Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Chris Scelfo lands on his feet

Thursday January 31, 2008

Most remember Scelfo as Georgia’s offensive line coach and Jim Donnan’s right hand man up through 1998 when he left for Tulane. I don’t think Donnan was quite the same after Scelfo left. If you believe the chatter, Scelfo was also considered for Georgia’s recent vacancy at tight ends coach, but of course the job went to John Lilly.

Scelfo is coming back to Georgia, but it will be as tight ends coach for the Atlanta Falcons.

Post Road Kill

Thursday January 31, 2008

The Georgia basketball team isn’t hard to figure out. I wrote a week or so ago that "we know that this team is an off-night from Humphrey and/or Gaines away from an ugly loss." You don’t need to look much further into Georgia’s 62-56 loss at South Carolina last night after seeing that Humphrey and Gaines were a combined 4-of-22. Against a South Carolina team that put recent scares into Florida and Kentucky, I’m surprised that Georgia only lost by six with the shooting as it was.

The news doesn’t get better: it looks as if Billy Humphrey is going to have to tough out the rest of this season with a painful injury that seems to be affecting his head as much as does his knee. A struggling perimeter game gives defenses the chance to pack inside the arc and frustrate attempts to penetrate, create space for post players, or get clean looks at entry passes. If the transition game isn’t working, the halfcourt offense will continue to suffer.

The Jekyll and Hyde nature of this team away from home is something else. I don’t know the extent to which this has been done, but Dennis Felton really needs to follow Mark Richt’s lead and see if something drastic needs to be done to shake up the routine that’s clearly not working. We’re all familiar with Richt’s adjustments during the 2007 season after he sensed a problem with intensity at Tennessee. Of course I’m not suggesting that the basketball team all run on the court after the first basket against Kentucky, and it’s a lot easier to turn around a season when you have the players to do so.

It’s just that with results so skewed, some serious introspection needs to be done into this team’s approach on the road. Felton can’t continue to compartmentalize and say that the defense was generally good and that we played with a lot of fight while nothing gets done on offense for minutes at a time. While I commend him for trying to find a positive after losing, that’s a bit of a red flag to me that the urgency for change isn’t really there. Even if South Carolina was just a case of shots not falling, the offense has been equally inept in other road games at Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Saturday’s game against Kentucky seems like a great chance to get back into the win column. Georgia has yet to lose in Stegeman Coliseum this year, and Kentucky is 0-5 away from Rupp Arena. The Dawgs took one in overtime against the Wildcats last year, and holding serve at home seems to be the only way that the team can keep its head above water this year.

Post UGA to look into the academic experiences of student-athletes

Wednesday January 30, 2008

The Senator points us to a Seattle Times series about the 2000 University of Washington football team. The focus today is on a player who had to overcome many things in his quest for a degree, not the least of which were institutional factors that compromised academics.

An offensive lineman exemplified the mind-set of many players on the team. “I was a football major,” he says. “Class was not important to me.”

J.K. Scott, who was a backup quarterback, says: “Most of the talk with the guys, and this isn’t everyone, was, ‘What are the easiest classes we can find?’ For everyone there, it’s football first, and education second, as an afterthought.”

The article (and series) is interesting and pretty damning at times, but it’s naive to think that the portrait we develop from this series is unique to Washington. There isn’t a football program in Division 1 that doesn’t lower its academic standards for football players, and Husky players surely aren’t the only ones even on that campus looking for the easiest path to a degree.

But while we’re talking about institutional approaches to the education of student-athletes, it’s worth noting that the University of Georgia’s “University Council Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics met Tuesday afternoon to plan a meeting with students, coaches and academic support staff to interview them about their academic experiences.”

“The committee proposed questions to ask the coaches and students, such as how many hours were dedicated to the teams per week and how they deal with academic violations,” the Red and Black reported. This event is scheduled for March 27th, and it aims to be a pretty comprehensive survey of athletic programs.

This study comes on the heels of an NCAA study that, not surprisingly, found that most student-athletes consider themselves athletes first and students second. The survey also found that student-athletes spend, on average, over 40 hours a week on their sport – far in excess of NCAA guidelines for supervised practice time.

Post Coming soon: the four-headed monster

Wednesday January 30, 2008

Consider this thought: Knowshon Moreno might be the lowest-rated recruit among the Georgia running backs on the 2009 team.

It’s not like Moreno was an afterthought as a recruit. He was a heavyweight prospect considering Georgia and Florida. He was rated the #10 back in the nation in the 2006 signing class. That’s pretty damn good, and at this early stage it’s possible to argue that he has outperformed most on the list ahead of him.

The Dawgs lose two solid seniors from the 2007 team, Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin, but let’s look at who’s joining the team over the next two seasons:

  • Caleb King, RFr. Injuries to Brown and Lumpkin moved King up on the depth chart for the Florida game, but he was able to preserve the redshirt season. King was rated the #8 back in the 2007 class.
  • Richard Samuel, Fr. Because of his versatility (tailback or linebacker), Samuel is ranked the #2 "athlete" nationally in the current recruiting class. He will start out at tailback and is already on campus.
  • Washaun Ealey, class of 2009. The Emanuel County star was named the state of Georgia’s player of the year as a junior. He committed to Georgia earlier this week and will likely be rated among the top 5 players in Georgia for his recruiting class at any position.

On paper, it looks like the most impressive set of backs at Georgia since at least the mid ’80s. When you think about the state of the tailback position in 2003 or around the turn of the decade, the upgrade in talent is tremendous.

But recruiting rankings and hype only go so far of course. Brown and Lumpkin were just as heralded coming out of high school: Brown was the #4 tailback in the nation as a high school senior in 2004, and Lumpkin was the #2 back in the nation in the 2003 class. Their careers were full of plenty of positive moments, but injuries plagued both Brown and Lumpkin, and neither was able to separate from the other (or Danny Ware, for that matter). Moreno as a redshirt freshman was able to get the lion’s share of carries over the two seniors from the beginning of the 2007 season.

There are also the implied questions of playing time and rotation. The Georgia offense has struggled over the past few seasons with getting the right back on the field when injury didn’t make the decision for us. It should be pointed out though that some of the better tailbacks in college football lately have split time. Reggie Bush had LenDale White, and Darren McFadden had Felix Jones. LSU won a title in 2008 with a mix of three backs.

It’s entirely likely and reasonable that two or more of these Georgia backs will share carries, but it will be up to the staff to make sure that the right guy is on the field in the right situation. The abundance of talent also opens up the opportunity for creativity. Whether that means two-back sets or increased use of backs in the passing game, spread formations, or direct snaps, the offensive coaching staff shouldn’t be limited by the talent with which they have to work.

UPDATE: There have been some great comments so far. I do agree that many project Samuel to play defense, but we’re going with the news that he will at least be given the token opportunity to start his career at tailback. But as Tommy pointed out, I’m mistaken not to include mention of Dontavius Jackson, Rivals’ #8 running back, who also is already on campus. If Jackson lives up to his billing, that might accelerate Samuels’ move to defense. To be complete, there’s also Carlton Thomas from Florida who will have quite a career as a utility player – think a better Tyson Browning.

Post They’re not obsessed, not at all

Wednesday January 30, 2008

If you’re a minor league hockey team in Wheeling, WVa., you probably need all the attention you can get. So the Wheeling Nailers are reaching out to the disillusioned people of West Virginia and will host "Shred Rich Rodriguez" night this Saturday. Bring a picture of Rodriguez to feed into a huge shredder and get a discounted ticket. (A shredder! Get it?)

The promotion doesn’t stop there:

Additionally any fan who wears WVU apparel to the game will receive $2 off their ticket price. Ohio State fans will also receive the discount by wearing their gear to the game to demonstrate their mutual distaste for Michigan.

Any fan caught wearing University of Michigan apparel will be charged double in order to help Rodriguez pay his $4 million buyout to WVU.

If your first name is Rich or your last name is Rodriguez your ticket will be $8.25. If your name happens to be Rich Rodriguez you will get in free. Except, of course, if you actually are Coach Rich Rodriguez then you will be barred from the building and escorted outside state lines.

In the land of the burning couch, I’m sure a few people will show up and be disappointed to find that Rich Rodriguez will not actually be fed through a wood chipper.

Post "An athlete that’s a kicker"

Tuesday January 29, 2008

One of the biggest question marks for Georgia’s 2008 team is the placekicker.  Four-year mainstay Brandon Coutu is gone, and Georgia is putting their hopes in incoming freshman Blair Walsh from Florida.  Walsh, a first-team USA Today All-USA selection, is profiled in the Banner-Herald today.

Georgia’s last placekicker signed to a scholarship was Andy Bailey, and that didn’t work out very well (to put it nicely).  Walsh seems a bit different if only that he shows the same kind of confidence we saw from Coutu.  Then there’s this from his coach:  “He’s just a very different kid than your typical kicker…he’s an athlete that’s a kicker.”  You can’t say that about many kickers.

With a little hiccup in 2004, Georgia has had solid kicking for years now.  Walsh has the confidence and the leg, but he’ll quickly have the chance to show whether or not he has what it takes to be an SEC kicker.

Post ’09 class gains steam before ’08 class even signs

Tuesday January 29, 2008

If you watched any of the Georgia high school playoffs in December, you no doubt noticed a trio of standout players for tiny Emanuel County Institute (ECI).  This school of just 500 was a 6-5 team just two years ago, but they’ve only lost one game in the past two seasons.  They brought home the school’s first state title in 2007, and the trio of rising seniors RB Washaun Ealey, LB Dexter Moody, and DT J.C. Lanier has had a lot to do with ECI’s recent success.

Two of those three became Georgia’s first commitments of the 2009 recruiting class on Monday.  Ealey, the first junior to be named the AJC’s player of the year in Georgia, and Moody made their commitments after Coach Richt and Coach Fabris extended offers during a visit last week.  Georgia hasn’t offered Lanier yet, but he’s definitely on the radar.

A third commitment broke on Monday evening:  Chestatee linebacker Chase Vasser gives the Dawgs two outside linebacker commitments in one day. 

Here’s the thing:  UGA doesn’t have a lot of room in next year’s recruiting class.  A full class of 25 in 2008 will bring the Dawgs right up against the 85 scholarship limit, and space is tight enough that Georgia is having to turn away four-star offensive tackles in the 11th hour.  If you look at the roster by class, there are only 14 seniors on next year’s team.  Even if you figure some attrition, maybe an early NFL entrant or two, and carry the one, it’s going to be tough to sign more than 20 in 2009.

So with today’s news of three commitments – well over a year before the 2009 signing period – Georgia looks to have at least 15% of its class on board.  It’s possible that one spot is already there for offensive tackle Bobby Massie, a 2008 prospect who is going the prep school route.  This quote from Vasser is telling:

“I saw (ECI linebacker) Dexter Moody committed and that is good and I was ready to join him. Coach Jancek told me if my scholarship was ever in jeopardy, then he would call me, so I thought I would call him first.”

Smart guy.  Georgia isn’t going to jeopardize scholarship offers twelve months before Signing Day, but the word seems to be out:  if you get a scholarship offer from Georgia and want to be a part of this program, you’d better jump on the opportunity.

Post Landers gets landmark win

Thursday January 24, 2008

Andy Landers became just the third women’s basketball coach to win 700 games at a single school on Thursday evening.  With an 82-55 win at Florida, his career mark in Athens is 700-218 (a .763 winning percentage).  By beating Florida, Landers raises his career mark against the Gators to 41-7. He needs just 17 wins for his 800th win as a collegiate head coach.  With 918 Division 1 games under his belt, only three others were faster to 700 wins, and only two others (Pat Summit and Jody Conradt) have done it at the same school.

While the game was significant as an achievement for Landers, it also stood out as Georgia’s most complete effort of the season.  The Lady Dogs were 1-3 on the road this year and had look pretty dreadful in their two SEC road contests to date.  They badly needed a road win and a solid performance to shake off some of the self-doubt that surely creeps in after a few sub-par games away from home.  Against Florida the Lady Dogs took control from the beginning and put together a 22-2 run after the game was tied 6-6.  Ashley Houts scored 21 of her career-high 25 points in the first half, and Tasha Humphrey took over in the second half to finish with 23.

“We were solid from beginning to end,” said Landers postgame.  “We dropped the big hammer on them early…we clicked on both ends.”

Houts had struggled with poor shooting and turnovers in the past couple of games, but she came to play in Gainesville.  “Tonight there was an opportunity for Houts to assert herself, and she did,” said Landers.  Her turnovers were down, and she added six rebounds, six assists, and five steals while shooting 50% from the floor and a perfect 3-of-3 from outside.

“He’s the main reason so many of us chose to come to Georgia, not only now but throughout his career,” Houts said. “To play for him when he won his 700th –  and to play for him every game – is an honor.”

Humphrey had her second-straight impressive performance.  After setting a season high against Alabama, she recorded her second-best output of the season against Florida.  Though sidelined with foul trouble at the end of the first half after scoring a quick 8 points, she poured in 15 in the second half.  Freshman Jasmine Lee was impressive in 11 minutes of relief for Humphrey.

Landers took a moment to reflect on the 700th win.  “The thing that pleases me most is that we’ve been able to do it all at Georgia. We haven’t jumped around. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great people and a lot of great people surrounding me in Athens. That’s what I and my family are most thankful for.”

The Lady Dogs don’t get long to celebrate.  After a day back home in Athens, they’ll head west to play at #11 Oklahoma on Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. in front of a national television audience on ESPN2.  Oklahoma is the highest-ranked opponent for Georgia to date this season.  The game will surely be billed as a Tasha Humphrey vs. Courtney Paris showdown; the two have been a couple of the best post players in the nation over the past four seasons.  But in games like this, it’s often the supporting cast that determines the outcome.  Will Houts, Robinson, Darrah, and the others be the difference in a game with big national significance?

Post At least he didn’t quit in the middle of the season

Thursday January 24, 2008

The Brian VanGorder story continues to get better and better as the move causes ripples through the SEC.

The latest development? Brand-spanking-new Arkansas defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has resigned to fill the vacancy at South Carolina. Johnson makes VanGorder look like Joe Paterno in terms of longevity: VanGorder was announced as the Gamecock defensive coordinator on Steve Spurrier’s Web site on December 19th. Johnson was introduced the coordinator at Arkansas on January 4th. 20 days on the job – not bad.

Petrino noted that "(Johnson) and his wife are both from South Carolina and many of their relatives still reside in the state," and that explains the reason for the move. Of course this news comes just hours after the Arkansas Democrat Gazette runs a lovely story profiling Johnson and noting that "his wife Caroline was eager to live in Northwest Arkansas after hearing about the area for years." Not that eager, I guess.

This story can only end with VanGorder following Petrino’s footsteps and leaving the Falcons to become the Arkansas defensive coordinator.

Post Speaking of the Gamecocks

Thursday January 24, 2008

Please, oh please, let this happen:
Brian VanGorder at SC

Sources have confirmed to CSTV that newly hired South Carolina defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is likely to leave Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks and return to the NFL as the defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.

Brian Curtis of CSTV has the scoop. The Falcons hired Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mike Smith, and the two worked together when VanGorder left Georgia to become Jacksonville’s linebacker coach after 2004 which was about seven jobs ago for VanGorder. VanGorder left Jacksonville after one year to take the head coaching position at Georgia Southern. From there – you know, I kind of lose track. I think he had a stint with the World League, briefly took over for the Atlanta Thrashers, and had begun taping a reality show on Food Network before Spurrier came calling.

VanGorder’s four-week stay in Columbia would be kind of short even for him.

UPDATE: South Carolina’s Rivals site confirms the news. “Sources close to the USC football program have confirmed to Gamecock Central that VanGorder will be named the new defensive coordinator for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.”

Post Prediction about these arranged succession coaching deals

Thursday January 24, 2008

I think this is a pretty easy prediction to make. It might not play out when Fisher follows Bowden at FSU or when Phillips follows Brooks at Kentucky, but one of these arranged succession plans is eventually going to explode in a program’s face. Some team is going to end up in one of these situations:

  • The program fires the current staff before the old coach has a chance to step down, leaving the successor without a job he assumed was his.
  • The fan base grows weary of the outgoing coach and everything about the old program. The successor is seen as a slipcover on worn-out furniture.
  • The successor loses luster as an assistant before the transition can take place, leaving a program stuck with a guy they didn’t even want as an assistant.

I think the third scenario is most likely.

Post The Hawaii Gamecocks?

Thursday January 24, 2008

Georgia was “lucky” to beat Hawaii according to a former Warrior player,

As a former player, I’m tired of hearing fans and the media say that we were overmatched by bigger, faster, stronger players.
Georgia players are no different than us; the problem was they came to play and we didn’t.

There’s no question that Georgia was more prepared to play in a BCS bowl game than the deer-in-the-headlights Warriors, but the difference between Georgia and Hawaii players showed up on nearly every play. This former player attributes Georgia’s success in this game of evenly-matched teams to…scheme.

Georgia was dominant, not only because they were good athletes, but because their scheme put them in the best position to win.

Interesting – all we heard coming up to the game was fawning over June Jones’ run-and-shoot scheme which gave Hawaii the ability to succeed at a level the program had never seen. There was nothing innovative or unique about Georgia’s scheme on either side of the ball, especially on defense unless the unheard-of strategy of getting pressure with the front four will now be the new hot thing in college football.

Georgia got lucky, and I say that from a player’s point of view. We gave up big plays, which at the end killed us.

Okey-dokey. I appreciate the fight and spirit and the pride in the program, but to borrow a line from Gladiator, a people should know when they are conquered. Good luck against Florida though.

Post It has to be asked: is Herschel being had?

Wednesday January 23, 2008

The AJC reported several days ago that Herschel Walker is coming out with a book in which he details a secret struggle with multiple personality disorder.

Meanwhile, everyone from Frank Ros to Vince Dooley to Herschel’s own father has said that Walker’s revelation is news to them.

Like Dooley, I’m curious to see what the book has to say. While mental illness is very real and often goes untreated and under the radar of even our loved ones, there is no shortage of fraud and quackery in the business, especially when it comes to “repressed memories.” If Herschel really has dealt with this condition privately his whole life, coming forward in this very public way is truly a significant act. I just hope for his sake that someone isn’t out to make a name off of Herschel Walker.

Post Munzenmaier’s mouth earns him an extra game

Tuesday January 22, 2008

We found out over the weekend that two Bulldog football players were suspended for at least the season opener due to alcohol-related arrests, but the circumstances around Fred Munzenmaier’s arrest led Coach Richt to double Munzenmaier’s suspension.

“I’m adding a second game to the original one-game suspension after reading the complete police report and discussing it with Fred,” said Richt. “The way he handled the situation with the police officer was totally inappropriate and demonstrated a lack of respect for authority. We expect our players, just like my children, to show total respect at all times for those in authority and especially police officers.”

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Munzenmaier allegedly “thanked the arresting officer from Athens-Clarke County for ‘costing him two games,'” and didn’t stop there.

Munzenmaier told the officer it was obvious that “we” have it “out for them,” according to the report, and that police have a point system for athletes. The officer told Munzenmaier he had no idea that he was an athlete when he stopped his vehicle, nor did he care. Munzenmaier later used an expletive to tell the officer to shut his mouth because he didn’t want to make small talk, according to the report.

As Ron White would say, Fred had the right to remain silent…but he didn’t have the ability.

Post Unhappy endings

Tuesday January 22, 2008

Two quarterbacks with high expectations entering 2007 are seeing the story end a bit differently than they had hoped:

  • Oklahoma State’s Bobby Reid, who drew faint comparisons to Vince Young before the season, will transfer to Texas Southern rather than enter the NFL draft. Reid earned the OSU starting job in 2006, but a poor performance at Georgia and an early-season injury saw him give way to Zac Robinson.
  • Georgia Tech’s Taylor Bennett will apparently graduate and head elsewhere now that Paul Johnson’s option offense is coming to town. Bennett still has a year of eligibility remaining, but he has burned his redshirt year. The NCAA post-graduate transfer rule has been rescinded. If Bennett wants to play, he’ll have to do it at the 1-AA level or lower.