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Friday, August 28, 2009

From the Mailbag: One Week to Go Edition

It's Friday, there's just one week until football season, so that means we crack open the mailbag...

(Quick note: All of these are real emails, comments or Tweets, but some have been abridged for easier reading. Also, if you send me correspondence that you don't want included in a mailbag or re-posted on the blog, please say so.)

Brett writes: David read on a site (Zach) Mettenberger ran scout team in preparation for Zac Robinson. I don't see any similar qualities between the two wouldn't Logan gray be the best fit for that duty?

No similarities, Brett? Umm... they're both named Zac(h), aren't they? You've got to start thinking like a coach, man!

Actually, Mettenberger, Aaron Murray and walk-on receiver Vernon Spellman each took turns playing the role of Robinson during Wednesday's practice game. For the scout-team work, the coaches will often rotate in different players to simulate the various skill sets of an individual opponent. So on a passing play, it might be Mettenberger in there, and on a designed run, it might be Spellman.

Bob W. writes: I enjoyed your piece in today’s paper regarding the grueling practices the Bulldog players have endured and their commitment to themselves, the team, the school and the fans.

Rennie Currans comments at the end of the article struck a chord with me.

Curran said. “If we don’t sacrifice now, it’s going to get ugly. The way I look at it is, I’d rather hurt now than hurt on ESPN or in front of those fans and look sloppy in front of the fans. We’ve been putting work in day in and day out, and hopefully it’s going to pay off.”

That being said I was wondering what commitment will the fans have to the team? Will it be “you’ve got our support 100 percent” but then the Dawgs hit a bump in the road and the blame game starts or the Defense has a bad day and the fans begin to cry out for Martinez’s head?

Or will the fans step up and pledge their undying support for this unheralded group? Thick or thin “We are Dawgs through and through” should be the mantra of the Dawg Nation.

I see this as a challenge to the fans to make the same type of commitment as the players have made. Stand firm, hurt when they hurt, celebrate when they celebrate, admit any shortcomings but forge on.

When the season draws to its conclusion can the fans say “they laid it on the line for us and we laid it on the line for this group of Damn Good Dawgs!”

If you so choose put it out there to the fans. Curious as to how deep is our (the Dawg Nations) allegiance.

I'm a First Amendment guy, so I'm not going to criticize anyone for speaking their mind, but I figured it was a sentiment worth sharing, and the rest of you can do with it what you will. Something tells me though that we'll still hear an occasional "Willie Must Go" cry this season.

(And a side note... I was cleaning out some old clothes for Goodwill the other day and came across a "Fire Ed Wade" t-shirt I'd bought several years ago when the current Houston general manager was busy ruining the lives of every Phillies fan on the planet. It was a pretty low-quality piece of merchandise, but on the back it listed every bad move Wade had ever made, from signing Gregg Jeffries to hiring Larry Bowa. I wore it to a Phillies game during Wade's last season before being fired, and not only did I get a number of drinks bought for me by fans who loved the shirt, but people would actually come up and ask to have their picture taken with me. Anyway, I mention all this because it seems to me someone is missing out on a prime chance to make some quick cash off disgruntled Georgia fans here.)

Jimmy H. writes: First off, thanks for the blog, stories, and all the information you share about Georgia football. I was wondering why there has been no mention of AJ Harmon this season ? I assume he is still on the offensive side of the ball, maybe 2nd or 3rd string? Any info would be great.

I couldn't begin to tell you why, but I would bet that I get more questions about A.J. Harmon than almost any other player on the team. Anyway, I posed the question to Mark Richt, and here's what he had to say:

"He's showing signs. In any given day, he makes plays where he looks like he's getting it, then he makes plays where he gets beat. He's working against Geno every day, working against Jeff, Kade. Those guys are pretty darned good, so I think anybody's going to have a rough time against them. Our No. 1 unit would be struggling against those guys. But he's getting comfortable as an offensive lineman. I think he has the ability to do it. He has really gotten his body in good shape. He's still got a ways to go, but he trimmed it down and now he's building it back up in a real positive way. He's getting his technique down, getting more comfortable with all his assignments and the tandems. I think he's making good progress."

Anonymous writes: David: Objectively, didn't Adrian Karsten's rise--as seen through his walk up to the top of the roof Carrier Dome--and fall--as seen in his later tragic death--symbolize perfectly the modern day highs and lows of the Syracuse football program?

You know, I had to Google this to get the whole story on Karsten because I'd simply forgotten about him altogether. And in that respect, he's just like the Syracuse football program.

Anonymous Suckup writes: did you ever talk to anyone about why Carlton Thomas doesn't appear to be getting any looks at punt returner or kick returner? I thought he would be a good candidate, but what do I know?

I reported a while back that Mark Richt did not list Thomas among the players working return duty for Georgia this fall. Here's the thing about getting info from Richt -- he's rarely deliberately evasive, but I honestly think sometimes he just has too much on his plate to remember every detail of what's going on.

Anyway, I checked with Bryan Evans, who Richt said was among the kick return options. Evans told me that Thomas is working with the kick returners, along with Vance Cuff, Branden Smith and Brandon Boykin. So you might then assume that Thomas was a legitimate candidate, right?

Well, Richt did his best to shoot that down again Wednesday, adding that Richard Samuel is a leading candidate to handle kick returns and saying Thomas wasn't particularly close.

"Carlton (Thomas) is in there, too," Richt said, "but I don't know if he'd be in the top three right now. But he's been getting work."

So, why would Richt say Samuel was a top candidate and Evans not even mention Samuel's name? Your guess is as good as mine, but if I were a betting man, I'd say there's a little subterfuge on Richt's part that Mr. Evans simply wasn't in on.

Carter writes: CMR said the following regarding Ros career ending injury: "We have petitioned for an NCAA medical exemption that will allow him to remain on scholarship." Does such an exemption allow a player to maintain an athletic scholarship without counting against the limit of 85?

Yes, Ros can remain on scholarship for the rest of his time at Georgia without counting against the team's 85 scholarship limit. That doesn't begin this season, however, so it won't open up a scholly for someone currently on the team. It will mean an extra slot for the 2010 class.

@RexRobinson5 asks via Twitter: I am curious to know that if something HAS clicked with Richard (Samuel) compared to last year what was it that clicked?

I'm not sure it's "something" as opposed to a lot of things. Richard spent the spring studying, learning and getting more comfortable with being a running back in the SEC. That might seem like a small thing, but for a kid who was 16 when he arrived on campus, it's really not.

I had a story in yesterday's Telegraph on Samuel's thirst for knowledge, and I think that was his biggest asset in developing from where he left off last season to being Georgia's probable starter this season.

Jake G. writes: Do you know what's going on at the cornerback position? ... Do you see our cornerbacks as a strength, wash, or weakness for us this year? Probably tough to say with a redshirt freshman starting on one side...

I corrected Jake in his email that Brandon Boykin was, in fact, a sophomore, not a redshirt freshman. Then I asked Bryan Evans for his thoughts on Boykin, and Evans also referred to him as a freshman. Goes to show you how little playing time Boykin got last year, I guess.

Anyway, here's what else Evans had to say:

"Boykin is very athletic. I don't think it's a drop-off at all (from Asher Allen). He needs to get some experience, but that comes with the game. I have no doubts that Boykin is going to probably be one of the best first-year starters on our team this year. People need to look out for him."

As for the rest of the secondary, the most recent two-deep I've gotten is this:

WC: Prince Miller, Branden Smith
SC: Brandon Boykin, Vance Cuff
NB: Makiri Pugh, Nick Williams
SS: Reshad Jones, Baccari Rambo
FS: Bryan Evans, Sanders Commings

Brian writes: It looks like Brandon Boykin has locked down a starting corner spot, and that Pugh and Rambo are the backup safeties, but I have yet to see anything saying who the nickle corner is. Especially against a team like OSU, I imagine that the defense will be playing nickle more often than not. Do you know who is likely to be that fifth defensive back?

Good follow-up to Jake's question. I talked with Mark Richt about the nickel position, and he agrees that the importance of having a good nickel is growing each year.

What the defense essentially does when going against three-wide or a spread offense is drop the Sam linebacker (who would normally be on the tight end) in favor of an extra defensive back (usually a safety). This gives the defense a bit more speed to handle coverage and avoid the mismatch of a wideout being covered by a linebacker. Considering the number of teams now using some version of the spread, this has become almost a default defense for Georgia in recent seasons and the reliance on the nickel will be even greater this year.

Richt said Makiri Pugh has spent the most time working at nickel, and the extra reps he got this fall while Evans, Quintin Banks and Reshad Jones were out with injuries, could prove to be key in his preparation. Pugh even iced Georgia's practice game with an interception late in the "fourth quarter" on Wednesday.

The more intriguing name at nickel, however, might be sophomore Nick Williams.

Williams has easily been one of the most popular players this offseason among the coaching staff because he loves to hit and he's a bundle of energy. (And, I'll add, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.) Because of all the injuries, he's been shuffled back and forth from safety to linebacker to safety and back to linebacker in the past 18 months. While moves like that have hindered the careers of players like Kiante Tripp, it may have turned out to be a blessing for Williams, who now may see action at both the Sam and the nickel -- which as Richt said, will essentially be the same position when Williams is on the field.

"They've let me know that maybe I need to learn everything, and that's my mentality is that I'm just going to learn it all so whenever it's time for me to go in, I'm prepared," Williams said. "I think it will get me on the field more. Coach likes versatility. He likes guys who can do more than one thing."

Williams has been packing on and losing weight seemingly every month because of the position shifts, but he said he's now at a comfortable 220 pounds, which is where he plans to stay. The weight hasn't cost him much speed either. He ran a 4.47 at the end of offseason workouts.

Brad writes: With respect to the "Team" attitude, I heard a story from practice last Wednesday. A couple players got into a tussle during practice and were punished with running. I'm told the entire team put on running shoes and ran. If that is true, then that is impressive.

That's a great story, but sadly, it's apparently not true.

There have certainly been a few scuffles, but Jeff Owens said the team running part didn't happen. (Well, he called it "an exaggeration.") Not that you should be too concerned about the fights. They happen all the time, he said, and that's a good thing.

"That's the name of the game," Owens said. "Every play, offensive line and defensive line are getting into it. Backs and linebackers. Everybody's getting into it. Every play, you're competing, and when you're competing, the aggression's out there. But it's all just love. If you sat out there and watched practice, you'd see scuffles every day. But you're competing, and that's the name of the game. That's how you get better, you compete."

Jon writes: After reading comments made about Abry Jones last week, I was wondering if there was any thought of playing him some at defensive end since there are so many seniors on the interior line?

Good thought, Jon, and having seen a little of Jones' high school tape, I think there's little question he could do it. Problem is, the coaches aren't planning on it, so it's not likely to happen. Of course, that doesn't mean you won't see a good bit of him this season.

“Right now, he’s inside and we don’t see him being outside right now," Mark Richt said. "Abry has done a very nice job and he's right on the cusp of getting some good playing time. Right now we think he’ll play.”

(NOTE: If you were playing a "right now" drinking game with that quote, please pause here and take a few minutes to sober up.)

@007dawg writes via Twitter: For Branden (Smith): What road trip are you most looking forward to in your first season?

Branden didn't have to think too long about this one: “I’d have to say Jacksonville. I heard it’s loud, and there’s nothing like playing with a lot of fans. So I’d say Jacksonville.”

Mike B. writes: what kind of camp has Justin Houston had? I know there is the two game suspension thing but what about game three? Is he going to take over the starting job or just be depth?

The reports on Houston have all been very positive, despite his suspension. I wondered whether he might backslide after a great spring because of two-game absence, but virtually every player I've talked to has said that Houston has continued progressing and working hard, which leads me to believe that, if he's not the starter Week 3, he'll be right in the thick of things.

“He’s been really good about it," fellow defensive end Demarcus Dobbs said. "He’s been coming to all the workouts, showing up on time and being a great leader to those other guys. Even though he’s had this setback, he doesn’t show it.”

JaxDawg writes: you do not have children. If you did, you would realize that while we want to give our children plenty or freedom, checking on them and monitoring their activities is the mark of a good parent. Most is innocuous chatter - but not always.

This was in response to my comment that parents befriending their kids would be the ultimate death of Facebook.

I get what JaxDawg is saying, and while I don't have kids (and Lord knows, that's best for everyone), I can fully understand how Facebook allows parents to get a certain peace of mind through a social networking site. Heck, I've certainly stalked enough ex-girlfriends that... you know what, scratch that last part.

Anyway, the bottom line is not that I'm personally opposed to parents joining Facebook. The problem is that it's simply bad for business for Facebook. Hey, I'm in favor of prisons and liquor stores and Sonic drive-thrus, but I don't want any of them to be built next to my house because it lowers the property value (you know, if I owned property). I imagine the operators of Facebook view parents much the same way.

jferg writes: Should we read anything into CRGs comments on Jeff and Geno...something to the tune of "if those two don't get it going, they might not even start, regardless of what list they're on". Was that just a barb to get his horses working hard again? I don't remember CRG ever saying something like this for no reason. Have the two big guys been slacking a little? He even said Kade has been a better leader. Really? Can you go deeper for us?

I appreciate JFerg's willingness to take Rodney Garner at face value, but I can promise you, Garner's never met a player he didn't think was slacking off. That might be a slight exaggeration, but he really does find ways he wants all his guys to improve, and he's not shy about telling them and the media about it.

So, bottom line, Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens will still be the two starters -- and two of the best interior linemen in the country -- but Kade Weston and DeAngelo Tyson will see a good bit of action, too.

Frank D. writes: We, of the Dawg Nation, have been working by email committee, sub-committee and focus group. Behind your back.

The Season of Most Apprehension stretches out before us. We are nervous. We are Don Knotts with a hairy Dawg fetish and lines on a mirror. We are caffeined, bourboned and Valiumed. We are a mess.

We lay our collective agony at your feet. We have come to Delphi and bow before you. We ask, we plead for your wisdom, insight and undivided attention to our needs. We need every minute of your time. Every second.

In light of the crisis at hand, the Committee for the Season of Most Apprehension has assembled a regiment for you to follow over the next four and a half months. This is NOT a suggestion. I hope I make myself clear on this point.

Until the clock runs out in the unnamed bowl game, you shall, and without complaint or equivocation:

1. Forgo sex with any other humanoid other than yourself, and keep that to a bare minimum.

2. Eliminate meals. Fruit cups on-the-go should suffice. This will additionally eliminate the Gas-X tab on your expense account.

3. Bathe infrequently.

4. Dispose of your watch, alarm clock and hair brush.

5. Bunk in with the team. Joe Cox talks in his sleep.

6. Pray to Buddha. Jeezus is working with the meek this fall.

7. Unplug your TV.

8. Avoid Barbara Dooley.

9. Channel Squab Jones.

10. Get a swine flu shot.

These Ten Commandments are absolute and unconditional. You are bound to these orders as of noon today. Thank you.

There are two things particularly frightening about this email. (And, yes, I know what you're saying... "Only two?")

First, it's amazing how many of these items I was already sticking to without being asked. I may need to rethink my life and where it all went wrong.

And second, this wasn't my favorite email of the week.

Which leads me to...

McCullough writes: David, this posting made me a big fan of yours. Of course, it could be the beers I've already consumed, but so many parts of this made me very happy. I'm so glad to have your stuff to read every day, and this was a banner day for you. I don't give a $#@! about Lost, but that's OK. So many parts of this post was very enjoyable. I can't even go into detail. But, you the man. Thanks.

Now here's what we're going to do. I want everyone reading this to drink a fifth of bourbon, then re-read the mailbag again. Then, tell everyone you know about how great it was. I think we're remarkably close to becoming the first blog post to win a Pulitzer.

Thanks for all the questions, folks. Keep 'em coming, and we'll do more next week.


Chuck said...


If you switch beats, I'll still read your blog. It could be Dalton County politics or Home and Garden. I'm there regardless.

Far be it from me to encourage you to start an anonymous blog aimed at making millions in your spare time in addition to this one, but if you do, please send me the link. I won't tell.

Anonymous said...

Pulitzer...yeath! Sincere thanks.

Anonymous said...

Frank D.: Greatest. Email. Ever.

Anonymous said...

But David, you ARE the man.

Anonymous said...

I once thought Ching was the man with his blog but you are the "Lhama" himself. Don't get married dude you will lose you soul and your edge and eventually become unreadable.

Anonymous said...

What is the deal with Brandon Wood? He showed signs occasionally last year.

David Hale said...

He's been nursing some injuries and has not been a full practice participant at this point.