Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Football rules changes finalized

Thursday April 12, 2007

Back in February, I listed the proposed rule changes for college football. The proposed changes still had to be approved by an NCAA oversight committee, and that’s now taken place. While the vast majority of the changes were approved as-is, there are also some new developments.

The main point is that 3-2-5-e is dead. Good.

One proposal that didn’t make it through was a plan to limit official reviews (replays) to 2:00. Citing “the potential for technical difficulties,” the rules committee withdrew this proposal. It’s not really a big deal as replays averaged just 1:49 last year. I maintain that the policy of reviewing every play is a bigger issue. It’s not that replays take too long in most cases – there are sometimes just too many plays being reviewed.

The talk of a 40-second play clock keeps coming around.

The committee will also begin considering a play clock that alternates between 40 seconds and 25 seconds, depending on whether the clock has stopped. The NFL uses that system, and the committee thinks it could speed up games.

We’re going to end up with a system here in a couple of years where the play clock is 40 seconds in some cases, 25 in others, and 15 in the rest. Choose one. The guys on the field have enough to worry about without wondering if this is the second snap after the full moon and whether or not they have to get the play off in 10 seconds or 45 seconds.

Post Is the future now or later for Durham?

Tuesday April 10, 2007

Kris Durham made a name for himself as a true freshman with his size and hands. The lanky 6’5" receiver had a slight build, but his ability to make tough catches earned him a spot on the field as a true freshman.

In Saturday’s G-Day game, he did everything but complete a pass to his own team. His intercepted pass on a trick play was about the only hiccup in a solid performance. He showed the value of his length and hands on a diving touchdown catch, and he also showed a promising ability to break tackles on a second touchdown. With that performance and flashes of promise last year, you’d think that Durham was about to emerge as a key member of the receiving corps. I even said below that he "is going to be a ‘glue’ guy on this team for several years," and I believe that.

But we learned today that it had been an inconsistent spring of doubt for the rising sophomore. "Kris had a couple of times this spring where he had his head down a little bit and started to wonder if he could compete at this level, I think," said Coach Richt. Durham admitted, "I had an up-and-down spring. There were some days where I didn’t come out very focused. (Saturday) I seemed to be focused, and I just had a lot of fun. I think it’s paid off."

There’s no questioning Durham’s abilities, but it’s revealing to see behind the scenes and realize that G-Day performances, good and bad, didn’t necessarily tell the story of a month of spring ball.

I had heard some scuttlebutt that redshirting was a possibility this season for Durham. Looking just at his G-Day performance, that seems insane. But in the larger context of the spring, it makes more sense now. Durham probably would have redshirted last year if not for the injuries to Bailey and others. He’s done a lot in one year to increase his strength, and you have to wonder what kind of receiver he’d become with an additional year to develop physically.

The skills are there for him to become a very valuable receiver, but the depth makes you wonder from where the opportunities will come. Bailey is back. Henderson has vaulted into the picture with an outstanding spring. As Richt points out, there are now seven upperclassmen among the receivers, and they’re starting to play like it. Younger receivers like Michael Moore, Tony Wilson, and Durham are fighting for time on the field. Can Durham’s strong finish to the spring do enough to distinguish him from the rest of the receivers, or would a year of development move him into a much better position for his final three seasons?

Talking about redshirting your leading G-Day receiver might sound like crazy talk, but one has to wonder if the thought came into Coach Richt’s head as he watched the receiver position during the spring.

Post Damon Evans puts foot down about Thursday night games

Tuesday April 10, 2007

Thursday Night Lights pwd is doing his usual strong job staying on top of the TV schedule puzzle, but one thing is certain: Georgia will not be playing on Thursday nights.

Athletic director Damon Evans made it pretty clear that Georgia has its limits on how far it will go for TV exposure.

“As long as I’m the athletic director here, we won’t have Thursday night football, plain and simple,” athletic director Damon Evans told the University Council’s Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics last month.

Thursday night games are worth an extra $500,000 per school, Evans said, but also mean more class time missed for players, thousands of students out late on a week night and the campus disrupted by fans streaming into town early to tailgate.

Evans neglects to mention Georgia’s state-wide fan base who would also be inconvenienced by mid-week games, but fans haven’t been part of the scheduling equation for some time now.

With the trend towards more midweek games showcasing lesser teams who would play at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning if ESPN said so, it’s a good development to see someone stand up to it. Let other teams play on Thursday. College football belongs on Saturday.

Post Five things Georgia football could do without this year

Monday April 9, 2007

1. A quarterback controversy. Maybe it had to happen this way. The four – or more truthfully – three-man battle for the quarterback position dominated headlines for the first half of the season. The situation was a mess from the start. The injury to Tereshinski at South Carolina threw a wrench into any plans of a smooth progression, and from the Colorado game clear through to the Mississippi State game in late October, the team could get no traction as every week brought a new development and experiment at the quarterback position. Even as Stafford assumed control, he struggled with turnovers and decisions.

That seems like such a long time ago, and Stafford seems like such an obvious choice now. Many thought it was only slightly less obvious of a choice last summer. Was it really that tough a decision and did it have to drag on well into October, or was this something that the coaching staff could have handled better? We spun the situation by convincing ourselves that it was a positive to have four guys capable enough to make it a difficult decision, but you don’t notice too many people complaining about the lack of a quarterback competition this season.

Ned Ryerson

2. The post-halftime turnover. It was our own Groundhog Day. Honestly, all we needed was Ned Ryerson showing up on the video screen at halftime every week. It usually went like this: Georgia would receive the second half kickoff, often with the lead. They would get stuffed on the kickoff return. There would be a spectacular turnover. The opponent would score on a very short field and would completely change the momentum of the game. Each game had a nice twist on the theme.

While most remember the turnovers that resulted in losses, the Mississippi State game stands out to me as the season’s worst meltdown. Georgia led 21-7 at halftime, but that soon evaporated to a four-point lead after consecutive turnovers. Georgia missed the extra point after their only touchdown of the second half (see #4 below). From turnovers to huge pass plays on MSU’s final drive, Georgia seemed to do everything they could to give the visitors a chance to win the game. As bad as losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky were, only Charles Johnson’s heroics at the end prevented a loss from which the program might not have recovered.

The story wasn’t just turnovers but turnovers timed so perfectly as to do the most possible damage. While the Dawgs cut down quantitatively on turnovers during their impressive three-game run at the end of the season, they also did a better job of stopping the bleeding after the turnovers they did commit.

3. Hyping the three-headed monster. Every time I talk about the running backs, I have to make it clear that I don’t think they are bad. I enjoy watching Lumpkin and Brown. They have made huge plays for us. But for two seasons now, we’ve been touting this "three-headed monster" tailback group while the actual production has been just so-so. I don’t put that all on the backs; it can be argued that blocking and/or scheme has a bit to do with it too. The buzz is starting all over again with freshman Knowshon Moreno after G-Day. I think we have some talented backs, but it will take a much stronger and consistent effort plus a few coaching adjustments before the Georgia running game is scary good enough to be called any kind of monster.

4. An injured placekicker. Coach Richt has remarked recently how close Georgia was to being 11-2 and also how close they were to having a losing record. If you think back to the great 2002 season, at least five of those wins were true nailbiters. That’s life in the SEC. Even the national champions had their share of close shaves last year. The injury to Brandon Coutu was just one of several kicks in the pants during the middle of the 2006 season, but the impact of his loss was immediate. I’ve heard many people say that games like Vanderbilt or Kentucky shouldn’t come down to a field goal in the first place, but again, that’s ignoring the realities of the SEC. The injury didn’t just affect placekicking. By becoming involved in placekicking duties, it seemed as if Gordon Ely-Kelso’s punting suffered in his senior season.

5. Another loss to Florida. Seriously. End it.

Post Good and bad over the weekend

Monday April 9, 2007

First the good: Georgia’s #1-ranked men’s tennis team clinched the 24th regular season SEC title in program history over the weekend with a 5-2 win over #7 Ole Miss. The tennis Dawgs are a perfect 21-0 overall and 10-0 in the SEC with one conference match remaining against Tennessee. They’ll also get an interesting test this week as #4 Baylor comes to town on Thursday.

Now…is it too early to stick a fork in the Diamond Dawgs? By dropping two of three at Ole Miss, they are 4-8 in the SEC and 11-21 overall. Last year, they started SEC play 7-11 but recovered in dramatic fashion to roll through the end of the season into the College World Series. Saturday’s win at Ole Miss ended a six-game losing streak, but they started a new one with a big loss on Sunday. Is such a recovery possible this year? Not likely. There just isn’t any punch. Georgia has scored two or fewer runs in 40% of their games, and college baseball isn’t kind to low-scoring teams. If they are going to start to turn it around, it’s going to have to be on the road this weekend at Alabama. The Tide are just 5-7 themselves in the SEC.

Post Thawed out from G-Day

Monday April 9, 2007
A more hospitable location
for next year’s game.

Fans can be funny. Georgia’s offense finally showed some punch, and of course everyone is now fretting about the defense. Had the defense played better and stuffed the offense, we’d be back to trashing the receivers and calling for an offensive coordinator (oh…wait.). If anything, G-Day was entertaining for once this year. In 2006, G-Day was all but over after Stafford’s first pass. If it’s just a spring exhibition for the fans, it might as well be fun, and at least this year’s game had action for the 21,000+ fans who braved the cold.

The performance of the offense is a good thing. Though the playcalling took a few more liberties in the spring game, there was still a good variety of formations and calls. Execution helps – there were few, if any, bad drops. Tailbacks ran well. The new offensive line, a universal source of concern this spring, held its own.

At the risk of contradicting myself, the defense didn’t look terribly impressive. It was a bad performance. Kelin Johnson said, "It was just horrible, man, horrible.", and he should know – many of the more successful plays of the day were across the middle. Coach Martinez didn’t use the excuse of a spring scrimmage to slack off – he was in faces early on about the lackluster play. "We just gave up too many big plays," Martinez explained. "It’s been happening a lot in the spring. It’s happened way too often. We just have to get it corrected. We just have to reshuffle our lineup and see if we can get it straightened up."

The Dawgs are replacing six of seven starters along the defensive front seven, and it showed. There were enough bright spots on defense among the first and second units to show that potential answers are on the team, but the questions still remain. Based on Martinez’s statement, we’ll probably see a lot of experimenting with different solutions before the season. Is it time to panic and abandon the season? Of course not. That’s what the next four and a half months are about. If improvement stopped after spring, we’d never be very good.

If there was a "story" to G-Day other than the big plays, it was the recruiting class of 2006. Rashad Jones made an immediate impact as a ball-hawking safety. Knowshon Moreno showed a great burst and power at tailback. Tony Wilson made some noise at receiver. Members of that class who did not redshirt, like Matt Stafford and Kris Durham, also had impressive afternoons. Without reading too much into a single spring scrimmage, here are some quick hitters from the game:

  • Damn was it cold. Not chilly. Cold. The 2003 Tech game came to mind.
  • Tripp Chandler seems ready to assume the starting tight end spot. He made a couple of tough catches, holding onto one as he got hit hard right after the reception, and he drug several defenders on a long completion across the middle.
  • Jason Johnson continues to hold the Johnny Brown Award for the best G-Day performance from a guy least likely to see the field during the season. Last year, Johnson had nearly 100 yards on the ground at G-Day but didn’t get a single carry in 2006. This year Johnson had 48 rushing yards at G-Day, only five fewer than starter Kregg Lumpkin. Johnson also added a touchdown pass to his stat sheet this year, setting a whole new standard for this honor.
  • The offense did a lot of its damage on big plays, and that can distort some good defensive plays and shaky moments on offense. Stafford had some great passes but was also a relatively inefficient 6-of-12. He struggled throwing swing passes, and there were some obvious miscommunications with receivers. It’s spring. Barnes fumbled, Massaquoi ran into his blockers on an end-around…there’s still plenty to do on that side of the ball as well.
  • Brandon Miller’s move to middle linebacker continues to look good. He led the Black team with six tackles.
  • It was clear why Georgia recruited a punter in the 2007 class. Butler might be called upon early. Coutu had a nice punt, but I’m sure we’d all prefer he focus on placekicking if possible. Mimbs was inconsistent.
  • An interesting diversity at receiver is emerging. Sean Bailey is back and made a superb catch along the sideline. Massaquoi remains steady. Durham is going to be a "glue" guy on this team for several years. Henderson got open deep again and was the spring MVP. Tony Wilson had an impressive debut. We didn’t even see guys like Bryant or Harris or Gartrell. Don’t forget Moore either.
  • As always, the best news is that no long-term injuries came out of the game. Cornerback Bryan Evans hurt his hand on Chandler’s long reception, but that kind of thing won’t affect his 2007 season.

Post Plan B for Kentucky

Thursday April 5, 2007

Billy Donovan is staying at Florida. As most outside of Lexington expected, he’s simply going to play the situation into a nice extension at Florida.

There is hope though for the rest of the college basketball world. Florida’s four star underclassmen Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, and Taurean Green are expected to announce later today that they will declare for the NBA draft.

Post Following up

Thursday April 5, 2007

Cori Chambers’ hometown paper writes about her selection in yesterday’s WNBA draft. At Connecticut, she’ll only be an hour or so away from her family.

Savannah’s paper weighs in on a hometown issue of their own. Sonny Seiler has more to say about the future of Uga VI and maintains that there are no set plans to retire him.

Post Dawgs greats return as G-Day guest coaches

Thursday April 5, 2007

The AJC is reporting that Jon Stinchcomb, David Pollack, Will Witherspoon, and Hines Ward will serve as honorary coaches for Saturday’s G-Day scrimmage.

Coach Richt indicated that it’s not a one-year thing. “We thought it would be a good idea to initiate a tradition to also have players as guest coaches at G-Day,” he said.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if they suited up.

G-Day 2007
2:00 Saturday, Sanford Stadium
CSS TV live and rebroadcast several times next week and probably all summer

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students high school aged and younger. UGA students will be admitted free with their UGA card. Tickets are on sale Thursday and until 3 p.m. on Friday at the UGA ticket office in the Butts/Mehre Building.

Tickets will go on sale beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium at the main gate (underneath the bridge), as well as gates 2, 4 and 6

Post Cori Chambers selected in WNBA draft

Wednesday April 4, 2007

The Connecticut Sun selected Georgia guard Cori Chambers on Wednesday in the second round of the 2007 WNBA draft. Chambers became Georgia’s most prolific career three-point shooter in January, and her 228 attempts and 85 made three-pointers in the 2006-2007 campaign established Georgia season records. Her career totals of 282 three-pointers on 742 attempts are Georgia career records and rank #3 and #7, respectively, in SEC history.

Chambers gives the Lady Bulldogs nine players on a current WNBA roster. She joins Kara Braxton, Kedra Holland-Corn, Deanna Nolan, Kelly Miller, Coco Miller, Christi Thomas, Sherill Baker, and Keisha Brown in the league. Braxton, Nolan, and Holland-Corn play for the Detroit Shock, the defending league champions. Cori and the rest of the players will report for preseason camp in little more than a week, and the 2007 season will begin in mid-May.

Post It had to happen

Tuesday April 3, 2007

Bobby Cremins Arkansas has been going through basketball coaches so quickly that the latest one is gone before he even got started.

Yep…Dana Altman will remain at Creighton. The soap opera that is the Arkansas athletic department continues.

This might actually turn out to be a good thing. Altman wasn’t a very good hire, and the Hogs are bailed out albeit with a little egg on their faces. Who’s next?

Post Dammit

Tuesday April 3, 2007

Jim Delany must be in awe of Florida’s fast basketball team this morning.

It’s tough to say it, but Florida had a magnificent team this year. The word most frequently used to describe them was "balanced", and that shone through in the national title game.

While frontcourt stars Noah and Horford get the spotlight and people debate about which is the better pro prospect, the backcourt made this team dominant. Last night Noah and Horford had a single basket between them in the first half as Florida built a double-digit lead. That’s not to say that they played poorly. They rebounded and defended well. The attention paid to them on offense left open looks on the perimeter, and the trio of Brewer, Green, and Humphrey knocked them down with ease. That’s what balance does – last night it was the backcourt putting up the points. Had Ohio State extended, the Florida frontcourt would have taken over.

A 9-0 run later in the first half put Florida up by 11, and they had control of the game from that point. Ohio State was within striking distance for much of the rest of the game, but they never got back within six points. Florida was able to hold the Buckeyes at arm’s length, always in control, and always poised. They answered every Ohio State push, and demoralizing three-pointer after three-pointer from Florida made their eight-point lead seem like twice that. As productive and impressive as Oden was for Ohio State, they were trading two points for three. Florida, the inconsistent upstart a year ago, played this game with the precision and level head of an experienced champion.

To call most of Florida’s team "role players" is to diminish the fact that individually they would be stars on any team. What team wouldn’t kill to have a tall ball-handling wing who can match up at four positions like Brewer? Most teams have their three-point specialist, but how many can hit the clutch and timely daggers that Lee Humphrey pours in on a regular basis? Of all the big-time scorers to play in the NCAA Tournament, who would have expected Humphrey to be the most prolific three-point shooter of them all? Then there’s Chris Richard. He plays in the shadow of Noah and Horford, but few starting SEC posts can play the "garbageman" role as well as he.

Vitale and Digger on ESPN tried to make the case that these guys didn’t measure up to some of the great champions of the past, but I don’t buy it. Not only do they have a complete team, but they also had the mental edge and ability to turn it on in the spotlight. There might have been more talented teams, but Kansas and Carolina watched the Final Four from home. When you look at great teams like the mid-90s Kentucky teams or Duke from the early 90s or the Big East teams of the 80s, this Florida squad can claim to match up competitively with any of them.

The interesting thing is what comes next. Humphrey and Richard are the only seniors among the regulars. It’s inconceivable that juniors Noah, Horford, Green, and Brewer would all come back, but we thought at least one would go pro after last year’s title. Billy Donovan held off on a pay increase last year to persuade those players to come back for another run at the title, and he’s now set to cash in big at either Kentucky or Florida. If he uses his position to negotiate a big increase at Florida, will the fact that he remained convince some of the juniors to follow his lead and stay at Florida another year?

It’s an historical time at Florida, and I hate it, but the devil gets his due today.

Post Welcome to G-Day week

Monday April 2, 2007

Coaches have to love spring games. In the span of two hours, fans will form their expectations for the players and the upcoming season. Freshmen who don’t shine will be busts. Reserves who impress should get more playing time. Just look back a year ago…

  • The entire quarterback question was settled for most fans on Stafford’s first 64-yard pass. Henderson caught just seven passes in 2006, but he did go on to become a valuable return man in Thomas Flowers’ absence.
  • Ramarcus Brown and Asher Allen were stars on defense at G-Day. Each played a big role in 2006, but it was Bryan Evans who missed the spring game that eventually emerged as the answer opposite Paul Oliver.
  • Jason Johnson won the "Ronnie Brown Award" for a great performance by a guy unlikely to see much time during the season. He was the leading rusher for G-Day 2006 with 97 yards on 13 carries. Johnson didn’t see any time at running back during the 2006 season, but he did get in on special teams.
  • Tight end Tripp Chandler was the leading receiver in the game. After two first half drops, he caught four passes for 99 yards. He then caught a total of two passes during the 2006 season.

That’s not to say that the spring game tells us nothing. Going against Paul Oliver, Mohamed Massaquoi had just one reception. Oliver turned out to have a stellar season, but the game also foreshadowed a season of struggles for Georgia’s star receiver. Charles Johnson dominated G-Day, and he played well enough during the season to enter the NFL draft. No one from Georgia’s "three-headed monster" of tailbacks really stood out in the spring game, and that continued into the season. While Joe Cox threw several interceptions, he was also the most successful at driving the offense, and that came in useful in a desperate hour against Colorado.

It also won’t show you everything. While everyone was impressed with the gaudy interception returns last spring, few could see the secondary being beaten as badly as it was against Tennessee or the defense struggling as it did during the middle of the season. Stafford showed glimpses of why he would be the man, but not many figured that the quarterback decision would be stuck in quicksand for a few more months and that there would be so many expensive lessons in costly turnovers.

Based on the buzz, here’s what people will be looking at this year:

  • For most of us, it’ll be a chance to see the new offensive line in action for the first time. Coach Searels will have a lot of eyes on him during this game. Nowhere will newcomers be more scrutinized than the early enrollees and JUCO transfers along the line.
  • There’s also a lot of new faces among the defensive front seven. The Dawgs are replacing three starting defensive linemen and three starting linebackers. With a defensive end legacy of Pollack, Moses, and Johnson, is the next wave ready?
  • Of course everyone wants to see Knowshon Moreno. An incredible amount of hype could be poured on this guy within a week.
  • Will the offense have changed much under the continued direction of Mike Bobo?
  • How will the passing game look with a more mature Stafford, the return of Sean Bailey, and Massaquoi and Bryant as upperclassmen?
  • A big story this spring has been the strong play at the safety position. There are a lot of heavy hitters, and they’ll look a bit different than the undersized Tra Battle. But they’re mostly young, and this is the first chance to perform for many of them.

Me? As always, I just care about getting out without any long-term injuries. The team and the depth chart will change between now and August, and we’ll worry about it all then.

Post A word about the women’s Final Four

Monday April 2, 2007

I know almost none of you come here wanting to read about women’s hoops, but last night’s national semifinals were hideous. LSU managed to score 35 points. In a game. Rutgers can play some great defense, but these games last night with their ridiculously low scores do nothing for the game. While you hear teams like LSU, Rutgers, and Tennessee praised for their defense, offensive innovation lags.

The games were ugly not just because of the styles of play but also because of the behavior on the court in the nightcap. We all admire players who play with passion and intensity, but many now use their enthusiasm as an excuse to preen and draw attention to themselves. Last night you had Carolina’s Ivory Latta, famous for spectacular plays and spectacular meltdowns, who became an early focus in the game not for anything she was contributing to her team but for her trash talking competition with Tennessee’s Shannon Bobbitt. Latta leaves college without a national title or even a national title game appearance despite entering the Final Four as the favorite in consecutive seasons.

Then you have Candace Parker. To say that Parker is a great player understates things. She changes the game. She won this year’s Wade Trophy, a player of the year recognition, as a sophomore. Among the criteria for the Wade Trophy are "character" and embodying "the ‘Spirit of Margaret Wade’," a pioneer of the women’s game. Parker found herself in foul trouble early in this game and spent much of the first half on the bench, providing ESPN with a reason for a reason to put a camera on the bench to get her reaction whenever a teammate dribbled. My favorite display of this character was when Latta picked up her third foul. Parker, herself on the bench with foul trouble, danced around like a fool with three fingers held high and egging on the Tennessee crowd behind her.

Of course this stuff is nothing new in the men’s game, but you hate to see it creep into the women’s game, and you especially hate to see it celebrated as much as it is.

If they were honest, they’d take and change the WNBA’s slogan "Have you seen her?" to "Have you seen me?"