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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From the Mailbag: Redshirts, Renovations and More Lost!

It's been a while since we've opened up the ol' mailbag, and in the meantime I've turned a few of your questions -- like Aaron Murray's glove and Rodney Garner's adjustments to the 3-4 -- into stories for the paper. But there are plenty more to address still, so let's get right to it...

Anonymous writes: I notice in the pictures that there are a lot of walk-ons practicing. Do you have any idea how many are participating in spring practice?

Georgia's current roster includes 30 walk-ons for the spring. This number can obviously fluctuate, and the group is bound to get a bit bigger when fall practice begins in mid-August.

If there's some interest, I'll be happy to print the full list. Just let me know in the comments section.

Dboy writes: Do you think that the 3-4 defense might be ideally suited for stopping the spread offense. I know it was / is mainly employed in the NFL to stop pro-style offenses, but having an extra man standing to make reads and make quicker lateral movements before first contact seems ideal against the spread. Any thoughts?

The theory sounds good to me, but I'm hardly enough of an Xs and Os aficionado to say for sure. But you know who is? Todd Grantham...

"It’s balance, and we’re allowed to be more balanced," Grantham said of the spread. "In a 3-4, you’re balanced. We’re going to play balanced, so when people spread us out into unusual formations, we can boss and bow our backers into a relative formation, but we can stay in a structure that’s balanced. I think we’ll be fine."

Trae writes: Do you get the idea that Murray has a stronger work ethic than Stafford? It seems that Stafford, obviously, had all the talent in the world but seemed a bit lazy at times.

I think Stafford got that reputation because he was so talented. This is a similar theory to what I wrote about back in February when I kept hearing the same refrain: I'd rather have a bunch of 3-star players who want it more than a bunch of 5-star guys who rely on their talent. The assumption is that you can't have both, and I think that assumption gains traction because the guy with all the talent doesn't look like he's working as hard as the guy who has to scratch and claw for the same results.

The truth is, Stafford spent as much time studying and working as anyone. He's was a pro about his work even as a freshman. The guy knew what it meant to be a QB, and he worked for it every day. As a reporter, the only critique I could honestly give of Stafford is that he was too much of a professional. From my standpoint, he wasn't always the easiest to talk to because it never felt like you were talking to a college kid, the way it does with so many of the other players. But that was only one other thing Stafford worked at -- he was like talking to one of the coaches, and it was because he approached everything as a professional would.

Anonymous writes: David, love your blog but you have to get rid of all the "Lost" updates. Its embarrassing.

I think you have seriously underestimated my tolerance for embarrassment.

Seriously folks, there are only two months left. It's almost over. And by the time fall camp starts, you'll be completely free of my "Lost" references. Of course, I'll have to replace them with something, so feel free to start making suggestions now.

NCT writes: Ok, Hale. Partly on account of you, I started watching _Lost_. Fun stuff. I finished "Do No Harm" (Season 1, episode 20) last night. I'm kind of glad I didn't start when the show first aired, because I can watch the next episode immediately if I want. And I find myself doing that a lot.

Music to my ears! You know, when I started this blog, I said to myself, "Dave, if you can convince just one person to start watching 'Lost', you've done your job." Mission accomplished.

Of course, I still feel the need to pester the rest of you with some thoughts on last week's Richard-centric episode, so NCT, skip to the next question so as not to spoil anything.

I liked this episode, but I wish it had come a bit sooner in the season, and while I haven't been a fan of the flash-sideways, it was strange to have gotten used to the template and then have it abandoned here. Still, I though there was a lot to take from it. Rather than go through all the gory details, however, I want to address just one scene -- the meeting on the beach between Richard and Jacob.

I might argue we got more out of that one scene than we have this entire season.

First, Richard's task to stab Jacob was a mirror image of what Sayid was tasked with doing to Locke. The difference, of course, is that Jacob could be killed, so he fought back. Sayid had no problem plunging the dagger into Locke's heart a few weeks back, but the dagger had no effect. What does this tell us about Jacob and our mysterious man in black?

Second, we got a bit of confirmation here: Everyone is NOT dead. When Richard said they were all dead during the opening scene, you could pretty much be assured that we could officially rule it out as a theory now. The writers wouldn't have given away that big of an honest reveal in such an anti-climactic way, and Jacob confirms this for us in the later scene with Richard.

For all the folks who have continuously preached about the biblical references in the show, you got a big one in this scene, too. Jacob's "baptism" of Richard -- and his asking three times if he wanted to believe -- was reminiscent of Jesus' decision to make Peter his "representative and intermediary."

(I wonder though… when Richard tells Jacob that if Jacob doesn't step in, the man in black will, Jacob then takes a moment to ponder it before offering the job to Richard. Do you think this is something Jacob had planned to do all along, but he wanted Richard to believe it was an idea that just came to him by way of discussion? Or was this a turning point for Jacob in which he realized that some level of intervention was needed with the people he brings to the island. After all, everyone else he brought was dead.)

To be sure though, Jacob is not Jesus. Jesus had the power to raise the dead and absolve people for their sins. Jacob freely admits he cannot do either of these.

Richard also asked Jacob what is inside the foot of the statue. Jacob's response: "No one comes in unless I invite them in." Given this line, combined with Jacob's obvious ability to disarm a knife-wielding madman, leads us to believe he knew all along that Ben would kill him and he allowed it to happen.

Richard also asks Jacob flat-out -- Are you the devil? In years past, this is when the "Lost" writers would have had Jacob respond mysteriously, "Now what do you think?" so that the audience could go on wondering who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Instead, we get an unflinching answer: "No." I suppose those who want to believe we're being misled by the writers can still argue that Jacob is lying, but I don't think so. We've not simply had the good/evil dynamic hinted at, but we've been bashed over the head with it. For the writers to change course now and reveal that Jacob was the bad guy all along would undermine any credibility of the show's direction.

Of course, the most important thing Jacob tells Richard is the meaning of the island, by way of a wine analogy. (And note, Jacob offers wine, the man in black offers water.) Jacob says the wine is like the evil, swirling around in the bottle. The cork is the island, keeping it from spreading. It is the island -- not necessarily Jacob, himself -- who prevents the evil from escaping.

Not only does this help to underscore that Ben's insistence on protecting the island at all costs had some significant merit to it, but it begs a bigger question: What does this tell us about our alternate timeline -- the one where the island has been sunk to the bottom of the ocean? Has the evil been allowed to spread in LA X?

And finally, we learn here what many of us suspected: This show is all about choice and redemption. Jacob tells Richard that he brings people to the island to offer a chance at redemption but he cannot intervene in those decisions. A few weeks ago, we saw Sayid decide he could not be redeemed. He chose to follow Locke, and his reward in the parallel universe was a life in which he was still the same killer he always had been. Two weeks ago, we saw Ben choose Jacob's side, providing him with some measure of redemption and an alternate universe in which he's not necessarily happy, but he's a far better person. This week, we saw Richard make a similar choice, although we don't know what this means for him in LA X world -- if he even is still alive in 2004. Tonight, it looks like Sun will be given a similar choice. After two years of waiting, I'm hoping that, whatever her decision is, it at least reunites her and Jin. We shall see.

John P writes: I was wondering if you had access to average home attendance @ Stegman last year and average home attendance this year. I'd like to know the difference, maybe even figure out, on average, how much more revenue the team brought in this year compared to last.

Props to John who was the impetus for my story in today's Telegraph on this very subject. If you're looking for the long answer, head over to now and read the full piece.

If you're looking for the Cliff's Notes version, however, here's your answer: Attendance didn't change much, as it turns out. Last year, Georgia averaged 6,700 tickets sold per game. This year, Georgia averaged 6,834 tickets sold per game.

According to last year's budget numbers by UGA (ending in June '09), men's basketball ticket sales brought in $750,000 of revenue. Those numbers will be roughly the same this year, particularly given that the Dawgs played two fewer home games this year.

But that doesn't mean there wasn't a big change in terms of ancillary revenue, and that's because there's a big difference between ticket sales and attendance. For that info, I talked to associate athletics director Frank Crumley.

"The key figure, when we announce attendance, that's all tickets that are sold," Crumley said. "So while the number of tickets sold did not increase tremendously, the actual folks coming to the game almost doubled. So that's the big indicator. They're actually coming to the game. Before they weren't coming as much. They might have had their tickets but they weren't coming to games. Our actual fan number for each game was over 4,000, which is huge. It was a little under 3,000 the year before."

And what does that mean in more specific terms? It means that revenue from non-ticket sales sources was up by a good margin.

"While the revenue in ticket sales was not up tremendously, it was up some," Crumley said. "That trickled to our concession revenue is up. We added additional baseline seats and those sold instantly. Our contribution base was up about $70,000, which may not seem like a big number, but it was about $440,000 last year and it's almost $520,000 this year. Percentage-wise, that's a big jump, and those are the things we're seeing increase as people get excited."

Bottom line: This year was a big step in the right direction for UGA basketball, and if the momentum can continue into Year 2 of the Mark Fox era, much bigger things could be in store.

Anonymous writes: Any word on when the renovations to Stegeman will begin?

This was a two-birds, one-stone conversation with Frank Crumley. He said construction on Stegeman is set to begin just after graduation and is scheduled to be complete before the first home game of the 2010-11 basketball season.

And if you need some info on the renovations themselves, Sic 'Em Dawgs has some pictures that should give you an idea of what's being done.

And according to Crumley, the renovations are a huge step for Georgia.

"The Coliseum renovations are key," he said. "Once the concourse renovations are complete, I think we've got all the tools to be successful. We have one of the finest practice facilities in the country. The talent in the state of Georgia is tremendous in basketball. It's there. In all of our sports, we've proven that they're fully funded and capable of winning championships, and a lot of our sports have done that. The final big piece is the Coliseum, and when we tip off next year, everybody will see it. And that touches the fans. That's giving something back to the fans."

Al writes: Do you happen to know how soon Georgia's football coaches begin looking at players from JuCos such as GMC to recruit them to possibly transfer?

There's not really a set answer to this question, as Rodney Garner explains.

"If there’s a kid you recruited in high school that didn’t have grades, then you follow him the whole time," Garner said. "But there may be a kid you got on once he got to the JC, so that just depends.”

So sometimes you have a Lonnie Outlaw, who Georgia will be keeping a close eye on this year at GMC. And sometimes you get a Jakar Hamilton, who wasn't as highly touted a couple of years ago, but broke out at GMC and was quickly pursued by everyone.

And you never know, perhaps Outlaw's presence at GMC helps shed some spotlight on another player that isn't on anyone's radar now but could turn out to be a steal for the Bulldogs down the line.

By the way, Georgia's recent success with Jarius Wynn, Vince Vance and Corvey Irvin -- along with Hamilton -- speaks volumes about the work Bert Williams is doing at GMC. He's earned Mark Richt's trust by producing solid players and good character guys, and that's been a huge boost for UGA.

Anonymous writes: I think the fact that most West Virginia women look like wildebeasts should exclude them from the SEC. Even the skanks at UF look hotter than WVU girls.

I completely agree with your rationale, but then… what's Tennessee still doing in the SEC?

Kwame writes: Would it be too much trouble to post an abridged transcript of these videos? Some of us read your blog while we're at work, where it is frowned upon by the boss when you are caught watching videos...

This presents me with a real dilemma.

On one hand, I'm a staunch advocate of blowing off menial tasks at work and concentrating instead on reading overly detailed sports-related information that would likely cause your boss to have an aneurism.

On the other hand, transcribing interviews is the most menial task a reporter has to do, and therefore I would have to engage in even more of it in order for you to engage in less of it.

This is a tough one.

The truth is, Brandon Spoon, who is doing the video work for me, offered to help so I could have some additional content without providing any more burden on my time. So the video is, for the most part, much like my "Lost" material… it's not a substitute for other stories. It's a complement to them.

I just don't have time to do all of that and still do all the other stuff I'm doing, so transcribing the video would likely take away something else. So as much as I'd love to do it for you, unless it's a particularly short piece, I just don't have enough hours in the day with everything else I have going on.

Perhaps the answer is to start selling Bulldogs Blog brand headphones and equip the blog with CBS's "boss button."

Also, while we're talking about the video stuff, I wanted to point out that you can follow our pal Brandon on Twitter HERE and read his blog, Dancing in the End Zone, HERE. So give them a look… he's definitely earned it!

Trey writes: I know it may be a lot more work, but is there any way to have the videos transcribed due to the fact that I can't watch them while at work? and as always, great job!

Now you're just trying to make me feel bad.

Matt D writes: Really enjoy your bulldog blog, and I was wondering if you could mention or write something about our gymnastics team. They have had a bumpy year with a new coach. Curious how the team is doing mentally, especially without Suzanne Yoculan.

Speaking of time crunches, my unplanned vacations the past few weeks kept me from spending the time I'd planned with the Gym Dogs. Unfortunately there's just one of me to go around and there are a lot of good stories to cover.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other exceptional bloggers to pick up my slack, and T Kyle King has a great round-up on the Gym Dogs as they head into the NCAA regionals.

Jim F. writes: After reading another blog I thought that I share some questions that it raised, at least for me, and ask that you look into it.

2008 Football only- *Game Day Expsense
Clemson Game Day expense 1,918,340
UGA Game Day expense 8,300,790
‘Bama Game Day expense 1,345,797
(h/t GTP Wednesday Brunch buffet)

Under Definitions link at the top on the SitS page: Game Day Expense -Includes game officials, security, event staff and ambulance. My first thought was the ASU game expense and flying out there, but travel is apparently excluded from this category, plus it is $7 MILLION MORE THAN ‘Bama!!! Certainly, it didn’t go to paying for all the calls that went UGA favor. What did it buy?

First off, let me tip my hat to our pal Jim because I friggin' love this question. Amid all the stories about how the third-string fullback looks good this spring and the players are working harder than ever, this is a real journalism question.

Unfortunately, the answer isn't quite as scandalous as the numbers make it seem. According to Stephanie Ransom, Georgia's assistant director of business, the $8.3 million is game-day expenses for all sports, not just football. The football-only number is around $3.6 million.

That's still a good bit higher than Alabama and Clemson, however, and particularly with all the bluster about the new tailgating rules, it's probably a number worth looking into a bit more as we get closer to the season. So thanks again, Jim, for giving me a story idea to follow up on.

AJ writes: I read today where one of the corners said that coach Lakatos is teaching them to look for the ball in the air now. I thought they taught that in Pop Warner? I can see now why we had so many issues with penalties the past couple years. In college they will throw the flag every time if you don't look for the ball. I can only hope this means less pass interference calls in the 2010 season.

I'm not going to get into the Willie bashing. I think the poor guy has probably suffered enough. But I will say, if nothing else, this should lead to a few more takeaways, and given Georgia's dearth of those the last two years, that's a big thing.

A lot of pundits have observed Georgia's secondary as a major concern, and given that three of the four starters will be new that's understandable. But I would also say this is a group with a tremendous amount of upside.

Alec Ogletree is probably Georgia's best recruit. Jakar Hamilton has NFL skills (and an NFL pedigree). Brandon Boykin was very good last year and could be even better this year. Branden Smith is a five-star guy. Bacarri Rambo is a bad, bad man. Sanders Commings can match up with virtually any receiver when it comes to height. Nick and Shawn Williams are both under-the-radar talent at this point.

Out of that group, there could be as many as five or six future NFL players and they're being coached by a guy who is earning rave reviews for his approach and teaching ability.

And while I mean no disrespect to Prince Miller or Bryan Evans or Reshad Jones, those three guys never became fan favorites. That's definitely not the most fair way to judge their careers, but the fact remains that what Georgia lost in the secondary wasn't its most elite talent, and the guys in the hunt for playing time this year have an awful lot of potential.

Schlagdawg writes: If Alec Ogletree isn't able to break into the ranks of starting safeties/linebackers, do you think it's more likely that he'll redshirt or that he would get on the kickoff cover team?

My bet would be that he'll play. Georgia has shown a tendency to let their skill position freshmen get their feet wet, even if it's just on special teams, early on. Look at Nick Williams and Brandon Boykin two years ago or Mike Gilliard and Shawn Williams last year. Ogletree is probably as talented -- or more so -- than any of those guys, so there's a good chance he's going to see action either by earning time on defense or getting some action on special teams.

As for the rest of the class, here's a quick educated guess on my part, from most to least likely...

Very likely

Jakar Hamilton -- this one goes without saying.

Michael Bennett -- if Marlon Brown taught us anything, it's that receivers are going to play when there isn't a lot of depth… even if they don't, you know, actually play.

T.J. Stripling -- Right now, Georgia has three scholarship guys at OLB and Stripling is one of the team's best incoming freshmen. That adds up to playing time.

Alec Ogletree -- See above.

Garrison Smith -- One of Georgia's best recruits this year, he should slide in nicely at defensive end, where playing time can definitely be won.

Dexter Morant -- Georgia needs some depth at OLB, and Morant is probably as good a candidate as anyone other than Stripling to step in immediately.

Somewhat likely

Mike Thornton -- He's a guy who Georgia envisions as a nose, but it remains to be seen how quickly he'll be able to get his body ready for the job and how well he adjusts to what Todd Grantham wants to run. But Rodney Garner will definitely be employing some youth at nose, so Thornton might be as likely as anyone.

Jalen Fields -- He's bigger coming in and is probably a bit on the fence as to whether he'll be a contributor or not. He's a guy I'm going to need to see in person a bit before I have a real feel for it.

Demetre Baker -- There's a lot of depth at inside linebacker, but he could be a special teams guy the way Gilliard was in 2009.

Derek Owens -- Georgia could probably use some depth, so Owens can definitely work his way into some PT with a good summer and fall camp.

Marc Deas -- Perhaps this year's Shawn Williams. And that special teams work seems to have helped Williams get a leg up this year, so that's nothing to sneeze at.

Kenarious Gates -- I just don't see any of the O line guys getting reps this season, but if one does, it'd be him.

Not likely

Ken Malcolme -- He could work his way into some PT, but hard to see where it helps Georgia to have him on the field immediately unless there's an injury to one of the four experienced backs the Dawgs have ahead of him.

Brandon Burrows -- Of all the likely OLBs, he might be most likely to need the year to acclimate. Never say never, but I'd say Fields and Morant have a better chance right off the bat.

Kolton Houston -- more likely than Benedict, but probably a guy who needs a season of conditioning before he's ready. He'll be heavily in the 2011 mix.

Brent Benedict -- tons of talent, but coming off an injury and at a loaded position.

Zander Ogletree -- I don't see why you'd burn a redshirt on a guy who could benefit from an apprenticeship year at a position where there is already enough veteran talent.

Hutson Mason -- If Logan Gray changes positions and Zach Mettenberger is suspended Week 1, who knows? But I still doubt it.

WHM writes: OT, but what's going on w/ Doug's blog? Hey Jenny Slater requires an invitation to read it now... can you get an update on this, please?

Doug is taking a temporary leave of absence to concentrate on personal responsibilities… you know, the stuff bloggers do other than blog. But he'll be back, and from what The Senator tells me, Doug will still be commenting regularly on some of his favorite sites, too.

DC Dawg writes: I thought that Adams was in the running for the NCAA top job. Is there some way we can volunteer him so that he can stop destroying Bulldawg traditions? Or is there a modern day Jan Kemp that can make him resign?

I understand your plight, DC Dawg, but you probably need to start sending hate mail to Bob Ryan for trying to ruin your plan.

Seriously Bob Ryan… shouldn't you be bashing the Red Sox new commitment to defensive metrics already? It's spring!

GATA writes: I would expect the Offense to be dominating the defense in drills at this point. Is that the case? Do you think the offense will suffer a bit since the defense is a work in progress?

I could see the argument that the offense might not be getting the best competition, so they could be in for a surprise once they get into the real games. And the truth is, the defense is definitely still asking a lot of questions.

But… I also think there's another side to it. For one, I've talked to a number of offensive players who have said that the new defense is going to be very, very good once they get the hang of everything. There are a number of plays right now where someone isn't doing what they're supposed to, and the offense has an advantage. But on the plays that work right, according to guys like Caleb King and Aron White, life is made awfully tough for the offense. And, it's only reasonable to think that with each passing day the players will be getting it right more and more often.

As for how much the offense is learning, Rodney Garner said the new defense isn't getting any slack from their teammates on the other side of the ball.

“They’re doing all these motions and shifts and all that stuff," Garner said of what his defense has been facing. "They’re not doing us any favors, and I think they’ve handled it well. You have to watch the film, and I’m sure there’s some good things on it and bad things on it.”

Matt writes: Have you heard anything about Reuben Faloughi, David? Seems like he would be a good fit at OLB and it seems like we're pretty thin there.

I think he's a great fit at OLB, and from everything I've heard, he's made some nice strides since last year. He's a smart kid, a hard worker, and he has the frame to keep getting bigger.

What's more is, he may have more of an opportunity than anyone thought. With Richard Samuel's move to ILB, there are only three scholarship OLBs to complement Faloughi on the roster. Currently Faloughi is the backup to Cornelius Washington, and Grantham said he likes the progress Faloughi is making.

Of course, as for that depth at OLB, that's a wait-and-see.

"I think there’s couple guys that we can move there down the road," Grantham said. "And I do think that we’ll obviously be looking at some of the young guys coming in to play. It’s something that does concern me somewhat. The guys that we have there, I like. But it’s like anything, you’ve always got to prepare for the what-ifs. We will do that as we move forward, so we’ll address that down the road. The guys that are going now have done a good job."

Young Swole writes: I can't even describe how wonderful it is to hear a NFL-Caliber coach preach fundamentals to our defense. I reckon its the football equivalent of Jimi Hendrix playing "Voodoo Chile" at Woodstock, or "Don't Stop Believing" at 8e's Bar on a Saturday night

And the winner for best analogy of the month goes to Young Swole. Sure, he's just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit… but a good Journey reference gets you All-America status here.

OK, that's it for today, but I'll have more mailbag for you tomorrow, so stay tuned...


Anonymous said...

Why would we NOT want to know who the walk-ons are? It is March and we crave football information, the more the better!

Print the list.

Steve said...

Forgive my skepticism, but I can't help but wonder if the 3-4 love is a bit out of control at this point amongst Georgia fans.

Especially after a bad year, we as fans look for something positive to grasp ahold of, and the new defense is the obvious choice. But I have to ask myself, if the 3-4 is the solution to all of our defensive problems, why isn't every team in America running it?

My belief is that there are strengths and weaknesses with each scheme, and, in the end, it comes down to talent and fundamentals. I suspect a talented, fundamentally sound team running a 4-3 defense can be just as ferocious as a counterpart running the 3-4.

Look at the "spread" offense (if that word even has meaning anymore). Plenty of teams run it, and it's reputedly a higher scoring offensive style, yet Georgia sits at or near the top of several offensive categories running a pro-style offense. Why? Because we have A.J. Green, we have an offensive line that (eventually) jelled, and we have a couple of outstanding running backs. Talent and fundamentals.

Believe me, I'm as excited as the next guy about the change in defensive leadership. Every time I read about a return to fundamental tackling and coverage I breathe easier. The scheme change, however, seems secondary to me. Irrational exuberance. Am I missing something?

/brain dump

JasonC said...

I don't care if you post Lost stuff, but you broke your unwritten rule, but putting it pretty high in the lineup this week.
Also, noting that both 24 and Lost were ending this season, I thought what a great opportunity for a new crossover show... "Lost in 24 Hours". Imagine Jack Bauer trying to bring down the bad guys at the Dharma Initiative in one hour segments that may or may not be in chronological order.

And as someone who worked 9+ years in TV, I can second your motion that logging video SUCKS!

Welcome back.

PS - I took your advice and picked up Outliers... and finished it in 3 days while riding the MTR to work.

NCT said...

Iteresting info re basketball ticket sales versus attendance. I had no idea that so many tickets were sold but not being used. That seems a little crazy, but I guess we should be glad folks were at least spending some money.

I. Can't. Wait. For. The. Renovated. Stegeman. It's an awesome building, and people who want to tear it down and start over are crazy. Besides the fact that I have great memories (well, hazy (cloudy?), but great) of late nights on the roof, it's a tremendous statement of its time, architecturally.

And yes, well. I did skip the lost discussion in the post. I'm not sure it would have mattered. I have no idea who Richard is. Hell, I just got into the hatch and met Desmond (again) (started season 2 a few days ago).


David Hale said...

definitely a bit jealous... although I'm rewatching "The Wire" a second time and liking it even better than the first. Hoping the same will be true about "Lost" in a year or two.

Anonymous said...

Hey David, please print the walk-on list. Would love to see it...