps on the program. Even if you accept the coaches’ explanation that they’re satisfied with the rest of the quarterback depth chart, they entertained two graduate transfers and eventually landed one. It’s fairly low-risk; if Lambert doesn’t develop into a starter, he’s another arm in practice for the next two seasons. The only negative outcome would be if this chain of events leads to the departure of someone who wasn’t already halfway out the door. And if Richt and/or Schottenheimer can improve Lambert’s game, all the better for Georgia.

Post Softball fights on

Thursday May 21, 2015

Even with baseball struggling this year, there has been plenty to get out and enjoy during the Athens springtime. Bernie took in tennis, and we spent last weekend down South Milledge at the first-rate Jack Turner Stadium supporting the softball team in their NCAA regional.

The weekend mirrored last season’s Athens regional: Georgia won their opener but fell on the second day, forcing them to play again Saturday night and then win twice on Sunday. Saturday’s loss was a 2-1 14-inning pitcher’s duel against Western Kentucky – the longest game ever played at Georgia’s stadium. The Dawgs survived a nail-biter in Saturday’s elimination game against a powerful UNC team, and the magnificent Alex Hugo’s walk-off home run meant that Georgia would play on.

In order to advance, Georgia had to beat – twice – the pitcher that had stymied them for 14 innings on Saturday. They came out on the attack and built big leads in both games, cruising to a pair of mercy-rule wins by a combined 29-3 score.

Other than the outburst of offense on Sunday, the story of the weekend had to be Georgia pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson. Wilkinson pitched a combined 18 innings on Saturday and came off the bench to earn the win in the nightcap. Georgia’s quick start in the first game on Sunday meant that the Dawgs could rest their ace, but Wilkinson returned to pitch 5 more innings in the complete game shutout that won the regional. Through 23 innings and over 300 pitches, she allowed only four runs and set a career high in strikeouts on Saturday.

So the Dawgs move on to the Super Regionals. They’re up in Ann Arbor to face the #3 national seed Michigan. It will be a big job to advance to the WCWS in Oklahoma City, but this team has the ability to get it done. Games will be Thursday and Friday on the ESPN networks.

Post Our five favorite Gurley moments

Thursday April 30, 2015

It’s Todd Gurley Day around the Bulldog Nation as we wait for the NFL Draft and salute those headed to the next level. These are my top five Gurley memories looking back on a career that seemed to go by as fast as one of his kickoff returns. Have some of your own? Let’s hear them in the comments.

1. The Auburn kickoff
Yes, it was called back. The anticipation for Gurley’s return from suspension was at a fever pitch when Auburn came to town. For a moment, it was right out of a movie script: Gurley’s first touch of the ball in over a month was a 100+ yard kickoff return that sent the frenzied stadium into pandemonium…until we saw the flag. Still, in what would prove to be his final game as a Bulldog, Gurley delivered one of the most electrifying moments I’ve ever seen in Sanford Stadium.

2. His debut: Buffalo 2012

Gurley calls it his favorite game. The true freshman wasted no time introducing himself to the home crowd. Gurley posted three touchdowns, including a kickoff return, and put up 100 yards of rushing on only 8 carries in one of the most spectacular debuts for a Georgia player.

3. Later, Gator

Gurley only played against Florida twice, but only perhaps Jarvis Jones had as much to do with sustaining Georgia’s winning streak. In two games against some very stout Florida defenses, Gurley put up 218 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He added 110 receiving yards and one memorable long touchdown reception. His 2013 performance was especially tough: sitting out several games with an injury took a toll on Gurley’s conditioning, but he had enough in the tank to push Georgia to a 14-0 lead before he was sidelined.

4. 2012 SEC Championship

This great game had so many twists and turns that Gurley’s contribution is easy to forget. He didn’t rip off any long scoring runs or go for 250 yards. What he did do was grind against the nation’s best defense in a de facto national semifinal. Only two teams managed to rush for more than 100 yards against Alabama in 2012. The freshman Gurley went for over 120 yards on his own.

5. Clemson 2014

How could we not mention this game? Gurley was already a household name coming into the 2014 season, but this game took his status from a star to an early-season Heisman favorite. It started with the first half kick return, but Gurley really made jaws drop in the second half when Georgia’s running back depth finally wore down the Clemson defense. He managed 198 yards rushing (on only 15 carries!), finished with a school record 293 all-purpose yards, and accounted for four touchdowns.

Bonus: Tech 2013

Wins over Tech always deserve a little mention, and Gurley accounted for every yard of Georgia offense in overtime. Gurley didn’t have the best numbers in regulation, as Tech’s defense focused on the run and forced first-time starter Hutson Mason to put the game on his shoulders. Gurley was held to 72 yards of rushing in regulation but still had one touchdown rushing and one receiving. He broke through in overtime, scoring in just three plays and then made quick work of the second overtime in a single 25-yard scoring run. He finished the day with 122 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

Post 2015 NFL Draft prep

Thursday April 30, 2015

The NFL Draft begins tonight, and Todd Gurley should break a couple of droughts. Not only should he be Georgia’s first first-round selection since 2013; he’s likely to be the first running back selected in the first round since 2012.

The Dawgs only had two players selected last year, and they should fare a little better this year. There’s still only one certain high draft pick (Gurley), but Georgia stands a good chance of having three or four players called before it’s all over. Any more than four would be a pleasant surprise, but late round selections can be unpredictable. Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd deciding to remain in school made Georgia’s draft class smaller than it would have otherwise been, and that’s great news for the 2015 Bulldog team.

Marc Weiszer has a look at what’s expected to happen for Georgia’s NFL hopefuls once Gurley is off the board. In all, about nine or ten Dawgs could be drafted or at least sign a free agent deal that will earn them a trip to an NFL camp and a chance to make a roster.

  • C David Andrews
  • WR Chris Conley
  • DE Ray Drew
  • RB Todd Gurley
  • LB Amarlo Herrera
  • QB Hutson Mason
  • S Corey Moore
  • CB Damian Swann
  • DT Mike Thornton
  • LB Ramik Wilson

Todd Gurley is rocketing up many draft boards, and why wouldn’t he? The only question about him is the knee, and that recovery seems to be going just fine. I admit that I’m surprised to see him in some top 10s, and he’s nearly a consensus first round pick. It’s not that he’s not one of the best running backs in the draft. It’s just that spending such a high pick on Gurley would buck the trend. “In the past two years, a running back hasn’t been taken in the first round,” notes Dan Kadar. With so much emphasis on quarterbacks and the line of scrimmage in the NFL, running backs have become more or less interchangeable parts with a shelf life of 4-5 years. Kadar again: “Only one of the top 10 rushers in the NFL (in 2014) was a first-round pick.” That’s a relatively low payoff for such a valuable first round pick.

Whoever drafts Gurley will end up with a fantastic player with all of the tools to become and NFL star. It says a lot about his potential and ability that it’s a foregone conclusion that an NFL team will spend an unconventional first round pick on a running back only months removed from a major knee injury.

Few players made as much noise at the NFL combine as Chris Conley. Conley’s long been a Georgia fan favorite, and he’s become well-known as a Renaissance man in the classroom and of course behind the camera. But the combine was a reminder that Conley can play a little football as well, and he should hear his name during the draft.

Conley’s likely draft position is uncertain; Kiper has him anywhere from the second to the fifth round. One reason for that wide spread is the depth of the receivers in this year’s draft. At least six players (Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Breshad Perriman, Jaelen Strong, and Nelson Agholor) are possible first round selections, and Conley probably won’t jump any of them. Where these receivers end up will be one of the more interesting subplots of the draft. Cooper could go as high as third, triggering a run on the position. Then again, teams might pass on using a first round pick on a receiver and feel confident about getting a good value with a later selection. How soon this deep pool of receivers is exhausted will play into where Conley is drafted. If there’s an early run, he might be one of the best receivers left in the second or third round. If teams put off drafting receivers, it could take several rounds before Conley is the top receiver on the board.

Ray Drew was the lynchpin of Georgia’s 2011 signing class. After several position changes, a slew of new position coaches, and some nagging injuries, a healthy Drew finally began to come into his own as a senior. Drew was magnificent against Tech and played well for most of the back end of the 2014 season. It’s unfortunate for Georgia that Drew leaves just as things were starting to click, but that’s potentially good news for his NFL hopes. He has the ability to be a very good defensive end at the next level, and now it’s just a question of finding the right opportunity.

Post The IPF location of the day

Thursday April 30, 2015

It’s become a bit like deciding where to place a sofa in the living room, but yet another location has emerged as the favored spot for the indoor practice facility. Speaking in Albany on Tuesday, athletic director Greg McGarity hinted that the facility might now be built on the upper grass practice fields adjacent to the Butts-Mehre building. McGarity noted that this location was the preferred choice “back in 1999 and 2000″ when the idea was originally discussed. It would allow easy access from the football offices, locker room, and training facilities.

Mark Richt has been outspoken about his desire to avoid a location to which the team would have to bus, and that was the huge negative about a facility at the expansive South Milledge complex. The Hoke Smith complex emerged as a location that would be within walking distance but would also preserve the existing practice fields, but it would also require the relocation of academic services and the Cooperative Extension Service. McGarity stated that “we’re probably not going in that direction right now.”

The new location isn’t without its own compromises. McGarity has said in the past that “we don’t want to disturb that environment” of “the first-class practice facility we have here with two grass fields and two turf fields.” But building on those grass fields would leave the Bulldogs without a way to practice in the conditions they’re most likely to face during the season: outdoors on grass.

So if the IPF winds up replacing the grass practice fields, the question becomes whether or not those fields will be relocated elsewhere. The idea of converting one of the turf fields to grass seems plausible, but Georgia just spent $3 million on a project that included rehabilitating those turf fields. (But what’s $3 million between friends?) It might turn out that areas considered for the IPF (such as the Hoke Smith parking lot) end up as grass practice fields instead.

Blutarsky has a good observation: if the budget of $30 million doesn’t include relocation costs for the Hoke Smith buildings, that’s one heck of a price tag for just the facility. Of course there would be some expense involved with reconfiguring the site to get the most use out of the space (and possibly add more grass fields), but that’s still an impressive figure. If you look at comparable projects (Michigan) (Texas A&M), you see that the facilities included a lot of extras that were already addressed in the recent $40 million Butts-Mehre expansion.

To give you an idea of what $30 might get you, have a look at the Coliseum Training Facility behind Stegeman Coliseum. When it opened in 2007 at a cost of $30 million, it contained practice gyms, offices, locker rooms, and meeting space for three of Georgia’s major athletics programs. Eight years later, it’s still one of the best facilities of its kind in the nation. If that’s the bar set for the IPF, it should prove to be a very impressive showpiece for the football program.

The speculation should wind down soon: the athletic board will meet towards the end of May, and it’s likely that a site will be proposed and approved. The program hopes to begin construction as soon as the 2015 season (and postseason) wraps up, and the IPF should be ready in time for the 2016 season. With that timetable, decisions will need to be made soon, and the biggest decision – the location – could come within a month.