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Post A closer look at the job of the star / nickelback

Friday August 22, 2014

If Todd’s Grantham’s scheme brought one bit of vernacular to the Georgia program, it was the “star” position – a kind of hybrid linebacker/safety/cornerback popular in 3-4 systems who most often roamed the field as a fifth member of the secondary. Traditionally this was a nickelback – a third cornerback who came on the field to provide pass coverage help in obvious passing situations. As we saw with Grantham’s star position, this role is evolving as the spread offense demands a different response from modern defenses. Georgia used everyone from an outside linebacker (Floyd) to a safety (Harvey-Clemons) to a cornerback (Swann) in that role.

Football Study Hall has a piece up today about the rise of the nickelback (the position – thankfully not the band) as a full-time position which explores this versatility and the difference between what’s asked of a nickelback in college vs. one in the NFL. Since college teams are playing a lot more nickel personnel (even Grantham’s 3-4 was often a variant of a 4-2-5, 3-3-5, or even a 2-4-5), a lot is being asked of players at this position.

Jeremy Pruitt uses this type of player in his defense, but there’s one big difference: “We’re gonna play with DBs at that spot,” Pruitt said. “We’re not gonna play with linebackers.” So, yes, hopefully no more Leonard Floyd out in space asked to defend a much faster receiver. That opens the door for players like converted tailback J.J. Green and incoming freshman Malkom Parrish. These two, at 5’9″ and 5’10”, are far cries from someone like Floyd or Harvey-Clemons, both of whom towered at least 6’4″.

Using a third corner in this role is common. As Football Study Hall notes,

The main way teams are finding to be option sound against today’s option is to embrace man coverage, so every position in the defensive backfield typically needs to be able to man up with at least some offensive skill players. The more good man coverage players you can put on the field, the better things will be for everyone else on the field in your defense.

At the same time, they warn that “it’s impossible to protect the nickel from all run responsibilities.” That becomes an especially important point when you go smaller at the position. If Pruitt is going to use a third cornerback, they will be involved against the run, especially against option teams. Green and Parrish, two guys who have never played a college snap yet as part of a college defense, will have a big job right away against some very good offensive schemes.


Post A better way to improve the in-game experience

Tuesday August 19, 2014

While Georgia prepares for an assault on the senses, Baylor is harnessing technology to offer visitors to its new stadium an application featuring “in-seat mobile video replays, team information, customized camera angles and up-to-the-minute real-time statistics.” The application will “(push) the envelope by being the first college athletics app to provide instant replays from multiple views.”

Baylor’s app will be backed by the same high-capacity cellular distributed antenna system installed in Sanford Stadium over the offseason but also a free high-density wi-fi network.

I’m a little ambivalent about too much mobile technology in the stadium – I’d prefer fans be engaged in the game rather than buried in their phone or tablet. At the same time, real-time access to replays and stats on a high-speed network fills a need I would bet all of us have wished for at Sanford Stadium one time or another.


Post They haven’t even had their first 3rd-and-long yet

Monday August 18, 2014

Grab the popcorn. Via SI

Bobby Petrino says he’s changed. But in reporting a story about the new Louisville coach that is in SI’s college football preview, it appears Petrino is still just as difficult to work and play for. Sources with ties to the Cardinals’ football program and Petrino said there’s significant friction between Petrino and feisty defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. The two have feuded often since Grantham’s hiring in January.

So much that one source insists Petrino would have already gotten rid of Grantham if not for his guaranteed five-year contract that pays him nearly $1 million annually. He came to Louisville after four seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. “He’s stuck with him,” a source said.

Worth reading also for the introduction to Todd Gurley’s golf game.


Post Georgia on opponent schedules

Thursday August 14, 2014

We’ve been up and down Georgia’s 2014 schedule looking where the breaks and tough road stretches are. The flip side of that is where the Georgia game lies on the schedules of our opponents. Who has a bye before they play the Dawgs? Who will be licking their wounds from a rough stretch of games?

Clemson: A lot will have changed for both teams from last year’s Clemson win. Most obvious will be the quarterback position. Both teams will have a guy making his first Sanford Stadium start, but Clemson’s will be doing it in front of a hostile crowd.

@ South Carolina: The Gamecocks have a fairly demanding couple of home games before Georgia comes to town. Texas A&M, even with their losses, will be a quality test in the season opener. East Carolina isn’t a cupcake; they’re a quality mid-major looking to build off of a bowl win. With that kind of start, South Carolina won’t have many secrets by the time Georgia comes to town on September 13. The Dawgs have a bye week before this game, so it will be a solid two weeks of preparation for this game to determine the SEC East frontrunner.

Troy: We should get a good idea of the challenge Troy will pose in the second week of the season when they face Duke. They’ll get their own cupcake (Abilene Christian) before coming to Athens, so we should expect a team that’s been focused on Georgia for several weeks.

Tennessee: The trip to Athens will be Tennessee’s SEC opener, but they’ll have been tested by a trip to Oklahoma. Opening games against Utah State and Arkansas State are no automatic wins. The Vols get a bye week before traveling to Athens, so they’ll have two weeks to prepare and stew over last season’s near-upset.

Vanderbilt: Vandy will have played three SEC games by the time they visit Georgia. The trip to Athens will be Vanderbilt’s second straight road game, and it’s possible they’ll be coming off their first SEC win (Kentucky).

@ Missouri: Mizzou ends September with a highly-anticipated rematch at South Carolina. But even if that game lives up to 2013’s meeting, the Tigers will still get the benefit of a bye week before the Georgia game.

@ Arkansas: Any game in Little Rock gets a little extra attention from the Arkansas faithful, and Georgia’s first game in Little Rock will add that much more novelty to this game. It will also be a second straight long road trip for the Dawgs – they’ll have to fly back out to the western frontier of the SEC after doing it a week earlier at Missouri. One thing in Georgia’s favor – Arkansas will have just played Alabama.

Florida: As is often the case, both Georgia and Florida have a bye week before this game. Each team will have faced Missouri plus an SEC West foe (LSU for Florida) heading into that bye week. The difference is that Florida won’t have left Gainesville since October 4th while Georgia will be resting from a long stretch on the road.

@ Kentucky: Georgia will have to shake off the Cocktail Party hangover for the trip to Lexington. Georgia hasn’t lost in Lexington since 2006, but they’ve survived several sloppy games. The last really comfortable win up there was in 2004. Kentucky will be coming home from a road trip to Missouri, and it will be towards the tail end of a long stretch of games. Georgia will be Kentucky’s seventh straight opponent since a September bye week.

Auburn: It’s nice to get Auburn at home for a change. The Auburn game will be Georgia’s first true home game since Vanderbilt on October 4th, so there is likely to be a little travel fatigue. In addition to it being a road game for Auburn, the Tigers will have just endured a tough stretch featuring South Carolina, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M. We’ll see what’s left in the tank for both teams.

Charleston Southern: Not that it matters, but this will be the final game of the season for Charleston Southern. It will be interesting to see how they fare against Vanderbilt the week after the Commodores come to Athens.

Georgia Tech: Tech has scheduled a bye week before they bus over to Athens. They had a virtual bye week last season against Alabama A&M and used the time to install a few defensive wrinkles that caused Georgia problems at first. The Dawgs will hopefully get a couple of weeks of Tech preparation with a lightweight game the week before.


Post SEC Network channels for Comcast Atlanta

Thursday August 14, 2014

Kudos to the guys at Good Bull Hunting for putting together this comprehensive guide for the SEC Network launch.

Unfortunately Comcast, one of the largest launch partners, didn’t announce their SEC Network channels in advance, and the channels will vary by market. The network will appear on the launch date (today), but it’s left for us to hunt and spread the word ourselves.

In Gwinnett County, the SEC Network can be found on channels 300 (SD) and 792/1738 (HD). I can’t confirm the channels for any other Atlanta-area Comcast franchisees, but try those channels first.

UPDATE: From the comments: “It is 804 and 805 alt. plus 310 and 311 in Asheville NC”

UPDATE 2: SicEmDawgs is putting together a roundup of channel locations across the state of Georgia for all carriers.


Post 2014 game day experience improvements

Wednesday August 6, 2014

Georgia announced today some changes and enhancements to the Sanford Stadium experience for the 2014 season.

There’s news about concessions (Sonny’s…ugh) and where you can cool off during the warmer games.

Fans should notice improved cellular service throughout the stadium. Service providers, especially AT&T, have installed millions of dollars worth of equipment to handle the flood of demand during games.

The biggest change is a controversial one. The sound system has been improved. That’s good news. But Georgia will also be taking advantage of new SEC rules that allow schools to pump in music and artificial noise at almost any the ball is not in play. Georgia promises to “respect the collegiate atmosphere and traditions.” We’ll see how far that respect goes.


Post Dawgs #12 in preseason coaches poll

Thursday July 31, 2014

Two more signs that football season is right around the corner: players report for preseason camp today, and USA Today released the preseason coaches poll.

Georgia’s 8-5 finish left them outside of the final 2013 poll, but they’ll begin this year ranked #12 by the coaches. The Dawgs started 2013 ranked #5.

Georgia is one of seven SEC teams ranked among the top 25. The Dawgs are scheduled to face three ranked teams (#5 Auburn, #9 South Carolina, and #16 Clemson), and four other opponents (Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, and Georgia Tech) are among those receiving votes.


Post We tried to help, Tech

Monday July 7, 2014

Blutarsky points to an AJC piece about Tech’s increase in ACC money while dealing with a projected shortfall in ticket revenues. The reasons for that shortfall?

A projected slight drop in season ticket sales, six home games (as opposed to seven) and the even-year schedule without a home game against Georgia are primary factors.

When we learned in 2012 that Georgia would face back-to-back games at Auburn in 2012 and 2013, one idea that came up was shifting the Tech series. Georgia would maintain a schedule that alternates between Auburn and Tech at home. But there was also a win for Tech.

Tech’s current home schedule in even years stinks on ice. Look at it. What’s the best home game there? Virginia? Miami? BYU? There’s nothing close to what you’d consider a rivalry game. There are few, if any opponents with large groups of road fans. Now look at an example of an odd-year schedule for Tech. Carolina. Virginia Tech. Clemson. Georgia. From a Tech perspective, that’s relatively loaded and a lot easier to sell….The issue then is how badly Tech wants to balance its schedule.

But that plan meant that Tech would have sacrificed the 2013 game in Atlanta for consecutive trip to Athens. That didn’t happen. As a result, Tech is stuck with its six-game home schedule featuring Clemson, a Miami fan base that doesn’t travel, and little else. You can’t say we didn’t try…


Post Dawgs top SEC secondary market ticket prices

Monday July 7, 2014

Thanks in large part to high demand for Clemson tickets, Forbes and TiqIQ claim that the Bulldogs have the highest average secondary market ticket price among SEC schools. The average secondary market price for a Georgia football ticket this year is $227.01 – making Georgia the only SEC school with an average price over $200. An average price of $359.26 for the Clemson game leads the way.

If you put your bottom line-driven athletic director cap on and look at those numbers, Georgia’s leaving a lot of money on the table with a $40 ticket face value. The difference between that primary price of $40 and the secondary average of $227 is going mostly to brokers, scalpers, and ticket holders rather than into the UGA coffers.

Other schools are starting to recapture some of the gap between face value and the secondary markup with higher overall ticket prices and variable pricing for premium games. Georgia’s still a relative bargain at $40 per ticket and $280 for the season, but you can be certain that discussions are underway in Athens. For perspective, A&M and Auburn season tickets are $450.

We’ve already seen Georgia sign on to higher prices for the Florida game, following a nationwide trend of premium prices for neutral site games. It’s a risk – with the at-home experience more and more appealing, demand for tickets can become increasingly sensitive to price. It’s one thing to see the opportunity with a good 2014 home slate, but will fans be as willing to pay premium prices for a 2015 schedule that offers little more than Alabama?


Post Dawgs and Domers – it’s on!

Wednesday June 25, 2014

Georgia and Notre Dame announced a home-and-home series today that will take place in 2017 and 2019. The teams will play in South Bend on September 9, 2017 and in Athens on September 21, 2019.

No big deal…just another ACC school, right?

It should be a high-profile matchup between two of the nation’s traditional powers who have only met once before. It looks as if the first meeting would be on the second week of the season. You’d expect Georgia to open up with a lightweight home game and then get into conference play after they return from South Bend. If the current SEC schedule holds, that might mean a back-to-back stretch with Notre Dame and South Carolina. The 2019 game in Athens is likely on the fourth week of the season. That allows for everything from an easier nonconference game to, again, South Carolona, to a bye week before the Fighting Irish come to town.

We’re excited about it, but it’s still going to be worth keeping an eye on the changing winds of the college football landscape between now and then. If, for example, the SEC moves to nine conference games, would Georgia seek to get out of the series? AD Greg McGarity has stated how strongly that ninth game would affect his outlook on these high-profile nonconference games. Today’s news is a very public commitment along the lines of an 11-year SEC scheduling rotation, but I’ll believe it when we see the 55,000 point cutoff announced in 2017.


Post SEC rotating schedule announced through 2025

Monday May 19, 2014

After a few years of uncertainty, the SEC schedule for Georgia’s football team is on much more solid ground through 2025. When the SEC held its schedule at eight games last month, the only question left was the identity of the one annual rotating opponent. The SEC has released those rotating opponents today.

Georgia’s SEC Rotating Opponent:

2014: at Arkansas
2015: vs. Alabama
2016: at Ole Miss
2017: vs. Mississippi State
2018: at LSU
2019: vs. Texas A&M
2020: at Alabama
2021: vs. Arkansas
2022: at Mississippi State
2023: vs. Ole Miss
2024: at Texas A&M
2025: vs. LSU

The addition of Alabama does breathe some life into a lackluster 2015 home schedule. The biggest disappointment about the rotation plan? Georgia won’t make its first trip to Texas A&M until 2024. They won’t even play the Aggies (SEC Championship games notwithstanding) until 2019 – seven years after A&M joined the conference.

The rest of Georgia’s SEC schedule (East plus Auburn) will continue to rotate home-and-home as usual. Knowing that, we can piece together the SEC part of the schedule for the next 12 seasons.

Of course all of this assumes that 1) the SEC schedule stays at eight games and 2) the rotation plan isn’t scrapped at some point over the next ten years. Anyone want to place bets on that?


Post Red-hot Georgia softball takes SEC title

Monday May 12, 2014

Georgia softball has been as high as #1 in the RPI this season, but they ended up ranked in the mid-teens after losing nine games in the brutal SEC. The team got hot at the right time though and made program history over the weekend: they ripped off three straight wins at the SEC Tournament in Columbia, SC, to capture the program’s first SEC Tournament championship. Georgia took care of perennial powers Florida and Alabama in the first two games and held off underdog Kentucky in the title game.

The Dawgs have another solid lineup this year, but it might be pitching that carries them back to Oklahoma City. Sophomore Chelsea Wilkinson was brilliant in Georgia’s SEC run, and she was deservedly named the tournament’s MVP.

Another high water mark for the program was set Sunday night when they received one of the top 4 national seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament (the equivalent of a #1 seed in the basketball tournament.) Georgia’s #4 overall seed means that they’ll get to host both the regional and (should they advance) super regional rounds in Athens. Regional action starts this Friday against Chattanooga, and UAB and NC State will round out the regional field. Regionals are double-elimination with games taking place from Friday-Sunday.

2014 NCAA ATHENS REGIONAL SCHEDULE OF GAMES
Friday, May 16
2:30 p.m.: UAB vs. NC State
5:30 p.m.: Chattanooga vs. Georgia

Saturday, May 17
12 p.m.: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
2:30 p.m.: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 |
5 p.m.: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3

Sunday, May 18
12 p.m.: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5
2:30 p.m.: (If Necessary): Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6

**All Times Eastern & Subject To Change**

Should Georgia advance on Friday, they’ll play again on Saturday at noon.

For ticket prices and ordering, visit georgiadogs.com. Currently only all-session ticket packages are available online.


Post Georgia’s 2014 NFL draft recap

Monday May 12, 2014

Georgia’s 2014 NFL draft class wasn’t expected to be large, and it certainly played out that way. The Dawgs had just two players drafted – their lowest total since 2000 – and it’s been since 2008 that we had to wait until the 5th round to see a Bulldog selected.

Both the 2000 and 2008 draft results signaled reasons to be excited about the following seasons. The amount of talent returning in 2000 led to Jim Donnan’s giddy and infamous “55 years” quote that set up high expectations for the 2000 season. Georgia’s relatively small 2008 draft class also contributed to high expectations following a Sugar Bowl trip. With Stafford and Moreno headlining a talented core of returning players, it’s no surprise that the 2008 Dawgs started the season ranked as high as #1.

Will similar expectations follow the 2014 draft? There’s a strong returning core again on both sides of the ball. You could point to at least 6-8 players who have reasonable 2015 draft possibilities. Positions like tailback, receiver, and linebacker seem to be stocked with future pros. There do seem to be a few more uncertainties this time around. The 2000 team also featured a new defensive coordinator (thank goodness,) but that group of defenders was more solid from front to back – especially in the secondary. Georgia is more solid at tailback and receiver than it was entering 2000 and perhaps even 2008, but this year’s offense will be replacing a four-year starter at quarterback, three offensive line starters, and dealing with as much uncertainty at the tight end position as we’ve seen from a Mark Richt team. Georgia’s draft numbers should recover next year and the team should compete for an SEC East title, but – thanks in large part to concerns on defense – expectations won’t be as sky-high as they were in 2000 and 2008.

Georgia’s 2014 draft picks:

  • TE Arthur Lynch: 5th round to Miami (155 overall)
  • QB Aaron Murray: 5th round to Kansas City (163 overall)

Murray was the second SEC quarterback taken in the draft (Manziel was selected in the first round.) Murray was followed immediately by Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and later by LSU’s Zach Mettenberger. Lynch was the only SEC tight end drafted.

Following the draft, several undrafted Bulldog seniors signed free agent deals to attend rookie camps.

  • OL Chris Burnette: Tampa
  • OL Kenarious Gates: Tampa
  • OL Dallas Lee: Atlanta
  • ATH/DB Blake Sailors: Washington
  • DL Garrison Smith: Miami
  • WR Rantavious Wooten: Miami

Three other players who transferred from Georgia ended up with NFL teams:

  • QB Zach Mettenberger: drafted in the 6th round by Tennessee
  • RB Isaiah Crowell: undrafted free agent deal with Cleveland
  • DB Jordan Love: undrafted free agent deal with New England

Post Dawgs-Troy on SEC Network

Thursday May 1, 2014

Georgia’s football team will make its debut on the new SEC Network on September 20. The Dawgs will face Troy with a noon kickoff.

Each SEC school will have a game on the SEC Network over the first four weeks of the season. You can see the complete schedule here.

The SEC Network will be carried by AT&T U-Verse, DISH, and Google Fiber, but we’re still waiting to hear from carriers like Comcast and DirecTV. As Awful Announcing reports, the negotiations are getting a bit ugly. I caught the ad over the weekend that featured an emotional plea from an elderly woman about not being able to watch her grandson. It’s typical of the hardball we see between networks and carriers as they haggle over fees and even placement in the channel lineups. I still expect this to get worked out and for the SEC Network to fill the slot left by CSS in the Comcast lineup, but this “unauthorized” SEC Fans First campaign shows where the battle lines are.


Post SEC maintains 8-game schedule

Tuesday April 29, 2014

The SEC decided over the weekend that it will maintain its eight-game football schedule while adding a requirement that each team add an opponent from another BCS conference each season. The 8+1 model still leaves three games for each school to schedule as it pleases.

The requirement to play a power conference opponent just codifies what’s already happening. Four schools (Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky) have permanent opponents from the ACC. Most everyone else has played a BCS conference opponent recently, and they’ll just have to make arrangements for it to happen every year. Yes, teams will be tempted to look towards the bottom of those other conferences for opponents, but last season’s Mississippi State trip to Oklahoma State is a nice example of what else might be possible. Only four SEC schools don’t have a qualifying opponent in 2014, so the SEC is getting a nice PR boost for essentially maintaining the status quo.

ESPN’s Chris Fowler unfortunately criticizes the SEC vote as a threat to quality scheduling. While there are some good reasons for considering a ninth SEC game, strength of schedule metrics really aren’t among them. SEC programs consistently have some of the nation’s toughest schedules. Six of the top 7 SEC teams had schedules among Sagarin’s top 25. As @CFBMatrix put it,

Even if schedule strength were a concern, it would have been foolish to commit to a much more aggressive approach before we have some idea of how much it will matter to the selection committee.

Who is happiest with the plan?

Winners: Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee. The magnitude of these two historic rivalries was enough to steer the scheduling policy of the entire conference.

Losers: LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M. Four schools who could care less about the tradition of playing their cross-divisional permanent opponent are now locked into a fairly tough annual game.

Are the fans winners or losers? I guess it depends on your school and your priorities. If preserving the cross-divisional opponent mattered, you’re happy. If you wanted more variety among the teams you’d see from the other division (i.e., more frequent trips to Baton Rouge), you’re disappointed. If your school already has a nonconference rivalry game, you’re ambivalent. If your school doesn’t often schedule games against power conference opponents, you’ll get them. Most power conference teams will require a home-and-home, so get ready to travel.

Georgia fans will likely have mixed feelings about the plan. It’s certainly a positive to keep the Auburn rivalry. It’s a trade-off that we won’t see the other schools from the West as often. While the nonconference schedule will occasionally go soft as it will in 2015, the eight-game SEC schedule gives Georgia (and all SEC schools) flexibility. A ninth conference game along with Georgia Tech would almost certainly end ambitious and varied nonconference scheduling for Georgia. This plan keeps alive the possibility of a future series with Notre Dame (or Clemson or any other program.)