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Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Mini Mailbag

Running through a handful of questions from the past week or so on this lovely Monday afternoon...

Story: It seems odd that with all the depth issues at wide receiver the coaches are standing firm Branden Smith will focus primarily on defense. I'm not so sure Thing One couldn't be a Percy Harvin clone.

For now, Smith is only working on defense, according to DBs coach Scott Lakatos.

“For the most part, he’s been working at corner," Lakatos said. "He’s got some things he does with special teams, but as far as how they’re going to utilize him of offense, that’s to be determined.”

I think this is more of a spring practice mentality though. There's a new defense being installed and a new coach at Smith's position, so it was important to maximize his time on that side of the ball. When the fall rolls around, my guess is we'll see a bit different approach, and Lakatos said he doesn't mind sharing.

“That’s up to whatever we need to do to win games,” Lakatos said.

As for how Smith is doing in his job at corner, it's been a little bit of an up-and-down spring, but he's not lacking for action.

“We’ve had him with the second unit and in the nickel stuff and he’s worked with both groups," Lakatos said. "He’s played corner and some nickel, and we’re trying to get him exposed to as much stuff as we can.”

Carter writes: We fans found out after the season ended that Joe Cox's actual height was significantly shorter than his listed. We were told he was a Drew Brees when he was actually a Doug Flutie. Please allay my fears and tell me that Murray is a legit 6'1".

Well, I've never held a tape measure up to make sure, but Murray looks to me to have an inch or two on Cox for sure. That said, he's definitely the shortest of the three QBs competing this spring.

But it's about more than height, too. Cox's physical issues were threefold:

1.) He wasn't particularly tall -- probably in the 5-11 to 6-foot range.

2.) He didn't have the strongest of arms and was also battling a shoulder injury. Despite what most fans seemed to think, this didn't bother him on the deep throws, which he actually connected on at a decent clip. It was the throws over the middle that needed some extra zip to float over a linebacker. Cox's arm strength issues weren't about throwing for distance, they were about throwing with heat.

3.) Cox was slow-footed, which exacerbated the issues with his height.

In Murray's case, he isn't significantly taller than Cox, but every little bit helps.

Moreover, his arm is a good bit stronger. While Zach Mettenberger gets the hype for his Stafford-esque cannon, Murray's not that far behind. The kid can zip passes over the middle with plenty of heat.

And the most important thing with Murray is that he's mobile -- not just in terms of breaking contain and picking up yards downfield, but he moves in the pocket.

When you're shorter, you need to be able to move around to find a throwing lane. Cox did that, but not nearly as well as Murray can. Heck, even if you're a QB who is 6-5, there are going to be a number of linemen who still tower above you, so movement in the pocket is still going to matter. Murray does it as well as anyone.

Meat writes: I was doing the Red and Black crossword while reading this blog while not studying for my test tomorrow and one of the answers was Hale. The definition is healthy. For whatever that's worth.

I ate tacos for breakfast today. For whatever that's worth.

Trae writes: What are the "rolls" that you keep speaking of? I know they are punishment but what exactly do the players do?

They're pretty much exactly what they sound like. Players essentially roll from one end zone to the other and back again. And if this doesn't sound all that bad, I'd encourage you to try it. I think Thursday was the worst I've seen players look coming off the field in a long, long time.

Dawgjammin writes: Odd to not see any receiving stats on the TE's Charles or White. How is Figgins doing this spring? What about WOOTEN DA BALL CARRIEAH?

The scrimmage stats we get from Richt are generally the leaders in the stat categories, rather than a complete list. If you notice, the QBs had 30 completions total, but we only had 15 receptions listed on the stat sheet. So most of those were going to guys like White, Charles, Wooten and Figgins.

As for Bruce Figgins specifically, I talked to Orson Charles about him and he said Figgins looks great so far.

HVL Dawg writes: I've heard more about hips this year than any time before in life. Who knew hips were this important in football?

It's amazing how much you can learn from Shakira about football, isn't it?

AppleDawg writes: People better prepare themselves for our D to have major issues at time for 2010.

A 3-4 D is not put in and working in less than a year. Glance at Saban's first years of installing his system at MSU, LSU, and Bama and you see struggles and embarrassing loses his first year (UAB at LSU, ULM at Bama)

We will have a LOT of players out of position during big games, imo

I wrote about reasons for optimism last week, and I think there are plenty.

This, however, is not one of them.

As much as I believe this defense will be improved longterm, it's not an overnight fix. The players are learning more each day, but being able to execute a new scheme at full speed during game conditions takes a lot more than 15 spring practices to perfect. Moreover, Grantham is still coaching with players brought in for a 4-3 scheme, not a 3-4. There's no traditional nose, far too few outside linebackers, and while the corners should be decent this year, Scott Lakatos much prefers taller players for the job.

I'd say there's a good chance the defense will be better overall in 2010 than it was in 2009, which is a good thing. But make no mistake, there will be problems, there will be some big plays, and there will be some games you'll leave shaking your head wondering what happened.

It's a work in progress, which means a good bit of the situations these players see on the field this year will be situations they'll be seeing for the first time. I think Grantham is a heck of a coach, but as you wrote, if it takes Saban at least a year to get things right, it's hard to hold anyone else to a higher standard.

BigMuddyDawg writes: I feel really terrible for all of those involved. I've read that Montez has led a rough life and I'm certainly not making any excuses for his actions. But I was very hopeful that under the guidance of Mark Richt and his staff, Montez would be able put a lot of the bad stuff behind him. I still believe in him and will continue to hope for the best for him.

That's been one side of the fallout from Montez Robinson's dismissal. This has been the other...

Trey writes: Really? You are on scholarship to a great school and you can't keep from beating the crap out of people even though you know it will probably be strike three? Nobody should feel sorry for this young man, what an idiot.

And I get that, too. If you're a fan who has seen your school's reputation take a hit because of a player who had multiple chances to do the right thing, you have every right to be angry.

I'm not going to make any excuses for Montez. He had more than enough chances, and Mark Richt's decision was no doubt the right one. But having said that, anyone who doesn't think this is sad news all around simply doesn't have a clue what Montez has been through.

I had planned to write an in-depth story on Robinson's background and what led him to Georgia. I may still do that, but obviously it will have a far different tone now. In order to finish the story, I'd need to talk to Montez again, too, and for a kid who has some very serious trust issues, I can't help but wonder if that will be an option. We shall see.

I did start working on the story though, and I learned more than enough about who Montez Robinson is to share a few things:

1.) The people who are blaming Rodney Garner now for bringing Robinson to Georgia are absurd. First off, Garner recruited a heck of a football player, and Georgia was hardly the only top school going after Robinson.

Secondly, Robinson and Garner have a similar past, and I know Garner saw something in Montez that made him want to believe this kid could turn his life around. I didn't spend nearly as much time with Robinson as Garner did, and I wanted to believe, too.

But most importantly, football at this level is often about giving kids a chance, and Montez is hardly the only player with a problematic background to come to Georgia. In fact, he's not the only player on this year's team with a background that involves group homes, foster families and very little parental oversight. The impressive thing is how many of those kids have become exactly what Garner hoped Montez would become.

I'm sure I'll be ripped for being a flaming liberal by a handful of people who think I'm making excuses for people who aren't taking responsibility for their own behavior, but I think Garner -- and obviously Mark Richt and all the college coaches who undertake the responsibility of trying to change the lives of kids like Montez -- should be credited for the immense number of success stories rather than trashed by fans because a few didn't manage to overcome the immense obstacles set before them.

For someone like Montez to turn his life around, to become the person his background never gave him the chance to be, to find happiness in a life that has been filled with disappointment -- that almost takes a miracle. And while it's the sad situations like Robinson now finds himself in that steal most of the headlines, I'm continually amazed at how many miracles the game of college football continues to provide for kids like him.

2.) Montez ruined his best chance to turn his life around, and he did so by hurting the people who most wanted to help. I can understand why some fans now think he's not deserving of their sympathy. But this is a story that goes well beyond Montez. He supported his family. His younger brothers looked up to him as if he were some sort of god. He was supposed to be blazing the path out of an awful situation that the rest of his brothers and sisters could then follow. I can't fathom what a crushing blow this is for them, particularly given all the disappointment that they've already faced in their lives. The ripple effects of this situation go well beyond the depth chart at outside linebacker.

3.) I understand the sentiment that Robinson had more than his share of chances, and I understand the frustration that comes when he knew what would happen if he messed up again, and he did it anyway.

But I'll share one final story with you that I hope helps shed a little bit of light on all of this.

I talked to Rodney Garner about Montez back in November, and he told me that he was particularly happy about a recent breakthrough the two of them had. A few weeks earlier, Garner had sent Robinson a text message telling him he loved him.

Robinson's reaction was utter confusion. He didn't understand why Garner would say something like that. Garner told me Montez was actually afraid Garner might be gay, or that responding to the sentiment would make him gay.

It was the first time in Robinson's life that an adult male had said he loved him, and Robinson had no idea how to respond.

This is the inherent problem for kids like Montez. What most of us take for granted as normal ways of handling our emotions are completely foreign for him. For Montez to properly channel his anger or communicate his feelings is like you or I trying to speak Latin. He simply was never given the training or education or tools to do it, and that's not something that a few months of therapy or coaching oversight can change.

In the weeks after that, however, Montez came to grips with things. He talked to Thomas Settles, the chaplain at Georgia, and he talked about his feelings a bit with Garner, too. Those were big steps for a kid who doesn't trust anyone easily. By the time I interviewed Garner for the story, Robinson was at a point where he could tell Garner he loved him, too.

That was a monumental step forward for Robinson. The shame of it is, I can't help but wonder how many more steps forward he might have been able to take if he hadn't let down the people who care the most about him.

Ultimately, we're all responsible for our own actions, and I have no doubt Montez knows that, too. His decisions and his actions are what led him to where he is now.

Mark Richt made the right decision Sunday. Montez made too many of the wrong decisions along the way. But I think the best response to all of this -- and perhaps the only thing to take from a very sad situation -- is this one...

Young Swole writes: Life is more important than football. I hope you can find some peace in your life one day Montez.

David: Well said.

Georgia returns to the practice field tomorrow. We're still waiting to hear if there will be any announcement from Mark Richt today about the taxi incident. If anything comes up between now and then, I'll have it posted here.

And if you have a question for future mailbags, feel free to email me at


Anonymous said...

Mr. Hale, I appreciate what you said about Montez Robinson. Most of us that come from a good family structure have a difficult time simply understanding what some kids go through to achieve what we view as easy. I suggest people rent "the Blind Side" which is based on a true story...and I'm not some flaming liberal. Thanks RB

Anonymous said...

I wish all of the anonymous jagoffs on and the banner herald's website would read this...