Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post The sell-out streak continues

Tuesday August 31, 2010

Georgia has sold its last ticket for the season opener, and all six home dates in 2010 are now sold out. That means that every home game since 2001 and every home game under Mark Richt will have been sold out.

Of course tickets sold and tickets used are completely different things. The ticket market for the opener is very soft, and I wouldn’t be surprised that the opponent plus the early start time means a lot of empty seats at the start and the conclusion of the game.

Post Prepare to see Hutson Mason on Saturday

Tuesday August 31, 2010

Seth Emerson’s doing a fine job on the Hutson Mason watch, so I respect his opinion that “the team will try to go as far as it can this year without having to burn (Mason’s) redshirt.” He’s obviously closer to the situation than I am. It just makes little sense to me why a redshirt is even still on the table. I know I’m beating this into the ground, but it’s a very important role on this team, and the quarterback position is one of the biggest question marks on the offense this year.

We already know that Mason would get the call if Murray were to get injured. So the only question now is whether or not to burn the redshirt and play Mason in the situations when you’d expect a backup to take over.

Mark Schlabach nails the answer: “Richt has to play him. Can’t risk no experienced backup QB if Murray goes down.”

Every coach struggles with the opportunity cost of redshirting players. Jim Donnan has probably second-guessed himself a dozen times about not playing David Greene in 2000. Having Knowshon in 2006 would have been nice. But there’s also the risk of wasting a year of eligibility with a few garbage minutes as a freshman which would cost the team a possibly productive redshirt senior.

It might be unfair to Hutson Mason’s hypothetical potential four years from now, but the team has an immediate need for him to play. Marc Weiszer followed up by noting that Logan Gray has been working strictly at receiver. He’s simply not prepared to play quarterback in any meaningful capacity. Garbage time against Louisiana-Lafayette might not prepare Mason for the situation of coming off the bench in a key SEC game, but it would still be infinitely more game experience than he has now and would have if the redshirt remains an option. Of course we’d rather Mason be able to redshirt, but the coaches can’t wait until the instant that Murray is unable to go before they start preparing their contingency.

Georgia won’t lack for QB depth any time soon. Even if Murray develops into a viable pro prospect as soon as next year, he doesn’t have the prototypical size that would make him a sure thing to leave. Christian LeMay is on his way in next year. Richt’s track record suggests he won’t have any problem finding yet another quality quarterback prospect or two over the next three to four years.

There’s also the Logan Gray angle to consider. He obviously wants to play receiver. He won’t start. The best chance for him to get on the field is pretty much the same time you’d expect the backup QB to start getting snaps. Coaches might maintain that Gray could still see time at QB, but consider how little sense that makes: you’d be moving a guy who’s prepared all summer at one position to another position at which he’s received zero preparation and practice for months.

The other alternative is to play Murray the entire game. With the depth situation as thin as it is, of course the coaches won’t take that risk if the lead is sufficient. We’ll see a backup. It will be Hutson Mason.

Post Is UNC football getting into UGA hoops circa 2003 territory?

Friday August 27, 2010

If you’ve been with me long enough, you know that I grew up a North Carolina fan. I wear Red and Black now by conversion, not by birthright. But I still keep up with the Tar Heels, and it’s almost a sense of deja vu with what’s been going on in Chapel Hill this summer. All we need now is an awkward ESPN interview with Butch Davis pleading his case to Lee Corso and promising that “it will all come out.” Consider:

– The affected programs are the secondary sport at the school (if that high).

– They bring in a big-name journeyman coach who has moderate, but not great, success.

– The scandal starts with a relatively minor thing. At UGA, it was Tony Cole. At UNC, it was the agent. Jim Harrick probably could have survived Cole, and Butch Davis wasn’t going to get much heat over the agent.

– But then the academic scandals hit. Georgia had a fraudulent course with players getting improper benefits (though it was just a glorified PE class). UNC now has Davis’s nanny allegedly writing papers for multiple players. Several key players and starters are potentially involved.

As for reaction? Georgia of course set fire to the hoops program, cut incoming recruits loose, and is just now recovering. UNC has been cooperative and are investigating on their own, but something tells me UNC won’t be so quick to fall on their own sword. I wonder if we’ll see Jeremy Schaap stalking Butch Davis from behind a dumpster as Davis leaves his office.

Both programs even have an assistant taking much of the heat. The Dawgs had Jim Harrick, Jr. UNC has John Blake.

Post End of an era on the UGA sidelines: Whatchagot Chuck?

Thursday August 26, 2010

UGA and ISP have released details for radio coverage of the 2010 Dawgs.

The biggest change: long-time sideline reporter Loran Smith will be replaced by Chuck Dowdle. Loran will still remain a part of the broadcast team and handle co-host duties for the pregame show.

There will also be more coverage of the team available to satellite radio subscribers. In addition to play-by-play on Sirius XM, the Bulldog Brunch and Bulldog Hotline will now re-air on XM 199 and Sirius 213 (see the announcement for dates and times). As we mentioned earlier, the simulcast of WSB radio on 95.5 FM joins 750 AM as the flagship radio station for the Dawgs. ISP is also taking over production of the Bulldog Brunch, formerly a WSB production.

You can see all Bulldog Radio Network affiliates here.

Marc Weiszer has more information on other broadcast changes at the ABH.

Post 80 scholarship players – the flip-side to oversigning

Thursday August 26, 2010

Earlier this month junior fullback Josh Sailors became the fourth walk-on football player to be awarded a scholarship this year. For Sailors and the others it’s a well-deserved recognition of the effort they’ve put in and the contributions they made as walk-ons.

But what it also means is that the Bulldogs entered the week with no more than 81 players who signed for their scholarship. That number dropped to 80 yesterday when offensive lineman Jonathan Owens was granted a medical disqualification.

The discussion of oversigning and grayshirting and all of the tricks used to get to the magic number of 85 scholarship players isn’t new. It shouldn’t be easy to forget that these are young men with educations and futures at stake, but we do. Even the console game with the NCAA’s name on it demands that you outright “cut” players. I’d much rather my program undersign than oversign and have to yank or defer a scholarship, but there is definitely a tradeoff and a cost for not playing the game.

The advantage isn’t just the two or three players signed over the limit by another program. Remember that Georgia has at most now 80 players who were considered scholarship-quality when they signed, and the 87 or 88 at the other school all merited an offer. So the difference is more like seven or eight players versus a program that oversigned by a couple. Eight players from an 85-man roster is just under 10% of the team. It’s a third of a recruiting class for any given year.

Of course Mark Richt didn’t know that he’d be five scholarships under the limit. Owens and Banks had battled injuries for a while, but you can’t anticipate a medical disqualification. You can’t foresee the backup QB’s spring break indiscretions. It does seem to be a given though that there is some amount of attrition each year. Every coach has to play inventory manager and balance the 85 scholarship limit against his best guess at attrition. It’s clear though that some are more aggressive at chasing that limit, and it’s not hard to be cynical about how some of the “attrition” eventually comes about.

Again, I’d rather be a little under the limit rather than over because of the human element. It’s all business, but that’s not what coaches say when they’re in the living room. But we can’t ignore that under the current rules coming up five short of the limit isn’t all that great of a situation either. It’s a great story for the deserving walk-ons who see their effort recognized, but 80 scholarship players is borderline probation.

Post South Carolina, La.-Laf. tickets still available

Monday August 23, 2010

If you’re thinking about making the trip over for the noontime start at the furnace in Columbia, there are single-game tickets available through Ticketmaster for $59.50/ea. The best available tickets seem to be in the upper level (300 level).

Single-game tickets also remain available to the general public for the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. Tickets are $45/ea. All other home games are sold out.

Post Great article on Stafford

Friday August 20, 2010

It’s still all about the future in Detroit, but Matthew Stafford has given teammates and fans many reasons to like him on and off the field.

Post Dare to dream about the defense?

Friday August 20, 2010

It’s not that the Georgia offense has been abysmal during the first half of preseason camp, but the lion’s share of good news so far has had to do with the defense.

  • The safety position. Departures have left the position a little thin, but those still on the team are having a heck of a preseason. The trio of Rambo, Hamilton, and Nick Williams has emerged as a strong rotation across the two safety positions. But even the other safeties are making noise. Shawn Williams “may be the most improved player” since spring. True freshmen Alec Ogletree is among the newcomers most likely to see playing time this year, even if it’s primarily on special teams at first. With all five getting positive reviews, you wonder if there will be some creativity involved to get them on the field. Nick Williams has spent time at linebacker, and Ogletree was considered another Thomas Davis type of player who could excel at either safety or linebacker. I’m not talking about more position moves, but it’s not hard to imagine the occasional use of a third “safety” as a rover or pass rusher. Experience remains a concern, and the group is just an injury away from having no more wiggle room with the depth chart.
  • The emergence of Justin Anderson. DeAngelo Tyson is probably Georgia’s best and most versatile defensive lineman, but his placement as the nose guard was more out of necessity. He’s more suited for the end position in a 3-4. If someone has come along to the point of allowing Tyson to slide over to his more natural position, it’s great news for the defensive front. The rapid ascent of Anderson is even more impressive considering that redshirt freshman Kwame Geathers has reported to camp in tremendous condition and has stood out himself. A projected starting line of Dobbs, Anderson, and Tyson will do just fine. A second line of Abry Jones, Geathers, and Brandon Wood isn’t bad either.
  • Competition at linebacker. You’ve seen how the coaching change has given new life to players like Darryl Gamble. Gamble’s been good enough to push presumptive starter Cornelius Washington. Injuries at inside linebacker have given Akeem Hebron an opportunity, and he’s recorded the most tackles in both scrimmages so far. Akeem Dent seems on track to return from an injured toe on, if not ahead of, schedule. There’s tight competition between Christian Robinson and Marcus Dowtin at the other ILB spot. We haven’t mentioned Justin Houston yet. Depth remains thin, and even a single injury like Dent’s has both ILB positions unsettled. But the play of Gamble and Hebron has provided coaches with options.

Contrast that with a couple of the major themes on offense. The offensive line has been hobbled by injuries and illness. The starting quarterback has looked fine in practice but has yet to really put it together in anything resembling a game.

To be fair, it’s not nearly all bad news. It’s important to remember we’re also limited to the information that trickles out. Practices are closed to the public and somewhat to reporters. The defense is new and unknown, so naturally there’s going to be a lot more reported about it. Some positive news we take for granted. You don’t have to be told this August that A.J. Green can do ridiculous things with the football or that Clint Boling might be the SEC’s best lineman. From Hutson Mason catching on quickly to Marlon Brown’s maturation, there are also positive stories on the offense.

I think expectations are largely at work here. If you had to sum up the narrative for Georgia entering the season, it would be a loaded offense that has to carry the team while the defense goes through the learning curve of the new 3-4 scheme. Georgia’s offense is presumed to be set with a question only under center. Green, Charles, Ealey, and King are all proven skill players. The line showed what it was capable of as it found its stride at the end of last season. With a defense expected to have some issues in its transition to a new scheme and coaching staff, the offense is supposed to be the strength of the team in 2009. It’s one thing to have questions at places where we expect them, but you also have to make sure that your strengths are really your strengths.

Remember the guiding assumption going into last year: a running game with Samuel and King behind a more experienced and proven starting line would remove a lot of the need for Joe Cox to be as much a part of the offense as Matthew Stafford was. Of course Sturdivant went out immediately, Samuel proved ineffective, King and Ealey were injured early, and Cox ended up with roughly as many passing attempts as Greene or Shockley did in their final seasons.

Which preseason assumptions will we have to revise this year once the season gets underway?

Post No static at all – Bulldog flagship station now in FM

Monday August 16, 2010

Atlanta’s AM 750 WSB, the flagship station for the Bulldog Radio Network, announced on Monday that they’ll be simulcasting in Atlanta and northeast Georgia on 95.5 FM. 95.5 FM used to be The Beat, a hip-hop station since 1999 when it took over the frequency from country station WNGC.

Bulldog football fans have had an FM option around northeast Georgia on 106.1 (the home of WNGC since 1999). The addition of WSB at 95.5 gives local fans an FM outlet now for basketball, the Bulldog Brunch, the coaches’ hotlines, and all other Bulldog programming from the flagship station. With a tower in southern Hall County, 95.5 FM provides a strong signal across northeast Georgia from Toccoa to Atlanta and of course across Athens.

Post The NCAA needs to fish or cut bait in Athens

Monday August 16, 2010

With the NCAA going back for seconds at the Carolina schools, I wondered whether A.J. Green was ever interviewed in the first place. We knew that the NCAA had asked for permission to interview someone at Georgia, but it isn’t clear whether the NCAA ever followed through on that interview request. We’re led to believe that they never did follow through. Other schools have been able to confirm when their players were interviewed. Last week reporters got basically another “no comment” from Green who made it clear that he was under instructions not to elaborate on his involvement in the investigation.

Kyle’s right here when he notes that as long as this investigation remains unresolved, Green’s character and judgement are taking an unfair hit. It’s fortunately not that large of a hit thanks to the quick response and strength of Green’s alibi for the weekend in question. I don’t blame UGA for the “gag order” – that’s prudent with any ongoing investigation. It’s not as important to me whether Green ever addresses this story again. If he’s clear, that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned.

The important issue here isn’t Green being freed to tell all. It’s clearing his name and letting him move on. The ball here is in the NCAA’s court, and they’ve held it for nearly four weeks. While other schools remain up in the air about the eligibility of their investigated stars for the season opener, Mark Richt seems confident enough that he won’t have similar concerns. If the NCAA wants to double back and focus on a second round of questions at other schools, that’s fine. Just don’t leave A.J. Green twisting in the wind. He has a season to start in three weeks, and he and the Georgia program don’t need the distraction if his role in the investigation is settled.

Post Welcome Greg McGarity

Friday August 13, 2010

It’s official now – Greg McGarity has been introduced as Georgia’s next athletic director. The UGA alumnus is returning after nearly two decades at Florida.

Hopefully he’ll bring the same enthusiasm to this job as he did working in the UGA SID office back in the day…
Greg McGarity old school

Post Banks forced into retirement by injury

Friday August 13, 2010

Quintin Banks’ talent or drive were never much of a question. His knees, unfortunately, almost always were. According to Rivals.com, Banks was the #11 safety in the nation coming out of high school in 2006. Banks played in 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2007 and seemed poised to become another dependable Georgia defensive back. But he tore an MCL during the 2008 preseason and missed the first month of the season. He was able to go for the Tennessee game and then had another injury the very next week that sidelined him for the rest of the 2008 campaign. Lingering knee concerns held him out of all but four games in 2009.

Those knee problems have continued into 2010, and Banks has finally decided it was time to hang it up. It has to be tough for the senior to give up one more chance at getting back on the field, but our bodies ultimately call the shots. When you look at it the way Mark Richt put it, the decision becomes a lot easier:

“He wants to be able to run around and play with his kids one day. He didn’t want to sit there and have to think about a knee replacement at a very young age, so I think a lot of those things crossed his mind.”

Banks will remain on as a student assistant before facing more knee surgery down the road. His experience and attitude will be very important for a safety position that’s become short on depth and experience.

Banks becomes the fourth safety with eligibility remaining to leave the team over the past year and a half. John Knox’s academic struggles caused him to leave before the 2009 season. Rashad Jones of course was an early entrant into the NFL draft. Makiri Pugh announced his intention to transfer this spring.

Both safety positions now come down to a group of five players. We’ve heard good things this week about the trio of Rambo, Nick Williams, and Jakar Hamilton. The depth is provided by Shawn Williams and Alec Ogletree. Think about the experience of that group. Rambo of course had an impressive 2009 coming mostly off the bench. Nick Williams has shifted between linebacker and the secondary during his career, and he has a total of nine tackles in 24 appearances in 2008 and 2009. Shawn Williams saw limited action last year as a freshman but had a nice finish in the bowl game. Hamilton and Ogletree are newcomers. Both are very highly regarded prospects, and Hamilton is a little more advanced as a JUCO transfer, but both are going to have to come up to speed quickly to give Georgia any kind of depth at the position.

Post Dawgs put their faith in McGarity

Friday August 13, 2010

Greg McGarity seemed to be the nearly universal first choice of many Georgia fans to be the new athletic director, and it looks as if they’ll get their wish. Florida’s #2 man is all but announced as the new top Dawg. We were warned that a thorough search might take anywhere from 6 to 12 months, but it seems to be over in just about six weeks.

I’m trying to understand the source of the unbridled enthusiasm for this pick. I’m not being contrary, and I see few obvious negatives other than his lack of experience as an athletic director. Most are basing their preference basically in his association with a wildly successful Florida program. Make no mistake, that counts for a lot. Florida, like Georgia, has an impressive record in the field of play, in NCAA compliance, and in academic success. I appreciate that the next athletic director comes from a similar culture.

I admit to being a little underwhelmed in the list of applicants that was released last week. Most saw McGarity’s name on the list, breathed a sigh of relief, and moved on. There were a few impressive names on the list , including McGarity, some with NFL experience, and a few from smaller programs. But there were few, if any, public applicants from similar programs. I grant that people in those positions might have been approached off the record in order to preserve their standing at their current high-profile jobs.

So if everyone else is happy with McGarity, I suppose I should be too, as much as anyone can get excited about an administrator. Damon Evans, for his personal faults, leaves a pretty good legacy in the areas of compliance, financial management, and academics. McGarity’s first job is preserving and building on those strong attributes while he seeks to improve Georgia’s overall performance on the field.

Post Bob Stoops agrees: overscheduling puts you at a disadvantage

Wednesday August 11, 2010

We’ve explained for a while that there’s a disincentive for major programs to overschedule. Teams still do it, but the incentives built into the BCS system make it a less-than-optimal strategy. Florida AD Jeremy Foley is on board. Mark Richt seems to think along those lines too.

Add Bob Stoops to the list of co-signers. The money quote:

Everybody talks about (schedule) early. By the end of the year everyone’s talking about wins and losses and you’re ranked accordingly.

We’ve already looked at Oklahoma and how their 2010 schedule favors a good season if they can find some answers at quarterback and a few other spots. They have fair non-conference competition with Florida State headlining the list, but it’s not a murderer’s row this year. Stoops was asked if this view meant he’d try to get out of some future contracts. He admitted, “It’ll be considered. It’s too early to say. I know (athletic director Castiglione) Joe’s looking at that but it’ll be considered.”

Post Still a freshman quarterback

Wednesday August 11, 2010

The reviews were generally positive yesterday regarding Aaron Murray’s first preseason scrimmage as the Bulldog starting quarterback. He threw for over 200 yards and had two long touchdown passes to A.J. Green. Players and coaches commended Murray for his reads, the way he trusted the line, his presence in the huddle, and the placement of his passes. It seems a little incongruous that he was 12-of-21, but we don’t know anything about the conditions of the scrimmage or the number of drops or things like that.

But as if we needed a reminder of his inexperience, he’s still going through the same learning process that most freshman do. “I did force a couple throws today trying to make plays, and I will learn from that,” Murray admitted. One of those forced throws was a poor decision in the red zone that resulted in an interception. “It was not a wise decision,” noted coach Mark Richt. “He knows he doesn’t have to be a hero, and it’s all right to throw it out of bounds some times.”

That’s not an indictment of Murray – it’s a lesson for new quarterbacks that plays out time after time, and even future #1 draft picks go through it. It continues to be something Murray struggles with. Including yesterday’s scrimmage and going back through G-Day and the spring scrimmages, Murray has yet to have a scrimmage this year without an interception. Yesterday’s pick as well as the one at G-Day were the result of poor decisions and trying to force something to happen. Murray, a bright guy, has immersed himself in the feedback loop of film study, evaluation, and adjustment, and he’s not oblivious to these mistakes.

You appreciate the touchdown passes to Green and recognize that with Green, Charles, and handful of other dynamic receiving options that this could be quite a productive passing game. On the other hand, you think back to Stafford’s first season (not to mention last year) and remember the crushing role that turnovers played in those lukewarm years. The defense creating more turnovers this year is only half of correcting last season’s dreadful turnover margin. Getting fewer than 15 INT from the starting quarterback would also help. Georgia had just three games without giving up a pick last year, and two of those were some of the biggest wins of the season (Auburn and Georgia Tech).

Despite the tempting weapons on the receiving end, the touted offensive line and solid tailback tandem makes it possible to ask just how much you need a freshman quarterback to do. Murray seems to be headed for a bright future, and he already has a solid command of the team and offense even before his first game. You can’t blame fans for being a little nervous though – they still remember the 10 of 22 for 96 yards at G-Day, and Murray continues to work through the occasional forced pass. A 2-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio wouldn’t be awful, but can the Dawgs ride out this learning process, or will it put the brakes on the 2010 season at some point?