My blog has moved!

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

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Young Men and the Sea

Never let it be said that I ignore the non-football sports.

On this holiday weekend in which a few Georgia fans no doubt boarded a somewhat sea-worthy vessel with a bucket of bait, some fishing rods and a cooler full of beers, let's take a quick second to salute the UGA duo who do it better than any other college pair --- although probably without the beers.

Bulldogs Ben Cleary and Bo Page jumped from third place to take the BoatU.S. Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship on its final day, topping runner-up UNC-Charlotte by 2.85 pounds with a two-day total weight of 36.41 pounds.

So while softball and a tennis may still add a bit of hardware this spring, kudos to Cleary and Page for bringing slightly less heralded, but still impressive title to Athens.

(h/t Trevor)

Memorial Day Links (5/31)

Happy Memorial Day, folks. I hope most of you are wrapping up a relaxing weekend with one last day at the beach or a few burgers and brews in the backyard. I'm getting ready to head to Destin, Fla. where I'll be covering the SEC league meetings this week. If you're not already following me on Twitter -- why the heck not? I'll be posting updates from Destin throughout the week there and on the blog. I'll also have Part 2 of our mailbag and a whole bunch of other content this week, so if you'd been slacking on reading as much as I'd been slacking on writing, here's your chance to get back on board.

In the meantime, a quick warm-up act...

-- Georgia's Chelsey Gullickson reached the NCAA tennis singles final this weekend and erased a handful of bad memories along the way.

-- Golfer Russell Henley will be representing Georgia at the NCAA championships in Tennessee this week.

-- The Senator breaks down Phil Steele's breakdown of Georgia with a few interesting tidbits. For all the Mike Bobo bashers -- aside from the higher INTs and lower rushing yards, Joe Cox's numbers were virtually identical to D.J. Shockley's in 2005. Interesting.

-- Tim Tucker took notice when Steele told ESPN that he thought Georgia "could run the table" in 2010. Here's my prediction: We're going to go from the Mark Richt hot-seat talk angering fans, to a hefty contingent now trying to temper expectations as more and more folks (justifiably) see a lot of upside on this year's team.

-- Chris Low takes a quick look at how recruiting is going around the SEC and finds Georgia with the third-most total commitments and the second-most from ESPN's 150 watch list. (And aside from UGA, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen deserves some credit for getting the start of a solid class.)

-- In the Sporting News' top 100 recruits for 2011, Christian LeMay gets a pretty impressive position.

-- Good note from Marc Weiszer for all those fans who cringed each time Jeff Owens tweeted about heading to Waffle House for dinner -- Georgia has hired a full-time nutritionist for this season.

-- Macon Dawg offers a whole bunch of speculation on the 2010 season which is a fun read even if it is all just speculation.

-- It doesn't cover a lot of new ground if you've been following Rennie Curran's story since he arrived at Georgia, but Scout has a great feature on the life of the newest Tennessee Titan.

-- ESPN's ombudsman doesn't ever seem able to make any significant changes at the network, but he certainly manages to illustrate the problems well. In his most recent piece, he tackles the use of anonymous sources in stories, a particularly delicate subject in the journalism community for obvious reasons.

-- There are only six sentences in this story, and yet there are like 20 funny things about it. I'm not sure if my favorite part is that the law firm is in Delaware or if it's the final sentence of the story: "Attempts to contact Lovitz were unsuccessful."

-- You know, it takes a lot to out D-bag those local TV news guys who try to ambush people for stories, but this video makes the TV guy look like a saint comparatively.

-- Here's a shocking twist from "Lost": Did you know Sayid was dating Barbara Hershey in real life? WTF?!?

-- Here's a nice piece from Movieline for all of you guys who were dragged to see "Sex and the City 2" this weekend -- it's the most scathing lines from the many, many, many scathing reviews of the film.

-- And finally, I want to take a second to say thanks to all of our readers who have served or are serving in the military on this Memorial Day.

For everyone else, I've linked to this story before, but it's been a while, so I'm doing it again. Please do yourselves a favor and take some time out of your day today to read it if you can. If you didn't already, you'll have a far, far greater appreciation for the immense sacrifice our men and women in uniform make to protect our freedom.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dawgs-Tech Get Earlier Tip-Off in 2010

When Mark Fox was in Macon two weeks ago, he said he felt confident that Georgia and Georgia Tech could reach an agreement to move their annual rivalry game up on the schedule so that it could be played when students were still on campus rather than the early January dates of recent years.

"We're going to move it to before the kids leave campus, sometime in late November, early December," Fox said. "And I think Tech is in agreement with that."

While no contract has officially been signed, it sounds like the agreement has been made, and the two teams will face off this year on Dec. 7, according to Tech head coach Paul Hewitt.

"We’ve been sitting on that date for the last couple of months now," Hewitt said. "That just happens to be the date that works this year. Sometimes we’re both in different preseason tournaments or TV deals might come in the way."

Hewitt said he was hoping to settle on Dec. 8, which would have given Tech an additional off day after an ACC/Big Ten challenge date and a Legends Tournament appearance, but that idea was scrapped because it conflicted with the first reading day of finals for Georgia.

Hewitt and Fox both said their goal is to make the Georgia-Georgia Tech game a permanent fixture of the fall semester, and Georgia associate athletics director Arthur Johnson confirmed that the two schools are still in negotiations to settle on an in-semester date for the next three seasons at least.

Tech lost in Athens last year on Jan. 5 -- the same day as its football team played in the Orange Bowl. The two teams have played in January each year since 2005.

One theory kicked around among some fans has been playing the basketball game the Friday before the football game. On the upside, it would create an entertaining rivalry weekend, with both campuses hosting one event. The problems, however, would involve scheduling -- this weekend generally conflicts with an off-campus tournament for both teams -- and students would still be away from school for Thanksgiving weekend.

So, what say you? Will the earlier date drive a bit more enthusiasm for you to potentially attend future games? What would be your ideal date to see the game played?

(*The Telegraph's Coley Harvey contributed to this report.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Big Day for the Ladies

Softball sails past Cal

Alisa Goler hit her 15th home run of the season, and Sarah McCloud was dominant on the mound as Georgia topped California 7-0 in the opening game of the Athens Super Regional on Friday.

McCloud pitched a complete game, striking out three and allowing just four hits over seven innings, upping her record to 12-1 for the season.

Goler and catcher Kristyn Sandberg paced the offense. Goler was 2-for-2 with a home run, while Sandberg finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and her sixth homer of the season.

"We've had a lot of great games this year, but this win is up there with our best,” Goler said. “We just need to keep taking advantage of the situations that are given to us and keep fighting out there."

Dawgs’ Duo Advances

Georgia sophomores Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championship with a three-set victory over the 12th-ranked tandem of Karen Nijssen and Kristi Boxx from Mississippi on Friday.

After losing the opening set, Gullickson and Gilchrist sailed through the final two sets to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“We tried to keep it light when we talked to Chelsey and Nadja after (the first set), telling them to hang in there and keep fighting,” coach Jeff Wallace said. “They have matured, and it would’ve been easy for them to just go away, but they didn’t. They turned it around and played well at the end.”

Long Awaited, Much-Anticipated, Double-Stuffed, Super Deluxe, Director's Cut, Critereon Collection Mailbag... Part I

You ask, I answer. Let's get to it...

JLove writes: whats up on that mailbag mr. hale?

Mailbag? Come on, J Love. I thought you were a real fan. This blog isn't about just giving you answers to intriguing mysteries! It's about the characters! You don't really want me to give you all the answers, right? Some mysteries just have to go unsolved, and you need to remember I never promised to answer every question. Sure, I led you to believe that all these issues were really important. And yes, you spent hours and days and weeks discussing possible outcomes. But it was never my job to provide you with a pay-off that made any sense. It's about the journey of asking the questions, not the solutions of a true finale-like mailbag. You need to just be happy with some "Get to Know" posts and not worry about why Clint Boling was in the mental hospital with Hurley or how it is that Jon Fabris could turn into the smoke monster.

And yes, I'll be making numerous other snide allusions to "Lost" in the next few thousand words…

Rob writes: Multiple times a day I go to your blog. Each time, for a majority of the last couple weeks, I’ve been saddened to see no new content. Is this just a confluence of events, the doldrums of off season plus the end of the UGA Spring semester, leading to the limited writing?

A "confluence of events" is probably a good way of putting it, Rob.

First off, I didn't really take much down time last year, and the result was that I was utterly exhausted by the end of football season. So I'm trying to conserve a bit of energy this offseason so we're running at full speed by the time SEC Media Days gets started in July.

Secondly, we have been limited in terms of player availability since the end of spring practice. The only real interview opportunities we've had have come with the coaches at the Bulldog Club meetings, so it's been tough to get quotes or background for new material. And while I could try to recycle some stuff just for the sake of content, I'm not real excited about doing that. But I do have a few projects in the works that will hopefully be well worth the wait in the coming weeks.

Third, I started a beer card at Pauley's downtown. If I drink 100 different beers, I get a free t-shirt. And I could really use a t-shirt.

In any case, I'm hoping to post 10-12 times a week going forward, assuming there's enough to write about, with even more coming next week with SEC Meetings in Destin kicking off.

Oh, and also, feel free to pop a bottle of your finest sparking beverage today to celebrate this mailbag, which as fate would have it is... my 2,000th post! I feel like that should get me a free t-shirt, too.

(And don't worry... I already know what my final post will be, so all of this will definitely make sense when we get to the finale. Trust me, it all matters.)

Harin writes: My fiance is a huge softball fan and wants to go tot he CWS if her DePaul blue demons and the lady dawgs make it...she was asking why you aren't giving them any love cause she loves your blog too

Well, I could give you the Pauley's beer excuse again, but the truth is I just didn't make it over to cover them much. Super-regionals kick off today, however, so I'll see what I can do about giving the softball team a bit more love this weekend.

Barton writes: I was wondering what you think about conference expansions? I know the Big Ten is talking about expanding to 16 teams. If that occurs, the SEC will likely expand also. My actual question is who will the SEC target if an expansion happens within the next 5-10 years? (FSU and Miami) or (Texas and Oklahoma)

Geographically FSU and Miami seem to make the most sense. I also heard that if Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State would follow. Just curious to see what you think and look forward to the mailbag.

My best guess is that the SEC won't expand unless it has to, and for now at least, I'm not inclined to think that the huge landscape-altering changes that have been discussed will become a reality. That said, if Texas essentially becomes a free agent, I don't see how the SEC doesn't at least explore the idea of bringing the 'Horns in. Texas has access to a huge and lucrative market that would expand the current SEC footprint and also fields competitive teams across numerous sports. So there's a lot of upside to considering the idea.

As for other teams, the obvious responses have been Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Georgia Tech. I'd also figure that, wherever Texas goes, A&M would follow. I suppose it's also possible teams like North Carolina and Virginia Tech could be in play. But all of that is fodder for water-cooler discussion more than a reality for the near future. And if I had a vote, I'd stick with things the way they are.

Chuck writes: I am trying to find out what’s happened to the Georgia baseball team!?! This was supposed to be a good season, and it seems to have unraveled badly.

Two major issues for the Diamond Dogs this year -- pitching and youth. The latter was a problem in terms of fielding a consistent lineup this season, particularly when injuries added up early in the season. But in the long run, it might have been a good trial by fire for a group of guys who will be back with a lot more experience next season. The pitching, however, is a real concern. Georgia's team ERA for the season was 8.51 -- more than a run-and-a-half behind the next-worst team (Mississippi State at 6.92) and nearly two full runs worse than the all-time low point in Bulldogs' history. What's worse is that virtually none of Georgia's younger pitchers showed significant progress as the year went on. What was a giant black hole for Georgia this season is going to be a huge question mark again next year, and allowing eight-and-a-half runs a game isn't going to get it done no matter how good the offense is.

John F. writes: Let me first say that I don't think using A.J. Green as a punt returner is a good idea. But, I got to thinking why not? The biggest reason is risk of injury, but how often does a returner actually get hurt on punt returns? I can only think of one in recent memory, Mikey Henderson sustained a concussion in the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii from a personal foul. Mikey was a much smaller guy than A.J., so I don't think a concussion is likely for A.J., but who knows. The point is, I hear a lot of people say it is very risky, but I don't hear many reports of injuries of punt returners. But that may be just because I haven't been listening. Besides, Rambo and Boykin are pretty valuable to the team as well.

I'm inclined to agree, but I still don't think using Green as a returner is such a hot idea. It's really an issue of risk-reward. Are the chances particularly high that A.J. will get hurt returning a punt? No. But the chances that his punt-return skills will be the difference in many games isn't particularly high either. And while A.J. is a remarkable athlete, there are other quick, elusive guys on the team who aren't as important in their offensive or defensive roles as A.J. is. Add to that the fact that Green has been banged up both of his first two seasons in Athens, and I just don't see how the case can be made that it's a good idea to put him out there regularly. Now, if you wanted to use him in "must win" situations, like the field-goal block against Arizona State, for example, then I'm all for that.

Jarrett writes: I read your first article about the Facebook page when it first came out. I got the exact impression that you meant when you wrote it. I understood that it had nothing to do with a divide in the locker room and that it was just some of Mett's friends offering condolences and support to someone who is obviously very down. Just wanted to let you know that not everyone took it the wrong way.

Yup, between the Facebook story and my "bias" for Aaron Murray and my stoking the flames under Mark Richt's hot seat… I've been a real jackass this offseason. On the upside, at least I haven't written anything controversial about the softball team.

Trumely writes: Dawg Chat - "David Hale, That guy is all business all the time." How do you feel about that Dave?

I feel like it's time for me to build a bed under my desk for naps, a la George Costanza.

Byron writes: Hey David, was wondering if you could find out why the club tour doesn't come to Jacksonville anymore.

I talked to Claude Felton in the sports information office about this. He said that visiting Jacksonville hasn't been abandoned, but that the plans for now are to focus on the primary locales within the state -- Macon, Augusta, Atlanta, Columbus, Savannah -- then rotate other cities each year. This year the tour hit Statesboro. Last year, I think there was an appearance in South Carolina. Jacksonville will be back on the docket eventually, too.

Stuart writes: Do you know if CMR ever plans on doing a bulldog club outside the south? Say like Los Angeles?

Now this might be a bit tougher. I'd imagine if a visit like this could be fit in around another rationale for being in the area, sure. But the problem is that there are a ton of other responsibilities on Richt's plate during the offseason, and a major trip like this would be far more time consuming than a few hours in Macon, for example. The other aspect, too, is that L.A. residents might make it out to Athens for one or two games a year. The in-state fans are far more likely to make visiting Sanford Stadium (or Stegeman) a routine.

Wooly Butts writes: Is the idea to cross-train Gamble for both jobs? To take a starting ILB and make him a backup OLB, or start him at OLB in front of Washington? I assume that Dowtin will now start with Dent at ILB? Are Robinson and Gilliard solid 2nd-team ILBs, with time available for Samuel (if he doesn't RS) and Hebron or incoming freshmen?

I'll be interested to see how they end up using Gamble this fall, and my bet is that a lot of that decision will come down to how some of the freshmen -- like Demetre Baker and T.J. Stripling -- perform in fall camp. I think Gamble is probably more valuable at ILB, where his experience and leadership are a bigger part of the on-field responsibilities of the position. But in terms of depth, obviously the bigger need for UGA in the short term is at OLB. In talking to DG, he's happy playing both positions, and he said he's comfortable moving back and forth if it keeps him on the field more. So perhaps that will be how things end up.

Alan writes: How about a post that compares UGA football players to LOST characters. It would provide intrigue, frustration for non-losties, and transvestitism. All the makings of a Pulitzer if you ask me.

Well, I suppose four straight years out of the SEC title game feels a bit like purgatory, right? And perhaps Todd Grantham is the perfect "candidate" to turn the light back on… whatever the heck that means. But I'm just not sure I have the energy to do this anymore.

Steve writes: just read your getting to know Demetre Bake feature and was wondering how big he is these days. When he won shot and discuss I read somewhere that he was 6-2 but I'm pretty positive that's a generous height for him. Any help would be appreciated; glad you're back and blogging after a slow few days.

Self-reported numbers from Mr. Baker is 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds. As a point of comparison, Rennie was 5-10, 225.

Meansonny writes: A couple of quick questions on some points made anonymously... Who are the 4 Other juniors that will be leaving the Bulldawgs after the 2010 season? I'm sure someone might leave with AJ. But there's a good chance that it only follows a great performance this season. If we get 4 other Juniors to go Pro, I like our chances in the East next year

Well, given the relative levels of lucidity displayed by Mr. Anonymous from time to time, I'm at a loss to tell you which four juniors he might have had in mind. But just for fun, let's look at Georgia's top draft-eligible underclassmen and handicap their NFL prospects for 2011, from most likely to depart to least likely.

A.J. Green. He'll be missed.

Justin Houston. If he hadn't missed three games last year, he likely would have led the SEC in sacks while playing on a mediocre-at-best defense. This year, he's playing OLB in a blitz-happy scheme with a full 12-game slate and no suspension awaiting him. Something tells me he might be NFL bound sooner than later.

Cordy Glenn. He's become one of the best guards in the SEC and received rave reviews for how much he improved this spring (with Mike Bobo saying Glenn had the best spring of anyone on the offense, despite having no back-up pushing him for playing time). If the line comes together this year the way many expect, Glenn could be joining Clint Boling near the top of some NFL teams' draft boards.

Brandon Boykin. Excelled as a returner last year, has NFL-level skill set and was solid in his first year as a starter despite Georgia's disastrous secondary. If Scott Lakatos is successful in helping him take that next step and refine his game, Boykin could easily be NFL ready in 2011.

Ben Jones. Probably not prototypical NFL size, but he sure has the prototypical NFL approach. None of the first four guys would surprise me if they entered the draft in 2011. This one probably would, but it's not completely out of the question.

Caleb King. If he's healthy and playing a lot, he could certainly turn some heads of NFL scouts. Of course, if he's healthy and playing enough, would he want to leave? Again, I'd doubt this one would happen, but it's not impossible.

Aron White. He's a versatile athlete who has made steady progress and is at a crowded position where he's already been (at least nominally) passed by a younger player on the depth chart. So you could envision a scenario in which he goes to the NFL early. But he's also not the prototypical NFL tight end by any means, and he's a super smart kid who clearly understands the value of getting his degree. I'd be very surprised if this happened.

Bacarri Rambo, Nick Williams, Jakar Hamilton, Marcus Dowtin, Cornelius Washington, DeAngelo Tyson. This group is essentially all in the same boat. Each has an NFL skill set and would be a player you'd figure will get drafted whenever they move on from Georgia. All will be draft eligible at the conclusion of the 2010 season, should they choose to depart. But none have been a full-time starter before, and each has a lot to prove. There's a decent chance that one or more will do just that this season and find their NFL prospects bright by December, but it's anyone's guess as to who that might be. Of course, this should also be a nice little reminder of how much potential there is on Georgia's D this year. Six guys who didn't start last season that all have a reasonable shot of playing in the NFL. That's a lot to like.

ECDawg writes: Andy Staples noted today that SEC teams control local TV rights and that Florida receives $10 million/year from Fox Sports. How much does UGA get for local rights?

There's not an easy apples-to-apples comparison here, since Florida's SunSports deal is a good bit different in its structure than Georgia's. The closest comparison I could give you is the Dawgs' deal with ISP Sports, which handles marketing, Internet, radio and a mess of other things, too. That deal, signed prior to last season, is for eight years at $92 million.

Dawgjammin writes: how much better is the press coverage AJ is facing in practice/scrimages this spring and the early part of fall going to make him? You gotta think he hasn't faced that in practice his first two years…

He certainly seems to think it's going to make him better, and I think it's been reciprocal. A.J.'s getting to see more press coverage in practice, which will help him on game day with the more physical opponents he'll go up against. Meanwhile, Georgia's corners are getting a taste of what it's like to press the best receiver in the country during practice. If they can slow A.J. down on a Tuesday, there aren't many receivers who will have success against them on Saturday.

Quantoid Dawg writes: Given a population of approximately 200 college males and a time span of 3.2 years, what is the number of incidents we should expect? As you correctly observe, one way to measure this is against the student population as a whole. Without some base line of a reasonable expectation, the discussion is an only argument about perceptions.

There was a lot more to Quantoid's question about Georgia's recent arrest record, but for the purposes of space, I think this summarizes his basic inquiry pretty well. The idea is that there are obvious differences in how discipline is handled at other schools, both in-house and by the local police force. So the best point of comparison is between the UGA football team and Athens Clarke County as a whole. Luckily, our pal Jim F. did some of this research.

For Jim's research, he estimated that about 160 different players had come through Georgia since 2007, including walk-ons. During that time span, as I noted in my post on the subject last month, there were 37 "incidents." Since then, two more arrests occurred, but several of the "incidents" I noted originally didn't result in arrests. So let's use 32 as our number of total arrests since 2007 for Georgia. That means that roughly 20 percent of all football players during that span have found themselves in some sort of off-field legal trouble.*

(*Note, some players have been arrested multiple times, so while that average is correct, the total number of players involved in incidents is actually lower.)

As Jim found out, the overall numbers for ACC in general since that span are far lower. There have been 6,471 arrests in ACC since 2007, according to FBI crime stats. Divide that into the population, which is estimated at 104,313, and you have a crime average of 6.2 percent -- or roughly one-third of the rate of football players.

Just in terms of violent crimes, the rate in ACC is roughly 0.4 percent, with a total of 387 incidents reported. Among Georgia players, I'd count six (Zach Mettenberger's recent guilty plea in Remerton, two incidents by Montez Robinson, Michael Lemon's fight, Jeremy Lomax's gun charge and assault charges against former walk-on Tripp Taylor). That's a rate of 3.7 percent -- or roughly 10 times the ACC average.

Now, with that context, is it fair to say there's a real problem with behavior on Georgia's football team?

I probably wouldn't argue much if you said there was. But there are mitigating factors here, too. For one, it's nearly impossible to simulate the spotlight that football players are under, and those stats don't measure criminal activity, but rather the rate people are caught and charged with criminal activity. Secondly, ACC stats include a wide variety of demographics, while the football team is far more specific. Odds are the large number of retirees in ACC aren't going out on the town too often, and even if they do, there's no risk of them getting charged with underage consumption. But the highest rate of crime tends to be among 18 to 25-year-olds, which just so happens to fit with the demographic make-up of the football team.

There are no doubt numerous other factors to consider, too, so even these numbers don't help to provide true context. But I think it does show that, regardless of the explanations or justifications, Georgia's image problem in this regard is largely self-created, and it is something that needs to be addressed and resolved rather than simply explained.

Anonymous writes: Why does attrition hit UGA so much harder than some other SEC schools like UF and UA? What can UGA do to be be better prepared for attrition (injuries and descipline)? The lack of for sight seems negligent. Whether the negligence is just stupidty or a holier than thou attitude is what I can't figure out. What is your opinion?

Given some of the problems of this year -- particularly at QB and OLB -- I can understand this thought process, but I'm not sure the evidence really backs it up. Yes, losing Mettenberger and Robinson have left two positions pretty thin for Georgia. And yes, a few years back there was a significant issue with depth on the O line and at tight end. But the players who left from those positions weren't likely guys who would have made an impact -- and none did at other schools after leaving UGA.

So my guess is, attrition hasn't really hurt Georgia as much as you might think, although the lack of numbers at some position has been a problem.

Part of that problem is likely about recruiting numbers in general, and Georgia has brought in significantly fewer players per year of late than many of their SEC counterparts. Auburn, for example, has landed nearly 30 signees per year during the past five years, while Georgia's number is closer to about 21. Mark Richt also makes a point of never removing a player from scholarship for reasons like underperformance or injuries, so there are a handful of players each year who just aren't likely to make an impact on the field under any circumstances.

Having said all that, Georgia is hardly the only team to go through some hard times in terms of attrition. As Wes Rucker told me during our Two-A-Days interviews, Tennessee will be going to bat this season with only about 70 scholarship players.

Jim F. writes: TV had 3 maybe 4 long series end this month (both season and series ending): Lost, L&O, 24 and if you count Simon leaving Idol then 4 - your grades plz?!?!

First off, I've never watched an episode of "American Idol." I watched roughly three minutes of the show its first season and that's three minutes of my life I'll never get back. I can only assume that Simon's goodbye will have little impact on my daily life.

As for "Lost"… I'll get to that in a bit.

I gave up on "24" this season, and with the talks of a "24" movie, I was less inclined to tune in for the grand finale of the show. Still, I have a soft spot for the show, which definitely had its highlights and low-lights over the years. Terri's amnesia and Kim's run-in with the cougar will always be bad-TV highlights for me, but I'd also argue that no show has ever done action on the small screen quite as well as "24" did. My guess is that one day, another show will come along using "24" as its archetype and do an even better job of progressing the genre, and that the impact of "24" will live for a long time. As it should.

Perhaps the most interesting of the shows you mentioned, however, is "Law & Order." You can make a good case for the significant impact "Idol," "Lost" and "24" have had on television, but "L&O" was around far longer and yet… I'm not sure what its impact was. It never really tried to be anything other than a self-contained legal drama that rarely broke any barriers but always managed to appeal to the masses without being awful (which, if you watch most TV dramas, is a very difficult thing to do).

For me personally, I'll always have fond memories of L&O because it got me through what was probably the most difficult time in my life. After college, I had absolutely zero going on. I was unemployed, living in Delaware, utterly miserable and perpetually broke. What I did have was an intimate knowledge of how to find a L&O rerun on TV at virtually any time of day.* I believe my record was 14 hours of L&O spread over four channels in the same day -- and this didn't include any of TNT's L&O marathons. The show was so easily digestible yet still intrinsically entertaining that it made for great time-killing fare. And at that point in my life, killing time was all I had to do.

(* Side note on what I'll remember most about those days: I know everyone has their vivid memories of 9/11… part of mine was how long it took me to actually figure out what was going on because I was so completely exhausted when my mom called me and told me to turn on the TV. I'd stayed up until almost 7 a.m. the night before watching L&O reruns on A&E and TNT and had only been asleep for about 90 minutes when she called. The whole thing would have been utterly surreal under any circumstances, but my L&O- induced semi-coma made it all that much more unbelievable. And the funny thing was, I spent much of the next few days doing nothing but watching the news coverage, as most people did. But when I needed a break, when I couldn't watch any more of the realities of 9/11, I was really glad there were still reruns of L&O on at all times to take my mind off it.)

Anyway, as one final fond farewell to L&O, I'll ask you guys this question: What's your Law & Order dream cast? I'd probably go with Adam/McCoy/Claire on the legal side and Van Buren/Logan/Briscoe on the cops side.

Castleberry writes: I noticed Samuel pretty far down at LB. Any chance he redshirts?

Part of Samuel's low slot on the depth chart was that he missed the final week of the spring with a concussion. Part of it, too, is that I don't think the coaches have much of an idea on how he'll fit this year.

On one hand, Samuel has a ton of talent. That's no secret. But his problem -- at least for right now -- at linebacker is just what it was at running back. He lacks the basic natural instincts he needs to play wide open and use his talent to its fullest.

“I just think the key and diagnose of blocking schemes," Grantham said about where Samuel needs the most work. "He has a feel for where the ball’s going, but is it a downhill run? Is it a wide play? I just think it’s more the recognition of the blocks and where do I need to fit based on the recognition of the call. That’s based on experience, but the guy was in here after meetings watching tape trying to get ready because he wanted to get better. If our guys will do that and work to improve, I think we’ll be fine.”

Both Grantham and Richt have been pretty cautious about setting any sort of bar of expectation for Samuel, and my guess is at this point, they expect a redshirt. But with as much talent as he has, and as little experienced depth as there is at any LB position, that could easily change this fall.

Greg writes: I saw on that Mettenberger had plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery. Where do you think Mett will end up? Apparently he is going to be visiting Louisville and Cincinatti. Is he free to sign anywhere or is he limited to a list of schools approved by Georgia?

Mettenberger is free to sign anywhere he wants to, and a number of schools have been reported to have interest. I know he visited Cincinnati, but I'm not sure what other options have been out there. UGASports reported a potential JuCo destination, which might make some sense in allowing him to get some PT under his belt and rebuild his image a bit, which could open up more doors down the road. I tried contacting Mett, but he didn't return my calls.

Billy writes: In light of Mettenberger's guilty plea, do you think he would have been booted from the team, if he had been totally honest and repentant with Richt in the first place?

This is impossible to say, and I highly doubt either Richt or Mettenberger will ever give us a straight answer. But I think it's safe to say this decision was as much about sending a message as it was about punishment for Mett. Although, even if that wasn't the case, I think the punishment was probably appropriate.

MauiDawg writes: we are all hungry for a SEC title game and NC...but you don't ax one of the highest winning percentage coaches in the nation and one of the best representatives of a major football program. He's making some important changes now..granted he should have done it 2 years ago..but he's done it now... So just chill out man and have faith and some loyalty in the guy. Otherwise, you'd be a perfect fan at Auburn or'd get along great with their football admin.

Here's the thing about the "hot seat" questions… what SEC coach isn't on the hot seat to some extent? The fact of the matter is, in this league, the expectations are always high, and only one team can win a championship each year. That means 11 other coaches fell short of the ultimate goal and have something to prove the next season, and Richt is no different.

What makes Richt's seat a slight bit warmer than some others is a combination of last year's failures and the length of his tenure. Heck, Auburn and Georgia finished roughly the same last season, and Georgia won their head-to-head matchup. Yet Richt is supposedly in trouble, but Gene Chizik apparently won over fans? It's all about perspective, and I'm willing to bet -- as MauiDawg points out -- no Georgia fan would be thrilled about dumping Richt to get a guy like Chizik.

Yes, Richt needs a better on-field performance in 2010 if he wants this talk to disappear next season. But there's virtually no way he goes anywhere unless it's his decision, and that's probably a good thing because the options for finding a suitable replacement would be few and far between. And really, that's the mistake so many reactionary fans make. It's easy to want change, but that only works if you have a better alternative. All due respect to Will Muschamp or Kirby Smart, but they haven't accomplished a fraction of what Richt has.

Anonymous writes: It is time for Mark Richt to go. Anyone who defends him and says it is the players forgets he selected the players. He cannot win big games against worthy opponents and continues to have player issues. I have been a fan of GA football since 1975 and this program is at absolute bottom. What a joke.

First off, I'm glad to know that Anonymous has made a good recovery from the coma he was apparently in from 1993 through 1996.

Secondly, this brings us to the best suggestion we've had on the blog in a while...

Kathleen writes: I think the new troll on your board should create a drinking game for us... like every time he mentions Knowshon being redshirted. Drink! Or Washaun not playing until the fifth game! Or when he addresses you by name, David Hale.

If I had only instituted this policy a week ago, I'd be done with my beer card already. But I love the idea, so everyone should probably head to their nearest purveyor of malted hops and barley and stock up for the remainder of the offseason.

And yes, I know I haven't written about "Lost" yet… it's coming in the second half of the mailbag on Monday. Stay tuned… the answers are coming. Or perhaps we're all just in purgatory and this was all meaningless.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Get to Know: Demetre Baker

In our latest installment of our "Get to Know" series, we catch up with linebacker Demetre Baker, one of four incoming freshmen from the state of Florida. Baker's expectations for college are all very reasonable -- just getting his degree, going undefeated, winning a national title, making the Olympics in discus or shotput and getting a shot to play in the NFL. Gotta love that enthusiasm, right? So, here's more of what Baker had to say...

David Hale: You're a Florida guy, growing up in the Jacksonville area. What attracted you to Georgia?

Demetre Baker: When I first met up with Coach Richt, I liked the program and I liked the people around it. It was just the people and the coaches that seemed to care about being more of a great person followed by a great athlete, and that was really important to me.

DH: Some of the people involved in recruiting you aren't at Georgia anymore after changes were made on the defensive staff. Did that cause you to reconsider your decision to come to Georgia at any point?

DB: I just wanted to realize, who could I trust the most? I know a lot of coaches are going to tell me, we're going to do this or we're going to do that. But it really boiled down to -- was this a place I could live for four years. When I got to Georgia, just being there for 10 or 15 minutes, I knew this was where I was going to be.

DH: When the coaching changes happened, did other schools get back in touch with you and try to get you to change your mind about Georgia?

DB: I actually didn't. A lot of recruiters what type of person I was and the leadership I bring, and once my mind was made up, that's where I'm going to go.

DH: What were your early impressions of Coach Grantham and the other new coaches?

DB: I got the news as soon as they got there that they were going to be some great coaches. Coach Richt himself told me they were going to hire the best and take care of the job and get it done. I knew he was going to have somebody that was going to be better than what they had before.

DH: Do you have an idea yet of how you'll fit in in the new 3-4 defense that Grantham is installing?

DB: From what I understand, we've had some discussions about playing outside linebacker. They'll have me a little bit of outside running the 3-4 scheme and blitzing a lot.

DH: I'm sure that's something that sounds good to any defensive player, right?

DB: It's good. With my speed, running a 4.4, they can use me outside, give me a chance to run and chase those quarterbacks. That's what I do. That's what I'm best at on defense.

DH: Are you excited about having a chance to be coached by someone with as much NFL experience as Grantham has?

DB: Absolutely. It gives us the opportunity to figure out how the next level trains and how they play the game -- going from high school to college and the NFL, all three different stages. So it's definitely good to have someone from the NFL come down and help us get prepared and make us a better team.

DH: Have you stayed in touch with some of the guys on the team already to try to get an idea of what you'll need to do to be ready once you arrive on campus? Do you feel like you'll be comfortable with the defense when you start practice?

DB: Running the 3-4 won't be a big change for me. My high school has run that, so I've been in that position before. It shouldn't be hard to adjust to. I'm already the size of a sophomore in college, so I think that won't be an adjustment. I think I'll get there and be perfectly fine with the new defense, be ready to rock and roll come game day.

DH: It's just a few more days before you get to campus. Any nerves?

DB: I think it will be more intense than what I've been used to. I think once I get there, it's going to be a different world. But I think I'm ready for it. And I think they're ready for me as well.

DH: Besides football, you've excelled in track-and-field, too. You recently won state championships in both discus and shotput, right?

DB: I've been a state champion since sophomore year in shotput, and I always fell second in discus due to some technique issues that I worked out over four years and I finally came through and PRed. I was able to hit 191, which no one had done that in some years.

DH: Is there some crossover between discus and shotput and what you're doing training for football?

DB: I think both of them are sports that you've got to be quick and explosive with the shotput, and you definitely have to have some technique and speed behind you with the discus. As far as football, it's an all-natural sport. You've got to go out there and run loose. You've got to let the animal inside you out and handle yourself as an athlete.

DH: Are you planning to continue your track-and-field work at Georgia, too?

DB: Definitely. Coach Richt and I talked to the track coach about it. He's one of the best coaches around, and I heard the shotput champion in the Olympics had actually trained there, so they're looking forward to having me on the track as well as football.

DH: So which sport is your favorite?

DB: I'd have to say -- I love both sports. I also did weight lifting. I came in third in the state this year. I went to state two times in a row -- my first two years of weight lifting. It helped me out a lot strength-wise and putting that extra 10 or 20 feet on as far as shotput and discus.

DH: What would you say are your biggest strengths right now and what do you feel like you're going to have to work on the most when you get to Georgia?

DB: I think my strength is going to be being very fast and physical, being able to run around from sideline to sideline and make a play. Some things I have to work on would be maybe coverage a little bit. Being able to defend without looking back at the quarterback and once the ball's in the air. But I don't think that will be hard to adjust to. I'll be playing in an open area and running out in space, it will be better than just coming downhill.

DH: You talked about your leadership qualities and about your weight training. I'm guessing that will remind a few Georgia fans of another linebacker at UGA -- Rennie Curran. Did you get a chance to meet Rennie when you were being recruited?

DB: Absolutely. When I first got there, he was one of the guys everybody wanted me to meet. I got over there and talked to him a bit. We seem to have some similar problems like family issues and stuff like that. We both have daughters. That's something we looked forward to doing was getting down there and making it to the next level so we could take care of our families.

DH: With all the big changes coming up in your life, how are you going to handle balancing those family responsibilities with football and college and all the other stuff that goes with that?

DB: Really I just try to keep a clear mind. I just know that when I'm away, there's going to be business to take care of, and everything else falls second. As long as I go there and play my best, encourage my players to play at their best, show leadership -- that's most important. Then coming home with a degree or coming home knowing I made it to the NFL or the Olympics, that would be a great success.

DH: So when you're not playing sports, what do you like to do for fun?

DB: Usually I like to go out and have dinner or hang out with some friends. I was there and saw the downtown (in Athens) and it's a little bit wild. But you don't have to worry about that. I'm not that type of person. I usually stay indoors, try to keep small business and be careful with how I conduct myself. I don't want any trouble because it's easy to get into and hard to get out.

DH: If you could sit down for dinner with any celebrity, who would it be?

DB: I would say Denzel Washington. I like every movie he's in. He challenges people mentally. I don't know how he does it, but he seems like a great guy overall. He's got a great personality, and he makes the movie a good movie.

DH: Did you have a favorite player growing up or someone you modeled your game after?

DB: I don't have any favorite player, but I just love great athletes. I love guys who are there for football and not there for all the fans or the critics and all the other stuff that comes with it. I love players that love the sport and want to get after it.

DH: Did you have a favorite team?

DB: I had to go with the Jaguars, but watching them play lately, I've seen a lot of players that aren't really out there for football. They're just out there to make some money.

DH: OK, last question -- what's the one thing you're most looking forward to when you get to Georgia?

DB: I'll tell you what -- the thing I'm most looking forward to is winning a championship or going undefeated. Those were my top career goals, and I've done it in junior high, I've done it in high school, and I want to do it in college.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday Links (5/26)

Aloha, folks. Remember me? Yeah, I know... four days in a row with no blog posts. I'm a terrible person.

I do apologize. I was out of town the past two days and, while I'd hoped I could squeeze in some time for writing, it just didn't happen.

On the upside, I have a couple things planned for later the rest of this week, a few projects in the works for early next month, and next week I'll be heading to Destin for the annual SEC league meetings. So there's plenty of blogging to come, and hopefully most of you found ingenious ways to blow off work for the past few days so no harm was done.

In my travels -- which included plenty of down time on an airplane -- I was pondering the "great" debate over the relative temperature of Mark Richt's seat. Again, I can't stress enough that I think the idea of him getting canned at the end of this season is silly. But... just for fun, and to prove my point, here's a rough case I made for why every other coach in the SEC could be gone at season's end, too:

Urban Meyer, Florida. Corch already tried to quit once, only to change his mind a few hours later. But what happens if those health concerns continue? And particularly -- what happens if his health is a concern, but so is his team? Or... what if the NFL comes calling? There's almost as many scenarios that have Corch leaving Gainesville as have him staying.

Derek Dooley (Tenn) & Joker Phillips (UK). First-year coaches aren't likely to be on a tight leash but... Kentucky's already seen a lot of Phillips, so maybe if things go really sour in Year 1, they'd be more apt to part ways quickly. And Dooley -- well, he's no Lane Kiffin, but Tennessee is on its third coach in three years.

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina. Entering Year 6 of his plan to make South Carolina relevant, all that's happened is that Spurrier has largely become irrelevant himself. For USC, having Spurrier as their coach is much like the loser from high school finally getting to date the prom queen 10 years later when she's packed on some pounds, had three kids and been divorced. Yeah, he can probably do better now, but he's too obsessed with the image. So I doubt Carolina makes a change, but perhaps Spurrier decides he's had enough.

Bobby Johnson, Vandy. Hey he's done more at Vandy than anyone in recent memory. But... another winless SEC campaign and even the Commies have to think that they've reached a bad place.

Gene Chizik, Auburn. Remember how upset fans were when Chizik was hired? Much of that anger was erased by a relatively strong season, but what if Auburn takes a big step back in Year 2? Might the calls for a change return vociferously? OK, I'll admit it... this was among the hardest ones to conceive of a reasonable exit strategy.

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State. Here's Mullen's problem -- He's a good coach at a school where winning consistently is going to be close to impossible. So while a six-win season would probably thrill MSU fans, how happy will Mullen be with that? Then imagine that the Florida job comes open.

Les Miles, LSU. With a chance to beat Alabama late in the game, Miles calls for Jordan Jefferson to spike the ball on fourth down to preserve some clock.*

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas. High expectations in Year 3, but still has a terrible defense. Add to that the fact that Petrino hates staying at one job for more than six months and it's fair to consider the idea that he'll be headed elsewhere.

Houston Nutt, Ole Miss. David Cutcliffe had won at least seven games in five straight seasons, including a 10-3 mark in 2003. Then after Eli Manning left, the Rebels dropped to four wins in 2004 and Cutcliffe was fired. Would anyone be surprised if Nutt and Ole Miss won just four games during a major rebuilding effort in 2010? Yes, it'd be stupid to fire Nutt... but it's happened before.

Nick Saban, Alabama. Another SEC West title reminds Saban that there's nothing left for him to accomplish in college and, after insisting that there's no way he would ever leave Alabama, he quickly takes the job as the Cleveland Browns new head coach.

(* -- This scenario actually unfolded during an arena football game I covered in Albany once. The perpetrator? Former Georgia Tech QB Donnie Davis.)

Now, what would it take to get Mark Richt fired in 2010?

I suppose if Georgia won just three or four games, it might be enough to require a change. But I just can't see any scenario in which that happens without some drastic outside circumstance (like an Aaron Murray injury) being at the root of the problems, and Richt could hardly be blamed for that.

I suppose, too, if the financial motives were strong enough, a change could be made. But how much would donations and ticket sales have to fall for it to be financially worthwhile to buy out both Richt and Todd Grantham's contracts, then overpay to land a new coach? Again, there's just no way that happens.

So my question for all the hot-seat enthusiasts would be this: Of all the scenarios listed above -- some of which, I plainly admit are tough to envision -- where would Richt getting the axe fall on the levels of likelihood? I'm not sure what the answer should be, but I'd feel pretty safe in saying that, even if you told me six SEC coaches wouldn't be back next year, Richt would still be on the sideline at Sanford Stadium in 2011.

OK, on to some links...

-- Two Georgia football players are considering giving baseball a shot this summer. I really don't like the sounds of this. Mark Richt just commented last week that he thought Israel Troupe could have a big year because he had finally put baseball behind him. And like Troupe, Sanders Commings is also playing a position where depth is a real concern.

Perhaps in the long run it doesn't really matter -- and perhaps both have a better chance at making the pro level in baseball than in football -- but if I were one of Georgia's coaches, I'm not sure I'd be completely pleased with this development.

-- One of my favorite former Bulldogs made a stop in his hometown to visit some sick fans. (h/t Jim F)

-- So I mentioned earlier about how former Tech QB Donnie Davis once decided to spike a ball on fourth down to stop the clock. And yet, I don't consider him to be anywhere close to the worst QB in Tech history. And with that in mind, Bubba N Earl present the honorable mention on their list of the 100 greatest players in Georgia history.

-- Dawg Bark thinks Georgia has the third-best DB depth chart in the SEC behind Florida and South Carolina. I think it's dangerous to get too far ahead of ourselves in predicting greatness for a unit short on experience... but yeah, that secondary has a chance to be really, really good.

-- Talking to most fans, this seems to be a sports year at UGA that they'd rather forget. Down year in football, historically bad in baseball, missed the tourney in basketball and, at least by their standards, a bit of an off year for gymnastics. And yet, Georgia still ranks second in the SEC in all-sport standings. So to answer Tim Tucker's question... yeah, I'm surprised.

-- A Damn Beast wonders how well Aaron Murray can stand up to all the pressure that will invariably be on him this summer and fall. And that's the question about Murray, isn't it? The kid is talented, but of all the hyperbolic worries about how he'll perform, I think this is probably the most legitimate one, given what happened on G-Day. Of course, my best guess is... he'll be fine.

-- If you haven't been on board from the beginning, here's your chance to catch up on "Friday Night Lights".

-- The Grit Tree has a great entry this week for Lewis Grizzard Wednesday on dining at truck stops.

My best/worst truck-stop story was probably at an all-you-can-eat diner in Oklahoma.

I was driving cross-country with a friend (we were in the process of moving to San Diego) and the diner had a name so hilarious that we had to stop. Sadly, I can't remember the name now, which likely has to do with the brain damage I incurred by eating the meatloaf. Also, it's never a good idea to choose a dining establishment based on the comedy value of its name.

I do remember there being Jell-O for dessert. It was a color I had never seen before, but the closest approximation I could give you was when a high-school girlfriend of mine drank too much blue Mad Dog and threw it back up.

We concluded that leg of our journey that evening in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and all I can say is that, while the motel we stayed at charged just $35 a night, they would have been wise to also ask for a security deposit based on the condition the bathroom was in when we left the next morning.

-- And finally, I know a number of you have asked my thoughts on the "Lost" finale. I'll write some later this week, but in the meantime, here's a list of answers to a number of burning questions.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Defense Wins Championships

Somewhat interesting post from Chris Low looking back at the last 10 years of SEC champions.

The stat that jumped out at me is this: Of the past seven conference winners, six have finished in the top 10 nationally in total defense. The lone exception? That'd be Georgia in 2005 (which was a very odd year because the Bulldogs also had the worst total offense finish of any team on the list that season).

And as Low points out -- even the SEC title game losers have strong defenses. In the last decade, only Tennessee's 2007 team stands out as particularly poor defensively (finishing 70th nationally) and only two others finished outside the national top 20.

In addition to the strong national finishes in total D, Georgia's 2005 squad is also the only one since 2002 not to finish among the three best defenses in the conference, too.

Of course, the 2005 season aside, what really matters is what's happened lately.

Here's Georgia's finish defensively each year since its last SEC title:

2006 -- 3rd SEC, 8th nationally
2007 -- 3rd SEC, 14th nationally
2008 -- 6th SEC, 22nd nationally
2009 -- 7th SEC, 38th nationally

It's also worth noting that just once in the past 10 years has an SEC champion finished in the top 10 nationally in total offense, and seven of the past 10 conference winners finished outside the top 20.

So while Aaron Murray will continue to get a lot of attention, it's probably safe to say that the best indication of how far Georgia can go this year will be how effectively Todd Grantham can put a stop to that downward trend on defense.

Five Dawgs Who Could Surprise

Yesterday Georgia announced it had placed five players on Phil Steele's All-America teams and 14 on his All-SEC teams. That's a pretty impressive tally, putting the Bulldogs on par with reigning national champ Alabama.

But while having 14 players make Steele's All-SEC teams, here's my question: Could there be more by season's end?

With that said, here are five players who didn't make Steele's preseason list who I think could turn into All-SEC caliber performers by year's end.

5. Branden Smith. If things fall right, Smith could find his name on the All-SEC teams twice at year's end. He's in line to earn a significant amount of time at corner -- and possibly the starting job -- and as a five-star recruit with blazing speed, there's no reason to think he won't develop into a legit playmaker. He could also end up returning punts this season and, if he avoids the fumbling problems he had last year, could turn in a Brandon Boykin-esque performance.

4. Akeem Dent. Last year was a lost one for Dent, but he made some nice strides in 2008 and appears to be fully healthy for 2010. He's the veteran leader of the linebacking corps, and he'll be counted on heavily in Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense. If he can turn in the type of senior season he's capable of having, that would be huge news for both Dent's future prospects in the NFL and for Georgia's defense as a whole.

3. Tavarres King. Perhaps Kris Durham should be here instead. Or maybe Marlon Brown or Rantavious Wooten. But someone is going to be the beneficiary of all the attention A.J. Green gets, which means there will be plenty of opportunities for another WR to step up and turn in a strong season.

2. Abry Jones. Any kid that impresses Rodney Garner within a few weeks of arriving on campus as a true freshman has to have something going for him. Jones is strong and fast and could be a force as a pass rusher in the 3-4. How well he holds up against the run as part of the new-look D line will likely be what defines his sophomore campaign, but the potential is definitely there.

1. Cornelius Washington. Justin Houston's inclusion on Steele's first-team All-SEC list was well deserved, but Washington -- the other starting OLB -- is going to be given a chance to shine this year, too. For one, his skill set makes him a perfect fit at OLB, whereas he was a bit out of place in the more traditional DE in a 4-3. Secondly, Houston had such a strong 2009 season that he'll have to command more attention from the opposition, which could help free things up for Washington. The sophomore showed flashes last season, had an excellent G-Day performance, and I'll be shocked if he doesn't become a consistent threat as a pass rusher in 2010.

I should probably also include Caleb King on this list, but I'm guessing Phil Steele essentially flipped a coin on Georgia's running backs and went with Washaun Ealey as his rep. Odds are only one of the two will make an All-SEC team, but the chances are strong for either one. And, if by chance both prove to be All-SEC worthy by year's end, there's probably a good chance Georgia will be playing for an SEC title, too.

So… who do you think might also step up and surprise?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday Links (5/20)

The preseason awards keep coming in for Georgia, which placed five players on Phil Steele's preseason All-America list.

Punter Drew Butler and receiver A.J. Green made the first-team All-America list. Kicker Blair Walsh was a second-team All-American. Clint Boling was named a third-team All-American left tackle, while return specialist Brandon Boykin was named to the fourth team.

Only five teams nationally placed multiple players on the first team, and the only other SEC team to do so was Alabama, also with two first-teamers.

On Steele's All-SEC team, Georgia's numbers were even better. Butler, Green, Walsh, Boling and Boykin were all first-team All-SEC members, along with outside linebacker Justin Houston.

Center Ben Jones, guard Cordy Glenn and tailback Washaun Ealey were all named second-team All-SEC. Tight end Orson Charles, guard Chris Davis, inside linebacker Marcus Dowtin and Boykin (this time as a cornerback) were also named to the third-team. Safety Bacarri Rambo was a fourth-team All-SEC honoree.

Georgia's six first-team All-SEC players tied Alabama for the most in the league, while the Dawgs' 14 overall honorees tied Florida for the most in the conference.

Suffice it to say, talent shouldn't be the issue for this year's Bulldogs.

Now, on to some links...

-- One more thing working in Georgia's favor in 2010... the schedule should be a good bit easier than it has been the past few years.

-- While the hot seat talk about Mark Richt hits a nerve with some fans, there haven't been nearly so many people sticking up for Mike Bobo. Bernie's analysis reveals that might be a big mistake.

-- College Fantasy Football Insider has A.J. Green listed as their No. 29 overall receiver, but much of that is likely to do with the freshman QB getting him the ball.

-- Bleacher Report counts down the five most important games of the year for the Bulldogs.

-- Lions rookie Jahvid Best offers plenty of kudos for his new QB, Matthew Stafford.

-- Just an FYI for those of you who can't tune in each morning... 960 the Ref is archiving podcasts of their shows -- including my regular Tuesday morning appearances -- again on their Web site.

-- And speaking of The Ref, Chris Brame answers five questions for The Grit Tree -- including his take on what Georgia's "most spectacular" play of the Richt era would be.

-- The AJC gets you primed for the Final 16 in the NCAA men's tennis tourney.

-- UGA is getting audited. Why do I feel like Michael Adams is going to burst out of his office to greet the IRS like Tony Montana in "Scarface"?

-- Looks like "Community" is going all in against new time-slot nemesis "The Big Bang Theory."

-- It's been a long time, but Craig Kilborn is finally making a return to television -- although he's far from secure in having a new show. I won't even try to argue against the greatness of Jon Stewart, but I'll always have a soft spot for those early seasons of "The Daily Show" with Craigers. "It's Thursday, and you know what that means... it's time to dance!"

-- Check out Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse reading the "Top 10 Spoilers for the Lost finale" on last night's Letterman.

-- If you're looking for a more communal experience for the "Lost" finale, here's a group viewing in Atlanta you may want to consider.

-- Some early thoughts on Tuesday's "Lost" from Stuff of Legend can be found HERE.

-- And a few of my own...

* This probably makes me sound like a complete loser, but I can distinctly remember talking to my girlfriend three years ago and saying, "You know, if I died tomorrow, not knowing how 'Lost' ended would probably be in my top five biggest regrets."

Now that the finale is finally here, I find myself far less curious about any ultimate reveals, and more interested in simply whether or not I'll be upset about how it all ends. I guess that might have been inevitable, but the point is that the "mystery" of the show has become far less meaningful to me as a viewer this season.

* I thought Tuesday's episode was a good one, but again, I just feel like loose ends got swept under the rug or cleaned up a little too easily, and the larger story arc was rushed through to the point that I just don't care that much.

* I'm hoping that's not the last of Richard, because if it was, it was a particularly unceremonious way to lose one of the more interesting characters on the show.

* I hold out hope that Ben is conning the Man in Black because otherwise that storyline from earlier this season gets added to the ever-expanding list of red herrings.

* This was a good episode for Jack all around. His character's redemption has also been the most redeeming thing about this final season.

* I get that the Sun-Jin deaths were the emotional high point of the last non-Jacob episode, but it's like they completely forgot that Sayid and Lapidus died on the sub, too. What, no one was sad about Lapidus? I mean, who was going to make random snide comments then not have another line for two episodes?

* What happened to Claire? She was with Flocke, then she's just gone from the episode? This season has had too many issues of convenience. Same with having Miles run off into the woods instead of hiding in the secret room with Widmore... made no real sense, but offered an easy way out of killing him. (Of course, I'm not sure why they haven't offed him because, like Lapidus, his character hasn't offered much this year.)

* Early in the season, I hated the flash-sideways and wanted more on-island action. At this point, however, I'm far more interested in the Desmond storyline in LA and I really don't much care about the mythical Marcellus Wallace light on the island.

* Quick question: So Kate was crossed off "the list" because she was a mom, which would lead us to believe that the "Kwon" on the list was Jin, not Sun. So if Jin's a candidate, how come he could choose to die in the sub? I thought candidates couldn't kill themselves?

* I think the bottom line for me is this: It's still bittersweet that things are ending, and I'm not upset that the final answers aren't everything I wanted. In fact, taken in just the context of one season's worth of storytelling, this season hasn't been bad. But so much of what I really enjoyed about the show for the first five years seems to be missing this year -- and I guess that's what bothers me the most. I find myself trying to be convinced to like what I'm watching, and I really don't. It's not that it's bad... it's just that the first five seasons bordered on transcendent TV... and this is just, well, good TV.

So... any of you guys have big plans for the final episode on Sunday? And for all of you who have complained about me writing so much about "Lost"... will you be celebrating the end, too?

Get to Know: Ken Malcome

It's been a few weeks since we last checked in with any of Georgia's incoming freshmen, so I figured it was time to get back into our "Get to Know" series. Next up: Running back Ken Malcome.

Malcolme played at Southwest Dekalb and was one of the top running backs recruited in the state. And while Malcome has earned comparisons to some impressive players on the field, it turns out he actually has quite a bit in common with another former Bulldog off the field. Read on for more details...

David Hale: I know you're an Atlanta-area guy. Did you grow up wanting to play at Georgia, or what was it that convinced you that UGA was the place for you?

Ken Malcome:
I'm a Georgia boy. I grew up loving Georgia because it's my home state. I had a cousin play at Georgia a while back. He played fullback -- Patrick Pass. I've bled Georgia for a long time now. But another reason was, once I met the coaches, I got a lot of chemistry with them and the football players, and that made me want to be a Georgia Bulldog right there.

DH: I know there are a handful of guys at Georgia with relatives who played in the NFL. What's that like for you having a cousin who played at Georgia and went on to play at the next level beyond that, too?

It feels good. I don't feel a lot of pressure, because nobody pushed me to be just like him. I'm my own person. But it's good having a good role model, and I can always say, 'My cousin played at Georgia, how about your cousin?' So that's a good thing.

DH: You mentioned the chemistry you had with the coaching staff at Georgia. Your position coach, Bryan McClendon, is only a handful of years older than you, and he was playing at Georgia just five years ago. Does it help having a coach like that who went through all the transitions you're about to undergo so recently?

He gets it. He's around 25 or 26 and he's not too far from us, so he can relate. He just knows what it's like because he played the game just a little while ago, and nothing's really changed. The chemistry we have, it's like a brother and brother. We can talk, I can text him any time I have a problem or a question about football. He'll call me right back. It's like a brother thing with Coach McClendon.

DH: Have you had a chance to get to know the other running backs -- Caleb King and Washaun Ealey -- too?

I actually did. I met Washaun during the summer his freshman year. Washaun has been real cool. Afterward I met Caleb about a month later, and we hit it off. We're from the same town, from Atlanta, so we have a lot in common. He tells me to get ready to ball, that it's a grind every day and just to listen to what the coaches are telling us and be focused. That's most important.

DH: Last year, Washaun came in under similar circumstances to you, with a crowded backfield and not much playing time available. In fact, he didn't even play in the first four games of the year, but he ended up leading the team in rushing. Does that give you some hope for this season that, even if things don't get off to a great start, there's a chance you could still make an impact this season?

Oh yeah. Even if Caleb King and Washaun have their spots, I'll come in and I'm trying to earn a starting position, even though I probably can't. I'm still going to work hard to get there, and I won't mind coming in on third- or fourth-and-1, trying to get extra yards. Anything to help my team win. I don't have a problem with waiting my turn. I'm going to come in and work hard and try to get that No. 1 spot. A lot of people say, he's stuck behind Caleb and Washaun, but I've never been a backup running back for long, so I don't know how it feels. I guess I'm going to feel it this year, but I'm still going to work real hard to get that No. 1 spot.

DH: Is there a guy you've modeled your game after or someone whose running style you'd say you resemble?

I'm not really sure because a lot of people say different things. Some people say I look like Herschel or Robert Edwards or Terrell Davis. So me, I'm thinking it's a combination of speed and power and determination.

DH: So did you have a favorite player growing up? Or do you have a guy you really like now?

I always like, for some reason, Noel Devine. I know he's a smaller back, but I always liked him. Right now, I like Mark Ingram. He's just determined to get that first down. But when it comes down to it, I'd probably say Terrell Davis or Herschel.

DH: This year wasn't the biggest recruiting class for Georgia, but there are a lot of local guys, particularly from around the Atlanta area. Have all of you guys stayed in touch and bonded as you've been getting ready to start your college careers?

Oh yeah we have. I'm most close to (fellow Southwest Dekalb product) T.J. (Stripling) and we've been close with Garrison (Smith) and Michael Thornton. One goes to Stephenson and one goes to Douglass, so they aren't that far from our school. We keep up on football and go out and hang out and stuff. We're real cool. We keep in touch and talk about how are you doing, you ready to come, you ready to be a Bulldog, how you training, stuff like that. We'll be ready to be there on May 31.

DH: That's just two weeks away. You getting nervous?

I'm not going to lie to you, I'm pretty nervous. It's not like I'm scared or anything, but just nervous that I'm going into a new environment and it's not going to be like high school anymore. I've just got to be ready to accept that challenge, get in there and stay focused.

DH: What do you feel are the things you're most going to need to work on once you get to campus?

I know I didn't do it a lot in high school, and that's my pass blocking. I rarely even blocked in high school, so it's going to be kind of hard for me. And quicker feet -- trying to hit the hole faster. I think I hit the hole pretty fast, but I can always get better. Work on my speed and strength and really work on my all-around game. I feel I'm good enough to play at the next level right now, but I know I can always get better.

DH: Obviously you've had a great football career in high school. Did you play any other sports, too?

Baseball and football.

DH: So are you a Braves fan?

I'm not a Braves fan, but I was an Andres Galaraga fan when he played for the Braves.

DH: What else do you do for fun besides sports?

I just like to hang out with friends and play some games. I watch a lot of TV. People don't know, but I still watch a lot of cartoons in my house. All my friends -- we're 18, but we still watch cartoons. Nothing's changed since we were younger.

DH: Cartoons, eh? Which are your favorites?

For adult cartoons, it's "Family Guy." But right now, I wake up in the morning, I turn on the "The Jetsons" or my old-school cartoons I used to watch a long time ago. Nothing's really changed.

DH: If you could meet one celebrity -- maybe sit down and have dinner with them -- who would it be?

I'd have to say Knowshon Moreno.

DH: I'm sure that could probably be arranged. What do you like about Knowshon?

I watched an interview with him on YouTube and he was saying, who's the sweetest girl you ever met, and he was talking about Patty Mayonaise. He was talking about the girl from "Doug." He still watches cartoons like we do. Just the way he talks, he seems like he's a real cool, down-to-earth person. He's not cocky, and he's got his head on straight. I think we'd be a real good connection.

DH: Well from what I know of Knowshon, I think that's pretty accurate. You could probably have dinner with him and it'd be hours before he mentioned football.

See, I like that.

DH: Well aside from athletes, who has been the biggest influence in your life?

My grandfather. He's a huge Georgia fan. When Georgia offered me, he'd always been looking at Georgia. He always has been there for me. He's taken me to camps, any school activity. That started when I was very young -- when I was four years old. He was my coach from 4 to like 13. So that's my biggest influence right there.

DH: OK, so two weeks left: What are you most excited for when you finally get to Georgia?

I'm excited about putting my equipment on and being a freshman at Georgia. Hopefully we can get an SEC championship as soon as I get there. But there's a lot to work on, and I just want to start real early. I want to get there and play my freshman year. I'm not really trying to redshirt. I want to get in there and I'm really expecting a good year. That's what I'm most excited about.

Many thanks to Ken for his time and answers. So what do you guys think? Do you expect Malcolme to push for some immediate playing time?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thornton Signing is Official

Here's the official UGA release on Marcus Thornton...

Atlanta native Marcus Thornton, whose senior season at Westlake High School recently earned him the title of “Mr. Basketball” in his home state, has signed a national letter-of-intent to attend Georgia and play next year for the Bulldogs, head coach Mark Fox announced Wednesday.

Thornton, at 6-8 and 215 pounds, became one of the nation’s top high school power forwards during a senior year in which he averaged 23.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and four blocks per game. He originally signed last November with Clemson University but was granted a release from his letter-of-intent by the school in April.

Westlake went 30-3 during its most recent season and reached the Georgia state AAAAA championship game. It marked the Lions’ third Final Four berth during Thornton’s career there. After the 2010 season, the honors for Thornton began rolling in: “Mr. Basketball” by both the Atlanta Tipoff Club and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Parade Magazine All-America fourth team among them.

“We are delighted that Marcus has decided to join our program,” Fox said. “He is a terrific basketball player, a great student and an outstanding young man. He’s a winner in every way. He has a great family who now will be able to watch him play. Marcus was well coached in high school and is ready for the next step in his basketball career. It means a great deal to have Mr. Basketball coming to the University of Georgia for that next step. It’s also very exciting to us that Marcus wants to be a part of what we’re building Georgia.”

Thornton is ranked as the No. 121 overall prospect nationally, the 26th-best at the power forward position, by Another online recruiting service,, lists him as the nation’s No. 34 power forward prospect.

Thornton becomes the fourth signee of the Bulldogs’ 2010 recruiting class, the third from the spring signing period that ends today. He joins 6-8 forward Cady Lalanne of Orlando, Fla.; 6-9 forward Donte Williams of Ellenwood, Ga.; and 6-2 guard Sherrard Brantley of Dublin, Ga.


And for your viewing pleasure, some highlights of Mr. Basketball...