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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Les Miles: Over-signing number is 'in play,' presidents favor action

Just ran into Les Miles in the lobby here. The LSU head football coach was already holding court with a trio of other reporters, so I quickly asked him if he had addressed roster management issues, and if he had to please repeat it.

“I said that there has to be an alligator handler in every class. In fact Troy has got the swamp people. We’ve got to make sure that we keep a quality contingent of free-spirited men around.”

And no, I’m not making that up. Miles was kidding, of course, apparently alluding to an earlier interview. He was nice enough to turn serious and provide an update on the controversial over-signing issue, a few minutes after the SEC coaches’ meeting had broken up.

“The number is certainly in play,” Miles said, referring to the proposed limit on 25 signees per class. The current limit is 28. “The chancellors and the presidents certainly have a strong opinion. The A.D.s and coaches (may feel) slightly different. I think it will come to a point where we decide on a policy. And I think the intent certainly is to make college football better.”

Miles was then asked if the minds of the chancellors and presidents could be changed.

“You know I don’t if that’s the focus in any way,” he said. “I think it’s more just really (finding) a good policy.”

Will SEC coaches pull the trigger on basketball changes?

DESTIN, Fla. - There is real movement towards realignment to the structure of SEC men’s basketball. At least that’s if you believe Mark Fox and Billy Donovan.

The league is debating here whether to get rid of its division format, go to 18 games and change its schedule. And unlike last year, when tournament re-seeding was voted down, Fox expects there to be action.

“If I would have to guess, I would guess there’s a lot of momentum for change,” Fox said.

The Georgia head coach said he supports change.

“I think we have to look very hard at going away from being in divisions,” he said. “For the health of our league, I think we have to look at it.”

It’s unknown if there are enough votes among the 12 coaches to make that drastic a change. And even if they are, logistics then have to be worked out: Who would each team play every year, how would they rotate the schedule, and how would the tournament be seeded.

The schedule could be a really thorny issue, considering one team – Kentucky – brings in a lot of revenue wherever they play.

Donovan, the Florida head coach, had perhaps the day’s most interesting idea: Instead of seeding the SEC tournament by record, do it by RPI ranks. It would help encourage teams to schedule better, Donovan mused.

Donovan also referred so off-handedly to the schedule going to 18 games that it made you think it was almost a certainty. But he may have been misunderstood.

Re-seeding the SEC tournament still seems the most likely change to come out of these meetings. The vote last year against doing so was 6-6, but as Fox pointed out, “some of the coaches have changed.”

“It’s something we’ve talked about for a couple years,” Donovan said. “I don’t know if anybody feels that we’ve got it solved, here’s the solution to this.”

It’s still very possible that nothing much tangible will be passed. Coaches may prove resistant to change when they get in their meetings and have to pull the trigger on realignment.

But heading in, it does seem like the appetite is there to at least discuss big changes.

Live from Destin: Over-signing update

DESTIN, Fla. - The football coaches have closed the door and begun their meetings. I attempted to plant a listening device, but was thwarted at the last moment by the crack SEC staff.

Seriously, it’d be quite cool to be a fly on the wall there. I’m not sure how much consensus will be reached on the league’s most visible issue, over-signing. But I think it was summed up well by Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino when he met with the media beforehand:

Petrino stated bluntly that he over-signs and he thinks the issue is overblown, but commissioner Mike Slive wants something, so legislation will be pushed through. And Petrino didn't sound too crazy about it.

At first, when Tennessee’s Derek Dooley spoke first to the media, it seemed Slive might have already arranged a consensus behind the scenes.

“That’s obviously been the big talk in the last couple of weeks. I think with any piece of legislation the first thing you have to be cautious of is not getting so caught up in the public outcry you over-legislate,” he said. “Here’s what I do know: Most of the complaints have been fair, it’s been because of some things that have been not so common.”

Then Dooley – who had come down publicly for over-signing before Destin, said he favored things in Slive’s package of proposals.

“It closes the loopholes, and still accounts for a little overage,” Dooley said. "There’s a difference between overage and excessive signing. … We just need to close the loopholes.”

So that sounded like a bit of potential consensus forming.

But then coaches like Auburn’s Gene Chizik, Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino and Mississippi’s Houston Nutt traipsed through, making clear they had no stomach for the proposal to limit signing classes to 25 players.

“I think the 28 (limit is) just right,” Nutt said. “Follow that rule, and you won’t have a problem with it.”

Chizik said the 28 limit hadn’t been given enough time to work, and was surprised the issue was even being discussed again.

“In my opinion it’s worked,” Chizik said. “In my opinion I’m very comfortable where it is now. For us to turn around a year late rand try to change it again, I have my doubts about us having given it enough time to see whether it’s worked or not.”

Then came Mark Richt, who didn’t appear comfortable being the outspoken voice against over-signing. He started out by saying he would just “listen to what everyone has to say” in the meetings.

“First of all, I think everyone should have a right to manage their numbers,” he said. “I think every university should be able to do that.”

Then he said over-signing would be okay if the players know in advance they would gray-shirt.

“If everyone knows that on the front end, then I don’t see anything wrong with that ethically,” Richt said. “But what I’ve said, if you sign five over, and you get to the moment of truth, and you have to tell two or three kids that thought they were coming in with everyone else, and then all of a sudden you spring the news, all of a sudden there’s no room, you’ve gotta come in in January, I don’t think that’s right.

“But I never said anyone did that, I wasn’t accusing anybody of anything. I was just saying if everyone knows on the front end what’s going on, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Nick Saban spent his media session discussing other issues – the tornado, Jim Tressel, NCAA compliance issues – so he didn’t field anything on over-signing. But doubtless, the Alabama coach is talking about it behind the scenes.

We’ll see soon what comes out of all this. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 30, 2011

NCAA baseball regionals: UGA heads west, young men

The Georgia baseball team did indeed make the NCAA tournament, but it was apparently a close call, and it will rack up some mileage getting there.

The Bulldogs are headed for the Oregon State regional, in Corvallis, Ore. They were selected as a No. 3 seed, indicating they were one of the last at-large selections to the field.

Georgia's first-round opponent in the four-team, double-elimination regional is second-seeded Creighton.

The NCAA selection committee could have kept Georgia closer to home, with regionals at Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State or even North Carolina and Virginia. Instead, the Bulldogs head to the west coast, and not alone in that fate: Arkansas, another at-large selection out of the SEC, is headed to Arizona State.

But if you go by the RPI, Georgia got a pretty good draw: It's ranked ahead of Oregon State and Creighton in those rankings, according to (Georgia 17, Creighton 29, Oregon State 31.)

SEC meetings: Five things to watch

We've posted a story over at on the five things to watch at this week's league meetings in Destin, Fla. Here's the link.

A tease: One of those issues rhymes with "Dover-shining."

I'm headed on the road soon. (And just downloaded a bunch of music for the journey, including the soundtrack to "Juno." Yeah, I have questionable music tastes.)

Look in this space for coverage all week from Destin, including a round of coaching press conferences on Tuesday. But there should also be plenty of other stuff.

It'll be interesting to watch if something really substantive and meaningful comes out of the meetings on roster management. And while basketball realignment - perhaps eradicating division play - hasn't received as much attention, that really appears to be on the front-burner.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Baseball update: Where will Georgia play? (Assuming it gets a bid)

The conventional wisdom says that Georgia all but clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament with its performance in the SEC tournament. So assuming the conventional wisdom isn’t wrong, where will the Bulldogs play next weekend?

The NCAA has announced the 16 regional sites. Five of them are from the ACC:
Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida State.

Those would be the most likely destinations if geography ends up being the main factor for Georgia’s placement. (Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt were the three picks from the SEC.)

Or the committee could send the Bulldogs to the Lone Star State, which has four regional hosts: Texas, Texas A&M, Rice and Texas Christian.

And if the Bulldogs are sent WAY far away, the possibilities are UCLA, Oregon State, Cal-State Fullerton and Arizona State.

Georgia is likely to be a No. 2 seed because of its RPI rank (16) and performance in the SEC. But given its record (31-30) it wouldn't be a shock to slip to a third seed. That's not too much of a difference, however, given it will be playing in the 2-3 seed game either way.

A pre-Destin look at over-signing

Here's my Sunday story on the SEC's "roster management" issue. That means over-signing, grayshirting, medical exemptions ... the whole kit and kaboodle. But I tended to focus on over-signing.

An excerpt:
At heart, the issue is how cut-throat college football must be. And there isn’t much common ground.

On one side, you have those who oppose doing “whatever it takes.” Florida president Bernie Machen, in a February letter to, ripped into grayshirting and medical exemptions. Georgia head coach Mark Richt has called pulling scholarships for numbers reasons “an awful thing to do.”


On the face of it, the math would indicate that the head coaches -- virtually all of the Western Division, plus Spurrier -- would out-vote Richt and his like-minded friends. But the athletics directors and presidents have the final say.

Slive doesn’t have a vote, but he has a view, as he pointed out, and it’s unlikely that he would put forth legislation without having a good idea of how it will fare.

While Slive won’t achieve any consensus among the coaches, he will try to get the administrators to agree on an overall plan. The easier task will be getting an agreement on the SEC overseeing medical exemptions; but further limiting signing classes and gray-shirting will be a tougher task.

I'll be in Destin this week and will provide updates on these and any other key issues.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The first of hundreds of preseason all-SEC lists

Phil Steele is out with a very early, and as usual comprehensive, preseason all-SEC team. And it has plenty of Georgia players on it.

Here's the link to the full list.

Five Georgia players make the first team:

QB Aaron Murray
TE Orson Charles
T Cordy Glenn
K Blair Walsh
P Drew Butler

Two make the second team:

C Ben Jones
PR Branden Smith (even though he hasn’t been given that job yet)

The third team:

DT DeAngelo Tyson (even though he’s moving to end)
LB Christian Robinson
CB Brandon Boykin
S Bacarri Rambo
KR Brandon Boykin

And the fourth team:

RB Isaiah Crowell (even though he hasn’t played a down yet)
WR Tavarres King
LB Cornelius Washington (even though he may not even start)

And yes, I used “even though” four times there. But it’s the preseason, you project, and you have some fun.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Seiler continues to defend Uga lineage

A lot of you have asked recently about the next Uga. Here's an update, and a bit more: Sonny Seiler reveals why it won't be Russ but could be his offspring, clears up the "inbreeding" misconceptions, addresses the Isaiah Crowell puppy story, and more in a story just posted:

ATHENS - Sonny Seiler has heard the comments and questions: Is there something wrong with the Uga line? Why not take the interim title off Russ? What about using that Isaiah Crowell puppy?

Seiler, whose family has been breeding the Georgia mascot for more than half a century, sought to answer a few of those queries and clear up some things.

But in an interview Friday, while driving back to Savannah after a UGA athletic board meeting, Seiler also spoke of how rough it has been to have two straight Uga mascot pass away suddenly. He also pointed out that the litter mates of Ugas VII and VIII are all healthy, so their deaths were not the result of breeding.


“Cancer is cancer. It hits people. It hits animals. In neither case was it hereditary,” said Seiler, who lives in Savannah and is a board member emeritus at UGA. “That puts down those soothsayers out there who say we need a new process of breeding.”

You can read the full story here.

A list of people who are smarter than me

Georgia has released the names of the 277 student-athletes (a term I don’t usually use, but will in this case) who earned a 3.0 or better grade point average during the spring semester.

You can read the full list here. But here are some of the names that stand out:

- Gerald Robinson, the starting point guard and third-leading scorer for the men’s basketball team.

- Jasmime James, women’s basketball starter and a second-team all-SEC pick.

- Derek Owens, the reserve cornerback who was academically ineligible for the Liberty Bowl but came back to attain a 3.0.

- Christian LeMay and Chris Conley, the two freshmen early enrollees for the football team.

- Other notable football players: Michael Bennett, Brandon Boykin, Drew Butler, Mike Gilliard, Jarvis Jones, Derrick Lott, Aaron Murray, Christian Robinson, Richard Samuel, Branden Smith, Garrison Smith and Trinton Sturdivant.

Murray was noted for having over a 3.5, and Butler for having a 4.0.

- Russell Henley, the senior golfer who in May became only the second amateur to ever win a Nationwide Tour event.

- Zach Cone and Kyle Farmer of the baseball team. Cone is the team's cleanup hitter, and Farmer is the team's second-leading hitter and tied for the team lead in home runs.

- Gymnast Kat Ding, a junior who won the NCAA bars title.

Georgia reported that 54 percent (or 277) of it's student-athletes posted a 3.0 or better. Nineteen had a 4.0, and another 118 were between 3.5 and 3.99.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Georgia-Florida tickets get more expensive

Starting in 2012, fans will have to fork over more for a ticket to what was formerly called the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party. And it could get more expensive in future years.

The UGA athletic board on Thursday approved a ticket hike for the 2012 season. Right now the tickets are $40 for regular stadium seating. They will increase to $60 for 2012.

But the board agreed to table (i.e., discuss later) tickete increases to $70 for 2014 and $75 for 2017.

The University of Florida athletic board had already approved the ticket pricing schedule for the 2012 game, and will discuss the 2014 and 2017 games at its meeting next month.

Georgia cited the ticket prices of other notable rivalry games as a reason for the hike:

Texas-Oklahoma: $110.00
Army-Navy: $115 club/$65.00 priority seating
Miami-Florida State: $70.00
Oregon-Oregon State: $78.00
Michigan-Ohio State: $70.00
Auburn-Alabama: $65.00

In other news, the board approved an additional $727,000 in funds for what it called “student-athlete welfare.” That includes the addition of two nutritionists, a sports psychologist, a training table and a mentor program.

The athletic association’s annual budget for the 2012 fiscal year will increase to $89,952,400. That’s about $5 million more than the current fiscal year budget. The school will be spending $2.66 million more in scholarships, and $1.4 million more in guarantees to non-conference football opponents.

Meanwhile, athletics director Greg McGarity told reporters covering the board meeting in St. Simons that head baseball coach David Perno will return in 2012.

Notes: Diamond Dogs lose, Taylor "graduates," Harrow commits elsewhere

Yours truly was away from the computer on Wednesday night, so I missed a chance to post a few items. Now after drinking a lot of water – let’s just say they might be a bit low on champagne in downtown Athens this morning – I can give you a catch-up:

- The Georgia baseball team opened play in the SEC tournament with a 10-0 loss to Vanderbilt. In fact the Bulldogs were held to just one hit, the first time since 2009 that's happened.

The loss puts the Bulldogs in an elimination game today against Auburn. The loser is not only headed home from Hoover, but their season is done. Georgia will need to win its next three games, at least, in order to be eligible for an NCAA tournament bid.

Sophomore left-hander Alex Wood (4-7, 4.80 ERA) will start for Georgia against junior right-hander Derk Vernadore (6-2, 3.75). The game will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Arkansas-Mississippi State game, which begins at 10:30 a.m.

- There’s much better news for the baseball team: Jonathan Taylor has “graduated” from the in-patient program at the Shepherd Center to the “Day program.” That means Taylor, who suffered a serious neck injury earlier this year, will live next to the Shepherd Center in a connecting resident hall. He will continue rehab for the next four-to-six weeks.

“After rehab, he goes back to the residence hall and is on his own until the next day when he goes back for rehab,” team spokesman Christopher Lakos said. “They do this for their patients to help them get adjusted to being independent.”

- Ryan Harrow, a big recruiting target for the Georgia men’s basketball team, announced via Twitter that he was headed instead to Kentucky.

That’s a big disappointment for the Bulldogs, who thought they had a good chance at the N.C. State transfer. Harrow, a 6-foot-1 point guard, would have fit nicely in the lineup once he became eligible for the 2012-13 season.

Georgia could still end up adding another player to this year's class. Guard Kevin Ware, the former Tennessee signee from Rockdale County, has yet to announce his plans. But the Ware situation isn’t exactly clear-cut; he’s already backed out of another commitment, to Central Florida, and has yet to qualify academically.

- Finally, I had an item earlier on Mark Richt and his lake house being up for sale, downplaying the notion that it was somehow connected to his job security. Chip Towers at the AJC reached Richt later, and the coach relayed that he had decided to sell the house, which he built in 2009, out of a desire to feed the needy.

Richt said he was inspired after reading a book by Richard Stearns, “The Hole in our Gospel.”

“I was actually compelled to do this much earlier,” Richt told the AJC. “I made the decision to do it a while ago but I didn’t want to do it during the season or during recruiting because I knew it would be blown out of proportion. But it’s been on my heart for a long time, so we’re just going ahead and doing it.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Have $2 million to spare? Richt's lake house available

This isn’t a major thing, but in the dog days of the offseason everything may seem that way. So I thought I’d pass this on.

The web site SportsbyBrooks has posted an item about Mark Richt putting his house on Lake Hartwell up for sale. Richt just purchased the house a couple years ago, and is now asking $1.99 million for it.

Brooks (a UGA graduate) writes:

Normally I don’t subscribe to a coach putting a home up for sale as a sign of anything, but in this case, it might be applicable. …

Richt doesn’t strike me as a guy out to flip houses, so I think it’s reasonable to surmise that last year’s 6-7 record - and the subsequent outcry emanating from Athens - may have something to do with the coach making over his real estate portfolio.

UGA spokesman Claude Felton shrugged off the report, indicating that Richt’s desire to sell the house was a fairly open secret.

“He’s actually been thinking about doing that for a couple months, I do know that,” Felton said.

Richt and his family still have their main house in Athens, so the lake house is more of a retreat. Plus, lots of other coaches keep lake houses far from home; Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech) and Ralph Friedgen (formerly of Maryland) both have houses on Lake Oconee. And obviously they don’t live close by.

So even if Richt were worried about his job – and he probably is – if he really loved the lake home, I would guess he’d be keeping it either way. Selling it is probably more about money, and less about his future.

Of course, given the current housing market, good luck to Richt selling it anytime soon.

Zero hour, of sorts, for the Diamond Dogs

If the Georgia baseball team is done playing by Thursday or Friday, then it's done playing.

If the Bulldogs are still playing by the weekend, they'll likely be playing next week too.

That's pretty much how it breaks down, according to the experts, as the SEC tournament begins Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.

Georgia is 28-28 entering the tournament, and plays Vanderbilt in the first round. The Bulldogs need to be over .500 to be eligible for an NCAA bid, so they need at least three wins this week, or else their season is over.

Here's my preview of Georgia's tournament chances. The key quote from Baseball America analyst Aaron Fitt:

“If they (win three games), I think they will get in, on the strength of their SEC record and their challenging nonconference schedule,” Fitt said. “The committee has made a point to emphasize nonconference strength of schedule under chairman Tim Weiser’s leadership.”

Here's the immediate schedule for Georgia:

Wednesday: vs. Vanderbilt, 9:30 p.m. (approximately)

Thursday: (if wins first round) vs. Auburn-South Carolina winner, 8:30 p.m. (approximately) .... (if loses first round) vs. Auburn-South Carolina loser, 1 p.m. (approximately)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

APR scoresheet: Good marks for Georgia

It’s okay if you hear ‘APR’ and think your credit card rate is about to be jacked up. I’ve been following the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate for all seven years of its existence, and I still do the same thing.

The good news for Georgia fans, and the people associated with its athletic programs, is they probably have more to worry about from their credit cards than the NCAA’s APR.

In the date released on Tuesday, Georgia’s teams are in good shape, and don’t appear close to any penalties.

Georgia’s scores in football and men’s basketball are both slightly up, and appear to be safely away from any potential penalties.

The football team’s rate was 976, which was 30 points higher than the national average for the sport. By comparison, Arkansas and Tennessee are tied for the worst multi-year score in the SEC, at 937. (Thanks to Andrew Gribble of the Knoxville News-Sentinel for that nugget.)

The lowest score for any Georgia team was the men’s basketball team, at 946 – but that’s still well beyond the current cut-off (925) where penalties begin. The four-year average nationally for men’s basketball is 945. And the score for the 2009-10 season was 965, so head coach Mark Fox's team would seem on track to improve its score next year.

The Bulldog women’s basketball team nearly registered a perfect score, coming in at 995.

The Georgia baseball team came in at 952, seven points below the national average. The men’s golf team had a perfect score, while women’s cross country had a 995.

The APR score is a four-year rolling score, with two main components: It measures whether a player was in good academic standings (i.e., eligible) and stayed in school. A player flunking out of school results in a dreaded 0-for-2.

If a team’s score is below 925, it receives a public notice, and further sub-par years can result in penalties. If the score is below 900, what are called “historical penalties” – losses of scholarships, postseason bans, etc. – will kick in.

This year's figures measure the players who competed in the four years prior to the just-completed one: In other words, the 2006-07 season through the 2009-2010 season.

Here’s a link to the NCAA’s report on its web site.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Official depth chart released: A few mild surprises

We've all had our stabs at what the Georgia football team's position ranking might be at this point, and now the coaches have offered up theirs as well. Here's a link to the official depth chart, released on Monday afternoon.

A few notes after a quick scan of the chart:

- Caleb King is listed first at tailback, which is no shock, but then it gets interesting: Carlton Thomas is second, followed by spring walk-on sensation Brandon Harton, and THEN Ken Malcome.

So put the brakes on the Malcome train, at least for a bit. And bottom line, this position is Isaiah Crowell's for the taking if he doesn't blow it.

- Bruce Figgins is listed first at fullback, over Zander Ogletree. Figgins just switched there from tight end before spring practice. The third fullback is walk-on Dustin Royston.

- The starting offensive line is the way Mark Richt listed it a couple weeks back. The backup spots are a bit more interesting:

After the departure of A.J. Harmon, Austin Long is now the top backup at right tackle, while walk-on Hugh Williams is the top backup at left tackle. Yup, getting a bit thin there. ... Kolton Houston is the top backup at left guard, while Brent Benedict is the top backup at right guard. I suspect new offensive line coach Will Friend isn't done moving players around.

- Sanders Commings remains at cornerback, at least according to the depth chart. In fact Branden Smith is listed as the top backup to Brandon Boykin. I'm not sure whether to read something into that or not. But it does seem quite interesting.

- Shawn Williams enters the summer as the starter at strong safety, with Jakar Hamilton the backup to Bacarri Rambo at free safety. But that's a very tenuous hold on the position for Williams.

- There are no surprises in the front seven. Richard Samuel is the top backup to Alec Ogletree at one inside linebacker spot. Abry Jones is the starter at end opposite DeAngelo Tyson.

- No surprise that Huston Mason is listed as the top backup to Aaron Murray, with Christian LeMay third. I still think it's likely that Mason plays this season and LeMay redshirts, but I wouldn't rule out Mason taking the redshirt.

- Marlon Brown retains his hold on the No. 2 receiver spot, with Michael Bennett and Israel Troupe listed behind him. Rantavious Wooten and then Chris Conley are behind Tavarres King.

Of course, all of this is quite temporary. The recruits who will vie for playing time right away include John Jenkins (nose tackle), Crowell (tailback), Malcolm Mitchell (receiver), Ray Drew (outside linebacker) Damian Swann (cornerback), Corey Moore (safety) and Nick Marshall (cornerback). And the way that offensive line looks, I wouldn't rule out Zach DeBell, Watts Dantzler, Hunter Long and David Andrews playing right away.

Former UGA assistant Pyburn passes away

Here's some sad news from UGA on Monday morning:

ATHENS - Former University of Georgia assistant football coach Jim Pyburn died Saturday night in Jasper, Ala., after a long illness.

The father of former Georgia quarterback Jeff Pyburn (1976-79), Jim Pyburn coached defensive line, linebackers, and secondary from 1964-79 under UGA head coach Vince Dooley.

Born November 1, 1932, in Fairfield, Ala., Pyburn played football and baseball at Birmingham¹s Ensley High School before he became one of the greatest ends in Auburn University history. As a senior was named third team All-American and received more votes on the All-SEC team than any other player. He also was an outstanding baseball player leading the SEC in hitting with a .432 average in 1953 as a third baseman and outfielder.

The following year he signed a pro baseball contract with the Baltimore Orioles where he played in 158 major league games between 1955 and O57. After three years, he left baseball for a coaching career.

He was inducted into the State of Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. Jeff Pyburn is currently a practicing attorney in Phoenix, Ariz.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Destin could get interesting

Here's my interview with SEC commissioner Mike Slive, conducted earlier this week. The biggest news, that Slive and the league will push over-signing legislation, was posted earlier.

But as you can tell by reading the Q-and-A, there will be plenty of issues discussed at the upcoming league meetings in Destin, Fla. Here's what stood out to me:

- The over-signing "package", as Slive referred to it, will be the most fascinating to watch. Georgia and Florida appear to be out-numbered by the Western Division coaches, and South Carolina, in wanting to stiffen rules. But you have to remember, the presidents are the ones who actually vote for it. So if enough Western Division presidents are willing to over-rule their coaches (and perhaps athletics directors), there might be some teeth behind whatever is passed.

If anything does end up getting passed. But I have to think Slive has done a good bit of head-counting, so the question is what exactly the commish will propose.

- The men's basketball division and tournament setup will get some serious examination this year. The Western coaches vetoed tournament re-seeding last year, but there appear to be more votes for it this year. That could become effective right away if agreed upon, Slive told me. And beyond 2012, the commissioner said, the divisions could be eliminated altogether, or the conference schedule could be changed.

- Slive has backed off being a public (but not vocal) proponent of the plus-one system as an alternative to the BCS. This isn't surprising considering his league has won the past five BCS titles, as he pointed out. (One would argue, however, that the SEC would probably benefit under any system.)

- I don't imagine that the words "Cam Newton" will be mentioned prominently. But considering it was the major story of the past year, I thought it worth asking Slive about. You can read his responses in the story.

- One issue that hasn't received much attention, but appears on the front-burner for the SEC, is seven-on-seven football camps. People in college football are concerned that it's creeping too close to the importance of AAU coaches in basketball recruiting. We'll see what the league and others do about it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mailbag: Football schedules, transfers, baseball, movie re-makes and more

It may be the dog days of May, but there's still a lot on the minds of Georgia fans. So here's the latest in our popular installment, known as the reader asks a thoughtful and intelligent question, and Mr. Blog Man answers to the best of his ability.

Which tends not to be much.

Onward and upward.

Yesterday on they listed future non conference opponents. Listed for 2020 & 2021 was Ohio State. I have not heard any announcement about this, have you? Thanks,
- Joe

Yep, this came out the week leading up to the Liberty Bowl. Here’s my story from then.

Incidentally, I haven’t been able to post this, but UGA says that Clemson will be the opener for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. While they agreed to resume the series awhile ago, they only recently moved the schedule around to make it the opener each season. The 2013 game is in Clemson, and then the Tigers come to Georgia the next year.

Worst remakes? How about:
The Day The Earth Stood Still (It goes without saying, any film with Keanu Reeves is garbage)
The Longest Yard
I could go on.
Seriously tho: info on the next UGA would be appreciated.
Any update on the baseball team's post-season prospects?
- Joeski

The baseball team got a big win on Thursday night, beating Vanderbilt, which is ranked No. 7 nationally by Baseball America. Georgia is now 28-26 overall and 16-12 in the SEC. If the Bulldogs can pull off one more win either Friday or Saturday, they probably enter the SEC tournament in good shape. If Vandy wins the next two, Georgia will have a lot of work to do in Hoover; It’s hard to see the NCAA committee picking an at-large team with a record of .500 or worse.

This concerns mainly Crowell but I guess could be directed at all the incoming recruits. Are they (Crowell) studying the playbook and learning the offense/defense? If so, are there any kind of tests or conversations being held between the recruits and the coaches that would allow the staff to decipher how well the recruits are or aren't picking up the offense/defense?

The short answer is no, the coaches are not allowed to have contact with the recruits over the summer. But during contact between signing day and the end of spring, I’m sure the coaches were passing along whatever information they felt they need. But there are no summer quizzes or anything.

Any last minute JUCO/walkons to help w/ O-line? Oh, my vote is for Psycho remake...
- Oreo Drama (via Twitter)

The only possible last-minute recruit for this upcoming season is Denzel Nkemdiche, who is a cornerback. Nkemdiche’s brother Robert, a defensive lineman, is currently projected as one of the nation’s top overall prospects for the 2013 class.

I wouldn’t rule out a walk-on or two, but at this point it wouldn’t really be any help for the 2011 season, other than being another body for the scout team.

Good call on the Psycho remake. That had Vince Vaughn – when he was first becoming a hot name – totally miscast. And I love Vince Vaughn, but him saying “Helloooooo, mother” … Uh, no.

Other than the generic "We're training for football now, not the Olympics" and scrapping the mat drills, have you been able to ascertain some specific examples of how the S&C program differs under Coach T? Are there really that many changes from a training standpoint, or is it a matter of getting the players to be more dedicated, or both?
- Regular Guy

I’ll refer you first to my story in January, where some specifics are mentioned. Otherwise, Tereshinski wanted to keep things relatively close to the vest. But from what we’ve gleaned from the players and other staff members, the thrust of changes are: a) conditioning, i.e. playing as well in the fourth quarter as they are in the first, b) nutrition, c) making sure everyone shows up and lifts, rather than coming and going as they please.

As I’ve said before – and frankly, as Tereshinski has said – it’s all going to sound great now. But the true judgment going to be made fairly until well into the season.

Any updates on the new scoreboard? Has construction started yet?
- Aubrey

UGA spokesman Claude Felton said this week that it’s still expected to be ready for the opener (vs. South Carolina), and it’s being built on the same support that currently exists.

Any word on where Ealey is headed?
- Katepy

Not as of this moment. My friend Gentry Estes at was the only reporter to be able to reach him, the day after the transfer was announced, and Ealey told him he didn’t have any schools targeted yet. It’ll be interesting to see whether he ends up dropping a level or transfers to another FBS school.

Which Coach's wife do you think will win the swimsuit competition in Destin ?
- Robert K. Burnham

Oh boy … Don’t get me in trouble here.

The Wire or Sopranos?
Hottest Jim Halpert girl: Katy, Karen, or Pam
Better Office supporting character: Creed or Todd Packer
Shelly Long or Kirstie Alley?
Willy's, Moe's, Barbaredo's, Chipotle's, or Qdoba?
Why won't Nike make our silver britches actually silver again? Why the washed out grey?
- Matt

The Wire … by a nose. Both great series, along with The West Wing the three best dramas of the 2000s.
I’ve always liked Pam. I don’t even remember Katy.
Creed is the best supporting character, period. So much so that I didn’t like him as even the temporary boss in this year’s finale. Some of the best moments in “The Office” are the five-second snippets with a reveal about Creed: “Yes, I run a fake ID operation.”
Kirstie Alley … “Cheers” was one of the rare shows that got better every season. I would argue that about “Seinfeld” too, but I’m in the minority on that one.
“Moe’” … I haven’t been to any of those other options except Barbaredo’s. But I’ve been a Moe’s man since my days in Albany; nothing better after a morning of tackle football than going to Moe’s, grabbing about 5,000 calories worth of Mexican food, and not moving for the next five hours.

Nike would make the silver again if Georgia asked nicely. It just prefers the grey at the moment.

Do you think any of the incoming freshman will end up starting in the secondary?
- PI0we

End up starting, yes. Begin the year in the starting lineup, probably not. Corey Moore at safety would be my best bet to possibly do both, and at a minimum I expect him to be in the rotation against Boise State and South Carolina. The cornerbacks who could also play right away are Damian Swann and Nick Marshall, and depending how that position shakes out either could at least be the nickel back by midseason.

There certainly seems to be more folks transferring out this year than usual. Does this appear to be mostly related to playing time (or lack thereof), grades, chemistry or some combination of all three? Have you heard anything about the next UGA?
- Paul

No one is saying it on the record, but A.J. Harmon’s academics almost certainly had an impact on his transfer. As for the rest, I think it’s fair to say Washaun Ealey’s departure was mutual, and probably with a push from Georgia. You need only look at Richt’s public comments on Ealey leading up to it to make that assumption. Marcus Dowtin’s transfer is almost the exact scenario as Ealey. Logan Gray and Nick Williams each wanted a chance at more playing time, and apparently weren’t that happy on the team.

It is a lot more transfers, compared to previous years, but as I wrote before, team chemistry has become a talking point for the returning players; Christian Robinson, Ben Jones and others have intimated that some “cancers” are gone.

Of course, losing tends to create cancers, and winning tends to fix chemistry issues. So it’s yet to be seen if the cancer issue was a cause, or result, of last year’s record.

All quiet on the Uga front. Obviously the Seiler family is trying to be very careful about its next choice. Although I’m sure they were the last couple times, and sadly illnesses like that just kind of come out of nowhere.

Two questions: 1. With Malcolm Mitchell being regarded as the #1 CB recruit in the country by some, why are we considering moving him to WR (I know depth is an issue at WR but still...), and 2. Have you seen the tapes on RB Keith Marshall? If this kid is a lock to come to UGA then it seems to me that the Crowell era may not last long as this kid looks faster than any RB I have ever seen on tape.
- Atlien

1. Mitchell’s move to receiver is more than being considered, it’s happening. Richt has explained that they recruited him as a cornerback, but around signing day Mitchell “decided” he preferred receiver. And if he can play the position it’s probably a good call; the team has a bigger need at receiver. You mention depth, my concern would be stardom: Tavarres King can be one at receiver, but who else?

2. Whoa, whoa, whoa … I’m sure Marshall is good, but let’s wait for him to actually commit before we start declaring him the starter over a guy who some people still refuse to declare the starter because HE hasn’t played yet. I’m sure Georgia fans would be pleased with a tandem of Crowell and Marshall for at least two years, if it comes to that, and if they’re even close to as good as hyped.

Reading another blog, I saw an interesting topic of Richt and the no huddle offense. It stated that SEC officials were required to hold the ball 12-14 seconds (I think) in between plays in order for the officials to get set. This rule took any option away for Richt to run a no huddle, which he did at FSU. I am just curious since this rule is now gone, why has Richt not taken advantage of this, or will this be seen this year. Seems like an advantage to me.
- DawgWood

First off, I don’t remember that rule. Not saying it wasn’t in place, but that seems like something I’d remember.

The one thing with the no-huddle is that it used to be innovative, but it’s been around for so long that defensive coordinators are used to scheming against it now. They use it so much in high school now that even defensive players are more used to it. But you’re right, that on a down-by-down basis in the heat of the moment, it can still be an advantage – as long as the offensive coaches are good calling plays in 10 seconds, and the players are good at executing said plays in that little time. If it were that easy, EVERYBODY would run a no-huddle, without exception.

Come on Seth, Clash of the Titans is so bad it is awesome. How can you dislike any movie with such quotable lines as "Haha, I'm a god!," "The eye! The EYE!," and of course, "Release the Kraken!" Buy some Kraken spiced rum, have some friends over, drink it whenever the kraken is mentioned in the movie, and then once you are done, watch "Taken," another 90 minutes of awesome.
- Sam

I thought “Taken” was pretty good. Not Oscar-worthy, but not terrible. Were you putting that on par with “Clash of the Titans”? I hope not.

Any idea where we stand with the recruitment of John Theus? Seems like with all the attrition along the O-line Georgia should be at the top of his list. I've read comparisons to Tony Boselli with this kid, and I'm sure Aaron Murray would like the sound of that as well. Think you can pick the elder Theus' brain for some kind of indication where his kid brother may be leaning?
- Stuart

The expectation is that Georgia and Florida are the leaders for Theus, whom ranks the nation’s No. 4 overall prospect for the 2012 class. I’m sure Georgia will do everything it can (legally, one would hope) to nab him.

Interestingly, I’d have to get clarification on this, but I don’t think I’d actually be able to talk to the elder Theus – Nate – about his younger brother once he’s a member of the team. It would be considered an NCAA violation. (Which doesn’t affect reporters, we wouldn’t be penalized, but Georgia wouldn’t be crazy about racking up secondaries so we can get pithy recruiting quotes.)

Seth, my son's preschool graduation ceremony is tonight, the same night Coach Richt is coming to town. Could you ask him if he will drop by the ceremony after his Carpets of Dalton commercial taping so I can ask him a few questions? Thanks.
- Will

Sorry, I assume I’m too late for this, since it was Thursday night. But here’s my question: A few ruffians broke into my apartment and beat me up – it was a case of mistaken identity – and messed up my carpet, which really tied the room together. Could he please grab another one while he’s at one of those commercial tapings? Thanks.

I'm going to go on record and bet that the new boss on the Office is going to be Andy Bernard, the 'Nard dog (Ed Helms). I think all the people they're wheeling out are just a distraction, although, I would love to see James Spader creepify up the place. Thoughts/predictions?
- Brandon

The season finale left the boss question in doubt, but I’m starting to come around on your Andy Bernard prediction. He might be a better fit – in terms of the show, not the office. James Spader was great on Thursday night too, but they wouldn’t be able to sustain that for the rest of the show.

Any chance of Yoculan coming out of retirement?
How can I make $200k by not showing results or making improvements at my job? Sorry, Seth, I think I answered my own question here. I need to become a UGA RB coach.
Why do players who get suspended for unspecified violations of team rules? Why not put the violations out there in public? If someone didn't go to class, missed a meeting, failed a drug test, etc. why not just put it out there in public?
Why do different schools have varying penalties for infractions? Is it true that I read that you can have 5 failed drug tests at Florida before you are kicked off the team? Shouldn't the SEC mandate standards so everyone is using the same measuring stick?
- Riskadvisor

That’s a lot of questions. Let’s see how I can do:
Suzanne Yoculan seems very happy in her current role.

Bryan McClendon was instrumental in the recruiting of Isaiah Crowell, and – according to UGA – was pursued by at least one other school. That’s why he got the raise.

Schools are able to use the “violation of team rules” thing with proclivity because of things like HIPPA and academic privacy laws. I’m not saying they hide behind it … well, they do. That creates an interesting question of how much does the public need to know. Do you need to know why Player A was suspended or booted off the team, or do you just need to know that he’s suspended, or gone?

The SEC wouldn’t be able to set a standard, for the same reasons listed above, re: HIPPA.

Is it bad that the only reason i want the NFL labor talks to be resolved is for my fantasy football league?
- I. Lee

I sort of feel the same way, but I suspect by the time September rolls around I would miss the games themselves too. So would A.J. Green, Justin Houston, Akeem Dent and company, all of whom were counting on paychecks of a certain amount.

1.) So now that we have hit the Debt Ceiling, how long do you give us until our Government implodes.

2.) Since there are only 8 scholarship O-linemen left on the roster (and 3 of them coming off major injuries) which Freshman do you think will see the most playing time this year?
- Clinton

1. Some would argue that happened long ago.

2. David Andrews has a good shot at being the backup center and one of the backup guards. They’re still going to try to redshirt as many of the others as possible – Zach DeBell, Watts Dantzler, Hunter Long and Xzavier Ward – but you’re right, they may have no choice but to play one or two. There’s also Nathan Theus, projected as a long snapper.

Not living close to Athens, or GA for that matter, it is difficult to keep up with the Diamond Dawgs. Can you give us a one pager on our squad? Do we have any studs?
- Kevin

Well, I don’t know that I can give you one page. Honestly, I have to admit to being a bit delinquent in covering the team this year; I only covered the home opener, and wrote a preview before the season. I know the blog posts have been sporadic. I apologize to anyone coming here for that, but frankly being a one-man bureau in Athens means I have to pick and choose my spots.

As for the Diamond Dogs, I mentioned their NCAA situation above. Junior Michael Palazzone (9-3, 3.17 ERA) has been the staff ace and a big reason the team has turned it around this year. Sophomore Kyle Farmer (.316, 7 HR, 51 RBI) has been the team’s top hitter, although junior Levi Hyams leads the team with a .341 batting average.

But do you own a European Men's Carry-All (I think so)?
And given your USC experience, what's your view on Garcia: unnecessary distraction going into a season where they should be SEC East favorites relying on a stud RB, WR and Defense OR a pivotal player worth giving yet another chance and ruining whatever shred of credibility Spurrier had left regarding player discipline?
- Jeff from Milton

First off no, I definitely do NOT own a fanny pack. Although now that you mention it, wouldn’t it be great if people like Rodney Garner, Ben Jones and DeAngelo Tyson started wearing them? Or is that just me?

I’ll give Spurrier a bit of a break on player discipline; obviously he’s picked and chosen here and there, but so do a lot of coaches. The dirty (but open) secret is that there are different rules for players based on their ability on the field. Georgia will kick walk-ons off the team for the same penalty that will draw starters a one-game suspension. And there are specific examples for that, which I won’t bring up but you can easily research.

But as it pertains to Garcia, there’s no doubt if he weren’t the starting quarterback he would’ve been gone long ago. South Carolina is about to give him his FIFTH chance now. That’s ridiculous. The only defense is that each discretion has been pretty minor. But the consistent (and public) rule-breaking just doesn’t reflect well on Garcia or his team.

Have you been around Coach Olivadotti much? I was excited when he was first hired after reading up on him but have not heard much since then. Just checking out his bio on still has him in a Redskins shirt and it made me wonder if he was even on campus at this time.
- Deryll

I’ve spoken to Olivadotti a bit, including about traffic patterns in northern Virginia. (He lived in my native Washington for the past 11 years.) He comes off as a very laid-back, soft-spoken guy, not at all like the hard-bitten son of a coach you’d expect. That doesn’t mean he won’t get after some of his players.

And I’m sure he’ll have a picture with a Bulldogs shirt on by the time the season starts.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hoops scheduling update: Cincinnati joins the list

Another blank has been filled in on the Georgia men’s basketball team’s schedule for next season: Cincinnati will visit on Dec. 2, as part of the SEC-Big East challenge.

The matchup was announced Thursday along with the other 11 games. The challenge used to be just four teams, but it has expanded to 12 to accommodate every SEC team. (That still leaves out teams from the Big East, which at last check had expanded to 97 members. … Just kidding. For now.)

This will be the first-ever meeting between Georgia and Cincinnati in men's basketball.

According to UGA, the Bulldogs currently have contracts for two non-conference games – Mercer and Furman – along with the College Basketball Experience tournament. The latter is a 16-team event, with Georgia hosting one of the first-round pods against teams yet to be announced. The possible opponents for the CBE’s final two games, in Kansas City, include Notre Dame, Missouri and California.

Georgia is also committed to road games at Xavier and Colorado, return games for trips last year, as well as the annual Georgia Tech game, which will be in Athens this year.

Interestingly, the Los Angeles Times reported last month that Georgia and Southern California had scheduled a home-and-home, with the Bulldogs visiting LA first. But head coach Mark Fox said last week that there isn’t a signed contract for that game. (USC also said it couldn’t confirm the game yet.)

In any event, Fox said he’s still trying to arrange a challenging schedule, as he did last season. But with the losses of Trey (or Howard) Thompkins and Travis Leslie, Fox didn’t come out and say it, but not every game is specifically targeted with the NCAA tournament resume’ in mind. He did mention wanting the young team to “grow up on the job.”

As it is, with Colorado, the CBE Classic and Georgia Tech, that’s a minimum of four games against power-conference teams, plus Xavier, a perennial NCAA team.

Here’s the full SEC-Big East challenge schedule:

Thursday, Dec. 1
Georgetown at Alabama
Providence at South Carolina
St. John’s at Kentucky
Ole Miss at DePaul

Friday, Dec. 2
Auburn at Seton Hall
Florida at Syracuse
Cincinnati at Georgia
Vanderbilt at Louisville

Saturday, Dec. 3
Arkansas at Connecticut
West Virginia at Mississippi State
LSU at Rutgers
Pittsburgh at Tennessee

Call for the mailbag

It's been a couple weeks, and I've already had a couple unsolicited requests. So I'm opening up the satchel - proverbially, I don't actually own a satchel - for your questions.

Possible topics:

- The football team's offseason and continuing roster change. Which apparently are not continuing anymore, according to Mark Richt.

- Anything football-related. (As if you all needed the invitation.)

- Basketball recruiting, i.e. when will Ryan Harrow and Kevin Ware make their decisions?

- The upcoming SEC meetings in Destin.

- Is "Clash of the Titans", the 2010 version, the worst remake ever? (I just watched it last week. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes should fire their agents.)

- Anything else under the sun. Or the moon. Whatever.

All right, fire away, either by commenting below, tweeting at me or e-mailing at

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Slive: SEC has prepared over-signing legislation, schools will vote in Destin

SEC commissioner Mike Slive has prepared legislation that involves the practice of over-signing – a hot-button issue this year around the league. And Slive has a view on it, and hopes the legislation passes.

But the commissioner isn’t saying yet what his view is, or what the package specifically involves.

"There will be action because (the proposals) will come forth as proposed legislation for the presidents, the A.D.s and the other groups to opine on. But I feel good about them," Slive said during an interview this week. "So I think the goal is to make sure that our prospective student-athletes are treated in a way that is as they should be treated, like students our treated. And I think this package does that."

The package, as Slive described it, involves not only over-signing, but all issues relating to what he called “roster management.”

“In other words, it’s more than just the question of over-signing or grayshirting,” Slive said. “It’s a question of over-signing, grayshirting, early admissions, summer school admission. We’ve put together what we call a bit of a package to address these issues, that will give our people a chance to think about these issues in a more global fashion. So then it will be an important discussion item in Destin.”

The over-signing issue - teams signing more players than they have room for - has garnered plenty of attention, with SEC schools coming down on different sides of the issue. Georgia head coach Mark Richt has been outspoken against it, calling it “an awful thing to do.” But South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has said it was something his program needed to do because of the academics in his state.

Slive indicated that more debate has gone on behind the scenes.

“Well, we’ve had some discussions to get the proposed legislation in place. I can tell you that the First Amendment in the Southeastern Conference is alive and well,” he said. “I have a view and not a vote. And I will certainly exercise my view. ... I like this legislation."

The full interview with Slive, which involved a range of issues that will come up in Destin, will run this weekend in the Macon Telegraph and other McClatchy newspapers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What the (heck)? Richt discusses his feisty Macon comments

GAINESVILLE – Mark Richt’s traditional spring speaking tour is winding down, and it hasn’t been without its fun moments. Recall, if you will, what happened in Macon when a fan asked Richt some pointed questions:

The deeply-religious head football coach at Georgia slipped up and now-famously told the fan, “I know what the hell I’m doing, OK?”

Richt brought up the exchange himself on Tuesday night, as he prepared to meet another group of fans in Gainesville. And he put a happy face on Macon back-and-forth, without quite backing off the tenor of his comments.

“I know it was publicized one time I got on a guy a little bit about what he was asking. But even at the end we hugged, and it was fine,” Richt said. “He just wanted to give me his opinion. I wanted to let him know I was there. It really wasn’t that big of a deal. That’s really the only time it’s gotten a little testy. I appreciate the guy’s passion for his team and the program. I just wanted to let him know I’ve been doing it a long time and I still know what I’m doing, and stuff like that. Sometimes you’ve gotta help them out.”

A reporter then asked Richt if the outburst had forced him to explain himself to his wife Kathryn.

“Well yeah I told her as soon as I got home,” he said, smiling as his face reddened a bit. “I probably told her on the way home. If I had just said 'I know what the heck I’m doing', it wouldn’t have been a story.”

Then Richt was asked if it surprised himself to hear those words come out of his mouth.

“Well, I mean I didn’t prepare mentally and spiritually well enough for that moment. I mean it wasn’t that bad,” Richt said, then began to laugh more. “I mean he asked two or three more questions before the night was over. And literally we talked and I hugged him. He was happy, I was happy.”

But Richt didn’t learn the fan’s name.

“I thought he’d be an Internet phenom by now,” he said. “It really wasn’t that big of a deal, I didn’t think. I didn’t like the choice of words – I wasn’t upset that I said what I said, I just wished I didn’t use that word. To some people it’s not a big deal. But I could’ve chosen a better word.”

Richt elaborates on the impact of Harmon's departure

GAINESVILLE – Mark Richt is here to speak at the tour stop in Gainesville – that would be Georgia – and per usual he spent a few minutes with us media hacks.

First off, Richt didn’t want to say much about A.J. Harmon’s announced transfer.

“That’s kind of why you say it’s personal reasons. Because it’s personal,” Richt said. So that’s all I can really say about that.”

But Richt did make clear that after the departures of Harmon and Washaun Ealey, he didn’t expect any more, at least for academic reasons.

“I don’t. I don’t,” Richt said. I expect everybody to be here in the fall.”

He also elaborated on what Harmon’s departure means for the offensive line. Harmon finished the spring as essentially the third tackle, the top backup on the left and right side.

Kenarious Gates, projected as the starter at left guard, could move out to tackle “if need be,” according to Richt. And if that happened, Kolton Houston would be the next option at one of the guard spots.

Richt said the “jury was still out” on Austin Long, but said he has time to move up the depth chart. Brent Benedict knows he has a ways to go as he heals from his surgery, the coach added. Dallas Lee, a guard, missed most of spring practice.

Throw in the injury to Trinton Sturdivant, and Richt admitted the team is scraping a bit on the line.

“You’d like to have more depth by now. You’d like to have more guys waiting in the wings for their opportunity,” he said. “I’d rather not go through another cycle of freshmen playing, they kind of go through the program and when they leave you’re playing freshmen again. It really is not ideal. But if that’s what it takes, that’s what we’ll do.”

Watts Dantzler, Zach DeBell and Xzavier Ward are the signees who project as tackles.

”I do feel like we’ve got enough guys right now to be able to play well,” Richt said. “But as we all know, when you’re short on depth, you’ve gotta stay healthy.”

In other news, Richt confirmed that the plan “at this time” was not to sign a quarterback for the 2012 class. But he cautioned that they didn’t plan to before they signed Hutson Mason.

Fences mended, Vince Dooley praises the "interesting" Jake Scott

According to various accounts, Jake Scott and Vince Dooley had a falling out years ago and hadn’t talked in awhile. But on the occasion of the announcement that Scott was being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Dooley praised Scott as one of his best-ever players – and said he and Scott have been back on good terms for several years.

“He had been back to Athens a time or two for some golf tournaments, and chatted with him,” Dooley said Tuesday afternoon. “I talked to him on the phone one time. He was out in the middle of the ocean trying to catch marlins. He’s not your normal football player. He’s a little different and has always been that way. You could say that’s Jake.”

Scott wasn’t available for comment – for me or much of anyone else. Georgia wasn’t able to reach the somewhat reclusive former Super Bowl MVP to get a comment on its release about Scott’s Hall of Fame selection.

Scott and Dooley reportedly had an icy relationship after he left Georgia a year early. Scott signed with the CFL rather than play his senior year, but eventually went on to a successful NFL career.

Scott now lives in Hawaii. But his mother still lives in Atlanta, according to UGA spokesman Claude Felton. Scott will come back to Athens for games, but doesn’t make a big deal about it and the team only tends to find out he was there after the fact.

Dooley recalled on Tuesday how he once banned players from using motorcycles after Scott rode his onto the top of the coliseum. But Dooley has warm feelings for his former player, saying his ability rivaled that of Herschel Walker.

“If you take all-around, certainly Herschel was the most productive, but in all-around football player, in every phase of the game, he was as good as it gets,” Dooley said. “He could do it all.”

The best all-around player he’s coached – and the most interesting.

“Very much so, yes,” Dooley said. “He was indeed interesting. He was Jake. …

“I’m really happy for him. Actually he could have gone in earlier into the Hall of Fame, but being Jake, he wasn’t ready to accept that accolade. But I’m pleased to know that he is (being inducted) and I’ll look forward to seeing him up in New York at the induction.”

Offensive lineman A.J. Harmon to transfer

UGA announced this afternoon that offensive lineman A.J. harmon, who would have been a redshirt junior this season, is transferring.

Harmon is leaving for what the team termed "personal reasons." The native of Louisville, Ga., was academically ineligible for the Liberty Bowl.

He appeared to make a run at playing time in spring practice, spending some time on the first time at right tackle. But when he was asked about Harmon last week, head coach Mark Richt used the past tense: “We had him on our depth chart as the backup at both the left and right tackle.”

The (short) release from UGA:

ATHENS---------- University of Georgia junior offensive tackle A.J. Harmon will transfer to another institution for personal reasons according to an announcement Tuesday by UGA head coach Mark Richt.

A native of Louisville, Ga., Harmon was redshirted in 2008 and appeared in seven games over the past two seasons in an offensive line backup role.

Jake Scott is a Hall of Famer

Former Georgia safety Jake Scott has become the 16th former Georgia player or coach to be selected to the College Football Hall of Fame, it was announced on Tuesday.

Scott will be inducted on Dec. 6 in New York City. He played at Georgia from 1967-68 and went on to a sterling pro career, earning MVP honors of Super Bowl VII.

Some other members of the 2011 induction class include Deion Sanders, Eddie George, Russell Maryland and Lloyd Carr.

This is what Vince Dooley said about Scott in a release:

“I’ve been asked many times who was the greatest player I ever coached. I always said that Herschel Walker was the most productive player, but the most gifted all-around athlete combined with the love and determination to play the game was Jake Scott.”

Scott, a Greenwood, S.C. native, was a member of Georgia’s SEC championship team in 1968. He twice led the league in interceptions, and in 1968 also led the league in punt return yardage. He still holds the SEC’s single-game record for interceptions touchdowns, two against Kentucky in 1968.

Scott joins the following former Georgia players and coaches to earn induction: Glenn “Pop” Warner (inducted in 1951), Bob McWhorter (1954), Frank Sinkwich (1954), Charley Trippi (1959), Vernon “Catfish” Smith (1979), Bill Hartman (1984), Fran Tarkenton (1987), Vince Dooley (1994), Wally Butts (1997), Herschel Walker (1999), Bill Stanfill (1998), Terry Hoage (2000), Kevin Butler (2001), John Rauch (2003), and Jim Donnan (2009).

Georgia the division favorite? One magazine says so

Last week I asked Mark Richt, while in upstate South Carolina, whether he felt the team in that state would be the favorite to win the SEC East. The Georgia head coach nodded.

“My guess is most people will preseason predict them to win the East," Richt said, then ticked off the list: "You’ve got some transition just happened at Tennessee, Florida’s got transition, and we had the season we had. And they (the Gamecocks) won it last year and they’ve got a lot of guys returning and their staff pretty much stayed intact. I would think most people would predict that. I think some people would have some votes for other teams. I’m sure we’ll probably get a couple."

If Richt sounded overly optimistic by saying "a couple" votes for his team, he wasn't.

Athlon has tapped Georgia as its preseason favorite to win the East. Here's a link to the magazine's preview of the Bulldogs, which also lists them No. 14 in their preseason national poll.

Now I know what you're saying: Whoa. That's crazy, that's nuts. Is too much faith being placed in Aaron Murray, Isaiah Crowell, a possibly improved defense, etc.?

I was about to write that too, until I remembered something. ... I wrote the Georgia preview for Athlon. ... Whoops.

Actually, in the interests of full disclosure, I only wrote the preview and didn't participate in the division and national rankings, other than giving my opinion once when asked. Otherwise, it was Athlon's call. And since they were good enough to offer me the chance to work for them, and can always put a stop payment on the check, I'll point out that they're very smart people with keen football minds.

Seriously, it's not too much of a stretch. The Gamecocks do have quarterback issues, even if (as seems likely) Stephen Garcia is eventually reinstated. And they have to come to Georgia; the Bulldogs' schedule is a big reason Athlon picked them.

Of course, that schedule still includes Florida, so ...

Anyway, back to Richt. After breaking down the rest of the division, he elaborated on what Georgia might have in its favor:

“Certain things we’ve got back for us I think that are positive are it’s the second year of our system defensively, I feel that's important," he said. "When you’ve got a second-year quarterback compared to a freshman quarterback, I think that bodes well.”

And he's not the only one thinks so.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Richt slams what he calls 'winning at all costs in college football'

GREENVILLE, S.C. – You could tell this crowd of Georgia fans was a bit out for blood. And Mark Richt, without naming any fellow coaches, was willing to jump on it.

It was a meeting of Bulldog faithful in upstate South Carolina on Wednesday evening. These haven’t been good times for their football program, and at previous meetings Richt had taken strong questioning from fans about his own performance.

But the mood of this crowd turned early, during a question-and-answer session, when a fan asked Richt and men’s basketball coach Mark Fox what they would do to prevent Georgia “from becoming an Ohio State.”

It was Fox’s turn at the microphone. But moderator Chuck Dowdle stepped in and said Ohio State’s main problem was they “have a head coach who’s not truthful.”

Then he said pointed at Richt and Fox and said Georgia didn’t have that problem.

Fox, who just completed his second year in the SEC and probably doesn’t want to make too many waves, answered by saying people forget that the NCAA rulebook is thick and changes every year. Then he spoke about educating players to “think and not act, and not act and then alibi.”

He finally threw the crowd a bit of meat:

“I have yet to visit a tattoo parlor in Athens, and don’t plan to,” he said, to laughter.

Dowdle didn’t make Richt answer the question. But when it came his turn to take questions, a fan jumped in with an even more pointed question, closer to home:

What would Georgia do about the practice of over-signing – as in bringing in more recruits than they have room for, and then eventually running them off.

Richt and the Georgia administration have said before they dislike the practice and won’t do it. A few other coaches in the league have defended it, and the issue will certainly be on the front-burner this summer.

But Richt, in his customary polite way, began by bringing any crowd members unaware of the issue up to speed.

“Some coaches …” he began, before a voice from the crowd interrupted.

“Nick Saban!” a fan yelled out.

“Well I won’t say,” Richt said.

You can only bring in the number of players you have room form Richt explained, and that means 25. (He didn’t get into the rule that you could apply early enrollees to last year's total, as Georgia did this year with Christian LeMay and Chris Conley.)

Then the coach explained the practice that he doesn’t like, the distinction between over-signing and grayshirting:

“If you bring them in in the summer, and you work them and you let your strength staff work with them, and you kind of decide which ones you like the best, and you tell five of them, ‘Hey we know we signed you, and we expected you to be able to come in, we don’t have space for you, we’re really sorry about that but we don’t have space for you – you’re gonna have to leave and come back in January.'

“I think that’s an awful thing to do, I think that’s the wrong thing to do. And it’s nothing that we’ve done since I’ve been at Georgia.”

This was met by a loud round of applause.

“Not that we haven’t grayshirted, or talked to guys about grayshirting,” Richt added. “If you tell five of those guys ‘Hey we’ve got 20 spaces. I can sign 25. There’s a good chance that by school starts there’ll be room for you, because of the attrition that happens every year everywhere you go. If there’s space for you, you come in with your class. If there’s not space for you, are you willing to come in in January? …

"If you tell them on the front end and they know that, everyone understands that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And that’s how we go about it if we’re going to talk to a guy about grayshirting.”

Richt said Georgia usually has at least one player that grayshirts in every class. The public doesn’t even know about it, he added.

“These other coaches have been over-signing, trying to grayshirt, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 (scholarship limit) number. But in doing so have they done it in an ethical way, which is what you’re asking. And I’d say not. That’s why the NCAA is trying to change its rules.”

As the meeting wound down, Richt weighed in on what he sees as the general breaking down of ethics in the profession.

“There’s been a bit too much of the winning at all costs in college football,” he said. “And I hope the tide turns in the other direction.”

This was also met with a loud round of applause.

These Georgia fans didn’t have much to feel good about on the field. But they left the meeting sure that their coaches and school were at least making them proud off the field.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

UGA-SC a night game? Suggestions for visiting Spurrier, and other notes from Richt

Here’s my story from the Greenville, S.C. meeting of people who root for Georgia athletics. And while there’s lots of good stuff in there, along with the previous blog … wait, there’s more!

And here it is! Without all the exclamation points!

- There’s been no official announcement on the game time for Georgia-South Carolina, but Mark Richt is under the impression that it will be at 7:45 p.m. on ESPN. He twice referred off-handedly to the game being “at night.”

- When it comes to the opener, Richt gave a new reason for wanting to schedule Boise State in the Georgia Dome. As he put it, Georgia had been “taking hits” nationally – presumably for its on and off-field issues – and Richt felt it was a good chance to make a better statement to open the 2011 season.

“Everybody in the college football world is going to be watching that,” Richt said. “There’s an opportunity to get back into everybody’s consciousness.”

Richt also threw in the standard line about neutral sites, which of course isn’t really talking about Jacksonville, unless it is:

“I think the Georgia Dome is a great neutral site, I don’t know about you,” he said, as the crowd laughed and applauded.

- When he gets in front of these crowds, Richt lets loose a bit more. For instance, when a Bulldog booster was showing the South Carolina-based fans a copy of a UGA license plate they could buy, Richt broke in. He pointed out that he “hates” seeing cars with non-Bulldog plates when he’s driving around, and encouraged the Palmetto State residents to show their Bulldog pride.

“Get one of these, and ride down to coach Spurrier’s house!” Richt implored.

- Someone asked Richt about the receivers, what with A.J. Green being gone. Richt’s answer:

“I believe our best receiver right now is Orson Charles,” he said.

Charles being a tight end, of course. But Richt went on to add that Tavarres King is “very capable of making big plays in the Southeastern Conference.”

- Nick Marshall might see some time on offense, perhaps as a quarterback in the team’s Wildcat -- or Wild Dog formation, as Richt called it. The Bulldogs have used that before, but Marshall, the Wilcox County graduate, was a quarterback in high school.

“We’d stick Washaun back there or Caleb back there. It’s nothing like having a Nick Marshall back there,” Richt said. “That’s not out of the realm of possibilities.”

The team also recruited Valdosta star Malcolm Mitchell as a cornerback, but he will play receiver, according to Richt. That’s because the team has the luxury of other signees, including Marshall and Damian Swann.

“We’ve signed a bunch of DBs who are talented enough to play offense. And that’s a good sign when your corner has the ball skills to pick balls off instead of just knock them down,” Richt said.

- Richt listed Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams as the top safeties, with Jakar Hamilton and then perhaps Mark Deas as factors. Sanders Commings will continue to train at safety, but for the moment he’s still penciled in at corner.

“That’s what he is right now,” Richt said. But I’ll say that Boykin, B-Smith, if Sanders was at safety then Boykin and Smith would be at corners. Unless a freshman steps up.”

- Finally, Richt was spotted at the NASCAR race in Darlington, S.C., last week. He was there along with Mark Fox, Todd Grantham and a few other Bulldogs. The group was there just hanging out and not doing anything official.

So of course I had to point out to Richt that a picture is floating around of Spurrier – when he went to Daytona this year – shirtless and holding a beer. I asked Richt if something like that might emerge from his NASCAR experience.

“I hope not,” he said, grinning. “We can’t go anywhere. If your wife’s mad at you she can take a picture of you (doing) anything she wants. We’ve gotta behave.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Richt wishes Ealey well, has good things to say about King and Crowell

GREENVILLE, S.C. - Mark Richt just met with a few of us prior to a Bulldog Club meeting here in upstate South Carolina. It was the first time the Georgia head football coach spoke publicly since the news of Washaun Ealey’s transfer, and predictably Richt took the high road.

“You know my only comment on Washaun is that I really wish him the best,” Richt said. “I think that he will find a good place to continue his college career and get his degree and play some ball. And hopefully have a chance to play in the league. He’s a talented guy. He’s a guy that I hope does well.”

So what does that leave at the tailback position? Richt has confidence that someone will emerge. And he had good things to say about Caleb King, now the most experienced player on the depth chart.

“Caleb has become a very dependable football player,” Richt said. “People can have a debate on how effective he’s been. But when it comes to knowing what to do, when it comes to pass protection, when it comes to doing the things that we’re asking him to do, he does a good job.”

King will also be asked to drop a few pounds to improve his quickness.

“I don’t anticipate him being the only one that’s going to carry the ball this year. But I think the goal this year is going to be to work extremely hard on his quickness and his speed,” Richt said. “I’ve got faith that he knows what to do and will compete well.”

Isaiah Crowell is also a major factor at the tailback position. But Richt doesn’t think Ealey’s transfer affects Crowell much.

“I know he’s a competitor. I know he was excited about the opportunity to play early in his career. I don’t think this will really change his approach,” Richt said of Crowell. “I think he knew that there was opportunity at Georgia at the tailback position. That there were veterans there ahead of him, that no one had really nailed that thing down and really established themselves as the guy. And he knows that.

"So whether Washaun was there or not I don’t think it’s really going to change his mindset and change his approach. But if it gives him a little bit more incentive to be prepared, then that’s a good thing.”

A few other highlights from our conversation with Richt:

- The current plan on the offensive line is Justin Anderson at right tackle and Chris Burnette at right guard.

When asked about junior A.J. Harmon, Richt said: : “We had him on our depth chart as the backup at both the left and right tackle.”

Richt also singled out Brent Benedict, who appears to have a good chance to play if he can rehab his surgically-repaired knee.

“He’s definitely not game ready but he went through every practice. He competed,” Richt said. “Ron Courson feels like he’ll continue to get better, get healthier, be able to trigger that foot quicker. That’s what he needs now is quickness. He’s very strong. … He’s the kind of guy that learning won’t be an issue.”

- While the message boards have been awash in rumors of academic ineligibilities, Richt had no news on that. He pointed out that grades don’t come out until Monday, and only “25 percent” of the player’s grades are in right now.

- Other than defensive tackle Chris Mayes, Richt said he didn’t know of any other signees who wouldn’t be able to come to Georgia because of academics.

“Not right now, not at this moment,” Richt said.

- Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith will compete to be the main punt returners, according to Richt. The coach also reiterated that he’d like to get those two cornerbacks more involved on offense.

A bit more on Ealey

I know I'm late to the party on this, but a couple things on Washaun Ealey:

- My colleague Gentry Estes at was able to reach Ealey on Tuesday. The story is premium, but here's a link.

Ealey confirmed the official version of the story, that it was a mutual decision:

"I'm a person where I want to be a premier back," Ealey said. "If I was to play here, I would have had to share the backfield with Caleb (King) and Carlton (Thomas) also. Then they were going to try to give the freshman, Isaiah, his chance. He probably was going to get some carries at the beginning of the year, too. I just felt like I didn't want to be in that mix of things anymore."

- The long-rumored possibility of Georgia Southern as a destination for Ealey is off the table.

"There will be no contact with Washaun Ealey now or in the future," Rose Carter, a spokesman for Georgia Southern, wrote in an e-mail.

She could not elaborate on the reason why.

"It would not be appropriate for Georgia Southern to discuss any individual considered a prospect, regardless of the decision," Carter wrote.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mark Fox lifts Twitter ban on his players

It was a seemingly innocuous tweet. Early on Tuesday afternoon, Marcus Thornton of the Georgia men’s basketball team posted “I’m feelin I’m back” on his Twitter account.

But if you checked Thornton's account, you saw that his previous tweet was more than 11 months ago, when he announced: “I won’t be tweetin fill further notice … so long twit fam.”

That was because at the time Thornton’s new head coach, Mark Fox, forbid his players from using the popular social media tool. But the Twitter rights have been re-instated, apparently as a reward to the players.

"The twitter ban was indeed lifted, but only after the team’s academic performance and ‘other criteria’ were met,” team spokesman Tim Hix said, after speaking with Fox.

The Bulldog players have embraced their newfound freedom.

Junior forward Connor Nolte posted this on Tuesday:

“Admittedly giddy to be back on Twitter after a year long hiatus... My last tweet was exactly 366 days ago. People still use Twitter right?”

They do, including teammate Donte Williams, who like Thornton just completed his freshman year. ("Back in Atlanta," Williams announced on Tuesday night.) Guard Gerald Robinson just opened an account last month, posted Tuesday: "Man I almost forgot what a beautiful city Nashville is. Feels good to be home!!!"

One of the first things Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie each did after declaring for the NBA draft in April was resume their tweeting. Senior Jeremy Price also re-appeared after the season.

Ironically, Fox has been a rather prolific tweeter throughout the year. He commented on games, complimented co-workers or rooted on his Kansas City Chiefs. On Tuesday he congratulated Nolte, Price and Chris Barnes for earning their degrees.

“Had a great time with our 3 graduates today,” Fox tweeted. “Lots of laughs about the journey. I am very proud of them.”

Five thoughts on the Ealey transfer

Here’s my story from the morning papers on the transfer of Washaun Ealey. The opening excerpt:

ATHENS -- Washaun Ealey’s mercurial career at Georgia has ended after two seasons.

The tailback from Stillmore is transferring, the team announced Monday evening. Ealey was granted an unconditional release.

A few days later, before a meeting in Columbus, Richt continued to show displeasure.

“The bottom line is we don’t have a tailback right now that deserves to start, in my opinion,” Richt said. “We don’t have a guy that has proven he can do all the things that we’re going to ask that guy to do. Washaun is one of them.”

Expanding on that a bit, here are my thoughts on the big, but not so surprising, news:

1. The reaction outside of Georgia, and inside of it, varied greatly. I guess that’s understandable if you haven’t been following Georgia football too closely the past few months. The rest of us had seen too many signs – the suspension in February, Richt’s statement in Augusta, the coaches’ heady talk about Isaiah Crowell.

I can see where others might see this as a bigger deal, just going by Ealey’s freshman year, and actually rushing for more yards as a sophomore. He finishes his Bulldog career with 1,528 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns and the single-game record for rushing touchdowns. But there were also the two critical fumbles last year, and even without the off-field troubles it was clear the coaches were unhappy with Ealey’s performance.

Remember, prior to Ealey’s arrest and suspension last August, running backs coach Bryan McClendon had announced that Caleb King would start the opener because of his pass-protection abilities.

Even after Ealey was reinstated before spring practice, a colleague and I agreed that the chances were still a bit better than 50-50 that Ealey would be gone by the end of the summer. Now it’s official, and we can move along.

2. If Isaiah Crowell hadn’t signed, would this have happened? Who knows. I think if you were ranking the tailbacks on talent alone, Ealey and Crowell would probably be at the top of the list. I’m not sure the coaches would feel good heading into next year with King, Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas as their depth chart.

But Crowell did sign, so it’s academic. And the signing should have been a message to the returning tailbacks to fly right and work harder. King apparently got that message, but Ealey did not.

3. Transfers are a normal part of the college football offseason. But this year the Bulldogs seem to have had a mutual – or perhaps not mutual – parting of ways, with the aim of improving locker room chemistry. Marcus Dowtin and Nick Williams clearly weren’t happy with their playing time, and Dowtin didn’t endear himself to coaches by not informing them of last year’s run-in with the law back home in Maryland. Logan Gray apparently wasn’t totally happy either.

That doesn’t mean that there’s all of a sudden going to be a kum-ba-ya experience in the Georgia locker room that will lead the team back to glory. I suspect it works the other way: Losing creates chemistry issues, while winning makes everyone happy.

4. Some have asked what this means for Georgia in terms of scholarships, recruiting, etc. The Bulldogs weren’t really close to the 85 limit to begin with, so that’s not an issue. I’d say it’s a longshot that they try to recruit another tailback for the 2011 class, but they may try to sign more than one for 2012.

And in the short term, maybe now walk-on Brandon Harton will be more than a nice spring story.

5. The story of Ealey’s career at Georgia is one of unfulfilled potential. But the story of Ealey’s college career isn’t over yet. He has two years of eligibility, and no one questions his talent. It’s not certain where he’s headed yet – those Georgia Southern rumors have been out there forever, but Ealey certainly has the talent to play at the Division I-A level. (I still hate saying FBS.)

The transfer release is unconditional, so he could conceivably end up in the SEC. But he’d also have to sit out a season, and he turns 22 on June 1.

My personal interaction with Ealey was limited considering I only arrived in Athens last summer. But my interviews with him went relatively well – he’s no loquacious Aron White, for sure, but he was respectful. If I ran into him around town he’d give me a polite nod. And there was that story of Ealey and Mike Gilliard stopping to help the UGA bus driver who had an ice-bound accident.

So you certainly just hope that Ealey can get his life back on track, whether it’s through football or something else. He’s not going to fulfill his potential at Georgia, but he’s not a lost cause either.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Washaun Ealey is no longer a Georgia Bulldog

This isn't the most surprising news, and now it's official. Here's the release that Georgia just sent out:

- University of Georgia tailback Washaun Ealey has been granted an unconditional release to transfer to another institution for the 2011 academic year according to UGA head coach Mark Richt.

"Washaun and I have had several conversations in recent weeks," Richt said. "We both have come to the conclusion that a transfer to another institution would be in his best interest."

A rising junior from Stillmore, Ga., Ealey has played in 21 games including nine starts during his two-year career at UGA and rushed for 1,528 yards (717 in 2009 and 811 in 2010).

Two weeks ago Richt said that Ealey had a long way to go "before he can play for me." This came after Ealey was suspended from team activities for several weeks before spring practice.

Then Ealey missed most of spring practice, along with the G-Day game, with a nagging hamstring injury.

I'm trying to reach Ealey for comment.

Ealey finishes his career as one of the more enigmatic Bulldogs. He showed plenty of talent, including when he rushed for a team-record five touchdowns at Kentucky.

But he never quite pleased the coaches, and had his share of off-field run-ins. He was suspended for one game last year after a misdemeanor traffic arrest.

The news means even more that freshman Isaiah Crowell has a chance to start at tailback, or at a minimum receive a large share of carries. Senior Caleb King, redshirt freshman Ken Malcome and junior Carlton Thomas are the other returning scholarship tailbacks.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Recruiting: Georgia looks ahead at quarterback

We don’t normally weigh in every time Georgia makes an offer to a recruit. But this is a good chance to catch up on the future – the way-ahead future – of the team’s most important position.

Camden County’s Brice Ramsey was given a scholarship offer from the Bulldogs this week. Thing is, Ramsey is a rising junior, not a senior. And it appears Georgia is pretty much skipping past the 2012 class when it comes to the game’s most important position, and eyeing the 2013 class.

That doesn’t mean Georgia won’t sign any quarterbacks next February. It could get one to provide depth, and they wouldn’t turn away a five-star stud if he fell into their lap. But it doesn’t appear that the staff is eager to invest a ton of recruiting energy into a 2012 quarterback.

The thinking is that while there are only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, they’re all young: Aaron Murray is a redshirt sophomore, Hutson Mason is a true sophomore and Christian LeMay is a freshman.

And if the team gets in a pinch, it always has Nick Marshall. The incoming freshman is going to be a cornerback, but he played quarterback at Wilcox County, and has a pretty good arm.

Georgia is also making a calculated decision about the relative strength of each recruiting class. The top in-state quarterback for next year is Greyson Lambert of Jesup. But at this point it looks like Lambert will be going elsewhere, unless he shows up in Athens and pleads his heartfelt desire to be a Bulldog. Considering he could play somewhere else sooner, that’s not likely.

Meanwhile, the 2013 class in Georgia could have as many as five Division I quarterbacks, the experts tell me. So the Bulldogs could sign a second quarterback to guard against any depth issues, but their main target has now been revealed.

Ramsey, who is 6-foot-3 and 197 pounds, hasn’t actually started a game yet at Camden County. But the Bulldog coaches have liked what they’ve seen of Ramsey in camps and workouts.

This is also the point where it bears mention that those coaches – Mark Richt and Mike Bobo – aren’t guaranteed to even be at Georgia past 2011, much less 2013. But they have to plan ahead anyway. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Yes, they’re taking a slight risk for themselves – or whoever is coaching – by heading into next year with only three scholarship quarterbacks. But they survived last year with two, so why not?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Recruit Chris Mayes appears headed for JUCO

Chris Mayes wasn't likely to play this year for Georgia because of depth at his nose tackle position. Now it looks like the product of Griffin's Spalding High School won't be coming to Georgia for another couple years.

Mayes isn't likely to qualify academically and will be heading to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, reported this week.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt wouldn't confirm it on Thursday night before a Bulldog Club meeting in Columbus.

"I don't think I can talk about that," Richt said when asked by the Ledger-Enquirer's Kevin Price.

Mississippi Gulf Coast is the same school where John Jenkins is wrapping up his studies this month. Jenkins is due to compete for the starting nose tackle job with sophomore Kwame Geathers. The Bulldogs also have Mike Thornton, a redshirt freshman.

Mayes, listed at 6-foot-5 and 292 pounds, was rated a three-star prospect by

A quick blog note

As you may have noticed, as of this morning registration is required to post on the blog. That doesn’t require anything fancy, basically you just have to have a handle (meaning an internet name, for those unfamiliar with the handle.)

So basically, no more posting as simply “anonymous.”

I’ve been hesitant to do this, so I wouldn’t call it a permanent step. Let’s just see how it works, and go from there. The blog already gets very good traffic, so we don’t want to have a negative impact on that. But enough of you have requested the move so I thought we’d give it a try.

Obviously this doesn’t mean an end to anonymous posting, and I’m the only one still obligated to use my real name. (And I have the birth certificate to show it.)

Post-spring depth chart: Secondary

Georgia’s pass defense actually ranked a respectable fifth in the SEC last year. But it didn’t seem like it. The porous third-down defense – dead last in the league – stood out more, as did the propensity to give up big plays.

After all that, the Bulldogs still didn’t go out and sign one mega-recruit expected to play right away and help fix it, like at tailback and run defense. They did sign a bunch of four-star defensive backs, but the most notable offseason move was actually to move someone OUT of the secondary. (That would be Alec Ogletree to inside linebacker.)

So by and large, the team is banking on experience and individual improvement to shore things up. Hence, you’ll see a lot of familiar names in this blog post. The position destination of Sanders Commings remains up in the air, but for the sake of this blog we’ll put him at safety.

(If it were up to me, I’d move Branden Smith to offense and keep Commings at cornerback. But it’s not up to me, so here I am continuing to sling blogs at you.)


Brandon Boykin (Sr.)
Top backup: Jordan Love (R-Soph.)
Also: Blake Sailors (walk-on, R-Soph.), Connor Norman (walk-on, R-Fr.)

CHANCES IT STAYS: 85 percent. … Boykin will start at a cornerback spot. That might be the only certainty in the entire secondary. He made the wise decision to pass on the NFL, as his coverage skills need a bit of work. He’s not a shut-down corner yet, and he’s not a big-physical defender. But he has great speed and athleticism. Love had a good spring even though he was hurt (like almost everyone else in the secondary). He will definitely get pushed for playing time by the incoming freshman. Speaking of which …

LOOMING: The Bulldogs are getting an influx of four-star corners with size, headlined by Damian Swann (6-1, 170) and Nick Marshall (6-2, 195). Malcolm Mitchell would be included in the discussion but he seems headed for offense. Devin Bowman (6-0, 175) could also be a factor.


Branden Smith (Jr.)
Top backup: Derek Owens (Soph.)
Also: Luis Capella (walk-on, R-Soph.), Corey Dunson (walk-on, R-Fr.)

CHANCES IT STAYS: 50 percent. … Smith had a good spring on defense – and then a good spring GAME on offense. But Todd Grantham and Mark Richt seem set on keeping him at cornerback. (If you injected Mike Bobo with truth serum, you might get a different response.) Now if Commings doesn’t move to safety, he and Smith would likely share time at corner, with a lot of nickel coverages. That’s why we’re pegging this at 50 percent. Otherwise, Smith doesn’t figure to get pushed for the starting spot by Owens or one of the freshmen – at least not quite yet. The middle of the season, when Swann, Marshall and company are more comfortable, could be a different story.

LOOMING: See above.


Bacarri Rambo (Jr.)
Top backup: Jakar Hamilton (Sr.)
Also: Mark Deas (R-Fr.)

60 percent. … Rambo will start against Boise State unless he’s hurt. The uncertainty is whether it will be at free or strong. That not only depends on Commings, but in a repeat of last year, whether Hamilton or Williams is ahead on the depth chart. And don’t rule out Hamilton being switched back to corner, a spot he occupied in the Georgia Tech game for run defense purposes.

LOOMING: Corey Moore was a consensus four-star prospect, and given the depth here don’t look for him to redshirt. Chris Sanders might factor in the discussion too, while Quintavius Harrow does seem likely to redshirt.


Sanders Commings (Jr.)
Top backup: Shawn Williams (Jr.)
Also: Kyle Brock (walk-on, R-Soph.), Lucas Redd (walk-on, R-Fr.)

CHANCES IT STAYS: 30 percent … Commings may not even play this position, and if he does he may not beat out Williams. And Moore could always nab the job with a good preseason. As you can see, the secondary will have a lot of sorting out to do between now and the time the Bulldogs run onto the Georgia Dome field.

LOOMING: See above.


I’m ending the series with this post, rather than getting into the specialists. We know it’ll be Drew Butler punting and Blair Walsh kicking, and the kick and punt returners will be selected among the following group: Boykin, Smith, Carlton Thomas, Tavarres King and perhaps Mitchell. So there you go.