Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Dawgs add a big tailback

Tuesday June 30, 2009

Kendrun Malcome, a self-described “power running back” from SW DeKalb HS, has committed to join the Georgia signing class of 2010. He’s currently 6’0″ and 215 lb. but also has the speed and vision to be more than just a straight-ahead power runner.

Malcome had offers from Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, FSU, and several other schools. The deciding factor seemed to be Georgia’s style of offense and reputation for putting running backs in the NFL. With Knowshon Moreno going in the first round this year and three other recent tailbacks making NFL squads, the system is in place for a quality tailback to succeed.

“My top two were Florida and Georgia. Oklahoma had another guy commit before me so it was Florida and Georgia. In the end, I felt my running style fit best at UGA. I like the pro style offense they run, and I took a long look at the lifelong benefits of being a Georgia alumnus,” Malcome told UGASports.com.

Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon was also a big part of Malcome’s decision. McClendon’s young age and Atlanta roots made it easy for Malcome to relate to the former Bulldog receiver, and that relationship was a factor. Malcome has friends and family like Mack Brown and T.J. Stripling also considering Georgia, so the good news from DeKalb County might not be finished just yet if Malcome has anything to say about it.

If you’re a Rivals.com subscriber, they have no fewer than five features up about Malcome and his commitment:

Post Can a balanced offense be a mirage?

Monday June 29, 2009

Matt Hinton adds a few thoughts to the SEC’s run-pass balance discussion and looks at whether the pass has overtaken the run at the national level. He touches on a fundamental point – how a game develops affects a team’s run vs. pass decisions later in the game.

What would be illustrative is to look at when teams run. If you build a first half lead through the air and then seal the game by running the entire second half, your offense will look balanced (or at least more balanced than it looked at halftime). Was it? If you had a 1,000-yard back who put up most of his yards in the second halves of blowout wins, would it make you think differently about the player? Of course not all successful teams can or do skew rushing numbers this way – some just don’t have the running game, and others keep the foot on the pedal until the scoreboard need an additional column.

On the other hand, Hinton notes, “passing is a result of losing.” If you find yourself behind often, it makes sense that you’re going to be forced to the air even if you might consider yourself balanced or even a run-first team.

Boxscores-by-half would be really useful for topics like this, but, sadly, that’s an idea that has never taken off.

Post About last weekend…

Monday June 29, 2009

Trending younger?

Eric Berry’s 13-year-old brother has committed to play for Tennessee. Of course nothing is binding until Berry signs several years down the road, and we don’t even know who the Tennessee coach will be 4 years from now.

I’m not really worried about football following down the road of basketball and getting involved in earlier and earlier recruiting. You notice how football really isn’t feeling pressure to allow one-and-dones or draft straight from high school, and it’s for the same reason we’re not going to see a slew of offers go out to high school underclassmen, let alone 13-year-olds. Whether from high school to college or college to the pros, the physical development that takes place at each level in football is just to significant to skip over.

The junior year still remains the line in the sand for most of college football recruiting. Coaches are aware of younger prospects, but it’s that late junior year and on into the summer camps where much of the action remains.

Speaking of recruiting…

Georgia’s secondary got a big boost with the commitment of Newnan’s Alec Ogletree, the nation’s top safety prospect according to Rivals.com. The comparison to Thomas Davis was used a lot over the weekend.

It’s been a fruitful couple of weeks on the recruiting trail for the Georgia defense. Will the offense make a statement of their own soon?

We do what gets rewarded

I have no doubt that Steve Spurrier’s team will meet the APR threshold that gives him a bonus. Remember, the APR only measures progress; it doesn’t measure the relative quality of that progress. Spurrier meeting the target will be the story and not the behind-the-scenes wrangling that goes on at a lot of schools to make the numbers work. That’s old news, after all.


Law enforcement agencies in Athens used the occasion of Athfest to set up DUI checkpoints over the weekend, and 48 violators were nailed. In a sign that things might really be different this year, it looks as if no Georgia student-athletes were among the 48.

Post St. Johns river, Florida recruits continue to flow north

Friday June 26, 2009

Georgia picked up their tenth commitment of the 2010 class on Thursday, and it’s the Bulldogs’ sixth pledge so far from the state of Florida.

Linebacker Deon Rogers of Treasure Coast High in Port St. Lucie, Fla. committed after attending Georgia’s camp two weeks ago and receiving an offer. Rogers’ offer sheet at the moment isn’t overwhelming – it includes Buffalo, Florida International, South Alabama, and Duke – but Georgia’s offer came only after the coaches were able to see Rogers at camp competing against some of the most talented prospects in the southeast.

Rogers’ position is a little up in the air. Two weeks ago, he told Rivals.com that Georgia was recruiting him as a weakside defensive end. The Rivals.com article on his commitment though has him at linebacker. At right around 200 lb., he’d have to really fill out to play defensive end, but he has the 6’3″ frame to do so. Do the Dawgs see another Marcus Howard in him? Last year Rogers recorded 14 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, so he does know how to get into the backfield.

It has to be noted that Rogers’ teammate is Jeff Luc, the nation’s top-rated inside linebacker prospect. The two are by no means a package deal, but Luc is also considering Georgia.

Post As close as we’ll come to NBA Draft news

Friday June 26, 2009

Robert Dozier, who once committed to play hoops at Georgia, was selected by the Miami Heat with the 60th and final pick in last night’s NBA Draft. For some reason, it seems oddly fitting that the closest Georgia came to the draft was a player who never actually enrolled at Georgia and who was involved in some sort of shady academic deal.

It was a weak night overall for the SEC with only a trio of players from the conference going in the second round (Meeks, Thornton, and Calathes). A couple of individual teams can claim to have had as much of an impact on the draft as the entire SEC.

Post Offensive line coming together

Friday June 26, 2009

David Hale and Anthony Dasher both had conversations this week with starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant about his personal progress since his season-ending knee injury. There’s also some good information about the composition of the starting offensive line. From left to right, the current first team line is:

  • LT: Trinton Sturdivant (RSo.)
  • LG: Vince Vance (Sr.)
  • C: Ben Jones (So.)
  • RG: Cordy Glenn (So.)
  • RT: Clint Boling (Jr.)

If you’ve heard Mark Richt speak at any of the Road Tour stops, this is pretty consistent with how Richt had the line. The only real question was at guard and whether Justin Anderson would work his way into the starting lineup, and he still might – there’s still plenty of time for things to change before September.

Regardless of the ultimate lineup, if everyone stays healthy (always a big “if), we’re left with two statements we haven’t been able to make about the Georgia line for years: every Georgia starting lineman returns with starting experience, and the Dawgs are going to be able to bring in guys off the bench with multiple starts under their belts.

The biggest unknown with the line has been whether the injured players will be able to step back in at a high level of play. That might be more of an issue with someone like Chris Davis whose more recent hip surgery still leaves him in a likely reserve role. But for Sturdivant, it’s going to be less of a concern. Sturdivant “no longer has to wear the brace on his knee and doesn’t even have to go through treatment any longer,” according to Dasher.

If Vance and Sturdivant are able to return anywhere near full strength, the composition of the line will also allow the Dawgs to bring along newcomers at a more normal pace. In the past two years freshmen like Austin Long, Chris Burnette, and Dallas Lee might be forced into starting roles. Now, if injuries can be avoided, many of them will have the opportunity to redshirt and not hit the field as starters until 2011 when they’ll have had 2+ years of development.

Though the return of Sturdivant is one of the most important developments of the preseason, the depth situation at tackle is still a big concern relative to the strength of the interior line. Sturdivant and Boling are solid starters. After that, Josh Davis was able to step in last year, and Anderson is able to play right tackle. Vance stepped in for Sturdivant last season at left tackle before Vance’s own season-ending injury. Austin Long is an incoming tackle, but he will redshirt after back surgery earlier this year and isn’t an option. Kiante Tripp is back on defense. So there are options in the event, God forbid, of injury, but they’re largely the same as last year and better interior linemen than answers at tackle.

The ability of everyone to stay healthy through the summer and into the season is meaningful not just for depth but also cohesiveness. Though everyone on the starting line has starting experience, this combination of players has never taken the field in a game. “We’re focusing on getting used to the player beside us because last year everybody was mixed up, switching positions every so often every week,” explained Sturdivant. A line full of experienced players is great, but it’s less of an advantage if the quarterback, tailback, and even the other linemen don’t know how the unit will work as a whole. The more time the guys have to get to know each others’ game and the more time Cox and the other members of the backfield have to get comfortable, the bigger positive impact the line will have on the season.

Post “Found money”

Thursday June 25, 2009

In today’s ABH, a letter writer suggests that the athletic department take some of the large new contract with ISP Sports and distribute it among Hartman Fund donors.

Why doesn’t the athletic association do the right thing and spread the wealth this contact (sic) will provide? …it won’t cost the association a dime. This new contract provides “found money,” and it’s only appropriate that a portion is returned to those who have helped make the program what it is today.

I’m sure this guy has also fired off a letter to Matthew Stafford reminding Stafford of the role of Hartman Fund donors in providing a place where Stafford could hone his skills and land such a lucrative pro contract. If we’re going to pander for a handout, let’s not stop at the Butts-Mehre building.

Post Another September night game for the Dawgs

Wednesday June 24, 2009

UGA has announced that the Sept. 19th game at Arkansas will be under the lights at 7:45 ET.

The Sept. 12 Georgia-South Carolina football game in Athens and the Sept. 19 game between Georgia and Arkansas in Fayetteville will both be televised at night by ESPN and/or ESPN2.

The Georgia-South Carolina game will be televised by ESPN2 at 7:00 p.m. ET. The Georgia-Arkansas game will be on either ESPN or ESPN2 at 7:45 p.m. ET.

Post Two of Georgia’s best female student-athletes honored

Tuesday June 23, 2009

It would have been an upset if she hadn’t won. Courtney Kupets was awarded the 2009 Honda-Broderick Cup on Monday as the nation’s top female student-athlete. Kupets, who’s won the award twice now, has now cemented her place not only as one of the best collegiate gymnasts of all time but also as one of the most-accomplished collegiate athletes in any sport.

Also, Lady Dog point guard Ashley Houts was one of 12 players named to the USA national team representing the country July’s World University Games. She and Trey Thompkins, named last week to the USA Basketball U19 team, will bring back valuable international training and playing experience against some of the world’s toughest competition.

Post Lean on me

Tuesday June 23, 2009

I’m having trouble wrapping my head around this Monday afternoon post from David Hale. It’s nothing to do with Hale’s writing but rather the “star of the team is the team” approach taken by Mark Richt.

Chemistry is a very real issue with any organization, and we’ve all seen otherwise talented teams that just didn’t click. In that sense, Richt’s observation that the players “really decided that they have to come together as a team and work their tail off and get after it” is very positive. We’ve been treated since the end of the season to dozens of hazy accounts about leadership and chemistry on last year’s team, and most everyone has been quick to point out how different things are this year. I’ve said my peace about that, but we’ll go along with it.

I don’t get the connection though between all of that and the downside of “relying on a Stafford or a Moreno to carry the team.” If we’re talking about the Patrick Ewing Theory here, fine. Sometimes teams do have successful seasons when stars leave, and sometimes teams can get caught up waiting for the stars to take over. I can even see where that can have an impact on chemistry if others resent the attention. Is that what Richt is really getting at?

But was leaning on Stafford and Moreno really near the top of the list of last year’s shortcomings? The Georgia offense was 3rd in the SEC in scoring and 2nd in yardage. It seems as if they were up to it, even behind a patchwork line. Of course the Dawgs won’t have those two to lean on again this year, and that’s where comments apply about a stronger offensive line taking some of the pressure off.

Teams lean on, single out, and promote stars all the time. Of all of the things that made “last year one of the toughest years,” I’m having trouble seeing how “the Bulldogs fans and the media (focusing) on those two guys” was unfair or misplaced attention. They deserved it, and they much more often than not delivered. What did too much attention on Stafford and Moreno have to do with the SEC’s #10 scoring defense or a secondary whose interception total was challenged by the defensive line?

Here’s another thing: fans and the media are going to continue to focus on certain standout individuals even on a team that claims that “the team is the star.” It’s what we do. Fans and media focused on Stafford and Moreno last year, and they’ll focus on A.J. Green, Rennie Curran, and the Owens/Atkins tandem this year. We’re going to expect Green to make incredible catches and big plays – he’s going to have to with so little returning production at WR. We’re going to be looking for Curran to fly all over the field because someone has to be the spark on the defensive side.

The team-first approach is important, and whatever gets these guys ready to play together can only be a good thing. But few teams, especially at this level, succeed without bona fide stars. Successful teams have players who understand and embrace their roles whether they get top billing or are among the supporting cast. The trouble with last year’s team wasn’t so much leaning on some of the biggest stars ever to suit up for the Bulldog offense; it was that not enough of the rest of the team rose to that level of play.

Post What’s with all of the Sunshine State commitments?

Monday June 22, 2009

With the recent announcement of three verbal commitments from the Jacksonville area, Georgia’s recruiting success in the state of Florida is getting some notice. They’re not just finding recruiting success in Jacksonville; the incoming Bulldog class contains three high-profile prospects from further down the peninsula, and two more from the Orlando area have pledged to sign in 2010.

Is it the Georgia-Florida game’s proximity to Jacksonville? Proponents of keeping the game in Jacksonville (of which I am one) sometimes claim that a game in the area helps the program stay on the mind of prospects and high schools in south Georgia and north Florida. I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. As the Times-Union points out, these three recent commitments are more than Georgia’s landed from the Jacksonville area in seven years (Chapas and Evans). Besides, it’s not as if the WLOCP has been the best advertisement for Georgia football lately.

There’s a simpler explanation.

“You look at Georgia’s staff, and they have strong connections here,” Sullivan said. “Assistant coach John Lilly was at Florida State for 13 years, so he’s recruited here for a long time. Coach Stacy Searels recruited this area when he was at Auburn. Their recruiting coordinator, Rodney Gardner, also has strong ties here.”

That’s just the start. Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez grew up in, played college football in, and coached in the state. Even John Jancek has coaching experience in Florida and was just this year offered the chance to join the Univ. of South Florida staff. Lilly wasn’t only an assistant at FSU; he also served as recruiting coordinator with impressive results.

Under Lilly’s direction, four of FSU’s recruiting classes between 2002 and 2007 were ranked in the top four in the nation. The Seminoles’ 2001 and 2005 classes were ranked number one nationally in some polls.

There have also been shifts in the college football landscape. Those of us with a little gray in our hair likely have a much different perspective about the in-state choices for the Florida prospects. They weren’t alive during Miami’s glory years in the 1980s. Current recruits were in the second grade when Steve Spurrier won his last SEC title and FSU last finished in the AP top 10. Urban Meyer has guaranteed Florida’s relevance for the near future, but what about the other programs?

Since the arrival of Mark Richt (and the third grade for current prospects), Georgia has won 10 more games than Miami and 15 more games than FSU. Since these recruits entered high school in the fall of 2006, FSU has gone just 23-16. Miami is just 19-19. Georgia is 30-9. South Florida, Wake Forest, and even troubled programs like Michigan, Tennessee, and Auburn have won more games than FSU and Miami during the high school careers of the current class of rising high school seniors. Certainly most of these recruits aren’t without a sense of history, and they’re not oblivious to the legacies of success at FSU and Miami, but those schools’ relative performance during these formative years has opened the door not only for in-state competition at Florida but also for schools like Georgia.

It’s natural that some will question whether too much emphasis is being placed on out-of-state prospects especially after so much talk about “closing the borders” earlier in Richt’s career. But offering top out-of-state targets early is a pretty common tactic, and sometimes you have to go where the talent is if a certain position is a little soft in the home state. Both Florida and Georgia currently have five out-of-state commitments (though Florida has six more pledges overall). Make no mistake – Georgia’s top in-state prospects know who they are and are getting plenty of attention from the staff.

Post Howard and Zeier confirmed as football broadcast team

Saturday June 20, 2009

We noted earlier in the week that there was some uncertainty about the broadcasting crews in the wake of Georgia’s record marketing and broadcast deal with ISP Sports. Damon Evans has cleared up at least the biggest question: Scott Howard and Eric Zeier have been named the permanent broadcast team for Georgia football. Zeier and Howard

“This is a proven broadcast team,” said Evans. “Scott is a Bulldog calling Georgia Bulldog games. He’s been one of our radio personalities going on 20 years and has done an exceptional job with all the Bulldog sports he has broadcast over a long period of time. Eric gives us not only a former Bulldog player but the special analysis that a former quarterback can bring to the table.”

I think this was the best possible outcome. Short of someone like Brad Nessler, I wasn’t too keen on someone with few ties to the Dawgs coming into the broadcast booth. People might have stylistic issues with Howard, but he’s a comfortable and familiar voice to guide us through Saturdays. Zeier’s taken to the role of analyst quickly and definitely adds something to the broadcast that had been missing.

Evans’ announcement still leaves some questions unanswered. The personnel for the pregame and postgame shows, sideline reporting, and crews for other sports are still unannounced.

Post The bloody pub’s on fire

Friday June 19, 2009

Georgia Theatre Fire
Photo: AJC

There has been a major fire at the landmark Georgia Theatre in Athens this morning. No UGA alum or even casual acquaintance of the city has to be told of the punch in the stomach that comes with that news. Too many concerts, crush parties, and games watched there to recount them all, but my highlight had to be seeing Wynton Marsalis many years ago. The night ended with a New Orleans-style parade out the door – one of those things that can only happen when you mix a legendary artist with the wide-eyed joy of a college town crowd soaking it all in, and it happened all the time at the Georgia Theatre.

Hopefully it can rebuilt soon, though the roof has collapsed and the damage inside is surely devastating. Selfishly, I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine what a football fall would be like without the Theatre.


I’ll be in town tomorrow and will certainly have to pay my respects. Somehow this song seems appropriate today:

Post Dawgs sign record marketing deal – so what’s going to change?

Thursday June 18, 2009

Georgia’s $92.8 million deal with ISP Sports for marketing and media rights is official now. It’s a big deal on several levels. The deal represents well over 10% of athletic department revenue ($84.2 million at last report).

For comparison, Georgia Tech recently re-upped with ISP to the tune of $50 million over the life of a 10-year deal. FSU’s deal with ISP signed back in 2007 was worth a reported $66 million over ten years. Auburn’s 2006 nine-year deal with ISP was for $51.3 million. The Dawgs, on an annual basis, now have one of the highest-paying marketing deals in the nation.

Make no mistake, ISP is going to make their money back somehow. If you haven’t become numb to the barrage of advertising at Sanford Stadium yet, you won’t like what’s ahead. At least with Cingular becoming AT&T, there should be less orange and blue around. The additional time (possibly 9+ hours of total broadcast time on a football game day) added to the pregame and postgame shows will surely be advertising-heavy. I’d also expect the enhancements to online and mobile content to come with a price tag. If they can make it more reliable than G-Xtra, it might be worth it.

For many fans, the most interesting development to watch will be this one:

With the ISP deal in place, Georgia expects to announce its radio broadcast teams for the coming season soon.

Scott Howard called the football and men’s basketball play-by-play last season. Eric Zeier provided football color commentary.

“Certainly we look forward to working with the stable of folks that have been working with us before and potentially adding others into the fold,” Thomas said. “You will continue to see a lot of those that you’ve seen involved in the broadcast.”

The last line gives us a bit of hope, but I’m a little apprehensive at the direction this could take. Howard and Zeier were never going to be a permanent arrangement, but I’d be just fine leaving that intact. No one is going to replace Munson, but Howard is at least competent and, most important (to me at least), a homer and comfortable bit of continuity from the Munson days. I dread the day when some polished outsider is brought in who is bland and detatched or, worse, from the cheeseball Mick Huber mold. There are so many ways it could go bad and so many people who would be worse for the job than Scott Howard. It could have a silver lining – the broadcast team could end up being bad enough to force fans to leave the headphones at home for once and actually get into the game.

Of course there’s more to it than the guys in the booth. Sideline reporters and pregame and postgame hosts will have to be sorted out, so we’ll have to see what the announcement brings and where the changes will be made. Basketball and baseball could also see a shakeup – will Jeff Dantzler still be a part of the picture?

I also wonder about Hondo and the guys managing the broadcast network for WSB. WSB will still be the Atlanta broadcast affiliate, but the network is managed by ISP now instead of Cox/WSB. Hopefully they’ll still have a role in the new arrangement after the great work they’ve done.

Post More SEC postseason hoops coming to Atlanta

Wednesday June 17, 2009

Atlanta and Nashville were the big winners when the SEC announced upcoming sites for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Through 2014, the 2012 men’s tournament is the only event that won’t take place in the Nashville or Atlanta areas. It’s great news for Georgia fans – Atlanta and Duluth are obviously convenient, and Nashville is a 4-hour drive and an enjoyable place to spend a March weekend. If Mark Fox can build a competitive team, traveling to follow the Dawgs into the first stages of the postseason isn’t going to break the bank.

The Georgia Dome was the (initial) site of the legendary 2008 SEC men’s tournament, and the conference will tempt fate (and weather) by bringing the tournament back in 2011 and 2014.

The news is even better for Lady Dogs fans: the women’s SEC Tournament will return to Duluth’s Arena at Gwinnett Center for 2010, 2013, and 2014. Though the SEC is typically the strongest women’s basketball conference, Atlanta is the only SEC-area city with a WNBA franchise. The SEC has to hope that an increased awareness of women’s basketball in Atlanta (not to mention the short drive from Tennessee) will help to fill the seats.

Men’s Tournament future venues:

  • 2010: Nashville, Tn.
  • 2011: Atlanta, Ga.
  • 2012: New Orleans, La.
  • 2013: Nashville, Tn.
  • 2014: Atlanta, Ga.

Women’s Tournament future venues:

  • 2010: Duluth, Ga.
  • 2011: Nashville, Tn.
  • 2012: Nashville, Tn.
  • 2013: Duluth, Ga.
  • 2014: Duluth, Ga.