You ask, I answer. Let's get to it...
JLove writes: whats up on that mailbag mr. hale?
David: Mailbag? Come on, J Love. I thought you were a real fan. This blog isn't about just giving you answers to intriguing mysteries! It's about the characters! You don't really want me to give you all the answers, right? Some mysteries just have to go unsolved, and you need to remember I never promised to answer every question. Sure, I led you to believe that all these issues were really important. And yes, you spent hours and days and weeks discussing possible outcomes. But it was never my job to provide you with a pay-off that made any sense. It's about the journey of asking the questions, not the solutions of a true finale-like mailbag. You need to just be happy with some "Get to Know" posts and not worry about why Clint Boling was in the mental hospital with Hurley or how it is that Jon Fabris could turn into the smoke monster.
And yes, I'll be making numerous other snide allusions to "Lost" in the next few thousand words…
Rob writes: Multiple times a day I go to your blog. Each time, for a majority of the last couple weeks, I’ve been saddened to see no new content. Is this just a confluence of events, the doldrums of off season plus the end of the UGA Spring semester, leading to the limited writing?
David: A "confluence of events" is probably a good way of putting it, Rob.
First off, I didn't really take much down time last year, and the result was that I was utterly exhausted by the end of football season. So I'm trying to conserve a bit of energy this offseason so we're running at full speed by the time SEC Media Days gets started in July.
Secondly, we have been limited in terms of player availability since the end of spring practice. The only real interview opportunities we've had have come with the coaches at the Bulldog Club meetings, so it's been tough to get quotes or background for new material. And while I could try to recycle some stuff just for the sake of content, I'm not real excited about doing that. But I do have a few projects in the works that will hopefully be well worth the wait in the coming weeks.
Third, I started a beer card at Pauley's downtown. If I drink 100 different beers, I get a free t-shirt. And I could really use a t-shirt.
In any case, I'm hoping to post 10-12 times a week going forward, assuming there's enough to write about, with even more coming next week with SEC Meetings in Destin kicking off.
Oh, and also, feel free to pop a bottle of your finest sparking beverage today to celebrate this mailbag, which as fate would have it is... my 2,000th post! I feel like that should get me a free t-shirt, too.
(And don't worry... I already know what my final post will be, so all of this will definitely make sense when we get to the finale. Trust me, it all matters.)
Harin writes: My fiance is a huge softball fan and wants to go tot he CWS if her DePaul blue demons and the lady dawgs make it...she was asking why you aren't giving them any love cause she loves your blog too
David: Well, I could give you the Pauley's beer excuse again, but the truth is I just didn't make it over to cover them much. Super-regionals kick off today, however, so I'll see what I can do about giving the softball team a bit more love this weekend.
Barton writes: I was wondering what you think about conference expansions? I know the Big Ten is talking about expanding to 16 teams. If that occurs, the SEC will likely expand also. My actual question is who will the SEC target if an expansion happens within the next 5-10 years? (FSU and Miami) or (Texas and Oklahoma)
Geographically FSU and Miami seem to make the most sense. I also heard that if Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State would follow. Just curious to see what you think and look forward to the mailbag.
David: My best guess is that the SEC won't expand unless it has to, and for now at least, I'm not inclined to think that the huge landscape-altering changes that have been discussed will become a reality. That said, if Texas essentially becomes a free agent, I don't see how the SEC doesn't at least explore the idea of bringing the 'Horns in. Texas has access to a huge and lucrative market that would expand the current SEC footprint and also fields competitive teams across numerous sports. So there's a lot of upside to considering the idea.
As for other teams, the obvious responses have been Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Georgia Tech. I'd also figure that, wherever Texas goes, A&M would follow. I suppose it's also possible teams like North Carolina and Virginia Tech could be in play. But all of that is fodder for water-cooler discussion more than a reality for the near future. And if I had a vote, I'd stick with things the way they are.
David: Two major issues for the Diamond Dogs this year -- pitching and youth. The latter was a problem in terms of fielding a consistent lineup this season, particularly when injuries added up early in the season. But in the long run, it might have been a good trial by fire for a group of guys who will be back with a lot more experience next season. The pitching, however, is a real concern. Georgia's team ERA for the season was 8.51 -- more than a run-and-a-half behind the next-worst team (Mississippi State at 6.92) and nearly two full runs worse than the all-time low point in Bulldogs' history. What's worse is that virtually none of Georgia's younger pitchers showed significant progress as the year went on. What was a giant black hole for Georgia this season is going to be a huge question mark again next year, and allowing eight-and-a-half runs a game isn't going to get it done no matter how good the offense is.
John F. writes: Let me first say that I don't think using A.J. Green as a punt returner is a good idea. But, I got to thinking why not? The biggest reason is risk of injury, but how often does a returner actually get hurt on punt returns? I can only think of one in recent memory, Mikey Henderson sustained a concussion in the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii from a personal foul. Mikey was a much smaller guy than A.J., so I don't think a concussion is likely for A.J., but who knows. The point is, I hear a lot of people say it is very risky, but I don't hear many reports of injuries of punt returners. But that may be just because I haven't been listening. Besides, Rambo and Boykin are pretty valuable to the team as well.
David: I'm inclined to agree, but I still don't think using Green as a returner is such a hot idea. It's really an issue of risk-reward. Are the chances particularly high that A.J. will get hurt returning a punt? No. But the chances that his punt-return skills will be the difference in many games isn't particularly high either. And while A.J. is a remarkable athlete, there are other quick, elusive guys on the team who aren't as important in their offensive or defensive roles as A.J. is. Add to that the fact that Green has been banged up both of his first two seasons in Athens, and I just don't see how the case can be made that it's a good idea to put him out there regularly. Now, if you wanted to use him in "must win" situations, like the field-goal block against Arizona State, for example, then I'm all for that.
Jarrett writes: I read your first article about the Facebook page when it first came out. I got the exact impression that you meant when you wrote it. I understood that it had nothing to do with a divide in the locker room and that it was just some of Mett's friends offering condolences and support to someone who is obviously very down. Just wanted to let you know that not everyone took it the wrong way.
David: Yup, between the Facebook story and my "bias" for Aaron Murray and my stoking the flames under Mark Richt's hot seat… I've been a real jackass this offseason. On the upside, at least I haven't written anything controversial about the softball team.
Trumely writes: Dawg Chat - "David Hale, That guy is all business all the time." How do you feel about that Dave?
David: I feel like it's time for me to build a bed under my desk for naps, a la George Costanza.
Byron writes: Hey David, was wondering if you could find out why the club tour doesn't come to Jacksonville anymore.
David: I talked to Claude Felton in the sports information office about this. He said that visiting Jacksonville hasn't been abandoned, but that the plans for now are to focus on the primary locales within the state -- Macon, Augusta, Atlanta, Columbus, Savannah -- then rotate other cities each year. This year the tour hit Statesboro. Last year, I think there was an appearance in South Carolina. Jacksonville will be back on the docket eventually, too.
Stuart writes: Do you know if CMR ever plans on doing a bulldog club outside the south? Say like Los Angeles?
David: Now this might be a bit tougher. I'd imagine if a visit like this could be fit in around another rationale for being in the area, sure. But the problem is that there are a ton of other responsibilities on Richt's plate during the offseason, and a major trip like this would be far more time consuming than a few hours in Macon, for example. The other aspect, too, is that L.A. residents might make it out to Athens for one or two games a year. The in-state fans are far more likely to make visiting Sanford Stadium (or Stegeman) a routine.
Wooly Butts writes: Is the idea to cross-train Gamble for both jobs? To take a starting ILB and make him a backup OLB, or start him at OLB in front of Washington? I assume that Dowtin will now start with Dent at ILB? Are Robinson and Gilliard solid 2nd-team ILBs, with time available for Samuel (if he doesn't RS) and Hebron or incoming freshmen?
David: I'll be interested to see how they end up using Gamble this fall, and my bet is that a lot of that decision will come down to how some of the freshmen -- like Demetre Baker and T.J. Stripling -- perform in fall camp. I think Gamble is probably more valuable at ILB, where his experience and leadership are a bigger part of the on-field responsibilities of the position. But in terms of depth, obviously the bigger need for UGA in the short term is at OLB. In talking to DG, he's happy playing both positions, and he said he's comfortable moving back and forth if it keeps him on the field more. So perhaps that will be how things end up.
Alan writes: How about a post that compares UGA football players to LOST characters. It would provide intrigue, frustration for non-losties, and transvestitism. All the makings of a Pulitzer if you ask me.
David: Well, I suppose four straight years out of the SEC title game feels a bit like purgatory, right? And perhaps Todd Grantham is the perfect "candidate" to turn the light back on… whatever the heck that means. But I'm just not sure I have the energy to do this anymore.
Steve writes: just read your getting to know Demetre Bake feature and was wondering how big he is these days. When he won shot and discuss I read somewhere that he was 6-2 but I'm pretty positive that's a generous height for him. Any help would be appreciated; glad you're back and blogging after a slow few days.
David: Self-reported numbers from Mr. Baker is 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds. As a point of comparison, Rennie was 5-10, 225.
Meansonny writes: A couple of quick questions on some points made anonymously... Who are the 4 Other juniors that will be leaving the Bulldawgs after the 2010 season? I'm sure someone might leave with AJ. But there's a good chance that it only follows a great performance this season. If we get 4 other Juniors to go Pro, I like our chances in the East next year
David: Well, given the relative levels of lucidity displayed by Mr. Anonymous from time to time, I'm at a loss to tell you which four juniors he might have had in mind. But just for fun, let's look at Georgia's top draft-eligible underclassmen and handicap their NFL prospects for 2011, from most likely to depart to least likely.
A.J. Green. He'll be missed.
Justin Houston. If he hadn't missed three games last year, he likely would have led the SEC in sacks while playing on a mediocre-at-best defense. This year, he's playing OLB in a blitz-happy scheme with a full 12-game slate and no suspension awaiting him. Something tells me he might be NFL bound sooner than later.
Cordy Glenn. He's become one of the best guards in the SEC and received rave reviews for how much he improved this spring (with Mike Bobo saying Glenn had the best spring of anyone on the offense, despite having no back-up pushing him for playing time). If the line comes together this year the way many expect, Glenn could be joining Clint Boling near the top of some NFL teams' draft boards.
Brandon Boykin. Excelled as a returner last year, has NFL-level skill set and was solid in his first year as a starter despite Georgia's disastrous secondary. If Scott Lakatos is successful in helping him take that next step and refine his game, Boykin could easily be NFL ready in 2011.
Ben Jones. Probably not prototypical NFL size, but he sure has the prototypical NFL approach. None of the first four guys would surprise me if they entered the draft in 2011. This one probably would, but it's not completely out of the question.
Caleb King. If he's healthy and playing a lot, he could certainly turn some heads of NFL scouts. Of course, if he's healthy and playing enough, would he want to leave? Again, I'd doubt this one would happen, but it's not impossible.
Aron White. He's a versatile athlete who has made steady progress and is at a crowded position where he's already been (at least nominally) passed by a younger player on the depth chart. So you could envision a scenario in which he goes to the NFL early. But he's also not the prototypical NFL tight end by any means, and he's a super smart kid who clearly understands the value of getting his degree. I'd be very surprised if this happened.
Bacarri Rambo, Nick Williams, Jakar Hamilton, Marcus Dowtin, Cornelius Washington, DeAngelo Tyson. This group is essentially all in the same boat. Each has an NFL skill set and would be a player you'd figure will get drafted whenever they move on from Georgia. All will be draft eligible at the conclusion of the 2010 season, should they choose to depart. But none have been a full-time starter before, and each has a lot to prove. There's a decent chance that one or more will do just that this season and find their NFL prospects bright by December, but it's anyone's guess as to who that might be. Of course, this should also be a nice little reminder of how much potential there is on Georgia's D this year. Six guys who didn't start last season that all have a reasonable shot of playing in the NFL. That's a lot to like.
ECDawg writes: Andy Staples noted today that SEC teams control local TV rights and that Florida receives $10 million/year from Fox Sports. How much does UGA get for local rights?
David: There's not an easy apples-to-apples comparison here, since Florida's SunSports deal is a good bit different in its structure than Georgia's. The closest comparison I could give you is the Dawgs' deal with ISP Sports, which handles marketing, Internet, radio and a mess of other things, too. That deal, signed prior to last season, is for eight years at $92 million.
Dawgjammin writes: how much better is the press coverage AJ is facing in practice/scrimages this spring and the early part of fall going to make him? You gotta think he hasn't faced that in practice his first two years…
David: He certainly seems to think it's going to make him better, and I think it's been reciprocal. A.J.'s getting to see more press coverage in practice, which will help him on game day with the more physical opponents he'll go up against. Meanwhile, Georgia's corners are getting a taste of what it's like to press the best receiver in the country during practice. If they can slow A.J. down on a Tuesday, there aren't many receivers who will have success against them on Saturday.
Quantoid Dawg writes: Given a population of approximately 200 college males and a time span of 3.2 years, what is the number of incidents we should expect? As you correctly observe, one way to measure this is against the student population as a whole. Without some base line of a reasonable expectation, the discussion is an only argument about perceptions.
David: There was a lot more to Quantoid's question about Georgia's recent arrest record, but for the purposes of space, I think this summarizes his basic inquiry pretty well. The idea is that there are obvious differences in how discipline is handled at other schools, both in-house and by the local police force. So the best point of comparison is between the UGA football team and Athens Clarke County as a whole. Luckily, our pal Jim F. did some of this research.
For Jim's research, he estimated that about 160 different players had come through Georgia since 2007, including walk-ons. During that time span, as I noted in my post on the subject last month, there were 37 "incidents." Since then, two more arrests occurred, but several of the "incidents" I noted originally didn't result in arrests. So let's use 32 as our number of total arrests since 2007 for Georgia. That means that roughly 20 percent of all football players during that span have found themselves in some sort of off-field legal trouble.*
(*Note, some players have been arrested multiple times, so while that average is correct, the total number of players involved in incidents is actually lower.)
As Jim found out, the overall numbers for ACC in general since that span are far lower. There have been 6,471 arrests in ACC since 2007, according to FBI crime stats. Divide that into the population, which is estimated at 104,313, and you have a crime average of 6.2 percent -- or roughly one-third of the rate of football players.
Just in terms of violent crimes, the rate in ACC is roughly 0.4 percent, with a total of 387 incidents reported. Among Georgia players, I'd count six (Zach Mettenberger's recent guilty plea in Remerton, two incidents by Montez Robinson, Michael Lemon's fight, Jeremy Lomax's gun charge and assault charges against former walk-on Tripp Taylor). That's a rate of 3.7 percent -- or roughly 10 times the ACC average.
Now, with that context, is it fair to say there's a real problem with behavior on Georgia's football team?
I probably wouldn't argue much if you said there was. But there are mitigating factors here, too. For one, it's nearly impossible to simulate the spotlight that football players are under, and those stats don't measure criminal activity, but rather the rate people are caught and charged with criminal activity. Secondly, ACC stats include a wide variety of demographics, while the football team is far more specific. Odds are the large number of retirees in ACC aren't going out on the town too often, and even if they do, there's no risk of them getting charged with underage consumption. But the highest rate of crime tends to be among 18 to 25-year-olds, which just so happens to fit with the demographic make-up of the football team.
There are no doubt numerous other factors to consider, too, so even these numbers don't help to provide true context. But I think it does show that, regardless of the explanations or justifications, Georgia's image problem in this regard is largely self-created, and it is something that needs to be addressed and resolved rather than simply explained.
Anonymous writes: Why does attrition hit UGA so much harder than some other SEC schools like UF and UA? What can UGA do to be be better prepared for attrition (injuries and descipline)? The lack of for sight seems negligent. Whether the negligence is just stupidty or a holier than thou attitude is what I can't figure out. What is your opinion?
David: Given some of the problems of this year -- particularly at QB and OLB -- I can understand this thought process, but I'm not sure the evidence really backs it up. Yes, losing Mettenberger and Robinson have left two positions pretty thin for Georgia. And yes, a few years back there was a significant issue with depth on the O line and at tight end. But the players who left from those positions weren't likely guys who would have made an impact -- and none did at other schools after leaving UGA.
So my guess is, attrition hasn't really hurt Georgia as much as you might think, although the lack of numbers at some position has been a problem.
Part of that problem is likely about recruiting numbers in general, and Georgia has brought in significantly fewer players per year of late than many of their SEC counterparts. Auburn, for example, has landed nearly 30 signees per year during the past five years, while Georgia's number is closer to about 21. Mark Richt also makes a point of never removing a player from scholarship for reasons like underperformance or injuries, so there are a handful of players each year who just aren't likely to make an impact on the field under any circumstances.
Having said all that, Georgia is hardly the only team to go through some hard times in terms of attrition. As Wes Rucker told me during our Two-A-Days interviews, Tennessee will be going to bat this season with only about 70 scholarship players.
Jim F. writes: TV had 3 maybe 4 long series end this month (both season and series ending): Lost, L&O, 24 and if you count Simon leaving Idol then 4 - your grades plz?!?!
David: First off, I've never watched an episode of "American Idol." I watched roughly three minutes of the show its first season and that's three minutes of my life I'll never get back. I can only assume that Simon's goodbye will have little impact on my daily life.
As for "Lost"… I'll get to that in a bit.
I gave up on "24" this season, and with the talks of a "24" movie, I was less inclined to tune in for the grand finale of the show. Still, I have a soft spot for the show, which definitely had its highlights and low-lights over the years. Terri's amnesia and Kim's run-in with the cougar will always be bad-TV highlights for me, but I'd also argue that no show has ever done action on the small screen quite as well as "24" did. My guess is that one day, another show will come along using "24" as its archetype and do an even better job of progressing the genre, and that the impact of "24" will live for a long time. As it should.
Perhaps the most interesting of the shows you mentioned, however, is "Law & Order." You can make a good case for the significant impact "Idol," "Lost" and "24" have had on television, but "L&O" was around far longer and yet… I'm not sure what its impact was. It never really tried to be anything other than a self-contained legal drama that rarely broke any barriers but always managed to appeal to the masses without being awful (which, if you watch most TV dramas, is a very difficult thing to do).
For me personally, I'll always have fond memories of L&O because it got me through what was probably the most difficult time in my life. After college, I had absolutely zero going on. I was unemployed, living in Delaware, utterly miserable and perpetually broke. What I did have was an intimate knowledge of how to find a L&O rerun on TV at virtually any time of day.* I believe my record was 14 hours of L&O spread over four channels in the same day -- and this didn't include any of TNT's L&O marathons. The show was so easily digestible yet still intrinsically entertaining that it made for great time-killing fare. And at that point in my life, killing time was all I had to do.
(* Side note on what I'll remember most about those days: I know everyone has their vivid memories of 9/11… part of mine was how long it took me to actually figure out what was going on because I was so completely exhausted when my mom called me and told me to turn on the TV. I'd stayed up until almost 7 a.m. the night before watching L&O reruns on A&E and TNT and had only been asleep for about 90 minutes when she called. The whole thing would have been utterly surreal under any circumstances, but my L&O- induced semi-coma made it all that much more unbelievable. And the funny thing was, I spent much of the next few days doing nothing but watching the news coverage, as most people did. But when I needed a break, when I couldn't watch any more of the realities of 9/11, I was really glad there were still reruns of L&O on at all times to take my mind off it.)
Anyway, as one final fond farewell to L&O, I'll ask you guys this question: What's your Law & Order dream cast? I'd probably go with Adam/McCoy/Claire on the legal side and Van Buren/Logan/Briscoe on the cops side.
Castleberry writes: I noticed Samuel pretty far down at LB. Any chance he redshirts?
David: Part of Samuel's low slot on the depth chart was that he missed the final week of the spring with a concussion. Part of it, too, is that I don't think the coaches have much of an idea on how he'll fit this year.
On one hand, Samuel has a ton of talent. That's no secret. But his problem -- at least for right now -- at linebacker is just what it was at running back. He lacks the basic natural instincts he needs to play wide open and use his talent to its fullest.
“I just think the key and diagnose of blocking schemes," Grantham said about where Samuel needs the most work. "He has a feel for where the ball’s going, but is it a downhill run? Is it a wide play? I just think it’s more the recognition of the blocks and where do I need to fit based on the recognition of the call. That’s based on experience, but the guy was in here after meetings watching tape trying to get ready because he wanted to get better. If our guys will do that and work to improve, I think we’ll be fine.”
Both Grantham and Richt have been pretty cautious about setting any sort of bar of expectation for Samuel, and my guess is at this point, they expect a redshirt. But with as much talent as he has, and as little experienced depth as there is at any LB position, that could easily change this fall.
Greg writes: I saw on ESPN.com that Mettenberger had plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery. Where do you think Mett will end up? Apparently he is going to be visiting Louisville and Cincinatti. Is he free to sign anywhere or is he limited to a list of schools approved by Georgia?
David: Mettenberger is free to sign anywhere he wants to, and a number of schools have been reported to have interest. I know he visited Cincinnati, but I'm not sure what other options have been out there. UGASports reported a potential JuCo destination, which might make some sense in allowing him to get some PT under his belt and rebuild his image a bit, which could open up more doors down the road. I tried contacting Mett, but he didn't return my calls.
Billy writes: In light of Mettenberger's guilty plea, do you think he would have been booted from the team, if he had been totally honest and repentant with Richt in the first place?
David: This is impossible to say, and I highly doubt either Richt or Mettenberger will ever give us a straight answer. But I think it's safe to say this decision was as much about sending a message as it was about punishment for Mett. Although, even if that wasn't the case, I think the punishment was probably appropriate.
MauiDawg writes: we are all hungry for a SEC title game and NC...but you don't ax one of the highest winning percentage coaches in the nation and one of the best representatives of a major football program. He's making some important changes now..granted he should have done it 2 years ago..but he's done it now... So just chill out man and have faith and some loyalty in the guy. Otherwise, you'd be a perfect fan at Auburn or Tennessee..you'd get along great with their football admin.
David: Here's the thing about the "hot seat" questions… what SEC coach isn't on the hot seat to some extent? The fact of the matter is, in this league, the expectations are always high, and only one team can win a championship each year. That means 11 other coaches fell short of the ultimate goal and have something to prove the next season, and Richt is no different.
What makes Richt's seat a slight bit warmer than some others is a combination of last year's failures and the length of his tenure. Heck, Auburn and Georgia finished roughly the same last season, and Georgia won their head-to-head matchup. Yet Richt is supposedly in trouble, but Gene Chizik apparently won over fans? It's all about perspective, and I'm willing to bet -- as MauiDawg points out -- no Georgia fan would be thrilled about dumping Richt to get a guy like Chizik.
Yes, Richt needs a better on-field performance in 2010 if he wants this talk to disappear next season. But there's virtually no way he goes anywhere unless it's his decision, and that's probably a good thing because the options for finding a suitable replacement would be few and far between. And really, that's the mistake so many reactionary fans make. It's easy to want change, but that only works if you have a better alternative. All due respect to Will Muschamp or Kirby Smart, but they haven't accomplished a fraction of what Richt has.
Anonymous writes: It is time for Mark Richt to go. Anyone who defends him and says it is the players forgets he selected the players. He cannot win big games against worthy opponents and continues to have player issues. I have been a fan of GA football since 1975 and this program is at absolute bottom. What a joke.
David: First off, I'm glad to know that Anonymous has made a good recovery from the coma he was apparently in from 1993 through 1996.
Secondly, this brings us to the best suggestion we've had on the blog in a while...
Kathleen writes: I think the new troll on your board should create a drinking game for us... like every time he mentions Knowshon being redshirted. Drink! Or Washaun not playing until the fifth game! Or when he addresses you by name, David Hale.
David: If I had only instituted this policy a week ago, I'd be done with my beer card already. But I love the idea, so everyone should probably head to their nearest purveyor of malted hops and barley and stock up for the remainder of the offseason.
And yes, I know I haven't written about "Lost" yet… it's coming in the second half of the mailbag on Monday. Stay tuned… the answers are coming. Or perhaps we're all just in purgatory and this was all meaningless.