Happy first day of spring practice, folks. Is it just a coincidence that we get our first look at the 3-4 defense on March 4 -- i.e. 3/4?
First off, a bit of housekeeping from yesterday's mailbag post...
David writes: "As if you prove the point on statistics and Lost....we have won plenty more than 33 games from 06-09. Try 38....at least use the correct statistics."
Back to me: Yup, my poor arithmetic (which has since been corrected) is proof that I should stop writing about stats and "Lost." I'm not exactly sure how that is, but clearly that's infallible reasoning.
(Really, the only way I can see how this has anything to do with "Lost" is if I'd made the SEC win totals 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42.)
Actually, in the Excel sheet I used to produce the Fulmer Cup numbers, I had a typo in Georgia's 2008 win total (I switched UGA's '09 losses and '08 wins), which has now been revised on the original post and, obviously, puts UGA in a far better standing.
Seriously folks, I type up several thousand words a day for this blog. Typos and mistakes will happen. I'm happy to get them corrected, but if you think I'm trying to use incorrect statistics on purpose, you might as well just go read someone else's blog.
And Anonymous writes: "David is never cease to amze me how you so readily throw Mark Richt under the bus and always defend that poor excuse of an Offensive Coordinator, Mike Bobo. If NoNo really acknowledged his 'shortcomings' he would resign because UGA will never win a NC with him directing the offensive."
Back to me: Umm... what? First off, when have I ever thrown Mark Richt under the bus? In fact, on Friday, I made a case for why he shouldn't take too much blame for UGA's failures against Florida. And since when is it Bobo's job to resign the job he should know he's terrible at? I think that's Mark Richt's job to get rid of him. So if Bobo is so incompetent, you might want to point the finger at the guy who hired and continues to employ him.
Of course, I'm now arguing with someone who is utterly irrational about the subject, so let's just move on to some new material...
-- It is journalistic law that, in advance of any turning of the calendar on key events in sports, a writer must always come up with some sort of top-5 list to break down the essentials of said key event. And since we're starting spring practice today, I, of course, had to write about the five big storylines surrounding the Dawgs over the next six weeks.
Of course, I doubt you'll find any of those five storylines particularly interesting, since they've all been talked about a good bit already. So instead, here are two more top-five lists that I haven't seen written yet...
Top 5 Under-the-Radar Storylines of the Spring:
1. Can Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent step up? With all the transition going on as UGA switches to the 3-4, the inside linebackers have probably been the least talked about. But while the OLBs might get a bit more glamour, the ILBs -- particularly the Mike position where Gamble and Dent are set to line up -- will have a ton of pressure on their shoulders.
“It's more communication, especially from my part," Gamble said of his new job. "You’ve got to be able to see more, get the line and even the DBs adjusted to what’s going on in front of us.”
The Mike is essentially the quarterback of the defense in this scheme, which means that Gamble and Dent need to perform at that level. I won't go so far as to say how they go, so goes the D, but there's definitely some truth to that.
2. Richard Samuel's progress at OLB. Longterm, there's lots of reason to assume Samuel will be a stud in the 3-4. But in the immediate future, it's hard to say. He's making the move from tailback, where he's worked for the past two years, and no one knows for sure how fast he can flip the switch to the defensive mind-set and pick up on Todd Grantham's scheme. Georgia has the luxury of being able to redshirt Samuel this year if need be, but having him on the field and crushing QBs would be a much better luxury for the Dawgs to enjoy in 2010.
3. Building depth on the O line. Mike Bobo talked about this being a key to the spring, and the Bulldogs will have to do it without Tanner Strickland, Justin Anderson or Trinton "The Luxury" Sturdivant -- all of whom are out with injuries. Obviously in an ideal world, AJ Harmon and Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee aren't going to need to play significant roles this season, but that all changes in 2011, and the Bulldogs would be in a much better position when that happens if some of those guys got some quality reps under their belts now
4. How will tight end snaps be divided? Call it a good problem to have, but Georgia has four tight ends capable of playing significant reps and there are only so many snaps to go around. Given the diverse skill set among the group, which includes rising juniors Aron White and Bruce Figgins and rising sophomores Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch, it might seem like each would have a pretty set role going into the spring. Quite the opposite though -- Georgia needs to ensure that all four can do a little of everything so that the tight end personnel isn't telegraphing the play calls this fall.
5. Charles White's move to fullback. There's a good chance this isn't going to get any press, but it's probably worth watching. White swapped positions from linebacker to fullback, and it certainly appears that he and Zander Ogletree (who arrives in June) will be the heirs apparent at the position in 2011. Fullback is already an undervalued commodity, and Georgia has gotten such consistent excellence from its FBs for the past five years that it's pretty easily forgotten. But Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier both depart after 2010 and Mark Richt & Co. need to have someone else ready to step in.
Top 5 Questions We Won't Have Answered at the End of Spring Practice
1. Who's starting at safety? Jakar Hamilton and Quintin Banks will certainly get their shots to impress Scott Lakatos and Todd Grantham during the spring, but Alec Ogletree won't be in Athens until June, and my guess is he'll have a say in the competition before it's all said and done.
2. Kicking deep or directionally? As I've said before, it's not the philosophy of directional kicking that was flawed -- it's the execution. Georgia was no good at it. That should improve this year under new kickoff coach Warren Belin, who did the same job at Vandy for the past eight seasons, but we aren't likely to see too much of it this spring. Special teams is secondary this time of year, and even in the G-Day game, fans won't get to see much in the way of kick coverage. This is a story that will likely wait until the fall.
3. What will be the impact of the freshman class? Last year, we at least had a couple young QBs to keep our eyes on. This year, the spring only brings one true freshman -- lineman Kolton Houston -- and he's not likely to find much playing time in 2010. But while the spring provided few answers last year, much of Georgia's success in 2009 was dictated by the performances of guys like Washaun Ealey, Orson Charles and Branden Smith -- so there's a good chance that some of the biggest contributors in 2010 won't even be on the field for G-Day.
4. Does UGA have enough depth at receiver? This isn't likely something we'll know until midway through the season, but with Georgia's secondary in flux, I'm not even sure how tested the Bulldogs' WRs will be this spring. The most crucial thing, obviously, is to keep all of them healthy, but almost as important will be ensuring that Marlon Brown, Israel Troupe and Rantavious Wooten are ready to take steps forward this season.
5. Can we beleive everything we hear? Look, it's going to happen. Players are going to boast about the huge leaps forward the team has made. Talk will center on a renewed work ethic and better leadership. Out-of-nowhere stars like Carlton Thomas will emerge as household names among UGA fans anxious for any real news to consume. It's spring, and that's how this stuff works. But so much of what was said last year turned out to be a lot of inflated noise rather than substantial gains. My guess is, we actually will see some big improvements this spring. We'll also get our share of stories that go nowhere. We just aren't likely to know which are which until we get on the field on a Saturday this fall.
So, what are some of the things you guys will be keeping an eye out for over the next few weeks?
OK, on to some links...
-- Kentucky thumped the Bulldogs last night at Stegeman in a game that I think was more of an illustration of just how good the Wildcats are than it was any indictment of UGA, which actually played pretty well.
-- Bulldog in Exile is looking on the bright side of last night's game, too. Although I must disagree with the conclusion of his second paragraph on general principle.
-- Tons of good UGA stuff from Chris Low today. First, here's his in-depth look at what's in store for the Dawgs this spring, amid which we get this little nugget: Brandon Spikes wasn't the first Florida player to try to gouge Washaun Ealey's eyes during the game last year.
-- Marc Weiszer breaks down the quarterback contenders at UGA.
-- UGA Blog hopes the decision on the starting QB will be made quickly. Here's my prediction -- Murray will be named the No. 1 QB on the depth chart at the end of spring, but with the caveat that he still must earn the starting role in the fall.
-- Although Rex Robinson is rallying behind UGA's current No. 5 -- Zach Mettenberger.
-- Bleacher Report looks at how well some former Bulldogs performed at this year's NFL combine.
-- The Sporting News gave rave reviews to Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens, who it says could both sneak into the bottom of the first round of the NFL draft now.
-- Mobile's Gentry Estes comes up with a list of players who will need to step up if Alabama is going to repeat as SEC and national champs.
-- It was an early "non-conference conference game" for the Diamond Dogs, and the results weren't pretty.
-- The Grit Tree is generally a great place for UGA football material, but they've taken up another worthy cause in their latest post. The proposed budget cuts would eliminate the 4-H program, and that's something that could have a significant impact.
-- Have you guys seen this? The otherwise forgettable CBS sitcom "Yes, Dear" seems to have accurately predicted the Tiger Woods scandal.
-- "Saturday Night Live" may actually be worth watching this weekend.
-- Funny or Die has a nice tribute to SNL's satires of presidents past, featuring everyone from Chevy Chase to Dana Carvey. Good stuff.
-- Alan Sepinwall has a fantastic recap of this week's "Lost" in which we get a flash sideways for Sayid. I'm really not loving this season. I feel like the flash-sideways are supposed to mean something, and perhaps after we get an explanation for them, they will. In the meantime, however, I find myself bored by them and wishing they'd spend more time showing us the action on the island.
My other big problem with this season has been the poor use of characters. We essentially get one character at a time and then nothing. We've barely seen Miles, Lapedus, Desmond, Ben or Sun the entire time -- and heck, we haven't really gotten much of any of them in two seasons now. Even Hurley has been pretty much only used as a device to get other characters from Point A to Point B. It just feels like they haven't known what to do with several groups of characters so they've just left those storylines dangling for way too long.
-- And finally, next week looks like it will be a Ben episode, so to get you primed for it... check out Michael Emerson in 1992. (And actually, if you ever want to take Ben seriously again on "Lost" you may not want to watch this.)