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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ye olde Mailbag: Jarvis Jones, recruiting, Crowell, Benedict, and so much more

I’m checking in today from the Jittery Joe’s here on Barnett Shoals Road, and having a flashback to almost a year ago – when I started in this very wonderful job.

It was almost a year ago that I joined the beat, and on the second day of football practice – also, my second day on the job – I was here at this fine coffee establishment, making use of their Wi-Fi.

(Isn't sad when your memories revolve around wireless access?)

It’s also time for SEC media days, which this year gives me a very bittersweet feeling since I won’t be there. I wish I could, but my little sister didn’t check with me before picking her wedding date. So on Thursday, while Georgia is making its appearance, I will be preparing for the rehearsal dinner. And on Friday, when everything is wrapping up, I will be walking my sis down the aisle and giving her away to her new husband.

At some point I may also have to give a speech. Somewhere in that speech I plan to go on a riff about Isaiah Crowell and the offensive line’s blocking schemes. I’m sure the crowd will be enraptured.

I’m sorry I won’t be in Birmingham, but the esteemed Mike Lough will be there holding down the fort for The Telegraph, and he’ll be manning this blog too. Yes, I fully expect to be Wally Pipped.

So if this is my last blog post, and my last mailbag, let’s make it a good one. Here we go:

We got a lot of questions this week about the Jarvis Jones situation, so I’ll start with that.

What do you believe, if you had a guess, will be the outcome of the Jarvis Jones/NCAA situation. I've heard from a few people (bloggers) that it's unlikely he'll miss any games since the offenses were during his USC recruiting and not his UGA recruiting.
- Ginny

It doesn’t matter for Georgia that it happened while he was at another school: This isn’t a Georgia matter, it’s a Jarvis Jones matter, and the NCAA will decide whether or not he accepted benefits from someone who fell under the category of being an extra benefit, i.e. not a familial or long-time acquaintance. If the NCAA determines it was an extra benefit, it won’t matter that he was at USC when it happened. Now USC could get in trouble if it’s found somehow that it knew about this and didn’t do anything. (Which is precisely what happened with the Reggie Bush situation.) Georgia would get in trouble for the same reason, but all indications are that the school and team only learned of this after the Ledger-Enquirer’s report, and immediately turned it over to the SEC and NCAA.

I don’t like to guess, but I will say that based on precedent I could definitely see Jones getting a suspension of two-to-four games. It’s possible that the number could come down on appeal – and it’s very possible we won’t hear about the suspension and appeal until it’s all over. I also think Georgia’s cause is helped by having found out about it early, and also having gone through the A.J. Green situation last year.

But the key here is whether Jones can prove that he had enough of a pre-existing relationship with the AAU coach that the NCAA will find that Jones did not benefit (i.e., receive the plane tickets) purely because he was an athlete.

If the NCAA finds that it’s a pre-existing relationship, then there’s a good chance you see Jones out there against Boise State. But it’s really, really hazardous to speculate on NCAA matters like this, as we saw with the A.J. Green case last year.

Will Jarvis be cleared to play (or ruled ineligible) in time for the season opener or will he be left twisting in the wind like AJ Green was and Richt will have to hold him out until we hear ? If I recall the AJ Green Jersey affair we were at the NCAA's mercy and they took their sweet time.
- Robert K. Burnham

I’d be surprised if we don’t hear anything on Jones well before the season. The timeline is far ahead of the A.J. Green situation, which was also wrapped up in a larger, national agent issue. That slowed down the process a bit, and also keep in mind that the jersey sale was only found in August. At this time you’d expect – or hope, if you’re Jones and Georgia – that the NCAA has all the relevant information now and a ruling can come quickly.

What would really slow things down, and would thus be even more worrisome for Jones, is if during the course of an investigation the NCAA uncovers more, as it did with Green and that jersey. But so far there’s no info that it’s anything other than the plane tickets.

Can you explain what Jarvis Jones and the city staffers from Columbus did? Was he and his mom flying back and forth for AAU games?
When does it stop being partly cloudy and start being partly sunny?
- Doug

The Columbus city staffers are part of a separate investigation. It was during the course of that investigation that the plane trips for Jones and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came to light. In Jones’ case, it was just plane tickets to go from Atlanta to Los Angeles.

On weather, whether it’s partly sunny or partly cloudy depends on what kind of person you are. For instance, I’m a partly-cloudy guy. I’m a journalist, a writer, a cynic. It’s what we do. Mark Richt is a partly-sunny guy, at least 95 percent of the time. So are people like Pippy Longstocking, Pollyanna and Al Roker.

Seth, It would be helpful to get a clearer take on the scenarios involving Jarvis Jones. Specifically: Is there any realistic chance the benefits he apparently received will meet the "pre-existing relationship" loophole that makes it all go away? And is there any realistic chance the NCAA will say anything until after the Boise and USC games?
If the answer to those questions is "no" or "probably not," then the next question is whether the coaching staff is looking at early action at OLB by Ray Drew.
- Newdonkey

Ray Drew is actually slated to compete with Cornelius Washington on the other side. We asked Todd Grantham about this last week, and he kind of hedged. I could definitely see it being Drew, but this is where the Jones situation really puts Grantham in a tough spot: Start working Drew over there now just in case, or ride with Jones there and if he’s pulled ride with Rueben Faloughi or someone else?

Two and a half part question.
1.) Have you heard anything regarding Keith Marshall's interest in UGA? ESPN doesn't list UGA as one of the schools he is considering, but I have seen on message boards and heard from other dawg recruiting enthusiasts that UGA is well in the mix, if not close to the top of his list. Any validity to that?
2.) Crowell is on campus I hear. Do you know what kind of shape he is in? Has he been working out with the players any? Basically, could you please tell me everything you know about Isaiah Crowell's life since he arrived at UGA?

1) I’m no recruiting guru, but everything I’ve heard is that Georgia is very much in the mix for Marshall. You have to be careful about those school lists for each player. It’s my experience that it’s not updated very often, and even if it was a kid’s school choices fluctuate so much it’s impossible to be exact.
2) Yes, Crowell’s been on campus for a bit, and I know a lot of people have liked to speculate and read a lot into stories that they’ve heard. Whether that’s about how Crowell is in the weight room or the dining hall, there’s going to be a lot of attention on him. I understand it’s the summer and people are hungry for early news about the team’s most important (arguably) player, but frankly I think it’s a bit unfair at this stage. Sure, be worried if something actually tangible happened, like he was suspended from team activities (as Washaun Ealey was). But otherwise, remember that we’re still talking about teenagers.

Maybe we just let Orson Charles line up at running back.

That’s one way to make sure he touches the ball.

Spurrier took a couple if jabs at Grantham about that inside draw play after last year's game. Ask how many times he plans to run it this year. Also, please ask him how many more last chances Garcia has.
- Castleberry

As long as the Gamecocks still have Marcus Lattimore, I’m sure they’ll still run that, and do so until Georgia stops it. Which with John Jenkins, they may actually do this time.

Having covered him, I personally like Spurrier (and now I will duck), but the handling of Garcia is pretty laughable. Yes, none of the actions by themselves are that bad. But really, it’s about five strikes now, and he’s had about three “last chances.” I mean, really, come on.

Please tell me you watched season 4 premiere of Breaking Bad last night!! What do you think Gus is now calculating? What was the minerals all about that Hank was looking up on the Internet? You catch that and Gails lab book?
- MauiDawg

Sadly I’m not finished with Season 3 yet; I’m waiting for the final disc and last few episodes to arrive. But I have DVRed the new season, so don’t spoil it for me!

1) Has Katey Sagal's portrayal of Gemma Teller moved into Edie Falco/Carmella Soprano territory or do we need one more season?
2) How involved are Thomas Brown and Tony Gilbert in the actual weight room training? Are they learning and doing research on what other programs do, or are they mostly there for motivation or player relationships?
3) What in the world is Dave van Hallenger actually doing now?
4) Do you have any news about the new arrangement in Sanford next year. I know the band is moving, but where does that shift the visiting band, fans, etc.? Are my Northeast endzone seats about to be flooded with visitors?
- Matt Rushing

1) Sorry, I’m out of the loop on Segal.
2) I’m not in the weight room myself. But I’ll see Brown again next week, and am set to speak to Gilbert soon for a story, so I’ll have a better feel for it at that point.
3) Van Halanger is listed as “director, player welfare” in the media guide. The players really did think a lot of him as a father/grandfather figure, so behind the scenes I’m sure he’s doing something related to that.
4) Those are all good questions. I don’t really know. I’m sorry, I really was no help to you in any of these questions. Useless, actually.

Will Hamilton be playing any corner against certain offenses (ie. Georgia Tech or rushing offenses dependent on getting to the edge)
What date does spring practice begin?
What starting position appears to be most up for grabs right now.
Since we're nearing the end of summer... any players get noticed for work ethic, attitude, effort?
- Meansonny

Meansonny, I assume you mean Jakar, and not Alexander, Hamilton. The Georgia Tech game is a long way off but I would expect it to happen.

Do you mean spring practice, or preseason practice? I’ll assume you meant the latter: First day of practice isn’t officially announced yet, but it’ll be two weeks from this one, some day that week.

We've been told that Brent Benedict transferred to VT because of philosophical differences with UGA's strength and conditioning program. However, around this time last year UGA's entire strength and conditioning staff took a field-trip to Blacksburg to observe that school's program and (theoretically) implement those observations into our own. So is there really going to be a noticeable change for young Mr. Benedict, or was this more about a personal disagreement with Coach T?
- Clee

First off, I have my doubts that Benedict’s departure can be blamed entirely on his relationship with Tereshinski. If that were the sole reason, and everything else was hunky-dory, I’m sure Mark Richt, Will Friend or whoever else would have stepped in and mediated. No, I’m sure with Benedict, as with any transfer that’s not for playing time reasons, there were several reasons. This goes back to my answer on Crowell – keep in mind we’re talking about teenagers here (Benedict was coming off a redshirt freshman season).

I have no doubt the Georgia coaches wanted to keep him around. Shane Beamer, a new assistant at Virginia Tech, is good friends with Mike Bobo, so if it were an attitude thing I’m not sure the Hokies would have taken him. But Benedict just wasn’t happy in Athens.

Two, or maybe three, questions:
Will Samuel have any real impact in the running game? If they had confidence in him as a runner, why did they move him to linebacker in the first place?
Despite the fact I am 57 years old, in my second marriage and ugly, what do you think my chances are with J Lo?
- Dawgfan53

Samuel’s going to have every chance to play. Georgia made a big enough deal out of the move that I think they have big plans for him to be involved. Yeah, I probably wouldn’t bet on him being a Heisman contender, and I’d still bet on Crowell being the main ball-carrier against Boise State. But is he rusty, is he still a better linebacker than tailback? I guess we’ll find out.

If you’re IN your second marriage, then you might have a shot with J-Lo, because married guys are quite attractive, for some reason. I’m considering getting married just for that reason.

Love your work. I do wish you would go back to unregistered comments. There are much fewer comments since the change and half the fun is reading all the various opinions. Sure there are trolls, but isn’t that all part of the experience? I have two questions. Will they try John Jenkins at fullback? Have Malcome or Thomas commented about Samuel going back to tailback? Even though they may not say it publically, I am sure they have to be disappointed in the move.
- Joe Ryan

Thanks for the kind words. The registration of comments was always a trial phase, and to be honest I haven’t heard much negative response. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be more out there. My current gut feeling is to keep with the registration because a) the web hits/unique visitors stats haven’t gone down, in fact they’ve been pretty good for the summer, and b) we’re gunning for a civil, readable comment approach here, and preventing the anonymous posters seems to have weeded that out, for the most part.

But like I said, I’m open for suggestions.

As for your football-related questions: They say they’ll try Jenkins at fullback, but I’m kind of on the skeptical side as to whether it’ll happen, and if then how often; The goal-line would be a great place for it, though. Malcome and Thomas have been quoted in other places saying about what you’d expect, but of course you’d have to expect they’re a bit disappointed. But apparently Thomas didn’t quite take care of business himself.

Is there anyone, anyone at all, in the UGA backfield who can pass block? I know that's always a source of concern for Freshman backs, and it seems like we're just a tad thin at tailback now. Is Aaron Murray going to spend the first two weeks of the season on his backside?
- Chris

Chris, that’s a legitimate concern – and not one Carlton Thomas and his small stature was going to answer, and not one we’ll really know much about over the summer. We’ll have to find out once preseason starts, and the team goes through scrimmages, how Crowell, Malcome and Samuel are with pass-blocking.

Here’s what Richt said about Crowell and pass-blocking when I asked him about it back in May:

“I’m sure when a rookie back’s in the game they’re gonna test that, they’re gonna bring pressure, and see if he’ll step up. Yeah, if he wants to play and be a full-time back, he’s gotta learn.”

How's Munson?
- UGAflyer

I haven’t heard anything lately. I hope that’s good news.

In light of Stanley Williams' recent commitment to UGA, I've long wondered what the allure Georgia has for these smallish backs and receivers who generally don't fit the mold for our pro-style offense. Small, speedy guys such as Carlton Thomas, Prince Miller (recruited as an ATH), Rontavious Wooten, Mikey Henderson, etc. seem to perform better in spread offenses (ie Percy Harvin, Noel Devine, etc.), yet every year UGA seems to add another small, fast athlete who doesn't contribute much more than a few punt returns (although Mikey should always be remembered for his OT TD catch against Bama). If Bobo called more plays that got these guys open in space I'd be more inclined to understand why we recruit them, but he doesn't and the recruits aren't able to utilize their talents. Rant aside, do you have any insight as to why we go after these guys, and why they keep coming?
- Stuart

Stanley Williams reportedly runs a 4.2 in the 40, so it’s kind of hard to not offer a guy like him. Yes, at 5-foot-8 he may be another Carlton Thomas, if he doesn’t grow. Then again, maybe he’s not necessarily a tailback. Plus, the other commitments lately – including Crowell and Derrick Henry, the 2013 tailback – have been of the bigger variety.

When they’re being recruited, I’m sure the coaches see great athletes who they can find a use for somehow. I covered Prince Miller in high school, and he was ticketed for cornerback-special teams the entire time. I can’t speak too well for the others.
I do get the sense with this staff that they’ve taken some chances on guys without a set position, and figured they’d find them a position, but never did. A lot of people are worried now that’s happening with Richard Samuel, but he swears he’s a tailback for good – and if he had a real chance to be an impact linebacker, I’m sure Todd Grantham would’ve held onto him. And moving Alec Ogletree to linebacker indicated Grantham didn’t feel that way.

If you crossed the International Date Line on your birthday would you still get presents?
- Hosayf

Interesting point. I would assume you’d be flying, in which case it depends on the airline: On AirTrain you’d have no room to move anyway, so your present would be one inch more of legroom, and maybe a small pillow. If it’s … actually, all the airlines stink.

Carlton Thomas suspended! What the hell is going on at the RB position?
- Dawgwood

I’m starting to wonder what the running back position meetings were like with this group. Maybe that’s why Bryan McClendon got the raise: Stress pay.

1) I'm trying to understand how someone could get in such an argument about strength and conditioning? Was there disagreement over how many reps or how much weight to put on the bar? What exactly is so serious that it couldn't be worked out?
2) I know Nathan Theus was brought in to be a long snapper. Any chance he can provide some depth on the line? He wasn't a tiny guy.
3) Think UGA football could learn a lesson from USA Women's Soccer? When you have an inferior opponent, don't get up and relax. Go for the jugular and put them away. Don't let them hang around.
4) Did anyone notice how GT has to vacate the 3 games from 2009 where they used an ineligible player? That means they get to vacate a loss to UGA. Is this a punishment or a reward?
- Riskadviser

So many multiple questions. So many greedy people. But I keep indulging.
1) Benedict’s issues with the strength staff, from what I understand, centered on his rehab. He and his father wanted to go a bit more slower, and sit out a few activities. The strength staff was willing to bend on some stuff, but not all. An understandable impasse ensued.
2) At this point, I do think Theus will be asked to get some reps on the line at practice. I don’t know if he’ll play, though.
3) Sounds like a plan.
4) When I think more about it, the Georgia Tech punishments actually kind of fit; It’s not anything tangible going forward – no loss of TV time or scholarships – but they are on probation and they can’t acknowledge their conference championship. And considering the violations – not cooperating fully with the NCAA over a player issue – that seems about right. OK, lemme rephrase that: Not really “right,” but “less wrong” than other penalties.

Basically, the whole NCAA infraction and penalty issue is broken, as I’ve pointed out for some time. The Ohio State-Sugar Bowl situation was laughable. The Cam Newton case is troubling. But the Georgia Tech case doesn’t really put me in soapbox mode. It’s just kinda … eh.

Hey Seth,
Question about the O-Line, which may have already been covered in weeks past. What kind of talent did Mr. Friend have down at UAB? Average number of freshman he had to start/play, average years experience of the line per season, and the results (rush yards per carry)? Did he coach up any NFL talent? Considering all this ridiculousness about our RBs and our already thin offensive line, I feel that his coaching and line’s play will have the biggest impact on how we do this year.
As always, thanks!

We talked to Friend about this after he was hired. The good: They had one player who had hardly played any football before college, and Friend helped turn him into an all-Conference USA player. The bad: The players weren’t as big and fast, as Friend acknowledged. But it’s not like he’s never been around talented players: He played at Alabama and was a graduate assistant at Georgia. I think Friend has a bright future in coaching, but given all the attrition, his debut season at Georgia will require a ton of coaching ‘em up, and that’s a lot to ask.

Greetings from SW Ga (south of the gnat line). I enjoy reading your blog on a regular basis. Keep up the good work!
I believe that the intangible "chemistry" is a huge part of a successful (or unsuccessful) team -- not only among the players but also in the coaching ranks. What is your perception of how the coaching staff -- particularly Grantham and Friend -- get along with one another? It seems that last year was a "breaking in " period with the D- Coord...and that perhaps he and CMR didn't see situations with the same discerning eye. Hopefully for UGA that improves this year.
- Anonymous, Leesburg, Ga.

Thanks, and shout-out to southwest Georgia. I spent a good deal of time in Leesburg, the home of Buster Posey … Richt gets along with pretty much everybody, which is a good trait for a head coach, as he has to break a lot of ties and settle disputes. He has a lot of strong personalities on staff. My experience, from afar as a reporter, is you may be a bit over-rating staff chemistry: there are inevitably going to be disagreements and personality conflicts on a staff of 10 full-time assistants, as well as other support staff members. They don’t have to go to picnics together, they just have to be able to communicate on recruiting and be cooperative when necessary when it comes to game-planning, player position changes, etc. And a good head coach will often like some healthy competition between assistants. Spurrier was that way.

Does coach Grantham continue to refer to you as Mister Blog Man?
- Paul

Actually, that was Brandon Boykin. I think Grantham just calls me “Al.” And you know what, you can call me that too.


Luke said...

be sure to pick up a 4.99 large pj pizza next door. i'll be swooping by to get mine a little later.

JM said...

tech only vacates their win in the record books.

the ajc article ws wrong.

opsomath said...

Good job getting to the JJ's early. That parking lot becomes insane in the afternoon as everyone comes in for their five buck pizza.

If you see a bunch of people with chemistry-related t-shirts, tell 'em I said hi.

Proper pessimism tells me we can write off Jarvis Jones for a couple games. Crap. It's the Justin Houston situation come again; right when we needed him most, we won't be getting him. I really hope they get Ray Drew involved on the other side; otherwise I don't see a lot of talent leaping off the post-spring depth chart at me.

Doug said...

Please don't go back to anonymous comments.

Reverend Whitewall said...

I agree with Doug.

Anonymous said...

Agree about leaving the comments as they are now. I would have to see you go back to the mindless droning we saw before.

meansonny said...

Good job being there for your sister.
I know that means a ton to her for you to walk her down the aisle.

Comments are down because you took some personal time and because it's summer. Both issues are to be expected.

As you have more to write about, the questions and differing opinions will be back to their high levels. I look forward to the content.

Ben said...

Two Story Eastside > Jittery Joes.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah...have fun at the wedding. It is more important you know.