Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Midweek drama

Tuesday October 31, 2006

UGASports.com reported last night that freshman offensive lineman John Miller had left the program. Miller’s side of the story: "I decided to leave the football team and become a full-time student because of academic struggles."

Today, Coach Richt clarified that Miller was actually dismissed from the team for violation of team rules. "It was a coach’s decision," said Richt.

Yeah….that probably made Miller’s "decision" a bit easier. "You can’t fire me – I quit!"

Miller should consider himself pretty fortunate. He was admitted as a student-athlete to an outstanding university, used a valuable scholarship and roster slot, got world-class treatment for a shoulder injury suffered in high school, and didn’t waste much time getting dismissed from the football program. In the end he’s still a student at UGA – just no longer on the full football ride. Life could be a lot worse.

PS…if you’re a UGASports.com subscriber, be sure to check out Steve Patterson’s very in-depth look at “how UGA got so thin on the offensive line“. It’s a really good summation of recruiting hits and misses and a recap of injuries and attrition.

Post Turnover autopsy

Monday October 30, 2006

As turnovers go, Georgia’s five against Florida weren’t as bad as they might have been. The Gators were only able to turn those five turnovers into seven points. Of course as close as the game turned out to be, those seven points were everything. Instead, the turnovers had a lot more to do with momentum. Even as Georgia showed signs of life in the second quarter, turnovers on three out of four possessions in the second and third quarters meant that too much time had elapsed before the Dawgs picked up some steam and began the comeback. The turnovers came in spurts and put way too much pressure on individual drives to get Georgia back in the game.

Turnover #1: Stafford interception. Georgia had their first taste of success on offense late in the second quarter. A Lumpkin run had put the ball at midfield, and Georgia decided to take a shot downfield. As the CBS announcer noted, Florida showed press coverage to bait Stafford into throwing the pass he made. The fade to Massaquoi was underthrown, and Georgia’s best opportunity of the game to that point was over. This turnover pretty much killed any hope Georgia had of scoring in the first half.

Lucy and Charlie Brown

Turnover #2: Lumpkin fumble. This is the biggie, and we all knew it was coming. At this point, Georgia could take a knee on their opening drive of the second half, and we’d expect that to result in a turnover. I’d say it’s also even money that someone would get hurt taking the knee. The opening sequence of the second half was about as familiar and predictable than the 23rd Halloween movie. Start with the glacial kick return of Danny Ware (plot twist with no penalty this time). Ware returned the kick to around the 18 or so. Apply Ching’s Law of Second Half Kickoffs. The result was spectacular in its swiftness. The entire left side of the offensive line collapsed, and Florida’s defensive line – all with the glowing Impact Player circles going spastic – consumed both Lumpkin and the ball.

Ching wrote last week that "if they’re still in the game at halftime against Florida, I’ll be very interested to see what Georgia does on its first drive of the second half — and if it makes as big a difference in that game as it has in some of the recent ones." Oh, it made a difference. Just a little one.

Turnover #3: Stafford fumble. The only thing that prevented Georgia from having turnovers end three consecutive drives was a single run by Lumpkin that ran out the clock in the first half. Their second drive of the second half began with the penalty they had forgotten to commit on the previous kickoff. Stafford completed two nice mid-range passes to move Georgia out of their own endzone and close to midfield, but two incompletions brought about a third-and-ten. Florida broke down the protection, and Jarvis Moss knocked the ball from Stafford’s hand. A missed field goal kept Florida from converting this turnover to points, so this was possibly the least-costliest turnover out of Georgia’s five. Georgia responded a few drives later by causing their first takeaway of the game. Tony Taylor made a great interception, and the Dawgs were soon on the board.

Turnover #4: Kelin Johnson fumble. This turnover probably hurts more than any of them because of the massive swing of momentum. Georgia had just scored their first touchdown midway through the third quarter. They then held Florida three-and-out, and the Gators were punting from their own 24. The punt wasn’t impressive, and Georgia would have had the ball no worse than on their own 40 with a full head of steam. Johnson probably never saw the ball that bounced off his calf. He was fully engaged in a block The turnover didn’t hurt Georgia on the scoreboard – Florida missed another field goal – but the very next Georgia drive ended with….

Turnover #5: Stafford interception. Georgia was given a stay of execution after Florida failed to cash in two earlier turnovers. The second missed Gator field goal of the day gave Georgia new life. Stafford was developing some rhythm in the second half, and the Dawgs were driving early in the fourth quarter trying to get back within one score. They had several consecutive plays with positive yardage, and they converted (whew!) a close fourth-down to keep the drive going. A 20-yard pass to Massaquoi moved the ball to the Florida 30, but Florida pressure caused another miscue. Stafford was flushed back and to his right as the pressure closed in, and he floated a pass down the sideline that was picked off around the Gator five yard line. As it turned out, this INT acted more like a punt that pinned Florida deep. A few plays later, Tim Tebow fumbled inside his own ten, and Georgia was able to punch in that second touchdown.

Post Damn.

Monday October 30, 2006

Another loss to Florida overshadows several positive developments. It’s hard to write about them without sounding like a Gamecock fan and talking about moral victories.

I said before the game that “this could be a game well into the second half.” It was, but not for the reasons I expected. I had hoped Florida would continue their habits of slow starts while Georgia started like the team that had led at halftime of the past three games of this season. Nope. Instead, the game started out much like last year with Florida grabbing an early double-digit lead while Georgia spent the rest of the game crawling and clawing back.

The Dawgs didn’t fold, and the spirit in the second half was something that’s been missing for a long time. The defense was hitting as well as they have all year.

Five turnovers is just dreadful, and you’re not going to beat the conference leader and a top 5 team that way. One thing to take away from the game was the difference in playmakers, especially on offense. Georgia just has no one on offense to take control of a game…hopefully that’s just a factor of inexperience.

Post Impossible? Have another cocktail.

Saturday October 28, 2006

Florida is averaging 23 PPG in five SEC games to date. They haven’t broken 30 once. Most, if not all, of their SEC games have been within reach of either team in the fourth quarter.

I’m not saying that Florida’s offense sucks. They have two very good quarterbacks, a fleet of playmakers at receiver, and a difficult scheme to defend. I just wouldn’t describe them as explosive. Their style is power and force, very much like a passing version of the 2004 Auburn team. Auburn scored 24 against Georgia that year, but it was as complete and overwhelming a defeat as any 40-point beatdown.

Would I be surprised if Florida puts up 30+ on Georgia? No, because Georgia continues to be generous with the ball, and Florida has an opportunistic defense. If the offense and special teams can limit the mistakes that have cost them over the past month, Florida won’t score by the bucketful. That kind of efficient mistake-free play hasn’t been in Georgia’s character this season.

To come through, though, Georgia will have to reverse not one but two patterns. The Bulldogs started the season 5-0 and had given up a total of 14 points in the second halves of those games. They outscored opponents 72-14 in the second half and, other than the South Carolina game, scored at least 14 points in each second half. Since, the bottom has fallen out on both sides of the ball. In the last three games, Georgia has been outscored 71-24 in the second half. They haven’t scored more than nine points in a single second half and have given up no fewer than 17 points each time.

Many Georgia fans have long since thrown in the towel (Rep. Murtha would be proud), but is this really an impossible task? Georgia’s job #1 is not to give Florida any help. No turnovers, and no short-field situations. That alone would be a big turnaround. Then Georgia must attack Florida with the short passing game. Reggie Nelson is back there to slurp up errant deep passes, but teams have been able to move the ball with short ball-control passes.

While some are predicting a blowout and a game that will be over by halftime, I think it’s just as likely, if not moreso, that this could be a game well into the second half. We forget that Georgia led Tennessee going into the fourth quarter. If Georgia can get the first half advantage again and if Florida’s relatively deliberate offensive buildup continues, the stage will be set. That point in the game will be key – Georgia has flopped in the second half while Florida typically has put teams away with late scores or interceptions. Georgia might have the opportunity to reverse those fortunes in this game, but it will be a true test of leadership, talent, and especially coaching.

Post Danny Ware and Florida

Wednesday October 25, 2006

Ware has kind of faded into the background this year as Lumpkin emerged and we’re spreading the receivers more for Stafford. But Danny has had two of his best games against Florida. He had 14 carries for 71 yards (5.1 per) last year and was running very well in the second half. I still wonder why we took him out of the game when he was rolling. 2004 was even better – 18 carries for 103 yards (5.7 per).

I know that has little to do with the dynamics of this season and this game, but sometimes guys just play better against a given opponent. Reggie Brown owned South Carolina. Michael Johnson made a career out of two games against Auburn. #28 will get the ball at some point on Saturday; it’ll be interesting to see what he does with it in his third game against Florida.

Post MSU leftovers

Wednesday October 25, 2006
  • I’m glad to see the coaches stick with Stafford. It would have been tempting to pull him after some bad second half turnovers, and it might have even been tempting to try something else for the Florida game. He made his mistakes, but he also had the most prolific passing day by a Georgia quarterback this year. He was also quite accurate (60% +) considering he threw three interceptions. The surprising thing about his throwing were that many of the deeper passes were underthrown. Now we know (or have heard at least) that he has quite a gun. I suspect much of it has to do with timing, so we’ll see if that improves.

  • Snark: I wonder how many INTs Stafford would be throwing these days had he started since the South Carolina game.

  • Too much is being made of the booing of MoMass. Yes, many crossed a fine but distinct line between the frustration we all felt and taking it out on #1. I don’t think anyone was pleased with the drop. Some chose to sit on their hands, some groaned, some kicked a bench, some swore, and many booed. That the booing (and applause when he was taken out) was unfortunately the most outward and noticable reaction, but not too many of us had good thoughts in our heads at the time. Most didn’t even notice that that particular pass had been tipped.

  • The really comical part of the reaction is that there are apparently levels of Damn Good Dawgness that makes it more acceptable to kick certain players in the gut. Massaquoi’s a good guy, so we’ll make a public spectacle of our shame. Meanwhile…Dan Inman, take your seat next to Patrick Pass. Can someone please fill in this scale so I know who deserves piling on? How DARE you attack college kids…unless they’re Odell Thurman or lower on the DGD scale.

  • Speaking of which, has "damn good Dawg" taken on the equivalent of "bless his heart"? You can say anything about a player, tack DGD onto it, and all is well. "Monteego Powers is a damn good Dawg, but he should never suit up for Georgia again."

  • Facebook groups for wardrobe coordination, intramural field preservation, and empty apologies. Whitewashing the Cocktail Party. Is this really what college life is like now?

  • The important thing with MoMass is that we need him back. Something has happened to the guy who stood out at the start of the 2005 season with some incredible catches. Massaquoi’s 100+ yard game against Auburn last year was as close as a Georgia receiver came to taking over a game in some time. He is a special talent and can be a difference-maker on this team. We’ve seen it done against quality competition. The Bulldog offense, the developing quarterback, the running game, everything is better when he is on. Whether it’s coaching, something mechanical, something mental, whatever – the coaches have to save him before a promising career is lost.

  • Bryan Evans certainly got thrown into the fire on Saturday. He had one really nice play that nearly resulted in an INT, but he also got lost a few times on deep passes. We know that the depth in the secondary is so young that anyone other than the starter is going to be pretty inexperienced. Whether or not Ramarcus Brown can play on Saturday is a big question.

Post I know Georgia’s the underdog, but this is ridiculous

Monday October 23, 2006

Found in today’s Augusta Chronicle…if not a typo, call Marc Weiszer’s bookie now!

Big underdog

Post Felton lands yet another

Monday October 23, 2006

When I said last week that Chris Barnes had filled the vacancy left after Walter Hill decided to dedicate himself to Georgia football, I meant in terms of numbers only. Hill is a 6’5″ jumper, and Barnes is a certified power forward. Georgia still had a need at the small forward/wing position, and today’s news that Jeremy Jacob has committed ($) takes care of that hole. Jacob is a 6’7″ forward from Baton Rouge by way of Hargrave Prep. He had offers from Cincinnatti and Ole Miss, among others.

Georgia’s most high-profile players lately have been small forwards (as they often are at any program). Jumaine Jones and Jarvis Hayes both were natural wings. It doesn’t sound as if Jacob has the outside shot of those two yet, but he sounds a bit stronger on the post than they were. Improvement in his jumper could turn him into a very dangerous player on offense.

Jacob’s commitment gives the Dawgs three solid frontcourt players in next year’s class (Jacob, Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price). Georgia also has a commitment from PG Zac Swansey.

Post Five good things I can say right now

Sunday October 22, 2006
  • Georgia beat Mississippi State.
  • Georgia is bowl-eligible.
  • Matthew Stafford completed over 20 passes, many of which were to Georgia receivers.
  • No one was able to watch the game live on TV.
  • Georgia didn’t wear garish all-purple uniforms.

That’s all I’ve got.

Post MSU…and their cowbells are coming

Friday October 20, 2006

It’s been since 1997 that the “other” Bulldogs came to Athens. Georgia won 47-0, and the big story was all about a steamroller. More construction equipment is in order this week as Georgia begins the rebuilding process behind freshman QB Matthew Stafford.

Post MSU game storylines

Thursday October 19, 2006

Once you get beyond the coachspeak, Mississippi State isn’t a good team. After all the self-flagellation Georgia fans have done in the past two weeks, we have to make a distinction. As many problems as Georgia might have, they are nowhere near as bad as Mississippi State. They haven’t been able to stay within 15 points of an SEC team this year. They are down, and let me say without equivocation that there is no reason why Georgia should be in a game with these guys after halftime. Of course, I would have said that about a few other games this season. Here are some areas I’ll be watching in the game:

  • Stafford and the youth movement: The big news of course is Richt turning the reigns over to Matthew Stafford on a more permanent basis. That in itself leads to a number of questions. Will Stafford spend more time in the shotgun where he is most comfortable? Will receivers catch his passes? Will he go downfield much against a shaky pass defense? Stafford looked fine in relief last week, but even he was not a cure for Georgia’s redzone problems.

    Injuries have thrown other youngsters in the mix this weekend. Sophomore Tripp Chandler will start at tight end in place of Martrez Milner. If Ramarcus Brown is unable to go at cornerback, redshirt freshman Bryan Evans along with true freshmen Asher Allen and Prince Miller will see action. Allen will return kickoffs in place of Thomas Brown. If Nick Jones can’t play, Ian Smith wll be the center. We might even see more time for younger safeties like C.J. Byrd if the starters continue to under-produce. A good showing by some young players might leave the door open for the coaches to try even more guys down the road at positions such as linebacker.

  • The three two-headed monster: The season-ending injury to Thomas Brown will affect the distribution of carries; the only question is how Ware and Lumpkin will split time. Will Lumpkin get the chance to carry the ball 20 times? Blocking by the backs will be important against a formidable defensive front.

  • Receiver TD watch: Forget dropped passes for a second. Other than Mario Raley’s touchdown early on against Western Kentucky, Georgia’s receivers haven’t caught a touchdown pass this season. Fullback Brannan Southerland with two receiving touchdowns has twice as many as Georgia’s entire wide receiver unit. There are individuals who have outproduced the entire Georgia receiver corps. An injury to A.J. Bryant doesn’t help their chances for improving those numbers. Massaquoi has been playing better lately, and we’ll see how improved the unit can be after a week’s working exclusively with Stafford. There will be a few wild cards in the passing game. Tripp Chandler and Coleman Watson present a different look at TE. Danny Ware might see more time in the backfield, and he’s Georgia’s best receiving back. And always beware of the dual-threat from (to this point) offensive MVP Southerland.

  • Musical offensive line: If there’s one area where Mississippi State might cause Georgia problems, it’s in the trenches when Georgia has the ball. The MSU defensive line has three senior starters led by Deljuan Robinson. The unit is as good as any in the SEC. The bad news is that Georgia’s already-thin offensive line took a hit last week when Chester Adams and Nick Jones were injured. Jones might play this week, but Adams’ position will be filled by reserve tackle Michael Turner. The remaining linemen have been working without substitution this week, so hopefully they have something left in the tank for the game. An effective day by the MSU defensive front likely would mean another low-scoring close game.

  • What the doctor ordered for the defense: The Mississippi State offense made South Carolina look like Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain defense in the season opener. The glacial Mike Henig will play at quarterback since injuries have eliminated everyone else. On the other hand, Georgia made Vanderbilt’s quarterback look like John Elway during Vandy’s game-winning drive last week. The good news is that Mississippi State has no systematic strengths or weapons on offense to be concerned about. Jerious Norwood is gone, and nothing remotely close has stepped into his void.

    The question then is whether or not Georgia can avoid defensive breakdowns that would allow their opponent to have above-average output from their offense. Mississippi State presents a great chance for Georgia’s defense to get a much-needed shot in the arm before Jacksonville. We also thought that Colorado and Ole Miss would be good chances to work out kinks for later in the season, but those games turned into fights for survival.

Post A closer look at talent

Thursday October 19, 2006

When a team struggles, there is often a chicken-or-the-egg questions that comes up about coaching vs. talent. Fans get incredulous whenever you bring talent into the discussion. "We’ve had top 10 recruiting classes forever – how can you talk about talent?!?!?" In the general sense, that’s true. The imperfections of recruiting rankings aside, Georgia has recruited very well.

But when you look at individual positions and the effects of attrition and player development on a more micro level, you see that certain positions can develop personnel issues even with recruiting going well at a macro level. The offensive line is most frequently mentioned in that context, and others have written about that. For another example, let’s look at the defensive back position and the signees since 2002. For the benefit of emphasis, I’ve crossed out the names of those unavailable to the team right now.

A pretty clear picture emerges – those with any experience are almost forced into starting roles, and all of the reserves are at best sophomores or redshirt freshmen. The good news seems to be that there are two strong talented classes coming up through the ranks, and that will help in future seasons. Attrition has taken its toll as several upperclassmen who might be in the mix this year are either no longer with the program or sidelined with long-term injuries.

2002 (Redshirt seniors – 0):

  • B.J. Fields: gone
  • Olaolu Sanni-Osomo: career-ending injury
  • Tim Jennings: graduated
  • Demario Minter: graduated

2003 (Seniors / redshirt juniors – 2):

  • Thomas Flowers: out for season
  • Paul Oliver: current starter
  • Tra Battle – originally a walk-on, multi-year starter

2004 (Juniors / redshirt sophomores – 2):

  • Kelin Johnson: current starter
  • Antonio Sims: gone
  • Ramarcus Brown: current starter

2005 (Sophomores / redshirt freshmen – 3):

  • Donovan Baldwin: hasn’t seen much action yet
  • Antavious Coates: out for season
  • Bryan Evans: CB reserve
  • C.J. Byrd: seeing more time at safety

The good news is that more help is on the way from the true freshmen in the 2006 class:

  • Asher Allen: getting lots of time at nickle back
  • Prince Miller: has played as a true freshman
  • Quintin Banks: redshirting
  • Reshad Jones: redshirting

Post Felton fills another hole

Thursday October 19, 2006

Earlier this month we learned that the Georgia men’s basketball team had landed a commitment from PG Zac Swansey after Keegan Bell backed out.

Last week, frontcourt prospect Walter Hill from East Hall decided to play football for Georgia instead of basketball.

To fill the hole left by Hill’s decision, UGASports.com is reporting ($) that 6’8″ forward Chris Barnes from Riverdale will commit to Georgia over Kentucky and Oklahoma. This is a nice pickup for the frontcourt, and it’s very good news to see Georgia win a recruiting battle of this magnitude. Rivals.com basketball recruiting expert Justin Young says, “You pair (Barnes) with Jeremy Price, another instate guy, and you have yourself a really good base to build around down the road.”

Post Surely someone had a knife

Wednesday October 18, 2006

Two things stand out in the ongoing saga of last weekend’s Miami – FIU brawl (be sure to watch through the 1′ 45" point).

1 – The surprising part of the story wasn’t the fight itself but the fact that none of the players from either south Florida school seems to have been armed with anything more dangerous than a helmet.

2 – Did Miami president Donna Shalala actually use the worn-out sports cliche "throw…under the bus" in an official statement about the incident earlier this week? Epic. Rack her. She’s now qualified to work on a Sunday morning NFL pregame show.

Post Ron Jirsa, academic counselor

Wednesday October 18, 2006

Chip Towers in today’s AJC reports an accusation by former Georgia basketball center Robb Dryden.

Former University of Georgia basketball coach Ron Jirsa benched a player after he refused to change his major when his class schedule conflicted with practice, former UGA center Robb Dryden said this week.

Dryden claims that after refusing to change his major, Jirsa retaliated by dismissing him from the team and then by benching him after Dryden was reinstated by associate athletic director Dick Bestwick. I recall at the time a lot of people wondering why Dryden wasn’t used much at all after showing some early promise, and I guess this explains it. Jirsa doesn’t deny the incident.

Sometimes coaches are able to work around schedules. Andy Landers moved his practices last year to early mornings in order to accomodate the afternoon class schedules which conflicted with his usual practice time. No one was thrilled with the crack-of-dawn practices, but the team was able to balance the need to practice with the academic schedules of the student-athletes. Several players had to learn the discipline to be ready and alert for early practices, but that’s part of the trade-off of priorities.

It seems from the article as if Jirsa had that option in this case, and it’s wrong that he tried to force a different set of priorities on Dryden instead of adjust the practice schedule.

Life as a college student-athlete is a constant balance of priorities. You must be dedicated to your sport, because that’s the reason why you’re on scholarship. You have academic priorities. You have social and even financial priorities. Many have spiritual priorities. Sometimes you have to choose some over others. I do fault Jirsa for trying to force Dryden to change his major to one more convenient for Jirsa, and I don’t at all like the retaliatory response of kicking Dryden off the team after Robb refused to drop his major. That’s a ham-handed response by a new coach who wasn’t ready for those nuances of the job.

This isn’t always as cut-and-dried as it seems. It might happen that a must-have class is only offered when the team practices, and the coach has already found the optimal time to balance practice with the course load of most of his players. If a player can’t practice, his performance and value to the team is diminished. Should a player who can’t practice expect to play?

"That was the backbone reason why I came to Georgia — to go the engineering school, and I wasn’t going to change my major," Dryden said.

That’s great, and I’m glad he finally graduated, but he also had to remember the means by which he was able to come to Georgia and major in engineering. There was a commitment to basketball. It doesn’t seem though that this situation was completely either-or. Jirsa had the ability to be flexible and chose not to, so it’s quite right that he should have the egg on his face.