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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lawrence Sets SEC Mark in 400

From UGA release...

Georgia sophomore Torrin Lawrence topped the meet record to win the 400-meter dash title during the final day of the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on Sunday.

A completed updated report, including team scores, will be released following the conclusion of Sunday’s events.

Lawrence, who came into the race with the world’s fastest 400 time this year (45.03), ran out of the second heat and clocked a 45.10 to win the second SEC indoor title of his career. Lawrence was the 2009 league champion in the 200.

Lawrence was forced to answer Kirani James after the Alabama freshman had a 45.24 to win the opening heat. But Lawrence reacted by speeding to the second-fastest time of his career and topping Kerron Clement’s 45.29 SEC Championships meet record set in 2005. Lawrence, who already has the third-fastest indoor collegiate time in history, now also has the fourth-fastest time as well.

More Fun With Numbers: Tough Tasks Ahead

I wrote a lot about which teams had the most production returning from their 2009 squads this week, so I thought it might be an interesting exercise to see which teams will face the most returning talent in 2010, too.

So, again using Phil Steele's list, here's the number of returning starters each SEC team is scheduled to face during the regular season in 2010...

Vandy 180
Georgia 170
Tennessee 170
Kentucky 168
Alabama 165
Florida 159
LSU 158
Miss. State
S. Carolina 156
Ole Miss
Arkansas 154
Auburn 153

A few minor points:

-- I counted a zero for all FCS opponents, of which each SEC team plays one... with the exception of Vandy. So that's why the Commodores are so far out in front. Take away their low number among non conference opponents and they're at 165 for the year...

-- Which, of course, means that no team in the SEC is scheduled to face more returning starters from the 2009 season than Georgia (and, Tennessee). But...

-- The biggest thing to take from these numbers is probably that they really don't mean squat. Georgia's schedule won't be a cake walk, but it should be easier than the past two seasons. And while it does look like the Dawgs will have a tougher go of it than their SEC peers, those numbers can change drastically as injuries add up and veterans get benched (assuming Willie Martinez is not their coach) and young stars emerge.

-- Of course, if we were going to read anything into this, it's perhaps a bit concerning that the two teams that have stood out pretty dramatically in our earlier lists -- Auburn and Arkansas -- also stack up pretty well here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday Links (2/27)

I'm heading over to Stegeman in a few hours for Georgia-Florida on the hardwood. Hopefully I'll see a few of you there.

In the meantime, it's been a few days since I've posted any links, so here ya go...

-- WUOG talks to soon-to-be Georgia safety Alec Ogletree about how he's getting prepared for life as a Bulldog.

-- Uga8 makes the case for Aaron Murray, and it's a pretty compelling one.

-- Marc Weiszer talks to tight end Orson Charles about how he plans to improve on his stellar rookie season.

-- Leather Helmet Blog remains a bit cautious in buying into the better numbers during mat drills this year.

-- Bubba N Earl look at SEC out of conference scheduling this year and pick out the season's best games.

-- And along those lines, Chris Low breaks down the non-conference slates for each team, which for once doesn't have Georgia facing an uphill battle.

-- After breaking down the offensive signees earlier this week, Battle Hymn Notes projects the careers of each of Georgia's defensive signees, too.

-- Dancing in the End Zone reviews his 2009 predictions and makes amends for the bad ones.

-- Chris Low has a round-up of all the coaching changes in both the SEC East and SEC West.

-- With Ole Miss hoping to change its mascot to Admiral Akbar, Chad Gibbs has a great run down of which "Star Wars" character best represents each SEC team. (h/t Andy)

-- One of Gene Chizik's first big commitments at Auburn has decided to transfer.

-- Whatever you do, don't get caught with drugs three times at Tennessee.

-- The Sporting News profiles former Diamond Dog Mitchell Boggs, who is now pitching for the Cardinals.

-- And the AJC has a nice profile of Georgia sprinter Torrin Lawrence, who may well be the best athlete at UGA that most of you have never seen.

-- Anyone working at Macy's or delivering mail wanna go grab a few beers and bemoan our futures? (h/t Jim F)

-- This story about Frank and Jamie McCourt's finances bothers me on a number of levels, but I can't say that I'm upset with them about managing to not pay taxes. The problem is the tax system that allows it, not the people who take advantage of it.

-- If you haven't seen it already, it's always amusing to watch ESPN get punked by a Howard Stern fan. I love Scott Van Pelt, but shouldn't you be a little curious as to why Brian Westbrook sounds like a 45-year-old community college drop-out from East Orange?

-- Mike Wilbon offers some reaction to the Tony Kornheiser suspension.

-- And the New York Post has the full story on what Hannah Storm was wearing and what Mr. Tony said.

-- Sorry french fry lovers, but here's the ugly truth on what you're putting into your bodies. This is utterly disappointing. I love Five Guys' fries.

-- A couple of interesting "Lost" links for you... Here's one theory that I found pretty interesting that perhaps our flash sideways aren't exactly what we think they are; And here's a handy dandy time line that helps you put all of the action so far into chronological order.

-- Meanwhile, Locke and Ben are hoping to work together again in a series after "Lost" ends.

-- NPR has an interesting story that says that, for most people, their belief in climate change hinges not on any sort of facts, but rather on what their overall worldview is. Something tells me that decision-making philosophy isn't limited to climate change.

-- One episode of "Family Guy" last year resulted in 200,000 letters to the FCC complaining about the content. I gotta say, I used to like "Family Guy" but I think all the episodes are now is the writers trying to see how many complaints they can get. How about, you know, writing some jokes to go along with it?

-- David Simon talks about his new HBO show, which is set in New Orleans and sounds like it will have a lot of similarities to "The Wire."

-- And like every season of "The Wire," we have to end on a bit of a down note -- and I'm guessing none of the twenty-two pilots about cops currently in development will provide the same quality. Seriously, this is why people hate network TV now. (Had a commenter say there were some problems with pop-ups and virus alerts on this link? Have others had an issue? If so, I'll delete it.)

Making Special Teams Special Again

Georgia’s special teams responsibilities have been officially divvied out among the assistant coaches.

Wide receivers coach Tony Ball will handle kickoff returns and tight ends coach John Lilly will be in charge of punting and punt coverage, just as they were last year. The Bulldogs led the nation in punting in 2009 and kick returner Brandon Boykin scored three touchdowns on returns.

The shakeups occur in the units formerly coached by dismissed defensive ends coach Jon Fabris.

Punt return duties will fall to second-year running backs coach Bryan McClendon, who returned punts and kicks for the Bulldogs as a player in 2003 and 2004.

Lilly will handle overall special teams coordination, setting up meetings and practice times, Richt said, but will not hold the title of special teams coordinator

The most notable change, however, comes on the much maligned kickoff coverage team, which will now be headed up by Warren Belin, who coached that unit for eight seasons at Vanderbilt. If last season tells us anything, this should be one of the biggest steps forward for Georgia in 2010.

To wit…

Last season, Vandy ranked second in the SEC in kick coverage and 29th nationally, allowing an average of 20.2 yards per return.

Georgia ranked last in the SEC and 117th nationally in kick coverage nationally, allowing an average of 25.71 yards per return.

How much of a difference was that really?

Vandy allowed 550 fewer kick return yards than Georgia for the season, and at five yards per kick, it probably made a difference of 20 to 25 yards of field position per game, which is hardly insignificant.

Of course, the other important thing to remember is -- Vandy was doing it with worse players.

I won't get into the coverage unit itself, since it should be fairly obvious that the backups at UGA should be every bit as skilled athletically as the starters for Vandy. There's absolutely no question that Georgia should be able to cover kicks as well as Belin's old squad.

But let's look at the kickers.

Vandy finished second in the SEC in coverage despite the fact that their kicker -- Ryan Fowler -- had just three touchbacks all season.

Georgia finished last in woeful fashion, despite the fact that its kicker -- Blair Walsh -- was a Groza finalist and led the SEC with 17 touchbacks.

So to be clear, Walsh had fourteen more kickoffs than Fowler in which the opposition wasn't able to return the kick, and Georgia still allowed an average of five more yards per kickoff return for the season.

Friday, February 26, 2010

New Staff Brings Many Changes

Nothing is etched in stone, and that’s the first message head coach Mark Richt has preached to his team about this spring. There will be a lot of changes, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, but that was to be expected when three new coaches were brought in. They key, Richt said, is patience.

“One of the things we want the players to understand is they shouldn’t get too worked up about the depth chart – really on either side of the ball, but a little bit more defensively,” Richt said. “Our new coaches are still learning those guys, and there’ll probably be some moving around just to get the right fit.”

Of course, the moving around has already begun in earnest. Georgia’s new defensive coaches met with each player and let them know what their roles this spring would be – and that means changes up and down the roster.

Justin Houston, Montez Robinson and Cornelius Washington all played defensive end last year. They’ll all be at outside linebacker this spring, along with converted tailback Richard Samuel, new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.

DeAngelo Tyson and Kwame Geathers will man the newly created nose position, while Abry Jones, Brandon Wood and Kiante Tripp – all defensive tackles in 2009 – will be playing defensive end this season. Demarcus Dobbs, a starter at end last year, will remain at the position, too, though Grantham said the linemen will all cross-train between end and nose.

Nick Williams is moving from linebacker to safety, Sanders Commings is going from corner to safety, and the corners, Richt said, will be adjusting to new roles, too, working less in run support, which could further shake up the look of the defense.

“The biggest thing is Coach Grantham has a vision for what this defense is going to look like, what the body types are at each position,” Richt said. “So he and (the other coaches) have looked at the film and Todd has been describing what he’s looking for in each spot and just fit what they see to the position that he envisions.”

So far, there has been a lot of film study, and once spring practice starts Thursday, Grantham hopes to get a much better feel of how players are adapting to their new roles. The new staff has a little more than a month to get players comfortable and make sure they’re ready to keep the momentum rolling into the summer, when coaches are barred from working directly with the team.

“It’s critical you define the role for each player, so when they leave in the summer, here’s what you can do to improve yourself, what you can work on,” Grantham said. “That way when we come back, everybody’s got an understanding.”

Still, that doesn’t mean that a player at safety this week won’t be at linebacker by the fall. A lot remains undecided, and Grantham said his goal will be to have players prepared for whatever the future might hold.

“There will be change, because we want to see what guys can do at more than one position,” Grantham said. “It’ll be changing as we get going, and sometimes it’s a change just to see what he can do at another spot and to create some depth. It’s nothing more than trying to find out what we have at each position and what we need to work on as we look forward to the first game.”

It’s not just Georgia’s players getting used to all the changes around the football offices. Richt said he has done his best to soak in some new ideas that Grantham and fellow first-year assistants Scott Lakatos and Warren Belin have brought to the table, too.

“It’s a healthy exchange of ideas,” Richt said. “A lot of times you spend a lot of money to fly around to different schools to get details of what’s going on, but how much can you get in a one- or two-day period compared to a guy just being there, living there.”

Richt has already decided to implement two suggestions of his new staff.

First, he’ll be going back to a Monday through Thursday practice schedule, with walk-throughs on Fridays. Last season he had the team practice on Sunday and gave the players Monday off, but he’s since reconsidered the plan in light of some input from his new assistants.

Grantham also suggested revamping the daily meeting schedules, so rather than open with special teams work, Richt will address the entire team first, then break off into special teams and segment meetings. Richt said it’s a schedule used in the NFL and makes organizing meetings much simpler.

One thing that hasn’t been discussed yet is the strength and conditioning program, Richt said.

“Our strength and conditioning staff does a great job,” Richt said. “We’ll be open to any ideas for anything, but that has not come up at this point.”

Of course, Richt doesn’t see much need for improvement in that area, he said, adding that the staff has awarded more grades of ‘A’ during mat drills – the grueling offseason conditioning program held each winter – than he has during any other season since he arrived at Georgia, despite upping the requirements a bit.

“We’ve gone longer on the mat than we ever have at Georgia,” Richt said. “We’ve added a little time to it. Just don’t tell the players.”

Good Quote, Bad Quote: Pre-Spring Edition

We got to pepper Georgia's players with a lot of questions yesterday, and to prove they weren't anywhere close to midseason form when it comes to dealing with the media, we actually got a few good, candid answers. They'll be sick of us soon enough, though, no doubt.

Of course, mixed with the great quotes were a few not-so-great ones, too. So, let's trot out the first edition of our new feature at Bulldogs Blog… Good Quote, Bad Quote.


“I was talking to Coach (Mark) Richt about being All-American. I believe that if I would have stayed healthy last year, I would have easily gotten that. So that’s my goal is just to be an All-American.”

That's from A.J. Green, the only guy I know who can use the phrase "Just an All-American" and I wouldn't suggest he might be underselling the accomplishment.


I asked A.J. what it's been like for him that, entering his third year at UGA, he'll now be playing with his third different quarterback. He said it was definitely a bit odd, particularly since he played with the same QB all through high school. So my follow-up question, of course, was this: "So, does that mean you'll definitely be sticking around for your senior year so you can play with the same QB twice?"

Sadly, there was no such commitment coming from the star wide out: “I don’t know, man," Green said. "Whatever happens.”

I think we all have a pretty good feel for what might happen.


“Tell Darick ‘pretty boy’ Rogers he doesn’t have to know me but I bet he will feel me!! Lol”


“I compete against the best receiver in the nation everyday at practice. Why should i worry about that guy.”

Both of those quotes came from Bacarri Rambo's Twitter page in the days following Da'Rick Rogers' last-minute departure from his commitment to UGA and his eventual decision to head to Tennessee instead. Funny stuff, and we all love a little trash talk, right?

Of course, that leads us to...


“I wasn’t really directly talking to him. I was just shocked that you would say you were going to one school and then change your mind at the last (minute). It wasn’t directed to him. It was directed to no one. I was just confused and curious as to why they would do things like that. But if he wanted to think it was him, I can’t stop him from thinking that, so it’s whatever.”

That's Rambo on his explanation of the war of words with Rogers. Hey, I'm all for trying to throw some water on the fire now, Bacarri, but it's hard to say you didn't direct your comments at a guy when you used his name. Of course, I guess when you hit like Rambo does, who's gonna argue with him?


Kris Durham was on hand for interviews, all dressed up in khakis and a button-down shirt. The reason for the nice duds? Well, he said he got dressed up for us, which we of course appreciated, but in fact it's because he has been student teaching at Oconee County Middle School.

Anyway, Durham said he's had the occasional behavior problems with his students, so I asked if he ever threatened to send Bacarri Rambo after them to get them to behave.

“No," Durham said, "I don’t have him using his Twitter page very much.”



Tell me if you remember hearing this before…

“I believe we’re working harder than last year. Last year, we had a lot of leaders and we thought things were just going to be handed to us and didn’t work as hard as we should, I thought at least. This year, we’re working hard.”

That's not from Joe Cox or Rennie Curran or any of the guys who spoke on the subject last offseason. That's from A.J. Green yesterday.

Sorry, A.J. I'm just not buying in this year.


“From what they said the other day, they gave more A’s than they’ve given in a long time. The guys are really going to work, just really trying hard to impress the coaches and trying to get better. You can tell everybody’s excited around here, especially the defensive guys. We’re ready to go to where I feel Coach (Todd) Grantham and the defensive staff will just let us play and let us have fun out there."

Now, I'm definitely going to be a bit more skeptical of the hard work and leadership quotes this offseason, but I gotta say, this quote from Marcus Dowtin is pretty encouraging.

While I'm sure every offseason is The Best Offseason Ever, I think there probably is a good bit of truth to what Dowtin said. In fact, it was obvious just from talking to the defensive players how enthusiastic and excited they are about the new regime and the new scheme.

In fact, here's one last quote I think every UGA fan will be excited about, courtesy of Mr. Rambo...


“It’s a whole lot different, especially with the footwork that Coach (Scott) Lakatos is teaching us," Rambo said of working with his new defensive backs coach. "Most of the people in the NFL run the same thing as Coach Lakatos is teaching us. It’s a whole different footwork thing from Coach Martinez.”

And not to bash Willie Martinez, but here's how Branden Smith discussed learning that new footwork:

“Backpedaling, coming out of the breaks, turning – those are different," Smith said. "The footwork that Coach Lakatos is teaching us right now, I’ve done it in high school, so it’s nothing new and it’s easier to learn.”

I can only assume if it was good enough for the five-star player in high school, and it's good enough for the pros in the NFL, it's going to be a nice addition to the secondary at UGA.

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.

Projecting UGA's 2010 Depth Chart

(Note: Updated 3/18/10)

We're less than a week from Day 1 of spring practice, and we were pretty much told that we shouldn't expect anything resembling a depth chart from the coaches any time soon. That's not a big surprise since so much is still yet to be determined, and we won't know how the pieces of Todd Grantham's new 3-4 fit together until we're at least a week or two into the spring.

But while the final depth chart is far from settled, Georgia's new defensive coaches have met with players individually and told them where they'll be working primarily this spring. And while we haven't confirmed each of those details, we can start to piece together a decent idea of how the roster will look this spring and into the fall.

So, while I caution you that this is in no way official, here's my best guesses as to how the Georgia depth chart will look when the season begins in September. I've noted where players have confirmed their positions.

# = will miss or be limited this spring.
* = incoming freshman, won't be on campus until June.

(Note: With perhaps one or two exceptions, I didn't include walk-ons on the depth charts.)


Starter: Aaron Murray
Reserves: Zach Mettenberger, Logan Gray, Hutson Mason*

Notes: The word from the coaching staff is that this is an open competition this spring, so it's hard to say who will win the job for sure. Still, the reports on Murray have all been glowing, and the common wisdom among pundits seems to be that Murray will land the job eventually -- perhaps as soon as the end of spring practice. If that happens, there's a chance that Gray could move to receiver.


Starter(s): Caleb King and Washaun Ealey
Reserves: Ken Malcolme*, Dontavius Jackson, Carlton Thomas

Notes: There will likely be a starter named at some point, and that's likely to depend on how far Ealey has come in his blocking ability. But the nominal distinction of starter and backup doesn't mean much with these two. Both are likely to see a good bit of playing time, and Ealey said he'd like to see both end up with 1,000 yards on the ground in 2010.


Starter: Shaun Chapas
Reserves: Fred Munzenmaier #, Charles White, Zander Ogletree*

Notes: Chapas has been a foundation of the Georgia offense for the past two seasons and has this job locked up. He's playing for a shot at being drafted this year, so expect him to be at his best. Munzenmaier should see a few touches, particularly in short-yardage situations, but will be limited this spring. White and Ogletree are the heir apparents at fullback, and could benefit from a bit of action this season, too, as neither has worked at the position in a college game-day situation before.

Offensive line

Left tackle: Clint Boling
Left guard: Cordy Glenn
Center: Ben Jones
Right guard: Chris Davis
Right tackle: Josh Davis
Reserves: Trinton Sturdivant #, Tanner Strickland #, Chris Burnette, Dallas Lee, Kolton Houston, Justin Anderson #, Brent Benedict*, Kenarious Gates, A.J. Harmon, Austin Long #, Ben Harden, Jonathan Owens

Notes: If Sturdivant returns healthy, that could shake things up a bit. Mike Bobo said he plans to view Sturdivant as a luxury, but if that luxury is ready to go in the fall, he'll be at left tackle. So, if Sturdivant moves to left tackle, then what happens? Boling would seem likely to move to the right tackle spot, spelling Josh Davis. But Davis performed well last year and was a big piece to the puzzle of Georgia's resurgent running game. Chris Davis, who has battled a painful hip injury for two seasons, might seem the more likely candidate to come off the bench, but Josh Davis probably doesn't have the size to play right guard as effectively. So does Boling move to right guard, where he played significantly in 2007? Or does Josh Davis go to the bench? And where does this leave Justin Anderson, who has fought for playing time and could be an asset at either guard or tackle? This could be a more interesting battle than most fans expect, but the real fireworks can't start until we see who's healthy come August.

Tight end

Starter: Aron White
Reserves: Orson Charles, Arthur Lynch and Bruce Figgins

Notes: White will likely be the starter in name only. He'll get plenty of playing time and plenty of throws his way, but Charles is too good to keep off the field. Expect to see a number of two tight end sets, often with Charles split out wide. Both Lynch and Figgins are excellent run blockers, and there's a good chance all four of these guys will get a decent amount of action this season.

Wide receiver

Starters: A.J. Green and Tavarres King
Reserves: Kris Durham, Marlon Brown, Rantavious Wooten, Michael Bennett*, Israel Troupe, Chad Gloer

Notes: Durham has experience at all three wide receiver positions -- split end, flanker and slot -- and will likely be used in a variety of roles. Brown needs to show he's matured since last year, but his physical skills are obvious. Troupe and Wooten each had their moments in the sun last year, and with a fairly shallow depth chart at the position, every one of the WRs is likely to see a fair number of balls thrown their way this year.

Nose Tackle

Starter: DeAngelo Tyson
Reserves: Mike Thornton*, Kwame Geathers, Derrick Lott

Notes: This one involves a fair bit of speculation, but Tyson was often cited as the best candidate for the job when Grantham was first hired, and Thornton, Geathers and Lott are probably the best fits at the position among the reserves in terms of body size. None of these positions are confirmed at this point.

UPDATE: Richt and Grantham confirmed Tyson and Geathers will be the primary NTs, but said all the D linemen will crosstrain. And even more intriguing, Claude Felton, Georgia's SID, confirms that the position will be called "nose" rather than nose tackle or nose guard.

UPDATE: As of 3/18 Rodney Garner confirms that Tyson is his projected starter at nose, but said that Tyson, Tripp, Wood and Jones have all cross-trained at both nose and end. Garner said Geathers is the only D lineman who has worked exclusively at nose.

Defensive end

Starters: Abry Jones, Demarcus Dobbs
Reserves: Brandon Wood, Kiante Tripp, Brandon Burrows*, Dexter Morant*, Garrison Smith*

Notes: Dobbs is pretty likely to end up at D end, and Jones expressed a desire to play the position -- which he did in high school, also running a 3-4 on occasion. Those two seem like the most likely candidates for the starting gig, although that's far from settled. Wood could move to NT and that's not out of the realm of possibilities for Tripp either, but neither of those two could secure significant playing time last year and will have to earn a job this season. Of the newcomers, Smith is the most likely to see immediate playing time. He was a defensive tackle in high school, but his 6-4, 250-pound frame makes him a better fit coming off the end.

UPDATE: Grantham says Dobbs and Abry Jones will be at D end, along with Brandon Wood, Derrick Lott and Kiante Tripp. Again though, all will crosstrain.

Inside linebacker

Starters: Darryl Gamble, Marcus Dowtin
Reserves: Mike Gilliard, Chase Vasser, Akeem Dent, Akeem Hebron, Christian Robinson, Richard Samuel

Notes: Gamble told us Thursday that he and Dent were both set to play inside linebacker, but he said he wouldn't mind playing outside, too. Those two will both work at the "Mike" position, which Gamble said will essentially be the QB of the defense. The heavy burden put on this position means that Dent and Gamble, the two seniors, are probably the best fits. Dowtin said he actually wanted to play outside, but that Grantham thinks he's a better fit at the "Mo" linebacker position. He said Robinson was likely to be at the "Mo" as well. Hebron remains a wild card, Vasser is probably a safe bet to be working here, and Gilliard could probably play inside or outside.

Starters: Justin Houston, Cornelius Washington
Reserves: Reuben Faloughi, Montez Robinson, Jeremy Longo #, Richard Samuel, Nick Williams , Demetre Baker*, Jalen Fields*, T.J. Stripling*

Notes: Gamble said Thursday that Houston, Washington and Robinson were all working at OLB along with "a few of the incoming guys." Of that group of incoming freshmen, the most likely to be at OLB -- and also the most likely to see immediate action -- is Stripling. Faloughi has also said he is being moved from DE to OLB, and it could be an exceptional fit for the walk-on with a frame similar to Quentin Moses. Richard Samuel remains the real wild card here. He's just transitioning from tailback, and Dowtin said he could play a little of both inside and outside linebacker. Or there also remains a real chance he could redshirt.

UPDATE: Grantham says Samuel will be at OLB for now, along with Montez, Houston and Washington. Richt confirms that Nick Williams has been moved from linebacker back to safety.

UPDATE: As of March 18, Samuel had been moved to inside linebacker, where head coach Mark Richt said his skill set would be a better fit due to the position's reliance on speed and cover skills.


Starters: Bacarri Rambo, Jakar Hamilton
Reserves: Marc Deas*, Alec Ogletree, Makiri Pugh, Quintin Banks, Shawn Williams, Nick Williams, Sanders Commings

Notes: Rambo is a virtual lock for the starting job, and Hamilton probably has a leg up because he enrolled early and is a bit farther on the learning curve having played in junior college at GMC. Williams is a nice player who had some good moments on special teams last year. He could be a surprise and push for a starting gig. Banks is the veteran of the group and a vocal leader that new DBs coach Scott Lakatos would probably like to have out on the field. The problem has always been staying healthy for Banks, and he'll need to show he can be a bit more durable before the Dawgs invest too much hope into him.

UPDATE: Richt confirms Nick Williams has been moved back from linebacker to safety, where he began his career. In nickel packages, Williams could still work some at linebacker. Richt also says Sanders Commings will begin spring at safety, although he could see action at corner, too.

UPDATE: Sanders Commings has spent virtually all of spring practice at corner, not safety. Shawn Williams has taken the majority of the first-team reps at safety during spring practice.


Starters: Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith
Reserves: Jordan Love, Vance Cuff, Sanders Commings, Derek Owens*, Sanders Commings

Notes: Boykin is the secondary's lone returning starter, and if he can build on a solid freshman campaign, he has a chance to be an All-SEC performer. Smith appears to be the likely next in line to fill the vacancy left by Prince Miller's departure, but after splitting time between offense and defense a year ago, he still needs to show a bit more consistency before he has the starting job locked up. Cuff is the veteran of the group and has a ton of speed. Love missed much of last year with a toe injury, but his size makes him a good matchup. Both should see plenty of action in nickel situations. Commings has great height, too, and has bounced between corner and safety during his two years at UGA.

UPDATE: Richt says Sanders Commings will work some at corner still, but will open spring at safety. Richt also said that the new scheme will require the boundary corner to work less in run support, which could shake up how the starting jobs are set.

UPDATE: As of March 18, Sanders Commings is back to working mostly at corner. Brandon Boykin said that's been virtually all of Commings snaps so far, and said new DBs coach Scott Lakatos' desire to use taller corners makes Commings a valuable asset at the position.

Special teams

Kicker: Blair Walsh
Punter: Drew Butler
Snapper: Ty Frix
Kick returner: Brandon Boykin
Punt returner: Branden Smith/Carlton Thomas

Notes: Aside from the loss of Prince Miller and a tussle for the starting punt returner job, Georgia will bring back one of the best special teams units in the country. And if Smith, Thomas or another of Georgia's speedsters can handle the PR job, this area could be a huge strength for the Dawgs in 2010. And, who knows… maybe the directional kicking will improve, too.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Notes: Dawgs View Sturdivant as 'Luxury'

After missing all but about 40 minutes of the past two seasons, Trinton Sturdivant hasn’t been forgotten by Georgia’s coaches. But just the same, they’re not exactly counting on him either.

After an impressive freshman season at left tackle in 2007, Sturdivant tore multiple ligaments in his left knee in fall camp in 2008, then suffered a torn ACL in Georgia’s opening game last season.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Sturdivant is ahead of schedule in his recovery from his most recent knee surgery, but the battle plan for the Bulldogs’ offense is to proceed as if their left tackle won’t be around in 2010.

“When we’re talking about our objectives as an offense and what we want to accomplish this spring, we want to establish depth at the offensive line with out counting on Trinton Sturdivant,” Bobo said. “He’s a luxury. We think he’s going to be back, he’s ahead of schedule, he’s doing great, but we have to establish depth besides him.”

In each of the past two seasons, Georgia shuffled replacements at left tackle after Sturdivant’s injuries, and in both cases, it took the offensive line a while to find its groove.

So this season, Bobo hopes to have a group ready to play with or without Sturdivant – which likely means opening with senior Clint Boling filling the left tackle job, where he worked at the ends of both the 2008 and 2009 season and performed well enough to earn All-SEC honors.

Of course, while that’s the plan for now, it’s certainly not etched in stone if that luxury becomes a reality, Bobo said.

“If we get ‘The Luxury,’ he’ll probably be at left tackle,” Bobo said of Sturdivant. “Whoever those best five are, we’re going to put them in the best position where we think they can be successful. If Trinton’s out there, and he’s one of our best five, my bet is he’d be at left tackle.”


After soon-to-be Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers spurned Georgia just days before signing day this year, Bulldogs safety Bacarri Rambo voiced some displeasure with the lack of commitment shown by players who were once committed to coming to Athens.

On his Facebook page, Rambo wrote he though it was “messed up” for players to renege on a commitment at the last minute and promised, “When I catch you on the field I’m going to knock fire from you.”

That started an ongoing war of words between Rambo and Rogers in which the receiver lambasted the safety via Facebook and Twitter and Rambo returned serve with a few quips of his own.

Now that the feud seems to have simmered down, Rambo said it was all a bit of a misunderstanding.

“I wasn’t really directly talking to him,” Rambo said. “I was just shocked that you would say you were going to one school and then change your mind at the last (minute). It wasn’t directed to him. It was directed to no one. I was just confused and curious as to why they would do things like that. But if he wanted to think it was him, I can’t stop him from thinking that, so it’s whatever.”

Regardless of any confusion, Rambo doesn’t think he has much to clear up. He said he has no plans to contact Rogers, but won’t continue the war of words either.

“I’m going to try to be the better man and just let that die down and not say anything to him,” Rambo said.


A large contingent of Georgia fans that drooled over Richard Samuel’s physical skills but scratched their heads at his inability to avoid contact as a tailback got their wish this offseason when the rising junior was moved to linebacker.

As it turns out, those fans weren’t alone in hoping for a change for the talented former tailback. Junior linebacker Marcus Dowtin said he has been lobbying Samuel to make the switch for two years.

“I spoke to Richard when we first got up here freshman year and told him you should make that switch and come over to linebacker with me,” Dowtin said. “So I always wanted him to do that, and now that he’s over there, he’s definitely going to do something great. He’s an athlete. He’s strong, he’s fast, and I think he’ll be a great complement to me, and I can be a great complement to him out there. He’s made our linebacker corps a lot more athletic and a lot faster.”


* Tailback Washaun Ealey said he still hopes to swap his uniform number from 24 to 3 – the number he and all of his family members wore during their high-school playing days – but he has yet to get a final OK from head coach Mark Richt.

* Cornerback Chad Gloer was moved to wide receiver this month to help fill in the gaps on a shallow depth chart.

* Despite some rumors that a move to the offensive line could be in store, Bobo said Kwame Geathers is staying put on defense.

* Cornerback Jordan Love is back at work after missing much of last season with a toe injury that has nagged him since high school. He underwent surgery to repair the injury, and fellow corner Branden Smith said the results are encouraging so far. “Right now, he’s feeling good,” Smith said. “He’s ready for the season to start right now. His recovery is coming along very well.”

* Spring practice officially begins Thursday, but Bobo said that is more of an opportunity to meet with the players and maximize their practice time. The team will then take 12 days off during Georgia’s spring break before reconvening – and essentially re-doing the Day 1 workouts – on March 14.

* Bobo was also sporting a black eye during interviews Thursday. The injury came courtesy of grad assistant Mitch Doolittle during Wednesday's pick-up basketball game.

I got lots more info, including plenty on the defensive changes, from today’s meetings with players, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that.

Bobo Talks Spring QB Race

More notes coming in a bit, but here's a bunch of stuff from Mike Bobo about the race for the starting QB job this spring...

On whether he expected Logan Gray to play more last season...
“We did hope to play him more last year going into the season and it just didn’t work out that way. Not that we had this game plan going into each game that we were going to play him X number of snaps. Certain games did not dictate that, and sometimes performance in practice did not dictate playing in games. He had a lot of opportunities to prove that you’re ready to play. He knows what he has to work on, he’s been working on it hard, and he’s excited about this spring.”

On whether Aaron Murray's injury cost him a chance to play last year...
“I think it was a make-or-break thing. I can’t sit here and say if he wasn’t injured he would have played, but I think it definitely sealed the deal that he did not play when he misses 21 practice opportunities. It just hurt his progression of playing quarterback. It was not in his best interest or our best interest to play him based off of some potential we might have seen in the spring.”

On Zach Mettenberger's improvement with his footwork...
“He’s improved tremendously and a lot has to do with getting himself in good physical condition. He’s always going to be a big boy. He’s always going to weight around 240. But being in good physical shape where he doesn’t get tired and his legs get tired – he’s never going to be the fastest or the quickest guy, but if he’s in good shape and good condition, he’ll be able to improve his foot quickness.”

On what Mettenberger needs to work on with his footwork...
“People have told him all his life he’s slow and you’ve got to work on your feet. So a lot of times he overcompensates and tries to speed things up when he’s really in good timing and good balance, because in his mind, he’s thinking, I’m slow, I’m slow, I’m slow.”

On what he would like to do differently with this QB competition than he did in 2006...
“We probably should have weeded it down a little bit sooner. We went into two, two-and-a-half weeks of fall camp before we ranked them. It’s just tough to get that many guys reps and get them quality reps and get them ready for the season. I don’t see us going that far this year. Not to say it won’t go into the fall, but to wait until the second scrimmage, it’s a little bit difficult to get a guy ready to play for the first game. You’re trying to get them all an opportunity, but you’ve still got to get a guy ready for that first game.”

On how he views the QB competition this spring...
“The way we’re viewing it going into the spring is it’s wide open. There is not a clear-cut No. 1 going into the spring. Logan Gray will take the first reps with the No. 1 offense, but we’re planning on rotating all three, and giving all three equal amount of looks with the first group.”

On whether he could play two QBs extensively in 2010...
“I’d definitely be comfortable with that. Sometimes it takes that. You have to play it out sometimes if it’s close. You can’t overestimate playing in a game-like atmosphere and experience. I’m not saying yes or no, that’s what we’re going to do, but I would not be against it.”

On when he might begin to narrow down the options at QB...
“I can’t say it’s one week, two weeks, three weeks. It might be the end of spring, it might be into the fall. It depends on which guys step up, show an ability to lead the offense and execute the offense.”

On what the QBs need to do to impress this spring...
“The big thing for them is to worry about improving themselves and not worry about where they are on the depth chart, what their statistics were for the day or certain scrimmages. It’s about getting better every day and trying to put them in the best position to lead the offense. They need to worry about that, and we’ll figure out all that as we go.”

On the fact that each QB brings a different set of skills...
“You’ve got to put them into positions where they can be successful when you’re scripting plays and in practice. You know what they can do and what they can’t do. I want to do things they can be successful in.”

On how those skill sets could fit into the 2010 offense...
“A lot is going to depend on the personnel group around them, who steps up and who we think the playmakers are as to what direction we need to go at quarterback or what type of quarterback we might need to have. But the bottom line for the guy that plays quarterback for us, he’s got to make good decisions in the run and pass game, he’s got to be able to execute the offense and throw the ball accurately, and respect the football. Coming off last year, that’s going to be a big focus of ours is taking care of the football and not turning it over. Now if you add something to that with your legs or athletic ability, that’s a bonus.”

On what kind of physical shape the QBs are in...
“They’re all three doing a nice job in the winter workouts. The two young guys, Zach and Aaron, having come in last year and gone through mat drills definitely benefited them. They know what to expect. Logan going into his third or fourth mat is really doing a nice job of leading and competing. … All of them look great. Zach came in last year at about 245, 250. He’s down to about 234. He’s really changed his body. Murray’s at like 210, 211. He looks really good and does a good job in the weight room. His body looks great. Logan, when we signed that kid, he might have been 170, 175 pounds. Now he’s like 196, a really good athletic body. All three of them are in good shape physically, all of them are ready to go and excited about the opportunity they have this spring.”

Updates From Butts-Mehre

Just an FYI... I'm doing football interviews at Butts-Mehre today. I'll have a full wrap-up tonight, but in the meantime, be sure to follow me on Twitter with updates and quotes. Got a bunch already posted from Darryl Gamble, Marcus Dowtin and Bacarri Rambo.

Oh, and I'm just 30 followers away from 2,000. The lucky 2,000th follower will win a luxurious David Hale prize package, which may or may not include a used UGA media guide and two leftover Beast Lites.

Fun With Numbers: 2010's Best Defenses

Earlier this week, I wrote about the lack of experience at the QB position in the SEC, and yesterday I wrote at length about the returning firepower SEC teams have on the offensive side of the football, which led to this comment from one of our readers...

Elvis Skinner writes: "I wonder what the percentage of total defensive plays would look like for Bama. The offense should be fine, but the D could wind up looking like UF in 2007. I know Saban's "specialty is D", but I'm just saying."

One step ahead of you, Elvis.

First off, Phil Steele has the complete list of how many starters each team returns. On defense, no SEC team returns more than eight starters from 2009 -- with Mississippi State and Auburn leading the way. Kirby Smart will have the most work to do, as Alabama returns just two starters from last year's national-championship defense.

Tracking defensive measurables isn't quite as simple as it is on offense, but I figured there were three key categories worth studying. The first, obviously, is tackles...

'09 Tackles
Auburn 930 781 84.0
Arkansas 1002 760 75.8
S. Carolina
842 625 74.2
Miss. State
817 619 75.8
Vandy 940 587 62.4
Ole Miss
838 501 59.8
Kentucky 859 480 55.9
Tennessee 890 479 53.8
LSU 1011 468 46.3
Georgia 877 443 50.5
Florida 850 430 50.6
Alabama 841 294 35.0
SEC Totals
10,697 6,467 60.5

Of all the lists -- both on offense and defense -- ranking teams by total returning tackles may be the most unfair. While the returning production is a good basis for comparison elsewhere, a team isn't necessarily better because it had more tackles. In fact, if you look at the 2009 results, Alabama and Florida ranked near the bottom in total tackles.

So while this ranking isn't completely deceiving, we may actually be better off by studying the percentage of tackles returned here -- which will then tell us the percentage of defensive production each team needs to replace from last year.

In either case, the news is good for Auburn, which brings back 84 percent of its tackles from last season and brings back the most overall tackles at 781. With the loss of Chris Todd and Ben Tate, there will definitely be some questions on offense for Auburn next year, but it's not like Todd was a superstar, so the defensive numbers here lead me to believe the Tigers have a good shot at a nice season next year.

No surprise to see Florida and Alabama near the bottom of the list. Both teams had some early defections from key players and a big class of seniors say goodbye. Georgia was burned by the early departures of Reshad Jones and Rennie Curran, the team's two leading tacklers who accounted for 203 of the team's 877 total tackles in 2009.

Of course, while tackles are nice, they're simply how any play (aside from a TD) ends. What about the big plays? The one's that change the outcomes of games and shift momentum?

Let's take a look at which teams bring back the best pass rushes for 2010 next...

Team'09 Sacks
Georgia 30 22.5 75.0
Arkansas 29 20 69.0
Auburn 28 15.5 55.4
S. Carolina
28 15.5 55.4
Miss. State
18 13.5 75.0
Tennessee 21 13.5 64.3
Florida 39 13.5 34.6
Ole Miss
36 12.5 34.7
Alabama 32 10.5 32.8
Vandy 20 9.5 47.5
Kentucky 16 9.5 59.4
LSU 21 9.5 45.2
SEC Totals
318 165.5 52.0

Surprised to see the Bulldogs at the top of that list? I'll admit, I sort of was.

It was just 18 months ago that UGA fans were bemoaning the lack of any significant pass rush , and now we're looking at a team that will open the 2010 season with more returning sacks than any other squad in the SEC.

Of course, the biggest question surrounding UGA will be this: Do those numbers really mean much in Todd Grantham's new 3-4 scheme, where the pass rush will be coming in a much different look in 2010?

Still, aside from Arkansas, no other SEC team comes even close to bringing back as many sacks as Georgia does this season.

(Side note: As many times as I've seen Arkansas at the top of these lists, I'd have to say there's good reason for folks to be excited about the Razorbacks' future. That game at Sanford Stadium in September is going to loom large.)

Again, we find Alabama and Florida at the low end of the list, and LSU bringing up the bottom. If I'm Les Miles, I'm a bit concerned about how this season plays out. The Bayou Bengals have been at or near the bottom of a lot of these lists.

OK, so we threw some praise on UGA's pass rush, but what about creating turnovers?

Team'09 Turnovers
Arkansas 30 25 83.3
Miss. State 25 19 76.0
Auburn 24 15 62.5
Ole Miss
24 15 62.5
Vandy 19 14 73.7
S. Carolina
17 12 70.6
Alabama 31 12 38.7
Tennessee 24 11 45.8
Florida 23 9 39.1
Kentucky 22 8 36.4
LSU 18 8 44.4
Georgia 12 6 50.0
SEC Totals
269 154 57.2

We really shouldn't be too surprised to see UGA at the bottom of this list. Even if the Dawgs had returned every one of their turnovers from last season, they'd still only be at the middle of the pack. That's how bad things were last season.

But there is some reason for optimism. For one, those pass rush numbers don't occur in a vacuum. The teams that created the most turnovers in 2009 -- Alabama and Arkansas -- ranked second and fourth, respectively, in the SEC in sacks last year. Pressuring the QB helps create turnovers, and Georgia should be pretty good at getting to the passer in 2010. Add that to another year of experience for Brandon Boykin and the obvious upgrade from to Bryan EvansBacarri Rambo and the Dawgs shouldn't be much worse off in the secondary in terms of talent than they were in 2009.

Besides, there's really nowhere to go but up.

No Rush to Find Next Uga

With spring practice just a week away, plenty of discussion and debate has swirled around finding replacements at quarterback and in the secondary for Georgia, but there's still one other position battle that is sure to be creating headlines well into the summer -- that of Georgia's next mascot.

After Uga VII died suddenly last November, the search began to find his replacement, and the process isn't close to completion just yet, reports Sonny Seiler, the longtime owner of the Uga line of bulldogs.

Seiler said he is waiting on two potential litters sired by Uga VI, who served as the Georgia mascot from 1999 through 2008, but finding a suitable replacement is far from guaranteed.

"When we look at those, if and when they are born -- and we don't know that there's a take on one of them -- and we see a dog that's promising, that has what it takes to be the Georgia mascot and present the presence we look for in these dogs, then we'll set him aside and continue to watch him in hopes of having an (Uga VIII) by the start of the season," Seiler said. "But we're in no rush to do that."

Identifying the next Uga -- and the breeding process involved in doing so -- created a bit of a stir last year when PETA criticized the breeding of British bulldogs, which sometimes involves inbreeding, and suggested Georgia use a mechanical mascot instead of the live bulldog it has employed since 1956.

Seiler said he has never inbred any of his dogs, however, and said the PETA message was more about creating a stir than any genuine concern over the health of the dogs.

"We never have inbred as accused by PETA. We have never done that and never will. We find a suitable female that has absolutely no blood relations to the Uga line," Seiler said. "I know PETA, and they may have a good cause, but that's not really their cause. Their cause is publicity, and if they can dupe (journalists) into writing what they're doing, that's all the want. They just want their names to be in the paper. They're quick to criticize and they don't have their facts straight."

Seiler's careful attention to the Uga line is yet another reason Georgia fans may not learn the identity of the team's next mascot by the time UGA opens its season against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 4. Seiler said he'll be cautious to choose the right dog, and he won't allow a dog onto the field until it is old enough to properly fill the role.

"We don't want to start a dog that you can hardly see or that we can't get a fitted shirt on," Seiler said. "I'm afraid that come September, even if we selected a dog in March, he'd be six months old, and it would be debatable if we would use him or even make an announcement at that time."

If a suitable Uga VIII isn't ready by the time Georgia kicks off its season, Seiler said Russ, the 5-year-old stand-in and brother of Uga VII, will continue to fill the void.

Russ presided over Georgia's final two games in 2009 -- both victories -- but Seiler said he won't be considered for the job on a permanent basis, despite the support of many fans that he land the gig.

"There is no chance of Russ being VIII because he is too old, and we don't want to cheat the mascot out of longevity, so we would never pick a dog that old," Seiler said. "But he's served well, he's a good-looking dog, and we would not hesitate to start the season with him if we haven't selected a puppy or we've selected a puppy, but the puppy is not big enough to adequately perform."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Searels & Thompkins: UGA's Two Best Big Men

Just finished up at basketball practice, but the real show had little to do with the UGA hoopsters.

Georgia's assistant football coaches were playing a pick-up basketball game in the practice gym -- going the width of the court rather than length-wise -- and I would have happily paid admission to watch that -- and make a few jokes about it.

The star? That would be Stacy Searels, who not surprisingly played like Bill Liambeer -- throwing elbows, sweating profusely and occasionally draining a shot from the perimeter you wouldn't have expected him to hit.

Mike Bobo played the point and did so with a new-look goatee. Or perhaps that was Mike Bobo's evil twin. Either way, John Lilly was no match for him.

But the real bummer here was that there was no appearance by Scott Lakatos, who should have been stepping in to represent the Big East. (And note, there was no Todd Grantham or Mark Richt either, despite Richt's penchant for the trick shot.)

And the quote of the day comes from Mark Fox: "I told them if they wanted to keep playing here they had to start going the long way and not the short court."

A few other hoops notes:

-- Talked to Fox about playing at Vandy, where the benches are on the baselines instead of the sidelines. He said the team has practiced that, but added, "I don't know how much they listen to me during the games anyway."

-- Fox also said he has never coached in Vandy's gym before, but it was one of the places he was looking forward to going when he took the job. Added Trey Thompkins: "It's one of those places you can tell it was used for something else before it was a gym." That's exactly how I feel about places that used to be IHOPs.

-- Fox said he's fine with playing Thursday-Saturday this week, which is part of the deal with the new SEC Network agreement. He said that's what he did every week while at Nevada, so he's used to it.

-- Talked to Trey a bit about his NBA future. Here's what he had to say...

On whether he considered the NBA last year...
"I didn't think about it because I knew personally I wasn't ready. I just wanted to come back to school. I became a much better player, and with the coaching change, it didn't slow that process down at all. ... Coach Fox let me know things individually that I had to improve, and I think I've become a better player."

On whether he considered transferring after last year...
"Every now and then, but when Coach Fox came in, we had our meeting, I talked to him about it, we settled it, and obviously I'm still here."

On whether he gives much thought to people writing about him and Travis Leslie being potential lottery picks in 2011...
"Not at all. We take it one day at a time and play basketball. If that's what people say, that's what people say. We just try to stay within our team and stay focused on the task at hand."

On what it's like playing alongside another player being talked about as a lottery pick...
"It's a blessing because Travis is a great player. He's showing the world what he can do and it makes our team so much better."

On whether he has thought about leaving for the NBA after this year...
"I haven't really thought about it just because I want to take care of this season before I let anything else come to my mind."

On what he wants to work on as a player before heading to the NBA...
"Being more of a vocal leader and taking care of the ball. Those are two things I need a lot more improvement on."

On whether the team's turnaround makes his decision harder now than it would have been...
"Yeah, because I want to be known as a guy who helped the program go from where it was to where it will be."

Wednesday Links (2/24)

Many thanks for all the responses to yesterday's discussion of nudity in the gym locker room. I laughed out loud at many of them, and I definitely appreciated the link to EDSBS's rules for the gym -- all of which I wholeheartedly support.

Reading all your responses makes me feel a bit better about myself and a lot worse about the gym. Perhaps I should just go back to my old lifestyle of sitting on the couch, watching "The Price is Right" and cracking open my first Milwaukee's Best at 11 a.m.

OK, some links...

-- Joe Schad counts down his top 10 stories of the spring in college football, and he lists Georgia's QB battle at No. 5. But it's not so much the battle that's worth noting, it's what Colt McCoy says about Aaron Murray:

"Former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy once told me Georgia redshirt freshman Aaron Murray was one of the most impressive players he's ever seen."

High praise from a QB who broke David Greene's mark for career wins last season.

-- The Sporting News has a brief write-up on Rennie Curran's prospects at the NFL combine (h/t Jim F). Here's a bit of what they said:

"He has to measure over 5-11 to remain even a second- or third-round pick."

I don't know how Curran does much about that at this point. He either is 5-11 or he's not. It's not like any amount of training can change it.

I think the thing with Rennie is something he mentioned when he announced he was leaving early -- he really just needs to convince one team that they like him. If one team decides he's a second-rounder, that's what he'll be. And knowing Rennie as well as I do, I don't think it'll be too hard for him to convince one team that he's their guy.

(And truth be told, that's essentially the exact situation Tim Tebow is in, only that's a much bigger story because, well, he's Tim Tebow.)

-- A UGA student is claiming that Knowshon Moreno punched him out in downtown Athens on Monday. Be sure to note these two facts from the story:

1.) The student is 18.

2.) The incident happened at Bourbon Street Bar.

Um, 18? Isn't he a little old to be hanging out at Bourbon Street?

-- Georgia has settled its lawsuit with former player Decory Bryant for $400,000.

-- No, it's not shameless, but if The Senator posts something that makes Syracuse look good while tangentially relating it back to UGA, well that's gonna get a link no matter what.

-- Dawgs Opinion takes a look at the other big position battle (NOTE: Link fixed!) this spring -- the secondary.

-- The National Football Post has a story on Nick Saban's ability to raid the state of Georgia for top talent.

-- Rex Robinson has some thoughts on the growing concerns about athletes' use of social media. Here's one early and completely guaranteed prediction for the 2010 season: The story du jour (like last year's "who didn't vote for St. Timmy?") at SEC Media Days this year will be about players using Facebook and Twitter.

-- With St. Patty's Day just a few weeks away, The Anti-Orange Page has all the green UGA gear you'll need to throw up on later.

-- Lane Kiffin is sorta sorry for the way things played out at Tennessee.

-- Ole Miss was already going to have to rework a lot of their offense, and now one of their most talented remaining receivers is leaving the team.

-- And yet another reason people hate ESPN. Tony Kornheiser has been suspended for two weeks for making a joke about Hannah Storm's wardrobe. If ESPN cared about integrity in the least, they'd be talking to Storm about her attire rather than booting Mr. Tony for mentioning it. I've exchanged at least a half dozen text messages with my lecherous friends during morning "SportsCenter" broadcasts commenting on what Storm was wearing, so I don't think Kornheiser was breaking any new ground here.

-- Baseball America has its annual top 100 prospects list, and you'll need to read for a bit before you find a Braves player. (Note... that was meant sarcastically... I suppose that doesn't always come through in print. Sorry.)

-- Beyond the Box Score looks at which colleges supply the most players to the Big Leagues. Three SEC schools make the list, but no UGA.

-- SciFi Wire runs down its list of strange science fiction plots in otherwise normal sitcoms.

-- Fifteen years after the end of "My So Called Life," Jared Leto is still a D-bag.

-- Stuff of Legend has some early thoughts on last night's episode of "Lost." I'm not sure if I really loved the episode, but the Jack-Hurley trek through the jungle was definitely the highlight of the season so far, and as always, Hurley does an exceptional job of being the voice of the show's fans, even throwing out a random theory about time traveling back to caveman days.

-- And finally, which do you suppose is a sadder statement about the world -- the fact that Gary Busey is still reproducing or the fact that the new "Karate Kid" movie is close to completion. Seriously, you're replacing "Wax on, Wax off" with "Jacket on, Jacket off"? I think I might vomit. ... Oh wait, that's just the Milwaukee's Best.