Sunday, August 31, 2008
The senior DT will miss the season with an ACL tear. Head coach Mark Richt said in his Sunday teleconference that Owens would have surgery a week from Tuesday (the 9th). He also said Owens would definitely redshirt this season and return next year.
"I don't think there'd be any question about that," Richt said. "He knows it could be a blessing in the long run if he rehabs well and gets maybe in even better condition than he was this year so he's looking at the bright side right now."
Some other notes from Sunday's conference call:
-- Richt said freshman Cordy Glenn graded out very well at right guard for the game. He said with Clint Boling coming back for this week's game, Glenn and Boling would be the likely starters on the right side, with Bean Anderson serving as backup. Josh Davis will move back to left tackle, where he will likely back up Kiante Tripp, though Richt said it was "not etched in stone" who would be the starter there.
-- Richt also gave high grades to fullback Shaun Chapas for his performance and applauded the blocking of the wide receivers (particularly the freshmen).
-- Tight end Bruce Figgins was suspended for the Georgia Southern game, although it was not announced, for what Richt called an "in-house issue." Figgins is back on the team as of today, Richt said.
-- Kenneth Harris remains questionable for this week's game against Central Michigan. Richt also said DB Makiri Pugh and DE Neland Ball could return to action this week. He said FB Brannan Southerland and S Quintin Banks were progressing well and are on pace to return for the game against Tennessee on Oct. 11.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
The news is better on other players:
- WR Kenneth Harris has a sprained ankle and could be back next week.
- DT Kade Weston, who didn't play today, could be back for the South Carolina game. BTW, DeAngelo Tyson got work in and looked decent.
- Knowshon Moreno left the game after scoring his third touchdown. He pulled up and grabbed his leg, but it was simply some soreness from dehydration. He said he was fine immediately afterward, but coaches were taking no chances.
- Safety Andrew Williams missed a series after an injury, but returned to action.
- WR Kris Durham injured his shoulder, but said he would practice Monday.
FOURTH QUARTER UPDATE: Georgia picked up its ninth penalty in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Again, you'd probably like to have seen a bit tighter ship being run here. Nothing terrible, but I don't think anyone will leave here feeling like the Dawgs are hitting on all cylinders.
Caleb King continued to impress as he and backup QB Joe Cox led a long drive for Georgia that ended with an A.J. Green touchdown. Considering Green's first catch landed him on the 2, I think my prediction actually looks pretty good.
Walsh hasn't had another FG attempt, but has been perfect on PATs. His FG, by the way, would've easily been good from 60.
Logan Gray, the third-string QB, was back deep for a punt return, but the ball was kicked out of bounds and he didn't have a chance at a return.
Five minutes left to play -- I'm heading down to the sideline for the rest. Don't forget to check Macon.com and Ledger-Enquirer.com for my game story and additional features.
SCORE: 45-14 UGA.
SIDE NOTE: Meant to mention this at the outset of the game, but much as a commenter predicted earlier this week, the UGA promotions department replaced Baba O'Riley with Nickelback's cover of Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting as the pregame music. I'm now officially retracting my prediction of Georgia playing for a national title.
THIRD QUARTER UPDATE: Ramarcus Brown was the deep man on GaSo's kick off. Our long national nightmare is over -- we have an idea of what the return game will look like.
Knowshon added TD No. 3 on a drive that looked exactly how a Bulldogs' drive against the Eagles should look.
We got our first taste of Caleb King, and it was impressive. King rumbled through the line of scrimmage, showing some nice moves and picked up 27 yards on his third career carry. He picked up 9 more yards on his next carry, then Stafford finished off the drive with a 5-yard TD pass to Demiko Goodman.
Senior safety Andrew Williams was banged up on a long play by Georgia Southern that set up a TD. A serious injury to Williams would be a big problem since the Dawgs depth at safety is razor thin as it is. John Knox and the two starters are the only safeties who aren't true freshmen after Williams.
Stafford topped his career high in passing yards late in the quarter with 275 yards. On a third-and-5 late in the quarter, however, Stafford underthrew Green. Green went back for it, but couldn't come up with the ball under heavy contact. Not looking good for my 2-TD prediction for Green.
One sign of concern for the Dawgs' D -- GaSo has three nine-play drives and one six-play drive that ended in a TD. Against a clearly overmatched opponent, you'd probably like to see drives squashed a bit faster than that.
Score: 38-7 UGA.
SECOND QUARTER UPDATE: Despite Samuel's fumble on his first carry of his career, Richt went back to him again in the second quarter and he responded with 15 yards on his next two carries. Very good to see from a kid that young. More interesting, perhaps, is we haven't seen Caleb King hit the field yet.
More missed opportunities: Reshad Jones has played well so far, but took an easy INT away from Darryl Gamble. Typical getting-to-know-you issues of Week 1.
Matt Stafford has looked nearly perfect so far, completing long passes to A.J. Green, Kris Durham (a 61-yard TD!) and Tripp Chandler. His first-half numbers: 10-14-206 and 1 TD.
Ben Jones made it into the game. I commented earlier in the week that I thought it was dangerous to bring a true freshman off the bench to play center because of the possibility of problems during the exchange. Richt must have disagreed, because not only did Jones play, but he came in with Georgia backed up on its own 3-yard line. Shows a lot of faith in Jones.
On the other side of the coin, Bean Anderson jumped offside on a third-and-1. Stafford and Moreno managed to turn it into a score anyway.
Knowshon continues to impress. One thing you have to both love and hate about him, he doesn't shy from contact. He demolished an Eagles defender along the far sideline after a long pitch-and-catch from Stafford late in the quarter. It's fun to watch, but you hope he doesn't take too many unnecessary hits like that. Only 35 yards for Moreno in the half, but two TDs.
One other interesting note: We still don't know who's handling kickoffs, since GaSo hasn't scored. We'll find out to start the third quarter though.
SCORE: 24-0 Bulldogs.
INJURY UPDATE: Kenneth Harris has a right ankle injury, is questionable to return.
FIRST QUARTER UPDATE: Well, good news and bad news.
The good news is that a lot of Georgia's big question marks have already been answered. The big play of the quarter was A.J. Green's 36-yard catch to set up a touchdown. Green is going to be a star, no doubt, but I think it's going to happen sooner than later. Hate to jump to any big conclusions based on minimal info, but I think fans have every reason to think they've got their own Calvin Johnson in the near future.
Blair Walsh might have been the next most visible freshman on the field. He ended up earning the KO job and has done well with it so far. More importantly, he looked sharp booting a 52-yard field goal, which Richt said was the edge of his range.
The defense has gotten plenty of pressure so far, which is good news. Knowshon Moreno has looked good to no surprise, as has Matthew Stafford.
As I predicted, Asher Allen handled punt returns and had a nice run back on his first attempt.
Now the bad news: Georgia is hardly running away with things. Some silly mistakes have helped keep drives alive for Ga Southern. Worse, Jeff Owens went down with an injury. No updates yet, but I will post as soon as possible. That could be a major blow for the Dawgs if it is serious. Finally, while the rest of the freshmen have looked sharp so far, RB Richard Samuel fumbled on his first carry. It'll be interesting to see if Richt goes back to him quickly.
I feel like there's something I'm supposed to do today... Some sort of event I'm supposed to attend... Eh, I'm sure it'll come to me eventually. In the meantime, a few quick links of interest:
The Telegraph attempts to understand the madness that surrounds Uga VII.
The Fayette Daily News has a story about how the new Uga was selected.
And the Athens Banner-Herald has a story on what Uga VII can expect in his new job.
Georgia Southern still has some quarterback issues to work out, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.
The AJC's Tim Tucker writes about Matthew Stafford's growth into the real leader of the offense. In my predictions post yesterday, I had a number of people email or comment that they thought Stafford may be Georgia's best Heisman candidate by year's end. I think that's entirely possible -- and if it happens, it means very good things for the Dawgs.
The legendary Paul Dehner writes about the enormous depth at wide receiver for Georgia this season. Mark it: Two TDs for A.J. Green today. You heard it here first.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press has a good piece on Mike Bobo's second season as OC at Georgia.
Alright folks, this officially ends the preseason.
If you've got tickets, have tons of fun at the game. Be safe, don't do anything completely stupid (I don't make enough to bail you guys out of jail, and I need all the readers I can get!).If you're staying home, I'll have quarterly updates throughout the game, plus you can find the game story and lots of additional features after the game ends on macon.com and ledger-enquirer.com.
Friday, August 29, 2008
The seventh in the Uga line of Georgia mascots will be introduced to the Georgia people on Saturday, Aug. 30, during pre-game ceremonies of the Bulldogs’ season opener against Georgia Southern.
"Loran’s Best" will officially become "Uga VII," when he is introduced for the first time to the Sanford Stadium crowd prior to the 12:34 p.m. kickoff. He will be escorted onto the field by members of the Frank W. “Sonny” Seiler family of Savannah who have owned the continuous line of mascots since Uga I took up the mantle in 1956.
Uga VII’s coronation will become official when UGA President Dr. Michael F. Adams slips the new red leather spike collar over his head during the ceremony at midfield. He succeeds his father, Uga VI, who passed away in June of this year. Uga VII will be escorted onto the field by Charles Seiler and two Seiler grandchildren: Margaret Story and Sara Thompson.
At 56 and one half pounds, he’ll be second only to Uga VI as the biggest mascot in the line. Seiler said he “has an excellent coat and bears a striking resemblance to his father.”
"He’s a great pet, already answers to his name, loves to travel and ride in the car," said Seiler. "He sleeps in his kennel in the den and is fed Hill’s prescription maintenance dog food at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. Uga VII already loves to sit on the dock by the river and is ready for his first boat ride."
"Loran’s Best" was originally named for long-time Georgia Athletic Association personality Loran Smith. Seiler said Uga VII has an entire new wardrobe made with the same material as the team jerseys.
Participating in the pre-game ceremony will be UGA Director of Athletics Damon Evans and the Georgia Redcoat Band. University Alumni Association president Trey Paris will also present a proclamation to the Seiler family honoring Uga VI and welcoming Uga VII.
Other Seiler family members on the field will be Frank W. “Sonny” and Cecelia Seiler, Swann Seiler, Wendy (Mrs. Charles) Seiler, Shannon and Bess Thompson and their children Tennyson and Seiler Thompson, Todd and Sara Story and their children Anna and William Story.
A video tribute to Uga VI will be shown on the stadium scoreboard prior to the official introduction of Uga VII.
Mark Richt on what he liked about A.J. Green during the recruiting process:
"Quiet, humble, confident. Just a sincere interest in doing whatever it took to get here. Once he set his mind on Georgia, he was coming to Georgia. That was it, and whatever obstacles where in the way, whatever you say I need to do, I will do it, and he did. He did a great job, and he never wavered."
Richt on Ben Jones' role:
"Right this second, he's not in the starting lineup, no. But we want him to play, so he'll play. Chris Davis could easily play some guard and Vance could play some tackle, and we're creating depth by moving guys around a little bit, which we wish we didn't have to do, but we have to this year. Ben Jones will play. We'll have a true freshman snapping the ball some time during the game. And we hope to get Justin Anderson in the game, and he's a redshirt freshman."
Richt on how comfortable Mike Bobo is a year after becoming OC:
"Once you've been through it, lived through it for an entire season, you've got a lot more confidence, at least the types of things that are coming at you throughout the year. And I'm sure he was able to reflect, look at some of the things he didn't like, didn't get right and try to get better. This year, he still knows he's got to learn what we're capable of doing. A lot of that is going to have to do with the capability of our offensive line. A year ago, I thought he and the offensive staff did a great job of not trying to go beyond the boundaries of what our offensive line could accomplish, and I think they're going to have to do it again unfortunately. There's probably going to be some limitations of what you might do if you have a real veteran offensive line, you can probably just dial a play, but with this group, we'll probably have to be a little bit careful in terms of what we can accomplish."
Richt on how to protect players from preseason injuries:
"You can prevent it if you decide not to block and tackle in practice, but half of our injuries were pulled muscles. When you're teaching guys to play the way the game should be played, guys are going to get hurt."
Richt on the level of depth his team has:
"Everybody has depth. Everybody has enough players. But how many experienced players is kind of what we're talking about. When you look at our next three guys in line to play on offensive line, it's three freshmen two redshirt freshmen and a true freshman. So that's not a lot of experienced depth. It's zero experienced depth, and even some starters have no experience. Safety could become an issue in a hurry if we had something happen. Fullback got dangerously thin, but at least we found out some things early enough to do something about it to provide some depth, but there's no experience behind Chapas right now."
Richt on Asher Allen returning punts:
"He's not out of the mix as a punt returner, and he is still returning kicks, I'm not sure if it will be him or Ramarcus starting. I don't know for sure if both of them will get it, but those are the top two right now. We don't think the other younger guys are quite ready for it yet. I don't mind him doing both just so long as he's not doing every kickoff return and every punt return, but if he's taking some punts and some kicks, I don't think that would be so bad. But to be the guy every single time and play the position he's got to play, I think it would be too much."
Richt on what he likes about Clint Boling:
"He learned what to do pretty quick. He's a quick study. I still don't know if he talks. He hardly says a word, he just works. He works hard, he's tough, he's athletic, and he learned what to do. He got to the point where he was a pretty darn good football player, and we're really looking forward to getting him back."
... and where Boling might play when he returns:
"Right side of the line, right guard, right tackle. If he has to play left tackle, he's got to play left tackle. That's why I'm curious, curious to see what happens with a lot of those guys."
Willie Martinez on Darryl Gamble:
"He's a smart player, an athletic kid that can play all three positions, which is a major advantage to us. He kind of fell into the outside linebacker position. He looked really good there, too. He'd been inside at Mike and Will, and we put him out there because of trying to get reps and a couple injuries, and we really like him there. He looks like a natural at all three of them which is an advantage for us."
Ramarcus Brown on the importance of a national title:
"That's always going to be something coaches and players care about, but you've got to win one before you can win two. You've got to win two before you win three. So we take it one game at a time, but at the end of the day, that's what we're playing for. We're playing to go undefeated and win a national championship."
Asher Allen on the lack of depth at safety:
"I think that going into the season, with the injury to Quintin Banks, that's puts a little damper, especially to our two-deep safety system. But I think that with John Knox there, he's going to provide depth at both safeties. Rambo, he's been doing a good job. Obviously, experience is something that he lacks, but I feel like he's been doing good at practice."
Allen on what it's like the first time freshmen get to play:
"It's big. It's a lot different than practice. At practice you're going up against guys that you know. When you go against them, it's kind of a competition, and you've been going up against them all camp, so you really know them. But now you're going up against another group of receivers every single week. But with every game, you get more experience and grow as a player, so hopefully for the younger people that will happen."
Matthew Stafford on new left tackle Kiante Tripp:
"Athletically, he's about as good as you can ask for. He's unbelievably quick, strong, flexible, he can bend. He's everything you want, you've just got to have experience. But that will come, and I think he's got the mentality to get it done."
Mohamed Massaquoi on the disappointment of not having a shot at a BCS title last year:
"The thing people don't realize is we were never promised or guaranteed to be in that position. We went to a great bowl game in the Sugar Bowl, we had a great time down there, and we're fortunate to be in a good position this year."
Massaquoi on the development of the freshmen DBs:
"They're a talented group, they're a smart group, and they're out there just playing their hearts out. They're going to make mistakes, but at the same time, they're going to do a lot of good things, and they're just going to learn and get better as time goes on."
Knowshon Moreno on his lack of contact during preseason camp:
"Once that first hit comes on, you get a better feel for it, and you're like Alright, cool,' and you're back to normal. I've gotten a little contact, so I don't think it'll be a problem."
CJ Byrd on replacing Kelin Johnson:
"We lost a good guy there, but every year, I don't think you have to replace a certain guy. Every year, somebody's going to be different. It wasn't always a guy like him back there. You don't have to replace exactly what he left, you have to leave your own thing. Maybe next year, people will be saying you left this year. You lead in different ways."
Akeem Dent on defending the spread:
"The main thing is being able to communicate. The spread, they try to hit you fast, most teams run the no-huddle out of the spread offense. So from a defensive standpoint, you've just got to be able to run to the ball and hit that closed space and make open-field tackles."
Dent on what Dannell Ellerbe brings to the defense:
"That's basically how the whole defense wants to play. If anything goes wrong, we can always look at Dannell, he always has energy and everyone can feed off him. He's out leader."
1.) I love games of chance, and...
2.) I'm really bad at games of chance.
So, obviously nothing brings me greater joy than making absurd predictions for the upcoming season. Please feel free to argue with them, explain why I'm an idiot or, in a very rare occasion, pat me on the back for a minor stroke of genius. Just remember, I have no more faith in these picks than you do.
National Title: Georgia vs. Oklahoma. Maybe I'm just a crazy, hopeless romantic, but I'd like to see the two best teams from the two best conferences play for a national championship. This year, I think that's the Dawgs and Sooners.
Rose Bowl: Arizona State vs. Ohio State. I think USC tops Ohio State in their Week 3 showdown, effectively ending the Buckeyes national championship dreams (unless every other team has two losses, which I suppose is possible after last year), but I'm not so sure USC runs through the Pac-10, which opens the door for Arizona State. I have zero confidence in this prediction, though.
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Wisconsin. I've been looking for another team to pick in the ACC, but there just isn't one. I don't think the Tigers will be one of the 10 best teams at season's end, but they will be the best the ACC has to offer. Wisconsin gets this year's Ron Zook Memorial They-Didn't-Deserve-To-Be-Here-But-They-Play-In-The-Overhyped-Big-Ten nomination.
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. West Virginia. I know I'm probably crazy, but I like Alabama to win the SEC West this year. The Tide could be like Tennessee last season, where an SEC title game didn't put them in a BCS contest, but I think the money involved makes Bama a clear choice for this game if it wins its division.
Fiesta Bowl: Missouri vs. Southern Cal. The battle of the runners-up. I think Missouri will be strong this year, but the Big 12 is awfully deep, and I like Oklahoma just a bit better. The Trojans will drop two games -- same as last year -- but earn a trip to a BCS game anyway.
Heisman Winner: Chase Daniel, Missouri. Apologies to Knowshon, but Heisman voters love quarterbacks.
So, what do you think? On a scale of one to 10, how dumb am I? What are your predictions? Will we see another two-loss team playing for a title or is someone going undefeated? Who am I missing? Who doesn't belong?
And never mind Cordy Glenn, despite his rise from unheralded freshman to starting right guard. Another fresh face will likely earn a lot more TV time when Georgia kicks off its season.
In fact, not since quarterback Matthew Stafford arrived in Athens have fans been quite this interested in getting their first peek at a brand new Bulldog.
Oddly enough, it's Stafford who is among the most excited to get a look at Georgia's newest mascot, Uga VII.
"I know Stafford is very interested in getting a picture with Uga VII since that's his jersey number," head coach Mark Richt said.
When long-serving mascot Uga VI who holds the record for the most wins presided over of any of the English bulldogs died suddenly in June, the search for the newest mascot began. The secrecy will come to an end Saturday, when Uga VII makes his first appearance on the sideline, a moment that might be the only thing to overshadow the excitement surrounding the No. 1 team in the country.
"You'd like to measure the decibels when they do introduce him," Richt said, "because I'm sure the crowd will go crazy."
For his part, however, Richt hasn't been given any inside information on the new dog. No pregame meetings have been arranged, and he wasn't consulted in any way during the selection process.
That's OK with Richt, he said. He said he had enough on his mind getting ready for the season. Still, he said, it might be nice to get a sneak peek before the rest of the world meets the new mascot.
"I've not heard any word that I would be involved in that at all," Richt said. "It would be hurtful if I didn't get to meet him before everybody else, but I'm sure it will be an exciting time."
The South Carolina offense on the other hand? Eh, not so much.
In any case, that's still a few weeks away, so let's focus on what we've got right in front of us. Here are today's links on the final day before Georgia-Georgia Southern...
* The AJC's Chip Towers blogs about the high level head coach Mark Richt has gotten the Bulldogs to. Chip and I, through absolutely no collusion of any sort, seem to be writing a lot of similar material lately. You could say great minds think alike. Or, more likely, we're all just running out of things to write about.
* Chip also reports Georgia won't be hyping Knowshon or Stafford for the Heisman this season. I couldn't agree more with the decision. When your focus is winning a national title, there's no use getting caught up in individual awards. If that title is out of reach by the end of November though? Some promotion might be in order.
* College Football News' Josh Bernstein offers a challenge to Bulldogs fans. Speaking of, who do you think gets the biggest ovation Saturday: Mark Richt, Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno or Uga VII? My guess is the four-legged one.
* Dawgs Online has some helpful information on how to watch the game Saturday if you're not inside Sanford Stadium.
* This blogger complains about the hefty price of attending Georgia games.
* Get the Picture chimes in with some interesting thoughts on Willie Martinez.
* Total UGA has a story on a top Georgia recruit (WARNING: Registration required).
* The Moultrie Observer continues its ever vigilant coverage of all things Vance Cuff.
* And finally, just when you thought Chad Johnson couldn't get any craizier... well, read it for yourself.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Well, we're just a few hours away from real, live college football. In our last pregame meeting with Mark Richt, there were a few important nuggets worth noting...
-- Still no clue who will handle kickoff duties. Richt said it looked like the leaders for the job were Blair Walsh and freshman walk-on Jamie Lindley, a Savannah Christian grad. Richt said the lack of a defined kicker was concerning.
"Usually if you can establish a guy quick enough then you can get your unit used to that guy's rhythm, because you want to hit the line at the right time," Richt said. "If one guy does it one way and another guy does it another, you might find yourself being offsides or being too far behind the ball when it's kicked. You lose the ability to get down the field further and cover the kick, so you really would like to nail it down and then just rep, rep, rep, rep with that team, with that kid, but we've just not been able to do that. No one man has separated himself from the group."
-- No answer at punt returner either, but Richt lent some credence to my theory that Asher Allen would move from kick returner to punt duties with Ramarcus Brown taking over the kick return job.
"(Allen is) not out of the mix as a punt returner, and he is still returning kicks, I'm not sure if it will be him or Ramarcus starting," Richt said. "I don't know for sure if both of them will get it, but those are the top two right now. We don't think the other younger guys are quite ready for it yet."
Although Richt had previously stated Allen would not handle both return roles, he said it actually could happen if Allen isn't the primary returner in both situations.
"I don't mind him doing both just so long as he's not doing every kickoff return and every punt return," Richt said. "But if he's taking some punts and some kicks, I don't think that would be so bad. But to be the guy every single time and play the position he's got to play, I think it would be too much."
-- Richt said there would be about 15 redshirt and true freshmen playing in Saturday's game. He also said there was a good chacne there would be some significant shifting on the fly if players struggle.
-- The game plan for the left side of the O line is this: Kiante Tripp will start at tackle with Vince Vance at left guard. When Tripp comes out, Vance will slide to left tackle, with Tanner Strickland next in line at left guard. The other option, Richt said, would be to move Chris Davis to left guard and insert Ben Jones at center.
-- A writer from one of the ESPN Web sites mentioned a recent conversation he had with ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit, in which Herby said Richt told him he wasn't particularly worried about the offensive line.
Richt said he didn't remember the conversation, but that it must have happened before Trinton Sturdivant was hurt. He then joked, "Let me just say this, I’m never going to talk to Herbstreit again, so you just tell Herby it’s over."
Richt was kidding, of course, but he added, "I'm curious to see how the offensive line looks."
So are we all.
-- Finally, a few updates on those of you hoping to see the game who don't have tickets:
Ally (one of the early leaders for my favorite commenter of the season), says the Georgia Theater will be showing the game in Athens, but Wild Wings will not.
In the Atlanta area, Dave says you can find places showing the game by checking THIS WEB SITE.
And in Macon, I'm not sure how helpful this will be, but worth noting (from Cox Cable):
Bulldog fans in Middle Georgia have a great option for catching UGA’s season home opener this weekend. The UGA versus GA Southern game will air on Cox Pay-Per-View (Channel 610) beginning at 12:30 pm ET at Sanford Stadium. The game is available to home subscribers for $24.99 now through Friday and for $29.99 on Saturday. Commercial subscriptions are available for $300.
You must be a Cox Digital Cable subscriber to order the event. If you have Cox Digital Cable and would like to order the UGA versus GA Southern game, call Cox Communications at 784-8000 or tune to Cox Channel 610 with your Cox remote and select to buy the UGA game. Orders may also be placed at the Cox Digital Stores, located off Watson Blvd. in Warner Robins and in the Presidential Parkway shopping center off Eisenhower in Macon. For more information, visit www.cox.com/middlega.
Luckily for us, things are about to start happening. Georgia takes the field for an actual game Saturday, and with a little luck, we'll have a fresh batch of storylines (hopefully not about injured players) to run with next week.
Given that, here are 10 questions we may get answers to in Week 1.
1.) Will Uga VII be the day's most impressive freshman?
Fans can't wait to meet Georgia's new mascot, but head coach Mark Richt has assured Uga won't be the only fresh face to see the field Saturday. A.J. Green, Tavarres King, Richard Samuel, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Baccari Rambo, Marcus Dowtin, Brandon Boykin and Blair Walsh are just a few of the true freshmen who could see action Saturday and perhaps earn a bit more playing time down the road.
2.) Who will return punts?
Neither Coach Fabris or Coach Richt are saying for sure, and the names that have been bantered about range from Logan Gray to Knowshon Moreno to Asher Allen. Richt has said it won't be Moreno -- at least not against Georgia Southern -- and it's unlikely Gray would be used in this game either. Freshman RB Carlton Thomas seems like he might be the best answer, but Richt said he would be unlikely to burn Thomas' redshirt just to have him return kicks. Wide receiver Tony Wilson might be the safe money to handle the job in Week 1, but it's also possible Allen, who set a team record for kick-return yardage last year, could take on punt-return duties in 2008 with Ramarcus Brown taking over his old job.
3.) Will it be Caleb or Richard racking up the garbage yards?
OK, so there's no guarantee thee game won't be close down the stretch, but chances are at least one backup running back will be a good number of carries Saturday. Whether that running back will be Caleb King or Richard Samuel, however, remains to be seen. King's preseason injuries helped Samuel rocket up the depth chart, and now the No. 2 job is up for grabs. Of course, there's also the real possibility both will see lots of second-half playing time, which would simply mean fans get a chance to see how impressive two much-hyped freshmen look in the same game.
4.) What's going to happen with the offensive line?
The starting lineup looks set with Kiante Tripp at LT, Vince Vance at LG, Chris Davis at C, Cordy Glenn at RG and Josh Davis at RT, but that lineup won't be on the field for every snap. Richt has assured that Ben Jones and Bean Anderson will see some playing time, and Tanner Strickland may as well. I'm in no place to question that decision, but it seems to me that shaking up a group that has barely had time to gel in the first place will complicate things. Still, getting that experience early on could be useful down the line. In Week 2, Clint Boling will return from a suspension and will likely take over for either Josh Davis or Glenn, depending on how well each plays. I do have some concerns, too, about Jones coming in mid-game at center. I don't doubt the kid's ability, but bringing in a true freshman for his first game to play center seems like a big risk for a fumbled snap.
5.) What type of show will A.J. Green put on?
The freshman wide receiver is likely the young player everyone is most excited to see. He should get a decent amount of playing time, as he is now listed as the No. 2 flanker behind Mo Massaquoi. Green has missed some practice with a hip-flexor injury, but he has still managed to impress coaches. It won't be long before the kid does something special, but the question is whether it happens Saturday.
6.) Will any of the freshman DBs make an impression?
Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said flat out that none of the five Bulldogs DBs were ready to play. That doesn't mean they won't see the field in some fashion Saturday. While we may not see much of them at safety -- Andrew Williams and John Knox will probably handle the back-up jobs -- the freshmen used on special teams could lend us an idea of which ones Martinez thinks are most likely to have an impact down the road on defense.
7.) How's Blair Walsh's leg?
If Saturday's game comes down to a crucial field goal by Walsh, Georgia fans will have far bigger concerns than their kicker. But even if he doesn't get any game-winning kicks in, it will be interesting to see how the Dawgs' only scholarship kicker does in his debut. We've heard plenty about his leg -- he's apparently capable of booting 65-yarders in practice -- but Saturday will be our first chance to get a good idea of what's in his head. The game may not be on the line, but the experience of booting a football through the uprights with defenders bearing down on you and 90,000-plus fans cheering can be an unnerving one none the less.
8.) Which defensive ends will step up?
Georgia Southern's offensive line is nearly as inexperienced as Georgia's, so it could be a field day for the Bulldogs' defensive line. It's hard to say with much certainty, however, just who will be in line for those sacks at the defensive end position. Jarius Wynn is the only DE who made it through camp without an injury, and Rod Battle is the only one with starting experience. Jeremy Lomax, Demarcus Dobbs and Justin Houston should all see playing time, too. While getting to the QB shouldn't be especially difficult this week, that pressure will be imperative once the conference schedule gets going, so identifying the top pass-rushers this week would be a step in the right direction.
9.) Can the Bulldogs live up to the hype?
OK, so we won't know this for sure until the end of the season, but it will be interesting to see how Georgia plays in a game they are supposed to win handily. There aren't many gimmes on Georgia's schedule after this, so it's not out of the realm of possibility the Dawgs could come out a bit flat. And if they win by just a touchdown or two, it will no doubt be gasoline on the fire for critics who think Georgia never belonged at No. 1 to begin with. The Dawgs probably need to make a statement here -- and that means at least a four-TD spread.
10.) Will anyone without a ticket get to see the game?
The broadcast of the game will be limited to pay channels -- including ESPN's Game Plan, which is subscriber based -- and tickets are proving awfully hard to come by. Even students are having trouble landing seats. I've had a couple readers ask me about places they might be able to watch the game, but sadly, I've been working too hard on becoming a Bulldogs expert to have learned as much as I'd like about having fun downtown. Feel free to chip in with some suggestions though, as I'm sure they will be appreciated.
So, what do you think? Which question do you think is most significant? How much do you think Georgia needs to win by Saturday? What will you be doing for your game-day party? If you don't have tickets, where will you be watching the game?
The friendship might make things tough when the two are battling for playing time, but Evans said it actually makes standing on the sideline much easier.
"When Prince is on the field, I cheer just like I'm on the field," Evans said. "I feel if he makes a play, he's a part of me because I'm making him better if he's the starter. So, all that falls into place."
That doesn't mean the junior from Jacksonville, Fla. isn't interested in spending as much time on the field as possible.
Evans said this was the best camp of his career, and while he wants to see Miller do well, he wants to make an impact on Georgia's defense, too.
"I like to play, I'm pretty sure he likes to play, too, but at the end of the day, I'm pretty sure we get the same amount of snaps," Evans said.
Last season Miller got the starting nod eight times, however, and Evans just twice. He still finished the season with 17 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception, and those are the numbers Evans said he's more concerned with.
"It's good to see you on TV at the starting lineup," Evans said, "but at the end of the day, if you're making plays, it's all the same thing."
With the Bulldogs' first game of the new season just days away, the battle for the starting job remains up in the air. Evans was listed as the starter on the latest depth chart, but head coach Mark Richt said that was hardly etched in stone.
"Until coach comes out with the paper," Evans said, "you never know."
Evans will definitely earn significant playing time whether he's on the field at the start of the game or not. And in nickel packages that require three corners, both Evans and Miller will play side by side Batman and Robin teaming up to defend the Georgia secondary.
The practice-field battles the two have shared keep them on their toes for those game-day situations, and the battle for playing time has only helped them both, Evans said.
"I wouldn't say it's a rivalry, it's more of a friendship," Evans said. "We know our roles as teammates."
Last practice before game day, and there's actually a bunch of games being played tonight. I couldn't be more excited for football season.
In the meantime, here are your first-day-of-real-games links:
Gotta love how much national media attention the Bulldogs are getting. The Washington Post has a story on Georgia's battle plan for stopping the spread.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press has a story on Vince Vance, who, if you go by the media coverage, could be the break-out star of the offensive line this year.
A good friend of mine recently moved to Salt Lake City, and she has said the people are extraordinarily nice out there. That seems at odds with this SLC Tribune columnist who takes some cheap shots at the Dawgs.
The AJC has a story about the ticket crunch following Georgia's No. 1 ranking.
The AJC also has a nice feature on D.J. Shockley. It's hard not to wonder if D.J.'s decision to wait his turn at Georgia cost him a better chance at a more distinguished NFL career, but it certainly endeared him to Bulldogs fans forever.
The Sporting News writes about Georgia's offensive line concerns.
The Red & Black gets you excited for the first game of A.J. Green's career. I'm going out on a limb here, but I say it's a 75-yard, two-TD performance for Green against Georgia Southern.
Scout has its fearless predictions for the SEC for Week 1. They are predicting a 48-7 win for the Dawgs, which is probably about the minimum spread that would keep fans happy.
Lucid Idiocy lets you know what you can do to be environmentally friendly on game day with UGA's new recycling program.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Basically, it's all been asked. And for poor Coach Richt, it's been asked and asked and asked and asked again. In fact, he said he's even boring himself at this point.
So long story short: We're all excited for Saturday.
That doesn't mean that no news came from Wednesday's practice, however. A few quick, if not particularly important, notes:
-- Coach Fabris still has not selected a punt returner. He said he has as many as a half dozen guys in mind. At practice today -- during the early sessions at least -- it was Asher Allen, Carlton Thomas and Tony Wilson practicing at punt returner. Allen's presence there sparks an interesting debate: Would the team be better served with him at PR instead of KR? Ramarcus Brown seems to have a good handle on KR duties if Allen were to make the move, though Fabris said having a corner as your PR isn't an ideal situation.
-- Fabris also said he has no idea how the DE rotation will shake out. Jeremy Longo will definitely not be part of it due to his injured hand (he may be in line for a redshirt) but at least six other players could see time Saturday.
-- One DE who won't see the field Saturday is Neland Ball, who Richt said would miss the game with a hamstring injury.
"(Trainer) Ron (Courson) is hoping Monday he'll be able to go, he'll practice, and I hope by next week he'll be able to play, but I wouldn t even predict that," Richt said. "We'll try to work him in as soon as we can, but it's not going to be this week."
-- Bryan Evans is currently listed as the starting corner opposite Asher Allen, but he said he hasn't been told for sure he'll start the game Saturday.
-- Willie Martinez wouldn't say if Darryl Gamble would get the start at Will on Saturday, but it looks more and more likely. Martinez praised Gamble's versatility and said the sophomore would likely see action at all three LB spots this season.
-- Richt also discussed his escape plan from Athens after the game Saturday, when he hopes to make it to Atlanta to watch his son's first game as a member of the Clemson Tigers. Richt said it sounded like Jon Richt would dress for the game. He also hinted his wife, Katharyn, could abandon water girl duties to make it to the Clemson-Alabama game on time.
The sophomore from Atlanta is a throwback. He loves playing linebacker because he loves everything the position entails speed, aggression and a desire to play physical.
So when coaches approached him with plans to move him to the middle linebacker spot in hopes of being better prepared to stop the spread offense, it simply made his job a bit more fun.
"Just a little," Dent said with a grin. "You're still getting signals from coaches, but there's more running, there's more moving in transition."
Dent will be part of a linebacker rotation that will see him split time with Darryl Gamble at the strong-side linebacker and rotate to the middle in other sets. His versatility has two important affects on the Bulldogs' defense he'll be better prepared for those teams that run the spread, like rival Florida, and he adds depth to a linebacking corps that lost Charles White for the season last week.
"Working at Mike, right now it's just an on-going process," Dent said. "I feel I've become more comfortable at the position and learned a lot more about it."
The move to the middle puts him behind Dannell Ellerbe, the Bulldogs' All-SEC linebacker, on the depth chart, but that's not a concern for Dent.
Ellerbe has been Dent's role model, and he said the entire defense feeds off Ellerbe's energy. That's something Dent wants to emulate when he does get on the field, no matter where that might be.
"I just want to go out and get better," Dent said. "If I'm not playing, and I just play special teams, I just want to go out and do my job."
As long as that job lets him put a hurting on the opponent from time to time.
"As long as I get to hit somebody," Dent said, "that's all."
Some days, you wake up and just thank the gods of journalism that ESPN exists and can interview L.L. Cool J on his thoughts about A-Rod and Madonna while promoting his new album on "SportsCenter." I sometimes wonder why I even watch anymore.
Anyway, today's links...
* From today's Telegraph, I have a story on Reshad Jones' change in approach as well as 10 bold predictions for the college football season (which are actually unlikely predictions, rather than just normal predictions in bold typeface).
* Sports Central details reasons why Georgia should not be ranked No. 1.
* The Los Angeles Times has Georgia ranked No. 2.
* The AJC discusses Mark Richt's concern about the Bulldogs' offensive line.
* Chip Towers also blogs about the NFL futures for Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. I think his predictions are dead on, which would make any championship just a little bittersweet.
* A Memphis-area wide receiver has Georgia on his short list, according to ESPN.
* The Red & Black writes that UGA gymnastics coach Suzanne Yoculan was punished by the NCAA for unsportsmanlike behavior.
* Total UGA's Brett Jensen has a good story on Asher Allen's approach to returning punts.
* The Albany Herald has a story on Vince Vance and the offensive line.
* Never mind the Olympics, the USA took home a much more important championship this week.
* And finally, I wanted to welcome David Ching back to Athens. It is definitely a loss for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer and all of us working with McClatchy newspapers, but David will do a great job at the Banner-Herald, and I'm definitely looking forward to having him in town.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs stepped up their preparations for Saturday's season opener against Georgia Southern on Tuesday with a two-hour practice in shoulder pads and shorts.
The Bulldogs' Tuesday workout resembled their usual Wednesday game-week session, with the majority of the practice concentrating on offensive and defensive execution against the scout teams.
"It was better than yesterday," head coach Mark Richt said. "We really went into full-time scout team mode a day earlier than usual. We want to make sure we understand our assignments and responsibilities and make sure we're fresh when we get there on Saturday."
Earlier in the afternoon, Georgia conducted a press conference to discuss Saturday's contest in depth.
"I know our players are ready to play a game," Richt said. "Our coaches are ready to see what we have. I m sure the fans are excited about getting this thing rolling, too. Georgia Southern has a great program. They are only 27 years old and they have more victories than anyone in the history of 1-AA football and the most national championships. They are a team that has had tremendous success over the years.
"Appalachian State only lost one game last year and that was to Georgia Southern, so that gets my attention," Richt continued. "We have a high level of respect for Georgia Southern. Most of their kids are from in-state just as ours are. We think it will be a pretty heated rivalry. I know we have some players who played high school ball with these guys, so there is a lot of pride in this game."
Anyway, non-expectation managing notes from the day:
-- Some interesting changes to the depth chart: Kris Durham is listed as the starting SE over Kenneth Harris. Jarius Wynn and Jeremy Lomax are listed as starters at DE. Prince Miller and Akeem Dent are both listed at second-string, while Darryl Gamble is listed as the starter at the SAM and Bryan Evans is listed as the starter at WC.
Despite all those changes, Richt assures they don't mean much, as there will be heavy rotations at each position.
-- Richt said both Ben Jones and Bean Anderson would see playing time on the O-line Saturday, but the starting five remains unchanged from last week.
-- Ramarcus Brown will serve as the primary backup on kick-return duties to Asher Allen.
-- Still no word on who will return punts, and Richt said it may be game day before he knows the answer. One guy it won't be on Saturday, however, is Knowshon Moreno. Richt said Moreno missed some reps at PR due to his shoulder injury last week, which basically ruled him out of doing the job in Week 1. Richt kept open the possibility Knowshon could return punts later in the year, however. I thought from the beginning Georgia wouldn't risk an injury to Knowshon against Georgia Southern, but I remain convinced we'll see him out there in a more significant game later this year.
-- Richt announced the captains for Satuday's games: On offense, it will be Matthew Stafford and Tripp Chandler. On defense, it's Dannell Ellerbe. On special teams, it's Brian Mimbs.
-- Richt said there was still no decision on a running-back rotation. He said it was possible Carlton Thomas and Dontavius Jackson could see some carries, but that Caleb King and Richard Samuel were clearly out in front for the most snaps behind Moreno. He said both should see significant playing time.
-- Richt said coaches met yesterday to determine which true freshmen would see the field Saturday (in essence, who is likely to redshirt) but wouldn't release the names. He did say he expected eight to 12 true freshmen to play in the game. (That list, most likely, includes Tavarres King, A.J. Green, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Richard Samuel, Marcus Dowtin, Brandon Boykin, Blair Walsh and Baccari Rambo.)
-- Speaking of Rambo, the other DBs have raved about his progress. He looks to be the clear No. 4 guy in the safety rotation behind Reshad Jones, CJ Byrd and John Knox. My guess, however, is that Jones and Byrd are on the field a lot.
-- Also a fan reminder: Dawg Walk starts at 10:45 and, despite construction, will follow the same route as last season.
Brown, however, doesn't judge his career in terms of those numbers. He prepares for every game as much as any of the starters, so when his opportunity does come, he's ready.
"Wherever I'm playing, I don't know," Brown said of his role. "How coach rotates the defensive backs and special teams, whenever I get my chance, I'll give it my all at all."
Last season, one of those chances came during Georgia's Sugar Bowl victory over Hawaii. Brown, who returned just two kicks all year, fielded a kickoff and bounded 90 yards on the return.
This year, he still trails teammate Asher Allen on the depth chart both at kick returner and cornerback but he's still preparing for another big play.
After all, Brown said, his preparation might be where he has his biggest impact.
Brown is the only senior cornerback on Georgia's roster, and while he may not be the starter, he said he knows his role is to show the younger players how to prepare for the job.
"I just try to do everything the right way, so the younger guys can pick up," Brown said. "Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I'm going to do it 100 miles an hour."
This season, Brown's biggest asset will be the experience he has gained through five years of going 100 miles an hour. He'll serve as understudy once again, but when he gets his shot, he knows he's ready to make something big happen. The hard work will pay off eventually, just as it did against Hawaii.
"Play hard, play fast and give it my all," Brown said. "That's all you can ask for."
Have Richt's press conference in about an hour, so some quick links for Tuesday morning...
Les Miles is refusing to name his starting quarterback, but most people seem to think the job will go to Andrew Hatch.
Dawg Sports gives us a closer look at Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher.
ESPN says Georgia and Washington face the toughest schedules in the country, then wonders if Georgia can possibly win out.
The AJC's Chip Towers has a good piece on safety Reshad Jones.
The AJC also talks recruiting.
Total UGA chats with one of Bulldog Nation's favorite commentators, Kirk Herbstreit.
Monday, August 25, 2008
The coaching staff moved practice up by one hour today in hopes of avoiding the raindrops. That didn't happen, and the team played like a black cloud was hanging over its head, Mark Richt said.
"Practice I thought was pretty bad, considering we're five days away, last day in pads," Richt said. "We did move up practice to try to beat the weather forecast. We got out there and it rained pretty hard for about 10, 15 minutes, and I think the guys felt like any minute it was going to be over, and then it blew over, and it wasn't over, and I can only hope that was the reason they lost their edge. It looked like they lost their edge, which is sad to say."
On the upside, however, several players returned to action, including star running back Knowshon Moreno, who donned a red jersey during practice for the first time in nearly three weeks.
"Knowshon ditched the green jersey," Richt said. "It was not his call, but he's out of the green right now. No limitations."
Backup Caleb King also got back to practice today, and Richt said he saw no ill effects of the hamstring injury that had dogged the redshirt freshman throughout last week.
Linebackers Akeem Dent and Darius Dewberry remained in green, but participated in all but the heavy contact drills. Defensive ends Demarcus Dobbs and Jeremy Lomax also returned to practice, Richt said, and looked good.
Richt also said freshmen Walter Hill and Jeremy Longo, both of whom suffered broken hands, were "clubbed up" and returned to drills.
Richt said he has settled on his starters for Week 1's game against Georgia Southern, but with Tueday's practice still at full speed, he was waiting to make final determinations on reserve rolls.
"Since tomorrow is the last day of any kind of tempo when it comes to putting pads on, where something might happen that might change our decision on a close race or something, it would probably be more than likely Wednesday before we start talking about scrimmage downs," Richt said.Coaches will meet tomorrow, however, to determine most special-teams rolls, and Richt said that, regardless of any finalized decisions, the backups at the skill positions would receive significant playing time against Georgia Southern.
For the past few years, the SEC has considered two options: either adding a deal such as this or launching its own channel, similar to what the Big Ten did with the Big Ten Network. SEC commissioner Mike Slive said this agreement fulfilled all the conference's desires without the risks of launching its own network.
"The Southeastern Conference has entered into an historic 15-year agreement with ESPN ... that makes the SEC the most widely distributed conference in the country," Slive said.
The agreement will result in broadcast between CBS, local cable outlets and ESPN of every football game, as well as all conference basketball games. The agreement ends the SEC's relationship with Raycom beginning one year from now, but will bring the SEC out of the nine-state SEC footprint to other areas of the country. There will still be significant regional cable broadcasts (such as Sports South, etc.), Slive said, for all sports.
"We'll show over 5,500 events over the next 15 years, including every football game, every conference men's basketball game, as well as unprecedented numbers of women's basketball games and Olympics sports," said John Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president of content.
Among the important unsettled details is just how many homes ESPNU will be available in, but ESPN execs said talks are under way with Comcast and several other operators to increase distribution of the channel.
Read the full story from MediaWeek here, and get the thoughts of Georgia Sports Blog here.
Here are the football-related details, courtesy of the SEC's news release:
ESPN has acquired rights to every SEC home football game (excluding those on the network broadcast package) and will serve as the exclusive national cable home and the syndication rightsholder for the conference.
ESPN and ESPN2: The networks will increase coverage by combining to televise a minimum of 20 SEC games annually, including Saturday night and two primetime Thursday matchups.
ESPNU: The 24-hour college sports network, which launched in March 2005, will present a package of SEC football for the first time, with a Saturday game-of-the-week (generally in primetime and a minimum of 13 games annually).
ESPN Regional Television (ERT): The nation s largest syndicator of collegiate sports programming, becomes the official over-the-air syndication home for the SEC and will feature a game-of-the-week package (generally at 12:30 p.m. ET), with a minimum of 13 games each season throughout the SEC footprint and beyond. In addition, ERT will produce and distribute a studio show.
ESPN360.com: Simulcasts of SEC game telecasts will be offered on the broadband network.
ESPN Mobile TV: Live games will be simulcast on mobile phones.
ESPN International: The agreement includes global rights to present live games and encore presentations.
ESPN Deportes: ESPN has acquired domestic Spanish-language rights for SEC football on the 24-hour, U.S.-based network.
ESPN GamePlan: The out-of-market college football pay-per-view service, will offer SEC action.
ESPN Classic: The network may telecast select SEC live games as well as historic and immediate encore presentations.
ESPN.com: Extensive SEC content, including highlights, will be presented online.
Ostensibly, the day off was meant as a diversion and a reward, but Richt also knew it was an important part of building a team. So when freshman safety Baccari Rambo stood at the end of the high dive, poised to make the 10-meter leap into the pool, but frozen with fear, it only underscored the chemistry Richt already knew the team was developing.
"Rambo wasn't sure if he was going to do it, but we got to cheering him, and he did a good job," Richt said.
The dive was a perfect analogy for Rambo's early efforts with the Bulldogs. It was a new and frightening experience, but one he conquered with the support of his teammates.
Preseason camp has been a lot like that for Rambo, who is in line for significant playing time as a reserve safety in the early season. With sophomore Quintin Banks out for the first few ballgames, Rambo is among a group of true freshmen expected to fill the void.
"They talk to me a little bit to tell me I need to step up and stuff, which kind of made me work harder," Rambo said.
The hard work, however, took its toll on Rambo.
Despite making a strong impression in the early going, Rambo hit a wall during two-a-days. It was a disappointment to both himself and his coaches.
"I was in a little slump, I didn't do too well," Rambo said. "They had to move other people around."
The mid-camp doldrums are nothing new, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. Rambo was just the latest victim of the malaise that hits almost every freshman during his first preseason.
"It happens every year, some earlier, some later," Martinez said. "It's just the pace. Everything's fast, and not just the football. You're talking about guys' academics. You've got coaches over here, you've got coaches in academics, and it takes a little bit of time to get adjusted to it."
Like the cheers that got him off the high dive, it was the support of his teammates that helped Rambo adjust, he said. They got him over the hump, and now he's back to where he wants to be practicing hard and in line for playing time in Georgia's secondary.
"I just want my role to be anything that will help the team to win," Rambo said.
Welcome to the start of your final non-football work week, folks. I'm excited to get back into a routine of writing about what's happening on the field, and I cannot wait for the season to kick off.
Couple quick notes:
- Barber and Lynch both went way earlier than expected in my fantasy draft and I ended up with Frank Gore with my first pick. Now I have an RB from an offense featuring JT O'Sullivan as its starting QB. That can't be a good sign.
- Georgia head coach Mark Richt said he hoped to have all depth chart issues figured out by today, so I hope to have that info for you this evening.
- The SEC is holding a teleconference for media this afternoon to announce a deal with ESPN. I'll have that info for you, too, at the conclusion of the conference.
On to today's links...
* Fanblogs wonders if Georgia would get all this hype if it weren't a BCS team. I say that's a stupid question. If the Dawgs weren't a BCS team, they wouldn't have six top-25 teams on their schedule.
* USA Today has a story about wood vs. aluminum bats that features Gordon Beckham.
* The Sporting News previews the Bulldogs.
* Interesting post from Bleacher Report on why "system QBs" fail in the NFL.makes his BCS predictions. I'll have my own later this week, which will be sure to be nowhere close to accurate.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
With linebacker Charles White going down for the season, the Bulldogs' depth took another hit. The freshmen DBs have been a bit slow to develop, too, which adds extra concern in the secondary. We did finally get some answers as to who will start on the O line, but we're still not sure if Knowshon will be fielding punts, who will handle kickoffs, and just how the reserve spots at virtually every position on the depth chart will shake out.
We should get those answers soon, though, which will make this an interesting week.
In the meantime, here's a quick rundown of some bonus material from Week 3 of camp:
Head coach Mark Richt on Knowshon wearing the green jersey:
"He's getting some contact. That green jersey is supposed to keep you from having to strike anybody or have someone strike you, but when you get the ball in your hand, you tend to get shots. I think he's getting plenty right now."
Richt on the O line:
"Chris Davis has done a nice job at center. And Ben (Jones) has certainly been competing. Ben is doing well. Strickland has come a long way. But the two guys who have been the most solid inside have been (Vince) Vance and Chris. (Kiante) Tripp and (Trinton)Sturdivant were getting very solid, and we were getting very comfortable where they were, and now with Trinton out, we've had to disrupt Tripp at the right tackle, we're moving him to left tackle, and by doing that we moved Josh Davis from the left to the right, it's just different. New techniques and you lose that guy working side by side that is so much a part of that line play."
Richt on the decision to bring Tripp from defense to offense last year:
"It was a good move for us. We're thankful we've got him over there now. He's helping us still be pretty solid at the tackle position, and as he gets better, he'll be more than just solid. Without him here right now, we'd be spinning pretty hard right now."
Richt on right tackle Josh Davis:
"The only thing that's going to hold Josh back a little bit is the strength issue, and he's improved tremendously. He's still not as far as you'd like him, but he's making great progress in that area. What he is lacking there, he's been making up for it with knowledge, effort and tenacity."
Wide receiver Tony Wilson on his love of the Olympics:
"I ran the 200 and 120 meters my junior year in high school. When I got to college, I wanted to run, but my priority was football and taking care of school. Track kind of eased away. But any chance I get to watch the Olympics, it's amazing. I record everything. I just like seeing people run, that's just me. I even ran against Walter Dix in high school. It's kind of amazing seeing somebody I ran against in high school now running in the Olympics and doing as good a job as he's doing. My signature race is coming up the 200 meters. What Usain Bolt did in the 100 meters, times that in the 200. It's going to be incredible. He's probably a couple of months older than me I'm 20, he's 21 and for him to be running that fast, I was wondering what they're doing over there in Jamaica. I even love the gymnastics, tennis, the swimming with Michael Phelps. I know Ryan Lochte when to Sports Creek, one of the schools down in Daytona, so I used to get to watch him swim."
Running back Richard Samuel on his camp competition with Caleb King for the No. 2 RB job:
"We're both talented. Just because he's injured doesn't mean I have a leg up on him. When he comes back, if he comes back 100 percent, he's still the same, so we're still both on the same playing field."
O lineman Vince Vance on his -- and Kiante Tripp's -- move from defense to offense:
"As far as switching position from D end to offensive line and then from one positition on offensive line to another, yeah I can relate with him because of course I did the same thing. As far as him being over at left tackle, Kiante is athletic as crap, so I feel comfortable with Coach Searels decision."
"I was a freshman coming out of high school, and I was only like 260, so I felt like I still had the speed to be a D end and I just loved playing D end, so of course I didn't agree with it. But it all worked out for the best."
Kicker Blair Walsh on whether or not he would tell Richt to let him kick a long field goal:
"It's all about him, honestly. I could tell him I've got the long field goal, but it's really up to him. He'll know my yardage even probably better than I do. But that's something that comes with seniority. I wouldn't step up there and say, Coach, I've got it from this far.' It's a privilege to have the faith in you to do that. You've got to earn that."
Walsh on what his mind-set is when kicking a field goal:
"I just zone out. The adrenaline starts pumping. I don't hear the fans. I focus on Brian's hands the entire time, and as soon as that ball goes, my left foot goes, my whole goal is just to hit it straight and get it up. That's it."
Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez on safety John Knox:
"It's like hot and cold. He's a young guy, learning the defense. For every good play, he makes a bad play. But he's got the ability."
Martinez on the importance of getting pressure from the D line:
"It's very important for our front four to put pressure any time you can generate pressure without blitzing the more you can do that, the more opportunity you have to be successful. Everybody puts pressure on offense when you blitz, but you can't do that all the time. These offenses are very, very good, there's a lot of things you need to defend, and you're really taking a risk factor when you take that shot."
Running backs coach Tony Ball on the development of freshman backs Richard Samuel, Dontavius Jackson and Carlton Thomas:
"I think with Richard and Dontavius having the opportunity to come in as a midyear has certainly helped them. Not that it's put them ahead of Carlton Thomas in any way because Carlton Thomas has done a pretty good job of learning what to do, but I'd say Richard coming in midyear has really helped him learn the system, mature, and understand what it's going to take to be game-ready. I'd say he's put himself in position."
Ball on the redshirt possibilities for Thomas and Samuel:
"We certainly want to feel like if we're going to play them on special teams, they're going to be able to give us quality reps as an offensive player also. We just don't want to burn a year just to bring a kickoff return back, so we've got to feel like they can help us on offense."
QB Matthew Stafford on Georgia's big-play capabilities:
"I think we've got a chance to be pretty explosive, both running the ball and throwing it. We've got guys back there that can really make plays running the football if we can open up some holes, which I know we can, and if we protect, I think we've got a chance to run by some people and maybe be a little more explosive than we were last year."
WR Mohamed Massaquoi on the addition of A.J. Green to the WR corps:
"I think their addition to the team is especially good. You get to see things from a young perspective, and it kind of rejuvenates you and makes you want to go out there. It's kind of like when you're competing with your older brother or younger brother. The older brother always wants to do better than the younger brother. (Green) pushes me to do things. I learn from him as much as he learns from me."
DT Kade Weston on his injury situation:
"I think I'm close, but I've got a lot more to work on. Sometimes it gets sore, so I've got to work on my flexibility and get stronger. I think Ron (Courson) and the staff have done a good job of putting me through a program I need to get better."
Yet one thing has eluded Weston thus far the role of starter.
Weston did start five games last season, and he is usually mentioned in the same breath with fellow interior linemen Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins in terms of their value to the defensive line, but when it comes to the depth chart, he's a notch lower.
"I don't see them pushing me out of the limelight as the two starters," Weston said of Atkins and Owens. "Coach knows what's best, but every day I work hard just like I'm a starter and come out to play. When the starters come out, we don't want no slack nowhere."
That's a mentality garnered through two years of battle-tested experience.
Georgia's defensive line rotates players early and often, and the extra reps both in practice and on game day have made the defensive tackle spot one of the most experienced on the team.
"We definitely do have a lot of experience because we've got four guys in the rotation, and we all played a quality amount of snaps last year," Weston said. "We still just working like we're young, and we're competing for the spot."
More than simply gaining experience, the heavy rotation keeps players fresh and keeps their heads in the game. Weston may be a backup, he said, but that's really just a figure of speech.
"Starter is just a name because there are some games I end up playing as much as Jeff played." Weston said. "At the end of the game, we're all right there in reps. If you're rollin', we'll let you roll."
Weston hopes to be rolling often this season, along with the talented crew of defensive tackles he's fighting for playing time. Whether he is in the game on the first snap or the last, his goal remains the same.
"I see myself as the same as everybody else," Weston said, "playing big, being a playmaker."
Not sure how much we'll hear from Darryl Gamble, Nick Williams and Baccari Rambo this season, but the three of them definitely have bright futures at UGA.
Bleacher Report makes the case for South Carolina not collapsing again this year.
The Arizona Star makes Knowshon's Heisman case.
The Jacksonville Times Union has a story on the immortal Jon Fabris.
The Augusta Chronicle chats with Vince Dooley and has a story on Justin Houston.
David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press points to the 2006 game against Auburn as the turning point for Matthew Stafford. I think it may have been the turning point for the entire team.
And to get you stoked for the first week of the season, the Telegraph has six reasons to love college football.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
With the start of the 2008 season just one week away, the top-ranked Georgia football team worked out for less than two hours Saturday at the Woodruff Practice Fields. The team will take Sunday off before resuming game week preparations for Georgia Southern Monday.
The Bulldogs focused on the kicking game during the first 30 minutes of Saturday s practice before breaking into individual drills and closing the session with 11-on-11 work.
Today was another outstanding day, Richt said. I liked the tempo and effort. We spent a lot of time on kicking and we want to know some answers. I m hoping the dust will settle by Monday.
After reviewing the film from Friday s scrimmage, Richt noted the team practiced with more energy and enthusiasm than in the previous scrimmage.
Because we played with energy and tempo, some things that I thought were problems Thursday weren t on Friday, Richt said. We decided we were going to try as hard as we can and go as hard as we can go. We have some things to work on but we are not as far off as I thought we would be.
Not that Wilson is 100 percent by any means, but with so many green jerseys during the preseason, he knew he had to be out there his teammates needed him.
"I've been going as much as I can," Wilson said. "But it's a mental thing, and that's one of the key things to football is having a mental game."
Having played in 12 games last season, earning two starts, Wilson has plenty of talent. But it's that mental game that sets him apart.
"My football IQ is my major asset," Wilson said. "It just makes the game so much easier, slows (the game) down for you."
That football knowledge should earn Wilson his share of passes this season, despite the fact that he currently trails Kris Durham and Kenneth Harris on the depth chart at split end.
His catches will come, he said. And he knows to make the most out of the handful of opportunities he gets each game. That was a lesson the older wide receivers taught him when he first came to Georgia.
"You're only going to get three or four opportunities a game, so when your number is called, you've got to make the most of your opportunity," Wilson said.
But racking up stats isn't nearly as important to Wilson as the impact he can have when he's not catching footballs.
With the younger players some who have already passed him on the depth chart he makes a point of passing along his knowledge of the game.
"I want to leave an impact on those boys lives," Wilson said. "I get a hold of them, we meet, I teach them how to read coverages, just the speed of the game."
On the field, he shares the wealth, too. Wilson said he gets just as much enjoyment from opening a hole for a running back as he does from hauling in a downfield bomb.
"I'd go get at fullback if they need me to," Wilson said. "I love to block."
It's not just that Wilson loves to block. It's more than he simply hates to lose.
"I hate to lose even at practice against our defense," Wilson said. "I know it's going to better our defense if I go hard to get them better, and if they go hard, it gets me better. On Saturday, we're on the same sideline."
So I had signed up for the all-important Obama vice presidential text message announcement -- mostly because I wanted to feel like I was on the cusp of the information super highway, but also because I really like text messaging. So, of course, I go out of town, forget my cell charger, my battery dies, and it's all for nothing. On the upside, he chose Joe Biden -- thus giving my home state of Delaware its first moment of notoriety since the signing of the Constitution.
The New York Times has a story on Knowshon Moreno. I love that the writer clearly had a terrible phone interview with Knowshon -- who isn't much for interviews -- and so he decided to write his whole story pretty much about the fact that Knowshon doesn't like interviews. I think this is one of my biggest pet peeves with the media. Knowshon makes your job hard, so that's the story that gets written. Truth is, Knowshon is outgoing, fun, talkative -- just not with reporters. So why do reporters keep writing about how he doesn't want to talk? Drives me crazy. Anyway, it's rare I get to call out the NYT for bad journalism, but this is simply lazy reporting and lazier writing.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press writes that head coach Mark Richt put the Dawgs back to work at Friday's practice.
Chip also has a story comparing this year's Georgia team to the one in 1980. Man, Chip's been busy.
Ms. Jenna Marina has a story on Kevin and Drew Butler.
Two Georgia golfers are making names for themselves at Pinehurst.
Some guy with a dead cell phone wrote a story on how the freshmen handle the first week of school.
Sadly, things aren't looking too promising for D.J. Shockley at Falcons camp.
Bleacher Report has a college football quiz for you.
And finally, our college football season preview came out today. I highly suggest picking up a copy of today's Telegraph if you can. It's chock full of helpful info for the season. If you're not able to, however, you can find online versions of my stories on the defensive depth, Knowshon's new role, the ridiculously tough schedule and the deep corps of wide receivers, as well as Josh Kendall's coda at the Telegraph on Matthew Stafford.