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Friday, February 26, 2010

From the Mailbag: Fox's Hounds, Richt's Future and Linda Cohn's Feet

It's been a while since I've answered some reader mail, so...

Brannon writes: Hale... I was looking forward to a mailbag today to help work cruise by. Oh well, I guess you will get to it. I guess I will have to let the Sam Adams Noble Pilsner entertain me until you get to it.

I know, I screwed you on a mailbag last week. Hopefully no one went crazy and turned into a productive employee.

But this week… we're just six days away from the first session of spring practice, so send your phones straight to voice mail, close the blinds in your office (or, you know, print this out and take it to your other office), and kick back for a lengthy Friday mailbag…

Scott P. writes: A few fellow Georgia fans and I were discussing the number of recruits we typically get in each class and how it seemingly always lags behind our SEC competitors. … The extent of my recruiting knowledge is really just following our targets through so I’m certainly no expert. Can you shed any light on why we consistently are behind in class size compared to the other SEC powers?

Scott sells himself a bit short on the "expert" notion, and he was kind enough to send along some numbers to help quantify his question.

Since 2005, here's how some of UGA's top competitors have stacked up in terms of the number of players they sign:

Team Signees Avg./Year
Alabama 164 27.3
Auburn 162 27.0
Tennessee 145 24.2
LSU 139 23.2
Florida 135 22.5
Georgia 131 21.8

So, according to Scott's numbers, Alabama has signed roughly 6.5 more players per year than Georgia, which ends up being a difference of 33 more players during the five-year span in question.

But what does that really mean?

First off, no team can actually bring in more than 25 players per year, so regardless of how many more than 25 sign letters of intent, no team is bringing in more than that number.

(Note: There are some caveats to this in which the NCAA allows teams to backdate signings to the previous year under certain conditions, but those are rare exceptions.)

For most of the teams that sign over and above that 25-player limit, they do so with the knowledge that some won't qualify and will go on to junior college. The thought is, once those players are ready to qualify, they'll keep to their original decision -- or at least that school will have the upper hand in re-recruiting the player.

The other issue is that of attrition. Some coaches will decide a player isn't living up to what was expected and will yank his scholarship. Most schools go through some sort of significant coaching change every four or five years in the SEC, and that leads to more players transferring. Some schools just lose more players to injuries or off-field issues.

At Georgia, those things are a bit more rare -- or at least that's what Mark Richt says. I haven't done the research, so I'm just taking his word for it.

I do know, however, that Richt's recruiting policy is to go after players he knows will qualify, which means Georgia doesn't usually work to sign a guy who has junior college written all over him.

I also know that Richt has a strict rule against pulling scholarships from current players. Once you're a Bulldog, you're staying a Bulldog unless you decide on your own to leave or an injury forces you to stop playing. So if UGA only has 20 scholarships available for a specific recruiting class, Richt won't go out and sign 22 good players and then boot two unproductive ones off the current squad.

Plus, Richt and Rodney Garner usually have a pretty specific plan when it comes to recruiting. They identify "their guys" and they don't stray too far from that list. It's probably the biggest complaint I hear from fans about recruiting -- a player is good, but UGA hasn't offered him. That's just how Richt goes about business, and this year was a perfect example. Despite the departures late in the recruiting process, Garner and Richt didn't bother trying to fill numbers just for the sake of having a bigger class.

"We could have gone out and possibly signed other guys to build that number if we just wanted to meet a quota," Garner said on signing day. "But we felt good about the nucleus we put together and at this point we wanted to stay status quo and evaluate and make sure that in the future we’ll have the personnel that fits the scheme Coach Grantham wants.”

Tom writes: Any chance the message from Coach Richt to Logan Gray is we need WR’s and have plenty of QB’s?

I honestly am a little clueless on what has happened behind the scenes with this story.

On one hand, I was given the impression that Logan wanted to play, regardless of the position he was at. In fact, that's something he has told me in the past.

It was certainly worth noting that Georgia only started recruiting a QB after the Gray rumors began to spread. If the intention was to move Gray all along -- and let's be honest, the staff has had info to base that decision on for months -- then you might assume Richt and Co. wouldn't have waited so long into recruiting season to act.

So my initial thoughts were that it was mostly Gray's decision to move, but the coaching staff wasn't going to stand in his way.

Now… how accurate is that? Well, here's what Mike Bobo had to say:

“I was definitely open to Logan (changing positions), and we had some discussions about that at the end of the year and really left it up to him," Bobo said. "I told him what we thought of him as a quarterback and where we saw him. But the thing about this kid is, all he’s ever wanted to do is help Georgia and play and compete. That’s what he wants to do this spring at quarterback. If he finds himself not in the mix, where he’s not going to be the guy to play at quarterback, he wants the opportunity to play another position.”

The bigger question, however, is this: Is Logan staying at QB this spring the right decision?

My feeling is that, yes, it is. It's just too risky to go through spring without a single QB with so much as one college snap under their belt. If an injury happens, Georgia can't afford to have Logan out of the loop and rusty. And regardless, I think it benefits both Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger to be pushed by a veteran who knows the system.

Of course, for Logan specifically, it may not end well -- at least in the short term -- because any more time he spends working at QB is time he's not spending working at wide receiver or cornerback or whatever other position he might be able to better put his skills to use, should that be the eventual result. Again though, Bobo said he'll remain honest with Gray.

“We’re going to give him the best opportunity to help this football team and get you on the field, Bobo said. "If we feel that’s another position, we’re going to tell you that. If we think you can be our quarterback, then you’ll be our quarterback.”

However this shakes out, I hope Logan does find a way to get some playing time and make an impact before his career's out. He's a good kid who never has seemed to get a fair shake.

Don writes: Not beating Florida would eliminate us from the BCS CG even if we win the SEC. Totally unacceptable. I also believe Richt's job would be endangered as well. How many times does he get to go to the well? Sooner or later he gets the ax because you have to be competitive against your chief rival. And 2-8 isn't competitive.

David: This is from my pal, Don, who is a huge Georgia fan, but a fairly vocal critic of Mark Richt. He writes in response to what I wrote when running down Georgia's most important games of the season, in which I said…

"The date with Florida looms every year, so that's certainly no gimme. But UGA could afford to drop the game against the Gators and still win the East if they're flawless in the rest of their SEC games."

Don's point is probably a fair one. Eventually, Richt needs to get over the hump against Florida, or eventually, Damon Evans will find someone else who can. And what's more -- this year is probably Georgia's best chance to make that happen.

The question then becomes, when does eventually become now? And that's a good question, because Richt is hardly the only coach to have his troubles against Florida, and I'm not sure that it's fair to judge him based strictly on what he has done against Urban Meyer's crew. To evaluate using that rationale, there are a lot of good coaches who would get their walking papers after a few games against the Gators. In fact, here's the complete list of coaches who have beaten Meyer since he arrived at Florida:

Tommy Tuberville (twice!), Lloyd Carr, Houston Nutt, Mike Shula, Nick Saban, Les Miles (twice!), Mark Richt and Steve Spurrier.

Of that list, only Tuberville and Carr were undefeated against Corch Meyers.

So… I'm curious. Aside from Saban, is there a better coach on that list than Richt? Two are out of college football, Spurrier is borderline irrelevant and Tuberville and Nutt have both been canned in the past three years.

Meanwhile, here's another group of coaches you may have heard of: Bobby Bowden, Jim Tressel, Kirk Ferentz, Phil Fulmer, Bobby Petrino and Bob Stoops. As a group, they have 80 bowl appearances, 30 conference championships and five national championships. Their combined record against Urban Meyer at Florida? 0-14.

Rex Robinson writes: I just wanted to clarify that my statements about Tony Ball are not an indictment on him as a coach, but rather how a coaches resume can be used for or against him. I think coaches get to much credit and blame for certain players. Do you think Baggett made Randy Moss an All Pro? No way, Randy made Randy an All Pro, but it looks good to a 17 year old to say I coached THIS guy.

This was in regards to my take on Georgia's production vs. potential at each position, where I linked to a post Rex wrote for his blog, and I probably mixed my own words with Rex's a bit too much. Many apologies to Rex for any confusion.

And to be clear, I'm not necessarily indicting Tony Ball either. What I am saying is that there are both a few hits and a few misses on his resume, but with a shallow depth chart at receiver, he'd be well served to add a few more lines to the former in 2010.

John writes: I saw Matt Stafford at Cali N Tito's restaurant on Lumpkin today at lunch in Athens. Do you know if Stafford is just visiting family or is he finishing out is UGA degree in the off season?

Stafford has been spending a good bit of time in Athens, but he's mostly just catching up with friends and working out during the offseason. No big news on that front, but I'm hoping to check in with him in the near future for some blog material, so stay tuned.

Oh, and the fish tacos at Cali N Tito's are fantastic.

Harold writes: What hurdles must be cleared by incoming student athletes who just signed letters of intent with universities earlier this month? Don't they still have to get a certain test score and actually graduate? What else is involved? Also, can universities revoke a scholarship if they learn of bad behavior prior to graduation?

In answer to your first question, it's a bit of a sliding scale. In fact, the NCAA actually refers to it as a "sliding scale." But here are the basics:

1.) The athlete must have graduated high school.

2.) The athlete must complete 16 core courses, which is essentially English, math, science, social sciences, foreign language or "nondoctrinal religion or philosophy" and must be above a remedial or special education curriculum.

3.) Have a minimum GPA at the time of graduation. For a DII student, this is a minimum of a 2.0, but for a DI athlete, it's more complicated.

4.) Have a minimum SAT or ACT score commensurate with your core-course GPA -- again, a bit of a sliding scale.

The details are all at the NCAA's Web site if you want to dig a bit deeper.

As to your latter question, yes, a school can pull a scholarship offer at any time. Just last year, Richt pulled the scholarship of ECI's Dexter Moody due to off-field issues.

Steve writes: Why is it that the men's basketball never defends the "student section" side of Stegman in the 2nd half? Granted, we aren't the loudest of arenas, but the opposing team always finishes the game shooting on the non-student side, and the seats there are even pushed back farther than usual. If we want any sort of home-court noise advantage, that is where I would start. I've heard this discussed in years past, but do you know why they don't switch?

For the answer to this, I put our pal Fletcher Page on the case, and he went straight to the man, himself: Mark Fox. Here's what Fox had to say…

"Well we’d have to switch our benches to do that. We had that conversation when I was first hired. I think some people purchase tickets with a seat premium with the idea of being behind Georgia’s bench. In order to move our bench we’d have to reseat almost the whole arena to do that."

So there's your answer, but it leads to a bigger question, which our next reader touches upon…

Anonymous writes: Fox isn't to blame for these road losses...the psychological part has built up with these players over the years of losing that this program has endured. Fox has put UGA in a position to win several games on the road, but the kids just haven't executed down the stretch.

David: And another take on the issue...

Bulldog Ben writes: Some great stat driven posts lately but is there any sort of quantitative data that explain what has been happening to the hoops team on the road this year?? I know, I know, first year coach, expectations, talent level, building, blah, blah, blah. This season has still be brutal to endure. I can't take another year like this.........and I'm UGA BASKETBALL fan. GAAAHHHH!

David: I'll agree with the first post, Fox isn't to blame for the road losses -- at least not by any large measure. When Fox arrived, he inherited a monumental rebuilding project, and so far, he's done a pretty nice job of creating a solid foundation.

Now, I should mention that, for all the credit Fox has received, he also inherited two NBA-caliber players in Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. That's more than a lot of SEC coaches have.

But the job also came with plenty of other not-so-pleasant remnants of the Dennis Felton administration -- perhaps most notably an utter lack of team morale.

Fox has worked wonders at convincing this team that they can win, and that's something I wasn't sure could really be done. To see the way the Dawgs continued to fight against teams like South Carolina and Alabama the past few weeks, it speaks as much to their mental ability as it does their physical skills.

And yet, there are those awful road losses, which even Fox admits are getting painfully frustrating. According to Fox, it's a lack of discipline, a lack of confidence, a lack of maturity and a lack of concentration. In the end, those are things we lay at the doorstep of the coaches, and it's to Fox's credit that any of us could reasonably expect him to have remedied more of those issues by now.

But there is more to the story, and this is why Fox deserves even more credit. The rebuilding project isn't something that any coach could have undertaken overnight. There are changes Fox has made that have had an impact on the team's performance on game day. But, like the ridiculous configuration of the benches, there are more changes that need to be made, but can't be done in the short term.

Georgia's travel schedule is another example. The team leaves far earlier than Fox would like for road trips, which leaves the team with less practice time at home, a more hurried schedule, and more time to sit and wait and think about the game they're about to play in a hostile environment.

That's another issue Fox plans to have remedied by the time the 2010-11 season tips off, but that's still a ways away. But the bottom line is this: While Georgia's new coach has clearly benefited from having two exceptional players recruited by the last regime, this team is still suffering a pretty big hangover from what was a dismal stretch of poorly planned basketball -- both on and off the court -- for the past few years.

HVL Dawg writes: Wouldn't you think by now Google would be able to link up to a screen grab of Hannah Storm's offending outfit. I need to know what Tony was talking about in order to pass judgement.

I listened to Tony's radio show about 10 years ago when I had a long commute to work. ESPN Radio was always suspending him for his tirades against ESPN management. That was just about the time he launched PTI. I remember Tony kept saying on the radio that Linda Cohn had "10 toes the hard way- 6 on one foot and 4 on the other." He got suspended for that.

David: I have no response to that -- or at least none I wouldn't get suspended for -- but it was simply too funny not to include.

OK, that's all I've got for today, but it's not the end of the mailbag. We'll have part 2 coming on Monday, so go ahead and clear all your appointments now.


MT said...

I have a follow-up to the Stafford question...

How many other Bulldog alums are a presence in Athens during post-season workouts? Miami became renowned for the number of NFL players who came back to practice with the college kids, and the workouts became legendary for the intensity and high level of competition. Besides me reading a few years ago of Champ coming back to workout while he finished his degree, I can't recall hearing of other NFLers coming back... Any info?

JasonC said...

HVL Dawg has a decent point in the first paragraph. Where is a photo or screen grab of the shot? It would be nice to see that as a reference.

PatinDC said...

Hannah has been wearing clothes too young for her for a while. It started when ESPN moved the anchors out from behind the desk.
No one ever talks about the guys suits. I like HS alot . It's too bad see feels like she has to dress that way to stay ahead.

I am sure she will be taking a "vacation" soon to rejuvinate her.