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Monday, February 28, 2011

Mark Fox on NCAA chances, his wife, and re-seeding

Mark Fox was asked Monday how he felt about his Georgia team’s chances to make the NCAA tournament. After ticking off its highlights, including its record in its “monster” of a division, he stopped short of saying the Bulldogs were in.

“I do think we still have to win a few games to feel comfortable,” Fox said on the weekly coaches teleconference.

So it was left up to the next coach on the call, Trent Johnson, whose LSU team visits Athens on Wednesday. He wasn’t asked, he just volunteered that Georgia has “probably locked up an NCAA tournament bid as we speak.”

That disparity in opinion is shared by some of the experts.’s Joe Lunardi has Georgia as a No. 11 seed, which is essentially barely in the tournament. (Lunardi doesn’t have UGA among his last four in.) But Jerry Palm ( and had Georgia as a No. 8 seed on Friday, before Georgia beat South Carolina.

“I think the one thing that we have done is we’ve won our share of games,” Fox said. “We’ve won our share of games away from home. We’ve won our share of games away from home and overall. And the other thing we’ve really avoided is we don’t have an ugly loss on our resume’ at this point. So we don’t have that blemish and we don’t need to add that.”

The family reunion

Johnson and Fox have talked often of how tight they are: Not only did they work together at Nevada, but while both were assistants at Washington, Fox was introduced to his future wife by Johnson.

“Most days I thank him for that,” Fox cracked on Monday.

(Fox tweeted last night that his wife was making him watch the Oscars. Perhaps Fox also thought the hosting performance of Anne Hathaway and James Franco was three hours of his life he’ll never get back.)

Fox and Johnson talked extensively about their friendship last year, the first time they coached against each other as SEC foes. Fox replaced Johnson as Nevada’s coach in 2004, and the pair have maintained what Fox called a “deep friendship” through the years.

“I don’t think I’m anywhere professionally without him,” Fox said. “He’s done so much for me professionally and personally. He’s really made an impact on my life.”

Re-seeding tournament?

The SEC’s practice of giving two teams from each division a bye in the SEC tournament continues to get a lot of discussion. Re-seeding the tournament by record and not division didn’t pass last year, but it looks certain to get discussed again.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, who reportedly was the only Western coach to favor re-seeding, reiterated that he expected it to come up in Destin again. And Alabama’s Anthony Grant, whose team will have the top seed out of the West this year, said he was “open to discussing changes.”

Fox said Monday that he favors re-seeding, but said so in a way to be careful not to tick off his colleagues in the West.

“Everything is cycles. And the last couple years the East has been maybe a little stronger. And there may be years where the West is stronger,” Fox said. “I think the one way to protect against that if things get out of balance is to re-seed for the tournament.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

SEC tourney: Breaking down Georgia's scenarios

Georgia finishes the regular season this week by playing LSU and then Alabama. Next week is the SEC tournament, where it’s very possible Georgia could play … LSU and then Alabama.

Here are the current SEC standings:

EAST …….. W-L …… Div.
z-Florida ……. 11-3 …… 7-2
Vanderbilt … 9-5 …….. 4-4
Kentucky …... 8-6 ……. 5-3
Georgia …….. 8-6 …….. 4-6
Tennessee …. 7-7 ………. 4-4
S. Carolina … 5-9 ……… 2-7

z-Alabama …… 11-3 ……. 8-2
Arkansas …..… 7-7 ……….4-4
Mississippi St. . 7-7 …….. 5-4
Ole Miss ….….. 6-8 .…….5-3
LSU ………..…. 3-11 ….… 3-6
Auburn ……….. 2-12 ….. 1-7

z-Clinched top seed

And here’s the SEC tournament schedule:

First round:

Game 1: W5 vs. E4, 1 p.m.
Game 2: E6 vs. W3, 3:30 p.m.
Game 3: E5 vs. W4, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4: W6 vs. E3, 10 p.m.

Game 1 winner vs. Alabama, 1 p.m.
Game 2 winner vs. E2, 3:30 p.m.
Game 3 winner vs. Florida, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4 winner vs. W2, 10 p.m.

The East is quite the muddle between second and fifth. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, the next is division record.

Georgia will lose a tiebreaker if it finishes in a two-way tie with any of the other three teams: Vanderbilt has the head-to-head sweep, while Kentucky and Tennessee will have better division records.

It only gets a bit better for Georgia if there are three- or even four-way ties. The first tiebreaker is record between the tied teams, but at best Georgia has the split with Kentucky and Tennessee. So after at least one team wins that tiebreaker, it goes back to division record, where Georgia will not have an advantage.

So basically, in order to avoid the fifth seed, Georgia needs to have the better win-loss record. And that’s entirely possible. The remaining schedule:

Vanderbilt …. At Kentucky, vs. Florida
Kentucky ….. vs. Vanderbilt, at Tennessee
Georgia ……. vs. LSU, at Alabama
Tennessee ….. at South Carolina, vs. Kentucky

Mathematically Georgia could still finish second: Vanderbilt would have to lose out, Georgia would have to win out, and Kentucky would have to lose at Tennessee.

On the other hand, fifth place is still a possibility, even if Georgia beats LSU: Tennessee wins out, Kentucky beats Vanderbilt and Georgia loses at Alabama.

But given all the tiebreakers, the fourth seed seems a decent bet. That would mean a first-round matchup with the West fifth seed, which almost certainly will be LSU. And the winner of that game gets Alabama.

Anyway, I think I have all this right. Feel free to correct any of my scenarios or math. But as near as I can figure, that's where it stands.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Georgia-South Carolina hoops blog

Final: Georgia 64-48

No drama. No blown lead. Just a win that puts Georgia one step closer to the NCAA tournament.

The Bulldogs cruised to this victory - or at least they did after some anxious minutes early in the second half. But the final part of the half finally allowed the fans to leave without reservation.

Mark Fox even got to clear his bench. He left the starters in until there was 1:13 left, when he called a timeout and sent in everyone else, including walk-on Matt Bucklin. That brought a warm response from the student section.

So where does this leave Georgia? I think it has breathing room now: Win one of its remaining regular-season games, and that might be enough to cinch up the bid. Win two more, including the SEC tournament first-round game, and that should also suffice.

6:34 left in second half, Georgia leads 63-40

Okay, it looks like the run of blown leads is ending. Georgia is in complete command of this one.

The Bulldogs have their biggest lead of the game, and Gerald Robinson can add to it after the timeout by completing a three-point play.

The defense has been the story for Georgia in not only holding onto the lead, but extending it. The rebounding has been solid, the perimeter defense stellar, and the Bulldogs are keeping their hands in the passing lanes, creating a lot of turnovers.

So, dare I say it, Georgia will almost certainly finish one up, and clinch at least a .500 record in league play. It's safe to write that, right? ... Right?

11:33 left in second half, Georgia leads 51-30

Georgia absorbed the run and built the lead back up to 21. So is there another run coming? I keep thinking there is, considering South Carolina, the 3-point shooting team, still hasn't hit one yet.

Of course it's also possible that the Gamecocks just aren't very good.

Plus, the Bulldogs have seemed pretty locked in mentally this game. After a few turnovers early in the half, their passing got crisp again, and they beat the press and got the open layups and dunks they were getting in the first half.

Oh, and one of those dunks was by Travis Leslie, who predictably adding to his highlight reel.

15:39 left in second half, Georgia leads 41-27

Were it not for the events of the past six games, everyone would assume the Bulldogs were a short time from putting it away. Instead, everyone seems to be awaiting the inevitable.

I'm not saying it will happen. But let's just say a relieved roar went up from the crowd just now when Jeremy Price threw down a dunk to end a 9-0 run for the Gamecocks.

The key is going to be Georgia's rebounding and defense. South Carolina still doesn't have a made 3-pointer, and there's no way it comes back if it doesn't start nailing outside shots. Georgia's perimeter defense, and its switching, has been very good this game.

Halftime: Georgia leads 39-22

For the seventh straight game, Georgia has the lead at halftime. And this one isn't even as big as the one it had in Columbia.

But ... OK, I know ... this one seems safer. Relatively speaking. The Bulldogs actually built on their lead after losing Trey Thompkins to foul trouble with around five minutes left.

Mark Fox said a couple nights ago that the defensive rebounding has been the difference in the second half collapses. He's right, but South Carolina's 3-point shooting also bears watching in the final 20 minutes. The Gamecocks live and die with the 3, and right now they're dying: 0-for-10 beyond the arc.

What I said earlier about Travis Leslie possibly having more highlight dunks? Yeah, he drove the lane and threw one down. The Gamecocks had no post presence without Sam Muldrow, who also picked up his second foul. If Muldrow picks up more fouls, South Carolina would be wise to play him anyway. Otherwise it has no defense inside for Thompkins, Jeremy Price and company.

The moral of the story: Georgia has the better team, and should be able to put its foot on the other team's neck. But we've said that before.

7:31 left in first half, Georgia leads 22-13

Georgia has retained control, though a 16-point lead has been whittled back into single digits. The press is starting to give the Bulldogs problems, but prior to that Georgia was getting a series of open layups, and South Carolina's shots were just not falling.

The key stat: Georgia is winning the rebounding battle, 17-9.

Jeremy Price just had an interesting couple minutes. In case you're not watching:

Price got the ball open downcourt, but instead of scoring himself, he tried to give Leslie an under-handed alley-oop pass. Leslie was fouled trying to throw it down, leading a livid Fox to yank Price from the game. (The crowd gave him an ovation, and even Fox sent Price away with a pat on the butt.)

Price’s “mistake” turned out to be a boon: Leslie missed the second free throw, but somehow rebounded his own miss and threw down a dunk. So there's your Leslie highlight of the night. But I'm not ruling out more.

13:56 left in first half, Georgia leads 12-4

Everyone is forgiven if they take an early lead with a grain of salt. But so far Georgia doesn't look like the short turnaround is affecting it much.

The Bulldogs have scored on a number of layups, getting good ball movement against South Carolina's trapping defensive style. The Gamecocks have also started cold again from the field, but the Bulldog defense has had a good deal to do with that.

So basically: Good start, but we all know that doesn't mean much.

Minutes from tipoff

They're doing intros now. I guess I don't have to tell you Georgia's key for this game: If it gets an early lead, HOLD IT. Hey, maybe the best thing is for South Carolina to be up at halftime.

Rebounding will be big in this one too. The Gamecocks have a very good center in Sam Muldrow, but not much else. Georgia should be able to get a lot of baskets inside, and with the Gamecocks' air-it-out style on offense, the key will be not letting them get many second chances.

South Carolina's basic strategy is to trade 3s-for-twos. But they also have Muldrow, the program's all-time shot block leader, to mitigate those open twos.

Then it also becomes a matter of Georgia being able to beat the Gamecock press and avoid the turnovers. It wasn't an issue in the first half in Columbia; but as you saw it was in the second.

Pregame thoughts

ATHENS - I don't know if Georgia will beat South Carolina - there's something that tells me this will be a really tight one - but the day is off to a pretty good start for the Bulldogs.

Colorado beat No. 5 Texas, which helps things for Georgia. Maybe not in a major way, but it adds to the value of the win over Colorado. The Buffaloes started the day ranked No. 85 in the RPI, so barring a collapse they will remain a top 100 win for Georgia.

Meanwhile, some other bubble teams had some bad losses: VCU lost at home to James Madison, meaning VCU probably needs to win the CAA tournament to make it. Nebraska's loss to Iowa State is a killer. Miami's loss at Florida State may be the last stake in the Hurricanes' at-large hopes.

On the other hand, Kansas State (over Missouri) and Boston College (at Virginia) got good wins. Kansas State is almost certainly in, but BC has a lot of work left to do.

This isn't good or bad for Georgia, but Alabama's loss at Ole Miss is definitely bad for the Tide. It drops to 11-3 in the SEC, and if it loses at Florida on Tuesday, it's game against Georgia on Saturday may be inconsequential; the Tide would probably have to win the SEC tournament to get a bid, or at least get to the title game.

Kentucky's win over Florida keeps the East a muddled picture, at least between second and fifth.

Washaun Ealey reinstated to football team

The suspension of leading rusher Washaun Ealey from the Georgia football team only ended up lasting a few weeks.

Georgia announced on Saturday that Ealey had been reinstated "to full team standing."

"Over the past few weeks, Washaun has done the things we expect him to do the things we expect all our players to do," Richt said in a statement. "He's been doing things the Georgia way, and will rejoin team activities Monday."

Ealey's suspension from team activities was announced on Feb. 8. The tailback, who would be a junior next season, was reportedly disciplined for missing a punishment run. But he said at the time that he wanted to return to the team.

Ealey, Caleb King, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome are set to get the carries in spring practice, which begins March 10. But incoming recruit Isaiah Crowell, who arrives in the summer, has a great chance to start, according to Richt.

Bubbly blogging: What to watch today

Obviously the most important game for Georgia's NCAA tournament hopes today is its own. It has a perfect record against teams outside the RPI top 50 - in fact Temple (32) is currently its "worst" loss. And the Bulldogs need to keep it that way.

But here are the other games worth keeping an eye on:

- Missouri at Kansas State, noon: Kansas State has played its way back into strong contention, and another high-quality win would push it further into the field.

- Arkansas at Auburn, 1:30 p.m.: The Razorbacks, at 104, are close to being a top 100 win for Georgia. Beating Auburn won't get them there, and I'm not sure how vital another top 100 win will end up being for the Bulldogs. But for what it's worth, it can't hurt.

- Texas at Colorado, 4 p.m.: A win here for the Buffs would be huge for their flailing NCAA hopes - and perhaps just as important for Georgia, which needs the help on its non-conference resume'.

- Florida at Kentucky, 4 p.m.:
The Gators have the SEC's top seed, so now it's a mad rush for seeding in the rest of the division. Vanderbilt probably has the edge for the other first-round bye. I've come around to the thinking that Georgia needs to get that third or fourth seed, in order to get a first-round game with Auburn and LSU. Winning that game may not help the RPI or the resume', but if the Bulldogs take care of business the next two games, just getting to Friday in Atlanta should be enough.

- Alabama at Ole Miss, 4 p.m.: The Tide are 19-8 overall and 11-2 in the SEC - but still have an RPI rank of 78. That's just too low, and the Tide's next game is at Florida. If Alabama were to lose today and at Florida, the regular-season finale against Georgia will be very, very important.

- UAB at Houston, 6 p.m.: Who knew that UAB would turn out to be Georgia's marquee non-conference win. The Blazers begin the day 34 in the RPI.

- Mississippi State at Tennessee, 6 p.m.: This is kind of a win-win, or lose-lose, for Georgia. A Tennessee win helps the Bulldogs' resume', RPI, etc. But a Vols loss helps the Bulldogs in that division seeding race.

- Duke at Virginia Tech, 9 p.m.: There are a ton of other bubble games out there, so I won't list them all. But this one is the one worth watching: If the Hokies were to knock off Duke, they will probably jump past a bunch of at-large contenders.

Bulldogs at the NFL scouting combine

Whether or not there's a lockout, there will be a draft, which means there is a combine. A plethora of former Georgia players are getting measured, weighed, poked and prodded up in Indianapolis.

Here's some news I've gathered from my sources. My sources being other media members who are actually up there:

- Could A.J. Green be bound for Ohio? Both the Cincinnati paper and Akron Beacon-Journal have stories on Green being a possibility for the Bengals or Browns.

Green also was asked about his jersey-selling NCAA suspension:

“You can talk to anybody I’ve been around and I definitely don’t have any character things,” he said. “It was bad advice, bad judgment on my part.

“Growing up I never faced any adversity like that so that really humbled me and showed me who was for me. I really tightened my circle down to the people I need to be around …”

Pete Prisco of also profiles Green, under the headline: "No sense of entitlement with A.J. Green, just immense talent." Prisco says that the suspension is not tainting Green's status with the image-conscious NFL.

Several other league sources said the reason for his suspension -- selling his jersey to a man the NCAA declared as a runner for an agent for $1,000 -- is not a big deal. The character, they say, isn't an issue.

Here's also a link to video of Green speaking at the combine.
- Few argued that Green should stick around for his senior year. But what of fellow junior Justin Houston, who also went pro? So far the talk is validating his decision, as the linebacker is getting a lot of first-round mention.

Houston gets mentioned as a "fast-riser" on this site. (The same site also ranks Akeem Dent as the 10th-best inside linebacker.)

The Baltimore Sun mentions Houston as a candidate for the Ravens to take in the first round. (They pick 26th.)

(The offensive players went through the gauntlet at the combine first, so that's why there's more news so far on Green and the following man):

- Clint Boling continues to impress scouts, following up his good performance at the Senior Bowl. mentions Boling in this post.

Boling spoke to the media in Indianapolis, saying his preference was to play tackle, and if that didn't work out he'd like to try guard.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A few minutes with Georgia's newest assistant football coach ...

Kirk Olivadotti grew up around football, which meant a lot of moving as his father Tom embarked on a long coaching career. Not that he wanted his son to follow him.

“My father always told me he was gonna punch me right in the face if I became a football coach,” Kirk said on Friday afternoon.

But during his sophomore year of college, at Purdue, Olivadotti decided to go into the family business. He changed his major to education, and soon enough he was coaching at places like Maine Maritime.

Olivadotti was hired last week as Georgia’s new inside linebackers coach, after 12 years in various coaching positions with the Washington Redskins. Here’s a few tidbits from an informal session Olivadotti had with the media assemblage on Friday:

- Olivadotti said he’s known Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham for about six years. As the new Georgia assistant put it, Grantham “worked with my old man” with the Houston Texans.

During the interview session, Olivadotti came off as rather laid-back and informal. But he said his philosophy with his new players won’t be to sit back and wait.

“They’re gonna run to the ball and they’re gonna hit something,” he said. “That’s what I told them the first meeting at the first day: You’re gonna play if you can run to the ball and hit something.”

The Redskins were primarily a 4-3 team during Olivadotti’s tenure, but they switched to a 3-4 just last year.

- Special teams duties are yet to be ironed out. Warren Belin, whom Olivadotti is replacing, coached the kickoff coverage unit, which ranked first in the SEC.

“We’re still sorting that stuff out,” Olivadotti said. “I’ve done pretty much everything on special teams, so that won’t be much of a transition for me.”

- Olivadotti said he’s spent the week since he was hired watching a lot of tape of returning players and incoming recruits. He didn’t want to get into personnel talk just yet, including whether Jarvis Jones will play inside or outside.

“We’ll figure all that stuff out,” he said. “That’s out of my pay rate right now. You can ask the higher-ups.”

- How long was Olivadotti with the Redskins? He coached under seven different head coaches, the first being Norv Turner.

“I’m not sure it’s weird for me because it’s just how it went,” Olivadotti said.

He said he’s talked “from time to time” with one of those former Redskins coaches, Steve Spurrier.

Not that his long tenure in Washington was perfectly continuous: He said he was asked to pack his office up a couple times, thanks to the coaching changes, only to be called back later. Marty Shottenheimer made him re-interview, and Olivadotti was only retained after a six-week hiatus.

- The Redskins had two former Georgia players on defense, and Olivadotti knows each well. He has texted back and forth with Philip Daniels – who warned Olivadotti that one of his complimentary texts about “coach O” had gone viral. Olivadotti also saw Kedric Golston at Redskins Park the day he took the Georgia job.

“He was all excited,” he said. “Kedric and I we go back a little bit because he was one of my first players when I was the defensive line coach. So if you ever want a Kedric Golston story we can get into that at a later time.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Georgia and its blown leads: The gory details

Here’s a quick breakdown of Georgia’s recent inability to hold a lead, particularly at halftime. Incredibly, it has led at halftime of each of the past six games – and only won three of them, needed to go to overtime in another and nearly lost the other two also.

at Florida

Halftime: Georgia by seven
UGA’s biggest lead: by 11, first half
Final: Florida 71, Georgia 62

at Tennessee

Halftime: Georgia by eight
UGA's biggest lead: by 14, first half
Final: Georgia 69, Tennessee 63

vs. Vanderbilt
Halftime: Georgia by six
UGA's biggest lead: by 13, second half
Final: Vanderbilt 64, Georgia 56

at South Carolina
Halftime: Georgia by 19
UGA's biggest lead: by 24, second half
Final: Georgia 60, South Carolina 56

vs. Xavier
Halftime: Georgia by one
UGA's biggest lead: by four, second half
Final: Xavier 65, Georgia 57

vs. Auburn
Halftime: Georgia by four
UGA's biggest lead: by 10, first half (and by eight in second half)
Final: Georgia 81, Auburn 72 (OT)

Here are a few other notable games:

at Arkansas
Halftime: Arkansas by three
UGA’s biggest lead: by seven, second half
Final: Georgia 60, Arkansas 59

vs. Florida
Halftime: Georgia by two
UGA’s biggest lead: by eight, first half (and by three in the closing seconds of first OT)
Final: Florida 104, Georgia 91 (2OT)

vs. Tennessee
Halftime: Tennessee by two
UGA’s biggest lead: by seven, first half
Final: Tennessee 59, Georgia 57

vs. UAB
Halftime: Georgia by 11
UGA’s biggest lead: by 15, first half
Final: Georgia 66, UAB 64

vs. Manhattan (Old Spice Classic)
Halftime: Georgia by seven
UGA’s biggest lead: by eight, second half
Final: Georgia 61, Manhattan 58

vs. Notre Dame (Old Spice Classic)
Halftime: Georgia by 12
UGA’s biggest lead: by 13, second half
Final: Notre Dame 89, Georgia 83 (2OT)

In all, Georgia has had the halftime lead in five of its nine losses.

Georgia-Florida hoops blog

Final: Georgia loses to Florida 71-62

A few postgame comments from outside the Bulldog locker room:

Mark Fox: “We’re not the most mature group when it comes to handling success, I'll say that. I think our leadership in those positions has got to improve. But that’s part of the process.”

Trey Thompkins on the second half: “They just seemed to start playing harder. It seemed like they were challenged, and they felt like they had to come out and play hard at home. And they did so.”

Travis Leslie on what's happening to Georgia in the second half: “I think we get a little comfortable because we’ve got the lead. Let teams back in it. Things go downhill from there.”

3:38 left, Georgia trails 63-57

The Bulldogs still have life, with Trey Thompkins headed to the line after the break. It was a 10-point deficit a few minutes ago, leading Mark Fox to burn his final timeout.

I need to start working on my deadline game story, which at the moment looks like it will be about Georgia once again coming up short in the second half.

7:31 left, Georgia trails 52-49

As I just tweeted - with tweeting and blogging and writing newspaper stories, you'll excuse me for repeating myself - Georgia can only hope that it has taken Florida's big run and is ready to make its own.

But it doesn't quite feel like that.

Florida is getting open looks and offensive rebounds, two things the Georgia defense was preventing in the first half. On the other end, the crowd seems to be getting to the Bulldogs, who are doing some silly things. Sherrard Brantley had no idea the shot clock was running down, and it expired without him even looking up. Jeremy Price started what looked like a one-handed throwdown, the kind only Travis Leslie should be attempting, and Chandler Parsons easily blocked it.

Still, it's only a three-point game and Leslie is heading to the line. So Georgia's far from out of this. The tone and momentum, however, are fully on the other side.

11:34 left, Georgia trails 47-44

The Bulldogs are in danger of unraveling here, and Mark Fox senses that. The Georgia head coach just used his third timeout of the half, meaning he'll only have one left with tons of time left.

It didn't help on the defensive end, as Chandler Parsons promptly sunk a 3. But Trey Thompkins answered with a hustling play that could result in a three-point play. (He has a free throw after the media timeout.)

Parsons has been the story of the half, but Georgia's offense has also been discombobulated. Fox's most recent timeout was precipitated by Jeremy Price barreling into the lane and throwing up a wild shot. Price was trying to draw a foul, but the officials weren't buying it, and Fox appeared to blame his player more than the official.

15:03 left in second half, Georgia leads 40-37

The Bulldog bench is a few feet in front of me, just like it was in Knoxville. And, in my effort to read too much into body language, I don't see much panic after yet another blown lead. Much like Knoxville, maybe that's because the lead was erased early, rather than a slow death march as in previous games.

We'll see if that matters. At the moment the bottom line is it's anybody's game.

For Georgia to take back control, it will need to get a handle on Chandler Parsons, who had seven points during the run that tied the game. The Bulldogs are doing a good job of keeping Florida C Vernon Macklin out of the game, but the Gators are starting to get open looks beyond the arc, which they weren't in the first half.

Halftime: Georgia leads 33-26

Georgia pretty much dominated the first half, shooting the heck out of the ball (15-for-25) and out-rebounding Florida 15-10. (It seemed like more. When even little Sherrard Brantley sneaks in for a defensive rebound, you know Georgia is having a big half.)

Florida did get a morale booster in the final seconds with an Alex Tyus stick-back. (Sorry, I originally wrote Parsons.) It was one of the only times the Bulldogs didn't box out well.

That said ... Georgia led by as many as 11 in the first half. It led by as many as 14 at Tennessee. The Bulldogs now lead by seven at the break. They led by eight in Knoxville.

Tennessee came back to briefly take the lead, then Georgia won anyway. What does the rest of this one hold?

3:24 left in first half, Georgia leads 30-20

Travis Leslie will be at the line trying to complete a three-point play after this media timeout. He has eight points, and things continue to go well for Georgia.

The Bulldogs' shooting - they were 9-for-10 in one key span - has been a big part of it. But its perimeter defense has been outstanding, preventing the Gators from taking control with 3-pointers, as they have in a lot of their wins this year.

Mark Fox has used his bench in a different manner tonight: Sporadic minutes for Vincent Williams and Donte' Williams. The latter Williams just had a good offensive rebound that led to Leslie's basket, and the former Williams saw some rare action at point guard.

Sherrard Brantley is also back in the game. Fox took him out right after his five-point spurt, perhaps sensing that Brantley was on the verge of getting greedy? I don't know.

9:26 left in first half, Georgia leads 21-12

Georgia has now extended its lead after five quick points by Sherrard Brantley. I don't know if it will last, but once again it looks a lot like the first half of the Tennessee game: The home team missing a lot of shots, Georgia defending and rebounding well, and having good focus on the offensive end.

I can't say enough about Georgia's boxing out the past two games. Trey Thompkins, Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price are not getting beat for rebounds the way they had been earlier in the SEC season.

12:50 left in first half, Georgia leads 12-10

Early on, Georgia has come in with the same type of energy and focus that it had at Tennessee. And just like up in Knoxville the scoring is spread around so far: Thompkins and Leslie with four each, Robinson and Price with two each.

Georgia went inside on its first three possessions, scoring on two of them. Then Leslie nailed a long jumper. The first 3-point attempt, by Gerald Robinson, was an air-ball, which obviously won’t encourage a change in strategy.

Georgia’s rebounding has also been stellar so far, including several put-backs that set up the fourth basket.

6:30 p.m.: Pregame thoughts

Gainesville, Fla. - Hello from the land of palm trees. It's a warm and sunny day down here, which made for a nice six-hour drive down from Athens.

Traffic was bad getting to the arena, but I arrived in time to see Florida's Chandler Parsons warming up. The senior forward, who missed Florida's previous game with a deep thigh bruise, looks set to play, and didn't appear in any obvious pain. Billy Donovan has said Parsons won't start, so look for Parsons to enter the game to a rousing, uplifting ovation a few minutes into the game.

Florida can clinch the SEC East with a win tonight, which is amazing considering how bunched-up the division has been. Georgia can mathematically still finish anywhere from first to sixth.

The good news for Georgia is that the win at Tennessee mitigates the "must-win" nature of this one. An upset of the 13th-ranked Gators could very well stamp the Bulldogs' at-large status for the NCAA tournament, while a loss wouldn't hurt much.

But Georgia needs to be careful: Its next game is a two-day turnaround, so while it will be favored to beat South Carolina at home, it's no sure thing. Over the next 48 hours, the Bulldogs need to go at least 1-1, or things will be really dicey.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Travis Leslie will not try to dunk over a car

You probably have by now seen the highlight of Blake Griffin jumping over a car during last weekend's NBA dunk contest. Well so has Georgia's Travis Leslie, who many would rate the best dunker at the college level.

Leslie liked the Griffin dunk, but offered a gentle critique.

“That was pretty impressive. But he kind of jumped over the front (of the car)," Leslie said, smiling. "I kind of expected him to jump over the middle. But it was still pretty impressive.”

Not that Leslie plans on trying to dunk over a car anytime soon.

“Definitely not," he said, laughing. "I’m not trying to lose my life right now.”

Leslie, a junior, might have a chance to participate in the NBA dunk contest as soon as next year, if he elects to go pro early. (And there isn't a prolonged NBA lockout.)

This year's dunk contest was notable for some creative entries: Not only Griffin, but JaVale McGhee (who played for Georgia head coach Mark Fox at Nevada) dunking on two baskets at the same time.

Leslie said he would follow suit with some creative entries.

“I haven’t thought about that right now, but if I had the opportunity to be in one now I’d definitely do a lot of stuff,” he said.

Maybe Leslie hasn't thought about it, but freshman teammate Marcus Thornton has thought about what Leslie should try.

“I have a couple things I have in mind for him, I’ll let him know,” Thornton said, declining to tell me before he tells Leslie. “I’ve seen Travis dunk for a long time so I feel like if he does get in the dunk contest he has a chance to make some noise one day. Hopefully that’ll be the case.”

Tennessee receives its notice: A ticking bomb, or the UConn treatment?

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the notice of allegations from the NCAA to Tennessee, which was posted on the school's web site on Wednesday morning.

There are four allegations against the men's basketball program and current head coach Bruce Pearl. There are three against the football program and its former coaches - i.e. Lane Kiffin and company.

Southern California, where Kiffin now coaches, also received a notice on Wednesday about the allegations against Kiffin.

I'm sorry, but this moment, and the irony of it, keeps popping in my head.

Here's what happens next, at least as far as the NCAA goes: Tennessee has until May 21 to submit its response, then has its hearing before the infractions committee on June 20-21.

Prior to that, of course, there could be further punishment, or more, for Pearl. He's already been suspended eight games by the SEC, and served that punishment. The timing of it will make UT's decision tough: If the hammer comes down it won't be until mid-summer at earliest, not exactly an easy time to make a coaching change. On the other hand, do you make a change right after the season, with every prospective candidate knowing that NCAA sanctions could be at hand?

This much is obvious: Tennessee wants to keep Pearl, or else he would have been fired already. The question going forward is whether it will be forced to change course.

Where Tennessee may have lucked out is with football. The NCAA notice refers to the "former head football coach" and "former assistant coach." And the charge against the athletics department is for "failure to monitor" the basketball program. So it's possible any football charges will only be applied to Kiffin.

Meanwhile, if I were Tennessee I would be a bit heartened by the NCAA infractions committee decision on the Connecticut men's basketball program. Well, at least I'd be heartened if it were a sign that the NCAA was being lenient, rather than just wildly inconsistent and selective.

UConn head coach Jim Calhoun was suspended for the first three Big East games of the 2011-12 season, after he was found to have failed to "promote an atmosphere of compliance." The case involved a former team manager turned agent who provided recruiting inducements, as well as impermissible text messages.

UConn was also penalized with scholarship reductions for three academic years, recruiting restrictions, permanent disassociation of a booster and three years probation.

As Gary Parrish of writes:

NCAA committee on infractions chair Dennis Thomas said it over and over again -- the head coach is responsible for everything that happens within his program. On behalf of college basketball writers from coast to coast, Mr. Thomas, let me tell you that we agree. But then why did Jim Calhoun only get a three-game suspension?

"We think the penalty is appropriate," Thomas said during Tuesday's teleconference to announce the sanctions levied against the Connecticut basketball program.

Rest assured, the committee members are among the only folks who feel that way.

Calhoun declared he was “very disappointed” in the ruling and would consult with his lawyer. You gotta admire the chutzpah.

If Pearl and Tennessee receive a similar penalty, I doubt they'll be very disappointed.

New bubble watch: Georgia on the brink?

It’s not quite time to start clearing your schedule for the third weekend in March, assuming Georgia will definitely be in the NCAA tournament. But it’s getting close.

Georgia’s win at Tennessee probably means that it makes the tournament as long as:

- It beats South Carolina and LSU to finish 9-7, at worst, in the SEC, and:

- The quality of the other at-large teams stays in its current weak state.

So that’s why I have Georgia’s bubble meter now all the way up to 80 percent.

There’s still room to slip – and the South Carolina game on Saturday, with the short turnarouond after playing Florida, is a potential trap game. But things are looking good at this point for Georgia.

The Bulldogs have not lost to a team outside the top 50 in the RPI. As near as I can figure, there’s only eight other teams can say that. (Kansas, Ohio State, San Diego State, Georgetown, Duke, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Cincinnati.)

In fact, Georgia’s worst loss, according to RPI rank, is Temple (33).

Here’s the current resume’ breakdown:

Record: 18-8 overall, 7-5 in the SEC
RPI: 38
SOS: 31
Record vs. top 50 in RPI: 3-8 (beat Kentucky, Tennessee and UAB, lost to Notre Dame, Kentucky, Florida, Xavier, Vanderbilt twice, Tennessee and Temple)
Record vs. top 100: 5-8 (also beat Mississippi and Colorado)

What happened Tuesday: From a division standpoint, Tennessee’s win over Vanderbilt didn’t help Georgia’s cause. By virtue of being swept by Vandy, the Bulldogs are unlikely to get past the ‘Dores for the first-round bye in the SEC tournament. So Georgia would probably like Tennessee to lose so it can avoid slipping to the fifth seed.

Then again it’s hard to tell right now how much the first game in the SEC tourney is going to matter; a win against Auburn or LSU may mean nothing at all, or it could be the clincher if it means that the Bulldogs’ bid will rest on its perfect record against weak teams.

The upshot of Tennessee beating Vandy is that the Vols might have been in danger of careening down the polls. Instead it looks like they’re going to stay a top 50 win – and loss – for Georgia.

A few other games did help Georgia: Illinois lost at No. 2 Ohio State, Coastal Carolina lost to UNC-Asheville (meaning Coastal will need to win its tournament) and Minnesota suffered a bad loss at home to Michigan State.

Just further evidence that the bubble isn’t hardening yet, it’s just staying weak.

What to watch Wednesday: Kentucky is at Arkansas. For RPI and SOS purposes, the Wildcats winning would help the Bulldogs. From a division-SEC seeding standpoint, a Razorbacks win would be best. So, take your pick.

As for notable bubble teams in action: Michigan hosts No. 12 Wisconsin, VCU is at Drexel, Marshall hosts Tulsa, Boston College hosts Miami, Colorado State is at No. 7 BYU, Missouri State is at Southern Illinois, Cincinnati is at No. 11 Georgetown, Florida State is at Maryland, Baylor is at No. 20 Missouri, Kansas State is at Nebraska (both are bubble teams), and Southern Miss hosts UNLV.

Colorado, which barely remains a top 100 win for UGA, is playing at Texas Tech.

Temple, another former UGA opponent, plays at No. 1 Duke. If I were some sort of anti-Duke person I’d say you shoot root against the Blue Devils regardless. But of course I’m not.

Up next for Georgia: If Chandler Parsons doesn’t play – or even if he does - it’s a great opportunity for Georgia to get another marquee win. It wouldn’t automatically stamp the NCAA ticket for the Bulldogs, but would come close. A loss wouldn’t really hurt them much – but considering the game is on national television, Georgia at least needs to put on a good showing. (Committee members have TVs.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And more mailbag ...

And here’s round two of the mailbag, in which we discuss basketball, Ken Malcome (who elicited not one but two questions), baseball, softball, space and time, trolls, Washaun Ealey ... really, this mailbag has had it all.

How much should I spend on an engagement ring? My girlfriend's friends were kind enough to pick out a 1-karat diamond. This seems unfair to me.

Also, let's be overly optimistic for once. Pretend Georgia wins out, then wins a game or two in the SEC tournament. What's the highest NCAA seed we could be looking at?
- Steve

What’s the rule on an engagement ring, three month’s salary? Or one month’s salary? Well, not an issue for me at the moment. (Engagement, not lack of a salary.)

Under that win-out scenario, Georgia would probably be in line for a seed between No. 5-7.Under the most likely scenario – two more regular season wins to get to 9-7, then one win in the SEC tournament, I would bet on a No. 9 or No. 10 seed.

Why does the Hoop Dog offense seem to sieze in the second half of every game. I know Leslie said they get complacent, but I hope that's not the issue at this level. Do they get rattled, or do they simply need some CoachT90X S&C/
- NCDawg

I don’t think it’s depth – at least in terms of minutes played. I think it’s depth in terms of they hardly get any production from their bench, meaning that too much responsibility is placed on the core group: Thompkins, Leslie, then Jeremy Price, Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware. I mean outside of a 3 here and there by Sherrard Brantley, they’re really not getting anything from anybody else.

I loved your post regarding all the basketball stats where you analyzed the areas that we are supposed to be weak in. With all that top notch research done, what is the problem if the numbers are in our favor?
- Bee

First off, thank you. I think the easy answer is that the Bulldogs have lost a lot of close games – their biggest margin of defeat was Florida, which was double-overtime. So when you figure in some blowout wins, the numbers are better. I guess I’d also argue with the premise that there is a problem: While yes, there have been disappointing losses, the team is 18-8 and 7-5 in the SEC. Not too shabby.

Thoughts on the "sources" from R&B's story yesterday on AM. this to go along with the non story during the season about CK?
- Watson Jones (via Twitter)

To be honest I’m not sure how much I want to wade into this one. Look, I worked at my college paper too, and I know what it’s like. Through my years in the reporting business I’ve had a few I’d like back too. And the original story on Murray actually would have been fine - not a major story, probably just a brief note, but still accurate - if it had just said he injured his ankle and the severity was unknown pending an examination.

I’m not going to be one who sits here and goes after a student reporter who at least is working hard and hopefully will learn from mistakes. My only question is, when it comes to the two stories you cited, where was the adult supervisor in all this? (My college paper didn’t have one, but my understanding is the Red and Black does.)

There hasn't been much said about Ken Malcome and how much he could possibly contribute to the running game. Is he just not that great of a running back, or are the others just that much better?
- Anonymous

I think it has more to do with Isaiah Crowell and the hype around him. I think Malcome will very much be a factor in the spring and possibly beyond.

The softball team is ranked pre-season number 1. Are there any other sports that UGA should be in contention for a championship this Spring? Golf, tennis, badminton, track, water polo?
- Anonymous

The UGA softball team actually moved into the No. 1 spot this week after an unbeaten start. As for the other sports: Women’s golf is a preseason No. 10, and the women’s tennis team was ranked No. 12 but just beat No. 9 Clemson.

What are the chances Crowell or 5 star RB's coming out of high school have a 1000yard + rushing season?
- Anonymous

A freshman at South Carolina did last year – 1,109 in fact. So yeah, I’d say it can be done, but it would probably be a good idea to keep the hopes on Crowell realistic until he actually has the starting job.

Are you a fan of comic books or comic book movies? What's your take on the latest batch of Marvel movies? Are you looking forward to Captain America, Thor, and/or the Avengers? If it helps spark your interest, Natalie Portman is in Thor, and there's a chance she may do something weird in it.
- Rick

Not a big comic boy guy. I thought the first two “Spider-Man” movies were good, and I’ll enjoy a good super-hero flick. But you won’t see me standing in line in costume for any movie. Well except maybe “Sense and Sensibility.” That Mr. Willoughby, what a dastardly harrumph!

Have you ever seen a grown man naked?
- Anonymous

No, but I do enjoy movies about gladiators.

At the handshake after the Vanderbilt game it looked like Coach Fox had something long to get off his chest and the Vandy coach just listened, smiling graciously.
Do you think Coach Fox had something to apologize for? I didn't see the technical foul and the crowd reaction just before the end of the game. Did something ugly happen?
- Anonymous

That’s honestly the first I’ve heard of anything between the coaches. I saw Fox stare down the officials, upset over the perceived lack of calls down the stretch. Fox was asked afterwards about the officiating and gave his usual no-comment, not wanting to incur the wrath of the SEC office.

Many Bulldogs were worried the S&C program would bring about a mass exodus of players. That has not been the case, what are you hearing from the players or others close to the program about the changes in S&C?
- Crap sandwich

Were many Bulldogs really worried about that? In any case, the feedback has been positive, and if any of it’s been negative, I seriously doubt Joe Tereshinski cares. And keep in mind, the most important feedback will be when the season actually starts.

In the new addition to the Butts-Mehre building, what's the point of having 15 yards of covered practice field? You can't even run a play in that thing! Why didn't we at least have 50 yards of a field covered?
- Eric

You’ve hit on something I’m curious about too.

Why does our universe have one time and three space continuams?
- Anonymous

Basically, just to screw with people.

So glad you opened this up. I'd love to have your take on this:
Is it possible to extend the Kronecker–Weber theorem on abelian extensions of rational numbers to any base number field?
- Anonymous

I’ll have to refer back to a response in the previous mailbag: I COULD give you an answer, but it would so intimidate and humiliate not only you but everyone reading it, so in the interest of modesty I’ll just kindly leave it alone.

What are your plans to get the trolls somewhat under control?
- PTC Dawg

Can’t everyone just ignore them? If I delete the comments, they just comment again. Set up a registration system, and they register, then re-register if they get banned, and the cycle goes on and on …

And by the way I don’t exactly have all day to monitor comments, and my job description does not include forum moderating. I do it anyway, but frankly I’d rather be spending my time reporting and writing rather than monitoring the forum.

What is up with our baseball team? I mean, we got swept by Stetson!!! Doesn't give us much hope for the year.
- Eric

Last year it was horrible pitching, although the hitting wasn’t too great either. Perno feels a bit better about the pitching this year, but that depends on a couple guys having better years. I wouldn’t jump off the building over the season-opening sweep, but yeah, you definitely have to see more before thinking this team is in for a major improvement.

At some point last year, we heard about former players speaking to the team about the UGA way. Any idea who they had speak before the bowl game? Do they have speakers for every game or is it bowl games? Who and how do they decide on speaking?
- Anonymous

It’s more of an informal thing, and not something Richt plans out for every game. I don’t recall any former players speaking to the team before the Liberty Bowl, and based on the results I’m not sure anyone would want to claim they did.

Question: What kind of bear is best?
- Anonymous

I thought this was another beer question before I read closer. Anyway, I’d have to say Brian Urlacher.

Why is the star QB allowed to play pick up soccer? I mean I understand the kid is supposed to have a life other than football, but c'mon, he is an elite QB, at an elite school (work with me here) in an elite conference. The kid should not be playing pick up soccer, BB or any other sport where he can get hurt. Go play some golf or something Aaron...
Is there any policy against this and if not, why not?
- Bulldawg

I don’t know, it would seem a bit reactionary to ban them from playing soccer just because of a sprained ankle. Especially when more than half the team rides around on scooters.

When is the G-day game this spring?
- Anonymous

That would be Saturday, April 16.

What's the deal with Washaun Ealey? Is he back in the good graces of the program yet?
- Anonymous

No change in status yet, I was told this afternoon. Still suspended from team activities.

In light of the recent struggles between the NFL player's union and the owners to agree on a new CBA I was wondering where the NFL coaches stood in this stand-off? We hear lots about the player's contracts, and the owner's books, but we rarely hear anything about the coaches and their assistant's contracts. Do NFL coaches side with the players or the owners/upper management? Could the lack of a forseeable CBA be pushing NFL coaches towards the college ranks next season, a la Coach O, or are they merely standing by awaiting the new CBA?
- Anonymous

Ostensibly, NFL coaches are management. But I get the sense they’ve got so much tunnel-vision they’re just worried about coaching the next game and don’t get too fired up with what side is right. Olividatti told The Washington Post that the lockout wasn’t a factor in his decision.

When do you think Georgia gets on the board for the Fulmer Cup? I'll set the over under at Mar. 11 (Start of Spring Break). I'll take the under. Although I don't know if they can duplicate the championship run from last year.
- Russ for UGA IX in ‘011


Why is "Colonoscopy for Dummies" advertised at the bottom of the page? That is creepy.
- Jonny

I hope it’s gone now. Yikes. If I went in for a colonoscopy – a painful enough thought as is – and saw Dr. Nick Riviera waiting for me, I’d probably just swallow the cyanide right then and there.

Why is your Twitter photo of Uga and not yourself?
- Andy

Gotta go with the better-looking picture.

Ye Olde Mailbag ... Part One

So it became obvious very quickly that the mailbag was going to set another record. Therefore, in a sincere effort to get to as many questions as possible, I've decided to break today's into two parts.

Here are the first set of questions I was able to get to, mainly the ones via e-mail and Twitter. I'll hope to post the second part in another hour or two. Thanks again for the questions, this is obviously becoming one of the more popular segments, and that's thanks to you guys. Good job.

Mr. Blog Man! What is the status of T.J. Strippling? It seems he is kinda lost in the shuffle from talks. Will he be ready?
- Roaddawg80 (via Twitter)

Stripling suffered a pretty serious knee injury last October (at Colorado), so his status for spring practice is doubtful. But if rehab goes well enough he could be a factor in the preseason.

Seth, it appears that the baseball team may be headed for two consecutive bad seasons. That's a change from their usual good year/bad year biennial oscillation. Is this trend (if it occurs) going to be enough to get Dave Perno fired, and does it suggest that our talent is lacking in a way that may endure beyond a Perno administration? Thanks.
-- Ryan, Atlanta

Perno has enough goodwill built up – he was one win away from a national title in 2008, right? – that it will have to get pretty bad again this year for a decision like that to happen. Then again, after getting swept by Stetson they’re off to a pretty bad start. Let’s see how the season goes. But it could potentially be a very interesting call for Greg McGarity, who had a quick trigger with the volleyball coach, but held firm on Mark Richt.

Hey Seth,
Is there any talks about the SEC officials stepping in and implementing similar rules to oversigning as the Big Ten?

McGarity wants to make it happen, as he told my colleague Gentry Estes at So I’m sure the issue will be paramount at the league meetings in Destin. The question is whether the bloc of schools that want it to happen – led by Georgia – are enough to get something passed if some other schools have objections. My hunch is yes, especially if Mike Slive is on board.

I was just hoping you might give me some insight into the evolution of the market economy in the southern colonies. My contention is that prior to the Revolutionary War, the economic modalities, especially in the southern colonies, could be most aptly described as agrarian pre-capitalist. Also, how was Black Swan?
- Seth Nixon

"Black Swan" was great. I don't want to give anything away, but if you're a guy and get dragged to this by a lady friend, as I might have been, don't despair. There are a few scenes in there with Ms. Portman and Ms. Mila Kunis that ... look, just go see it.

As for your analysis of the southern pre-revolution market economy ... I'd give you an in-depth answer, but it would be so erudite and comprehensive that it would make only make you feel inadequate, so I won't do that to you.

When was the last time you updated the links on the side of the blog? A lot of them are broken or very outdated. Your site is one of the few that isn’t blocked at work and occasionally I need some other things to read during the lull of Anklegate (is using -gate as a suffix still in?).
- Katie

First off, yes using –gate as a suffix will apparently be okay for perpetuity. Thanks, G. Gordon Liddy (and company.) As for blog link-gate, you’re correct that I’m way behind in updating them, in that I never have. I’ll admit is just hasn’t been a priority, plus the pending switch of the blog platform – which again should have no affect on anybody here – makes it easier to procrastinate.

Mr Blog Man,
Which two or three twitter personalitites you would follow for each SEC school?

Whew, that’d be a lot to list, and I honestly wouldn't want to leave any of my writer colleagues out. (Several of whom I owe money.) So let me just recommend that you go to to my Twitter feed and see who I'm following. I will say that my favorites are the ones who have a nice blend of beat info and off-beat sly analysis. Kyle Veazey of the Clarion-Ledger, who covers Ole Miss, may be the best at it.

Richt said at the start of the offseason that he was going to study up on the trends in college football, see what others were doing, and see what could be implemented into Georgia's system. Has there been any more indications about what real changes in scheme on offense could Georgia fans see this fall?
Do you get the impression that this is just lip service for fans seeking a change? And given how attempts to implement a "Wild Dawg" formation have largely sputtered, how risky is it for Richt and Bobo to implement brand new things during a "do or die" season, especially since scoring points wasn't the 2010 team's biggest problem?
- Edward W. from Dunwoody

Unfortunately, I’d only be speculating if I gave you a direct answer on this. I do suspect it’s a bit more than lip service, but it also doesn’t mean we’re going to see the spread option or any other drastic change. I think we’ll see a few new plays, maybe some new formations, things like that, but no major overhaul of the offense.

Seth, long time reader, first time emailer:
Where does Jenkins fit in if we rarely were in our base 3-4 Defense Last Year? I’m assuming he becomes a DT in Nickel Situations????
- Seth

Hi Seth, this is Seth. Thanks for taking the time to read. Todd Grantham actually estimated they were in their base 3-4 about 60 percent time of the time. (The rest was, more or less, the 4-2-5.) So Jenkins will be the nose in almost all situations. He's a big body, and they've got other guys they'll want to edge-rush. That's why Jenkins was so key to their recruiting, because now they feel they have the core of the front seven and can really attack with the 3-4 the way they want to.

Of course this is all assuming Jenkins is as good as he's being made out to be, which remains to be seen.

Steven Reeves gets greedy and checks in with a slew of questions:

1. Thoughts on the KO hire?

Keith Olbermann? Well I guess it helps Current TV a lot, since no one knew it existed, but – oh you meant someone else. I’m sure Kirk Olividatti is a fine coach. He has all that NFL experience, plus he’s still relatively young enough (37) that he’s not in this for a payday.

2. Any news or snippets - from bowl practices maybe, or early on in the offseason - on Mike Gilliard? Seems like he's a forgotten man in the ILB race but was very highly touted/recruited out of HS.

Gilliard hasn’t been mentioned much by the coaches, but the departures of Marcus Dowtin and Nick Williams should open up a chance for him to get on the field.

Beatles or Stones? Also, do you get a sense from the coaches that Richard Samuel is going to be a contributing factor this year? I’ve hated what’s happened to his career: played too young (17), and out of position for two years.
Matt Rushing, ARM

Beatles all the way. They’re the greatest and most important rock group of all time, and I don’t think there’s an argument. … I’ve thought for awhile that Samuel could start at one of the inside spots next fall. The key for him, with several recruits arriving in the summer, will be to show out as much as possible in spring practice. That goes for a lot of veterans, since only Christian LeMay and Chris Conley enrolled early.

What role will coach KO take over on special teams? Kickoff coverage? Is his scheme similar to Coach Belins?

That hasn’t been announced yet, and it’s something I’d love to ask Olividatti and/or Richt whenever we get a chance to meet with them.

What are the chances that Travis and/or Tre stay? On It looks like both of their stocks have dropped dramatically.
- Ezcorn (via Twitter)

I think they both still leave after this year, unless it appears the NBA lockout is going to be very serious. (Which there’s a better chance than the NFL losing games because of its impending lockout). But even then, remember that the instant players turn pro they can collect money from agents, sponsors, whoever. I’ve seen conflicting things lately on the pro stock of each player; last week’s Seth Davis posted comments from scouts on the top 60 prospects, and Thompkins and Leslie each got glowing reviews.

I hate Tennessee. Are they a sure thing for the tourney, or are they on the bubble like some think? Of their remaining games, what would have to happen for them to miss the NCAA tournament?
- Rick

I never liked “Tennessee” either. I mean the Arrested Development song. It’s too overwrought. But anyway … It’s funny, after Saturday’s game the talk in the media room flipped: Now Georgia was seen as well on its way to the NCAAs and Tennessee was in trouble. Personally I think they’ll both be in, but I’d rather be in Georgia’s position. Tennessee can’t slip up down the stretch.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
- Eked Russell

You’re one of the writers for the GEICO commercials, aren’t you?

Do you know of any other JUCO guys UGA might still be looking at for this year? Thanks!
- RevTJohnson

None that I know of. I think they’re done recruiting for the 2011 class, unless something falls in their lap.

Who's more annoying: true fan guy or guy that abbreviates Coach Mark Richt to CMR?
- Brian Koning (via Twitter)

My only hope is the coach-abbreviation thing is just a passing fad, and eventually goes the way of the Macarena, ska music and Justin Beiber. (OK, just kinda hoping on the last one.)

Is there a chance UGA will get pro combat uniforms for the Boise State game?
- JohnnySanders94 (via Twitter)

I haven’t heard anything about that. If that changes I'll pass it on.

What is your position on the role of government in supporting innovation in the field of biotechnology?
- Matt B.

Uh … (looking around) … er … I’d say it’s a good idea.

We recruited some pretty high profile linemen that were then injured - see Austin Long and Brent Benedict. How are they progressing and will they start to get some playing time. I appreciate that Mark Richt is loyal to his recruits and it probably helps his recruiting, but want to see if these guys are going to contribute to our offensive line.
- Ben

Benedict would be a candidate for a starting spot, but he had a pretty serious injury, so we’ll have to see. New O-line coach Will Friend said he simply start the best five, and I take him at his word – although it’s a good bet four of those five will be Cordy Glenn, Trinton Sturdivant, Ben Jones and Kenarious Gates.

What brand of chewing gum does Travis Leslie prefer ?
- Robert K. Burnham

I honestly don’t know, but when I see him tomorrow this will be the first thing I ask. I promise.

Hey Seth. have you seen these back up quarterbacks and their trick throws videos? what trick throws do you think murray does (on two good ankles) that these guys couldn't besides throwing touchdowns on saturdays?
- ZachD

Maybe that’s something to ask Murray. I’m sure he’s seen those videos – although I gotta think the coaches would prefer he spend his time analyzing defenses than trying to throw a football through a basketball hoop from 300 feet away while blind-folded and taking Jaggermesiter shots. (That wasn’t one of the trick throw videos. It was my Saturday nights when I lived in southwest Georgia.)

Call for the mailbag

It’s time for another in our (tepidly) popular segment, the ol’ mailbag. As has become our custom, please post your questions below, or email me at, or tweet at me, or stop me later this morning while I’m working out – actually don’t do that, please.

Things you should feel free to ask me about:

- Georgia football, men’s basketball and other sports.
- Geopolitics.
- What was the most recent movie I attended, and did Natalie Portman do anything very strange in it.

Things NOT to ask me about:

- The Carmelo Anthony trade. Pretty sure we're all sick of that.
- The standoff in Wisconsin. I can’t really figure out what’s going on there.
- How to get a good rental car. After my experience this weekend – when I got a car with a seat that has left me with intense back pain – you can chalk up another subject I’m not an expert on.

Otherwise, go crazy. If you can, please keep your queries to a reasonable length. And once there are enough questions – and hopefully no breaking news, or non-news that still breaks (cough, cough, sprained ankle, cough) - I’ll post the mailbag later today.

Fire away.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Murray has sprained ankle

Yup, no broken ankle for Georgia's starting quarterback. Aaron Murray only has a sprained ankle and "is expected to be ready for spring practice," according to a statement by UGA.

It was reported earlier in the day that Murray had broken his ankle in two places. But Murray's injury, suffered while playing pick-up soccer, didn't turn out to be that serious.

Murray had X-rays taken, which were negative, and an MRI on Monday confirmed a right ankle sprain, the school said.

Athletic trainer Ron Courson said, through a team spokesman, that Murray " would perform rehabilitation under the supervision of the sports medicine staff and is expected to be available for spring practice."

So basically: No big deal. Even if Murray doesn't heal quickly, the first spring practice isn't until March 10, and then the team takes 12 days off (spanning spring break) until its second practice. The G-Day game is April 16.

Regarding Aaron Murray's injury ...

A few of you may have seen the reports of Aaron Murray suffering an ankle injury. I haven't been able to confirm that, and UGA has not released any info yet.

One source I spoke to, however, said it was a foot, and not an ankle injury, and does not think it's very serious. Murray sustained the injury over the weekend and was set to be examined on Monday, I was told.

One thing to remember: Georgia has scheduled its first spring practice for March 10, the day before spring break, and then doesn't practice again until March 22. So conceivably Murray could be held out the first spring practice and then have nearly two weeks to heal. At least that's the scenario offered by the source I spoke to.

Until we get some word, and a prognosis from UGA, I'd be careful about any additional speculation.


UPDATE: UGA spokesman Claude Felton said Murray "had some kind of leg/ankle/foot injury" and was being examined by medical personnel early this afternoon. Felton expects an update between 3-4 p.m.

What UGA's new football assistants will be earning

Will Friend will be earning $200,000 as Georgia’s new offensive line coach, and Kirk Olivadotti will be getting $250,000 to coach the inside linebackers. That’s according to UGA’s open records office.

The two newest UGA assistants will both be on one-year deals.

Stacy Searels, who Friend is replacing, received $301,200 at Georgia. (He received a raise up to $425,000 to take the same position at Texas.)

Warren Belin, the previous ILB coach was earning $190,000 at Georgia. His new deal at Carolina hasn’t been announced, but it almost certain is a substantial raise.

Todd Grantham is the highest-paid UGA assistant, at $750,000. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is earning $325,000 and Rodney Garner is at $290,000.

Georgia could be facing a Parsons-less Florida

Florida looks like it will be without one of its top players when it hosts Georgia on Thursday.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons missed Sunday’s game at LSU and head coach Billy Donovan said Monday he isn’t “overly optimistic” that Parsons will play against the Bulldogs.

Parsons has what Florida has described as a deep thigh bruise. Donovan said the staff will prepare as if Parsons will not play, and if he did it would be “a bonus.”

“Right now I’m not personally overly optimistic that he’ll play,” Donovan said on the weekly SEC teleconference. “I think in his mind he wants to play and will try to play. But the last time he did anything physically was last Friday and couldn’t get anything done at all.”

Donovan added that it was a “unique situation” because of the Gators having a lot of games in a short period of time: The first-place Gators have a Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday setup.

Parsons is Florida’s leading rebounder (7.7 per game) and is averaging 10.8 points a game, fourth on the team. He had 18 points and 12 rebounds in Florida’s double-overtime win over Georgia on Jan. 25.

Georgia head coach Mark Fox said he would prepare as if Parsons is going to play, and then if it turns out he doesn’t, “we’ll adjust accordingly.”

“Obviously yesterday was the first time we were able to see them without him,” Fox said. “He’s a great player, an experienced player, and a versatile player. But they also have a very deep team, an experienced team, that I thought responded well in his absence. We’re going to prepare as if he’s going to play and then if he doesn’t we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Florida still has starter Alex Tyus, as well as sophomore Erik Murphy (a 6-10 sophomore) and freshman Patric Young (a 6-9 freshman.) The latter two saw increased playing time at LSU.

The Florida game is an important one for Georgia, but not a vital one as far as its NCAA tournament chances. The win over Tennessee probably puts Georgia on the safe side of the bubble, at least for now.

Georgia is ranked 37th in the RPI as of Monday. It now has three wins against top 50 teams: Kentucky (16), UAB (32) and Tennessee (33). The Volunteers are also the lowest-ranked team that the Bulldogs have lost to, another reason the Bulldogs are on the right side of the bubble.

Florida (21-5 overall, 10-2 in the SEC) is ranked 13th in the RPI.

Monday football fix: Olivadotti speaks, the NFL combine and "Three Amigos"

Newest Georgia assistant coach Kirk Olivadotti is expected to speak to the media here in Georgia sometime soon. In the meantime, he has discussed his decision to take the job with The Washington Post.

Olivadotti left the Washington Redskins after 12 years, which made him that team's longest-tenured coach. He told The Post that the pending NFL lockout had no impact on his decision. The call to go from the pro to college ranks had a lot to do with wanting to work with Georgia defensive coordiantor Todd Grantham, who himself left the NFL a year ago after nearly a decade there.

"These opportunities don't come around but every so often," Olivadotti said in a phone interview. "But I really got excited about it after talking to Todd, who I've known for years, and with him having been in Dallas, he has seen the results of my work and the players I've coached in the NFL. This was just a great opportunity to join him, and then in talking to coach Mark Richt, and to compete in the SEC, it was just great."

Georgia fans will also like this quote from Redskins linebacker and special teamer Lorenzo Alexander:

"K.O. was awesome," Alexander said. "He was always a guy I could trust to give me an honest opinion about how I was playing and was very instrumental in every defensive and special teams position. He is a coach that knows a lot about every position. He has been here so long, working his way up the ranks, and I appreciate that. Those Georgia boys will definitely be happy."

NFL combine

Meantime, there may be a lockout, but there will still be a draft and therefore there will still be a combine. It begins Thursday, and a plethora of former Bulldogs will be there.

(In case you weren't sure exactly what "plethora" means, this should help. "Three Amigos" is a very underrated '80s comedy.)

The Georgia players who received invites in January were OL Clint Boling, OL Josh Davis, DE Demarcus Dobbs, LB Akeem Dent, FB Shaun Chapas, DB Vance Cuff, WR A.J. Green and DE-LB Justin Houston.

NFL analyst Mike Mayock told The New York Times that Green is a top 10 pick, and is very impressed with the former Georgia star.

"So if you’re ever going to look at a wide receiver and say this is the guy that fits any offense, I think A.J. Green’s the guy."

Mayock also says (much later in that very long blog post) that he thinks Houston is "more of a second round guy." But here's one mock draft, by The Buffalo News, that has Houston going No. 30 to the New York Jets. (Insert your own Rex Ryan foot-work joke here.)

Finally, Mayock also told another newspaper, The Tacoma News-Tribune, that Boling could be a second-round pick too.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

SEC tourney scenarios, and why re-seeding may not solve things

When the East dominated last year in men’s basketball, there was talk about the need to re-seed for the SEC tournament. At last year’s SEC spring meetings, the basketball coaches met behind closed doors – but not closed enough that word eventually leaked out – and opted not to re-seed.

It was pretty clear the Western coaches put a block on it, publicly saying that the imbalance between the division was just cyclical.

Well, guess what? That cycle is lasting another season.

The league’s top five teams, according to the RPI, are all in the East. And yet if the season ended today only two of them would get byes in Atlanta, while two western teams, including one that had a losing record entering the weekend, would get the first round off.

Fair, ain’t it?

Here’s how it would go as of today, using tiebreakers:

First round
W5. LSU (10-17, 2-10) vs. E4. Georgia (18-8, 7-5).
E6. South Carolina (13-12, 4-8) vs. W3. Ole Miss (17-10, 5-7).
E5. Tennessee (16-11, 6-6) vs. W4. Arkansas (16-10, 5-7)
W6. Auburn (10-17, 2-10) vs. E3. Kentucky (19-7, 7-5).

W1. Alabama (18-8, 10-2) vs. LSU-Georgia winner
E2. Vanderbilt (20-6, 8-4) vs. South Carolina-Ole Miss winner
E1. Florida (21-5, 10-2) vs. Tennessee-Arkansas winner
W2. Mississippi State (14-12, 6-6) vs. Auburn-Kentucky winner

Not only is this scenario unfair to the East in general – Mississippi State gets a bye but Kentucky and Georgia don’t – but it doesn’t help a team like Georgia if it enters Atlanta still on the NCAA bubble. Playing LSU (or Auburn) won’t help at all, and then it would have to play a team in the quarterfinals that had a day off.

So how different would it look if it were re-seeded? As of today:

First round byes:
1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Vanderbilt
4. Kentucky (tiebreaker over Georgia, better record vs. top teams in league)

First round
5. Georgia vs. 12. Auburn .... winner plays Kentucky
8. Ole Miss vs. 9. Arkansas .... winner plays Florida
6. Mississippi State vs. 11. LSU ... winner plays Vanderbilt
7. Tennessee vs. 10. South Carolina ... Alabama

So this is a bit more fair in terms of first-round byes. But as it turns out, Georgia is opening against an even worse team, then playing a tougher one in the quarterfinals. Whether that’s good or bad could go both ways. A loss to Kentucky would be more acceptable to the selection committee than one to Alabama.

In any case, does re-seeding solve the problem?

You could make an argument that the issuee isn’t the SEC not re-seeding the tournament - it’s having divisions in the first place. The ACC and Big East don’t do it, even though the ACC does it for football and the Big East has almost as many teams as the NBA.

The SEC likes having the divisions because there’s consistency – you know you’re playing five teams twice a year, and six teams just once. There’s a lot of merit to that.

But it’s always going to make it tougher for teams like Georgia and South Carolina. The fact is Kentucky – other than the occasional blip – is always going to be a force, Florida is looking like it will be that way too, and Tennessee and Vanderbilt care a lot about basketball.

Whereas the West doesn’t have a program that’s been consistently good for awhile. The teams there just lack the tradition and, it seems, the passion and dedication to basketball as its counterparts in the East.

Simply put: While nearly every SEC school pours resources into football, less than half of them also do in basketball - and the vast majority of them are in the East.

So the chances are the inequity between divisions, and the issue of whether to re-seed, will be around for awhile.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hoops blog: UGA at Tennessee: Gus, Gus, Gus!

Final: Georgia 69, Tennessee 63

Just a big, huge, important win for Georgia. And it came after blowing a lead - then coming back again, and this time holding on.

Dustin Ware hit four free throws in a row, after missing two in a row. Then Gerald Robinson had a key strip, leading to an open-court Jeremy Price dunk that sealed it.

Robinson was huge down the stretch, especially with his layup to extend the lead to five.

Such a key win for Georgia's NCAA hopes. The way it sets up now, I think if Georgia wins out at home (LSU and South Carolina), and the bubble stays the way it is, I think the Bulldogs should be good for an at-large bid.

3:37 left in second half, Georgia leads 58-52

Late in the first half, when Tennessee started to come back, I was thinking that it might be good for Georgia to go ahead and fall behind, rather than try to hold on to a lead. Well, that's proving true. But for how long.

At least give the Bulldogs credit, they took the Tennessee run and have come back from it to lead by as many as four. The defense and rebounding on that end have been very good, allowing the Bulldogs to get back to basics on the offensive end: Attack the rim and go for high-percentage shots.

It's working. Travis Leslie just made a banker, and after a timeout has a chance to extend the lead to seven. The next two minutes - and whether UGA stays good on the defensive end - may decide it.

11:39 left in second half, Tennessee leads 45-43

Well that was quick, huh? Maybe the silver lining for Georgia is that the inevitable blown lead has occurred, so now it can take a deep breath and proceed.

Jeremy Price's frustration was evident a minute ago, when he was given a technical after saying something to Steven Pearl. Sitting a few feet from the Bulldog bench, I also can read the wariness on the players' faces.

15:40 left in second half, Georgia leads 37-32

You can just sense it going away again for Georgia. It's playing sloppy, it can't stop Scotty Hopson, the crowd is getting into it.

The one upshot for Georgia: It still has the lead. And Tennessee, in my opinion, isn't as good as Vanderbilt. So a well-timed run here could go a long way.

But it needs to get Thompkins going. It just can't afford another low-scoring game from its star.

More halftime thoughts

Georgia came out of the locker room earlier than normal for its halftimes. I'm guessing Mark Fox didn't want them in there thinking about possibly blowing another lead, so he got them back out on the court as quick as possible to just shoot.

It's funny. The media members covering Tennessee are talking about the Vols' issues, wondering if they can come back, etc. But the trio of us from Georgia that made this trip are pretty much saying, "Yup, we've seen this before."

If the Bulldogs could hold on, though, it would be huge, no doubt.

Halftime: Georgia leads 33-25

So ... Georgia is up nearly double-digits at the break. Under normal circumstances that would be cause for optimism for UGA, but given recent games, you're forgiven for feeling wary.

That said, obviously better than be ahead than behind, especially on the road. And if not for Scotty Hopson (11 points) and Tobias Harris (nine), Tennessee would be way behind.

Travis Leslie (nine points) and Dustin Ware and Jeremy Price (six points each) are leading the way. But Trey Thompkins has been held scoreless since getting five in the first few minutes.

The Bulldogs have also been a bit sloppy, committing eight turnovers. (The Vols only have four turnovers, but are 9-for-32 from the field.)

You have to figure the Vols will shoot better in the second half. So then it comes down to the Bulldogs being able to answer them shot-for-shot - and better yet, put together another run a bit later in the half. (They had second-half runs in both previous games, but early.)

Maybe Georgia can win by holding on. But the evidence of the past few games tells me it needs to put the Vols away, and convincingly. Let's see if the Bulldogs have that in them.

9:17 left in first half, Georgia leads 22-7

So, if we hadn't seen Georgia the past week, we would say the Bulldogs are running away with this.

Tennessee is struggling mightily (2-for-15 from the field), while Georgia is applying the juice to the tune of a 17-0 run.

Let's see what Georgia does, now presented with a big lead for the third straight game. I don't want to sound like a coach here, but get up by 23 (like at South Carolina), you need to go up 30. Get up by 14 (like against Vanderbilt) you need to make it 20.

11:58 left in first half, Georgia leads 16-7

I know that the key lately has been Georgia not finishing games - but the Bulldogs are off to a pretty good start here in hostile territory.

There's been help from an abundance of quarters: Trey Thompkins started it, looking like he was following through on his vow to be more of a factor. As for the other starters, I wasn’t too impressed with the the activity the first few minutes – then they woke up: Leslie with one his patented throw-down dunks, Ware with a nice assist and a 3.

And when Jeremy Price drains a long jumper, you know he's feeling it.

On the other end, it also helps that Tennessee has four airballs.

Is it too early for me to point out that in the past two games - at South Carolina and against Vanderbilt - Georgia didn't put its opponents away when it should have? Yes, it's probably too early. But the point remains.

12:40 a.m.: Pregame stuff

As you know, Bruce Pearl is coaching Tennessee today, unlike the first game against Georgia.

(Unless something else comes out about Cam Newton and/or Auburn in the next half-hour, in which case the SEC will suspend Pearl again.)

Georgia hasn't won here at Thompson-Boling arena in 10 years. So maybe that's why - despite the Bulldogs having a better overall record, and an equal record in the SEC - not many people are favoring them to win this one today.

Then again, Georgia has been so much better on the road, so maybe the change of venue will help. The road wins haven't been too impressive - Ole Miss, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Mercer and Saint Louis. But they're road games nonetheless, so ... we'll see.

11:30 a.m.: Mr. Blog Man arrives

Knoxville, Tenn. - Okay, time to break down Georgia's critical game here at Tennessee, and what the Bulldogs have to do, starting with containing the lane, forcing transition and -

OMG OMG OMG Gus Johnson is calling this game!!!!! Gus freaking Johnson!!!!

You know it's a big one when Gus is on the call. It makes me jealous for those of you who didn't make the trip and will be able to enjoy it from home. It's uncanny: Gus is on the call, and crazy stuff happens, and he's there to call it like the Hindenburg is going down.

In case you're not familiar with Gus' work, here are some samples:


This too.

And it's not just college basketball. Here's an NFL sample.

Basically, if Gus Johnson had called Georgia Tech-Cumberland, it would have been 222-221.

Friday, February 18, 2011

NCAA tourney selection committee picks Georgia

Well, the pretend one at least.

Each year, a few weeks before the real tournament field is selected, the NCAA invites some media members to simulate the process of selecting the field. And over the past couple days that mock committee met in Indianapolis, and just completed its picks.

Georgia (17-8, with an RPI rank of 46) did indeed make the field, as one of the last four teams in. So there you go.

The mock committee is mainly put together so media members (this year it had guys like's Seth Davis, Andy Glockner and Andy Staples) can have a better understanding of the process. Each media member is assigned the role of a real committee member, and can’t vote for “their” teams, or teams from “their” leagues.

But since it follows the eventual process so closely, it’s also a useful tool to see where teams are at this point. And the above media members were kind enough to give us a blow-by-blow of the process via their tweets.

As the field was whittled down, Georgia was among the final 12 teams being voted on for six-to-eight spots (which depended on conference tournaments. The mock committee had mock Sunday scenarios too.)

Those final 12 at-large candidates: Baylor (16-8, RPI of 64), Boston College (16-9, 42), Butler (18-9, 45), Cincinnati (20-6, 47), Colorado State (17-7, 39), Florida State (18-7, 51), Georgia, Gonzaga (17-9, 68), Marquette (15-11, 66), Michigan State (13-11, 48), Utah State (23-3, 24) and Virgnia Tech (17-7, 57).

Notable teams that didn’t make the cut for the final vote included Alabama (17-8, 83), Richmond (20-7, 69), Clemson (17-9, 79) and Oklahoma State (16-9, 52).

From that first group, Georgia was voted in on the first ballot along with Butler, Cincinnati and Utah State. The next at-large spots went to Florida State and Gonzaga.

One mock committee member, Jerry Palm of and, tweeted late on Thursday night: “Say what you want about Georgia, at least it takes a good team to beat them.”

Palm pointed out that “SEC teams sure know how to stink it up once in awhile,” citing that Alabama has lost to four teams ranked below the RPI top 100, Tennessee and Florida have three each of those too, and Vanderbilt has two.

Georgia, meanwhile, has lost all eight games to teams in the top 50. But it’s only beaten two teams in the top 50.

Still for what it’s worth, at this point in time Georgia’s lack of bad losses was impressive enough to make the field … sort of.

Olivadotti officially announced as inside linebackers coach

Kirk Olivadotti is officially on board as Georgia's newest assistant coach.

UGA announced on Friday morning that Olivadotti, who spent the past 11 years with the Washington Redskins, will be the inside linebackers coach. That's the same title that Warren Belin held before leaving a couple weeks ago to be the Carolina Panthers' linebackers coach.

"It's exciting to have this opportunity to work with Coach Richt, his coaching staff and players," Olivadotti said in a statement released by UGA. "I want to thank him for his confidence in what I can hopefully bring to the program. I also want to thank Mr. Snyder and the Redskins for the last 11 years in Washington and the NFL."

Head coach Mark Richt, also in one those handy team-released statement, stated:
"In hiring an assistant, we look for someone who first is at the top level in football knowledge and competency. Then we want someone who is a teacher of the game, be an example for young men, and can serve as a mentor for our student-athletes. We found all those qualities in Kirk."

One issue that remains to be resolved is what happens with Belin's special teams coaching duties. Belin coached the kickoff coverage unit, which ranked first in the SEC. Olivadotti did assist in coaching the Redskins' special teams during a portion of his time there.

Olivadotti was the Redskins' linebackers coach from 2007-09, then had a more general "defensive assistant" title last year. (Unlike in college, the NFL has no limit on the amount of assistants a team can have.)

During his time with the Redskins, Olivadotti also coached the defensive backs, assisted with coaching the defensive line and was a defensive quality control coach.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Toomer's Corner trees: Just the latest debacle in SEC land

The poisoning of the trees at Toomer’s corner, and the reaction it’s getting, would seem to just be the latest “only in the SEC” moment for the league. Except for the utter ridiculousness of the whole thing.

The action itself, apparently by a lunatic Alabama fan, was both vicious and stupid. The reaction by some Auburn fans – equating it to the murder of a relative – doesn’t help.

You might say this is an Alabama thing. Sure, it looks worse in that state, especially after one arch-rival answered the other’s national championship.

But we’ve all been around the SEC long enough to know it’s not totally limited to one state. Just last night I witnessed grown men berate three basketball officials as they walked off the court, with at least one object (I think it was a towel) going in their direction.
And just imagine if that happened in football.

There’s an obsession these days to try to find a “teachable moment.” I’m not sure this will be it, because in a few days everyone will have moved on to the next big topic.

But in this part of the world, some people – specifically, fans, administrators and media that cover the SEC – should be wondering if its time to try and get a handle on things.

People around the country are shaking their heads at the SEC. They have been for awhile. They admire the passion and success the league has in football. But most also see the other stuff – the scandals, the NCAA investigations, the tree-poisoning – and form judgments that reinforce stereotypes about the South. Fair or not, that’s the case.

Meanwhile, those of us down here also shake our heads, laugh and move on to the next big story that really shouldn’t be a big story.

Everyone’ s a bit guilty. The league and its schools try to keep things in balance, but do so while cashing huge checks from CBS, ESPN and other outlets.

Most fans, on an individual basis, are reasonable. But the ones calling talk radio and posting on blogs and message boards sometimes have trouble keeping their rhetoric in line. And a lot of these fans never actually attended the schools they’re so emotionally invested in.

Those of us in the media aren’t totally innocent either. Radio hosts talk about anything that will drive calls. Writers and editors, those of us who should be the keepers of the journalistic flame, are lately now more worried about stories that produce web hits and reader comments.

Part of the problem is there isn’t too much else going on down here: Pro teams are limited to Atlanta, Nashville and Florida. Then again, the presence of the Braves, Falcons and Hawks doesn’t tamp down interest in the Bulldogs. (Whose fans, since I cover this beat, I will now point out are all civil and rational. At least most of the time. ... And as long as I'm using parenthesis, I should also point out that I attended a non-SEC school, Maryland, whose basketball fans have been known to take it too far.)

Look, the SEC is a great league because of the passion down here. But how much passion is acceptable? How far do you push? Are we covering/working/rooting at schools that happen to have football teams, or creeping dangerously close to European soccer?

We all just need to take a deep breath, and get a grip. Today a few trees, tomorrow a team mascot, the next day …