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Thursday, March 31, 2011

A quick blog personnel note

Mr. Blog Man is headed to the DL.

But hopefully only for a short amount of time.

After braving it for a few days, I've finally been sat down by the doctors, who have diagnosed me with strep throat. So I will be unable to attend spring practice interviews the next few days; and because it physically hurts to speak, I'll also be unable to do much work via phone.

In the meantime, whatever work I'm able to perform from my deathbed keyboard I will still post. And in the event of a miraculous recovery, I'll be out there by the weekend asking my usual array of tough, hard-hitting questions. ("Claude, where's the coffee?")

I'll be fine. See you soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Auburn allegations: And the offseason fun continues for the NCAA

If you want to watch HBO tonight, tune in at 8 p.m. to watch "Cop Out," a ribald comedy starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan that got a 19 percent rating from

And if you wait a couple hours later, HBO will also air allegations from four former Auburn football players that they received cash.

I'm sure you've heard or read about it already. If not, here's a link on the web site.

The SEC released a statement Wednesday night in advance of the program:

“We are aware of some of the information to be aired during this evening’s HBO Real Sports. Representatives from Auburn University, representatives from LSU and the SEC office have communicated with the NCAA Enforcement Staff. The involved institutions and the NCAA staff will pursue the allegations in a timely manner.”

This is obviously another knock against Auburn, which doesn't exactly enjoy a pristine reputation. And it's another knock against the SEC, since LSU is included in the allegations - but so is Michigan State.

Indeed, the offseason headlines continue to be negative for college football.

You have the Fiesta Bowl fiasco, where its longtime CEO has been fired because of lavish expenditures for strip club visits and his birthday party, all billed to the bowl. The BCS reacted by saying it would review the Fiesta Bowl's spot in the BCS.

Of course, as Yahoo's Dan Wetzel points out, the Orange Bowl conducts its own lavish cruise party - attended by one of the members of the panel that filed the report on the Fiesta Bowl.

Meanwhile, the PBS program also weighed in on the NCAA, with an interview of NCAA president Mark Emmert that ... well didn't make Mr. Emmert look too great, from all accounts. You can watch the program here.

And you have the ongoing saga of Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Despite the best efforts of Tressel - who keeps suspending himself, only to have something else come out - this story isn't going away yet. That's because the NCAA hasn't weighed in on Tressel's impropriety.

Most of the illicit stories are just involving college football. Of course, it bears pointing out that one of the national semifinals involves one coach suspended for three games next season (Jim Calhoun) and another whose previous Final Four trips have been vacated (John Calipari).

So all of this is bad, obviously, and leads to a lot of righteous indignation. It leads to a lot of talk about more investigations, and reform, and all that good stuff.

But who among us thinks anything will actually come of that? What's the motivation for change with all that money the NCAA and its schools are making?

Believe it when you see it.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to watch "Cop Out." Mindless comedy. Reminds me of something.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From the coaches' mouths: Updates on Ealey, the offensive line, Ogletree and others

The Georgia assistant coaches were available to the media after Tuesday's spring football practice. So here are some notes and quotes from them.

And feel free to chime in with any corrections or point out any typos, as I'm severely under the weather. I'd say I'm sick as a dog, but then I look over at Archie bouncing around, wondering why he's not getting a walk today. And now frankly I'm wondering where that saying ever came from.

But anyway ...

- Washaun Ealey didn’t practice on Tuesday because of a left hamstring injury. The team said the tailback was "day-to-day" (aren't we all), and running backs coach Bryan McClendon said it was "nothing serious."

The tailbacks are in an interesting spot this spring, with highly-touted recruit Isaiah Crowell set to arrive in the summer. McClendon said he speaks "a bunch of times a week", but added that the competition is "wide open."

McClendon said all four scholarship tailbacks - Ealey, Caleb King, Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas - are getting reps with the first team.

"I tell them, let's worry about today. And the guys that are scholarship now are Caleb, Washaun, Carlton and Ken Malcome," McClendon said.

- Cordy Glenn and Trinton Sturdivant are playing both tackle spots, according to new offensive line coach Will Friend. Glenn shifted from guard after last season, and Sturdivant, who has had two knee surgeries, has only played left tackle in his career.

But for depth reasons, Friend says one or both of them will have to be able to play both tackle spots. Since quarterback Aaron Murray is right-handed, the left tackle spot is considered the most important.

“That’s his blind side, but at the same time the right tackle he’s got the same blocks and the same amount of time to get it off and all those things,” Friend said. “I think it can get overrated a bit, but that is the quarterback’s blind side.”

- Justin Anderson has moved back to offense after one year at guard. The year on the other side of the ball has Anderson catching up a bit, according to Friend, and the rising senior also isn’t completely healed from his turf toe injury.

Brent Benedict, who is also competing at guard, is also getting back up to speed after knee surgery 19 months ago.

Friend wouldn’t say that Anderson or Benedict was guaranteed one of the guard spots.

Chris Burnette appears to have made a big leap in Friend's eyes so far. Burnette, who has been the backup center, has been working with the first team at right guard. Kolton Houston, who has been working at multiple spots too, has also impressed Friend.

“We’ve graded everything,” Friend said. “When you kind of come in, they haven’t played for me. I’ve watched tape on four or five that played last year. … Somebody’s gotta run out there when they says ‘ones go out there.’ But other than that it’s zero to zero in that room.”

- The shift of Alec Ogletree to inside linebacker remained a hot topic. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said the rising sophomore is adjusting well, which he expected.

“You’re taking a guy that played in the secondary, so he kind of knows your rotations and where guys fit,” Grantham said. “I think it’ll allow him to come up to speed quicker.”

Secondary coach Scott Lakatos said he didn’t fight the move of Ogletree, saying he deferred to what made the defense better overall. Last year Shawn Williams and Jakar Hamilton couldn’t hold off Ogletree for the starting spot; now they have another shot at it.

“They just need to continue to get reps and learn,” Lakatos said. “That’s how you learn, you learn by doing things.”

- Kwame Geathers got a positive review from Grantham. Most people assume junior college transfer John Jenkins will start at nose tackle, but Geathers, a rising sophomore, has performed well thus far.

“I think like anything competition makes us all better,” Grantham said.

- Grantham was in midseason mode when asked what the defense needs to do to stop the run better.

“Tackle the runner,” Grantham said.

Then he went into a longer answer, but the first one was better.

- Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was asked what he thought after watching the receivers for a few practices without A.J. Green and Kris Durham. He laughed before answering.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, really at all positions. But I was pleased with the work of our receivers,” Bobo said. “Our issue is there isn’t a lot of depth there.”

The Bulldogs have six scholarship receivers: Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, Israel Troupe, Rantavious Wooten, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley.

- Bruce Figgins has said that his biggest adjustment to fullback is the different blocking schemes from tight end. Not, as one would expect, carrying the ball.

“Well I haven’t given him the ball yet, so that’s probably the reason why,” Bobo said, laughing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Evaluating the UT, GT hires, and a fantasy baseball question

It's a quiet, cloudy, cold day in Athens today. Which stinks. As Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston tweeted today: "Spring, we are to old to be playing hide n seek. So you can come out of hiding any time you want."

Well said.

A few quick hits as I get over a bout with the flu, and wait for Georgia to resume spring practice on Tuesday:

- As you probably saw, the Georgia women's basketball team's season ended on Sunday with a 79-38 loss to Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. That score is correct, by the way.

Not a great way for Andy Landers' team to wrap up, but hey, it's still the Sweet 16.

- In the past 24 hours, a couple men's basketball hires have been made that have a direct impact on Georgia. Tennessee has tapped Cuonzo Martin, formerly of Missouri State, and Georgia Tech has hired Brian Gregory away from Dayton.

They're similar hires in the sense that both Martin and Dayton coached teams that didn't make this year's NCAAs, but are considered solid mid-major programs. Martin, who was the second banana on the Glenn Robinson-led Purdue teams of the early 1990s, became a hot name this year. Gregory's name has been thrown around for a few openings the past few years.

My impression is that neither hire is a home run, nor is either a swing-and-a-miss. Gregory is a solid coach with a good reputation. Martin strikes me as having more coaching upside - if there is such a thing - who should be able to keep Tennessee as a destination for top recruits. The question is whether he'll be able to coach it up.

But it's a good hire for the Vols when you take into account the program's situation, and the uncertainty over the pending NCAA penalties.

As for Georgia Tech, the fact that it had to "settle" for Gregory and couldn't nab a bigger name coach may speak for the program's slip, or finances. (The Paul Hewitt buyout cost a ton.) But Georgia Tech is probably just seeking to get back to relevance. We'll see. You could certainly argue that Georgia has surpassed its in-state rival in basketball, but that's only within the context of this season. Mark Fox does appear to have the program on the right track, however.

- Finally, a personal note: My fantasy baseball draft is tonight, and I still don't have a good team name. So if anybody has any suggestions, fire away. Someone suggested my fantasy football name last year - the Favre Dollar Footlongs - for which I was eternally grateful. So maybe we can strike gold twice.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A defensive personnel note

Jeremy Longo, a reserve defensive end, is ending his career because of knee injuries, according to UGA. The decision was reached after consulting with doctors and head coach Mark Richt.

Longo, a redshirt junior, plans to stay around the team as a volunteer coach, assistant defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native appeared in four games last year, mostly on special teams. He played in three games as a redshirt freshman in 2009.

The situation is similar to Quintin Banks last year. Banks, a senior, retired because of chronic injuries but stayed around the team as a volunteer assistant.

(Note: UGA has confirmed the news, which was originally attributed to a source, so I've amended the first paragraph to reflect that.)

A Georgia receiver takes on a new role

Tavarres King made sure to pick his old road roommate’s brain when A.J. Green stopped by Georgia football practice last week. It may be too much to ask someone to replace one of the nation’s top receivers – but in a way that’s what is being asked of King.

The rising junior is now playing flanker, which is essentially the featured receiver role in the Georgia offense. King played split end his first two seasons, which meant lining up on the short side of the field; the flanker spot, formerly occupied by Green, lines up on the wide side.

King admitted that he’s “got some things I’ve gotta get used to.”

“You just take on a whole different role when you play the flanker position,” he said. “You’re kind of more of a target.”

That means different routes, and an opportunity to make bigger plays. Green was renowned for that, and when he went pro, and Kris Durham graduated, King was essentially put in the role of No. 1 receiver.

“I’m viewing it that way. I’m excited to have the opportunity to fill (Green’s) shoes and fill the gap that he left,” King said. “It’s challenging, and that’s why I play the game, to challenge myself.”

King isn’t as tall as Green – 6-foot-1 vs. 6-5 – but the Bulldogs hope that his speed, route-running and experience will be advantages. As a sophomore last year, King caught 27 passes for 504 yards and three touchdowns.

Of course with King in the No. 1 role, that leaves a void for the other starting spot. King was asked which fellow receivers have looked good during the first few spring practice; he mentioned freshman Chris Conley, an early enrollee, and 6-5 junior Marlon Brown.

“Marlon’s playing really well,” King said. “Every year that kid gets better. It’s amazing. His first year here he looked like a basketball player. Now he’s a receiver. He looks good.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

UGA players: "Cancers" are out, "brothers" are in

A lot of times, stories about improved team chemistry are all too easy after a losing season: "We weren't together last year, but we are now" is a common storyline.

But in speaking with Georgia players, it's obvious they feel strongly about that being the case this year. And considering the Bulldogs aren't used to losing, how they reacted to it last year, and how they're responding this offseason, is interesting.

My story on the subject is posted here. The opening few paragraphs:

ATHENS - There were times last year that Tavarres King would look around the Georgia football team before games and sense something was wrong. The atmosphere was flat. Players weren’t on the same page.

“Last year was a real quiet year in the locker room,” he said. “Nobody was ever saying anything leadership-wise.”

King, a receiver, answered “absolutely” when asked if there were more chemistry issues than people knew about last season. And he also said “absolutely” when asked if the team was closer together this spring.

The rest of the story includes some interesting quotes from current and former players: Aaron Murray, Ben Jones, Christian Robinson, Marcus Dowtin, Demarcus Dobbs and Aron White.

I wasn't able to include comments from head coach Mark Richt, but I'll supply them here.

Richt was asked this week if he liked the team’s attitude. He answered thusly:

“I like their attitude. They’re working hard. There’s not a whole lot of griping and moaning. Sometimes when things get tough you hear guys gripe and moan a little bit; but they’re doing it. I used to gripe and moan a bit, but I’d still do it. But overall, they’re just trying to get better. I do like their attitude a lot.”

As a follow-up, Richt was asked if he sensed that the attitude needed improvement last year.

“We’ve all got to be pulling in the same direction, and we’ve all got to be believing, and we’ve all got to get better at doing the things that will help us win the fourth quarter," Richt said. "We’ve got to finish well. That’s the main thing that we did not do. Six out of seven games, we were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we didn’t win the fourth quarter. That was our biggest thing, really.”

A UGA player's brush with the accused cop killer

As a Georgia football player, Mike Gilliard gets approached by a lot of strangers around Athens. There was one in particular he remembered, who he thinks approached him at the mall one day.

“He asked if we were Georgia football players, and that was it, nothing major,” said Gilliard, an inside linebacker who will be a junior this fall.

It was only this week that Gilliard made the connection: That man was Jamie Hood, the accused police killer who finally turned himself in Friday night after a three-day search.

Hood, 33, is accused of killing Athens-Clarke County police offer Elmer “Buddy” Christian on Tuesday, and also wounding another officer.

Gilliard remembered encountering Hood a few more times, but said he didn’t know him very well.

“Me and Washaun (Ealey) talked about it that the other day: We’ve seen him plenty of times out before,” Gilliard said. “Matter of fact, out, he’s never been a threat or anything. He says ‘what’s up’ to us, and basically that’s it.”

Gilliard and several teammates were watching like many others on Friday night as Hood turned himself in to police on live television.

“It’s real crazy just seeing someone that you’ve seen before, that you’ve shook hands with, he’s on TV for shooting a police officer,” Gilliard said. “That’s real crazy.”

That wasn’t the only Georgia football connection to the Hood man-hunt.

Former Georgia player Bryant Gantt reached out to Hood via Facebook and was instrumental in negotiating Hood’s surrender, according to WSB-TV. Gantt, who lettered at Georgia from 1989-90, told the station he knew Hood in passing.

Spring primer: Jarvis Jones

A lot of people may be looking for Jarvis Jones to be the big playmaker on this year’s Georgia defense, to fill that void left by Justin Houston.

Jones, who has still yet to play a down for the Bulldogs, is being careful to avoid any bravado.

“I don’t know, I’m gonna go out there and play my heart out just like everyone,” Jones said after Thursday’s third day of spring practice. “All of us want to make plays. That’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to make plays and we’re going to have fun. I think we’re going to be a dominating defense.”

Jones isn’t actually filling the exact spot vacated by Houston, who left for the NFL after leading the SEC in sacks (10) during the regular season. Houston played the weakside, or “Will” outside linebacker spot in the 3-4 alignment. Cornelius Washington, a rising junior, began the spring with the first-team spot at the Will, but incoming freshman Ray Drew will compete there too.

Jones ends up at the strongside spot, the same one he occupied during his first and only year at Southern California. The Columbus native came off the bench for the Trojans, recording 13 tackles over eight games before a neck injury sidelined him the rest of the way.

After transferring to Georgia, Jones spent last fall in a green non-contact jersey. Jones, who had to sit out anyway per NCAA rules, said his neck was fine even before he left USC.

Once last season ended, the question became where to use Jones. Even though he played outside at USC, Jones admits he felt more natural in the middle. But when defensive coordinator Todd Grantham decided to shift Alec Ogletree from safety to inside linebacker, that put Jones on the outside.

“You’ve still gotta be able to manufacture a pass rush and have guys that make plays at outside backers,” Grantham said after announcing the Ogletree and Jones moves. “And I think what we’ve done is we’ve moved two guys that can make plays closer to the ball. Kind of around the action a bit more. So I’m excited by that.”

Jones is taking a whatever-they-want approach to it all.

“When I came here they told me they wanted me to play outside. Then they moved me to the inside on the scout team. Pretty much I want to be anywhere I can help my team,” he said. “I know I can play inside. Outside I’ve been learning a lot.”

He’s also taking a cautious approach to his own development. When asked about it, he started by saying, “I’ve been doing great,” then amended that.

“Well not great, but I’ve been doing well,” Jones said. “My teammates are really helping me to settle into my position. By moving Tree to middle linebacker it really helped our defense to play fast and be big and strong. So I think it was a great move for us all.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

A more in-tune Bulldog defense?

It will take until this fall to determine if the Georgia defense, in the second year of the 3-4 system, is actually better. So far this spring, however, the mantra around the team is that the defense is definitely “faster.”

Not because the players are physically quicker. But because they’re comfortable enough in the system that they’re reacting to the play more, rather than worrying about whether they’re doing things right.

“They are playing faster,” head coach Mark Richt said after Thursday’s practice. “They’re playing with a little bit more certainty as to what they’re doing.”

Richt said he could tell that players are getting better fundamentally.

“You’ve always got to learn what to do first. And then you’ve got to learn how to do it well,” he said. “Last year was a whole lot of time spent on just knowing what to do. And now that they have a better idea of what to do, they’re learning how to do it better. So the techniques are improving.”

The players echoed Richt.

Christian Robinson, the inside linebacker and appointed leader of the defense, spoke over and over about helping the player next to him. He meant that players are more focused on helping the next guy, rather than making sure they themselves know the system.

“It’s not making sure everybody is where they need to be. It’s more the technique things, little things, that just make it easier,” Robinson said. “It’s more work now because we’re focusing on those little things. But going out there is not an issue now. We can move faster, we’re already farther ahead than we were last season.”

Jarvis Jones was on the scout team last year, while sitting out his transfer year. But he said he could still tell there was a difference between last year and this spring.

“They know it more,” Jones said. “We’re going faster. We’re having fun.”

Another difference is the amount of returning starters. Last season the team had 10 first-time starters, but this year’s team – while it loses Justin Houston and Akeem Dent – returns six of its top 10 tacklers.

There are some position switches – Alec Ogletree to linebacker, and DeAngelo Tyson from nose tackle to end – but Tyson said the larger issue is the 3-4.

“The relief is everybody knowing the system,” Tyson said. “Because once you know what to do and how to do it, you can play unstoppable and fast. So the part of not knowing what to do, will keep you out there guessing and not playing full speed.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Richard Samuel hopes for "a fair share" of time at ILB

Richard Samuel isn't quite conceding the starting spot at inside linebacker to Alec Ogletree.

Before Ogletree’s move from safety was announced earlier this month, it was safe to assume that Samuel would head into spring practice with the inside track to start. But Ogletree’s move changed that.

But Samuel still feels he has a shot at playing at one of the two inside spots.

“I feel like through practicing, and if I practice well and show I can get the job done, we’ll get a fair share of the playing time,” he said after Thursday’s third day of Georgia spring practice.

Samuel’s case is buttressed by the fact that the Bulldogs don’t really have many other options at inside linebacker, after the graduation of Akeem Dent and the transfers of Marcus Dowtin and Nick Williams. There’s Christian Robinson, the anointed captain of the defense, Ogletree, Samuel and Mike Gilliard.

So Samuel saw Ogletree’s switch as having more to do with numbers.

“I feel that we need depth at that position,” said Samuel, who will be a junior next season. “Due to the fact that he had playing experience at that position last year, he (Ogletree) got that position. More competition will make both of us better.”

Samuel knows a little bit about switching positions. In fact, compared to him, Ogletree’s switch is nothing.

This time last year Samuel was shifting from running back, a spot he had played since high school. (He's currently listed at 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds.)

Samuel ended up redshirting last season after incurring a knee injury. Samuel could have played – he said the knee felt close to 100 percent by the end of the season – but the staff elected to save his redshirt.

And don’t even think about a move back to tailback for Samuel. Not with Isaiah Crowell on the way to join the already crowded picture.

“Not really,” Samuel said, when asked if he still thinks about playing running back. “I think about it every now and then when I look at the other running backs and compare myself to what I would have done if I were in their position. But that’s about as far as it goes.”

Head coach Mark Richt, when asked about the Ogletree move on Samuel and Gilliard, made his answer more about the safeties, and not the inside linebackers.

“It certainly helps them understand there’s more competition. But we’re really only two deep total at that position,” Richt said. “I think what it’s affected more is the safeties, to guys like Shawn Williams and Jakar (Hamilton) and even Marc Deas. Just to realize there’s a whole lot of playing time that just opened up for them.

“Not to say that there was a guarantee that Tree was going to continue to hold onto the job. But he was by the end of the year the starter, and now he’s out of there.”

A few other notes from Thursday:

- We don’t get to watch most of practice, but for the early portion, four return candidates were fielding kick and punts: Tavarres King, Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith and Carlton Thomas.

- A.J. Green, Justin Houston and Fred Gibson were at Thursday’s practice. Green and Akeem Dent also watched Tuesday’s practice after participating in pro day.

- The team will have a full-pads scrimmage on Saturday. They’ll have a half-scrimmage day, as Richt put it, which won’t count towards the three scrimmages they’re allowed.

- Offensive lineman Dallas Lee has been slowed by an asthma-like condition. The length of time he’ll be out is unclear, according to Richt.

Previewing the new Sanford Stadium scoreboard

Sanford Stadium will have a new high-definition scoreboard (the kids call it H-D), set to debut for the home opener against South Carolina on September 10. Here are three mock-ups of what it will look like, sent over by UGA's sports information department.

(Click on each photo box and you should be able to pull up a bigger photo of each mock-up).


And how in-game replays might look:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Figgins not waiting for his number anymore

One of the more interesting stories in spring practice is tight end-turned-fullback Bruce Figgins. Figgins, head coach Mark Richt and several of his teammates discussed his move in a story, which has just been posted on A quick tease:
ATHENS -- It’s the question everyone has been asking Bruce Figgins since the move became official: Is he going to switch his jersey now?

That number 89 works great for a tight end. But at fullback? Figgins, however, has held firm: No matter how weird it looks, he’ll line up in the backfield with a number not usually associated with a back.

“Everybody’s been asking me if I want 40-this or 40-that. But no, I’ve had this number too long,” Figgins said. “My momma and grandma and granddaddy, everybody in my family has 89 jerseys made.”

Read the whole story here.

Mailbag: Murray's development, Thompkins and Leslie's future, and so much more

No fancy intro, no hilarious set-up, no advance apologies. Well okay, maybe an advance apology: In an attempt to get to as many questions as possible, my answers were a bit shorter than normal.

Although I would prefer to say the answers are "to the point."

Here you are:

Noticed you have someone who comments on your site with anti-Aaron Murray stuff. Maybe you can play devil's advocate and do a piece on the negatives of Murray. I support Murray and think he is the right guy for the job, but thinking back on the season he had some poor games at Fla, Aub., and a mediocre Tech game. Just thought it would be interesting to take a hard look at all his stats, good or bad.
- Alex Greene

I’ll file that away as a possibility. Frankly I think Murray’s development last year was covered ad nauseum. Everyone commented on how well he progressed, and how pleasant a surprise he was. At the same time Mark Richt and Mike Bobo also pointed to the areas that needed some improvement, such as small mechanical issues or decision-making, which is common in a freshman. Murray’s sophomore year will be a better indicator, but his freshman year certainly put him on the right track.

Any idea what numbers the incoming freshmen will be wearing this fall?
- Anonymous

The only ones we know are the early enrollees: Christian LeMay (16) and Chris Conley (31). In other number news, center Ben Jones just tweeted that he’s switching from 61 to 60 to honor his father.

If Travis Leslie comes back, we'll have Ware, Robinson, and Caldwell-Pope. Not a bad perimeter but clearly the big boys down low will be an issue. Can you address the prospects of John Florveus and Tim Dixon being able to contribute in an impactful way next year? Or are we just looking to run and gun? Florveus sounds like he could have an immediate impact but at 7 foot, 215 pounds, that's rail thin. He's going to get pushed around some.
- Bulldog Ben

Unless Thompkins comes back, which is a longshot, the Bulldogs are going to be very thin in the post. None of the impact recruits are as good as Thompkins or Jeremy Price. Florveus is tall, but raw. Nemanja Djurisic, who just committed, isn’t much of a banger. The returning post guys – Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams – will need to show improvement. So basically, yes, it’s likely to be more of a run-and-gun team, whether or not Leslie returns.

Your prediction on the likelihood that Trey and/or Travis go pro?
- Robert K. Burnham

Thompkins I would put at about 80 percent, with the uncertainty having more to do with the potential NBA lockout. Leslie I would put at 55 percent to leave. Leaving aside whether either SHOULD go, I just think it’s hard, after someone already contemplates it once, to make the decision to come back twice. Then again, neither even tested the waters last year. At a minimum, I expect each to at least do that. Then it becomes a matter of whether they hire an agent.

What is your take on the Tennessee fiasco? Will UT's AD lose his job over this? And who do you think will end up taking that job? I can't see this being anything but good for the Dawgs, unless Tennessee somehow lands somebody really big, by giving Coach K 100 million dollars to go to Knoxville. Even then, he would probably turn it down.
- Jonah B.

I liked Bruce Pearl, at least in my personal dealings with him, and the SEC will be a more boring place without him. But given what he’s already admitted, you can’t blame Tennessee for letting him go. And as I said last week, athletics director Mike Hamilton should be held accountable too. We’ll have to see who the Vols hire and whether that impacts Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris’ decisions. Given the uncertainty of the program’s future – it goes before the NCAA in June – the next coach will have to take a leap of faith.

Seth was is your favorite away SEC stadium to go to for a game?
- Anonymous

I’ve always kind of liked Tennessee. It’s so big, but doesn’t feel that way, given the shape. It always kind of makes me feel like I’m in the Roman coliseum.

Why is Donkey Kong not a Donkey?
- Anonymous

To research this answer, I went to Wikipedia and learned way more about the history of Donkey Kong than I ever imagined. Such as the lawsuit brought by a movie studio that said it was a rip-off of King Kong. (Donkey Kong’s makers won.) In any event – it’s an ape, named after a donkey. That’s all I got.

With Belin gone, how nervous should we be that we regress again in special teams?
- AtlantaDawg

Belin only coached one unit, kickoff coverage. His replacement, Kirk Olividatti, has experience coaching special teams at the pro level, and I’m sure that figured into his hiring, at least partly.

Has there been any conversation recently about expanding Sanford Stadium? I know that ideas were drawn up few years ago, but I haven't heard anything since.
Also, are their any mock-ups for how the new scoreboard will look?
- Matt B.

I’m told there have been no expansion discussions lately. UGA was trying to send me a picture of the new scoreboard and when I get it I’ll post it on the blog.

Marshall Morgan has already committed to Georgia as part of the class of 2012 to replace Blair Walsh. Has there been any talk about who may replace Drew Butler after this year? Also, last year we saw Washuan Ealey run the ball out of the wildcat. Has there been any talk of other players, such as Branden Smith, being used in the formation?
- Streit

Morgan may be given a shot at the punting duties too. The only other punter on the spring roster (besides Butler) is Adam Erickson, a redshirt freshman from Athens.

What in your opinion was the reason for the hoops team's repeated blowing of leads in so many games? My impression may be lack of a bench but I defer to someone who might actually know something about roundball.
- CoonDawg

As I’ve written before, I think it had more to do with a lack of quality scoring off the bench. They had zero bench points against Washington, which granted wasn’t a blown-lead loss, but it still illustrated perhaps the team’s biggest deficiency this year.

The football schedule looks easy enough. What are reasonable expectations for high end and low end for the season?
- Anonymous

High end: Don’t laugh, because Auburn did it last year, but given that Georgia plays in the SEC, how can you rule out a league title and BCS berth? But that’s very high end; South Carolina will start out as the division favorite, and Georgia should be in the mix there with Florida. The low end is another six- or seven-win season.

Two questions:
In my opinion, our lack of depth at the guard position really doomed our team this year. Why did Vincent Williams get very little playing time this year? In spotty playing time, he has shown that he is an adequate defender and scorer, and his ball-handling could have been helpful against opponents like Alabama and Washington who pressed us for a majority of the game. Why does Sherrard Brantley consistently get to play over him when Brantley is not a confident ball-handler and not a good defender?

I didn’t see enough of Williams to grade him above Brantley, but I think Brantley got every minute of action because of his 3-point shooting ability. The team needed that lift off the bench, and Brantley was really the only impact reserve player – but that’s not saying much.

Second, does Coach Fox have no idea how to use timeouts? I can think of countless times this season when he called timeout at inopportune times (ask Dustin Ware about that), or neglected to call timeout when it seemed necessary. For instance, I remember one point in the second half of the NCAA tournament game against Washington when Coach Fox called timeout at approximately the 8:15 mark of the second half, just before the 8-minute TV timeout. We came out of the timeout and looked terribly confused, turned the ball over, and went directly into a TV timeout. Why can't Coach Fox learn to wait for the TV timeouts and use them to his advantage?
- Jordan Floyd

I noticed as the season wore on that Fox was very quick with his timeouts, and that was illustrated in the NCAA game. I’ve never spoken to him about it, but my educated guess is that with a team not used to winning – as he often pointed out – he felt he had to end other team’s momentum, rather than let his team play it out on the court. Roy Williams and Coach K are renowned for letting their players do that, but they’re dealing with players who have learned to deal with runs and get through them.

Has anyone from the NFL been showing any interest in Kris Durham?
He seems to have the height and speed(see B. Finneran)but after the issues with QB yesterday I don't think he got a fair deal. Most of the scouts left and the ESPN3 feed was focused on A.J. anyway. I will give David Pollack credit for at least talking him up.I think he deserves a camp invite at the least.
- CoopDawg

I think the Finneran comparison is good, and made it myself yesterday. Yes, it’s probably because they’re both white. So be it. Frankly I think if Finneran can have that long a career – not spectacular, but long – there’s a place in the NFL for Durham, who is tall, fast and can catch. But whether he gets the chance depends mostly on timing, and whether a team out there believes in him.

As part of the new nutrition program, our players were having to take pictures of their food to get it approved before eating it. How is that going? Did it last?
- Eric

As far as I know. I’d suggest that a few coaches may need to be getting their meals approved in advance too … but I won’t, in case a few of them read this blog.

Four-star Kevin Ware is expected to get his release from Tenn., and he has indicated UGA would be on his short list. However, AJC has reported that UGA is full unless both Thompkins and Leslie move on. Any chance of Ware coming to Georgia? I expect he'll want to make a decision before the NBA opt-out deadline.
- NCDawg

If they can get Ware, they’ll make room for him, definitely. If push comes to shove, Connor Nolte could always return to walk-on status. Ware’s destination remains unclear; Tennessee hasn’t released him yet, so Georgia can’t officially contact him. Although, obviously, there are ways around that.

What have you heard about the progression of Jarvis Jones and Richard Samuel? The move of Tree to ILB makes me wonder if Richard may be struggling? Do you think Jones can be a leader on our D next year and how much playing time do you think Samuel will get? Is he a possible mid season starter?

Samuel didn't get a lot of scouts other than scout team last fall in practice, because of his injury. I'm sure he's going to get a look, and I plan on asking Grantham and Olividatti about Samuel. But at the moment, with Christian Robinson being given that defensive captain role, and Ogletree moved to the other spot, it does seem like Samuel has a lot of ground to make up.

What type of QB is Christian LeMay? Scrambler or Pro style pocket QB. Do you think the Defense will actually make up some real ground this year and settle into our new Defense scheme and show some progress, dare I saw actually show some dominance.
- Anonymous

LeMay is a pro style quarterback who can scramble, or at least that’s probably the best way to put it. As for the defense, yes it should improve, just by having a more classic nose tackle, and by having a second year to learn the system. Then again, someone has to replace Justin Houston and his 10 sacks and Akeem Dent and his 126 tackles.

What has been decided about Uga? Is Russ to open the season? Have they been working on a new blood line?
- CalifDawg

No word on the new Uga as of press time. Once there is, it’ll be posted and reported.

What is the world is going on with the baseball team? Some nights it appears to be pitching, and then the very next night is appears to be the bats. I know that it is early and the Dawgs are 2-2 in conference, but is there anything Perno can do to get this team playing consistent ball?
- DoomsDayDawg

They’re pretty much performing as expected. Perno said not to expect a huge turnaround, just improvement, and right now they’re on track for that. But that does leave it up to debate whether that’s acceptable.

At a movie theater how do you tell which arm rest is yours?
- Anonymous

When the person next to me is a stranger, I always defer. I tend not to want accidental, awkward, touching. When you’re next to someone you know, it then depends on how well you know the person.

Why doesn't McDonald's sell hot dogs?
- Anonymous

Because, hopefully, there is a God. Can you imagine just how much fatter America would be if they added hot dogs to the menu? Let’s leave that to Sonic, shall we?

From the looks of some photos of spring practice on some football players look like they havent made to much headway in strength and or conditioning. Seth have you noticed any differences close up?
- Anonymous

You can really that just by looking at photos? No offense, but I find that a reach. Richt was asked Tuesday about whether the players are bigger and stronger, and he basically said, “Yeah, probably, but who knows.” And at this point – less than three months into the new strength program – I think that’s a fair response. The change wasn’t made to make them look better in spring, but to play better in the fall.

Will coach Richt ever consider going back yo the real silver britches instead of the dull gray pants?
- Anonymous

I honestly don’t know. I guess I’m a bit surprised that so many people notice this – I know gray and silver are different, but they’re not THAT far away on the color hue chart.

Odds that Murray & Crowell & Jenkins start against Boise?
- Anonymous

Respectively, barring injury: 100 percent, 75 percent, 95 percent.

There is fight between Chuck Norris and Herschel Walker who wins and why.
- Anonymous

Herschel follows me on Twitter. Chuck does not. Therefore: Herschel.

1) Many experts are raving about Aaron Murray and expect a huge season from him next year. I don't. Here's why: Other than Orson Charles, who is a dynamic, big play receiver that can make downfield plays now that Durham and Green are gone? AM can't do it all himself.
2) What is your favorite William Shatner moment/movie/phrase, etc?

1) They’re hoping Tavarres King can fill that role now with his speed. Marlon Brown will also get a shot, and Malcolm Mitchell heads the list of freshmen who will be given that chance. But obviously no one replaces A.J. Green. Keep in mind, however, Murray wasn’t too shabby during Green’s suspension.
2) I’ll pretend not to be a geek and will stay away from the best moments in the Star Trek movies. So I’ll go with Shatner’s underrated performance near the end of “Airplane Two.”

Do you think Ealey stays or transfers?
- Anonymous

He’s still here, and seemed to be having fun at practice on Tuesday. Strangely, though, his name was scratched from the media request list after practice. That’s not totally unusual, bus his suspension was listed a couple weeks ago. Perhaps the staff is just shielding him from scrutiny for the time being.

Are you single? I have the perfect girl for you.
- Leslie

Um … I am not married, let’s leave it at that.

What is your favorite Katy Perry song and why?
- Anonymous

“Teenage Dream.” It makes for a good running song. Feel free to make fun of me all you want for it. But at least I didn’t pick “I kissed a girl.” That song title still belongs to Jill Sobule, in my opinion.

What are your thoughts on Alec Ogletree moving to LB? His size would seem to make him a pretty good Safety but not sure if he'd be the same calibre at LB.
- Eric

Yeah, I guess you could say the move took me by surprise. Todd Grantham knows 10 times more about football than me, but I did see Ogletree as a potential star at safety, while he may not have as high a ceiling at inside linebacker. Then again, like I said, Todd Grantham knows five times as much football as me. … Wait, did I just downgrade that?

What's up with Malcome? I thought he'd be starting last year, now with Crowell, Thomas, King & Ealey, will he ever start for Georgia?
- Anonymous

Malcome is definitely not out of the mix.

Any word on how Christian LeMay is looking? I am very curious to see how good this kid is. Do you think he will be more of a D.J. Shockley dual threat QB or will he be more of a Matt Stafford pocket passer minus the howlitzer? Also, could you discuss the consolidation of democracy in post-soviet Russia?
- Trae

There have only been two spring practices, but I’m sure we’ll take a closer look at LeMay as the days go on. As for Russian democracy, on the one hand you hear a lot of discouraging things, but you also have to remember that it can’t happen overnight, and what’s really important here is that the Russians continue sending us hot women like Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova. Let’s not lose sight of that.

How many players do you think uga will sign this year in basketball? And what's the max of scholarship players allowed?
- Anonymous

They’ve already signed three, and just got a commitment from a fourth. They can have 13 on scholarship. Right now they’re committed to nine players from this year’s team, but that includes Thompkins and Leslie, so if either leaves that opens room.

What's your take on the secondary? With the move of Ogleltree to LB, you lose a physical presence that the safety position was lacking last year. I know there are some young guys who were redshirted but don't really know their potential. How about the idea of trying Commings at safety? He has the ideal size of a safety and cornerback speed. Would this in turn leave the cornerback spots too thin? Many thanks for all that you do.
- Stevo

The Commings-to-safety thing has been thrown around, but I asked him about it a couple weeks ago and he said he hasn’t been told he’s moving. But he wouldn’t be opposed to it. I think it’ll come down to how the incoming freshmen look. Corey Moore could play right away at safety, Nick Marshall and Damian Swann could do the same at cornerback.

Seth - speculation on who might be the source for Peter King's column about AJ Green on Tuesday? Obviously you have to take with a grain of salt, but comments about his practice habits seem to indicate that it would be a current or former coach/player.
- Anonymous

I assume you’re talking about this story. Not to sound too high and mighty, but starting out a sentence with asking someone to speculate, especially about a source, isn’t going to draw much of an answer. I have no way of knowing who King’s source would be, and to speculate would be highly irresponsible. Plus I’m not sure that line is really a shot at Green. All I can say is, in my year covering the team, I’ve never heard any whispers about Green’s practice habits. I’ve written before that injuries could be a factor if scouts look over Green’s career. But that would be nit-picking; Green looks every bit like a future All-Pro.

Any noise going on about Jay Clark? Most of us don't know enough about actual gymnastics to know whether or not they've really underperformed or if they've been unlucky the past 2 years. Any scuttlebut about making a change?
- Allen

Sadly, my sources within the gymnastics program are not very strong. I’m not ruling anything out, but my short answer is no, I have not heard any scuttlebutt about it.

Has ESPN contacted the university yet regarding a 30 for 30 special on Richt's Dream Team?
- Anonymous


Do you laugh or cry when you read these questions?
- Randy

Are you trying to get me in trouble?

Call for the mailbag

Yeah, I know it's been awhile. But now the (men's) basketball team's run is over, and football is (really) starting spring practice. So it's as good a time as any to have some mailbag fun.

You can ask about football practice. You can ask about the basketball offseason. You may ask about other sports. You could even ask about off-the-wall subjects, and if you have movie references, maybe this time I'll get more than just the "Airplane" ones.

Post your questions in the comment section below, or send me an e-mail (, and again, if at all possible, please keep the question to a reasonable length.

I'm going to go clean the pollen off my car, and maybe get a workout in. As always, once there are enough questions, I'll make up some answers and post a mailbag. Fire away.

UGA women's hoops team moves on to Sweet 16

A big shot in the last few seconds lifted the Georgia women's basketball team to a nationally-televised upset, and a berth in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Jasmine James' put-back with 2.1 seconds left, while being fouled, gave Georgia a 61-59 win over Florida State on Tuesday night.

The Lady Bulldogs (23-10) move on to face second-seeded Texas A&M in the regional semifinals, Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in Dallas.

The last trip to the Elite Eight for the Lady Bulldogs was 2004.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How Mark Richt and Aaron Murray spent their spring break

Last week was spring break at Georgia, which meant pretty much everyone got out of town, forgot their troubles, tried to avoid the limelight. Or maybe not.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt and his family spent a couple days in Jamaica, where ... well I'll let him tell it:

"I’m not lying to you: The first time we laid down our stake at the beach – laid it down – just barely, I hadn’t even sat down yet, I was just trying to get it aligned with the sun ..."

Richt spun around to mimic what he saw next:

"Two Gators are right (next) to where my chair was, right where I was looking," Richt said, smiling and shaking his head. "No one said a word, but I said, man, I’ve gotta go back to Honduras.”

It didn't stop there at the beach.

"I got a couple of these,” Richt said, making the Gator chomp. “But I had a lot of great Bulldogs barking. So it was good.”

The moral of the story for Richt?

"“I tell you what man, the SEC’s everywhere. They’re everywhere," he said.

Several of Richt's players were at the beach too. Starting quarterback Aaron Murray was among a contingent that went down to Florida, where Murray tried his first hand at a trick-shot video.

The result, posted here on YouTube, was not quite up to par, even Murray admits.

“I was the one who drilled the guy," Murray said, smiling. "Wes (Van Dyk, a walk-on teammate) was supposed to put it in slow motion so people could see it a little better. But yeah, it was a little failed first attempt. We might try a little over the summer.”

Because I'm a hard-hitting reporter who doesn't back down from the tough question, I followed up by asking what Murray could do to to rival the others going around the web.

“It’s kind of hard. There’s like three out there. I don’t know how they think of all this crazy stuff," he said. "I don’t know, you’ve gotta think of some crazy stuff if you wanna compete.”

Well, there's always summer vacation.

A.J. Green's pro day saga, and other fascinating notes

Georgia’s pro day has just been completed. And there ended up being a bit more drama than expected.

The player a lot of scouts came to see was A.J. Green, and they did get to see him – but only through a computer, and only after a long set of deliberations.

The issue was who would throw to Green. The star receiver has been training with Justin Roper, a former University of Montana quarterback who now lives in Buford. But according to an obscure NFL rule, that prohibited scouts from watching Roper pass to Green – or Kris Durham or fullback Shaun Chapas – in person.

At first it appeared to be a lockout-related issue. No current NFL quarterback, such as Matt Stafford (who was in attendance) could participate, because players are locked out. And anyone throwing to the receivers had to be draft-eligible, ruling out Aaron Murray.

Roper, who works with San Diego based passing guru George Whitehead, is draft-eligible. But the NFL also stipulates that the passer must live in the “Athens metroplex,” as Whitehead put it. Buford was not inside the Athens metroplex.

There was a lot of back-and-forth, with head coach Mark Richt engaging in a lot of checking himself. In the end, Green held firm on wanting to use Roper.

“That’s the only quarterback that I had timing with. So my agent and I felt he was the best guy for the job,” Green said.

So after a long set of negotiations – including calls to the NFL league office – it was determined that Roper could pass to Green and the others, but the scouts couldn’t watch. So after all the other positions had gone through their drills, the NFL scouts moved inside to watch the catching drills on ESPN3.

As you’d suspect, Green was impressive in his drills. But he did take a spill near the end, tripping over a cord barrier.

“I caught myself,” Green said. “I had on some gloves, so I was all right.”

A few other notes off the top of my notebook:

- Green hasn’t made a decision about whether to attend the draft. He wants to, but is waiting to see what happens on the NFL Players’ Association boycott call. Green said he was hoping for a “conclusion” to the matter.

“It’d be nice to go to New York, that’d be a dream come true,” Green said.

- Green was asked about his Wonderlic score, which was reported to be low. There are 50 questions on the test, and Green said he only got to about 20 of them.

“I didn’t even finish,” Green said. “I was thinking too much. I didn’t want to skip any questions. … If you come back here and look at my grades, you know I’m not dumb.”

- While Green didn’t do anything but get weighed and catch passes, Justin Houston went through drills at defensive end and linebacker. He said teams are looking at him at both positions, and didn’t express a preference.

Interestingly, Houston said he only got a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee. That’s part of the reason he took his decision right up to the deadline, only notifying Richt the night before.

“As of right now, I do think that I made the right decision,” Houston said. “But in due time, we’ll see.”

- Clint Boling said teams are looking at him at guard and tackle, but that more teams seem to be looking at him at guard.

“As long as I can play guard, tackle, something like that, it doesn’t really matter to me,” Boling said.

- There was also a Marcus Dowtin sighting, as the former Georgia linebacker was among the many non-participants who attended. Dowtin announced his intention to transfer after the season, and said he was looking at Division II schools such as Texas A&M-Kingsvile, Northwest Missouri, North Alabama and Carson-Newman.

Dowtin, who is not currently enrolled at Georgia, said those teams might let him also play running back.

- Logan Gray, who is also transferring from Georgia, was also in attendance, hanging out with fellow current and former players. Gray is set to visit Colorado in a couple weeks.

- And continuing the trend of awkward appearances, guess who the Carolina Panthers’ representative was on Tuesday? That would be Warren Belin, who left as Georgia’s inside linebackers coach in February to take the linebackers job at Carolina.

- I wasn’t one of the people who brought a stopwatch and breathlessly watched every drill. But it seemed that Kris Durham did well in his receiving drills and sprints, Kiante Tripp showed up well in the weight room, and the Cincinnati Bengals – who have the fourth pick – spent an awful amount of time sidling up and talking with Green.

Monday, March 21, 2011

UGA's pro day ...

... Is not open to the public, but will be broadcast on the Internet, on ESPN3, according to UGA.

You can view it starting Tuesday at 10 a.m. at:

The updated list of players who will be participating: Clint Boling, Shaun Chapas, Vance Cuff, Chris Davis, Josh Davis, Akeen Dent, Demarcus Dobbs, Kris Durham, Darryl Gamble, Chad Gloer, A.J. Green, Justin Houston, Derek Rich, and Kiante Tripp.

Spring primer: Justin "Bean" Anderson

Justin Anderson would have a right to feel he’s been shifted around too much. Instead, the man known around the Georgia football team as “Bean” feels relieved.

He’s back on offense, or as he puts it, “back where I belong.” More importantly, he has a chance to finish his career as a starter.

Anderson looked to have a promising career on the offensive line in 2008, when he started seven games as a redshirt freshman, and appeared in five other games. He was a freshman all-SEC pick by the coaches, and made several other all-freshman teams.

The next year, he appeared in every game and made five starts. But by the end of the year his starting spot seemed taken, and entering 2010 Anderson seemed out of the mix.

So when Georgia coaches approached him about switching to the other side of the ball, he was open to it. The Bulldogs had switched to a 3-4 defense, creating the need for a big, physical nose guard, and the 6-foot-5, 330-pound Anderson at least had the ideal build.

“We needed a nose tackle,” Anderson said. “I felt that I could be suited for that position. And so did the coaches.”

He thought it was the right move at the time.

“Then I went and got hurt,” Anderson said. “I took that as my symbol that this isn’t what I (was supposed to do).”

He missed most of spring drills, then was sidelined for the season after an early case of turf toe. The move to defense was officially a bust. He hardly even learned the defense.

The coaches were already thinking of moving Anderson back to offense, where there were no longer five cemented starting spots. Once nose tackle prospect John Jenkins signed in February, that seemed to push it over the top.

Anderson’s eagerness to move back was evident to head coach Mark Richt last month, after new offensive line coach Will Friend was hired. When Friend was set to meet with his new players, Anderson jumped in the meeting.

“He was trying to give us the hint,” Richt said. “Coach Friend took one look at him and said, ‘I’ll take him.’”

Now Anderson has a real chance to compete for a job at one of the guard spots, which was opened by the shift of Cordy Glenn to tackle. Kenarious Gates, a freshman last year, has the inside track at one of the other spots. If Friend wants veteran experience at the other spot, Anderson fits the bill.

“When I got hurt I said: this is my last year, I probably need to go back to what I’m used to doing,” he said. “Because I still wasn’t up to par on all the techniques and stuff on defense. I was getting better at it. But I still wasn’t as good as I needed to be. So being back on the offensive line is probably best for me and this team.”

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recruiting: UGA hoops adds another big man

The Georgia men’s basketball has a need for frontcourt players next year, whether or not Trey Thompkins goes pro. Two post players signed in the fall, and another is on the way.

Nemanja Djurisic, a 6-foot-8 forward from Montenegro, has committed to the Bulldogs, according to several reports. Djurisic has been playing for the prep team in South Kent School in Connecticut. That school’s head coach, Kelvin Jefferson, told that Djurisic has “a great skill set” and is one of the team’s top 3-point shooters.

Djurisic can sign in the late signing period, which begins April 13. Tim Dixon, a 6-foot-10 prospect from Columbus, and 7-foot junior college prospect John Florveus signed in November.

Women advance

The Georgia women’s basketball team won its first-round NCAA tournament game on Sunday night, knocking off Middle Tennessee State. The sixth-seeded Lady Bulldogs move on to a Tuesday game against third-seeded Florida State in Auburn, Ala.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Looking ahead for UGA hoops: All eyes on Thompkins, Leslie

It only took a few minutes after Georgia's elimination from the NCAA tournament for the big questions to come: Would Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie be leaving, or was there a chance either or both could return?

Here's my story on the subject.

“Those decisions will have a great impact on our team,” (head coach Mark) Fox said. “They both could come back, and we would have a great team. They both could leave, and we would have a young team. One might stay, one might go. I don’t know.”

The story also looks at the team's incoming talent, and Fox indicates that next year's team will move to an up-tempo style.

But back to the decisions facing Thompkins and Leslie. You would expect that each will at least declare for the draft without signing with an agent, since they still have that option and there's no harm. Here's a look at the potential starting lineups in all scenarios:


F: Marcus Thornton, Soph.
F: Donte' Williams, Soph.
PG: Gerald Robinson, Sr.
SG: Dustin Ware, Sr.
G-F: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Fr.

Also: C John Florveus, Jr.; SG Sherrard Brantley, Jr.; F Connor Nolte, Sr.; F-C Tim Dixon, Fr.; PG Vincent Williams, Jr.

Analysis:You can see how many questions this team would have. Is Donte' Williams ready for a starting role? Would either of the incoming bigs (Florveus and Dixon) be ready to play significant minutes? In any case, this is a team that would definitely fall in the rebuilding category, although the presence of two senior guards and a highly-rated recruit certainly don't make it hopeless.


F: Marcus Thornton
PG: Gerald Robinson
SG: Dustin Ware
G-F: Travis Leslie
G-F: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Also: F Donte' Williams, C John Florveus, SG Sherrard Brantley, F Connor Nolte, F-C Tim Dixon; PG Vincent Williams.

Analysis:In this scenario, I could see Fox electing to throw aside the need to have two true post players, and just play his best five. Leslie is a good rebounding guard, so he could make up for it. It may not be a classically built team, but it would certainly be fast and exciting.


F: Marcus Thornton
F: Trey Thompkins
PG: Gerald Robinson
SG: Dustin Ware
G-F: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Also: F Donte' Williams, C John Florveus, SG Sherrard Brantley, F Connor Nolte, F-C Tim Dixon; PG Vincent Williams.

Analysis: If the Bulldog coaches were given truth serum (and were off the record) they'd say that if they got to pick one to return, it would be Thompkins. Not just because he's been more productive (not that Leslie hasn't) but because Caldwell-Pope can more easily replace Leslie. It would still be a more up-tempo team because of the departure of Price.


F: Trey Thompkins
PG: Gerald Robinson
SG: Dustin Ware
G-F: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
G-F: Travis Leslie

Also: F Marcus Thornton, F Donte' Williams, C John Florveus, SG Sherrard Brantley, F Connor Nolte, F-C Tim Dixon; PG Vincent Williams.

Analysis:Obviously, this would be a pretty potent team, giving Fox the versatility to go big if needed. In the (probably unlikely) even that Thompkins and Leslie each stay, another NCAA bid wouldn't be the goal, it would be the minimum expectation.

Game story: Analyzing the loss, and Thompkins, Leslie discuss futures

Here's the game story I just filed on Georgia's loss to Washington on Friday night:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Georgia did not humiliate itself. Even when it seemed out-classed and put away, it made the final moments dramatic.

The Bulldogs, it could be argued, showed that they did indeed belong in the NCAA tournament, where they lost 68-65 to a higher-seeded Washington men’s basketball team.

But Georgia still didn’t advance. And appropriately enough the Bulldogs were once again felled by a poor second half, the story of its season.

Georgia, the No. 10 seed, led by as many as seven in the first half, and it was tied at the break. But the seventh-seeded Huskies took control right away in the second half, then held off Georgia’s furious comeback in the final minute.

“I feel like we gave it every shot we had,” star forward Trey Thompkins said after what may have been his final college game. “I wouldn’t regret anything that happened this season. We’re a tough team, and tough teams go through adversity. We went through a lot of adversity and it brought us closer.”

The loss ended what was still a turnaround season for Georgia, which went from consecutive losing seasons to a 21-12 record. But it also had to endure a number of late-game collapses and blown leads.

This time it wasn’t a large second-half lead that went away. After leading by seven in the first half, and being tied at the break, Georgia quickly found itself down 10 to the Pac-10 tournament champion Huskies.

The Huskies’ shooting improved in the second half, helping turn the tide. While the Bulldogs got the game played at a slower tempo, which they preferred, they couldn’t capitalize on the offensive end.

“We didn’t defend well enough in the second half,” head coach Mark Fox said. “We gave up almost 54 percent in the second half and didn’t rebound it well enough.”

There was also a key sequence that burned up Fox:

Leslie appeared to dunk back a miss, but the referee ruled it a goal-tending.. On the other end, Thomas nailed a fadeway to make it 37-32.

“That was a big momentum play there,” Fox said of the goaltending call. “I didn’t see any replays there, but that was a tough one.”

Darnell Gant followed up with a 3 to give the Huskies their biggest lead, at 10. It stayed between six and 10 until the final minute.

Fox pointed to Washington’s first possession of the second half, when Thomas was fouled as the shot clock went down. He made all three free throws.

“We got him started,” Fox said. “You cannot do that against a quality player in an NCAA game.”

The Bulldogs nearly pulled off the improbable comeback, climbing within two in the final 10 seconds on a Thompkins 3. Then after the Huskies went 1-for-2 at the line, Leslie picked up a loose ball on the other end. But he only had time for an off-balance heave, and it was well off.

“It was open. So I went for it,” Leslie said. “Tried to throw up a lucky shot. It just didn’t fall.”

The end of the season turned the attention towards Thompkins and Leslie, a pair of juniors who will decide whether to enter the NBA draft. Each declined to tip their hand on any decision.

“Going to the NBA would be a life-changing thing. It’s been my dream since I was a little kid,” Thompkins said. “But right now I’m really not thinking about it. I’ll take the time off and then talk with my coaches and my family and see what’s the best option.”

“It could go either way,” Leslie said. “We had a great year this year. I know if I stay can have an even better year next year.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

NCAA tourney blog: Georgia vs. Washington

Final: Washington 68, Georgia 65

And so it ends. A furious, improbable comeback falls short, and we are left with this:

After playing even with the higher-seeded favorite for a half, Georgia was undone by turnovers, defense and pretty much a lot of things in the second half. Sound familiar? It was the story of the season for Georgia.

I have to run and make deadline, but two quick thoughts:

- Georgia at least didn't have a bad showing here. It didn't lay an egg like Tennessee, and didn't give much ammunition to doubters who said the Bulldogs shouldn't have received a bid.

- In the macro sense, it was a successful season. The team went from three straight losing seasons to 21-12, making the NCAAs as an at-large for the first time in nine years. But in the context of just this year, the Bulldogs failed to close out a number of other wins, and you're left to wonder if this team maxed out or not. (I'm legitimately wondering, not asking rhetorically.)

7:41 left in second half, Georgia trails 53-44

We enter another timeout with Mark Fox yet again shaking his head at an official, the same one who called the goal-tending and just called an offensive foul that Fox didn't like.

Whatever you think about those calls, Georgia has clearly been out-classed this half. And it's also showing wear and tear: The Bulldogs are actually breaking the press, but then failing to attack the basket right away. That's a sign of fatigue.

10:50 left in second half, Georgia trails 49-39

Things have clearly gotten away from the Bulldogs, who are in danger of being run off the floor in Charlotte.

The Huskies have found their shooting stroke, which was predictable. But the Bulldogs have also failed to negate that by rebounding or playing with flow on offense. And now Jeremy Price has four fouls, after a charge call.

Price and Dustin Ware have been non-factors on offense, and Gerald Robinson has disappeared this half too. There's still a lot of time left, but Georgia is going to need a spurt soon, and some stops.

15:37 left in second half, Georgia trails 37-32

Not a good start to the half for Georgia. It hasn't played well so far, but it also wasn't helped by a very bad goal-tending call that negated a Travis Leslie dunk-back. Mark Fox continued to give the refs an earful after that one.

It proved a critical stretch: Isaiah Thomas knocked down a fadeaway on the other end, making it a five-point game. Remember that call, and that sequence, if Georgia doesn't pull back.

That said, the Bulldogs just haven't started well. Their defensive movement hasn't been what it was in the first half, and they're still sloppy on the other end.

Halftime: Georgia and Washington tied at 28

Well, here's a new one: A tie game at the half for Georgia. No big lead to lose, yet, although the Bulldogs did lead by seven at one point.

There's plenty for Georgia to be pleased about, and plenty to work on.

What's pleasing: The play and energy level of the top three players. Trey Thompkins (15 points and eight rebounds) continues to look like the dominant player he was expected to be, Travis Leslie is creating and showing his athleticism, and Gerald Robinson has a couple 3s and a nice drive. The Bulldog defense has also been high-level, though it started to break down late in the half.

What needs to improve: The Bulldogs have been sloppy (eight turnovers), which isn't too unusual, but to win this one they need to avoid the turnovers. The rebounding on the defensive end hasn't been up to par. The Huskies only tied it on the final possession because they got an offensive rebound. Maybe having Jeremy Price in there for a full half will help Georgia.

Basically, I still think Georgia looks capable of winning this one, especially with the longer timeouts helping stave off the depth advantage for Washington. But it will come down to the above factors, and keeping Huskies' star Isaiah Thomas from becoming a major factor. That will be a tough task.

3:45 left in first half, Georgia leads 23-18

Georgia's defense has been stifling. Washington star guard Isaiah Thomas has been held to just two points, and the Huskies look very uncomfortable in their half-court sets.

The cautionary note for Georgia is that the Huskies are also just missing a lot of shots that might start going down later in the game. But the good news if Georgia is causing a big part of that, as Washington isn't getting a lot of clear looks, and apparently not from comfortable spots.

7:39 left in first half, Georgia leads 20-16

The Bulldogs have had their mini-run, capped by Travis Leslie's midcourt steal and subsequent highlight-reel dunk. Overall, things are going well for the Bulldogs, with the exception of Jeremy Price picking up his second foul.

Price is either on or he's not, and he was not on the offensive end. But his rebounding had been solid. Interestingly, Mark Fox responded to having to take out Price by not only staying big, but going bigger: Marcus Thornton AND Chris Barnes went in to play alongside Trey Thompkins, who was eventually subbed in for by Donte' Williams.

It's been awhile since Fox did that, but he's giving Washington a look it didn't expect.

11:20 left in first half, Georgia trails 14-13

My impression so far: Georgia looks like it can hang with Washington from a talent and size standpoint. The question is whether it can last, given the extreme advantage the Huskies have depth-wise.

Mark Fox is riding with the starters so far, after subbing more liberally by this point in some of the previous games. I don't really blame him, as it looks like the Bulldog starters have the right energy. Plus these long timeouts can't hurt.

Georgia's early strategy was to get the ball to Travis Leslie. That didn't quite work out right away, so then it went in more to Trey Thompkins, and that helped spur the team to a 9-4 lead. Thompkins is up to seven points now.

15:57 left in first half, Georgia trails 4-3

It may be a case of the yips for both teams early in this one. The Bulldogs are missing a lot of close shots, although an alley-oop dunk from Travis Leslie was taken away because of an illegal screen call against Jeremy Price.

I like Georgia's defensive energy early, although the rebounding was a bit rough. Despite the lack of points, it looks like Georgia will be able to get the ball inside in its half-court set. Now it has to figure out a way to take advantage of Washington's misses and get some points in transition.

9:17 p.m.: Starting lineups announced

Georgia is starting its standard five: Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price up front, and Travis Leslie, Dustin Ware and Gerald Robinson in the backcourt. The only drama was with the opposition.

Washington’s versatility is such that head coach Lorenzo Romar spent the days leading up to the NCAA tournament debating whether to go bigger or smaller with his starting lineup. He went with the former.

Darnell Grant, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, was inserted into the starting lineup in place of 6-5 guard C.J. Wilcox. That left Washington with just one starter under 6-6: Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who is 5-9.

Grant had come off the bench during Washington’s three-game run to the Pac-10 tournament title, while Wilcox had started all three games.

Romar has started 10 different players this season, each with three or more starts. Thomas and senior forward Justin Holiday are the only two that have started every game.

8:35 p.m.: The Blog commences

The Georgia players, and head coach Mark Fox, have taken their seats to watch the second half of North Carolina-Long Island. So I figure it's an appropriate time to gear up the ol' gameday blog.

A word of warning: I hope to update the blog fairly regularly, but because of the lateness of the start I'll have early deadlines. That means I'll have to focus on my game story, especially as the game nears an end.

And that could be around midnight: The estimated start time is about 9:45, but it'll probably be closer to 10. Once North Carolina-LIU is over, there will be a 30-minute wait until the tip of the next game. And with the extra long timeouts and a 20-minute halftime ... yeah, settle in for a long night.

Thoughts on Bruce Pearl

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In six years at Tenenssee, Bruce Pearl has turned a moribund program into a nationally relevant one. He did it through coaching, recruiting and often just the force of his outgoing personality.

But it all may have ended in stunningly bad fashion on Thursday. The Vols “quit” in the second half of a 30-point loss to Michigan, according to one player. And the postgame press conference was dominated by talk of Pearl’s future.

But Pearl did not show signs he would go quietly.

“We made mistakes,” Pearl said after his team fell 75-45. “We’re going to try to be accountable for those mistakes, but my goal and desire is to be the basketball coach at Tennessee next year and for a long time.”

It won’t be up to Pearl. Tennessee is due to go before the NCAA’s infractions committee in June, then have punishment doled out for a serious of offenses by Pearl, including lying to the NCAA.

Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton gave a radio interview Wednesday on the eve of the tournament where he declined to say Pearl would be back. That caused major waves, and Vols senior guard Melvin Goins said “of course it was a distraction.”

Pearl disagreed, saying the team’s abysmal second half – it was outscored 42-16 – was not a result of Hamilton’s comments. Vols freshman Tobias Harris was the player who said the team “basically just quit” in the second half.

But Pearl sounded like someone who was going to fight for his job. He pointed out that the team has gone to the NCAA tournament in all of his six seasons, including an Elite Eight appearance last year. He also cited the pending graduation of six players, and the improved attendance at home games.

“Certainly when your coaching staff and the kids find out that .. there’s some chance that you might not be back, when you hear that for the first time, it gets you,” Pearl said. “And I know it’s on Mike’s heart too. I know he’s apologized for saying that. But I don’t put the loss on that.”

The fact that Hamilton did back off the comments - at least behind the scenes - shows that the door isn't closed on Pearl returning. But it does appear to be shutting.

Making a list: Georgia vs. Washington: Shooting percentages and Bruce Lee

Here's my advance story for Georgia's NCAA tournament appearance today.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - By the time the Georgia men’s basketball team took the court here on Thursday night for its public practice, there were a little more than a couple dozen people still in the stands. They ended up being witness to a laid-back scene.

Players shot free throws and jumpers, not half-court shots and dunk contests, as previous teams had in Thursday’s shoot-arounds. Head coach Mark Fox spent a lot of time talking with CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg, who will call Friday’s NCAA tournament opener between Georgia and Washington.

“I feel like we’re going to be a pressure-free team (Friday),” star forward Trey Thompkins said. “I feel like we’re gonna go out and just play basketball, and play the way we know how to play.”

But because I care, here's more:

Georgia and Washington have never actually met in men's basketball, and they're obviously strangers to each other, what with being located on opposite coasts. So here's a comparison of each team, some of it on the court, some of it off.

RPI rank
Georgia: 47
Washington: 32
Advantage: Washington. But how much? So far in the NCAAs (including the play-in round) the higher-ranked team has gone 14-6. The exceptions were Richmond over Vanderbilt, Morehead State over Vanderbilt, Butler over Old Dominion, Kansas State over Utah State, Gonzaga over St. John’s and Clemson over UAB.

Ken Pomeroy computer rankings
Georgia: 56
Washington: 17
Advantage: Washington. And through Thursday the higher-ranked Kenpom team has also gone 14-6. (The differences from RPI: VCU was lower-ranked than USC, but Gonzaga was higher-ranked than St. John’s.)

Offensive numbers
Georgia: 68.8 points per game, (169th in the nation)
Washington: 83.5 (third in the nation)
Advantage: Washington, which also has a better field goal percentage (47.1 to 45.1) and 3-point percentage (37.1 to 34), and is turning it over less (12.4 turnovers per game to 13.4).

Defensive numbers
Georgia: 64.3 points allowed per game (75th in nation), 6.5 steals, 5.0 blocks, turnover margin of minus-1.2.
Washington: 70.4 (243rd in nation), 6.7 steals,5.3 blocks, turnover margin of plus-2.6.
Advantage: A wash. Georgia is also allowing its opponents less rebounds per game (33.0 to 34.7), but the turnover margin sticks out.

Best former player
Georgia: Dominique Wilkins
Washington: Brandon Roy
Advantage: Georgia, by a mile. (The Huskies also boast Nate Robinson, Detlef Schrempf, Rod Thorn and current head coach Lorenzo Romar.)

Other notable alumni
Georgia: Kim Basinger, Lewis Grizzard, Wayne Knight, everybody from R.E.M., Ryan Seacret, Fran Tarkenton, Herschel Walker.
Washington: Kenny G, Bruce Lee, Anna Faris, Rainn Wilson, Tim Lincecum, Warren Moon.
Advantage: Georgia. Washington gets points for Lee, Faris, and Dwight from “The Office,” but Kenny G, man that’s hard to overcome.

Georgia: Athens
Washington: Seattle
Advantage: I suppose it depends on whether you like the laid-back small town or the laid-back big town. But I’ve never been to Seattle, and I really like living in Athens, so advantage: Georgia.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Greetings from Charlotte: UNC's Williams on Fox, Huskies praise Bulldogs, etc.

7 p.m.: Georgia practices

I'm sitting here courtside at Time Warner Cable Arena - or the Cable Box, as one of you suggested - watching the Bulldogs go through their public shootaround. Mark Fox is leading the team in a somewhat serious set of drills, though the more detailed practice will be later tonight, out of public view.

Georgia will head off site later to gear up for Washington, while the current public practice is more for show, and to get acclimated to the court. Georgia is practicing later at night to be prepared for the late start time on Friday.

I'll have more from Georgia in my regular story for Friday's paper. It will be more of a scene piece, as the Bulldogs enjoy being at the NCAAs for the first time in three years.

5:15 p.m.: Washington's Romar praises Fox, Thompkins

Washington just took its turn at the podium. A few highlights:

- Huskies star Isaiah Thomas was asked (for probably the thousandth time) what it’s like to share a name with a basketball legend.

“It’s a blessing,” Thomas said. “If I don’t play well, people think, ‘Dang, why is his name like Isaiah Thomas.’ But when I play well it’s cool.”

- Head coach Lorenzo Romar took the high road when asked if it was unfair for his team to have to travel cross country.

“Usually I’m thinking during our season if we take care of our business we don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “We’ve been inconsistent this year, and as a result we’ve flown 2,000 miles across the country. … We’ve kind of made our bed in that regard.”

- Romar also knows Mark Fox well, apparently through the coaching business out west. Romar called Fox a “very driven person.”

“Mark’s a great guy but he’s also kind of a no-nonsense guy. You can see that he approaches everything he does with a person,” Romar said. “And he’s a heck of a coach. He’s done really well. He’s come up through the ranks. He did a great job at Nevada and here at Georgia you can see he has them playing the right way.”

- Romar also knows Georgia star Trey Thompkins very well, having coached him last summer on the U.S. “Seelect” team, which scrimmaged for two weeks against the National team. The Washington head coach praised Thompkins’ attitude, mobility, versatility, and ability to score from inside and outside.

“He was impressive when I saw him and I was impressed by him as a player and a person,” Romar said. “It was the first thing I thought of when I saw we were going to play Georgia. Immediately (I asked): How in the world are we going to guard him?”

4:15 p.m.: Roy Williams remembers Mark Fox and his notebook of ideas

Mark Fox only spent one year at Kansas, in an unpaid, informal capacity following then-coach Roy Williams and his team. But it apparently made an impression on Williams, now the North Carolina head coach.

Williams recalled Thursday getting a letter from Fox asking if he could be a volunteer coach for the 1993-94 coach. Williams said he couldn’t, then Fox asked if he could just hang out and observe practice while taking graduate classes in Lawrence.

“I talked to Joe Holliday, my assistant, and Joe said, ‘I wouldn’t do that,’ ” Williams said. “I said, ‘Joe it’s a young coach, let’s try to help him.’ Mark and Joe are great friends too, but they weren’t at that time. So I decided to let him.

“Mark came to every practice. He gave me a notebook at the end of the year with his thoughts and ideas and his interpretations of what we tried to do and wanted to do. It was extremely thorough and well-thought out. If I had been a teacher I would’ve gave him an A+.”

Then two months after the season Fox got another job – as a full-time assistant at in-state rival Kansas State.

“It wasn’t the smartest thing I’d ever done," Williams said. "Joe said, ‘I told you so.’ ”

But apparently it didn't hurt Kansas too much. The next season, according to Williams, the Jayhawks ran an inbounds play and dunked it.

“I looked down at the (Kansas State) bench and Mark broke his clipboard on the other end,” Williams said. “It showed that coaching doesn’t matter as much as players. He’s a wonderful guy, and we’ve been wonderful friends for a long time.”

2:10 p.m.: Coach K speaks

The head coach of the Duke men's basketball team is a fellow by the name of Mike Krzyzewski. People affectionately call him Coach K. Anyway, he just had his press conference, which produced the following:

- Kyrie Irving WILL play on Friday night, and will play "limited minutes," according to Krzzyewski. Adjust your brackets accordingly. Well it's too late for that. Okay, then adjust gambling lines accordingly.

- A reporter from The New York Times asked Krzyzewski to respond to Jalen Rose's comments about Duke only recruiting "uncle Toms" back in the day. Krzzyewski declined to get into it, saying it had no relevance to what's going on now.

For the record, I didn't see Rose's comments as anything too harmful. It seemed Rose, now in his late 30s, was giving the point of view he had as a teenager with the Fab Five. And hey, when I was a teenager in the early 1990s, I thought "Another Bad Creation" was the next big thing. We all grow and mature.

1 p.m.: Mr. Blog Man settles in

CHARLOTTE - Georgia doesn't practice until later tonight here at Time Warner Cable Arena - boy that's a mouthful - but I'm here, along with other assorted media members and teams.

The NCAA is making media members pay $20 to access their wireless system, and since several of our air cards aren't working too well - shockingly - I forked it over. I do have to give the NCAA credit on one thing: The passcode they gave me was "Crap2E" ... Not kidding about that.

As you'd expect, the North Carolina and Duke media contingents are dominating the work room. And the Kyrie Irving storyline will dominate the afternoon.

But the two SEC teams here are making their own noise. Or at least Tennessee is, and not for the right reasons. This might be it for head coach Bruce Pearl, who had his pregame news conference a short time ago.

"As soon as the season is over is when we will talk," Pearl said. "It is what it is and if there has been a change in my status it will be dealt with."

Well that doesn't sound too hopeful.

I'll have updates, thoughts and other assorted comments throughout the day here. Read and enjoy, enjoying you're still sober on this St. Patrick's Day. Hey, even if you're already loaded, read and enjoy anyway.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fox's long journey continues, Obama picks against UGA, Pearl on brink?

Here's my story, just posted on, detailing how far Mark Fox has come since the start of his coaching career: at Washington, the same school Georgia faces on Friday night.

ATHENS - Mark Fox still has a copy of the first paycheck he received from the University of Washington. The sentimental value far outweighs what it was monetarily.

“I think I earned about $8 a month after rent,” Fox said.
As they got on the bus for a three-hour drive to Charlotte, N.C., Fox took with him the memories of how far he’d come -- as well as what it has taken to get the Bulldogs to this point in just two years.

Fox pointed out later in the day, via Twitter on the way to Charlotte, that while his wife did grow up in Yakima, Wash., that she was actually born in Augusta. The people asking about that "fail to mention" that fact, Fox tweeted. Well, I never knew that until he tweeted it, but in any case, there you go, I just mentioned it.

By the way, if you check out this week's Sports Illustrated, Trey Thompkins is one of the more than 64 players, coaches, cheerleaders or mascots on the cover. Thompkins is at the very bottom, third from the left, and appears to be eating his shirt. I'm going to be sure to ask him about this in Charlotte.

- President Obama is getting a lot of criticism, even from the left, over picking chalk (all four No. 1 seeds) in his bracket. Well Georgia fans will also be interested to know that Obama picked against their team.

Here's a link to the video of Obama's session with Andy Katz. If you go to about the 2:15 mark, you can see in a close-up that the First Bracketologist has Washington penciled in.

MY TAKE: Hey, Washington voted for Obama, Georgia voted for McCain. Just sayin'.

- Finally, here's a story that will probably be dominant at the Charlotte regional, at least during Thursday's round of media sessions: Will the end of Tennessee's NCAA tournament run, whenever it happens, spell the end of head coach Bruce Pearl's run too?

That's the conclusion that could be divined by a strangely-timed interview Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton gave on Wednesday.

“We don’t know the answer today,” the AD said when asked if Pearl will return. “We’ve done a lot of soul searching about the direction of our program and we’ll continue to do that and we’ll decide after we’re out of the NCAA Tournament what direction it is that we’re going to go next.”

MY TAKE: ... Uh-oh. ... But as others have pointed out, shouldn't the A.D. who also hired Lane Kiffin be somewhat accountable in all of this too?

Off to the NCAAs ...

Well not me. I leave Thursday morning. But the Georgia men's basketball team was set to climb on the bus for the three-hour drive to Charlotte on Wednesday afternoon.

The Bulldogs will check in their hotel, have dinner in the Queen City, then have their big prep day on Thursday: An early afternoon practice at an off-site location, the NCAA press conference at 6 p.m., then the shootaround at the arena a short time later.

Before they left Wednesday, head coach Mark Fox and players met with the media. A few notes and quotes from the session:

- Players agreed with the notion that a weight seems removed now that they're in the tournament. That was their goal for so long, and they never seemed "in" until their name was called. Now that it is, according to Trey Thompkins: “I feel like there’s no pressure on us anymore. We’re in the tournament now, and there is no bad team in the tournament.

“Definitely," Leslie said when asked if the weight was now off. "Going in (on Sunday), the bracketology, everything we saw was basically that we were out. Or we were just praying and hoping to be the last four in. But we got the No. 10 seed. I’m just glad we got the opportunity to get in the tournament.”

- In scouting Washington, Fox said the Bulldogs aren't quite sure what to expect from the Huskies as far as personnel. That's because head coach Lorenzo Romar - who was an assistant at UCLA to Jim Harrick before Harrick came to Georgia - is liable to mix up his starting units.

But one player they figure will see lots of time is guard Isaiah Thomas, the 5-foot-9 all-Pac 10 selection. Thomas hit the shot that won the conference tournament on Saturday night. Fox couldn't come up with an apt comparison, even after facing smaller guards like Florida's Erving Walker.

And Fox had a bit of an eye-popping quote when asked if Thomas was like former Washington guard Nate Robinson - also 5-9, now an NBA veteran.

"He's better than Nate," Fox said. "He's a better player than Nate. And Nate obviously is good enough to be a pro. But Isaiah's a terrific player."

- Fox shrugged off the late start time - at least as far as Georgia players.

"There's two ways to look at it: If you're from Washington you're probably saying, 'Hey this is a great thing, we're playing at 7 o'clock our time. They have the advantage coming East," Fox said. "Most young people don't go to bed at the same time I do. So I'm more worried about me than I am them."

- Fox has plenty of experience coaching in the NCAAs, so he's started prepping the team on some of the differences. For instance on Tuesday they had a longer water break in practice to simulate the longer timeouts during tournament games.

Senior Jeremy Price, the only player on the team who has stepped on the court for a tournament game (Chris Barnes was injured three years ago) said he's also been briefing his teammates.

"The intensity of the game is going to pick up," Price said. "The competitiveness is going to pick up. There's not a bad team in the tournament."

- Finally, a good finishing quote from Fox on what the NCAA appearance - no matter what happens Friday - means for the program:

"Now instead of selling the vision we can sell the accomplishment. It's a big step forward for us and now we can move on."