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Saturday, January 31, 2009

For Pete's Sake

Game 1 under Pete Herrmann didn't look a whole lot than the past seven under Dennis Felton on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. Georgia was competitive early, let the game get away from them amid a deluge of turnovers and a total inability to guard the perimeter, and the result was the team's eighth straight loss -- but first under Herrmann.

A lot was the same: Terrance Woodbury struggled again, shooting 6-of-15 from the field and 2-of-8 from 3, but his five turnovers were particularly costly, including a ghastly one that led to an easy Bama layup in the waning moments of the game. Georgia had 20 turnovers total and allowed the Tide to shoot 46 percent from 3.

There were some notable differences though.

For one, Felton wasn't there.

"It was a little different not hearing the voice on the sideline," center Albert Jackson said. "Coach Felton is more animated, whereas Coach Hermann is a little more laid back on the sideline, so it was a little bit different not hearing that voice."

Afterward, Herrmann seemed like a guy who was just happy to be coaching basketball, a game he truly loves. While Felton was clearly a fiery and competitive coach, it really never quite came across as enthusiasm. It does with Herrmann, and given the struggles of this team, a little excitement about their jobs might be the best possible medicine.

It shouldn't be any surprise then that several players said that the game was actually fun to play tonight. The loss wasn't fun, but the game was.

"I don't think there was anything much different, but Coach Herrmann just wanted us to get back to having fun playing basketball, sharing the basketball and playing together," Jackson said. "I can say we had fun out there. Losing wasn't fun, but being on the court and the energy we had, that was definitely improved and hopefully we can keep building on it."

That won't be the easiest task in the world, however. Obviously the schedule won't be any simpler going forward. Alabama was also playing with an interim coach just days after Mark Gottfried was fired. The Tide are probably the second-worst team in the SEC, and tonight's 75-70 win over Georgia showed that the difference between the cellar-dwelling Dawgs and the next-best thing was still pretty sizable.

Moreover, the distractions won't end simply because Felton is gone. Already, rumors are spreading like wildfire about who the next coach will be, and for a young team already prone to fluctuations in focus, that's a distraction they don't need.

The AJC reported Saturday before the game that Bobby Knight would want the job if it were offered to him. While that's certainly a name that would spark some immediate interest in the program from fans and recruits, it doesn't exactly seem like the most likely of scenarios. What it does do, however, is provide something for the team to think about that isn't winning games.

After Saturday's loss, Trey Thompkins was asked his thoughts on the potential of Knight coming to Athens.

"I'd like to play for Coach Knight as long as he doesn't hit me," Thompkins said, getting a big laugh from the media contingent. "Coach Knight is a legend. I'd love to have him coach here, and I feel like he'd make me even better than I am now. That would honestly be a tremendous thing to me. I'd be really happy."

Again... distractions.

"There's a lot of distractions right now," Thompkins said. "Of course it's going to be kind of hard for our team to stay focused, but Coach Herrmann is doing a great job of keeping us together as a family and playing with effort and toughness."

Added Jackson: "It was challenging to get it off your mind, but we're being so supportive of each other that it was easy to go out there and just try to have fun. It's always going to be on your mind because you're worried about the future and what's going to happen next year and all that, but at the same time, we are really getting to the point of just making the best out of what we've got."

Sitting front row for the game Saturday was Dr. Michael Adams, the university president, along with several of board members. He said his attendance was a show of solidarity for the team.

"I thought it was important for several of us to be here and support the team tonight," Adams said. "They've been through a lot this week and I think they handled it in a very mature way. I'm proud of them, and I'm proud of the effort tonight."

That doesn't mean he was giving out any other details. In fact, Adams said he will stay out of the hiring process completely until AD Damon Evans has narrowed the candidate list to a set of two or three finalists. What he did say was that he expected those names to include experienced winners.

"(Evans) is going to look for a proven person at this level, and I think we'll find a really good, experienced coach to hire," Adams said. "I think it's important to everyone the students, the alumni and the basketball team. Out of 21 sports, this is the only one with a losing record, and we intend to be competitive at the highest levels of basketball."

A few other interesting quotes from the postgame in Tuscaloosa...

Jackson on the final weeks under Felton...
"I think we had a lot of distractions. When you have people talking about your coach, somebody that you care about, you want to make him look good. You've got everybody talking this and that about your coach, it distracts the players, and we did get distracted at a point. But even in the worst situations, good things can come out of the worst situations, and I think this situation is making us come closer together. We're just trying to get over that hump right now, but I can definitely say in the locker room and on the court we're becoming more of a unit."

Corey Butler on using the changes as an excuse...
"It's not a burden. You're not looking for a scapegoat. We have to get out there and play basketball every day. You're not looking for any excuse."

Herrmann on playing Saturday...
"We thought that the hardest part about it was that we had a game in 48 hours, and that's got to be our concentration, not all the extracurricular stuff. I think the objective was to get ready to play the game, and the guys did a good job of that."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Rennie's Ruminations

Amid all the chaos of the Dennis Felton firing yesterday, several members of the football team were made available, too. Among them was Rennie Curran, who chatted with our Doug Stutsman about several topics looking ahead to 2009.

As a side note, Rennie's response to the expectations for next year simply underscores what Zach Mettenberger said earlier this week about a lack of leadership on last year's team. I think we can pretty safely assume that there was just way too much complacency amid the chaos last year, and the good news for Dawgs fans is that guys like Joe Cox, Jeff Owens and Rennie seem determined not to let that happen this season.

Here's Rennie...

On the offseason so far...
"I feel like everyone's been putting a lot of work in and I feel like everyone is very determined to get our program back to where it needs to be. Everyone if focused. The mentality is right."

On playing a bigger leadership role this year with Asher, Dannell and Corvey gone...
"Oh yeah. Whether Asher would have stayed or left, I felt like going into this season I wanted to be a better leader. It's time for me to step up. I'm not a young guy anymore. I'm not a freshman anymore. I feel like it's my time. It's my defense. It's time to just take control of things."

On which young guys he sees having more of an impact next year...
"I've seen a lot of young guys, Nick Williams, all the young guys who red-shirted last year are starting to step-up now and make some plays. They are ready to have a big year. We have a bunch of hungry guys. We had a bunch of guys leave and it's opened up a spot for a lot of young guys who have a lot of talent."

On Asher's decision to leave...
"No I haven't gotten a chance to just because we've all been so busy this semester. I'm taking a lot of business classes this semester and then training started. But I'm not worried about him. He's a smart guy; great athlete, great person. He's going to do big things on the next level."

On his excitement for Signing Day...
"We definitely look at it just to see who's coming to our team. We've all been there so we know what it's like. We don't make a big deal about guys coming out of high school because once they get here, those things don't mean anything."

On his expectations for 2009...
"Just to be as successful as we can. Not have things like lack of discipline and lack of leadership hold us back. Just be well rounded and fully reach our potential."

On what this year's team needs to do with so many key players from 2008 leaving...
"I definitely feel like them leaving puts more emphasis on us now. We learned a lot about ourselves watching all the mistakes that happened last year and then what Florida did because they didn't make mistakes and they were disciplined. We know those things now that we need to work on to make us a better team."

On what players can step up into a starring role the way he did last year...
"I think Big Kade, Geno and Bryan Evans. Bryan's a guy who hasn't gotten in there too much. He started to at the end of the year and then he got hurt, but he's a real hungry player. I feel like all those guys are ready to explode."

Stock Up on Wings, Bud Lite and Tumms

As someone pointed out, the Super Bowl is a mere two days away. Because a certain team from Philadelphia didn't make it, I'm boycotting such information, but it occurs to me that some of you may still care about the game.

Of course, this is a Georgia blog, and as longtime readers will know, I never under any circumstances deviate from writing about the Bulldogs exclusively. So it became important to find some UGA ties to the big game, and that's where the always amazing Mr. David McMahon stepped in to help with some great podcasts from 960 the Ref.

-- Check out former Bulldog Kevin Butler discussing his memories of the Bears' Super Bowl win in 1985.

-- Former Georgia and Steelers running back (and savior of my fantasy team for a two-week stretch in 2005) Verron Haynes talks about the Pittsburgh perspective.

-- And the suddenly popular Charley Trippi -- another former Bulldog and the last quarterback to lead the Cardinals to a title -- chats about the Arizona side of the big game.

And for those of you who, like me, are still bemoaning the lack of a Philadephia presence in Tampa, here's a great (and I rarely use that term when discussing columns from this guy) article from ESPN's Rick Reilly on my new hero.

Pete Herrmann Day 1 Links (1/30)

Well the obvious news is still about Dennis Felton's dismissal. There's a ton of reaction around the Web...

-- First off, check out Doug Stutsman's coverage for us yesterday. "Mad props," as the kids say, to Doug for helping me out on short notice with this. I don't like to use the term "hero" very often, but he might be the greatest hero in history.

--ESPN's Mark Schlabach has the short list of potential candidates to replace Felton, and Georgia Sports Blog says there's one agent particularly worth watching.

-- Kyle King makes three points in favor Felton's firing, which I think sum up the situation pretty well.

-- King's take stands in pretty sharp contrast to that of the Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy, who calls the firing "repulsive." I'd say the seven-game losing streak was pretty repulsive, but that's just me.

-- The Examiner doesn't question the decision to fire Felton, but wonders about the timing.

-- Runaround Sue's offers a "Retrospecticus" on the Dennis Felton era, and you know I'm a sucker for made-up words.

-- Access North Georgia brings up the important point that firing Felton was only Step 1 in this process, and it won't matter much if Georgia doesn't make the most of the opportunity to hire someone else.

-- Pete Herrmann has a good opportunity here, too, but he's not exactly excited about it.

-- The AJC tracks down the Bulldogs' last head coach, Jim Harrick.

-- Well, Andy Landers' team continues to roll -- so you've got that going for you, which is nice.

-- Doug Stutsman also managed to write up some football notes for us yesterday, too. I'll have more football stuff posted later today.

-- Kyle King is a busy man -- he also debates whether we should ever see another "blackout" on the football field.

-- D1 Sports Training gives us a quick update on Brannan Southerland.

-- Michael Carvell looks at the keys for a successful Signing Day for Georgia.

-- Matthew Stafford's Madden Bowl appearance was delayed by rain, but he at least got in a few video games with Antonio Gates.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Football Injury News

In case you didn't read the UGA offseason injury report when I posted it earlier this month, it's HERE.

And as you'll remember from yesterday, running back Richard Samuel underwent wrist surgery which will keep him out of spring practice.

Today, we get some more updates from the UGA Athletics Dept.

-- Ricardo Crawford had wrist arthroscopy done Monday of this week. He'll be available for spring with a wrist cast.

-- Josh Davis had left shoulder surgery earlier this month to repair an injury suffered in the Capital One Bowl game. He will miss spring and likely will be limited at beginning of fall drills.

-- Brandon Wood will have left shoulder and left wrist surgery to repair injury suffered in Capital One Bowl. No date set. Out for spring, and likely will be limited at beginning of fall drills.

So by my count, that's 18 players limited or unavailable for spring drills. Seriously, does the carnage ever end? Someone needs to give Ron Courson a raise.

Felton Out, Herrmann In

UPDATES: Couple quick things courtesy of the folks who are actually in Athens right now...

-- Doug Stutsman's story on Felton's dismissal is now posted at You can read it HERE.

-- Trey Thompkins was conspicuously withheld from interviews today.

-- At the UGA-Florida game last night, there were exactly two Georgia reporters at the game -- myself and a reporter from the Red & Black. At basketball practice today, there were 19. I think that says all you need to know about the state of the program.

THE LATEST: It's official. Georgia has fired head coach Dennis Felton, naming assistant Pete Herrmann as the interim coach effective immediately.

"I'm disappointed that things have not worked out better," athletics director Damon Evans said. "I do think it is in the best interest of our program to move in a new direction.

"We have goals and expectations at Georgia for every sport, and that includes competing for a championship on a regular basis both on the conference and national levels. My No. 1 priority is to do what is best for the basketball program."

Georgia fell to 0-5 in SEC play with an 83-57 loss to Florida Wednesday night in Gainesville, Fla., and is now just 9-11 overall – the worst mark in the SEC. The Bulldogs have lost seven straight games.

"I accepted athletics director Evans’ recommendation with regret, but I believe this decision to be in the best, long-term interest of the men's basketball team," university president Michael F. Adams said. "I also regret the impact this decision has on Coach Felton and his family. Dennis is a good man, and I wish him well in all future endeavors."

Felton was in his sixth season with the program after replacing Jim Harrick. He was 84-91 since taking over as head coach.

It was widely rumored that Felton’s job was in jeopardy at the end of the 2007-08 season, but the Bulldogs’ miracle run to win the SEC tournament championship bought him another season. Felton was plagued by questions about his job prior to the tournament and vowed this year would be different.

“I’m just not going to have that discussion any more,” Felton said before the team opened preseason practice this year. “My mind-set is precisely the same. I’m excited about the future, and I’m focused entirely on building a great basketball program at Georgia.”

Herrmann served as head basketball coach at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1986-92 after six years as chief assistant at Navy. He has also held assistant coaching positions at Western Kentucky, Virginia, and Kansas State.(11:12 a.m.)

** NOTE: As I am on my way back from Gainesville (I swear, Georgia purposely waits until I'm out of town to do these things!), Doug Stutsman will have continuing coverage at this afternoon.

SOURCES: UGA has called a news conference to "discuss the men's basketball program" set for 11 a.m. No details yet beyond that. I'll keep you posted. (9:18 a.m.)

UPDATE: A couple sources reporting that this will indeed be to announce the termination of Dennis Felton. (9:35 a.m.)

QB Quotes Part III: The Search for Logan Gray

Here's the last of the quotes from Tuesday's media session with the non-Logan Gray QBs...

Murray on what he hopes to accomplish as an early enrollee...
"My goal is just to learn as much as I can, especially with two older quarterbacks who have been in the system. I just wanted to come here, have them show me everything, I'm just going to kill them with, 'Show me this, show me that,' and just learn as much as I can, get in the weight room, work hard, and see what happens from there."

Murray on competing with Mettenberger on the depth chart for potentially the next four years...
"All we can do now is just work hard. I think both of us are in the mind-set now that we're going to do whatever it takes to be quarterback for the University of Georgia. No one can tell what the future's going to bring. All you can do right now is just work hard. We'll see what happens the next couple years, but right now we're just working hard, learning the playbook and having fun working together."

Murray on living with Mettenberger and Dallas Lee...
"Him and Dallas are a disaster. They never clean up their dishes. I hate walking in and dishes and trash everywhere. I'm a real neat freak, so I'm always cleaning up after him, doing the dishes, going in the bathroom and cleaning up, but whatever. He's taken out (the trash) one time, but as long as he chips in."

Murray on maintaining a good relationship with Mettenberger despite their competition...

"Him and I have already built that relationship from this past summer. I think we're good. There's no tension between us that, 'OK, I'm going to beat you out.' We're just going out there working hard, and he's just one of my friends. We don't really see it as a competition yet. We're just working hard, working for Georgia, and that's the best we can do right now."

Cox on the two freshmen...

"You can tell they're freshmen right now, they've got a lot of questions. I told them I'm here for them if they have any questions about football or anything, just let me know. They're both good kids, and hopefully someday they'll say I was a good mentor, too."

Cox on how his life has changed since Matthew Stafford left for the NFL draft...
"I don't feel any different, but there has been some changes. You get a lot more people coming up and talking to you, but it hasn't been something that's just been mind-blowing. I try to keep to myself anyway, so I wouldn't even notice if something had changed."

Cox on Murray and Mettenberger's work ethics...
"Aaron and Zach both stay over here for a long time after they should be. I walked by the other day, and Zach was sitting in his locker going over his playbook, going over protection sheets and writing who was responsible for this person if he blitzes. They both are trying to learn as fast as they can. I figured they might be a little nervous about everything, but they've handled it really well and are picking up on everything real fast."

Mettenberger on enrolling with another highly recruited QB...
"They always say high competition makes you better, and I was just thinking, what can I get out of this, having another highly recruited quarterback coming in? We're just pushing each other, trying to make each other better."

Mettenberger on living with Murray...
"We definitely have our moments of tension when we're at each other's throats. He gets mad at me all the time because I won't clean the kitchen. Other than that we're just trying to help each other out in the weight room and film, hoping to get better and learn from each other."

Mettenberger on staying close to home...

"Me and Dallas have it kind of easy. He's only 40 minutes from home, and he goes home every weekend. I go home once a week to get a home-cooked meal. Aaron doesn't really appreciate us going out and getting our moms to cook for us. It's definitely harder for him living 10 hours away than for me and Dallas."

Mettenberger on the possibility of one of the two freshmen QBs transferring down the road...
"In the past, I've never seen Coach Bobo split time with any quarterbacks, and I don't think he's going to start any time soon. So a transfer could happen, but we're both early enrolled freshman, and that's far down the road."

Thursday Links (1/29)

These links come to you all the way from Gainesville, Fla. -- which I hope to be leaving soon.

Like yesterday, I'll be on the road most of the day today, so don't expect much in the way of posts. Georgia football players are available to media today at 5 p.m., and Doug Stutsman will be covering that for us, so I figure to have some notes from him later on tonight. I'll also have the final installment of the QB quotes from Tuesday posted in a few minutes.

In the meantime, here's some mornin' linkage for ya...

-- As you no doubt are aware, Georgia was spanked yet again -- this time by Florida, the Dawgs seventh straight loss. Up next: Alabama. Georgia Sports Blog has an update on the Tide's coaching situation.

-- ESPN's Chris Low has the spring practice dates for each SEC team.

-- I wish this wasn't a subscription link, because this is an excellent story from Rivals' Anthony Dasher about what it takes to be a walk on at Georgia.

-- In my haste, I missed this the other day, but you should definitely check out Kyle King's Q&A with Georgia congressman Jack Kingston, who voted against honoring Florida for its national championship.

-- The Red & Black has a handful of UGA notes.

-- Dawg Sports also has an in-depth post on Georgia's other early enrollee, Dallas Lee.

-- In other recruiting news, the indomitable Michael Carvell updates us on the latest trends in the Greg Reid carousel. He also writes that Georgia is hoping to steal a WR recruit from the Vols. Even better, the kid is from Philly! Man, I'd be super excited to have a Philly guy to talk to next year. Unless he thinks Geno's is better than Pat's. Then, he's dead to me.

-- Bernie's Dawg Blog whets your appetite for next week's National Signing Day.

-- The AJC's Tim Tucker has a good piece on the rehab efforts of Trinton Sturdivant and Jeff Owens. I think it's hard to understate the impact the two of them could have on next year's Georgia team if they are both 100 percent healthy.

-- The AP talks with former Bulldog Charley Trippi, who was the last Cardinals QB to lead the team to a title shot before Kurt Warner got them there this year.

-- Paul Finebaum writes what most SEC coaches are already thinking: The SEC hates Lane Kiffin.

-- OK, I'm officially immensely jealous of 960 the Ref's David Johnston and Dave McMahon, who got to talk to my all-time favorite broadcaster, Harry Kalas. For all of you who hold cherished memories of listening to Larry Munson growing up, my formative years were spent watching Von Hayes, Ricky Jordan and Steve Jeltz on the Phillies. But Harry made every one of those games worth watching. He's the best. And don't even get me started on how great it was when Richie Ashburn used to eat a pizza during the game and force Harry to do all the talking.

-- Of course, I don't mean to downplay their podcast with women's hoops assistant Cameron Newbauer.

-- Bleacher Report has a piece on the immense impact Suzanne Yoculan has had on Georgia gymnastics. They also have a story on A.J. Green -- who they call Georgia's 2009 "Impact Player."

-- Bubba 'N Earl take a look at the former UGA baseball players who will be on MLB rosters this spring.

-- I'll hand it to ESPN's Bill Simmons... he saw this coming a mile away. God help us all.

-- I still haven't seen "Lost" from last night, so no spoilers. But if you're a fan of the show, here's a list of the top 10 "Lost" blogs on the Internet. That's really the great thing about the show, too -- it doesn't end when the episode does. There's about a thousand places to go talk about it and dissect the details.

-- AskMen has a list of the 10 worst movie edits for TV. I always enjoy watching "Major League" on TV because the edits are so hilarious, but my personal favorite is "Do the Right Thing." There's a scene in which the characters are trying to buy D batteries from a Korean grocer who doesn't understand them, but TV edits their more profane response to this: "I said D, mickey fickey! D!" Ah, I've used that line so many times.

-- And speaking of TV, here's some interesting TV-related links for you: It looks like "The A-Team" movie is going to be out next year... Not great news for all of us "Friday Night Lights" fans. Come on people, why aren't you watching?!?!?... and for those of you into both "The Office" and adult entertainment, well this get you excited (That's what she said).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

UGA-Florida Live Blog

Greetings from Gainesville, Fla., where it's a bit too chilly for jorts, the traffic is disproportionately heavy and the Perkins restaurants come highly recommended.

A few pregame notes...

-- I'm fairly certain that, between Macon and Valdosta, there is more of I-75 that is under construction than not.

-- I walked into the media workroom about an hour before tip off. There were at least 50 people in there. Only four are Georgia media.

-- We're still 15 minutes from the game's tip off and they've already shown highlights or made announcements about Florida's national championship in football three times.

-- No sign of Tim Tebow in the building. I can only assume he's currently saving a Romanian village from the threat of uncircumsized babies.

-- I'm considering picking a fight with the Gator mascot. I assume his name is Gary the Gator, or at least that's what I'm going to call him.

-- We were discussing this over at Butts Mehre yesterday, and I think I've finally found the one recruit who could save Dennis Felton's job and salvage Georgia basketball.

OK, more insightful observations to come after tip off...


-- Dustin Ware is getting another start. Trey Thompkins is also back in the starting lineup after not seeing the court for nearly nine minutes after tip off against Mississippi State. The surprise, however, is that also among the starters is Jeremy Price, who I'm predicting attempts at least two 3s in this game.

-- So the band here stinks... not a single Journey song yet. But I must admit, the pregame atmosphere is pretty impressive. I get the apathy for Georgia basketball among fans right now, but man, there's not much better than a great college hoops environment.

-- Over/under on combined minutes for Albert Jackson and Zac Swansey in this game is 22. I'm taking the under.

-- Where would you rank Dennis Felton's mustache among all college sports coaches? I mean, it's definitely nowhere near Dave Wanstache's at Pittsburgh, but it's pretty good.

-- Woodbury misses a jumper, Florida hits on the other end. I expect the Gators to jump out to a 10-12 point lead early, be cruising after the half, Georgia will battle back and lose by about 12, and Dennis Felton can talk about this really being a game to build on. He's like the Herman Edwards of college basketball. Herm has a decent mustache, too.

-- Chris Barnes in for Thompkins already, just 1:30 into the game. Can someone explain to me why - even if he's struggling -- Thompkins isn't in the game as much as possible?

-- OK, 20 seconds later, Thompkins is back. Makes perfect sense.

-- Thompkins hits a 3 to tie the game at 4 with 17:30 to play. He had been just 3-of-18 from 3 in his previous five games before that.

-- Dennis Felton is going nuts on the bench and is a few feet out onto the court. He darn near ran a pick on Florida's Erving Walker. Of course, Walker followed that by hitting a 3 to give Florida a 9-6 lead.

-- Another 3 for Thompkins. Perhaps a good sign that his shooting slump is over.

-- Albert Jackson makes his first appearance, as does fan favorite Ricky McPhee. I want McPhee to start referring to himself in the third person like Rickey Henderson does. "Ricky likes to shoot 3s. You can't stop Ricky. Ricky's gonna hurt you from way downtown."

-- Florida is showing celebrity lookalikes in the stands on the Jumbotron. There was Ed Asner, Steven Colbert, Joe Montana... but they failed to show Billy Donovan next to a photo of the angry gay neighbor from "American Beauty."

-- Chandler Parsons just reversed dunked to give Florida a 19-11 lead. Woody Harrelson would be jealous.

-- Speaking of Woody, two points: 1.) The final season of "Cheers" came out on DVD yesterday. I love "Cheers." 2.) I went to Blockbuster yesterday and saw at least three crappy movies I've never heard of under "New Releases" that starred Woody Harrelson. Seriously, check out the work he's been doing. By the way, I need to rent "Surfer, Dude." Harrelson and McConaughey? I smell Oscar.

-- I have never seen anyone worse at inbounding passes than Zac Swansey. I'd say it's his Achilles' heal, but that's free-throw shooting.

-- "Ricky just hit a 3. Ricky isn't going to let this game get out of hand. You cannot contain Ricky from outside."

-- "Ricky just hit another 3. That's right. Ricky be Ricky, baby." Georgia trails by 1, 22-21 with 6:28 to play.

-- Kicking violation on Florida. Sweep the leg, Calathes. Put him in a body bag!

-- "Ricky shouldn't drive with the basketball. Ricky should stick to shooting 3s. Ricky has learned his lesson."

-- Georgia had the ball with a chance to take the lead two minutes ago. An 8-0 Florida run, however, has the Gators up by nine. In Felton's defense, it really does seem like Georgia is always one or two plays from really putting something together but they never quite get over the hump. Of course, you could also blame Felton for that, too.

-- Tonight's Florida Gators "Who Am I" contest clues... When I left Florida, I was the leader in 12 different categories. I am now the starting forward for the Miami Heat. The answer... Tony Danza! (I know, I was surprised, too.)

-- Thompkins' eight points is his high since putting up 14 against Tennessee on Jan. 10. Terrance Woodbury, on the other hand, is still scoreless.

-- There are a handful of Florida fans sitting behind the Georgia bench shouting out really obvious basketball tips like "Get the rebound!" and "See the ball!" The obvious joke here would be to suggest Dennis Felton's response was, "Hey, that's a good idea! Why didn't I think of that?!?"

-- Florida is now on a 17-5 run and the Gators' press is really frustrating the Dawgs.

-- The halftime score: Florida 42, Georgia 30.


-- I can't even begin to explain the absurdity of Florida's on-court Village People tribute at halftime other than to say it involved four plastic body doubles and a guy dressed as Indian. At first I thought it might be kind of racist. Then I realized it was simply offensive to everyone.

-- A free throw shooting contest between two fans resulted in a 3-2 win for the sort of nerdy guy over the really nerdy guy.

Some stat notes:

-- Florida is hitting 52 percent of its shots, including 43 percent from 3...

-- Alex Tyus has 12/5 so far...

-- Thompkins leads Georgia with 10 points...

-- Georgia has actually outrebounded Florida 17-14, which is good because the Gators are 11-0 when outrebounding their opponents this year...

-- Just three turnovers for Florida in the first half compared to nine by Georgia (down from 16 last game). UF holds a 10-2 advantage in points off TOs...

-- Total minutes for Jackson/Swansey: 5! Boy, the under was a very wise bet. Maybe I should have guessed 22 minutes of playing time the rest of the season.

-- I've already made references to "Teen Wolf," "Karate Kid," and "White Men Can't Jump." If I squeeze a "Goonies" joke into the second half, that's the live blog equivalent of hitting for the cycle.


-- Remember that first half against Mississippi State? Well Georgia appears to have saved that effort for the second half against Florida. Gators on an 8-2 run to start the half fed by a bevy of UGA turnovers.

-- So I wrote my game preview about Dustin Ware for today's paper. He has responded by looking awful tonight. He hasn't helped Georgia really push the ball like he did against Mississippi State, and his numbers in the first half: No points, two assists.

-- Fan favorite Ricky McPhee back in the game for Woodbury. This is bound to spark a run.

-- Yes, Florida killed Georgia in football this year. And yes, this game is looking like it could turn into a blowout in the Gators' favor. But there is one thing I am absolutely sure of: Georgia's male cheerleaders could kick the asses of Florida's male cheerleaders, no question about it. I'd let you know what would happen in a fight between the female cheerleaders, but I might drift off and forget to blog for a while after that...

-- Without the Georgia band (or "Redcoats" as I've been so enthusiastically instructed) here, I'm just going to have to bust out my iPod for some "Separate Ways."

-- Walker 3 gives Florida a 22-point lead, its biggest of the game. Corey Butler came back to hit a basket at the other end but took a hard foul and ... get this! ... Drazen Zlovaric came in to replace him, missing the free throw.

-- If I told you that, against Florida, Zlovaric and McPhee would both be playing meaningful minutes in the second half, you'd probably have guessed Florida would be winning by 23. You'd be right.

-- Florida may play to a packed house but they lack all of the following bits of fan ambiance I've come to know and love in Athens: Sweater guy standing and yelling for no reason, guy with baby on his lap shouting at the referees, half naked Viking guy, guy wearing Rocky shorts and no shirt, and Brett Jensen. It's just not the same without them.

-- Currently on the court for Georgia: Two sophomores, two freshmen and a walk-on. Florida takes a 66-39 lead with 10:44 to play.

-- Georgia calls a timeout to set up a play. They then pass the ball around to Swansey, who -- with the shot clock at :01 -- passes up the shot and dishes the ball. This reminds me of the time a certain South Georgia Wildcats head coach decided to spike the ball on fourth down to stop the clock.

-- Florida has outscored Georgia 26-9 so far this half. It really is the opposite of the Mississippi State game. But one thing I'm sure of... the Bulldogs can build on this game.

-- What are the odds that, with Florida leading by 30 in the final seconds, Billy Donavon calls back-to-back timeouts?

-- People next to me are talking about "Lost." I'm wondering why I thought covering this game would be better than watching that. I have to go back!!!!

-- It's time to bring back the Zlovaric-McPhee combo but add a dash of Swansey. It's Georgia's only chance.

-- Dustin Ware hits a pull-up jumper... his first make of the game. It pulls Georgia to within 29.

-- OK, quick question: Which number will be higher: total points Georgia scores in this game or the number of "Fire Felton" posts on Rivals' Dawgvent tonight?

-- Nick Calathes has a triple double, folks: 20 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists. Just to put that in perspective, here's Georgia's TEAM numbers: 47/30/10. That's right... Calathes has the same number of assists as Georgia's team.

-- Loose ball bounces into press row, and I now have as many rebounds as Zac Swansey tonight.

-- To make this fair, Florida should let Tim Tebow play power forward for Georgia. Plus, each time he makes a free throw, an angel gets its wings.

-- Georgia is on a 4-0 run and only trails by 26 now with a minute to play. Nice.

-- OK, that's going to do it for me. It's been a blast. Let's do this again... um... not soon. Final score: Florida 83, Georgia 57.

Samuel Has Surgery

Sorry I couldn't update this earlier but I was en route to Gainesville.

Freshman running back Richard Samuel underwent surgery Wednesday at St. Mary's Hospital to repair an injury to ligaments in his wrist he apparently suffered during the Capital One Bowl. The team hoped to avoid surgery, but after several tests, it was determined that the more invasive course of action was necessary.

Samuel will wear a wrist cast for three months, missing out on Georgia spring practice. He expects to be fully healed when the team opens fall camp in August.

Samuel finished the 2008 season second on Georgia's depth chart at tailback, but spent the year battling Caleb King for carries behind starter Knowshon Moreno. Moreno announced earlier this month he was leaving Georgia to enter the NFL draft, and running backs coach Bryan McClendon said there was an open competition for the starting job.

Samuel ran for 137 yards on 26 carries in 2008 and also handled kickoff return duties.

QB Quotes Part II: The Empire Strikes Back

Here's Part II of Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray and Joe Cox's quotes from their Tuesday media session. I'll have the final installment Thursday morning.

Murray on knowing he would have competition from another high-level recruit when he chose to come to UGA...
"Before I committed to Georgia, Coach Bobo told me straight up, 'I'm taking two guys.' He named me the guys and all of them were great quarterbacks, so I knew if I was going to commit here, I'd be going up against a top guy in my class. But no matter where you want to go in the country, unless you want to go to a small school, if you want to go to a D-I, you're going to have to compete, and I think neither of us have shied away from that. It's going to make us better, make the team better, and hopefully in the end it's going to win a national championship."

Murray on Joe Cox's influence so far...
"Joe's been great. He's worked with us in film breaking down defenses, learning the playbook which is huge because we have no idea anything about it. You just look at it and you're like, 'Oh my gosh, how am I going to learn all of this?' And he's been great with us, breaking it down day by day, learning specific things each day. He's been a huge help to us, and that's why I came here because I knew those older quarterbacks were going to sit me down and walk me through the steps and get me ready."

Murray on his height (6-foot-1) potentially being an issue...
"My dad's like six-two-and-a-half, my brother is six-two, so hopefully I'll get another inch out of it. I'm praying."

Murray on how comfortable he has felt so far with the playbook...

"I'm still struggling. It's a pretty big playbook, lots of different plays, protections, and just learning defenses, too. In high school you have cover one, cover two, maybe a couple blitzes, but there's about a hundred different kinds of defenses a team can throw at you, especially in the SEC. But they're gradually working me into the system, and hopefully by spring I should pretty much know the whole playbook probably not perfectly, but I should pretty much know it, and by summer I'll know all the protections and plays and feel more comfortable."

Cox on bringing in more WR talent...
"It would be great to get somebody else in, but like this past week when Cameron Kenney was in, I had watched film on him and seen what he can do, but obviously he had already known where he wanted to go. I'm not going to be the guy that tries to be all in someone's ear and say you should come here because, and I told him that. We did the meet and greet and all that, and once it got down to it and we started talking about the whole recruiting process, I told him, if this place doesn't sell itself to you, obviously it's not the place you want to be. I shouldn't have to sit here and beg you to come here or say it's so much fun here because the players do this. I said, if it doesn't sell itself to you with the coaches and everything around you, if you don't just get that feel, you should probably be somewhere else. We're looking for guys that want to play for Georgia, that want to be Bulldogs, that love it here as soon as they set foot on campus. That's the type of guys we want, and hopefully we can get a few more to come through the door."

Cox on who might break out among the WRs next year...
"I've always said Tavarres King has the ability to be a great receiver and obviously we're going to expect big things out of him. Durham's going to get the ball a lot more this year than he has, and I think he's proven himself in a lot of situations, but I think he should be expecting more balls. Really everybody except for A.J. really has to step up this spring, and even A.J. has to get better, too, just like everybody else. I think all our guys are working hard, and a lot of guys who haven't gotten the ball a lot in the past are going to get it a lot more this year."

Cox on employing the tight ends more in 2009...
"That's a whole other dimension that defenses have to get ready for, and we've got two good ones and another one coming in. If they keep working hard like they have been, they're going to get some plays called their way, too. As long as they prove themselves this spring, I'm sure we'll start having more plays to the tight ends, too."

Mettenberger on receiving the scholarship offer from UGA...
"I grew up being a Georgia fan. I got offers from other schools and I was always waiting for that Georgia offer. Once it came, I really couldn't think of a better place to be. He called me on the phone and I was actually at Wal-Mart buying a TV with a friend. I was in Wal-Mart jumping around and people were just looking at me like, what is that kid's problem? But I knew that if anybody was going to make me the best, it would be him."

Mettenberger on having other students from his high school in his classes...
"I have classes with kids who graduated a year ahead of me, and I have classes with them because they're still freshmen and they're like, 'What are you doing here?' I've seen probably about 70 kids from my school, and they just congratulate me."

Mettenberger on strengths he possess that others might not know about...
"I would think me and Aaron both are extremely smart. People don't really put that, because they're usually looking for the physical parts at all these camps. But both of us are picking up the playbook really well. People say my feet aren't the best, but I'm working on it. It's really more about quickness in your drops, and I'd say right now I'm doing pretty good with that."

Wednesday Links (1/28)

I'm heading to Gainesville today to cover the UGA-Florida hoops game and maybe do a little jorts shopping, so I won't have time to post anything else until I get there. I'm considering doing a live blog from the game, as I'm sure I can come up with some sarcastic banter about the game. In the meantime, however, here are a handful of links, and I'll also be posting the next batch of quotes from Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger's Tuesday media session.

-- I have a story in today's Telegraph on Murray and Mettenberger, if you prefer your quotes buttressed by dramatic prose.

-- And remember my story from yesterday about Georgia's new attitude in the weight room? Well, check out how some Florida fans feel about it.

-- WR Steven Hill says he's staying a Yellow Jacket. I liked him better when he was on Law & Order.

-- David Ching looks at the important role Joe Cox will play this season (and offseason).

-- I also have a piece on Dustin Ware and his potential impact on the struggling Bulldogs hoops team.

-- Think things are bad now for the Bulldogs... Tim Tucker looks at the road ahead for the 0-4 SEC cellar dwellers.

-- Tons of good stuff over at Georgia Sports Blog today, but I definitely recommend reading Quinton's continuing debunkization (I just made that word up... and can you bunk something or just debunk it?) of the myths explainging Georgia's basketball failures.

-- Here's the official Georgia baseball preview.

-- Courtney Kupets is no joke.

OK, enjoy "Lost" tonight but don't ruin it for me... I won't be able to watch it until Thursday.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

QB Quotes (Part I)

I'm going to be out of town all day tomorrow driving to Gainesville to cover UGA-Florida, so I probably won't have any new posts. Instead, I'm going to break this post up into a couple parts, and post some tonight and some tomorrow (and maybe some more Thursday).

In any case, we met with Joe Cox, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger on Tuesday evening after Georgia's first seven-on-seven drills of the offseason. Both freshmen earned high marks from Cox for their early performances, but as Cox said, "you can tell they're freshmen."

He can tell because they are constantly asking questions. I could tell because both look obscenely young. Or maybe I'm just getting really old. I'm choosing to believe the former.

Both kids were really forthcoming and seemed pretty comfortable surrounded by media though, which I suppose should be expected for two guys who were so successful at the high school level. I spent about 10 minutes with each player, and got some interesting quotes from each of them. Here's what they had to say...

(NOTE: My story on the two freshmen will be available at beginning Tuesday evening.)

(NOTE #2: For those of you who are on the "We're better off with guys who aren't overly concerned with their NFL futures" bandwagon, pay close attention to the last quote from Mettenberger. It's extremely telling. And so you know the context, Mettenberger said he was on campus at least 25 times last season, showing up as early as 5 a.m. to be around for practices, etc.)

(NOTE #3: If you aren't already excited about Murray, I'm sure you will be after you read about how he chose to commit to Georgia.)

Murray on his broken leg...
"It feels great. We have great trainers here. Ron (Courson) and his staff are just unbelievable. We're not going to push it. We're taking it slow, making sure we do everything right and be really smart with it so hopefully by springtime I'll be 100 percent."

Murray on returning to action ahead of schedule for his team's run to a state championship...
"I came probably a little too fast, but my goal was to win a state championship, so I had to do whatever I could to get out there and win that. It was a little bit of a risk, but it ended up paying off in the end. We won a state championship and now I'm here healthy. I'm definitely blessed that nothing bad happened, so now I can compete for a national championship."

Murray on other schools continuing to pursue him after he chose Georgia...
"It was huge just because the perception is that if you're in Florida, you're going to go to one of those three schools Miami, Florida or Florida State. It wasn't tough for me because I knew where I wanted to go, but for the people down there, everyone's a Florida fan, so they were all like, 'You need to go to Florida, blah, blah, blah, this and that.' In the end, I was going to go where I felt more comfortable. I fell in love with Georgia. I loved the coaching staff. That's what sold me right away was the coaching staff is unbelievable."

Murray on why he chose to come to Georgia...
"I went to the spring game at Georgia and I loved it. Usually, I would go to one place and fall in love, then go to the next place the next week and say, 'OK, I want to go here.' So I went to Georgia, and the next week I went to Florida. I left there and I called my mom and I'm like, 'I'm ready to commit.' She was like, 'Oh, so you're ready to commit to Florida?' I was like, 'No, I'm ready to commit to Georgia.' Right then, when I left Florida with Georgia on my mind, I knew that it was the place for me. The coaching staff is what sold me. I wanted to go to a place that I felt more comfortable. All the coaches in the nation were like, you get all these promises and pressure to commit now, and Coach Richt and Coach Bobo just sat me down and were like, 'Hey, this is who we are, we want you, and if you want to come here, that would be great. Really just get to know us, we'll get to know you, and if you want to come here, we would love it.' They didn't pressure me, they were just real down to earth."

Cox on how good the two freshmen looked in seven-on-sevens...
"Today we were out there throwing, and I'd call a play, and Aaron wouldn't exactly know what the play was, but once I started explaining it to him, he knew the concept. He knew who he was supposed to be reading or where the ball is supposed to go against a certain coverage. They're both really smart kids and they've been in their playbooks a lot. They're definitely picking up on it faster than I would have expected, and I think they're going to be in good shape once spring ball rolls around."

Cox on the two freshmen handling their competition...

"That's going to be a tough situation for both of them whenever it comes because they're both really good friends. But I don't talk to them about that situation much, but they know they can talk to me about anything."

Mettenberger on whether he sized up Murray's game at some of the camps they both attended during the past year...

"I know he was looking at me and seeing what my strengths and weaknesses were, and I was sizing him up, and now we're just trying to learn from each other and get better."

Mettenberger on being recruited after he committed to Georgia...
"Aaron was telling me about all these calls he got, and I was like, 'Well, dang. I guess nobody really liked me that much.' I got offers from Florida State and Boston College, and I didn't really hear from anybody once I committed to Georgia. Tennessee called me one time, and that's it."

Mettenberger on why he enrolled early...
"Especially for a quarterback, you want to come in and learn the playbook as fast as you can, and when I heard Aaron was going to enroll early, I was like, 'Shoot, I can't wait another semester and let him get ahead of me.' So we both enrolled early looking to just be closer knit with the team when all the other freshmen come in and just learn the playbook."

Mettenberger on what has surprised him so far...

"Last year I was around a lot, and the leadership wasn't too great last year. I've been here three weeks and I can already tell that the leadership and the seniors, they want to win a championship again. They want an SEC championship. They want a spot to play for the national title. So far, the leadership has been outstanding in my opinion."

Hoops Notes (1/27)

OK, I know you'd rather read about football, but come on... what better do you have to do? (Besides, I'll have some football stuff in a few hours...)

-- Things obviously look pretty bleak on the court right now as Georgia is in the midst of a six-game losing streak, including an 0-4 start to SEC play. But head coach Dennis Felton is working hard to keep his team's confidence (and maybe his own) up as the Bulldogs embark on a tough stretch of schedule that includes four road games in their next five.

"This is obviously a defining stretch in our season right now because it's the first time we've strung together the kind of losses we have right now, but my way of seeing it is that we're not that far," Felton said. "As bad as we've played to dig ourselves such a big hole in that last game (a 67-61 loss to Mississippi State), we stayed with it, fought back and it was anybody's game.

"We have to not be blinded by the fact that we're in a stretch of games where we've come up short, but instead be encouraged that we're close and we still have so much room to improve."

-- While Felton works to keep the team in good spirits, the strong second half against Mississippi State in which Georgia's offense looked about as aggressive as it has all season probably did as much for the atmosphere in the locker room as anything.

Afterward, freshman Trey Thompkins said that the team has wanted to play more aggressively on offense rather than "running a million sets."

But that of course begs the question -- why were they doing this sooner?

It's hard not to wonder if there's a bit of a divide in terms of philosophy within the team, and Thompkins' rationale for why the team has played well at points and terribly at others seems to underscore that sentiment.

"When we play together, and we're all on the same page, and we all have the same motive, we're a great team, we can make a lot of things happen," Thompkins said. "But it comes down to us being together and staying positive and confident, knowing that one of these days we're going to get that win we need and keep it going."

The obvious inference there is that -- on what appears to be a pretty routine basis -- the players do not have the same motives and aren't on the same page.

Why might that be? Thompkins still isn't sure.

"Everyone has their times when they get negative," he said. "As far as what it is, we're trying to figure it out. Every day we take time and sit down and say, OK, fellas, what is it?' We approach a different angle every day."

-- While Georgia has struggled in SEC play so far, no one has had a tougher time than Thompkins.

The freshman forward, who is averaging 13 points per game, has just 20 points total in his last three contests and is a dreadful 7-of-32 shooting. He missed two wide-open 3s in the final minute against Mississippi State last Saturday that could have made a huge difference in the game, and he has seen his playing time diminish in each of the past two contests -- not even seeing the floor until more than eight minutes had run off the clock against MSU.

Despite his reputation as a high-school phenom, Thompkins said his struggles are not unprecedented, and he remains confident that his shots will start falling soon.

"I've had it before, and I know I'm going to have it more," he said. "It's no confidence shaker or nothing like that just something I've got to get through."

-- Senior Terrance Woodbury hasn't been much better than Thompkins over the past two weeks, but the cause of his struggles is a bit more obvious.

Woodbury is battling through injuries to both ankles, limiting his mobility despite playing through the pain. Felton said Woodbury received an injection in one ankle Monday to relieve some of the pain, and did not practice Tuesday. He'll get another injection Thursday after Georgia's game against Florida in Gainesville and will again sit out practice on Friday.

-- Georgia's struggles could be particularly problematic for the fragile psyches of the young players on the roster, but freshman point guard Dustin Ware said the team's veterans have done a good job of rallying the youngsters.

Asked by reporters for the best advice he had received, Ware's answer brought about a good-natured chuckle -- even if his point was well taken.

"Best advice: To not focus on the media or anything but just go out and practice," Ware said. "Hate to say that to y'all, but that's it."

-- Georgia is still without an SEC win, which has been the source of much consternation and a healthy dose of discussion about Felton's job security, but senior Corey Butler reminded media that, while the team is surprised by the slow start, most outsiders didn't have high expectations to begin with.

"We were projected last, so I don't think they expected us to win too many," he said. "It's always a challenge to win in a great conference like the SEC, but we'll get there. I have no doubt about that."

-- The 0-4 start to conference play hurts, but it's even worse given the grueling slate that lay ahead for the Bulldogs.

Georgia will play four of its next five games on the road, including a contest Wednesday against 17-3 Florida. The Dawgs will then play at Alabama, which recently made a coaching change, followed by a home date against West-leading LSU before heading on the road again to face South Carolina and Tennessee, two teams battling for tourney bids.

"It's a test to see what type of team we are," Thompkins said. "It's a test to see how we're going to respond, whether we're going to lay down or man up and play as a team and grind one out and keep on going with it."

Tuesday Links (1/27)

Spanning the interwebs to bring you the constant variety of links... the thrill of Ellerbe, the agony of Toby Jackson, and the human drama of Neil Diamond performances... these are today's links...

-- I included a few quotes from this in a notebook last week, but here's the full story on Georgia's new dedication toward its offseason workout program.

-- Georgia's pass rush took a big hit yesterday with the news that Toby Jackson will spend 2009 in junior college rather than on the Bulldogs' defensive line.

-- After a disappointing senior season, Dannell Ellerbe is focussed on the NFL draft.

-- Former Bulldog Hines Ward says he'll be ready to play in the Super Bowl. And Hines has reason to be excited -- a bear thinks the the Steelers will win.

-- Tim Tucker has some notes on AJ Green, Matthew Stafford and Geno Atkins in his latest blog.

-- Sounds like we can pretty much put those Willie Martinez to the U rumors to bed. Man, never has so much been made over one throw-away line in a South Florida newspaper article with no sourcing whatsoever.

-- Speaking of assistant coaches, I would scoff at what UGA is paying Bryan McClendon, but I'd happily take that salary any day.

-- Marc Weiszer has a handful of notes about Corvey Irvin, Asher Allen and Georgia recruiting.

* By the way, we'll be meeting with Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger later this afternoon. I'll have a post up tonight with some notes and quotes.

-- Former Georgia guard Mike Mercer has been kicked off the South Florida basketball team after his second arrest in four months.

-- Mark Gottfried is out as Alabama's head coach just a few years after an Elite 8 appearance. Dennis Felton, however, remains at UGA.

-- Dan Mullen is off to a nice start at Miss State when it comes to landing recruits, reports David Paschall.

-- This is an interesting post from Georgia Sports Blog, which calculates the actual costs of Stegeman Coliseum and Sanford Stadium.

-- Kyle King points out that Jan. 27 is a particularly historic day for UGA.

-- This is sort of a sad story from the Banner-Herald: Mark Richt was working to establish a trust fund for Decory Bryant, a former cornerback who suffered a career-ending injury in 2003, but the university asked Richt to cease his efforts after Bryant sued the school.

-- I'm guessing a few of you are Braves fans... here's the schedule for the team's winter caravan.

-- I'm generally opposed to remakes, but an '80s version of "The Wonder Years"? Now that might be an idea I can get behind.

-- I've never been able to decide whether I find tribute bands to be awesome or pathetic, and I think it all comes down to how seriously they take themselves. I think this guy leans a little too close to the latter category. Of course, when it comes to Neil Diamond tributes, they don't get any better than this.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Links (1/26)

Some Monday afternoon reading material (sorry... I slept late)...

-- ESPN's Chris Low writes about the big money going to special teams coaches. Obviously, that's not an issue for Georgia. A few of you have asked me about the prospect of UGA hiring a FT special-teams coach, and while I haven't been able to corner Mark Richt on the question, I really don't see it happening. For one, a move likely would have been made already -- or at least been discussed. Secondly, internally the staff seems pleased with the work Fabris and the the other coaches have done overall. Last year's special teams were particularly victimized by the high number of injuries, and the punting/punt return units still managed to be among the best in the SEC.

-- Speaking of Georgia assistants, this is an excellent piece from the AJC's Chip Towers on the price of loyalty for the Bulldogs coaching staff. Chip discusses the matter further -- i.e. how competitive Georgia is with salaries -- in his blog.

I know we're all football fans here, and I understand the revenue that the sport brings in, but when you look at Chip's articles and compare them to stories like this, it's hard not to wonder how much we've lost perspective.

-- I came across this story by way of the excellent Get the Picture blog, but it fits in very well with the discussion of money in college sports, detailing how scholarships and stipends work for student-athletes.

-- As you probably have heard, Cameron Kenney chose Oklahoma over Georgia. This will matter not of UGA can land Marlon Brown though.

-- Chris Low is taking a look at each school's recruiting needs -- and here's Georgia's.

-- Georgia is also going after a wide receiver previously committed to Tech, according to Rivals (subscription required).

-- TotalUGA also updates the Greg Reid sweepstakes (another day, another favorite) at its site (subscription required).

*As a side note: I've had a couple people ask me to pass along the "subscription required" info to you so you don't have to shell out for the subscription. Given the economy, I understand your reasoning, and I'll admit a good portion of my music collection came by way of peer-to-peer sharing. But please keep in mind that these pay Web sites are the livelihood for the reporters who work at and run them, so I can't give out the details for free. After all, I may want one of those reporters to buy me a beer sometime, so I need to make sure they have a steady income. I link to the stories here because I know many of you also have subscriptions or may want to purchase one. If you want free recruiting info, the AJC's Michael Carvell does a nice job and can keep you relatively informed.

-- The Charlotte Observer has a nice piece on Joe Cox and his new gig as Georgia's starting QB.

-- In case you missed it over the weekend, I had a story on Trinton Sturdivant's recovery from his knee injury. Two things: 1.) The injury was far more severe than the team really made it out to be, and for a few weeks, Sturdivant really didn't know if he would ever play again; 2.) Trinton might be one of the nicest kids I've talked to on this beat. It's a shame Searels' rules have kept him from the media for so long!

-- A couple other stories I missed over the weekend: The Banner-Herald says the tight ends could play a much bigger role next season (and I like the idea of a heavily involved Aron White in the passing game). Meanwhile in Washington, the UGA-Florida rivalry reached the halls of Congress.

-- Georgia Sports Blog looks at the Bulldogs sixth straight loss on the court.

-- While the men are struggling, the Lady Dawgs stayed hot against Alabama, pulling out a close win on the road.

-- The AJC's Steve Hummer takes a reflective look at the distinguished career of Suzanne Yoculan.

-- 960 the Ref chats with baseball coach Dave Perno. Also, how many baseball polls are there? Georgia seems to be ranked anywhere from fifth to 23rd and just about everywhere in between and a new poll comes out like once every three days. This one has the Diamond Dawgs ranked ninth.

-- The sheer quantity of vomit I saw on the streets before the Bama game last year might disprove this, but Georgia was voted one of the top five "Family Atmosphere" programs in the country.

-- Hey, here's a reason to be happy you don't live in Dallas.

-- To tell the truth, it had probably been too long since there had been a John Rocker story in the news. He apparently flipped out on an Atlanta radio host over the weekend, and but Deadspin also has his side of the story.

-- Speaking of obnoxious baseball players, I absolutely loved TJ Simers column on the retirement of Jeff Kent.

-- I've been working on turning over a new leaf, getting into the gym, eating healthy and all that... but a chicken wing shortage just before the Super Bowl? That's just terrible.

-- And lastly, does anyone still watch "The Real World"? Regardless, I'm sure this will be some sophisticated programming.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Football Notes (1/25)

Georgia's wide receivers and running backs are both adjusting to life under new position coaches this offseason, and while the contact has been minimal as the coaching staff hones in on recruiting, the early reviews from players at both positions are positive.

Longtime Bulldogs wide receivers coach John Eason has moved to an administrative position, moving Tony Ball from running backs to Eason's vacated role. The transition has been smooth, wide receiver Tony Wilson said, but admitted there's definitely a new atmosphere in the meeting room.

"It's more of a football meeting room now," Wilson said. "Coach Eason dealt with football, but he was always talking about life. Coach Ball is on the same thing, but it's a different approach. You just hear Coach Ball more than you were going to hear Coach Eason. Coach Eason was kind of laid back and would let you flatten out your errors on your own. Coach Ball may jump you here and there."

With Ball heading up the receivers meetings now, the role of running backs coach belongs to Bryan McClendon, who is just three years removed from playing at Georgia. McClendon spent the past two years working with the receivers as a graduate assistant, and has quickly implemented a tough-minded approach in new role with the Bulldogs' running game.

"I've seen how he worked with the wide receivers, and I know he's going to be a tough coach," tailback Caleb King said. "I believe that's what we need in the running back position. One day he went downstairs in the weight room and trained with me and was killing me, so I believe he's going to be like that the whole year."

Of course, if King or the other running backs have any trouble, they won't have to go far to seek an extra bit of advice from their former mentor.

"(Ball) said if I have a problem or any troubles, I can come to his office and he'll still talk to me," King said. "I'm glad he's still close."

A few other quotes on the coaching changes...

King on having such a young coach...
"I like that because he can relate to being a student-athlete. He understands all you have to do both on the field and off the field. But at the same time I think he has enough knowledge to guide me through what I have to do."

Richard Samuel on working with McClendon...
"It's been good working with him. He comes in the weight room and makes sure we're staying on top of things. When I found out they were making the change, I wasn't too worried. He's been around, and I've gotten to know him, and he's a good coach. And it makes it easier knowing that Coach Ball is still around."

Wilson on Ball...
"I played for Coach Ball on multiple special teams. He's a fundamentally sound guy. He believes that's going to get the job done. When the game gets tough and everything breaks down, you've got to have good technique. You're going to get tired, everybody knows that. Your legs are going to give out once in a while. You aren't going to make every play. But whoever's technique is better is going to win the game."

Wilson on the change...
"Coach Eason was an older guy and he did more talking. Coach Ball is more of a show-me guy, just like Bryan McClendon. The only thing that's really going to change is intensity."

-- With seniors Mohamed Massaquoi, Demiko Goodman and Kenneth Harris all gone, junior receiver Tony Wilson knows his 2009 season will need to be a lot more productive than 2008 was.

Wilson suffered an ankle injury in spring practice last year that never fully healed. He gutted out five games during the season, but mustered just one catch for two yards before undergoing surgery that ended his season.

Although he doesn't expect to be a full participant in this year's spring practice, he said he's finally starting to feel healthy again.

"It's feeling wonderful," Wilson said. "I'm feeling probably 60, 75 percent. We're taking it slow right now, just progressing back into slow running, getting my stride back and getting good upper body workouts."

Now in his fourth season at Georgia, the vocal Wilson expects a more significant role for himself both on and off the field this season.

Georgia's departing seniors along with running back Knowshon Moreno who entered the NFL draft accounted for 49 percent of the Bulldogs' receptions in 2008, and Wilson hopes a healthy ankle will allow him to pick up some of that slack. More importantly, however, he said the task of replacing the senior leadership of players like Massaquoi and Harris will be a priority for him.

"It's my turn to step up and be the leader for that group," Wilson said. "It's my time to step up and lead those boys."

Even if Wilson is fully recovered in time for fall camp, the Bulldogs could open with as few as six scholarship wide receivers, a far cry from the depth chart of nine or 10 that head coach Mark Richt generally likes to have at his disposal. Florida recruit Rontavious Wooten has verbally committed to Georgia, but the school hopes to land at least one or two more receivers to join Wilson, A.J. Green, Tavarres King, Michael Moore, Kris Durham and Israel Troupe on the depth chart.

"Depth is important, and that played a big role last year," Wilson said. "I hope we get some more commitments. I think the depth is important, but if we have to go out and play with six or seven, I know we can handle it."

-- Georgia put plenty of true freshmen under the spotlight in 2008, but perhaps none faced more pressure in his rookie campaign than kicker Blair Walsh.

While Walsh had his ups and downs including missing two first-half field goals against Florida and struggling on kickoffs throughout the season he said his psyche remains intact. Walsh ended the year by connecting on his last two field-goal tries, and said he learned a valuable lesson from his first year with the Bulldogs that he's keeping in mind during the offseason.

"It's all about stability," Walsh said. "You can wow them with your leg strength, but when it comes down to it, it's just about making kicks, doing what you need to be doing."

With that in mind, Walsh is approaching his offseason with the goal of improving his flexibility and athleticism rather than bulking up his already strong leg.

"Just getting quicker, faster and stronger, really honing in on your fast-twitch muscles," he said. "That's really what helps you kick the ball. It's not about bulking up your leg. It's being the most athletic person you can be."

-- After a breakout freshman season, A.J. Green might be expected to lament the departure of his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, who announced earlier this month that he would forego his final season at Georgia to enter the NFL draft. As it turns out, however, Green is excited to catch passes from Georgia's new starter, Joe Cox.

Green worked with Cox regularly during practice and said Cox's skills set doesn't differ too much from the man he's replacing even suggesting that Cox might be a tad more accurate than Stafford. At the very least, Green admitted, his hands should sting a bit less after hauling in a quick strike this season than they did with Stafford under center.

"Coming from Stafford, it's a little more heat," Green said. "Joe, he puts it right there. It's not really a difference, but heat-wise, Stafford puts a little more on it."

-- Georgia's special teams were a mixed bag in 2008, but punter Brian Mimbs proved to be one of the team's few consistent veterans. While his replacement for 2009 has yet to be named, Walsh said the early indications are that second-generation Bulldog Drew Butler is the odds-on favorite to win the job.

"From what we all know, it's Drew right now," Walsh said. "Drew has earned it, he's competed for the spot back when he was a freshman. He's a fantastic punter. Drew could have played, but he just happened to be behind Brian."

-- When Knowshon Moreno announced he was leaving Georgia early to enter the NFL draft, he didn't exactly give his teammates much of a heads up. King and fellow running back Richard Samuel learned of the decision through TV news coverage the day of Moreno's announcement, and neither have talked to their former teammate since he left to begin training in Texas.

That doesn't mean Moreno left Athens without passing along a bit of advice to the players who will be tasked with filling his rather large shoes in 2009.

"He told me just don't let nobody put you down," King said. "A lot of people are going to try to put you down and say bad stuff about you, but just don't worry about it."

-- Strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger stopped senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens in the weight room one day last week and struck up a conversation. Van Halanger asked Owens where he thought he might be this time next year.

It was a question that would have garnered a simple and decisive answer a year ago, but after a season-ending injury, ACL surgery on his knee, months of rehab and a fresh start for his second senior season, Owens responded with a philosophical "Who knows?"

Last January, Owens figured he would be fresh off a Senior Bowl performance and would be preparing for the NFL draft by now. Instead, he spent the extra time in the classroom, and will add minors in consumer economics and housing to his degree in early childhood development all while working his way back into shape for a second crack at leading Georgia to an SEC title in his senior season.

"It's coming along quite well," Owens said. "I'm rehabbing every day. I've started jogging. I'm trying to get back to 100 percent, and I'm going to make a big impact."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Game Notes (UGA-MSU)

Couple quick notes...

-- Season high in points and minutes for fan favorite Ricky McPhee. Dustin Ware also got a season-high 37 minutes of playing time. Zac Swansey and Albert Jackson, on the other hand, played just 10 minutes apiece and barely saw the court in the second half.

-- Georgia outscored Miss State off the bench 33-8 and outrebounded MSU 41-32.

-- After turning the ball over 16 times in the first half, Georgia had only six in the second half. Corey Butler also moved over to cover Ravern Johnson in the second half and the MSU guard was scoreless in the final 20 minutes after racking up 21 in the first half.

-- Georgia started the second half 6-of-10 from 3, but missed six 3s in the final minute.

And some quotes...

Trey Thompkins on Georgia's offense...
"This new philosophy of offense is going to help us tremendously. Guys are going to be more confident in their abilities, guys like Jeremy get to shoot the ball, Dustin gets to make plays, Corey (Butler) and Ricky get to make 3s. We're just going to open it up now and play basketball. We worked on it for a couple days to just play a more up-tempo game. Nowadays you don't really see too many teams slowing the ball down and running a million sets It's a thing where guys have the ability so we have to use it."

Thompkins on the 3s by Stewart and Turner late...
"They hit shots to take the lead back up, and you could call it maybe a backbreaker. We fought so hard and pressured shots, but they made them."

Corey Butler on the team's attitude after the game...
"It's tough after a loss, especially for a group of competitors, but if we play the way we played in that second half with that type of intensity and aggressive defense, that's how we should play every time and we'll be able to beat teams."

Dustin Ware on the team's attitude...
"We're trying to not keep it in a state of panic. We're trying to get better every day and do what it takes to win. I think we bounced back well from the Kentucky loss, showing some real heart out there, but it definitely doesn't matter unless you get the win."

Ware on the late-game shooting slump...
"We definitely had a chance to win the game, but there was kind of a lid on the basket the last few minutes of the game. But we got good shots. It just didn't happen to fall."

Ricky McPhee on his scoring outburst...
"I was able to get some easy looks and was able to knock them down. People on the court were looking for me, and after I made that first one, it gave me a little confidence and I guess the basket looked a little bit bigger for me in the second half."

Dennis Felton on the personnel changes...
"What we talked about was looking for the guys that are playing with the most fierce toughness and competitiveness. We had a week of practice heading into this game to reinforce that. Dustin had an outstanding week of practice and Ricky has been really, really committed."

Corey Butler on personnel changes...
"Coach is looking for those guys that are willing to go out there and put it on the line every day, and once we find that group, that's who we're going to go with."

Halftime Notes (UGA-Miss State)

A few quick notes from the first half of the UGA-Miss St game...

-- Hard not to notice the boos from the crowd as the teams walked off the court at the half. And the place is maybe 2/3rds full... maybe.

-- The ratings for this game must have ESPN missing the days when they had hockey to show. They may just skip the first half in favor of World's Strongest Man from 1996. Love that Magnus ver Magnuson.

-- 16 turnovers for Georgia in the first half, including 11 in the first 11 minutes.

-- Ravern Johnson has 21 points at the half. His career high is 26. He started 5-of-5 from 3. That's so Ravern.

-- Ricky McPhee: 7 minutes, 3 points, 3 rebounds. Trey Thompkins: 10 minutes, 3 points, 1 rebound.

-- Thompkins didn't even see the court until the 11:43 mark in the game. Wonder if that is some sort of punishment?

-- Georgia's bench has 13 of its 24 points.

-- How this is only a 12-point game is beyond me. Of course, Mississippi State has missed two dunks.

-- Damon Evans wasn't talking at halftime.

-- Handful of football recruits here, along with Coaches Searels and Garner.

-- God bless the UGA band. Their renditions of 80s standards are all that gets me through some of these games.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Football Notes (1/23)

Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green has a message that could send shivers through SEC secondaries: He thinks he'll be a lot better in his sophomore season than he was in 2008 when he was a freshman All-American.

For one, Green said, he'll be more knowledgeable of the offense, but the improvements won't simply involve experience. Green said he hoped to add seven to 10 pounds of muscle so he can play more physical with opposing corners. More importantly, he said, he hopes to finally be over a sore groin that nagged him throughout his freshman season.

"Just a little bit bigger, a little faster," Green said. "I might do some more crazy things, I don't know. I'm going to have to show the fans when I'm 100 percent."

Green's sore groin bothered him from the outset of the season, but he was able to play through the injury, but the pain became more significant later in the season, and he was held out of Georgia's early workouts for the Capital One Bowl.

As the Bulldogs begin their offseason training, Green is once again sitting out much of the work as his groin continues to heal.

"I'm still rehabbing and getting my groin right, so I'm limited in what I can do," Green said. "I'm mainly doing upper body and stuff like that."

Green said rest and rehab are the only solutions, and that surgery has never been discussed. He was unsure what his availability would be for spring drills, which begin in March, but said he is making steady progress.

"I'm not going to rush it," he said, "just do rehab every day and see what happens."

Green finished his freshman season with an SEC best 56 receptions adding 963 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.

Entering Georgia's bowl game, Green needed just 49 yards to become only the second 1,000-yard receiver in school history, but nursing the sore groin against a Michigan State secondary that offered multiple double-teams, Green mustered just 12 yards on one catch.

Now those 37 yards he came up short of 1,000 serve as his offseason motivation, he said.

"That's my focus," Green said. "That's what drives me right now is how short I came of that 1,000 yards. That pushes me to work even harder."

-- He's been hearing the discussion from fans for more than a year, he said, but linebacker Darius Dewberry said his coaches have never approached him about a position change to defensive end.

With a deep corps of linebackers returning for 2009, however, Dewberry said he would be open to a change if Georgia's coaching staff thought it would help the team.

"If the coaches want me to make the move, I'll play there," Dewberry said. "I think I'd be successful."

Along with starters Rennie Curran and Akeem Dent, the Bulldogs expect to have several other experienced linebackers ready for the 2009 season, including Darryl Gamble, Akeem Hebron, Charles White and Dewberry, who missed much of the 2008 season, first with a suspension and later with a shoulder injury.

Dewberry said he is still rehabbing from shoulder surgery, getting his arm out of a sling just last week. While he doesn't expect to be full go at spring practice, he said he thinks he could easily be ready to play defensive end in time for fall camp, including packing on an extra 20 pounds to his current weight.

"I haven't lifted weights since Thanksgiving, and I just got out of my sling, so it wouldn't be too hard to pick up weight," Dewberry said. "It's (the coaches') job to put the players where they want them, so if they want to move me there, I'd just go and deal with it."

-- When junior cornerback Asher Allen decided to leave Georgia a year early to enter the NFL draft despite failing to record an interception in 2008, it came as a bit of a shock to many fans, but fellow defensive back Bryan Evans said he wasn't surprised at all.

"Any time that you can be an underclassman and get invited to the combine, that's enough said by the scouts," Evans said of Allen. "Just knowing him, I think his ability, he's going to kill the combine."

With Allen leaving, senior Prince Miller is now the only cornerback on Georgia's roster with starting experience, and Evans said Miller has approached his new role as veteran leader with ambition.

"He talks to the cornerbacks every couple days or so just trying to see if they're studying the playbook and getting in the film room," Evans said. "Hopefully he can rub his experience off on them."

-- While defensive coordinator Willie Martinez is the latest Georgia assistant rumored for a job elsewhere, it was the potential loss of offensive line coach Stacy Searels that had freshman center Ben Jones sweating bullets.

Searels interviewed with Auburn in December, but announced he was returning to Georgia just days before the Bulldogs' bowl victory over Michigan State.

"I'm from Alabama, and all my buddies, all my friends were saying, ‘Oh, he's going to Auburn,'" Jones said. "I said, ‘I hope not.' I liked playing for him, and that's one of the big factors in me coming here."

-- Also wanted to note that former Georgia QB David Greene tells the Albany Herald's Scott Chancey that he plans to retire.

Said Greene: "In my own heart, I knew it was time for me to kind of move on."

Nice work by my good friend Mr. Chancey on the story, and obviously we hope for the best for Greene, who is one of the real nice guys in the sport.

Friday Links (1/23)

Having some problems with my usual publishing software for the blog, so this is going to be brief, but a few stories I wanted to pass along...

-- Great story from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, in which David Paschall talks with Damon Evans about the future of Dennis Felton.
"I can't tell you what happens today or what's going to happen tomorrow," Evans said. "I want to keep my finger on the pulse of what's going on and do what is most appropriate for the program."
Does't sound too promising for Felton, eh? I may be starting to rethink my position that he'll at least finish the season.

-- ESPN's Chris Low two posts on Tim Tebow -- one in which he talks to Archie Manning about Tebow's NFL stock and the other about Tebow's decision to return to Florida.

-- It may have been a brief couple of days before his ankle injury, but Mo Massaquoi managed to impress NFL scouts in his time at the Senior Bowl. Talked to A.J. yesterday and he says he still talks to Mo daily and said Mo expects to be 100 percent in a few days.

-- Mark Richt makes a promise to a recruit.

-- Get the Picture takes a look at the insane salaries Tennessee is paying its assistants.

-- Big win for the Lady Dawgs last night against Vanderbilt, with a nice performance by Ashley Houts.

-- I have a quick story on Trey Thompkins adjustments to life in the SEC.

-- Chip Towers weighs in on Dennis Felton's decision to head to DC for the Inauguration.

-- And a couple of podcasts from 960 the Ref: Georgia hoops assistant Pete Herrmann and Gym Dawgs associate head coach Jay Clark.