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Post 6th Annual SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament Preview

Wednesday February 29, 2012

The SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament returns to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, and it’s a tradition around here to do a preview of one of our favorite non-football SEC events.

There’s one dominant theme this year: farewell. Two of the league’s more veteran coaches have already announced that they won’t be returning. Hanging over the event will be the possibility that it could also be the last SEC Tournament for the conference’s and sport’s greatest coach. There will be a little added energy around the crowd given the potential magnitude of the event.

There’s a lot to watch for on the court. The SEC continues to be outside the national title discussion, but there are several strong teams each with a fighting chance to cut down the nets on Sunday. That there’s no clear-cut favorite this year should make for some interesting games. Even the bottom teams in the conference have made some noise this season. For Georgia, it’s an opportunity to return to the top of the conference for the first time in a decade. They’re as healthy as they’ve been in months, and roles and identity are well understood now. The Lady Dogs wrapped up a bye and the third seed with Sunday’s win over LSU, but all that earns them is an extra day of rest. They’ll dive right in on Friday with a likely rematch against a very good South Carolina team that took them to the buzzer just a few weeks ago.

Georgia’s Path Through the Tournament:

  • Thursday / First Round: Bye
  • Friday / Quarterfinals: vs. South Carolina-Alabama winner, ~10:00 p.m. ET. FSN
  • Saturday / Semifinals: ~6:00 p.m. ET. ESPNU
  • Sunday / Finals: 6:00 p.m. ET. ESPN2

Complete Bracket Here

The favorites

1. Kentucky (24-5, 13-3): The Wildcats are your regular season champion, and they’ve been the frontrunner since a January 12th win over Tennessee. The ‘Cats started SEC play a perfect 10-0, but they stumbled in early February. A three-game losing streak featured a blowout loss against an inspired Tennessee team, and it also included a bad showing against 11th-place Alabama. UK has since recovered to win their final three games, and that was enough to secure the regular season crown.

Kentucky starts with relentless pressure defense. They’ll press full-court, and they lead the league in steals and turnover margin. Of course that creates a lot of transition buckets, but what makes Kentucky a champion is that they can score in the halfcourt too. They lead the SEC in three-point shooting, and they’re the best at getting offensive rebounds. Put together, it’s no surprise that they also lead the conference in scoring.

Kentucky is led by their guards, notably junior A’dia Mathies. It should say plenty about Mathies that not only does she lead the team in scoring and assists – this 5’9″ guard also has the most rebounds on the team. 77 of those rebounds were on the offensive glass. While Mathies is the player that gets things going for the ‘Cats, they get consistent shooting from Bria Goss and Keyla Snowden. Though those three guards lead UK in scoring, I think a big difference in this Kentucky team is the midseason addition of UConn transfer Samarie Walker. Walker gives UK a legitimate presence inside, and that creates tremendous opportunities for the capable guards.

Can Kentucky take the tournament title to go along with its regular season championship? They were a perfect 18-0 in Lexington this year, but they – like most any team – are more vulnerable away from home. The ‘Cats had dropped three straight road games before righting the ship with their final two home games. Kentucky thrives on its defense, and teams that can solve the press and make it a halfcourt game can give the Wildcats trouble.

2. Tennessee (21-8, 12-4): Any discussion of SEC women’s basketball comes down to Tennessee, and this is no exception. There are so many possible storylines with this team, and of course they all start with the future of Pat Summitt. Summitt has been increasingly hands-off with this team, at least on the court, and there is speculation that this might be her last SEC Tournament at the helm of the program she built. While any formal announcment on her behalf would understandably overshadow anything else that happens in Nashville, just the possibility of the end will dominate the conversation.

That brings us to the team. Tennessee’s season has been rocky, especially by their standards. They’ve lost eight games against a typically tough schedule, but it’s the home losses to good-but-not-great teams like South Carolina and Arkansas that get your attention. This is a vulnerable Tennessee team, and it doesn’t all have to do with talent. When Tennessee is at their best, as they were against Kentucky just a few weeks ago, no one in the conference compares. But that intensity has let them down several times this year.

Tennessee fans remember the 1997 team that lost 10 games but still got it together for the second of three straight national titles. But that team had what this one lacks: a consistent superstar. There is no Chamique Holdsclaw on this Tennessee team. There are great pieces. Johnson might be the best post player in the conference. Stricklen is a threat to score on anyone. Massengale has made a huge impact. I could continue down the roster, but the rest of the SEC knows it well. There is talent, but there isn’t that consistent star to set the standard.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see them win the tournament, especially given the emotions involved. The team will be laser-focused, and Tennessee fans will likely be even more of a presence than usual in order to be a part of what could be Summitt’s swan song. On the other hand, a possible quarterfinal matchup against Vanderbilt could be veeeerrrrry interesting.


3. Georgia (22-7, 11-5): Georgia is a bit of a buffer between the top of the league and the large pack of teams in the middle. Georgia’s done enough to separate themselves from the pack, but an 0-3 record against the top two teams doesn’t merit inclusion with the favorites. It’s been tough to get a read on Georgia. They have a win over a good Georgia Tech team, but they dropped winnable games against ranked opponents Georgetown and Gonzaga. The story was similar in conference. They generally played well, but losses at Vanderbilt and Florida kept the Lady Dogs from the top of the SEC. Both in and out of conference the Lady Dogs have been just-barely-almost there on the outside of doing some really big things.

Injuries have held Georgia back at times, and those midseason knocks were especially dire for a team that doesn’t go more than 8 or 9 deep to begin with. Inconsistent offense has also plagued Georgia. They aren’t incredibly big inside, rebounds can be hard to come by, and they can get stuck passing the ball around the perimeter if the entry pass isn’t available. The Lady Dogs lean on good defense, usually with favorable results. Four players have posted at least 50 steals. When the defense isn’t just tough but truly disruptive, this is a dangerous team.

It’s a nice lineup. Armstrong has emerged as one of the league’s most well-rounded players. Hassell uses position and agility to overcome size disadvantages inside. Miller can turn a game from outside. James can create offense. Mitchell can be a shut-down defender who does the little things on offense. The bench goes 3 to 4 deep, and the top reserves have all contributed at key moments.

The Pack

4. LSU (20-9, 10-6): Things looked shaky for LSU midway through the SEC schedule. They were mired in the lower half of the division with a 4-5 SEC record. An upset of Kentucky that handed the SEC champs their first conference loss of the season turned things around for first-year head coach Nikki Caldwell, and the Tigers ran off six straight wins. They entered the last game of the season with a chance to finish as high as third. Still, fourth place isn’t bad for where LSU found themselves several weeks ago.

LSU’s physical style lends itself to games in the 40s and 50s, and they like it that way. Their defense could keep them in a game against anyone in the league, and they’ve already beaten their likely quarterfinal and semifinal opponents. At the same time, their relative lack of firepower on offense makes it unlikely that they’ll keep up in a higher-scoring contest.

5. Arkansas (21-7, 10-6): If there’s a surprise in the SEC this year, it’s been Arkansas. They’ve done a good job of flying under the radar and managed to spend the season just on the outside of the rankings despite entering the final day of the regular season tied for third place. They were all but written off when they started conference play with four straight losses, but coach Tom Cullen turned things around. The Hogs went on a streak of 10 wins in 11 games, highlighted by wins over Tennessee, Vanderbilt, LSU, and South Carolina. A loss at South Carolina on the last day of the season knocked them out of a first-round bye, but Arkansas has developed into a dangerous team and will play in the NCAA Tournament.

The Hogs feature a true inside-outside combination. Sarah Watkins is one of the more underrated post players in the SEC. Guard C’eira Ricketts isn’t much of an outside threat, but she’s a slasher that can get to the basket. The Arkansas perimeter offense comes from sharpshooter Lyndsay Harris. Harris can be streaky and isn’t shy about putting it up, but when she’s on she can hit from anywhere.

6. South Carolina (21-8, 10-6): Dawn Staley finally broke through. The Gamecocks have risen from the bottom of the conference to a .500 finish and now to double-digit conference wins. They served notice with an historic win in Knoxville that snapped Tennessee’s run of homecourt SEC success and ended years of Gamecock futility against the Lady Vols. They’re less than 10 points away from a 13-3 SEC record, and they’ve only lost one conference game by more than 10 points.

The Gamecocks are another strong defensive team and play with an intensity that befits their coach. They lead the league in scoring defense, giving up under 50 points per game. Like LSU, South Carolina would prefer a low-scoring grind of a game, and they usually get it. On offense SC leans heavily on guard play. Markeshia Grant and La’Keisha Sutton are threats to go off at any time. If they have a weakness, it’s on the interior.

7. Vanderbilt (21-8, 9-7): It says a lot that a team that has impressive wins over Tennessee and Georgia and spent most of the season in the Top 25 winds up with the #7 seed. Vandy was just on the outside of a group of five teams that finished with between 5 and 7 SEC losses, and they weren’t far from coming out on top of that group. Just a single three-point loss at LSU last week could have meant the difference between a top four finish and their #7 seed.

Unfortunately that fate sets them up with a difficult bracket. Vandy will enjoy the hometown crowd and should handle Mississippi State. Tennessee awaits in the quarterfinals, and we’ve already been over their motivation. I don’t know that the tournament has ever had a more anticipated #2 vs. #7 matchup. Vandy won’t be scared; they’ve already knocked off Tennessee, and that was no fluke.

Vanderbilt has the makings of a very potent offense. Their halfcourt execution is solid – they lead the league in shooting percentage and assists. They feature the SEC’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Christina Foggie. They can score outside or work inside to forward Tiffany Clarke. Clarke and frontcourt teammate Stephanie Holzer are two of the top seven rebounders in the SEC.

Vandy isn’t terribly deep this year; only eight players have seen most of the action. That depth might’ve caught up with them down the stretch. They’ve lost three of their last five games, and only a circus shot at the buzzer prevented a fourth. They have the firepower to play with and beat anyone in the league, but defense can be spotty – a big problem when the scorers are having an off night.

8. Florida (18-11, 8-8): If there’s a team in the tournament playing for its postseason life, it’s Florida. A much-needed win over Georgia put them in a position to finish with a .500 conference mark, but they’ll likely have to advance to Saturday and upset Kentucky in order to feel comfortable about making the NCAA Tournament. Florida has played in a lot of close games and lost more than their share. They came within 5 of Kentucky, and they took both Arkansas and Vanderbilt to overtime on the road. They probably won’t be an easy out.

On paper Florida has a fairly complete team. They have Jennifer George as a dynamic forward. Azania Stewart gives additional size, rebounds, and defense but doesn’t score a ton. Jordan Jones shoots better than 35% from outside, and freshman Andrea Vilaró Aragonés has come along as another sharpshooter. As you’d expect with a bubble team, Florida does a lot of things well but few things great. They’re around the middle of the pack in most statistical categories with slightly above average rebounding, slightly below average defense.

Auf Wiedersehen

9. Auburn (13-16, 5-11): Auburn is one of at least two programs for which this SEC Tournament will be the last for their coach. Nell Fortner is stepping down after eight up and down seasons with the Tigers. She came to Auburn with impressive crednetials: she had coached in the WNBA, coached the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal, and was a respected broadcaster. That background created some big expectations, and Fortner wasn’t quite able to live up to those expectations. Her Auburn program had a high-water mark in 2008-2009 wehn DeWanna Bonner led them to a 30-4 record and the SEC regular season title, but the rest of the story has been somewhat disappointing. Fortner’s overall SEC mark is more than 10 games below .500, and she wasn’t able to build on that great 2009 team.

This year’s Auburn team hasn’t made much noise. They swept four games against the bottom two teams in the league, and an upset of South Carolina was enough to separate them from the bottom of the conference. They could put together an inspired effort for Fortner and spoil Florida’s season, but there’s a definite gulf in class even between the #8 and #9 seeds.

10. Mississippi State (14-15, 4-12): The Bulldogs will also say farewell to their coach after this tournament. Sharon Fanning-Otis is one of the veterans of SEC coaching with more experience than anyone outside of Summitt and Landers. She’s built a moderately successful program in Starkville whose fortunes have waxed and waned as several high-profile players like LaToya Thomas and Tan White worked their way through. As recently as 2010, MSU finished third in the league and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, but the past two seasons have been much less successful. They can get scoring from Diamber Johnson, but she doesn’t have much help.

The Longshots

11. Alabama (12-18, 2-14): The Tide have been near the bottom of the conference for several seasons, but they showed life towards the end of the season. They knocked off conference champ Kentucky thanks to a 50-point explosion in the first half, and they led LSU until the last minute. It’s been a tough year with injuries, high(low?)lighted by the loss of senior guard Ericka Russell. Jasmine Robinson has emerged as the top scorer and led the Tide over Kentucky. They’ll find it tough to score against South Carolina’s defense but could find themselves within a few baskets in a low-scoring opening game.

12. Ole Miss (12-17, 2-14): The Rebels enter the tournament on a long slide. They upset Arkansas and beat Alabama in mid-January to improve to 2-3 in SEC play, but they haven’t won since. 11 straight losses can kill a team’s heart, but that hasn’t happened to Ole Miss. To their credit, they continue to challenge teams. In their last four games they took rival Mississippi State to overtime, only lost by 10 to Tennessee, trailed Georgia by just two at halftime, and played Auburn to within three points. 5’4″ guard Valencia McFarland is one of the conference’s most entertaining scorers. They’ve already posted a win over first-round opponent Arkansas this year and could do it again if the Hogs aren’t wide awake.

Post Lady Dogs end regular season with a statement

Monday February 27, 2012

A year ago, the Lady Dogs needed just one win over their final three games to secure a second place finish in the SEC, their best result in several years. Consecutive losses to Tennessee, Auburn, and Florida dropped Georgia from second to fourth and took a bit of the shine off of a promising season.

A somewhat similar situation faced this year’s team. Entering the final week of the regular season half the conference was within two games of each other. Though a loss at Florida knocked them out of contention for first or second place, they had the most direct path of any team to a nice third place finish. That path, though, required a sweep of the final two games. The first was, at least on paper, easy enough. Ole Miss was in last place. After a tight first half, Georgia pulled away to win easily on Thursday.

Sunday’s challenge against LSU was a different story. LSU were winners of six straight including a win over SEC champ Kentucky. They used that six-game run to break out of the lower half of the conference standings and rise to a tie with Georgia (and Arkansas) heading into Sunday’s season finale. Under first-year coach Nikki Caldwell, the Tigers had found their identity – a physical style that played off of their significant height advantage. Their size and length lends itself to a smothering matchup zone defense, and they led the league in field goal defense.

The first half was in a style that was to LSU’s liking. Georgia led 26-23 at the break, but the game was on a pace to be right in LSU’s comfort zone. Their zone frustrated Georgia and frequently forced the Lady Dogs to chew up a lot of shot clock. Fortunately Khaalidah Miller was able to drain four three-pointers over the zone, and her 12 first-half points helped carry the team past the difficulties it was having in the rest of the halfcourt offense.

While the LSU defense might have set the tone in the first half, the second half was all about Georgia’s defense. A more active zone created turnovers and transition opportunities, and those breaks helped to open up the logjam that was the LSU defense. A Jasmine Hassell layup with just over 14 minutes remaining started a 25-4 run of Georgia dominance through the final media timeout. The Lady Dogs ended up with 16 steals and caused 23 LSU turnovers. They were as smart as they were aggressive; LSU is one of the SEC’s better teams from the free throw line and looks to draw contact and fouls. Georgia limited LSU to only 10 free throw attempts – around half of their typical number. The result was a comfortable 62-46 win over a confident and streaking LSU team – a very satisfying and deserved Senior Day win.

Georgia heads into the postseason as winners of six of their last seven games. They’re as healthy as they’ve been in months. The loss eight days ago at Florida has to be a reminder that not much separates Georgia from the rest of the conference, but the Lady Dogs have shown with increasing frequency down the stretch that they have what it takes to make some noise in the postseason.

Post Dawgs in the mix for two important transfers

Thursday February 23, 2012

The Max Garcia story continues to evolve. The messy resolution to the Danny O’Brien saga at Maryland also affects Garcia, a sophomore offensive lineman we discussed last week.

The lifting of transfer restrictions means that Garcia’s two other finalists, Vanderbilt and Clemson, are now back in the picture. It was a virtual coin toss for him between Clemson and Maryland, so the Tigers could be a player if there is still mutual interest. Georgia was Garcia’s intitial favorite as far back as 2008, but Garcia never made it to a Georgia camp, and the Dawgs didn’t extend an offer. According to Rusty Mansell, as told to Seth Emerson, Georgia (and other interested major programs) were a little concerned about Garcia’s ability to bulk up enough to contribute at a high level. With a full season behind him as a Division I starter, those concerns are long gone.

Georgia is definitely interested in Garcia, but he’s also heard from South Carolina and Florida – not to mention Vanderbilt. Georgia has the advantage of being the closest to home which is important to Garcia. It was also his favorite out of the gate during the recruiting process. Georgia’s line coach has changed in the meantime, but there’s no question that the current Georgia staff is interested.

Garcia, after sitting out the 2012 season, would have two years of eligibility remaining. It would be the equivalent of a junior college signing with one big difference: JUCO players are often shots in the dark given the difficulty of rating a player relative to junior college competition. With over a year on the field for Maryland, there’s plenty of film against Division I opponents for schools like Georgia to evaluate.

One other 2012 recruiting note: Georgia Military College defensive back Mario Alford is expected to visit Athens this weekend. If Georgia offers, Alford has told recruiting services that he’d commit on the spot. Alford would be eligible to join the program immediately and play in 2012, and he still has three years’ eligibility remaining. Given Georgia’s immediate need in the defensive backfield, I’d be surprised if Alford isn’t a Bulldog by Monday.

Post Georgia close to meeting a big strength and conditioning need

Thursday February 23, 2012

Georgia should soon have a new assistant strength coach, and reaction seems to be universally positive. We know two things about Sherman Armstrong:

  • What’s on his bio.
  • He’s worked with Aaron Murray and over 100 other pro and college athletes.

Needless to say, this is the news I was hoping to hear. The work begun by Tereshinski last year remains important and must be sustained as a foundation of Georgia’s strength and conditioning, but there are areas of specialization used by the nation’s top programs that should be available to Georgia’s players. This is the kind of training that Murray and other players have been seeking out on their own even before they are ready to turn pro. Some of that, sad to say, is because that level of expertise wasn’t available in Athens. That’s starting to change.

Georgia has plenty of raw speed. Increases in raw speed are likely to be marginal. As PWD put it, Armstrong “can improve their change of direction, flexibility and endurance.” It’s about harnessing speed for football. That’s a focus that could help Georgia, and it’s what someone like Armstrong brings.

NOTE: Several of the stories reporting Armstrong’s hire have updated saying that the gun might have been jumped and that Sherman isn’t officially on staff (yet). It’s possible that the program didn’t want to announce anything yet; there might be some sort of required wait since the job was posted. Hopefully that’s all that’s going on – Armstrong seems ready to get going on March 1st, and there won’t be much time before conditioning is put on the back burner during spring practice.

Post Preserving Atlanta’s stake in college football

Tuesday February 21, 2012

Via Holly Anderson at SI, some information from Chick-fil-A Bowl CEO Gary Stokan:

According to…Stokan, three of the top five highest-drawing annual conventions in Atlanta are the SEC Championship Game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Chick-fil-A kickoff game. Stokan credits poultry-sponsored football with bringing in $6 million in state sales tax.

I appreciate Michael Elkon’s effort to think outside the (penalty) box by suggesting the SEC take its championship games on campus to larger stadiums. He has a point – it seems incongruous that around 18,000 more tickets were sold for Georgia’s Coastal Carolina game than for either of its two appearances in the Georgia Dome.

Stokan’s statement illustrates why Atlanta (and the state of Georgia) will fight tooth and nail to maintain, if not expand, their presence in the college football market. It’s a year-round enterprise that involves everything from a golf tournament to fundraising to a now-defunct women’s basketball doubleheader. Oh, and football games. There would be a lot of money at stake if Atlanta’s role in the college football scene were diminished, and the effects would ripple down through the many service and hospitality industries that facilitate the influx of college football fans.

Of course that same economic impact makes those games attractive plums for Atlanta’s competition. For college football, the only comparable facility in the SEC footprint has been the Superdome in New Orleans. With the conference’s expansion into Texas and Missouri, the number of domed facilities in SEC territory triples. The Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the Alamodome in San Antonio, and Reliant Stadium in Houston have all hosted the Big 12 Championship game and would love to get their hands on some lucrative SEC neutral-site games.

We’ve already seen a shift of sorts towards Dallas. The Chick-fil-A preseason event has been strong for the past couple of seasons thanks to appearances by LSU and Alabama. But the Georgia-Boise State game in 2011, while still a major interconference matchup, drew second billing to the LSU-Oregon game played simultaneously in Dallas. The Atlanta folks have doubled down in 2012 with a pair of ACC/SEC games on opening weekend, but when you’re talking about “JV status” in regards to one of those Atlanta games, it’s hardly the narrative-setting event we’ve seen in recent years. Certainly not when Dallas will offer up Alabama vs. Michigan.

The SEC Championship is committed to the Georgia Dome through 2017. After that, it’s open season. A lot can change in the next five years – we might have a bigger SEC with even more venues entering the bidding. One big factor we’ve discussed before will be the future of the Georgia Dome and the future of professional football in Atlanta. An open-air stadium would just about kill Atlanta’s chances of hosting late-season or post-season games, and a Georgia Dome left to decay without an NFL tenant probably won’t be in the condition to compete with several other alternatives within the SEC footprint.

Stokan’s correct about the impact of college football on his city and state, but he’s under attack from several sides. Comparable facilities in SEC territory will be lining up to host the games. Local interests are lining up to replace or supplant the Georgia Dome with an open-air facility offering little utility outside of the NFL. College football is currently very, very good to the city of Atlanta, but it might not always be so. It would be embarrassing, not to mention costly, for the city to diminish its competitive position in the market for college football games just as the sport’s Hall of Fame opens in town.

Post The future of Georgia’s strength and conditioning program

Tuesday February 21, 2012

Over the past couple of weeks, three members of Georgia’s strength and conditioning program have left the program. This wasn’t a mutiny or a housecleaning. John Kasay came out of retirement in a part-time role to help establish Joe Tereshinski’s program a year ago. With that mission accomplished, Kasay is returning to retirement. Longtime strength assistant Keith Gray took an opportunity to work with an NFL program. And Thomas Brown has been offered a chance to start his coaching career.

That leaves the Dawgs with three men working on the conditioning program: Tereshinski, Tony Gilbert, and Rex Bradberry. New NCAA legislation limits the size of the strength and conditioning staff to five, so the Dawgs currently have two vacancies.

It’s an important time of the year for conditioning, and not just because mat drills are back in the news. This is one of the few times during the academic year when the team can focus primarily on conditioning. It’ll be spring practice time soon, and in just over two months the team will split for summer break. Of course most, if not all, will be in Athens a good portion of the summer, but the focus then will increasingly turn to preparation for the season. This is the time when a lot of the offseason strength devlopment occurs.

With two vacancies on the staff, Tereshinski has some options for the direction of the strength program. There were obvious results from the changes he put into place last year, but the job isn’t complete. Georgia still faded at the end of several games. That’s not a knock against Tereshinski; no one was expecting Georgia to be among the best-conditioned programs in the nations within a year. It’s a reminder that the job isn’t done.

It’s also an opportunity to expand the scope of the program. It’s one thing to bring the team up to a certain level of strength and maintain that. Tereshinski and Kasay were the right men to bring back that attitude of toughness that led to so many of last year’s offseason gains. Michigan State’s defensive line showed us that the team can always stand to be stronger. But there are also other areas – endurance, speed, and agility – where strength and toughness alone are only part of the story.

With respect to former players Gilbert and Bradberry, Tereshinski’s staff could use an injection of professional talent. Tereshinski has done much to get up to speed with modern techniques and methods, but there’s another world of professionals who are teaching those methods daily. You only have to look around at some of the groups and trainers players seek out during the offseason and prior to NFL workouts to learn who some of the more respected names are in the industry.

We wish the three members of the staff that are leaving well, but their departure opens up a chance for Tereshinski to add skills and experience that were missing from his program. The athletic admininstration has pledged that they’ll give the program the resources it needs, and this is a big area of need to continue and to build on the gains made in the past year.

Post Getting reacquainted with Max Garcia

Wednesday February 15, 2012

The exodus from the Maryland football program has been something to watch. One of the Terps seeking a new home is offensive lineman Max Garcia, a 6’4″, 290 lb. guard/tackle from right here in Norcross. Garcia was a 3* prospect in 2010 according to Rivals.com. He’s done well up at Maryland and became a 12-game starter as a true sophomore in 2011.

Garcia tells the AJC that he’d like to transfer to some place closer to home, and there is mutual interest between Garcia and Georgia.

It’s useful (to me anyway) to go back and look at the recruiting process and what led Garcia to leave the state in the first place. The Dawgs were Garcia’s favorite at the outset, but to use Garcia’s words, “It just never really worked out the first time around.”

(All links below are to Rivals.com recruiting articles that may or may not be behind the paywall.)

Garcia first appears on the radar as a junior in 2008 when he attended the disastrous Georgia-Alabama game. The outcome of the game didn’t turn him off; he was impressed by the atmosphere and the response of the crowd and team. Garcia noted that “Coach Searels said he likes my feet and that I am one of the top prospects on his list.” He added, “I would have to say Georgia is my leader right now.”

A few months later, in February of 2009, he claimed, “Georgia is No. 1.” He was still without a Georgia offer after attending Junior Day. Searels wanted to see him at camp first. That’s not an unusual request; summer camp is a great chance for coaches to get in-person evaluations of players who might not merit sight-unseen offers.

By April, Georgia had been replaced. “Vanderbilt would definitely be number one, then Georgia number two, but I think they are only going to bring in two offensive linemen this year and they already have one (Kolton Houston).” He was having doubts about Georgia’s numbers, and an offer didn’t seem to be in the cards.

By July, Georgia was out of the picture: “Garcia is down to three schools – Vanderbilt, Clemson and Maryland – and favors them in that order.”

Garcia continued to pick up offers during his senior season, including one from Florida State, but his top three remained the same. “Maryland, Vanderbilt, and Clemson are the main schools I am looking at,” he said. By mid-December when Garcia was ready to make his decision, he was “torn right now with Clemson and Maryland.”

Garcia chose Maryland of course. It seems pretty clear that Georgia, or at least Searels, backed off at some point early in the process. Garcia wasn’t able to make it to camp, and so a Georgia offer never came. By the summer Garcia had already moved on to consider schools like Vanderbilt.

His concerns about limited room at Georgia were legitimate: Georgia’s 2010 haul of offensive linemen was small. Kolton Houston was rated slightly higher, and Brent Benedict was a top-drawer signing out of Florida. The Dawgs added Ken Gates at the last minute (and good thing!)

Gates is the only lineman to contribute from that small class. Benedict transferred, and Houston sat out the 2011 season with an unspecified eligibility issue. Would it make sense to seek Garcia’s transfer? After sitting out a year, he’d have two years remaining – the equivalent of a junior college signing. By the time he’s eligible to play in 2013, Georgia will have nine upperclassmen on the line.

At the same time, Garcia would be more experienced as a starter for a FBS program than anyone but perhaps Burnette, Lee, and Gates. The Dawgs might be set at tackle with Theus and Beard and any one of Long/Dantzler/Ward, but experienced depth couldn’t hurt. Garcia’s 6’4″ size might even make him more valuable as a guard. If Burnette moves to center, there could be opportunities for playing time behind or alongside Lee and Gates.

If you go back to the recruiting process, it would seem that Clemson would get Garcia’s first call. Clemson was his second choice, and it would meet his criteria for being closer to home. One key factor in the story is Maryland coach Randy Edsall placing restrictions on the possible destinations for the outgoing transfers. Players like Garcia cannot transfer to another ACC school or Vanderbilt. (Yes…Edsall is being petulant enough to target Vandy.) Those restrictions would of course preclude Clemson, and so Garcia would have to choose a school not among his final three choices back in 2010.

Georgia has the advantage of being Garcia’s initial favorite, and there doesn’t seem to be any animosity about the way things worked out. The 3* rating and recruiting evaluations are irrelevant now; Garcia has already contributed a lot more to a BCS conference program than a lot of guys with higher ratings. That’s even better than having to dip into the JUCO ranks where it’s still tough to say how well someone might make the jump to the next level. If he can help shore up the depth on what should be a veteran offensive line in 2013 and 2014, he’d make a welcome addition to the Georgia program.

Post Jon Fabris, call your agent

Wednesday February 15, 2012

It didn’t take long after Brian VanGorder took the defensive coordinator job at Auburn for people to notice that his former secondary coach Willie Martinez was available. Sure enough, it looks as if Batman and Robin might be joining forces again.

Before we get all hah-hah-WillieMart, let’s distinguish between what Martinez did as a position coach and what he did (or didn’t do) as a coordinator. Since Martinez arrived in Athens in 2001, we’ve been in what should be considered the golden age of Georgia defensive backs. The Dawgs have had periods of outstanding defensive backs before, especially in the early 80s, and there has been the occasional Ben Smith or Champ Bailey. But I don’t think we’ve seen this kind of sustained run of quality from the position, and its legacy of producing professional-grade talent continues today with guys like Boykin.

If you care to, think about the state of the defensive backfield in the 1990s. You know – the one against which Ben Leard and Ronney Daniels played catch for three hours. In the entire span from 1991-2001, there were only four Bulldog defensive backs drafted: Carlos Yancy in 1995, Champ Bailey in 1999, Jeff Harris in 2000, and Jamie Henderson in 2001. Things were improving at the tail end, but the new coaching staff introduced in 2001 poured gasoline on the ember. In the comparable 11-year Mark Richt era, there have been eleven members of the UGA secondary drafted – twelve if you include Paul Oliver’s selection in the supplemental draft.

Better talent? Sure. That group also included some longshots. Jermaine Phillips and Bruce Thornton started out on the other side of the ball before becoming NFL-quality defensive backs. Thomas Davis was a find, and Tim Jennings remains the ultimate diamond in a rough. Tra Battle was thrown onto the field as a walk-on and developed into not only the hero of the 2006 Auburn game but also a good enough player to have a cup of coffee with a few NFL teams. There was some coaching and development going on.

That’s nice history, but the question going forward is whether Brian VanGorder and Martinez can catch lightning in a bottle and do it all over again. Will they be able to turn Auburn’s defense around to the extent that the Georgia defense improved from 1999 through 2002? The coaches might be the same, but several factors are different.

  • Returning talent. The Georgia defense really wasn’t the problem in 2000. The collection of talent on that side of the ball was the primary reason for Jim Donnan’s damning “55 years” enthusiasm. A good bit of that talent went pro after the 2000 season, but there was plenty left to work with. Auburn returns 9 defensive starters in 2012. That’s a good starting point, but it’s a group that didn’t improve very much during the season or perform well against good teams.
  • Mojo. In 2001, both BVG and Martinez were plucked from relative obscurity by Mark Richt. They were unproven on the big stage and hungry. Within four years they had established themselves as coaches on the rise, and it was a matter of time before each went on to bigger and better things. Both come to Auburn on different trajectories. VanGorder returns to the college ranks after an unsuccessful brief stint as a college head coach and a lukewarm few years as an NFL coordinator. Martinez is back as a position coach after struggling as a coordinator, and his Oklahoma secondary wasn’t a strength last season. That history and the need to prove themselves once again might be motivation, but there can also be an awful lot of pressure on two guys who now have very public track records.
  • It’s not the same SEC. SEC offenses are more diverse and productive than they were during VanGorder’s time at Georgia. There’s an interesting discussion about the future of SEC offense that will impact this environment of offense. Martinez wasn’t particularly successful at adapting. If there is a “Sabanization” trend away from the spread, does that put things back in VanGorder’s comfort zone?
  • The supporting cast. VanGorder and Martinez won’t be the only defensive coaches. Jon Fabris’s bizarre kickoff rituals aside, Fabris and Garner put together some very talented defensive lines whose reserves were good enough to leave early for the NFL. A weak link on the rest of the defensive staff could be damaging.

None of those are reasons why the duo can’t succeed again. They’re both accomplished coaches. We can and should expect certain familiar fundamental traits to carry over to go along with wrinkles they’ve picked up over the past decade. VanGorder will likely remain strong at in-game adjustments. We can count on pressure. The level of success VanGorder and Martinez enjoy will depend on the details: can they work with the returning players, can they recruit at a high level, and can they thrive in a different SEC?

Post Georgia perspective on 8 vs. 9 conference games

Friday February 10, 2012

Greg McGarity’s ridiculous defense of the 8-game conference schedule was unfortunate. We know that money is driving expansion and realignment, and those changes will have implications in the schedule. McGarity could have just put it out there: we like home games. Home games mean additional revenue and often mean wins. A ninth conference game comes at the expense of a home game, will spread additional losses around the league, and will require some tough scheduling choices that could impact revenue.

It needn’t be more complicated than what Auburn’s Jay Jacobs says. The current schedule is working, and there will have to be a significant financial incentive to deal with the risks and costs. Those incentives will determine whether the conference slate can be expanded to accomodate expansion or whether the new teams will be shoehorned into the current 8-game format.

But more conference games are better, right?

As fans, we’d much rather see another conference game instead of a cupcake game. Of course we’d also schedule like a video game and make our custom conference that goes from playing LSU to Ohio State to Oregon and back for the WLOCP. I’d like a ninth game if only because I believe that membership in a conference should have some meaning beyond revenue-sharing (silly me!), and that means playing the other members as often as possible. But the additional game comes with some big considerations.

  • You lose a home game every other year. That means five conference road games in some years. Georgia is currently committed to a neutral site game every year and a road nonconference game every other year. Georgia would have to do some creative scheduling gymnastics to get more than six home games in a year. Once you’re used to seven home games, taking one away can be painful.
  • Seven SEC teams will have an additional loss. Actual math! We can assume that most of those losses will be shared among the lower half of the league, but that extra loss could mean the difference in bowl eligibility for a team or two. At a higher level, it could cause the league to lose that second BCS bid now and then. The amount of money at stake is not a hard, quantifiable number and would vary from year to year, but it does introduce an element of risk in the SEC’s finances.

The pressure for a ninth game is more likely to come from the conference than any individual school. Schools like the extra cash from more home games, and they like the scheduling flexibility to chase a bowl bid or remain in the national picture. The conference has to pursue more money from the broadcasting rights in order to make the finances of expansion work. In exchange for those additional dollars, the networks will demand a larger inventory of games, and there’s your push for a ninth game. The conference will have to sell the schools that the additional money they’d receive from the networks would more than cover the expenses of fewer home games and the risk of diminished revenue from lost bowl or BCS bids.

What are Georgia’s options with an 8-game SEC schedule

  • Play the six division opponents, play a permanent West opponent, and rotate the remainder of the rest. This schedule maintains the current permanent opponent, but it will take over a decade to rotate through the rest of the West.
  • Drop the permanent opponent and rotate two West opponents each year. This schedule maintains the current rotation, but it eliminates the permanent opponent (Auburn).

Personally, I’m fine with the first option. Playing Auburn is an important part of Georgia’s identity as a program. I can live with fewer trips to Starkville and most of the other destinations in the West. We’ll pour one out for Baton Rouge, but no one said this process would be without sacrifice. If the conference can accept some flexibility, I like Clay Travis’s idea giving teams the right to opt out of the permanent opponent. Not a bad idea if you can get past the certain cries of unbalanced schedules.

What are Georgia’s options with a 9-game SEC schedule

Here the focus changes to the out-of-conference schedule. The 9-game schedule allows for the current permanent opponent plus two-team interdivisional rotation to continue. The loss of a home game every other year has to be accounted for (not to mention the possibility of an additional loss). You’ll see the counterbalance come in the quality of the nonconference schedule. At the least, those two games must be home games. Georgia can just about kiss goodbye the idea of a home-and-home nonconference series.

Would moving the Florida game to campus help?

In terms of the raw scheduling logistics, yes. But since our focus is on money, Georgia and Florida will likely fight to keep this a neutral-site game as long as possible. When we covered last May the coming increases to GA-FL ticket prices, we noted that the two-year haul for Georgia could be as high as $7 million by 2017. No way can either school make $7 million from the game over two years in a home-and-home arrangement.

Touching the third rail here, but what about Tech?

Yes – Georgia already has a permanent home-and-home nonconference deal. We’ve seen conference realignment wreck other longstanding series – Texas-Texas A&M, Kansas-Missouri, and even South Carolina and Clemson have looked at legislative options for protecting their annual meeting. Could it happen to Georgia and Georgia Tech? It would certainly free up wiggle room in Georgia’s nonconference schedule and allow for the occasional home-and-home.

Is it a good idea? Not to me. Even moreso than Auburn, playing Georgia Tech is what Georgia does. Control of the state is fought for and renewed annually. It would not be a good thing for Tech to exist and maybe even build its brand in some shadow parallel universe next to Georgia. The annual meeting is essential to Georgia’s standing in the state.

Post Hoops update

Friday February 10, 2012


At this point in the season it’s pretty clear that, barring another improbable SEC Tournament run, the postseason isn’t in the future for this Georgia basketball team. They’re left to build for the future, get what wins they can, and maybe even play spoiler.

The spoiler role is exactly what fell into Georgia’s lap on Wednesday against Arkansas. Georgia was fed up with losing and looked for a fight. The Hogs were about as good of a matchup as Georgia could have asked for. Like the Dawgs, Arkansas is a guard-dominated team without a strong inside presence. They don’t rebound well, and they struggle on the road. We knew all that, but was Georgia in any kind of position to do anything about it?

Georgia’s start, and particularly the start of Robinson, showed that they were. Robinson and KCP hit from outside early, and Robinson’s shooting and driving soon opened things up inside. Nemi, Thornton, and Williams were able to be active inside as the Georgia perimeter game drew plenty of attention. Georgia’s offense was helped by their work on the other end – Arkansas’ struggles on offense meant that the Hogs couldn’t set up their press. That made it easier for Georgia to work the ball quickly up the court where they could set up in the halfcourt offense and attack Arkansas’ weaknesses.

Arkansas has had some bright moments this year with high-profile wins over teams like Michigan and Vanderbilt. Their road record is the glaring weakness now, and they missed out on what might be their best chance for a road conference win. Unfortunately for the Hogs, they don’t play the NCAA Tournament in Fayetteville. And Georgia is pretty much the definition of a “bad loss” right now.

This was Georgia at their best, and it was the blueprint for what Georgia would have to be almost every night for the team to have much success this year. The shots haven’t always fallen that way for the guards, and that’s led to some tough nights. Other teams like Ole Miss have had the inside presence to control the boards and turn Georgia into a stagnant jump-shooting team. The Dawgs won’t find many more matchups as favorable as they did Wednesday, but anything can happen if the guards are bringing it like that.

Georgia won’t have many chances left to play the spoiler; there are only three home games left on the schedule. A home date in a couple of weeks against Vanderbilt looks like the best shot. Georgia still needs three wins to match the 5–11 SEC record in Mark Fox’s first season in Athens. The Dawgs have a couple of winnable games against South Carolina remaining, and LSU could be a toss-up though it’s a road game.

Lady Dogs

Andy Landers’ squad is enjoying a bye week at the moment, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. This team is so banged up that substitution patterns are dictated by deciding who is less injured. Jasmine James and Krista Donald were the key injuries over the past few weeks. Just as James was ready to start working back in, Meredith Mitchell took a knee to the forehead and had to miss all but the first two minutes of the Alabama game. The plan had been to give James a few minutes of playing time to shake off the rust against Alabama, but Mitchell’s injury meant that James came right back off of her injury to play 32 minutes. She accepted the challenge and led the team with 18 points.

The Lady Dogs currently stand at 18-6, 7-4 in the SEC. They’re in 4th place, but a game either way could have them anywhere from 3rd to 8th place. As usual, there’s a pretty tightly-contested pack in the middle of the league. The good news is that Georgia has already run the Tennessee and Kentucky gauntlet. The not-so-good news is that four of the team’s final five games are against good teams fighting for position in that same pack of teams. It starts with a rematch against Vanderbilt this Sunday. Vandy has been hit or miss this year, but they used a blistering outside attack and a tough matchup zone to blow past Georgia in Nashville last month. Vandy is one of the hottest teams in the league at the moment and just knocked off Tennessee. Georgia should at least be as healthy coming off the bye week as they’ve been in over a month, and they’ll need every player during the last stretch.

Post Grantham the recruiter

Tuesday February 7, 2012

Mike Bobo got some well-deserved attention for his recruiting efforts, but I want to talk about Todd Grantham. Georgia’s defensive coordinator was named one of the nation’s 25 best recruiters by Rivals.com.

The gusto with which Grantham has approached recruiting has been noteworthy. It’s especially so if you think about how foreign and distasteful recruiting can seem to someone coming from the NFL. Recruiting isn’t pleasant – if you believe the talk, it’s a part of the reason why Van Gorder left the college ranks. I don’t know if it’s unusual or not, but it surprised me to see Grantham jump out there with enthusiasm shortly after he took the job and start laying the groundwork for the Dream Team class. I’m sure it registered that he’d need players to make his system successful, but becoming a recruiter again still had to be an adjustment.

Entering his third season, Grantham now has a couple of things working in his favor that he didn’t have when he arrived: first, he can point to results to establish legitimacy. It was one thing to connect the dots to DeMarcus Ware and NFL success, but now the current Georgia defense is its own advertisement. Second, he now has the lay of the land. He spent a lot of time in first year visiting high schools across Georgia. The relationships are in place, and he needs no introduction now. He should have a better idea where the players are that he’ll need to run his system.

With a strong recruiting staff including Garner, Bobo, and Lilly working alongside him, Grantham should be expected to remain one of the top recruiters in the nation and keep the Georgia defense stocked with talent. Given the needs of the 2013 class, it’ll be his biggest recruiting challenge yet.

Post Three freshmen dismissed from Georgia football program

Friday February 3, 2012

Georgia has dismissed three players from the football team: redshirt freshman receiver Sanford Seay and freshman defensive backs Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders.

I’ll leave the gory details and the finger-wagging to others – we’ll move on to the impact on the team. Seay wasn’t likely to break into the receiver rotation any time soon. You don’t want to write off the contribution of someone who hadn’t seen the field yet, but the program was already recruiting above him.

The losses of Marshall and Sanders are more significant. To begin with, say a little prayer that Rambo and Williams (not to mention Smith and Commings) decided to return as seniors. Georgia’s secondary should be in decent shape for 2012, but it can’t absorb many more losses or injuries. (This assumes Sanders Commings remains with the team, and that’s an unsettled situation.)

Georgia’s defensive backfield becomes even more of a priority for 2013 recruiting than it was. Once the seniors leave, these are the only remaining scholarship defensive backs:

  • Fr. Sheldon Dawson
  • RFr. Devin Bowman
  • RSo. Marc Deas
  • So. Quintavious Harrow
  • So. Corey Moore
  • So. Damian Swann

Yikes. Marshall and Sanders were quality players who earned time as true freshmen. Their voids in the pipeline really hurt the present and future depth chart.

The bigger issue is one we touched on yesterday. Attrition is a rite of passage each offseason. Georgia has already started the year undermanned even after a nice signing class. The Recruiter’s Roster has been updated with the signings and dismissals, and the Dawgs are down to around 76 scholarship players. With 14 seniors, that’s 23 spots open for 2013 signees, and that doesn’t consider likely NFL entrants, the Commings situation, or future attrition.

Post Bret Bielema and his unwritten rules

Friday February 3, 2012

Bret Bielema’s on about “gentlemen’s agreements” and unwritten rules. Urban Meyer has upset the applecart by daring to pursue and sign prospects that had committed elsewhere (and who were apparently quite receptive to listen to schools other than those to which they had committed.)

It would be useful to hear Bielema explore his ideas of gentlemanly conduct and just which unwritten rules he’ll follow. “Don’t recruit someone else’s commitment.” Check. “Don’t go for two up 25 with less than 5 minutes left.” Well…

Unwritten rules are for baseball. If they’re not written, they’re not rules.

Post Signing Day wrap

Thursday February 2, 2012

There’s a tendency to equate a successful class with a frenzy of Signing Day activity. If you make more noise, you get talked about on the Signing Day shows, and the casual fan thinks, “job well done.”

While Georgia fans might mope about Avery Young or wonder what happened to all of the flips and rumors of mystery signees that always get people going leading into Signing Day, it’s useful to see what other people are saying about Georgia’s efforts:

  • It is, by most accounts, the third-best class in the conference and one of the top 10 in the nation.
  • The class contains five of Phil Steele’s Top 100 incoming freshmen. Only five programs had more.
  • Georgia’s 2012 signing class includes the top-rated prospect from Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and arguably Florida.

As Radi Nabulsi pointed out yesterday, ESPN actually ranks the 2012 class higher (relative to the rest of the nation) than it did the 2011 Dream Team class. Of the players who are rated less than four stars, you’re including a couple of kickers and a fullback – positions of need where even the best rarely get much attention from recruiting analysts. Pretty much every guy signed makes sense; you can see how each fits into the needs and identity of the program.

If there’s a flaw in the class, it’s in quantity rather than quality. If you put faith in the accuracy of the Recruiter’s Roster (and we do), you’re looking at about 61 returning scholarship players. Add the 19 members of the 2012 class, including early enrollees, and you’re right at about 80. Even if there were zero attrition between now and the start of the season, Georgia is well shy of the 85 scholarship limit. Zero attrition would be an extremely rare and exceptional offseason. So it’s likely that the Bulldogs will enter the season with between 75-80 scholarship players (before deserving walk-ons are placed on scholarship.)

Is that a big deal? After all, no team plays all 85 players. SEC teams aren’t even allowed to dress more than 75 (home) or 65 (road) for conference games. If it didn’t matter, teams wouldn’t get bent out of shape over losing a couple of scholarships in NCAA sanctions. If it didn’t matter, oversigning wouldn’t be nearly the issue that it is. This is where your future is developed. It’s the redshirts and the special teams contributors.

A total consistently lower than the limit means that the ones you do sign had better count. It’s how you end up with walk-ons at linebacker or safety after just an injury or two. Remember that this class is in the context of a depth situation that was already thin. Georgia hasn’t come close to the 85 limit for a couple of years. The Dawgs were around 80 scholarship players in 2010, even lower in 2011, and they start 2012 already in a position to make half a dozen walk-ons very happy. It’s a metaphor we’ve used before, but imagine a probation period of three years with a reduction of five scholarships. That’s Ohio State territory, and it’s a condition that’s more or less self-inflicted at Georgia.

A 2012 class with fewer than 20 signees wasn’t the intended strategy. You can identify 5 or 6 guys that the Dawgs would have gladly taken on Signing Day. One would have hoped, for example, for more than three offensive linemen – not only are you replacing the three seniors; you’re also plugging the hole left by Brent Benedict. The class wasn’t also heavy on defensive backs or interior linebackers, and those will be areas of concern sooner than later.

Of course the staff could have found a few guys to take those spots and make everyone feel better about the numbers, but there were no Plan Bs this year. That’s fine in that it gives the staff the room for quality players in the future, but sooner or later that room has to be used. Offensive line aside, Georgia met enough needs to be in good shape for the 2012 season. Looking much beyond the short-term shows the big job ahead.

The opportunity – and the need – is there for a big 2013 class. There is room for several early entrants that would count against the 2012 class. There are just 14 seniors, but you can pretty much count on a few juniors heading to the NFL after next season. With just a normal amount of attrition, the 2013 class should easily hold at least 25. Now can the staff – which did a great job identifying and closing on the 19 they did sign – widen their net and bring in that same quality to a larger haul in 2013?

Post Mid-day Signing Day thoughts

Wednesday February 1, 2012

It’s noon, and all of Georgia’s verbal commitments have signed. There have been two additions to the class so far, and they’re major. The news has been good enough to move the Dawgs’ 2012 class up to #5 on ESPN’s rankings, but there is still some drama to come. While we catch our breath and wait for the afternoon’s decisions, some thoughts on the events so far:

Cordarrelle Patterson signing with Tennessee. This was a mild surprise; many of us had expected Georgia to get the nod. For all of Tennessee’s problems, they’ll have a tremendous trio of receivers next year with Hunter, Rogers, and Patterson. It might be the best set in the SEC.

Dalvin Tomlinson to Alabama. We considered it a longshot for Tomlinson to sign with Georgia, but it would have been nice. He’s a quality defensive lineman. You just got the feeling that this just wasn’t going to go the Dawgs’ way when it wouldn’t work out for Tomlinson to take an official visit to Georgia. The silver lining? He won’t be signing with Georgia Tech, and that was a very real possibility. Tomlinson heading to Bama means that Tech has lost their last and best chance for any kind of Signing Day splash.

Josh Harvey-Clemons signing with Georgia. He was the highest-rated prospect in Georgia according to several recruiting services. He’ll slide right in to the all-important outside linebacker spot, but Georgia coaches would love to use his athleticism in other ways – like a red zone receiver target.

Josh Dawson flipping from Vandy to Georgia. This one had been buzzing for a while, but, again, we know how accurate rumors of flips are. Ordinarily stealing someone from Vandy isn’t something to celebrate, but Dawson is a 4* prospect that was a gem in a solid Commodore class. Georgia coaches should watch their back…James Franklin can’t be happy about losing Dawson.

The flips that weren’t. Rumors of flips and “mystery signees” are rampant every signing day, but it’s so rare for them to pan out. Josh Dawson was a nice exception. But Brandon Greem, JaQuay Williams, and Kenderius Whitehead all stuck with their original commitments.

Dorial Green-Beckham to Missouri. The Tigers will enter the SEC with arguably the nation’s top incoming freshman. Green-Beckham is an outstanding receiver that will give SEC defenses problems for the next three years. Everyone down on Georgia’s 2012 schedule should take another look at that Missouri game. Mizzou will be pumped to host its first SEC game. They’re already a solid program, and now they add a threat like DGB to a potent offense. The timing of the game might be the good news for Georgia; he’ll still be raw and finding his way that early in the season. A big splash is not impossible though – Sammy Watkins had 10 catches for 155 yards and 2 TD in just his third game.

Georgia’s 2012 defense will be sponsored by Flying J. John, James, Jordan, Josh, Josh, and Jonathan join a defense starring Jarvis Jones and John Jenkins.