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Friday, April 10, 2009

Catching Up With... Brad Nessler

We're just one day away from the 2009 G-Day game. In case you had any questions about the basics of attending the event, you can find that info HERE.

Don't forget, too, that while the game is free for all fans, you are encouraged to bring a donation for the Northeast Georgia Food Bank.

The unofficial rosters for the game are also posted HERE, if you're interested.

As you're no doubt aware, the G-Day game will also be broadcast live on ESPN this year. Calling the game for the WWL are Brad Nessler, Kirk Herbstreit and Wendi Nix. Due to the restraining order currently in place (trumped up charges, if you ask me), I was not able to talk with Wendi, but Brad Nessler -- who lives in Georgia, by the way -- was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me to preview the game. I spoke with Brad on Wednesday, just one day after he returned from the Final Four in Detroit. Here's what he had to say...

David Hale: So essentially you guys are coming into town to broadcast an intra-squad scrimmage, albeit a pretty well-hyped one. How do you approach broadcasting a game like this?

Brad Nessler: I think if you have something like they had last year at Alabama, that's a little more exciting. I think they had 92,000 people there. I don't know if that's going to happen in Athens, but I think for me, because it's basically a local game, it's fun for me because I can be a little bit more of a fan, take a look at the guys that are replacing the Matts and the Knowshons and that type of thing.

It's a two-hour show more than a two-hour game, and I guess for some of the kids, it's a two-hour showcase for some of them. We approach it a little differently. We're going to have a lot of fun. We're probably going to have some guys on the phone that are ex-Bulldogs, and we may have another one in the booth.

DH: Florida and Alabama have both had their spring games broadcast live before, too, with Bama bringing in a whole lot of fans, as you mentioned. Are you surprised at the level of attention these games now receive?

BN: From what I understand, there was a written agreement of some sort that you have to win 10 games or more to be considered. I don't think New Mexico State is going to call ESPN and say, 'We want our spring game on TV.' But so far, it's been kind of just a southern thing. It just proves that college football in the south never sleeps. That's what I get out of it. I was watching the basketball game with a bunch of buddies and half of them were talking about Georgia football.

DH: You're a Georgia guy. What are you expecting the atmosphere to be like at Sanford Stadium on Saturday?

BN: With it being Easter weekend, I don't what the turnout will be. Maybe it will be great because it's spring break, it's something to do for free, maybe take the family over there and watch a couple hours of football. I think we're supposed to have a nice day, so maybe it will be a big deal. I don't know. I'll be interested to find out what kind of response they're going to get over there.

DH: As a broadcaster, what are the major storylines or players you're interested in seeing during the game?

BN: I've been waiting to see Caleb King snap out of it and be the guy everybody thought he was in high school for a year or so. He had to wait his turn. Well, his turn is up, and I'm not 100 percent sure whether he's going to be the main guy or not. I think they hope he will be, but they've got some other injured guys who won't be around until fall. It will be interesting to watch him.

I'm looking forward to seeing A.J. Green in person. I don't get to do a lot of Georgia games normally because they're always on CBS. I remember watching Rennie Curran play in the high school playoffs and I thought, 'Man, who is this kid?' He's an All-American candidate if you ask me. I guess those kind of questions.

I'm looking forward to seeing Joe Cox. Everybody says he's a great leader even though he's never started. You look at him and you hope he can do what D.J. did following David, and if he can, how cool would that be?

I think the other thing is just the fact that this time a year ago they were talking No. 1 and all that stuff, so I don't think that helped them at all. With the expectations maybe a little bit lower, they might turn around and have as good a year or a better year without those expectations weighing on their shoulders. This is kind of the start of it.

DH: You mentioned you approach this broadcast as a two-hour show, rather than a typical game. So what does ESPN have in store for the fans watching the show on TV?

BN: I think Kirk's going to do some kind of feature that will run at halftime, and I'd be surprised if it wasn't with Joe Cox about taking over for Matthew Stafford. We'd like to get Matt or Knowshon to either be there or be on the phone with us. That was my idea, but I don't know. I suggested having Coach Richt on for one series. I'm not supposed to say but there's another ex-Bulldog that's going to have a little bit of a tryout with us, but I don't think I'm supposed to say anything so leave that as a surprise guest.

DH: And how about you, personally? You're going to have to memorize a lot more names than usual for a game like this, and the whole situation is pretty informal compared to a typical game you might cover. How do you plan to handle calling a game like this?

BN: It's not going to be all down and distance and telestration. There's probably going to be times when the wrong guy has the wrong number on for all I know, and I won't have my official spotter and stat guys. I'll have a statistician, but I'm not sure if that even matters in this case, because I'm sure Mark is going to come up with some form of scoring system for the defense as well as the offense.

There's not going to be kickoff returns, the punts aren't going to be live, so all that time gives us a chance to talk big picture. Probably more about the SEC. This time a year ago, Florida did the spring game and went on to win the national championship. I think we'll just talk big picture. Sometimes it will be football, sometimes straight play by play. We'll have a bunch of laughs sometimes and won't know who caught the ball or made the tackle.

I made an inquiry with our producer the other day and said, 'Now, we're not wearing shirts and ties for this thing are we?' And he said, 'Yeah, that's the way it looks.' But I just got an email a little while ago that said somebody overruled somebody else and we're going casual. So I was like, 'Perfect!' But everything's going to be more relaxed, and hopefully we'll have fun for two hours.

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