Wednesday February 13, 2013
The Georgia Athletic Association Board of Directors met on Tuesday, and as usual there’s some news:
Mark Richt has navigated some difficult seasons to produce back-to-back SEC East champions, and his compensation has been increased by about $400,000 to $3.2 million as a result. The raise is appropriate – it’s enough to acknowledge the performance of the program over the past two seasons, but it also doesn’t go crazy and put Georgia at the bleeding edge of SEC (and national) salaries.
Richt might consider passing on some of his raise to one of his former players. Shawn Williams’ role in the 2012 turnaround continues to get praise from no less than Richt’s boss. “Kentucky was a tough, tough game,” said athletics director Greg McGarity. “And then Shawn Williams stepped in, and made a few comments, and it just kind of seem to turn the tide….He’s one of my favorite players of all time.”
Richt and his staff now have the job of making the changes brought on by Williams’ leadership a lasting part of the program rather than a one-off push as the finish to the 2007 season turned out to be. There was no news concerning adjustments for the assistants, but AD Greg McGarity expects to discuss that with Richt soon.
Student attendence has been an issue since the 2011 season, and the school took steps in 2012 to rework the priority system and get tickets into the hands of students who wanted to come to games. But it was clear that the student section was just too large to begin with, and that’s been addressed now.
Georgia will take 2,000 student tickets and set them aside for a new “Young Alumni Program” designed to get recent alums (within the past five years) on the road to becoming renewable season ticket holders. The young alums will have no donation requirement the first year they buy tickets. This is similar to a program that was available when I graduated in the 1990s that subsidized the required donation for the first couple of years, but I guess that program had been ended at some point.
Anyway, this is a win all around. The student section gets reduced to about 16,000 seats (though, on average, fewer than 12,000 students have attended each game since 2009.) The school now has a way to reach out to the next generation of season ticket holders for whom the initial donation might’ve made the leap from student tickets to season tickets too steep. And though the school misses out on an initial donation from these recent alums, it still receives full face value for those tickets. The school will receive $448,000 a year in additional revenue (assuming a seven-game home schedule) by selling these 2,000 tickets at $40 face value rather than selling them to students at $8 per game.
Also of note
Fans visiting Foley Field this year will see welcome improvements to the facility even if a more ambitious overhaul or replacement is still needed down the road. The athletic department also boasts a stable and strong financial position, and the news is also positive on the academic front.
Wednesday February 13, 2013
The suggestion that Jadeveon Clowney should skip his junior season in order to train and avoid the risk of an in-game injury does seem silly, and it was roundly dismissed by both Clowney and his coach.
But watching Nerlens Noel go down last night, I couldn’t help but think of the Clowney story. Noel and Clowney are two student-athletes playing amateur ball at a professional level for no other reason than the barriers to entry erected by their respective professional leagues. Certainly they receive the benefits of development and exposure playing for high-profile college programs, but there’s no question that they’d be snapped up tomorrow by professional teams if eligible.
We’ve already seen Brandon Jennings’ long way around the one-and-done rule in basketball, but not many others have followed his lead. And why should they? For the elite basketball player, a one-and-done season isn’t a bad deal – with a good season and a tournament run, your profile is much higher than it was coming out of high school. Yes, players like Maurice Clarett have tried to work around the restrictions, but it’s not something that you’re used to hearing from someone in good standing, as it were.
I think the Clowney decision is the correct one – there’s something about commitment to a team and the experience that can’t be replaced, as Spurrier points out. Even if Clowney took the year off from competitive football to take an advance on future earnings and just focus on training, injuries are still possible. I just wouldn’t be surprised for someone in the near future to take a more serious look at stepping away from college football after a high draft status is wrapped up (and, granted, it could just as well be someone who’s received some very bad advice to do so). The emerging evidence of head trauma places a cost on every time a player steps on a field, and it’s not outrageous for a college player who’s gotten as much as he can out of the college game to consider if he wants to continue paying that cost.
Thursday February 7, 2013
In looking for a way to reconcile a recruiting class that met needs and replenished the scholarship numbers with the lackluster results landing top targets, I settled on this: it’s the 2008 season of recruiting classes. Most programs would jump at the chance for a season like the Dawgs had in 2008: 10 wins, a win over the defending champs on their field, and a New Year’s Day bowl victory to close it out. But when the season began with a #1 ranking and the potential of a star-packed offense leading the team to SEC and national glory, it was tough to get excited about the outcome – especially when the three losses laid bare some unpleasant realities about the program.
So it was on Signing Day on Wednesday. There’s every reason to be thrilled with those who signed. It’s almost unheard of for a class of this size not to have many reaches, but Georgia’s signings all make sense. The immediate needs for 2013 were met: there will be impact players coming in at defensive back, linebacker, and receiver. We won’t sweat many of them qualifying – 13 of them are already enrolled. Georgia competed against some of the top programs in the nation for nearly every member of the class.
But when the state was loaded enough to give Georgia a very good shot at landing the nation’s top class, finishing just on the edge of the top 10 doesn’t move the needle. You’ll never get all of the top prospects from a talent-rich state like Georgia, but you also expect to do better than getting just two of the top 15.
It matters. If the whole ranking system is your problem, just focus on specifics. Could Georgia have used an elite tackle to give them flexibility with Gates, a good lineman who’s probably better suited for the interior? Could Georgia have used the state’s top tailback to spell Gurley and Marshall during the grind of the SEC season? Could Georgia’s thin defensive line, which had no answers against the Alabama running game, have used an impact player to rotate in to keep the group fresh for the fourth quarter? Georgia’s Signing Day targets weren’t just extraneous bling; they were all good enough to have very clear roles already defined for them. Georgia fans, of anyone, should understand very well how elite prospects can elevate a program. Even if they don’t all pan out (and they don’t), you increase your odds of finding that difference-maker the more you bring into the program.
We can stop with the 2008 analogy for a minute. That year helped to expose a rotten conditioning program and continued a downward slide on defense. There’s no crisis in Georgia recruiting. Led by the coordinators, the staff is full of strong recruiters. The behind-the-scenes organization is led by the right person, and that organization will be expanded and supported under new NCAA rules. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that Georgia can’t improve its recruiting. They’ll have to take full advantage of the NCAA’s more streamlined rules. There might be tactics used by successful rivals that are worth adapting. The departure of Rodney Garner might have cost Georgia a little at the end, but it also provides an opportunity for a needed re-vamping of everything from how prospects are evaluated to how they are contacted and offered.
We’re not going to rend garments over a strong class that features 14 of the ESPN 300, and hopefully it’s possible to talk about the big misses while giving those who did sign their due. It’s tough to say though whether this class gets Georgia any closer to the top of the conference or even shores up their position at the top of the division. As the 2008 season saw the beginning of the rise of Alabama as the standard against which the rest of the conference had to compete, Georgia’s recruiting only matters in the context of how well the program is stocked to play in the SEC and challenge for its top spot.
Monday January 28, 2013
It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say it, but it was a winning weekend for both of Georgia’s basketball teams. Both squads got back into the win column after a disappointing home loss, and both have a good opportunity to build on those victories with some winnable mid-week games.
The men pulled off a surprising road win on Saturday at Texas A&M. In their first visit to College Station, the Dawgs got on top and stayed there, opening up a lead that grew to 17 points in the second half. The Georgia offense became stagnant and the hosts made their push, but Georgia, to their credit, made just enough plays and held A&M scoreless in the final minute. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, as usual, was the story – he was incredibly efficient on offense with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting including a 50% night from behind the arc. He was also Georgia’s leading rebounder by a wide margin with nine boards. The team made their free throws, limited their turnovers, and won the rebounding battle. That’s what it takes to win on the road.
As tough of a season as it’s been, it’s been – relatively speaking – a good stretch for the team. They’ve won two of three and were up on Florida at halftime of Wednesday’s game before the wheels came off. The math is fairly simple – Georgia is going to score somewhere in the high 50s or the low 60s – no more. They won’t stay close in a shootout. If they can hold the opponent in that range, we’ll have a game. The team isn’t going to become an offensive dynamo, but there are still opportunities for other players. Georgia still needs KCP to have a good game to have any chance, but when you get things like Brantley’s mini-hot streak in the second half or valuable minutes from Tim Dixon or six blocks scattered throughout the box score, it will occasionally be enough to come away with a win even on nights where no other player sniffs double-figures in scoring.
Though no SEC opponent is a sure win for a team in Georgia’s position, they’re in as favorable of a stretch as the schedule has. After six conference games, the Dawgs are just one game out of the league cellar, but they’re also tied for 7th place with an astounding seven teams at 2-4. A couple of wins over the next few weeks could move Georgia to the top of that logjam, and they’ll be facing several teams stuck right there in a similar position.
The women had a week to stew over their embarrassing home loss to Texas A&M. Though just their third loss and first home loss of the season, the Lady Dogs looked completely outclassed and punchless against a good-but-not-great Aggie squad. The bye week gave the team a chance to rest and dwell on the loss, but the lackluster effort stayed with the team until they were shut out of their practice gym mid-week. It’s insane that a team that hadn’t actually won anything could ever get complacent, but that’s what we heard after the A&M loss and also what we heard after the season’s first loss at Illinois.
It turns out that this tumultuous week was just what the team needed – at least in the short team. Florida caught a ticked-off Georgia team on the wrong day. The Lady Dogs roared out to a quick double-digit lead, and Florida never mounted a serious challenge. They led by 19 at halftime and eventually pushed the lead over 30 before Florida got it back under 20 in garbage time. Though Georgia didn’t really shoot lights-out, they had a balanced attack and were able to get points both in transition and from the halfcourt offense. Neither team shot well from outside, but Florida shot just 34% from the floor and was an abysmal 5-of-14 from the line.
Andy Landers continues to experiment with his deep roster. Small forward Krista Donald started and responded well with 11 points despite low minutes as the team manages her damaged knee. Anne Marie Armstrong came off the bench and played with more energy than she’s shown so far in SEC play, finishing with 7 points and a big 9 rebounds. Freshman Tiaria Griffin continues to embrace the starting role and finished with 12 points. Though the offense got sloppy at the end of both halves, the effort was so much better than in the A&M game or even in earlier wins against Arkansas and South Carolina.
The Lady Dogs host Alabama on Thursday in a rematch of a high-scoring but comfortable Georgia win in Tuscaloosa earlier this month. Another strong effort should see them push their winning streak to two games, but extending it to three games will be tough, and they can’t pat themselves on the back too hard for the Florida win. After Alabama, Georgia visits #5 Kentucky next Sunday in a game with SEC title hopes at stake. At 5-2 in the league now, Georgia is just outside the top four, and they’ll need to keep winning in order to keep pace with the SEC leaders.
Monday January 28, 2013
The title of “recruiting coordinator” is coveted by certain assistants. It’s a way to earn extra visibility on a staff, and it usually comes with a nice salary bump. Many assistants of varying coaching ability have carved out relatively stable careers for themselves as recruiting coordinators, and the best enjoy a status on a staff comparable to offensive or defensive coordinators.
This specialty position developed because the NCAA required that many essential recruiting functions be performed by a coach, and the NCAA is very clear about who may or may not be considered a coach. For all of the support staff a school can hire, no football program may have more than 7 assistant coaches. But new NCAA rules meant to untangle and streamline the current rulebook will allow programs to move these recruiting functions away from coaches and onto staffers. Specifically,
(Proposal) 11-2, which will eliminate the rules defining recruiting coordination functions that must be performed only by a head or assistant coach.
There are a whole lot of rules changes involved in this batch (all of which will take effect on August 1st), but they more or less add up to the decoupling of the coaching staff and the recruiting process. Your recruiting coordinator needn’t be a coach now, and schools are free to build up departments dedicated to interacting with prospects in any medium from printed material to social media. Certainly these changes allow for big advantages for those schools with the resources to staff these departments. Hopefully Georgia will be among those taking full advantage of the new rules.
These rules changes also give an insight to Georgia all but shrugging off the title of recruiting coordinator following Rodney Garner’s departure. Sure, there are several worthwhile candidates on staff, and a couple have even held the recruiting coordinator position before. But under the new rules there’s just no need to bother an assistant coach with the administrative details of the coordinator role. Those tasks can now fall to someone who can focus on recruiting rather than split time between coordinating visits and trying to come up with a defensive line rotation for next week’s game. The coaches of course will remain the primary recruiters and evaluators of talent, but this non-coaching position is about to get a big boost in both visibility and importance.
For Georgia, that person might already be in the program. Daryl Jones was hired in May of last year as the team’s Director of On-Campus Recruiting. In that role, he’s already involved in recruiting strategy, coordinating visits, and acting as a liason between the program and high schools. Jones spent 17 years involved in Georgia high school football, rising from an assistant coach to athletic director. He also has experience managing and coaching in Under Armour camps and the Under Armour All-America game.
After the new rules take effect in August, it will be interesting to see what role Jones has in the allocation of recruiting duties that had previously been limited to coaches. In hindsight, it’s good fortune (or good planning if this rules change was already under consideration) that Georgia chose someone with Jones’s administrative background rather than one of the inexperienced recruiting analysts who were reportedly under consideration for the position.
Wednesday January 16, 2013
Before we put one of our favorite preseason topics in cold storage, let’s take one more look back at Georgia’s 2012 schedule. Sagarin’s final ratings are out, and they include strength of schedule for all FBS and FCS teams. (h/t to @OtterDTX for finding the link.) I know there are disagreements with Sagarin’s methods and results, but we’ll stick with them for this post.
Georgia had Sagarin’s 27th-toughest schedule. Among Sagarin’s top 10 teams, every other team but Oregon had a tougher schedule. The separation isn’t that great though. Only five of the top 10 teams had a top 20 schedule, and three others were there in the 20s with the Dawgs. Here are some teams of note:
- Alabama: #1 rating, #19 schedule
- Texas A&M: #3 rating, #6 schedule
- Georgia: #4 rating, #27 schedule
- South Carolina: #6 rating, #23 schedule
- FSU: #11 rating, #66 schedule
- Ohio State: #13 rating, #60 schedule
- Nebraska: #22 rating, #20 schedule
- Ole Miss: #24 rating, #8 schedule
- Vanderbilt: #25 rating, #42 schedule
For what it’s worth, Georgia Southern wasn’t the lowest-rated team on Georgia’s schedule. It wasn’t even in the bottom third of opponents. Sagarin has Georgia Southern rated at #72. Far below them lie Auburn (#81), Kentucky (#93), Buffalo (#131), and Florida Atlantic (#137).
Some other observations:
- The Dawgs ended up playing three other top 10 teams (and went 1-2). No top 10 team played more than four other top 10 opponents, and Kansas State didn’t face a (final) top 10 team until their bowl.
- Georgia faced six top 30 teams, and they had a 4-2 record in those games. Those lopsided Ole Miss and Vandy wins look a lot more impressive in hindsight.
- What does having the nation’s toughest schedule get you? Say hello to Missouri, whose move to the SEC meant that they were the only team in the nation to face five eventual top 10 teams. The #2 schedule? Auburn’s next coach will hope for a little easier slate.
- If you wonder why SEC teams schedule as they do, the conference ended up with 12 of the nation’s 30 toughest schedules. Only Vanderbilt and Mississippi State didn’t have a top 30 schedule.
- Taking that last point further, the SEC had six of the nation’s top 10 schedules and three of the top 5.
- It’s worth noting that only two of those six SEC teams with top 10 schedules qualified for a bowl.
- The average BCS team had a strength of schedule rating just over 40. Even when you exclude Northern Illinois’ abysmal #121 schedule, the average BCS team’s strength of schedule was #31.
Monday January 14, 2013
The Lady Dogs’ first two road trips after the Christmas break didn’t go well. They lost their first game of the year in a sluggish effort at Illinois, and then they saw a close game deteriorate in the second half at Tennessee. After starting 12-0, the team had lost two of three games.
The team had some opportunities to recover over the past week, and they cashed in with a pair of wins in games that featured very different styles. Thursday’s game at Alabama, an 95-83 win, was a shootout. About the only way either team could stop the other was by stealing the ball; the teams combined for 19 steals. But Georgia shot 56%, Alabama shot 64% from outside, and both teams put up some of their highest point totals of the season. It was close at halftime, but Georgia pulled away to lead by as many as 19. Five Georgia players scored in double-figures.
Sunday’s home game against South Carolina was the complete opposite. The Lady Dogs won a 42-40 grinder against South Carolina, one of the best defensive teams in the nation. The South Carolina defense and its on-ball pressure was an especially strong test for Georgia’s guards, and the visitors came away with 13 steals. But it also meant a stiff test for Georgia’s own defense. With things going slowly on offense, a Georgia defense that gave up 83 points to Alabama couldn’t afford another high number.
South Carolina did a few things to help Georgia out. The Gamecocks were a woeful 0-for-11 from outside and only shot 8-for-16 from the foul line. Free throws aside, South Carolina’s open looks from outside were the byproduct of an effective Georgia zone defense. South Carolina’s strength is in driving to the basket. Georgia’s zone helped to limit this penetration, and the visitors shot only 34%. South Carolina did have one advantage, and that was toughness inside. The Gamecocks pulled down 12 offensive boards and out-rebounded Georgia 37-28. This rebounding edge helped South Carolina overcome their poor shooting: 10 of South Carolina’s 40 points were second-chance baskets.
This was a close defensive battle typical of what we’ve come to expect against Dawn Staley’s South Carolina teams. Neither team led by more than 6, and both teams made key plays on both ends of the court when it seemed that one side might look to make a run. Georgia’s guards usually aren’t shy about shooting, but the South Carolina defense kept the Georgia backcourt to no more than 8 attempts from any one player. The Lady Dogs did get some good looks, but they too struggled from outside, hitting only one of nine attempts from behind the arc.
Two players accounted for nearly half the points in the game. South Carolina forward Aleighsa Welch was tough to stop with 19 points on efficient 8-for-10 shooting. Georgia had an answer on their frontcourt. Jasmine Hassell also poured in 19 points, and she scored Georgia’s final three points to help seal the win. Hassell’s solid game came on the heels of a 21 point, 7 rebound effort at Alabama. Those two game earned her SEC Player of the Week honors, and she did it all with a broken nose suffered during the Alabama game.
Hassell’s importance to the team has been clear over the past month. She was key in the Alabama and South Carolina games, but there have been times when that production hasn’t been there – or when teammates have struggled to get the ball inside. In the loss at Tennessee, Hassell only scored 4 points, but she only attempted 4 shots. Even in a solid win over Missouri to open SEC play, Hassell got 3 points on 4 attempts. I understand that sometimes defenses make it a point to keep the ball from Georgia’s only true post player, but more consistent output from that spot has to be a key for the team going forward. Good things happen when she gets the ball inside.
Now the focus turns to Anne Marie Armstrong. Georgia’s other senior forward has been recovering from a foot injury since before the season. The injury has had a glaring impact on Armstrong’s scoring. She was held out of the Alabama game to help her recovery, but her four games since Christmas haven’t been successful. She’s shooting just 3-for-28 during that stretch, and there were three games in which she didn’t make a shot. You need her in the game because as an intelligent and experienced senior, she finds other ways to contribute. Her defense is solid, she contributed two steals against South Carolina, and she led the team with 4 assists. You just hope that the ankle can come back to a point where Armstrong is again an inside-outside scoring threat.
Georgia has an interesting week coming up with another away/home pair of games. The long-ish trip to Arkansas, especially on a weekday, is never pleasant. It doesn’t help that Arkansas is a decent team this year. Georgia returns home on Sunday to welcome Texas A&M to the SEC. While most of the state will be glued to the Falcons, this will be the second straight Sunday Top 20 game at Stegeman Coliseum. A&M’s football program is the toast of College Station now, but this basketball team has been one of the strongest Aggie programs over the past couple of years. They reached the national title game two years ago and returned to the Sweet 16 a year ago. They’re back in the top 20 this year. Though they’ve lost five games, all five losses have been to top 10 teams, and only the loss to UConn wasn’t close. A&M coach Gary Blair, through his former position at Arkansas, is no stranger to Athens. Georgia’s upperclassmen were there for a humiliating loss when these teams last met in the 2011 Sweet 16, and hopefully that bitter taste will be on their minds.
Monday January 14, 2013
Back when sports blogging awards were a thing, there was one called the “Job Award.” It went to the poor soul who kept plugging through his or her team’s awful season. It’s easy and fun to write about a winning season like the one we just enjoyed with Georgia football. Things were less fun in 2010, but, still – we’re not talking about a 2012 Auburn season. You have to salute (pity? wonder about?) those fans who not only show up for and watch every game but also try to make sense of it all for the rest of us.
That all applies to anyone writing about Georgia basketball these days. It’s just not enjoyable. And as bad as it is to watch and then revisit, it’s that much worse to play and coach through. It’s tough on a team that’s not all that good to come to practice and prepare for the next game with the right outlook and attention to detail that will create the foundation on which a poor team will become a better team.
Georgia’s loss at Florida in the SEC opener wasn’t unexepected, but the hosts weren’t even challenged. Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State was a missed opportunity to defend the home court against one of the league’s poorest teams. It was a measuring stick against a conference peer, and the Dawgs came up short. The offense that had a fairly productive first half by Georgia standards fell apart once Caldwell-Pope went quiet after a defensive adjustment. Georgia had some chances midway through the second half to take control of the game, but they couldn’t separate. MSU, and Jalen Steele in particular, made the Dawgs pay with their own run in the final minutes to open up the game, and Georgia wasn’t able to recover.
At 0-2 in the league, Georgia faces a tough four-game stretch where a home game against a decent LSU team might be Georgia’s best (only?) shot for their first conference win over those four games. We know by now that this team is just going to struggle to put points on the board, and so they’ll struggle to win when they can’t bring the kind of defense it takes to hold games under 60 points. With the direction of the season fairly evident now, we’ll look to the development of some promising freshmen and see if they can offer fans hope for a better future.
Monday January 14, 2013
Alabama was dominant in the national title game a week ago. Not many around the SEC were surprised. Not only did we know Bama; the SEC has also built its current dynasty through a habit of beating the nation’s #1 team. In five of the seven years during the current streak, the SEC team that ended up winning the national title came into the game as the #2 team. That doesn’t mean all five of those teams were underdogs in the championship game, but in those five seasons the polls and computers agreed that there was a more obvious participant in the title game. In four of the seven seasons, the road to the title for the eventual champion only became clear after some improbable late-season upsets.
- 2006: Not only did Florida get caught up in Michigan/Ohio State rematch talk, but they also needed a 5-loss UCLA team to upset mighty USC in the final week of the season.
- 2007: The litany of upsets and poll manipulation that put a two-loss LSU team into the championship could fill its own post, but the Pitt upset of West Virginia is enough to illustrate the kind of year 2007 was.
- 2011: LSU was going to be in the game regardless, but their opponent didn’t even win their conference. But after Oklahoma State faltered at Ames and Boise State had a placekicking meltdown for the ages, the SEC streak lived on thanks to an unlikely rematch of a game played just two months earlier.
- 2012: Alabama’s spot for a title defense was all but booked after October, but the loss to A&M opened the door for a slew of other teams. The champs again needed intervention in order to earn the opportunity to repeat. That intervention came on a night where two top-5 title contenders fell within hours. Then Notre Dame controlled the top spot, and the SEC championship became a de facto national semifinal. It was also fortunate that Ohio State was ineligible, or we would have watched two midwestern teams fight over the SEC’s crown
I”m not trying to take anything away from Alabama and their repeat. They’ve been the best team over the body of two seasons. As the SEC has been so dominant in the title game, their spot in the game has been as fragile as an Iowa tailback. Things will change somewhat with the introduction of a playoff, but even then there will be debate. Few teams were better at the end of the season than Texas A&M, but I can’t imagine even an 8-team playoff having room for the Aggies. It’s been a little amusing then to read and listen to all of the analysis over the past week of what it will take to end the SEC’s run. There doesn’t have to be any great power rising up from the west or midwest. All it could take is a double-digit home favorite somewhere taking care of business.
Monday January 7, 2013
One reason for optimism about the 2013 Georgia offense is that for the first time since 2010, the team looks likely to return its leading rusher. It will be the first time since 2008 and only the second time under Mark Richt that Georgia returns a 1,000-yard rusher.
The relative calm surrounding the running back position is a stark contrast to the saga of Georgia’s leading rusher from 2011. Isaiah Crowell transferred to Alabama State after his dismissal from the Georgia program. Crowell had a fair season with 842 yards and 15 touchdowns, and he was named the SWAC newcomer of the year. But as with Crowell’s 850-yard debut in Athens, his first year at Alabama State can’t avoid drama.
ASU self-reported violations regarding Crowell before the season even started. The violations didn’t affect Crowell’s eligibility, but they ended up as a central issue in the firing of the school’s athletic director.
Former ASU AD Stacy Danley claims, and the school denies, that “(Danley) was pushed out at the school after he insisted that head football coach Reggie Barlow be fired for repeatedly lying” during the Crowell investigation. The whole story is a strange volley of allegations between Danley and the administration involving Danley’s role during Crowell’s reinstatement, a Burger King, the daughter of the school’s executive vice president, and the local Thai place.
Georgia has a lot on its plate between now and the 2013 season, but I’m at least glad that the cloud that seems to follow a running back wearing #1 has moved west. Considering what it seems to have cost ASU to land him, Georgia should consider itself lucky for a certain June traffic stop.
Friday December 21, 2012
After 15 years associated with the Georgia program, Bulldog recruiting coordinator, assistant head coach, and defensive line coach Rodney Garner has accepted a comparable position with Auburn, his alma mater.
Before saying anything that might come across as sour grapes, we’re grateful for what Garner did at Georgia. His willingness to serve as a key member of the transition from Donnan to Richt helped stabilize the program, and that stability had a great deal to do with Mark Richt’s ability to enjoy immediate success in 2001 and 2002. From Richard Seymour to DeAngelo Tyson, Garner’s linemen are spread across the NFL, and more are on the way this year. 15 years of service is a long time for any coach, but it’s an eternity in the fluid world of assistant coaches.
It’s a lateral move in terms of job titles, but it might’ve just been time for both parties to go their separate ways. Georgia didn’t seem to put up as much of a fight as they did in 2009 when Lane Kiffin tried to pry Garner to Knoxville. Though he’s added the title of assistant head coach over the years, Garner has been primarily a position coach for his 15 years at Georgia. He has seen Georgia hire three defensive coordinators over him, and his career had stagnated. With aspirations to be a head coach, he likely sees Auburn as an opportunity to re-boot his career path at age 46.
The immediate concern is recruiting. Georgia has a solid class committed, and they have the opportunity to finish with a bang. Obviously the loss of the recruiting coordinator is significant. Current commitments must be reassured, and the remaining prospects will have to build new relationships with the Georgia staff.
Before we panic, Garner wasn’t the only recruiter on Georgia’s staff. Tight ends coach John Lilly was the former recruiting coordinator at Florida State and remains one of Georgia’s best closers. Mike Bobo is also an outstanding recruiter and – along with Todd Grantham – accounted for many of the key signings in the “Dream Team” class of 2011. These three, as well as Coach Richt and the rest of the remaining staff, will be in contact with recruits as soon as the rules allow. There will be the need for immediate damage control as rivals jump on a perceived moment of weakness and opportunity, but the right people are in place to keep any attrition to a minimum.
Any concerns or theories about what Georgia might do with this opening (such as bringing in a special teams coach) were put to bed by Todd Grantham almost as soon as the Garner news broke. Grantham told UGASports.com that “(Grantham) will be the person responsible for hiring Garner’s replacement, and that the hire will be for a new defensive line coach.”
If Grantham’s track record with Lakatos and Olivadotti tell us anything about Garner’s replacement, it will be that Grantham will lean on his personal and professional relationships to find a coach. Lakatos had been a longtime friend of Grantham’s before Georgia’s new coordinator announced what seemed like an obscure hire. Grantham had coached with Olivadotti’s father in the NFL.
Garner will be missed, but his departure affords Grantham the opportunity to own the composition of the defensive staff. Georgia’s 2013 line will be relatively inexperienced and thin (depending on draft decisions), and they’ll be looking to build depth quickly. The Dawgs will need a capable technician able to step in and build on the standard set for Georgia defensive linemen, and they’ll also need a strong recruiter to replace what they’re losing in Garner. Hopefully such a man exists in Grantham’s contacts list.
Tuesday December 18, 2012
Georgia’s mens and womens programs emerged from the first games after exams headed in opposite directions. There are just a couple of weeks until conference play begins, but we’ve already learned quite a bit about the squads so far.
The men missed a golden opportunity for a decent win over an Iona team that made the NCAA Tournament field a year ago. Georgia overcame a slow start and took several second half leads, but the Dawgs surrendered 12 three-pointers to the visiting Gaels and had a team-wide collapse at the free throw line. The overtime loss was Georgia’s third in a row and the seventh in the last eight games. Yes, it’s to the point of starting to ask some unpleasant questions.
The Iona loss masked some positive developments. The offense was more productive as the team was able to work the ball inside and find guys like Donte Williams (16 points). The Dawgs shot 44% which is still an improvement over the season average of just under 40%. Even more promising was the continued development of a decent freshmen class. Morris continues to earn playing time, and Mann had his best game yet.
Unfortunately, leaning on the freshmen so much implies something about the upperclassmen. Georgia was able to lean on a pair of veteran guards (and the freshman Caldwell-Pope) to somewhat compensate for an absent frontcourt last season. While the frontcourt has made marginal strides this year, the drop-off in the backcourt has been precipitous. You’re just not getting production from senior guards Brantley and Williams. The freshmen are fine, but they’re not going to have an impact like Caldwell-Pope had a year ago. Even with KCP you take the good with the bad – he’s a gifted scorer, but you want your best player to make better decisions than the rushed, off-balance shot he attempted with no shot clock and 20 seconds left at the end of regulation on Saturday.
The backcourt isn’t the only spot where there’s a vacuum in production from veteran players. Marcus Thornton is banged up again, but he hadn’t posted more than 8 points in any of the first eight games. More importantly, the fall in production of Djurisic has been significant. Nemi’s big enough to bang around the basket, but he’s only getting to the line just over two times per game. We know he prefers to face the basket, but his three-point percentage has been cut in half from 36.4% a year ago to 18.5% this season. He continues to be in love with the outside shot though and has already attempted half as many three-pointers as he did as a freshman.
In short, it’s a mess. The good news? Have you seen the rest of the SEC?
In a more pleasant development, the women built on their unblemished record over the weekend with a 93-42 thrashing of Lipscomb. Georgia’s defense was relentless, and 23 steals led to numerous transition chances that helped Georgia shoot over 50%. The Lady Dogs are now 11-0 and sit just outside the top 5. Andy Landers has a luxury he hasn’t had much of in the past ten years: quality depth. There’s a strong core of upperclassmen and a very talented group of freshmen and sophomores. Landers has been able to work the newcomers in quite a bit, and they’ve responded. After several seasons of running players like Houts and James for 35-40 minutes per game out of necessity, Georgia can now run in waves of players in roughly 5-minute intervals. They’re able to play much more of the pressure defense Landers prefers, and the results have been promising so far. The team will still rely on its seniors – especially James, Armstrong, and Hassell – but the depth will help make sure that the team can finish the season with lots in the tank.
If there’s any uncertainty, it’s that Landers’ squad hasn’t been tested with top-quality competition yet. Rutgers and Georgia Tech were good opponents, and New Mexico’s Pit is traditionally a tough place in which to win. Though Georgia’s next two opponents aren’t ranked, TCU and Illinois still represent a step up in quality from the Mercers and Lipscombs of the world. They’ll give Georgia a chance to test their road chops before league play begins in January. Georgia’s last trip to TCU two years ago was a near-disaster, and Anne Marie Armstrong had to sink an ultra-long range three pointer at the buzzer for the team to escape with a win. This Georgia team is in a much better place and should arrive at the January 3rd SEC home opener against Missouri with their perfect record intact.
Monday December 17, 2012
There’s still one big game to go, but we have some down time to look back at some of the most important moments of the regular season. These plays didn’t all come at critical times (like a Gurley touchdown late in a rout of Vanderbilt), but they all were significant moments in the story of the 2012 regular season either for individuals or the team.
10. Samuel stuffs the fake punt. Georgia had scored just before the end of the third quarter to take a 24-20 lead on Missouri. It was Georgia’s first lead of the game, and it came during a stretch where both teams posted points on four consecutive drives. The fact that neither team was doing much to stop the other had to weigh on Missouri coach Gary Pinkel’s mind, because he called for a fake punt on 4th-and-11 from his own 35. The play actually had a good chance of success and was blocked well, but Richard Samuel was able to shed his blocker and stop the punter short of the first down marker. The Dawgs added a field goal on their next possession and set the stage for Jarvis Jones’ heroics.
9. Grown-man Jarvis. Samuel’s play on the fake punt stopped any momentum Missouri had, but Georgia was still only up 7 on a team that had showed an ability to score quickly. The two teams traded punts midway through the fourth quarter, and Georgia pinned the hosts back on their own 12. A pass interference penalty seemed to bail the Tigers out of trouble and gave them a first down. Jarvis Jones dropped back into coverage on the next play and sat in the underneath passing lane. James Franklin threw right at him, and Jones picked off the pass. He returned it just short of the goal line, and the Dawgs were able to score and open up a 14-point lead. Jones wasn’t finished – he came on a speed rush during Missouri’s next drive and forced a fumble. The Dawgs recovered inside the Missouri 10, and they added another score for a much more comfortable final margin.
8. Norman recovers the onside kick. Even with a bye week, Georgia wasn’t able to shake off the blues of the South Carolina loss. They found themselves in an early hole at woeful Kentucky. It was the kind of night where Marshall Morgan had to bank in a short field goal off the upright just to give Georgia a thin 16-14 halftime lead. Georgia didn’t establish a multiple-possession lead until the fourth quarter, and they needed a roughing the punter call to sustain that drive. Even after the Dawgs went up 29-17, they couldn’t put the upset-minded hosts away. Kentucky put together a scoring drive to pull within five with four minutes left. Georgia’s defense had few answers at that point, and you had that sense of dread about what would happen if Kentucky got the ball back trailing by less than a touchdown. The Wildcats attempted an onside kick, and it was executed fairly well. Kentucky’s blockers controlled the first line of Georgia’s return team, and the Wildcat kicker had a good chance at diving on the ball. The dribbled kick took just a little too long to advance the required ten yards, and the Kentucky kicker had to wait for it to roll. That delay gave Connor Norman an opportunity to sprint in from the side of the play and pounce on the ball right before the Wildcat kicker curled around it. Georgia’s offense was able to get a few first downs and kill enough clock to keep the ball away from Kentucky until the waning seconds, and the Dawgs escaped Lexington.
7. 3rd and 25. Ole Miss had been playing well and were on a little roll after posting their first SEC wins in several seasons. A Homecoming loss would cost the Dawgs everything they had earned in Jacksonville. Georgia’s offense was sluggish in the first half with the only score coming on the hidden ball play. Ole Miss looked in position to take a lead into halftime – especially as Georgia wasted time and lost yards on sacks during their final drive of the half. Instead of a likely field goal opportunity, Georgia was faced with a desperate 3rd-and-25 from the Ole Miss 40. Somehow Tavarres King got behind the Rebel secondary, and Aaron Murray threw his best pass of the half for a touchdown. Georgia rode the momentum to a second half rout.
6. Tough enough. After some poor performances and after a week dealing with the whole “soft” challenge and controversy, Georgia was determined to show something different in Jacksonville. The Bulldog defense took the field first and immediately brought pressure against the Gator offense. Florida QB Jeff Driskel was hit and fumbled on the game’s first play from scrimmage. He recovered the fumble, but Georgia kept up the pressure. Damian Swann came on a blitz from the slot on third down and again separated Driskel from the ball. This time Jarvis Jones was able to recover the ball for Georgia, and the Dawgs were set up early on the Florida 20. Todd Gurley took it in a few plays later, and Georgia had served notice that they were ready for a brutally physical game.
5. Gurley plows through Vanderbilt. We were introduced to Todd Gurley during the season opener when he followed up a powerful touchdown run with a kickoff returned all the way. But Buffalo was one thing, and Gurley was held to just 65 yards in the SEC opener. His next big showcase came in the SEC home opener. Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 212 yards and four touchdowns. Late in the third quarter, Gurley topped off the scoring with this run. He took a handoff out of the pistol, got up a head of steam through a nice hole, and shed four would-be tacklers on the way to the endzone. Gurley had more significant runs than this late score in a blowout win, but few of them showed off his combination of power and speed like this one.
4. Rambo takes the ball. It’s likely that Georgia Tech wasn’t going to do much to stop the Georgia offense, but that was the case in 2008 also. Tech had put up a basketball score a few weeks earlier against UNC, and they were used to having to compensate for poor defense. Georgia scored immediately, but Tech began their own march towards a score. The Jackets put together a 10-play drive that set them up on the Georgia 20. Tech back Robert Godhigh ripped off another run that took the ball inside the Georgia 10. With a host of Georgia defenders slowing Godhigh’s progress, Bacarri Rambo was able to go for the ball. Rambo wrested the ball away and took off down the south sideline before he was forced out around midfield. The Dawgs scored for the second time just a few plays later, and Tech didn’t come close to the endzone again until the fourth quarter.
3. Commings sends Tennessee packing. Georgia’s defense hadn’t done much to stop Tennessee since the second quarter. The Dawgs had to protect a single-score 51-44 lead for much of the fourth quarter. Sanders Commings had spent much of September at safety as he covered for the suspended Rambo, and this was his first game back at cornerback full-time. Georgia turned the Vols over on three consecutive possessions to secure the narrow win, and Commings was responsible for two of those turnovers. The Dawgs avoided the upset and preserved their undefeated record – for another week, anyway.
2. Mitchell breaks open the WLOCP. Though Aaron Murray had struggled for most of the Florida game, Georgia’s coaches turned to the passing game clinging to a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. The drive started slowly and needed a defensive holding penalty to move the chains. Murray then completed four of his next five passes. A short second down pass to Malcolm Mitchell had to be reviewed, but it set Georgia up with a manageable 3rd-and-5 in Florida territory. Florida showed tight coverage, and Murray was able to find Mitchell again. A move back to the inside got Mitchell clear of his defender, and Florida’s tighter coverage meant that Mitchell suddenly found himself with a lot of green in front of him. He took off towards the north endzone, evaded a couple of desperate attempts to catch him, and gave Georgia and 8-point lead.
1. Jones thwarts the Gators. We started this list with a Jarvis Jones play that gave Georgia a touchdown, and we end it with a Jones play that prevented an opponent’s touchdown. Mitchell’s score gave Georgia a larger lead over Florida, but the Gators were still within one possession of a tie game. They began to find success mixing the run with passes to tight end Jordan Reed, who was creating matchup problems against Georgia’s linebackers. Just inside the Georgia 20, Reed caught a short pass and broke free of Alec Ogletree. Like Mitchell on his scoring play, Reed’s evasion of the initial tackle opened up a path for a score. Georgia’s defenders gave chase, but it looked as if Florida would have the ball inside the five at worst if Reed didn’t score. Branden Smith came in from the side and dove at Reed, forcing the Florida receiver to jump. Jarvis Jones had started rushing the passer but turned as soon as it became clear that he couldn’t get to the quarterback in time. He began pursuing Reed. The slight delay caused as Reed jumped to hurdle Smith gave Jones a chance to catch up with the receiver, and Jones punched the ball free into the endzone. Sanders Commings dove on the loose ball, and the Dawgs were able to run out the clock to secure the win and claim the inside track to a consecutive SEC East championship. Even more, it meant Georgia’s first back-to-back wins over the Gators in over two decades.
Do you have a few different moments in mind? A different order? Let’s hear them in the comments.
Friday December 14, 2012
Nebraska AD Tom Osborne states the obvious in a story about ticket sales for the Capital One Bowl.
Georgia’s doing reasonably well, selling 10,000 of its 12,500 allotment so far for the January 1st game. Nebraska has only sold 4,000. There are several reasons for their slow sales: Nebraska isn’t around the corner, the economy isn’t all that hot, the Huskers played in this same bowl last year, and did you see their last game?
Osborne identifies another “problem,” at least from the perspective of the school.
“The problem is so many people buy tickets now from the secondary market,” Osborne said. “People sometimes feel like you get better location and cheaper prices buying over the Internet. It’s really difficult anymore to assess how many fans you’re really going to have in that stadium.”
He estimates that as many as half of his school’s fans in Orlando last year didn’t buy tickets through the school. Teams are often held accountable for the unsold portion of their allotment, so it’s in their interests to sell as many tickets as possible. But fans know they can get better seats at a discount elsewhere. Fans don’t want to see their school take a hit, but they’re only loyal to a point.
Friday December 14, 2012
The SEC announced today that “Alabama defensive end Quinton Dial won’t be suspended for his disputed hit on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in the SEC title game on Dec. 1.”
I’m not exactly sure what a “disputed hit” is. There was nothing disputed about the excessive shot Dial put on Murray. SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw admitted that “we missed the call.” There’s no question that the hit broke the NCAA rule that “No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent.” The SEC didn’t say today that the hit was clean and legal; they just ruled that it didn’t merit a suspension.
A suspension isn’t a do-over. I know a lot of Georgia fans feel that no suspension means that Dial got away with the hit…and he did, then and now. Review by the league office isn’t a way to make up for penalties that should have been called. If that were the case, half the conference would have been suspended by the league office at one time or another. If Dial’s hit were flagrant enough to merit a suspension – penalty or not – then the league should have taken action. I’m not so sure it wasn’t anything beyond your garden variety cheap shot though. Georgia was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty against Alabama’s quarterback during the game, and Alec Ogletree won’t be suspended either.
We can debate whether the hit on Murray rose to the level of the hits that got Trae Elston and D.J. Swearinger suspended earlier in the year. The consistency in judgement calls like this is a whole other topic.
The league also said that “all subsequent action will be handled internally by the two institutions,” meaning that the likelihood of Dial missing the BCS Championship game is zero.