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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Important blog note

On Friday at 3 p.m. eastern time, we will officially transition to the new blog location, which will be on the platform (i.e., web site) of each paper.

This should NOT cause any hassle to you readers; the current blog will immediately re-direct to the new site, and will do so for awhile.

In the meantime, if you want to start early and bookmark the new sites, here they are:

You'll notice there's nothing there at the moment. Obviously that will change, and I'm going to attempt to cut-and-paste as many of the recent posts as I can.

We figured it was a good time, right before practice starts, to make the transition. You will still have a choice as to whether to read or comment to either the Telegraph or Ledger-Enquirer blog.

Anonymous posting on the new blog sites will be allowed until early next week, when I will - barring major protest - re-institute the requirement that you register in order to comment. (There's a technical reason for having to wait until next week to do it, too complicated to explain.)

All in all, we're hoping this is a very positive step forward for everybody. It makes it easier for me to post, as I can now post the blog once and it goes to both sites, instead of having to post to two different sites. And when I'm able to post quicker, that helps you get the info in a more timely fashion.

The presentation of the new sites is also a bit more professional. The Google blogger platform has served us well, but it was time to get on a company-wide platform. After all, this is a blog that supplements the coverage in the papers.

I'm sure some people will blanch a bit at the change, but just bear with us and trust me that this will be for the best. I'm also thinking of some ways to improve the blogging process this season, and am open to any and all suggestions. Overall, I think things are going well, but there's no reason we can't be better.

So ... onward and upward.

Inside linebacking corps takes yet another hit

Reserve Brandon Burrows will have shoulder surgery on Tuesday and miss the 2011 season, Georgia announced. The inside linebacker has what the team called "chronic shoulder instability" in his right shoulder.

Burrows, a redshirt freshman, saw time in the spring and was expected to provide depth this season behind starters Christian Robinson and Alec Ogletree. Richard Samuel was also supposed to play there before being shifted back to tailback a couple weeks ago.

Marcus Dowtin, the team's fourth-leading tackler last year, and Nick Williams each transferred after last season. So now junior Mike Gilliard is the only other player besides Robinson who has played college snaps at that position.

On top of that, Georgia is still waiting for recruit Kent Turene to get through the NCAA clearinghouse. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said last week he expected Turene to be fine.

Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, two other freshmen recruits, could now be in line for immediate playing time. So will Turene once he makes it to campus.

Robinson said Wednesday that Jeremy Sulek, a walk-on, and "the young guys" would have to step up.

“Me and Mike G are the only two that have really taken reps (at inside linebacker),” Robinson said. “Alec’s gonna have a great season. He’s prepared and knows the defense at linebacker now. He knows how to play linebacker. I’m just excited to see him contribute.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Jarvis Jones update

Here's a link to the latest on the Jarvis Jones situation. The Ledger-Enquirer has a story detailing how the police records seem to show more of a money connection between Jones and the Georgia Blazers AAU team.

The coach of that team, Tony Adams, has been described by people close to Jones as a father figure. In addition to the payments reported in the original report, the Ledger-Enquirer found two more, totaling $700.

As the story says: "A crux of the investigation involving Jones is the nature of his pre-existing relationship with Adams." So I'm not sure this story, while it definitely adds important details, changes the facts on the ground very much.

Based on what is publicly known ... and allow me to emphasize that again ... BASED ON WHAT IS PUBLICLY KNOWN, I think we're left with this right now:

- Will UGA's internal investigation, set to wrap up within days, determine that Jones and Adams had a long-standing pre-existing relationship? And would the NCAA agree?

- If so, the question then becomes whether the fund from which the payments came are a problem, at least from the NCAA's point of view. Will it be determined that Adams controlled the fund, which would then help Jones' side argue that this was merely a father figure passing along some money? Or will the fund be found to be something different?

We simply don't know for certainty the answer to either of these questions. So drawing any conclusions at this point, and opining on whether or not Jones will face a suspension, is not something I'm ready to do.

The word from veterans: Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Sanders are standing out

Georgia football fans have been hungering for any information about their team’s incoming freshman, who have enrolled and been working out on campus. But with practice not beginning yet, the best source of insight have been Georgia veterans.

Defensive co-captain Christian Robinson has already pinpointed four players who have made the best impression on him so far during summer workouts: receiver Malcolm Mitchell and defensive backs Damian Swann, Chris Sanders and Corey Moore.

“Those four guys already have picked up more on defense and offense than most freshman I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Robinson said. “Damian, Corey and Chris on defense already know what we’re expecting and it’ll just come down to making plays in practice and showing they can contribute.”

Then Mitchell got a heaping of praise:

“I’ve never seen anybody that could stop on a dime like he can,” Robinson said. “I mean, I love A.J. (Green), but A.J. never stopped like he can. He gets separation. A.J.’s got that speed and quickness, but I’ve never seen someone with the feet that (Mitchell) has, and just the separation he can achieve with his routes.”

Well, I guess we know why Mitchell’s not playing defense.

Junior tight end Orson Charles also singled out Mitchell and Sanders. He called Mitchell "explosive" and willing to work. As for what stood out about Sanders: "He looks good. Physically he looks good. And covering TK (Tavarres King), even though he gets beat he'll get back up and do it again."

The aforementioned Tavarres King, a junior like Robinson, also heaped praise on Mitchell.

“He’s just a tremendous athlete,” King said. “He can do a lot of different things. One day he was just torching all the DBs when we were doing pass (drills). … You know, he’s gonna help this football team a lot.”

In general, King's summation of the young receivers - including Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Sanford Seay - is "speed."

"Flat-out fast. If their knowledge can be as quick as their feet, they're gonna be tremendous," King said.

Robinson was also asked about the most hyped freshman, tailback Isaiah Crowell.

“You know, I’ve been kinda separate from him, when we do our drills I really don’t work with him,” Robinson said. “But I know one day we were out there and he’s been able to burn some people with his ability. He has all the physical tools that are necessary to be a great back here. I’m excited to see him in camp.”

King was also asked for his initial impression of Crowell.

“He’s gonna be a guy that you just hand him the ball and watch him work," King said. "They’re all just ballplayers, and they’re all just tremendous athletes. I’m extremely excited to see how he does when the pads are on.”

A few other here-and-there notes:

- Crowell, of course, was expected to be a huge factor even before the departures of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King. But those two are gone, along with five other players who have transferred or been academically ineligible.

“Some of the guys that are not here, they made their decisions, whether they were right or wrong," Robinson said. "I think the guys that are here, that are left, are the ones that one to be at Georgia the most. Some guys didn’t always fit in and didn’t always do what they were supposed to do, and didn’t behave. Nothing against them, but they just didn’t fit into what we needed right now.”

The exception was King, whom Robinson played with for one year in high school.

“That’s probably the one that I don’t think fits in with the rest. Caleb wanted to be here and went through some tough things," Robinson said. "But the guys we have here on this team, the guys we have left, we have everything we need to have a great season.”

- Robinson also offered his reaction to the Samuel move back to tailback, and away from inside linebacker:

“When he moved I told him, ‘I’m just upset I have to hit you in practice.’ People think we have depth issues. I think we just need guys to step up. At any position we have enough guys here at Georgia to get things done. Richard’s gonna step up and help the running back position. And we’re gonna have linebackers step up and make those plays, even if they don’t have that many reps.”

So what now at inside linebacker? The team has already lost Nick Williams and Marcus Dowtin to transfer, Robinson didn’t confirm whether Brandon Burrows is out. He just said he expected Burrows to contribute “in the long haul,” then mentioned Jeremy Sulek and “the young guys” that would have to step up.

“Me and Mike (Gilliard) are the only two that have really taken reps (at inside linebacker),” Robinson said. “Alec’s gonna have a great season. He’s prepared and knows the defense at linebacker now. He knows how to play linebacker. I’m just excited to see him contribute.”

- Jarvis Jones has continued to work hard during the investigation, according to Robinson. I asked if, based on what he’s seen the past year, Jones is worth the consternation that fans and coaches are having over his eligibility. Robinson said he is.

“He is everything people expect of him, what he could be,” Robinson said. “He’s played. He’s played at the college level already. He’s got the tools that could take him beyond college and have a great career there. So I think the things he contributes to this team are very important to us. We need a guy like him with his speed.”

- Charles, fielding what may have been his first "are you going pro" question, successfully ducked it.

"How I handle that is I'm not talking about it right now. I'm not worried about it right now," he said. "I'm gonna leave it up to God. Whatever God has for me, I'll be blessed either way. But right now I'm focused on this season and winning."

- Quarterback Aaron Murray is taking on a more vocal leadership role, according to Charles.

"He snapped the other day, and we were all like, 'Whoa!'" Charles said. "We definitely respected that, because a lot of people were playing around. And he was like, 'Y'all gotta quit playing around, we came out to work.' He's starting to be more of a vocal leader, so that's good. ... He earned that right."

- Charles said he now weighs 245 pounds, a decrease of about five pounds since the beginning of the summer. And he took the high road when asked if he was under-utilized last year.

"I don't think so," he said. "I think Bobo did a fairly good job of calling the plays. I felt like as a whole we could have played a little harder, played a little faster, and had fun playing the game. But I think this spring it changed a lot. We were having fun, we were competing. In the locker room we were just embracing. So I'm just looking forward to this season."

Mike Bobo talks about the busy offseason, and where it leaves the offense

Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo spent some time speaking to the media on Wednesday morning. A few players are coming in next. While we wait, the highlights from Bobo:

- He admitted that the attrition since spring practice “unnerves you a little bit. They always seem to happen when you’re on vacation.” But he saw it as opening more opportunities for people.

“Truth be told, I’m still excited about what we have coming back,” he said.

- The coaches aren’t allowed to have any football contact with the players during the summer. (Bobo ran into Isaiah Crowell the other day as the ballyhooed tailback was going into a study hall. That’s allowed, but quizzing Crowell on the playbook or watching film of workouts is verboten.)

The strength and conditioning staff has been working with players, but the coaches can’t even talk to those staff members about players.

”You get zero (access),” Bobo said. “You can’t watch film. They don’t film it. You can’t talk to a strength coach about whether a guy’s showing up, or ‘Hey Aaron how’s a guy doing.’ … It’s very frustrating sometimes.”

- The offensive line depth is obviously poor, but Bobo was taking the optimistic route.

“We’re not very deep. But you only need five,” Bobo said. “I think we played ’02 with only five linemen the whole year. And one other year we played with six. You’d like to have more depth. But I feel good about what we have.”

He feels good about the three seniors – center Ben Jones and tackles Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson – and he also mentioned Chris Burnette (slated to start at guard) and backup Kolton Houston. The team is also getting good reports from the training staff on Dallas Lee, who missed most of spring practice.

- There aren’t any other imminent defense-to-offense moves, according to Bobo. While several freshmen were signed with the idea of playing both ways (Malcolm Mitchell, Nick Marshall and Damian Swann) early on in practice the concentration will be on them learning their base positions.

- Bobo seemed genuinely excited about the potential of Richard Samuel, now back at tailback after a redshirt year at linebacker. Bobo watched every carry Samuel had during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and it reminded him that he was a hard, physical and fast runner, who had the ability to break tackles.

“The guy ran hard and physical,” Bobo said. “There were some times that guys turned down hitting him because of how big he was and how hard he was running.”

- As for Isaiah Crowell, Bobo expressed the hope that fans (and the media) would give Crowell some space early on.

“There’s gonna be a lot of pressure on this young man. There’s gonna be a lot of attention from fans and from you guys. Hopefully you guys won’t be able to talk to him (for awhile),” Bobo said, smiling at the media. “The main thing is you’ve gotta go to work and you’ve gotta earn your way. That’s what coaches always try to teach freshman: be yourself, and find your way here.”

- Ken Malcome, the redshirt freshman, was kind of a forgotten man. He was listed even behind walk-on Brandon Harton in the post-spring depth chart, but Bobo attributed that to Malcome’s groin injury.

“Ken is a guy that we felt good about going into spring ball. He just had injuries. I’m not sure but I think he missed about 10 practices,” Bobo said. “I think it was more of an injury thing about why he was behind Harton. Harton … Now Ken is going to be given an opportunity this fall to see what he can do. I’m still excited about Ken.”

- At fullback, it’s still basically a competition between Bruce Figgins and Zander Ogletree, with walk-on Dustin Royston also in the mix.

But Jay Rome could also get a look in the backfield, in the same kind of hybrid fullback-tight end role that is envisioned for Figgins. Rome’s path at tight end would appear to be blocked by Orson Charles, Aron White and even Arthur Lynch, but Bobo said this when asked if they’d try to find a way to get Rome on:

“I don’t care what the depth says. If a guy shows he can make plays and be productive, you’ve gotta play them.”

- Finally, Bobo is also the quarterbacks coach. But he only got one question about the actual quarterback, which is probably good news. And Bobo says Aaron Murray is still working as hard as he did last year.

“The hype and accolades really haven’t changed this kid,” Bobo said. “I feel like he’s gonna have another outstanding year.”

I didn't run every comment. So if there's any ground that went uncovered that you're curious about, ask a question below and I'll try to help. - Seth

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Story: Georgia veterans anxious to see freshmen

Here's another story from media days, via Mike Lough, which was just posted on

There's a lot of curiosity about the freshmen and how they're doing so far. Practice officially begins next week, but during summer workouts the veterans have been able to gauge the ability and work ethic of guys like Isaiah Crowell, Malcolm Mitchell, Damian Swann and others.

“Malcom Mitchell, off the top,” (cornerback Brandon) Boykin said. “I guard him a lot every day, and he’s progressing really great. Chris Sanders -- a defensive back, he’ll probably play corner -- looks really good, can run.”

More stuff in the story.

From Columbus, some more insight on the Jarvis Jones situation

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity provided an update Monday night on the Jarvis Jones investigation, saying the school had been doing its due diligence and was hoping to have a report to turn into the SEC (and perhaps NCAA) by the end of this week.

How much jeopardy Jones is in remains an open question. And even if UGA's internal investigation satisfies itself and the SEC, the NCAA may have additional questions.

So for a bit of background and insight, I now bring in Chris White, a reporter for the Ledger-Enquirer. Chris has been the lead preps writer at the Ledger-Enquirer for several years now. In addition to those duties, he covers other miscellaneous events in Columbus, including a lot of games hosted or put on in conjunction with the parks and rec department. It was through working at those events that he dealt with former parks and rec director Tony Adams, and wrote several stories on Jones while he was at USC and when he returned to Columbus during breaks.

Emerson: Chris, for those who aren't quite sure on all the details, what is the essence of what happened here with Jarvis Jones, and why could his eligibility be in jeopardy? And briefly describe how all this came to light.

White: Jones is facing the possibility that he received improper benefits, which would be a violation of NCAA rules. In short, he was given plane tickets to travel to and from Los Angeles that were paid for out of an account set up – illegally – to run a parks and rec-sponsored AAU basketball team Jones was a part of. Blurring the issue a bit is who was running the team and oversaw that account, a former parks and rec director who was also a longtime father figure to Jones. The issue came up when Ledger-Enquirer reporter and now metro editor Chuck Williams began covering an audit of the parks department. After investigations, former parks and rec director Tony Adams and East Marietta Basketball director William Fox pleading guilty to felony conspiracy to defraud charges and former parks and rec employee Herman Porter pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft charges.

Emerson: There is no dispute, presumably, that Jones was the recipient of the plane tickets. That leads to two key questions: Did Jones have enough of a pre-existing relationship with the man, whom you describe as a father-figure? And even if he is a father figure and satisfies the NCAA's definition of a pre-existing relationship, did the money come explicitly from him, or from a more general account, almost a slush fund?

White: The relationship between Jones and Adams, the former parks and rec director, goes back to at least Jones’ middle school years, as far as I know. Jones’ legal guardian was a 10-year employee of the parks and rec department when all of this became news, and so of course Adams was her supervisor and knew both of them. I haven’t been able to get a clear answer as to how Adams’ relationship with Jones began and whether it started as more of a personal mentor or strictly as a coach. But this late in the game it’s almsot a moot point arguing which came first or where the line is drawn. From my experience – and I used to deal with Adams regularly and talk to Jones whenever he was home on break – the two were very close. Wherever Adams went, I could find Jones hanging around. If I was trying to reach Jones for a story, I’d call Adams and two minutes later hear back from Jones. And seeing them interact it was clear, at least to me, that their relationship was deeper than the average coach-player relationship and more along the lines of a father-son relationship.

The issue with the source of the money definitely complicates things even further. The account was set up with an unauthorized city tax ID and in the name of the Georgia Blazers AAU program, and the outcome of the case shows it was used illegally as it funneled money away from the city and was used for some non-Blazers purposes.

So on one hand, the money for the flights came from an account set up and maintained illegally, and an athlete received benefits from an AAU coach and program, which the NCAA has cracked down on before. But on the other hand, could it be possible Jones simply assumed the plane tickets were simply the sort of favor or gift that many other athletes get from their parents, relatives or mentors and paid for legally? It seems impossible to guess all the motives of everyone involved, especially when the line between coach and father figure are so blurred.

Emerson: So let’s move on from that “known” issue and on to this: When we spoke to Georgia A.D. Greg McGarity on Monday night, he talked about being “hopeful that there wouldn’t be anything else there” other than what the Ledger-Enquirer reported, and the police report included. That’s sort of an obvious allusion to last year, when A.J. Green was eventually cleared on the original reason the NCAA wanted to interview him, but suspended once the NCAA investigation found something else. Now obviously I know you’re not privy to UGA’s inquiry into the Jones case or the police report, and you also wouldn’t want to speculate. But based on what you know, does it seem like the plane tickets would be the main/only point of jeopardy for Jones?

White: This is definitely not the only concern for Jones in terms of an NCAA investigation, and police records from the parks and rec investigation show there were withdrawals made from this account by Adams that may be tied to Jones.

From my notes on the massive amount of police reports we received from the parks and rec investigation– and I only made it through about a quarter of the files – and our coverage, there are definitely some serious concerns that have yet to even be addressed.

In fact, we’ll have a story in Wednesday’s paper detailing a couple new bits of information in the police report.

Emerson: Thanks Chris. We’ll look out for the story.

To the readers, (Seth speaking here again), here are my finishing thoughts: The key question remains whether Jones will be able to show that he received the money from someone he had a pre-existing or long-term relationship with. As Chris mentioned above, it would seem that Jones and UGA can argue that, and a relationship going back to middle school normally fits the NCAA's test.

But the source of the money could be where it gets dicey. If it wasn't Adams personally paying Jones out of his own account, and rather from a larger fund, as the police records show, there could be concerns.

But we once again have to add this qualifier: In NCAA cases, it's hazardous to make predictions, as a lot of people should have learned from the A.J. Green case last year.