Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Murray talks about early enrollment

Thursday January 28, 2010

All of the attention on Georgia’s defense lately has moved to the back burner the all-important competition to be the next starting quarterback, but I’m sure that will change soon. It will be a major storyline in spring, and we’ll see if this search for the next starter will follow the angst-filled 2006 model or the relatively calm 2009 example.

The odds-on favorite to win the job, at least in my opinion, is redshirt freshman Aaron Murray. There was even some talk well into the 2009 whether he would play, but a bout with tendinitis made the issue moot. To get a head start on his goal of starting at quarterback, Murray became one of a handful of signees each year who enrolls during the spring semester prior to his freshman season. He talks about that experience with the AJC and discusses the negatives – missing the end of his senior year of high school – along with the positives.

Post Happy 225th birthday to the University of Georgia

Wednesday January 27, 2010

Today is Founder’s Day at the University of Georgia: 225 years ago today, the state legislature approved the charter that made the University of the Georgia America’s first state-chartered university. Anyone have 225 candles?

Bulldog Cake

Post The last thing Georgia hoops needs now is a wet blanket

Wednesday January 27, 2010

I’m glad to see fans like Kyle, for whom basketball is extraneous, taking an interest in this year’s squad. It’s hard not to like them, and part of making sure that Stegeman is full more often than not is capturing the interest of the casual fan. But is it really worth a post pointing out that – guess what – Georgia’s really not that great of a team? At this point in Mark Fox’s turnaround job, it’s a bit like chiding your kid not to get too pleased with herself for that refrigerator drawing – it’s just not Louvre material.

Picking apart Georgia’s record doesn’t really get to the point of what’s going on in Athens. I don’t think anyone – short of another miracle at the SEC Tournament – is expecting the team to go on a run that will have anyone thinking about the NCAA Tournament this year. It’s going to be tough enough just to remain at .500 overall and have a shot at any postseason. The margin of error for this team remains very thin, they play in a division with three ranked teams, and they’re going to lose more games.

The Dawgs were a unanimous pick to finish dead last in the SEC East this year. They still might. But most of the enthusiasm around the program centers not around its postseason prospects but around these observations: win or lose, they’re never boring, they continue to improve, and the Dawgs might just have hired the right guy. The development of Travis Leslie gives the Bulldogs two destination players – people come to watch what he and Thompkins will do. Interest is building in the program. For the time being, building and sustaining that fickle fan base matters far more than wins or losses.

Post Beating #1 – acutally not priceless

Wednesday January 27, 2010

When you see the headline “USC Fined For Policy Violation,” it has to be something pretty bad, right? At least a violation of the Kiffin Rule or something.

Nope – the Gamecocks will be fined $25,000 for beating the #1 team in the nation and responding like anyone would:

The Southeastern Conference announced today that the University of South Carolina will be fined $25,000 for its second violation of the league’s access to competition area policy.

Maybe South Carolina should stop beating Kentucky so much.

The $25,000 fine is a result of a second offense of the policy. South Carolina’s first offense occurred on Feb. 15, 2005 when fans entered the competition area following the Gamecocks’ 73-61 win over Kentucky.

I know that Georgia fans (those not auditioning for a role in a PBJ sandwich anyway) stayed put after a win over #8 Tennessee last weekend, but if #1 ever goes down in Stegeman, it will be worth every penny.

Post Leslie, Hassell honored by SEC

Monday January 25, 2010

Georgia small forward Travis Leslie was named the SEC Player of the Week, and Lady Dog reserve center Jasmine Hassell was named the SEC Freshman of the Week.

Leslie flirted with a triple-double in Saturday’s win over Tennessee and set the tone with a beautiful steal and dunk early on. He finished the game with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Most encouraging were two jumpshots he hit that demonstrated mid-to-long range. If he develops as a jumpshooter, defenses will have to contend with his shot, the spot-up shooting of McPhee, and the inside-outside game of Thompkins. He won’t have to hit many to make a big difference.

Hassell’s performance on Sunday was impressive enough to earn top freshman honors for the week despite 1) being on the losing side, 2) coming off the bench and 3) playing only three minutes on Thursday. Hassell had an impressive game at Arkansas last weekend, but she and the rest of Georgia’s bench was used sparingly in their upset of Tennessee. Against Ole Miss Georgia starter Angel Robinson went down with an ankle injury in the first half, and Hassell had to go the rest of the way. She responded with a career-high 20 points, pulled down seven rebounds, and was perfect from the free throw line.

Jasmine James has already taken SEC Freshman of the Week honors four times this year, and ,along with Hassell’s emergence, is a strong sign for the future of the Lady Dogs program.

Meanwhile, let’s watch us some Travis Leslie – first with the steal and dunk, and then with the assist:

Post Jon Stinchcomb has had a pretty good week

Monday January 25, 2010

The former Georgia All-American is of course a starting offensive lineman for the Super Bowl-bound New Orleans Saints. Jon and his wife Allison also welcomed their first child – Mason – last week. Congratulations to the family!

Stinchcomb will be joining fellow Bulldogs Charles Grant (Saints) and Tim Jennings (Colts) in the big game. Grant won’t be in action though – a triceps injury has kept him out of the playoffs.

Post UGA looking for another defensive assistant

Friday January 22, 2010

We had a good discussion the other day about whether Mark Richt and Todd Grantham should pursue a full-time special teams coach or go with another defensive coach to fill Georgia’s final coaching vacancy. According to members of the media who met with Grantham and new defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos this morning, Grantham expects to go after another linebackers coach. Grantham wasn’t specific whether he would coach inside or outside linebackers.

It’s common in a 3-4 defense to have two linebackers coaches – one for the inside linebackers and one for the outside. There’s a difference among the responsibilities of the linebackers even under Georgia’s old 4-3 system, but the difference between the ILBs and the OLBs in a 3-4 is even greater – the outside linebackers have to manage everything from hand-down pass rush on the defensive line to run support to pure pass coverage. The best outside linebackers (think Lawrence Taylor classically or DeMarcus Ware / James Harrison in the current NFL) are very much like the dominant weakside defensive ends in a typical 4-3. So if Georgia was going to split up the defensive front among two coaches in the old system, it makes sense that they’re going to coach the linebackers differently under Grantham’s system. Rodney Garner will remain to handle the entire defensive line now.

If you read Tuesday’s post, you know that this was the direction I favored. The transition that many of these players, especially defensive ends, will make from the 4-3 to the 3-4 will be a big part of whether the new defense is a success. It’s very reasonable to make sure that the transition has as much coaching attention as they can throw at it.

But of course the decision has a trade-off, and the implication is that Georgia won’t be adding a special teams coach. That tacitly puts the burden for improvement on special teams on Mark Richt. Georgia likely will again go with a committee approach among the staff for special teams coaching. It’s an approach that has worked at Georgia and other schools, but it’s also a risk that each element of special teams will be left up to someone with additional responsibilities elsewhere on the field. There was a lot to like about Georgia’s special teams last year, but the problem areas were glaring, and it will now be Richt’s responsibility to make sure that the right people are put into place to address those areas.

Post Lady Dogs’ turnaround season continues with big win over Tennessee

Friday January 22, 2010

Georgia football fans can relate. The gridiron Dawgs could start any season 7-0, but the impending trip to Jacksonville always hangs over any aspirations for a championship season. The Lady Dogs started this season 16-0, and there were enough wins over ranked and quality teams to know that the strong start was no fluke. But fans knew that the grind of the SEC season lay ahead, and that included a visit from Tennessee – a team Georgia hadn’t defeated since 2004.

Georgia’s rapid turnaround from a disappointing 2008-2009 season was a much-needed shot in the arm, but it was clear that Georgia wouldn’t be “back” until they made a move to challenge the teams that have dominated the SEC over the past five years. That list of teams starts of course with Tennessee.

So Georgia’s 53-50 win over Tennessee Thursday night was an important statement by a team that many hope will be the start of a return to national prominence for the program. The game was a clinic of defense – no surprise for a Georgia team that has leaned heavily on its defense this year. Tennessee, with a tall and athletic backcourt, was able to extend a frustrating 2-3 zone and control the glass. Georgia did a strong job of frustrating Tennessee’s guards (only a combined 14 points for the starting UT backcourt) and creating turnovers.

An energetic game that saw a 30-30 halftime score settled into a slugfest as both teams turned up the defense in the second half. Neither team led by more tha four points. With five minutes left in the game, Tennessee led 41-37. Neither team had scored in almost four minutes. Through 15 minutes of second half play, Tennessee had scored only 11 points, and Georgia had managed just 7. Ashley Houts finally knocked down a three-pointer with just under five minutes remaining, and that shot seemed to break the logjam on both ends. The teams traded baskets and even the lead until Houts fed a great pass to Porsha Phillips who found herself in perfect position to give Georgia the lead for good inside of a minute to play.

With the game on the line, Georgia turned to its defense. They smothered Angie Bjorklund, Tennessee’s sharpshooting guard, on each of UT’s final two possessions. On the first possession, Jasmine James was able to force a steal, and Georgia pushed the margin to a more comfortable three points. That three point lead allowed Georgia to focus on its perimeter defense, and again Bjorklund was unable to get off a shot that might’ve tied the game.

It’s a great feeling to be back on top of the SEC. A program that was in dire straits last spring has new life, and they’re relevant again – as relevant as any team can be this year in the hulking shadow of UConn. National media are talking about them again. “This is Georgia’s tradition,” coach Andy Landers said. “This is why I hope these players chose to come here.”

The win over Tennessee is great by itself. but it’s more important for the possibilities it creates for the team. They’re at the top of the SEC standings at this point in the year for the first time in several seasons. They know that they can get knocked off that perch in a single game – a blowout loss at Vanderbilt last week reminded them how quickly things can turn if the defense relents just a little.

Ole Miss is next up for Georgia, and the Rebels are right there with Georgia and Tennessee as the only SEC teams with one conference loss. They’ve already scored an upset of LSU and beat a good Mississippi State team last night, and they feature Bianca Thomas – the SEC’s leading scorer who just hung 42 points on LSU.

The crowd was exceptional for the Tennessee game and was as loud as Stegeman has seen – men’s or women’s – in several years. Hopefully some of those people liked what they saw and decide to come back – Sunday’s game with Ole Miss is at 1:00.

Tennessee postscripts…

– With the win, Georgia already has as many victories this year (18) as they did all of last year.

– Jasmine James had another cold night from the floor after hitting an early shot, but she came up big again at the end. She hit a three-pointer in overtime to bail out the team against Kentucky, and she dropped in another huge three-pointer with 93 seconds left against Tennessee.

– For some reason, halftime was only 15 minutes instead of the usual 20.

– Georgia substituted sparingly. Andy Landers only used two players from the bench for a total of seven minutes.

Post What does Georgia basketball have in common with UNC and Duke?

Thursday January 21, 2010

Not much of course, but the Dawgs – a unanimous pick to finish last in the SEC East – do share one bit of ignominy with the traditional ACC powers. As of today, 2+ months into the season, neither Georgia nor Carolina nor Duke has won a true road game. Last night’s upset of Duke by N.C. State in Raleigh kept the 0-fer going.

Duke will be the first team with a chance of breaking up this unlikely trio when they visit Clemson this weekend.

Post Isner off to a great 2010

Wednesday January 20, 2010

Bulldog tennis great John Isner won his first career ATP title last week at the Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand. He’s followed that up with a strong start in the Australian Open. He’s won two matches, including winning in straight sets in the second round, and has advanced to the third round. He’s one win away from the Sweet 16 of the Australian Open, and it would be the second straight major in which he’s advanced to the fourth round (after last year’s memorable US Open run which featured an upset of Andy Roddick).

ESPN sat down with Isner after his first round win at the Aussie Open, and he was properly attired.

John Isner

Post An Amelia landmark closes

Tuesday January 19, 2010

This might mean something to those who are regular visitors to Amelia Island: Florida House Inn in downtown Fernandina Beach has closed, apparently due to delinquent taxes. The hotel dates from 1857 and “claimed to be the state’s oldest operating hotel.”

Post Should Richt choose defense or special teams?

Tuesday January 19, 2010

The addition of Todd Grantham and Scott Lakatos to the Georgia defensive staff leaves Georgia one short of the maximum number of assistant coaches allowed by the NCAA. Rather than adding a fourth defensive coach, it’s been floated that Georgia might persue a dedicated special teams coach. We’ve learned this week that Mark Richt is “still working through” that decision. Both directions have their arguements, but here are the key points in favor of each:

For a special teams coach: Georgia has several bright spots on special teams (kickers especially), but there have been enough breakdowns over the past few years to suggest that a more cohesive approach to special teams could help. Fabris caught most of the criticism for special teams breakdowns, but all coaches had some responsibilities for some area of special teams. There is too much advantage in having the kickers and guys like Boykin to see it countered by an ad-hoc approach to kick coverage and returns. Richt should bring in a dedicated special teams coach to oversee the details that would make sure those hidden yards end up in Georgia’s favor.

For another defensive assistant: The Bulldogs will be implementing a new defensive alignment and scheme with new coaches. This transition will be especially challenging for the front seven – it’s not as simple as dropping a rush end into an outside linebacker spot. Richt should maximize the coaching resources available to ease that transition and get this new defense performing in time to show big improvement in 2010.

My opinion: go with the defensive coach. You’re spending $750k on a new defensive coordinator. You don’t want to make an investment and a statement like that about the defense only to shortchange Grantham when it comes to the people he’ll need to implement his defense.

It’s not that special teams don’t deserve attention, but Richt has to ask himself whether those areas can be shored up with a different approach or if it really will take one person overseeing all areas of special teams. Georgia has had successful special teams under Richt using the coaching-by-committee approach. In the case of kickoffs, it’s possible that not adjusting to the new reality of college kickoffs can be fixed with a fresh perspective. It’s also possible that there are qualified assistants out there with significant experience in certain areas of special teams – Fabris was such a coach.

There’s also nothing preventing Richt himself from taking greater ownership of the special teams. It’s not that he has nothing to do, but he also doesn’t have positional or coordinator responsibilities. Head coaches working with special teams (Beamer, Meyer) isn’t unheard of.

Post As if you needed another reason to donate to Haitian relief

Tuesday January 19, 2010

Do it for this little guy…


AP Photo/Jae C. Hong – via The Big Picture

Note: The cell phone donations that everyone (including me) were encouraging last week are legitimate, but it might take some time for those donations to be collected via your cell phone bills – it’s not an immediate donation. Consider making direct donations to reputable organizations who are already on the ground.

Post About last weekend…

Monday January 18, 2010

Mississippi State 72 – Georgia 69. It hurt. Georgia twice led by 13 on the road in Starkville and appeared to have the game in hand. Inability to get the ball upcourt against pressure combined with deadly outside shooting by MSU allowed the hosts to erase Georgia’s late lead and eventually win the game. MSU finished the game scoring 21 of the game’s last 26 points. Georgia has played three good SEC teams to the wire, but they haven’t been able to notch that first win yet. They’ll get another chance on Wednesday against Tennessee. 8-8 overall, 0-3 SEC

Georgia 73 – Arkansas 63. The Lady Dogs rebounded from Thursday’s ugly loss at Vanderbilt with a convincing win at Arkansas. The final margin was ten points, but Georgia led by as many as 25 late in the second half. The biggest difference from Thursday’s loss was backcourt production. Ashley Houts and Jasmine James combined for 22 points, 19 assists, and just 3 turnovers. At Vandy, they managed a combined 14 points, 6 assists, and 6 turnovers. Freshman Jasmine Hassell’s 14 points matched the production of the two starting post players. This was a potentially dangerous game: Arkansas stunned Georgia in Athens last year, and the trip to Fayetteville lay between two important games against Vanderbilt and Tennessee. 17-1 overall, 4-1 SEC

Lakatos hired as defensive backs coach. Georgia announced the hiring of Scott Lakatos on Monday. He’ll coach the secondary. Lakatos was at UConn since 2004 and has primarily coached in the northeast. UConn has had a decent defense over the past few years (especially relative to the talent in place), and their pass defense was a big part of that. He’s also put several players into the NFL including Tyvon Branch and Darius Butler. We’ll learn more about Lakatos after a Monday afternoon teleconference. With the hire of Lakatos and coordinator Todd Grantham, Georgia has one remaining vacancy on its staff.

Alabama 196.275 – Georgia 195.5 The Gym Dogs started off the new season with a relatively shaky win over Stanford, and SEC rival Alabama handed them their first loss of the season over the weekend. Losses in gymnastics aren’t as devastating as they are in other sports – your average score matters more than outright wins or losses. You can look back at the 2005 team that lost four straight meets during the season and rebounded to win the SEC and national titles.

Commitments honored Georgia commitment Da’Rick Rogers of Calhoun was named the MaxPreps Small Schools National Player of the Year. Rogers, one of the best prep receivers in the nation, visited Athens over the weekend and by all accounts had a good visit. There’s still some concern whether he’ll visit Florida, but for now Rogers continues to be committed to Georgia. Meanwhile, safety Alec Ogletree of Newnan and defensive tackle Garrison Smith of Douglass were named Bobby Dodd national players of the year at their respective positions by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta.

Post Tangle of multi-year contracts leads Tennessee to Dooley

Friday January 15, 2010

David Cutcliffe turned down interest from Tennessee and will stay at Duke. Word is coming out that one of the main points of contention had to do with the contractual mess left in the wake of Lane Kiffin.

At issue were the six assistant coaches Tennessee still had under contract, many with multi-year, guaranteed deals. Cutcliffe would have had to retain at least some of those coaches if he came to Knoxville, which meant he would have had to leave some of his current Duke staff behind in Durham.

Cutcliffe’s loyalty to his assistants essentially got him fired at Ole Miss, and it seems to have been the sticking point that kept him from leaving Durham this time. Multi-year contracts can be valuable in attracting a top-quality assistant to your program, and Tennessee made headlines last year for breaking the bank to put together their all-star staff. The money tied up in those assistants though is now coming home to roost, and it has prevented them from landing the next name on their list.

We’ve since learned that Tennessee will reportedly hire Derek Dooley from Louisiana Tech. It would be a great move for Vince’s son, but Dooley will have a tough job of selling his program to fans when they realize that they’ve gone from someone with the career success of Phil Fulmer to Lane Kiffin to someone who is a career 17-20 as Louisiana Tech’s head coach.

We wish Dooley well in the Corleone sense – that is, as best as his interests don’t conflict with ours. But since he’s coaching at Tennessee, those interests will clash early and often. Hopefully he knows better than to come looking for assistants in Athens.