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Post The demolition will be televised

Wednesday December 26, 2007

Though tickets don’t seem to be much of a problem, one Hawaii cable company is going to some lengths to make sure that residents who can’t make the trip to New Orleans are still able to watch the Sugar Bowl in style:

Oceanic Time Warner Cable announced yesterday that 6,000 high-definition TV boxes arrived this week – in time for Christmas and the highly anticipated Sugar Bowl game between Hawai’i and Georgia.

The company had many of the boxes flown in to meet the growing demand for HDTV.

“Over 3,000 subscribers on a waiting list since the 1st of December will now get their boxes in time for the game,” said Alan Pollock, vice president of marketing at Oceanic Time Warner Cable.

No word yet on how the cable company plans on handling 5,987 returns on the morning of January 2nd.


Post Sit ‘em or play ‘em?

Wednesday December 26, 2007

The Senator raises today one of the downsides to a playoff. We’re to the point in the NFL season where coaches are deciding which starters to rest before the playoff run. It’s even worse in baseball where the best teams have 15-20 games to kill between the time they clinch a playoff spot and the start of the postseason. Get ready to see a AAA lineup.

I understand the concern, but I guess I’ve watched too many Duke-Carolina games at the end of a basketball season to wrap my head around this possibility. We can debate the bigger meaning of a Duke-Carolina game when the conference tournament wipes the slate clean the following weekend, but each meeting still carries the full emotional load of the rivalry even when both teams are assured of a postseason bid. I couldn’t imagine Georgia fans overlooking an otherwise meaningless loss to Tech or Alabama fans content with playing the B team against Auburn even if they were still alive for an SEC and national title. Irrational, maybe, but rationality has never been a trait of the sports fan.

For teams that don’t end the season with a rivalry game, there are still some other reasons not to lie down. Chief among them is seeding, and this factor keeps college basketball from dealing with meaningless final games. The pros slot the postseason positions based on record, and these positions are often decided well beforehand (as is the case this year). A seeding system means that you are auditioning right through your final game, and your last few results are often the most meaningful. Would you rather play West Virginia or Southern Cal in the first round?

With so few games in the college football regular season, conference titles are often still in question entering the final week. Only the Big East was settled before the final week this season. Though several teams might feel comfortable that their playoff invitation is in the mail, it’s reasonable that many teams will still be playing towards a conference title down the stretch of the regular season.


Post Speculating about Mark Richt’s future

Wednesday December 26, 2007

Kyle has done the digging over at Dawg Sports to get to the bottom of Mark Richt’s contract and the associated buyout clauses. I agree with his ultimate conclusion that Mark Richt will end his coaching career in Athens. We’d be very fortunate for that to happen.

Something tells me though that the end of Richt’s career will come sooner than we think it will. He won’t be one to hang on until he dies in the job or stays on out of hubris in pursuit of immortality. Given his already-impressive involvement in his church and community, I could almost picture a “career change” – a moment years down the road where Mark Richt steps away from coaching several years before the norm to devote his energy to his family, faith, and faith community while he is still able.

Clearly Richt sees coaching as a position where he can make a positive impact on others, and I’m sure that’s a big part of what fires him up each day and each year. As he said in 2005,

I coach because I love these players; I want them to succeed in life, and I hope that I can make a positive impact on their lives to where they can become a very good husband, a very good father, a very good employee, a very good citizen.

No one knows if the time will ever come, but it’s possible that Richt might one day conclude that his talents and time could make a bigger impact in a different type of service. If his coaching career continues on the same trajectory, the Bulldog Nation will be as simultaneously proud and heartbroken as it was the day Herschel Walker left for the USFL.

I don’t suggest that such a time is imminent or even foreseeable or that I want it to come any sooner than you do. Selfishly, I want the Richt era to last as long as possible. I just don’t see it ever getting to the point where we’re asking whether or not the game has passed by a 75-year-old Mark Richt.


Post Familiar name comes up big in ECU upset

Monday December 24, 2007

It was the can’t-miss bowl pick of the year.  Nearly 98% of ESPN’s College Bowl Mania participants had picked #24 Boise State to handle ECU – no other pick came close to its certainty.  So of course in this season of upsets, ECU had to win, and they did.  After blowing a 38-14 lead, the Pirates drove for a game-winning field goal with no time remaining.  It was Boise State’s turn to get a taste of the Cinderella medicine, and ECU has earned the right to enjoy life for a while after a couple of 1 and 2-win seasons recently.

Though the story last night was the record-breaking performance of ECU’s Chris Johnson, their leading receiver was a guy named Jamar Bryant.  Bryant, in fact, was ECU’s leading receiver for the season with 48 receptions for 704 yards and 6 TDs.   

You might remember that Bryant originally signed with Georgia in 2004 out of Rockingham, NC.  He did not qualify academically and attended Hargrave prep school during the 2004-2005 academic year.  Then things got interesting.

As late as May 2005, Bryant seemed poised to become a Bulldog.  “Jamar is qualified,” Hargrave head coach Robert Prunty told UGASports.com. “He got his paperwork in and he’ll be there (Athens) real soon.”

That wasn’t quite the case.  In July, with Bryant’s academic status still up in the air, Bryant requested and received a release from UGA. He enrolled at ECU in 2005 but did not join the Pirate football team until the next summer as he worked out lingering eligibility issues.  Though four years out of high school, he was considered a sophomore in 2007 and will return for his junior year as ECU’s established top receiver.

Georgia signed another prospect out of Rockingham in 2004, but the story of Dannell Ellerbe has turned out a lot better for Bulldog fans.


Post Dawgs vs. Hawaii, Round One

Saturday December 22, 2007

While the football teams will be playing to determine one of the nation’s best football teams in a little over a week, the basketball teams will meet Saturday at 4:00 (ET) to determine last place in the Rainbow Classic. Georgia’s last-second loss against Tulane last night gives them two losses in the tournament and forces them to beat the hometown team in order to avoid the Golden Pineapple. With emotions already charged over the upcoming Sugar Bowl, you can bet that local sentiment will be against the Dawgs this afternoon.

The grumbling has predictably (and justifiably) picked up against Felton this weekend. After a national spotlight piece the other day in which Felton claims, “we’re as talented as we’ve ever been,” one doesn’t expect losses to ETSU and Tulane, especially on the same day.

I really expected (and still expect) three things from this season:

  • Beat Tech. Georgia has yet to lose to the Jackets in Athens since the series went home-and-home in 1995. Keeping that going could be the last chance Felton has to hold off mass revolt.
  • Finish at least .500 in the SEC. They managed it last year, and the league doesn’t look that impressive this year.
  • Make the postseason again. We all want the NCAA Tournament, but given the unexpected losses of Brown and Mercer, any postseason would be something at this point.

All three of those objectives look more difficult after the past two games, but I think meeting all three is still a necessity for Felton to continue to claim consistent – if not incremental – improvement in the program.


Post 2007 look back: January

Friday December 21, 2007

It’s been a great 2007 in Georgia athletics, and we begin a look back with – wait for it – the highlights of January.

January 3: Notre Dame was waxed in the Sugar Bowl. It would be the highlight of 2007 for the program.

Welcome to Bama

January 5: Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Soon the world would be introduced to Alana Colette Connell.

January 8: Stacy Searels was hired as Georgia’s new offensive line coach. The former Auburn lineman chose Georgia over an offer to join Nick Saban’s fledgling staff at Alabama. Though the addition of Searels was universally praised from the beginning, no one could have imagined how well it would go. Faced with only two returning experienced scholarship linemen, the Dawgs approached the season with a "fake it till we make it" outlook up front. By the end of the 2007, Searels and his young and inexperienced line had paved the way for the emergence of Knowshon Moreno while giving up only 15 sacks.

January 8: Florida won the national football title and more or less emasculated the Big 10.

January 15: Chan Gailey was a candidate for the Miami Dolphins job. I think both the Dolphins and Jackets wish this had happened.

January 17: Steve Newman’s improbable buzzer-beater completed a last-minute comeback at Arkansas.

January 18: Rep. Jack Kingston stood firm against the Gators in Congress.

January 20: The Dawgs followed up the Arkansas win with a devastating loss at Alabama. Though the game ended on a questionable no-call, the story was Georgia’s second half collapse after leading by 15 at halftime. In hindsight, this loss probably cost Georgia a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

January 22: Bruce Pearl gave the people what they wanted at a Lady Vols game.

January 24: The roller-coaster ride continued for Georgia basketball with an overtime win over Kentucky.

January 27: They did it for Brophy: with a buzzer-beating three-pointer, Georgia upset LSU on a day set aside to honor the memory of Kevin Brophy.


Post Hawaii not kind to Hoop Dawgs

Friday December 21, 2007

Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come, but the Dawgs looked absolutely dismal last night in a 76-58 loss to ETSU in the Rainbow Classic. Yes – the same ETSU team that was 4-5 with a 50-point loss to Syracuse just five days ago. Georgia hadn’t played since their win over Wake Forest nearly two weeks ago, and it showed. Freshmen Jeremy Price was the only Dawg in double-figures with 10 points, and Sundiata Gaines managed only four. The Dawgs had 24 turnovers and shot under 35% for the game.

Georgia led 13-7 but quickly fell behind and trailed 32-23 at halftime. They trailed by as many as 21 in the second half and got no closer than 10. It was the team’s worst outing since they laid down at Air Force to end last season.

The Dawgs play Tulane today in a consolation game. We’ll see if they can salvage anything from this trip.


Post Well, well, well… Van Gorder to South Carolina

Wednesday December 19, 2007

Steve Spurrier’s official site (spurrierhbc.com) is reporting that South Carolina will hire former Georgia defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder. A press conference is set for this afternoon.

Brian Van Gorder will be announced as the new defensive coordinator for the University of South Carolina in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Van Gorder, most recently a linebackers’ coach with the Atlanta Falcons, held the defensive coordinators’ postion with the University of Georgia from 2001-2004. Video from Coach Steve Spurrier will be available this afternoon.

I’m sure Spurrier appreciates the chance to tweak the Dawgs while getting himself a capable coordinator. Van Gorder left Georgia in pursuit of a head coaching opportunity after the 2004 season, and the quest has taken him to the Jacksonville Jaguars, to Georgia Southern, to the Atlanta Falcons, and now back as an SEC coordinator in Coulmbia.

No doubt the Chicken Littles and Willie Martinez detractors out there will declare this move as a death knell for the Dawgs, but it’s setting up as a rather interesting experiment. Much of the Martinez vs. Van Gorder discussion centers around the talent level of the Georgia defense from 2002-2004. South Carolina will have an adequate level of defensive talent, but it won’t be on the same level as what Van Gorder had at Georgia. I guess we finally will get to see how much of Van Gorder’s genius was coaching and how much of it was right-place-right-time.


Post John Eason to FAMU?

Wednesday December 19, 2007

Grambling coach Rod Broadway has turned down an opportunity to take the vacant Florida A&M head coaching position, and the Tallahassee Democrat is reporting that Georgia receivers coach John Eason might be considered.

With Broadway now out of the picture, Florida A&M President James Ammons may now pursue John Eason, the associate head football coach and wide receivers coach at the University of Georgia. Eason, a standout wide receiver and a 1969 graduate of FAMU, has been with the Bulldogs since 2001.

Eason has caught criticism in the past from Georgia fans for drops and sub-par receiver play, but the receivers have generally been outstanding this year. Eason has also been instrumental in getting verbal commitments from two of the nation’s best receivers for the 2008 class.


Post Paul Johnson settles in

Wednesday December 19, 2007

From today’s AJC:

Tech played better than in most, maybe all, games so far, but Kansas’ talent and experience were enough that until the final five minutes or so, the biggest roar came at halftime.

That’s when new football coach Paul Johnson was introduced and said over the PA, “The one thing I have learned in the [first] seven days is, ‘To Hell With Georgia.’ “

Watching a loss in front of a crowd of 9,000 – he should learn to get used to that too.


Post Good national press for the hoops team

Tuesday December 18, 2007

The Dawgs are in Hawaii this week to play in the Rainbow Classic, and they get back into action on Thursday against East Tennessee St. Though the Dawgs have started 6-1 after dismissing two key players, the competition takes a step up over the next couple of weeks.

Mark Schlabach has a very nice in-depth piece on the Dawgs over at ESPN, and it’s currently featured on their main basketball page. There’s not much new for anyone who has followed this story, but it’s a good summary for those who haven’t. It also gives a deeper look at how the team has faced the situation, and there are some insightful comments from the players about dealing with the academic requirements on top of their basketball obligations.


Post Blake Barnes off to Delta State

Tuesday December 18, 2007

In a move that’s a little surprising, if only for the timing, quarterback Blake Barnes is leaving the Georgia program and will play his final season at Division II Delta State in his home state of Mississippi.

Blake Barnes
Blake Barnes
Photo: UGASports.com

Barnes has always been the subject of transfer rumors during his Georgia career. When it became clear early in 2006 that he was destined to be a career backup, fans wondered if he would head elsewhere for his final two years of eligibility. His decision to remain in Athens for the 2007 season gave the Dawgs three veteran quarterbacks, and it allowed them to redshirt promising freshman Logan Gray. As it turned out, the depth he provided wasn’t a factor in 2007, and he only saw mop-up duty in the Western Carolina game and didn’t attempt a pass.

Barnes entered Georgia as one of the standouts in the 2004 recruiting class. In August we discussed how Barnes was part of a trio of quarterback prospects considering Georgia that included Oklahoma State’s Bobby Reid and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell. Landing Barnes was somewhat of a coup – he was considered among the top ten pocket passers in the nation by Rivals.com right up there with guys like Harrell, Longshore, Glennon, and Ainge. As a high school senior, he was named the Gatorade Mississippi player of The Year.

He was the first high-profile quarterback signed by Georgia with an eye towards the post-Greene and Shockley era, but the subsequent signings of Joe Cox and Matthew Stafford clouded the order of succession. With Gray added into the mix for 2008, the prospects for playing time are even slimmer.

At Delta State, Barnes will have to beat out a returning starter. He’ll remain with the Dawgs for the Sugar Bowl, and one wonders if he’d get the nod if the situation presented itself late in the game. We thank him for his contributions to the Georgia program, and we wish him well back home.


Post Thoughts to warm your heart

Tuesday December 18, 2007

On a chilly December morning…

Think about the playmakers coming back next year on defense and then add in Akeem Hebron who is on his way back to Athens.  Hebron was projected to be a starting linebacker last year before a semester suspension for alcohol-related violations.  Go ahead and picture it…Curran, Washington, Ellerbe, Hebron, Dewberry, Dent, and Charles White.

It looks as if the Dawgs won’t have to worry about juniors declaring for the NFL Draft this year.  Ellerbe, Southerland, and Jeff Owens have all submitted the paperwork to see what their draft status might be, but no one is seriously considering leaving.

Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com spoke with the three last week and confirmed that none of the three has plans to leave.  Owens in particular had an interesting quote:

“Herschel said he regretted coming out early and that he should have come back for his senior year,” Owens said. “I happen to agree. It’s a great experience to be here with my teammates. I love them all to death.”

Finally…there’s recruiting.  It’s just going to get better.


Post In appreciation of excellence

Monday December 17, 2007

Ivan Maisel has a nice piece up (h/t Get the Picture) that is mostly about Michigan and Rich Rodriguez, but I’m also glad to see someone try to temper the celebration of parity that’s going on this season.

For all the talk of parity, the teams playing for the national title are 1) a team that played for the title last year and 2) one of the preseason picks. I also note that four of the six BCS conference champions were favored to win their conferences, and the other two – Ohio State and Oklahoma – aren’t exactly newcomers to the scene. The only real manifestation of parity in the BCS is Kansas.

It really has been a wild and incredible season, but something strikes me as wrong when people in the game are placing who lost above who’s winning. As entertaining as upsets are and as great of a story as Kansas is, I still prefer to see excellence shine through. The 2006 Rose Bowl was the ultimate as Bush’s Southern Cal slugged it out with Young’s Texas. Though there are exceptions, true excellence in college football is most likely going to come from a traditional power, and it’s better for the sport when programs like Michigan are doing well. As insensitive as it might be to say, it’s better for the game that Rodriguez is at Michigan than at West Virginia.


Post Perception is reality

Monday December 17, 2007

For six and a half years, we had to deal with the perception, even among our own fans, that Mark Richt was a dull, unimaginative coach that lacked fire.

Now, according to Honolulu Advertiser columnist Ferd Lewis, Richt is a "motivational master." I’ll take it.