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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wednesday Links (6/30)

A few bits of housekeeping right off the bat...

-- First off, I apologize for a rather lackluster effort on posts this week. In my defense, there's no way I could possibly have more on my plate right now than I'm currently accomplishing without my head exploding. But if it makes you feel better, I've tried to work ahead a bit so there will be a handful of posts going up while I'm away the next couple weeks.

-- Next up: This is probably completely unprofessional, but hey... I'm leaving, so who cares, right? Anyway, I've got a lease in Athens that I can't get out of. I need a subletter. Anyone know someone looking for a nice two bedroom house in Five Points? First round of beers is on me for whoever takes the place. Here's the Craigslist ad for more info.

-- My Pauley's beer card will be finished this weekend. Any suggestions for a proper signature phrase to go on my photo for the Pauley's wall? (And before you ask, yes, I've probably taken my commitment to my beer card much more seriously than my impending marriage for the past month. In my defense, my fiance is only about seven beers behind me.)

-- I know the BCS is never going to be a fan favorite, and I'm not suggesting there might not be a better alternative, but... when South Carolina wins the College World Series after dropping two of three to Kentucky and East Carolina during the regular season then scored a total of one run in the SEC tournament, how can you make the argument that a playoff ensures a more deserving national champion? In fact, let me rephrase that: If South Carolina wins anything, how can you call it a legitimate national title? (Note: That little jab at the Gamecocks will earn me some disgusting shots this weekend from my buddy who is a SC grad.)

OK, some links...

-- In case you missed it, I had a story in Monday's Macon Telegraph on Mark Richt's optimism for the 2010 season.

-- The Georgia Bullblawg has a follow up to Richt's rah-rah approach this offseason.

-- Well, this could certainly have something to do with why Travis Jones didn't become a coach at Georgia this offseason. Bullet dodged.

-- Ben Dukes has a good take on all the worry surrounding Aaron Murray this season.

-- Tim Tucker puts the Orlando Sentinel's No. 64 preseason ranking for UGA into context.

-- The AJC's Michael Carvell has a piece on the developing relationship between former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford and former Tech receiver Calvin Johnson, now the key members of the Detroit Lions' offense.

-- And the brilliant career of Quincy Carter takes another step toward the Hall of Fame.

-- I tried very, very hard to get all the new uniform numbers of Georgia's freshmen. I failed. But Silver Britches picked up my slack.

-- News flash! ... Florida is officially worried about the upstart Georgia Bulldogs. OK, not on the football field, but take these moments of encouragement wherever you can get them.

-- This is extremely sad news. The daughter of former UGA coach Joe Kines was killed in a car accident on Monday.

-- Facebook strikes again! Ole Miss may be in line for a secondary recruiting violation after posting on a recruit's Facebook page.

-- In case you missed it, former Georgia tennis star John Isner provided the top 10 list on "The Late Show" on Tuesday. I thought he was funny, but how do you think he stacked up to the job done by Matthew Stafford last year?

-- So you remember my post over the weekend talking about my reporting jinx? Well, add this to the overwhelming evidence supporting the theory.

-- The Chicago Tribune has an excellent retrospective on "The Blues Brothers" 30 years after its release. And 10 years after the release of "Blues Brothers 2000," we're all still trying to pretend it never happened.

-- Alan Sepinwall offers some suggestions on who could replace Steve Carell on "The Office."

-- Salon offers a rare defense of "Entourage." I still haven't watched the premier and, given how much I've got going on, I'm not sure I'm going to be in a hurry to catch up.

-- "Friday Night Lights" is doing well in the ratings. Probably too little, too late for them to add future seasons though.

-- And finally, since I'm leaving, I should probably squeeze in "Lost" links whenever I can. Starz puts together a pretty funny bit detailing how the show should have ended.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Notes: Defense Could Be Mixed Bag in '10

Under most circumstances, Mark Richt keeps a positive attitude, but even he isn’t laboring under the delusions that a new coordinator and a new scheme will immediately turn Georgia’s defense into a national powerhouse. It’s going to be a work in progress, he said, but there are reasons for optimism.

“I’m excited about the defense, but there’s going to be a learning curve,” Richt said of Todd Grantham’s new scheme. “Quite frankly, Todd’s the only one who really knows what’s going on. We’ve got the right guys, but they’re all learning, too.”

Richt said he expects a few miscues here and there while players pick up on the scheme and Grantham gets a better feel for his personnel. But while mistakes are bound to happen, Richt also thinks the aggressive style of the 3-4 scheme can help the Bulldogs – who generated a league-worst 12 takeaways last season – create a few more mistakes by the opposition, too.

“The 3-4 is a good aggressive, attacking style and it’s one where we have enough personnel to run it effectively,” Richt said. “The question is, how well will we do it, how many mistakes will we make along the way, and when we make the mistakes, what’s it going to cost us? On the other end, hopefully we’re going to pressure people enough to get them to turn the ball over more than we did a year ago.”

Richt said the game plan for now is to build a foundation this summer, then throw as much of the new defensive playbook at the players as possible during the first few weeks of fall camp. About two weeks before the season opener, coaches will pare down the plays and come up with a game plan that will hopefully be a bit easier to implement on game day. For now, however, Richt said he’s taking more solace in the impressive approach his coaches and players have shown this offseason and worrying less about the new scheme.

“It’s not so much what you run as how you run it,” Richt said. “I think Todd has got a presence about him that guys respect, and I think we’re going to get after it.”


Richt has been asked a few hundred times this offseason about his expectations for freshman quarterback Aaron Murray. His answer is always the same. Murray needs to play it safe, protect the football and avoid trying to be a hero.

But if fans have heard the same refrain from Richt over and over, Murray said it’s a lesson he doesn’t need reinforced. He gets it.

“What Coach Richt always says is respect the football,” Murray said. “That’s pretty much the main goal going into this year is not to be a superstar or make spectacular plays. It’s to respect the football, make plays, make first downs, just utilize the great weapons I have around me.”

That’s the upside to Murray’s on-the-job training this season. While he’ll fill the often problematic role of freshman starting quarterback, he’ll be surrounded by 10 returning starters, the most experienced offensive line in the country and an All-American receiver to sling the ball to.

“Great plays are going to happen just by ordinary plays because of the athletes we have around us,” Murray said. “You can give a 10-yard curl to A.J. Green and he’s going to turn it into a 40 or 50-yard play. Me respecting the ball and making the right decisions is just letting those guys do the dirty work. I’ve just got to be smart.”

Perhaps the downside to that arrangement, however, is that a bit more might be expected of Murray than most freshman quarterbacks. With so much talent around him, the spotlight is squarely focused on the new guy – but that’s OK with Murray, too.

“It takes a little pressure off just because I can rely on those guys,” Murray said. “We’re not going to go into games where the whole game is going to be on my shoulders. We’re going to have a great running game and we’ll have some great receivers and some great tight ends. It’s nice to have the guys around me who can make plays so I don’t have to be a superstar.”


Fans weren’t the only ones scratching their head when Georgia released the results of the team’s offseason combine earlier this month – results that included some eye-popping numbers like the 4.29 second 40-yard dash time for linebacker Cornelius Washington.

“I didn’t believe it,” fellow linebacker Justin Houston said. “When they told me I said that wasn’t true. I went to the coaches and asked about it, and they told me it was true. I was shocked he ran that time.”

The remarkable time likely wouldn’t count as official among NFL scouts because the run was clocked by hand, but that doesn’t change the fact that, at 250 pounds, Washington still outran many of his fleet-footed teammates by a wide margin. So while the 4.29 might come with an asterisk, Houston said there’s still every reason to see big things in Washington’s future.

“I can see him being a breakout guy,” Houston said. “He can help this team in many ways and I hope he does.”


Murray has never taken a snap on game day, and he’s still got his nose in the playbook whenever possible trying to firm up his grasp on the offense. But despite his novice status, he’s tasked with a job most freshmen quarterbacks aren’t given: Mentor.

Despite his lack of experience, Murray is the most veteran quarterback on the roster, which means he has had to take true freshman Hutson Mason under his wing this summer. As it turns out, Murray has found the additional responsibility to be a good experience all around.

“It’s definitely weird,” Murray said. “I’m still learning the playbook. I know it pretty well, but there’s still tons of stuff to learn and engrave in my mind. But I feel the more I teach them, the better I learn the offense. If you’re able to teach it, it really shows how much you’ve learned. So I feel like it’s not only beneficial to him but beneficial to me, too.”

So just how much progress has Mason made in his first few weeks on campus? That’s tough to tell, Murray said, but so far far, the so-called veteran likes what he sees from the new guy.

“It’s just like with me where it’s going to be a learning curve to learn the playbook,” Murray said. “But he’s willing to put in the time. I make up little quizzes for them and test them on what they can do on the field, and he’s done a tremendous job of picking things up. So I’m pretty much in charge of him over the summer and his learning progress, and I’m going to make sure he knows as much as he can so that the first day of camp, (offensive coordinator Mike) Bobo will be pleased with his progress.”


The post-spring depth chart yielded a few surprises, including Vance Cuff’s rise to the top spot at cornerback, ahead of sophomore phenom Branden Smith. And while that may be a testament to Cuff’s quick adjustment to the scheme of first-year secondary coach Scott Lakatos, fellow corner Brandon Boykin said it’s probably not worth reading too much into who runs with the first team and who plays with the second just yet.

“It’s just kind of like giving you an idea of who is where, but we still have to go through the fall and summer and freshmen coming in,” Boykin said. “With things like that, you really don’t know.”

The good news, Boykin said, is that while a starter may not have emerged yet, Georgia has at least two good options who both have a strong grasp of what they’re doing in the defensive backfield.

“Both of them are looking really good,” Boykin said. “Branden and Cuff, they both can play each position—wide, short and nickel – so we’re just really trying to see what the strengths of each and every person here so I think coach Lakatos can see what we’re doing in the summer and put people there in the fall.”


While A.J. Green has graced the cover of numerous magazines and earned plenty of preseason hype as a potential All-American, he hasn’t been the most talked-about receiver in Georgia’s locker room. That honor goes to Tavarres King.

The sophomore receiver has bulked up during the offseason and has turned plenty of heads during summer workouts.

“The main person I’ve seen improve the most is TK,” Boykin said. “I remember guarding him last year—I mean you can just tell his releases are a lot quicker and he’s working with his hands a lot better.”

King has added almost 10 pounds of muscle to his frame after working with a personal trainer in Atlanta following spring practice and changing his diet after working with team nutritionist Rex Bradberry.

“It’s a physical sport,” receiver Kris Durham said. “You’ve got to have speed and all the intangibles, but you have to have your strength, too, and he’s working on that.”

The results for King have been obvious, both on and away from the field, Murray said.

“I was actually talking to him the other day, and he told me, ‘Let’s have a big year,’ and he pumping me up, I’m pumping him up,” Murray said. “He’s worked extremely hard in the weight room getting bigger. He went to some big-time trainer, and he’s done a tremendous job of really getting strong for the season. All the guys look great, but especially him.”


When Matthew Stafford arrived at Georgia, he was part of a four-man battle for the starting quarterback job that lasted well into fall camp. When Stafford left prior to last season, senior Joe Cox was immediately anointed the starter without much competition for the job.

Neither situation met with great results, and Richt admits that naming a starter in advance doesn’t always provide a team with a big advantage, but he’s nevertheless pleased that Murray will get a shot to prove his mettle this offseason as the nominal starter.

“I don’t know if it’s problematic one way or another, but I do think it’s good for Aaron to know he’s the leader of this group for the summer,” Richt said. ‘It gives him an opportunity to take charge, and I really believe our veterans are going to rally around him.”


It comes with the territory each offseason, but just because each year players tout a new focus and a sharper attitude, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not true this time around. Or at least that’s what Boykin says.

“People kind of seeing what we did last year aren’t really expecting us to do anything special this year,” Boykin said of his defense. “We know we have the talent to do it. I just feel like we have something to prove coming off that 8-5 season last year. I feel like everybody just has that oomph about them, wanting to prove what we know we’re capable of doing. I really feel that difference. It’s not kind of laid back, as it was (last year).”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Video Blog: Murray Staying Strong

Midway through last season, Aaron Murray developed some arm and shoulder soreness that sidelined him for nearly a month and likely kept him from seeing any action on Saturdays. This offseason, he's taking steps to make sure that doesn't happen again, and he discusses his routine here.

As always, thanks to Brandon Spoon for the video.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fun With Numbers: The David Hale Curse

Since I announced I was leaving, I've had several of you inquire as to where you might find some other quality Georgia bloggery (I just made that word up). While I think there are plenty of good options (UGA fans are very lucky in that respect) and I'm feeling certain that the person taking over for me will pick up the slack (hey, everyone who loved David Ching thought I was gonna suck, too), I'd say that you'll be hard-pressed to find a more astute observer of all things Red and Black than our pal T Kyle King over at Dawg Sports.

To wit, his take on my departure, which you can read HERE.

To summarize, however, here is King's basic theory:

"To recap, things were good for Georgia, then David Hale was hired, then everything immediately started to suck, then David Hale announced he was leaving, then everything immediately started to get better. Coincidence? I think not!"

Harsh? Perhaps. I mean, I didn't hire Willie Martinez as Georgia's DC, I just happened to cover much of his tenure. But then again... part of what I've tried to do with this blog is to dig deeper rather than accept or dismiss an argument at face value. So, one last time, let's dig into the numbers...

As some of you South Georgians may recall, I covered UGA (although not via a blog) for The Albany Herald during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Then, after a year molding young minds as a journalism instructor, I returned for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. So, I figured we could go ahead and compare the Mark Richt era with me on the beat and without me on the beat to see if Mr. King's theory holds water.

First, Georgia's defense...

w/o Dave
Plays Faced 3314 4312
Yds Allowed
15,900 20,076
Yards/Play 4.80 4.65
Yards/Game 305.8 308.9

Then, the offense...

Stat w/Davew/o Dave
Plays 3205 4566
Yards 19,384 25,621
Yards/Play 6.05 5.61
Yards/Game 372.8 394.1

Hmm... this is pretty curious, eh? It would appear that during my time covering the team, the defense surrendered more yards per play -- but certainly not much more, and actually allowed fewer yards per game. On the other hand, the offense was more efficient, adding almost half-a-yard per play, but (in large part due to an NCAA rules chance) ran fewer plays per game.

But those are the underlying stats. Let's look at what matters.

w/o Dave
Pts/Game 28.77 ppg
29.46 ppg
Pts Allowed/Game 21.1 ppg 17.0 ppg
W-L (Pct)
36-15 (.706)
53-12 (.815)

So, let's look at this analytically. Without me on the beat, Georgia's offensive efficiency declined (ypp) and their defensive efficiency was only .15 ypp better. And yet, when we turn those into the raw numbers on the scoreboard, Georgia scored .75 more points per game without me around, and held opponents to four fewer points per game. But even those numbers wouldn't seem nearly as dramatic as the final results: An .815 winning percentage when I'm otherwise occupied, and just a .706 winning percentage when I'm covering the games.

This is tough to explain, and when the underlying stats simply don't add up to the final result, there's a clear indication that there is some larger force at work. And, I'm afraid, Mr. King has it right. That larger force is me. (And thanks to UGA's press box food, that force gets larger each year.)

Couple that with the fact that the basketball team has been brutal for much of my time here, the baseball team just had its worst season ever (and as Kyle notes, dropped its last two games in the CWS after my initial offer) and Georgia's football team is 0-4 against Florida during my tenure, and the evidence gets even more damning.

So there you have it, folks. Mark Richt doesn't need to be canned. Heck, maybe Willie Martinez could have turned things around if I had just left town a year earlier. In fact, I probably owe an apology to Bryan Evans for ruining his career. (I'm not sure, but I think Matthew Stafford left a year early in large part because he didn't like me, too.)

But all of this should be a nice little silver lining for those disappointed by my departure. It can only help the team.

Oh, and as a side note, I first began talking to my new employer about the Phillies gig in mid-May. Here are the Phillies numbers since May 18.

StatBefore May 18
After May 18
Games scoring
3 runs or less
13 20
Runs/game 5.73 3.71
Win-Loss 24-13 (.649)
15-19 (.441)

You're welcome, Braves fans.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Links (6/25)

Here's something that should get you feeling pretty good on a Friday: We are a mere 35 days away from players reporting for fall camp.

UGA released some tentative practice dates today, with players set to report on July 30. The 31st will be the first day of practice.

Although those dates aren't 100 percent finalized yet, it's interesting to note that they'll open practice on a Saturday. You'll remember in 2008, Mark Richt lamenting that he gave his guys one last weekend off -- and they ended up getting in a boatload of trouble because of it. Still, 2009 opened on a Monday, too, but this season it looks as if Richt and the Bulldogs will be getting an early start.

The annual fan picture day is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 21 -- which might be your lone chance to get your photo taken with "Russ," who will be filling the Uga role that day.


Couple of updates on my impending Athens departure:

-- First off, thanks so much to all of you who have commented, emailed, Facebooked, etc. It's been utterly overwhelming to hear so many positive comments. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. Plus, I think it's been enough to convince my fiance that I'm a catch, despite the fact that she could do much better. So many thanks.

-- And thanks for the Athens farewell tour suggestions, too. I've hit 5 & 10, Casa Mia and, of course, Weaver D's already this week. I force fed myself some Peach Cobbler at Weaver D's, but it was completely worth it.

OK, how about a handful of links to wrap up the week...

-- Georgia got commitment No. 13 yesterday from the brother of current Bulldog Austin Long.

-- The fate of Georgia's biggest commitment thus far remains in limbo as an announcement regarding Christian LeMay looks like it will be delayed a bit.

-- The Chapel Bell has five "unexpected" players capable of a big breakthrough this year. I think UGA needs to hope for some good production from the first two, but if the Dawgs get anything this year out of the latter three, they'll be in good shape.

-- I expect big things from Caleb King and Washaun Ealey, too, but this might be a hefty comparison to heap on them right now.

-- Marc Weiszer writes that Gerald Robinson is getting excited for his shot in the SEC.

-- The Golden Nugget has some early betting lines on some of the bigger college football games this season. It's UGA lines for Arkansas (Dawgs -3), Florida (Dawgs +6), Tennessee (Dawgs -7), Auburn (Dawgs +3) and Tech (Dawgs -4) are pretty close to what my preseason projections were.

-- Barbara Dooley is utterly frustrating her son.

-- Alan Sepinwall has an interesting interview with Adam Scott, who is leaving "Party Down" for "Parks and Recreation" -- two of my favorite shows.

-- This article investigates whether "The Daily Show" has something against hiring women. It's a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into the show that viewers don't usually get.

-- A woman in China found a spud that looks like Homer Simpson. Po-ta-d'oh!

-- By and large I really like this list of the 77 most unforgettable songs from movies. I only have three real complaints:

* There was nothing unforgettable about the movie "Daredevil." That movie is completely forgotten.

* I agree with the mention of "Oh Yeah" in "The Secret of My Success" but have one complaint. I just watched that movie the other day for the first time in at least a decade. It was terrible. I much prefer the song's use in "Ferris Buehler" (or probably any number of about 50 other '80s films).

* Screw Chad Kroeger. Nickelback sucks. And keep in mind, UGA has had back-to-back disappointing seasons since switching the pregame music to Nickelback.

-- And finally, I can only hope someone puts together a tribute for me the same way this Toronto fan did when Roy Halladay bolted for Philly.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Notes: Sturdivant Question Lingers for O Line

With all five starters returning from last season, Georgia’s offensive line will be among the most experienced in the country this season. Still, there’s one big question mark looming on the horizon that could throw the established line into chaos.

After two years sidelined with injuries, left tackle Trinton Sturdivant is on pace to be ready for the season opener, and that could mean a shake-up among the five starters – Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Chris Davis and Josh Davis – who performed so well down the stretch in 2009.

“Trinton looks good,” Josh Davis said. “I think he’s right on schedule to be back when they said he was. I saw him out there (last week). He looked real good. He’s moving around real well. He told me he feels strong and he thinks he’ll be able to come back and do what he’s supposed to do.”

That’s good news for the Bulldogs, no doubt. Sturdivant was a freshman All-American in 2007 and oozes potential – assuming he’s healthy.

But Georgia’s line jelled nicely in the latter half of last season, and a healthy Sturdivant would likely displace Boling – another potential All-American – and send either Josh or Chris Davis to the bench. That’s a possibility that Josh Davis has done his best to ignore for now.

“It crosses my mind but I have no idea,” Josh Davis said. “I have no clue about what (will happen). That’s why (offensive line) coach (Stacy) Searels gets the big bucks to figure that out. I’m sure the best five will play every week. That’s how we’ll roll with it.”

That’s been Searels’ mantra since he arrived at Georgia, so it’s likely a scenario that the current crop of Bulldogs linemen are familiar with. Still, chemistry matters more on the line than virtually anywhere else on the field, and even Davis admits that there will need to be some adjustments as the season progresses.

“Of course chemistry is important,” Davis said. “We played together the last six games of last year and we did all right. But it’s just as important to have a good player. Trinton is a good player. Any way he plays he’s going to do good. I feel like that about all of us. Most of us can play most of the positions. That’s why we did so well in the past because certain guys moving around just learning new positions. It really won’t matter about chemistry because he’s a good player and everyone that can possibly be put in that slot can play that position.”


As Georgia’s starting quarterback, Aaron Murray knows he’ll be viewed as a leader on the offense. As the lone new face on a unit that returns 10 starters, however, he also knows that leadership role won’t simply be handed to him either. So one of Murray’s biggest goals for this offseason is to prove to his teammates that he’s earned the job.

With that in mind, Murray has already been busy prepping for the 2010 season. He’s organizing passing drills twice a week around class schedules. He’s doing rehab and strength training on his shoulder nearly every day to make sure he’s healthy for the season. He’s putting in at least 90 minutes of time in the gym each day, working with receivers and defensive backs with some one-on-one drills, running a handful of seven-on-seven drills with the rest of the offense and then spending more than an hour a day in the film room. It’s a grind, but it’s something he knows he needs to do to earn the respect of the veterans around him.

“I’ve got to find my way of being a leader on this team, my way to motivate people and figure out ways to push them and make them do stuff they never knew they could do,” Murray said. “That’s not going to come in a week or two. It’s going to take some time to better understand the guys and what they can do and motivate them and hopefully by this summer hopefully I’ll make some strides in that category.”

So far, so good on that front. Murray’s teammates are already touting his work ethic and expecting big things from the freshman quarterback when the season gets going in a couple of months.

Last week, after players wrapped up a workout session, Murray got some of his linemen and running backs together to spend a few extra minutes practicing handoffs. He just wanted to work on the little things, lineman Josh Davis said.

“He’s stepping up to the challenge tremendously,” Davis said. “He’s putting in extra work. He’s trying his best to lead because the quarterback is a leadership position. He’s working his butt off to get it done every day.”


Last year, Justin Houston averaged more sacks per game than anyone in the SEC – and that was under Georgia’s old defensive regime.

This year, he’ll be turned loose on opposing quarterbacks as an outside linebacker – moving from defensive end in Todd Grantham’s new 3-4 scheme – and be given the freedom to play a more aggressive style than in years past.

“It’s going to allow me to get more pressure on the quarterback,” Houston said. I’m a stand up guy, so this defense is pretty much a pressure defense so it’s going to allow me to rush more.”

So, if he was already among the best in the SEC last year, how much better might he be now that he’s playing in a scheme that focuses his skills on getting to the quarterback?

Houston isn’t exactly giving away any answers to that question just yet other than to say he’ll do what it takes to win.

“I don’t have an individual goal really,” Houston said. “I just want to do my part and whatever that is to win I just want to do that. I haven’t really looked at individual goals lately. If it takes for me to get 15 sacks for us to win, I’ll get 15 sacks. That’s my goal.”


New defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos thinks he has a pretty strong corps of cornerbacks, and he’s planning to let their talents take over on the field in 2010 by waving goodbye to a lot of zone coverage and rolling the dice with a lot more man-to-man.

“He’s basically saying that my guy is better than your guy, and we’re going to see what happens,” junior Brandon Boykin said. “He’s basically putting you out there on that island, and you just have to have confidence in yourself. I think that’s something that he’s trying to build in us. If we make mistakes we just have to have that short memory, so he’s kind of teaching all those things.”

Those are some lessons Boykin is thrilled to learn. After two straight years with few takeaways and too many big plays allowed, Boykin thinks the new scheme plays to the Bulldogs’ strengths and will make the secondary a lot more dangerous.

“That’s what every corner wants is to get that one-on-one matchup,” Boykin said. “That’s what people get their respect from – not playing zone as much. It gives you a chance to just go out there and show what you have.”

Of course, Boykin also knows that the trust Lakatos has put in his corners has to be rewarded with a lot of effort by the players. The increased man coverage every Saturday means an increased level of importance in how Georgia’s defensive backs prepare for those one-on-one battles during the week.

“No matter how good you are, you still have to work on our technique,” Boykin said. “It’s something that you got to continually work on because everybody is different as far as receivers. You have to see what their strengths are. It will require watching film and things like that. I think we’re doing a good job of that early, and I think we’ll see those improvements going into the fall.”


In terms of hype entering their freshmen years, there probably isn’t much that Branden Smith has in common with the newest member of the Georgia secondary, but that doesn’t mean Derek Owens hasn’t already drawn some comparisons to his speedy teammate.

“He reminds me a lot of Branden Smith,” Boykin said of the 5-11, 180-pound Owens. “He’s quick, great hips. He doesn’t have a lot of technique right now but his quickness makes up for all of that. Really, really quick and has fluid hips. Once he gets the technique he’s going to be really good.”

Owens will likely be competing with Jordan Love and Sanders Commings for a backup role among the cornerbacks in 2010.


As they did at the end of 2009, the Bulldogs figure to open this season with an even split in carries between tailbacks Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, and that’s OK with the offensive line.

For the line, Josh Davis said it doesn’t matter which player gets the football, the blocking schemes are still the same. The only difference between King and Ealey, as far as he’s concerned, is how much smack talk he hears coming from the backfield.

“The only difference we can tell between those two guys in the backfield is Washaun is more lively, and he talks more than Caleb,” Davis said. “You know Caleb is a quiet guy, and Washaun will be talking a little more trash. That’s the only difference to me is the personalities. They both have good speed, good power and a little swagger about them. It’s good having both of them.”

Video Blog: "The Dungeon"

I wrote a lot last week about all the new toys Georgia is getting with the additions to the Butts-Mehre building, but in the meantime, they're stuck in some not-so-modern digs over at the Coliseum. The players have taken to calling their new weight room "The Dungeon," and this video should give you a little bit of an idea as to why.

As always, video courtesy of the great Mr. Brandon Spoon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Georgia's Isner Keeps Going... And Going... And Going...

I have no idea how to put into context how ridiculous the match between Georgia's John Isner and France's Nicolas Mahut was at Wimbledon today. More importantly, I have no idea how to put into context how amazing the efforts of those two men were. The match became more riveting every second, and as the two fought on and on and on and on… it was absolutely sports at their best.

Huge credit to Mahut, who served to simply stay in the match throughout. Credit to Isner, who appeared to not want to call it a day when the ref suspended the match -- thus putting it into its THIRD day -- due to darkness.

It was the longest match ever, both in terms of time and games. Not by a little bit. But nearly doubling both previous Wimbledon marks.

It was an absolute marathon to watch. The two men were nailing one ace after another -- each have nearly doubled the previous Wimbledon marks -- and neither had the energy to break the other's serve. You might think that the night off could finally allow them to regain strength and put this to an end tomorrow… but how sore are they going to be when they wake up in the morning? I can't fathom.

Anyway, here's a bit of perspective:

My favorite all-time sporting event to watch was probably the Syracuse-Connecticut six-overtime game two years ago during the Big East tournament. That lasted a grand total of 3 hours and 46 minutes -- more than six hours shorter than Isner and Mahat's match that still isn't over.

Isner and Mahat have played 163 games (and counting) in their match. Last year, Roger Federer needed only 264 to win the entire two-week tournament.

For a little Georgia perspective: Isner's match has lasted (so far) 9 hours, 58 minutes. Georgia's football team had a total time of possession of just 6 hours, 23 minutes the entire 2009 season. Jeremy Price, Georgia's starting forward for much of the season last year, played a total of 9 hour, 18 minutes all year.

For some historical context, the longest professional baseball game in history was played in 1981 between Pawtucket and Rochester (a game that featured Cal Ripken, as a matter of fact). They played 33 innings (32 one day, 1 inning the next) and Pawtucket won 3-2. The total time of that game was 8 hours, 25 minutes -- more than 90 minutes less than Isner's still ongoing match.

And let's say that you started watching the match in Atlanta but thought to yourself, "Boy, I wish I could enjoy this in person." Well, that wouldn't have been a problem. Because while Isner and Mahut have been playing for nearly 10 hours, a flight from Atlanta to London takes only about eight.

Seriously, this was one of the most remarkable sporting events I've watched in quite a while, and while I'm far from the world's biggest tennis fan, I'll definitely be glued to my TV to watch the conclusion tomorrow.

I Think Boyz II Men Said It Best...

Well, I had planned on penning something substantive for later in the week, but as often is the case with such things, the proverbial cat escaped the bag before I had my ducks in a row. (I was trying to figure out a way to get one more random animal-related cliche into that sentence, but that dog wouldn't hunt.)

(*Also, how bad is it that UGASports is scooping me on my own story? You owe me one, Dash!)

Anyway, as some of you may have heard, I'm leaving.

A couple of months ago, I got a call from the sports editor at my hometown paper in Wilmington, Delaware. They had an opening for a beat writer to cover the Phillies. They wanted to know if I was interested.

As these things go, one thing led to another, and after a few weeks of talking and waiting and talking and debating, I was left with a decision.

On one hand, I had the opportunity to go to a job at a bigger paper, covering a professional baseball beat. More importantly, I had an opportunity to really stick it to all my high school teachers who told me I'd never amount to anything. (Shows what they knew! I'm now mildly successful in an industry that likely won't exist in five years!)

On the other hand, I'd be leaving by far the best job I've ever had, a city I've grown to love, and a group of readers very few reporters are ever lucky enough to have.

Without question, it was the toughest choice I've had to make in my career. In the end though, I figured I'd much rather make a mistake by trying something new than wonder what might have been if I let an good opportunity pass by. But again, it was a decision that didn't come easily.

In any case, I don't want this to be a long, drawn-out monologue about my time here with the Telegraph. Not now, anyway. My last day, officially, won't be until July 17. So hopefully I'll have some time -- and a few more blog posts -- before we need to get all mushy.

Of course, complicating that timeline a bit is another big bit of news for me. I'm getting married on July 3, so much of my last few weeks here… I won't actually be here. So there's that.

(Why do I suddenly feel like a parent who leaves his kids in a hot car with the windows rolled up while he goes into the 7-11 to buy lotto tickets?)

Anyway, I can tell you this: A number of absurdly qualified candidates have already submitted resumes for the job, so I have no doubt you'll be in good hands in the future. And in the meantime, I'm hoping to make sure there's still some decent stuff for you to read until the new guy gets on board.

Again, I'm definitely excited for a new opportunity and a chance to go back home again. But it's bittersweet, to say the least.

But rather than dwell on the future, how about a discussion topic out of this? Let's say you were just a few weeks away from leaving Athens. What would be on your to-do list? Restaurants? Bars? Clubbing with Stacy Searels? I'm officially taking suggestions.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fierce Fall Competitions

In my post this morning, I mentioned the battle for playing time at inside linebacker between Christian Robinson and Marcus Dowtin, which got me to thinking: With fall camp only six weeks away, which spots on the depth chart are still up for grabs?

Theoretically, the coaches will probably tell you all of them are up for grabs, but here's my take on what the best battles will be during the month of August, from least intriguing to most intriguing.

Wide Corner

Going into spring practice, this looked like a moot point, with Branden Smith the shoo-in for the gig. Then Vance Cuff decided he liked how new secondary coach Scott Lakatos was handling things, turned in a monthlong performance that outshines anything he had done during his first three years on campus, and now we have ourselves a real competition. Cuff ended the spring atop the depth chart, but the battle will no doubt continue into the fall. What takes some of the excitement away from this competition, however, is that both are likely to see plenty of playing time, with Brandon Boykin sliding into the nickel role on obvious passing downs.

Tight End

Four potential starters, one starting job. That should make for a fun competition this fall. Orson Charles is the guy atop the depth chart, and judging by his strength numbers at the end of the spring -- 26 reps of 225 on bench -- he's bulked up a bit to improve his blocking. Charles had a very strong start to his career last season while splitting time with Aron White, and he'll be an instant mismatch every week. Still, his blocking was a mixed bag in 2009, and White has plenty of skills as a receiver, too. Add to the mix the return of Bruce Figgins, the team's best blocking tight end, and Arthur Lynch, who showed a ton of flash on G-Day, and there's reason to think the coaches should try to find some PT for all four of these guys.


Truth be told, I'll be surprised if someone other than DeAngelo Tyson wins this job, but there might be a bit more competition there than you'd think. Tyson is easily the most experienced of anyone vying for PT at the nose, and he's certainly got a lot of talent -- but at just 6-foot-2 and a touch under 300 pounds, he's certainly not the prototypical build for the job. On the other hand, 6-foot-6, 325-pound Kwame Geathers could be a nice fit, and he's made some very big strides since arriving late last fall out of shape and unprepared. Geathers would be more of a work-in-progress, but I liked what I saw from him as the spring progressed and he might be ready to push for the starting spot by September. Then you have the wild card in Justin Anderson, who has yet to officially practice on the defensive side of the ball since moving from the O line in January. An injury kept him on the sidelines all spring, but Mark Richt raved about the possibilities of having Anderson at nose this season despite the fact that he's yet to see the big man at work. "He is a big, giant, powerful man," Richt said of Anderson. "And if he can take to it, I think he's going to be tough to block."

Punt Returner

Now that Warren Belin seems to have a better take on how to cover a kickoff, there's every reason to believe Georgia's special teams could be absurdly good this year. But while Brandon Boykin returns after taking three kickoffs to the house, Drew Butler returns to defend his Ray Guy Award, and Blair Walsh hopes to go from finalist to winner of the Lou Groza Award… there's still a question as to who might be returning punts.

Of course, there's no lack of candidates. Branden Smith handled kick returns last year and has the breakaway speed to be a star. Of course, he also had some fumbling issues, including one that keyed the second-half collapse against Kentucky last year. Then you have Richard Samuel, who has also shown some ability in the return game. And he's also had fumbling problems. Plus, Samuel could end up in a redshirt in 2010. Then there's Carlton Thomas. Except he's had some issues with fumbling, too. Oh, and then there's the idea of maybe, possibly, just-for-kicks using A.J. Green for the job. That seems risky to me… but is it any riskier than using three guys who have a propensity for putting the ball on the ground? Bacarri Rambo, Rantavious Wooten and (gasp!) Logan Gray could all be option, too.

Left Tackle

OK, this is a bit of a misnomer here because there's no chance Clint Boling ends up on the bench. But that doesn't mean he'll be playing left tackle either. Mike Bobo told us pretty explicitly this spring that if Trinton Sturdivant is healthy enough to start in the fall, he'll be playing left tackle. That's a big "if" though, and we won't know the answer on that for a while -- maybe not even for a few weeks into the season. Of course, if Sturdivant does come back, that shifts Boling -- either to right tackle or right guard, most likely. So what happens to Josh Davis or Chris Davis then? Talking to Josh Davis last week, he said he's not concerned with any possible shake-ups -- and given how well the line played after he entered the lineup midway through the season last year, he's probably in good shape regardless. But how do you bench Chris Davis after the guy has started all but one game for the past three years? Don't get me wrong -- having six worthy starting O linemen is a good problem to have, but it's still a problem without much of an answer right now.

Inside Linebacker

I discussed the Dowtin-Robinson battle in my post earlier today -- and, of course, Richard Samuel and Daryl Gamble could add some wrinkles to the depth chart, too. I suspect, however, that Dowtin's real battle will be with himself. If he's learned a few tough lessons this spring and offseason and can prove to Warren Belin that he'll be a consistent performer, it's going to be awfully tough to keep him off the field.

Strong Safety

In my humble opinion, there's not a better battle this fall, and the good news is that there are plenty of worthwhile candidates. Nick Williams currently resides atop the depth chart, and he has the potential to be a Thomas Davis-like hitter with good speed to boot. He's got the biggest smile and brightest attitude of anyone on the team by far… but on the field, he can be a bad, bad man. I like that. Then you have JuCo transfer Jakar Hamilton, who earned the nickname "The Hit Man" at GMC after laying out one devastating blow after another. He seems to have picked things up quickly this spring, and he's got a future in the NFL if he continues to progress. Then there's Alec Ogletree, who theoretically could move to linebacker, but is currently practicing at safety and is easily Georgia's best true freshman. Add in darkhorse candidates like the veteran Quintin Banks or improved sophomore Shawn Williams and you've got a fantastic position battle and an absolute wealth of riches.

And while those are likely the only starting jobs really up for grabs, here are a couple of intriguing questions farther down the depth chart…

Outside Linebacker

The position is so thin that there will definitely be some playing time to be had for a few of the true freshmen -- Brandon Burrows, Dexter Morant and T.J. Stripling. How quickly that trio can progress likely determines how much PT they'll see, and it also will have an effect on where Gamble lines up throughout the fall.

Wide Receiver

The reports on Kris Durham and Tavarres King are so encouraging, it'd be tough to envision anyone other than those two handling the starting split end and slot positions. Still, Marlon Brown appears to be making strides, Rantavious Wooten really came on as the season progressed last year, and Israel Troupe will be in his fourth year in Athens. The wild card, of course, is Logan Gray. If he can do enough this summer and fall to secure some serious playing time, that probably makes his future a bit more clear. If he's buried behind Troupe and Michael Bennett on the depth chart, however, perhaps he decides QB is where he wants to be, which bumps Hutson Mason back down to third-string… maybe. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see how this shakes out.


It's doubtful anyone other than Shaun Chapas or Fred Munzenmaier will see much action this season, but both will be gone in 2011, and it'd be nice for Georgia to get an idea of who might step into their place. Fullback has probably been the most consistent position of any on the field during the Mark Richt era, but 2011 remains up for grabs. Charles White doesn't appear anywhere close, but the addition of newcomer Zander Ogletree could be just what the Bulldogs are looking for. If not… it's anyone's guess as to who follows in the impressive legacy left by Verron Haynes, J.T. Wall, Brannan Southerland and the two guys currently residing in Georgia's backfield.

So, what battle are you looking forward to watching the most this fall?

Tuesday Links (6/22)

Happy Tuesday morning to you, dear readers. Sorry about the lack of posts yesterday. I got distracted by a "Pawn Stars" marathon on The History Channel and it all went downhill from there.

Couple of things to follow up on quickly:

-- Another uni number for you... Marc Deas will wear No. 26. Here's the most complete list I have for the freshmen...

Deas -- 26
Garrison Smith -- 56
Brandon Burrows -- 41
Hutson Mason -- 14
Demetre Baker -- 52
Ken Malcome -- 24
Kolton Houston -- 66
Jakar Hamilton --23

Oh, and according to Mark Richt, Brent Benedict is still not on campus yet -- and won't be until July.

-- Also, I posed this question via Twitter over the weekend and got a lot of responses.

which pro team - nhl, nba, mlb, nfl - would u least want to be a fan of? I can't top the orioles.

I got a number of votes for the Royals and Pirates. Those are both good choices, and considering how bad the Chiefs have been lately, it must be rough to be a sports fan in KC at all.

A few folks said the Lions. I guess... but so little is expected of Detroit that it's hard to really be disappointed. I mean, it's been a half-century now, so you kind of know what you're getting when you decide to be a Lions fan. The O's, Pirates and Royals all had pretty nice runs through the late '80s and early '90s at least.

The Clippers... yeah. But maybe they'll get Lebron. And they were in the playoffs a few years ago.

Got one for the Blue Jays. Hey, Toronto is six games over .500. Besides, if you live in Canada, the Blue Jays are the least of your problems.

Got a few for the Bills. Having a few friends who are Bills fans leads me to believe this is a quality suggestion. Our old pal Jay Adams is from Rochester and a big Bills fan. When we were driving back from covering UGA-Kentucky two years ago, we were listening to the local Bills broadcast on Sirius. Every commercial featured either the Bills kicker or punter as the celebrity spokesman, and Jay summed it up properly: "What does it tell you about your team when its kicker and punter are by far its most marketable players?"

And, of course, there's my Chicago Cubs. I can assure you, it's unpleasant to be a Cubs fan... unless you're actually sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley on a Sunday afternoon drinking an Old Style. Then it's not so bad.

Still... I keep going back to the Orioles. They really have everything you want from an unbelievably awful franchise.

Rich history utterly torn to shreds by more than a decade of sucking? Check.

Horrible owner that is so bad fans know things will never get better until he dies? Check.

Great ballpark that manages to remain nearly empty for most games anyway? Check.

Steve Bartman-type of moment that allows you to easily pinpoint the moment it all went wrong? Check.

Economically depressed city that genuinely needs a team to support but instead gets utter dreck year after year? Check.

Brand new team 30 miles south with star pitcher that is the darling of his sport and garnering tons of headlines? Check.

So I stand by my choice. It's the Orioles. In fact, I have a buddy who is a big O's fan. He's been to more than 30 Orioles games in his life and he's never seen them win. Now that's bad.

OK, some Tuesday linkage...

-- A crazy weekend won't end with much relaxation for Russell Henley. After finishing 16th in his first U.S. Open, he's off to Northern Ireland for more golf.

-- Ah, screw that Butts-Mehre expansion project now. Auburn's getting an indoor practice facility!

-- And speaking of the Butts Mehre project, here's a clip on YouTube of the unveiling of the original Butts Mehre Heritage Hall from 1987. Loren Smith hasn't aged a day. (h/t Ally)

-- One more follow-up on the Butts-Mehre additions. Here's an interesting note regarding the rare & expensive siding being used on part of the new addition, courtesy of a reader named Charles: "That siding stuff they are using is the same stuff used on the outside of Soccer City (the main soccer stadium in South Africa) which you can see on display at the World Cup and on ESPN around the clock these days ."

Thankfully, no vuvuzelas have been installed here.

-- Tim Tucker takes a look at Georgia's inside linebackers this season, which includes what I think will be one of the most interesting roster battles on the team: Christian Robinson vs. Marcus Dowtin. They're almost polar opposites, with Dowtin having the edge in terms of physical make-up, while Robinson might be a bit undersized. On the other hand, Dowtin has routinely been critiqued for his mental lapses, while Robinson is one of the best character guys on the team.

(Side note: An almost equally interesting battle is for the proper pronunciation of Dowtin's last name. For whatever reason, John Jancek referred to him as "Down-teen" -- and some others followed suit. Now that Warren Belin is coaching him, it appears to be a unanimous vote for "Dow-tin"... although it's more like "Doubtin'." In any case, if it had remained Down-teen I might have eventually moved him passed "Brandon" Southerland as my favorite routinely mispronounced Bulldog.)

-- A catcher on the Georgia baseball team was arrested on underage possession and DUI charges.

-- And the Diamond Dogs chat with Roger Clarkson about what they're expecting from David Perno in 2011.

-- Dawgs Online is excited about the changes to UGA's Web site. My advice would be the same as my advice on expectations for the football season: Be cautiously optimistic.

-- Team Speed Kills looks closer at what might be a rare opportunity for South Carolina to win the SEC East.

-- Tennessee's having some trouble selling tickets. I guess Lane Kiffin was good for something after all.

-- And speaking of the Lanester, the tiny high school in my home state that he's recruiting 13-year-old QBs from is under fire for... recruiting violations!

-- I just learned about "Icing" like two weeks ago, and it apparently is already near death. The same thing happened to me with parachute pants in 1990.

-- GQ breaks down the first season of "Treme," and comes to the conclusion that David Simon fell far short of his work on "The Wire." I still have a few episodes to watch, which I suppose speaks to my overall indifference about the show as the season wore on. I enjoyed it... but it did lack the urgency and depth that I loved about "The Wire."

-- Jane Lynch is making a return appearance on the season finale of "Party Down." I'm hoping this won't be the final episode ever of the show, but considering virtually every actor working on it has a gig lined up elsewhere for the fall... it's not looking good.

-- On the upside, "Eastbound and Down" returns on Sept. 26 -- and here's a preview.

OK, I gotta run some errands. Hope to have some more idle offseason chatter this afternoon. Stay thirsty, my friends.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Video Tour of Butts-Mehre Expansion

Be sure to check out my feature in today's Telegraph on the Butts-Mehre expansion.

And if you haven't seen the photos of our tour through the construction, you can view them HERE and HERE.

And, finally, here's a quick video tour of the new facilities, courtesy of our pal Brandon Spoon...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday's Loose Ends

Tying up a few loose ends from last week...

-- If you haven't seen it already, go back and check out PART ONE and PART TWO of our photo tour of the new Butts-Mehre construction. I'll have a full story on it in tomorrow's Telegraph, along with some video of the tour posted one the blog.

-- I mentioned during Part One of the photo tour that I was utterly perplexed by the logo for the 1974 Tangerine Bowl, which Georgia has a plaque in its team room commemorating. The logo features a pair of crutches for some reason, which seemed odd to me. Anyway, I happened to come across a picture I took of it a couple years ago, so you can get a first-hand look...

Upon first view, you'd assume the bowl had a lot of injuries or something, right? Anyway, you can understand my confusion.

Of course, as luck would have it, an anonymous reader came up with what seems a likely explanation:

"I think I have an answer for the Tangerine Bowl (now the Cap 1 Bowl). The original purpose -- according to the media guide -- 'was to benefit the Harry Anna Children’s Hospital for disabled children and was organized by the Elk’s Club, a volunteer-driven fraternal organization.'"

Big thanks to whoever did that research for me.

-- One of my favorite stories from this past week that I completely forgot to mention was Arkansas affirming its allegiance to the SEC. I can only assume they had to do this to keep Bobby Petrino from looking for another job. You know, he's always wanted to coach in the SEC, and if the Hogs left for another conference, Petrino would have to start angling for the LSU job or something.

-- Following up on some TV discussion: I've watched all of Season 1 of "Breaking Bad" in the past four days. I'm officially hooked. Bryan Cranston is awesome.

-- And lastly, I wanted to do my good deed for the day and address a concern from our pal T Kyle King.

Kyle followed my Twitter updates from Thursday's meetings with players and was a bit worried about something Aaron Murray had to say.

Likewise, I became concerned when I read this statement: "Murray doing 'shoulder maintenance' work to make sure his arm doesn't get hurt again and won't overload his arm by throwing too much now."

I can understand King's concern, but the bigger problem here was simply that 140 characters doesn't allow for much context, so I think my Tweet may have been a bit misleading. Murray actually addressed the concern that "shoulder maintenance" meant his shoulder was still a problem. Not true, he said.

Murray actually recounted the experiences of his brother, Josh, who underwent Tommy John surgery while playing baseball. The doctors told him that players these days actually like the surgery because they believe it makes their arms stronger. That's not the case, the doctor said. It's the rehab that strengthens their arms, and if they simply did that same rehab work before getting injured, they could build up arm strength and avoid injury all at the same time.

"The rehab and bands and weights is a way to make my arm stronger so I can throw it harder and throw it longer. It's a beneficial thing for me as a quarterback. It's basically working my arm out.My tool is my right arm, so I need to make sure my arm is in great shape for the season so it can endure the punishment that a season puts on it."

Murray says his arm feels great and said he's throwing with more zip than ever before. Take that for what you will.

-- And, to follow up on King's last point... allow me to join the chorus of folks welcoming Doug Gillet back to blogging.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Help the Dawgs Give Back

I posted a bunch of football talk from former Georgia QB David Greene earlier today, but I also wanted to remind readers that Greene and Matt & Jon Stinchcomb are hosting a charity dinner and auction tomorrow night (Saturday) at Maggiano's in Buckhead with a ton of cool UGA memorabilia available to benefit some great causes.

"Come, have dinner, we’ll have a bunch of auction items, and Coach Richt will be there to support it," Greene said. "And the whole night is a great opportunity to raise money and raise awareness for children’s charities.”

The event, which will feature auction items ranging from UGA memorabilia to NFL items to vacation packages, is in its fifth year and has already earned nearly a half-a-million dollars for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Transplant Foundation, Children's Tumor Foundation and UGA's Pediatric Exercise and Motor Development Clinic.

You can find more info HERE on auction items that will be available, and the former Dawgs will also be hosting a golf event July 16 and 17 if you can't make tomorrow dinner.

Greene and the Stinchcombs have done a lot for the Dawgs and have been very generous with their time in providing some good insight here on our blog, so if you can, show some support for their charities and hopefully pick up some cool Georgia items while you're at it.

Information on both Saturday's dinner/auction and the July golf event can be found HERE.

Greene, Murray Talk Shop

On Thursday, Aaron Murray chatted with reporters for about 20 minutes, discussing his approach to his new role as Georgia's starting quarterback. Among other things, he mentioned he had spent some time chatting with former Bulldogs QB David Greene this offseason -- and planned to talk to Greene a lot more about how to approach life as a starter when you're a redshirt freshman.

As fate would have it, this morning I chatted with David Greene, and I asked him many of the same questions Murray was asked yesterday.

While Murray says he hopes to learn a lot more from Greene in the coming months, comparing what the two had to say leads me to believe he's already taken some very good notes.

Here are some highlights:

David Greene on how a freshman QB should approach his role…
“Both of our situations are pretty similar in the fact that we were playing as redshirt freshmen, and the good situation that he’s in that I also had was that he’s going to have an experienced offensive line in front of him. That’s such a big advantage to have that, and I’d rather have an experience offensive line with a freshman quarterback than I would an inexperienced line with a veteran quarterback. So the key really for Aaron is just like what Coach Richt told me when I was a freshman: ‘You’ve got good players around you, you’re just kind of steering the ship and distributing the ball to guys who are open. You don’t have to do too much, just take what they give you. Just take care of the football, manage the game and go from there.’ Sometimes that’s harder said that done because we’re all competitive, we want to make plays, but at the end of the day, he does have a pretty good supporting cast around him on that offense.”

Aaron Murray on his approach to the job…
"It’s pretty much being smart with the football. What Coach Richt always says is respect the football. That’s pretty much the main goal going into this year is not to be a superstar or make spectacular plays. It’s to respect the football, make plays, make first downs, just utilize the great weapons I have around me. Great plays are going to happen just from ordinary plays because of the athletes we have around us. You can give a 10-yard curl to A.J. Green and he’s going to turn it into a 40 or 50-yard play. Me respecting the ball and making the right decisions and letting those guys do the dirty work – I’ve just got to be smart.”

David Greene on the progression of a young quarterback...
“I don’t think Coach Richt or anybody wants to hold him back from going out there and being the type of player he is, but at the same time, you’ve got to play smart. You want him to think things through, where if you’re in the red zone, you don’t want him forcing a ball and throwing an interception. You’ve just got to play smart, and as a redshirt freshman, you don’t exactly know the speed of the game yet, and you really are learning on the fly. It’s going to be no different than anybody else. There will be bumps in the road, you’re going to go through a little bit of growing pains. But at the same time, the thing I like about Aaron is he’s a kid that’s tough, he’s a kid that wants to be great. He’ll call me up and ask about studying film. He asks a lot of questions because he wants to be good. I’m excited about him. He’s definitely accepted the challenge and is working hard.”

Aaron Murray on how he thinks he will progress…
"Coach Bobo always jokes with me that you’re going to be what Matthew Stafford was in 2007 when we won the Sugar Bowl. You’re going to have to show me what you can do and gradually earn more trust. What I’m going to have to do is continue to learn the defense and become a better quarterback."

David Greene on playing in front of a big crowd, as opposed to practice or G-Day...

“It’s definitely different going out there and practicing and scrimmaging vs. playing in a game. But most people probably won’t remember back in 2002, we had the worst spring game probably in the history of spring games. I played terrible, the team played terrible, and that was probably one of the greatest years we had. We went 13-1. A lot of times, you can’t tell what’s going to take place from the G-Day game. That’s really the first time Aaron got introduced to Georgia when everyone was wondering how this kid’s going to be. You can’t tell that off of one performance. A lot of times in those spring games, coaches are pretty vanilla because it’s on TV, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in that. But also, when it comes to game time, he’s going to have to be ready to go because it’s full tilt.”

Aaron Murray on his expectations for what game conditions will be like…
“I’ve pretty much envisioned by now all the games. I’ve gone through every team and pretty much pictured the stadiums in my mind going to bed at night – just thinking about my goals for every game. I’ve definitely envisioned that first game, but it’s not going to be anything compared to when we actually get out there in front of 90,000 fans. I’m definitely excited about that.”

David Greene on handling the responsibilities of the job as a freshman...
“Sometimes being young and naïve is a plus. When I was a redshirt freshman, what Coach Richt taught me – I thought I knew everything. By the time I was a senior, I realized I didn’t really know anything, I just thought I knew everything. Sometimes being naïve and having a young guy on the field is good because he doesn’t know any better. It seemed like every year, Coach Richt gave me more and more responsibility. Later in my career there were a lot more checks at the line of scrimmage, but my first year, it was Football 101. I was on a need-to-know basis. If this guy comes, you throw hot. Don’t ask why, just do it. That’s the way we did it.”

Aaron Murray on his expectations of his role…
"I’ve never played a game before, so I can’t just go out there and he’s going to have me throw 40 or 50 passes a game. (Bobo) is going to slowly build me up in the offense. The better I do, the more I show him I’m capable of completing certain plays, the more he’s going to trust me in the offense.”

David Greene on how a young QB earns a leadership role...
“When you come in as a freshman and you haven’t really played and you’re surrounded by a bunch of guys that have played, you have to lead by example. You can’t come in there and talk in front of those guys like they don’t know what they’re doing. You have to go out there and earn their respect. That’s the only way you’re going to get it is to go out and work hard every day. Hopefully your play on the field will earn their respect. That’s the only way you can do it.”

Aaron Murray on how he's trying to earn respect…

“It’s not going to be given to me right away and I’m not going to earn it in a week or two from just working hard. It’s going to take some time because we have a very senior group – a bunch of seniors who are good leaders on this team. I just need to be me, not be someone I’m not. I’ve got to find my way of being a leader on this team, my way to motivate people and figure out ways to push them and make them do stuff they never knew they could do. That’s not going to come in a week or two. It’s going to take some time to better understand the guys and what they can do and motivate them and hopefully by this summer hopefully I’ll make some strides in that category.”

* I also want to remind fans that David Greene will be part of a Bulldogs charity auction in Buckhead tomorrow night. You can find details on the event HERE and I'll post a bit more on that this afternoon.

Notes: Boykin Sets Goals High

Brandon Boykin isn’t interested in tempering expectations heading into the 2010 season. Instead, he’s raising the bar just about as high as possible.

After a stellar sophomore campaign in which Boykin in which he picked off three passes and returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, he’s not just looking to surpass those numbers. Boykin wants to obliterate them.

“My goal is, I’m trying to get to 10 picks this year,” Boykin said. “That’s a pretty high goal, but if I get anywhere near it, I think that’s pretty good. Kick return I want to get at least three or four (touchdowns). I’m setting it pretty high and we’ll see what happens.”

Only three players in Georgia history have intercepted at least 10 passes in a season – Ben Smith was the last in 1989 – so Boykin knows he’s aiming high. And realistically, he said, there probably won’t be enough opportunities for him to top that mark if he starts the season on a hot streak.

“I figure by the time I get about five or six they’ll probably stop throwing my way,” Boykin said.

But even while he doubts he’ll attain his lofty goal, he thinks the possibility remains. After all, he made huge strides in his first season as a starter a year ago, despite a lot of learning on the fly.

This time around Boykin will be armed with a much better understanding of what being a shut-down cornerback requires in the SEC, and a defensive philosophy under new secondary coach Scott Lakatos that allows him to flourish.

“I feel like I could have done a lot more last year because I wasn’t as knowledgeable as I feel like I am now just because I was kind of learning on the go being the newcomer to the secondary,” Boykin said. “(This year) it’s a lot more man-to-man at the corners, not as much zone. (Lakatos) is basically saying that my guy is better than your guy, and we’re going to see what happens. He’s basically putting you out there on that island, and you just have to have confidence in yourself.”


When Josh Davis hit the weight room in January, it had been nearly a year since he had done any serious weight training. Two offseason shoulder surgeries following the 2008 season kept him from lifting weights, and when he was finally recovered last fall, the season was already in full swing and there was little time to catch up.

“I really didn’t get to touch a weight until about (fall) camp,” Davis said of his rehabilitation last summer. “Then it was still like lifts, and I couldn’t do much weight because the surgeries hurt.”

Despite the setbacks, Davis stepped into the starting lineup on Georgia’s offensive line midway through the season, and the Bulldogs’ running game was instantly transformed. Georgia averaged more than 100 yards more on the ground per game after Davis was inserted at right tackle, and the offense finally began to click.

Now firmly established as a cornerstone on the Bulldogs’ line, Davis is bulking up and feeling good for the first time in nearly two years. He’s added nearly 20 pounds to his frame from his playing weight of about 290 last year, and the shoulder feels as good as new.

“I’m absolutely 100 times better than last year because last year I had shoulder surgeries,” Davis said. “I feel much better, my body feels healthy and I feel stronger.”


T.J. Stripling arrived at Georgia at about 220 pounds, a weight head coach Mark Richt said likely won’t cut it at outside linebacker over the long haul. But while Stripling, one of Georgia’s top recruits in the class of 2010, might have some work to do to get physically ready for the SEC, fellow linebacker Justin Houston said adding weight just takes time.

“I came in weighing at 218 so I wasn’t the biggest guy,” said Houston, who now checks in at a robust 255. “I came in pretty small. I think he’s at least 220, so he actually weighs more than me coming in.”

Of course, the other lesson Houston has learned over the years is that size isn’t everything.

“I learned from Marcus Howard,” Houston said. “He’s not one of the biggest guys but he plays hard, fast and strong. It’s not always about the size; it’s about the technique and strength. If you can get your strength and technique just as good as the next guy, you’ll be all right.”


One of the biggest questions of the offseason still doesn’t seem to have a definitive answer.
For the past two months, Richt has said he expects junior Logan Gray to get most of his summer reps at wide receiver after Gray failed to win the starting quarterback job in spring practice. But after the first few days of drills and voluntary practices, Aaron Murray, the likely starting quarterback, said he’s still not sure what Gray’s future might hold.

“We’ve only had a week-and-a-half of workouts and only done (pass drills) twice, and he’s been back and forth,” Murray said of Gray. “So I wouldn’t say he’s favoring one or the other at this point. I guess he’s going to feel it out the first couple weeks and see what he wants to do from there.”


Of Georgia’s new batch of linebackers, only Demetre Baker appears destined for a role in the middle.

Recent transfer Jarvis Jones said he will open practices at outside linebacker, but could switch down the road. Houston said that Stripling, Brandon Burrows and Dexter Morant – all three of whom played defensive end in high school – are also working at outside linebacker this summer.

“I think Baker is at inside right now,” Houston said. Pretty much the rest of them are at outside.”

Freshman Alec Ogletree, Georgia’s highest-rated recruit, might also have a future at linebacker, but for now he’s working at safety, Boykin said.

“I saw him break out up a pass the other day, and just seeing that I’ll know he’ll be able to compete with the speed,” Boykin said. “As he learns the technique I think he’ll be fine.”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Touring the New Football Facilities (Part 2)

If you haven't seen Part 1 of our photo tour of the new construction at the Butts-Mehre building, check it out HERE.

And if you're interested, here's some artist renderings of the finished products HERE and HERE.

Moving on to part two, we head upstairs to take a look around the second floor of the building.

Here's the view from the second-floor deck. You can see the old Butts-Mehre building as well. The deck was expanded by about 12 feet out and there will be all new tiling installed on the outdoor plaza area. The old tiles -- which weighed about 100 pounds each -- were ripped out by hand by the construction crew.

If we zoom in, where the railing makes an L shape marks the point that separates the old plaza from the new addition.

The new-and-improved plaza will eventually have a tent installed that will allow for seating of up to 265 people for outdoor dining and events, overlooking Georgia's practice fields. Most of what you see here is the addition to the old plaza.

Inside the second floor will be primarily used as offices for the coaching staff. Here's a peek down the hallway that will lead to each coach's office, along with planning and film rooms.

The centerpiece of the second-floor offices will be the "War Room" where coaches gather to work on game planning and meeting. Much like the rest of the building, this room was designed to get as much natural light as possible.

The war room is surrounded by the individual coaches offices, which you can see here...

OK, this next one's a little blurry, but what you should take note of is the lowered floor. This is the film and editing suite, and the floor was deliberately lowered several inches. It will be insulated on the bottom then have wood panels installed on top -- different from the rest of the second floor. The reason for this is that they'll run all the wiring for the film suite between underneath the wooden floorboards, which can easily be removed so that UGA can swap out and rewire equipment as technology changes.

Of course, the best seats in the second floor of the house are reserved for the head coach. Here's a view of Mark Richt's office, which sits directly above the weight room. The floors have been specially insulated to reduce noise coming from the weight room below.

From Richt's office, glass on the south wall allows for a perfect view into the new indoor practice area. The flooring of his office actually curves out and hangs over the indoor practice area.

Richt also gets the luxury of an outdoor balcony which overlooks the practice fields on the East side of the building.

Here's another external view of Richt's office area. You can see the balcony in the middle of the photo. To the left, you can see the curvature of his office which extends into the indoor practice area and to the right is the rest of his office and reception area, which sits above the new weight room.

Connecting the old Butts-Mehre upper floors with the second-floor coaching offices will be an atrium. The walls are all transparent, which makes for an awesome view from outside.

And here's the inside of the atrium area, which will house the ever-expanding trophy room currently in the second-floor lobby of the original Butts-Mehre building.

Back outside, there's plenty more being done that isn't part of the actual building construction.

This used to be the upper practice field, where the specialists (kickers & punters) practiced. It's home to most of the construction equipment and personnel now, but will be returned to its original form by November.

One of the interesting aspects about what the planners did here, however, lies below the surface. Capturing water run-off was a big regulatory hurdle for the designers, particularly given the rather small area in which they were working. What they did was install two large tanks under the fields to capture water that they then use to irrigate the practice fields.

(Side note: Yes, I think my donning of a Georgia construction cap does destroy my objectivity.)

One other twist to the outdoor practice fields is this wall that separates the lower fields (closer to Stegeman) from the upper fields. Currently the lower fields are the only usable options while construction is ongoing. There used to be a steep hill here that separated the two, but the hill has been build up with the wall installed, thus affording coaches a better view of what's happening below.

And to wrap things up, a few more exterior shots to give you some perspective on what the average fan might get to see.

Even the dome of the original building is getting a facelift.

And if you zoom in, you can see that workers are repainting the dome.

Here's the view looking up at the middle of the building from the small side parking lot off Pinecrest.

From Pinecrest, a view of the second-floor additions, which were built atop the old weight room and team meeting rooms.

Here's the rear view of the full building from the upper practice fields near the track...
And from the opposite angle, with the new indoor practice area in the foreground...

And finally, a nice overhead of the whole project.

Again, huge thanks to Brandon Spoon for all his work on helping me put this together.

Keep an eye out for our video tour and feature story on the Butts-Mehre expansion this weekend.