Tuesday June 4, 2013
Former Kent State skipper Scott Stricklin was confirmed as Georgia’s new baseball coach. The case for Stricklin seems to come down to three big selling points:
- He’s made Kent a fairly regular participant in the postseason, building a successful small program in the neighborhood of some larger schools.
- He’s used to providing an environment of academic success, and that should be a strong cultural fit at Georgia.
- The Tech ties might bother some Georgia fans, but let’s give credit where it’s due: Tech knows how to recruit Atlanta, and Stricklin was a big part of that as their recruiting coordinator. Getting an accomplished coach who knows his way around East Cobb and the other youth baseball hotspots is a big plus.
Stricklin is still a risk in terms of major program experience, but he’s no less risky than a top assistant with no head coaching experience. It goes without saying that a coach’s success depends on hiring a solid staff, managing the game, and developing players, but Stricklin has two additional key factors for success. The first is recruiting. There’a a reason why Georgia is considered a top 10 job. Playing in the SEC is part of it, but the amount of home-grown talent makes some very lofty goals achievable.
As little as most of us know about the college baseball coaching scene, I tend to put more stock into what others are saying. I haven’t read much negative about the hire, and a lot of the reaction has been positive to gushing:
“Scott Stricklin is a tremendous hire for the University of Georgia; he is a guy who has had a lot of success as a head coach, taking Kent State to the College World Series and perennially has had one of the best and most talented teams in the Midwest,” said Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis. “He’s got a background coaching in Georgia and in the SEC at Vanderbilt. As a Georgia alum, I was thrilled by the hire as well.”
Mark Fox has announced the promotion of former Bulldog starter Jonas Hayes to assistant coach. Hayes had been serving in an administrative role as Basketball Operations Coordinator, and the departure of Kwanza Johnson for TCU opened up a vacancy.
I have a soft spot for Jonas – not only was he part of some very entertaining teams a decade ago, he also posted his career high of 25 points in that 2004 upset of Tech in Athens, one of the most enjoyable Georgia basketball games I’ve attended. He’s a blank slate though as a coach, and a lot will be expected of him. Fair or not, this opening was a chance for Fox to improve the program’s lackluster recruiting, and he chose an internal promotion. Fox needs to sustain and accelerate the improvement we saw at the end of last season, and he is putting a lot on the line at a moment when his program could benefit from the shot in the arm that comes with a new assistant.
Kwanza Johnson wasn’t an especially strong recruiter of southeastern prospects. Most of his experience was further west. That helped with a player like Cameron Forte, but it didn’t do much to stop the exodus of talent from the state of Georgia. Hayes doesn’t have a strong recruiting resume yet – this is his first major college coaching gig – but hopefully the native Atlantan will help Georgia’s standing among local prospects.
One area where Johnson was strong was as a post coach. Georgia hasn’t had tremendous frontcourts, but with the exception of Thompkins, there hasn’t been a ton of talent to develop. It’s fair to say that Johnson helped Georgia get more with less up front. His departure leaves a need on the coaching staff, and Jonas Hayes will likely have a role continuing the development of the post players.
Fox isn’t done – Hayes’ promotion opens up an administrative position. Will Fox look to another former player, someone from his past, or will he explore the high school and AAU ranks to strengthen the program’s local relationships?
Tuesday May 28, 2013
Here’s where procrastination pays off: I had something about 90% done about the relatively quiet offseason as we passed the 100-day mark last week. I guess just thinking it was enough to jinx things:
There is a chance Georgia will be without starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons when the Bulldogs open the season against Clemson on Aug. 31.
Some disciplinary action seems likely, but a suspension isn’t a given yet. Harvey-Clemons hasn’t actually been charged with anything. The police didn’t file charges, but the UGA Office of Student Conduct will get their turn. It would be a big surprise if Harvey-Clemons weren’t tested as a result of this incident, and a positive test would of course change things. We’ll hear more about this after Richt and the university review the story.
In the meantime, Harvey-Clemons seems to have some judgement issues to work through. It was less than a year ago that he was in the car that featured in the incident that got Isaiah Crowell dismissed from the program. Last year’s traffic stop was the last straw for Crowell, and now Ty Flournoy-Smith, implicated with Harvey-Clemons in this dorm incident, is leaving. While Harvey-Clemons wasn’t charged in either case, it’s not a good for longevity to keep ending up in these kinds of situations – especially if he has eyes on a starting role.
UPDATE: Mark Richt was reached for comment at the SEC meetings in Destin, and Richt stated that Harvey-Clemons will indeed be suspended for the Clemson game. Suspensions for the 2003 opener at Clemson gave walk-on Tra Battle an opportunity to step up at safety, and the Dawgs will have to be as resourceful in their next trip to Death Valley.
Wednesday May 15, 2013
Not long after Georgia wraps up its home-and-home with Clemson in 2014, another ACC school could take Clemson’s place on the schedule for the 2016 season.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, FSU athletics director Randy Spetman said that “talks between the schools about a neutral-site 2016 game are ‘moving along.’” That game would likely be the season opener at the Georgia Dome.
The fate of this game might hang on what happens with the SEC schedule. The possibility of a nine-game conference schedule has been discussed for a while and could heat up during SEC meetings later this month. If a ninth conference game is added, it’s less likely that Georgia would agree to 1) give up another home game in order to play this neutral-site game and 2) add a team like FSU to one of the two available nonconference slots. As Mark Richt put it, “if we have nine, plus Tech and then if we want to do something like Clemson like we did this year, you’re talking about 11 out of 12 games that are pretty stout.”
Georgia and FSU last met in the 2003 Sugar Bowl, but there are still ties between the programs. Coaches Richt and Lilly had long stays in Tallahassee.
Looking at another angle, does a possible future date with Georgia make FSU that much less likely to release highly-touted linebacker Matthew Thomas? Georgia is one of the schools Thomas would consider if he were released. FSU’s reluctance to release Thomas to a school like Georgia takes on a slightly different light if the Dawgs are a possible future opponent.
Wednesday May 15, 2013
If (and it’s still an “if”) this turns out to be David Perno’s final season at the helm of the Diamond Dawgs, there will at least be one very bright spot. Georgia fought back from an early 7-0 deficit to take a 14-13 extra-innings win at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night. With the win on top of the earlier 17-0 rout ar Turner Field, Georgia took the first regular season series from its rival since 2007.
It’s been a long season for Georgia baseball fans, but there’s something to smile about today.
Tuesday May 14, 2013
Graduating linebacker Christian Robinson had signed a free agent deal with the St. Louis Rams last month, but he revealed yesterday that he’s hanging up his cleats.
Robinson announced today that he’ll be returning to the Georgia program as a graduate assistant. He’s been one of our favorites to follow over the past couple of years, and we’re glad he’ll still be around the program for a while longer.
Thursday May 2, 2013
The SEC and ESPN introduced the SEC Network this afternoon in Atlanta. As word of the announcement had been leaked for some time, neither the announcement nor many of the details were a big surprise. There will be a lot of games and a lot of money, though specific financial terms and other specifics were not discussed. We got a few minor details:
- The deal will run for 20 years, through 2034.*
- The network will not mean additional Thursday night football games. Commissioner Mike Slive declared, “we’re a Saturday league.” Amen.
- CBS will still have the first pick of games with the rest to be distributed by a “content board.” But while CBS will still have the big game, the SEC Network will run games that overlap the 3:30 time slot.
- AT&T U-verse is the only carrier currently signed on to carry the network, but negotiations are underway with everyone else. You can be sure that more agreements will be worked out over the next year.
- The aim for distribution is nationwide, but initial emphasis will be on widespread coverage in the SEC footprint.
- There will be 1,000 sporting events broadcast each year – 450 on the network and an additional 550 online. The network will carry 45 football games – three per week.
* – this is way off-topic, but you start to wonder what the product will look like in 20 years. Will athletics be one of the few physical remnants of universities that will have otherwise moved online? Will safety concerns transform the game of football into something far different? Will some of this money begin to trickle down to the student-athletes and bring a whole other set of equity questions that reshape college athletics? Will the success of these major conference networks further pry apart the top schools from the rest of the NCAA?
Wednesday May 1, 2013
The 2013 football game at Georgia Tech occupies its traditional spot at the end of Georgia’s regular season on November 30th. But basketball fans used to seeing the Tech game played in December and beyond will get to move the clean old-fashioned hate up a couple of weeks this year.
Marc Weiszer reports that the 2013-14 men’s basketball game against Georgia Tech in Athens will be on Friday November 15th. As Weiszer notes, it’s the Friday before the football game at Auburn. It’s very close to the beginning of the season which usually tips off in the first week of November, but Weiszer notes that Greg McGarity doesn’t expect the Tech game to be the season opener. The teams last met in November on Nov. 27 2002, an 83-77 Tech win. Of course the following Saturday was a much happier day for Georgia fans.
We’ve also learned that the women’s game against Tech will likely be on Sunday November 24th, the day after the home football game against Kentucky. This game was usually an early December contest, recently played the day after the SEC football championship game. Andy Landers’ squads are a little more used to big home games in November, hosting teams like TCU, Texas, Oklahoma and Rutgers in recent years.
Wednesday May 1, 2013
When the Stegeman Coliseum renovation was completed in 2011, the $13 million project brought the exterior and concourse out of the arena out of the ’60s. It was a significant improvement that went along with earlier work to the seating bowl and the addition of the Coliseum Training Facility to all but eliminate talk of a new arena.
The good news is that there are signs of progress. The Red & Black reports that the scaffolding could come down “in the next few weeks.” Choate Construction, the contractor responsible for the renovation, believes that they may be close to proposing a solution. At worst, it seems as if the scaffolding will be down before basketball season comes around again.
The not-so-good news is that there is still uncertainty about the safety of the glass going forward. The Red & Black added, “Choate said he thinks they have narrowed down what caused the glass to break in the past but they are still trying to determine if the glass is a risk to students and patrons in the future.”
Friday April 26, 2013
The SEC had a record 12 players selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and Georgia had two of them:
- LB Jarvis Jones: Selected with the 17th pick by Pittsburgh
- LB Alec Ogletree: Selected with the 30th pick by St. Louis
Georgia’s first defensive players selected in the first round in eight years came as no surprise. Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree were the stars of a talented defense, and both were projected as high draft picks well before the 2012 season.
It might’ve been a mild surprise that both dropped into the bottom half of the round, but each had areas of concern. Jones is a little undersized, he didn’t test well during workouts, and there’s the longterm uncertainty over his neck injury. Ogletree had plenty of off-field issues from the suspension to the poorly-timed DUI leading up to the draft, and there’s a twinge of doubt about a converted safety thriving as an NFL middle linebacker. Still, those concerns pale against the obvious talent and production each of them showed at Georgia. They’re the best prospects at their positions, and each should expect to play right away.
For an organization so closely tied to its defensive identity and 3-4 scheme, Jarvis Jones had to leap off of the Pittsburgh draft board. Jones was drafted to replace James Harrison, a veteran Pro Bowl linebacker and team leader that was released earlier in the offseason. With Harrison’s role open, Jones has the opportunity to become as important to the Pittsburgh defense as Hines Ward was to the Steeler offense. Jones joins former Georgia punter Drew Butler in Pittsburgh.
Ogletree’s immediate future is a little less clear. The Rams might be set at middle linebacker with former Buckeye James Laurinaitis. Ogletree would be a big speed upgrade at the position, but it’s also possible that he could move to a weakside linebacker role in St. Louis’s 4-3 system. He’ll be the only Dawg in St. Louis.
Orson Crowded Out?
One of the picks with implications for a former Bulldog was Cincinnati’s selection of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. Eifert was the top tight end on the board, but the Bengals already have Pro Bowl TE Jermaine Gresham and, of course, Orson Charles. The selection of Eifert doesn’t mean that Charles is on his way out; teams carry at least three tight ends. But with Gresham firmly established as the starter and a highly-paid first round pick coming in, it’s going to be a fight for Charles to remain on the roster, let alone find much playing time. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wasn’t terribly reassuring. “Orson (Charles) was coming along, but we need another tight end.”
Round 2 kicks off Friday night at 6:30 p.m. with Round 3 to follow. The draft concludes on Saturday with Rounds 4-7 beginning at noon. Several other Georgia defenders, including John Jenkins and Cornelius Washington, could be selected on Friday evening before the end of the third round.
Tuesday April 23, 2013
I try to avoid linking most paywall content here, but in addition to Dasher’s interview with McGarity below there’s another piece from ESPN ($) I hope most people are able to read. It’s fantastic.
Certainly most of the recruiting process comes down to athletics – will I play, will I go pro, will we win titles? For some prospects that might even be enough. But most prospects, and especially their families, have a lot more on their minds. They’ll be going off to school for three or four years where they’ll be expected to take classes as well as play ball. To help families understand that environment, most schools have prospects meet with professors and other people outside of athletics. Georgia is no exception.
What is exceptional about Georgia is one of the people Mark Richt prefers to seek out for that role. As Radi Nabulsi puts it, associate professor Dr. Gary Green of the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources is “a high school dropout from England with zero knowledge of football.”
He’s also, according to parents, prospects, and current players, “genuine.” Prospects can get their fill of football from their contacts on the coaching staff. Green’s role is to prepare the prospects for success in the environment in which the student-athlete will be immersed for the next several years – whether or not it’s at Georgia. Green points to Mark Richt’s open and honest style and has tried to incorporate that both into his teaching and in his dealings with recruits.
Give the whole thing a read if you can, and you’ll see why one of the more important people in the recruiting process wore yellow to his first Georgia game.
Tuesday April 23, 2013
It was Anthony Dasher’s birthday yesterday, but he gave us a present with a lengthy interview with athletic director Greg McGarity ($). The interview is behind the paywall, but it’s really worth a read if you’re a UGASports.com subscriber.
The questions come from UGASports.com subscribers and touch on everything from the future of the baseball program to shuttered concession stands inside of Sanford Stadium. Will Georgia join the football staffing arms race? What are the expectations for the competitiveness of the basketball program? It’s a comprehensive survey of topics of interest to Georgia fans.
If you’re itching for an indoor facility or want to see Georgia’s drug and alcohol policy scaled back, you might not like McGarity’s answers. I give him credit for his candor – some of the questions are fairly pointed, and McGarity doesn’t avoid them.
Fans might be frustrated with the lack of a grandiose facilities construction plan or impatient over the direction of the baseball and basketball programs, but McGarity stresses that the lines of communication are open. This quote was in response to a question about the football game day experience, but it applies to just about any concern a fan might have. McGarity, in our experience, is often quick to respond.
But it’s important for fans to let us know where they are experiencing problems. We want to be responsive. If someone is having a problem with a certain area, let us know and we’ll certainly try to address it. We may not be able to solve it, but it will certainly have our attention.
Wednesday April 17, 2013
There’s an interesting item from Marc Weiszer in which Mark Richt touches on both sides of the debate over adding a ninth conference game.
At the macro level, the money says to go to nine games. The fans want it, and the TV contracts will demand it. The payouts will more than make up for any home games lost. Richt realizes this and admits, “If we go to 16, I can’t imagine us not going to less than nine games. I think we would have to go nine.”
But there are incentives at the individual level, too. Richt is a coach who gets to keep his job by winning games. His incentives reward wins and titles, not impressive schedules. He’s likely to resist things that make his job tougher, so it’s reasonable that he resists supporting an additional conference game.
I voted against it because if we have nine, plus Tech and then if we want to do something like Clemson like we did this year, you’re talking about 11 out of 12 games that are pretty stout.
We know that even the head coach answers to someone, and the larger interest will eventually win out. The coaches will come along reluctantly. Still, some of those same incentives that govern Richt matter for the school. More wins mean better bowls, larger payouts, and happier fans who donate more money. How do you get there while taking on an additional conference game? Your conference schedule might be set, but you still have three games with which to play. As Richt noted, an out-of-conference rivalry game leaves you with little flexibility.
Unfortunately I expect that it will come at the cost of aggressive nonconference scheduling. There is little incentive to play anyone of note in those remaining games because an SEC team is still going to end up with a respectable strength of schedule, especially with an additional conference game. There are a few things that could make teams go against their best interests in scheduling those remaining games:
- Rules: The Big Ten is doing away with games against FCS teams. Similar steps by other conferences or even at the NCAA level would affect scheduling (or cause a rush by under-qualified FCS schools to join the FBS.)
- TV Money: Networks, who are now in partnership with several conferences, will put a lot of pressure on schools to schedule games that provide attractive matchups for programming.
- Neutral site games: Did you notice the price of Georgia-Florida tickets this year? They’re not done rising. Neutral site games are money-making machines for top-level teams.
- Ego: Remember who the decision-makers are. As silly as it is to attach notions of manhood to schedules perceived as weak, it works.
Is the Tech game untouchable in the world of nine conference games? I’d like to think so, but let’s ask the Aggies and Longhorns. If it came down to it with nine conference games, would you prefer to keep the Tech series so that interesting nonconference games are less frequent, or would you rather drop the series if it meant a larger variety of quality opponents?
Tuesday April 16, 2013
While Georgia’s men’s basketball star announced for the draft yesterday, the senior class of the women’s program had three players selected in last night’s WNBA draft. Jasmine Hassell was taken in the second round (21st overall) by defending champs Indiana. Jasmine James (Seattle) and Anne Marie Armstrong (Atlanta) were selected back-to-back in the third round.
Hassell, James, and Armstrong were part of an accomplished senior class that played in four NCAA Tournaments. They reached the Sweet 16 twice and were an overtime loss away from the Final Four this year.
These three draft picks make 16 Lady Dogs drafted in the last 13 years. Georgia’s three draftees are the most for the program in a single season since 2001 when Kelly Miller, Coco Miller, and Deanna Nolan were all selected in the first round.
Tuesday April 16, 2013
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has decided to take the plunge and enter the NBA Draft. We enjoyed watching him develop and play, and he’s given us no shortage of great moments in his two seasons. He’s been an ideal representative for the University. Selfishly I would’ve loved for him to stay another year. Not that it matters, but I think he made the right call.
Would Caldwell-Pope had improved with another year? He definitely had things to work on. His ball-handling sometimes caused him problems. He could be better at driving rather than settling for the jumpshot (but if you could shoot like he can, you’d take the jumper too.) He wasn’t much of a threat to leave after his freshman season, but his decision to stay paid off: he became a much more complete player with improved defense and patience to go along with the shot that was there from the beginning. I can believe that it was a tough decision. If he improved this much from a year ago, what would one more year do?
It’s not as clear that another season would have paid the same dividends. He’d be working on growth in some specific areas against defenses whose first priority would be to deny him the ball. We had already started to see some of this by the end of the season, but it didn’t take much scouting to figure out that you could dedicate one or even two defenders exclusively to locking down KCP. To his credit, and to our amazement, he still put up impressive numbers. Still, that defensive strategy led to stretches and entire halves in which KCP struggled to score, and it was all the rest of the team could do to stay in the game until KCP found his stride.
With Georgia’s outlook and personnel for next season roughly unchanged, it had to be easy for Caldwell-Pope to envision an entire season that looked like the last month of the 2012-2013 season. He’d be harassed as the primary target for every opposing defense – nothing new, but also not particularly fun. It’s reasonable that he’d put up similar numbers, but that’s not the kind of growth that would elevate him from his current draft outlook to a sure lottery pick. It’s hard to focus on specific elements of your game when the team finds itself in survival mode night after night and needs you to score by any means necessary.
Caldwell-Pope leaves Georgia as the reigning SEC Player of the Year. With even a comparable season it’s less likely that his stock would be as high as it is now. He’d have the benefit of instant name recognition, but the competition might be tougher to repeat as SEC POY. Eight SEC schools have signed members of ESPN’s top 100 prep players, and Kentucky’s class alone will produce several likely candidates. He’s going out on top, at least individually.
Of course his departure will affect next year’s team. The Dawgs struggled to put points on the board even with KCP on the court. The funny thing is that his position, shooting guard, is one of the deeper and more talented spots on the roster for Georgia. Kenny Gaines had his moments as a freshman, and incoming guard Juwan Parker is a 6’4″ scorer. But while we can expect important contributions from both Gaines and Parker, it’s asking a lot for either to become a 15+ PPG player right away. Georgia must still deal with a limited skill set on offense among the frontcourt players, and that’s where the biggest gains would have happen. You need guys like Morris, Williams, and a healthy Thornton to step up. You need Djurisic to be more consistent. The Dawgs can still sign up to two players during the spring, and they might even dip back into the JUCO ranks as they did with Florveus.
Thursday April 11, 2013
As Michael Adams’ time as the University of Georgia’s president draws to a close, there will be no end of retrospective pieces. The Red & Black has an overview of Adams’ influence on the football program and specifically his role in hiring Mark Richt.
There’s mention over the struggle between Adams and Dooley, and Dooley avoided the opportunity to score a shot on the outgoing president. Dooley provides some perspective on Richt weathering the storm of 2010 and 2011, and both he and Richt have positive things to say about Adams’ replacement, Dr. Jere Morehead.