Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Strange quote

Wednesday July 27, 2005

It’s the time of year for the preseason media blitzes, and as usual, there are some gems coming out.

“I get excited every time I think about going up to play at Clemson,” said Eric Winston, the 6-foot-7, 312-pound all-America candidate left tackle for the Miami Hurricanes. “I’m told it’s the biggest stadium in the ACC — Death Valley — that they have great fans who make a lot of noise; I think all of us are excited about it; that’s why you come to play at Miami, to be in situations where you’re on the road in front of 80,000 people.”

Um…so to play in front of 80,000 you choose a school that will only see 80,000 for road games? He sure as hell won’t be playing in front of 80,000 at the Orange Bowl. “Playing at Cameron Indoor really gets me going, so I think I’ll go to Wake Forest.”

Post Five worn-out preseason memes

Monday July 25, 2005

1) Tennessee 1998

Some Georgia fans bring up the transition from Peyton Manning to Tee Martin almost as proof that Georgia won’t miss a beat in the post-Greene era. OK, the Vol run to the title in 1998 and many other instances before and since showed that life can go on or even get better after a superstar leaves. Can we leave it there? If I never hear another comparison to the 1998 Vols, my blood pressure will be much better off. Shockley and Martin have skin color in common, and that’s about it.

If you want something from Tennessee 1998 to think about, look to the other side of the ball. Those Vols came into Athens and held a sky-high Georgia offense to three points. That’s championship football. Does Georgia have anything resembling the defense that Al Wilson led into Athens and into the postseason that year?

2) Relishing the underdog role

There is a line of thinking that Georgia’s likely preseason ranking in the low-teens is somehow an advantage. There is somehow less pressure on Georgia and they can make some noise in the underdog role.

Don’t buy it.

To begin with, underdogs are usually underdogs for a reason – you’re not as good as the favorite. But overlooking that obvious point, let’s look at the realities of this season. The Tennessee and Florida games are the only instances where Georgia might be an underdog. OK…possibly Auburn as well. Tennessee will be hungry to end a two-game home losing streak to Georgia. Florida will be very focused on showing that the new coach can dominate Georgia as well as the past couple of coaches have. We are past the 15th anniversary of Georgia’s last consecutive wins over the Gators. Entering those huge games as underdogs is somehow supposed to be a good thing?!?! The Vols are going to think less of Georgia and the Hobnail Boot and Sean Jones because the Dawgs’ ranking is slightly lower?

I guess some people are just gunshy. Georgia is not the kind of program that “sneaks up” on an opponent from the underdog role – there are too many rivalries on the schedule for that to happen. Teams like Northwestern or TCU come out of nowhere and surprise people. It’s not a good thing to make a run at a title or even the BCS coming from so far behind. A top program like Georgia, even in a “down” or “rebuilding” year should strive to be the hunted. All of this is silly anyway – no team with three straight 10+ win seasons is going under anyone’s radar.

3) Georgia will just run over people this year.

I don’t doubt the talent in the backfield or on the line, but in this case it’s all Missouri: Show Me. Show me the attitude and will to run the ball that prevailed at the end of the 2001 and 2002 seasons. Show me the ability to stay healthy and turnover-free in the backfield. Show me the next fullback ready to get nasty and lead the way. Show me a line that is not only not a liability anymore but is a strength. Show me a passing game that prevents a defense from focusing on stopping the run.

What’s led to the optimism about the running game is the flashes that were shown by Lumpkin, Ware, and Brown over the past two seasons. Who couldn’t be excited about the way Thomas Brown closed the Outback Bowl? But a dominant running game is built on consistency, and Georgia hasn’t come close in a while. The Dawgs were able to run the ball to hold off Wisconsin and their NFL-quality defensive line, but they couldn’t get out of reverse against Georgia Tech. As soon as one back heated up, an injury or the long offseason has cooled him down.

The pieces seem to be in place, but several big things must change if the running game will be a strategic weapon for the Dawgs. It can’t just be measured by yardage. The effective running team must be confident enough to use the ground game at key situations and remain with it even if early success is slow to come.

4) Boise St. has no idea what a summer night in Athens is like

This ballgame is not being played in the Iraqi desert or even Waycross, and Boise State players don’t have to dodge polar bears during summer workouts. An early September evening in Athens could very likely be warm and sticky and even stifling. Both teams will have to deal with the conditions, and both will be practicing in plenty of heat this summer. Besides – if we’re counting on oppressive heat to turn the game…there are bigger concerns.

5) Increasing academic standards

All handwringing to the contrary, there has not been a single instance where a football player was denied admission who legitimately met NCAA minimum standards and who has kept his nose clean. There certainly have been some bizarre and unfortunately very public cases over the past couple of years. Still, every report about the several signees who will not enroll at UGA this fall seems to mention athletics and football in particular faced with a “climate of increasing academic standards”. That’s nice, and entrance standards at UGA certainly are increasing for the average applicant, but the entrance standard for a scholarship athlete remains the same: meet the NCAA minimums, do so honestly and legitimately, and stay out of serious trouble in high school.

Post Hilarious R&B Editorial

Thursday July 14, 2005

The admission of student-athletes at UGA has been in the news lately because five signees from the incoming football class won’t be enrolling at the University (this year, anyway). There has been a misconception that Georgia’s academic standards for student-athlete admission are somehow higher than at other SEC schools. There has also been some ridiculous backslapping going on congratulating Georgia for upholding “academic integrity”. The Red and Black chimes in today with the best example yet of this self-congratulatory nonsense.

In late spring, former recruits Darius Dewberry and Brandon Sesay were denied admission …because they failed to meet NCAA academic requirements. The fact that they could not get into the University regardless of athletic skill proved a point: academics matter.

No, the point it proved was that these two did not meet minimum NCAA requirements. They would not have been able to play ball at Stanford, Auburn, nor anywhere in between.

Was the University simply using them as an example, only to let other subpar student athletes in under the radar?

What!? Dewberry and Sesay didn’t even make it to the point where UGA admissions would have had a say. Congratulating Georgia for turning them down is a bit like congratulating United States border authorities for not allowing someone into the country who was kept from boarding his plane in Berlin.

We got our answer when Jamar Chaney, Corey Moon and Jamar Bryant also could not gain admission for various academic reasons.

Again, both Moon and Bryant had problems with the minimum NCAA requirements. Chaney’s case is the only instance where the University’s Faculty Admissions Committee came into play.

What follows though takes the cake:

Yes, we want skilled and talented athletes on our teams, but we want them to measure up to the academic standards of this University as well. With academic standards improving every year, it is reasonable to expect recruits to meet the same standards as the rest of the student body.

Wow. Is the Red and Black under the impression that those student-athletes who made it in come anywhere close to the same academic standards applied to the rest of the freshman class? Do they believe that the average test scores of this football class, unlike all others before it, will lie above the bottom of the lower quartile for the whole freshman class? They’re not that out of touch, are they?

It’s amazing. The Red and Black is not alone in complimenting UGA on their academic integrity based on the fact that these five won’t be suiting up for the Dawgs, but this is the most over-the-top case I’ve seen. The rest of the class prepares for life in Athens, many of whom have three-digit SAT scores, and not a word is said.

The fact is that Georgia will admit any student-athlete that legitimately meets NCAA minimum standards and does not have questions of character. They will even admit partial qualifiers (see Jermaine Phillips, Martrez Milner, and Greg Blue as three recent examples), though the program is limited to two partial qualifiers at any one time. It’s worthy to note that these “subpar” partial qualifiers are now 2-2 in graduating from the University.

It’s clear that the Red and Black editorialist has not thought through the consequences of expecting “recruits to meet the same standards as the rest of the student body.” No Division 1 football program, even Stanford or Duke or any other academic powerhouse, has an average test score for incoming football players anywhere near the average for the rest of the class. Even Stanford’s freshman football class would have an average test score well below the average UGA freshman.

If someone is going to make these ridiculous platitudes praising academic standards, at least be honest and admit what it would do to the landscape of college sports. Many alumni fully acknowledge and can live with the lowering of admissions standards for incoming athletes. Those gushing praise over the 2005 “stand” taken by UGA to deny admission to these five players either don’t understand the NCAA’s minimum standards, don’t understand the academic credentials of most of the rest of the class, or are so hung up on Georgia’s academic standing that they are willing to seize upon this news as proof of integrity and standards. In any case, the posturing comes across as ridiculous and unintentionally quite funny.

Because even the best athletes should at least be passing students.

Let’s finish up an editorial on academics with a sentence fragment.

Post Kelin Johnson

Thursday July 14, 2005

UGASports profiles Kelin Johnson today. Not many fans knew who he was, and even some recruitniks questioned why the Dawgs would want a lesser-known safety from Florida. No one knows how good a safety he’ll be, though that interception at Kentucky was pretty (and nearly a touchdown). But what everyone does know is that #30, whoever he was, was in on most every special teams tackle last season, and there was usually a nice hit involved. So we have a guy that can get down the field quickly and get quality hits on the speedy, elusive types that are put on kick returns. Not bad traits for someone looking for work in the defensive backfield. Special teams success doesn’t automatically lead to a spot on the two-deep elsewhere – just ask Ryan Davis. Still, Johnson is hoping to turn his freshman success into a starting job and is competing with Tra Battle for that starting role opposite Greg Blue.

Coach Richt and staff have a nice history of turning lesser-known defensive propsects into success stories. Thomas Davis was the biggest. Tim Jennings has beaten the “too small” rap to become a four-year contributor and multi-year starter. Is Johnson going to be another?