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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Leslie Staying at Georgia

Just posted a mailbag, so don't forget to scroll down and read that, too. But this needed to get posted immediately after...

From UGA release...

University of Georgia basketball player Travis Leslie will not enter his name as a candidate for the 2010 NBA Draft and will return for the 2010-11 season with the Bulldogs, Leslie announced Wednesday.

"I've decided to return to Georgia for my junior season," Leslie said. "After talking about it with my family and coaches, I believe it's the best decision for me. I enjoy being at Georgia and being part of the Georgia program. I think we have a chance to have a great season next year. Right now, I just want to continue working hard to improve as a player and help us become a great program at Georgia."

Leslie was arguably the most improved in the Southeastern Conference this past season. He averaged 14.8 points per game -- 2nd best on the team and a 6.5-point increase from his freshman year -- and 6.8 rebounds. He ended the season on a high note by scoring a career-high 34 points in an SEC Tournament second-round loss to Vanderbilt. Leslie also led the Bulldogs with a total of 30 dunks, five of which were featured among ESPN's "Top 10 Plays of the Day."

"We're pleased with the progress that Travis has made in the past year and very excited about what his future holds," Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. "He continues to have a very mature approach to things, not just in basketball but in all aspects of his life. We look forward to seeing Travis become the best player he can be."

From the Mailbag: Reality TV, Richard Samuel and Darren the Intern!

First, let's respond to a few follow-up questions to yesterday's mailbag post…

Anonymous writes: Why would we NOT want to know who the walk-ons are? It is March and we crave football information, the more the better!

Fair enough. Here you go...

(Position, Year and High school in parentheses)

Cameron Allen (LB, RSo., Woodstock)
Josh Bodin (OL, RSo., Paragon Academy)
Taylor Bradberry (WR, RSo., Winder-Barrow)
Brian Brewer (RB, Sr., Brookwood)
Matthew DeGenova (DE, Jr., Jesuit in Kenner, La.)
Trent Dittmer (P, Sr., Cartersville)
Corey Dunson (DB, RFr., Radnor)
Scott Eichler (K, RFr., West Hall)
Eric Elliot (WR, Jr., Kennesaw Mountain)
Reuben Faloughi (OLB, RFr., Evans)
Nick Franks (TE, Jr., Bradwell Institute)
Chad Gloer (WR, Sr., Starrs Mill)
Jackson Griffeth (LB, RSo., North Hall)
Billy Johnson (Sn, RSo., Buford)
Kevin Lanier (FB, RSo., Marist)
Greg Lanier (WR, RFr., Habersham Central)
Rhett McGowan (WR, RFr., Calhoun)
Josh Murray (S, Sr., Tampa)
Cortney Newmans (TB, Jr., Mount de Sales)
Josh Parrish (OL, RFr., Wesleyan)
Ben Reynolds (OL, RFr., Bainbridge)
Derek Rich (TE, Sr., Gainesville)
Craig Sager (WR, Sr., Walton)
Blake Sailors (WR, RFr., Oconee Co.)
Josh Sailors (FB, Jr., Oconee Co.)
Jordan Stowe (K, RSo., Parkview)
Trenton Turner (TE, RSo., Woodward)
Wes Van Dyk (RB, Jr., Highland Park, Texas)
Jason Veal (LB, RSo., Parkview)

(Quick note, as a reader pointed out, there are likely a few names not on this list that are out there practicing. Ricky Lowe is one -- OLB, RSo. from Deluth. He's rocking No. 41. I know there's a No. 33 out there not listed, too, because I confused him for Chase Vasser just yesterday. the list I used is from Georgia's spring media guide, but the roster of walk-ons has no doubt changed a big since that was sent to the printers.)

Kathleen writes: My two-cent suggestion for transcribing your videos:


How fun would that be for you? An unpaid journalism student to transcribe your videos and get your coffee?

I can almost envision that process unfolding now...

School administrator: I’ve been reviewing Darren’s internship journal. Doing laundry, mending chicken wire, high tea with a Mr. Fletcher?

Me: Well, it all sounds pretty glamorous, but it’s business as usual at Dave-merica Industries.

School administrator: Far as I can tell, your entire enterprise is little more than a solitary man with a messy apartment which may or may not contain a chicken.

Me: And with Darren's help, we'll get that chicken!

Anonymous writes: Anyone who posts disparaging comments about the attractiveness of co-eds on other campuses ought to be required to include a picture of himself, so we can see what kind of stud is making these judgments.

And anyone who remembers the original picture of me that used to be posted in the top, right corner of this blog knows, I shouldn't be commenting.

Anonymous writes: David, love your blog, very informative. But for the love of God, please, no more Lost updates. You're not a tool so don't act like one.

OK, deal.

Ally writes: I gotta say, your episode thoughts are blowing my mind. Keep 'em coming!

Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in!

I actually won't offer any in-depth analysis of last night's episode just yet, but I can say this: "Lost" has never had a dramatic line as thoroughly entertaining as Widmore solemnly and stoically announcing, "I think it's time you see the package."

Ah, immature humor always entertains me.

(OK, OK, two other minor thoughts...

First, I really hope they have a good plan for Desmond, rather than simply trying to force him back into the storyline at the end.

Second, was I the only one who was hoping that when Locke and Sayid took their guns on the outrigger, we'd get some closure on the scene where Sawyer & Co. were being shot at on the outrigger while time traveling last season? Of course, it didn't happen.)

OK, back to some regularly scheduled mailbagging...

Anonymous writes: Enough already about the Defensive Coaching Staff, what about our real problem ?

The Offensive Coaching Staff who the last 4 years have had 84 fumbles, thrown 56 interceptions and averaged # 96 in the Nation in Penalties?

This is a tough one to answer. I can tell you that Mark Richt is getting more involved in the offense again. Well, I told you that last night actually.

And I can tell you some stuff you've probably heard before. Or, more to the point, Logan Gray can tell you.

“I think the coaches are always trying to put emphasis on turnovers," Gray said. "Each practice we’re disciplining players for mistakes, penalties, turnovers, stuff like that. Hopefully that will lead us in the right direction. Since Coach Richt has been here, they’ve probably focused on reducing penalties and turnovers but for some reason the last couple of years we haven’t done that. So we’re just trying to get back to basics.”

Or I could let Mike Bobo tell you.

“Coaches are obviously stressing it every day," Bobo said of the turnover issues. "You’re getting disciplined after practice for any turnover. But I firmly believe you have to teach fundamental football and how to carry the football and quarterback drops and progressions. But I don’t want to talk it all the time to my guys. I want to live playing good fundamental football. If you do that, you’ll take care of the football. We’re not going to talk about it, we’re going to live protecting the football by practicing every day the way we’re supposed to.”

But it's probably Mark Richt who puts it most bluntly.

“I don’t think you can say (you’ve turned a corner) until you play the games," Richt said. "I really don’t. We continue to work extremely hard on the fundamentals of securing the ball, and the fundamentals of stripping the ball or punching the ball on defense to create turnovers. But until we start, we can say this, that and the other, but I’m not saying anything until we actually play some games and we can gauge whether we’ve made some improvement or not.”

Universal Remonster writes: I'm really impressed by logan's throws across the middle from this video and the last. They hit the receivers in the numbers almost every time. Murray looked good except for that one that sailed.

I've said for three years now that Logan looks sharp in practice, at least what I've gotten to see of him. He's got potential, but I've always wondered how well this offense fits him. Of course, the other issue is that what we see of him is limited to some early throws without pressure in his face. Doing that in more competitive situations is a different animal.

Lawson Bailey writes: I think Mett release looks slow because it seems that he has a small hitch in the throw. When the ball is at his shoulder to throw he brings it slightly forward and then back to start his throwing motion.

Murray looks ok, not very sharp on accuracy, but his ball is thrown much tighter than Metts. I would rather see overthrows on the deep patterns than the underthrow for the interception that plagued Cox last season.

Gray should look head and shoulders above the other 2 with it being his 3 year in the system. Gray should be able to run this drill in his sleep and did not separate himself from his competition

Again, not necessarily a bad take on the videos we've had of the quarterbacks, but we're analyzing just a very small percentage of what's actually going on at practice, which makes it less than ideal for extrapolating any grand notions about who might be ahead in the battle.

Anonymous writes: I don't think they should let Logan throw so much, he might hurt his fair catch waving arm.

OK, that makes sense, too.

Anonymous Suckup writes: Here's my question: how are the members of the press handled during a normal practice? Are you limited to a confined area? Or do you have some freedom to walk around to observe the different groups? Is there someone from the university keeping tabs on you to make sure you leave when you're supposed to? Or do they trust you to leave on your own?

We usually are allowed out for the first 4 or 5 periods of individual position practices. We don't often get to see the special teams work (which is usually done first) and almost never see any inside drills, pass skeletons or 11-on-11 work.

Our access when we're out there is pretty good. We're obviously not allowed to walk down the middle of the field while players are practicing, but we can pretty much go wherever we want, as long as we stay off the actual field.

I generally take a full lap from one end of the defensive practice field to the other end of the offensive practice field so I can a full view of a little bit of everything. Some days I'll stop and watch one unit for a bit longer if I'm writing about them that day or have a particular interest in how a player is performing. Sometimes something will catch my eye -- like Marcus Dowtin's showdown with Warren Belin the other day -- that will keep me glued to one area for a while, but usually I try to catch a little of each group.

Usually there's a former player or two, a coach I may know or, as is often the case, a few moments with Dave Van Halanger that I stop to chat with some onlookers, too. That can occasionally earn me a bit of insight I wasn't watching for during practice.

Again, what we're seeing is helpful, but it hardly paints a full picture. Most of that will have to wait for G-Day and then until the first Saturday that the games start counting.

Which leads me to...

Anonymous writes: Remember guys, they aren't going to show too much while the cameras are rolling.

This is really the big thing to keep in mind. We're not seeing 11-on-11 drills, and we have no idea how well the QBs are going to look in an actual game day situation. The scrimmage numbers give us a bit better idea, but then you hear from Logan that he essentially played only with the No. 2 unit -- which features an O line of freshmen and walk-ons at the moment -- and you can understand why his numbers may have looked bad on paper.

Let's talk more about all this after G Day.

HVL Dawg writes: Wootendaballcarrier!

Ah, I'd missed that.

Prince Lightfoot writes: Big East basketball, it's gouge-your-eyes-out-tastic!

We're quite possibly looking at a championship game matchup between Duke and Butler. The combined number of games I picked those two teams to win in this year's tournament? One.

I officially am retiring from caring about college basketball.

Until November.

Tim writes: Any word on how Richard Samuel did in the scrimmage?

Samuel wasn't mentioned much Saturday, but I asked Richt about him specifically on Tuesday.

“He did good. I think he’s getting it," Richt said. "I can envision one play where he took on a fullback on an isolation block and played off the block to make the tackle right there in the hole. He looked like a linebacker, and he hasn’t played a lot of defense lately. He hasn’t played a lot of football his whole career, really, when you consider a lot of guys have been playing since they’re 5 or 6 years old. I think he’s catching on, but he’s like a lot of them that he’s still trying to get comfortable with the scheme. But he’s doing good. He’s sticking his face in there. … We did some 3-on-3 drills, too, and he had a couple plays where he shed the blocker and made the hit. He’s come along.”

Of course, I also asked Richt about Samuel's chances of playing this season, and there wasn't anything close to a full endorsement of getting him on the field. Richt said Samuel needs to show he can play at a high level and be competitive on the field. If not… "If he’s still finding his way a little bit, I don’t think we’ll be in a big rush to get him out there," Richt said.

Kevin writes: We now run a 3-4 defense. Is anyone concerned that the offense will now have to practice against this? Meaning, most other schools we will face run a 4-3, so will our offense be unprepared against the 4-3 now when they are always looking at the 3-4? Or does the practice squad step in during the practice weeks and give a 4-3 look? Can you tell us how this works?

This is an interesting question, because I think Kevin's thought process -- that practicing against a D you won't see often, if at all could have negative effects -- makes some sense. But to hear Mark Richt tell it, he's thinking the offense benefits from getting extra work against a scheme that other teams don't get to see very often. So at the very least, let's say there are two schools of thought on this.

Of course, the larger truth is that, as Kevin alluded to, once fall camp breaks and the team starts getting ready for Week 1, it doesn't much matter what scheme the No. 1 unit defense is running because they offense will be going against the scout team, which is mimicking that week's opponent.

Still, I talked to all-world quote machine Aron White to make sure I wasn't undervaluing the potential problems here.

“During the season, week to week it’s an adjustment because nobody’s defense is exactly the same," White said. "Every time coming into the fall, we go against our base defense for those first couple of weeks, and then they introduce our Week 1 defense and from then on, everything’s getting changed every week. So I think we’re used to adjusting on the run and new defenses every week. Is it going to put us at a disadvantage? I don’t believe so. Alabama did it week in and week out against their defense, and they won a national title. So I don’t think it’s going to be too much to overcome.”

At this point, can anyone be unhappy if White's making comparisons to Alabama? That's the standard, right?

In any case, I talked with several other players about this, too, and none of them seemed too concerned. Logan Gray actually was saying that it was a big adjustment to learn the 3-4 because he "had gotten used to" the blitzes and coverages in the old defense, which got me to thinking -- I wonder if the offense was so used to going against the same thing every week that maybe some liberties were taken? Could going against a defense that is so different actually force them to think more, react quicker and practice harder?

That leads to our next question...

Lee writes: Since were trying to break in a new quarterback and the new 3-4 defense this spring (and later in the fall), is there any concern that the QBs are learning to read and adjust to a defensive scheme they are not going to see a lot during the season?

Again, another fair -- and slightly more specific -- question. But again, it doesn't sound like the troops are too worried.

I talked to Aaron Murray about it, and while he said learning the 3-4 has been tough, he thinks it will help him -- or whoever starts -- once they go back to seeing the 4-3 each week.

“I think it’s actually going to make us better as an offense because things will be easier to pick up in the 4-3," Murray said. "Dealing with the 3-4, it’s just so much harder to pick up blitzes. If you’re able to pick up blitzes in the 3-4, when you’re in a 4-3 and you can’t blitz from different angles, it’s going to be easier for the offensive linemen to pick up. I don’t think it’ll be a huge transition.”

Anonymous writes: David, you really need a consultant to help you with your TV watching. Top Chef?????

Hey, don't knock "Top Chef." Any reality show in which the judges get drunk before announcing their votes is OK in my book.

Of course, I understand your concerns. I successfully avoided most reality programming for years, but unfortunately, my girlfriend has managed to allow far too much of it to infiltrate my life. Some of it isn't too bad. Some of it is awful. Here's how I'd rate them, from most acceptable to least acceptable:

Level 1: Acceptable for all occasions -- Any show that follows bas-a$$ people doing bad-a$$ jobs. Think "Deadliest Catch," "Ice Road Truckers" or "Survivorman."

Level 2: Quality programming for a niche audience -- Shows that cater to specific tastes, like "American Chopper," "L.A. Ink" or even "Top Chef." They're not going to be for everyone, but if you're into cooking, you don't have to be embarrassed to be watching "Top Chef."

Level 3: Acceptable, but don't advertise it -- This includes many of the more popular adventure game shows, including "Survivor" or "The Amazing Race." There's nothing wrong with them, and most of your friends watch them, too, but if you sit around discussing the previous night's episode at a bar, you immediately have to do shots of Jim Beam to regain your masculinity.

Level 4: Acceptable for unintentional comedy purposes, but completely unacceptable once you start caring about the results -- This pretty much covers anything on MTV or VH-1. Like, if you watch "Jersey Shore" because you think it's hilarious how stupid they all are, that's fine. But if you watch "Jersey Shore" and think, "I really dig the bump-it look Snooki has. I'm gonna get my girlfriend to wear her hair the same way," then you are officially dead to me.

Level 5: Acceptable only if your girlfriend wants to watch it and you recently commented that her butt looked a little big -- These include shows like "Project Runway," "What Not to Wear" and "American Idol." I've never seen Idol, but I know enough people who watch it that I assume there must be some value to it.

Level 6: Acceptable if you're bedridden due to a recent mountain-climbing accident and there's absolutely nothing else on TV -- These include the relatively brainless competition shows that offer little in the way of any skill or intellect on the parts of the competitors, but have a certain level of entertainment value that, at the very least, provides enough background noise that you don't have to listen to the neighbors' loud grunting noises at night. Think "Celebrity Apprentice" or "The Biggest Loser."

Level 7: Acceptable if you're 45, live in your parents' basement and work a low-level government job but still harbor dreams of moving to L.A. and becoming a star -- This includes most celebrity-based shows that follow around people who are incredibly boring or revel in the decimated lives of people who used to be famous. Think "Celebrity Rehab" or "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."

Level 8: Acceptable only if you're visiting a sick relative in the hospital who insists on watching -- This includes shows that I cannot possibly fathom the interest in, but seem to be popular with my mother, grandmother and extended family. Examples include "Dancing with the Stars," "America's Got Talent" and "Big Brother."

Level 9: Acceptable only if you committed a heinous crime and, rather turn yourself into authorities, you've decided to punish yourself by watching these shows -- "The Marriage Ref," "Rachel Zoe Project," and "So You Think You Can Dance" spring to mind here. I'd honestly rather serve 15 to life than be forced to sit through three episodes of awful celebrities preening for the cameras while making jokes about non-celebrities who are even worse. Oh Jerry Seinfeld, why have you forsaken us?

Level 10: Utterly unacceptable under any circumstances -- "The Bachelor."

(*Side note: While I stand by my categorizations, I'm certain I've watched at least one episode from each group.)

Travis writes: What are the odds on Toby Jackson ever (re)joining the team, and what would his likely roll be in a 3-4?

Jackson, a 6-4 defensive end from Griffin, was set to join the Bulldogs as part of the 2008 recruiting class, but that didn't work out.

He went to Hargrave with an eye on getting to Athens as an early enrollee in 2009, but that didn't happen either.

He was still set to join the team as a regular enrollee with the rest of the 2009 class, but again, academic issues got in the way.

From everything that I've heard, that was pretty much the last straw with Georgia, which has essentially washed its hands of him. With the new coaching staff coming in now and looking for "Grantham's players," I don't see that changing.

He's at Navarro Community College in Texas now, and according to Rivals, is on the radar with schools like Alabama as part of their 2011 class.

Jeff writes: Came across this story about Urban Meyer verbally assaulting the Orlando Sentinel blogger. Ever seen Richt get after a reporter? Couldn't imagine him going after someone like this. Thoughts?

This is a pretty old story by now, so I won't bore you with my take on it. I'm sure you could probably guess that…

a.) I'm on the reporter's side

b.) I'm glad I don't cover Florida

and c.) I don't exactly buy the apology that has happened since.

As to Richt, the closest I've actually seen him get to chewing out a reporter was when he shot back at one question about Mike Bobo's effectiveness following the Tennessee game last year. He also probably didn't do himself any favors with the "never been in the arena" talk after a bad loss. But all of that is a long way from tacitly threatening a reporter.

A perfect example is the Logan Gray punt returns. Richt obviously wasn't a fan of the criticism some of his comments engendered a few weeks ago. But his retort was hardly scathing. He handled it like an adult and a professional. There's a lot to be said for that.

Cojones writes: The reporter is a slug for leaving out clarifying quotes and even baited the reader with the title. Crier couldn't have had a better platform to take attention off him and Timmy. A poor article seeking sensationalism at the price of questioning the kid's team-member loyalty plus future and that stirs the pot as well as the team is all Poser Crier needed to carry his "I- champion-the-player!" banner yet 10 more yds upfield.

I'm guessing Cojones isn't far off in assuming that there's some tangential relationship between Meyer's reaction to the quoting of a perceived slight against Tebow and all the national attention that Tebow's draft stock has gotten by the likes of ESPN. It was a fuse that was lit weeks ago, and the Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler just happened to be there when the bomb went off.

I will say though, if you read the story that Fowler wrote, I'd hardly call it sensationalized. He didn't make that quote the lead of his story, and he did clarify.

First off, the quote in question was eight paragraphs into the story, so the reporter was certainly not playing it up.

Secondly, here's the sentence that immediately followed the quote in the original story:

"Thompson’s comment was either intentional or he meant to say Brantley’s a more conventional style of quarterback."

It's not Fowler's job to interpret quotes for you. That's the reader's job. When reporters tell you what they think players mean, that's when you lose objectivity. When they tell you what the player said and allow you to form your own opinions, we come a lot closer to that goal of objectivity (assuming the correct context is added).

Moreover, even the headline wasn't completely sensationalized. It read, "Florida Gators Receiver Deonte Thompson Sounds Happy to Usher in Post-Tebow Era." It doesn't say, "Thompson Slams Tebow as Not a Real QB."

(I should also add that readers should be careful not to blame writers for bad headlines. In 95 percent of the cases, the reporter didn't write the headline. An editor did. Same with captions on photos and subheadlines in the paper.)

So I don't see this as Fowler's fault in the least. That's a reporter doing his job, and it's an ethical stance I'm not going to argue with. He decided the quote had merit, offered context, and it was used properly in a story that needed to be written.

I can see the other side of the issue though.

A few weeks ago, we were interviewing a Georgia player about an issue not related very closely to Xs and Os. He gave a quote that, even as the words still hung in the air, we all looked at each other and shook our heads -- at least metaphorically. What he said sounded bad, and it was something that no doubt could have been sensationalized and played up and driven a ton of Web hits while filling message boards at rival schools.

But here's the thing: I know what the player was trying to say, and what he actually said was just a bad way of getting his point across.

So what were we reporters to do?

Before you answer, I want you to think about the current state of journalism and about what's happening to professional journalists. The ethical lines are being blurred because it's hard to take a stand anymore. While the institutions we cover are doing more and more to push us away, the institutions we work for have fewer and fewer resources to back us up, and the people who read our work have less and less tolerance for any material they disagree with, regardless of whether or not it is accurate, objective or important.

Paul Finebaum, a guy I often disagree with, wrote a brilliant column in the wake of the Urban Meyer situation that sheds a lot more light on what we sports writers are going through. I'd highly encourage you to read it, because it hits the nail right on the head down to the very last detail.

And before you shake your head and say, well that's only at Alabama or Florida, I assure you, some of it is happening at UGA, too. It's a tough road for us. (HERE or HERE for some examples.)

I'm not asking you to feel sorry for me or anyone else covering the beat. We do our jobs, and we don't need a pat on the back at every step of the way (although it's nice to get them from time to time).

But before you offer blanket criticisms of the media, I hope you'll consider what that might mean down the road. Because the direction right now is clear: We're headed down a path where press releases are what you'll be given access to, and the folks writing anything more often won't care too much about the ethical dilemmas that surround the job. They'll care about what drives Web views, because that's what keeps them in business.

As for the quote from the Georgia player, the player in question provided other valuable quotes that covered essentially the same topic without being needlessly incendiary. The player in question had never said anything problematic before (as far as I know). The story in question was not something immediately impactful for the team or the fans.

With all of that in mind, none of us ran the quote (again, as far as I know).

But think about all those details that went into making that decision. I'm on a competitive daily beat, and if some national writers had been there that day, it's doubtful we would have been able to reach a consensus on not running it. I have a good rapport with the other writers there each day, so we can find this sort of common ground.

I know the player in question pretty well, so I also know what he was trying to say and I have the background on what he has said in the past to use as reference.

And I know what has and hasn't been written, which stories are essential and which are not, and I always have a good idea of what the fan reaction will be because I see and hear it every day.

All of that is what a daily beat reporter does. But I definitely have my concerns that we're a dying breed, and I have even bigger concerns about what happens after that. Not for me, but for everyone who has relied on good journalists over the years -- even if they didn't know it.

Sorry for the soapbox moment, but I care deeply about the future of journalism, and too often all the little things that go into being a good journalist get overlooked.

The Real Impact of Richt's New Role

The least surprising thing that's happened today has been the reaction of fans to Mark Richt's announcement that he's spending more time in the offensive meetings this year than he had in years past.

On one hand, you have the folks, like Senator Blutarsky, who see this as sort of a tacit endorsement of the work Todd Grantham is doing. Richt says one of the jobs he's no longer doing is sitting in on defensive meetings, so perhaps he's simply a bit more comfortable with what Grantham is doing than he had been in years past.

"The head coach has decided he can afford to spend less time being involved with the defense that’s being coached by three newcomers, including a new coordinator who’s installing a scheme that’s a fairly radical departure from what he’s had in place since coming to Athens than he did with a bunch that for the most part had been with him from the inception running a scheme that had been in place since 2001. Hmmm. Why do you think that’s the case?"

On the other hand, I've gotten a handful of comments like this one, from JRL:

"Maybe I'm reading too much into this but I see a subtle message directed at Bobo. Get better or...

I think as painful as it was to fire Willie Richt likes the results so far.

Part of the growing process of becoming a better head coach. The next firing will be much easier and won't take 2 or 3 years of hand wringing."

Sitting in the media workroom after talking with Richt yesterday, a few of us discussed what the fallout would be from these quotes. The two obvious answers were that fans would look at it as an endorsement of Grantham and/or a warning shot to Mike Bobo. Not surprisingly, that's been the response.

But how much truth is there to either of these sentiments?

On the defensive front, I think it's probably a bit overstated. I do think that Richt hired Grantham for a reason -- because he believes in Grantham and trusts his ability to handle his job without a ton of oversight. And when you figure that Georgia is paying Grantham $750k a year, you'd hope that's the case.

So it makes some sense that Richt would be taking a more hands-off approach. Richt has to know that Grantham understands the defense much better than he does, so why waste his time second-guessing the new guy? Richt is still meeting with defensive coaches after practices and scrimmages, but sitting in the meetings where Richt would likely be as lost -- or moreso -- than any of the players is probably not an effective use of his time.

On the offensive side, I can completely understand why this is seen as an indictment of Bobo. In fact, Richt has to know that, too. And part of me believes that he wouldn't have made this information public without being aware of some of the ramifications it would have for the perception of Bobo by fans.

But I'm also inclined to take what Richt says on the subject at face value: "I told Mike, I’m not in there to make him crazy at all, but I’m in there because I do miss it, number 1, but I want to be able to add as much value as I can as we go,” he said.

Richt said he has not missed a single offensive team meeting or individual quarterback meeting this spring, and that will continue into the season. From what he says, he's not running the meetings, but he's getting a firsthand feel for how the meetings are run and how the players respond. He's closer to the action now, and it really sounded to me more like that's what it was about for Richt. He missed being there.

If anything, I tend to like what this one anonymous commenter offered as an explanation:

"I think this move is a pre-emptive effort to help Bobo so he doesn't have to fire him like he did Willie."

That's a good point, because while Willie Martinez was a peer for Richt, Bobo is more of a protoge who learned his craft from Richt. That's a different type of relationship, and while Bobo has had his moments of exceptional play calling, he also might not be done learning.

So as a whole, while the comments regarding Bobo and Grantham may have some merit, I'm not sure they're the most important things to take from this story.

I think the most intriguing part of all this was how Richt -- without provocation from us in the media -- tied so much of it back to his days at Florida State.

I've said several times over the past few years that you could watch Richt at practice or around his players and almost envision a young Bobby Bowden. In many ways, that's a very good thing.

Of course, I covered Florida State a bit earlier in my career, and Bowden wasn't just playing the role of CEO of the team. He really was detached -- and to this day I'm convinced that was part of the problem the Noles have had over the past few years.

For Richt, that detachment was a good thing during his days at FSU. It allowed him to grow as a play caller and coach. But not everyone learns and thrives that way. And while Bowden had plenty of success during the 1990s, the best coaches today aren't the ones who let their assistants handle the day-to-day. They're the ones who are forced to take a medical leave because they're so stressed about football. They're the ones who value the process above all else.

On a personal level, I hope Richt never goes quite that far. But I do think this announcement from Richt says something important. It says that Richt has made a decision about what kind of coach he wants to be, and that doesn't mean simply following in the footsteps of his mentor.

This last offseason was the first time Richt had to step outside of his comfort zone in terms of dictating his legacy as a coach. It was painful for him, I have no doubt.

But I think he's learned a lot from the experience, and this is another step toward creating a different identity than the one he'd been working on for the first nine years of his career at Georgia.

Whether it has any real impact, I don't know. But for a coach accused so many times of being too stubborn in his approach, fans should take a big sigh of relief to see Richt so interested in a new approach.

Wednesday Links... Sort of

First off, my apologies. Part II of our mailbag may have to wait until tomorrow. I've got a bunch of stuff on my plate for this afternoon, and I'm not sure I'll get time to finish it up. We shall see.

Today's not exactly a real links post today. But a few quick links first...

-- Our pal Fletcher Page has a little wager going with Dean Legge at the Dawg Post. Fletcher said Dawg Post's Facebook page could reach 1,000 fans in 30 days. Dean doubted the ability of social networking to network quite so quickly. The wager? A steak dinner. So... if you want Fletcher (who is working off freelance wages for me, by the way!) to be eating good in the neighborhood, do him a favor and befriend the Dawg Post.

-- And as a thank you for all the readers who helped him out, Fletcher has a really good story in today's Telegraph on the teaching methods of Georgia's new defensive backs coach, Scott Lakatos.

-- The Senator takes down someone trying to make ESPN look bad. What is the world coming to? Dogs and cats, living together... mass hysteria!

-- MSN takes a close look at the best college towns in America and gives Athens prime billing. (h/t Bernie)

-- Blogging Pantsless passes along some news from Mark Richt that an unnamed member of Georgia's coaching staff is going through a tough time after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Much of the last month for me has involved a similar story with my grandfather, so I can relate. I can't offer any further insight as to which coach it is, but surely some prayers are warranted.

-- I only know the game as Cornhole, but apparently "Baggo" is the same thing, and they're now offering Georgia boards, if you should find yourself in the market for them.

-- Reason No. 5,146,983 to hate the NCAA... Break rules, screw program, walk away, get new job one year later while former school suffers with the consequences of your rule-breaking. Tim Floyd and the NCAA... a match made in... well, somewhere.

-- As for the rest of the links, you'll have to click over to where I penned a guest post for the day. The site's proprietor is former UGA beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans, who has spent the last month in Arizona covering Reds spring training. In his absence, a few other bloggers have chipped in to write his normal "Thinking Out Loud" posts -- which are much like the links posts I write here. Can't tell you there's any Georgia content over there, but if you're looking for additional reading material, that's your site to see today.

Back with more later this afternoon.

Video Blog: Lack of Depth Pushes Receivers

Georgia receivers A.J. Green and Marlon Brown show off some pass catching skills and talk about the lack of depth at their position this spring.

Video courtesy of the great Brandon Spoon.

Notes: Tuesday's Practice Short on Energy

Mark Richt spent the meeting time Tuesday praising his players for their tempo throughout last week’s scrimmage. He spent the practice time eating his words.

“Out of nine practices, I would rate it the ninth as far as just the tempo,” Richt said. “It kind of fizzled on us a little bit. I’d been pretty pleased with it all spring, but (Tuesday) it kind of gave way a little bit. I think we’ve got to learn to push through when we’re tired, and I didn’t think we practiced like champions.”

The result was a particularly long practice – likely the longest of the year, and one that had many of the offensive players still on the field working as most of the defensive players shuffled out of the locker room to head home for the day.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was among the most upset with the performance, calling it a “bad day” in which his offensive players spent too much time simply going through the motions.

That could have been a result of a small hangover from last Saturday’s scrimmage – the first of the spring – or a hefty week of exams for many players, but excuses aren’t something Bobo wanted to hear.

“That’s the easy way out, after the first scrimmage we came out and relaxed,” Bobo said. “But if we’re a team that wants to be champions, we’ve got to have guys come out ready to practice. We do have young quarterbacks, but we have a veteran-laden offensive line that needs to come out and set the standard for how we’ll practice.”

The silver lining, Richt said, is that Tuesday’s lackluster effort was the exception to what had been a strong spring thus far, which leads him to believe things will get back on course when the Bulldogs hit the practice field again Thursday.

“The good news is, Thursday’s another day, and we’ll have another opportunity to do better,” Richt said. “Hopefully they will.”


Based strictly on the numbers from last Saturday’s scrimmage, rising junior Logan Gray might have taken a step back in the competition for the starting quarterback job, but he’s not ready to give up on the battle just yet.

“I didn’t think it was my best day, but there’s always room for improvement, and that’s not our only scrimmage of the spring,” Gray said.

For the day, Gray was 6-of-14 passing for 37 yards and one interception and was sacked three times.

That last number resonates, as Gray played all but one series behind the second-team offensive line, which has been decimated by injuries. Gray said that’s something he thinks will change going forward.

“I just missed some throws, some things didn’t really go my way,” Gray said. “I would have liked to have gotten a few more reps with the ones, but I’m sure that will probably even out on Saturday and G-Day, too.”

Even more than the players surrounding him was the situations he found himself in, Bobo said. The scrimmage was a controlled practice, meaning that rather than allowing play to unfold naturally, many situations were predetermined before they were run. This means in some cases, Gray was asked to make more high-risk throws, while the other quarterbacks may have been in a position to complete more of their passes.

For the scrimmage, Aaron Murray completed 10-of-15 throws, while Zach Mettenberger connected on seven of his 10 passes.

"I thought the two young guys did a nice job of that, and I’m sure Logan would like to have a couple back that he could have completed," Bobo said. "Logan had a couple of plays that were drops, but he could have been a little bit more accurate.”


Bobo still hasn’t formulated a depth chart at quarterback after Saturday’s scrimmage, and that’s not likely to change before G-Day, Richt said. The plan, he said, will be to extend the rotations they’ve employed this spring right through to the end.

“More than likely the quarterbacks will just be fluid,” Richt said. “They’ll roll. They’ll be a red and a white team, and they’ll be wearing black and I’m sure Mike (Bobo) will just roll them like we have been. I’m not sure if it’ll be by quarter or by series, but we’ll just keep rotating those guys with both units.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Richt Getting More Involved With the Offense

One of the many lessons Mark Richt learned from his mentor, Bobby Bowden, is that giving his staff room to learn and grow is important for any coach.

One of the things Richt has learned from the past few seasons at Georgia, when he’s taken a step back from the day-to-day coaching, is that he needs to be a bit more involved than his mentor was.

Richt said he has sat in on every offensive team meeting and quarterback meeting this spring, and he’ll continue to do so throughout the season after taking a more reduced role during the past several years.

“A lot of times I would watch practice film separate from the staff and maybe make my notes and talk to the staff about things I saw, but what I decided to do was just be in there every day as we’re going over it and make sure we’re all on the same page,” Richt said. “It’s good medicine for me, really.”

Part of the decision, Richt said, was simply that he missed having a more hands-on role with the offense after giving up play-calling duties late in the 2006 season, then promoting Mike Bobo to offensive coordinator in 2007.

Another part of the decision was so that Richt could have a firsthand look at how the current crop of quarterbacks are handling the battle to become the starter in 2010.

“I want to know what those adjustments are and I want to see them react to coaching and see them answer the questions Mike is asking,” Richt said. “I want to get a taste of how they are handling the pressure.”

That’s a big departure from the past few years, Richt said, when he was spending increased time with the defense and working on secondary chores such as signing memorabilia or answering mail during some meetings.

The idea, Richt said, was to give his coaches enough autonomy to grow – a process he enjoyed during his days as offensive coordinator at Florida State.

“Sometimes when the head man’s in there, they may be worried too much about what I think,” Richt said. “I always respected Coach Bowden and what he thought, but he also backed away enough to kind of let us work our way through it. Because of that, I know I was able to grow as a coach and I appreciated that, so I was doing the same.”

Richt said he hopes that will still be the case and said he explained to Bobo that his presence in meetings was meant only to allow Richt to provide more insight and remain up-to-date on the daily changes being made rather than to undermine the autonomy of the offensive coaches.

“I’m not in there to make him crazy at all,” Richt said. “I’m in there because I do miss it, No. 1, but I want to be able to add as much value as I can as we go.”


A few more quotes from Richt on the subject:

On the progression of his involvement:
“I was actively coaching the quarterbacks in the very beginning. After some time, Mike was coaching them and I was basically an observer. It had been that way, and then I’d say the last maybe two or three years, I was not just sitting in every single meeting. I’d spend more time looking at defense or whatever. Now I’m just going to get in the offensive room where I feel I can add the most value from the knowledge I have of coaching over the years, and I’ll spend time with the defense after scrimmages and after games watching film with them as they grade and things of that nature. Same with the kicking game.”

On compartmentalizing responsibilities:
“I’m just making sure that I’m not scheduling any kind of outside meetings. I was starting to let some of those extra things roll into those meeting times. Now some of those extra things are just going to have to wait. It’s not like they aren’t going to get done. They’re just not going to get done as quickly as some people may want it.”

On why he's becoming more involved:
“I just want to do that period from here on in just because I miss it and this spring in particular we’re trying to make a decision on the starter, and I want to make sure I understand completely. I know our offense, I know the system, but day to day, things change. You might have a certain read or progression or adjustment on a blitz, and then a defense is doing something different and you have to adjust, I want to know what those adjustments are and I want to see them react to coaching and see them answer the questions Mike is asking. I want to get a taste of how they are handling the pressure. So I’ve been more involved in the offensive meeting room and the quarterback meeting room mostly by being at every one of them. A lot of times I would watch practice film separate from the staff and maybe make my notes and talk to the staff about things I saw, but what I decided to do was just be in there every day as we’re going over it and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Practice Notes (3/30)

Back out at practice after a long break, and the weather couldn't be more beautiful. Here's a few tidbits from what I got to watch...

-- Mark Richt was working in a pretty hands-on capacity with the QBs and the receivers. He had some harsh words for some of the WRs working as DBs in the drills. "I need better defense," he told them. "Or it's going to be an easy whip." To be fair, however, Artie Lynch just isn't your classic matchup against Rantavious Wooten.

-- Speaking of the receivers, Israel Troupe was out of his green jersey today. Marlon Brown remained in green, but was practicing during the drills we watched.

-- A few others in green: Fred Munzenmaier, Derek Rich and Chase Vasser. (UPDATE: That was a different 33 in green, according to Marc Weiszer of the ABH. The UGA roster only lists one No. 33, but I'm trusting Weiszer's take.)

-- Trinton Sturdivant was on the field doing some stretching and jogging for trainer Ron Courson. He was in full uniform -- which is always nice to see -- with a brace on his surgically repaired left knee. He looked a little ginger on it, but didn't have too much trouble with anything I saw.

-- I watched Scott Lakatos work with the DBs for the first 5 or 6 minutes we were out there. They were working on backpedaling drills and getting position on receivers. Branden Smith had one nice move to which Lakatos offered: "That's how you play with leverage. Learn to do this and you get your a$$ better." Smith appeared to be getting a few more reps with the first-team corner rotation, too. Previously, Vance Cuff had been getting most of that work.

-- I spent the majority of our time on the field watching Warren Belin's inside linebacker unit. Belin's a fun guy to watch. I haven't found him to be the most engaging interview so far, but on the field, he's loud, direct and thoughtful -- talking a lot.

The center of his attention in the early drills I watched was Marcus Dowtin, who got caught loafing during some tackling drills. Belin wasn't thrilled. "You better start running now or you're going to be sprinting around the field when we finish this drill," Belin told him.

On the next set of drills, the linebackers were working on shedding blocks and making tackles, with a focus on getting inside leverage. Belin was preaching tackling, not ducking.

Belin again wasn't thrilled with Dowtin, who he made repeat the same drill three times. "Your feet are all over the place," Belin told him. "I told you to take one step and you took three."

As it turned out, about two minutes later, Dowtin was headed to the sideline in search of trainer Ron Courson. I didn't see what happened.

-- Chatted with Dave Van Halanger a bit today. He's a Duke fan but a West Virginia graduate, so he's particularly interested in the NCAA Final Four matchup this weekend. When I asked who he was rooting for, he said it would probably be Duke because, "Once you've been fired by your alma mater, you sort of lose some of those ties." Van Halanger was on a staff that included Nick Saban at West Virginia from 1977 through 1983.

-- Van Halanger also said Rennie Curran was working out for an NFL team today, which he believed to be the New England Patriots.

From the Mailbag: Redshirts, Renovations and More Lost!

It's been a while since we've opened up the ol' mailbag, and in the meantime I've turned a few of your questions -- like Aaron Murray's glove and Rodney Garner's adjustments to the 3-4 -- into stories for the paper. But there are plenty more to address still, so let's get right to it...

Anonymous writes: I notice in the pictures that there are a lot of walk-ons practicing. Do you have any idea how many are participating in spring practice?

Georgia's current roster includes 30 walk-ons for the spring. This number can obviously fluctuate, and the group is bound to get a bit bigger when fall practice begins in mid-August.

If there's some interest, I'll be happy to print the full list. Just let me know in the comments section.

Dboy writes: Do you think that the 3-4 defense might be ideally suited for stopping the spread offense. I know it was / is mainly employed in the NFL to stop pro-style offenses, but having an extra man standing to make reads and make quicker lateral movements before first contact seems ideal against the spread. Any thoughts?

The theory sounds good to me, but I'm hardly enough of an Xs and Os aficionado to say for sure. But you know who is? Todd Grantham...

"It’s balance, and we’re allowed to be more balanced," Grantham said of the spread. "In a 3-4, you’re balanced. We’re going to play balanced, so when people spread us out into unusual formations, we can boss and bow our backers into a relative formation, but we can stay in a structure that’s balanced. I think we’ll be fine."

Trae writes: Do you get the idea that Murray has a stronger work ethic than Stafford? It seems that Stafford, obviously, had all the talent in the world but seemed a bit lazy at times.

I think Stafford got that reputation because he was so talented. This is a similar theory to what I wrote about back in February when I kept hearing the same refrain: I'd rather have a bunch of 3-star players who want it more than a bunch of 5-star guys who rely on their talent. The assumption is that you can't have both, and I think that assumption gains traction because the guy with all the talent doesn't look like he's working as hard as the guy who has to scratch and claw for the same results.

The truth is, Stafford spent as much time studying and working as anyone. He's was a pro about his work even as a freshman. The guy knew what it meant to be a QB, and he worked for it every day. As a reporter, the only critique I could honestly give of Stafford is that he was too much of a professional. From my standpoint, he wasn't always the easiest to talk to because it never felt like you were talking to a college kid, the way it does with so many of the other players. But that was only one other thing Stafford worked at -- he was like talking to one of the coaches, and it was because he approached everything as a professional would.

Anonymous writes: David, love your blog but you have to get rid of all the "Lost" updates. Its embarrassing.

I think you have seriously underestimated my tolerance for embarrassment.

Seriously folks, there are only two months left. It's almost over. And by the time fall camp starts, you'll be completely free of my "Lost" references. Of course, I'll have to replace them with something, so feel free to start making suggestions now.

NCT writes: Ok, Hale. Partly on account of you, I started watching _Lost_. Fun stuff. I finished "Do No Harm" (Season 1, episode 20) last night. I'm kind of glad I didn't start when the show first aired, because I can watch the next episode immediately if I want. And I find myself doing that a lot.

Music to my ears! You know, when I started this blog, I said to myself, "Dave, if you can convince just one person to start watching 'Lost', you've done your job." Mission accomplished.

Of course, I still feel the need to pester the rest of you with some thoughts on last week's Richard-centric episode, so NCT, skip to the next question so as not to spoil anything.

I liked this episode, but I wish it had come a bit sooner in the season, and while I haven't been a fan of the flash-sideways, it was strange to have gotten used to the template and then have it abandoned here. Still, I though there was a lot to take from it. Rather than go through all the gory details, however, I want to address just one scene -- the meeting on the beach between Richard and Jacob.

I might argue we got more out of that one scene than we have this entire season.

First, Richard's task to stab Jacob was a mirror image of what Sayid was tasked with doing to Locke. The difference, of course, is that Jacob could be killed, so he fought back. Sayid had no problem plunging the dagger into Locke's heart a few weeks back, but the dagger had no effect. What does this tell us about Jacob and our mysterious man in black?

Second, we got a bit of confirmation here: Everyone is NOT dead. When Richard said they were all dead during the opening scene, you could pretty much be assured that we could officially rule it out as a theory now. The writers wouldn't have given away that big of an honest reveal in such an anti-climactic way, and Jacob confirms this for us in the later scene with Richard.

For all the folks who have continuously preached about the biblical references in the show, you got a big one in this scene, too. Jacob's "baptism" of Richard -- and his asking three times if he wanted to believe -- was reminiscent of Jesus' decision to make Peter his "representative and intermediary."

(I wonder though… when Richard tells Jacob that if Jacob doesn't step in, the man in black will, Jacob then takes a moment to ponder it before offering the job to Richard. Do you think this is something Jacob had planned to do all along, but he wanted Richard to believe it was an idea that just came to him by way of discussion? Or was this a turning point for Jacob in which he realized that some level of intervention was needed with the people he brings to the island. After all, everyone else he brought was dead.)

To be sure though, Jacob is not Jesus. Jesus had the power to raise the dead and absolve people for their sins. Jacob freely admits he cannot do either of these.

Richard also asked Jacob what is inside the foot of the statue. Jacob's response: "No one comes in unless I invite them in." Given this line, combined with Jacob's obvious ability to disarm a knife-wielding madman, leads us to believe he knew all along that Ben would kill him and he allowed it to happen.

Richard also asks Jacob flat-out -- Are you the devil? In years past, this is when the "Lost" writers would have had Jacob respond mysteriously, "Now what do you think?" so that the audience could go on wondering who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Instead, we get an unflinching answer: "No." I suppose those who want to believe we're being misled by the writers can still argue that Jacob is lying, but I don't think so. We've not simply had the good/evil dynamic hinted at, but we've been bashed over the head with it. For the writers to change course now and reveal that Jacob was the bad guy all along would undermine any credibility of the show's direction.

Of course, the most important thing Jacob tells Richard is the meaning of the island, by way of a wine analogy. (And note, Jacob offers wine, the man in black offers water.) Jacob says the wine is like the evil, swirling around in the bottle. The cork is the island, keeping it from spreading. It is the island -- not necessarily Jacob, himself -- who prevents the evil from escaping.

Not only does this help to underscore that Ben's insistence on protecting the island at all costs had some significant merit to it, but it begs a bigger question: What does this tell us about our alternate timeline -- the one where the island has been sunk to the bottom of the ocean? Has the evil been allowed to spread in LA X?

And finally, we learn here what many of us suspected: This show is all about choice and redemption. Jacob tells Richard that he brings people to the island to offer a chance at redemption but he cannot intervene in those decisions. A few weeks ago, we saw Sayid decide he could not be redeemed. He chose to follow Locke, and his reward in the parallel universe was a life in which he was still the same killer he always had been. Two weeks ago, we saw Ben choose Jacob's side, providing him with some measure of redemption and an alternate universe in which he's not necessarily happy, but he's a far better person. This week, we saw Richard make a similar choice, although we don't know what this means for him in LA X world -- if he even is still alive in 2004. Tonight, it looks like Sun will be given a similar choice. After two years of waiting, I'm hoping that, whatever her decision is, it at least reunites her and Jin. We shall see.

John P writes: I was wondering if you had access to average home attendance @ Stegman last year and average home attendance this year. I'd like to know the difference, maybe even figure out, on average, how much more revenue the team brought in this year compared to last.

Props to John who was the impetus for my story in today's Telegraph on this very subject. If you're looking for the long answer, head over to now and read the full piece.

If you're looking for the Cliff's Notes version, however, here's your answer: Attendance didn't change much, as it turns out. Last year, Georgia averaged 6,700 tickets sold per game. This year, Georgia averaged 6,834 tickets sold per game.

According to last year's budget numbers by UGA (ending in June '09), men's basketball ticket sales brought in $750,000 of revenue. Those numbers will be roughly the same this year, particularly given that the Dawgs played two fewer home games this year.

But that doesn't mean there wasn't a big change in terms of ancillary revenue, and that's because there's a big difference between ticket sales and attendance. For that info, I talked to associate athletics director Frank Crumley.

"The key figure, when we announce attendance, that's all tickets that are sold," Crumley said. "So while the number of tickets sold did not increase tremendously, the actual folks coming to the game almost doubled. So that's the big indicator. They're actually coming to the game. Before they weren't coming as much. They might have had their tickets but they weren't coming to games. Our actual fan number for each game was over 4,000, which is huge. It was a little under 3,000 the year before."

And what does that mean in more specific terms? It means that revenue from non-ticket sales sources was up by a good margin.

"While the revenue in ticket sales was not up tremendously, it was up some," Crumley said. "That trickled to our concession revenue is up. We added additional baseline seats and those sold instantly. Our contribution base was up about $70,000, which may not seem like a big number, but it was about $440,000 last year and it's almost $520,000 this year. Percentage-wise, that's a big jump, and those are the things we're seeing increase as people get excited."

Bottom line: This year was a big step in the right direction for UGA basketball, and if the momentum can continue into Year 2 of the Mark Fox era, much bigger things could be in store.

Anonymous writes: Any word on when the renovations to Stegeman will begin?

This was a two-birds, one-stone conversation with Frank Crumley. He said construction on Stegeman is set to begin just after graduation and is scheduled to be complete before the first home game of the 2010-11 basketball season.

And if you need some info on the renovations themselves, Sic 'Em Dawgs has some pictures that should give you an idea of what's being done.

And according to Crumley, the renovations are a huge step for Georgia.

"The Coliseum renovations are key," he said. "Once the concourse renovations are complete, I think we've got all the tools to be successful. We have one of the finest practice facilities in the country. The talent in the state of Georgia is tremendous in basketball. It's there. In all of our sports, we've proven that they're fully funded and capable of winning championships, and a lot of our sports have done that. The final big piece is the Coliseum, and when we tip off next year, everybody will see it. And that touches the fans. That's giving something back to the fans."

Al writes: Do you happen to know how soon Georgia's football coaches begin looking at players from JuCos such as GMC to recruit them to possibly transfer?

There's not really a set answer to this question, as Rodney Garner explains.

"If there’s a kid you recruited in high school that didn’t have grades, then you follow him the whole time," Garner said. "But there may be a kid you got on once he got to the JC, so that just depends.”

So sometimes you have a Lonnie Outlaw, who Georgia will be keeping a close eye on this year at GMC. And sometimes you get a Jakar Hamilton, who wasn't as highly touted a couple of years ago, but broke out at GMC and was quickly pursued by everyone.

And you never know, perhaps Outlaw's presence at GMC helps shed some spotlight on another player that isn't on anyone's radar now but could turn out to be a steal for the Bulldogs down the line.

By the way, Georgia's recent success with Jarius Wynn, Vince Vance and Corvey Irvin -- along with Hamilton -- speaks volumes about the work Bert Williams is doing at GMC. He's earned Mark Richt's trust by producing solid players and good character guys, and that's been a huge boost for UGA.

Anonymous writes: I think the fact that most West Virginia women look like wildebeasts should exclude them from the SEC. Even the skanks at UF look hotter than WVU girls.

I completely agree with your rationale, but then… what's Tennessee still doing in the SEC?

Kwame writes: Would it be too much trouble to post an abridged transcript of these videos? Some of us read your blog while we're at work, where it is frowned upon by the boss when you are caught watching videos...

This presents me with a real dilemma.

On one hand, I'm a staunch advocate of blowing off menial tasks at work and concentrating instead on reading overly detailed sports-related information that would likely cause your boss to have an aneurism.

On the other hand, transcribing interviews is the most menial task a reporter has to do, and therefore I would have to engage in even more of it in order for you to engage in less of it.

This is a tough one.

The truth is, Brandon Spoon, who is doing the video work for me, offered to help so I could have some additional content without providing any more burden on my time. So the video is, for the most part, much like my "Lost" material… it's not a substitute for other stories. It's a complement to them.

I just don't have time to do all of that and still do all the other stuff I'm doing, so transcribing the video would likely take away something else. So as much as I'd love to do it for you, unless it's a particularly short piece, I just don't have enough hours in the day with everything else I have going on.

Perhaps the answer is to start selling Bulldogs Blog brand headphones and equip the blog with CBS's "boss button."

Also, while we're talking about the video stuff, I wanted to point out that you can follow our pal Brandon on Twitter HERE and read his blog, Dancing in the End Zone, HERE. So give them a look… he's definitely earned it!

Trey writes: I know it may be a lot more work, but is there any way to have the videos transcribed due to the fact that I can't watch them while at work? and as always, great job!

Now you're just trying to make me feel bad.

Matt D writes: Really enjoy your bulldog blog, and I was wondering if you could mention or write something about our gymnastics team. They have had a bumpy year with a new coach. Curious how the team is doing mentally, especially without Suzanne Yoculan.

Speaking of time crunches, my unplanned vacations the past few weeks kept me from spending the time I'd planned with the Gym Dogs. Unfortunately there's just one of me to go around and there are a lot of good stories to cover.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other exceptional bloggers to pick up my slack, and T Kyle King has a great round-up on the Gym Dogs as they head into the NCAA regionals.

Jim F. writes: After reading another blog I thought that I share some questions that it raised, at least for me, and ask that you look into it.

2008 Football only- *Game Day Expsense
Clemson Game Day expense 1,918,340
UGA Game Day expense 8,300,790
‘Bama Game Day expense 1,345,797
(h/t GTP Wednesday Brunch buffet)

Under Definitions link at the top on the SitS page: Game Day Expense -Includes game officials, security, event staff and ambulance. My first thought was the ASU game expense and flying out there, but travel is apparently excluded from this category, plus it is $7 MILLION MORE THAN ‘Bama!!! Certainly, it didn’t go to paying for all the calls that went UGA favor. What did it buy?

First off, let me tip my hat to our pal Jim because I friggin' love this question. Amid all the stories about how the third-string fullback looks good this spring and the players are working harder than ever, this is a real journalism question.

Unfortunately, the answer isn't quite as scandalous as the numbers make it seem. According to Stephanie Ransom, Georgia's assistant director of business, the $8.3 million is game-day expenses for all sports, not just football. The football-only number is around $3.6 million.

That's still a good bit higher than Alabama and Clemson, however, and particularly with all the bluster about the new tailgating rules, it's probably a number worth looking into a bit more as we get closer to the season. So thanks again, Jim, for giving me a story idea to follow up on.

AJ writes: I read today where one of the corners said that coach Lakatos is teaching them to look for the ball in the air now. I thought they taught that in Pop Warner? I can see now why we had so many issues with penalties the past couple years. In college they will throw the flag every time if you don't look for the ball. I can only hope this means less pass interference calls in the 2010 season.

I'm not going to get into the Willie bashing. I think the poor guy has probably suffered enough. But I will say, if nothing else, this should lead to a few more takeaways, and given Georgia's dearth of those the last two years, that's a big thing.

A lot of pundits have observed Georgia's secondary as a major concern, and given that three of the four starters will be new that's understandable. But I would also say this is a group with a tremendous amount of upside.

Alec Ogletree is probably Georgia's best recruit. Jakar Hamilton has NFL skills (and an NFL pedigree). Brandon Boykin was very good last year and could be even better this year. Branden Smith is a five-star guy. Bacarri Rambo is a bad, bad man. Sanders Commings can match up with virtually any receiver when it comes to height. Nick and Shawn Williams are both under-the-radar talent at this point.

Out of that group, there could be as many as five or six future NFL players and they're being coached by a guy who is earning rave reviews for his approach and teaching ability.

And while I mean no disrespect to Prince Miller or Bryan Evans or Reshad Jones, those three guys never became fan favorites. That's definitely not the most fair way to judge their careers, but the fact remains that what Georgia lost in the secondary wasn't its most elite talent, and the guys in the hunt for playing time this year have an awful lot of potential.

Schlagdawg writes: If Alec Ogletree isn't able to break into the ranks of starting safeties/linebackers, do you think it's more likely that he'll redshirt or that he would get on the kickoff cover team?

My bet would be that he'll play. Georgia has shown a tendency to let their skill position freshmen get their feet wet, even if it's just on special teams, early on. Look at Nick Williams and Brandon Boykin two years ago or Mike Gilliard and Shawn Williams last year. Ogletree is probably as talented -- or more so -- than any of those guys, so there's a good chance he's going to see action either by earning time on defense or getting some action on special teams.

As for the rest of the class, here's a quick educated guess on my part, from most to least likely...

Very likely

Jakar Hamilton -- this one goes without saying.

Michael Bennett -- if Marlon Brown taught us anything, it's that receivers are going to play when there isn't a lot of depth… even if they don't, you know, actually play.

T.J. Stripling -- Right now, Georgia has three scholarship guys at OLB and Stripling is one of the team's best incoming freshmen. That adds up to playing time.

Alec Ogletree -- See above.

Garrison Smith -- One of Georgia's best recruits this year, he should slide in nicely at defensive end, where playing time can definitely be won.

Dexter Morant -- Georgia needs some depth at OLB, and Morant is probably as good a candidate as anyone other than Stripling to step in immediately.

Somewhat likely

Mike Thornton -- He's a guy who Georgia envisions as a nose, but it remains to be seen how quickly he'll be able to get his body ready for the job and how well he adjusts to what Todd Grantham wants to run. But Rodney Garner will definitely be employing some youth at nose, so Thornton might be as likely as anyone.

Jalen Fields -- He's bigger coming in and is probably a bit on the fence as to whether he'll be a contributor or not. He's a guy I'm going to need to see in person a bit before I have a real feel for it.

Demetre Baker -- There's a lot of depth at inside linebacker, but he could be a special teams guy the way Gilliard was in 2009.

Derek Owens -- Georgia could probably use some depth, so Owens can definitely work his way into some PT with a good summer and fall camp.

Marc Deas -- Perhaps this year's Shawn Williams. And that special teams work seems to have helped Williams get a leg up this year, so that's nothing to sneeze at.

Kenarious Gates -- I just don't see any of the O line guys getting reps this season, but if one does, it'd be him.

Not likely

Ken Malcolme -- He could work his way into some PT, but hard to see where it helps Georgia to have him on the field immediately unless there's an injury to one of the four experienced backs the Dawgs have ahead of him.

Brandon Burrows -- Of all the likely OLBs, he might be most likely to need the year to acclimate. Never say never, but I'd say Fields and Morant have a better chance right off the bat.

Kolton Houston -- more likely than Benedict, but probably a guy who needs a season of conditioning before he's ready. He'll be heavily in the 2011 mix.

Brent Benedict -- tons of talent, but coming off an injury and at a loaded position.

Zander Ogletree -- I don't see why you'd burn a redshirt on a guy who could benefit from an apprenticeship year at a position where there is already enough veteran talent.

Hutson Mason -- If Logan Gray changes positions and Zach Mettenberger is suspended Week 1, who knows? But I still doubt it.

WHM writes: OT, but what's going on w/ Doug's blog? Hey Jenny Slater requires an invitation to read it now... can you get an update on this, please?

Doug is taking a temporary leave of absence to concentrate on personal responsibilities… you know, the stuff bloggers do other than blog. But he'll be back, and from what The Senator tells me, Doug will still be commenting regularly on some of his favorite sites, too.

DC Dawg writes: I thought that Adams was in the running for the NCAA top job. Is there some way we can volunteer him so that he can stop destroying Bulldawg traditions? Or is there a modern day Jan Kemp that can make him resign?

I understand your plight, DC Dawg, but you probably need to start sending hate mail to Bob Ryan for trying to ruin your plan.

Seriously Bob Ryan… shouldn't you be bashing the Red Sox new commitment to defensive metrics already? It's spring!

GATA writes: I would expect the Offense to be dominating the defense in drills at this point. Is that the case? Do you think the offense will suffer a bit since the defense is a work in progress?

I could see the argument that the offense might not be getting the best competition, so they could be in for a surprise once they get into the real games. And the truth is, the defense is definitely still asking a lot of questions.

But… I also think there's another side to it. For one, I've talked to a number of offensive players who have said that the new defense is going to be very, very good once they get the hang of everything. There are a number of plays right now where someone isn't doing what they're supposed to, and the offense has an advantage. But on the plays that work right, according to guys like Caleb King and Aron White, life is made awfully tough for the offense. And, it's only reasonable to think that with each passing day the players will be getting it right more and more often.

As for how much the offense is learning, Rodney Garner said the new defense isn't getting any slack from their teammates on the other side of the ball.

“They’re doing all these motions and shifts and all that stuff," Garner said of what his defense has been facing. "They’re not doing us any favors, and I think they’ve handled it well. You have to watch the film, and I’m sure there’s some good things on it and bad things on it.”

Matt writes: Have you heard anything about Reuben Faloughi, David? Seems like he would be a good fit at OLB and it seems like we're pretty thin there.

I think he's a great fit at OLB, and from everything I've heard, he's made some nice strides since last year. He's a smart kid, a hard worker, and he has the frame to keep getting bigger.

What's more is, he may have more of an opportunity than anyone thought. With Richard Samuel's move to ILB, there are only three scholarship OLBs to complement Faloughi on the roster. Currently Faloughi is the backup to Cornelius Washington, and Grantham said he likes the progress Faloughi is making.

Of course, as for that depth at OLB, that's a wait-and-see.

"I think there’s couple guys that we can move there down the road," Grantham said. "And I do think that we’ll obviously be looking at some of the young guys coming in to play. It’s something that does concern me somewhat. The guys that we have there, I like. But it’s like anything, you’ve always got to prepare for the what-ifs. We will do that as we move forward, so we’ll address that down the road. The guys that are going now have done a good job."

Young Swole writes: I can't even describe how wonderful it is to hear a NFL-Caliber coach preach fundamentals to our defense. I reckon its the football equivalent of Jimi Hendrix playing "Voodoo Chile" at Woodstock, or "Don't Stop Believing" at 8e's Bar on a Saturday night

And the winner for best analogy of the month goes to Young Swole. Sure, he's just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit… but a good Journey reference gets you All-America status here.

OK, that's it for today, but I'll have more mailbag for you tomorrow, so stay tuned...

Fast Fox Facts

(*Note… that was a misleading blog title, but who can turn down a bit of alliteration on a Tuesday morning?)

I talked to Mark Fox a few days ago for a story that ran in today's Telegraph (more on that later today) but figured I'd pass along a few other notes of interest from our conversation...

The story in question was on how much the team was able to rejuvenate fan interest this year. I asked him if he thought his approach with fans this offseason at Bulldogs clubs, etc. might change now that the program has momentum...

"It's a different situation," he said. "We're a year in. We're still going to go out and try to garner more interest for our team and our program, but I think for us, we can still make progress and so we have to continue to work in every area to do that. … The message just this year will be that we're building forward. We've got a lot of things we want to accomplish and we need everybody's help to do it."

On recruiting, he said the wins the team had over Florida, Vandy and Tennessee this year were huge...

"I do think we have some quality wins that for recruits, they were able to see it. That's important because it shows the direction of the program, and that's helped us. But we have to continue that to create that message through those kinds of successes."

But almost as huge, he said, was the impact of Travis Leslie's dunks and Connor Nolte's blog...

"That plays a big role. That's been a part of it. Winning certainly has been the biggest part, but to have Travis on a top 10 or my trick shot on a top 10, we've had a lot of comments about that. Travis' plays have not only been on 'SportsCenter' but a lot of college basketball highlight shows. That's attention that has been good for us and our program. It's been good publicity, it's been national recognition, and that was very healthy for our team."

On the transfers of Drazen Zlovaric and DeMario Mayfield, and the impact that might have on recruiting...

"They're great kids and I don't think it was expected or unexpected, but it's something that would change our plans. It's not going to change what we're doing. It's just the right thing that will be healthy for those kids, and we wish them well."

And finally, on any progress on the decision making of Leslie and Trey Thompkins, with regards to their NBA futures...

"They're a ways away from that. The undergraduate committee from the NBA will provide feedback, and that won't happen until mid-April, so there's plenty of time left on that. The deadline to enter the draft if you want to isn't until like April 25, so there's plenty of time ahead of us before all that gets worked out."

Notes: New Beginnings for UGA's Ends


Former Georgia defensive ends Cornelius Washington, Justin Houston and Montez Robinson were pegged as perfectly suited to play outside linebacker in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.

All reports indicate the trio is thriving, but in their absence, the defense end corps is a bit of a mystery. Outside of senior Demarcus Dobbs, there aren’t many proven players at the position. Dobbs said that’s OK.

“I think we’re holding up pretty well,” he said. “The defense ends that have moved down to end from last year for the 3-4, I think we’re getting it. It’s takes time to get used to the spacing, and the 3-technique. It’s different. It’s a different experience, but in due time, with the help of coach [Rodney Garner] I think we’re getting it.”

The 3-technique differs from last season’s normal 5-technique look. Grantham’s scheme employs both techniques, but the end slated to use each differs from play-to-play.

Ends in the 3-technique line up outside of the offense guard, and are responsible for maintaining outside leverage. Those in the five, line up outside of the offense tackle. The change sounds easy, but it’s fairly complicated for a group who played only the 5-technique for years.

“It’s more quick,” Dobbs said of the 3-technique. “It’s more fast, and it’s kind of hard to adjust to. [Garner] doesn’t have us moving around that much, but those are the two positions that we mainly play.”

Dobbs is a projected starter, but points to a few other names who, although unproven, have done well thus far in spring.

“I think Brandon Wood is coming along well,” he said. “There’s a couple of mental errors here and there, but his physical ability, you can see it on film. You can tell the guy has a bunch of potential.

Kiante Tripp, he has that big body. He has an NFL-type body. All he needed was an opportunity, and I think he’s taking advantage of this opportunity to really shine.”


With his play last season cornerback Brandon Boykin essentially locked up a starting position for this season.

Nothing is guaranteed, but Boykin doesn’t plan on relinquishing the spot he grabbed three interceptions from in 2009.

With his play, Boykin also earned added responsibility.

When Georgia employs nickel coverage, with an added defensive back, it’s Boykin who slids down to cover the slot receiver.

“It’s not much of a difference because when the corner moves into the slot, it’s just like the nickel,” Boykin said.

The real change, Boykin said, is learning the blitzing packages. From his nickel spot, Boykin will be asked to cover bigger receivers in the slot, and at times, to rush the quarterback. The added tasks matches Boykin’s style, since he says he loves to plays physical.

“There’s a lot of similarities, but for me personally, it’s learning the nickel,” Boykin said. “My freshman year I played the nickel, but it was in coach [Willie] Martinez’ scheme and it was a little different. In this scheme, we have more blitzes and man-to-man schemes, so that’s what’s changing.”


It might be the least intriguing spring practice battle, but even if being the nominal starter at tailback isn’t particularly riveting material for fans to discuss, it’s something Washaun Ealey and Caleb King are following closely.

“It’s a friendly rivalry,” said Ealey, the rising sophomore who thrived down the stretch last season. “We try to outdo each other in everything we do, whether it’s playing basketball or playing video games or just hanging around. We just always like to kid around about stuff like that, about who’s the best.”

In Saturday’s scrimmage, both tailbacks impressed, but neither exactly separated himself. King carried six times for 79 yards, while Ealey ran nine times and picked up 64 yards.
At this point, however, head coach Mark Richt isn’t exactly worrying about who the starter will be. Instead, he’s simply enthused by the effort both runners have turned in.

“Caleb and Washaun have a very good friendship, and I think they both want to be the starter,” Richt said. “They both want to prove they deserve the most carries, and I really like they way they’re practicing. Both of them, you can tell they enjoy each other’s friendship, but they are really practicing with a lot of tempo.”

Monday, March 29, 2010

Video Blog: Aron vs. Aaron

I'm finally back in Athens, but after spending only two-and-a-half days at home in the last three weeks, I find myself with a mountain of chores (and about 200 emails) that need to be attended to in the immediate future. So today is going to be a bit of a recovery day while I try to get organized, and I'll have a bunch of stuff to post tomorrow.

In the meantime, Aron White is filling in for me on the interview circuit, chatting with quarterback Aaron Murray.

(* Video courtesy of Brandon Spoon)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Notes: QB Battle Still Undecided


There is still no definitive word on who will be Georgia’s starting quarterback after Saturday’s scrimmage.

Coach Mark Richt said after practice he, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, have not a declared No. 1 guy, but a glance at the statistics sheds light on the situation.

Redshirt freshmen Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray enjoyed the best day, statistically speaking. Mettenberger went 7-for-10, with 157 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. His touchdown came on a beautifully thrown deep ball, thrown to Rantavious Wooten for a 65-yard score.

Murray finished 10-of-15, with a touchdown and an interception. He connected with A.J. Green on a post route for a 40-yard touchdown.

Junior Logan Gray didn’t enjoy as much success, sacked three times, throwing 6-for-14, with only 37 yards.

Despite the numbers, Richt said there is still no favorite.

“I don’t know where we’re going yet, but they’re all competing and doing a good job,” he said.
Mettenberger’s great day is bittersweet, since he will most likely serve a one-game suspension to start the season.

With the battle narrowed to two, at least for the season-opener, Murray appears, from Saturday’s numbers, to have a slight edge on Gray.

However, there is still nothing official, and at least two more scrimmages for further evaluation.
“No, right now all of them are taking the same amount of reps,” said linebacker Akeem Dent. “So we’ll see how that goes.”


If you asked defensive coordinator Todd Grantham about his defense after the first half of Saturday’s scrimmage, he would have given a glowing review.

Richt said the defense got the best of its offensive counterpart in the opening half, but the second half tempered the opinion.

The offense made some plays, both from passes and running the ball, bringing the upstart defense back to earth.

That’s the up-and-downs of installing a brand new scheme.

“I think at the end of the first half, he probably felt better than by the end of the scrimmage,” Richt said. “I think we all understand that we’re still learning. I think the things the coaches are looking for, are the players doing what they ask, are they playing with intensity, are they hitting hard, are they getting better daily. I think that part, I think we’re all pleased with it.”

Richt said he was pleased with the tackling effort, and the way the secondary attacked the ball. Safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams each snagged an interception, Williams racing his to the end zone for a touchdown.

“Right now, we’re really being aggressive,” Dent, who finished with six tackles, said. “I know there were a couple times we gave up a big plays, but we kind of settled down, and made some stops.”

The scrimmage was the first time players received play calls from Grantham in the heat of battle. Dent said the calls weren’t as aggressive as they have been the past week in the practice, figuring Grantham was allowing the defense to get accustomed to every aspect slowly.

“I feel like everything is going along from a defensive standpoint,” Dent said. “Guys are really catching on to the plays, and to what coach Grantham really wants the defense to be about.”


A surprising name provided outlier stats during Georgia’s Saturday scrimmage.

Sophomore receiver Rantavious Wooten hauled in 6 catches, for 146 yards and a touchdown.
After struggling with drops this spring, Wooten’s performance was a needed boost.

“Actually, Rantavious was struggling a little big until today,” Richt said. “Today was good medicine for him. He just dropped more balls than we’re used to seeing, but today, he caught everything. I’m sure that will get him over the hump.”

Wooten finished off the play of the day, a 65-yard touchdown from Mettenberger, on a well-executed pump-and-go. The defensive bit on the play-fake, as Wooten streaked wide open.

“I felt like I just had to get back to the groove, and I took today as the perfect opportunity to show that I am the playmaker that they see me as,” Wooten said. “If they get me the ball, I’m going to make a play. That’s the mindset that I had. I just approached the game like that and came out and made plays.”

A.J. Green scored on a 40-yard reception, catching a pass over the middle, and finishing the run by evading tacklers. The score was Green's lone reception, as he didn't take as many reps as Wooten.

“On offense, as usual A.J. Green,” Dent said.

The offense flexed it’s ground game as well, as Caleb King had 79 yards on only six carries. He jumpstarted the offensive attack early, reeling off a 55-yard scamper.

“That was the first big play the defense gave up,” said Dent, “was Caleb going for a real long run.”

Washuan Ealey rushed nine times for 64 yards, and Carlton Thomas logged eigth carries for 25 yards.


Georgia almost made it through the scrimmage with no injuries.

Unfortunately, A.J. Harmon, second-string offensive tackle, injured his leg, Richt announced.

“I don’t know exactly severe,” Richt said. “I just don’t know for sure.”

Running back Dontavious Jackson did not participate, out with a sprained ankle. Also sidelined: Marlon Brown, Bruce Figgins, Mike Gilliard, Israel Troupe, Trinton Sturdivant, Tanner Strickland.