My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Important blog note

On Friday at 3 p.m. eastern time, we will officially transition to the new blog location, which will be on the platform (i.e., web site) of each paper.

This should NOT cause any hassle to you readers; the current blog will immediately re-direct to the new site, and will do so for awhile.

In the meantime, if you want to start early and bookmark the new site, here it is:

You'll notice there's nothing there at the moment. Obviously that will change, and I'm going to attempt to cut-and-paste as many of the recent posts as I can.

We figured it was a good time, right before practice starts, to make the transition. You will still have a choice as to whether to read or comment to either the Telegraph or Ledger-Enquirer blog.

Anonymous posting on the new blog sites will be allowed until early next week, when I will - barring major protest - re-institute the requirement that you register in order to comment. (There's a technical reason for having to wait until next week to do it, too complicated to explain.)

All in all, we're hoping this is a very positive step forward for everybody. It makes it easier for me to post, as I can now post the blog once and it goes to both sites, instead of having to post to two different sites. And when I'm able to post quicker, that helps you get the info in a more timely fashion.

The presentation of the new sites is also a bit more professional. The Google blogger platform has served us well, but it was time to get on a company-wide platform. After all, this is a blog that supplements the coverage in the papers.

I'm sure some people will blanch a bit at the change, but just bear with us and trust me that this will be for the best. I'm also thinking of some ways to improve the blogging process this season, and am open to any and all suggestions. Overall, I think things are going well, but there's no reason we can't be better.

So ... onward and upward.

Inside linebacking corps takes yet another hit

Reserve Brandon Burrows will have shoulder surgery on Tuesday and miss the 2011 season, Georgia announced. The inside linebacker has what the team called "chronic shoulder instability" in his right shoulder.

Burrows, a redshirt freshman, saw time in the spring and was expected to provide depth this season behind starters Christian Robinson and Alec Ogletree. Richard Samuel was also supposed to play there before being shifted back to tailback a couple weeks ago.

Marcus Dowtin, the team's fourth-leading tackler last year, and Nick Williams each transferred after last season. So now junior Mike Gilliard is the only other player besides Robinson who has played college snaps at that position.

On top of that, Georgia is still waiting for recruit Kent Turene to get through the NCAA clearinghouse. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said last week he expected Turene to be fine.

Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, two other freshmen recruits, could now be in line for immediate playing time. So will Turene once he makes it to campus.

Robinson said Wednesday that Jeremy Sulek, a walk-on, and "the young guys" would have to step up.

“Me and Mike G are the only two that have really taken reps (at inside linebacker),” Robinson said. “Alec’s gonna have a great season. He’s prepared and knows the defense at linebacker now. He knows how to play linebacker. I’m just excited to see him contribute.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Jarvis Jones update

Here's a link to the latest on the Jarvis Jones situation. The Ledger-Enquirer has a story detailing how the police records seem to show more of a money connection between Jones and the Georgia Blazers AAU team.

The coach of that team, Tony Adams, has been described by people close to Jones as a father figure. In addition to the payments reported in the original report, the Ledger-Enquirer found two more, totaling $700.

As the story says: "A crux of the investigation involving Jones is the nature of his pre-existing relationship with Adams." So I'm not sure this story, while it definitely adds important details, changes the facts on the ground very much.

Based on what is publicly known ... and allow me to emphasize that again ... BASED ON WHAT IS PUBLICLY KNOWN, I think we're left with this right now:

- Will UGA's internal investigation, set to wrap up within days, determine that Jones and Adams had a long-standing pre-existing relationship? And would the NCAA agree?

- If so, the question then becomes whether the fund from which the payments came are a problem, at least from the NCAA's point of view. Will it be determined that Adams controlled the fund, which would then help Jones' side argue that this was merely a father figure passing along some money? Or will the fund be found to be something different?

We simply don't know for certainty the answer to either of these questions. So drawing any conclusions at this point, and opining on whether or not Jones will face a suspension, is not something I'm ready to do.

The word from veterans: Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Sanders are standing out

Georgia football fans have been hungering for any information about their team’s incoming freshman, who have enrolled and been working out on campus. But with practice not beginning yet, the best source of insight have been Georgia veterans.

Defensive co-captain Christian Robinson has already pinpointed four players who have made the best impression on him so far during summer workouts: receiver Malcolm Mitchell and defensive backs Damian Swann, Chris Sanders and Corey Moore.

“Those four guys already have picked up more on defense and offense than most freshman I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Robinson said. “Damian, Corey and Chris on defense already know what we’re expecting and it’ll just come down to making plays in practice and showing they can contribute.”

Then Mitchell got a heaping of praise:

“I’ve never seen anybody that could stop on a dime like he can,” Robinson said. “I mean, I love A.J. (Green), but A.J. never stopped like he can. He gets separation. A.J.’s got that speed and quickness, but I’ve never seen someone with the feet that (Mitchell) has, and just the separation he can achieve with his routes.”

Well, I guess we know why Mitchell’s not playing defense.

Junior tight end Orson Charles also singled out Mitchell and Sanders. He called Mitchell "explosive" and willing to work. As for what stood out about Sanders: "He looks good. Physically he looks good. And covering TK (Tavarres King), even though he gets beat he'll get back up and do it again."

The aforementioned Tavarres King, a junior like Robinson, also heaped praise on Mitchell.

“He’s just a tremendous athlete,” King said. “He can do a lot of different things. One day he was just torching all the DBs when we were doing pass (drills). … You know, he’s gonna help this football team a lot.”

In general, King's summation of the young receivers - including Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Sanford Seay - is "speed."

"Flat-out fast. If their knowledge can be as quick as their feet, they're gonna be tremendous," King said.

Robinson was also asked about the most hyped freshman, tailback Isaiah Crowell.

“You know, I’ve been kinda separate from him, when we do our drills I really don’t work with him,” Robinson said. “But I know one day we were out there and he’s been able to burn some people with his ability. He has all the physical tools that are necessary to be a great back here. I’m excited to see him in camp.”

King was also asked for his initial impression of Crowell.

“He’s gonna be a guy that you just hand him the ball and watch him work," King said. "They’re all just ballplayers, and they’re all just tremendous athletes. I’m extremely excited to see how he does when the pads are on.”

A few other here-and-there notes:

- Crowell, of course, was expected to be a huge factor even before the departures of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King. But those two are gone, along with five other players who have transferred or been academically ineligible.

“Some of the guys that are not here, they made their decisions, whether they were right or wrong," Robinson said. "I think the guys that are here, that are left, are the ones that one to be at Georgia the most. Some guys didn’t always fit in and didn’t always do what they were supposed to do, and didn’t behave. Nothing against them, but they just didn’t fit into what we needed right now.”

The exception was King, whom Robinson played with for one year in high school.

“That’s probably the one that I don’t think fits in with the rest. Caleb wanted to be here and went through some tough things," Robinson said. "But the guys we have here on this team, the guys we have left, we have everything we need to have a great season.”

- Robinson also offered his reaction to the Samuel move back to tailback, and away from inside linebacker:

“When he moved I told him, ‘I’m just upset I have to hit you in practice.’ People think we have depth issues. I think we just need guys to step up. At any position we have enough guys here at Georgia to get things done. Richard’s gonna step up and help the running back position. And we’re gonna have linebackers step up and make those plays, even if they don’t have that many reps.”

So what now at inside linebacker? The team has already lost Nick Williams and Marcus Dowtin to transfer, Robinson didn’t confirm whether Brandon Burrows is out. He just said he expected Burrows to contribute “in the long haul,” then mentioned Jeremy Sulek and “the young guys” that would have to step up.

“Me and Mike (Gilliard) are the only two that have really taken reps (at inside linebacker),” Robinson said. “Alec’s gonna have a great season. He’s prepared and knows the defense at linebacker now. He knows how to play linebacker. I’m just excited to see him contribute.”

- Jarvis Jones has continued to work hard during the investigation, according to Robinson. I asked if, based on what he’s seen the past year, Jones is worth the consternation that fans and coaches are having over his eligibility. Robinson said he is.

“He is everything people expect of him, what he could be,” Robinson said. “He’s played. He’s played at the college level already. He’s got the tools that could take him beyond college and have a great career there. So I think the things he contributes to this team are very important to us. We need a guy like him with his speed.”

- Charles, fielding what may have been his first "are you going pro" question, successfully ducked it.

"How I handle that is I'm not talking about it right now. I'm not worried about it right now," he said. "I'm gonna leave it up to God. Whatever God has for me, I'll be blessed either way. But right now I'm focused on this season and winning."

- Quarterback Aaron Murray is taking on a more vocal leadership role, according to Charles.

"He snapped the other day, and we were all like, 'Whoa!'" Charles said. "We definitely respected that, because a lot of people were playing around. And he was like, 'Y'all gotta quit playing around, we came out to work.' He's starting to be more of a vocal leader, so that's good. ... He earned that right."

- Charles said he now weighs 245 pounds, a decrease of about five pounds since the beginning of the summer. And he took the high road when asked if he was under-utilized last year.

"I don't think so," he said. "I think Bobo did a fairly good job of calling the plays. I felt like as a whole we could have played a little harder, played a little faster, and had fun playing the game. But I think this spring it changed a lot. We were having fun, we were competing. In the locker room we were just embracing. So I'm just looking forward to this season."

Mike Bobo talks about the busy offseason, and where it leaves the offense

Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo spent some time speaking to the media on Wednesday morning. A few players are coming in next. While we wait, the highlights from Bobo:

- He admitted that the attrition since spring practice “unnerves you a little bit. They always seem to happen when you’re on vacation.” But he saw it as opening more opportunities for people.

“Truth be told, I’m still excited about what we have coming back,” he said.

- The coaches aren’t allowed to have any football contact with the players during the summer. (Bobo ran into Isaiah Crowell the other day as the ballyhooed tailback was going into a study hall. That’s allowed, but quizzing Crowell on the playbook or watching film of workouts is verboten.)

The strength and conditioning staff has been working with players, but the coaches can’t even talk to those staff members about players.

”You get zero (access),” Bobo said. “You can’t watch film. They don’t film it. You can’t talk to a strength coach about whether a guy’s showing up, or ‘Hey Aaron how’s a guy doing.’ … It’s very frustrating sometimes.”

- The offensive line depth is obviously poor, but Bobo was taking the optimistic route.

“We’re not very deep. But you only need five,” Bobo said. “I think we played ’02 with only five linemen the whole year. And one other year we played with six. You’d like to have more depth. But I feel good about what we have.”

He feels good about the three seniors – center Ben Jones and tackles Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson – and he also mentioned Chris Burnette (slated to start at guard) and backup Kolton Houston. The team is also getting good reports from the training staff on Dallas Lee, who missed most of spring practice.

- There aren’t any other imminent defense-to-offense moves, according to Bobo. While several freshmen were signed with the idea of playing both ways (Malcolm Mitchell, Nick Marshall and Damian Swann) early on in practice the concentration will be on them learning their base positions.

- Bobo seemed genuinely excited about the potential of Richard Samuel, now back at tailback after a redshirt year at linebacker. Bobo watched every carry Samuel had during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and it reminded him that he was a hard, physical and fast runner, who had the ability to break tackles.

“The guy ran hard and physical,” Bobo said. “There were some times that guys turned down hitting him because of how big he was and how hard he was running.”

- As for Isaiah Crowell, Bobo expressed the hope that fans (and the media) would give Crowell some space early on.

“There’s gonna be a lot of pressure on this young man. There’s gonna be a lot of attention from fans and from you guys. Hopefully you guys won’t be able to talk to him (for awhile),” Bobo said, smiling at the media. “The main thing is you’ve gotta go to work and you’ve gotta earn your way. That’s what coaches always try to teach freshman: be yourself, and find your way here.”

- Ken Malcome, the redshirt freshman, was kind of a forgotten man. He was listed even behind walk-on Brandon Harton in the post-spring depth chart, but Bobo attributed that to Malcome’s groin injury.

“Ken is a guy that we felt good about going into spring ball. He just had injuries. I’m not sure but I think he missed about 10 practices,” Bobo said. “I think it was more of an injury thing about why he was behind Harton. Harton … Now Ken is going to be given an opportunity this fall to see what he can do. I’m still excited about Ken.”

- At fullback, it’s still basically a competition between Bruce Figgins and Zander Ogletree, with walk-on Dustin Royston also in the mix.

But Jay Rome could also get a look in the backfield, in the same kind of hybrid fullback-tight end role that is envisioned for Figgins. Rome’s path at tight end would appear to be blocked by Orson Charles, Aron White and even Arthur Lynch, but Bobo said this when asked if they’d try to find a way to get Rome on:

“I don’t care what the depth says. If a guy shows he can make plays and be productive, you’ve gotta play them.”

- Finally, Bobo is also the quarterbacks coach. But he only got one question about the actual quarterback, which is probably good news. And Bobo says Aaron Murray is still working as hard as he did last year.

“The hype and accolades really haven’t changed this kid,” Bobo said. “I feel like he’s gonna have another outstanding year.”

I didn't run every comment. So if there's any ground that went uncovered that you're curious about, ask a question below and I'll try to help. - Seth

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Story: Georgia veterans anxious to see freshmen

Here's another story from media days, via Mike Lough, which was just posted on

There's a lot of curiosity about the freshmen and how they're doing so far. Practice officially begins next week, but during summer workouts the veterans have been able to gauge the ability and work ethic of guys like Isaiah Crowell, Malcolm Mitchell, Damian Swann and others.

“Malcom Mitchell, off the top,” (cornerback Brandon) Boykin said. “I guard him a lot every day, and he’s progressing really great. Chris Sanders -- a defensive back, he’ll probably play corner -- looks really good, can run.”

More stuff in the story.

From Columbus, some more insight on the Jarvis Jones situation

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity provided an update Monday night on the Jarvis Jones investigation, saying the school had been doing its due diligence and was hoping to have a report to turn into the SEC (and perhaps NCAA) by the end of this week.

How much jeopardy Jones is in remains an open question. And even if UGA's internal investigation satisfies itself and the SEC, the NCAA may have additional questions.

So for a bit of background and insight, I now bring in Chris White, a reporter for the Ledger-Enquirer. Chris has been the lead preps writer at the Ledger-Enquirer for several years now. In addition to those duties, he covers other miscellaneous events in Columbus, including a lot of games hosted or put on in conjunction with the parks and rec department. It was through working at those events that he dealt with former parks and rec director Tony Adams, and wrote several stories on Jones while he was at USC and when he returned to Columbus during breaks.

Emerson: Chris, for those who aren't quite sure on all the details, what is the essence of what happened here with Jarvis Jones, and why could his eligibility be in jeopardy? And briefly describe how all this came to light.

White: Jones is facing the possibility that he received improper benefits, which would be a violation of NCAA rules. In short, he was given plane tickets to travel to and from Los Angeles that were paid for out of an account set up – illegally – to run a parks and rec-sponsored AAU basketball team Jones was a part of. Blurring the issue a bit is who was running the team and oversaw that account, a former parks and rec director who was also a longtime father figure to Jones. The issue came up when Ledger-Enquirer reporter and now metro editor Chuck Williams began covering an audit of the parks department. After investigations, former parks and rec director Tony Adams and East Marietta Basketball director William Fox pleading guilty to felony conspiracy to defraud charges and former parks and rec employee Herman Porter pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft charges.

Emerson: There is no dispute, presumably, that Jones was the recipient of the plane tickets. That leads to two key questions: Did Jones have enough of a pre-existing relationship with the man, whom you describe as a father-figure? And even if he is a father figure and satisfies the NCAA's definition of a pre-existing relationship, did the money come explicitly from him, or from a more general account, almost a slush fund?

White: The relationship between Jones and Adams, the former parks and rec director, goes back to at least Jones’ middle school years, as far as I know. Jones’ legal guardian was a 10-year employee of the parks and rec department when all of this became news, and so of course Adams was her supervisor and knew both of them. I haven’t been able to get a clear answer as to how Adams’ relationship with Jones began and whether it started as more of a personal mentor or strictly as a coach. But this late in the game it’s almsot a moot point arguing which came first or where the line is drawn. From my experience – and I used to deal with Adams regularly and talk to Jones whenever he was home on break – the two were very close. Wherever Adams went, I could find Jones hanging around. If I was trying to reach Jones for a story, I’d call Adams and two minutes later hear back from Jones. And seeing them interact it was clear, at least to me, that their relationship was deeper than the average coach-player relationship and more along the lines of a father-son relationship.

The issue with the source of the money definitely complicates things even further. The account was set up with an unauthorized city tax ID and in the name of the Georgia Blazers AAU program, and the outcome of the case shows it was used illegally as it funneled money away from the city and was used for some non-Blazers purposes.

So on one hand, the money for the flights came from an account set up and maintained illegally, and an athlete received benefits from an AAU coach and program, which the NCAA has cracked down on before. But on the other hand, could it be possible Jones simply assumed the plane tickets were simply the sort of favor or gift that many other athletes get from their parents, relatives or mentors and paid for legally? It seems impossible to guess all the motives of everyone involved, especially when the line between coach and father figure are so blurred.

Emerson: So let’s move on from that “known” issue and on to this: When we spoke to Georgia A.D. Greg McGarity on Monday night, he talked about being “hopeful that there wouldn’t be anything else there” other than what the Ledger-Enquirer reported, and the police report included. That’s sort of an obvious allusion to last year, when A.J. Green was eventually cleared on the original reason the NCAA wanted to interview him, but suspended once the NCAA investigation found something else. Now obviously I know you’re not privy to UGA’s inquiry into the Jones case or the police report, and you also wouldn’t want to speculate. But based on what you know, does it seem like the plane tickets would be the main/only point of jeopardy for Jones?

White: This is definitely not the only concern for Jones in terms of an NCAA investigation, and police records from the parks and rec investigation show there were withdrawals made from this account by Adams that may be tied to Jones.

From my notes on the massive amount of police reports we received from the parks and rec investigation– and I only made it through about a quarter of the files – and our coverage, there are definitely some serious concerns that have yet to even be addressed.

In fact, we’ll have a story in Wednesday’s paper detailing a couple new bits of information in the police report.

Emerson: Thanks Chris. We’ll look out for the story.

To the readers, (Seth speaking here again), here are my finishing thoughts: The key question remains whether Jones will be able to show that he received the money from someone he had a pre-existing or long-term relationship with. As Chris mentioned above, it would seem that Jones and UGA can argue that, and a relationship going back to middle school normally fits the NCAA's test.

But the source of the money could be where it gets dicey. If it wasn't Adams personally paying Jones out of his own account, and rather from a larger fund, as the police records show, there could be concerns.

But we once again have to add this qualifier: In NCAA cases, it's hazardous to make predictions, as a lot of people should have learned from the A.J. Green case last year.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Richt hits the circuit again, and talks about discipline, Crowell, Samuel and more

ATLANTA - Mark Richt may have been peppered with job security questions last week in Birmingham, but on Monday night in Atlanta he was feeling the love from Georgia fans.

The Bulldog football head coach got a standing ovation when he was introduced, drawing a grateful reaction.

“That made me feel great,” Richt said.

Then emcee Chuck Dowdle broke in.

“I think the standing ovation was louder last year,” Dowdle said.

He appeared to be kidding. Appeared to be.

During a question-and-answer period, fans asked an array of questions, but all supportive.

Richt also drew kudos from the crowd when he brought up team discipline, and players who have left.

“I’ve probably had a little less patience than I’ve had in the past,” Richt said, drawing applause. “If they’re not going to be a positive force, they need to go.”

On the same subject, the coach also said: “A couple guys left because they wanted to leave the program. A couple left because we helped them out the door.”

The head coach seemed again to allude to the transfers when the subject of the revamped strength and conditioning program was brought up. Richt referred to some unnamed players who “haven’t made it” through the new strength and conditioning program.

“We’ve had a few guys that have kind of fallen by the wayside. But a great majority of them have embraced it, and gotten better for it,” Richt said.

Here are a few more notes from the evening:

- As mentioned above, the tailback situation was a heavy topic. In a pre-meeting interview with reporters, I asked Richt whether calling Richard Samuel the No. 1 tailback is partly sending a message to Isaiah Crowell that he won’t be handed the job.

“Nothing was promised to him,” Richt said of Crowell. “We didn’t promise he was gonna start or anything like that. We promised to give him an opportunity to compete. We think he has a tremendous skill set. We think he’s got a chance to be very outstanding. But he’s gotta learn what to do, and he’s gotta prove that he can hang onto the football and all those type of things. But I don’t think he’s afraid of competing.

“So we’ll see what happens. I mean Richard’s the No. 1 tailback not for any other reason than he’s the No. 1 guy we’ve got.”

Richt was a little more kind to Crowell in front of the fans. Asked if Crowell would indeed get the first carry against Boise State, Richt answered:

“If he earns it, if he deserves it, if he’s the best one, he will,” the coach said, before adding: “I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t make a big impact for us this season.”

Then a fan asked about Samuel, expressing the hope he’d be the one to get the first carry against Boise State. And the fan didn’t know why Samuel was moved to defense in the first place.

“It was very obvious that was the thing we needed to do,” Richt said of shifting Samuel back after Caleb King was ruled academically ineligible. Running backs coach Bryan McClendon also “begged” Richt to have Samuel move back.

In fact, one of the first things offensive coordinator Mike Bobo did after King’s departure was watch old film of Samuel running the ball. Bobo then told Richt that he “probably underestimated the ability of Samuel” due to him playing behind Knowshon Moreno.

(Bobo is set to meet with the media on Wednesday.)

- Freshman recruits Kent Turene and Devin Bowman, each waiting academic clearance, are “still up in the air,” according to Richt.

- McGarity told the crowd the new high-definition scoreboard at Sanford Stadium would be “the one thing, without question, that garners the most attention” from fans.

- The four-year-old daughter of new inside linebackers coach Kirk Olividatti has been battling leukemia, Richt announced. Olividatti’s wife Keely hasn’t left the hospital for 30 days, the head coach informed the crowd; she spoke to Richt on Monday, and agreed that Richt could make the daughter Kasyn’s fight public.

UGA hoping for word on Jarvis Jones by start of practice

ATLANTA - Two updates on the Jarvis Jones situation:

- Georgia, nearing an end to its investigation, is preparing to turn in its report to the SEC, hopefully by the end of this week. And the team hopes to have an answer on the linebacker’s status before the start of practice next week.

“Our goal is that we will have an answer early enough so we will be able to prepare properly,” head coach Mark Richt said before Monday night’s meeting of the Bulldog Club in Atlanta.

- Athletics director Greg McGarity also said that the NCAA is NOT involved yet, and right now it’s only Georgia that’s looking into it.

“I’m not aware of the NCAA (looking into it),” McGarity said. “So basically what you do on this thing is you learn of a situation. You do your due diligence. And at some point in time you file a report on your findings with the SEC, who then turn it into the NCAA.”

While that's normal protocol, recall that last year the NCAA first came to Georgia about A.J. Green. In this case Georgia found out about Jarvis Jones' case from a media report and then initiated its investigation.

McGarity said Georgia’s compliance director, Eric Bumgartner, has been interviewing the key characters. The school’s hope is that there’s nothing beyond the initial report in the Ledger-Enquirer on Jones’ relationship with his former AAU men’s basketball coach.

“You would think that the findings were conclusive. If there’s more stuff there I’m sure it would’ve been in the police report or in the findings that were reported in the Columbus paper,” McGarity said. “We’re hopeful that there wouldn’t be anything else there. Because if it was it would have been certainly in that report. Hopefully the report is conclusive and you’ve got everything there.”

Of course that doesn’t mean that you can quite pencil in Jones for the Boise State game. McGarity declined to characterize his feelings as positive or negative on Jones’ status.

“I quit trying to guess how things will turn out, because bottom line is it is what it is and you report what you find out, and try to uncover everything, try to uncover everything at one time,” he said.

The Columbus situation also involves the men's basketball team's star recruit, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Head coach Mark Fox said he hadn't heard anything new.

"You don't ever want these situations," Fox said when asked if he was worried about Caldwell-Pope's eligibility. "But I think it'll be handled appropriately. There's really not much I can do. It's not a decision I'm gonna make."

Back in Black

Yes, the headline is a tribute to Amy Winehouse, may she rest in peace. And yes, this is the real Seth, back on the job after a few days away.

I hated missing SEC media days: the chance to make fun of Les Miles, nap to Gene Chizik's voice, and freeze to death in the Wynfrey Hotel ballroom. But the chance to see your little sister get married, and walk her down the aisle, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

(At least you hope it's once in a lifetime.)

Thank you to the inimitable Mike Lough for filling in last week. Judging by the lack of lawsuits, and the fact the blog is still here, I'm assuming Mike did great.

Speaking of the blog, I'm told by the powers-that-be that we will at long last be able to merge the two sites into one, hopefully before the start of practice next week. I know I've talked about this before, but this time I'm told it's for real.

It shouldn't entail any big changes - this blog link should automatically re-direct - and hopefully you won't notice any differences. If there are any kinks, please bear with us. I'm also not sure what it will mean about commenting, i.e. whether registration will be on or off. But all in all this should be a big improvement, and releases me from the headache of having to post and maintain two different blogs.

In the meantime, keep checking here for updates, starting tonight from Atlanta from the Bulldog Club meeting. Speaking of which, I better hit the road now. Talk to you later.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tentative preseason practice schedule

UGA provided this earlier in the week, with the proviso that it could be changed, and probably would be. But for the moment, here it is:

Tuesday, Aug. 2 – Players report
Wednesday, Aug. 3 – On-field testing day/ First official day of practice
Thursday, Aug. 4 -- Media Day (lunchtime), first day of on-field practice (night)
Friday, Aug. 5
Saturday, Aug. 6
Sunday, Aug. 7
Monday, Aug. 8
Tuesday, Aug. 9 (two practices)
Wednesday, Aug. 10
Thursday, Aug. 11
Friday, Aug. 12
Saturday, Aug. 13 (two practices)
Sunday, Aug. 14 -- Off
Monday, Aug. 15 (Classes begin)
Tuesday, Aug. 16
Wednesday, Aug. 17
Thursday, Aug. 18
Friday, Aug. 19
Saturday, Aug. 20 – Fans Picture Day (morning practice at practice fields, mascot picture day, 1-3 p.m., player picture day 3-5 p.m. Sanford Stadium)
Sunday, Aug. 21 -- Off
Monday, Aug. 22
Tuesday, Aug. 23
Wednesday, Aug. 24
Thursday, Aug. 25
Friday, Aug. 26
Saturday, Aug 27
Mon-Sat., Aug 29-Sept. 3 – Game week

You'll notice there are a pair of two-a-days, which is two more than last year. I wouldn't be surprised to see another one or two end up in there, with a current scheduled day to be skipped - especially if it's as hot as it's been this week.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Media days may be over, but discussion isn't

From Mike Lough, subbing in for Seth Emerson:

There'll be more coming, but here's one man's look before he departs the fill-in role today or tomorrow.

There'll be more coming, but here's one man's look before he departs the fill-in role today or tomorrow.
Georgia can lose the first two games and still go 8-4, for all sorts of reasons, but obviously with caveats.
The Bulldogs HAVE to get through August and the first two games in quality health, especially at those two main spots, and we all know which two main spots. By then, players have a month of practice and two games, and depth will be developing.
And since most teams' starters are pretty equal, it's about the depth, and Georgia has at least some in every area except running back and the O-line.
The Cocktail Party?
Florida has assorted issues, and I'm not enamored with Charlie Weis in the least.
But Florida has Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, LSU and Auburn before the pre-Party week off.
That's a slate of five bowl teams, with three games on the road. By the time they play Kentucky, the Wildcats - who beat South Carolina last year and were competitive in almost every loss (except to UF) could be a confidence-boosting 3-0. In football. And they host the Gators, who host Tennessee the week before.
Georgia is, right now, better than five of the seven pre-Florida opponents, and close with Boise State (especially at the Dome) and South Carolina. You can't in any fashion overlook Tennessee and Mississippi State, who are close to Georgia's level, but MSU is in Athens and will have played Auburn and LSU, so the West Bulldogs might be a little banged up.
And right now, with absolutely nothing having been done in practice or the training room, I'm picking Georgia over Florida.
So after eight games, it's nowhere near a stretch to be looking at a 6-2 UGA team, or 5-3, which equates to 5-1 or 6-2 in SEC play. And the Bulldogs are equal to or better than Auburn, and a notch above Kentucky and Vandy.
They're also better than late-season non-conference opponents New Mexico State and Georgia Tech.
South Carolina is the wildcard, courtesy of its quarterback position. If Stephen Garcia doesn't make or struggles, don't be surprised if Connor Shaw is pretty dang good.
The schedule is favorable for the Cocks, with Auburn, Kentucky, and Florida at home. They get Tennessee after a week off and after the Vols have played Georgia, LSU and Alabama on consecutive Saturdays.
In the world of reality and logic, the only unforgivable SEC losses are - sorry, Cats and Dores - Kentucky and Vandy. UT was one player - one player too many - away from a winning season, Florida is Florida (at least against Georgia), and any road game (like Ole Miss) in the SEC can be trouble.
And take a Valium in regards to Isaiah Crowell. He doesn't have any real leadership at the position in front of him, like Knowshon Moreno did with Thomas Brown. Don't put the world on his shoulders, and he'd better not try to put the world on his shoulders or the football will hit the ground and he'll start to Ealey his blocks.
The offense, I suspect, will show us some different things, some better things, some surprising things, all of which will mask that it'll probably be a little conservative early on.
What does 7-5 or 8-4 mean for Richt?
Yes, Richt the coach benefits from Richt the man, and here is where it happens: the quality of football can trump the record in terms of giving him more time. Did they play on their toes or on their heels? Were they in it at the end or just made the game close? Were they fundamentally sound (especially on defense, which has been brutal in recent years and was the reason for those first three losses a year ago with wretched coverage and tackling)?
If they have that sharpness and some swagger and remind you of 2002-05 and 2007, then you just can't cut him loose, because four years are more important than one, and if they do all that, then they've likely put 2010 in the "exception" file.
And let's not forget the recruiting. While recruiting "rankings" are a tremendous sucker bet (uh, yeah, the best programs are going to get the best potential), people buy into the hype, and Richt's newbies this year and already in coming years are, on paper, of great possibility. At least they've been top-flight high school players (like those signed by the top 40 programs anyway).
So a decent-looking 7-5 and 8-4 and an all-SEC quarterback back, loads of freshmen who will likely have an impact and others of note ready to join The Nation in a year or two, and you dump your entire coaching staff despite good-looking football?
Because you have a blood oath that who is going to take the job? Remember, coaches don't make lateral moves, and no job is nearly the gig its fan base thinks. And there are more and more "big" jobs in big conferences paying big money.
Richt knows what's on the line. That he doesn't jump around and yell or scowl doesn't mean he doesn't know. No coach is going to say, "holy crap, if my butt gets any hotter, I'm gonna name it 'The Microwave.' What the hell have I been doing?'
He likely/hopefully knows he and his staff have made some serious recruiting blunders as far as character goes and having more than enough offensive linemen.
Memo to coaches: you can never have enough offensive linemen.
Richt is showing a little bit more of the edge that his players see, from the shocking "hell" he dropped in Macon at a summer Bulldog Club gathering to seeming more aggressive and blunt in his assorted media appearances.
He almost has a little bit of a "I ain't dead yet, you (expletives deleted), and I'm going to show you." Granted, he won't answer why it took 6-7 to do it, but coaching brings out smothering stubbornness and quiet arrogance.
We all know about Richt the man and his humility. If Georgia does what he expects, he may not actually say "I told you so," but people will feel as if they've been told.

Clearing out the SEC Media Days notebook, part I:


All sorts of games get played during the recruiting process, which now includes unofficial offers to sophomores and commitments long before a player is close to high school graduation.
One is the promise of a jersey number.
The early commitment of high school sophomore Stanley Williams of Apalachee to Georgia reminded head coach Mark Richt of another precocious youngster, Ernie Sims.
Richt, then at Florida State, remembered seeing Sims in junior high and being floored by his potential.
He was too young to be a prospect, but eventually, he narrowed his choices to Auburn, Georgia and FSU.
And he wanted to wear No. 34.
“Florida State had Ron Sellers, retired jersey,” Richt said. “ ‘We’ll give you 34.’ Auburn, somehow, through the grapevine, they said Auburn said, ‘you can wear that 34 (of Bo Jackson).’ “
There was no such option coming from Athens.
“I’m at Georgia, I just got there,” Richt said, starting to laugh. “The last thing I’m gonna do is give Herschel Walker’s number away. I don’t care who he is.”
Richt told Sims no deal, although Walker did contact Richt later and say it was OK to use his uniform.
“I said, ‘Herschel, there’s no way I’m giving up your number to anybody,’” Richt said. “We didn’t get (Sims), but I don’t think that was the reason.”


Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is more likely to make more plays from the pocket than taking off. Richt doesn’t want to change too much simply because Murray has experience.
“He navigated it so well and now you’re sitting there saying, 'OK, well, now turn him loose,’ ” Richt said Thursday before the SEC Media Days session began. “Well, you better be careful because a year ago, that wasn’t your philosophy, and he did very well.”
Decision-making has improved, too.
“I think Murray will make more plays from the pocket than maybe he made a year ago,” Richt said. “He’ll be more apt to stand in there and throw it rather than take off and try to make something happen with his wheels.”
One issue is adjusting to new receivers: there’s no A.J. Green and Kris Durham running routes. Obviously, the other wideouts have to step up.
Murray is taking in stride the pressure of being only a sophomore and earning consensus preseason all-conference honors, and center Ben Jones fully expects his quarterback to at a minimum equal the hype.
“I’m glad he’s on my team,” Jones said. “He’s always in the weight room, working out, watching film. He’s definitely the best prepared out of any quarterback in the SEC.”


Tauren Poole is among the SEC’s growing stable of top-flight running backs this season, but forgive the senior from Tennessee if he checks for gray hair.
He was recruited and signed by Phillip Fulmer, playing in 12 games as a freshman in Fulmer’s final season.
On came Lane Kiffin, and Poole got only slightly more time as a sophomore as heralded freshman Bryce Brown was being groomed as the back of the future.
Out went Kiffin, and out went Brown. In came Dooley, and suddenly, there was room in the backfield.
Poole, a senior from Stephens County, took advantage the departures to start 13 games and earn all-SEC honorable mention after two seasons of hardly playing.
“I wish we had 100 Tauren Pooles, his commitment to the program, how he represents Tennessee,” Dooley said. “He was inconsistent last year. He was productive as a whole. Number one, it was his first year of playing. He wants to do well so bad, he wants to perform so well, it took him a while to get settled into the position.”
Settled is not something Poole is used to in Knoxville, playing for three head coaches, and four offensive coordinators and strength and conditioning coordinators.
“That just doesn’t happen,” he said good-naturedly. “It was rough, the first couple years were rough. It’s a roller coaster ride. You’ve just got to do your best to enjoy it.”
He smiled at being labeled the last man standing.
“(None) of the guys here now even know Coach Fulmer personally, like I do and like a couple guys,” Poole said. “May be only two guys on team got recruited by Coach.”


Richt owns the current conference standard, starting his 11th season at the same school.
He is 13th all-time in the SEC in winning percentage (73.8) and 19th in wins (96).
Florida and Vanderbilt are on their fourth head coaches since Richt took over in 2001, with six other schools on their third.
South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and LSU’s Les Miles are second in continued longevity at the same school, entering their seventh seasons.
Since 1980, only Auburn’s Pat Dye and Tommy Tuberville, Mississippi’s Billy Brewer, Mississippi State’s Jackie Sherrill, Arkansas’s Houston Nutt and Tennessee’s Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer have managed a decade or more in the SEC.
“It's not difficult if you win,” Richt said with a laugh. “It's not difficult if you win 9, 10, 11 a year, win the Eastern Division every other year, win the SEC every three or four years. It's not a problem at all.
“It's when you get 6-7, that's when it's a problem.”
(And yes, he's long been aware there's a problem).


The preseason all-conference picks of the coaches and media all agreed on Georgia selections.
Both put tight end Orson Charles, offensive tackle Cordy Glenn and quarterback Aaron Murray on the first team along with kicker Blair Walsh, punter Drew Butler and return specialist Brandon Boykin.
They agreed on center Ben Jones, defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson and cornerback Boykin on the second team.
The first-team offenses matched, except for the coaches voting a tie on the offensive line with Kentucky’s Larry Warford and Auburn’s Brandon Mosley. Mosley made the media’s second team.
The second-team offensive lines had only one common pick, Alabama’s D.J. Fluker, and Arkansas’ Joe Adams was the lone wideout to make it on each second team.
Tyson and Boykin were the only players at their positions to make both second teams, although Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox made the media team alone but tied with South Carolina’s Travian Robertson on the coaches’ team. . . .
Tennessee’s Derek Dooley’s list of things to deal with has grown since he showed up as the Vols’ athletics programs stays in the news for things other than games.
The latest was the promotion of Joan Cronan to oversee the athletics department, which had separate administrations for the men and the women, on an interim basis.
So Tennessee is one of the few major programs with a female at the helm, which could be for awhile even if only temporary.
“Joan has been phenomenal,” Dooley said. “When Joan took over at interim athletics director, I thought it was very important to try to define for her three or four things where she could help us before we hired a new athletics director. She has responded beautifully. She has done a phenomenal job of kind of running the ship in the interim phase.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

Saban and Miles on the same day?

From Mike Lough subbing in for Seth here on the final gathering of SEC Media Days:

Nick Saban is done reminding us that predictions are silly, as thus, are those who make them.

Vanderbilt's James Franklin is the latest Commodore coach to bring the enthusiasm and fresh air to the little program that's smarter than everybody else and keeps on chugging.

Houston Nutt wasn't quite the sermonator, but the Ole Miss boss still likes talking in front of a lot of people.

And next - drum rolllll - is that grass-eatin, hat-wearin, logic-killin Les Miles. We are all strapped in.

Stream of (un)consciousness from the first three rounds of the final day:

The requisite crowd jammed the hotel lobby hoping somebody from Alabama might sweat on them after coming down the escalator from where the conferences are. Hollywood has the red carpet, the Wynfrey one day a year has the Crimson carpet. ...

Trent Richardson has two children, and is still clearly moved by the thought of parents during the tornado in Tuscaloosa having Mother Nature just snatch children out of their grasps. ...

Saban said other teams have returnees, but they have quarterbacks back. No doubt he was talking about LSU's Jordan Jefferson. Tiger fans aren't really relishing that as an option. ...

UGA's offensive line has a first-team and second-team all-conference pick. Those other three fellers shall have some heat on them. Just be decent SEC O-linemen and stay healthy - time to ban scooters for the O-line? - and Georgia's a player. ...

"How did Jefferson make third-team all-SEC QB?" That's my impersonation of an LSU fan before happy hour. ...

The SEC now brags about how much media shows up. Listing 1,050 for this year, a record. Not quite, Scooby. There are probably 300 or so print media in this big ballroom - 12 rows, about eight per row, three sections - and there are NOT 700 TV and radio people here. Granted, there is the smell of makeup and the sound of ridiculous questions, but not to that tune. Even throwing in print photogs - which quadruple when Alabama's on hand - roaming around, it's not that much. ...

Teams go to 13 rooms during their time here: main media, radio/internet, TV 1, TV 2, CSS, Fox Sports, CBS, ESPNU, ESPN SEC, ESPN, SEC Digital Network, SEC radio network and Sirius XM radio. They must be counting employees of the networks and conference to get 1,050, as well as really stretching the definition of 'media.' ...

Rates at the Wynfrey are fixin' to go up. This big ballroom is freezing, and you walk into the hotel room, and almost every appliance is on and it's 65 degrees. ... That's an observation, not a complaint. ...

Les Miles is now 13 minutes late. His hat must've been late getting back from the dry cleaners. ...

Is it really that bad to expect some level of higher-education ability from those in higher education, ala college? Then again, GPA is quite arbitrary. Then again, there are few options for measurement. You can't go by how many tattoos, you knows, whatevers and cliches comprise a person to measure a grade. ...

Other than reactions to what Mike Slive might bring up or to whatever the latest major controversy is, Media Days don't offer much headline stuff. It's not like anybody's going to break down and admit anything.

Of course, it's the dream of such a potential meltdown or tirade that keeps everybody coming back. ...

Clearly Les's time management is better on Saturdays in the fall. ...

Now I get it. The Wynfrey is bringing football weather to us on the inside. I can deal with that. ...

Not sure how Ole Miss can be picked sixth - and clearly so - in the West and get two first-place votes. Yes, this gathering has as many homers as a weekend softball tournament. ...

OK, time to loosen up for The Hatter, and will check back in later.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New threads for 'new' Dogs?

From Mike Lough here subbing for Seth at media days

Georgia no doubt wants to rinse as much of last season, and maybe the season before, away.

And new uniforms will be part of it. At least early.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt said the Bulldogs will have new threads for the opener against Boise State, but the details are still supposed to stay a secret.

Richt sat down with state and some national media before Thursday’s activity started at SEC Media Days.

He said the team saw the Nike-produced Pro Combat uniforms this week at a team meeting.

“We’re trying to honor (Nike) by not describing what it looks like, they want to present that,” Richt said. “We’re like death threating on the cell phones. ‘I better not see anything that resembles you saying what it looks like or somehow having an image of it.’”

Richt confirmed that running back Carlton Thomas will watch the Boise State game from the sidelines, and hinted without hinting that there might be somebody else joining him.

“Well, I’ll say this. If there’s anybody else we need to announce well announce it at the appropriate time. This is not the appropriate time. We’ll see.”

Richt doesn’t know if this year’s running backs will be better than last year, what with all the inexperience, but it seems as though he expects them to be better.

And returning Richard Samuel to the backfield is a plus.

“He’s a very mature physically man, he’s a mature man in the way he goes about his business. He’ll be in that meeting room and he’ll be a great example of how to prepare and how to play the position of tailback.

“I know he holds onto the ball well, I know he’ll strike a backer. I know he’s fast I k now he’s powerful. He will play hard.”

Samuel is also the unofficial No. 1 back going into the preseason, and Richt isn’t like everybody else, distressed over a depleted and raw backfield.

“I’m not fretting right now. I don’t lay awake at night going, ‘Oh my goodness, what do we do now?’”

Other nuggets from the early-morning sitdown:

- QB Aaron Murray is likely to make more plays from the pocket than taking off. Richt doesn’t want to change too much simply because Murray has experience. One issue is adjusting to new receivers: there’s no A.J. Green and Kris Durham running routes.

Obviously, the other wideouts have to step up.

- Opening up with the likes of Boise State and South Carolina has inspired a buzz on the team, and Brandon Boykin said there’s not talk of heat on Richt, but that the players have to show more pride in the program.

- Richt is, like everybody else, ready to see RB Isaiah Crowell on the field. And taking a commitment from a sophomore (RB Stanley Williams of Apalachee) is new, but a good sign for the program, he said.

He had a funny recruiting story regarding former Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims, who was down to Auburn, Georgia and FSU and whom Richt saw and liked in junior high.
And he wanted to wear No. 34.

“I’m at Georgia, I just got there,” Richt said, starting to laugh. “The last thing I’m gonna do is give Herschel Walker’s number away. I don’t care who he is.”

And here's some more stuff going to the website, on the hotseat, uniforms and running backs:

Mark Richt is pretty much atop the list of SEC coaches qualifying for the hammered-to-death hotseat, which won’t change until the season commences.

The Georgia fanbase is mixed in not forgiving him last season’s 6-7 mark and wanting him out, and in hoping he’s the coach to quickly get the Bulldogs back among the SEC and nation’s noteworthy program.

Contrary to the belief in some circles, he doesn’t think he’s steering the Titanic.

“I know if you walk in the Butts-Mehre Building, there's not one sense of doom or gloom,” he said Thursday at SEC Media Days. “There's only excitement, only guys that are so thankful that we've got a new season and a clean slate and the ability to play some great opponents to start the year.

“The expectations are just as high as they've ever been going into any season.”

As is the pressure. His players dismissed such talk, and it’s quite simple for center Ben Jones.

“We just try to focus on each game just trying to win every game,” he said. “If we win, there's no pressure on him.”

Cornerback Brandon Boykin said the Bulldogs don’t pay attention to speculation, and he sees the bigger picture.

“There are minor little mistakes that we (shouldn’t have) made that could potential have made us a 9-4 or, you know, 10-3,” he said. “If we take care of the little things and the minor mistakes that we’ve had, we can go to from that season we had last year to contending for a championship.

“There’s no reason why not.”

The questions aren’t just for Richt, either.

“It’s our job to go out there and play, play to the best of our ability,” Boykin said. “I wouldn’t say heat, just pride in ourselves and our program, not wanting to be what we were last year. It was a terrible season for the University of Georgia. Just our pride alone will allow us to bounce back.”

As has been noted, it wasn’t like Georgia was getting hammered in 2010, with six of the seven losses coming by a total of 39 points, an average of 6.5 points, and four by seven points or less.

Richt minced no words, however, in how bad the 10-6 loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl was.

“It wasn't devastating,” he said. “It hurt real bad. I didn't enjoy it. But devastation means you've like blown up the program and it's beyond repair, so I don't think it was devastating. But it was awful. I can say that.

“We learned that we better compete harder and we learned we better finish better. That was the story of our season. We'll see how well we learned it.”

Starting off in style

Maybe fresh threads will help wash away the stink of 2010.

Regardless, Georgia make a fashion statement to begin 2011.

Georgia will have new uniforms for the season opener against Boise State, but the details are still supposed to stay a secret.

Richt sat down with state and some national media before Thursday’s activity started at SEC Media Days.

He said the team saw the Nike-produced uniforms on Wednesday at a team meeting. At the start, Richt feigned anger when quarterback Aaron Murray and defensive back Brandon Boykin weren’t at the meeting, throwing a pad down.

“ ’That’s what the heck’s wrong with this team,’ ” Richt said to his troops. “ ‘Two leaders of our team, we got a team meeting, and they don’t even show up on time.’ Ben (Jones) tried to say something, and I jumped Ben.”

Then Murray and Boykin strolled in wearing the new Nike Pro Combat uniform and gear, greeted at first by silence.

“Their jaws dropped,” Richt said. “Then they’re looking at me, and then they started getting excited. There was a lot of buzz in that room for at least five to 10 minutes before things finally settled down.”

Richt knows that uniforms don’t win games, and the Bulldogs have had mixed success with wardrobe adjustments, ranging from a great game against Auburn in a 45-20 win at home in 2007 to a wretched first half en route to a 41-30 home loss to Alabama a year later.

Sometimes a surprise change works, sometimes it doesn’t.

“Your focus may be gone, too, because you’re worried about what you look like,” Richt said. “We’re going to get all that over with before we go out.”

The public won’t get a look until late August.

“We’re trying to honor (Nike) by not describing what it looks like, they want to present that,” Richt said. “We’re like death threating (sic) on the cell phones. ‘I better not see anything that resembles you saying what it looks like or somehow having an image of it.’”

Boykin seemed ready to bust out and talk about the uniforms.

“It was pretty exciting,” he said. “I’m always looking at every team and seeing what they have on. I’m like, ‘I wish I could wear that one day.’

“When me and Aaron put them on, we were like little kids at Christmas. When we walked into the team meeting and everybody saw them, they were really excited.”

Some players have tweeted general reactions, all of excitement, with no real details.

“As far as describing them, we told everybody (Wednesday night), ‘you’ve seen them, don’t ruin it for everybody else,’ “ Boykin said. “You guys’ll see them soon enough.”

Samuel boosts backfield

Returning Richard Samuel to where he began at Georgia, to tailback, is a plus.

“He’s a very mature physically man, he’s a mature man in the way he goes about his business,” Richt said. “He’ll be in that meeting room and he’ll be a great example of how to prepare and how to play the position of tailback.

“I know he holds onto the ball well, I know he’ll strike a backer. I know he’s fast I k now he’s powerful. He will play hard.”

Samuel, a 6-2, 243-pounder, has carried 114 times for 528 yards, an average of 4.6 yards. He’s caught eight passes for 50 yards in two seasons before moving to linebacker for what became a redshirt year.

He was a top-50 running back nationally coming out of Cass, No. 5 by ESPN, in 2007.
Samuel is also the unofficial No. 1 back going into the preseason, and Richt isn’t distressed over a fairly depleted and raw backfield.

“I’m not fretting right now,” he said. “I don’t lay awake at night going, ‘Oh my goodness, what do we do now?’"

He might if the absence of Carlton Thomas plays a role against Boise State. Richt confirmed his suspension.

“Carlton won’t play game one, I’ll say ‘team rules,’” Richt said. “You can figure out whatever you want.”

But Thomas will be back for South Carolina.

Richt hinted without hinting that Thomas could have company.

“Well, I’ll say this. If there’s anybody else we need to announce, we’ll announce it at the appropriate time,” he said. “This is not the appropriate time. We’ll see.
“We’ll be ready to play Sept. 3. I can promise you that.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Media Days are heeeere

And a good afternoon from Hoover, Ala. and day one of the SEC Media Days.


I'm Michael A. Lough, filling in for Seth Emerson, who had a friend getting married during SEC Media Days, which, of course, is better than getting married during the season.

Silly people do that.

Mike Slive and Bobby Petrino are done, and Will Muschamp is up now, so I'll get back after listening to the latest head Gator.

Will Muschamp is a Gator.

Period. Time to move on.

He again put to rest the drastically overrated connections angle.

Muschamp, as he has said and will say again, may have played at Georgia, but ...

"I'm a Florida guy," was his simple response to the neverending question about his short roots at Georgia as a player.

Steve Spurrier has a bottomless tank of patience regarding quarterback Stephen Garcia. One wonders if he gave his kids that much of a break.

Defensive tackle Travian Robertson tried to dance around the Garcia question, and the apparently limitless patience Spurrier has.

"I'm not going to question it at all," Robertson said. "He's my boss."

Up next is Mississippi State and head coach Dan Mullen, who's making Starkville substantially more livable in the fall.

So far:

Petrino was Petrino: not an overwhelming people person. He looks like he ate something and can't figure out how much he doesn't like it. It's not horrible, but he'd rather have had something else. And he'd rather be somewhere else than in front of the media.

Muschamp is no barrel of laughs, but he showed some dry wit. He's been around tremendous coaching legends, and between his last two employers, he's much more likely to be compared to Nick Saban than Mack Brown.

Marcus Lattimore seems like a pretty thoughtful kid. He got up a few times in the offseason to run with teammates who were doing the early-morning punishment sprints, just to show that he was with them. More later on his advice for Georgia's Isaiah Crowell.

Florida QB John Brantley seems more than ready to put last year - OK, the last few years - behind him and run a normal offense without shuffling quarterbacks. Wideout Deonte Thompson wasn't complaining about a less dramatic offense and substitution pattern.

It's the normal crowd of 750-1,000 folks on hand. Silly questions have happily been limited. Nobody's virginity has been inquired about.

And the opener is done.

TGFSS: Thank God for Steve Spurrier.

He's getting back into form, where he just starts talking and the filter doesn't work.

He owned the room again, between discussing South Carolina's hopes, disagreeing with Mike Slive on multi-year scholarships, and the rollicking life and times of quarterback Stephen Garcia.

Spurrier said Garcia has made lifestyle changes, so he feels somewhat confident the drama is over. But Spurrier said too many people assume that Garcia has the job. Look for some competition with Connor Shaw.

Spurrier’s tone and inflection always adds to the humor.

As for Slive’s suggestion for multi-year scholarships rather than renewable yearly:

“No, that's a terrible idea, Commissioner. Do you sportswriters have a two-year contract, three- or four-year? Have you ever had a two-year deal?

“If you go bad, don't show up to work, your butt will be out on the street.
Everybody has to earn your way in life. You earn your way in life. Go from there. That's the way I believe.”

And then the comedian-timing pause and Spurrier smirk/smile:

“Luckily coaches have four- and five-year contracts. They get paid off if they get canned, I guess (laughter).”

Yes, stability at quarterback has become a dream.

“That would be helpful. Yeah, that would be helpful if our quarterback play was real solid and the quarterback was a player everybody could look up to and could rally around. That would be helpful. We're still trying to make that work out.”

Highly touted signee Jadeveon Clowney was put in handcuffs in a big bar area, ostensibly because he bore a solid likeness of the suspect of a robbery that had just happened. He was just questioned and released.

Spurrier found a teaching point, and got himself “arrested” a few days later.

“They had an armed robbery in the area. It was a guy with dreadlocks, a tall guy. So they saw Jadeveon in there, and they were looking for this dude. What they do, they handcuff you and then ask you a bunch of questions and then let you go.

“Of course, while he was getting handcuffed, all the kids in the bar there were taking pictures of him. That's what hit the Internet. Here is Jadeveon Clowney arrested in a bar down in Columbia. He wasn't arrested, he was just being questioned because he looked a little bit like the guy they were looking for.

“Our police chief came and talked to the team and explained how that could happen. We didn't know how it could happen, so we learned a lot from it.

“I said, ‘Chief, can you handcuff me today right after practice?’ He said, ‘Sure, what time?’ ‘I talk to the media boys about 6, so get out there about five till 6.’ so he's standing there, I'm talking to the media boys. They don't know what is really going on.

”He said, ‘Coach, I need to talk to you about something.’

“He took me over to the side and handcuffed me. None of the boys knew what was going on. But anyway, he let me go after about a minute or two.

“I guess I came back and said that there was a robbery down at the convenience store, and somebody said the robber looked like that head ball coach down at South Carolina, so he had to come talk to me.”

Only Spurrier.

“Anyway, we learned a lot about that. You can get handcuffed, no big deal, don't worry about it.”

An eyebrow-raiser, perhaps, came from Mississippi State head coach and part-time Starkville Chamber of Commerce representative Dan Mullen.

Now we know. It's not Athens, or Tuscaloosa, or the Plains, or Gainesville.

The loveliest little hamlet in the conference is, yes, Starkville.

Yeah, me neither.

Granted, people always exaggerate how brutal a place is, when it never lives down to that level. Some people really just have nothing going on, so almost everywhere sucks.

But one wonder if somebody spiked Mullen's afternoon tea.

He got a nice chuckle after a reporter noted a billboard he saw when crossing the border into Mississippi, with Mullen's face and "Welcome to our state."

Paging the Rebels, paging the Rebels.

Said Mullen with a smile: "Did you enjoy your time there?"

The guy was speeding to Birmingham, so he didn't have time to smell the magnolias.

Starkville is one of those places often considered a coaching graveyard, but Mullen sure sounded happy.

"I think everybody, when they walk out, they leave Starkville on a Saturday, they're looking forward to coming back. They're looking forward to the event that it was, not just for one person but for an entire family. That's made all the difference."

The winning he's engineering sure helps. But he's not second-guessing the move in the least:

"I think in today's world, everybody thinks the grass is always going to be greener somewhere else. Fortunately in my career I got to coach at a lot of different schools and see a lot of different situations.

"The situation we have with the great recruiting base in the state of Mississippi and locally within a five-hour radius of us, having an administration where everybody is pointed in the same direction with the same goals, a fan base that's really bought into what you're trying to do, and a great group of young men to coach, I have a great situation. We're very, very happy there.

"Everything that I'd read about the rumors, I'd kind of laugh because none of that was even a conversation for me and my family."

And as for his home (which will likely lead to another billboard before the week is done):

"I've had very, very few people, and I grew up in the northeast, I've had family and friends come down to visit. The first thing you hear out of their mouth is, 'Wow, I didn't know this was such a beautiful place. What a beautiful place to live, great community, friendly people, you have all these amazing things.'

"I think you got to be going to Starkville to get to Starkville. You just don't pass it by. It's a hidden gem. Everybody that comes to visit us, that's the challenge we've had. Once they come on campus, whether it be recruits, parents, even fans, they say, 'Wow, I didn't know what a beautiful place this is, what a great place to live, what a great community Starkville, Mississippi is.'"

Indeed, visiting on a football weekend and dealing with warm store-bought beer is a shock, but there's something to be said for uniqueness.

And then again, look at what he's done and is doing in Starkvegas. He's not completely crazy. Plus, it's about one's own quality of life, not somebody else's.

Thursday's order for the print peeps:

Kentucky's Joker Phillips, Stuart Hines, Morgan Netwon and Danny Trevathan; Georgia's Mark Richt, Brandon Boykin, Ben Jones and Aaron Murray; Auburn's Gene Chizik, Emory Blake, Nosa Equae, and Philip Lutzenkirchen (84 points in Scrabble for that last name); and Tennessee's Derek Dooley, Malik Jackson, Tauren Poole and Dallas Thomas.

UGA is bringing a lineman. Bulldog fans, pray for no escalator incidents.

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.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Analysis: Richt's recruiting, and what it means for his future

Here's my piece following up Georgia's big recruiting haul from last Friday night, and tying it to the much-discussed future of head coach Mark Richt.

An excerpt:
This much, however, should be clear: All those players who have yet to even enroll at Georgia may end up helping save Mark Richt’s job.

When Richt walks to the podium Thursday at the Wynfrey Hotel, the Georgia head football coach will know what awaits. There may be a thousand credentialed media members at the SEC Media Days, and a lot of them will be thinking of nice ways to ask the hard-hitting question: Is he on the hot seat?

The short answer is yes. But anyone looking at a certain number of wins Richt needs to get this year is being too simplistic. And the events of Friday night, when five players committed within 10 minutes to Georgia, are part of the reason why.

Again, you can read the full piece here. And you can criticize me below.

And yet another hit to the backfield: Thomas suspended

Remember how the departures of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King left Carlton Thomas as the only veteran in the Georgia backfield? Well ...

As it turns out, Thomas is suspended for at least the opener against Boise State, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The report cites three anonymous sources, saying Thomas violated team rules in the spring.

Head coach Mark Richt and the team have yet to confirm the suspension. Team spokesman Claude Felton said he didn't anticipate any announcements Monday about player disciplinary actions, adding: "Discipline announcements in any sport will be made by
the head coach at the appropriate time."

If true, it's another signal as to the team's thinking in moving Richard Samuel back to tailback. The 5-foot-7 Thomas may not have been seen as a legitimate threat to start over Isaiah Crowell or Ken Malcome, but he at least provided a veteran presence.

We'll update this space when there's confirmation and/or further news.

Hey, how about a mailbag?

So, it's SEC media days week, which in some quarters marks the unofficial beginning of the football season. And by "some quarters," I mean the people who don't already consider SEC football to be a 365-days-a-year situation.

In any case, it's as good a time as any to throw open the mailbag satchel and solicit your questions. Or perhaps you have thoughts, concerns, or threats. Please, no threats. Anything else is fair game.

Some things you could ask about:

- Follow-up from Georgia's "Dawg Night" haul, the move back to tailback for Richard Samuel, Caleb King's departure, or any other recent news on the beat.

- What to expect this week at media days.

- When the earth cools at the tips, what adverse conditions does this create for non-polar shoals and other outlying areas?

- Who will J-Lo marry next?

- If you could be any kind of tree, would that tree have any thoughts on how many games Mark Richt needs to win this year?

OK folks, fire away. And as always you can post in the comment section below, send me an e-mail ( or tweet at me. I'll post a mailbag sometime Tuesday, assuming we get enough questions. Or thoughts. Or concerns. And hopefully no threats.