Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post University code of conduct revised for drug and alcohol incidents

Wednesday April 28, 2010

Students in Athens learned on Tuesday about a revision to the University’s Code of Conduct that covers drug and alcohol incidents. The previous policy called for an automatic suspension from the University upon a second drug- or alcohol-related arrest during a probationary period which followed the first arrest.

That automatic suspension is gone. Instead, “under the new system, hearing panels from the Office of Judicial Programs will have more authority to regulate punishments suitable for specific cases.” University president Michael Adams warns students not to consider the change “a free pass on alcohol violations.” In fact, the greater latitude given to disciplinary panels might allow for “even more significant penalties” based on the severity of the incident.

The flexibility in the new policy “was designed to differentiate between a student caught with a beer in a dorm refrigerator and a DUI-related offense.” Vice President for Student Affairs Rodney Bennett expects that “the changes will ease and reduce the number of minor incidents that clog the system under the old rules, and it will allow officials to focus more effectively on the more serious alcohol and drug violations.”

This change in policy is significant for student-athletes because, well, it’s kind of hard to participate in a sport if you’re suspended for a semester. A second arrest during his or her probationary period was essentially an automatic season-long suspension for a student-athlete. To be clear – the revised policy does not mean lighter discipline for drug or alcohol-related incidents, and we’re not even talking about what a coach might decide to do based on program or athletic department guidelines. But the change to the University policy does allow the disciplinary panels to consider alternatives and also take into account the severity of the incident.

Senior linebacker Akeem Hebron experienced the consequences of the old policy. Hebron was arrested twice during the early part of 2007 for underage possession of alcohol. The second arrest triggered the automatic semester suspension meaning that he’d miss the 2007 fall semester – basically his entire redshirt freshman season. Instead of remaining inactive he transferred to Georgia Military College for the 2007 season.

To his credit, Hebron kept clean, remained on track academically, and was accepted back to the University and the Georgia football program in time for the 2008 season. His story since has been one of perseverance. He was a promising prospect regarded as highly as Stafford, Moreno, and Rashad Jones from the 2006 class. He was mentioned as a possible starter headed into 2007 before his suspension. He had a promising return in the 2008 G-Day game, but a fracture dislocation of the left ankle at LSU ended his 2008 season and put him at a big disadvantage for the 2009 season. He missed all of spring practice in 2009 and had a minimal impact before recording three tackles in the bowl game.

We can’t speculate on how Hebron might’ve been handled under the new policy. Causing a disturbance while underage and intoxicated downtown is somewhere between “a beer in a dorm refrigerator” and a DUI, and a long-term suspension might have come down from either the University or coach anyway. It’s now Hebron’s senior season, and it’s been a long way back from suspension and injury. He hopes to find success in the new scheme with a new coach, but he’s currently listed third at one of the inside linebacker spots.

Post DEVELOPING: Logan Gray considering a transfer?

Monday April 26, 2010

There were rumors over the weekend about QB Logan Gray considering leaving the program, and now WSB-TV Sports Director Zach Klein claims that there is something to it.

It goes without saying that the loss of Gray following the dismissal of Zach Mettenberger would leave Georgia perilously thin at quarterback. Following Murray and incoming true freshman Hutson Mason, Georgia’s next option (no pun intended) might be Bacarri Rambo who led the scout team offense while simulating option offenses in 2008.

Selfishly we hope that Gray decides to stay, but he’s in a tough spot if his goal is to see the field at Georgia. As the #2 quarterback, he’s not going to be tried at receiver or any other position that might jeopardize his availability. There would have been more freedom for that kind of experiment had Mettenberger not been dismissed. But that also reduces Gray’s chances of seeing playing time (aside from the occasional punt return) if the starting QB remains healthy.

Stay tuned – he’s met with the coaches and is apparently thinking things over.

Post Will UGA add another women’s sport?

Monday April 26, 2010

The Banner-Herald reported over the weekend that the University might consider adding another sport for women. There’s “no timetable” to add an additional sport, and discussions are at a very preliminary stage.

Georgia’s strong financial position already puts it at the forefront of Title IX compliance. Recent investments at the South Milledge complex and also at the Coliseum practice facility greatly benefit women’s sports. Over half (52%) of Georgia’s student-athletes are female despite the enormous counter-weight of an 85-scholarship football squad.

So why add another sport for women? Even with females making up 52% of student-athletes, women make up 58% of the student body. Adding another sport would bring those two numbers even closer in line which is one of the primary tests of Title IX compliance. Georgia last added a varsity sport, equestrian, in 2001.

Though Georgia officials have no specific sport in mind, the Banner-Herald identifies a few likely candidates. Rowing, lacrosse, fencing, and even beach volleyball are all possible. Rowing might be at the top of the list – youth rowing clubs are strong in Atlanta, and Georgia already has a pretty successful rowing club of their own. There is no varsity rowing program in the state of Georgia, and two SEC schools already compete at that level.

Post 2010 NFL draft continues good – not great – trends for Georgia

Monday April 26, 2010

Congratulations to Georgia’s NFL Draft picks for 2010:

  • Rennie Curran: 3rd round (Tennessee)
  • Geno Atkins: 4th round (Cincinnati)
  • Reshad Jones: 5th round (Miami)
  • Jeff Owens: 7th round (Philadelphia)
  • Kade Weston: 7th round (New England)

Congratulations also to Michael Moore (Detroit), Prince Miller (Baltimore), and Bryan Evans (Cincinnati) who all signed free agent deals after the draft. Moore is excited to be teaming up with former Bulldog Matthew Stafford in Detroit, and at least one analyst is high on Bryan Evans’ chances with the Bengals.

Mark Richt has now had 51 players drafted in 9 NFL drafts. He’s had as many as 8 and as few as 4 taken in a single year. There have been 8 first-round picks and 24 players selected in the first 3 rounds. Those are impressive totals, but do they smooth over more recent problems?

In 2008 we pointed out how the draft was much kinder to Richt’s players through 2005. Bulldogs were still being drafted, but the balance had shifted from the earlier rounds to the later rounds. From 2002-2005, Georgia had 14 players selected in the first three rounds. From 2006-2008, that number dropped to 4. The stellar class of 2009 alone eclipsed that number with 5 of Georgia’s 6 draftees coming in the first three rounds.

The 2010 draft looked more like those 2006-2008 years. Georgia still had a respectable 5 players selected, but only one came in the first three rounds.

It’s not a surprise that somewhat tepid draft results have come during some tumultuous seasons in Athens. With the exception of 2007, the program hasn’t measured up to what it was through 2005. And, with the exception of the 2009 draft, the Bulldogs have landed in fewer of the valuable high round selections.

The future isn’t bleak – Georgia will likely have a couple of higher round selections in 2011, especially if A.J. Green decides to come out. A year or two of sub-par draft results doesn’t necessarily reflect on the talent or coaching going on – you might just have a young team or low numbers of draft-eligible players in a given year. But over 4 or 5 years, the trend becomes a little more alarming.

The question of talent or coaching was beaten to death as we suffered through the disappointing 2009 season, but it’s unavoidable when talking about draft picks. Through 2008, defense dominated Georgia’s first and second round picks (8 defenders vs. 4 from the offense). That’s changing – Georgia’s three highest picks from the 2009 draft played on offense, and Georgia’s best prospects for 2011 – at this point – are Boling and Green. After having eight defensive players taken second round or better through 2006, Georgia hasn’t had one since Tim Jennings was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft.

You might see that as justification for changing the defensive staff. After all, several of the players in the meantime were highly rated prospects. Rashad Jones carried the mythical five stars, and others weren’t far behind. It’s not that Georgia’s had chopped liver for defensive talent – all five players taken in 2010 were from the defense, and several defensive players drafted since 2006 (Howard, Chas. Johnson, Moses, and now possibly Curran) have all been good, productive selections. Having three defensive tackles taken in a single draft is a big deal regardless of the rounds. The defense should have been better than it was.

But there is still a question, regardless of coaching, whether Georgia is still getting the kind of defensive talent that it did 5+ years ago. There are signs of life across the board – Houston, Rambo, several of the corners – and a lot of promising young players. Perhaps the new defensive staff can make the difference in these guys being higher round picks with guaranteed money and a likely spot on the team versus lower round picks who will find themselves in fierce competition for roster slots. Successful teams in the SEC consistently have those elite defenders, and Georgia used to.

Post 68 teams – a new plateau or a brief stop on the way to 96?

Thursday April 22, 2010

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament will expand to 68 teams in 2011 and will feature four play-in games to meet each of the top four seeds. It’s not the 96-team nightmare many feared, but I doubt that this move will silence talk of further expansion down the road.

Perhaps the bigger news is the new 14-year $10.8 billion broadcasting deal with CBS and Turner. Under the terms of the agreement, all tournament games will be available on one of four networks (CBS and three Turner stations – TBS, TNT and truTV (the former CourtTV)). The deal also means that CBS will eventually lose its exclusive control of the national title game.

Through 2015, CBS will cover the regional finals, the Final Four and the championship game. But starting in 2016, CBS and Turner will split the regional finals and the Final Four, and the national championship game will alternate annually between CBS and TBS.

That’s similar to the move of the BCS from strictly broadcast (FOX/ABC) to cable (ESPN). You’ll have to have cable or satellite to find much of the NCAA Tournament in the future. ESPN was another potential destination for the NCAA Tournament, but the CBS/Turner deal won out.

The deal is worth $771 million per year. That’s up nominally over 40% from the $545 million the former deal paid, but that previous deal was signed 11 years ago. You’ll have to do the math to see if the tournament has kept up its value in real terms (vs. inflation), but at first glance it doesn’t seem as if the tournament is worth a great deal more now than it was at the end of the 1990s.

Post Hanging on for the NFL Draft

Thursday April 22, 2010

Did you know the NFL Draft starts tonight? It’s not Saturday – the NFL changed the format up this year to put the first round in prime time. We wish all of the Bulldogs up for the draft luck – Curran, Atkins, Owens, Moore, and Jones could all hear their name called. Georgia had six players taken in the 2009 draft – including five in the first three rounds. It doesn’t look as strong this year, but there should still be another solid group of Red and Black headed to the NFL to join the long list of players already in the league.

Post Softball sweep of Tech

Thursday April 22, 2010

We noted back at the beginning of the month that Georgia went into Atlanta and had a come-from-behind upset of the #6 Yellow Jackets in their first visit to Tech’s new softball complex. The softball Dawgs completed the season sweep of Tech with a 6-3 home win in Athens on Wednesday. Georgia saw an early lead evaporate but shut the door in the later innings. Georgia, at 37-8, has won 12 straight games which includes two over Tech, and the win moves Georgia’s all-time record over their rivals to 18-9. They should be heavily favored to extend that winning streak in the season’s final home series this weekend when they host a struggling South Carolina team. The softball Dawgs took us on a great ride at the end of last season, and they look to be rounding into good form again as this year draws to a close.

Post No Broncos-Bulldogs twofer in Denver this year

Wednesday April 21, 2010

Many Georgia fans planning a trip out to the Colorado game this year were hoping to finish off the weekend on Sunday by catching Knowshon Moreno and Champ Bailey in action for the Denver Broncos.

NFL schedules were released yesterday, and the news isn’t good: The Broncos will be playing on the road at Tennessee on October 3rd.

Post Championship weekend for two Bulldog teams

Monday April 19, 2010

Even the baseball sweep at Arkansas and the dismissal of a quarterback from the football team doesn’t overshadow the good news for two Georgia programs:

The equestrian team won its fifth overall and third consecutive national title over the weekend in Texas. The program has only existed for eight years and already has five national titles.

Behind overall medalist Russell Henley, the Georgia men’s golf team earned the program’s 7th SEC title in the past 14 years.

Post The annual “has Richt lost control?” question

Monday April 19, 2010

Credit to David Hale for not only dignifying the question but taking the time to do some very serious thinking about the subject. I admit that I can’t give the topic of Mark Richt having lost control of the program the same kind of respect. The thing is – I’ve heard the same hand-wringing ever since RingGate following the 2002 championship season. Every time something new comes up, the same people run around shrieking “HE’S LOST CONTROL! HE’S LOST CONTROL!” I’m numb to it.

Hyperbole about the Georgia program being out of control usually comes from one of three sources:

  1. Media talking heads looking to stir the pot. And, oh, do insecure fans take the bait.
  2. Fans of rivals relishing the chance to play gotcha.
  3. Georgia fans, still in middle school, upset that the latest incident has cost them an opportunity to trash talk rivals about their own problems.

Concern about an “out of control” program begins for rational adults when Richt facilitates, covers up, or overlooks illegal or detrimental behavior. When that happens we’ll have something worth talking about. I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of the individual offenses or deny the appropriateness of justice. But if we’re talking about these incidents in the context of Richt’s control of the program, you’re going to have to find some specific flaws within the organization or culture of the program for me to put any portion of this on Richt.

Post Comings and goings

Monday April 19, 2010

Mettenberger dismissed

The weekend’s biggest news was Mark Richt’s decision to dismiss quarterback Zach Mettenberger. SID Claude Felton made it clear that “there’s not been a new incident that’s come up” since Mettenberger’s arrest six weeks ago. So it’s fair to say that new information has come to Richt’s attention about that incident in Valdosta that took this from a one-game suspension to an outright dismissal. There’s not much else to say besides that the police investigation is still ongoing, so we might learn more if additional charges are ever filed.

What’s interesting is that people are starting to say that this dismissal settles the quarterback derby. I’ve maintained for six weeks that Mettenberger removed himself from consideration as soon as he earned his suspension, but Logan Gray – you know, the guy who started G-Day directing the first team offense – has to be wondering what crime he has to commit to start getting people talking about him. I happen to agree with Barnhart that Murray is the right choice, but writing off Gray so soon is pretty presumptive – especially given the staff’s nature to be deliberative about these kinds of questions.

The man suddenly under the spotlight isn’t Gray or Murray but incoming signee Hutson Mason ($). Mason first popped up on the radar when he was offered a scholarship around the start of December. Mason’s record-setting senior season at Lassiter earned him scholarship offers around the region, but he chose Georgia soon after being offered. Mason’s offer and commitment came at a time when Logan Gray’s switch to wide receiver was considered a strong possibility, so the idea of him starting out as the #3 QB isn’t exactly alien.

Mark Pope leaves for Wake Forest

Mark Pope wasn’t ever your typical operations manager, but Georgia gave him the opportunity to transition from a medical career back into the world of basketball. He’s made the most of that opportunity and will leave Georgia to start his coaching career as an assistant on the new Wake Forest staff. Pope made a quick impact at Georgia, so it’s no surprise that his career is taking off. He’s moving on to a good program in a highly-visible conference. Keep an eye on him. We wish him all the best.

Third Bowman is a charm for Bulldogs

His two brothers went elsewhere, but Georgia received a commitment this weekend from ATH Devin Bowman. He is Georgia’s second commitment of the week and sixth for the class of 2011. Bowman had offers from Clemson, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and Oklahaoma State as well as strong interest from Alabama where his brother Mike plays.

Bowman was good enough of an all-around player to earn all-region honors on both sides of the ball. He was recruited primarily as a cornerback by Georgia, but his abilities on offense also drew the attention of the Bulldog coaching staff – comparisons with Branden Smith are in almost every article about him.

Post Conference realignment as a means to a college football playoff

Monday April 19, 2010

It’s not an offseason without talk of conference realignment. The conferences themselves are chipping in this year by talking about everything from the strategic (where does Notre Dame fit in?) to the desperate (Central Florida would just be perfect for the Big East). Talk of Big 10 expansion is heating up, and Joe Paterno – long a proponent of expansion – sees a future with “12, 14 team conferences and maybe even 16 team conferences.”

At that point, the notion of a conference has little to do with traditional alignments or even regional homogeneity. When the idea of a 14-team conference came up, Brian Cook wrote that “the thing about 14 teams is at that point it’s hardly a conference, it’s two conferences with a scheduling agreement and a weird playoff at the end.” It’s a revenue-sharing agreement and an administrative abstraction.

When you look at a conference that way, is the BCS alliance itself just a few steps away from becoming a 64-team league managing its own scheduling, TV deals, and – yes – postseason. Of course it’s not likely that those in charge of the major conferences will give up their fiefdoms that easily, so the alliance of power conferences will remain the guiding force of college football.

In that spirit, why limit this growth to the Big 10? Matt Hinton speculates about the dominoes that might fall if the Big East is raided once again. He writes somewhat tongue-in-cheek about “visions of a land ruled by imperialist super conferences.” The Big 10 might kick things off, but will their move stand alone or cause ripples that realign the other major conferences?

If you’re disposed to favor a playoff, this gravitational attraction of teams into larger and larger units might not be the worst thing. If the BCS conferences realign to, say, four 16-team conferences, the skeleton of an eight-team playoff is taken care of. Each conference would have a championship game of its divisional winners, and you’re left with four conference champions to do with as you please. Because the NCAA has abdicated when it comes to a Division I football championship, the power lies with those conferences to restructure the BCS as the conferences realign.

If the Big 10 does kick off another round of realignment leading to one or more superconferences, the wall between those on either side of the superconferences will continue to grow to the point that those outside of a hypothetical group of 64 superconference teams might as well form their own subdivision within Division I. Hurt most by the realignment will eventually be those left in the shells of conferences like the Big East. Those programs will go from being revenue-sharing partners in a BCS conference to fending for themselves on the wrong side of the superconference velvet rope.

One conference that’s been conspicuously absent from expansion talk has been the ACC. The Big 10 is positioning itself as a possible first superconference. The SEC is strong enough to be one of the players in realignment. You’d figure the Pac 10 would survive in some form. The Big 12 is questionable but has a major player in Texas. Most assume the Big East would be the likely victim of any Big 10 expansion, but what becomes of the ACC in our group of four 16-team superconferences? What would you think of an SEC with Clemson, Georgia Tech, FSU, and Miami?

Post Dawgs get a key in-state receiver commitment

Friday April 16, 2010

Georgia’s precarious depth at receiver for 2010 isn’t news, but the future of the position just got some good news with this morning’s commitment by Christian Conley of North Paulding High. Conley, at 6’3″ and 180 lbs, is one of the top receiver prospects in Georgia. He chose the Bulldogs over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, and many others.

Conley is Georgia’s fifth commitment for 2011. He committed in front of his teammates this morning and indicated that it was rock-solid.

In keeping with my beliefs, I want my yes to be yes and my no to be no. Therefore, as of today, I will discontinue my contact with all schools other than UGA.

He’s also an outstanding student who plans to graduate early and enroll at Georgia in January. North Paulding coach Heath Webb put it simply: “He’s a Coach Richt kind of kid.”

More on Coley’s commitment:

Post Trey stays

Friday April 16, 2010

The spring signing period is underway, but Mark Fox won’t get better news than he got at the team’s banquet last night. Sophomore All-SEC star Trey Thompkins will stay at Georgia for his junior season. Fellow sophomore Travis Leslie had previously announced his intention to stay.

Thompkins made the decision to stay ($) even without finding out his likely draft status from the NBA advisory board. “I just want to win,” Thompkins said. “I’ve got a passion for winning and I definitely see it in the future for us.”

Coach Mark Fox was of course thrilled by the announcement. “God bless you, Trey,” Fox exclaimed after Thompkins announced his choice.

Thompkins’ decision means that the core of a promising team returns. Seniors Ricky McPhee and Albert Jackson as well as transfers Demario Mayfield and Drazen Zlovaric will leave the program, but most key contributors return. They’ll be buoyed by a good recruiting class and transfer guard Gerald Robinson, Jr. Recruiting is still ongoing, and the addition of a couple more pieces like Marcus Thornton and/or Dwayne Polee would make the team even deeper and stronger.

Post The once-a-decade taunting penalty

Friday April 16, 2010

As expected, most of the (over)reaction to taunting becoming a live-ball penalty has zeroed in on the problems with having a celebration penalty in the first place. Guidelines for just what behavior is allowed and disallowed are vague and – as we well know – whimsically applied.

I understand the apprehension. A penalty on a scoring play can cost a team the game – a holding call on a long touchdown run completely changed the 1993 Arkansas game. I also understand the fear that games could hang on such subjective calls. Not to get too semantic, but most calls are subjective. If you buy into the old saw that holding could be called on every play, far more games turn on the subjective application of the holding penalty than on unsportsmanlike conduct. I’m all for clarifying the celebration rule (or scrapping it entirely – as unlikely as that seems). If we’re going to have a celebration penalty – and it looks as if we’re stuck with it – the focus should be on getting it right.

I still wonder if this is as big of a deal as we’re making it out to be. Yesterday I said that one of the few gray areas was a player diving into the endzone. Even that seems to be less of a concern. “If it’s close to diving into the end zone, most likely it would be ruled that the act ended while in the end zone. We’ll be lenient,” [NCAA national coordinator of college football officiating Dave] Parry said. Of course we’re relying on conditional statements and promises here, but the frequency and types of incidents that could be affected by this rule continue to dwindle.

I elicited some message board help last night trying to come up with the last time that this penalty would have affected a Georgia touchdown. The best we could come up with? Bruce Thornton’s interception return against FSU in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. That was a fairly cut-and-dried example of taunting before a score – no ambiguity or argument there. Eight seasons ago. And this is the rule change that’s going to ruin the sport?

Tony Barnhart sums up why I think this rule makes sense:

What all of us who follow college football want is for the rules to be consistent and for the officials to apply them consistently. If a block in the back or a hold occurs at the five-yard line with a player running in for the score, the score does not count. The penalty is marked off from the spot of the foul…Same thing here.

So now that rule is consistent with other penalties. It’s the application of the rule that will be the trick.

Barnhart agrees that this rule would come up a lot less frequently than the dire predictions would have us think. “In the hundreds of Division I-A games played in 2010, this penalty will be called on a scoring play 10 or less times,” he predicts. That sounds about right.