Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post A garden ripe with football talent?

Thursday April 30, 2009

States like California, Texas, Florida, and Georgia are usually among the first mentioned when you’re talking about the places with the most concentrated football talent. But which state put the most players into the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft? Yep…tiny New Jersey.

  • Eugene Monroe
  • B.J. Raji
  • Knowshon Moreno
  • Malcolm Jenkins
  • Brian Cushing
  • Donald Brown
  • Kenny Britt

Texas was next with six first round picks. I don’t know if it’s more amazing that New Jersey had the most first round picks or that the states of Florida and Georgia didn’t manage a single first-round pick between them.

Rutgers football has had some of their best seasons (relatively speaking) over the past couple of years, and how much better would they have been keeping all of that Garden State talent at home? Schiano has a reputation for being able to recruit down in Florida, and it’s certainly worked to bring that program up from next to nothing, but we’ll see if the recent success of Rutgers can keep some local talent from crossing the Delaware. About a third of the first round picks came from the relatively small New Jersey-DC-Maryland-Virginia area, and tidbits like that can’t sit well with fans of certain mid-Atlantic region schools.

It’s also worth noting that only three first-round picks, all from California, came from hometowns west of Texas. At least as far as the first round was concerned, you could draw a line from Dallas to New York City and come within a couple hundred miles of most of this year’s top NFL picks.

Post Another Honda Award tops off Kupets’ stellar career

Wednesday April 29, 2009

It was pretty much a formality. Courtney Kupets has won the 2009 Honda Award as the nation’s top collegiate gymnast. She was a finalist for the award as a freshman, won it as a sophomore, and was on her way to repeating last year before a season-ending injury. Teammate Katie Heenan kept the award at Georgia in 2008. Kupets joins Kim Arnold as Georgia’s only multiple Honda Award winners.

This award cements her place at the top of collegiate gymnastics, and she’s now eligible to be considered for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Award given later this spring. She’s deserving of that award as well; she’s already the most accomplished collegiate gymnast ever, and the case can be made for her place in the discussion of the best college athletes in any sport.

Courtney Kupets
Photo: UGA Sports Communications

Post Guess which sport was the exception

Wednesday April 29, 2009

Times are tough most everywhere, and even those overseeing high school sports in Florida are having to make some tough decisions.

The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted to reduce varsity games by 20 percent and sub-varsity (JV and freshman) games by 40 percent the next two school years.

One varsity sport won’t be affected. We’ll let you guess which.

Post Speaking of Hines Ward…

Wednesday April 29, 2009

Ward recently agreed to a contract extension that not only sets the table for him to finish his career as a Steeler; it also helps the team create some salary cap room to sign other key players. He’ll make less per season to help the team, but the difference will be made up with a signing bonus.

Ward is on track to eclipse 10,000 career receiving yards and 75 career touchdown receptions in the 2009 season.

And even thinking about the end of Ward’s NFL career makes me officially old.

Ward at Georgia
Photo: Sports Illustrated

Post A must-have for your Dawg room

Wednesday April 29, 2009

McFarlane Toys is known for their incredibly detailed action figures. They have action figures for everything from The Godfather to Elvis.

They also have an extensive catalog of professional sports action figures, and they’ve just announced a line of six-inch figures portraying only six NFL stars in their college uniforms. Hines Ward is one of the six.

Going by the promo pictures (a couple are below…visit the site for more), it’s a winner and is pretty damn accurate – right down to the infamous black stripe. Though to be complete, they’d have to have another figure of Ward throwing a pass and still another running the ball. The figures should be available around August. Pricing isn’t set yet, but their other sports figures go for about $10.

Hines Ward figure Hines Ward figure

Post Fox to sign his first player

Tuesday April 28, 2009

Georgia was thin in the backcourt to begin with, and offseason attrition hasn’t helped. The first signee for new coach Mark Fox is at least a start towards shoring up the guard position.

UGASports.com and Jerry Meyer of Rivals.com are reporting that Vincent Williams, a PG from Homestead (Fla.) South Dade high school, has committed to Georgia and signed his letter of intent. He’s a scorer (26 PPG / 6 APG) who should at least be able to provide decent depth behind likely starters Dustin Ware and DeMario Mayfield.

Williams didn’t attract a ton of attention until he earned his qualifying test scores, and then teams from Oklahoma to Florida to N.C. State to Kentucky began to show interest. Georgia made a big push with an Easter weekend visit to south Florida. The Bulldogs were one of the first big-name programs to offer Williams, and he jumped on it.

Elsewhere on the hoops front, JUCO combo guard Derrio Green will sign with Charlotte. Green and Williams were being recruited for virtually the same role, so 1 out of 2 isn’t bad in this case.

Post Draft wrap-up

Monday April 27, 2009

First, congratulations to Georgia’s six players taken in this weekend’s NFL Draft:

  • QB Matthew Stafford: 1st overall pick to Detroit
  • RB Knowshon Moreno: 12th overall pick to Denver
  • WR Mohamed Massaquoi: 2nd round to Cleveland
  • DT Corvey Irvin: 3rd round to Carolina
  • CB Asher Allen: 3rd round to Minnesota
  • DE Jarius Wynn: 6th round to Green Bay

It’s Georgia’s best draft since the group that left with the 2005 SEC title. Dannell Ellerbe, Brannan Southerland, Kenneth Harris, and Demiko Goodman all signed free agent deals. As they say every year as the draft closes, it’s often better not to be drafted in the later rounds and instead pursue a free agent deal. A late-round draft pick isn’t assured a spot on the roster, and a free agent can shop around to find a situation in which he might be a better fit.

Did you know the Jets traded up for Mark Sanchez?

Although he was the first pick, it seems as if there is less pressure on Matthew Stafford than on Mark Sanchez. Not much is expected of the Lions any time soon, and when you’re coming from 0-16 even improving to St. Louis Rams-bad is a positive step. Sanchez on the other hand is looked to as the solution for a team on the cusp of a playoff berth. The nation’s most intense media market will have its spotlight on him from the start. I don’t suggest that he’ll flop – he’s a very impressive quarterback and has succeeded at one of college football’s most scrutinized programs. But the situation for Sanchez is very much sink-or-swim right out of the gate. If Sanchez gets it done in that environment, he’ll be a legend.

I can’t say that I’m excited about the situation facing any of Georgia’s top three draft picks. Stafford’s enormous challenge in Detroit is well-documented. Moreno heads into a dysfunctional situation in Denver with a shaky quarterback and a glut of running backs. Massaquoi also won’t have a strong quarterback in Cleveland, and we’ll have to see what impact a new coach has on the dismal culture of the Browns. Of the three, it seems as if Moreno is in the position to have the quickest impact on a winning team.

It’s inevitable with five of the first hundred picks that some have asked this weekend if all of this talent was essentially wasted last season. I don’t buy into that. The guys headed to the NFL are just a small percentage of the team. Most top ten teams had some high draft picks. The difference is often in the quality of the rest of the roster. You might be set with NFL talent at certain positions, but they can’t overcome holes and weaknesses at other positions.

One area that is worth talking about is the defensive line. The injury to Jeff Owens and the never-healthy defensive end position were frequently-cited reasons why Georgia’s pass rush was ineffective in 2007. Yet two of its top contributors were drafted, and Geno Atkins is one of the top returning linemen in the SEC. A pass rushing specialist seems to have been the only missing piece (albeit a significant one). The decision to dip into the junior college pool in 2007 turned out to be very wise. I can’t imagine the 2008 line after the injuries hit without the contributions of Irvin and Wynn. That’s the risk with JUCOs though – by the time they start making the kind of contributions you hoped for when they signed, they’re gone. A good player like Jarius Wynn wasn’t even a regular starter until the Tennessee game midway through the year, and now he has an NFL contract.

This can’t be true, can it? Georgia’s last linebacker drafted was Odell Thurman? Most of us were expecting Ellerbe to go at some point, and Tony Taylor found a spot in Atlanta as a free agent, so it’s not as if there has been a complete lack of talent at the position. It’s also a near-certainty that Rennie Curran will be drafted when his days in Athens are over. Still, after the linebackers that came out of Georgia in the first half of this decade, it’s a noteworthy drought. The safety position hasn’t been much better – Greg Blue was the most recent draftee back there.

Through 2004 Georgia had only two players – John Rauch and Lindsay Scott – ever drafted as a quarterback or receiver in the draft’s first two rounds. Reggie Brown was a second round pick in 2005, and of course Stafford and Massaquoi were added to the total this weekend. It’s not crazy to project A.J. Green as a possible high-round draft pick as soon as 2011, and top quarterbacking and receiving talent continues to sign with Georgia. Mark Richt’s role in the evolution of Georgia’s passing game can’t be more clear.

The SEC once again led the way with 37 draft picks. The ACC (33) and Pac 10 (32) were the only other conference with more than 30 players drafted. Mississippi State was the only SEC team without at least one player drafted.

…and did anyone happen to catch what the Jets did in the first round? I couldn’t find anything on it.

Post A well-deserved honor for Larry Munson

Monday April 27, 2009

Longtime University of Georgia radio announcer Larry Munson will be inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame during the organization’s 50th Annual Awards program scheduled May 2-4 in Salisbury, NC.

“This is an overwhelming tribute, and I am honored to be selected to this group of outstanding and accomplished professionals,” said Munson. “To be elected to any Hall of Fame is quite humbling, but to be chosen to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor.”

Post UGA J-school considers a sports writing program

Thursday April 23, 2009

Even with the future of print journalism in the air, the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication is proposing a new program focusing on a very specific discipline.

The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication is proposing the development of a sports writing program, marrying the University’s outstanding athletic program with the nationally-recognized journalism school. … The program will teach students how to cover sports for a range of mediums, including television, newspapers and the Internet.

Citing huge student demand, Grady professor Conrad Fink says that the program would likely start small as a "certificate program."

Details are a bit sketchy. Would the focus be on basic journalism enhanced by courses dealing with specific sports? Would students learning from and working with athletic department resources still be able to practice their skills on the Bulldog program independently?

That last point was lesson #1 for a broadcast journalism major at TCU: when you’re using university resources, lay off the starting QB.

Post Update: Richt confirms waiver request

Wednesday April 22, 2009

Closing the loop on an earlier post from today
Mark Richt said at Wednesday evening’s Roswell Bulldog Club meeting that a waiver has been requested from the NCAA which would clear Richt to attend the high school graduation of incoming offensive lineman Chris Burnette if Burnette finishes as his class’s valedictorian.

The waiver is necessary due to NCAA bylaw which states,

In bowl subdivision football, the head coach shall not engage in off-campus recruiting activities, participate in an off-campus coaching clinic, visit a prospective student-athlete’s educational institution for any reason, or meet with a prospective student-athlete’s coach at an off-campus location during the April 15 through May 31 evaluation period.

Of course Burnette’s status as valedictorian won’t be cemented until the end of the academic year, so the need for the waiver is still up in the air. Richt did not comment further about the status of the waiver request or its likelihood of being granted, but the process has at least been started.

Post Road Tour begins tonight in Roswell

Wednesday April 22, 2009

Football’s rubber chicken circuit gets underway this evening with the first of nine stops on the Bulldog Club Road Tour. Roswell will host the first meeting at the Atlanta Athletic Club in John’s Creek (program begins at 7:00, free admission), and the tour headlined by football coach Mark Richt will continue through April and May before the final Atlanta meeting in July.

The bad news is that Coach Fox won’t be attending the Roswell meeting. I was personally looking forward to my first chance to meet the new coach, but there’s something much more important on his plate. The spring signing period is still ongoing, and the current contact period runs through today. The good news is that Fox is scheduled to attend the rest of the Road Tour stops starting with tomorrow night’s visit to Greenville, and there will be plenty of other opportunities for fans interested in meeting the new basketball coach.

You can’t blame Fox for making the most of every hour allowed by the recruiting calendar. He was already under the gun to find some late additions to the 2009 class, and the release of Daniel Miller opens up another scholarship.

Post NCAA: Richt hasn’t asked for a waiver to attend Burnette’s graduation

Wednesday April 22, 2009

One of AJC recruiting writer Michael Carvell’s final online posts last week was a suggestion for Mark Richt to thumb his nose at an NCAA bylaw that would force Richt to miss the graduation ceremony of incoming freshman lineman and Troup County valedictorian Chris Burnette. The story of Richt and his promise to attend Burnette’s graduation isn’t new in these parts, but Carvell’s recommendation that Richt should accept a minor violation and go anyway breathed a little bit of new life into the story.

David Pickle, the NCAA’s managing director of publishing, responds to Carvell’s suggestion and provides the NCAA’s perspective as well as clarification on the rules and processes involved. Once you get past the insitutional defensiveness, the response makes several key points:

  • The decision for Richt not to attend was not an edict handed down from the NCAA; it was an (apparently correct) application of the rules by the UGA compliance office.
  • As Carvell noted, Georgia could ask the NCAA for a waiver. They had not asked for a waiver at the time of Carvell’s post.
  • The NCAA isn’t completely rigid when it comes to the application of its rules. To quote, "One of the hallmarks of Myles Brand’s administration as NCAA president has been to provide flexibility to schools when the circumstances of a situation appear to fall outside of the intended scope of a rule."
  • At least in the opinion of the author, it would be entirely "appropriate" for a waiver to be granted in this case.

So it’s not exactly correct that an NCAA bylaw is forcing Richt to break his promise. The ball seems to be in Georgia’s court. A waiver would allow Richt to attend the graduation, and it would be with the NCAA’s blessing instead of in defiance of the bylaws. Academics gets its time in the spotlight, there’s no violation, and everyone’s happy. A waiver at least deserves the effort.

Your move, Georgia.

Post Why the AJC can rot

Tuesday April 21, 2009

On one hand, I wish nothing but the best for genuinely good people like Michael Carvell and Chip Towers who have been affected by the recent changes at the AJC. Carvell didn’t just do a solid job on the competitive recruiting beat; he also reached out to the blogs and in a short time developed a go-to relationship with those in the link-peddling business. Towers, in addition to his beat work, made the most of his online presence and was also generous with the links. We’ll always have a contentious relationship with the columnists – that’s their job – but these two guys doing the reporting work were at the top of their game.

So I echo David Hale’s comments when it comes to those two. Change isn’t always bad – Hale himself is an example of that – but I’ve got to agree that the shakeup on the Georgia beat makes very little sense.

On the other hand, there’s this. The AJC’s Mike Morris recycles a week-old story from Chicago about Tony Cole, a basketball player whose 16 games in a Georgia uniform proved to be some of the costliest in program history. There are precious few new details added to an April 10th story from the Chicago Sun-Times, but that’s as good a reason as any to go through the entire litany of Harrick, assault charges, and – of course – academic fraud.

Even now Cole proves to be the cockroach that survives the nuclear war. Two coaches and seven years later, Georgia just can’t break its association with Cole. Only in the eyes of an AJC headline writer can a guy who played in 16 games, started 3, and averaged 5.6 PPG be considered an “Ex-UGA hoops star.”

Post Is Kupets one of the greatest college athletes ever?

Monday April 20, 2009

Is Courtney Kupets the greatest college athlete ever?

It’s obviously a loaded question. So many people in so many sports over so many years. To even begin to make a claim like that, you’d have to consider her place as…

  • The best Georgia gymnast. You’re talking about the sport’s most dominant program over the last 20 years. The list of All-Americans, national champions, and former Olympians is miles long. Still, it only took one year for her to match the Georgia record of three individual national titles in one year. She broke that record this year with four titles.
  • The best collegiate gymnast. Georgia might have the best program, but there have been incredible individual performers at many other programs. Kentucky’s Jenny Hansen was named the NCAA’s top gymnast over the past 25 years in 2006 after winning eight individual titles during her career. Kupets matched and then topped that mark this weekend with nine career individual titles and also matched Hansen’s three career all-around titles. Without her season-ending injury in 2008, Kupets might have walked away with double-digit individual national titles and as the sport’s first four-time all-around champion.
  • The best Georgia athlete in any sport. Names like Walker and Wilkins come to mind when you think about Bulldog greats, but you have to dig deeper when you’re looking for the most accomplished Bulldog athletes. There are swimmers like Kristy Kowal and Courtney Shealy. Few had the impact that Vicki Goetze had on Georgia golf. John Isner is just the most recent legend cranked out by Georgia tennis. Teresa Edwards is one of the most recognized women’s basketball players in the world.

Still, when you look at team and individual accomplishments, it’s hard to come up with a better choice than Kupets. She’s done all she can do. Even more, she came back from a Achilles tear as a junior to have her best season as a senior.

When it comes to the best college athlete ever, the question becomes muddier. It’s hard to top someone like Cael Sanderson who never lost a wrestling match in college. There have also been dominant individuals in team sports – Mia Hamm was a standout on a team of standouts that won four national titles. For all I know, there might be some Stanford water polo player who was better. There’s no question though that Kupets at least belongs in the discussion.

Post Just another weekend in Bulldog sports

Monday April 20, 2009

When the Top 10 baseball team taking 2 of 3 from Arkansas to move into sole possession of first place in the SEC is considered one of the lesser stories from a weekend of Bulldog athletics, you know it was a good few days.

It was just another weekend for Georgia athletics. In case you missed a couple of them, here are the highlights:

  • National championship in gymnastics: the 5th consecutive national title for the program and 10th overall
  • National championship in equestrian: the 2nd consecutive national title for the program and 4th overall in the 5-year history of the program
  • National all-around gymnastics championship for Courtney Kupets as well as three out of four individual event titles
  • SEC championship in men’s golf
  • SEC championship in women’s tennis
  • SEC individual championship for women’s golfer Marta Silva Zamora
  • #6-ranked softball team swept Auburn
  • Baseball opened up a two-game SEC lead with a series win over Arkansas

After all that, I still have the feeling I’m missing something. Over the past decade Georgia athletics have been at their strongest in spring sports, but this is shaping up to be one of the stronger years.