Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Katrina McClain Johnson headed to the Hall of Fame

Friday April 28, 2006

While the Georgia news on most people’s mind this weekend will be the NFL Draft, it’s a very significant weekend for one of the University’s other sports. Katrina McClain Johnson will become the first player or coach from the University inducted to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She definitely deserves the honor and finally gives the tradition-rich Georgia program a presence in the Hall of Fame.

Teresa Edwards only recently retired from competition and is not eligible for the Hall of Fame yet. That’s a sure thing. But it’s criminal that Andy Landers hasn’t been nominated yet. Wonder if it has anything to do with the Hall of Fame being in Knoxville.

Along with Dominique Wilkins heading to the Basketball Hall of Fame, this has been quite a year for some of Georgia’s past hoop greats.

Post Only comment about Reggie Bush for now

Friday April 28, 2006

Who knew that this whole debate over USC’s Dynasty was really about the house where Reggie Bush’s family holed up?

Post Gailey makes way for….Patrick Nix

Friday April 28, 2006

Ball and Nix Tech coach Chang A. Lee has handed over the playcalling duties to offensive coordinator and former Auburn signal-caller Patrick Nix. I can understand Gailey wanting to take a step back – he’s only a year or so removed from a heart attack, and managing the Tech program is stress enough for any man. But Nix?

Nix is, if you remember, the gentleman who instructed Reggie Ball to spike the ball on third down as an astonished Chan Gailey gave the world’s best “WTF?!?!?” look on national television. In addition to his offensive coordinator duties, Nix is also quarterbacks coach. Since George Godsey threw a perfect pass to Tim Wansley in 2001, the Tech quarterback position has been a nice jambalaya of transfers, position changes, zero depth, and the stuck-in-neutral career of Reggie Ball. If he can do for the Tech playcalling what he’s done for the development of Ball, well…that’ll be just fine.

GSB put it well once again…imagine the contrast in the season opener. Charlie Weis called plays for the Super Bowl champ and poured gasoline on the Notre Dame offense. Patrick Nix is still trying to find a way to get the ball to Calvin Johnson that isn’t a fade or a 12-yard pass to the sideline.

Post 12-6

Thursday April 27, 2006

The Diamond Dawgs needed a win in the worst way, and they got one against the best possible opponent on Wednesday. The Dawgs hung 10 runs in the first two innings on Georgia Tech and never looked back on the way to a 12-6 win. The offensive explosion was highlighted by a three-run home run by Josh Morris that landed somewhere near Ila, Ga. Things got interesting in the sixth, but Joey Side’s 794th amazing catch of the season ended the inning and a four-run Tech rally.

Though Tuesday’s loss to Western Carolina was a pretty rare bad loss for the team, a couple of wins over highly-ranked Clemson and Tech are huge when it comes time for NCAA Tournament selection. Now we have to go on the road against Florida, and it’s essential to make up some ground in the SEC standings.

I’m glad the rain held off for this game. Had it been rained out, it would have been the third time in four seasons that Tech hadn’t played a scheduled game in Athens.

May 10th – Turner Field. The deciding game in the season series. Proceeds go to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. There is no reason not to be there.

Post Recruiting hype

Tuesday April 25, 2006

Clausen arrives to announce his commitmentThe ridiculous hype around the commitment of Jimmy Clausen to Notre Dame (addressed well by Dennis Dodd here and skewered nicely by Georgia Sports Blog here) has made for great comedy over the past few days as Clausen looked more like Liberace than an elite QB showing off his rings. Georgia fans have been party to several recruiting spectacles over the years, and I’d like to take a stab at what I think are the top 5. This list has nothing to do with hype vs. production – some panned out and others didn’t. I’m talking about five guys who when they committed or signed put the Bulldog hype machine into overdrive. I’d be interested to hear about any others from the 80s or even from the pre-Herschel era.

5. Jasper Sanks

“The next Herschel Walker” label has cursed many Georgia tailbacks with inflated expectations, but none felt the crushing weight of these expectations like Sanks. Recruiting lore tells us that Georgia targeted Sanks over fellow in-state prospect and future Vol Jamal Lewis. Georgia had the back they wanted to carry on the Robert Edwards legacy, and the dancing in the street began. Things turned sour almost immediately. Sanks failed to qualify out of high school and went off to Fork Union for a year of prep school. His freshman year in 1998 was essentially wasted by the coaching staff when he saw spot duty in what could have been a redshirt season. His career peaked in 1999 with around 900 yards of rushing (the highest single-season rushing total between Garrison Hearst in 1992 and Musa Smith in 2002), but that 1999 season was also marred by two critical fumbles* against Florida and Georgia Tech.  Sanks, plagued by weight and conditioning issues throughout his career, eventually gave way to freshman Musa Smith in 2000 and was eventually dismissed from the team late in his senior season of 2001.

4. Eric Zeier

In 1991, Ray Goff decided to completely change the Georgia offense. The SEC was in a period of transition, and the Dawgs were under pressure to modernize their offense in the post-Dooley era. Goff hired Wayne McDuffie to be the mastermind behind the new offense that would eventually earn the nickname “Air Georgia”. But McDuffie needed a different kind of quarterback to run his offense. The option-style quarterbacks of the past didn’t have the passing skills to run the system. Around the end of 1990, McDuffie got his quarterback – Eric Zeier of Marietta. Eric Zeier had taken root in Marietta after living on a military base in Germany and had set the Georgia high school community buzzing about his arm in just a few short years. He arrived on campus to find an established starter and a full-blown quarterback controversy, but he grabbed control of the starting job by leading the Dawgs to an electrifying upset win over #6 Clemson. Though his last two seasons at Georgia were a disappointing jumble of offensive imbalance and defensive ineffectiveness, Zeier left Georgia as a hero and made sure that there would be no looking back towards the offenses of the Dooley era.

3. Marcus Stroud

By early 1996, Georgia’s situation with Florida was dire. Not only had the Gators won six straight over the Bulldogs, but the Gators had also come into south Georgia to get a verbal commitment from superstar defensive tackle prospect Marcus Stroud. But on Signing Day, Stroud pulled one of the all-time recruiting surprises when he switched his commitment to Georgia. The moment was captured for posterity with a Sports Illustrated cover, and Stroud became the poster boy for the hope that things would change against Florida and that Georgia was on the way back up. It was an immediate triumph for new coach Jim Donnan, and Stroud played a part in ending the losing streak against Florida in 1997. He’s now one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL and has done plenty to live up to that SI cover.

2. Andre Hastings

Another Sports Illustrated tie-in vaults Hastings up to #2. When SI includes you on a future NFL All-Pro team when you’re still in high school, the hype machine has hit full stride. Andre Hastings was one of the top receiving prospects in the nation as demonstrated by the Sports Illustrated publicity, and the recruiting battle was fierce. To make things worse, Hastings didn’t sign on Signing Day and had coaches like Bobby Bowden and Lou Holtz (not to mention Georgia’s staff) hanging on his decision. The signing of Hastings and Garrison Hearst was one of the first huge recruiting coups for second-year coach Ray Goff. Hastings didn’t really take off until Zeier and “Air Georgia” arrived in 1991, but by 1992 he was clearly one of the best receivers ever to play at Georgia. He and Hearst left for the NFL after that junior season which put Georgia back into the Top 10. Hastings was a third-round selection of the New Orleans Saints and, while never the All-Pro forecasted by SI, had a fair NFL career with a couple of teams.

1. Herschel Walker

According to some recruitniks, the pursuit of Herschel Walker did more than anything else to usher in the attention paid to the “second season” that is football recruiting, especially in the football-crazy South. The battle between Georgia and Clemson for Walker lasted well past Signing Day until almost Easter of 1980. The stories of Mike Cavan pulling out all the stops to land Walker are legendary. Without the Internet to spread news, the fanatics starved for updates on Walker’s decision, and the fledgling recruiting industry was given a huge shot in the arm.

Within a few years of Walker’s decision, the magazines, newsletters, and 900 numbers fed this hunger among the small but passionate group of recruitniks until the Internet revolution of the mid-1990s began to bring the recruiting process to the casual fan. Now prospects use the machine of the recruiting industry to create their own hype by holding Signing Day press conferences or making their decisions on television. The system has evolved (or, more accurately, devolved) to the point where a high school junior makes his decision public at the College Football Hall of Fame, sending pundits shrieking about the “biggest commitment in 25 years”.

Post Scheduling afterthought

Monday April 24, 2006

Ever notice how when the scheduling discussion comes up, one of the most common words used is “embarrassing”? I’m sorry – it’s not Mark Richt’s problem that something like a football schedule causes shame and office scorn that you have trouble coping with.

It’s OK to admit it – we’re selfish when it comes to scheduling. That’s the nature of a fan. We want to see a great game every week (though woe to all if they lose), we want to travel to some new football shrine or at least get a good golf trip out of it, and we want to shut up the damn Tennessee fan down the hall who goes on and on about how they played Notre Dame. That’s fine – just as long as we admit that the best interests of the team is way down the list of priorities.

Post Wish in one hand….

Monday April 24, 2006

One of the favorite offseason pasttimes is fantasizing about nonconference schedules. When the topic comes up most people end up with similar-sounding lists (Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and on and on). Traditional powers, traditional settings.

I don’t get the appeal of Big 10 teams – I’ve seen plenty of them in Florida bowls lately. Personally, I’d like to see North Carolina and Army – two of the best settings in college sports and two programs with plenty of history (but unfortunately not much presence now). I always wonder why UNLV never makes the cut. Vegas, baby. Vegas.

The sad, unspoken reality of these what-if exercises is that most, if not all, of these dream matchups will never take place.

Now look over at basketball. UNC-Illinois. Duke-Texas. UCLA-Memphis. Kansas-Kentucky. UConn-LSU. Gonzaga-Michigan State. That was just this past season. UConn and Tennessee play almost annually in women’s hoops. Interesting, quality interconference games are so common in November and December in college basketball that they are taken for granted.

Why? Why does college basketball get a good look at who the really relevant teams are early in the season and football is in a situation where good matchups like Texas-Ohio State are the exception? It can be boiled down to a single point – losses are a killer in college football. Football rewards above all the undefeated record. Even giving some consideration to strength of schedule, there aren’t many seasons that will produce more than one or two undefeated teams in college football. If you’re in a major conference, that’ll get you into the national title game whether you schedule Ohio State or Savannah State. I don’t buy the Auburn 2004 example as a case where strength of schedule would have changed things. No one short of the 1985 Bears was going to leapfrog undefeated Oklahoma and USC teams. Who could have moved aside USC or Texas this past year?

To change that kind of inertia, you must change incentives. EDSBS has this exactly right. People (and organizations) do what will be rewarded, and you can’t really blame them for gaming the system. You can pout about it being unsporting or appeal to ego or manhood or whatever you’d like, but that doesn’t change the optimal way to approach the system, at least for a top SEC team.

Georgia’s response has been perfect: to get the schedule police off their back, they arrange to play Arizona State and Colorado. Recognizable names, power conferences, distance, some football credibility. But unless those programs take a major step forward, Georgia should be comfortably favored against both teams. Still gaming the system, and now they get a pat on the back for it.

Football ends up with the case of the regular season meaning almost everything but gets fewer interesting matchups as a result. Basketball has the opposite problem – Carolina can travel to Kentucky for a showdown between the two winningest programs in history, but the result doesn’t mean much more than poll and seeding position down the road.

Ideally, since we’re dreaming, how about a relegation-based method that’s used in European soccer leagues? Imagine a fluid “conference” of the best programs where Texas, USC, Ohio State, Georgia, and so on play every year as long as they remain good. Each year, the bottom few drop down and make room for up-and-coming programs from the next level. Teams would be allowed one rival game outside of the conference. Teams at any level would play among their peers, making for interesting games and competition down the line. Of course there are complexities that make such a system difficult, if not an impossibility, but it’s about as likely as a blossoming of great nonconference schedules under the current system of incentives.

Post Brooks Brown

Monday April 24, 2006

Brooks Brown was named SEC Pitcher of the Week today, and I’m not sure if there has been a better pitching performance in the SEC this season. 14 strikeouts, three hits allowed, a shutout – I feel fortunate just to have seen it in person. Unfortunately, it was the only bright spot of the weekend. Even in that 3-0 win, the Dawgs missed several scoring chances as the struggles on offense continue.

Post Enough already

Sunday April 23, 2006

It’s still a week away, and I’m already sick of the NFL draft. I think Martha Stewart is the only media type who hasn’t weighed in yet with a mock draft.

I want the best for the NFL-bound Dawgs, but that’s about the extent of my interest. I’m really not concerned who Arizona will take in the 6th round. I don’t care if Vince Young goes 2nd or 5th. Please…give us back our sports TV and talk radio.

Post Mountaineer hi-jinks

Friday April 21, 2006

West Virginia must be feeling a bit of the hype about their possible national title run this season. A student with ties to the Mountaineer football program was nabbed at a Marshall practice with a notebook full of practice observations and diagrams as well as a list of Mountaineer football contacts. Marshall and West Virginia play each other to open the season, and there’s already plenty of in-state bad blood there.

Honestly, if something like this were to happen outside of the SEC or the state of Texas, the state of West Virginia would probably be near the top of the list of places you’d expect this to happen.

No word on whether or not the apprehended student is a Hatfield or a McCoy.

Post Drafting Dawgs

Friday April 21, 2006

I have to admit that this isn’t a particularly passionate topic for me. I’m only a halfhearted Falcons fan, and that’s only because they’re in my backyard and you can’t really escape that as a sports fan. My interest in the NFL is orders of magnitude less than my interest in college football, and I mostly try to keep up with how our Dawg alums are doing. It really only matters a tiny bit more to me whether NFL-bound Bulldogs go to Atlanta instead of Pittsburgh or Seattle.

Terence Moore tackles the issue in today’s AJC, and I can’t really disagree with the sentiment – such a legacy doesn’t seem accidental and is hard to overlook. But such hindsight makes for a pretty easy indictment that glosses over some of the issue.

Besides, why would you want to subject some good Dawgs to the trainwreck that has been Falcons football over the years?

The Falcons’ first obligation of course is to build a team with the best possible pieces, whether they went to Georgia, Florida, or Mount Union. I’d love to see more players from my high school at Georgia, but there are better players from other schools. Having a few high-profile Dawgs might help ticket sales and marketing, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the impact from a few elite NFL all-pros and a winning product.

Anyone who follows college recruiting knows how tough a job it is to identify talent and build a program. When Hines Ward left college, he was a special all-around player but a small, relatively inexperienced receiver with unspectacular stats. The decision to take him over Jammi German is an obvious no-brainer now, but in 1998 it was a question of Ward’s intangibles over German’s physical gifts, and it wasn’t as clear-cut then. Ward had to work very hard in his first few NFL seasons to improve as a professional receiver and earn a starting job. One might have expected Andre Hastings to have a stellar pro career after he left in 1992, but of course he didn’t. For every Dawg Moore identifies as a difference-maker, there is a Stinchcomb or a Sullivan who fizzled at the next level.

It’s no different for picks from any school. Moore wonders if a few more Georgia players might have prevented some of the really bad years in Falcon history (and there are many), but if there’s been a problem with the Falcons over the years, it’s been their shocklingly bad evaluation of talent from any school and much less some systemic policy to avoid Georgia players. If the Falcons had drafted Georgia players, you could be fairly certain they would have spent a high pick on someone like Bernard Williams.

So do I want to see Shockley or Blue or Jean-Gilles or anyone else get selected by the Falcons? Sure. Why not? I’ll get to see them every week. I’m not going to get bent out of shape about it though. The Falcons have much better front-office personnel now, and Rich McKay brought several Dawgs to Tampa Bay while he was GM there. The important thing from the Falcon perspective is that McKay and staff are competent, and any player drafted – Dawg or not – will at least make sense and address a need.

Post GymDogs

Thursday April 20, 2006

A year ago, Georgia barely qualified for the national gymnastics championship as the 12th seed out of 12 teams. They had an unheard-of losing streak during the middle of the season. But they peaked and got it together just in time for an incredible performance at the national championships and won the most improbable of the program’s six national titles.

This week they return to the national championships to defend their title under completely different circumstances. They have been a steamroller this season winning every meet and maintaining the #1 ranking. Nearly everyone from last year’s championship team is back. Instead of entering the championships as the wounded but dangerous underdog, they are the strong and dominant favorite. It’s a very different mindset, but they’ve handled it very well all season. As much as it was a surprise that they won title #6 last year, it might be as big of a surprise if they don’t return home next week with title #7.

Post And it’s official

Tuesday April 18, 2006

Chad Simmons of UGASports.com reports that Takais Brown, a 6’8″ power forward from Southeastern Illinois Junior College, signed with Georgia this morning. Georgia went head-to-head with programs like Purdue, Indiana, UNLV, and Cincinnati for this out-of-state prospect – really one of the better unsigned posts still out there – and got him. Dennis Felton identified Brown early in the process, and his persistence was rewarded as Brown favored the Bulldogs over a slew of teams who only recently began to show interest.

His junior college coach Todd Franklin said, “He could be the missing piece for UGA to go to the tournament.” From your mouth to the selection committee’s ears, coach.

Post Takais Brown

Tuesday April 18, 2006

Things are looking up for Georgia’s chances with JUCO PF Takais Brown. The 6’8″ Brown is exactly what Georgia needs on the inside heading into next season. Though not the widebody that Anthony Evans was, Brown’s impact could be the same – a capable, physical presence on both ends of the court and on the glass who will make Georgia much more competitive against the frontcourts of the SEC. Brown is down to Georgia, UNLV, and Purdue, and he has reportedly eliminated the home state Boilermakers.

Brown, along with Albert Jackson, could give Georgia their best recruiting haul on the frontcourt since the class that brought Steve Thomas and Chris Daniels to town.

Post G-Day

Monday April 10, 2006

It’s a good thing that the Black team’s first play on Saturday was a 67-yard play-action touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Mikey Henderson. In one swift stroke, the hype surrounding both Stafford and Henderson was validated, and that was at least something to take from G-Day. Forget that the coverage was horribly blown or that neither Henderson nor Stafford really set the world on fire for the rest of the game. One play was enough.

That’s how it is with intra-squad scrimmages. If the offense does well, is the defense a weakness? If the receivers light it up, do we have a Swiss cheese secondary? And so it was with G-Day – enough rough edges to keep the pessimists sleepless and enough bright spots to get us salivating. Some storylines by position:


I’m glad to see a consensus forming around the opinion that Stafford didn’t so much dominate and grab the starting job as everyone else just took a step backwards. Drops aside, it took Tereshinski four series to complete a pass. Cox was intercepted so much that he should be the MVP for the defense. Cox’s performance was unfortunate. He led his units on some pretty nice drives but got nothing out of them and actually gave up points. As for Tereshinski, we saw more of what we saw in the Arkansas and Florida games: a limited arm, preference for the tight ends and other intermediate passes, and very low point production. He did have some of the better pocket presence of the quarterbacks and stepped up for a few nice passes.

Stafford’s performance was all about comfort. Coach Richt pointed out how well he had taken to ball fakes, and that was clear on his first pass. But a bobbled snap and some tipped passes showed that he is still finding his way around the pocket. As I expected, he’ll also have to learn when the play is over and when to throw the ball away or take the sack. Still, if this is just a matter of comfort and experience, it will take a lot to convince me that he shouldn’t be the starter.


It was the Jason Johnson show. Like Johnny Brown and Ronnie Powell before him, this reserve fullback from Chicago exploded to lead the backs in rushing and also had some nice catches out in the flat. We’ll see a bit of Johnson during the season, but with Southerland and dozens of tailbacks out there, it will be tough to find him much playing time.

As for the running backs, it is becoming pretty clear that at the very least Brown and Lumpkin are heads and shoulders above the rest. Lumpkin has great power and can very often make the first guy miss – a very important skill – and Brown has the explosiveness to break off a big run, though he sometimes gets trapped behind the line. The days of the “three-headed monster” are coming to a welcome close. The depth will still be there, and it will become even deeper with the addition of Moreno this fall. That depth is invaluable and will likely come in very handy at some point this season. The majority of the carries should go to Brown and Lumpkin though, and I hope that even among them one will continue to stand out.


I need to go back and look at this more closely, but I don’t recall a single outright drop by a wide receiver. There were several contested balls that weren’t caught of course, but the open catches were made. That wasn’t the case with the tight ends. Three huge drops punctuated the first half, and Milner once again cost Tereshinski the opportunity to get on track early. Chandler likewise had two first half drops, one of which earned some mild criticism from Coach Richt on the TV broadcast. Chandler had a much better second half and ended up with one of the higher receiving totals of the afternoon. We’ll probably get a chance to see what the freshman Ward can do at TE.

The receivers as a group didn’t have a poor day. Mikey Henderson maintained good balance on his touchdown reception. Kenneth Harris proved to be incredibly dependable and pretty fearless going across the middle. If Georgia has some receivers who can be effective downfield, there is a huge role for Harris underneath. Kris Durham showed some very nice hands if not blazing speed. Gartrell got in there for a few good grabs. Receivers had a bit more difficulty with passes to the outside. Massaquoi was more or less shut down by Paul Oliver. Quarterbacks had placement problems on many passes. Out routes were frequently jumped. Overall, I didn’t see receivers outworking defensive backs to make plays, but they did make the catches when the ball was delivered to open spaces.

Offensive line

Some good, some bad. The line was most effective on the delay running plays. Pass protection was iffy, but you never know how much of that is the line and how much of that is some outstanding defensive ends knowing the plays they see in practice every day. Shackleford probably had the most disappointing day.

Defensive line

Nice performance. The ends are solid, and tackles Owens and Weston really impressed. The DL frequently had to hold back and keep from unloading in the backfield. We’ll see how the depth holds up here, but I’m very encouraged by the top of the depth chart.


Very active. The position changes seemed to have worked out well. Tony Taylor looked much more at home as did Jarvis Jackson and were very disruptive against the pass. Marcus Washington looked good as well.

Defensive backs

Clearly the story of the day was the play of the cornerbacks. Paul Oliver has blossomed into Georgia’s next dominant corner, and he has the size to bang around with the bigger receivers. Flowers was also effective. The biggest buzz of the day might be about high school senior freshman Asher Allen. Allen was involved on the broken play that allowed the first score of the game, but he was also involved on a number of nice defensive plays including a 100+ yard interception return for a touchdown on an underthrown fade pass from Joe Cox. On that play, Allen got a chance to show the speed which has him a candidate to return kicks. Safeties weren’t as spectacular, but they were still decent. Battle, Byrd, and Kelin Johnson got their nose in on several plays.

Special teams

The kickers don’t get a chance to show much, but it was good to see that Bailey is OK after Asher Allen forgot compounded his mistake on the long touchdown pass by rushing (and running into) Bailey on the extra point. Asher also got a lot of time fielding punts and looked shaky on several of them. We saw on his interception return that he has the speed to be a great return guy, but he’ll have to work on becoming sure-handed back there first.