Friday April 29, 2011
Even for a fan base that has eating its own down to a science, A.J. Green could do no wrong. Even his more controversial moments – the taunting penalty and the 2010 suspension – slid off his Teflon reputation and were correctly seen for the screw jobs they were.
He’s earned that reputation. It started during recruiting. He was an early commitment to Georgia, didn’t drag out the process, and remained firm through Signing Day. That last point isn’t small – he was as obvious a star as a recruit as he was a draft pick. He surely faced tremendous pressure to stay home and play for a team like South Carolina. He never wavered and rode through the recruiting process with the quiet calmness that defined his three years in Athens. Now he’s a top-four pick. You had to love the ESPN draft capsule saying “Areas of concern: None.” Yep. That’s A.J., and that statement applies on and off the field.
Last night, I felt like a wet blanket for tweeting about this: Georgia’s trio of offensive skill players from the 2008 team were all drafted no lower than 12th overall. Two were taken in the first four picks. I don’t think it can be argued that Stafford, Moreno, and Green were the best QB-WR-RB trio ever to be on the same Georgia team. It’s not even close.
I see others thinking along those same lines this morning. Those of us who got to see Green for the past three years are thrilled for him and proud that he’ll be Georgia’s latest representative at the next level. At the same time, watching those highlights and his can’t-miss draft outlook was a reminder of a big missed opportunity.
As Kyle points out, its bittersweet that this rare convergence of talent coincided with Mark Richt’s leaner years. The three aren’t the first stars (even at Georgia) to come away with no titles to show for their individual accomplishments and talents. At least Stafford and Moreno have 2007 and a #2 ranking to their credit, but you feel for Green that his time coincided with defensive disarray, two first-year starters at quarterback, and a general decline in the program.
The Senator artfully takes this discussion and turns to a somewhat testy exchange between Mark Richt and a fan last night in Macon. I can understand Richt bristling at some of the room-temperature IQ questions he gets on the Road Tour, and we still have plenty of fans stuck in the 80s who think that double-digit passing attempts is a sure sign of the end times. Richt is correct of course that some very diverse styles of offense have succeeded in the SEC, and his frustration with his tailbacks shows that he appreciates how important a dependable back is in his offense.
But Richt again leaned on his resume, and I’m not sure it had the effect he intended. I hope he didn’t expect many pats on the back after last season, and such a defensive posture to convince us he knows what he’s doing by virtue of his experience isn’t all that reassuring. Much of the frustration with the state of the program is precisely because of Richt’s experience and his legacy as a winner. His comments about knowing what he was doing might’ve had more to do with constructing an offensive scheme, but of course we have to apply those comments to how he runs the program. Fans gripe about scheme and playcalling all of the time, but that’s not the area where we really expect more of Richt’s experience.
The Senator wonders why this experience didn’t put Richt ahead of the curve in identifying big problems on defense. The same could be asked of the erosion in the strength program that became this year’s remodeling project. You can get into other areas if you like – from kickoff coverage to the appropriate level of practice intensity. Richt is surely confident in his experience, but even he admits that he needs more time to keep up and study the cutting edge in football.
The offseason has been mostly good news so far. Signing Day was a coup. We’ve heard success stories with the brief time spent on the conditioning program. Players like Geathers are stepping up at key positions. Players are staying out of the wrong kinds of headlines. The offseason is the time for optimism. Last night was a bit of a trip back to reality and a reminder that there’s a lot to do and a dwindling window of time for Mark Richt to do it.
Thursday April 28, 2011
Several items on the Georgia front today, and that’s before we get to tonight’s NFL Draft.
Men’s basketball coach Mark Fox received a $400,000 raise and a one-year extension on Thursday taking his total compensation to $1.7 million per year. Fox’s contract will now run through 2016. After returning the program to the NCAA Tournament and raising attendance, Fox deserved this action for a job well done.
The raise brings Fox squarely into the middle of the pack among SEC coaches. Four earn more, and Kevin Stallings at Vandy is right there with Fox. It’s interesting to hear Greg McGarity explain why there wasn’t a longer contract extension for Fox. “You really want all your staff and coaches on edge a bit,” McGarity noted. “Five years that is a strong commitment. We don’t get caught up in five years, six years. There’s not a whole lot of difference in that because if we keep marching in the same direction I’m sure this won’t be the last time we come as a group to meet.”
McGarity’s cautious not to go overboard and commit to a Paul Hewitt contract especially with the rebuilding job still ongoing. Fox has taken a team to the tournament, but now he’ll face a tough challenge in 2012 getting back there. He’ll also have to win more big recruiting battles to assemble the kind of team he’ll need to continue the program’s growth and climb up the SEC standings. As McGarity says, if that progress continues, Fox will be recognized accordingly.
Leonard Floyd commits
Recruiting services are reporting that Georgia’s defense picked up a big in-state commitment from Dodge County OLB Leonard Floyd. Floyd picked Georgia over offers from Alabama and Florida, among others. At 6’5″ with a long frame, he’s well-suited to line up outside in Georgia’s 3-4 scheme.
Joni Crenshaw added to WBB staff
Andy Landers’ staff took a blow a few weeks ago when assistant coach Kim Hairston headed to Virginia to reunite with a former boss. Georgia filled that vacancy with a good one. Joni Crenshaw comes from the LSU staff after spending time at Louisiana Tech and her alma mater Alabama. She has a reputation as an effective recruiter in the south and has been part of several top signing classes and individual signings over the past few years. She earned a promotion to associate head coach at both La. Tech and Alabama.
Friday April 22, 2011
We’ll take Samuel L. any day.
Tuesday April 19, 2011
I came out of G-Day with three basic thoughts:
1) Thank goodness no one (else) got hurt.
2) It didn’t answer any of the questions most of us have about the team (except maybe for one big one on the DL).
3) It more or less affirmed what we thought to be the strengths and weaknesses of the team.
With the number of small injuries, the draft format jumbling up the cohesive units on offense and defense, and the anticipated contributions of freshmen and newcomers, there wasn’t much cause for getting too worked up over the highs and the lows of the game. So we’ll take up some more minor points.
I have to admit I expected to see more written about Derrick Lott. He had two sacks by my count, including the safety, and was in the backfield nearly as much as Geathers was. We focus a lot on what the nose can do in the 3-4, but opportunities for the ends can be a byproduct of an effective man in the middle. Lott’s G-Day came after a spring in which he impressed coaches and teammates. If Lott keeps it up, the Geathers/Jenkins battle won’t be the only competition for playing time on the DL worth watching this August.
LeMay ran an effective scoring drive, but what caught my eye were a couple of zone read runs. The zone read isn’t a new play at Georgia – even Stafford shocked us a few times when he kept the ball (including one glorious play at Tech in 2007). It was interesting though to see the way LeMay executed the play. Georgia’s quarterbacks haven’t eaxctly resembled Pat White on the play. LeMay looked different – he attacked the line before making the option decision. He made a good decision whenever he ran the play, and his keeper was a solid run up the middle. I don’t suggest this is something we’ll see much of any time soon; Lemay himself might even be redshirted. It’s just something to keep in the back of our minds if LeMay ever gets the reigns.
He’ll earn inevitable comparisons with Kris Durham, but Michael Bennett could have an impact larger and earlier than Durham. Bennett has good hands and speed, and he showed Saturday impressive blocking on the outside. That will get a young receiver on the field a lot sooner. After King, the receiver rotation is really still up in the air. We’re all waiting for Brown, Wooten, and Troupe to make their moves as veterans, but someone like Bennett could easily slide in there. None of this is news – we know what the depth situation is at receiver. It pretty much played out that way on Saturday. The same opportunities that are there for Bennett are also there for Malcolm Mitchell and other newcomers.
We didn’t see much from the downfield passing game. With the strength at TE and with guys like Smith (and even Boykin!) involved on offense, that might be a trend that continues through the season. King should remain a solid target when the Dawgs choose to go deep. That’s not to say that there weren’t a few shots – I can recall a nice pass to Bennett that was well-covered and another more promising pass that was just dropped by Chris Conley.
I have to be careful of letting what I had heard going into the game influence what I remember, but I was especially interested in watching Caleb King. He didn’t disappoint. His production and time was limited, but he had two nice runs to the outside that looked faster and smoother than anything else on the field (except maybe Branden Smith). Speaking of Smith, I’m glad to see people talking about the stiff-arm he used on his touchdown. Defensive coaches aren’t happy about the missed tackle, and that’s something we’d dwell on more if it were an opponent that scored on a play like that. The sight of Smith as something more than just a speed guy was about as promising of a development as there was from the offense.
Thursday April 14, 2011
Today’s update on Georgia baseball player Jonathan Taylor is about as good as it can be under the circumstances. Though Taylor, injured during an on-field collision on March 6th, still “has no feeling in his legs or his fingers,” he no longer requires a ventilator and has some use of upper extremities. He’s able to use a manual wheelchair (for very short amounts of time) which is another sign of progress.
Though there are never any guarantees, the fact that Taylor’s spinal cord was bruised and not completely severed leaves hope for further improvement throughout his body. His doctors caution us that “a majority of people with his injury don’t walk,” but some do. Because each injury is different, the range of possible outcomes go from his present state to regaining use of his legs and walking again. He’s already past the worst case which would have required continued use of the ventilator and an electric wheelchair.
Taylor’s road back remains tough day to day, but he and his support group have to be encouraged by the progress so far. He remains close to his teammates and will need that strong support system to work through the pain and frustration during the long recovery process. He’ll continue to need your prayers and support. You can also help by donating to the fund that has been established to offset his medical expenses.
Wednesday April 13, 2011
Across the South, college football fans are packing stadiums to take in the spring scrimmage: that one morsel of something approximating real football during the eight month famine that is the offseason. Fans, especially in the SEC, bring near-capacity crowds to see how their favorite team has progressed through spring practice.
Georgia won’t be one of those schools.
Don’t let yourself be one of the Georgia fans who get caught up in the ridiculous comparisons of spring game attendance. There’s nothing wrong with a mostly-empty Sanford Stadium. It doesn’t mean we care less about our football. It’s not a statement of waning fan interest in the coach and the program. It might even be a sign of rational behavior, and since when are football fans known for that? Here’s why you haven’t seen anything close to a capacity crowd for G-Day and won’t for any time soon.
We have other things to do. We don’t have the excuse of a scheduling conflict with the Masters anymore, but there’s still no shortage of things to do on a spring afternoon in north Georgia. If you want to catch G-Day, you can still set aside 2 hours to see it on TV and have plenty of time to do other things on an April Saturday. Consider yourself blessed to live in a state where a few hours of watching the third string light it up isn’t your top entertainment option.
You won’t see what you want to see. You’ll find more vanilla at the spring game than at the University Creamery. G-Day is designed to keep the stars from shining. It makes perfect sense – sure, Murray could post a gaudy 400 yards if the coaches structured the scrimmage that way, but they have a team to evaluate and will send multiple units and player combinations out there. Rules designed for safety take some of the wow factor off of an aggressive defense. For those reasons, the stat leaders on G-Day are just as likely to be reserves.
In 2010, G-Day’s leading rushers were Carlton Thomas and Dontavious Jackson. The top passers were Mettenberger and Gray. The top receivers were Wooten and Durham, with reserve tight ends Lynch and Rich weren’t far behind. The leading tackler was linebacker Nick Williams who spent the 2010 season getting Tripped as he moved from linebacker to safety to linebacker.
It’s a pain to go to Athens for football. We do it willingly six or seven times for real games, but the hassles of tailgating restrictions and parking scarcity have soured many fans on the experience. Those issues aren’t as bad with 30,000 people descending on the town, but fans aren’t willing to push it for a scrimmage they can just as easily watch on TV.
Game? What game? No one could call the University hostile to G-Day; it’s not like they hide it or schedule it on a Tuesday. It’s often been a community fundraiser, and it is again this year. But it’s not like the event has been heavily promoted. I think they don’t want a large Alabama-like crowd. It’s not a huge money-maker, so the additional logistics of a large crowd might even cost the University and the city.
Those who care to ask when G-Day is already know when to find the particulars. They’re the ones who looked up the starting date of spring practice as soon as Signing Day was in the books. G-Day is a great chance for those who can’t afford season tickets or the casual fans to see the Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium. But those are also the fans more likely to be out of the loop on Georgia news unless they’re hit over the head with it. It’s better this year with the “It’s Great to Be a Bulldog” Weekend idea combining events involving four sports over three days. There’s an effort to make G-Day weekend bigger than it has been, but it’s still not reaching far beyond the diehards or the Athens area.
Should the Athletic Association put on a marketing blitz across the state to increase awareness and reach those casual fans? Sure, if the goal is a full house. I just don’t think it is. Again, that’s fine with me. I’m much more likely to attend and enjoy the day with some friends if I know I won’t face the parking and traffic crunch of 90,000 fans.
Wednesday April 13, 2011
When you schedule an opponent like Boise State for a major neutral site game, you hope and almost assume that significant national exposure comes with the deal. That might not be the case for Georgia’s 2011 opener.
Marc Weiszer is reporting that the September 3rd game against Boise State at the Georgia Dome will start at 8:00 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN. Ordinarily that would be a great primetime slot. But Weiszer also mentions that the Georgia game will be going up against the LSU-Oregon game on ABC at the same time. It’s likely that much of the national attention that’s been on the Atlanta game over the past few years, including Gameday, will instead be on that LSU-Oregon game in Dallas.
Last season’s LSU-UNC game at the Dome was the ABC game, and its main competition in that time slot was a much lower-profile TCU-Oregon State game.
Wednesday April 13, 2011
The Lady Dogs’ only senior, forward Porsha Phillips, was selected in the third round of Wednesday’s WNBA draft. Phillips is the 13th Lady Dog selected in the past 11 WNBA drafts and the third in the last two years. Phillips turned into a rebounding machine as a senior, and her athleticism on the frontcourt was a big reason why Georgia was able to play effective defense and win so many low-scoring close games this year.
The odds of actually making a WNBA team are long for Phillips and most draft picks. Thanks to a relatively small league size and a glut of international talent, roster spots are tough to come by for new collegiate entrants, even for many first-round picks. Most end up playing overseas where there are numerous leagues and opportunities for professional women’s basketball.
The draft results illustrate what a down year it was for the SEC and its senior class. Phillips was one of only three SEC players drafted. One ACC school – Duke – had three draft picks alone.
Monday April 11, 2011
The NFL isn’t the only pro league looking at labor problems. The NBA is also facing the possibility of a lockout as its union and owners try to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. One idea reportedly considered in a new CBA is raising the entrance requirements from the current one-and-done system to two years removed from high school and a minimum age of 20.
Georgia dodged the one-and-done rule with Trey Thompkins sticking it out for three seasons, but incoming freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a national top 15 prospect who could very well end up with a decision to make after his first year.
It might not be the best thing from a player’s perspective – especially ones ready for the league out of high school – but everyone else involved in the college game has to like the idea. Coaches, fans, and even administrators would benefit from raising this artificial age limit. Even academicians have to like the fact that two-year players would have to pay marginally more attention to academics and eligibility versus the one-and-done joke. There’s no question that the college game would be better if its best stars stuck around for another year. It might make stories like Butler and VCU a little less likely though – major programs with a little more seasoning on their young stars should become more prominent than they already are.
Monday April 11, 2011
Our thoughts this morning are with Trinton Sturdivant. Another major knee injury – this time to the other one – has likely ended his football career.
Sturdivant joins the way-too-long list of promising stars whose careers were cut short by an uncooperative body. He’s entering his fifth year of eligibility, and three of those will have been spent dealing with surgery and grueling rehab. There’s precedent for the NCAA granting a 6th year of eligibility, but who are we kidding? Three major knee injuries in four years is enough of a toll taken on the guy’s future. Hopefully he’ll use this last year to make the most of his academic opportunities.
Georgia’s line situation wasn’t terrific to begin with, and everyone is wondering today how the pieces will shift in order to get a line together for two huge tests to start the season. The picture looks a little bit like it did in 2007 when Sturdivant and a collection of freshmen and JUCO transfers joined two experienced linemen to somehow transform into the unit that led the way for Moreno and helped the team finish #2 in the nation.
Here’s what the line looked like entering the 2007 season.
LT 77 Trinton Sturdivant 6-5, 286, Fr.
72 Vince Vance 6-8, 330, So.
LG 63 Chris Davis 6-4, 292, RFr.
54 Tanner Strickland 6-5, 318, Fr.
C 75 Fernando Velasco 6-4, 328, Sr.
74 Kevin Perez 6-3, 274, RFr.
64 Ian Smith 6-3, 295, So..
RG 70 Scott Havercamp 6-4, 310, Jr.
78 Josh Davis 6-6, 293, RFr.
73 Micky White 6-3, 320, RFr.
RT 67 Chester Adams 6-4, 330, Jr.
79 Justin Anderson 6-5, 335, Fr.
The 2007 Dawgs had two veterans on that line: the versatile Velasco and the dependable Adams. Searels was in his first year as line coach, and the Dawgs turned to newcomers at three of the five positions. Boling didn’t even rate on this preseason depth chart, though of course he quickly distinguished himself and became part of the success story.
We’re in a similar position now five seasons down the road. There’s a new position coach again. Sturdivant’s injury leaves just two established starters on the line: seniors Jones and Glenn. Tanner Strickland’s decision to hang it up takes away another older, if not experienced, option. One difference is the availability of Justin Anderson. Though his spot on the line was expendable when the defense came calling last year, he’s at least seen the field as an offensive lineman. A wildcard among experienced linemen is A.J. Harmon. He was a touted prospect, and it was big news when he switched from Clemson to Georgia. He’s struggled to make an impact though after two years and a redshirt season, but it would be nice if he emerged to become part of the answer.
Fresh faces are likely to become part of the solution again. There’s a substantial glut of linemen on the team who just haven’t seen much playing time. Some of that is for medical reasons – Burnette, Benedict, and Austin Long – have been rehabilitating some pretty serious injuries of their own. You also have five true freshmen coming in. Debell or Dantzler might be looked to early, but as with Boling in 2007, you can’t really tell which newcomers will get it until they’re put on the field. With the lack of experience among the injured redshirts, you pretty much have to lump them all in with the true freshmen at this point. Some might have an upper hand – Burnette was seeing time with the first unit even before Sturdivant’s injury.
It’s asking a lot for any newcomer to step in to that key left tackle spot now vacated by Sturdivant. His accomplishment of holding down the spot as a true freshman in 2007 was exceptional. For that reason, I agree with Seth Emerson that you’re likely to see someone with playing experience – whether Glenn or Gates – in that role, and hopefully the experienced Jones can hold things together in the middle much the way Velasco did. You might also see the coaches use a tight end like Lynch a lot more often if it turns out to be needed in pass protection.
A repeat of the miracle of 2007 is a tall order, but the situation now is only slightly less dire. There are at least more options available this time. “Uncertainty” is definitely the word to use – right up there with “inexperienced.” The 2007 season at least gives us hope that something can come from this mess.
Friday April 8, 2011
Team Speed Kills cites an announcement by the NCAA’s Bylaw Blog that schools may no longer subscribe to Rivals.com or any subscription service that “provides video of nonscholastic competition that is not available to the general public.”
Year2 at TSK is correct that this looks like a reaction to the “scouting service” stories that have popped up over the past couple of months. While a $100/year subscription to prospect film and interviews might aid a program in scouting and recruiting, it’s really not close to an individual shopping around exclusive access to a prospect. Most of these services have affiliates which are credentialed media at the individual schools, and that relationship isn’t likely to change. The “nonscholastic competition” – exclusive combines, workouts, and even all-star games – likely won’t go away either thanks to the demand for content by the recruiting-obsessed fans that fuel these sites.
The NCAA’s rationale is curious. Any content on Rivals, Scout, or other subscription site is available to the general public; the public just has to pay for it. Comp subscriptions would be an issue, but if a coach has to pay the same rate as any other subscriber for Rivals’ content, I don’t quite get the problem. Good to see though that one of the great problems facing college sports has finally been settled.
I wonder if it would be kosher if the prospect can claim that he didn’t know his video was being purchased.
Tuesday April 5, 2011
Both players announced their intentions this morning: Trey is committed to going pro, and Travis will test the draft without hiring an agent, leaving the door open for his return.
This was about the best result we could have expected short of Leslie avoiding the draft altogether. Getting Thompkins back was a long shot, and he did what he set out to accomplish this year: leading the team to the NCAA Tournament. Though his game could still improve in several areas, his stock probably isn’t going to rise much higher. Leslie, on the other hand, made a prudent choice by not hiring an agent. There’s a chance a team could take a flyer on him based on athleticism alone, so at least his name is out there. But it’s likely that his marginal outside game will affect his draft position, and he could still return to work on that part of his game while improving his pro prospects.
The certain departure of Thompkins opens up another scholarship for the spring signing period, and that opens the door for someone like former Tennessee signee Kevin Ware. Ware is considering Georgia, but he was uncertain about Georgia’s scholarship availability. There’s more than enough room now.
But the loss of Thompkins also makes the Georgia frontcourt situation that much more dire. The Dawgs are losing Thompkins, Price, and Barnes. Georgia only returns Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams up front, and both of those guys saw limited action as the season wore on. They combined for only four minutes and no points in Georgia’s NCAA Tournament loss, and that more or less sums up their progress as freshmen. Connor Nolte also saw occasional duty in a small forward role, but he’s not what you’d consider a post player. The offseason development of that group is going to have a lot to say about what kind of team Georgia trots out in six months.
The Bulldogs have signed three frontcourt prospects: centers Tim Dixon and John Florveus as well as forward Nemanja Djurisic. All three bring something to the table, but it’s going to be asking a lot for any of them to step into the six or seven man rotation next November. Georgia might have to wait until the promising 2012 class for the next wave of impact post players to arrive.
Monday April 4, 2011
There was a lot of chatter over the weekend about Georgia broadcasts moving to Atlanta’s 680 the Fan. I wondered why Georgia would be terminating their long-standing relationship with WSB, but a reading of the official announcement sort of cleared things up. 680/93.7 FM is not the new home of the Dawgs…they’ve just signed on as “The Official Sports Talk Radio Station of the Georgia Bulldogs.”
I doubt that means you can’t talk about the Dawgs on 790 or any other station, which is a good thing since the Barnhart/Durham show there is the best college football talk in town. But what it does mean is more Georgia-focused coverage and presence in the Atlanta media market. We’ll get…
Bulldog focused primetime programming, to begin on or before July 1, 2011, press conferences and comprehensive coverage of the Georgia Bulldogs and UGA’s various sports programs.
Since WSB doesn’t have much sports programming beyond their news operation, this makes sense. We’ll still have the games, Bulldog Brunch, coaches’ shows, and all of the other current programming on WSB. We’ll just get press conferences and some other additional programming to be determined on 680/93.7. One bit of good news for fans of the Diamond Dawgs:
The partnership will also bring play-by-play of Georgia Baseball to Sports Radio 680 The Fan’s sister station 1230AM The Fan 2 (WFOM-AM), beginning in May of 2011. The Fan 2 is based in Marietta, Georgia and covers Cobb, Gwinnett and most of Fulton County.
That’s great. I hope the deal eventually expands to cover other sports like the Lady Dogs.
Monday April 4, 2011
…but your 14-14 Diamond Dawgs have an RPI of….16? Georgia also has the second-toughest schedule in the nation, and they’re likely to move up to #1 as they continue to work through the SEC slate.
The Diamond Dawgs swept Mississippi State over the weekend and have taken five of their last six SEC games. At 6-3 in the league, they’ve already improved over last year’s abysmal 5-win conference record.
That’s the good news. The bad? Five SEC teams, in addition to Clemson and Georgia Tech, are even higher. We’re halfway through the regular season, so it’s not too early to look at the big picture. Even with a top 20 RPI, Georgia’s marginal record means that they’re going to have to continue to make noise against the nation’s toughest schedule and the nation’s toughest conference in order to have a shot at the postseason. They’ll have a chance to improve on their overall record with two games against Charleston Southern this week, but then they’ll play seven straight against teams with higher RPIs: Ole Miss, Georgia Tech, and Florida.