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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 Offense brought to you by the letter H

Thursday July 31, 2014

Tyler asked a good question earlier in the week: “Why do we keep listing Quayvon Hicks as an H back?”

The role of the fullback has been on our radar for several years since we learned in 2011 that former tight end Bruce Figgins would be moved into the backfield. Figgins never really strayed from the typical fullback role, but his move started a discussion about the fullback’s place in a more diverse offense beyond good ol’ 344-Fullback.

Since then it’s been a rough time for fans of the fullback. Kyle King noted after the 2011 season that production from the position had been falling. When Brendan Douglas arrived last year, we wondered if he wouldn’t find his own niche in a crowded backfield. The injuries at tailback made any experimentation a luxury in 2013. Mike Bobo explained yesterday that Georgia in 2013 was a “one-back team 74 percent of the time,” trading a fullback for a third receiver.

So once again it’s preseason and we’re talking about a new way to use a former fullback.

The difference this year is that the coaches are talking about it too. The H-back has more or less been idle fan speculation – daydreaming about the best ways to use someone like Figgins. Now it’s a position mentioned by coaches, and there even seems to be a plan behind the position. Two players are now allocated to the position, and the staff has put thought into how to split the training between the tight end and backfield coaches. With that information, Tyler’s hunch about some tweaks to the offense seems to have been spot on.

No, it’s not going to be a dramatic change in scheme or an every-down look. As Bobo notes, there will still be a need for the power sets with a true fullback, and hopefully a healthy Jay Rome and Jordan Davis can fill the traditional tight end role that has been so important for Georgia under Mark Richt. It won’t even be the first time we’ve seen Hicks involved as an offset fullback or tight end – watch this play-action pass against Clemson. Not bad. (Incidentally, note the respect for Gurley by the Clemson defense on that play-action that opened so much room for Hicks.)

So why didn’t we see more of that? We were all excited for Hicks and his distinctive facemask after some big plays early in the season, but he was used less and less afterwards. From October on, Hicks had just two carries and three receptions. He ended up starting only six games and didn’t touch the ball in the final four games. A big reason behind his dwindling role had to do with blocking. As Bobo explained, “His issue sometimes blocking has been out in space, which causes him not to fit up properly.” You can see what Bobo was talking about on the blocked punt at Tennessee last year.

With another player added to the position and a more structured approach to coaching the H-back role, we should expect to see the role featured more often in the offense. How often will depend on the readiness of Blazevich and Hicks’s ability to develop consistency and clean up the details that kept him off the field in 2013.


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 First 2014 ticket cutoff scores announced

Monday July 7, 2014

Speaking of demand for football tickets, Georgia has released the first pass of cutoff scores for 2014. While most of the big road games won’t be announced for several weeks, there are some interesting things to note:

  • After a few seasons in which all new donors received renewable season tickets, there is once again a cutoff score for new applicants. “Hartman Fund donors with 1,001 priority points who contributed a minimum of $250 per seat and ordered renewable season tickets will receive them.” Georgia hasn’t had a cutoff for new adjacent renewable season tickets since 2010.
  • There are no adjacent pairs of non-renwable season tickets this year. We don’t know if that means individual season tickets might be available, but we usually see an announcement about that later.
  • Auburn, Tennessee, and Clemson – to no one’s surprise – lead the demand for additional home tickets. There wasn’t even a cutoff for additional Auburn tickets.
  • Arkansas is a hot road ticket. The Dawgs have never played in Little Rock, and so Arkansas joins Florida and South Carolina as games whose cutoff score is still to be determined.

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 Malcolm Mitchell – poised for a comeback?

Thursday June 26, 2014

The Dr. Saturday site recently ran a series on the top five offensive players poised for a comeback in 2014. Their choices are fine, but the category immediately brought one Georgia player to mind: Malcolm Mitchell.

Mitchell’s freak injury just minutes into the 2013 season, but his entire career has been plagued by fits and starts with injuries and position changes keeping him from putting up the numbers you’d expect from the team’s most talented receiver. When healthy and on his game, he’s among the best receivers in the nation. His catch rate (how often a receiver catches passes thrown his way) was well over 70% in both 2011 and 2012. It was a whopping 79% on passing downs in 2011.

That kind of dependable target certainly contributed to Aaron Murray’s rise, but Mitchell (along with Tavarres King) gave the Bulldog offense something else: a downfield threat. As Jon Gruden observed, “Nobody throws the ball down field better than Georgia.” Murray was a big part of that downfield attack, but you have to have the targets. As Georgia’s receivers began to fall during the 2013 season, the vertical element of the passing game dwindled to the point where they didn’t even try to go deep at Vanderbilt.

Justin Scott-Wesley stepped up well enough in 2013, until his own season-ending injury, to maintain that vertical threat after Mitchell went down. Freshman Reggie Davis had his moments, but it would have asked a lot of a rookie to take on a larger role. The lack of a vertical passing game that was so glaring at Vanderbilt returned in the bowl game and made things that much more difficult for Hutson Mason.

On an offense with such a high-profile tailback and a very visible quarterback transition, it’s fairly easy to question the impact of a receiver who’s only had one 100+ yard game since his freshman season in 2011. Durability will naturally be a concern as injuries hit Mitchell early in both 2012 and 2013. It’s encouraging to hear that Mitchell (and some other key returnees on offense) are doing well and participating at full speed. We’ll still be holding our breath with every daily preseason injury report.

We were excited about seeing Mitchell last season in his first year completely dedicated to receiver, and we’ll double down on that this summer. His combination of reliability, explosiveness, and what he brings to the downfield element of the passing game will open up a lot of things for the rest of the offense. There are several important players poised for a 2014 comeback – even Gurley if you look at it a certain way – but few who can bring so much to the offense.


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.)


Post Ticket demand and schedule

Thursday April 24, 2014

If you’re a Hartman Fund donor at a certain level, you might have received a note this week with this offer: “The Georgia Bulldog Club is offering you the opportunity to request additional non-renewable season tickets.” Qualifying donors may request as many as eight non-renewable season tickets before the deadline in May.

Now before we assign any sweeping trends to the availability of extra season tickets, this news isn’t unusual. Yes, the $10,000 donation that it took for first-time season tickets in 2008 seems like a long time ago, but that spike in demand was the exception. Extra season tickets remained in years before 2008 and have remained in years since.

You only have to look around the nation (or in the Georgia student section) to see that schools face challenges in packing their stadiums. It’s true that some schools are undertaking ambitious expansions and renovations. We’ll see if the fans follow. Even the programs on top have trouble holding interest. Administrators are grasping at ideas to compete with the experience of watching a game from the comforts of home.

Georgia ticket sales have remained strong in this climate, but even the Dawgs aren’t immune from the pressures on demand. Is that what we’re seeing in the season ticket numbers? We won’t know until the totals are in, and even then it will take a few years of data to establish a trend. Individual teams face their own micro factors in ticket demand – how do fans feel about the coming season? How did they like last season? How do they feel about the coaches and the offseason moves?

If you want to raise a small red flag, we’re talking about extra season tickets remaining for a season that features Clemson, Auburn, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech on the home slate. How will things look in 2015 when the home schedule drops off precipitously after South Carolina?

That brings us to the quality of the schedule. I’m not as gung-ho as others on a 9th SEC game driving ticket demand. The same temptations that keep people at home still apply. We like to imagine that the 9th game will always be a big draw like Alabama or LSU, but it’s just as likely to be Arkansas or Mississippi State. It still figures to draw bigger crowds than a lightweight opponent as demand grows more elastic. How much bigger? That’s where I’m slightly skeptical. If we do move in that direction, it’s pretty clear that the push is going to have to come from the administrators rather than the coaches.

SEC coaches again emerged from a discussion about the 9th SEC game without much support for the idea. Saban, who champions both a 9th conference game *and* another game against a power conference opponent, is playing a solo rather than leading the band. We know that keeping the schedule at 8 games could jeopardize traditional rivalries, but coaches don’t seem to mind. I don’t really blame the coaches for acting in their own interests. Another conference game by definition spreads 7 more losses around the league affecting everything from job security to bowl bids to bonuses. A coach like Saban might feel relatively secure in those areas, but many of his peers can’t afford to take the risk.

When the 9th game comes – and it will – it’s going to come from top-down pressure by administrators. They’ll hear the demands from networks wanting a better inventory of games, and they’ll do what it takes to keep the money flowing in by appeasing those networks and priming demand for tickets. They just won’t (and shouldn’t) count on the coaches to lead the charge.


Post Stegeman work to begin, and they mean it this time

Wednesday April 16, 2014

The protective scaffolding around Stegeman Coloseum has been an eyesore for more than two years as the school bickered with contractors over the costs of securing the glass panels installed in 2011. We’ve been teased with a resolution before, but it looks as if work will finally begin to correct the flaw that had marred a showcase renovation.

The Red & Black reports that “Stegeman Coliseum…will be undergoing construction to retrofit the glass panel installation and eventually remove the scaffolding.”

The project was supposed to have started on Monday and should be finished July 31.


Post You’re not helping, NCAA

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Shot:

In order to adapt to a game that has become more up-tempo, the Bulldogs are emphasizing getting lighter at all defensive positions. Pruitt thinks his defense as a whole is “too big” and needs to cut down.

Chaser:

The NCAA’s legislative council approved a proposal Tuesday to expand the meal allowance for all athletes….The proposal would allow Division I schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to all athletes, including walk-ons. The measure still must be approved by the board of directors, which meets April 24.