Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post “Student-athlete welfare” the next step in improved conditioning program

Friday May 27, 2011

The increase in Georgia-Florida ticket prices got most of the attention yesterday, but one item in the budget is going to have a lot bigger impact on the lives of Georgia’s student-athletes:

Georgia is spending $737,000 on what it calls “student-athlete welfare” – adding two new nutritionists, a sports psychologist, a training table meal and a mentor program for football.

The nutrition of Georgia’s football players has been in the news this offseason as the program revamps its conditioning program. But a rough initiative to eliminate junk food isn’t the same as a proper sports nutrition program, and that’s what this expense will help launch.

It’s so surprise that Greg McGarity is putting resources into wellness programs. He only had to look to his experience at Florida to get an idea of what was missing in Athens. Have a look at Florida’s “sports nutrition services” program. The program includes “two full time Sports Dietitians,” and it’s no coincidence that Georgia’s budget also specifies two nutritionists. Of course it’s not an approach unique to Florida or Georgia – bringing in a nutritionist was one of Jimbo Fisher’s actions in his first season as FSU head coach last year.

With this item, McGarity is doing just what fans hoped he would. He saw a shortcoming, drew on his years of experience at Florida to understand what other top programs did, and now he’s spending the money to bring Georgia into line with best practices. He might even be putting his own touch on the concept of student-athlete wellness with the sports psychologist and football mentoring program.

Post Why the Diamond Dawgs are in a must-win spot

Friday May 27, 2011

It’s pretty unusual as postseason scenarios go: Georgia is the 4th best baseball team in the SEC. They boast a winning SEC record, a top-25 RPI, and have knocked off some of the best teams in the nation. Yet they go into this evening needing another upset of South Carolina just to raise their overall record over .500 and keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alives.

Georgia is in this situation thanks to a 12-14 nonconference mark. We’re quick to acknowledge that Georgia faced the nation’s toughest schedule. That’s something sure to be looked at over the offseason. It’s one thing to play an ambitious and competitive slate; it’s unavoidable in the SEC and against local rivals like Tech and Clemson. There’s nothing wrong with a little more balance though.

It’s not only the difficulty of the schedule that will be scrutinized. The Diamond Dawgs split their nonconference games evenly between home games (13) and road/neutral games (13). Just as one example, South Carolina played 35 of its 56 games in Columbia. Georgia only had 28 home games. There’s another reason to increase the number of home games: if there’s going to be any kind of investment in the program and its facilities, you want the revenue that will come from those additional home games.

Would more home games have helped this team? Tough to say – they were just 6-7 in nonconference home games. Foley Field was more of an advantage in league play where the Dawgs posted a 9-6 record.

The nonconference schedule was pretty much .500 any way you look at it. The Dawgs were 7-7 in the key midweek games between weekend series. They were 3-4 against opponents from the state of Georgia. With such a tight margin for error at this time of year, you can’t help but look back at missed opportunities. Hopefully Georgia won’t have to.

Post “There may be some sticker shock today”…

Thursday May 26, 2011

We had mentioned last year that Florida’s athletic department was proposing raising Georgia-Florida ticket prices by $10. The price stayed level for 2011, but this morning the Georgia athletic board called Florida’s increase and raised them an additional $10 raise for the 2012 season. The cheapest ticket for the game in Jacksonville will rise from $40 to $60, and club level seats will jump from $70 to $100. The price increases project to another $1.779 million in revenue from the game.

Schools are realizing that they can charge a premium price for marquee neutral site games – something we’re seeing with the season opener at the Georgia Dome. Athletic director Greg McGarity notes, “If you look at the other schools that play these traditional games—games of this magnitude—we are well, well behind the curve and have been for years.”

The most direct comparison is the Oklahoma-Texas game in Dallas. Tickets for that game have been at least $95 for several seasons. Club level tickets for the Arkansas-Texas A&M game at the new Dallas stadium were priced at $300 in 2009. Tickets for the novelty Northwestern-Illinois game at Wrigley Field last season started at $50 and went up to three times that amount.

So McGarity’s correct in that the WLOCP was a bit of a bargain, but today’s vote was only one step in adjusting ticket prices upward. The board passed on additional increases for 2014 and 2017 that would raise base prices to $75. That decision was less out of concern for a $75 ticket but, as Marc Weiszer put it, “some board members expressed concern about setting those prices so many years ahead of time.” In other words, the market in 2017 might support quite a bit more than a $75 ticket.

The increase in Jacksonville ticket prices just about mutes any talk about the series returning to campus any time soon. The debate about the neutrality of Jacksonville comes up any time Georgia loses, but it’s soon going to become a cash cow with which neither program is willing to part. Each school already makes $3.4 million over a two-year period from the game, approximiately $1 million more than they’d make from a home game once every two seasons. This price increase brings the two-year haul to over $5 million, and if the 2017 increase is eventually approved, that payoff breaks $7 million.

That’s not to say home game tickets won’t increase for Georgia as well or that Georgia couldn’t put a premium price on certain home games. Programs do it all the time. It’s just that prices for neutral site games are on a trajectory all their own, and Georgia or Florida would be foolish 1) not to capitialize on the trend and 2) to give up the neutral site game that opens this premium ticket market for them.

Post Softball flips the switch to postseason mode

Monday May 23, 2011

Much has been expected of Georgia’s softball senior class since they stormed into the WCWS in 2009 and followed it up with a repeat visit a year ago. It was no surprise to see them as one of the top-rated teams entering this season, and they even rose to the #1 spot in the polls midseason.

The regular season didn’t end quite the way they wanted. Georgia fell from that #1 perch and actually entered the conference tournament as the fifth seed. They lost five of their last ten regular season games including three consecutive SEC losses in early May. They bounced back with solid wins over LSU and Alabama in the SEC Tournament, but they couldn’t hold a four-run lead in the SEC Tournament title game. Even though they struggled a bit at the end and slid in the SEC standings, their overall body of work was more than enough to earn them the #6 national seed heading into the postseason.

The team reminded us over the weekend that they remembered how to play in the postseason. Georgia came within a late UAB run of winning each of their three games in the regional by the eight-run mercy rule. They did it with good offensive balance on Friday, use the home run on Saturday, and jumped on FSU mistakes on Sunday to score at least 8 runs in each game. That’s the same FSU team that won the ACC Tournament a week ago, and they couldn’t last but six innings with this experienced Georgia team.

Georgia’s dominance of the regional isn’t a new development. They’ve now won 12 straight regional games in Athens. The ownership of their home field has continued into the super regionals; they’ve advanced to Oklahoma City in each of the past two seasons with a pair of super regional sweeps. They’re hoping that trend continues when #11 Baylor comes to Athens for this year’s best-of-three super regional series.

Are there things to work on as they advance? Sure. Chief among them is fielding. Some costly errors in the field might have denied Georgia an SEC Tournament championship. Sloppy fielding also contributed to UAB’s meager scoring that extended Saturday’s game. It might seem a nitpicky point from such a dominant and successful weekend, but paying attention to even the smallest of details starts to matter as the competition becomes more difficult from here on and scoring margins narrow.

One area to watch as the games tighten up is pitching. Georgia’s top hurler is a freshman – Morgan Montemayor. She’s been outstanding with a 26-3 record and 1.89 ERA. She admitted that the postseason is “kind of nerve-wracking”, but you wouldn’t know it from the results – Montemayor allowed only four runs in 16 innings over the weekend. A year through the SEC has given her plenty of experience against top teams, and that’s all she’ll face the rest of the way.

Post Brutal bracket makes Diamond Dawg path even tougher

Monday May 23, 2011

Michael Pallazone’s complete game on Thursday gave Georgia a fighting chance to take the Vanderbilt series and position themselves for a postseason bid. Though the result cost Vandy an outright SEC East title, they responded like a title contender and fought back to take the final two games of the series and earn a share of the division crown. Georgia was six outs away from salvaging Saturday’s rubber game, but the visitors exploded for eleven runs in the final two innings to shut the door on Georgia’s regular season.

The Bulldogs finished 16-14 in the SEC, good enough for fourth place in the division behind the trio of heavyweights at the top. It’s a marked improvement over last year’s finish in the cellar, and it comes despite significant adversity and against the nation’s toughest schedule. The Dawgs finished with the fourth-best conference record and earned the #5 seed for this weekend’s conference tournament. (The SEC West champion receives the #2 seed even though their conference mark was worse than Georgia’s.)

But as any observer of the team knows, it’s the overall record that’s hurting Georgia’s chances to play beyond Hoover. The 2-2 record last week left Georgia at a level .500 (28-28). It’s a scenario we covered last week: due to the double-elimination format, Georgia will have to win at least three games to come out of the SEC Tournament with the winning overall record that would merit NCAA Tournament consideration.

The problem is the bracket. Georgia’s side of the SEC Tournament bracket features South Carolina and Vanderbilt – two of the top five teams in the nation. Needing at least three wins, some of them are going to have to come against those national powers.

The best case is for Georgia to upset Vandy in their opening game and for Auburn to knock off South Carolina. That would put the Dawgs in a favorable position for a second win and a day of rest, and it would eliminate one of the top seeds via the loser’s bracket before Georgia would face them again. A loss to Vandy in the opener means that Georgia would have to come back with three wins on consecutive days with at least two of them coming against SC or Vandy.

Impossible? No. Tough? Very. Georgia will have to play at a level with which they’ve only flirted this year. Those subsequent games, especially if Georgia heads to the loser’s bracket, will severely test the depth of a pitching staff that has struggled lately beyond Pallazone. The tournament gets underway for the Diamond Dawgs on Wednesday evening, probably around 9:00 or so depending on the finish of the SC-Auburn game. CSS will televise the opening round.

Post A.J. Harmon and Georgia’s undersigning problem

Wednesday May 18, 2011

Now that his football career at Georgia is over, A.J. Harmon will probably best be remembered for the day he signed with Georgia. Harmon, at least to me, will always be linked with Clemson TE Dwayne Allen. The two pulled off what amounted to a Signing Day “trade” in 2008 when Harmon defected from Clemson to Georgia and Allen went from a Georgia commitment to a Clemson signee. At the time, it was a pretty big switcharoo for a pair of touted 4-star prospects.

Clemson got the better end of that deal. Allen is still playing and has become a nice college tight end. That’s not necessarily a blow to Georgia; the Bulldogs aren’t really lacking at the tight end position. Georgia is hurt more by the fact that the player they got in the deal is known more for the recruiting proces than anything he did on the field. Harmon’s departure is a loss of another upperclassman, and – along with Sturdivant and Strickland – makes three upperclass offensive linemen removed from the depth chart.

If the NCAA came around next week and announced that Georgia would be limited to 80 scholarships for the next two years, we’d consider that a pretty major penalty. Yet that’s where we are. The loss of Harmon, Ealey, Strickland, et al. drops Georgia down to no more than 80 scholarship players for the second straight year. That’s certainly going to be good news for some deserving walk-ons, and it makes late 2011 offers like this one ($) possible. It’s still not a good place to be.

We’ve talked before about the risks you run playing the numbers a little too close. It’s one thing to approach the oversigning issue with integrity, but coming into the season several players under the limit due to unanticipated attrition isn’t necessarily virtuous.

Attrition is nothing new and certainly not a unique problem for Georgia. It’s part of the calculus in the scholarship numbers game. In Richt’s defense, attrition is one of the toughest parts of the formula to anticipate. You knew that Harmon was on academic thin ice and that Ealey was becoming a problem, but you can’t really offer their scholarship slots until they’re gone. Or can you? When discussing grayshirting over the weekend, Richt seemed comfortable with the practice as long as everyone involved knows up front.

“If you tell five of those guys ‘Hey we’ve got 20 spaces. I can sign 25. There’s a good chance that by school starts there’ll be room for you, because of the attrition that happens every year everywhere you go. If there’s space for you, you come in with your class. If there’s not space for you, are you willing to come in in January?”

Mark Richt has taken his peers to task over recruiting tactics a couple of times this year. It’s a principled stand, and it’s how Georgia has operated since Richt has been here. That makes it a little harder to dismiss his statements as sour grapes or excuse-making after some disappointing seasons. But even in hoping that “the tide turns in the other direction,” Richt is realistic enough to know that it will take an NCAA rules change rather than a reformation among his peers before things change.

So what to do until those rules change? As Richt has acknowledged, there’s plenty of wiggle room even within the rules. There are some fairly obvious trips across the line that even the most crass “win at all costs” fans would have a hard time defending. In less obvious instances, one man’s medical disqualification or transfer is another’s path to oversigning. There’s no call for Richt to abandon the principles that have carried him through his career. There is a need though for Richt and the program to examine why Georgia is again coming up so short against the scholarship limit.

Post Diamond Dawgs will have work to do in Hoover

Monday May 16, 2011

First, the good news: Georgia’s 7-6 win at Kentucky on Sunday clinched the Bulldogs a place in this year’s SEC Tournament. That’s a step forward from last year when Georgia finished dead last in the league. In fact, with a good weekend, Georgia could finish as high as 4th in the standings and earn the #5 seed in the SEC Tournament. Now the bad news: Georgia dropped two out of three in Lexington and put their chances of playing beyond the SEC Tournament in jeopardy.

With an overall record right at .500 (26-26), the Diamond Dawgs might seem like a longshot for the postseason anyway. But with an RPI of 25 and the nation’s toughest schedule, the Diamond Dawgs actually still stand a good chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The only catch? At-large teams must have a winning record, and Georgia’s current .500 mark might be the biggest obstacle they’ll face in earning that postseason bid.

Unless the team can win the conference tournament and earn the SEC’s automatic bid, here’s what they’re facing:

  • Unless they win the SEC Tournament, Georgia would be assured of picking up two additional losses in the tournament’s double-elimination format. Disaster would be the “0-2 and barbecue” scenario that would give Georgia those two losses without anything in the win column. Wins in Hoover are required, and how many are required depends on how things go this week.
  • The final nonconference game of the regular season is Tuesday night against Kennesaw. Needless to say, this is a must-win. That’s because…
  • The final conference series of the year will bring Vanderbilt to Athens. Vandy is a top five club that’s ranked as high as #1 depending on the poll. A sweep of the Commodores would remove any doubt about Georgia’s overall record, but that’s not likely. A sweep at the hands of the Commodores would all but make an SEC Tournament championship Georgia’s only ticket into the postseason. Any kind of split with the Commodores muddies the waters.

A win over Kennesaw and 2 out of 3 against Vandy – a 3-1 mark for the week – would move Georgia to 29-27. Georgia would just need one win in Hoover to remain over .500. A 2-2 record this week though means that the Diamond Dawgs would have to win at least three games in Hoover to guarantee a winning overall record. You see there the importance of the Kennesaw game. Georgia has theoretical life if they beat the Owls and can take at least one game from the visiting Commodores. Even that will be tough as Vandy has plenty to play for themselves.

Post Remains of the day: Crowell and unsold Boise State tickets

Tuesday May 10, 2011

Crowell not the biggest key to Georgia’s turnaround

Matt Hinton has a nice reminder that it’s defense, and not necessarily the impact of Crowell, that could mean the most for Georgia this fall. It’s hard to argue with, and we all remember the 2003 East champs that did well despite a tailback rotation that included Ronnie Powell and Tony Milton (not to mention David Greene getting destroyed behind a rebuilt offensive line). It’s also a point we made concerning the 4-loss Florida team of 2007 and their national champs a year later.

That’s not to say that Crowell’s impact is unimportant. Georgia’s receiving corps is looking thin to begin with, and the lack of a credible running game won’t help them or Murray much. The offense has to at least be able to do something to help the improved defense.

Is it a bad sign that there are Boise State tickets remaining?

Kyle’s concern is one that I’m sure a lot of fans share. Georgia’s ability to sell out the Dome could be seen as a vote of confidence in Mark Richt and the 2011 season. Is this really a case of lagging demand, or is it simply a factor of the sheer size of Georgia’s allotment of tickets?

Georgia sells approximately 53,000 season tickets. You can read the approximate breakdown here…the allocation might have shifted slightly since, but we’ll use that total. Only those people have, to date, been offered the right to buy tickets for this game. The Georgia Dome seats over 71,000. Boise State’s allotment is 7,500. Even allowing for tickets set aside for sponsors and suite holders, Georgia could likely have over 55-60,000 tickets to distribute. Even if every single season-ticket holder requested a Boise State ticket, Georgia’s likely to have a few tickets left over from that initial offering. That the school is releasing these limited upper-level surplus tickets only to Hartman Fund donors and not the general public leads me to believe that the gap isn’t all that wide.

If we get into August and are running ads to the general public to unload thousands of tickets, I’ll share Kyle’s dismay. Until then I expect that we’ll hear soon that these limited tickets and Georgia’s allotment are gone.

Post Boise St. tickets still available for Hartman Fund donors

Tuesday May 10, 2011

UGA announced this morning that everyone who requested tickets for the 2011 season opener against Boise State on their season ticket application will get tickets. Boise’s allotment is only around 7,500 tickets, so Georgia should have somewhere around 50-60,000 tickets to distribute once sponsors and comps are taken care of.

Some of that allotment remains: Georgia also announced that limited additional upper-level tickets for that Chick-fil-A Kick Off Game are now available for Hartman Fund donors contributing over $100. Those tickets can be requested at this link.

Post Surprise – Ealey cleared to transfer

Tuesday May 10, 2011

The departure of Washaun Ealey is probably the least shocking bit of offseason attrition you’ll see. We’ve known for a while that he was on thin ice, and he couldn’t have had a pleasant spring with the new conditioning staff.

It’s remarkable that Georgia can lose its two-time leading rusher with not much more than a knowing and exasperated head-shake from fans and pundits. The reason for that relatively easy-going reaction is of course the anticipation of Isaiah Crowell, but that’s asking a lot not only of Crowell’s talent and mental toughness but also of his body and durability. Odds are the Bulldogs will at some point have to turn to a back other than Crowell, and the list of candidates is dwindling.

I still think the team would have been better off with Ealey returning, but that presumed the attitude adjustment that was so central to this story. There’s a big downside to keeping even a productive attitude problem around especially in a year when the staff is trying to get everyone on board with a turnaround project. We have no idea of knowing whether this transfer would have come about had Crowell gone elsewhere, but that’s moot. This decision wasn’t entirely Richt’s, and Ealey could have decided to transfer regardless if he didn’t want to commit to what Richt expected of the players. Richt couldn’t afford to keep a destructive attitude around in a season with so much at stake, and if you want to say that Crowell provides Richt the cover to do something about it, I’m not going to argue.

There is one bright spot on the periphery of this story, and that’s Caleb King. At the time of Ealey’s suspension in February, King was also at a bit of a crossroads himself. It’s almost forgotten now that King sat out the bowl game with his own problems. With all of the public statements lately about Ealey’s status, King’s future has received much less scrutiny. That hints at the kind of spring King had. He stayed healthy, practiced with enthusiasm and a good attitude, looked capable at G-Day, and is poised for a nice senior season. We don’t know whether he can hold off Crowell, but at least there’s an experienced upperclassman there now to offer some legitimate competition.

For some reason, Ealey’s story reminds me of Michael Cooper. It’s not a perfect comparison, especially off the field – Coop’s transfer had a lot more to do with playing time than any real disciplinary problems. I’m talking more about the impact each had at a time when Georgia was desperate for any kind of answer at tailback. Neither was the obvious choice at the start of his breakthrough season, yet each emerged during his debut campaign to ultimately lead Georgia in rushing.

Maybe it had to do with dispair over the lack of production from the running game, but it only took one game for fans to start buzzing about both Cooper and Ealey. For Cooper it was the 2003 South Carolina game and specifically a 46-yard run early in the game. For Ealey it was the 2009 LSU game. Neither finished with over 100 yards in those breakout games, but it was the glimpse of something that was missing from the running game that got fans excited. It didn’t take either long to become fan favorites. Yelling for “Cooooop” was a natural progression for fans used to cheering for Musa Smith, and Ealey’s role in the 2009 win at Tech instantly added “We Run This State” to Bulldog lore.

The follow-up season was a little more difficult for both players. Cooper especially struggled to maitain his role as the Brown and Lumpkin tandem began to take over in 2004. He ended up playing in only a handful of games and transfered after the season. The story was a little different for Ealey. He still managed to lead the Bulldog in rushing for a second straight year, but it was maddening inconsistency that did him in. He ran for over 75 yards in five games and then managed less than 45 yards in six games. Nearly half his yards and 8 of his 11 TDs came in three games (Vandy, Kentucky, and Tech). There were also the devastating fumbles which overshadowed a double-digit touchdown tally.

Cooper’s promising 2003 season is a distant memory in large part because Brown and Lumpkin did enough over the next couple of seasons to carry the position. Crowell, King, and Malcome now have the challenge of trying to make us not miss Ealey.

Post All Georgia programs maintain passing APR scores

Monday May 9, 2011

It’s good news from the academic progress front. The important news first as reported by the Banner-Herald: all of Georgia’s athletics programs once again meet and surpass the minimum APR score of 925. One of the many things done right by the last athletic director was to strengthen Georgia’s support structure for the academic success of its student-athletes, and Greg McGarity gets high marks in the first batch of APR scores on his watch.

With the big news out of the way, there’s some interesting information in the details. Georgia’s football program managed to improve on a score that was second-best for the SEC a year ago. Men’s hoops, at 946, was the lowest score of all sports but a) is still over 20 points clear of danger and b) improved over last year’s score. In all, 11 of 20 sports improved their APR score, 5 dropped, and 4 stayed level.

It’s also worth noting that Georgia’s six-year graduation rate for student-athletes was a solid 77%.

As Weiszer points out, baseball can be problematic for APR due in part to the transient nature of the sport. Without full scholarships to offer, players often move in and out of programs, and junior college signings are frequent. Aligning the academic progress of so many players who entered the program at different stages of their academic careers can be a tall job. The Diamond Dawgs dropped into the problem range six years ago with an APR score of 916, but they’ve improved every year since and stand now with a respectable 952.

Post It hasn’t been Trinton Sturdivant’s spring

Wednesday May 4, 2011

First another devastating knee injury, and now this:

University of Georgia offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant, 22, lost his 2007-08 Sugar Bowl ring when a thief got into his car and took the diamond-encrusted trophy, Athens-Clarke police said.

The thief took the ring and left an iPod, so we can eliminate one suspect right off the bat. Hopefully the uniqueness of the ring will make it easier to track this thief down – the 2007 season is something Sturdivant should remember with pride for a long time.

Post The million-dollar redshirt and other draft thoughts

Wednesday May 4, 2011

The NFL draft went about as expected for the Bulldogs. Houston might have slipped a bit, and Chapas snuck in there at the end, but the six players drafted shouldn’t surprise anyone.

With the relative predictability of the draft itself, I thought about the path each player took during his years in Athens. Of course Green was a superstar from the start, and few had any doubts about his future after that national debut in Tempe. Houston wasn’t as obvious of a prospect according to the recruiting services, but his breakout sophomore spring and season in 2009 set the stage for him to have one last year as a marquee SEC player and pro prospect. It’s tough to project a fullback’s pro potential, but Chapas was rated one of the nation’s top ten fullbacks coming out of the Bolles School.

Akeem Dent’s road to the NFL draft wasn’t as linear as Houston’s. It started with promise: Dent contributed right away as a redshirt freshman in 2007 and started in five games. That continued into his sophomore campaign where he earned ten starts. But a hamstring injury early in the 2009 season sidelined Dent and derailed his progress. He ended up starting only four of the eight games in which he played, and of course he posted the lowest number of tackles in his career. Dent found a home as an inside linebacker in the new 3-4 scheme for his senior season, and he really came on. The ILBs do a lot of cleanup in the 3-4, and that’s reflected in Dent’s 126 tackles in 2010, eclipsing the combined total of his first three seasons. He had at least ten tackles in seven games and saved the best for last: 16 tackles against Georgia Tech’s option.

If one of Georgia’s draftees had a quick and unexpected impact, it’s Boling. He had a solid prep resume and was a three-star prospect with appropriate honors, but linemen like that usually take a few years before they become solid contributors. He wasn’t even mentioned on the 2007 preseason depth chart of the patchwork offensive line. That changed quickly: as some of the other newcomers to the line faltered, Boling stepped up and ended up starting 11 games as a true freshman. His trademark versatility was on display even in that first season as he started at right guard and right tackle. As a junior, he’d start at three positions. Boling earned All-SEC mention as early as his sophomore season, and it wasn’t much longer until he started getting mentioned as a pro prospect.

That brings us to Durham. As a recruit, Durham was a respectable prospect. He was rated one of the top 50 receivers in the nation by Rivals.com, and his 6’5″ frame gave an idea of what kind of a target he could be. Observers raved about his hands from the outset, and an amazing catch in the bowl game against Virginia Tech as a freshman backed up the hype. Durham struggled to add bulk to that tall frame though, and his production through three seasons was limited. He established himself as a dependable possession receiver, but chances were hard to come by with targets like Massaquoi and Green available. Injuries don’t often have a happy ending, but shoulder surgery in 2009 gave Durham the opportunity to redshirt. He spent the year developing size and strength and returned a different player as a 5th-year senior. Durham caught a combined 32 passes over his first three seasons. He matched that with 32 catches as a senior. He likewise had more receiving yards and touchdowns in 2010 than he had from 2006-08.

Durham had to keep proving himself after his senior season. He wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine but impressed scouts with a standout performance at Georgia’s pro day. According to his agent, that led to visits with 14 different NFL teams and ultimately a 4th-round selection by Seattle. As Marc Weiszer notes, that’s earlier than Bulldog receiving greats Terrence Edwards, Fred Gibson, and Brice Hunter. Mid-career redshirts are much less frequent than first-year redshirts, and they usually occur because of injuries (Richard Samuel notwithstanding). Durham probably could have done without that torn shoulder, but it and the additional year of development that came with it might be a big reason why he’s looking at a pro contract now instead of looking for a teaching gig.