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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mailbag: Breaking down Boise State, the kickoff debate, season expectations, hoops and more

I’ll begin the mailbag by saying a proper adieu, or at least adieu (to you, and you, and you) for a couple of weeks. It’s vacation time.

If events warrant I may check in, or someone at the home office may post something. Otherwise I have been ordered, upon penalty of intense pain to my upper body, to do minimal checking of the laptop and Crack-berry. Hopefully I can comply, because I’ve grown very attached to my upper body.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish everyone a happy summer, and thank you again for visiting the blog, reading the daily stories on the web and paper, following the Twitter feed, and all the crazy stuff a media member has to do these days. It’s been a good first year on the beat, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

On to the questions. The good news, if you're worried about suffering blog withdrawal, is this is so long it'll probably take you two weeks to get through. Enjoy:

1.) With Boise State having such a complicated Offense, do you see Georgia trying to stick with a base defense in the opener more than they would otherwise?

2.) In our Nickel set, who do you think will start on the Defensive Line against Boise?

3.) Did you receive a picture of Representative Weiner's Chief of Staff and do you think he should step down?
- Clinton

1) That may be too Jon Gruden-ish a question for me to field in June, so I thought I’d just ask my friend Brian Murphy of the Idaho Stateman – and formerly of the Macon Telegraph – for a quick primer on the Boise State offense. Here’s what Brian wrote back:

“What makes the Boise State offense complicated is its variety - lots of shifts and motions, different personnel groupings, creativity in plays and play-calling. The Broncos will line up with three tight ends and two running backs on one play and five wide receivers the next.

TCU's defense has given it the most trouble over the last few years - and the Horned Frogs run that 4-2-5 defense with lots of speed. Historically, they've had trouble with odd fronts where you can bring blitzes from many angles. Utah State played without any down linemen a few years ago, putting six or seven guys near the line of scrimmage so Boise State didn't know which ones were rushing. Boise State's response in those situations has been to run the ball effectively.”

So short answer, Clinton, is that I’m sure Todd Grantham will study what’s worked against the Broncos, and if Brian is right, he’ll focus in on that TCU tape.

2) I expect the starting D-line to be John Jenkins, DeAngelo Tyson and one of Abry Jones, Derrick Lott or Kwame Geathers. Whether they’ll mix that up much in the nickel, I don’t know.

3) I did not receive a picture from the esteemed Congressmen, but that may be because I’ve blocked direct-message capabilities on my Twitter account ever since I got those suggestive messages from this guy.

In what way do you think we match up well with Boise State? In what ways do we match up poorly with them?
- Ian Black

Boise State’s top returning player is QB Kellen Moore, who will be a Heisman Trophy candidate. And the Broncos always seem to find steady, fast receivers who can get open. I would say that will be a challenge for a Georgia secondary that is high on experience, but needs to show it can be consistent.

The Broncos also return most of their defensive line, which was one of the best in the country last year. So that figures to be an issue for the Bulldogs and their questionable offensive line, and freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell.

The Broncos also return a strong offensive line and starting tailback Doug Martin, who averaged six yards a carry last year. So John Jenkins and that Georgia front seven better be improved right away.

But Georgia should match up well is their passing game against Boise State’s secondary, which lost a couple experienced starters. That of course assumes a big game out of Aaron Murray, and the Bulldogs finding some options beyond Orson Charles and Tavarres King.

Going by all that, you’d make Boise State the favorite. What Georgia has to hope is that it’s natural size and speed advantages will win out. But as teams like Virginia Tech have found out, you can’t just out-physical Boise State. Given what’s essentially a home-field advantage for the Bulldogs, however, it still qualifies as a toss-up.

I'm 23, graduated from UGA in 2010, but am a grad student living in Austin, Texas right now. I'll be going to GA-FL this fall and at least one other game. At this point, I am trying to decide between Boise or SC. Pros for Boise: night game, national interest, the dome, cool out of conference game, literally cool as in temperature, opening game, unique experience. Pros for SC: SEC action, SC is SC, Athens, Sanford, between the hedges, and bourbon bombs, downtown before/after, the incoming freshmen class... Cons for SC: HOT, the score will prob be something like 12-9 if history has taught us anything. Taking these things into consideration and anything you feel like I've missed, give me some advice on which game to attend.

I’ll throw this out there for others that would like to chime in. One thing I’d consider if I were you is game times: Since Boise is at 8 p.m., would that tend to ruin your ability to celebrate/mourn the result, or would you prefer having the entire day to hang out in Atlanta? And with SC being at 4:30, you would have the night to celebrate/mourn, if that floats your boat.

Do you think UGA will ever retire David Pollacks #47 jersey? Three-time All- American among the many awards and accolades.
- Ed

They might down the road. For now, Ray Drew will be wearing that number. The thing about retiring numbers at a place like Georgia is so many good players come through that you’ll eventually run out of numbers. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it, or that David Pollack wouldn’t qualify, but you do have to be careful.

Any news on a new Uga? Is there any thought that there might be a 'secret' grand unveiling at GA Dome this September?
- Ben

Here’s my story from a couple weeks ago. Short version: Sonny Seiler says the new Uga will likely be unveiled either midway or late through this season.

1) What's the latest on a Guns N Roses reunion tour?

2) What confirmed out of conference series do we have for baseball in 2012?

3) Are all of Georgia's men's basketball signees on campus?
- UGAdawwg34

1) A quick news search reveals that the Guns N Roses are planning on performing in Peru in October. So, there you go. Circle your calendar. If you need to know anywhere to stay, I lived there for a couple years as a teenager, so I’ll try to hook you up.

2) I checked with UGA spokesman Christopher Lakos: There will be the usual three games with Georgia Tech (home, away, Turner Field), and a home-and-home with Clemson. Beyond that, nothing’s set. But the 2012 schedule won’t be as tough as this year’s, when there were 37 games against ranked teams. Lakos points out that Georgia played the fewest home games of any SEC team this year (28), and expects it to be more like 34-36 next year.

3) I haven't heard any whispers about potential issues with any of them. But you never know; last year the Cady Lalanne thing came out of the blue in August. (The NCAA declared the 6-8 forward academically ineligible and he ended up at UMass.)

Could Luke Fickell’s press conference been any worse and why would “The Ohio State University” let him embarrass himself like that?
- Shawn Wilkes

It seems like there’s something fundamentally wrong in Columbus right now, and the place needs what I’ll call an “attitudinal overhaul.” When even Kirk Herbstreit has to move because of fans …

Seth, can you give us injury updates? Speaking of eliminating kickoffs, how is TJ Stripling faring in his rehab? Fwiw...count me as someone against the idea of eliminating them.
Thanks, MauiDawg

Last I heard, Stripling and Dexter Morant were still a bit questionable to be 100 percent by the start of preseason. We'll get an update before camp opens.

Ironically, Stripling's season-ending nasty injury happened on ... wait for it ... a kickoff. This isn't aimed at you, MauiiDawg, because you didn't put it this way. But I'm a bit turned off by the macho attitude some people have on the kickoff issue: I'd challenge them to make their snide remarks ("What's next, getting rid of tackling, or playing flag football?") in person to a guy like Greg Schiano, who's motivated purely by his player's life-threatening spinal injury.

I'm not pushing the issue because I'm necessarily in favor of it. I just think it deserves some study and consideration, and merits some national discussion. Dismissing it out of hand is very close-minded. Look, I think kickoffs are an exciting play too. But they're on average four or five plays a game, out of more than 100. If they were eliminated, I'm sure the game would survive.

What do you think is more beneficial to the team: Having the Boise St game inside and conserving some legs for the mid afternoon SC game or would it have been better to have a game in the humidity and heat to help get the team to get in "game shape".

I also think it would be interesting to see what the freshmen class measured in at vs what the recruiting services had them listed at.
- Dawgjammin

That's actually an interesting first question I haven't heard discussed much: Will playing an indoors game help Boise State, rather than if it had to start out in the heat and humidity of the South? I'd guess so. ... That said, on Georgia's side I don't think there will be much carryover to the SC game, at least not in the terms you mention.

Georgia hasn't released any official measurements on the freshmen yet. But those numbers from high school to college always fluctuate, and not necessarily because of the recruiting services. They're getting them most of the time from the high schools, some of whom are sticklers for accuracy, some of them, not so much.

With all of the talk regarding Coach Mark Richt's job being at stake, I have started wondering what scenarios could be in play at the end of the season if the bulldog football team shows another underwhelming performance. Should Richt get the boot, what would be our chances of claiming Kirby Smart as our next head coach? Furthermore, is Smart valuable enough to pursue even if Richt posts a 9 win season (the number I've often seen projected as a requirement to save Richt's job)?
Thanks for your thoughts!
- T Baker

I’m sure Smart’s name is going to come up a lot if the job comes open. And if Will Muschamp has a good year at Florida, that may make a Smart hire seem more palatable.

That said, there’s a long time between now and any decision like that. From my discussions with Greg McGarity, and some other people at UGA, my educated guess is that if there’s reasonable improvement and hope for the future, Richt will be back for a 12th season.

I also don’t think you can put a specific number on the win total: Is nine wins enough if it includes blowouts to Florida and Georgia Tech and close wins over bad teams? Is eight wins NOT enough if it includes a win over Florida, and close losses to good teams?

Can someone do an open records request to see what school wanted to hire Brian McClendon? I am dying to know who wanted that guy.
- Bryan Grantham

By the way, it’s spelled Bryan – ironic mistake for you to make there. :)

McClendon’s a young assistant and a good recruiter. Obviously the production at running back last year wasn’t good, but it’s debatable how much (if any) of the blame lies with the position coach. Whatever fans think of McClendon, at least two schools at least thought a lot of his talents: One school that wanted to hire him, and Georgia, which anted up to keep him. (And no, the info on which other school was not available on the Open Records Act request.)

Who you got winning the U.S. Open?
- Jake

Russell Henley? I really don't know. As I write this the U.S. Open is on and I still haven't watched a second of it. Without Tiger, sorry, my interest is almost nil. That’s too bad because it’s going on at Congressional, near where I grew up in Maryland. But no, I’ve never been to Congressional, much less played it; I didn’t exactly grow up in that social strata.

By the way, in case no one's seen it yet, here's the funny (if you think so) golf video featuring Bubba Watson and friends. You might find it very disturbing.

Seth, What do the players think are the two most important things or areas they need to improve to compete at a championship level?
- Ant123

That specific question hasn’t exactly been put to them. But based on interviews since the end of last season, the emphasis has been on locker room chemistry and conditioning. As for actual on-the-field stuff, I think players would agree with the obvious answers: Running game and overall defense.

And since those are the obvious areas of concern, I'm sure the passing game and special teams will be the areas that actually end up being a wreck.

Just kidding. (Probably.)

Every day reader, here. Whenever you are able to speak with players again, I thought it'd be cool to know why some guys wear the number they do. Some guys are supersticious or like to honor their favorite player growing up, etc. I think that'd be a good idea for a quick story or blog post when you get the chance.
- Thanks, Van

Sure thing, Van. I’ll put it on the list.

Seth, what is going on with UGA Football Recruiting?
We seem to be either late in offering (and missing out) or missing on many top athletes in the state? I know we signed a big class last year but how many are we signing in 2012?
Are you planning on a doing a feature on the strength program and its progress?
- George Pierce

Actually, the recruiting got a lift last weekend. Here’s the link to that blog post. Georgia now has a couple four-star commitments, but the biggest targets remain out there. The Bulldogs have the same amount of commitments (10) as they had this time last year.

As for the strength program, here’s my story from January. I’ll probably check in again during the preseason, but as I’ve said before, the next test is when they actually start playing games. I know players have been reporting (through tweets and interviews) that the summer workouts are leaving them exhausted, and I’m sure that’s a good thing. But Joe Tereshinski will be the first person to tell you that’s the way it should be.

Bigfoot, real or fake?

Fake is too harsh of a term. Myth, maybe?

Look, I want these things to be real. I want to believe in the Loch Ness Monster, aliens, and ghosts. Or at least ghosts that never haunt me. And I’m sure we’re not alone in this universe. But I just gotta think there would be more evidence, right?

That said, a good friend of mine who claims to have psychic powers (and I have no reason not to believe her) swears that a certain downtown Athens bar is haunted. I will protect that establishment’s identity, but for what it’s worth the owner of that bar has also experienced paranormal activity there. So, yeah, there’s one place you won’t see me patronizing at night.

Is there any chance that UGA will field a men's varsity soccer team any time soon? With the talent pool that exists in the metro Atlanta area I think we could field a very competitive team in a reasonably short period of time.
- Joe, Athens GA

There hasn’t been any mention of it lately from any powers-that-be. I’ll ask Greg McGarity if it’s under consideration, but starting a program from scratch would take a few years of run-up. And I’m sure they’d have to look at Title IX restrictions.

That said, I do find it curious that Georgia has neither a wrestling or a men’s soccer program – normally schools have one or both. So I have to imagine Title IX isn’t a HUGE factor.

The bigger problem may be that the SEC doesn’t have a men’s soccer league, so where would Georgia compete? South Carolina and Kentucky are in Conference USA for that one sport, and I always found that strange, but also an impediment (when I covered USC-East) towards the sport getting a big following. Fans want to see you competing against your traditional rivals. Maybe if Florida and Georgia Tech started men’s soccer programs, Georgia would follow suit.

I know June predictions are like appendices, everyone's got one but they're mostly useless, but I was just wondering what your honest prediction is. You can do a best case and worst case scenario if you'd like. Please explain where you see losses. Thanks!
- Jeff Ostensen

This actually sounds like a good blog idea for July, when it’s even deader, and I hate to shoot my wad on that. But since you asked nicely:

Best-case scenario: Georgia shoots out of the gate and beats Boise State and South Carolina, which sends the team on a confidence-infused hot streak. And there’s no game on the schedule that jumps out at as a sure loss: Not even Florida. (Hey, I’ve been there when Georgia won in Jacksonville, so I can believe.) I’m not going to sit here and predict an unbeaten season, but it’s fair to say the Bulldogs have the talent to win every game on their schedule, but enough major questions (offensive line, defense) to prevent predicting that. So 10-2, with the most likely losses coming from Boise State, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech.

Worst-case scenario: Georgia loses its first two games, and it breaks down from there. The Coastal Carolina game in Week 3 provides only a minor restoration of confidence, and is immediately made worse with a loss at Ole Miss. If this were to happen, I would expect the freshmen would basically take over the team, at least as far as playing time, as the coaches empty the bag of tricks attempting to save the season (and their jobs). In a worst-case scenario, only the Coastal Carolina and New Mexico State games are sure wins, but Georgia would still be an even bet to win at Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and beat Auburn and Kentucky at home. So, worst-case record: 4-8.

Knowing full well that Jonathan Taylor more than likely won't play baseball again (although I will not say "never"), I was wondering if the Texas Rangers intend to make good with their drafting of JT and hire him in some capacity within the organization, perhaps in the scouting department? Or was his drafting for nothing more than P.R. points for the organization?
- Stuart

I checked with Christopher Lakos on this too, and he hadn't heard anything new. But even I'm not cynical enough to believe the Rangers were just doing it for P.R. reasons. Picking him in the 33rd round, rather than the 50th, means they probably have something planned, whether it's placing him on the 40-man roster for a day, giving him some sort of role, or something.

But even if they don't do anything more, it was still a great gesture, and they're to be commended for it.

What’s the latest on the NBA draft prospects Howard “Trey” Thompkins and Travis Leslie. Any projections on where they go? Haven’t seen either name on any draft show or draft board on the net.
- CK

The last couple mock drafts I’ve seen – on, ESPN and – don’t have either going in the first round. That’s a major drop for Thompkins, who was considered a surefire first-rounder when he left. So I guess the definition of “surefire” needs to be changed.

That said, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see either go in the first round, especially Thompkins.

Since most mock drafts do not have Thompkins or Leslie going in the 1st round, does it look like they should have stayed in school for another year?
- Riskadvisor

Yes. No. Maybe.

Really, we have to wait and see. NBA people like to say it’s all about your second contract. Lots of prospects have fooled teams into picking them in the first round, then not proven worthy and their careers ended quickly. Others have left too early, or stayed too long, and were drafted low, then had great careers.

Thompkins probably couldn’t have done much to help his stock by staying for his senior year. The reason he’s dropped is because he didn’t test well at the combine, particularly with his body fat.

Leslie was always taking a bigger risk, and hoping teams bank on his athleticism. Someone’s going to take a flyer on him, and I still wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in the first round. But whether he’s in good position for that big second contract, I don’t know.

Most feel that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will step in in some sort of fashion and contribute some this coming year. Aside from him, which of four new bigs coming in (Florveus, Dixon, Cannon, and Djurisic) do you expect to make the biggest impact their first year in Athens?
- Mike

None of them are going to be expected to be impact players right off the bat. Nemanha Djurisic, the prep school kid from Montenegro, sounds like he could be more of a flex-wing player. So of those other three, I’d guess Florveus, but only because he’s a junior college kid. But really, the frontcourt will be up to the sophomores, Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams, at least at the outset.

1. What is your most oft used quote from Blazing Saddles? Mine..."We're gonna need a s**h-load of dimes."

2. Speaking of a movie with a sheriff, I haven't notice any arrests this year from the program. Is this luck or new strategies?
- Jesse Fortson

1) The dimes quote is very underrated, and one of my favorites. But since you specified “oft-used” I’d have to go with what I tell Archie the dog every time I let him out into the yard: “Now go do … that voodoo … that you do so well!”

2) Mark Richt – while being properly cautious that the good streak could end any time – said in Macon on Tuesday that he thinks the players know that the many arrests were related to the amount of losses. I thought that was an interesting statement.

How many times have you been to bourbon street, general beauregards, and how many times have you been to power hour since you have been living in Athens
- PIOwe

I’ve never been to Bourbon Street, and from what I understand I might be significantly older than the average crowd in there. While I love downtown Athens, I try to make Pauly’s the extent of my visits to the college-age scene. That’s more for the benefit of the patrons than me.

I’ve been to General Beauregard’s a few times, and it’s a nice place. But I haven’t partook of power hour yet, either. Maybe in July I’ll try to gather up Gentry and Fletcher and dive into that.


Bulldawg said...

Nice work Seth. Thanks. Enjoy your vacation.

hosayf said...

It's not ironic that Stripling was injured on a kickoff; it's coincidental. Okay, I'll stop being a nitpicking jerk now: great mailbag Seth, very informative.

Sam Axe said...

Just when I thought you were doing so well Seth, you say this: "LA Clippers appear very determined to finish third in the SEC East this year."

I thought you were done with the snarky comments regarding UGA but I suppose I was wrong.

I just don't get it, it's like you're determined to alienate the very fan base that you are writing for. The snarky comments got really frustrating a few months back but you seemed to have leveled off on it. Good things never last do they? *Sigh*

I need a mojito.

Michael said...

Why hasn't there been a new post on the blog for 2 weeks?

Mile High Dawg said...

Great read and man has there been a lot going lately it seems...

David Davis said...

In other news, we lost another offensive lineman.