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Monday, January 31, 2011

Blair Walsh's replacement?

Georgia has earned another commitment ... but not for this signing class.

Kicker Marshall Morgan has told several recruiting sites that he has opted for the Bulldogs. ( and are each reporting it.) The 6-foot-2 Morgan will be a senior this fall at Archbishop McCarthy High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

South Florida also happens to be the same area that Georgia got current kicker Blair Walsh. Walsh is from Boca Raton, Fla. and will be a senior next year, as will backup kicker Brandon Bogotay and punter Drew Butler. So the plan appears to be for Morgan to be given the chance to kick as a freshman, just as Walsh and Butler did.

Here's a story on Morgan from last April's Miami Herald.

And here's a bio on Morgan on the web site for Chris Sailers, the kicking guru.

Morgan becomes the second commitment for the 2012 class, joining Gainesville receiver C.J. Curry.

Tereshinski and Van Halanger contracts

Here's a small addendum to the reorganization made to Georgia's strength and conditioning program:

Joe Tereshinski, now the strength and conditioning coordinator, will be paid an annual salary of $150,000, according to a copy of his contract provided by UGA.

Dave Van Halanger, who was moved off the strength program and into an administrative assistant role, will be paid $168,572, according to his contract.

Both signed one-year contracts running the calendar year of 2011. And each is defined as an employee of the football program, not the athletics department.

UGA said Thomas Brown, newly added as the assistant strength coach, does not have a signed contract yet.

Van Halanger’s duties, as stipulated in the contract:

- Developing, leading and directing character education and mentoring programs for athletes and coaches.

- Developing programs and serving as a liason to bring former players back to camepus and “be engaged in the University community.”

- Community service initiatives.

- Assist in the development of the nutrition program.

- Helping to “ensure that” players “receive proper academic counseling.”

Also, Georgia says Mark Richt's signing day press conference will be at 3 p.m.

Georgia's top recruiter

On this week where recruiting takes on its biggest focus, a member of the Georgia staff has been recognized as one of the best in the nation. And that staff member works for ... the gymnastics team.

Jay Clark, in his second year leading the Georgia gymnastics program, was rated ninth in the nation by ESPNU/ESPN the Magazine. Clark (bio here), who was a longtime assistant to Suzanne Yoculan, is on the list alongside the likes of Ed Orgeron, Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari.

Obviously it's not the most scientific ranking, but still kind of a cool thing for Clark. (I also realize that by using the above headline, and not specifying the sport, I tricked a number of you into thinking it was about football or Ray Drew. Yeah, I know.)

Here's the full ranking:

1. Pat Henry, Texas A&M men's and women's cross-country, indoor and outdoor track
2. Anson Dorrance, UNC women's soccer
3. Ed Orgeron, USC football assistant
4. Chris Dailey, UConn women's basketball assistant
5. Missy Meharg, Maryland field hockey
6. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke men's hoops
7. Russ Rose, PSU women's volleyball
8. Burton Burns, Alabama football assistant
9. Jay Clark, Georgia gymnastics
10. Chad Holbrook, South Carolina baseball assistant
11. Dan Jordan, Alaska rifle
12. John Calipari, Kentucky men's basketball
13. Mike McGraw, Oklahoma State men's golf
14. Jovan Vavic, USC men's and women's water polo
15. Thad Matta, Ohio State men's hoops
16. Kelly Inouye-Perez, UCLA softball
17. Mike LoPresti, Fairleigh Dickinson women's bowling
18. Tosh Lupoi, Cal football assistant
19. Kelly Amonte Hiller, Northwestern women's lacrosse
20. J Robinson, Minnesota wrestling

Boling increases his draft stock

Clint Boling made good use of his trip to the Senior Bowl, according to ESPN analyst Todd McShay.

McShay said that the former Georgia offensive lineman was among a group of SEC players who improved their draft stock through Saturday's senior all-star game in Mobile, Ala.

"Boling has shown good inline power and nice awareness all week, especially in the open field where he has done a great job of adjusting on the move to cover up targets. He's made himself some money this week."

Boling's versatility remains a strong asset. He played left tackle for most of his time at Georgia but can also play guard.

Incidentally, former Georgia linebacker Justin Houston also got some kind words last week from the other big-name ESPN draft analyst. Mel Kiper said Houston currently projects as a first-round pick, somewhere in the 20-25 pick range. Kiper thinks Houston can play either outside linebacker in a 3-4 (as he did last year at Georgia) or defensive end in a 4-3.

Recruiting: The last stand ... or where things stand

The recruiting success for Georgia football is being noticed elsewhere: The other day a colleague of mine in another state, which rhymes with Shalabama, e-mailed me to ask, basically, "How is Georgia doing this after a losing season?"

Well in case you didn't see it, here's my story from the weekend where I speak to a couple experts, one national and one regional. But there are still a few big names out there, headlined by Columbus tailback Isaiah Crowell.

Crowell's announcement on Wednesday will be streamed online by the Ledger-Enquirer, which has this story on the star tailback.

So the remainder of this week will determine whether Georgia's 2011 recruiting class - at least on paper - will be known as a home run or a stand-up triple.

Here's our last "big board" update of where things stand for Georgia:

- First, a ranking of the most important current Georgia commitments. The criteria for “most important” is a combination of immediate impact, long-range potential, and filling a need position. A list that is purely a snapshot in time and a wild guess into the future. In other words, a list I guarantee to eventually be wrong.

- Next, the top remaining targets on Georgia’s big board: Not to say anyone not on the list has no chance of signing with Georgia, but according to the experts, these are the main focus at this point for the Bulldogs.

- An update on what to watch this week, in terms of announcements.

The most important current commitments (With height, weight and star-rankings by, and

1. DE Ray Drew, Thomasville, Ga.
6-5 ….. 248 …. 4-5-4
2. DB-WR Malcolm Mitchell, Valdosta, Ga.
6-1 …… 190 ….. 4-4-4
3. TE Jay Rome, Valdosta, Ga.
6-6 ….. 240 …… 5-4-4
4. QB Christian LeMay, Matthews, NC (enrolled)
6-2 …. 188 ... 4-4-4
5. MLB Amarlo Herrera, College Park, Ga.
6-2 …. 215 …4-4-4
6. CB Nick Marshall, Rochelle, Ga.
6-2 …. 186 ….4-4-4
7. DB-ATH Damian Swann, Atlanta, Ga.
6-0 …. 175 … 4-4-4
8. S Corey Moore, Griffin, Ga.
6-1 …. 185 ….4-4-4
9. OT Zach DeBell, Tarpon Springs, Fla.
6-7 …. 265 ….3-4-3
10. C David Andrews, Norcross, Ga.
6-2 …. 276 ….3-3-3
11. S Chris Sanders, Tucker, Ga.
6-0 …. 173 …4-3-3
12. OT Watts Dantzler, Dalton, Ga.
6-7 …. 310 … 3-3-3
13. WR Justin Scott-Wesley, Camilla, Ga.
5-11 … 202 …3-4-4
14. WR Chris Conley, Dallas, Ga. (enrolled)
6-2 … 185 …..4-3-3
15. DE Sterling Bailey, Gainesville, Ga.
6-4 …. 230 …..3-4-3
16. DT Chris Mayes, Griffin, Ga.
6-5 …. 292 …..3-4-3
17. LB Ramik Wilson, Tampa, Fla.
6-3 …. 218 …. 3-3-3
18. G Hunter Long, Memphis, Tenn.
6-4 …. 290 ……3-3-3
19. CB Devin Bowman, Ridgeland, Ga.
6-0 …. 175 ….3-3-3
20. Xzavier Ward, Moultrie, Ga.
6-7 ... 255 .. 3-3-3
21. WR Sanford Seay, Leesburg, Ga.
6-2 … 198 ….. 3-3-3
22. LS Nathan Theus, Jacksonville, Fla.
6-3 …. 252 ….. 2-2-2
23. LB Quintavious Harrow, Columbus, Ga.
5-11 ….. 190 ….. 2-3-2

Drew, who made his long-expected commitment on Friday, enters the list at No. 1. He's ranked higher than any other current or potential commit, but he also figures to contribute right away for the Bulldogs, either at defensive end at linebacker. If Justin Houston hadn't left it may have been a different story.

Ward, who also committed last week, was an interesting case. Georgia mainly took him for depth reasons, and he will be a grayshirt candidate if numbers become an issue for the enrollees.

The most important (known) players left on the board

1. RB Isaiah Crowell, Columbus, Ga.
6-0 ….. 210 …. 5-5-5
2. DT John Jenkins, Mississippi Gulf Coast JUCO
6-4 …. 340 ….. 4-4-NR
3. DE Jeoffrey Pagan, Asheville, N.C.
6-4 ... 255 ... 4-4-4
4. OT Antonio Richardson, Nashville, Tenn.
6-6 …. 310 …. 4-4-4
5. ILB Kent Turene, Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.
6-3 …. 230 ….. 3-3-NR

Pagan is new to the list, after he de-committed from Clemson last week. Turene also officially de-committed from Southern Cal.

- What to watch this week:

Jenkins is due to make his announcement on Saturday at his Connecticut high school. He is deciding between Georgia, Auburn, Florida and Miami.

Everyone else is due to announce on signing day. Georgia is considered the favorite for Crowell and Pagan. Richardson may still be a bit of a longshot, but the Bulldogs are still in the hunt. Turene's choice is anyone's guess.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fleeting thoughts: Football recruiting, and what now for UGA hoops?

I know it’s tough for a lot of people to focus on basketball yet – we’re what, only 20 games into the season? And three days till signing day.

So for those who need a recruiting fix, here’s my Sunday story on Georgia’s fast finish on the trail, and it’s potential long-term impact.

Mark Richt needed a win and more than a few. The way the season finished, and with the fire the Georgia head football coach was taking, Richt needed something, anything, to give fans hope.

Three days before National Signing Day, it’s happening. Richt already has a few of those critical recruiting wins, and several more could be on the way.


“They have a chance to make this mark Richt’s best class ever,” said Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for

As for Georgia men’s basketball, things are getting to the critical stretch. The SEC East Division title is becoming a longshot, but an at-large NCAA tournament berth is still within reach.

It’s amazing to see a few folks already jumping off the bandwagon, especially after a seven-point loss at Kentucky. You know what that did to Georgia’s RPI rank? It dropped from 44 before Saturday all the way down to 45 a day later. You know who IS out of it now? South Carolina, after that inexplicable home loss to pitiful Auburn, went from 84 to 108. Now there’s a team that needs to win out in Atlanta.

As for Georgia, it does have to start getting some road wins, starting Wednesday at Arkansas. (A game that doesn’t look any easier after the Hogs won at Vanderbilt on Saturday.) Right now the Bulldogs are looking at two losses – home to Tennessee and Florida – as potentially debilitating. Otherwise they’ve won the games they should and had no bad losses. What that means is Georgia probably has to steal a win or two on the road, and hold serve at home, especially against Vanderbilt and Xavier.

Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of the remainder of the schedule, and how I’d characterize Georgia’s chances in eacch:

Feb. 2 …. at Arkansas ….. Toss-up
Feb. 5 ….. Auburn ………. Favored
Feb. 8 ….. Xavier ………..Toss-up
Feb. 12 … at South Carolina ..Toss-up
Feb. 16 … Vanderbilt ……..Toss-up
Feb. 19 …. At Tennessee …..Underdog
Feb. 24 …. At Florida ………Underdog
Feb. 26 …. South Carolina …Favored
March 2 … LSU …………….Favored
March 5 … at Alabama ……..Toss-up

So that’s five toss-ups, three games Georgia should be favored in and two uphill games. If you gave the Bulldogs the favored games and docked them the two uphills, that makes them 6-6 in the SEC, and probably needing to win the majority of the five toss-ups. The game against Xavier is particularly crucial.

Or, if Georgia wins at Tennessee and/or Florida, that cancels out the home loss. The best news for the Bulldogs so far is that a) they’re done playing Kentucky, and b) they got a split out of the series.

When it comes to the NCAAs, it’s important to point out that it doesn’t all operate within a team’s own vacuum. You can’t look at just Georgia’s resume’ and say “in” or “out.” The Bulldogs will be competing against the other at-large teams, and as of this moment the bubble looks pretty weak. But if it tightens – like if some ACC teams start improving their resumes – then it gets really dicey.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thompkins and Leslie make no excuses

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trey Thompkins said his shin wasn't bothering him. Travis Leslie said he wasn't sick. The two Georgia stars both said they just had bad nights after a 66-60 loss to No. 14 Kentucky.

Thompkins scored a season-low nine points, going 2-for-10 from the field and missing all five 3-point attempts. Leslie had five points, all from the free throw line. He was 0-for-7 from the field.

Thompkins, the junior forward, was wearing a shin guard to protect his right shin, which he said he had "a little problem" with on Friday. But he answered "not at all" when asked if it affected his play on Saturday.

“No I’m fine," Thompkins said. "I was just a little off today.”

Leslie was offering no excuses either.

“I was feeling good coming into the game. I really don’t know what happened," Leslie said. "My shot wasn’t falling. I just wasn’t on my game today.”

Head coach Mark Fox said that he felt he had to ride his two stars.

“Those two kids have made so many plays for us, and been very consistent," Fox said. "I think they combined to be 2-for-17 tonight. You have to credit Kentucky’s defense first. But they’ve been so good that they deserve to play through a tough night. We just couldn’t get either one of them going.

"When Travis misses a lob at the rim you just know it’s not his night. It’s hard for us to win when those two kids are both having tough nights like they did today.”

I'll more comments from the players and Fox in the game story, which should be on the web in the next few hours.

Game blog: Georgia at No. 14 Kentucky

Final: Kentucky 66, Georgia 60

Georgia definitely made it interesting late. It deserves credit for that, especially with its defense.

But the offense was abysmal, especially from Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. We'll try to ask them after the game what was wrong, but they each played as badly as they have all year.

Twice, down seven in the final minute, the Bulldogs needed a bucket and turned it over. That just can't happen. The offensive rebounding kept it going in the final couple possessions, but by then it was too late.

Dustin Ware had a great game - 18 points - and Gerald Robinson and Jeremy Price played decent too. But you can't come into Rupp and win with your two best players struggling like that.

4:44 left in second half, Georgia trails 57-46

Georgia can at least say it didn't fold up in the second half, after a first half in which it looked totally outmatched. But so far the Bulldogs haven't been able to shave the lead under eight.

I've been watching Trey Thompkins, who is wearing what looks like a shin guard on his right leg. Mark Fox said Friday that Thompkins sustained a minor injury in practice.

I haven't seen Thompkins wince or really favor the leg, and his cutting seems normal. The only thing I wonder about is whether he has the normal lift off the ground, as a lot of his shots have been short.

As for Travis Leslie, well we know he's not hurt. He just hasn't shown up.

7:05 left in second half, Georgia trails 53-45

The Bulldogs aren't quite out of it yet, and in fact have cut it to single digits for the first time since the first half. Still, they couldn't cut it closer when given the chance in what's been a low-scoring game.

Georgia's body language tells the story in this one: Jeremy Price grimacing after missing free throws, and Trey Thompkins getting frustrating and forcing shots.

But Dustin Ware and Gerald Robinson are doing their part to prevent this from becoming a laugher. Ware hit a 3 to cut it to 53-43. Robinson, after looking kind of panicky in his half-court ball-handling, has shown stronger control lately.

Mark Fox went to a bigger lineup here midway through the half: Marcus Thornton on the court along with Thompkins and Price. Honestly, it might have been worth a shot earlier, given Kentucky's lack of strong post play.

14:43 left in second half, Georgia trails 48-36

For a bit there it looked like the runaway would continue into the second half, but Georgia has shown some life here. The success came when the Bulldogs were able to spread the court and pass like a real team in half-court. That didn't happen in the first 20 minutes.

(You know what kind of game it's been when the lead gets down to 12 and the home crowd gets antsy.)

Dustin Ware now has 12 points to lead the Bulldogs, while Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie have combined for eight.

Halftime: Georgia trails 39-24

Gerald Robinson hit a running layup as the buzzer sounded to at least send the Bulldogs into the locker room on a good note. Otherwise ... oy.

Georgia is probably lucky it's not worse. The moments of energy have been few and far between for the Bulldogs, and it hasn't put together any kind of run.

Georgia is 0-for-4 beyond the arc, while Kentucky is 6-for-12. That would be enough, but the turnover margin (Georgia 8, Kentucky 4) doesn't help either.

So what can it look forward to in the second half? Well, Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price should both be available, and there isn't much reason to sit Thompkins when he gets his third foul. And 15 points isn't a totally irreversible margin.

Still, from the tip of this game it was obvious Kentucky was pretty much on its 'A' game, and Georgia's was around a 'D+'.

3:48 left in first half, Georgia trails 32-18

Trey Thompkins is sitting on the bench with two fouls, Travis Leslie is on the court taking bad shots and Mark Fox is halfway between the sideline and the court getting on one of the officials.

Fox was pretty close to getting a technical, arguing for a non-call on one end and a Georgia foul on the other. But the official gave him a pass, probably understanding Fox's frustration. He let it go as the media timeout commenced.

It would be easy to trace this to Thompkins being out, but he only had four points and two rebounds before he came out. Jeremy Price has two fouls too, so Georgia is weak in the front court, and the backcourt is only having sporadic moments. Leslie has just two points.

7:53 left in first half, Georgia trails 24-14

I'm not saying turn your television off right now. But Georgia isn't starting this game off looking like a team capable of beating Kentucky again.

It would be even worse if Kentucky hadn't missed some easy shots. But Georgia is clearly the sloppier team: Trey Thompkins picked up a foul when he was out of position and moved right into the ball-handler, the passing hasn't been crisp, and Sherrard Brantley came off the bench and immediately heaved a 3-pointer that was well short. And those are but a few examples.

Dustin Ware is showing a bit of energy, making a nice drive then going high for a long rebound on the defensive end. Marcus Thornton had some good minutes off the bench. Otherwise, the Bulldogs are just off.

16:50 left in first half, Kentucky leads 9-2

You forget how loud this place can get, and how hard it is for an opposing team to win here, until you're at court level and look out and listen to the sea of blue. No wonder John Calipari still hasn't lot a game here as Kentucky's head coach.

Georgia trails early, with Gerald Robinson scoring the team's only basket, on a nifty reverse layup. But it was Robinson who was incurring the wrath of head coach Mark Fox after a 30-second timeout, probably for a defensive lapse.

You can already tell that the Wildcats came out like they needed to, no surprise given it was playing a team it lost to a couple weeks ago.

Minutes before tip-off

One of the many nice things about Rupp Arena, from a media standpoint, is it's one of the increasingly last places that lets media sit courtside. So as I type this I'm close enough to the Georgia bench that Mark Fox can simply toss, and not hurl, a water bottle at me.

It's a sellout crowd here at Rupp Arena, and we're ready to go. Jeremy Price is back the starter again for Georgia, with Chris Barnes coming off the bench.

Hoops pregame blog: Rupp ro, here at Kentucky

3:55 p.m.: Updated East standings

Two early results, one of them pretty shocking, have scrambled the division picture a bit more as Georgia and Kentucky get ready to tip off.

Florida fell at Mississippi State, which wasn't too much of a surprise. But how about South Carolina losing at home to Auburn? Yikes. The Gamecocks were the consensus pick to finish last in the East, but still owned early wins over Florida and Vanderbilt. So figure that out.

So now every team in the East has at least two losses:

Florida ...... 5-2
Kentucky ..... 3-2
Tennessee .... 3-2
Vanderbilt ... 3-2
Georgia ...... 3-3
S. Carolina .. 3-3

3:40 p.m.: Kentucky has a football program too

We scribes have joked amongst ourselves about Georgia holding football press conferences before two recent basketball games. (That being underclassmen talking about their return to school.) Well, Kentucky did it today too.

Kentucky receivers coach Tee Martin, who had been speaking with Alabama, is returning after apparently getting a pay raise. Martin and head coach Joker Phillips are about 50 feet from me right now making the announcement.

Meanwhile, the tip-off time for this game has been moved back to 4:10 p.m. Not because of the football announcement, but for television purposes.


LEXINGTON, Ky. - As we await the latest news elsewhere - who will be the next Georgia football recruit, will Egypt de-commit from Hosni Mubarack - I offer you my greetings from the bluegrass. Well actually, the ice-grass.

Please don't tell me how nice the weather is back in Georgia. Here in Lexington there's still snow on the ground, it's in the 30s, and my rental car is a Kia. As much as I enjoy the company of fellow scribes who cover Kentucky, I'm already anxious for the flight home.

I'm still in my hotel room, preparing to head to Rupp Arena in a little bit. For Georgia, today's game should be viewed as an opportunity, not an end-all for its tournament hopes. Head coach Mark Fox, in today's story previewing the game, made the point that Georgia is not in a terrible position.

“We don’t have to go undefeated,” he said. “There’s room for error. We don’t have to go undefeated the rest of the year to accomplish something. I think that every team is going to have a loss or two from this point forward. You don’t want too many of them, but we have to win more than we lose, that’s for sure.”

He's right. I'm surprised a bit by the comments I've seen from some Georgia fans, already jumping off the bandwagon. The Bulldogs still have a healthy RPI rank (44 entering Saturday's action) and the most recent ESPN bracketology has Georgia as a No. 9 seed, which is well within the bubble. Yes, that was before the Florida loss, but Jerry Palm, on his bracket posted Friday on (a pay site) has Georgia as a No. 8 seed.

Here's some other action to watch today:

- Xavier at Richmond: (Xavier is winning at the half as I type this). At this point I continue to think Georgia's home game against Xavier on Feb. 8 may be the most important game for the Bulldogs, at least as far as their NCAA hopes. Xavier, which is No. 25 in the RPI, and would add to what at the moment is a pretty thin non-conference resume' for Georgia.

- Florida State at Clemson: The Tigers are coming on strong and becoming a factor for an at-large bid. As I type this, they're up early in the first half on FSU, perhaps the ACC's second-best team.

- Florida at Mississippi State (1 p.m.), and Tennessee at Mississippi (4 p.m.): I know I'll never get Bulldog fans to root for the Gators or Vols, so I'll just repeat what I've said: Since UGA plays each twice, it benefits the Bulldogs in the RPI whenever an East team beats a West team. Obviously it doesn't benefit the Bulldogs in the SEC East Division race - but the NCAA selection committee doesn't really care about that.

- Auburn at South Carolina (1:45 p.m.): Could the Gamecocks actually enter the discussion for the NCAA tournament? They're playing their way into it, although ironically after playing pitiful Auburn today I'm pretty sure their RPI rank (85) will drop.

- Colorado at Baylor (1:45 p.m): Colorado is falling fast, and Georgia needs the Buffaloes to reverse that.

- Syracuse at Marquette (3 p.m.): Marquette is going to be an at-large contender.

- UAB at UCF (7 p.m.): UAB, the second-highest ranked team Georgia has defeated, is 47 in the RPI. UCF started the season unbeaten, with a win over Florida, but has faltered lately.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ray Drew announces for Georgia

Ray Drew finally made it official on Friday morning, committing publicly to Georgia.

The defensive end-linebacker from Thomas County Central High School is the nation's ninth overall prospect according to So he becomes the highest-rated commitment for Georgia, which now has four of the nation's top 60 prospects (as rated by Rivals) and No. 23 Isaiah Crowell and No. 42 Jeoffrey Pagan reportedly leaning the Bulldogs' way.

"SEC ... watch out. The Dawgs are back," another commitment, Hunter Long, tweeted shortly after Drew's announcement.

Drew's decision wasn't a surprise, or apparently a well-kept secret. Another commitment, Watts Dantzler, publicly welcomed Drew to the class before Drew made the announcement.

Drew can play DE or LB in Georgia's 3-4 system. He becomes the 23rd commitment to Georgia's 2011 class, with several more key players still on the board. That includes Crowell, a tailback, Pagan, a defensive lineman, and junior college standout John Jenkins, a nose tackle.


I'm posting this at - looking at non-existent watch - 9:07 a.m. Ray Drew, the Thomas County Central High School star, is scheduled to make his announcement at 10 a.m. I'll update the thread once Drew makes it official.

Most people will be shocked if the linebacker-defensive end doesn't pick Georgia. Auburn, LSU and Clemson were also under consideration.

Let me also use this opportunity address the Ralph Friedgen rumors. The former head coach at Maryland has been linked to Georgia's offensive line job based on the fact that a) he was spotted in Athens recently, b) he has a house about an hour away near Lake Oconee, and c) people need something to talk about.

I spoke to someone on Thursday who I'm pretty sure would know if something was up, and they didn't give it any credence. It would be quite a step down for someone to go from 10 years as a head coach in a BCS conference - even the ACC - to a position coach in college. And so he was in Athens: As pointed out he has a house about an hour away, and hey, we Maryland grads like Athens. The crabs aren't as good as back home - but there is the Terrapin beer. Just sayin'.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More recruiting: Another name for Georgia

While we await Ray Drew's announcement, set for Friday morning, another top defensive prospect is back to the forefront for the Georgia football team.

Jeoffrey Pagan, a defensive lineman from Asheville, N.C., has de-committed from Clemson and could be switching to Georgia. That's according to Paul Strelow of Clemson's 247 site, who reports that "all signs pointed" to Pagan announcing for Georgia on Wednesday.

Pagan is a four-star prospect according to Rivals, Scout and 247, and ranked the nation's No. 42 overall prospect by

Pagan, listed at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, is regarded as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, and could play tackle in a 4-3. So basically Pagan is not the answer for Georgia at nose tackle: That remains John Jenkins, the junior college prospect.

Jenkins plans to announce his college decision on Feb. 5 at the high school he attended in Meriden, Conn. He played last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

Jenkins is visiting Florida this weekend.

As for Drew, who has been intentionally sending mixed signals - a nice way of saying he's been having some fun with people - the Thomas County Central star set to make his announcement on Friday at 10 a.m. The nation's ninth-ranked overall prospect according to, Drew is expected to choose Georgia - unless he wasn't kidding earlier this week when he said he had eliminated Georgia, Auburn and LSU.

(I suspect he was kidding.)

Straight outta Columbus: Seven questions about Isaiah Crowell

It's officially T-minus under a week until National Signing Day, also known as Isaiah Crowell Day around the Georgia football program. The highly-touted Crowell is due to announce his decision on ESPNU next Wednesday afternoon, an event that's been anticipated for some time. His decision is down to Georgia and Alabama.

Chris White has covered Crowell's recruitment and his playing days at Carver High School for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Chris was kind enough to answer some questions about Crowell - and answer them in great detail, as you'll see. You can read his stuff here on his blog. Thanks to my colleague for his time, and I hope everyone gets a little something out of this:

SE: Let's get the major question out of the way: conventional wisdom says Georgia leads for Crowell. What's your sense?

CW: I think he’ll be putting on a Georgia hat on national signing day.

At the start of the season, I thought for sure he would head to Alabama. They were the defending national champions, they started off the season with a far better tone than Georgia did, and a lot was being said about the Tide’s two-running-back approach and Crowell’s relationship with Trent Richardson. There were some rumblings of Mark Richt being out at UGA at the end of the season. Crowell commented to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wasn’t a big fan of the way several UGA players had recently gotten in trouble. It all seemed to point to Alabama.

But then I started to see that, if he had stuck with Georgia through the tough spots, he obviously had to really like something about it. And then of course things are really starting to shape up for the Bulldogs. They finished the season off with a some scattered positives, Crowell has a great relationship with LB Jarvis Jones, another former Carver star. This “Dream Team” picture is starting to shape up, meaning Crowell knows he won’t be the lone freshman stud on that team and expected to do everything for everyone. And it looks like Crowell would get more playing time at Georgia and do so earlier than at Alabama, which recently landed a commitment from running back Dee Hart.

I downplay some other factors, such as the recent commitment of his close friend and teammate LB Quintavius Harrow and Crowell’s standing as a UGA fan, because I think Crowell is smart enough to see through them and know those things don’t mean much when it comes to being happy with his decision.

SE: Columbus is so much a two-team town. Obviously he's eliminated one of those, Auburn. How much pull do you think Georgia has on him there? Does he know that so many other fans in the state see him as almost the savior of the program?

I think the tens of thousands of Alabama fans in the Columbus area might have something to say about this being just a two-team town, but I agree there is an interesting war around these parts over who gets him. It’s been my experience that the local Auburn fans long ago wrote off Crowell as a future Tigers player and didn’t even raise an eyebrow when he added an Auburn visit to his schedule.

At the same time, the way local fans seem to be approaching him is a lot different than the push and pull of fans on message boards and on Twitter. I’ve heard a lot of people lightheartedly tell him he’d better sign with Georgia or Alabama, and he just smiles and laughs. It all seems like people around Carver and the community are just happy he’s from Columbus and doing something good for himself. And I’ve seen him wear Georgia jackets and Alabama hats, so I don’t think he’s too concerned with where people think his allegiances may be.

As far as people viewing him as a savior for UGA, I can’t really say much of what he thinks of it. He’s a soft-spoken guy, and he doesn’t really let the stress of this whole process show much. On an anecdotal level, it always seems like the great athletes are the ones who want to be the savior, they want the ball on the final play of the game and they want that kind of pressure. I can say he is definitely that kind of leader at the high school level, but he has been very guarded and humble about what he publicly says regarding the weight UGA fans are putting on him.

SE: How much have you seen him play over the years, and how has he progressed as a player?

I began working at the Ledger-Enquirer in the fall of 2008, maybe covered Carver once or twice that season, and took over as the full-time high school sports reporter before the start of the 2009 football season. In all, I have probably covered half of Carver’s home games and, I believe, all of their playoff games in 2009 and 2010.

The biggest thing I have noticed is his physique. It looked like he spent a lot of time working out and putting on some more muscle between the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and I think it showed this season in his ability to break tackles and stiff arm, which if he were a WWE wrestler, would be his trademark finishing move.

As long as I have been covering him, it seems like he averages one or two spectacular, 90-yard touchdown runs a game, so not much has changed in that sense.

SE: Describe his running style.

He’s definitely not afraid to be physical, and it seems like his best runs are the ones where he’s not afraid to go right up the middle and through people. I think the most impressive thing is how well he sees holes open up and uses angles to burn by the last two defenders. I asked him once what allowed him to make so many huge runs and he said it was because he simply saw how things would open up in front of him before it happened.

SE: If he comes to Georgia, there will instantly be a lot of pressure on him to lift the run game. Is that fair? Is he a difference-maker type?

In a many ways, I don’t think that pressure is fair. As far as I know, Isaiah never told anyone in the media or any college fans that he was the best running back in the country. He was just dubbed that by recruiting sites and ESPN and has had to live up to it.

On the other hand, I think he likes the pressure and wants to the The Man whereever he ends up playing. That attitude is what got him to this point and made him the kind of running back people could look at and call the No. 1 guy in the country. If you’re going to consider offers from Georgia and Alabama, you better like that sort of thing.

SE: How does he strike you in terms of being able to handle the hype, the media attention and all that comes with this?

I can say Isaiah is one of the most polite and patient high school athletes I have ever covered, and that is probably in large part due to the practice he’s had dealing with the media. But through the season, there was a shift and you could tell he was just getting tired of fielding calls from me and the dozen or so recruiting reporters who called him and showed up at practices. He used to go out of his way to find me after the game and ask if I needed him for a quote or anything before he got on the bus. But that slowly died off as the press really picked up. And once he got injured, his coaches started to cut off much of the media access to him, which made my job more difficult but was probably the right thing to do on their part.

And just this week Carver coach Dell McGee told me Isaiah and his family have decided not to do any more interviews until national signing day. They want some time and some peace and quiet to figure it all out, he said. That could be viewed as them shunning the media, but I didn’t quite see it that way. If you look at the number of interviews Isaiah and his mom have done this fall, it’s understandable why they wanted to close that valve during the final few days before they have to make this huge decision.

With that said, I think Isaiah will adapt to the media attention at the college level pretty well and, so far, it doesn’t seem that college football fans chanting his name has gone to his head.

SE: Finally, he announces on ESPNU. Is there any chance it leaks out before then, or are Crowell and 'his people' going to be able to do this on their terms.

I think they will be able to have the ceremony without anyone leaking it out beforehand. And if it does come out, I would guess the leak would come from someone at UGA on the night before signing day or early that morning and not through Crowell’s family or friends. And at this point, who would even believe it? It seems like every little move he makes gets UGA and Alabama fans online saying it’s a sure thing one way or the other.

I believe he doesn’t yet know which school he will pick and will likely be considering the decision the entire time leading up to the signing ceremony. While you have some recruits out there dropping hints or making jokes with the media about which way they might turn, Isaiah and his family have decided to close shop to the media while they figure this out. That says to me they have yet to make the big decision.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tereshinski: 'We are attacking where we've been weak'

Last week I had a chance to sit down with Joe Tereshinski, the newly-elevated strength and conditioning coordinator for the Georgia football team. The story is now posted at, and here's an excerpt:

“So I do see where we were getting beat. I do see where our weaknesses are,” he said. “And so that’s what we are attacking. We are attacking where we’ve been weak.”

So what does all that “attacking” entail? Tereshinski doesn’t want to get too specific because he wants to keep the training habits in-house. After his first workouts in January, players started tweeting about how strenuous the workouts were. Backup quarterback Hutson Mason tweeted, “I call this a good hire! Hard work aint enough!”

But Tereshinski told the players to cut out the tweeting. He also scoffed at the players reacting to how tough the first few workouts were.

“That’s how it’s supposed to be,” he said.

At first I was told Tereshinski would only have 20 minutes, but it turned to a bit more as he got going. The man loves to talk about his craft, and is obviously excited about the job.

“When (Mark Richt) asked me to go into strength and conditioning, that’s where my passion is," Tereshinski said, in a quote that didn't make my story. "I love working with young men.”

There was one other thing that couldn't make it into my story that I wanted to pass along. Tereshinski says one factor that hasn’t gotten much notice is that because of construction, the team has been moved to a different weight room, and for the previous 18 months had been largely operating out of trailers. They didn’t have much room for equipment: No dip bars, no incline presses, and some other machines.

“Last year’s team was very limited, really because of the facility, of what they could get done," he said. "So we were very weak in our triceps. We were very weak in our upper chests. So what happens is now that we have our full weight room capacities we’re really going to be able to develop our bodies fully. ...

“That did affect this team. Because Georgia did not have anything that it was used to having. Now we have an unbelievable weight room, and we have everything we need.”

New bubble watch: Georgia

Georgia’s double-overtime loss to Florida on Tuesday could end up just being a painful footnote on this season. Or, coupled with last week’s home loss to Tennessee, the two home losses might be viewed as the missed opportunities that cost the Bulldogs.

That depends on what happens from here out. The best guess at this point, and it’s an educated guess, is that Georgia will need a 9-7 SEC regular season record, a win over Xavier, and at least one win in Atlanta to feel comfortable going into selection Sunday.

The problem is, in the arduous East Division, Georgia has now played Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida at home and only gone 1-2. So the path to nine wins now may have to include a near-sweep of the West, perhaps a sweep of South Carolina, and a home win over Vanderbilt.

That still may not take care of the quality-win index, so the Bulldogs may need to steal some road wins over those tough Eastern foes.

Like, say, Saturday at Kentucky.

Despite all that, we at the Wannabe Lunardi Blog remain optimistic about Georgia’s chances. We’re still looking at numbers that are generally in the Bulldogs’ favor, with a schedule that’s difficult, but doable. (And that Xavier game is looming very, very large right now.)

The current breakdown:

Record: 14-5 overall, 3-3 in the SEC
RPI: 47
SOS: 49
Record vs. top 50 in RPI: 1-5 (beat Kentucky, lost to Notre Dame, Temple, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida)
Record vs. top 100: 4-5 (also beat UAB, Colorado and Mississippi)

What happened Tuesday:
Besides Georgia’s own loss, former opponent Colorado fell at home to Kansas, and the Buffaloes are now 89 in the RPI. On the plus side of the ledger, as we begin to look at other at-large hopefuls Marquette fell at home to UConn and Virginia Tech lost at Georgia Tech.

What to watch Wednesday and Thursday: UAB, which has slipped to 52 in the RPI, hosts Marshall. Temple and Xavier each have home games they should win.

On Thursday, Vanderbilt plays at Mississippi State. When it comes to the pure numbers and resume’ Georgia should probably be rooting for Vandy. Never mind the division race – not because Georgia is out of it yet, but because it doesn’t matter for the NCAA tournament. The fact the Bulldogs play Vandy twice does.

Next up for Georgia: The visit to Kentucky (Saturday at 4 p.m.) still sets up as a game where the Bulldogs have more to gain than lose. But the events of last week now mean the Bulldogs need quality wins more than ever.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hoops blog: Florida at Georgia

End of game, Georgia loses 104-91 in two overtimes

Two dramatic finishes to regulation and then the first overtime only led to an anticlimatic second overtime.

Florida scores the first nine points of the second overtime, led by Chandler Parsons, who also had a key put-back to pretty much cement it later for the Gators.

A tough loss for Georgia, which will wonder why it didn't foul Florida at the end of the first overtime, or get a closer guard on Erving Walker before his game-tying heave.

End of first overtime, Georgia and Florida tied at 85

Wow again.

Jeremy Price had the onions there on the free throw - but so did Florida's Erving Walker on the long 3-pointer.

Hindsight says Georgia should've fouled there. But you can't argue that Walker shouldn't have been left that open.

Still, whatever happens, an absolute classic here at Stegeman tonight.

End of regulation: Georgia ties it at 73

I mean, wow.

I'll admit, I thought Georgia was dead after Gerald Robinson's muffed pass to Trey Thompkins. Florida was up four, there was less than a minute left - but then Florida started missing free throws.

Robinson nails a 3, Erving Walker goes 1-for-2 on the other end, and after Dustin Ware missed a runner, Trey Thompkins put it back.

So we have another five minutes. Free basketball.

6:49 left in second half, Georgia trails 65-58

Florida's Chandler Parsons just missed a 3 that would have extended the lead to 12, and Travis Leslie answered with a banker. That led Mark Fox to call for a timeout, knowing the game is at a critical juncture right now.

Georgia needs to reverse the tide. If not, it will look back on the stretch to open the second half as the decisive moment.

Gerald Robinson has remained ineffective, while Georgia isn't getting the 3-point shooting it got in the first half. The rebounding battle has also edged back to even: Florida's Vernon Macklin has been killing the Bulldogs with put-backs.

11:43 left in second half, Georgia trails 59-52

Georgia simply didn't come out with the same energy it had for most of the second half, and Florida has raced ahead.

Florida is sitting on a seven-point lead, and has a chance to extend that after the break if Vernon Macklin completes the three-point play. Macklin's free throw shooting is about as accurate as BuLLDawg's bowl picks, but still.

The game's not out of reach yet, obviously, but Georgia has to clamp down on the defensive end. The half-court offense has grown sloppy again, but the Bulldogs also aren't getting transition opportunities because they're not stopping Florida much. Those back-to-back 3s by Erik Murphy and Chandler Parsons didn't help.

Oh, and Gerald Robinson hasn't been effective. That has to change for Georgia to have a chance.

Halftime: Georgia leads 41-39

It feels like Georgia should be ahead by more. And not just because a couple of its two-point baskets would've been 3s if players hadn't had their toes on the line.

The Bulldogs are accomplishing what has to be one of their main defensive goals, which is limiting the Gators' 3-point tries. Florida is making up for it by going inside a lot, and the result has been a lot of free throws and unexciting layups.

On offense, Georgia is getting help from a lot of different sources. Gerald Robinson hasn't been heard from since he got his second foul early on, so that's a hopeful sign for the Bulldogs.

It just seems like this should be Georgia's game to win. But it can't let Florida hang around.

7:58 left in first half, Georgia leads 30-22

This one turned around in a pretty quick manner, eh?

Georgia has taken control of the game - we'll see for how long - with a 21-7 run here. Trey Thompkins gets most of the credit, scoring eight in a row at one point. But others have contributed: Dustin Ware with a 3, Jeremy Price with a throw-down dunk to extend the lead to eight.

The crowd reaction to that Price dunk made it as loud at Stegeman as I've ever heard it.

One thing to monitor: Chandler Parsons has been pretty quick for Florida. Expect that to change. But Gerald Robinson (out with two fouls) and Travis Leslie have also taken a back seat so far for Georgia. Expect that to change too.

11:30 left in first half, Florida leads 18-17

The fun battle so far has been Fox and friends – see what I did there? – against the officials. Fox threw off his jacket in the early going, just as he did Saturday against Mississippi State. (He put it on at halftime, then took it off again early in the second half. I expect a repeat tonight.)

The fouls made their disquiet known after Gerald Robinson’s second foul call, as did the Georgia bench – which drew a “bench warning” from official Doug Sirmons during a timeout.

Strangely – or not strangely, because this is how it always works out – the next few calls went Georgia’s way. Of course the first one would’ve been impossible to miss, as Patric Young clobbered Thompkins. The Georgia forward was ticked, and literally had to be restrained by Travis Leslie before he got near Young.

Florida jumped out to a 9-2 lead, as Georgia had four turnovers and four fouls in first five minutes. Just overall sloppy play.

The Bulldogs then rallied to take a brief 17-16 lead, getting help from all corners. Even Vincent Williams, who is averaging 0.7 points this year, nailed a 3.

6:55 p.m.: Almost game time

Officially it's a sellout, though with the early tip a lot of people are late in arriving. But it still looks like it'll be a pretty amped crowd.

Georgia is favored by three, which is basically the difference that Vegas accounts for being at home. So really this is regarded as a toss-up, and I agree. I think it comes down to 3-point defense for Georgia: Hold Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker in check, and it has a good chance to win. If not, then Gerald Robinson, Dustin Ware and company have to match shot for shot, and I don't know that they can do that again.

6:45 p.m.: A little football stuff

Trinton Sturdivant was just made available to the media by UGA, ostensibly to talk about his decision to return for his senior year. I actually spoke to the offensive tackle about that a few weeks ago, so I asked Sturdivant for his reaction to the departure of line coach Stacy Searels to Texas.

“I was a little disappointed at first,” he said. “But I talked to him, and it was a good business move for him. I’m pretty confident coach Richt is going to hire a really good offensive line coach.”

Sturdivant pointed out that he was originally recruited by Neil Calloway, who then left for UAB and was replaced by Searels. He doesn’t expect much to change.

“Coach Richt talked to us about how the calls weren’t going to change. The blocking styles aren’t going to change too much. Only small techniques. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a transition.”

5:45 p.m.: Mr. Blog Man sitteth

The student section is filling up well before game time. Looks like a white-out: They're passing around white shirts, which I didn't get a close look at, but here's guessing it says something like:

"May there be a spirited contest between two great schools in this affair, and at the end the best one emerge victorious."

Actually, after getting off my duff and checking it out, the shirts simply say "4" on front and back. Team spokesman Tim Hix says it's ode to senior Chris Barnes. They're going to do the same for Jeremy Price later this season.

The officials for this game are Doug Sirmons, Mike Nance and John Cahill.

Oh, and the game is on ESPN.

Largest mailbag ... ever

Or at least largest ever in the months I've been doing it. Sorry I couldn't get to every question. Don't be offended if yours wasn't chosen, there simply wasn't enough time this week. (I also condensed a lot of your questions, such as on the offensive line coach, to just one.)

In this mail-blog, we address recruiting, Stacy Searels, basketball, my pets, the crisis in Tunisia (really), more football, more basketball, and the meaning of life.

On to it ...

Georgia averages around 23 players per recruiting class while Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Florida, and other rivals with more recent on the field sucess average between 25-28 players. With more players comes more potential starters and studs. Do you see Richt's reluctance to oversign like other SEC teams as a possible contributing factor to UGA falling behind said SEC teams in recent on the field competition?
- Anonymous

I see it as honorable. But yeah, the over-signing approach seems to have worked for Nick Saban. So I don’t think it’s an accident that Georgia appears to be taking commitments all over the place, and could go all the way up to the 28 limit. (And 30 if you count LeMay and Conley.) Make no mistake, Richt and his staff know this is probably a make-or-break year, so they’re adjusting.

If we don't get Jenkins, what is the solution at nose tackle? You don't have to look any further than the Alabama defense this year versus last year to understand what a difference a dominant guy makes in that spot.
- Anonymous

DeAngleo Tyson, step (back) up. Well, I think Bean Anderson and Kwame Geathers will be given every chance to show they’re ready to play now, and the staff could make another run at a recruit like Gabe Wright. But last year showed that the staff preferred knowledge to girth at that critical nose position.

I've always wondered how current players feel about recruiting. Most fans want these all-world recruits to come in and start right away. Have you ever seen some jealousy due to a great recruiting class?
- Anonymous

Sometimes there’s jealousy, but I don’t sense it this year. Not after a 6-7 season. Like when I talked to Trinton Strudivant after he decided to return, I asked him if he had any final thoughts, and he said “I hope we get good recruits.” I think the players know they need a talent infusion.

Are there any updates on the Offensive Line Coach search? I know you posted something about this last week, but that was last week. Thanks!
- Stamey

Richt has been concentrating on recruiting, so the chances are a hire will come after signing day. As for candidates, I’m not aware of any specific interviews. But the latest I heard is the hire was most likely to be someone young and energetic, with recruiting a heavy consideration.

Was an article ever written on the S&C changes?
- Anonymous

In answer to this question and the others related to strength and conditioning, I’m scheduled to have a story in the paper this week.

Will the new O Line coach most likely also be the "running game coordinator" or will Bryan McClendon take on that roll? It seems like a good opportunity to bring some new life into that area of the offense.
- NYDawg

The running game coordinator is pretty much a glorified title and rarely means much more in terms of contribution to gameplan. Every coach has imput, but bestowing a coordinator title is more of a way to justify paying the coach more - and a lot of programs are doing it now.

Eric Kreibel with three questions about Stacy Searels leaving:

A few things have surfaced since Stacy Searels left Athens. 1) there have been some grumblings that he didn't mesh well with the rest of the staff. Is that something you were aware of? If, so how much more of Searles do you think he would have put up with considering the subpar performance of Searles as a coach.

Richt still hasn't released a statement on Searels' departure, but I'm not sure whether that's because he's been too busy or just didn't want to. Honestly, I hadn't heard that Searels didn't get along with anybody on the staff, any more so than a group of 10 coaches would have normal disagreements.

2) Should we take any stock in the fact that days after Searles takes the Texas job their biggest OL recruit decommits and we begin to gain interest from Antonio Richardson and Xzaiver (sp?) Ward

The Texas recruit flipping to Auburn I'm sure had nothing to do with Searels, since he just got there. Richardson and Ward probably had more to do with circumstance, and if it was related to Searels' leaving, it was because Mike Bobo assumed the lead role now on recruiting OL. (John Lilly is taking a heavier involvement too.)

3) Seriously, I swear I'm not trying to smear Searles, but how ridiculous did you find it that he would not speak to the media and had his players follow suit. I mean I could respect it from someone like Alex Gibbs who a) has a resume that could get away with such a demand and b) was also someone who would probably require you censor every other word.

Searels actually was available more this season. Not a wonderful quote, but more accessible. He was a Saban disciple. Saban doesn't let his assistants speak, so Searels didn't tend to think assistants needed to speak to the media. I'm not sure it was about ego.

I read an article about Herschel Walker mentioning that he's spoken with Richt and McGarity about wanting to get involved with helping the program. Have you heard about this, and do you have any insight or guesses as to what specifically that could entail?
- Anonymous

I got a couple questions about Herschel, one of my more famous Twitter followers. To the person who asked about whether he can recruit for Georgia: No he cannot, that’s an NCAA violation. As for what role he can play with the program, I’m sure Richt and McGarity would be happy for him to be active in the way that every former alumni is, by appearing at fundraisers, dropping by the program to impart their wisdom and experience, and just generally be around the team when their schedule allows.

Who watches your dog and your cat when you travel for away games? Do just leave them with a heap of food and water?
- Anonymous

I leave Archie the dog with my pet-sitter, who does a tremendous job. (If anyone in the Athens area needs dog-training, e-mail me and I’ll pass along the recommendation.)

Unfortunately, my cat Lizzie went to feline heaven last week. She was only nine, but had been having blood clot problems for awhile. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank the vets and staff at the UGA small animal vet hospital for everything they did for her. Their care and work bought her a few more months on this Earth, for which I’m eternally grateful.

And just to relate it back to athletics, that same vet facility is where Uga is being treated, so my experience leads me to believe that Georgia’s beloved mascot is getting the best possible treatment.

During his red-shirt season Arthur put on twenty pounds of muscle and he got much faster, do you think he will finally get his chance?
- Lizziebelle

I assume you mean Arthur Lynch? He’ll be in an interesting spot, given that every other TE is back, and Jay Rome has been added. I’m not saying Lynch won’t play, but boy, it’s going to be tough this fall.

With the recent Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and the ousting of Ben Ali, do you foresee other Arabic states reforming to prevent similar uprisings or do you think dictators like Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will simply clamp down on his citizens? Also, any word on if McGarity is planning on opening the vaults to keep Fox around?
- Bourbon Dawgwalker

I actually called someone I know at the State Department – no seriously, I did – and the assessment is that a domino effect after the Tunisia revolution is unlikely. Look at Iraq after the fall of Saddam – there hasn’t been a sprouting around of democratic republics.

Oh, and as for Fox … McGarity values basketball, given his experience at Florida, so if the Bulldogs finish the season the way they’ve started I’m sure Georgia will let Fox know they value the job he’s done and want to keep him around.

I know it's early, but how close is tonight's Florida game to a must-win?
- Steve

It’s not a must-win, but ideally Georgia gets a split out of at least every East team, and a sweep of South Carolina. So if the Bulldogs can’t beat the Gators tonight, they probably need to make that up in Gainesville, or this weekend in Lexington.

Any response from the League office on McGarity's complaints after the UT game? Also, has CMF commented at all on the sudden hot shooting (hope that doesn't jinx us) from 3 pt? Attributed to home rims?
- Anonymous

McGarity said it would be handled “internally,” which means no public flogging. The improved shooting may just be one hot game, against Mississippi State, or the players getting more comfortable in their roles. We’ll see as it goes here.

So this is a bit premature, but watching the younger guys play a good bit on Saturday against Mississippi State, I got to wondering how the future looks for the program? It's obvious that Mark Fox didn't come to have one good year in Athens. Some of the young guys looked promising, granted it was against a Bizarro-Bulldog team that had probably quit. Who do you see as next year's leaders for the hoop Dawgs, and how big do you anticipate Kentavious Caldwell's role will be?
- Chris

If Travis Leslie comes back – and that’s a big if – there’s a good chance Georgia could actually be better next season. Caldwell-Pope is supposed to be the real deal, and we’re only seeing the tip of what Marcus Thornton can do. Nobody expects Trey Thompkins to return, but Gerald Robinson will almost certainly be around, and Dustin Ware and Sherrard Brantley are becoming pretty good players. They’ll need to develop some big men to replace Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes, but if they do that and Leslie is back, that’s a pretty good core of guys.

How would you rate the gameday atmosphere at stegeman this year compared to other SEC venues; is the student section as large as other schools?
- Anonymous

The place always struck me as cavernous, but that’s because it was hardly ever filled. Now it’s a pretty good place and can get loud, as a few Kentucky writer friends of mine observed a couple weeks ago. The student section is a bit more spread out, but I think it’s a real plus to have it behind a backboard.

After covering USC and UGA basketball, which SEC arena in your opinion offers the best big game atmosphere (other than Rupp arena) and how does stegman compare to other sec arenas?
- Anonymous

Arkansas is pretty good, probably the best on the western side. Every arena in the East, now that South Carolina has started drawing, is pretty good. But other than Rupp, I’d have to say Thompson-Boling, simply because of capacity.

If you could have one super power, what would it be? Also, what are your career aspirations/the typical career aspirations for someone in your position? To be the next Kornheiser/Wilbon? Just curious.
- Therapist

By the way, do you mean you're a therapist, or is this a take-off of the Sean Connery/Celebrity Jeopardy question? If it's the latter ... kudos.

My super-power would be for everyone to have to be honest with me, because then I’d get every single scoop as a reporter and my feature stories would be wonderful. My career aspiration has always to be a columnist, and having grown up reading TK and Wilbon – and working in the same office as them for four years – I’d take either of their careers in a heartbeat.

What's Caleb King's academic status right now?
- Anonymous

My understanding is that he’s fine at the moment.

I'm glad to see we're recruiting much taller backs in the secondary. What's your opinion on the state of our defensive backs and how Lakatos is doing? Do you foresee improvement in this area next year?

Size is a reason that Sanders Commings saw a shot this year, and could be why Jakar Hamilton gets a longer look at cornerback in the spring. I think even Lakatos would say his grade this year was incomplete, given all the problems on third-down defense. Basically everybody is back in the secondary, so if there’s not improvement, it’ll definitely be considered a disappointment.

Is there any truth to the rumor that Coach Lakatos once stomped a man to death at a cock fight?
- Anonymous

That’s not a rumor. That’s in his official bio.

Before I start, I am hetero, married w 2 kids, and I love football more than I should....That said, is there anyway we could get more coverage of the Gymdawgs? Not just that they won or where they are ranked, but maybe an update from the coaches now and then?
- Anonymous

Noted. I think the performance of the women’s basketball team, which is currently ranked, should also deserve an article or two in the future.

Any thoughts about Andy Gray? He was sacked today for things far worse than Ron Franklin.
- Anonymous

I had to look up who exactly Andy Gray is. But while we’re on the subject, the Franklin situation is sad, because he’s so good at his job. But I don’t think ESPN had any choice, given what we understand of what Franklin said. This is 2011, people.

What are the rules governing media contact with athletes in a sport that is in it's offseason? Are we going to be able to get our 'fix' and learn about what's going on with the players in, say, the summer semester?
- Joeski

UGA will allow us to talk to players on occasion, and within reason. I don’t blame them for being stingy with player requests in the offseason, because after all it is the offseason. Plus, if one media outlet gets its interview request granted, then all the others protest, and so on and so on.

Seth, name what you consider is the top 5 coaches in the SEC in football and basketball.
- Anonymous

That sounds like an order, not a question. It would also make a better future blog, so I’ll hold my thoughts till later.

Do you find questions like, "What is your favorite Downtown Athens eating/drinking establishment?" a little bit creepy and stalkerish. I mean, you're a sports writer, not a restaurant critic. Why should anyone care where you like to eat, unless that person is trying to either find you or to copy your lifestyle in some sort of perverted, misguided hero worship.
- ActuaryDawg

It’s not so much the stalker-ish thing – if someone’s going to buy me a free beer, who am I to complain? But I really need to be careful about appearing to endorse different places, lest it appear I’m trying to use my position to get freebies. That said, if I like a place enough, I’ll say so. Or vice versa. For instance, the Subway on Gaines School Road has just about the worst service I’ve ever experienced.

What is the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything?
- Peter


I've read recently that Taco Bell is being sued for claiming that it uses beef in its tacos, when the substance they actually contains less than 35% beef. (I'm serious. Google it.) ... What do you think the other 65% is?
- Anonymous

This seems like a valuable inquiry and if President Obama doesn't address it tonight I'll be very surprised.

Who are you picking to win tonight in the bball game. FL or GA?
- Assistant groundskeeper Carl

I’m trying to stay away from straight-up predictions on basketball. But I’ll have more thoughts on the pregame hoops blog.

Request for the ol' Mailbag

OK, time for another one. Please post your questions below and they'll be answered in a blog post later today. Or feel free to e-mail me at

One request: Please don't ask if I think a certain recruit is going to choose Georgia. I'll just answer those right now: I think Georgia leads for Isaiah Crowell, Ray Drew and John Jenkins, but you never know with high school kids.

On another note, that being the issue of a certain poster and his (or her) very long, very critical rants: For those wanting a ban, I hear ya and feel your frustration. The problem is that unless a comment is vulagar, abusive or libelous, I can't really delete it. There also isn't the ability to ban someone based on an IP address. That may change in the future, but not now.

As I've said before, the best solution is just to ignore him. I know that's difficult, but I hope people can try.

I do appreciate everybody continuing to visit the blog - my web people told me a web-hit stat the other day that warmed my heart - and I don't want to lose anybody. But I hope you can see that my hands are sort of tied on this one.

In any event, let's do the mailbag. Fire away.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Georgia's commitment list keeps growing

The Georgia football team has received another offensive line commitment - but not the one many were expecting.

Xzavier Ward of Colquitt County High School offered his commitment on Monday, according to various recruiting web sites. (It was first reported by

The bigger story now may be that Georgia is racing to the SEC limit of 28 signed recruits. Ward becomes the 22nd commitment for this class, although two of them (QB Christian LeMay and WR Chris Conley) have already enrolled and thus can count towards last year.

Teams are also limited to 25 enrolled freshman, and the Bulldogs are still hoping to get three more prime prospects: RB Isaiah Crowell, LB-DE Ray Drew and JUCO nose tackle Johnathan Jenkins. If the Bulldogs got all three (not a pipe dream), they'd still have room for two more assuming LeMay and Conley back-count.

Then there's gray-shirting, players not qualifying, all that fun stuff. And the NCAA overall scholarship limit of 85.

Ward is listed at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, and is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals, Scout and He becomes the sixth offensive lineman in Georgia's class. The Bulldogs had also been recruiting Antonio Richardson - whom most expect to go to Tennessee - and Taylor Gadbois, a Miami commitment from Dallas, Ga.

Gadbois then re-affirmed his commitment to Miami on Monday, according to Chad Simmons of So you can apparently scratch him from Georgia's list. Richardson is so highly-thought of that if he wanted to go to Georgia, I suspect the Bulldogs would make room.

If numbers do become an issue, gray-shirting (the practice of a player sitting out the fall and enrolling in January) could still be an option for Ward.

Recruiting: Where things stand

The stretch drive is upon us, with National Signing Day just a little more than 200 hours away, as of blog press time.

For those of you who are breathlessly following every little recruiting detail – “OMG breaking news, Jonathan Jenkins had a great time on his visit to Athens, OMG OMG OMG!!!” – there won’t be much new here.

But for everyone else, hopefully this is a decent catch-up. As in our previous versions this is broken into three parts:

- First, a ranking of the most important current Georgia commitments. The criteria for “most important” is a combination of immediate impact, long-range potential, and filling a need position. A list that is purely a snapshot in time and a wild guess into the future. In other words, a list I guarantee to eventually be wrong.

- Next, the top remaining targets on Georgia’s big board: Not to say anyone not on the list has no chance of signing with Georgia, but according to the experts, these are the main focus at this point for the Bulldogs.

- An update on what to watch this week, in terms of potential announcements.

The most important current commitments (With height, weight and star-rankings by, and

1. DB-WR Malcolm Mitchell, Valdosta, Ga.
6-1 …… 190 ….. 4-4-4
2. TE Jay Rome, Valdosta, Ga.
6-6 ….. 240 …… 5-4-4
3. QB Christian LeMay, Matthews, NC (enrolled)
6-2 …. 188 ... 4-4-4
4. MLB Amarlo Herrera, College Park, Ga.
6-2 …. 215 …4-4-4
5. CB Nick Marshall, Rochelle, Ga.
6-2 …. 186 ….4-4-4
6. DB-ATH Damian Swann, Atlanta, Ga.
6-0 …. 175 … 4-4-4
7. S Corey Moore, Griffin, Ga.
6-1 …. 185 ….4-4-4
8. OT Zach DeBell, Tarpon Springs, Fla.
6-7 …. 265 ….3-4-3
9. C David Andrews, Norcross, Ga.
6-2 …. 276 ….3-3-3
10. S Chris Sanders, Tucker, Ga.
6-0 …. 173 …4-3-3
11. OT Watts Dantzler, Dalton, Ga.
6-7 …. 310 … 3-3-3
12. WR Justin Scott-Wesley, Camilla, Ga.
5-11 … 202 …3-4-4
13. WR Chris Conley, Dallas, Ga. (enrolled)
6-2 … 185 …..4-3-3
14. DE Sterling Bailey, Gainesville, Ga.
6-4 …. 230 …..3-4-3
15. DT Chris Mayes, Griffin, Ga.
6-5 …. 292 …..3-4-3
16. LB Ramik Wilson, Tampa, Fla.
6-3 …. 218 …. 3-3-3
17. G Hunter Long, Memphis, Tenn.
6-4 …. 290 ……3-3-3
18. CB Devin Bowman, Ridgeland, Ga.
6-0 …. 175 ….3-3-3
19. WR Sanford Seay, Leesburg, Ga.
6-2 … 198 ….. 3-3-3
20. LS Nathan Theus, Jacksonville, Fla.
6-3 …. 252 ….. 2-2-2
21. LB Quintavious Harrow, Columbus, Ga.
5-11 ….. 190 ….. 2-3-2

Mitchell and Rome, who committed last week, immediately moved up and bumped LeMay from the top spot. Mitchell, whose position destination is unknown, becomes the highest-rated commitment for Georgia so far. Rome is regarded by most experts as the nation’s top tight end prospect, so his value is more long term.

Harrow arrives at the bottom of the list, but for all his family and friends reading this, a lot of people viewed Zander Ogletree as a throw-in too, but he could be the starting fullback as a true sophomore.

(I also realize that I could rank Harrow higher because of the importance to getting Crowell. But I could also rank Theus higher for trying to get his brother next year. Frankly, we could say that about a lot of these kids and their friendships, so I’m just not including that as a factor here.)

The most important (known) players left on the board

1. RB Isaiah Crowell, Columbus, Ga.
6-0 ….. 210 …. 5-5-5
2. DE Ray Drew, Thomasville, Ga.
6-5 ….. 248 …. 4-5-4
3. DT John Jenkins, Mississippi Gulf Coast JUCO
6-4 …. 340 ….. 4-4-NR
4. OT Antonio Richardson, Nashville, Tenn.
6-6 …. 310 …. 4-4-4
5. ILB Kent Turene, Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.
6-3 …. 230 ….. 3-3-NR
6. Taylor Gadbois, Dallas, Ga.
6-8 …. 295 ….. 3-3-NR

Four of these guys (Crowell, Jenkins, Richardson and Turene) were on their visits over the weekend. Richardson, Turene and Gadbois are new additions to this list. Richardson would be a huge get, but he’s still considered a longshot for Georgia. Turene did not commit on his visit, despite some rumblings, so who knows what eventually will happen there.

Gadbois is committed to Miami but just got offered a scholarship by Georgia. (Interestingly enough, despite Cordy Glenn and Trinton Sturdivant announcing their returns, the Bulldogs have continued to offer offensive line prospects.)

- What to watch this week:

Drew is set to announce on Friday. Most people think he’s leaning towards Georgia, but Drew has sent some mixed signals.

Crowell is still slated for signing day. Jenkins could announce any day. While Georgia is technically limited to 25 new freshmen on scholarship next year, as I explained in the over-signing blog, there's some leeway here. So if Georgia wants to extend scholarship offers to Crowell's entire offensive line at Carver High School, it can and then sort it out later.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some hoops, some football recruiting

Here's my game story from Saturday's Georgia thumping of Mississippi State.

ATHENS - Perhaps it was only appropriate. Georgia’s previous game was decided on a rebound, and not in a good way. So when it came to recovering from its most stunning loss of the season, rebounding was the emphasis.

And it proved to be the difference. Along with hot shooting, good passing, bench scoring and plenty more. There was little that went wrong in Georgia’s 86-64 win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

“I’m pleased with the results (Saturday),” head coach Mark Fox said, in quite an understatement.

Georgia's RPI rank is now 42, and it's strength of schedule ranking has moved up considerably, to 66, from earlier this season.

Meantime the SEC East Division is officially a jumble:

Florida .... 4-1
Georgia .... 3-2
Kentucky ... 3-2
S. Carolina. 3-2
Tennessee .. 2-2
Vanderbilt . 2-2

If you weren't following my Twitter feed during the game, Isaiah Crowell, Jonathan Jenkins and a bunch of other recruits were also at the game. The home fans did their job, doing various chants of "I...sai ... ah!!!!"

And at one point, in a moment that was actually kind of uncomfortable, about seven or eight young fans, probably students, appeared on the concourse behind the section that the recruits and football coaches were sitting. They were carrying three white signs extolling Crowell to be part of the dream team. This went on for about 30 seconds, then they moved on. I didn't see if Crowell turned around and noticed.

Crowell supposedly still plans to announce near signing day, while Jenkins, the massive nose tackle, could decide sooner, later ... who knows. Then there's the Kent Turene situation. The inside linebacker from Lauderdale, Fla., who is committed to Southern California, was also part of the recruiting weekend and there were rumblings he had committed. But he told the Orlando Sentinel that he had not. I guess we'll find out.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hoops: UGA vs. Mississippi St. game blog

Georgia wins 86-64

Some idiot wrote earlier that this was a tougher Mississippi State team than its record indicated. That same dolt also said the line - Georgia by 9.5 - was too much.

Yeah ... ahem ... so anyway.

Actually I still think MSU has a chance to do some things in the SEC West this year. (Clarke County High School could win that division.) But Georgia was just on today, obviously responding well from it's loss the other night.

So Georgia takes care of business, improving to 3-2 in the league and 14-4 overall. Florida is up next in an ESPN game on Tuesday night.

7:00 left in second half, Georgia leads 70-51

Well, this one's a rout, and is going to stay that way.

(Am I jinxing it? Nah, not the way this one is going.) At one point, after Marcus Thornton nailed a three, Georgia had a 25-point lead.

Last week at this time Georgia was rolling over Ole Miss by 22. Now it's routing Mississippi State by a similar margin. Too bad for UGA that it's running out of teams from that state to play.

14:25 left in second half, Georgia leads 53-38

It doesn't appear that Georgia is going to lose any critical game-deciding rebounds this time.

At one point the scoreboard showed Georgia with a rebounding "edge" of 36 to 12. No, I didn't mistype that. And then Georgia got the next rebound.

Plus, there's still no sign Mississippi State is going to make this a game. Ravern Johnson just hit a 3 to cut it to 13, but Travis Leslie answered with a driving layup while being fouled.

It's been like that all game: Georgia off to a quick start, and when MSU started to show life, Georgia answered.

Halftime: Georgia leads 42-29

Georgia's fans are giving their team a standing O as they head to the locker room, as well they should. The Bulldogs put together a pretty good half, with only a slight let-up in the waning moments of the half.

Mississippi State closed within 11, as Georgia showed some signs of sloppiness. But Gerald Robinson answered with a reverse layup. That proved to be the last basket of the half.

Robinson has seven points, while Jeremy Price - yes, Jeremy Price - is tied with Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie with a team-high eight points.

I hate to bang on energy as a factor all the time, but it was obvious from the tip that Georgia had it in abundance - as opposed to Tuesday. The way that one ended probably had a lot to do with why it was a way more energized UGA this time. If that carries into the second half, this one should be a blowout.

3:39 left in first half, Georgia leads 38-21

Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie each have eight points, Gerald Robinson has five ... I could go on. Everybody's doing a lot here so far.

Georgia's ball movement has also been a lot better in this one. The Bulldogs are getting a ton of open looks, and Mississippi State doesn't look like it's being able to set its defense much.

11:59 left in first half, Georgia leads 24-11

The offensive onslaught continues for the Bulldogs, who have hit four 3s so far - two by Trey Thompkins, and one each by Sherrard Brantley and Dustin Ware.

What's becoming more interesting is the reaction to the football recruits. Isaiah Crowell entered fashionably late with running backs coach Bryan McClendon, and students spent the better part of the under-12 timeout chanting "Isaiah! Isaiah! Isaiah!"

Coaching wise, everybody left with "coordinator" in their job title is here: Mike Bobo, Todd Grantham and Rodney Garner. And no, I don't know whether Kent Turene committed or not; He texted the Orlando Sentinel, his hometown newspaper, that he didn't, so until I hear differently that's what I'm going with.

14:23 left in first half, Georgia leads 18-7

OK, early thought: The Vegas oddsmakers had it right. Georgia is on fire right now, both figuratively and ... well not literally, because that would be bad. I mean the Bulldogs - who were so flat against Tennessee - seem to have a fire in their belly for this one, and are on fire from the floor too.

Dustin Ware and Trey Thompkins have hit 3s, and Travis Leslie will be at the line after this timeout with a chance to finish off a three-point play.

Head coach Mark Fox even threw off his jacket less than two minutes into the game, which is pretty unusual for him.

3:58 p.m.: Moments from tipoff

At least the Georgia students did their research. As Mississippi State was warming up, they yelled "Fight! Fight! Fight!", in reference to Renardo Sidney's infamous ways.

They repeated the chant when Sidney was introduced just now.

Georgia was about a 9-point favorite in this one, but that seems kind of steep to me. I would still pick Georgia to win, but the chances of a close one are much better than a blow out. We'll see.

Glenn talks about Searels leaving, and his pro decision

A few weeks ago the question was whether Cordy Glenn would be at Georgia next year to play for offensive line coach Stacy Searels. On Saturday, Glenn was still in Athens, being asked about the departure of Searels.

Searels left for the same job at Texas on Thursday, less than two weeks after Glenn elected to pass on the NFL and return for his senior season.

“He just told me that he loved me and wished us the best. And it was a business decision,” Glenn said of his conversation with Searels. “He had to do what was best for him and his family. I respect him. It’s a business, at the end of the day.”

Glenn was asked if, after consulting with Searels during his pro decision, it bothered him that he wouldn’t be playing for him.

“It’s really out of my hands,” Glenn said. “I’m positive that coach (Mark) Richt would bring in someone great for us, that I just want to play football. I just want to play football, I really don’t care who the coach is, I just want to play.”

Meanwhile, Glenn said he might see a position switch: He has been a guard for most of his career, starting every game there in 2010. But he started four games at tackle in 2009.

“I’ll play a little tackle this year,” Glenn said. “We’ll see how the season goes.”

Trinton Sturdivant – who also decided to return after considering the NFL – is likely to be the left tackle. Glenn and cornerback Brandon Boykin were each made available to the media before Saturday’s Georgia men’s basketball game.

Boykin said the feedback he got from the NFL draft advisory board was “pretty much what I expected. He didn’t want to get into specifics.

“At the end of the day I know it’s kind of a vague grade,” Boykin said. “So basically it’s your decision to make, based on what’s best for you. … I can’t speak for Cordy, there were basically a lot more pros to coming back to school.”

Boykin said he’s set to graduate in December. Glenn said he would be close to graduating then.

“I just wanted to make a wise decision,” Glenn said. “Everybody … that’s their dream, that’s why they’re playing football, to go to the NFL. But it’s not going anywhere.”

The day ahead for Georgia hoops

Don’t be deceived by Mississippi State’s pedestrian record (10-7). As I write so eloquently in today’s papers, the other Bulldogs are quite a bit more formidable than earlier in the season:

Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney, perhaps the team’s two best players, have only been playing together for a few games, thanks to NCAA suspensions. So while Mississippi State’s record (10-7) may not be impressive, it is probably closer to the team that has clobbered its past two SEC opponents than the one that fell to the likes of Florida Atlantic and East Tennessee State.

“They’re a different team. You’ve got two NBA-talent guys that just joined their team,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said.

This should be a stiff test for Georgia, which needs to defend its home court and rack up as many wins against the West as it can. As we continue the NCAA bubble watch for Georgia, which enters the day with an RPI rank of 43,, here are some other notable games on Saturday:

Noon: Georgia Tech (former UGA opponent) at Virginia. The Yellow Jackets have an RPI rank of 137, so with a strong finish they could end up counting as a top 100 win for Georgia.

1:30 p.m.: Colorado (former UGA opponent, current top 100 win for UGA) at Oklahoma.

1:45 p.m.: Mississippi at LSU: Ole Miss has an RPI rank of 84, and considering the Bulldogs won in Oxford, it should probably root for the Rebels to do well.

2 p.m.: Tennessee at Connecticut: I know, I know, you don’t want to root for the Volunteers. Feel free not to, but remember that any non-conference win would serve the SEC, and thus Georgia, pretty well.

2 p.m.: St. Mary’s at Vanderbilt: Here’s another mid-season non-conference game, and one with sneaky NCAA implications. St. Mary’s is No. 22 in the AP poll.

3 p.m.: Temple at Xavier: Both teams will have been UGA opponents by the end of the season. Xavier (12-5, No. 27 in the RPI) is in slightly better position than Temple (13-4, 37 in the RPI) but they’re both probably NCAA teams.

6 p.m.: Kentucky at South Carolina: This one should decide whether the Gamecocks are really going to make this a six-team race in the East. Although, we are starting to wonder about Florida.

7 p.m.: Notre Dame (former UGA opponent) vs. Marquette. The Fighting Irish are No. 10 in the RPI.

7 p.m.: UAB (former UGA opponent) vs. Memphis. UAB has been sitting around No. 50 in the RPI for awhile. Georgia wants the Blazers to win as much as possible and remain a top 50 win, because it’s only other one right now is against Kentucky.

8 p.m.: Arkansas at Florida: I’m really trying to figure out the Gators, who have a good record (14-4) and RPI (19). But boy, did they look terrible against South Carolina and Auburn. Billy Donovan’s team visits Stegeman Coliseum on Tuesday.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thomas Brown discusses his new role

During his playing days, the 5-foot-8 Thomas Brown gained the unofficial status as being the pound-for-pound strongest player in Georgia football history.

So when the former Bulldog tailback expressed an interest last month in re-joining the program, it seemed natural to place him in the weight room. Georgia’s strength and conditioning staff was undergoing an overhaul, and the former Atlanta Falcon and Cleveland Brown was added as an assistant to new coordinator Joe Tereshinski.

“I want to see us get back on track,” Brown said Friday, when he met with a group of media members to discuss his new role. He’s been on the job a few weeks.

Being on the strength and conditioning staff was something that Brown said he “came around” to after his discussions with Richt. Being a former player, he said it was tough to watch the team struggle and wanted to do his part to help turn things around.

Brown said he didn’t want to compare Tereshinski and Dave Van Halanger, the latter of whom he described as a mentor. Van Halanger, who was the strength coordinator for the first 10 years of Richt's tenure, was shifted to an administrative role.

“I was a product of coach Van’s system, so obviously I don’t have anything negative to say about that,” Brown said. “We’re just getting back to preparing, getting ready to play football games, getting in better shape. I think the most important thing is getting guys buying into the system, believing in what we’re doing.”

Still, there was a reason Richt made the change. Brown agreed that there might have been some complacency in the weight room lately.

“That’s tough to say on the outside looking in,” he said. “I know personally one of my highest acclaims at Georgia was being known as pound-for-pound the strongest football players in program history. I broke the running back bench record, squat record and power lift record under coach Van. So he knows what he’s doing. He’s regarded as one of the greatest college strength coaches in history.

“But I think maybe the move had to do with guys getting too comfortable with him, and needed a change. And they weren’t responding to him as well as they needed to be.”

Some players, such as kicker Blair Walsh, have hinted that the team might have had a sense of entitlement, which contributed to its struggles. From afar, Brown agreed with that.

“I think you can solve most problems with more competition,” he said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things that’s different from when I was here as a player (to) what’s here now. I came in as a highly-recruited, No. 1 running back in the state of Georgia, No. 2 or three in the nation, and came in I was No. 7 on the depth chart of eight running backs. And I had to compete.

“I think that kind of makes guys raise their level of expectations. I think it’s harder for guys to be motivated when they kind of know they’re guaranteed to play.”

I'll have more from Brown in a future story on the strength program.

Hereby Georgia, the under-signed?

File this under just-in-case-you-were-wondering.

The issue of teams over-signing has gotten a good deal of attention lately: Teams are limited to 85 total scholarships, and 25 new scholarship players. But a lot of teams get around that by signing as many players as they want, and then getting under each limit through a variety of ways that many see as unseemly.

Current players sometimes get a push out the door to get the program under the 85 number. And some recruits don’t qualify, or are gray-shirted, to get around the 25 number. (Basically, a team can sign as many players as it wants. The NCAA limit is on actual enrollment.)

Not that this is a new practice: Bear Bryant used to sign every player he could, saying that he’d prefer a key guy was sitting on his bench than starting for the other team. Eventually the NCAA cracked down, limiting scholarship allotments until it arrived at the 85 number in the 1990s.

So what is Georgia’s scholarship breakdown? Here you go:

- After the additions of Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia has 21 commitments. Its remaining top targets are RB Isaiah Crowell, DE-LB Ray Drew and NT John Jenkins.

If all three signed, that would leave room for at least one more recruit, and more if someone doesn’t qualify. (Christian LeMay and Chris Conley, who enrolled early, could also count towards last year’s number, but I’m not sure. Either way, it doesn’t look like it matters.)

- As for current scholarship players, Georgia now has 62 by my count, after the departures of A.J. Green and Justin Houston to the NFL, Tanner Strickland to early graduation, and Marcus Dowtin and Nick Williams to transfer. Of course scholarships are renewable on a year-to-year-basis, but for the sake of clarity, let’s say all players currently on scholarship remain so next season.

- That adds up to 83, and then 87 if Georgia goes all the way up to the freshman limit.

So that would be two over the scholarship limit – again, only if the Bulldogs enroll the limit of 25 freshman. Plus, it’s hard not to foresee a recruit or two not qualifying, or another player or two leaving for some reason.

I should point out that the Bulldogs had a few juniors “become seniors”, such as Charles White and Ben Harden. None of them ever said they were pushed out, but it’s very common for every program to have little-used players leave early.

Still, as the issue of over-signing gets more attention, clearly Georgia is not an egregious offender. If at all.