Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Playing hurt

Monday December 29, 2008

By this point we’ve heard plenty about the season-ending injuries that plagued the Dawgs this season, but even some of those who were considered "healthy" were playing through some pretty serious pain.

Guard Chris Davis will miss spring practice after hip surgery that will follow the bowl game. I’ve been told that Davis has been playing through this injury for most of the season and likely would have been held out of games under normal circumstances. But given the injuries and lack of depth on the offensive line, he’s kept going and will make his 26th start as a Bulldog in the bowl game. Of the group that came in last year, Davis is the only one not to miss a start due to injury or suspension.

If you can’t imagine why a hip injury would be a big deal to an offensive lineman, think about the lineman’s job on most plays. You start down in a stance. On the snap, you have to explode from that crouch and move quickly to be a position to make your block. Then you use your legs as leverage while driving a 270+ lb defensive lineman. Then consider the screen plays or running plays during which the lineman has to release downfield or pull around to lead a tailback. If this has been a chronic injury for Davis this season, it’s had to have been excruciating for him.

Here’s to a successful surgery and quick recovery. Davis will be one of the upperclassman veterans on the line next year, and he’ll be needed.

Post Chavis to LSU

Monday December 29, 2008

ESPN.com is reporting that former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis is headed for Baton Rouge where he is expected to help shore up a defense that failed to perform following Bo Pelini’s departure a year ago.

Speaking of Tennessee defensive coordinators, when did Monte Kiffin start mailing it in down in Tampa? Over the last four games, the Tampa defense gave up 38 to Carolina, 41 to San Diego, and (worst of all) 31 in a home game against Oakland with a playoff spot at stake.

Post Shocked – SHOCKED!

Monday December 29, 2008

I’m sure a lot of hard work went into this AJC piece, but hopefully the conclusion that colleges and universities with major athletics programs lower their academic admissions standards across the board for student-athletes isn’t news to you. If it is, well….let’s just say you’re not going to like their follow-up series about Santa Claus.

Every time I see articles like this which go into great detail to show the different extent to which schools lower their admissions standards for student-athletes, I’m reminded of the quote often attributed to Shaw.

"We’ve already established what you are, ma’am. Now we’re just haggling over the price."

Post Good day to be a couch potato

Monday December 29, 2008

Saturday’s group of bowls were about as entertaining as a college football fan could want. The first quarter of the UNC-West Virginia game made the Oklahoma offense look unproductive. The individual performances by Hakeem Nicks and Pat White might not be topped over the rest of the bowl season, but ultimately the game was about Nick’s disappearance down the stretch and White’s precision passing on the winning score.

The nightcap was another game with solid individual performances and a close finish. Jacory Harris played well – if you could get past the broadcast crew’s gushing – but his spectacular blunder at the end made the difference. You also saw why Jahvid Best will get Heisman talk out of the gate next season. Did both the Cal and Miami coaches mismanage the quarterback position? Even if Harris wasn’t ready at the beginning of the season, it’s hard to imagine Miami getting better quarterback play in the bowl if a suspension hadn’t forced Randy Shannon’s hand. Further down the sideline, Tedford’s decision to play Longshore nearly cost them the game. It would have been hard to imagine Cal’s quarterback play being worse.

Even the FSU – Wisconsin game was interesting for a while. It’s tragically sad to see Wisconsin get all worked up because of the "speed versus power" cliche that gets slapped on a game like this and then go out and look slow and one-dimensional. Look, we know how Wisconsin plays ball. It’s been pretty successful for them, relatively speaking.

But putting this loss on Wisconsin’s (or the Big 10’s) style of play is lazy thinking. They played the same brand of ball in 2005 and 2006 when beating Arkansas and Auburn in bowls and also in 2004 and 2007 when they came up just short against Georgia and Tennessee. This is just a poor Wisconsin team, and I credit the ESPN studio crew for saying so. They had to scrape by Minnesota and Cal Poly, giving up over 30 points to each, just to become bowl-eligible.

FSU is now in competition with Notre Dame to see who can beat their chests more over winning a bowl game played nowhere near New Year’s Day.

Post Muddy waters

Tuesday December 23, 2008

What to make of the 2008 football season continues to be a hot topic, and the Senator has a good roundup of much of the thinking out there. The Senator isn’t alone when he admits that he “(finds himself) in an awkward middle ground right now.” There was a lot of good that happened (when was the last time we won three straight over Auburn?), but when viewed through the lens of preseason expectations we can’t help but talk about degrees of disappointment.

The Senator’s subsequent post about the basketball program and the “mirage” of the SEC Tournament win actually has a lot to do with the football discussion.

9-3 muddies the waters when we talk about the football program just as the SEC Tournament title clouded the basketball discussion. Neither are anything we’d give back, and we can’t pretend (or would want to pretend) that they don’t exist. Fans love to live in the world of black-and-white, and these realities make big inconvenient globs of gray.

It’s more dramatic in the basketball case, but I can’t help thinking how differently we’d be looking at this football team but for three – just three – plays against South Carolina, Kentucky, and Auburn. Nobody is pretending that all is well with the football program, but the fact that we pulled out those three games and finished with 9 (and possibly 10) wins does make it possible to convince ourselves that what we need are tweaks and not massive changes. That, I believe, is the source of the “awkward middle ground” the Senator is talking about. The uncomfortably close distance between 9 or 10 wins and a New Year’s Day bowl and a 6-6 disaster isn’t fun to think about.

The seasons of Auburn and Tennessee are worth considering. We’d rather be 9-3 than 5-7, and if the occasional 3 or 4 loss season is as bad as it gets under Richt, I’ll take it. If we’re able to honestly assess and tweak the program within that framework, then fine. But the record can’t be a distraction. It’s great that we’re 9-3 (with a chance for 10), but the record can’t become a blind spot that keeps us from the moment of clarity that can come from a real disaster of a season.

Post If you want something to worry about this weekend…

Friday December 19, 2008

Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com is reporting ($) that Auburn is talking to Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels. Searels of course played at Auburn in the mid-1980s where he was a first team All-American in 1987. He has both an undergraduate and Master’s degree from Auburn and began his coaching career there as a graduate assistant in the early 1990s.

The key question is, “about which position is he talking to Auburn?” That’s still unknown at this point, and Coach Richt didn’t know yet. That lends itself to speculation. Is it the offensive coordinator position? One would think that a new head coach as under the gun as Chizik would want to make as big of a splash as he could with his staff in order to build legitimacy. We’re talking Norm Chow level. Would Chizik, himself a defense guy, really hire an offensive coordinator without experience directing a proven scheme?

Of course it’s possible that Auburn is talking to Searels about a lateral move as offensive line coach. After all, it was a lateral move that brought him from LSU to Georgia. But Searels also had family considerations when taking the job at Georgia, and he is a Georgia native. He’ll have to consider his ties to his alma mater, but he’ll have to consider the climate not only at Auburn but also within the state of Alabama. Is Auburn entering a period under Alabama’s thumb, and what will that mean for a coaching staff that’s starting out on shaky ground?

Searels earns $235,400 per year at Georgia which is 4th among Bulldog assistants. Hopefully the outcome of this process is a well-deserved raise for Searels and him staying put in Athens. Professionally it would have to be exciting to see this Georgia line begin to mature and come into its own in the coming seasons.

All of this is using our best guesses and logic, and we know that logic and order certainly does not describe the way things are done at Auburn lately. For all we know they’re going to name him coach-in-waiting. At least the possibility of Rodney Garner joining the Auburn staff seems much less likely now.

Post Basketball back in action

Friday December 19, 2008

The men return from exams to host Wofford on Saturday afternoon at 2:00, and they’ll follow it up with a game on the 22nd against Texas A&M Corpus Christi. The schedule’s fairly light until Missouri comes to town after the New Year, and while we can’t take anything for granted with this team, one would hope they can finish 2008 with a 10-3 record before things really heat up in January.

The women also return to action after a pair of ugly losses to Georgia Tech and Rutgers. They’ll head to UAB on Saturday for a 7:00 game in Birmingham. The UAB game will be a homecoming for Alabama natives Jasmine Lee and Meredith Mitchell. The Lady Dogs will then host Clemson on Monday night at the Gwinnett Arena. Georgia is a host school for the NCAA Tournament this spring, and they have to play at least one game on the Gwinnett court in order to host games there.

On a semi-related note, this is a really good weekend for college hoops. There are no fewer than five big national games between ranked teams. This is one of the tradeoffs we talk about when the topic of playoffs comes up. College basketball’s emphasis on the postseason means that most casual fans can safely ignore a weekend of good hoops like this one, but it also means that we get more interesting regular season matchups more often since a loss won’t sink the season. Rather than an early season process of elimination, these big December nonconference games serve as measuring sticks for teams tuning themselves up for the more meaningful conference schedules.

Post And in college football’s playoff…

Wednesday December 17, 2008

The 1-AA (FCS, whatever) 16-team playoffs wrap up this weekend in Chattanooga when #4 Montana meets #7 Richmond in the championship game. Of course both had to knock off higher seeds in order to get to the title game, and that includes Richmond’s upset of three-time defending champion Appalachian State.

If the #4 and #7 teams met at the end of a BCS playoff, we’d have Alabama playing Texas Tech. That’s not bad, actually, and it was a realistic possibility just a few weeks ago.

Post There’s a reason they call them “student-athletes”

Wednesday December 17, 2008

‘Tis the season for college students to finish exams and wait for the fall semester report cards. Of course it helps if you actually put in the effort and go to class.

South Carolina junior safety Emanuel Cook pulled a Byron Hanspard and did not pass the six hours that are required by the NCAA for bowl game participation. Cook, a second-team All-SEC performer and South Carolina’s leading tackler, will declare for the NFL draft.

Steve Spurrier wasn’t pleased.

“It is disappointing he did not think of his teammates or his university,” said Spurrier.
“It is not hard to pass six hours. He didn’t put much effort in, it appears. That is why he is not playing. It appears right now he has played his last game.”

Spurrier’s choice of words announcing Cook’s ineligibility hardly sounded final though. “It appears Emanuel Cook didn’t make it,” said Spurrier. “Right now, he will not play in the game.” Spurrier hasn’t been shy about going to bat over academics before, so are there appeals in the works?

Post The best Auburn could do?

Wednesday December 17, 2008

Was Auburn’s hire of Gene Chizik racially motivated? Charles Barkley seems to think so. If race played into the decision, then shame on Auburn. I tend to agree that the whole coaching search reeks more of inept cluelessness than it does overt bigotry. Auburn did at least interview two black candidates – how many other schools with openings this offseason can say the same?

Not to get too far into Limbaugh/McNabb territory here, but when exactly did Turner Gill become the fusion of Knute Rockne, Eddie Robinson, and Bill Belichick? Chizik seems to have been a poor hire, but – other than the buzz from hiring a black coach – would Gill have really been the best choice for the job? Better? Probably. But the best Auburn could do? Put another way, Brady Hoke, a MAC coaching peer who led Ball State to a 12-0 regular season and was upset by Gill’s Buffalo team in the MAC championship game, parlayed his accomplishment into a job at San Diego State.

Gill has done very well to turn Buffalo from one of D-1’s worst programs into a winner, but does that make someone as much of a no-brainer to head one of the bigger SEC programs as it’s made out to be? Really, it comes down to this: Alabama aimed for Nick Saban. Auburn was deciding between the likes of Gene Chizik and Turner Gill. Either way, they’d fall short of the mark set by their rival.

Gill, for his part, has now said "no, thanks" to Iowa State and other potential offers for the time being. He has signed an extension and will remain at Buffalo for at least another season. Don’t weep for Turner Gill. The net result of this firestorm has been to elevate his name recognition far beyond that of coaches at comparable programs, and the Buffalo program is now on the map. If he follows up this year with another strong season at Buffalo, he’ll be buried in offers. I expect we’ll see Buffalo on a few of those midweek ESPN games next season, and I’ll be among those watching.

Post Coach Ball staying at Georgia

Tuesday December 16, 2008

John Frierson of the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the Tennessee-Chattanooga head coaching search is down to three candidates, and Georgia running backs coach Tony Ball is not one of them. Frierson notes that athletic director Rick Hart met with Ball last week to discuss the position.

Though Ball is a UTC alum, you can’t fault him for balking at a head coaching position at a school where support for the football program is very shaky.

Interesting tangent – one of the finalists for the UTC job is Hugh Freeze. If you read the book The Blind Side, you might recall that Freeze was Michael Oher’s high school coach in Memphis and followed Oher down to Oxford where he ultimately became recruiting coordinator. He’s been the head coach at NAIA Lambuth University for less than a year after he was released by new Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt.

Post Is perfection attainable?

Tuesday December 16, 2008

Javon Ringer has had one heck of a season, and he even received mention on six Heisman ballots. His 1,590 yards and 21 touchdowns put him in the national top 3 for both categories. Accordingly, he’s aimed high for the last game of his college career. He wants to have a perfect game.

"That’s why this bowl is so good. The perfect game for me would be something like 25 carries, 200 yards, three touchdowns and a victory. That’s the way I want to go out."

I’d be surprised if a top-quality back like Ringer didn’t have such goals for himself. Let’s look deeper at how he racked up those yards:

In six games against teams that finished with six wins or fewer, Ringer put up 1,131 yards and 14 touchdowns. That’s a solid 188.5 yards per game and 2+ touchdowns per game. Ringer put up at least 120 yards in each of those games and had at least 194 yards in four of them.

In six games against teams that finished with seven or more wins, Ringer tallied 459 yards and 7 touchdowns. That’s 76.5 yards and just over 1 touchdown per game against better competition. He went over 100 yards only once against a team with a winning record, and that was a 124-yard performance against 9-3 Northwestern in which he carried the ball 35 times.

Now I have no reason to suddenly get cocky about Georgia’s defense, but the Bulldogs – for all of our sackcloth and ashes – are still very much a winning team and have had reasonable success against the run from traditional offenses.

The thing that had held Ringer back the most this year has been getting carries against better opponents. If you look at his numbers, you’ll see that in seven of Michigan State’s games, Ringer was a workhorse with well over 30 carries. Five times though he was held under 27 carries and failed to go over 100 yards in each of those games. (It should be noted that he was fighting a nasty virus during the Wisconsin game in which he rushed for 54 yards on 21 carries.) It also hasn’t helped that the Spartans fell behind by 20+ early to both Ohio State and Penn State. Comeback mode necessarily limited Ringer’s carries against those opponents (16 and 17, respectively).

Of course any back that racks up 1,500+ on any kind of competition deserves plenty of respect and attention from a defense, and Ringer will get it from Georgia. A similar analysis of Knowshon Moreno’s season will find that he didn’t hit 100 yards against good teams in each of Georgia’s three losses, but we don’t consider him any less of an impact player. The Bulldogs can most help themselves by coming out strong on offense and changing Ringer’s role in the game.

Post Murray has a successful comeback

Saturday December 13, 2008

When news of Bulldog quarterback commitment Aaron Murray’s ankle surgery broke less than two months ago, it was mentioned that he was “determined to return to action this season (and) wants to be playing football again in 6-8 weeks.”

True to his word, Murray returned to action tonight for the first time in eight games. It also happened to be the state semifinals. He’d also be putting his recently-healed leg up against a tough Dwyer defense with one objective- hit the quarterback.

Murray did face a lot of pressure, but he led his team to an impressive 33-21 win and a spot in the state championship game. (Click here for a thorough live blog of Friday night’s game.) His unofficial stats were 10-of-22 for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns, and several passes were either dropped or knocked off target by pressure. At any rate, it’s a winning performance in a huge game for a guy who was coming back cold after two months on the sideline.

Murray’s teammate Orson Charles had a few catches at tight end, but he came up biggest on defense with some big plays downt the stretch.

Post Former UGA assistant to lead Syracuse

Thursday December 11, 2008

Remember former offensive line coach Doug Marrone? It was considered something of a coup when Georgia lured Marrone away from Georgia Tech for the 2000 season. Pat Watson, Georgia’s offensive line coach in 1999, died during the season of a heart attack, and Marrone was something of a Watson protégé when both worked at Georgia Tech.

Marrone spent only one season in Athens and headed for Tennessee after Jim Donnan was fired following the 2000 season. Marrone also lasted just one year in Knoxville and has been an NFL assistant since. Most recently he was the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints.

Marrone is expected to be announced as the new Syracuse coach on Friday. He was a three-year letterman for the Orange during the 1980s and returned later to earn his degree after a brief stint in the NFL. Syracuse people are hoping that one of their own will have the passion and energy it’s going to take to turn around one of college football’s fallen powers.

Post News to me

Thursday December 11, 2008

It’s always interesting to see who does and doesn’t get a Heisman vote. I caught this Heisman roundtable with three voters over at HP (good stuff…give it a read). Remember Jenni Carlson?