Wednesday February 24, 2010
Georgia Tech knew that they’re going to be without starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt for spring practice as he recovers from surgery on his ankle. That position took another hit today when the AJC reported that backup Jaybo Shaw would be transferring to Georgia Southern. That leaves rising sophomore Tevin Washington as the only Tech quarterback for spring who has taken a snap in a game.
Behind Washington are a pair of redshirt freshmen – David Sims and Jordan Luallen.
How is that different from Georgia, I hear you ask? Georgia, after all, is also entering spring with only one QB with limited playing experience and a pair of redshirt freshmen. But while Tech will now enter spring practice without either of the two quarterbacks on top of their depth chart, Georgia will at least have their presumptive starter and top three quarterbacks available for spring practice.
Wednesday February 24, 2010
It’s been noticed this week that one RPI estimate puts Georgia ahead of North Carolina. Ordinarily that would be one hell of a benchmark for a program, but this year it’s a punchline and just a bit of trivia as Carolina’s season swirls around the bowl. (Other RPI estimates still have Georgia behind UNC.)
We’ve seen Georgia and Carolina against a couple of common opponents – Kentucky and Georgia Tech. It’s not close. Carolina has no one with the abilities of Travis Leslie, and I’d take Trey Thompkins right now over (a healthy) Ed Davis. The Dawgs beat Georgia Tech, and they gave Kentucky a much better game at Rupp.
Yes, there’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek here since we all know that Carolina lost a lot of punch from last year’s national championship team while Georgia, well, didn’t. Recruiting heals many wounds, and UNC is between waves of talent though their current lineup is hardly without highly-touted players. Georgia will add some interesting pieces next year to continue their rebuilding project, but Carolina will welcome what might be the nation’s best incoming class of perimeter players. An RPI in the 80s is a low point for Carolina. Can Georgia recruit well enough going forward to make sure that a similar RPI is also Mark Fox’s low point?
Aside: Georgia’s also not very far away from Oklahoma in the current RPI estimations. Sooner coach Jeff Capel was considered a leading candidate to fill the Georgia vacancy a year ago.
Wednesday February 24, 2010
I don’t know whether to celebrate or bang my head against a wall. If a college hoops fan in your home or office has gone missing or shows up with bloodshot eyes, they’ve probably discovered the NCAA’s basketball vault – an archive of every game from the Sweet 16 and beyond over the last decade.
As someone who loves the game and the tournament, it’s bliss. As a Georgia fan, it’s beyond depressing to realize that even the relative glory years of Jarvis Hayes didn’t produce a team that made the cut for this archive. Look at the list. Alabama. Davidson. George Mason. Iowa State. KENT FREAKING STATE. Nevada – hey! Maybe there’s hope. Southern Illinois. Ouch – that one hurts.
At this point, I’d settle for getting kicked in the gut and watch the 1996 Syracuse game if it would get Georgia in the vault.
Moving on, Year2 over at TSK is right on when he offers this site as a model for what should be expected from the SEC Digital Network. The content on the SEC site is light years beyond where it was a year ago, but they could still take some cues from the NCAA about content and navigation for such an extensive video archive.
Worse is the SEC’s official iPhone app. The paid app ($1.99) from S2S Mobile is virtually useless. Most sports are left off, and what information there is incomplete or dated. Want scores and game stats? You’re much better off with the free ESPN app. The app’s main selling point is video highlights. The most recent video available through the app right now is from Georgia’s basketball win over Vanderbilt over two weeks ago. A fan of baseball, gymnastics, or women’s basketball? You get nothing at all. I expected this kind of fumbling approach to digital media while the conference was getting things together last summer, but the app has been out since September with no signs of improvement. I feel like the paperboy in Better Off Dead – I want my two dollars.
Wednesday February 24, 2010
That’s not a headline you’re likely to see in most papers, but I get the feeling that it could pretty much tell the story of an incident involving Knowshon Moreno and an intoxicated 18-year-old at an Athens bar over the weekend. The 18-year-old, who was so drunk that he had to have friends fill in the details of the incident the next day, claims that three men “jumped him.” Unprovoked and out of the blue, I’m sure. According to the Banner-Herald, “Moreno said that he was struck first,” and Moreno spoke with police on Tuesday about the incident.
Knowshon might well be at fault here and had nothing better to do on a Saturday night back in Athens then to punch out a random merrymaker. He did enjoy the nightlife during his days in Athens though there were never any incidents. Then again most anyone who’s been out and about in downtown Athens knows that there is no shortage of overserved heroes who get up the courage to prove their invincibility against a football player. Better still if the player is drawing an NFL paycheck. That’s why players are often discouraged from places like that – trouble has its way of finding you whether or not you’re looking for it.
I’m sure the owners of the bar are thrilled that a fight at their place involving a drunk 18-year-old is sure to get plenty of media and police attention.
Friday February 19, 2010
With the temperature inching up over 40 late this week, it must be time for baseball season. We all know about Georgia’s recent odd success in even-numbered years, but that biennial success will be put to the test this year. The Diamond Dawgs lost a lot of firepower and experience from its lineup, and they’ll be altering their approach this season in order to compensate for those losses.
The 2010 season kicks off this weekend as the Diamond Dawgs head to Texas for a tournament that will have them play Baylor and Duke twice. Georgia opens the year ranked #22 by Baseball America and were picked by the conference’s coaches to finish 3rd in the SEC East behind perennial Florida and South Carolina. If the Diamond Dawgs are going to make another even-year trip to Omaha, they’ll have to battle through one of the nation’s ten toughest schedules to get there. Georgia made a large step towards sustaining success last year with a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, and extending that streak to a third straight postseason appearance is the baseline for expectations this year.
With so much turnover from year to year, I usually like to ease into the baseball season and see what and who emerges over the first month of the season. This team is very young, and they don’t have a lot of veterans on which to lean especially among the position players. Others are on the ball with more detailed previews, but it looks as if we can boil the outlook down to three things entering the season:
- Georgia is going to be much more of a “small ball” team this year. They lost a lot of power in Poythress alone, and other players who moved on were no slouches with the bat either. They have the speed to play that style of ball. The question is whether the team can be disciplined, smart, and execute well enough to manufacture runs or if we’re really talking about a team that just has no power and will struggle to score runs.
- Pitching should be deep and strong. If runs will be at a premium, you’d better be able to keep the other guy from scoring. Georgia is confident that their pitching staff can do just that. There’s a good group of starters, an experienced bullpen, and McRee hoping to return to form.
- If there’s a strength among the position players, it’s in the outfield. Johnathan Taylor, Zach Cone, and Peter Verdin are well-known to fans, and they should make a big jump from their freshman seasons. They’re solid defenders, quick, and can do some damage on the bases. Georgia’s top infielder is another sophomore – 3B Colby May who earned Freshman All-American honors last season.
The opening weekend tournament format with a quick four games in three days will give the team an early hint whether that pitching depth and strength is as advertised.
Friday: Georgia vs. Baylor, 6 p.m. ET (WRFC 960 AM; georgiadogs.com)
Saturday: Georgia vs. Duke, 6 p.m. ET (WRFC 960 AM; georgiadogs.com)
Sunday: Georgia vs. Duke, 11 a.m. ET (WRFC 960 AM; georgiadogs.com) Georgia vs. Baylor, 3 p.m. ET (WGAU 1340 AM, georgiadogs.com)
Tuesday February 16, 2010
Chip Towers spotlights a report that Bill Hartman did about the recruitment of Herschel Walker. Like Chip, this is new to me though it might be old hat to some of you. I can’t imagine the circus that such a recruiting battle would cause these days with the whole process much more public. People who have followed recruiting much longer than I have maintain that Herschel’s recruitment was a sea change in how people followed and paid attention to recruiting, and this report doesn’t do much to discredit that argument. Check out the report and the video that goes with it.
While we’re talking about #34, not everyone was pleased to see Walker win the 1982 Heisman. Eric Dickerson and Craig James will be honored at this week’s Doak Walker Award banquet, and the Dallas Morning News suggested that splitting carries in the SMU system might have cost Dickerson the 1982 Heisman.
“I always tell Herschel he’s got my Heisman,” Dickerson said.
Unfortunately the trophy was the one thing that couldn’t be purchased by an SMU booster. Walker probably told him to come and get it.
Tuesday February 16, 2010
On the occasion of North Carolina’s visit to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech tonight, the AJC has a nice piece on the role that UNC coach Roy Williams had in the career of Georgia coach Mark Fox. Though Williams didn’t have a vacant position to offer Fox while Fox pursued his master’s degree, Williams – then the Kansas coach – allowed Fox to observe the operation of the program and provided Fox with a blueprint for running a successful, highly-efficient program.
Their relationship has continued through the years with Williams providing advice and support along the way as Fox climbed the ladder. Williams’ advice to Fox upon arriving at Georgia was to “be patient.” For a motivated coach used to winning, the challenges of taking over a program in rough shape can be frustrating. Patience will definitely be required as Fox tries to elevate the program, but his results so far should provide even more encouragement. Fox might even return the favor and share some motivational words with Williams – both teams are 3-7 in their respective conferences this year.
An astute observer took the opportunity of this article to question Fox on the weekly radio show about the possibility of playing the Tar Heels down the road. Fox indicated that there was a good chance of such a game taking place – neither team is afraid to step out of conference.
Georgia and UNC played a series of exciting games just over ten years ago. Carolina escaped with an overtime win in Athens in 1997 after Georgia blew an 8-point lead with three minutes left in regulation. That game was supposed to match Tubby Smith against Dean Smith, but Tubby bolted for Kentucky and Dean retired before the 1997-1998 season. With Ron Jirsa and Bull Guthridge roaming the sidelines, it was still a thrilling game in front of a packed house at Stegeman.
The teams met again a year later in Chapel Hill in the preseason NIT. It was Georgia’s turn to make a late charge from behind, but this time the home team prevailed at the end.
Friday February 12, 2010
Ronika Ransford, a 5’6″ guard from Washington, D.C.’s Howard D. Woodson High School, has been named to the McDonald’s All-American team of the top prep players in the nation. The McDonald’s game will take place on March 31 in Columbus, Ohio.
Ransford has signed with Georgia and will be the team’s point guard of the future perhaps as soon as her freshman year. She even has her own highlight reel.
Friday February 12, 2010
The NCAA Football Rules Committee has had its annual meeting, and their endorsement of one key rule change for the 2011 season is causing quite an uproar this morning. Specifically:
The NCAA Football Rules Committee endorsed a proposal Wednesday that penalizes unsportsmanlike conduct as a live-ball foul beginning in the 2011 season. The change would mean, for example, that if a player makes a taunting gesture to an opponent on the way to scoring a touchdown, the flag would nullify the score and penalize the offending team from the spot of the foul.
It seems like a pretty narrow focus. Consider: taunting/unsportsmanlike penalties after a non-scoring play (say, a sack) have resulted and will continue to result in a 15-yard penalty after the play. No change there. How about unsportsmanlike penalties after you score? No, “penalties for dead-ball misconduct fouls (for example, unsportsmanlike behavior after the player crosses the goal line) would continue to be assessed on the ensuing kickoff or the extra point/two point conversion attempt.” No change there. The only time a score would be taken off the board is when players make “a taunting gesture to an opponent on the way to scoring a touchdown.” Think Deion Sanders high-stepping it down the sideline.
In other words, this new rule wouldn’t have changed a thing about A.J. Green’s penalty last year. That sham of a penalty occurred in the end zone, so the score would continue to stand under the new rule. The rule is dumb, but its application will be much, much narrower than people seem to think. Most excessive celebration happens after a score, and that’s specifically exempted. Think about it this way – when was the last time you saw someone draw a taunting foul during a live play? Those are the only situations to which this rule applies. The misapplication of the unsportsmanlike penalty is reason enough to reconsider the whole thing, but we’re not going to see that many scores come off the board.
If there’s a gray area where we’ll see the most controversy, it’s on plays where the ballcarrier dives into the endzone. We’ve seen cases where there was doubt whether the player dove to avoid a defender or was just showboating. Under this new rule the infraction technically occurs in the field of play, so the ball would come back to the 15 or so. (Yes, I’m thinking of a certain player and game too.)
What we might see more of is ejections.
In these cases [when the contact is clearly flagrant and dangerous], the committee is instructing officials to eject student-athletes more frequently when warranted. The group will distribute several video examples to officials, coaches and conference administrators to educate and clarify what types of plays should result in an ejection. Additionally, any flagrant foul will automatically trigger a review by the offending player’s conference.
There are several other rules changes bundled with the one getting all of the attention. All of these rules are still proposals and still must be NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel. Some of the highlights:
– Call it the “Tebow Rule?” Players wearing eye black must now keep it solid black – no Bible verses, shout-outs to the home area code, or other messages. I wonder whether this applies to messages written elsewhere on the body. It might be more fitting to call this the Pyror Rule and not the Tebow Rule. Bible verses and area codes are one thing, but using the eyeblack to make more controversial statements might be the motivation for this rule.
– Any injured player, including those with a concussion or showing signs of a concussion, must be cleared by an “appropriate medical professional” before returning to the game. The rule though leaves it up to the school to define what an “appropriate medical professional” is. Mike Leach probably isn’t what they have in mind.
– Teams will be allowed to have TV monitors up in the booth. The home team must ensure that feeds and equipment are identical for both teams. While I doubt many coaches will have time to kick the feet up and enjoy Uncle Verne’s delightful description of the action unfolding in front of them (if there’s sound at all), implementation will be interesting. Will teams choose to provide the actual television feed to the booths or just use the feed that the rest of the stadium sees on the scoreboard video screen? You can imagine the benefits of replay aiding the decision whether or not to use a timeout to force a review.
– There will be a pregame DMZ. The committee recommended that no players allowed between the 45-yard lines beginning 60 minutes before kickoff during warmups.
– Raise those hemlines! Discerning teams with an eye on fashion might want to note that there will be no more requirement that pants must cover the knee. Scandalous!
– While they’re revamping kickoff coverage during this offseason, Georgia coaches will note that college football is considering following the lead of the NFL by banning the use of the “wedge” by return teams.
– Punters using the “rugby punt” who run outside of the tackle box are now fair game; they will lose their protection as kickers.
– UCLA and USC are no longer outlaws. Both teams can wear contrasting
colored jerseys jerseys of color if neither team or conference objects.
Thursday February 11, 2010
When the Lady Dogs and Kentucky met last month in Athens, Georgia needed overtime to escape an upset bid from the Wildcats and preserve their 14-game winning streak. At the time it was a close call against an unranked upstart. The two teams have take different directions since that game. Georgia is just 4-5 since that game on January 7th, and Kentucky has lost just once.
The roles have reversed somewhat. The Cats are the SEC’s hottest team with a seven-game winning streak coming into tonight’s game (7:00, FSN) and they sit firmly in second place in the league behind Tennessee. They’re now ranked higher than Georgia. Veteran forward Victoria Dunlap is getting help from freshman guard A’dia Mathies – last week’s SEC Freshman of the Week.
It’s not a good time for Georgia to face such a hot team. While Kentucky holds a 15-game winning streak at home, the Lady Dogs are just 2-3 on the road in conference play this year. Complicating things is a rash of injuries to two of Georgia’s most experienced and talented players. Angel Robinson and Ashley Houts have been hurting for a while, and it’s shown up in the disappointing results over the last few weeks.
Robinson is doubtful for the game tonight – an upgrade from an earlier report that claimed she would miss the game. She is in Lexington with the team, so it will likely be a game-time decision. Houts has been struggling with an ankle injury since the Tennessee game and has missed significant minutes for the first time in her career in several recent games.
You couldn’t pick two players with more impact in the last meeting against Kentucky. Houts had her best performance on offense all season with 27 points. Robinson collected 11 rebounds including 5 offensive boards. Losing just a bit of that production makes things very difficult on a team that hasn’t broken 50 points in either of its last two outings. Georgia will look to freshmen Jasmine Hassell and Tamika Willis to fill in for Robinson, and Jasmine James will handle the bulk of the point guard duties when Houts isn’t in.
The Lady Dogs have leaned on defense for much of the season, and they did well to hold Kentucky nearly 15 points below their scoring average back in January. Coming off their lowest-scoring output of the season Georgia is going to have to find more scoring from a lot of young players to have a chance on the road against a red-hot team.
Georgia has a bye week next week which should help rest and heal they’re key players. No game is easy given the current state of the team, but Sunday’s home game with Alabama should be a win. If Georgia can get past Kentucky, they’ll have a good chance to head into the bye week in good shape to make a late season charge back towards the top third of the conference standings. They’re just a half-game out of third place right now. A loss at Lexington though would leave them in 8th place and just .500 in conference play. It’s as big of a crossroads game as Andy Landers’ team will face this year.
Thursday February 11, 2010
The refs were on Trey Thompkins like he slashed their tires in the parking lot before the game, and Travis Leslie couldn’t carry the team by himself, though he tried with 19 points and 17 rebounds. It was Georgia’s worst outing of conference play, and their first road win of the year continues to elude them. The only way this one could be worse is for the Kentucky coach to send the Auburn game film to the SEC office and get a Georgia player suspended for the next game.
The Dawgs will try to forget about this one when they host South Carolina on Saturday afternoon.
Wednesday February 10, 2010
First, go read this item that the Georgia Sports Blog had last week about Travis Leslie. The development of Leslie, which – as PWD pointed out – has only picked up steam in conference play, is one of the real bright spots of this season. Here’s the key point:
Obviously, Leslie’s natural abilities are considerable, but it’s his ability to play within the system and grow his game that gives me considerable hope for Coach Fox’s ability to develop players.
We saw just what PWD was talking about in Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. It’s one thing to see improvement in skills – Leslie is certainly a better shooter this year, and his range continues to increase. That’s significant by itself. But what’s really rewarding for a coach to see is when a player begins to understand enough about himself and the game to adjust his approach to the game on the fly.
Things weren’t going Leslie’s way in the first half on Saturday. He managed four points on a pair of longer jumpshots. Leslie’s bread and butter, the acrobatic plays around the basket, weren’t there. Vandy defended them well and was sure to put a body on Leslie when he tried to go to the basket. It was good strategy, actually. Leslie’s athleticism lets him play bigger than he is, but a physical style of play can get to a player like that. The strategy was effective: Leslie’s four points came on 2-5 shooting, and he was already responsible for three turnovers.
The contact around the basket could have and probably did frustrate Leslie. There weren’t going to be any Sportscenter-worthy highlights to come out of this game. To his credit, Leslie began to use the physical play of Vandy against them. Though he got few open shots again (just 2-of-3 from the floor in the second half), he kept going to the basket and, instead of losing control and turning the ball over, used the contact to draw fouls. Before long, he was into double-figures on free throws alone. Leslie ended up shooting 9-12 from the foul line in the second half after not going to the line once in the first period. He’d finish with a team-high 17 points and just one turnover in the second half not by putting on another show but by, as PWD put it, playing within the system and playing smart ball.
Leslie isn’t the only player to add to his game. McPhee’s baseline runner was a shock to see at first, but now you can more or less count on him going baseline at least once or twice a game and making nice use of the glass. Not bad for a spot-up shooter. These are the little things that have led to Georgia’s surprisingly effective offense. Coaching is taking root – Fox’s challenge to “be a basketball player who’s a great athlete as opposed to a great athlete who plays basketball” has been the driving force behind Leslie’s improvement.
Leslie and the rest of the Dawgs will try to take another step forward and earn their first road win of the year when they visit Auburn tonight (CSS, 9:00). They’ll also be trying for the program’s first consecutive conference wins since the tournament run in 2008.
PS…though this post is mostly about how Leslie has added to his repertoire, there’s no doubt that he remains the best dunker in the SEC. The SEC website has a poll up on that very topic – go vote early and often for “Top 10” Travis.
Tuesday February 9, 2010
The story of quarterback Blake Barnes ended at Georgia in late 2007 when he decided to transfer back to Delta State in his home state of Mississippi in order to get on the field for his final season.
Barnes has resurfaced in Paris, playing football in a French league. He was one of the players featured in a CBS segment on Sunday (click for story and video). He joined the team just a week ago and is still getting adjusted. “You know, still kind of hard to believe I’m in France, living in Paris,” he told CBS. His first game went rather well: a 37-8 win.
Wednesday February 3, 2010
The first stop as always is the official site at Georgiadogs.com. This year they’ll have the list of signings and have also added live chat and on-site video with Chuck Dowdle and Kelin Johnson with interviews throughout the day.
For those on mobile or low-bandwidth devices, use this page from Georgiadogs.com.
Lots of tidbits and info on Twitter today including several of us in Athens…watch some of these sources:
Wednesday February 3, 2010
If it’s Signing Day, it must be time for points and counterpoints about the value of recruiting services and rankings. I can understand the doubts (but, really, how many times do we have to hear Thomas Davis’s name in these discussions?), and I can understand why many journalists don’t care to touch the subject. Following recruiting can be borderline obsessive, harassing, and at times straight up creepy. It used to be the province of subscription newsletters and 900 numbers. Now it’s big business online and into the mainstream. Did you think ten years ago that the ESPN crawler would be flashing a commitment by some 3-star cornerback who picked SMU over Central Florida and Maryland? Me neither.
With 120 FBS schools signing 20 or more prospects each year, that’s at least 2,400 guys entering Division I. The Rivals 100 or whatever list of top prospects you use makes up less than 5% of the incoming class nationwide. It’s reasonable that you’re going to have several individual success stories from among that 95%. 50 of the 93 All-Americans Dr. Saturday examines – the majority – were rated 3 stars or lower. That’s impressive until you do the math and see that those three-star or lower prospects make up the long tail which contains over 85% of incoming players.
The recruiting rankings might not be able to identify which specific prospects will make it big, but if they could they’d be several steps ahead of even the best coaches.
By now this is pretty well-worn ground, but I’ll just add the points I try to keep in mind during recruiting season:
- Recruiting ratings aren’t perfect. Neither are the evaluations of coaches who are paid much more for their expertise.
- Ratings can’t take into account intangibles like academics, an enjoyment of firearms, or brooding over that girl back home.
- Since not every top prospect pans out, you’d rather have more than fewer and increase your odds.
- Ranking players gets sketchier the greater the geographic area covered. High school football is just too big to see everyone out there.
- Need matters as much as talent. You can fill your class with top-rated receivers, but not filling needs on the offensive line or in the secondary will lose you games.
- Highlight videos are just that. You notice how they never show anyone fumbling or missing a tackle?
- If you ever find yourself saying or agreeing with the statement “give me a bunch of 2-and-3 star guys who bleed [team colors] over some 5 star prima donnas,” don’t operate heavy machinery. Yes, of course we’d all like a fleet of 5-star guys who grew up reenacting in the backyard our team’s most famous highlight, but prospects choose schools for any number of reasons, and not all of them are warm and fuzzy. Give me the best talent every time.
- When in doubt, look at the offers. Again, the enormity of high school football makes it possible for many guys to fall through the Tim Jennings-sized cracks and become the exceptions to the rule. But on the whole you’d rather be competing against your peers for a prospect and not the teams you schedule for Homecoming. There might be a reason why your Top 10 program is going after a guy also considering Akron and UMass, but it should be a good one.