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Monday, March 9, 2009

Cracking Open the Mailbag

After weeks of talking about typing up a mailbag, it's finally here. I can't promise it was worth the wait, but I have always lived by one simple credo: When you control the mail, you control... information!!!

So, with that, fire up your printer, set aside some "alone time" at the office, and let's get to the mail...

From Julian D: My buddy and I attend the spring games regularly. Last year it was cut really short because of the weather. But we were wondering if there will be any changes in the normal routine (format) of the spring game because of its being broadcast by ESPN. Normally quarters are about 10 minutes, there's no hitting the QB, not much blitzing, no kickoff or punt return coverage, no rushing the kicker, etc.

DH: The biggest change is that the game will be free to attend. Yes, I've heard the complaints about it being Easter weekend, and that will surely have an effect on some fans hoping to attend. But free is still free, so I have no doubt the stadium will be packed -- and from a fan's perspective, this is probably the best bit of assistance you can lend on the recruiting trail.

Beyond that, ESPN and the school are still working on figuring out the formalities, but it's doubtful there will be significant changes from what has been done in the past.

Here's what Mark Richt had to say...

"I don't think we'll have live kickoff. I don't think that would be a wise thing to do. We'll modify some of the kicking game certainly, but we're going to play a game with Red vs. Black and we'll keep score and play four quarters and whether or not they're full 15-minute quarters or not, I don't know. But ESPN and we will sit down and talk about it. We certainly want to give them a good product, no doubt, but we want to be wise also."

From Anonymous: I've followed (Caleb) King since he played in high school and my impression is that his performance all depends on how confident he feels. In high school, he had a swagger, and as a consequence, he was unstoppable. Since he's been at UGA, though, I haven't seen any of that confidence, and predictably, his performance has been kinda blah ... to say the least. I don't know what it'll take, but he's just got to get that swagger back. In terms of raw talent, I really think he's up there with Knowshon. But as we all remember, Knowshon's confidence was NEVER an issue.

DH: I think fans have a tendency to assume if you are highly recruited and talented enough to play at this level, confidence is never an issue for you -- but they're wrong. Everybody's different, and while some players need a swift kick in the you-know-where, others really need a confidence boost to keep going.

I talked with Kris Durham last week, and he said almost every player goes through something like that at some point in their careers, and Caleb King is no different. He wasn't getting much playing time last year, and that both hurt his confidence and allowed him to slack a bit and rely on Knowshon Moreno to carry the load.

Tony Ball's synopsis was that the jury is still out on Caleb, and obviously that will be the case until he proves otherwise, but Durham seemed pretty confident that King would make a big impact this season.

"He's reached a turning point," Durham said. "He knew he had Knowshon to help him out, but he knows he has an opportunity to come in and start, and I think his focus is going to be toward that. He's going to get more and more reps and I think that's going to help his confidence."

From DeKalb G.: Quick question that might be good for the mailbag: Why hasn't Tom Brennan's name come up at all for the UGA hoops vacancy. He has obviously had a lot of success coaching, is a UGA grad, and might be the kind of gentle players coach that we need right now coming off of the Felton regime. I haven't heard so much of a mention about him anywhere; why not?

DH: It is interesting that Tom Brennan's name hasn't surfaced even in Internet rumors because he has a strong track record of success and has ties to UGA. Chip Towers at the AJC talked to Brennan a few weeks ago about the program, but Brennan didn't mention any interest in landing the job. Just a guess on my part, but I think he's pretty happy with his gig at ESPN.

As for the candidates whose names have been out there: I think the two biggest continue to be Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant (although those Tubby Smith rumblings won't go away). Capel is the big name, and as FOX Sports reported, will likely come with a hefty salary, but I honestly wonder if he's worth it. He's clearly a good coach, but he hasn't recruited most of his best players over the years, and that's an awful lot of cash to spend on a guy who hasn't taken a team to the Final Four or recruited an All-American player.

From Carter: Does the strength and conditioning staff mandate the players taking supplements (like protein shakes, not the A-Rod varieties), or is that sort of thing left up to the player? Barwis at Michigan is a big chocalate milk and protein powder fan. Barwis' S & C practices at WVU turned a bunch of unheralded recruits into BCS Bowl participants. And on a personal note, David, have you stuck to your pledge to hit the gym w/ regularity?

DH: Let's just say that, thanks in large part to excessive travel and a cold bug, I'm not exactly ready for bikini weather. Back on the horse though as soon as I return from Tampa.

As for the UGA players, they are given a protein recovery drink after each workout, but beyond that, it's all on them what they want to take. Fullback Fred Munzenmaier is one of the bigger gym rats on the team, and here's what he had to say:

"As long as we're not violating any NCAA substance rule or anything like that, it's pretty much OK," he said. "They strongly urge us to bring in anything we're interested in taking to let them check it out and make sure it's OK before we do. They're there with us and making sure we're making the right choices, but as far as making the choice to do something extra, that's up to the player."

From Brian P.: With all the recent coverage of A-Rod and drug testing in baseball, how come we never hear about steroids in college sports? I know the steroid story has been beaten to death at the national level, but I can't recall ever hearing a story about performance enhancing drugs and a college athlete. Do we not hear about it because they are protecting the student-athlete's privacy or because no one is being caught? If no one is being caught, is it because no one is cheating or is it because no one is testing? I'm curious what the NCAA guidelines are for testing, or does each school police itself?

DH: The NCAA has a pretty strict testing policy, which you can read HERE if you want all the details.

As for Georgia, specifically, the coaches, trainers and conditioning staff make a point of educating players as to what is acceptable and what isn't, but as Munzenmaier said, the biggest burden of responsibility falls to the player. With the A-Rod stories and others in the news so much, he said all of the players are far more cognizant of what they're taking than they used to be, and most players go the extra mile to make sure they aren't taking anything they shouldn't.

"Obviously with all the stuff with baseball going on in the media, you definitely think twice about anything you do, just because you're watching it every day on ESPN," Munzenmaier said. "But they say, if you have questions or have doubts about something, bring it in first and let us check it out. We got forewarned. They said if you get in trouble for stuff like that, you get in trouble. We said we'd help you."

Having said all that, I'm certain that suspensions do happen for violations of the policy, but they are generally not discussed widely. When a player is pulled over for a DUI or gets in a fight at a bar, that information turns up on police reports which the media has access to. Failed drug tests are an in-house thing, and most schools try to keep it that way.

From Muckbeast: "There are plenty of UGA message boards out there that deal in conjecture, and I'll admit, they're fun to read"... David, what are some of your favorites? I read a few blogs, but blogs are terrible for discussion imho. What good message boards are there?

DH: I was just saying the other day that I think Internet journalism has to take a significantly different approach than TV or newspapers do. People don't just use one site all the time for all their info the way they tend to do with the paper or the evening news. They get a little from one outlet then move on to another, picking and choosing what they like. It's like journalism at a dim sum restaurant.

I've tried to take that into consideration with this blog by posting links to so many other sources, and hopefully the links have landed you at a few different sites you now visit regularly.

Speaking specifically about the message boards, the best of the best is Rivals' Dawg Vent over at It's a pay site though, as are some of the other sites with decent message boards like Total UGA and Scout.

If you're looking for free message boards, I'd recommend Dawg Run, which gets some good traffic, though not nearly as much as Rivals' site. Still, the folks who post there tend to be pretty reasonable, and there's not a lot of name calling and other such ridiculousness.

Other message boards you might check out include Dawg Rant and SEC Talk forums as well as the comment threads on the AJC's Georgia blogs by Chip Towers and Michael Carvell. Both blogs are excellent, although I'll admit, some of the comments get a little out of hand and unpleasant and the overall quantity can make reading them a bit overwhelming.

While I'm at it, I'll also point you in the direction of a few good independent blogs, if you're looking for more UGA material. I try to keep most of my writing here to objective analysis rather than opinions (although I can't help but make the occasional snide comment about some SEC coaches) but there are at least a dozen solid fan blogs out there that do a great job of providing insight on UGA sports.

My two favorite (and really, the two best) are Georgia Sports Blog and Get the Picture, but there are a bunch of other good ones. For inside insight, and Jeff Owens' Real Deal blog are both good. For general SEC stuff, Chris Low does a great job for ESPN. Kyle King and Macon Dawg always have tons of in-depth analysis at Dawg Sports. Bernie's a regular commenter here, but his Dawg Blawg is great, and I highly recommend giving it a regular read, too.

There are a bunch of other good sites out there if you look around. I have a bunch listed on the blog roll on this site, but if I'm missing anything, shoot me an email or leave a comment on this post, and I'll add it.

From Anonymous: Bought the paper this morning and that was one of the best stories I have read!!! I have often wondered about "mat drills" and what is was. Thank you for going beyond the normal reporting and providing this kind of insight into the life of a player. Great work, I'd give you a raise!

DH: You'd make a fine boss! Unfortunately raises aren't coming around too often these days, as too few people are actually buying the newspaper. I did win a free pitcher of Miller Lite at trivia the other night though, so that was good.

From Anonymous: Wow. I loved Slumdog Millionaire. One of the best movies I've seen in a long time. Then again, I am girl and always like a great love story. I also liked Crash, too, though. Hmmm agree to disagree I guess. I'm at least glad they're paying for the kids' education. Going to the Oscars isn't too bad either. :)

DH: This stemmed from my condemnation of "Slumdog," which I personally thought was sort of contrived and cliched. It was a decent enough story, but I felt it was similar to "Crash" in that there wasn't a lot of depth to the characters... they tended to each play the stereotypical part needed for the movie to illustrate its core themes without exploring the myriad gray areas that reality is full of.

On another note, While I was out at trivia the other night, there were a couple of answers I knew specifically because I'd come across them while out a bar in college or something like that, and it completely reminded me of "Slumdog" -- only with drunken 22-year-olds from Delaware rather than poor kids in the slums of India. Anyway, I think it's now a matter of time before some Hollywood big wig decides to make a spoof of "Slumdog" using this concept, and I just wanted this in print so that I can sue for royalties. I'm assuming it will star Ryan Reynolds and possibly the middle Jonas Brother.

From Bob: Curious to know what you think have been the most influential penalties of the Richt Era.

DH: Bob submitted his thoughts, including the roughing the passer call that overturned the fumble recovery on Alabama's opening drive last year, and the brutal personal foul that overturned the interception against Florida, too. I agree that both of those hurt, and had they gone the other way, it's easy to see how momentum in those games could have shifted. Still, considering Bama led 31-0 at the half, and Florida won by 39, it's hard to say one play in either game really made the difference.

Bob's third submission was the one I would agree with -- the hands-to-the-face call on Quentin Moses against Florida in 2005 was the worst.

Georgia was undefeated coming into this game, but had lost D.J. Shockley to a knee injury the week before. Joe Tereshinski was making his first start, and the offense looked sluggish at best. Georgia fell behind 14-0, but thanks to some fancy play calling -- including a halfback pass to Tereshinski for a TD -- rallied back into contention. The defense had a crucial third down on Florida's final drive late in the fourth quarter, and appeared to have made the stop, but Moses was flagged for the penalty that kept the drive alive and effectively ended the game.

UPDATE: I'm an idiot, as usual. You know, they say the memory is the first thing to go. I'll let this anonymous poster explain:"The Quentin Moses facemask call actually occurred in the waning minutes of the 2006 GA-FL game that UGA lost 21-14. That call helped enable Florida to eventually win Urban Meyer's first national title, but did nothing to keep Georgia from winning one. Bizarre playcalling, including a third and long quarterback draw and dropped passes were mostly responsible for the 14-10 loss in 2005."

While the circumstances of my answer were completely wrong, I still stick by the answer... in fact, even more so now.

From Jeff M.: Luckly it's your birthday, so the Albany Dawgs can't get too sore at you over your internet comment there. :-)

DH: This was from a while back when I complained about not being able to find Internet access in Albany. I wanted to include it because I was in Albany again a couple weeks ago, and the place has gotten even worse!!! I went to Casa Tapatia, which is a legitimately great Mexican place, and they took my favorite item off the menu!!! Then I went to grab a sub for lunch the next day at Al's Super Subs, which might have been one of the top two or three sandwich places I've been in the South, and it was closed!!! I'm really running out of reasons to visit now.

(But I still did throw in some extra exclamation points for the readers of the Albany Herald who have become so used to them.)

From Anonymous: Is Pat Dye Jr the agent for Brannen Surtherland and Asher too?

DH: Yup, Pat reps both players. Tom Condon is the agent for both Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, Jack Reale reps CJ Byrd, James Butch Williams is Dannell Ellerbe's agent and Mohamed Massaquoi has hired Brian Ayrault.

BeachGaBulldog: I like all the Bulldog links, but please stop talking about that show "Lost". How long can you go on with a show about people on an island. They are either going to get rescued, or reproduce and die. There is enough garbage on TV as it is. Friday Night Lights is a heck of a lot better.

DH: OK, I'm not going to go quite that far, but I admit, I'm not too thrilled with this season of "Lost."

To enjoy the show, you have to accept a lot of absurd premises, but for the first four seasons, there were at least rules to the absurdity. Guidelines for the reality of the island were established (or at least hinted at) and that's what made the plot twists so intriguing.

This season, I feel like there are no rules. The writers seem to have carte blanche to write the show however they see fit, and thus I'm just not all that interested in seeing what happens next. And given that the show rests almost entirely on keeping you interested in what comes next, that's a bad thing.

My biggest complaint though: Where the heck are Rose and Bernard? Were they just killed off unceremoniously? Have they just been chilling on the beach this whole time, and Sawyer, Jin and Co. have no interest in letting them know they've got houses, sofas and toilet paper on the other side of the island? I honestly can't watch the show without wondering about this now.

From Noops Dawg: By the way, since you have "Lost" mentioned in your poll, I thought you might like this David. (View link HERE.) Seems that Hurley is either a Dawg fan, or he's wearing a UGA jacket on the show. And Jorge Garcia, the guy who plays Hurley on the show, actually commented on the blog about it.

DH: It was also pointed out to me by several readers that Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer, attended UGA for a while. Oh, and to all you "Friday Night Lights" fans, Kyle Chandler is also a UGA alum. So apparently the Dawgs produce more than just NFL talent.

From Randall B.: David...any way you could get a list of the walk up music for the baseball players? Thanks!

DH: Don't have a complete list, but thanks to the incomparable Ben Beaty at the UGA athletics department, here's a partial list:

Rich Poythress: "Moment of Clarity" by Jay Z
Bryce Massanari: "Welcome to Jamrock" by Damien Marley
Chase Davidson: "Flirtin with Disaster" by Molley Hatchet
Joey Lewis: "Warrior" by Kid Rock
Colby May: Jeremy Camp (not sure what song though)

From Matt H.: I guess this comment is more suited for last season, but if Logan Gray is such a great athlete and the coaches want him on the field so bad......why don't they make him the holder as well? Even if they never once run a fake, it would keep the defense honest for one or two extra steps. I'm sure it is a number of reps issue, but I have always felt having the punter hold is playing it too safe.

DH: This makes a ton of sense to me, but as most Bulldogs fans have complained for years, Georgia tends to play it safe on special teams most of the time (the on-side kick against Florida last year being a notable exception).

I know special teams were decimated by injuries last season, but the lack of practice reps Logan Gray got at QB while working on pretty much every special teams unit was a major mistake in my opinion. Georgia will now enter this season without a single backup with extensive practice reps. If something happens to Joe Cox, the guys behind him have plenty of talent, but very little experience. Considering Logan offered next to nothing in the return game a year ago, I can't imagine that is a tradeoff the coaching staff thinks was worthwhile. I mean, why not just burn Carlton Thomas' redshirt and let him handle return duties for punts and kickoffs?

From Larry B.: I'm curious what you think about the way UGA coaches develop players. Most of the position coaches seem to value getting players in a rotation of sorts to A) keep fresh folks in where possible and B) get younger guys experience for the future. All but the quarterback position. Its unscientific, but it appears that even when there is a chance to give a backup (say, Joe Cox) a little playing time, CMR keeps his starter in. It appeared that way with David Greene and even when Shockley was the starter. Now, we face season with a seemingly capable QB but who has precious little game experience. Does this mean that after Cox graduates we're looking at a Logan Gray with scant PT as QB? Is game experience overated?

DH: This is my point exactly. Just look around the SEC last year at what happened to Auburn and Tennessee, and you realize how important experience is at the QB position.

Mark Richt
discussed this issue in regards to Joe Cox last week: "I've seen enough of Joe to feel real confident that he'll be able to play well, but like any quarterback, he needs help. The thing that's going to help Joe is the offensive line should be much more mature than it's ever been."

Sort of a dodge of the question, really, which Richt can be quite adept at when he wants to be. In any case, the problem is that you can only get your backup QB in when you're already pretty confident in the outcome of the game. That wasn't the case often for Georgia last year, and given the extremely difficult schedule this year (with only Tennessee Tech looking like an obvious blowout, and that's midyear) it's doubtful we'll see a lot of game action for any of Cox's understudies unless there's an injury.

From Jferg: Any idea what Knowshon's 40 time is? or was at UGA? It couldn't be nearly as fast as Felix Jones, right? Maybe mid 4.5's?

DH: Knowshon Moreno's 40 time at the combine ended up somewhere between the mid 4.5s and mid 4.6s depending on which spotwatch you regard as most accurate. I thought this might be a bit troubling, but I spoke with Mel Kiper recently, and he told me that it was right in line with his expectations. Speed wasn't an integral part of Knowshon's game, and Kiper said teams aren't at all worried about his time. He's still expected to go mid-to-late first round.

From Anonymous: Dallas Lee moves to Center? Wasn't he an og in college?

DH: Yup, not sure the explanation for that move, but my guess is that it's nominal only. He'll probably work at center for a bit this spring simply because Chris Davis is out, but Stacy Searels is notorious for using all of his linemen all over in practice. Dallas Lee will probably get a good bit of reps at multiple positions, and the current depth chart probably won't mean a whole heck of a lot in a month.

From Henry F.: You continue to a great job with your Bulldogs Blog, but stay away from Springsteen if you can't get it right. Today, you wrote:

"The Asbury Park Press looks at how Knowshon Moreno's former Pop Warner teammate is prepping for the NFL combine, but still aren't looking into why Bruce never plays "Rosalita" anymore."

A quick check of the set lists listed on show that Bruce played "Rosalita" in nine of the last 10 shows on the Magic tour last August, usually as an encore. The only show he didn't play it in was Aug. 22 in St. Louis when he played "Little Queenie" in tribute to hometown rocker Chuck Berry. The real question might be: "Why does he play "Rosalita" so much?" Answer: Because it is a great song and always gets the crowd going.

DH: This was just a lack of research on my part, I guess. I've been to two Bruce Springsteen shows in the past 18 months or so though, and I didn't get to hear "Rosalita" either time. I'm hoping to make Bonnaroo this year though, so perhaps I'll finally get to hear it. Having said that, I was driving around enjoying the weather today and happened to hear "Jungleland," and I couldn't have been any happier. You just can't beat 75 and sunny with a little Bruce on the radio.

From Anonymous: Stafford was a leader by example last summer from every coaches report we got. He worked very hard to improve his game, and he improved significantly. If some of his team mates didn't take it as seriously, that's on them.

DH: I'm not going to criticize Matthew Stafford's leadership because I wasn't in the locker room or on the practice field, and the folks who have rightfully pointed out that last year, players said many of the same things about improved leadership that they said this year have a valid point. But I will say this: The message of bad leadership last year has been repeated over and over by various players this year, and that's not to be taken lightly. It's one thing to say this year's team is better, but it's another to explicitly condemn things that happened last year.

Here's my other point: There's no label easier to apply than "leading by example." Every time I hear the phrase, I take it with a grain of salt. To me, that means a guy (possibly) works hard and (definitely) doesn't spend much time making sure everyone else does. It's fine to have leaders by example on your team, but you also have to have leaders who are teachers, mentors, motivators and wardens, and there just weren't enough of them a year ago.

Having said that, there were just two seniors to start every game last season -- Mo Massaquoi and CJ Byrd. This year, Georgia could have up to 11 or 12 seniors getting significant playing time. That can only help.

From Gene: David, I actually heard that d**che Albom live on the radio. Almost turned it off but when I heard the subject I stayed with it. When he started spouting off about journalistic integrity(ABJ '78 here) I started screaming at the radio something to the effect, "You ahat, what would you and your current crop know about this subject?!!!! This kind of crap really burns my butt. Anyone with any sense knows what blogs are and can choose for themselves which are actually written as "serious" journalistic pieces. If I hear "sources close to the situation" one more time I think I'll scream. Again. Not trying to suck up or anything(not particularly known for that!), but I would say that the things I read on your blog, and some other choice spots on these interwebs like the Senator, are so much more informative, well written, and fact based as to make Albom sound like an old auntie crabbing about lost glory days. There. I'm done.

DH: Hang on...

From Gene: Oh yeah, I meant to say 'bite it Albom' somewhere in that rant.

DH: See, the great writers always provide you with the perfect finishing touch.


Dog44 said...

Just wanted to say thanks.

Also... glad you wrote about "leading by example." I have heard SO MANY players give this response when asked by a reporter about their leadership style... "My style is to lead by example."

When I hear that, I usually think, "That means they're probably not really 'leaders' at all... just good players and (usually) hard workers." Not saying this applies to Stafford... I have no idea... but just saying. There's a difference between setting a good example and being a leader.

I think the true leaders on the team can usually be identified by the comments of their peers. You'll hear about guys stepping up in the locker room... challenging their teammates, rallying the troops, etc. Certain guys' names you hear about along these lines... others you don't. Sounds like last year, not enough of this happened on the part of the key leaders... bottom line.

Just my two cents on the leadership issue.

the anonymous suckup said...


Not only do you have the most informative UGA blog out there, but posts like this are just damn entertaining - even when you aren't talking about UGA sports - uhhh, well exept you talk about Lost too much...

Other than that, it's gold, Jerry...GOLD!

David Hale said...

Thanks, Anon S-U... I definitely appreciate it, and don't worry... only a few more weeks left of the season for Lost, so you're almost off the hook.

Meat said...

You know, Dave, I don't ever click on your Lost links but I say you post the heck out of them if it makes you happy.

Billy Barou said...

I agree Slumdog Millionaire was overrated. I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of gave me a glimpse of a world I knew little, if anything, about and did it in a unique way. But the last 20-30 minutes of that movie was just cliched and predictable. Like USC, it benefitted from weak competition this year in the Oscar race. 'There Will Be Blood' would have powerbombed 'Millionaire' through a steel cage in a no holds barred match

cousinwalter said...

Did Gene say that Mitch Albom is a bulldog?(ABJ 1978)

"There Will Blood" probably would have stomped Slumdog but I think they are both great obviously for different reasons.

cousinwalter said...

I meant "There will be Blood"
sorry about the typo

Anonymous said...

Wait... I thought everyone died on the Beach when the 1950s Others started shooting flaming arrows at them all - including Rose and Bernard.

I agree with you on this season, but the last episode renewed my interest.

David Hale said...

See, that's one explanation, but I can't believe they'd just kill off two semi-major characters off screen with no further mention of them.

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