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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Florida Atlantic replaces Louisville on the '12 schedule

We now know the identity of the team that replaces Louisville on the 2012 schedule – and the steep cost to Georgia.

Florida Atlantic has agreed to visit Sanford Stadium in two years, and is getting $1 million, the highest guarantee Georgia has ever paid a school.

Georgia associate athletics director Arthur Johnson, who handles scheduling, said the cost was a combination of the price of business and timing.

“Obviously we’re a lot closer to that game than we were - less than 24 months away actually,” Johnson said. “It helped us get the other deal done, because anytime you make the kind of change we made, trying to find an opponent is tough.”

The deal with Florida Atlantic was basically done in conjunction with arrangement of the Boise State game to start 2011, and the cancellation of the Louisville series.

This year, the Owls are 4-7 entering their final game Saturday against Troy. The program, which began in 2001, is headed by Howard Schnellenberger – coincidentally, a former head coach at Louisville.

Florida Atlantic is also the alma mater of Rusty Smith, who started last Sunday at quarterback for the Tennessee Titans.

The amount of $1 million may sound like a lot, but it’s the going rate nowadays.

Plus, Georgia comes out pretty well for having canceled the Louisville series. It received $1.7 from the Chick-fil-A Bowl for playing Boise State, and Georgia estimates it receives between $1.8 million and $2.9 million per home game in ticket sales.

So consider:

- Originally it was set to host Louisville in 2011, bringing the estimated home game revenue of, let’s conservatively say $1.8 million. It would also pay Louisville $250,000 for the game, an amount it would get back for returning the trip in 2012. Estimated net gain: $1.8 million, not including travel costs to Louisville.

- Instead, Georgia now pockets $1.7 million for playing Boise State in Atlanta. Then it will pay Florida Atlantic $1 million to visit, but gains (again we’ll go conservative) $1.8 million for the home gate. Estimated net gain: $2.5 million.

Mailbag: On Samuel L., defense, recruiting and more

Georgia’s disappointing regular season has ended, leading to questions about staff changes, early departures and other important matters. So of course the most common question for the mailbag I got this week dealt with Samuel L. Jackson.

That heartens me, actually. There was a lot of curiosity as to why Jules Winnfield was on the sideline, wearing a Georgia shirt and hat. So I checked with UGA associate A.D. Arthur Johnson, who hung a bit with Jackson at the game. Here's the skinny:

Jackson has a nephew and some cousins who went to Georgia. One of his cousins is on the law school's alumni board. Jackson himself attended Morehouse College in Atlanta.

"He's a Georgia fan," Johnson said.

Jackson visited before the game with head coach Mark Richt, spent some time at the law school with his cousin, then went through the pregame Dawg Walk.

One things Jackson didn't do was give the pregame speech, as was rumored. Which is too bad, because it probably would’ve gone something like this.

But what else might he have done at the game? I looked up Jackson’s bio on and saw that he’s in a movie called: “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” and thought he might be speaking with Zander Ogletree.

It also appears that Sam is appearing in three movies with revenge as a theme: “The Avengers”, “Vengeance: A Love Story” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” So maybe he was going to sit down with Aaron Murray and discuss Nick Fairley.

Jackson is such a cool actor, I can almost forgive his work in the new Star Wars movies. The sad thing is that a lot of youngsters out there might know him mainly for a bad movie - “Snakes on a Plane” – and the very famous line that I can’t quote on a family blog.

No, what you need to know Jackson for is Jules Winnfield, quoting the Bible verse before shooting the hell out of people, discussing a Royale with cheese, and a wallet that reads … wait, I can’t write that either.

OK, on to a very long mailbag. I got enough questions that I'll have to do another one later in the week. If you have questions, send them in.

Not to jump the gun too much, but what do you think about next year? Aaron Murray was downright great for a freshman. We lose a couple great guys. One spectacular guy. New defense in its 2nd year, Aaron Year 2. Hoping we get out of this 2 year slump. ... Last question would be about bball. Think we will see some sparks and some awesomeness once Thompkins is 100%? These guys have a high ceiling in my opinion.
- Shawn Fort

Last question first – since that’s what everyone does when they get two-parters. The basketball team does have a high ceiling with Thompkins, Travis Leslie and the fast-emerging Gerald Robinson Jr. The problem is, the rest of the supporting cast is incomplete. I think they really need a consistent 3-point threat, the way Lee Humphrey was when Florida won consecutive NCAA titles.

As for football and next year: I could go on and on and on, but it will be interesting to see what expectations are, considering this team figures to lose its top offensive star and its two best defensive players. But if the Bulldogs can improve their running game and their overall defense, the win total should increase.

Why does Coach Grantham use such wide spacing between the Nose and Ends, particularly when teams like Auburn and Georgia Tech are having such success running the dive play? His 3-4 seems tailor-fit to stop pro-style running attacks, but what has he learned and what will he change moving forward to combat the teams that employ spead/option style offenses? (if at all possible, I’d love to hear an in-depth X’s and O’s explanation that CTG is known for—not simply a ‘we’ve got to get better at playing our roles’ type of coach speak)
- Jason Ferguson

Grantham, like all the coaches, is on the road recruiting this week, so I’ll have to ask him this (and a few other questions I got about the defense) next week. But here’s my read from having watched this season and spoken to Grantham each week: After 11 years away from the college game, it was inevitable that there would be things he would have to get used to. So much of this year was a re-learning experience for him. It’s also possible that Grantham had to get used to teaching his system to college players, rather than NFL guys who are more likely to pick it up quicker.

I will say that if the 3-4 didn’t work, teams like Alabama wouldn’t be employing it in the SEC. But Grantham has shown flexibility, using a 4-2-5 about 40 percent of the time. (Alabama does that too.)

Can you ask Grantham why Tyson played every snap? He was gassed while Geathers stood on the sideline.
- Timothy Moreau

Geathers did play, but not much. Tyson tied for the team lead with 16 tackles, so that needs to be pointed out too. But look, here’s the thing with Geathers: The coaches are trying hard to recruit a big, physical nose guard, including a junior college player that could play right away. What does that say about Geathers?

How do UGA fans during games compare to the other fanbases you've been around? I know that we get a reputation for being non-intimidating country club fans. Is that fair? And how do we make it better?
- Will Burgess

I don’t think it’s a wine-and-cheese crowd by any means. And I don’t think there’s any need for fans to start throwing batteries at the visiting team in an effort to be a tougher place to play. But Greg McGarity began looking into slight tweaks to the home environment – such as when commercials are played on the big screen. I suspect he’ll look at doing more. My own personal suggestion: Find a way to make the student section and band become a bit louder, a bit more of a factor in firing up the crowd.

Can you give us an update on T.J. Stripling? How is his knee? Also, do we know how Lonnie Outlaw, our 11th hour signing-day receiver from Wilcox County has fared during his Juco year?
- Dave in Fort Lauderdale

According to the national junior college web site, Outlaw caught 19 passes for 290 yards this year, with two touchdowns. It might not sound like much, but GMC had a lot of other guys catching passes too. As for Stripling, he’s been on the sideline since his injury, and at this point the coaches are hopeful he’ll be ready for spring practice.

Why do we keep missing out on the Cam Heywards, Greg Reids, etc? Have you noticed our coaching staff being any more or less aggressive about recruiting in-state studs-particularly on the O-Line and D-Lines? Also, seems like our coaching staff has no motivation to move up - with MAYBE the exception of Grantham. Van Gorder always wanted to prove himself at the highest level. He was supremely motivated, and it showed on the field. Who on our coaching staff is primed to be a head coach some day?
- Geoff Sandels

Georgia still tends to get its pick of the in-state recruits, with some guys that slip through – you can throw Cam Newton in there too, although there might be some, er, mitigating circumstances there. One factor that may have hurt Georgia lately is the resurgence of Alabama, and the past two years, Auburn. If that doesn’t happen, Isaiah Crowell may be committed to Georgia already.

Grantham just got here, after dropping down a level, so I’m not sure he’s ready to get out yet. As for the rest, I think it was evident last year that the staff had gotten a bit stale, and Richt shook things up. This time around, after even a worse record, he says he doesn’t plan any changes. But let’s see how that turns out: the key is he doesn’t PLAN any changes. But if certain coaches come to him and say they may have another opportunity, Richt may not fight as hard.

Any update on which redshirts might be impact players next year? We hear a lot on Richard Samuel, Jarvis Jones. Are there others?
- David Jones

You named the top two guys. The defense will need impact guys, and those two have that capability, along with the returning Marcus Dowtin. Otherwise, Michael Bennett kept drawing raves and probably would’ve played if the receiver position wasn’t so deep. A.J. Harmon wasn’t a redshirt, but he rarely played, and this team will need a right tackle next year.

What do you think of our chances to land elite recruits like R. Drew and I. Crowell?
- Logan Hinton

Ray Drew, the defensive end from Thomasville, told recruiting web sites last week he was down to six schools, including Georgia. The rest are Clemson and four SEC schools. Trying to predict what a teenager will do from there is something I try not to do. Crowell is a three-team race between Georgia, Auburn and Alabama. The Bulldog coaches are selling him hard on immediate playing time, which is a good drawing card considering that Auburn has Michael Dyer two more years, and Alabama has Trent Richardson.

Why wouldn’t TCU go to the Big 12. It would make sense geographically.
- Chase Moroy

Oh, I think TCU would love to go to the Big 12, the problem is the feeling isn’t mutual. The four Texas schools would consider the Horned Frogs to be a threat, recruiting and market-wise. That left TCU deciding between staying in a non-BCS league or going to the Big East (which shouldn’t be in football, but is.) And as people have pointed out, from Fort Worth the travel to the Big East schools actually is about even to the Mountain West.

Which TV shows are you watching? Have you been keeping up with "Boardwalk Empire" or "Sons of Anarchy"? Also, where are you on "Breaking Bad"? I would imagine that the off-season would be more conducive to your TV watching and our discussions thereof.
- Carter

I tried the first episode of “Boardwalk” but couldn’t make it through. I may try again now that work has freed up a bit more time. As for “Breaking Bad” I’m waiting for the third season to become available on Netflix or On Demand.
So in the meantime, it’s “Dexter.” I was a bit ambivalent about this season, and whether the storyline was grabbing me. But I’m getting there now. I’m interested to see what happens with Lumen (played by Julia Stiles) and whether her character carries into future seasons.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Murray by the numbers: Better than Greene's freshman season?

When this season began, the question was whether Aaron Murray could avoid being the weak point for what was supposed to be a very good Georgia football team.

As it turned out, Murray was one of the lone bright spots on a mediocre Bulldog team.

How good was Murray? He may very well break Matt Stafford’s single-season record for passing touchdowns, and should be the runner-up for SEC freshman of the year.

Murray now has 24 passing touchdowns, one shy of Stafford’s total from 2008. And that was when Stafford, a junior, was on the verge of being the No. 1 overall pick in the following NFL draft.

Several other players have matched Murray’s current total of 24: Eric Zeier (who did it twice, in 1993 and 1994), D.J. Shockley (2005) and Joe Cox (2009).

But Murray has one more game to tie Stafford and set the orecord. (By the way, I checked: Central Florida has the nation’s 45th-ranked pass defense, and SMU is 79th.)

Technically, Murray has already set the school record for passing yards by a freshman, with 2,851. I say "technically" because David Greene finished with 3,007 passing yards in 2001, but that included the bowl. The bowl stats weren't recognized for record purposes until 2002, according to UGA.

Murray's passing yards are also second all-time among freshman in the SEC, behind Kentucky’s Jared Lorenzen (3,687 in 2000.) So in the bowl Murray needs only to pass for 836 yards and gain 150 pounds to catch up to Lorenzen.

The standard by which all freshman QBs at Georgia are measured is Greene’s performance in 2001, including the bowl. It’s fair to compare now, since Greene only played 12 games, but Murray still holds up very well, in fact better:

Passing yards
Murray: 2,851
Greene: 3,077

Passing TD
Murray: 24
Greene: 18

Murray: 6
Greene: 11

Completion percentage
Murray: 61.8 (188-304)
Greene: 59.1 (214-362)

Efficiency rating
Murray: 167.7
Greene: 140.8

Rushing yards
Murray: 163
Greene: 13

Rushing TD
Murray: 4
Greene: 1

Murray: 6-6
Greene: 8-4

Two mitigating factors in Greene’s favor: He didn’t have A.J. Green to throw to, and Murray has had more games this year where his team had to play from behind.

But both in 2001 and 2010, the Bulldogs have scored at least 30 points in seven different games. And Murray’s team has averaged 34.3 points, and Green’s averaged 27.6.

Greene's 2001 season will definitely be better in one regard, besides wins: Greene was named SEC freshman of the year. South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore is going to win that this year. His numbers are just too eye-popping: 1,114 rushing yards and 17 rushing TDs, along with 328 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.

But Murray’s sterling season can’t get lost in the shuffle. It’s hard to believe that back in August, he was the big question mark. Now, as Georgia is one bowl away from entering a very uncertain 2011, Murray is probably the foundation of the team.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Richt "absolutely" expects to return, and wants Bobo back too

Mark Richt just finished a fairly newsy Sunday teleconference with reporters. The top headlines:

- He laughed off speculation about the vacant job at Miami, his alma mater, and said he “absolutely” expects to be Georgia’s head coach next fall.

- No staff changes are being considered now, and Mike Bobo will remain the play caller on offense.

- The staff is hitting the recruiting trail looking for a few immediate impact players, including some junior college prospects. And they would love to get a big, physical nose guard.

Let’s start with the Miami job, which opened up Saturday. The first question to Richt was whether it could be a distraction.

“I don’t think it’ll be a distraction because I have the same answer for that as I had for the other one,” he said. “Georgia’s my home and it’s where I wanna finish my career.”

He was alluding to the Colorado job, which he was linked to a couple weeks ago. As for Miami, Richt said he has not been approached.

“It’s like I’ve been saying: Georgia’s my home and that’s where I want to be,” Richt said. “I don’t think I’ve gotta go any farther than that.”

But could there be changes on his staff? Not immediately, it seems. The head coach spoke of evaluating the program and its problems, and how they can be fixed: Recruiting, strength and conditioning, even nutrition were the topics he mentioned.

Then when Richt was asked if he was considering any staff changes, he paused a moment.

“Am I considering changes on the staff? No,” he said.

Later, when asked about the criticism offensive coordinator Mike Bobo dealt with this season, Richt defended his coordinator. He pointed to the record number of consecutive games that the team has scored at least 30 points – the streak currently stands at seven, the most in school history. Richt also pointed to his own days at Florida State, saying he incurred grief from fans.

“If you’re in that leadership position, if you’re (calling plays)… you’re always gonna be a guy that’s gonna be open for the criticism,” Richt said. “It just comes with the territory.”

So does that mean he wants Bobo as the play-caller going forward?

“Yes,” Richt answered.

While the season still isn’t over, as Richt pointed out, he did say the team was working on improving next year’s talent level. That means a few junior college prospects.

“We’re working some guys. And when we do go junior college we try to find some guys that can impact immediately,” Richt said.

Asked to assess the team’s top two or three priorities in recruiting, the head coach at first demurred, saying they needed to look “across the board,” because of future depth needs. But he eventually mentioned a “big, physical nose guard” to fit the 3-4 scheme. Junior DeAngelo Tyson, a smaller tackle better suited for a 4-3, started each game at nose this year.

“That’d be nice, for an immediate impact,” Richt said.

Fleeting thoughts: Richt and Miami, and the NFL lockout

I hope everyone’s okay with not doing a breakdown and grades for each position for last night’s game. You all saw it, so it’s pretty clear what happened:

Aaron Murray and the receivers: good. The running backs: some good moments, some bad ones. As for the defense: big plays from Justin Houston and a few others, but on the whole, a lot of work to be done in the offseason.

There’s still a bowl to be played, but clearly most of the talk ahead is going to be about the program moving forward. Therein, a few thoughts:

- It took, oh, about five minutes after Miami fired head coach Randy Shannon for a certain former Hurricane QB to be mentioned for the job. Mark Richt played at Miami and grew up in Boca Raton, Fla., and was mentioned quickly as a “potential candidate” by the Miami Herald, as well as and

While Richt clearly has ties to Miami, he apparently wasn’t interested a few years ago before Shannon was hired. Richt is also earning a lot more money than Miami might be willing to pay, and he has moved much of his family to Athens. As he said a few weeks ago when his name was tied to the Colorado job, “Georgia’s my home.”

Then again, if Richt feels like his job is a little less secure than the last time the Miami job was open, that could be a factor. So until Miami makes a hire, you never know.

Richt is 96-33 in his 10 seasons at Georgia.

- Player-wise, all eyes are on Georgia's top juniors and whether they'll turn pro. I’m not sure the potential NFL lockout will loom as large in A.J. Green or Justin Houston’s decision, as some are hoping. Here’s why:

While a lockout could postpone the draft (and there’s no certainty of that), everyone knows there will be a season eventually. That’s why agents will sign players to deals, and give them cash, cars or down payments on houses, whatever it takes to sign them. And once a player decides he no longer wants to be eligible for college, he’s free to take whatever he wants from agents.

That’s not to say that a player might be scared enough of an abbreviated season that he would rather stay in college another year. But if finances are an issue for a player, I don’t think the lockout will matter.

At a minimum, expect Green and Houston to send their name to the NFL draft advisory committee to get an evaluation on where they could be drafted. And don't be surprised if a few other juniors, such as Brandon Boykin and Cordy Glenn, do the same thing.

Postgame: Green and Houston hint at futures

The conventional wisdom holds that Georgia's A.J. Green and Justin Houston probably played their final games at Sanford Stadium in Saturday's win over Georgia Tech. While neither player confirmed or denied that afterwards, they’re not leaving without a fight from Georgia fans – in Green’s case – or head coach Mark Richt – in Houston’s.

Georgia fans chanted “one more year” at the end of the game, when Green came over to celebrate with the students. Richt smiled when asked about that.

“I’m all for that,” he said.

Green admitted he heard the chant. He reiterated that he would make a decision – “the best one for me and my family” – after the bowl game.

“This went by fast. Now I’m a junior, and I have an opportunity to leave, to do what I love the most,” Green said. “It just went by so fast. Standing on that thing by the student section, to hear them chanting and going crazy, it’s just a dream, man.”
Houston echoed his earlier statements about not wanting to talk about the decision.

If it was his final game at Sanford Stadium, it was a doozy: He returned a fumble for a touchdown, then sealed the game with his first interception as a college player.

“It was a great way to go out if it is my last one,” Houston said. “But I really don’t want to think about that right now. We just beat Tech, and that’s all I want to think about.”

Richt engaged in a bit of public lobbying for Houston to come back for his senior season and perhaps improve his draft position.

“I have no earthly idea what the future holds for him,” Richt said. “My hope is that he’s a Bulldog for another season, and improves his draft status to where he’s a top 10 pick. Because I think he’s got that capability. I don’t know if he’s there right now. But I think he’s one of those guys that can move himself into that kind of position. But it always comes down to everybody doing what’s best for these guys. And time will tell.”

Meanwhile, recruiting was heavy on Richt’s mind after the game. He said he hoped the atmosphere had an impact on the many high school players Georgia was hosting on Saturday night.

Columbus tailback Isaiah Crowell, who was spotted wearing Georgia gear, was probably central in Richt’s mind.

Richt also said the coaches would hit the recruiting trail hard this week, which begins an open contact period, when coaches are also able to make unlimited phone calls to recruits. The Bulldogs are likely to take the week off of practice, and start their allotment of 15 practices after they know their destination and opponent.

“We’re gonna be recruiting the heck out of the guys that we’ve got,” Richt said. “We’re gonna recruit the ones that are already committed, recruit the ones that are hoping to commit, and we’ll also spend time on the 2012 and ’13 and ’14 class. We’ll still be out there beating the bushes looking at the young guys as we get along.”

Liberty Bowl looks likely

It's not a done deal, and can't be for at least another week. But it sure looks like Georgia is on track to be invited to the Liberty Bowl.

Steve Ehrhart, who heads the Memphis bowl, spent most of Saturday night hanging around Georgia officials, including athletics director Greg McGarity. After Georgia's 42-34 win over Georgia Tech, Ehrhart spoke highly of the Bulldogs.

“We know we can’t do anything formally until as Mark (Richt) said, we’re sort of under an embargo," Ehrhart said. But the fact that here I am talking to you at 12:30 in the morning, we’re pretty darn serious.”

Richt said during his postgame news conference that he expected to have to wait until after the BCS selection are made next week. But it's likely the SEC is getting two teams in, whether that Auburn and Arkansas, or South Carolina and Auburn.

The Music City Bowl, which picks just ahead of Liberty, now appears to be favoring Tennessee. That would probably leave Georgia and Kentucky for the Liberty Bowl.

“We’ve been talking about Georgia for basically all season,” Ehrhart said.

The SEC choice for the Liberty will face the winner of next Saturday's Conference USA championship game, which features SMU playing at Central Florida.

The Liberty Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 31, a Friday, at 3:30 p.m.

Ehrhart admitted he was "treading lightly" with his comments.

“We’re not supposed to be able to say anything. I’ll get in trouble with the SEC office," Ehrhart said. "But let the actions, as coach said, let the actions speak.”

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fourth quarter blog

4:57 left in game, Georgia tied - no wait, still leads, 35-34

Unreal. Georgia Tech had an easier time driving downfield and scoring on the Georgia defense than kicker Scott Blair had kicking the extra point. Blair's point-after attempt hooks left, and with five minutes left, the Bulldogs still cling to a one-point lead.

The Yellow Jackets have all three timeouts left, so the Bulldogs need to hold this ball awhile, and preferably score.

And oh ... as I wrote that, Brandon Boykin nearly fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, which would have been the game. But Marlon Brown picked it up on the bounce, and Georgia dodges a major bullet. Wow.

7:50 left in fourth quarter, Georgia leads 35-28

It's back to being game. Georgia Tech drove downfield and scored, then Georgia went three-and-out.

Very conservative effort on that drive by the Bulldog offense. Now it's up to the defense to get a stop, and I don't know if you can count on that.

12:30 left in fourth quarter, Georgia leads 35-21

I'm on deadline now for the papers, so I won't be able to blog as much in this quarter. But real quickly:

Georgia's two tailbacks have combined for 103 yards on 13 carries. Although Caleb King, who has 42 of those yards, has that glaring fumble.

Abry Jones also is up to 15 tackles, which is above and beyond his career high. Jones has been getting a lot of action with Demarcus Dobbs out since the first half with an elbow injury.

As I write this, Georgia Tech is driving yet again. So this ain't over yet.

Third quarter blog

0:09 left in third quarter, Georgia leads 35-21

Georgia is back in command of this game, after a huge defensive play.

Georgia Tech fumbled a pitch on first down, and after the ball was knocked downfield a bit, Justin Houston picked it up and dove at the right pylon for the score.

That's a huge cushion for Georgia, which by the way hasn't had to punt in awhile. It was only stopped by its own errors in the third quarter.

0:40 left in third quarter, Georgia leads 28-21

Mark Richt decided to take a big risk, and it paid off.

Facing fourth and goal from inches away, but with the game tied, Richt decided a field goal wasn't sufficient. Just like he decided earlier in the game from the 4-yard line.

But this time the Bulldogs converted. Washaun Ealey took a pitch and broke through the right side, and the Bulldogs are back ahead.

We may look back on this sequence - the Tech fumble followed by the UGA scoring drive - as the pivotal part of the game. But that depends on whether the Bulldog defense can get some stops.

2:55 left in third quarter

The third quarter has officially turned into a fumble-fest, with a little Keystone Cops thrown in.

First, Caleb King fumbled the ball away at the Georgia Tech nine, yet another in a litany of red-zone fumbles for the Georgia tailbacks this season. King had just uncorked two very good runs.

Then, after the Georgia defense held (finally) to force a punt, Branden Smith muffed the catch, and Georgia Tech recovered at the UGA 34.

But just a few plays later, the Bulldogs knocked the ball loose, and after it was kicked upfield a few times, Akeem Dent recovered at the 36. The play was reviewed, and Dent's foot may have been out of bounds, but there wasn't enough to overturn.

That could end up being a huge swing for Georgia. Its defense is finally showing signs of being able to get a handle on the triple-option.

10:37 left in third quarter, Georgia Tech ties it at 21

Georgia still can't consistently stop the run, and now the pass is becoming a problem too.

The Yellow Jackets surprised the Bulldogs with a long pass play on their first play of the half, completing it 44 yards into Georgia territory. Then it was back to the run, including a fourth-down conversion. The following play saw Tech's Embry Peoples take a wide pitch and go 19 yards into the end zone.

OK, now it's time for Georgia to get a bit antsy. The offense is about to re-take the field, which is a good thing for the Bulldogs, but how long can Aaron Murray and company just keep answering? The Bulldog defense needs a stop.

Halftime stats and observations

1. Aaron Murray is firing away tonight. The freshman quarterback has 220 passing yards and three TDs, and it's only halftime. He also has that nice downfield block on Washaun Ealey's 34-yard run.

2. Speaking of Ealey, he has 49 rushing yards on just three carries. Caleb King has three yards on four carries.

3. The receiving leaders: A.J. Green (four catches for 46 yards), Kris Durham (three catches for 90 yards, 1 TD) and Orson Charles (two catches for 67 yards, 1 TD).

4. Georgia Tech ran the ball 39 times in the first half. It attempted three passes. Yup, that seems about right.

5. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Considering they're willing to run the ball every play and take that average all the way into the end zone, the Bulldogs have to stiffen up in the second half.

6. Georgia nose tackle DeAngelo Tyson and end Abry Jones each already have a season-high seven tackles (only two of them solo). That's how many of the runs are going up the middle.

7. The prognosis for a Georgia win isn't rocket science: Just get off the field a few times on defense, and that should be enough, since Georgia's offense is looking so unstoppable so far.

But getting off the field will be key for that defense. The Yellow Jackets dominated time of possession, at nearly 18 minutes, so there's a danger the Bulldogs could wear down.

Second quarter blog

0:50 left in first half, Georgia re-takes lead, 21-14

Well, Georgia didn't need the whole two minutes.

Aaron Murray just hit Bruce Figgins in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left in the half, and the Bulldogs have re-asserted themselves.

Quite a well-rounded drive by Murray, who also laid down a good downfield block on a long Washaun Ealey run that got Georgia into Georgia Tech territory. Then Murray hit Kris Durham on a sideline catch down to the 16.

At that point, if you're also following my tweets you know I wondered if Mike Bobo would go conservative again and call run plays. He did, but with more success than the previous drive, as Ealey burst up the middle for a 13-yard gain.

Big drive and answer for the Bulldogs. Now they need to make the proper defensive adjustments at halftime - which Todd Grantham has done before, only to have it break down in the fourth quarter. We'll see what he can scrounge up this time.

(Assuming the Jackets don't do something in the final minute of the half too.)

2:05 left in second quarter, Georgia Tech ties it at 14

OK, this turned sour quickly for Georgia. Let's review:

- Georgia has questionable play-calling once it reaches the GT 14, then fails on fourth-and-inches from the 4, rather than kicking the chip-shot field goal.

- Then Georgia's defense was utterly powerless to stop the Georgia Tech run, except when the ball-carrier fell down on his own to force a third-and-nine. Surely, since the Jackets had yet to attempt a pass, the Bulldogs had them right where they wanted them.

- Ah, but then Tevin Washington completed his first pass of the game, converting the first down. Then it was back to the run, all the way downfield, to tie the game.

The only good news for Georgia is it has a little over two minutes left to take back the lead before halftime. And it better, because Tech gets the ball to start the second half.

8:42 left in second quarter, Georgia still leads 14-7

Look, I know you have to run to keep the defense honest. But sometimes an offensive coordinator can out-smart himself in that regard.

Georgia passed its way down to the 14, with Tech showing no signs it could stop Aaron Murray and company. And then at that point the Bulldogs called two straight running plays, which gained a combined two yards. Huh?

A third down pass was - of course - complete to Kris Durham, who looked like he was right at the first down marker. But the spot was short, and a Murray sneak was stopped. So Georgia Tech takes over at its own 4.

Hmm, not hindsight at all, I would have kicked the field goal there. Put yourself up two scores, rather than bank on a running game that hasn't done much so far.

12:59 left in second quarter

Georgia's offense might need to keep scoring, because its defense is doing a spotty job of stopping the triple option.

Georgia Tech, on its third try in the red zone, finally scored on a 1-yard keeper by Tevin Washington. So it's back to a one-score game.

The Bulldog secondary has been a bit nicked up so far. Cornerback Sanders Commings, one of the many rotating opposite Brandon Boykin, hasn't played lately with an apparent ankle injury. Safety Bacarri Rambo also missed a few series, although he was back on the field for the Jackets' touchdown drive.

I just don't think the Bulldog defense is stout enough to make stop after stop against the run. It can make some big plays behind the line, as we've seen, but Georgia's best bet here is for the offense to keep slinging it, and hope that a few more scores forces the Jackets to alter their gameplan.

First quarter blog

2:34 left in first quarter, Georgia leads 14-0

The point spread for this game was two touchdowns. You see why now.

Georgia's Aaron Murray just hit Orson Charles for a 32-yard touchdown pass, in a nifty play by each: Murray scrambled away from an edge rusher and threw downfield off the wrong foot; Charles stepped in front of the pass at about the 5, then made a nice grab and finished off the play.

The Bulldogs were expected to be able to pass all over the Yellow Jackets, and that's holding up.

By the way, an intriguing tidbit from the AJC's Chip Towers: Former Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger is here, hanging on the sidelines with Bulldog recruits. No idea what's up with that.

Also, former UGA tennis player John Isner is also here, and was introduced to the crowd during a recent timeout. Isner is famous for winning the longest Wimbledon match in history earlier this year, with a fifth set that spanned 138 games and three days.

I really hope that doesn't portend anything for this here football match. The way it's going right now, probably not.

7:00 left in first quarter, Georgia leads 7-0

That's why they call Kris Durham "White Lightning."

The Georgia senior receiver catches a short slant pass on third down, then cuts upfield and outruns the Georgia Tech secondary for a 66-yard touchdown play. It's the longest of Durham's career.

What a great early turnaround for the Bulldogs. They still haven't started a play outside their own 30, while the Yellow Jackets have been inside the red zone twice.

Georgia Tech can't afford to let opportunities pass up. And so far it has.

8:16 left in first quarter, no score

So the game hasn't quite started the way Georgia would want. A muffed kickoff, a three-and-out, a couple red zone trips for the Tech offense. But it hasn't cost Georgia yet.

After recovering a muff on the opening kickoff, Tech was stopped on fourth down by Darryl Gamble, so it remained scoreless. After a Georgia punt, the Yellow Jackets drove inside the 5 - and fumbled it over.

Georgia Tech kicked off short and to the left sideline, where Shaun Chapas for some reason let it bounce. He tried to pick it up on the first bounce, but it was too late to avoid a scrum, where the Yellow Jackets recovered.

But Gamble came up big, bursting through the line on fourth-and-2 to bring down the ball-carrier with two hands. That's a senior moment. The good kind.

Georgia Tech's decision to go for it, rather than kick the field goal, wasn't really an indication that it will go for broke this game. The Jackets just tend to always go for it when they have that short to go.

Pregame blog

7:30 p.m.: "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men."

For some reason Samuel L. Jackson is here. He was just shown on the big screen on the sideline, wearing a Georgia shirt. Now I'm wishing I'd gone down to the sidelines for pregame. One of my favorite actors.

Jules ... er, Jackson, could have stepped in a moment ago when Georgia and Georgia Tech's players started getting into it.

My colleague Coley Harvey was down there, and said Georgia's players, huddled together near midfield, started saying some stuff toward the Tech sideline. Then about three minutes later it was Tech's turn to huddle and return fire, and pretty soon the jawing entered the face-to-face stage.

But it didn't escalate any further. If it had, Jackson could have started in with his Bible verses, and it could've just stopped there, but as long as he was still planning to retire quietly.

7:05 p.m.: Coffee in hand. Gloves in pocket. Not afraid to use them.

Both teams are on the field warming up now: Georgia in its traidtional red jerseys and helmets, for those of you who thought there could be a black-out, and Georgia Tech in all-white. Well not quite all-white, as the Jacket players are wearing navy-blue high-socks. It's not that bad a look, actually.

One thing that might be worth watching: There is a slight wind on the field, maybe around 10 mph. So field goals, and perhaps passes, could be affected.

I also just checked the weather report, and they're saying it could reach a low of 31 tonight. Lovely.

5:30 p.m.: The writer enters. He sits. He blogs.

Greetings from the outdoor press box at Sanford Stadium, where ... brrr ... it's 50 degrees, with the temperature expected to drop into the 30s tonight. Wonderful!

For that reason, it'll be interesting to see if the stadium fills up entirely. I would guess it would, being the final regular-season game of the year and all. But those that are here had better bundle up.

We're at least expecting a full press box. The Telegraph will have four people here, including Georgia Tech beat writer Coley Harvey. Unofficially, there's a rumor that former Telegraph writer David Hale is in town, which has led Pauley's to call in an emergency order for all its beer items. But again, that's just a rumor.

The good folks at Chick-fil-A are also here, passing out coupons for a chicken sandwich. There isn't much of a chance they'll pick either of these teams, but hey, it's a free chicken sandwich, whom am I to sit here and parse facts.

Pregame notes: Bowl update, past opponent coaching news

Before Georgia has even played, two events have taken place Saturday that should crystallize the Bulldogs’ bowl situation.

First, the president of the Sugar Bowl told Robbie Neiswanger of the Northwest Arkansas News that the Sugar will essentially choose the winner of the LSU-Arkansas game. I say “essentially” because if South Carolina beats Auburn in the SEC championship, things change.

But the basic fact there is that the SEC is all but certain of getting two teams in the BCS. Because even if Auburn loses, it (or LSU, if it wins) probably get an at-large berth.

Second, Tennessee has defeated Kentucky to reach the magic six-win mark.

So let’s assume Georgia wins tonight and also gets bowl-eligible. That means:

1) The SEC will almost certainly have 10 bowl-eligible teams, enough to exactly fill its bowl tie-ins.
2) The final three teams, all with 6-6 records, would be Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The final three bowls in the selection order are the Music City, Liberty and BBVA Compass.

The Music City, having had its fill of Kentucky, will almost certainly choose between Georgia and Tennessee.

If the pick is Tennessee, it’s a solid bet the Liberty will want Georgia – unless it gets scared off by concerns that Bulldog fans won’t travel.

Should that be the case, then hello Birmingham for the Bulldogs.

Still, my guess is Georgia doesn’t make it past both of the Tennessee-based bowls. So basically, if Georgia wins tonight, it’s a good bet we can start planning for a trip to Nashville or Memphis.


Here’s a freaky stat for you, and something to give Paul Johnson reason to back out of tonight's game:

Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Ricky Bustle is reportedly being let go after today’s game. Therefore, all three nonconference teams Georgia have faced this season have fired their coaches. (Dan Hawkins at Colorado and John Zamberlin at Idaho State.)

Michigan fans are now wishing their team had played Georgia too.

Throw in Robbie Caldwell, who resigned in advance of Vanderbilt’s game, and it’s one-third of Georgia’s opponents this year that will see coaching changes. So far.

Morning glory: Boise State, UGA hoops, and football recruits

I don’t know how many of you stayed up to watch it, but it’s official: Georgia will not open next season against the defending BCS champion.

Boise State lost at Nevada in overtime in a classic finish. The Broncos should have won in regulation after an improbable pass set up a chip-shot field goal. But the kicker then forgot how to kick.

So does that take a bit of luster off of next year’s Boise State-Georgia opener? Perhaps a little, since many assumed the Broncos would at least be coming off a year when a lot of people felt they should’ve been in the title game, or would be on a long winning streak.

All we do know is that Friday was a good day for the BCS cartel that controls college football and likes to avoid controversy: Auburn and Oregon stayed unbeaten, Boise State went down, and TCU is left as the only potential “people’s champion.”

Now let’s see how the SEC championship and the Cam Newton investigation go.

A couple other notes as we get ready for Georgia-Georgia Tech:

- The Georgia men’s basketball team is now 0-for-2 in Orlando after falling to No. 21 Temple. The Bulldogs’ last chance to salvage something out of the Old Spice Classic is Sunday against Manhattan.

Still, it hasn’t been a bad trip for Georgia. It lost to two teams, Notre Dame and Temple, that will be in the mix for the NCAA tournament, so that should help the Bulldogs' RPI. And they were in both games, with Trey Thompkins certainly not back to full strength yet.

But it does mean that next week’s two games against UAB and Georgia Tech are now pretty important. It would behoove the Bulldogs to enter SEC play with a couple good nonconference wins on their resume’. At this point, Colorado and Saint Louis aren’t in that category.

By the way, for those anti-playoff people in football who say the basketball regular season doesn’t matter, here we are in late November talking about the importance of nonconference games. Trust me, as someone who’s done this for years, and spoken to selection committee members about this, it matters.

- I had a chance to watch a couple Georgia recruits on Friday night: Nick Marshall’s Wilcox County High School team lost in the state quarterfinals to David Andrews and Wesleyan.

Marshall is a pretty intriguing athlete prospect: At cornerback he had two interceptions on Friday night, and as a quarterback he rushed for more than 100 yards and passed for 206. He’s a legit 6-foot-2, so the defensive coaches can use him at cornerback or safety.

But he also has the offensive skills to be used on that side of the ball. He can run, and while I know it was just Class A competition, Marshall made more than a few accurate downfield passes from the pocket. He also made a few questionable decisions, but his arm is legit.

Andrews, a three-star recruit according to, was on an offensive line that paved the way for teammate Kyle Karempelis to rush for 300 yards.

- As for the present-day Bulldogs, here’s the breakdown on Saturday’s game from myself and colleague Coley Harvey. We didn’t offer up a prediction, but this is how I would sum it up: Georgia should win convincingly, perhaps handily, as long as it doesn’t make too many mistakes.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Leftovers: McGarity speaks on Richt, the offseason and more

So who else has a big turkey in their fridge and will be eating turkey sandwiches for the next week? The good news is I only started two grease fires while cooking it.

In case you missed it, here was my story in Thursday’s papers on Mark Richt, and how he’s weathered his worst season as Georgia’s head coach. I wasn’t able to include all the quotes and nuggets from athletics director Greg McGarity, so here are all the pertinent details:

- In case there was still any doubt, McGarity reiterated that Richt will return in 2011, barring anything unforeseen. (“Yes,” was McGarity’s one-word answer to that question.)

- That said, McGarity said he hasn’t yet thought about extending Richt’s contract, which currently runs through the 2013 season. Often, coaches want at least four years for recruiting purposes, but McGarity wasn’t buying into that premise.

“I think sometimes that gets overblown,” he said. “You see some coaches that have contracts through 2020. I mean c’mon. As long as the relationship is on firm ground with the athletic director and the head coach, I think contracts are sometimes overblown.”

- Since McGarity was hired in August, Richt has several times mentioned that his new boss had some “good ideas” about the program. McGarity, who meets with Richt every Friday, understandably didn’t want to get too specific.

“We just talked about different ideas, different ways of doing things,” he said. “It’s just sort of things, nothing in writing, but just conversations and thoughts that we’d address after the regular season’s over with, and we have time to breathe a bit.”

- So could that be staff changes? I asked McGarity if, considering how this season has gone, it would be necessary to do something to show the public anything?

“We live in a society that people want to know how you’re gonna fix things,” McGarity said. “There’s certain things you can talk about, there’s certain things you don’t need to air out in the public. I think that reaches just a level of trust, that people probably don’t have in me right now, because I’ve just been on the job a short amount of time. I have no track record. I’ve not had to make a hire.”

Then McGarity pointed out that he does have a volleyball coaching search on. For all of you anxiously awaiting news on that, he said he anticipate something in the next 60-90 days.

- McGarity is trying to build the kind of relationship with Richt and Mark Fox that his former boss, Jeremy Foley at Florida, had with Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan. The hope is to show Richt that he can trust and confide in McGarity.

“That’s something you really have to earn, and we’re not anywhere close to where we need to be,” McGarity said. “But I think after the first two and a half months, I sure sense that we trust each other, we’re not afraid of telling each other what we need to hear. And we’re not afraid of hurting each other’s feelings.”

- If anybody out there thinks Richt’s large buyout – about $5 million with an additional longevity bonus – would be a factor, that doesn’t seem the case. McGarity wasn’t speaking specifically about that, but when I asked about the state of his department’s finances, he was upbeat.

“I think every team in the Southeastern Conference is in good shape financially with the tremendous package that’s been put together by the SEC, with all our television partners, for the next 14 years,” McGarity.

He also credited by name his predecessors, Damon Evans and Vince Dooley, and associate A.D. Frank Crumley, for helping put Georgia in good financial standing.

Meanwhile, a couple other things for your Friday:

- Down in Orlando, the Georgia men’s basketball team suffered its first loss of the season, in double overtime to Notre Dame. This despite the return of Trey Thompkins, albeit in a limited form. But poor free throw (10-for-20) and 3-point shooting (9-for-34) felled them against the Irish.

Thompkins wasn’t healthy enough to start, but he ended up playing 33 minutes, including both overtimes, and had a double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds.)

No. 20 Temple is the next opponent, after it was upset by California. The Owls will probably end up looking good on Georgia’s postseason resume’, win or lose. Then on Sunday Georgia will face either Texas A&M or Manhattan.

- Back to football. Assuming for the sake of this note that Georgia wins on Saturday, the Iron Bowl and Saturday’s LSU-Arkansas game will be key in figuring out the Bulldogs’ bowl destination.

It will likely come down to whether the SEC gets one or two teams in the BCS. If it’s one, then Georgia could slide down to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham on Jan. 8. If it’s two, then it’s probably the Liberty or Music City Bowls.

So if you’re rooting for the latter, pull for wins by Auburn and LSU. But especially LSU, which will be done after Saturday and thus wouldn’t have a chance to fall in the standings.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Practice notes: The thanksgiving plan, jersey plans, and recruiting

Mark Richt speaks, we listen. Well, we also ask questions, and then he speaks, and we write. And after this process Wednesday night, here are seven things we learned:

1. They went full pads again on Wednesday to practice more against the cut block, a staple of Georgia Tech’s offense. Richt didn’t like how they were looking against it so far in preparation.

In fact, every practice they’ve had the past two weeks has been full pads.

2. The Thanksgiving plan: They’ll be done by about 10 a.m., and then excuse everyone to go eat.

“Anybody’s who’s close enough, they usually go home," Richt said. "A lot of times, families will come in and have Thanksgiving here. And there’s a lot of guys who will take their teammates who have a little far to go, to their homes. Coaches take players to their homes.”

Richt also expects assistant coach Rodney Garner to hold his usual turkey-day feast.

“It’s become legendary,” Richt said.

3. Injury update No. 1: Carlton Thomas had a stinger on Monday. He did scout work today.

“We think he’ll be ready,” Richt said.

4. Injury update No. 2: Defensive back Sanders Commings (ankle) has been practicing too.

“He’s getting there,” Richt said.

5. Richt repeated earlier praise of linebackers Jarvis Jones and Richard Samuel, each sitting out this season.

“Between (Jones) and Richard Samuel playing linebacker, it’s probably the best linebacker tandem in the country. Scout-team linebacker tandem,” Richt said. “They’re outstanding talents, and giving our guys all they want all year long.”

In hindsight, Richt agreed, Samuel’s injury could end up a blessing, as it gave him a year to acclimate to the linebacker switch. He will have two years of eligibility remaining, and Jones, the transfer from Southern California, will have three.

6. Georgia will not be sporting black jerseys on Saturday, Richt confirmed.

“I don’t think we’ll have a jersey change for awhile here,” Richt said.

7. Richt was asked if the struggles of the running game have increased the need to sign a big-time running back in February. That was an obvious reference to a certain Columbus recruit, whom Richt can’t talk about, per NCAA rules.

“I would just say we sure would love to sign a big-time back this year. How’s that?” Richt said, looking up and smiling at Claude Felton, UGA’s associate athletics director for communications. “That’s a very big priority for us. A very big priority.”

8. Three juniors – Charles White, Ben Harden and Josh Sailors – are leaving the program early and being honored with the senior class on Saturday. That’s a common occurrence for juniors who are going to graduate early and haven’t played much.

Richt said he had spoken with White, and planned to have a conversation with Harden.

“I just tell them I appreciate everything they did for us,” Richt said. “They busted their tail, they did the best they could, it didn’t work out the way they wanted it to on the field. But they’re going to get their degrees. I know they’re men of integrity, they’re guys that are gonna be tremendous employees, and probably employers one day. They’re gonna be good husbands and fathers. They’re just great people. I think they’ve done well.”

And that’s it, for now. Look for a story on Richt, and how he’s held up this season, with quotes from his new boss, in Thursday’s papers.

Oh, and happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your turducken, or stuffing, or green bean casserole, or all of the above.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Green and Houston talk a bit more about their futures

Here’s some more NFL talk for you, starting with the biggest name.

No, A.J. Green didn’t declare for the draft. Though he did slightly amend his statement from last week, saying Tuesday that he would make a decision “possibly” after the bowl game. He has said he would wait to announce until the season was over.

Green did have a funny story about his teammates constantly asking about his pro plans:

“We had somebody talking to the team, and they had the seniors stand up. They were like, A.J. why aren’t you standing up? This is your last game!”

(A little aside: While every other Bulldog gives quick non-answers when asked about the NFL, Green will sit there and patiently answer every question about it. He was the same way about jersey-gate. Just based on what I’ve seen the past few months, and from covering him in high school, it seems Green will handle the NFL media madness pretty well, whenever he gets there.)

- Incidentally, Green, who grew up in Summerville, S.C., said he always attended South Carolina-Clemson fans growing up, and didn’t shrink when asked who he rooted for.

“Always Clemson,” he said. “Because I just don’t like South Carolina. I just don’t. I don’t know why.”

- Justin Houston is the other Georgia junior who is being scouted as a possible first-round pick. He held a firm line when asked if this could be his final game at Sanford Stadium.

“It may or it may not. I won’t know until the time gets (here),” he said. “I’ll make that decision at the last minute. That’s something I’m not – I’m worried about this week. We’ve got Georgia Tech this week, and hopefully after that we’re worrying about the bowl game.”

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, with his NFL background, said he’s spoken to Houston “a little bit” about the pros, but plans to sit down with Houston next week.

“He’s worked hard for me. He’s taken to coaching. He’s been a good player for us. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” Grantham said. “I just think that’s a situation you address with each player, because each player’s different with what they should do. I’m glad he’s here, and I think he helped us. We’ll just address that after the season.”

Grantham, who has been in many an NFL team’s draft war room, had an interesting point about Houston: He thinks Houston has been helped by showing he could play the outside linebacker role in both a 3-4 and 4-3.

“What happens is, the reason the guys drop in the draft is the guy making the call cannot visualize what the guy can do for them. But if you watch our tape, they can see him doing everything they need to see him do,” Grantham said.

- Grantham went into NFL scout mode when asked about Akeem Dent. The inside linebacker is a senior.

“He has a nose for the ball. He has good strength. He has enough range that he can play in the alley,” Grantham said. “He can play with his hands and get off blocks, and sometimes when he’s engaged on a guy he can separate and get to the ball. He can find ways to get off a block. So I don’t think there’s any question he can play up there. I think as he moves forward in his career that’ll be shown.”

Aaron Murray pronounces himself 'pretty much pain-free'

Aaron Murray practiced for the second straight day, and afterwards said he was never worried about his playing status for Saturday.

“Not at all. I knew I was gonna play,” Murray said. “I don’t care if I had a broken leg, I’m gonna play in this game. I knew the pain wasn’t anything bad. I played the majority of the game against Auburn with it. It was progressing and getting better every day. … These past few days have been pretty much pain-free, and I can go out there and just play and it won’t affect my game at all.”

Murray bruised his knee, sternum and even cut his chin at Auburn. But he appears a full-go for the Georgia Tech game.

Murray wasn’t even wearing a brace on his knee, which was injured late in the loss at Auburn. As for the sternum, it turns out he suffered that injury on the first drive, then played the rest of the game with it.

The injury only started to bother him as last week went on. But he felt fine at practice Monday and Tuesday.

“I’m feeling good really,” Murray said. “No pain, nothing.”

Murray also got cut on his chin, and required a couple stitches. But that’s happened before, and said it was “no biggie.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo didn’t appear concerned at all with Murray’s status.

“He’s cleared by the doctors. I think he’s gonna go out there and play football,” Bobo said. “He’s practiced both of the last two days and looked good.”

Bobo also thought the Auburn experience may have taught the freshman another small lesson in the growing-up process.

“I think he may have learned a bit about how to protect himself,” Bobo said. “He’d been hit a few times, but not as hard as he did the week before when we played Auburn.”

- Murray didn’t bite when asked if he was surprised Nick Fairley wasn’t suspended.

“I’m not worried about all the Auburn stuff,” Murray said. “I’m worried about getting ready for Georgia Tech this week.”

Guard Cordy Glenn had the same reaction Monday when he was asked about Fairley and the Auburn game. It appears the Bulldogs are under orders not to comment on the matter.

(And if anybody’s wondering why we media low-lifes are still talking about it, this week was the first time Murray and Glenn were available to talk, so you have to ask.)

More notes coming later.

Ten things gleaned from the Richt press conference

It wasn’t the most eventful Mark Richt news conference. But it was the last one, at least of the regular season, so here are 10 things we learned. (Sort of like the headline says):

1. Richt is big on the importance of the game, especially in the context of the Bulldogs’ 5-6 record. It gives his team something to play for besides mere bowl eligibility.

“It’s great to have a game like this at the end of the season – particularly this season,” he said.

2. Richt also preached the importance of winning the Governor’s Cup, which is bestowed on the winner of the Georgia-Georgia Tech game. The current Cup, we’re told, is currently sitting in the office of a UGA associate athletics director. No word on whether it’s being used as a paperweight.

3. And since it’s the Governor’s Cup, the pregame coin toss will be performed by Gov.-elect Nathan Deal. Out of habit, Roy Barnes is expected to cut an attack ad that criticizes Deal’s performance.

4. The Warner Robins Little League team will lead the Dawg Walk before Saturday’s game. No word on whether they’ll also be asked to play third down-defense.

5. Georgia will also wear a helmet sticker during the game to honor the Georgia National Guard. No snarky comment on this one.

6. Even though quarterback Aaron Murray practiced on Monday, Richt said it’s “still not 100 percent certain” that Murray will play. But it sounded like there would have to be a major setback in practice this week for him to miss the game.

That said, Richt added that true freshman backup Hutson Mason has improved to the point the team would be confident in using him. While Logan Gray got snaps last week, Richt said it wasn’t with the idea of starting him if Murray couldn’t go.

7. Don’t count Richt among the people who think ill of Georgia Tech’s cut-blocking. Richt called the Yellow Jackets “the best cut-blocking team in the country,” adding “and it’s a legal block.”

Georgia coaches are trying to teach the scout-teamers to cut block the way Tech does, but simulating the speed of the system is difficult.

8. Richt said fullback Anthony Allen “is the big key” in the Yellow Jacket offense. Allen, listed as the B-Back in Tech’s triple-option, is the team’s leading rusher with 1,059 yards, and has five touchdowns.

9. Besides the Bulldog seniors, two juniors will also be honored before the game: LB Charles White and G Ben Harden. The two reserves will apparently be leaving the program.

10. As for other juniors who might leave early, Richt said he “never assumes” any will go. The coaches will sit down and talk to anybody exploring the NFL, and “go through the process,” the coach said.

So basically, if A.J. Green, Justin Houston or anyone else has decided to leave, they haven’t told the coaches yet.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pat Dye criticzes Urban Meyer handling of Newton case

Former Auburn head coach Pat Dye told the Macon Touchdown Club on Monday that he was "disappointed" in Florida head coach Urban Meyer for not standing up for Cam Newton.

Dye, a Georgia alum, brought up the ongoing Newton story while speaking to the club, according to The Telegraph's Michael A. Lough. Here's part of what Michael filed from Macon:

(Dye) then went into the Newton situation, noting the trouble in Florida for allegedly stealing a computer. Then he revisited how news came out of Gainesville that Newton had faced expulsion from Florida for a variety of academic improprieties: cheating, putting his name on a paper written by another student and turning in a paper purchased off the Internet.

As was reportedly immediately, such a leak is a federal offense.

“I am disappointed that (Florida head coach) Urban Meyer didn’t step up and say something on that kid’s behalf, because (Newton) left Atlanta to go to Florida and fulfill his dream as college football player,” Dye said. “He made some bad choices and bad decisions, which young people will do." ...

Dye said that Meyer could “have been a hero” by lauding what Newton has accomplished at Auburn and clarified Newton’s departure from Florida, but said Meyer has done the opposite.

[But] Meyer, by all accounts, has not publicly trashed Newton and strongly denied any connection to the illegal leak of Newton’s academic issues.

Dye also told the club that the powers-that-be at Auburn wouldn't be playing Newton if they thought there was any reason he might be ineligible.

“I do know this,” Dye said. “Jay Jacobs and Gene Chizik have unquestioned character and integrity. And if they’re playing him, they don’t know anything either, or any reason not to play him.”

Dye's tenure as coach and athletics director ended in the early 1990s amid an NCAA investigation into payments made to recruit Eric Ramsey.

Crisis averted: Murray practices

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who sat out last week’s lighter practices, was a full-go on Monday, when the Bulldogs practiced in full pads.

Murray has been dealing with a bruised sternum and bruised knee, which he suffered at Auburn.

“He practiced and he did a pretty good job,” head coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “There’s a difference between practice and playing, so we’ll have to see if he continues to improve.”

Georgia tailback Washaun Ealey said Murray “looked good” – but mostly at the end of practice.

“He was coming out a little banged up, so he just came out a little edge today,” Ealey said. “But he got all that worked out. He looked good towards the end of practice.”

(Incidentally, the above headline is meant to be sardonic. It didn't ever appear Murray was in any real danger of not playing against Georgia Tech. He would probably have to get injured in practice later this week for that to change.)

Thompkins looks doubtful for Old Spice Classic, and other hoop notes

Thanks to Fletcher Page for this post.

Georgia star forward Trey Thompkins still hasn’t been cleared to practice, and his status to play this weekend is “doubtful,” according to coach Mark Fox.

The junior sprained his ankle in a scrimmage over a month ago and has not played in Georgia’s three games, all wins, this season.

“I’m still waiting on that decision by coach and our trainers,” Thompkins said. “That’s yet to be revealed.”

Thompkins, who led the team in scoring (17.7) and rebounding (8.3) last season, started shooting last week, Fox said. But he has yet to run up and down the court.

The Bulldogs are preparing to play in Orlando this weekend in the Old Spice Classic. The tournament will feature four games in four days, making Thompkins return less likely due to a lack of recovery time.

“When a guy hasn’t practiced—I haven’t seen him run up the court in a month, you know,” Fox said. “And when you do that, eventually when he’s cleared to do that, how’s he going to respond to it? The stress of, you know, playing a game is different than practice. Having to play one back-to-back, that’s probably a lot to ask.”

Having sprained his left ankle two years ago during his freshman season, Thompkins understands how to deal with the injury, he said.

His rehab has been up-and-down, but progress is now being made daily, he said.

“Running on treadmills, trying to take some of my body weight off, like running on air things, running in water,” Thompkins said. “I’m starting to do cutting and things like that. Like I said, it’s starting to get better every day.”

While it’s star player has been out, Georgia has squeaked by, winning three close contests. Georgia has found a way to win in Thompkins’ absence.

“Hopefully he’ll be back soon,” said junior Travis Leslie. “We’re just getting ready and waiting until he heals. Hopefully he can come back sooner than later.”

Even though Thompkins hasn’t played in a game this season, he’s been active from the bench in a makeshift coaching role. He’s been at every practice and walkthrough offering his support.

“The guys, they appreciate the things I have to say,” he said. “Sometimes I have to say it in a way that they don’t want me to, but they expect me to engage in practice, engage off the floor and I’ve done so to the best of my ability.”

While Thompkins’ return doesn’t appear likely for this weekend’s tournament, he is making progress. He should return some time in December, but the timetable still hasn’t been determined.

“Trey obviously wants to be back out there,” Fox said. “The key for us is getting him healthy, realizing it’s a long year and we won’t let him practice until he’s healthy enough to do so. We won’t let him play until he’s healthy enough to do so. I think they key is just everybody’s body responds differently.

"He’s had three or four days where he’s made great progress, and then he plateaus for a couple of days. Then he makes really good progress again. You know, it’s just a matter of him maintaining his patience, me maintaining my patience and our team continuing to play. And then hopefully we get him back. Hopefully we get him back soon. Until then we’re doing with what we have.”

Surgery in Nolte’s future

Junior forward Conner Nolte broke his nose early in Georgia’s win over Saint Louis.
He remained in the game finishing with three rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Nolte will wear a protective mask during this weekend’s Old Spice Classic, but surgery is required to repair the injury. Nolte has started all three games this season.

“We’re going to delay that for a few days, just because I don’t want to be the starting power forward,” Fox said tongue in cheek. “You know, it’s part of the game, and we’re going to have to adjust to it. We’re going to have to adjust, and our trainers are working full time.”

With Thompkins out, Nolte’s injury puts even greater strain on an injury-riddled frontcourt. Nolte will play this weekend, and most likely have surgery next week.

“We’ll probably limit Conner’s contact in practice with his situation because we’re getting so thin up there,” Fox said. “…I believe he’s going to have surgery as soon as we get back from Orlando. He will remain in a mask for a while. I don’t know if after the surgery if he’ll miss any games or not. I think we’ll wait and see how that goes.”

Close wins

Georgia has managed three close wins in Thompkins absence, winning by a combined 13 points this season.

Pulling out close wins should pay off as the Bulldogs’ schedule plays out, Fox said.

“We’ve had three games that will hopefully help us down the road,” Fox said. “We haven’t had any garbage time. We’ve had some, you know, we’ve had 120 minutes of competitive games. And especially without Trey…we’ve had some battles, and hopefully that will prove advantageous later on.”

Notable Quotable

“Does it look like I’ve put on weight? All right. I always worry about that. No, conditioning is a huge thing. That’s probably the most important thing about this level. The game is so much faster than high school. Obviously, you can tell. I had to figure that out the hard way. Now I know to let myself get back to where I was.”

- Trey Thompkins on his conditioning.

Ranking the rivalries

There’s a perception outside the region that Georgia’s biggest rival is Georgia Tech. Part of that is because it falls this week, when the other in-state, heated rivalries take place: Alabama-Auburn, Clemson-South Carolina, Ole Miss-Mississippi State, etc.

But as I quickly discovered when I moved to Georgia eight years ago, there are two basic truths when it comes to the status of the Bulldogs’ biggest rival:

1. For most people, it’s Florida.
2. As for who comes second, it depends on where you live, or how well Auburn, Georgia Tech, South Carolina or Tennessee are doing.

So on this week, I’ll throw it open to the gallery: If you had a preference, rank the following teams in order of how much, in an average year, you would rather beat them:

Georgia Tech
South Carolina
Someone else

And … go.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ten things for your Sunday

As we kick off Georgia-Georgia Tech week, some news, notes and thoughts, football and otherwise:

1. Georgia has opened as a 15-point favorite over Georgia Tech, according to If that seems too heavy a spread, consider that a) the Yellow Jackets are without their best offensive weapon, b) are coming off a 10-point home win over woeful Duke.

2. Monday remains a key practice day as far as Aaron Murray’s ability to go this week, head coach Mark Richt reiterated on Sunday evening. Richt said he hadn’t seen Murray since Thursday, so there wasn't anything new as far as how he's dealing with his injuries.

If Murray, battling a bruised sternum and knee, can practice fully on Monday or Tuesday, then all should be well as far as the Georgia Tech game. If not, then every day will be worth watching as the week goes on.

It’s still hard to foresee Murray not being able to start, but you never know.

3. Richt said he was in “100 percent agreement” with the decision to schedule Boise State as next year’s season opener. And in doing so, he slightly betrayed his earlier vow not to say anything more about where a certain other game is played annually.

“Basically it’s a game that everybody in the country is gonna watch and have a high level of interest in. So I think it’s important for our program,” Richt said. “If you’re gonna play at a neutral site, it’s nice to play at one that’s in your state.”

4. Georgia (5-6) needs to win Saturday in order to be bowl-eligible, at least under the current rules. (There’s still a chance there won’t be 70 teams with six wins.) But Richt downplayed attaining bowl eligibility as a motivating factor for this game.

“It’s most important because we’re playing Georgia Tech,” he said. “I really mean that. That’s the most important part of this game.”

5. Tennessee’s win over Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss’ loss at LSU, means that two SEC teams are eliminated from bowl eligibility, while Tennessee will have to beat Kentucky on Saturday, and Georgia will have to beat Georgia Tech.

So the possibility still exists that the SEC will have too many teams, or too few, for its nine bowl slots. Should two teams get into the BCS, then the SEC will have 10 slots to fill. If not, there are nine slots, with Georgia and Tennessee’s status to be determined.

I still think Georgia is going to either the Liberty or Music City Bowls, but it depends on how things play out the final two weekends.

6. You may have missed it Saturday night, but the Georgia men’s basketball team got an important win. Jeremy Price’s tip-in at the buzzer lifted the Bulldogs to a comeback victory, which has to be a big confidence boost, considering the team’s road woes last year. (Head coach Mark Fox now owns a road win as Bulldogs’ coach.)

Saint Louis may not be good, but without Trey Thompkins, the victory becomes a very, very good one for Georgia.

7. We should find out early this week whether Thompkins’ high ankle sprain is healed enough to play in next week’s Old Spice Classic. Those could end up being three pivotal games for the Bulldogs when it comes to their NCAA tournament resume’.

8. In NFL news, former Bulldog Richard Seymour was ejected from today’s Oakland-Pittsburgh game. Seymour slapped Ben Roethlisberger on the helmet. Insert your own Milledgeville comment here.

9. They put the Christmas decorations up in downtown Athens. That stuff is nice, but I’m not sure I’m ready for all the music, egg nog and bell-ringers outside Kroger.

It’s not a Bah Humbug thing – I usually love the holiday season. It just seems like they’re pushing it earlier and earlier every year, sort of like how the bowl season keeps growing, the baseball postseason stretches into November, the Super Bowl is in February … it’s just all too much. Everything in its place, people.

10. They’ve remade “True Grit.” Normally my response would be: “Why?”

But considering the cast – Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin – and the directors – the Coen brothers – color me intrigued.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Boise State in, Louisville out (for now): The gory details

OK, it’s official now: Georgia vs. Boise State on Sept. 3, 2011, to kick off the football season.

And Georgia’s previously scheduled series with Louisville, set for 2011-12, is now off, "much to the dismay" of Louisville, which still hopes to play Georgia sometime in the future.

Here are the pertinent details:

- Why play this Boise State game? It appears the key was not really the 2011 opener, but not having to go to Louisville in 2012.

In place of that, Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said he was “really close” to scheduling a non-BCS opponent for Sanford Stadium in September of 2012.

“This game, I think it’s one game that I know the University of Georgia has never really played in,” McGarity said. “We felt like it was important that we be on the national stage. We felt it would bring a level of national excitement that we really need in our program. … It allows us in 2012 to schedule a home game, which would give us seven home games in 2012.”

- As for why Georgia and Boise State? Gary Stokan of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, which puts together the event, said thusly:

“You’ve got two powerful, nationally known football brands. My belief (is) that led by Aaron Murray, Georgia will be nationally ranked going into this game. And so will Boise State.”

(Notice he didn’t say A.J. Green.)

- McGarity was asked for head coach Mark Richt’s reaction to the Boise State game.

“Oh I think he was very excited. I mean he wanted to make it work,” McGarity said.

Richt wasn't on the call, but in a statement released by Georgia, he said: “This is the type game that excites me, it will excite our players and I know it will excite our fans. We know it will put Georgia on a national stage in the season opener. It will make for a great off-season of preparation and anticipation to play a great team at a great facility in our home state.”

- Boise State and Georgia will each receive 7,500 tickets. The rest basically go to the general public.

- Georgia will not owe Louisville to cancel the series, as the Chick-fil-A people worked that out with Louisville. But Georgia will receive a payout of “somewhere around” $1.7 million, according to bowl chairman Gary Stokan.

That’s about $600,000 less than North Carolina and LSU each received to play in this year’s game. And $600,000 just happens to be the amount Georgia would have owed to Louisville for each of the canceled games.

Georgia still gets out pretty well financially. According to the wording of the contract, it would have owed Louisville $1.2 million.

Louisville will now play North Carolina in 2011 and 2012, in a game apparently helped put together by ESPN and the Chick-Fil-A. Those latter two entities apparently had a hand in brokering almost all of this.

- Interestingly, a release from Louisville said Georgia’s cancellation off the series was “much to the dismay of the Cardinals.” But athletics director Tom Jurich said in a statement he would like to explore still playing Georgia at some point in the future.

"While we certainly would have preferred to keep the series with Georgia, we are pleased to open up the season next year at North Carolina and look forward to hosting them at Papa John's Stadium in 2012," Jurich said. "We were thrilled when we secured a series with Georgia five years ago. We were approached to mutually agree to cancel this series, but we declined. Georgia exercised their option to cancel our series so they could participate in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

"Obviously, we wanted to retain the series as we know our fans have been looking forward to playing them since 2005. Even though we are disappointed in this series of events, we appreciate ESPN for their assistance in attaining another quality BCS opponent and for their commitment in televising the games. We look forward to playing North Carolina, we will have discussions with Georgia about a possible future series, and we will continue to explore future dates with other quality opponents."

- Ole Miss will play Boise State in the 2014 kickoff game. That will be on a Thursday night, on Aug. 28.

Ole Miss is getting $2 million and Boise State is getting $1.1 million. Officials said the payout difference was due to Ole Miss giving up a home game.

The Rebels were originally scheduled to play Boise State in the 2011 opener in Oxford, Miss.


I'm getting a lot of questions about tickets. McGarity said they were going to meet Monday to go over the plan. But he indicated that the yearly Jacksonville plan was a good guide.

Boise State announcement set for 5 p.m.

Georgia has scheduled a conference call for 5 p.m. on Friday, and is expected to announce it will open the 2011 season against Boise State in Atlanta.

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity and officials from the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which sponsors the kickoff classic, are supposed to be on the teleconference.

We're also expected to hear what will become of the Georgia-Louisville series. The Bulldogs were supposed to open on Sept. 3, 2011 against Louisville, then play at the Cardinals in 2012.

I'll have an update in this space later.

Ye Olde Mailbag: Boise State, offseason changes, Cam Newton and more

Before we get into (a very larger) mailbag, a few quick other notes:

- The SEC has suspended Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl for the first eight league games, as further punishment for the men’s basketball program’s NCAA violations. The suspension includes the Vols’ game at Georgia on Jan. 18, which instead will be coached by Tony Jones. Pearl is also banned from practices, meetings and pre- and postgame activities, according to the SEC.

- Mercer has officially announced that it will re-start its football program, after a 70-year absence, aiming to begin in the 2013 football season. The Macon school’s announcement noted that its 1892 game against Georgia was the first intercollegiate football game in the history of the state.

In other words: “Hint, hint, Greg McGarity, expect our phone call very soon.”

- The deal to play Boise State in the 2011 kickoff seems close to fruition, but there remain details to work out - mainly with the other teams involved, such as Louisville, Ole Miss and BYU.

On to the mailbag:

Steve Reeves from … somewhere …. Checks in with four questions:

1 - What do you think about the Boise St. game, assuming it gets done? I like it.

2 - Thoughts on how the GT game will go (assuming Aaron Murray plays, which it seems he will)? I think we win.

3 - From what you're hearing around BM, will Jarvis Jones step in and be a big-time player next year? Is Grantham, off the record, just saying the right things about him or does he think he could be a star?

4 - Is Murray our 2nd best offensive player right now? and how good can he be over the next few years?

1-At first, it was hard to see how it benefited Georgia. There’s a reason most BCS teams have avoided playing Boise State – other than Virginia Tech, Oregon and Oregon State, and look how that turned out for them.

But financially there’s a benefit, if Georgia gets $2.3 million for the game. Plus, Georgia really wants out of that Louisville series, so it would be trading a home-and-home with the Cardinals for the Boise State game in 2011, and then they can fill the 2012 schedule with another home game, against a non-BCS team.

2-If Murray plays, which I think he will, Georgia will definitely be favored.

3-Well if Grantham said anything off-the-record I’d keep it that way. But on the record he’s praised Jones a lot. I don’t know about star yet, but it sounds like he has a great chance to be a starter.

4-No doubt Murray has been the team’s second-best offensive player. He has a chance to have a David Greene-type career, though this season has probably ruined his chances of breaking Greene’s record for wins as a starter.

Open week, near the end of a bad year, thoughts go to next year. AJ, Justin Houston, Akeem Dent gone, and size needed in the middle and speed needed on opening day, what is Georgia's to do list between the end of this year and Spring ball? Does include any coaching changes?
- Ken Wilkinson

I’ll get to the coaching thing right away, since it’s likely to arouse the most curiosity.

Barring something unforeseen, the head coach is coming back, as McGarity has made clear. Grantham and his three-year contract aren’t going anywhere either, unless he gets hired away. Mike Bobo may have been a pinata for awhile, but Richt often points out that the Bulldogs have scored 30-plus in five straight games, so Richt doesn't appear inclined to make a change there.

The question is whether, after a season like this, Richt will be required – either by the administration, or his own desires – to offer someone up to the gods for sacrifice.

There may indeed be changes. Someone on staff could be moved into an administrative role to make room for new blood. An assistant coach could get a job at another school.

I just don’t know if I see anybody being outright fired, as Willie Martinez was last year.

As for other stuff on the to-do list …

Recruiting: Isaiah Crowell is a top priority, as are Jay Drew and Jay Rome.

Current players: The staff will just hope that underclassmen like Brandon Boykin, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones and the two kickers don’t go pro. A.J. Green and Justin Houston would be considered unforeseen luxuries if they come back.

I understand all the "did Cecil Newton shop Cam for $$" drama, but I need help understanding how this threatens Cam's eligibility. Will he be ruled ineligible only if the NCAA can prove he knew about the pay-for-play requests?
- Hannah

Not according to the NCAA, which last week decreed that as soon as someone affiliated with the player – i.e. a family member, or someone deemed to be close to him, such as a coach – solicits a payment, then a violation has occurred.

That said, a few people, such as the columnists at The Birmingham News, have pointed out that they can’t find that specific statue in the NCAA bylaws. So is the NCAA making this up as it goes along? Even if it is, I think common sense dictates that if someone close to you is even soliciting money, that should be a violation.

Yes, Cam may not have known about it. But if the NCAA were to allow that as a defense, then recruits everywhere could let parents, brothers or handlers sell them around, then claim ignorance, and that wouldn’t be a good situation.

(Regarding the Cam Newton story in general): Seth, please tell us if you are hearing anything. If you don’t feel comfortable with specifics, at least give us the inside scoop on what happens in situations like this, how it goes down behind the scenes, how reporters discuss it with each other or pass information to each other, etc.
- Muckbeats (via blog)

I could spend awhile on this one. Allow me to offer up a condensed answer.

Obviously I’m hearing plenty of things, as I’m sure the rest of you are. But the job of the (responsible) media is not only to parse rumor and fact, but what you think to be true and what you can put into print. Generally, we write more than we actually know.

There’s been a lot of talk, mainly coming out of the state of Alabama, about how bad the reporting has been on the Newton story. But I’ve yet to hear anyone dispute anything that was in the original story, or the New York Times story that was published almost simultaneously. Frankly, anytime I see something with a byline that reads Pat Forde, Chris Low or Mark Schlabach – or Pete Thamel of the NY Times – I trust it.

What we know is that the NCAA is investigating the recruitment of Newton, and there’s a lot of smoke around his father. We have to let it play out.

(Regarding the story on Georgia and the dip in NFL draft talent): Who handles the player evaluation during the recruiting?
- Doug

That’s a team effort on every staff. Each recruit has one main recruiter. Usually that’s either the position coach or the coach who is assigned that area. But the head coach and coordinator are also involved, either by watching in-person or an extensive amount of film.

(Regarding the possible scheduling switch where Georgia would play Boise State to open 2011): Seth, how is BYU involved? Am I missing something?

No, perhaps I should have explained that better. The word is that Ole Miss, which was set to open with Boise State, would instead be paired up with BYU to open the 2011 season. BYU, which is going independent, just inked a TV deal with ESPN, which will try to set up some good matchups for the Cougars. (Could that involve Georgia? It's possible.)

Then there’s Louisville, which has to find another team to open with, as well as perhaps play in the 2012 season, since Georgia presumably won’t be making the trip anymore.

Do you think that Trey (Thompkins) will be ready for the Old Spice Classic?
- Ulikabbq (via Twitter)

Mark Fox said earlier in the week that he was “hopeful” Thompkins would be ready for the Old Spice. But I don’t know. The way Trey was walking around at Tuesday’s game, I would’ve guessed he could be ready to play soon. But the way Fox has talked about the injury – pretty downcast, actually – I would’ve said no. I wish I could give you a more definite answer.

Hey Seth, What's the injury update on Sanders Commings? He looked like he had a severe ankle injury.
- Tiffany Adams

All reports are that he’s fine. The only major – if that’s the word for it – injury that seemed to come out of Auburn was Murray.

Have you heard anything about Damon Evans? House sold in Athens yet? Found another job? Wife filed for divorce yet? Anything?
- David Pittman (via Twitter)

The only thing we’ve heard, via a story in the Athens Banner-Herald a couple months ago, is that Evans is working at a firm in Boston. As for his house, judging by the housing market, I’m guessing it hasn’t sold.

The rest of Evans’ career will be interesting to watch. He’s still relatively young, and it’s generally agreed that he did a good job – whether or not you agree with the football scheduling, the athletics department was managed well. He was ultimately done in by something personal. Hey, if Elliot Spitzer can come back, so can Evans.

Do you have a wife or girlfriend? I have a bunch of single friends … but they live in Columbia.
- Amy Elizabeth (via Twitter)

Wow. OK, the short answer is no. But if you want to set me up, tell them they have to come to Athens – five years in Columbia was enough.

I remember awhile back you talked about eating sun chips as a healthy alternative. Have you ever had pop chips?
- Chris Sudduth

Actually, no. I have to admit, my eating habits during football season have not been wonderful. I had a whopper yesterday for the second time in a week. I’ve gone years without having whoppers. (That’s what she said, hey-o!)

Archie the dog likes sun chips too, I just discovered today. He also likes Triscuits and wheat thins. And subsequently, he likes pooping.

What do you typically do on an off week? Do you prefer one closer to mid-season or nearer to the end of the season?
- LeRoy Fun (via Twitter)

Like the team, I’d prefer it closer to the middle of the season. August is a grind because of practice nearly ever day, then once the season starts you’re basically working and writing seven days a week. By no means were any of us beat guys “off” this week, as there were still interviews to do, stories and blogs to write, and basketball games to cover. But at least we get a weekend off. Hopefully.

Which do you like covering more? Football or basketball?
- Clive Bigsby (via Twitter)

I can honestly say I don’t have a preference. Growing up in ACC country, I’ve always loved basketball. College football wasn’t big around the D.C.-Baltimore area, although the NFL was huge. So it was an adjustment eight years ago when I moved to the deep South, but now I have a full appreciation for SEC football.

Ultimately, it’s a job now, but a job I love. So I still get excited for football Saturdays – unless it’s Idaho State – and I always like a good hoops game. (Although I prefer to play rather than watch. I have four years of college eligibility, but I was once paid $5 by someone to play on his team at the Y, so the NCAA ruled me permanently ineligible.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Murray doesn't practice, Gray gets QB reps

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray did not participate in practice Thursday, as expected, but Monday will be a key day in determining how far along the freshman is in recovering from his injuries.

Murray hurt his knee and sternum against Auburn and has not practiced this week. While his teammates were practicing, Murray stood on the sideline throwing and catching.

“He was throwing the ball gingerly, or carefully—nice and easy,” head coach Mark Richt said. “That did not bother him, but he couldn’t throw anything that resembled a route…it was just standing there nice and easy playing catch.”

Murray’s bruised sternum is hampering him the most, Richt said. The Bulldogs are on a bye week, so Murray will now have three days off to recover. If Georgia had a game this weekend, Murray would, “probably not,” be able to play, Richt said.

“We just ask him day-by-day,” Richt said. “He’s a competitor. He’s going to want to play if he can.”

Murray, a redshirt freshman, will receive treatment this weekend, and will be re-evaluated Monday.

“I’m hoping he’ll do everything Monday, which will give him and us more confidence he’ll be able to play,” Richt said. “He’s just not there yet. He’s improving pretty rapidly.”

If Murray can’t play against Georgia Tech, true freshman Hutson Mason would get the nod, Richt said. Mason has seen action in two games, throwing 9-of-17 for 102 yards with one touchdown.

“Hutson would go,” Richt said. “Hutson’s gotten to the point where he would go… he’s ready to run our system.”

Former quarterback Logan Gray, now a receiver, has taken snaps behind center in practice this week. Richt categorized Gray’s potential use at quarterback as, “more of an emergency.”

“We haven’t put Logan in the (quarterback) meetings or anything like that,” Richt said.

- Fletcher Page, blog correspondent