I've been out of town all week (and actually, for the better part of the past month) so a few things happened that I didn't get around to commenting on immediately. Rather than write up long responses to each issue, I figured a quick (OK, not so quick) around the horn might suffice...
-- Big thanks to ESPN's Chris Low for linking to my post on returning offensive production in the SEC this week. One of his commenters, however, wondered why I ranked the schools by percentage of returning offense rather than gross production. The answer is that I was curious about both, but assumed you could eyeball the gross numbers easier than the percentages. But, since it was asked, here's a quick rundown of the rankings based on yardage returning for 2009.
Ole Miss, 2091
S. Carolina, 1370
Miss St, 1354
Ole Miss, 2331
Miss. St., 1192
S. Carolina, 499
-- I ran into Andrew Williams last night. He said he's been working in an advisory capacity with Knowshon Moreno and is planning to move out to Denver with him. No deal done yet for Knowshon with the Broncos, but Drew said they're not too far apart.
-- The MLB draft reminded me what a joke the NCAA is. This had already been on my mind, but then ESPN's Jemele Hill wrote a fantastic column about it. Why is it that a baseball player can be drafted and then return to school, but the same isn't true for basketball or football players? Why are baseball players allowed to sign right out of high school but basketball and football players are not? Why is it that a baseball player can sign a contract, play professionally, but still return to school and participate in another sport, but something as petty as extra textbooks or attending a high school graduation are violations in football?
Hill argues, quite rightly, that it's all about money for the NCAA, which seems a bit ironic since the NCAA flips out whenever a player or his family receives a dime for their work. And chalk this up in the "I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'" category, but here's the racial breakdown in college sports: Football, 51 percent minorities. Basketball, 67 percent minorities. Baseball, 19 percent minorities. Oh, and as for the high-level "decision maker" jobs in the NCAA... the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports estimates that as much as 97 percent of those gigs belong to white people.
-- Bleacher Report stirred up some controversy this week with a story criticizing Georgia strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger. I'd love to link to it for you to read firsthand, but Bleacher Report -- the bastion of journalistic integrity that it is -- deleted the story from its site already.
Nevertheless, the AJC's Bill King linked to it earlier this week, which drew plenty of comments from his readers.
Now, I'm not in any way endorsing the Bleacher Report story which was essentially no more than one man's opinion, but I don't think there's anything wrong with bringing up a topic of debate and challenging the status quo a little. And after talking to one NFL talent evaluator (who asked that his name not be used), I found there was at least a little bit of legitimacy to the story. He said several NFL people feel that Georgia's strength and conditioning program has "the wrong emphasis" and players from the Mark Richt/Bobby Bowden/Chuck Amato coaching tree have entered the league "undisciplined and not well prepared."
Is there reason to believe the critique? Potentially. Here's a bit of analysis of Mark Richt's draft classes done by reader Jim Franklin back in April examining the early selections of UGA players by year...
|2008|| 5 (161)|| Marcus Howard|
|2007|| 3 (51)|| Quentin Moses|
|2006|| 2 (30)|| Tim Jennings|
|2005|| 1 (14)|| Thomas Davis|
|2005|| 1 (17)|| David Pollack|
|2005|| 2 (35)|| Reggie Brown|
|2005|| 2 (48)|| Odell Thurman|
|2005|| 3 (85)|| David Greene|
|2005|| 4 (131)|| Fred Gibson|
|2004|| 1 (32)|| Ben Watson|
|2003|| 1 (6)|| Johnathan Sullivan|
|2003|| 1 (20)|| George Foster|
|2003||2 (34)|| Boss Bailey|
|2003||2 (37)|| Jon Stinchcomb|
|2002|| 1 (25)|| Charles Grant|
(By year, Georgia had four players taken in 2008, four in 2007, seven in 2006, six in 2005, four in 2004, seven in 2003 and eight in 2002.)
Obviously the 2009 draft turned around the recent trend illustrated in the statistics above with four Georgia players being selected in the first three rounds, including two of the top 12 overall. But if you look at those high draft picks from 2002-08, there's a pretty fair number of busts (at least by NFL standards) in there, too.
The case could also be made that there has to be a reason for all the injuries last year, although I'm not sure any explanation given could be specifically traced back to the strength and conditioning staff, particularly since the injury bug had never been that bad in the past.
Now, the other side of the coin: At the start of the 2006 season, Georgia was tied for third with 36 former players on NFL rosters, and at least a half-dozen more will be added to the mix in 2009. (Also of note, Bobby Bowden's boys have the second most players in the NFL). So if NFL folks are so displeased with the preparation of Richt's players, why are they so prevalent on NFL rosters?
Of course, success in your S&C program isn't all about putting players in the pros either. At least ostensibly, it's about winning in college, and few people have done a better job of that than Van Halanger. His teams have made it to a bowl game for 28 straight seasons, an unofficial record among college coaches as far as Van Halanger knows.
The Bleacher Report story discusses Georgia's defensive woes as the product of poor conditioning, but that seems like an odd critique. For one, no amount of conditioning teaches Reshad Jones to wrap up on a tackle (and, in truth, it's probably time I stop picking on Reshad, too). No strength program will keep Jarius Wynn from hitting the quarterback late or ensure that the defensive ends can handle a cut block. Plus, if Van Halanger's preparation caused the defense to suffer last season, then why was Georgia's offense so good? Both sets of players are trained by the same staff.
Again, I don't think there's anything wrong with having the discussion about Georgia's conditioning program, but until a former player or two speaks on the record saying they were ill prepared for life in the NFL (or games on Saturdays during their college careers) I'm inclined to think Van Halanger and his staff are doing as good a job as anyone.
-- Lots of questions about the new deal with ISP Sports that Georgia just signed. I'll have a more detailed story in the next few days (I'm just starting to sift through a mountain of information on it) but here are a few tidbits I got from ISP's general manager in Athens, Jeff Huffman...
On changes to the UGA Web site...
"We're going to re-launch our site this year. We're making improvements to it to make it more cutting-edge, offer our fans something that they've never had access to before. That's our biggest investment from an upgrade standpoint. We're going to invest a lot of resources into making that a real fan-friendly place."
On the all-important upgrades to the game tracker software at GeorgiaDogs.com...
"That's in discussions right now. We're working to improve all facets of our Web site and that is a piece that we're obviously looking to upgrade."
On when the new Web features might be available...
"We're shooting for a target date of the end of August. We want to have it up and ready to go so people can get acclimated with it and have time to learn and have it ready before we kick off (for football). This is something that's been in the works for several months now, so we didn't just start on it."
On the TV side of things, including the coach's show...
"We're going to introduce new programming which will be unveiled in the next several months. With the coach's show, the biggest thing is distribution. We're working to make sure if you want to be able to watch the coach's show, you can find it. We're also going to upgrade just the overall look and feel of the show. This new media team that we have in place, they will be not only working for our Web site, but they'll be shooting game-day activities, working with the coaches behind the scenes, shooting the coach's show. We've got the HD equipment and the necessary tools to be able to produce a first-rate quality program."
On who'll be doing the radio broadcasts...
"Scott Howard will be our play-by-play man and Eric (Zeier) will continue to be our color analyst for football broadcasts. The other positions that we have from a sideline perspective, from a pregame show, from some of the ancillary programming that we have with this new hour, we're working closely with UGA to determine who those talents are going to be, but we haven't released that yet."
-- I wanted to wish a happy father's day to all the dads out there and remind you that Mark Richt will be hosting the All-Pro Dad event tomorrow if you can make it.
-- And finally, I made a bit of a big deal over a comment by Rivals' Radi Nabulsi on UGASports.com's messsage board over the weekend. I received emails from both Radi and Anthony Dasher explaining their side of the situation, and in fairness to them, I thought it was important to publicly note that we've cleared things up and there are no hard feelings on my part. I highly doubt any of you really cared, but since I called them out on the blog, I figured I should be as up front with the results.
OK, that's it for now. Have a great weekend!