Let's get started with a mini-mailbag (which I think is still longer than a real mailbag column should be)...
Dawgjammin writes: I think I remember Logan bobbling a few punts last year....and when was the last time we stopped anyone from converting a fake punt anyway? At least a meaningful one.
David: That's just the thing -- what Richt is saying about Logan isn't entirely accurate. Logan did bobble at least one punt last year, and he also did return a punt -- one for negative two yards. And there were times last year when Richt also went back to Prince Miller to field deep punts because it was necessary to get a return, and there were other times when Logan was out to fair catch a punt standing pretty far upfield from that 10-yard line.
Anonymous writes: Is it really that effing hard to tell someone to put their heels on the ten and if they have to take a step back to let the ball go? REALLY?
David: I guess this is my biggest problem with it. It's not so much that Logan shouldn't be doing it as the notion that no one else can do it.
Not sure how many of you had a chance to read my story on Carlton Thomas yesterday, but here's a good quote from that story offered by Bryan McClendon...
"You have to be able to hit people in the mouth and run the ball, pick up the blitz, do everything and be able to hold up in every aspect and not be one-dimensional when a particular guy is in the game.”Good point about the running game, but isn't that just as applicable to any other area? And when you have Logan back to "return" a punt, you're essentially telegraphing your strategy to the opponent. Maybe that's simply confirming what they already expected at that point in the game, but I'd rather see a coaching staff that concedes nothing.
Oh, and by the way… McClendon will be the coach in charge of punt returns and blocks this season.
Anonymous writes: Have to admit, I don't get all the hate using Logan either. It isn't like he is going to return the ball, just make the decision and fair catch the ball if that be the choice. It is unusual, but hardly high risk. Logan wants to help, that has been the major contribution so far.
David: This, of course, is a more than fair counter argument. Logan wants to contribute, the coaches have found something he's able to do consistently, so why not use him? And for more on that point, let's go to the next comment...
Texas Dawg writes: On the question of designated punt fair catchers (Logan Gray), UGA lost around .118 points per game (1.534 points over the course of the season) in 2009 by using Gray as a designated punt fair catcher. So, yeah, probably not optimal... but not really a very big deal either.
David: The bottom line on this is really one of philosophy. Using Logan to field pooch punts is not costing Georgia any games -- at least not in statistical terms -- and it is finding a way to get a talented player on the field when he desperately wants to play. On the other hand, on the surface it simply seems foolish because, why does Georgia need to concede a return by trotting a player on the field who the coach has openly said will never return a punt?
In a way, it's odd that this is such a hot topic among fans because the impact of the decision is so minimal. And yet, it's sort of the principle of the thing. Georgia fans have been fighting the battles against ineffective defensive strategy, directional kicking and occasionally questionable play calling for so long now that, I think this Logan Gray situation has just become symbolic of the larger frustrations with the program.
The changes made on the defensive staff helped to move past that old mind-set, but this issue with Logan remains a constant reminder of how things fell apart last season -- even if he had very little to do with the collapse.
Anonymous writes: It wouldnt be ownership, it would be "renting" and we all know how that goes on property...
David: Fair point about my proposal for the tailgating rules I posted yesterday, although as someone who has had season tickets at sporting events before, I know how it works. You get to know the people who sit around you -- they become like your sports extended family -- and you take pride in your particular section of the stadium. (In Philly, this meant harassing opposing left fielders until they developed an eating disorder.) Yes, you didn't technically own that seat or that section of stands, but you felt responsible for it. I'd call it more like babysitting than renting. Sure, it's not your kid, but you'd feel pretty bad if it fell down a well or something.
Of course, I never said there were no flaws in my plan. It's something I came up with in about three minutes after reading through the current rules being implemented. And regardless of whether my plan is a sound one, I feel confident it's a better one. And it took me three minutes.
As I've heard many fans say in the last 24 hours -- why weren't fans and alumni invited to provided some alternatives? If this was such a big issue, why not make it a joint effort between the university and the vast majority of the fans who aren't causing problems? Why not find common ground?
I've read at least a dozen legitimate suggestions to stem the trash problems on north campus that didn't ban people from enjoying their tailgates, and I can't help but wonder why none of them were given a fair shot before it came to this.
Lawrence writes: Why not lease sections of the area to non-profit, civic groups. They could then rent out space then use the money in their communities. These groups would be responsible for policing and cleaning up their ares. Thus, the best of two worlds A) generate revenue for both the University and civic groups and II.) have a specific, responsible party for each area.
David: Because that would provide good publicity, a social benefit to the Athens community and help curb the problems it was meant to fix. In other words, it makes way too much sense to actually do it.
Carter writes: How much of practice is open to the press, and do you get to watch practice all the way up to G-Day?
David: Not a whole lot. We get to watch the first four periods -- or about 20 minutes -- of practice. These are mostly fundamental drills, so it's a good opportunity to see the coaches working in a teaching role with the players, and you get a good feel for the coaches' on-field personalities. But you don't see much in the way of competition that you would get during 11-on-11s or inside drills or pass skeletons. That's something we'll likely have to wait until G-Day to get any real feel for.
Anonymous writes: Do you know if Justin Anderson is practicing with the 3rd string?
David: I was surprised how many people asked about this. Anderson is out for the spring with a shoulder injury.
For anyone who needs to catch up, here's a quick spring practice primer:
Full list of spring injuries can be found HERE.
I also have as close to an updated spring depth chart as is currently available HERE.
The new lineup of special teams coaches can be found HERE.
And in this mailbag, Todd Grantham and Mark Richt discuss what each position will do in the new 3-4 scheme.
And I also wrote a detailed feature on mat drills for the Telegraph last year that you can find HERE.
Joel writes: What is A. Murray gonna do when it's 95 with 95% humidity? I think that glove's gonna come off. Think he'll be able to transition back?
David: I would guess this is just an experiment on Murray's part, but don't forget that Kurt Warner rocked the glove in the desert for a few years with a good bit of success. Let's just hope Murray doesn't find his version of Brenda Warner, too, though.
Anonymous writes: So they gave out 18 A's but Richard Samuel had 1/3 of them?
David: What I took this to mean was that on the final day of mat drills, Samuel got an 'A' in all six stations, but 18 players received total As for the day. Your grades from the six stations have to average out to an A to get one, but in Samuel's case, he aced all six of the stations.
Ecdawg writes: Was CDVH saying that he hasn't talked to CTG or that CTG doesn't have relevent experience - or both?
David: I think Van Halanger's point was simply that the way NFL players condition is different than the way college players need to condition. In the NFL, it's more about maintaining, whereas in college, most players need to build a solid foundation during their first two to three years on campus. So it's not that Grantham is unqualified to offer insight into the S&C program, but that most of what was done by the Cowboys is not relevant to what is being done at the college level.
Greg writes: Much of the criticism of the S&C program is in the way it is run. For Coach Van to sit here and say "Oh, we're giving out this many more A's in mat drills this year" doesn't mean anything to me because its all relative. Is it possible that the standards for receiving an A have become less challenging or is an A achieved by reaching certain numbers and times?
David: It's not purely subjective. The drills are times and players have to complete the drill in the allotted time. If they don't, they have to re-do the drill. Each re-do affects your grade. There are, of course, some subjective elements to the grades, but I don't believe there is any manipulating of the scoring in order to make the S&C program seem improved. If anything, Mark Richt said things are actually tougher this year.
Again, I've made the point that any evaluation of the S&C program is going to be subjective to some extent. Is Georgia getting pushed around on the field? Maybe sometimes, but the numbers don't really indicate any significant problem.
Let's look at the final seven games of the season when, presumably, players are more worn down and beat up.
Rushing yards per game:
UGA: 215 ypg
Opp: 124 ypg
This certainly doesn't mean that there aren't problems, but it also suggests that if problems exist they aren't as obviously showing up on the field as we might think.
The fact is, at the beginning of last season, the running game was in shambles, the O line wasn't working well together and the defense was… well, you know what that was all about.
This year, the O line has no excuses, the running game should be a strength and the new defensive staff should have implemented a more effective strategy. So let's see how things shake out this season before we go pinning too much blame on the strength and conditioning program.
OK, a few links to wrap things up...
-- I have a story in today's Telegraph on Georgia's offensive line hoping to live up to the expectations it failed to meet a year ago.
-- The Senator says that the new tailgating rules are (not surprisingly) all about money.
-- Michael Carvell reports that Travis Leslie's former coach is advising the Georgia star to stay in school.
-- Bruce Feldman gets the low down on the new career of former Mark Richt protogee Chris Weinke.
-- Nevermind the three-toed statues or black smoke monsters or time traveling crash survivors. This may be the most confusing thing "Lost" has ever produced.
-- This has the potential to be a very funny storyline for "How I Met Your Mother."
-- And finally, just a heads up: I'm going to have to head back up to Delaware for a few more days to attend to some family issues. I already have some stuff in the can for the blog during that time, including some more great video work from Brandon Spoon, so you won't be without content, but it might be a bit less than usual. Fletcher Page will be covering tomorrow's practice for me, and I'll post his notes here, too. Hopefully we'll be back and running at full speed by early next week.