Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post If you say so…

Thursday December 31, 2015

The CFB semifinals are this evening, and if you’re undecided about your cheering interests, Georgia’s next coach has a suggestion:

“There’s nothing more that’s going to help me at the University of Georgia than winning a national title at the University of Alabama.”

I understand and respect Smart’s decision to stay on through the playoffs, but I can think of a few things off the top of my head besides a couple of Alabama wins that Georgia’s head coach could do which would be more beneficial to Georgia.

Post Big game for Georgia, bigger game for Fox

Saturday December 19, 2015

From the mid-90s through 2010, Georgia basketball went through five head coaches and plenty of ups and downs. One thing remained constant: an unblemished home record against Georgia Tech since the series returned to home-and-home in 1995. In fact, thanks to two wins on Tech’s home court, the Dawgs posted a 10-6 record in the series.

That changed in 2011 with the arrival of Brian Gregory at Tech. Gregory hasn’t done much to return Tech to glory, but after four games he remains undefeated against Georgia. Gregory’s teams have won four in a row in the series and the past two in Athens despite some lean years at Tech and a couple of postseason trips for Georgia. The series is back level at 10-10 since returning to campus twenty years ago.

The two teams meet in Athens on Saturday, and it’s the latest date for this game since three straight January games from 2008-2010. Could that be an edge for Georgia? Mark Fox’s teams have sometimes needed a few games to settle in, and November hasn’t been the best time for a big rivalry game. One additional bit of good news: freshman forward Derek Ogbeide is cleared to play and seems to be in line for more minutes as he works back from a shoulder injury. Georgia needs all the frontcourt depth they can manage against a physical Tech front line.

Though the relatively late date might benefit the Dawgs, it’s not an ideal point on the schedule. Georgia hasn’t played since December 8th due to exams. They’ve rested and practiced during the exam break, but they’ll have a bit of rust to shake off too. The end of exams also means that students have left town, and the early (noon) start without much of a student section could hurt the home crowd.

This is a better Tech team than some of Gregory’s recent offerings. They have a close loss to ETSU and a respectable loss to Villanova and quality wins over Arkansas and VCU. They feature four seniors – two guards and two forwards – and all four average over 10 PPG. Though guard Marcus Georges-Hunt is the leading scorer, the biggest concern for Georgia might be the frontcourt. Charles Mitchell is a force inside, easily averaging a double-double, and Alabama transfer Nick Jacobs has had a quick impact. This is a fairly deep team too – 10 players average over 13 minutes per game. Only four Georgia players are scoring over 4 points per game; Tech has nine.

Rivalry aside, Georgia can’t afford to lose many more nonconference games. With three losses already, you’re starting to put pressure on the conference portion of the schedule. Clemson and Baylor are still ahead. As it stands, the Dawgs must go 12-6 in conference to avoid heading into postseason with 10 or more losses. A loss to a bad Tech team two years ago did Georgia no favors in the RPI; a loss this year to a better Tech team would be bad just in terms of a team looking to build a postseason resume.

For a program and a coach looking to build on its NCAA Tournament trip a year ago, games like these matter. Fox needs both the success on the court and the support of the fan base to make that happen. The Tech game is one that even casual hoops fans pay attention to.

Post Keeping up with the coaching changes

Thursday December 17, 2015

It’s typical for some chaos during a coaching transition, but Georgia has some special circumstances making this transition that much more hectic. Their new coach is still with his old team. The old coach immediately took a new job. New assistants have been named but won’t coach in the bowl game. We’re left with a hodgepodge crew of lame duck coaches and staffers who will be conducting bowl practices, and many of them will be coaching with their own futures uncertain.

The table below compares the three staffs – 2015, bowl, and 2016. We’ll scratch through a 2015 name when it’s confirmed that he’s no longer a part of the program. We’ll add to the 2016 list when official announcements are made.

2015 Staff Bowl Staff 2016 Staff
Head Coach
Mark Richt Bryan McClendon Kirby Smart
Offensive Coordinator
Brian Schottenheimer (+QB) John Lilly (+TE) Jim Chaney (+QB)
Offensive Assistants
  • Bryan McClendon (WR)
  • Thomas Brown (RB)
  • John Lilly (TE)
  • Rob Sale (OL)
  • Thomas Brown (RB)
  • Rob Sale (OL)
  • Steve Shimko (QB)
  • Olten Downs (WR)
  • Sam Pittman (OL)
  • Dell McGee (RB)
  • James Coley (WR)
  • Shane Beamer (TE/ST)
Defensive Coordinator
Jeremy Pruitt (+DB) Kevin Sherrer (+ILB)  
Defensive Assistants
  • Tracy Rocker (DL)
  • Mike Ekeler (ILB)
  • Kevin Sherrer (OLB)
  • Tracy Rocker (DL)
  • Sam Petitto (DB)
  • Courtney Coard (OLB)
  • Tracy Rocker (DL)
  • Glenn Schumann (TBD)
  • Kevin Sherrer (TBD)
Special Teams
  • Todd Hartley
  • Shane Beamer

Post Eason’s a Dawg – now what?

Thursday December 17, 2015

He’s been Georgia’s quarterback of the future for about a year and a half now, and Jacob Eason reaffirmed on Tuesday that he’ll still enroll at Georgia in just a few short weeks. It’s pretty amazing that a top prospect from the opposite side of the country would stick through two coordinator/position coach changes and even a head coaching change. That speaks to many things, but it’s a special feather in the cap of Mike Bobo and Mark Richt to have built such a solid foundation in recruiting Eason that it could survive these events. They didn’t just sell Eason on themselves; it was the whole package – the school, the town, the current players, and even the other prospects considering Georgia.

It also speaks to Eason’s levelheadedness. He didn’t jump ship when Richt left or when the offense struggled in 2015. Many fans assumed that Eason wouldn’t stick through the Bobo departure and certainly not through the head coaching change. Yes, he considered his options. That was the prudent thing to do – it would have been foolish not to have had a plan B if Georgia went a different direction with its coaching and scheme. He covered his bases, gave Smart and Chaney an opportunity to make their case, enjoyed a visit with future and prospective teammates, and concluded that “it all got cleared up.”

And so he’ll enroll for spring semester and enter the competition at quarterback. I expect most fans will find spring practice both fascinating and frustrating. All eyes will be on Eason, but I’d be surprised if a 2016 starter emerges.

Then there’s the 2016 season itself. Most of us expect Eason to emerge as the starter, but when? Eason is fabulously gifted, but he’ll have plenty of bad habits to break and a much more sophisticated offense to learn. Even Zeier and Stafford – two quarterbacks similarly heralded – didn’t claim the job exclusively until October of their respective freshman seasons. Smart, with the experienced help of Chaney, will have to manage the transition while avoiding the distraction of a quarterback controversy. Public pressure to play Eason will begin as soon as Eason takes the practice field.

Ideally you’d want a schedule that allowed Eason to ease into the role. 2015 would have been a best case – two easier SEC opponents and two light nonconference games. That’s not the case in 2016 – Georgia starts the season against an ascendant UNC program and will play two SEC road games in September. The Dawgs will need a poised and capable quarterback right from the opener. Do you let Eason take his lumps with the hope that he’ll have figured things out in time for the trip to Oxford?

There have been a few recent developments that might affect Georgia’s quarterback roster. First, Oklahoma reserve Trevor Knight will be a graduate transfer and is considering Georgia. Knight’s track record might look a little too similar to that of Greyson Lambert: former starter, gave way to another quarterback, graduate transfer. Knight was more accomplished as a starter than Lambert though, and he might be a good player to have on the depth chart.

The second development is one reported earlier this week by UGASports.com($). With Brian Schottenheimer no longer a part of the program, Brice Ramsey might have a renewed interest in playing quarterback and could even play in the bowl game. It’s not unheard of for coaching changes to breathe new life into stagnant careers, and a player expected to start the 2015 season might jump at the chance for a fresh start.

The possibility is there that Eason could have a good enough spring and camp that the coaches throw him right into the fire against the Tar Heels. A more likely outcome is that someone else starts the season – be it Ramsey, Knight, or, yes, Lambert. Smart’s experience suggests that he’ll place an emphasis on ball control and a lack of mistakes, and that might not be the strengths of a true freshman. With a capable set of running backs and a good group of defenders returning, coaches will have to consider what attributes at the quarterback position give the team the best chance to win.

Post Kirby Smart introduced as Georgia’s 26th football head coach

Monday December 7, 2015

It was an impressive first press conference. He’ll have to get right to work assembling a staff and a recruiting class, but he’ll remain at Alabama through the playoffs. As with all new hires, time will tell whether Smart was a good choice, but it’s clear that those who set these wheels in motion after the Florida game got the guy they wanted. Now the hard part begins…

Here’s Smart’s introductory press conference and transcript.

Post Dawgs will face Penn State in TaxSlayer Bowl

Sunday December 6, 2015

Georgia was selected for the TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly Gator Bowl) in Jacksonville. The game will be on Saturday January 2nd at noon with ESPN providing the broadcast. Bryan McClendon will lead the Dawgs into the postseason as the interim head coach. This is the first meeting between these storied programs since the 1983 Sugar Bowl where Penn State knocked off #1 Georgia 27-23 to deny the Dawgs and Herschel Walker the 1982 national championship. Dawg fans of a more recent vintage will recognize Penn State coach James Franklin whose Vanderbilt team upset Georgia in 2013 in Franklin’s final season in Nashville. If you need a score to settle, pick 1983 or 2013 – whatever works for you.

Penn State finished the regular season 7-5. The Nittany Lions have two wins over bowl teams – Indiana and San Diego State. Georgia’s win over Auburn was their only victory over a bowl team. After a 7-2 start PSU lost their final three games against a back-loaded Big 10 schedule.

Both teams will be going through transitions. Georgia of course will play without their 2015 head coach and both coordinators. Penn State dismissed their offensive coordinator after a disappointing season despite having NFL prospect Christian Hackenberg at quarterback. Freshman tailback Saquon Barkley has been the most consistent element of the offense. Still, the PSU offense has struggled due to a weak offensive line that’s allowed a glut of sacks and negative plays.

Ordinarily we’d relish the thought of Georgia’s pass rush going against a paper-thin offensive line and a pro-style quarterback who had been sacked 39 times in 2015. If Georgia’s seniors and NFL-bound juniors haven’t mentally checked out, this could be one nice last showcase for someone like Floyd or Jenkins. That’s a big if though – some stars mentally collecting NFL checks playing uninspired ball without their beloved coordinator could do more harm than good. Hopefully they’ll make the most of one final live audition for the scouts.

As good as Georgia’s pass rush could be, Penn State leads the nation in sacks with 44. Senior DE Carl Nassib is the Big 10’s defensive player of the year. He’s been limited down the stretch, but it’s expected that he will play in the bowl. Georgia looks to put up a little more resistance, allowing just 13 sacks in 2015. If Georgia’s seniors on the offensive line want a taste of what they’ll face at the next level, they’ll be going up against some top NFL talent on the Penn State defensive front.

So both teams feature stingy defenses and some big questions on offense. Predictions of a low-scoring game make sense. Turnovers, special teams plays, or an explosive play by a healthy Michel, Mitchell, or McKenzie could put Georgia over the top in a close game.

Post Richt to Miami

Friday December 4, 2015

If there’s a lesson here, it’s just business. Once Mark Richt was fired on Sunday, he was under no obligation to Georgia fans or even Georgia’s players. I don’t begrudge him (and definitely don’t blame him for) jumping at an opportunity to get away from the awkward situation that was on full display in Monday’s press conference.

Part of me is glad that Richt is taking the Miami job. It would have been nice to have had him around the program to continue his developmental and networking programs, but a figure that beloved and successful would have cast a long shadow. It was similar with having Vince Dooley around in the 1990s, but at least Dooley was the athletic director with the accepted chain of command that comes with the AD position and – more importantly – had left coaching more or less on his own terms.

I understand that it takes some time to process change, and the great man Richt is makes it even more difficult. But he has moved on, and so should we. If he hasn’t already, he’ll soon be on the phone to prospects to build Miami’s recruiting class. When that happens, he becomes the competition – perhaps not to the extent he’ll be going up against Florida and FSU and other ACC programs, but Miami and Georgia have frequently been involved in recruiting battles. Georgia has had some good results bringing players out of South Florida, and Richt will be attempting to lock down that area.

We wish him well and will always respect him and possibly even pull for him (especially against Tech!), but those well-wishes have to stop where his interests conflict with ours – and they will. I was and will remain a fan of Richt, but I’m a Georgia fan first, and Mark Richt no longer represents our program.