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Friday, June 19, 2009

Odds and Ends

I've been out of town all week (and actually, for the better part of the past month) so a few things happened that I didn't get around to commenting on immediately. Rather than write up long responses to each issue, I figured a quick (OK, not so quick) around the horn might suffice...

-- Big thanks to ESPN's Chris Low for linking to my post on returning offensive production in the SEC this week. One of his commenters, however, wondered why I ranked the schools by percentage of returning offense rather than gross production. The answer is that I was curious about both, but assumed you could eyeball the gross numbers easier than the percentages. But, since it was asked, here's a quick rundown of the rankings based on yardage returning for 2009.

Receiving Yards

Arkansas, 2999
LSU, 2580
Alabama, 2098
Ole Miss, 2091
Kentucky, 1880
Georgia, 1775
Florida, 1596
S. Carolina, 1370
Miss St, 1354
Auburn, 1212
Tennessee, 1066
Vanderbilt, 725

Rushing Yards

Florida, 2414
Ole Miss, 2331
LSU, 2011
Arkansas, 1362
Auburn, 1317
Alabama, 1208
Kentucky, 1204
Miss. St., 1192
Vanderbilt, 940
Tennessee, 500
S. Carolina, 499
Georgia, 479

-- I ran into Andrew Williams last night. He said he's been working in an advisory capacity with Knowshon Moreno and is planning to move out to Denver with him. No deal done yet for Knowshon with the Broncos, but Drew said they're not too far apart.

-- The MLB draft reminded me what a joke the NCAA is. This had already been on my mind, but then ESPN's Jemele Hill wrote a fantastic column about it. Why is it that a baseball player can be drafted and then return to school, but the same isn't true for basketball or football players? Why are baseball players allowed to sign right out of high school but basketball and football players are not? Why is it that a baseball player can sign a contract, play professionally, but still return to school and participate in another sport, but something as petty as extra textbooks or attending a high school graduation are violations in football?

Hill argues, quite rightly, that it's all about money for the NCAA, which seems a bit ironic since the NCAA flips out whenever a player or his family receives a dime for their work. And chalk this up in the "I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'" category, but here's the racial breakdown in college sports: Football, 51 percent minorities. Basketball, 67 percent minorities. Baseball, 19 percent minorities. Oh, and as for the high-level "decision maker" jobs in the NCAA... the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports estimates that as much as 97 percent of those gigs belong to white people.

-- Bleacher Report stirred up some controversy this week with a story criticizing Georgia strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger. I'd love to link to it for you to read firsthand, but Bleacher Report -- the bastion of journalistic integrity that it is -- deleted the story from its site already.

Nevertheless, the AJC's Bill King linked to it earlier this week, which drew plenty of comments from his readers.

Now, I'm not in any way endorsing the Bleacher Report story which was essentially no more than one man's opinion, but I don't think there's anything wrong with bringing up a topic of debate and challenging the status quo a little. And after talking to one NFL talent evaluator (who asked that his name not be used), I found there was at least a little bit of legitimacy to the story. He said several NFL people feel that Georgia's strength and conditioning program has "the wrong emphasis" and players from the Mark Richt/Bobby Bowden/Chuck Amato coaching tree have entered the league "undisciplined and not well prepared."

Is there reason to believe the critique? Potentially. Here's a bit of analysis of Mark Richt's draft classes done by reader Jim Franklin back in April examining the early selections of UGA players by year...

Year Round Player
2008 5 (161)
Marcus Howard
2007 3 (51)
Quentin Moses
2006 2 (30)
Tim Jennings
2005 1 (14)
Thomas Davis
2005 1 (17)
David Pollack
2005 2 (35)
Reggie Brown
2005 2 (48)
Odell Thurman
2005 3 (85)
David Greene
2005 4 (131)
Fred Gibson
2004 1 (32)
Ben Watson
2003 1 (6)
Johnathan Sullivan
2003 1 (20)
George Foster
2003 2 (34) Boss Bailey
2003 2 (37) Jon Stinchcomb
2002 1 (25)
Charles Grant

(By year, Georgia had four players taken in 2008, four in 2007, seven in 2006, six in 2005, four in 2004, seven in 2003 and eight in 2002.)

Obviously the 2009 draft turned around the recent trend illustrated in the statistics above with four Georgia players being selected in the first three rounds, including two of the top 12 overall. But if you look at those high draft picks from 2002-08, there's a pretty fair number of busts (at least by NFL standards) in there, too.

The case could also be made that there has to be a reason for all the injuries last year, although I'm not sure any explanation given could be specifically traced back to the strength and conditioning staff, particularly since the injury bug had never been that bad in the past.

Now, the other side of the coin: At the start of the 2006 season, Georgia was tied for third with 36 former players on NFL rosters, and at least a half-dozen more will be added to the mix in 2009. (Also of note, Bobby Bowden's boys have the second most players in the NFL). So if NFL folks are so displeased with the preparation of Richt's players, why are they so prevalent on NFL rosters?

Of course, success in your S&C program isn't all about putting players in the pros either. At least ostensibly, it's about winning in college, and few people have done a better job of that than Van Halanger. His teams have made it to a bowl game for 28 straight seasons, an unofficial record among college coaches as far as Van Halanger knows.

The Bleacher Report story discusses Georgia's defensive woes as the product of poor conditioning, but that seems like an odd critique. For one, no amount of conditioning teaches Reshad Jones to wrap up on a tackle (and, in truth, it's probably time I stop picking on Reshad, too). No strength program will keep Jarius Wynn from hitting the quarterback late or ensure that the defensive ends can handle a cut block. Plus, if Van Halanger's preparation caused the defense to suffer last season, then why was Georgia's offense so good? Both sets of players are trained by the same staff.

Again, I don't think there's anything wrong with having the discussion about Georgia's conditioning program, but until a former player or two speaks on the record saying they were ill prepared for life in the NFL (or games on Saturdays during their college careers) I'm inclined to think Van Halanger and his staff are doing as good a job as anyone.

-- Lots of questions about the new deal with ISP Sports that Georgia just signed. I'll have a more detailed story in the next few days (I'm just starting to sift through a mountain of information on it) but here are a few tidbits I got from ISP's general manager in Athens, Jeff Huffman...

On changes to the UGA Web site...
"We're going to re-launch our site this year. We're making improvements to it to make it more cutting-edge, offer our fans something that they've never had access to before. That's our biggest investment from an upgrade standpoint. We're going to invest a lot of resources into making that a real fan-friendly place."

On the all-important upgrades to the game tracker software at
"That's in discussions right now. We're working to improve all facets of our Web site and that is a piece that we're obviously looking to upgrade."

On when the new Web features might be available...
"We're shooting for a target date of the end of August. We want to have it up and ready to go so people can get acclimated with it and have time to learn and have it ready before we kick off (for football). This is something that's been in the works for several months now, so we didn't just start on it."

On the TV side of things, including the coach's show...
"We're going to introduce new programming which will be unveiled in the next several months. With the coach's show, the biggest thing is distribution. We're working to make sure if you want to be able to watch the coach's show, you can find it. We're also going to upgrade just the overall look and feel of the show. This new media team that we have in place, they will be not only working for our Web site, but they'll be shooting game-day activities, working with the coaches behind the scenes, shooting the coach's show. We've got the HD equipment and the necessary tools to be able to produce a first-rate quality program."

On who'll be doing the radio broadcasts...
"Scott Howard will be our play-by-play man and Eric (Zeier) will continue to be our color analyst for football broadcasts. The other positions that we have from a sideline perspective, from a pregame show, from some of the ancillary programming that we have with this new hour, we're working closely with UGA to determine who those talents are going to be, but we haven't released that yet."

-- I wanted to wish a happy father's day to all the dads out there and remind you that Mark Richt will be hosting the All-Pro Dad event tomorrow if you can make it.

-- And finally, I made a bit of a big deal over a comment by Rivals' Radi Nabulsi on's messsage board over the weekend. I received emails from both Radi and Anthony Dasher explaining their side of the situation, and in fairness to them, I thought it was important to publicly note that we've cleared things up and there are no hard feelings on my part. I highly doubt any of you really cared, but since I called them out on the blog, I figured I should be as up front with the results.

OK, that's it for now. Have a great weekend!


David Hale said...

I posted this on the mirror site for this blog, but given that I think I did a pretty poor job of explaining myself in the original post, I wanted to make sure my more detailed explanation was here too...

Good points, folks, on the baseball stuff. I probably did a poor job of explaining my thoughts because I was hoping to be brief.

I don't mean to imply race is the CAUSE of the problem, but that there is perhaps less attention given to the issues because baseball's demographics tend to be far more represented by the decision makers. I think that's exactly the problem with a lack of diversity in key leadership positions: It's not that the people that have those jobs are bad people or racist or whatever. It's that their life experience rarely reflects that of the players in sports like football and basketball, which puts them in a bad position to properly represent those athletes.

As for the baseball issue... I see no reason why, assuming you haven't signed a contract, ALL players can't return to school after the draft. I'm not suggesting baseball should have to change its rules, I'm suggesting those rules should be uniformly applied.

Think about it this way: How many football and basketball players get some very bad advice and then make some poor decisions because of the promise of an income that would dwarf anything anyone in their family has ever earned. Then the draft happens, they go undrafted or are taken much later than they expected, and they have no chance to return to school, complete their degree, up their draft stock for the future, etc. I find that patently unfair, and I do think, given the demographics of the various sports, that it has a more adverse affect on minorities than the typical white athlete.

Much like the issues with the S&C program (which I will look into further) I think it warrants discussion, even if there isn't anything necessarily wrong.

Yodi said...

I don't follow any other programs so I really don't know how much stuff is said about them, but I have to wonder if stupid things are said about them like they are about the Bulldogs. I'm glad that you mentioned it in your blog... I'm reading this thinking to myself.. okay so it's just the defense that's not in shape?? The offense is good so they are in shape?? No wonder they deleted the story. They must be craving attention.