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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just a reminder ...

... That I'm on vacation through the end of this week.

I've had sporadic (at best) access to the web and even cell phone service over the past nine days - which actually can be a good thing, if you're trying to truly enjoy your vacation.

But I've got a window here of availability. All this info has been posted on the main web sites and published in the papers. But in case you haven't seen it:

- Brent Benedict, the redshirt freshman offensive lineman, has decided to leave the Georgia football team for what are being called "personal reasons." This was probably a bigger blow to the future of the line, although Benedict had a chance to start eventually this year on a very depleted line. Assuming he returned healthy from his serious knee injury, the highly-recruited Benedict had a good chance to contribute this year and start eventually.

In the meantime, Georgia's current projected starting lineup remains intact. (LT Cordy Glenn, LG Kenarious Gates, C Ben Jones, RG Chris Burnette, RT Justin Anderson.) Bendict had been listed as the backup right guard.

- The Ledger-Enquirer reported on Sunday on the potential eligibility issue with two of Georgia's bigger-name athletes: linebacker Jarvis Jones and top basketball recruit Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Here's the link to the story, in case you haven't seen it yet. UGA followed up with a statement that it was aware of the issue, has contacted the SEC and NCAA, and the athletes will cooperate with the investigation.

It's hard for me to give an educated analysis at the moment, being on vacation and all. My initial response is that you probably don't have to worry about Jones and Caldwell-Pope having any permanent eligibility issues, as happened with Kentucky's Enes Kanter. But it could hit the football team hard if Jones has to sit out the Boise State and/or South Carolina games.

- The newest member of Georgia's football strength and conditioning staff is Macon's own Tony Gilbert. Here's the story.

- Former Mercer men's basketball coach Mark Slonaker, now serving as a game analyst for Georgia hoops games, is the new executive director of the Bulldog Club. Here's that story. Slonaker is good with personal relations, so it seems a good move.

That's it for now. I'll be back soon, and I hope everyone out there is getting their summer off to a good start.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mailbag: Breaking down Boise State, the kickoff debate, season expectations, hoops and more

I’ll begin the mailbag by saying a proper adieu, or at least adieu (to you, and you, and you) for a couple of weeks. It’s vacation time.

If events warrant I may check in, or someone at the home office may post something. Otherwise I have been ordered, upon penalty of intense pain to my upper body, to do minimal checking of the laptop and Crack-berry. Hopefully I can comply, because I’ve grown very attached to my upper body.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish everyone a happy summer, and thank you again for visiting the blog, reading the daily stories on the web and paper, following the Twitter feed, and all the crazy stuff a media member has to do these days. It’s been a good first year on the beat, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

On to the questions. The good news, if you're worried about suffering blog withdrawal, is this is so long it'll probably take you two weeks to get through. Enjoy:

1.) With Boise State having such a complicated Offense, do you see Georgia trying to stick with a base defense in the opener more than they would otherwise?

2.) In our Nickel set, who do you think will start on the Defensive Line against Boise?

3.) Did you receive a picture of Representative Weiner's Chief of Staff and do you think he should step down?
- Clinton

1) That may be too Jon Gruden-ish a question for me to field in June, so I thought I’d just ask my friend Brian Murphy of the Idaho Stateman – and formerly of the Macon Telegraph – for a quick primer on the Boise State offense. Here’s what Brian wrote back:

“What makes the Boise State offense complicated is its variety - lots of shifts and motions, different personnel groupings, creativity in plays and play-calling. The Broncos will line up with three tight ends and two running backs on one play and five wide receivers the next.

TCU's defense has given it the most trouble over the last few years - and the Horned Frogs run that 4-2-5 defense with lots of speed. Historically, they've had trouble with odd fronts where you can bring blitzes from many angles. Utah State played without any down linemen a few years ago, putting six or seven guys near the line of scrimmage so Boise State didn't know which ones were rushing. Boise State's response in those situations has been to run the ball effectively.”

So short answer, Clinton, is that I’m sure Todd Grantham will study what’s worked against the Broncos, and if Brian is right, he’ll focus in on that TCU tape.

2) I expect the starting D-line to be John Jenkins, DeAngelo Tyson and one of Abry Jones, Derrick Lott or Kwame Geathers. Whether they’ll mix that up much in the nickel, I don’t know.

3) I did not receive a picture from the esteemed Congressmen, but that may be because I’ve blocked direct-message capabilities on my Twitter account ever since I got those suggestive messages from this guy.

In what way do you think we match up well with Boise State? In what ways do we match up poorly with them?
- Ian Black

Boise State’s top returning player is QB Kellen Moore, who will be a Heisman Trophy candidate. And the Broncos always seem to find steady, fast receivers who can get open. I would say that will be a challenge for a Georgia secondary that is high on experience, but needs to show it can be consistent.

The Broncos also return most of their defensive line, which was one of the best in the country last year. So that figures to be an issue for the Bulldogs and their questionable offensive line, and freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell.

The Broncos also return a strong offensive line and starting tailback Doug Martin, who averaged six yards a carry last year. So John Jenkins and that Georgia front seven better be improved right away.

But Georgia should match up well is their passing game against Boise State’s secondary, which lost a couple experienced starters. That of course assumes a big game out of Aaron Murray, and the Bulldogs finding some options beyond Orson Charles and Tavarres King.

Going by all that, you’d make Boise State the favorite. What Georgia has to hope is that it’s natural size and speed advantages will win out. But as teams like Virginia Tech have found out, you can’t just out-physical Boise State. Given what’s essentially a home-field advantage for the Bulldogs, however, it still qualifies as a toss-up.

I'm 23, graduated from UGA in 2010, but am a grad student living in Austin, Texas right now. I'll be going to GA-FL this fall and at least one other game. At this point, I am trying to decide between Boise or SC. Pros for Boise: night game, national interest, the dome, cool out of conference game, literally cool as in temperature, opening game, unique experience. Pros for SC: SEC action, SC is SC, Athens, Sanford, between the hedges, and bourbon bombs, downtown before/after, the incoming freshmen class... Cons for SC: HOT, the score will prob be something like 12-9 if history has taught us anything. Taking these things into consideration and anything you feel like I've missed, give me some advice on which game to attend.

I’ll throw this out there for others that would like to chime in. One thing I’d consider if I were you is game times: Since Boise is at 8 p.m., would that tend to ruin your ability to celebrate/mourn the result, or would you prefer having the entire day to hang out in Atlanta? And with SC being at 4:30, you would have the night to celebrate/mourn, if that floats your boat.

Do you think UGA will ever retire David Pollacks #47 jersey? Three-time All- American among the many awards and accolades.
- Ed

They might down the road. For now, Ray Drew will be wearing that number. The thing about retiring numbers at a place like Georgia is so many good players come through that you’ll eventually run out of numbers. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it, or that David Pollack wouldn’t qualify, but you do have to be careful.

Any news on a new Uga? Is there any thought that there might be a 'secret' grand unveiling at GA Dome this September?
- Ben

Here’s my story from a couple weeks ago. Short version: Sonny Seiler says the new Uga will likely be unveiled either midway or late through this season.

1) What's the latest on a Guns N Roses reunion tour?

2) What confirmed out of conference series do we have for baseball in 2012?

3) Are all of Georgia's men's basketball signees on campus?
- UGAdawwg34

1) A quick news search reveals that the Guns N Roses are planning on performing in Peru in October. So, there you go. Circle your calendar. If you need to know anywhere to stay, I lived there for a couple years as a teenager, so I’ll try to hook you up.

2) I checked with UGA spokesman Christopher Lakos: There will be the usual three games with Georgia Tech (home, away, Turner Field), and a home-and-home with Clemson. Beyond that, nothing’s set. But the 2012 schedule won’t be as tough as this year’s, when there were 37 games against ranked teams. Lakos points out that Georgia played the fewest home games of any SEC team this year (28), and expects it to be more like 34-36 next year.

3) I haven't heard any whispers about potential issues with any of them. But you never know; last year the Cady Lalanne thing came out of the blue in August. (The NCAA declared the 6-8 forward academically ineligible and he ended up at UMass.)

Could Luke Fickell’s press conference been any worse and why would “The Ohio State University” let him embarrass himself like that?
- Shawn Wilkes

It seems like there’s something fundamentally wrong in Columbus right now, and the place needs what I’ll call an “attitudinal overhaul.” When even Kirk Herbstreit has to move because of fans …

Seth, can you give us injury updates? Speaking of eliminating kickoffs, how is TJ Stripling faring in his rehab? Fwiw...count me as someone against the idea of eliminating them.
Thanks, MauiDawg

Last I heard, Stripling and Dexter Morant were still a bit questionable to be 100 percent by the start of preseason. We'll get an update before camp opens.

Ironically, Stripling's season-ending nasty injury happened on ... wait for it ... a kickoff. This isn't aimed at you, MauiiDawg, because you didn't put it this way. But I'm a bit turned off by the macho attitude some people have on the kickoff issue: I'd challenge them to make their snide remarks ("What's next, getting rid of tackling, or playing flag football?") in person to a guy like Greg Schiano, who's motivated purely by his player's life-threatening spinal injury.

I'm not pushing the issue because I'm necessarily in favor of it. I just think it deserves some study and consideration, and merits some national discussion. Dismissing it out of hand is very close-minded. Look, I think kickoffs are an exciting play too. But they're on average four or five plays a game, out of more than 100. If they were eliminated, I'm sure the game would survive.

What do you think is more beneficial to the team: Having the Boise St game inside and conserving some legs for the mid afternoon SC game or would it have been better to have a game in the humidity and heat to help get the team to get in "game shape".

I also think it would be interesting to see what the freshmen class measured in at vs what the recruiting services had them listed at.
- Dawgjammin

That's actually an interesting first question I haven't heard discussed much: Will playing an indoors game help Boise State, rather than if it had to start out in the heat and humidity of the South? I'd guess so. ... That said, on Georgia's side I don't think there will be much carryover to the SC game, at least not in the terms you mention.

Georgia hasn't released any official measurements on the freshmen yet. But those numbers from high school to college always fluctuate, and not necessarily because of the recruiting services. They're getting them most of the time from the high schools, some of whom are sticklers for accuracy, some of them, not so much.

With all of the talk regarding Coach Mark Richt's job being at stake, I have started wondering what scenarios could be in play at the end of the season if the bulldog football team shows another underwhelming performance. Should Richt get the boot, what would be our chances of claiming Kirby Smart as our next head coach? Furthermore, is Smart valuable enough to pursue even if Richt posts a 9 win season (the number I've often seen projected as a requirement to save Richt's job)?
Thanks for your thoughts!
- T Baker

I’m sure Smart’s name is going to come up a lot if the job comes open. And if Will Muschamp has a good year at Florida, that may make a Smart hire seem more palatable.

That said, there’s a long time between now and any decision like that. From my discussions with Greg McGarity, and some other people at UGA, my educated guess is that if there’s reasonable improvement and hope for the future, Richt will be back for a 12th season.

I also don’t think you can put a specific number on the win total: Is nine wins enough if it includes blowouts to Florida and Georgia Tech and close wins over bad teams? Is eight wins NOT enough if it includes a win over Florida, and close losses to good teams?

Can someone do an open records request to see what school wanted to hire Brian McClendon? I am dying to know who wanted that guy.
- Bryan Grantham

By the way, it’s spelled Bryan – ironic mistake for you to make there. :)

McClendon’s a young assistant and a good recruiter. Obviously the production at running back last year wasn’t good, but it’s debatable how much (if any) of the blame lies with the position coach. Whatever fans think of McClendon, at least two schools at least thought a lot of his talents: One school that wanted to hire him, and Georgia, which anted up to keep him. (And no, the info on which other school was not available on the Open Records Act request.)

Who you got winning the U.S. Open?
- Jake

Russell Henley? I really don't know. As I write this the U.S. Open is on and I still haven't watched a second of it. Without Tiger, sorry, my interest is almost nil. That’s too bad because it’s going on at Congressional, near where I grew up in Maryland. But no, I’ve never been to Congressional, much less played it; I didn’t exactly grow up in that social strata.

By the way, in case no one's seen it yet, here's the funny (if you think so) golf video featuring Bubba Watson and friends. You might find it very disturbing.

Seth, What do the players think are the two most important things or areas they need to improve to compete at a championship level?
- Ant123

That specific question hasn’t exactly been put to them. But based on interviews since the end of last season, the emphasis has been on locker room chemistry and conditioning. As for actual on-the-field stuff, I think players would agree with the obvious answers: Running game and overall defense.

And since those are the obvious areas of concern, I'm sure the passing game and special teams will be the areas that actually end up being a wreck.

Just kidding. (Probably.)

Every day reader, here. Whenever you are able to speak with players again, I thought it'd be cool to know why some guys wear the number they do. Some guys are supersticious or like to honor their favorite player growing up, etc. I think that'd be a good idea for a quick story or blog post when you get the chance.
- Thanks, Van

Sure thing, Van. I’ll put it on the list.

Seth, what is going on with UGA Football Recruiting?
We seem to be either late in offering (and missing out) or missing on many top athletes in the state? I know we signed a big class last year but how many are we signing in 2012?
Are you planning on a doing a feature on the strength program and its progress?
- George Pierce

Actually, the recruiting got a lift last weekend. Here’s the link to that blog post. Georgia now has a couple four-star commitments, but the biggest targets remain out there. The Bulldogs have the same amount of commitments (10) as they had this time last year.

As for the strength program, here’s my story from January. I’ll probably check in again during the preseason, but as I’ve said before, the next test is when they actually start playing games. I know players have been reporting (through tweets and interviews) that the summer workouts are leaving them exhausted, and I’m sure that’s a good thing. But Joe Tereshinski will be the first person to tell you that’s the way it should be.

Bigfoot, real or fake?

Fake is too harsh of a term. Myth, maybe?

Look, I want these things to be real. I want to believe in the Loch Ness Monster, aliens, and ghosts. Or at least ghosts that never haunt me. And I’m sure we’re not alone in this universe. But I just gotta think there would be more evidence, right?

That said, a good friend of mine who claims to have psychic powers (and I have no reason not to believe her) swears that a certain downtown Athens bar is haunted. I will protect that establishment’s identity, but for what it’s worth the owner of that bar has also experienced paranormal activity there. So, yeah, there’s one place you won’t see me patronizing at night.

Is there any chance that UGA will field a men's varsity soccer team any time soon? With the talent pool that exists in the metro Atlanta area I think we could field a very competitive team in a reasonably short period of time.
- Joe, Athens GA

There hasn’t been any mention of it lately from any powers-that-be. I’ll ask Greg McGarity if it’s under consideration, but starting a program from scratch would take a few years of run-up. And I’m sure they’d have to look at Title IX restrictions.

That said, I do find it curious that Georgia has neither a wrestling or a men’s soccer program – normally schools have one or both. So I have to imagine Title IX isn’t a HUGE factor.

The bigger problem may be that the SEC doesn’t have a men’s soccer league, so where would Georgia compete? South Carolina and Kentucky are in Conference USA for that one sport, and I always found that strange, but also an impediment (when I covered USC-East) towards the sport getting a big following. Fans want to see you competing against your traditional rivals. Maybe if Florida and Georgia Tech started men’s soccer programs, Georgia would follow suit.

I know June predictions are like appendices, everyone's got one but they're mostly useless, but I was just wondering what your honest prediction is. You can do a best case and worst case scenario if you'd like. Please explain where you see losses. Thanks!
- Jeff Ostensen

This actually sounds like a good blog idea for July, when it’s even deader, and I hate to shoot my wad on that. But since you asked nicely:

Best-case scenario: Georgia shoots out of the gate and beats Boise State and South Carolina, which sends the team on a confidence-infused hot streak. And there’s no game on the schedule that jumps out at as a sure loss: Not even Florida. (Hey, I’ve been there when Georgia won in Jacksonville, so I can believe.) I’m not going to sit here and predict an unbeaten season, but it’s fair to say the Bulldogs have the talent to win every game on their schedule, but enough major questions (offensive line, defense) to prevent predicting that. So 10-2, with the most likely losses coming from Boise State, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech.

Worst-case scenario: Georgia loses its first two games, and it breaks down from there. The Coastal Carolina game in Week 3 provides only a minor restoration of confidence, and is immediately made worse with a loss at Ole Miss. If this were to happen, I would expect the freshmen would basically take over the team, at least as far as playing time, as the coaches empty the bag of tricks attempting to save the season (and their jobs). In a worst-case scenario, only the Coastal Carolina and New Mexico State games are sure wins, but Georgia would still be an even bet to win at Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and beat Auburn and Kentucky at home. So, worst-case record: 4-8.

Knowing full well that Jonathan Taylor more than likely won't play baseball again (although I will not say "never"), I was wondering if the Texas Rangers intend to make good with their drafting of JT and hire him in some capacity within the organization, perhaps in the scouting department? Or was his drafting for nothing more than P.R. points for the organization?
- Stuart

I checked with Christopher Lakos on this too, and he hadn't heard anything new. But even I'm not cynical enough to believe the Rangers were just doing it for P.R. reasons. Picking him in the 33rd round, rather than the 50th, means they probably have something planned, whether it's placing him on the 40-man roster for a day, giving him some sort of role, or something.

But even if they don't do anything more, it was still a great gesture, and they're to be commended for it.

What’s the latest on the NBA draft prospects Howard “Trey” Thompkins and Travis Leslie. Any projections on where they go? Haven’t seen either name on any draft show or draft board on the net.
- CK

The last couple mock drafts I’ve seen – on, ESPN and – don’t have either going in the first round. That’s a major drop for Thompkins, who was considered a surefire first-rounder when he left. So I guess the definition of “surefire” needs to be changed.

That said, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see either go in the first round, especially Thompkins.

Since most mock drafts do not have Thompkins or Leslie going in the 1st round, does it look like they should have stayed in school for another year?
- Riskadvisor

Yes. No. Maybe.

Really, we have to wait and see. NBA people like to say it’s all about your second contract. Lots of prospects have fooled teams into picking them in the first round, then not proven worthy and their careers ended quickly. Others have left too early, or stayed too long, and were drafted low, then had great careers.

Thompkins probably couldn’t have done much to help his stock by staying for his senior year. The reason he’s dropped is because he didn’t test well at the combine, particularly with his body fat.

Leslie was always taking a bigger risk, and hoping teams bank on his athleticism. Someone’s going to take a flyer on him, and I still wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in the first round. But whether he’s in good position for that big second contract, I don’t know.

Most feel that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will step in in some sort of fashion and contribute some this coming year. Aside from him, which of four new bigs coming in (Florveus, Dixon, Cannon, and Djurisic) do you expect to make the biggest impact their first year in Athens?
- Mike

None of them are going to be expected to be impact players right off the bat. Nemanha Djurisic, the prep school kid from Montenegro, sounds like he could be more of a flex-wing player. So of those other three, I’d guess Florveus, but only because he’s a junior college kid. But really, the frontcourt will be up to the sophomores, Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams, at least at the outset.

1. What is your most oft used quote from Blazing Saddles? Mine..."We're gonna need a s**h-load of dimes."

2. Speaking of a movie with a sheriff, I haven't notice any arrests this year from the program. Is this luck or new strategies?
- Jesse Fortson

1) The dimes quote is very underrated, and one of my favorites. But since you specified “oft-used” I’d have to go with what I tell Archie the dog every time I let him out into the yard: “Now go do … that voodoo … that you do so well!”

2) Mark Richt – while being properly cautious that the good streak could end any time – said in Macon on Tuesday that he thinks the players know that the many arrests were related to the amount of losses. I thought that was an interesting statement.

How many times have you been to bourbon street, general beauregards, and how many times have you been to power hour since you have been living in Athens
- PIOwe

I’ve never been to Bourbon Street, and from what I understand I might be significantly older than the average crowd in there. While I love downtown Athens, I try to make Pauly’s the extent of my visits to the college-age scene. That’s more for the benefit of the patrons than me.

I’ve been to General Beauregard’s a few times, and it’s a nice place. But I haven’t partook of power hour yet, either. Maybe in July I’ll try to gather up Gentry and Fletcher and dive into that.

Mark Richt, recruiting and the dangers of pocket-dialing

We've all done it. Normally the penalty is just an unwanted conversation, or an embarrassing, unintended call to an ex-girlfriend, or just a good laugh.

In the case of Mark Richt and a Georgia assistant basketball coach, however, the so-called pocket texts, or sending a text when you mean to send an e-mail, result in having to report a secondary violation.

It happened this spring with two high-profile recruits: Jordan Jenkins in Richt's case, and Robert Carter with UGA men's basketball assistant Kwanza Johnson.

Here's how UGA described Richt's pocket call in a May 27 letter to the SEC. (The paragraph breaks are mine, to make reading it simpler):

“The violation occurred when our men’s football program Head Coach, Mark Richt, sent two text messages to a prospective student-athlete’s father on May 26, 2011. Specifically, Coach Richt sent two text messages to Mr. Ron Jenkins, the father of rising senior high school prospect Jordan Jenkins, inadvertently from his Blackberry.

"Coach Richt called Mr. Jenkins the evening of May 26th. Later in the evening Coach Richt received a text from Mr. Jenkins asking for camp dates. As Coach Richt did not have Jenkins’ cell phone number programmed as a contact, the text appeared to be from an unknown number. Coach Richt intended to text his Recruiting Assistant, Charles Cantor to identify the number. Coach Richt failed to send the final text to Mr. Cantor but instead replied to the original text from Mr. Jenkins.

"Immediately, Coach Richt realized the error and self-reported the violation to Eric Baumgartner, Associate Athletics Director for Compliance. Mr. Baumgartner later texted Coach Richt asking if Mr. Jenkins had replied to his impermissible text.

"Coach Richt attempted to forward Mr. Jenkins’ response to Mr. Baumgartner, but instead replied again to Mr. Jenkins. Coach Richt then self-reported the additional text to Mr. Baumgartner and eventually emailed Mr. Jenkins the camp dates.”

In the letter, UGA asked for "relief" from the standard two-week ban, citing the "inadvertent" nature of Richt's call, and that they were "informational" calls.

And here is what UGA reported to the SEC in an April 25 letter:

“Assistant Coach Kwanza Johnson was following PSA, Mr. Robert Carter Jr’s, Twitter account and saw the PSA post that he was out of school for the day. Since the men’s basketeball staff was together in a staff meeting, Coach Johnson decided to send the PSA an email asking him to call the staff.

“However, instead of selecting the email feature on his cell phone, Coach Johnson noticed that the SMS feature was used and a text message was sent at 10:45 a.m. Coach Johnson then sent a permissible email to the PSA at 10:47 a.m. The message that Coach Johnson sent to the PSA was, “No school today, huh? Hit me up. Coach Fox and I want to holler at you.”

“The violation was immediately reported by Coach Johnson after he realized the violation occurred.”

As penalty, UGA blocked itself from corresponding with Carter for 30 days, and precluded Johnson from calling any recruits for two weeks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Anybody up for a mailbag?

I have to form this into a question this time, because, well, it's summer and nothing much is going on. So maybe you don't have questions. Maybe you're taking some time off from football, Georgia athletics, or whatever. Maybe you're in Europe on vacation. Well, Europe or Early County, whichever you can handle.

In any case, yours truly is two days from my own two-week break. But it's been weeks since a mailbag, so I figure this would be a good time to throw open the satchel and see if anybody wants to throw any questions in.

If there's enough response, I'll post a mailbag before I leave. And as always, feel free to ask anything under the sun. Well, almost anything. Things I can't answer for various reasons:

- Where do we go when we die?

- What's wrong with the U.S. national soccer team?

- Why is "Jersey Shore" still a hit?

Anything else, fire away. Post a queetion below, or tweet at me, or email me at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A note on the incoming freshmen

MACON - Every signee that Georgia expected to be able to enroll this summer will do so, head coach Mark Richt said on Tuesday.

The Bulldogs signed 26 players in February, and the vast majority of them - including tailback Isaiah Crowell and junior college nose tackle John Jenkins - are on campus and have enrolled. Several recruits from south Florida, Kent Turene and Ramik Wilson, are on a different high school calendar, which is why they haven't arrived yet, according to Richt.

Another defensive tackle, Chris Mayes, will be going to junior college after not qualifying academically. Richt said the team knew that would be the case even before Mayes signed.

Asked if there was anybody else on the fence, Richt answered: “There’s another guy in the state of Georgia. We’re not getting into names or things like that. You guys can figure it out.”

That player is believed to be defensive back Devin Bowman, a defensive back from Ridgeland County High School. But Richt indicated he was still optimistic about everybody but Mayes.

“We expect everybody to be here,” he said.

Over-signing not a simple issue, but about 'integrity,' says Richt

MACON - Mark Richt clearly wasn’t comfortable being the main voice against over-signing. It may have drawn praise from fans and media, but it put the Georgia head coach on the opposite side from most of his peers in the SEC.

So two weeks ago at the league meetings in Destin, Richt tempered his rhetoric on the issue, and supposedly voted with the 11 other coaches to keep the limit at 28 signees per class. The SEC presidents over-ruled them and whittled the limit down to 25.

The controversy may have receded, but Richt still has some thoughts. That said, he was hesitant again about imparting them on Tuesday, as he met the media at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

Richt had been ruminating about larger issues in athletics, when he was finally asked about over-signing. The coach began by treading lightly.

“Lemme just say this. I don’t know if I should say this,” Richt said, looking over at Claude Felton, UGA’s associate athletics director for communications. “I shouldn’t say this. Keep my mouth shut.”

Then, clearly out of consideration for the media, Richt spoke anyway.

“Over-signing, I’ll just say this. You guys can figure it out: Eighty-five on scholarship. If 15 guys leave, how many do you have room for? Eighty-five you have on scholarship, and that’s the limit right? It’s not a trick question. If 15 guys leave, how much room do you have.”

Fifteen, a reporter finally answered.

“Thank you for being brave enough to answer that,” Richt said, smiling. “OK. How many are allowed to sign?”


“Is 25 more than 15?” Richt said. “So I don’t know if you catch my drift of what I’m trying to say.”

Is his drift that the rule should be more like the Big Ten, which ties it’s signing limits to the 85 overall scholarship limit, and not per class?

“No, I’m not saying the rule – all I’m saying is you can still over-sign at 25,” Richt said. “If you only have room for 15 and you sign 25 you still sign more than you’ve got.”

Then he got to his main point.

“The question is everybody’s integrity. That’s the question. Are we all gonna do things in the right way,” Richt said. “And I think everybody’s trying to. It’s not an easy thing to manage, it really is not. Because on signing day, if you sign right to the 85 number, by the time August rolls around, you might only have 79. You know what I’m saying? Because of the attrition that happens from the signing date to August. And that’s what everyone’s trying to figure out: How can we start the season at 85 and not over-sign.

“So it’s not as simple as maybe everyone wants to make it.”

Richt favors eliminating kickoffs

Mark Richt is another coach who supports eliminating kickoffs, although he doesn’t fall fully in step with the proposal by Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano.

And one of Richt’s own Georgia players is in complete opposition to the proposal.

Schiano recently proposed that the kickoff – considered to be the most dangerous play in football – be eliminated altogether. Schiano suggests that it be replaced with a fourth-and-15 situation from the 30, with teams being given the option to punt or go for it.

The motivation for Schiano’s proposal stemmed from his player, Eric LeGrand, being paralyzed on a kickoff last year. Richt, who also had a player suffer a serious injury on a kickoff, is of a like mind.

“I think if it went to a vote, I would vote for no kickoff also,” Richt said Tuesday, while attending a media day for football coaches in the state. “I would just place the ball on the 23-yard line, or whatever it is, whatever the average has been. I’m sure defensive coaches would want it on the 18, and offensive coaches would want it on the 30.”

Richt recalled that when he started coaching he was in the booth and wasn’t involved in special teams. It was only when he moved down to the field that he saw how potentially violent a full-speed kickoff could be.

“Being up in the booth you just can’t sense the speed and the violence of the hits,” Richt said. “Then when I became the head coach at Georgia and now I’m standing on the sideline, and I’m watching it from me to you, it is violent, it is very physical. You’ve got a bunch of guys that can run strong. They’re fast, and they’re not afraid. It’s kind of a manhood thing: No one’s gonna back down.”

The wedge block – where essentially two players block one – has already been outlawed, a move Richt called “wise.”

Richt said he hasn’t spoken to other coaches about the issue. But he remembered back to Decory Bryant, whose career ended in 2003 after a neck injury on a kickoff.

“We had a young man get hurt on that also, which ended his playing career. So I’m not all that excited about it,” said Richt, who also acknowledged how hard it would be to get people on board with the change. “It is an exciting play. It’s probably gonna be a bigger story than it should be. I don’t think it’s gonna happen anytime soon, I don’t. It’d be a major, major rule change, no doubt.”

So major a rule change that it would certainly have a lot of opposition – including from Christian Robinson, the defensive captain for Georgia.

“I think that would just take away a lot of plays that are game-changing. It’s a dangerous sport,” he said. “Excitement. The first play. Everybody wants kickoffs. You don’t just line up and play. That first kickoff when the crowd’s going wild. And if you eliminate that you’re eliminating a part of the game.”

Robinson, a junior, pointed out that plenty of players who get to play on kickoff who wouldn’t otherwise. He played on the unit his first two seasons at Georgia.

“If they eliminate that, that’d be very disappointing,” Robinson said. “That’s how I got a bunch of my tackles. Coaches tried me on kickoff and I got more time on defense. So that’d be disappointing if they got rid of it. Because I know that’s where a lot of players get their confidence and get their start.”

Monday, June 13, 2011

Three Bulldog baseball players turn pro

Three Georgia baseball players - OF Chase Davidson and pitchers Cecil Tanner and Ben Cornwell - have decided to sign contracts the week after being drafted.

Davidson was a 41st round pick of the Houston Astros. He hit .278 with seven homers and 31 RBI this season.

Tanner was a 23rd round pick of the Oakland A's after making just seven appearances this year, with a 2.45 ERA.

Cornwell was undrafted, but signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Mariners. he went 1-3 with a 5.68 ERA in 13 appearances this year, including seven starts.

Pitcher Matt Taylor signed last week after being a fifth-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles.

Georgia is awaiting word on two other current players who were drafted and 11 signees. The highest pick, Zach Cone (37th overall) is expected to sign. The signing deadline is Aug. 15.

Adams to attend NCAA summit, and more on eliminating kickoffs

A couple items for a Monday in June:

- NCAA president Mark Emmert is organizing a meeting of about 50 college presidents and chancellors to discuss the state and future of college sports. If that sounds far-reaching, then yes, it is.

Here's an excerpt from a press release/story about the event on the NCAA's web site:

Emmert, who began his term as the NCAA’s fifth chief executive officer in October 2010, is convening a presidential retreat to discuss continued expectations for student-athlete academic success, fiscal sustainability in Division I and fortifying the integrity of the enterprise, among other things.

Emmert did not identify a specific agenda, but he indicated discussions will be purposefully broad.

Georgia president Michael Adams is among the invitees, according to school spokesman Tom Jackson.

"It is on Dr. Adams’ calendar and he is committed to attending at the invitation of Emmert," Jackson said.

The proposed agenda will almost certainly include full-cost scholarships, which people in the NCAA appear to be rallying around. The above-linked story also indicates that the NCAA's enforcement and penalties will be under discussion.

And it also mentions that Division I is the only one to be sub-divided (between FBS and FCS), so that could mean the long-rumored breakup of Division I football powers, or it could even mean discussion of a playoff. But I'd bet on the former, not the latter.

- Here's another good look at the proposal to replace kickoffs, which is being pushed by Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. The web site Football Outsiders, run by Bill Connelly, breaks it down and suggests that the fourth-and-15 situation should actually be fourth-and-12.

Connelly, supportive of the change, writes:

Typically, Step One in having a "Serious Debate" on a topic, one that would constitute a major systemic (but, again, not spiritual) change, results in the old guard and opinion-makers saying something resembling "We need to have a serious debate about this topic (though I'm not even remotely willing to actually consider any changes)." Step Two is to have the serious debate. Clearly the Schiano proposal has reached Step One. Hopefully makes it to Step Two; it deserves consideration.

So far the idea, as far-fetched as it seems, hasn't caught on with any notable non-media members other than Schiano and Rogers Redding, the NCAA's director of officiating. Then again, it's the summer and a lot of coaches haven't been asked yet, or had much time to hear or consider it.

Recruiting: Where things stand after a busy 72 hours

Georgia had a huge weekend on the recruiting trail, and finished with a flurry. So it’s a good time to take stock and see where the Bulldogs go from here.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor committed on Sunday, according to various reports, becoming the highest-rated player on Georgia’s list thus far. The 6-foot-4, 317-pound Taylor is the third-rated player in Georgia, according to 247Sports, and the nation’s No. 36 overall prospect, according to Rivals.

James Deloach, who is Taylor’s teammate at Jenkins County High School, also committed. Deloach is a three-star prospect according to, and projects as an outside linebacker. Earlier in the weekend, punter Collin Barber and fullback Quayvon Hicks gave Georgia commitments.

That gives the Bulldogs 10 commitments – the same number it had this time last year. There were eventually 16 by August, then not another one until December.

By my count Georgia will be able to sign 26, perhaps 27, per the new SEC restrictions. The new limit is 25, and the team can back-count early enrollees. It signed 26 last year, and back-counted two early enrollees, Christian LeMay and Chris Conley, so that leaves room for one extra spot.

And then the question is whether the new SEC rules allow you to not count signees who don’t enroll, such as Chris Mayes. If that’s the case, it has two extra spots for next year. (I’m seeking clarification from the SEC on the new rules.)

Much like last year, most of the big names remain on the board. Here are some of the main targets:

- OT John Theus, The Bolles School, Jacksonville, Fla. (Five stars)
- RB Keith Marshall, Milbrook High School, Raleigh, N.C. (Five stars)
- DB Geno Smith, St. Pius X School, Atlanta (Five stars)
- DE Jordan Jenkins, Harris County High School, Hamilton (Four stars)
- OLB Josh Harvey-Clemons, Lowndes High School, Valdosta (Four stars)

All of the above players are listed in the top 60 national prospects by But the summer camps and actual high school season will cause a lot of fluctuation in national rankings, and all that kind of stuff. Remember, Isaiah Crowell's stock rose a lot from the summer to February, and few had heard of a junior college prospect named John Jenkins.

Since none of the commitments so far are offensive linemen, expect Georgia to make a big push at that position. (Vadal Alexander from Buford is another name to watch there.) It doesn’t plan on signing a quarterback this class. Receiver would also appear to be a need position, based on the current roster.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in this class,” said Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for “Coming off the Dream team, the momentum is certainly there.”

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Comings and goings: Football updates

The Georgia football team has seen a number of departures since the end of the season. The most recent was tackle A.J. Harmon, and he announced via Twitter this weekend that he was headed to Alabama State, an FCS school.

Here’s a quick summation of where everyone has ended up:

LB Marcus Dowtin .....TBA
RB Washaun Ealey .... Jacksonville State
WR Logan Gray ....... Colorado
OT A.J. Harmon ...... Alabama State
DE Jeremy Longo ..... Retired (injuries)
LB Nick Williams .....North Alabama

Meanwhile, Georgia picked up its seventh and eighth commitments for the 2012 class on Friday when Fullback Quayvon Hicks of Pierce County High School player is listed as a three-star prospect by, and punter Colin Barner of Cartersville could be the replacement for Drew Butler.

Here are the other commitments:

WR C.J. Curry, Flowery Branch (Three)
DE Jalen Fields, Georgia Military College (NR)
DE Leonard Floyd, Eastman (Four stars)
K Marshall Morgan, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (NR)
WR Lonnie Outlaw, Georgia Military College (NR)
TE Ty Smith, Moultrie (Three)

Fields and Outlaw are two previous signees who would have (from my understanding) two more years of eligibility.

NOTE: No sooner did I post this blog did word come down of Barber's commitment. I updated the blog post accordingly.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Still chiseled, Herschel imparts his knowledge to his former team

Herschel Walker has been hanging around the Georgia football program the past two days. He met with the team early Friday morning, and according to the Twitter updates of a few players left quite an impression.

"A 49 year old man just showed the #UGA football players how it's really done. And when I say 49 year old man, I mean Herschel Walker," wrote linebacker Brandon Burrows.

"Great First workout with Hershel Walker. "Georgia Means Something!" wrote linebacker Christian Robinson.

Walker also met the media on Thursday. I had meetings in Macon on Thursday and wasn't able to attend the media availability with my Twitter buddy Walker. But staff correspondent, friend to the stars and all-around swell guy Fletcher Page was there, and here's what he filed:

ATHENS – Herschel Walker couldn’t recall the last team he spoke to the football team at Georgia as he met with the media Thursday.

With his always-busy schedule as the primary culprit for his lack of trips to Athens, Walker finally found time to return to the football grounds where he famously dominated in the early 80s.

“To be honest, I was happy they asked me to come back,” Walker, who now trains and fights in mixed martial arts, said. “Sometimes I think people forget about you when you start getting old.”

Walker, 49, is just as physically impressive as he’s ever been. He says he’s still eating one meal a day, and is still pumping out a considerable amount of push-ups and sit-ups on a daily basis. He’s currently gearing up for a match in August.

“Doctors always want to test me,” he said, pulling his shirtsleeve up a bit to reveal his right biceps muscle. “But I’m not on steroids or anything. This is all natural.”
Walker spoke to the football team on Thursday night, and plans to work out with the players on Friday.

Flexing his modest charm as much as his biceps, Walker said he wanted to lift with the team “just to show that I can work out a little bit. I’m still in a little bit of shape,” he said in a profound understatement.

“My message is going to be more staying together as a team,” Walker, who won the 1982 Heisman, said. “One of the things people don’t realize, and I tell everyone one this and I probably shouldn’t, is that I hear about all these other teams at the first of the year. I don’t know who is going to be No. 1, Alabama or who else… The thing is, who’s better is who’s going to put it on out there right now in this hot sun …

"There’s going to be days like this one when it’s going to be extremely hot, but you’ve got to go out there and get it. I love working like this here. That’s what I want to stress to the guys is sometimes it’s not going to be happy times. But that’s OK as long as you get the time in. That’s what is going to make you a champion.”

Walker gushed about every sport at Georgia, even making mention of the program’s successes in softball and equestrian. He said he keeps up with the football team “more than people would think,” and said he hopes to attend more home games in the future.

“I watch a lot of UGA football,” he said. “This past year I was kind of upset because I’d say, ‘Oh Jeez, what’s going on.’ But I’ve kept up with UGA football all the time.”

What was going on was the worst season in 14 years at Georgia. The Bulldogs finished 6-7, losing in the Liberty Bowl to Central Florida.

While Walker casually avoided a question asking for specifics on why Georgia has stumbled, he did say, “I don’t know whether anything is missing.

“I’m happy with what’s going on,” he continued. “I think they had a great recruiting year. There’s no doubt Alabama and LSU are going to be strong again. But who knows what is going to happen. Like I said, the kids got to realize, hey when you step out there between those lines anything can happen. But if you think the guy across from you is better, you let him beat you. But I look at it like he puts his helmet on just like I did, and we can go at it. I think Georgia can do well.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Texas-sized gesture: Rangers draft Taylor

One of the classier moves you’ll see occurred on Wednesday when the Texas Rangers used a pick in the middle of their draft to select Georgia’s Johnathan Taylor.

Taylor suffered partial paralysis in March after an outfield collision. The Rangers used their 33rd-round selection to pick Taylor. The draft lasts 50 rounds.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the Rangers selected UGA outfielder Zach Cone – the man Taylor collided with – with the 37th overall pick in the draft.

“I was pumped up when the Rangers told me they were thinking about drafting J.T., and then I got a call saying that they had drafted him," Cone said in a release by UGA. "I was already planning on going over to see him and now we can talk about the Rangers. This made my day, it's just awesome, and I'm so happy for him."

Georgia head coach David Perno called it a “classy move and a great gesture on the part of the Texas Rangers organization.” Perno said Taylor was in the middle of rehabilitation work when he called him after the draft pick was made.

“We’re all very proud of him,” said the player’s mother, Tandra Taylor, in the school press release. “It’s just amazing, and when he got the call, his face lit up, and we were all very excited. It was awesome news.”

Taylor is in the “Day Program” at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, after recently graduating from in-patient care. It’s uncertain that he’ll be able to walk again. He appeared in 117 games for Georgia, including 91 starts, with a career batting average of .312.

UPDATE: Texas Rangers director of scouting Kipp Fagg said drafting Taylor was "the right thing to do." His statement:

"We thought selecting Johnathan was the right thing to do. We would have drafted him either way, regardless of any other circumstances involving his injury or Zach's draft status. Our area scout in Georgia, Ryan Coe, has had a relationship with Johnathan since he was a high school player. The club has always liked his passion and ability as a player.

"A few weeks ago, myself and a couple other members of our department visited Zach Cone in Georgia in the course of normal pre-draft activity. We presented Zach with a Rangers jersey for Johnathan that had been signed by the entire club, and asked if Zach could deliver it to his teammate.

"As an organization, I think all of us are always trying to do the right thing in any situation. Taking Johnathan in the draft today, it was something we felt was right."

Summer polls: The SEC's top coaches

Since it's summer now - maybe not on the official summer calendar, but on the football one - you're going to start seeing a lot of so-called fluff. And we here at The Blog That Needs Content, we're only happy to oblige.

Down in Destin last week, a Knoxville, Tenn., radio station asked media members to vote in a poll: Name the top six football and men’s basketball coaches in the league, and then the top 12 combined.

Here were the final results:

Football Coaches

1. Nick Saban, Alabama
2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
3. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
4. Les Miles, LSU
5. Gene Chizik, Auburn
6. Mark Richt, Georgia

Basketball Coaches

1. Billy Donovan, Florida
2. John Calipari, Kentucky
3. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
4. Mike Anderson, Arkansas
5. Anthony Grant, Alabama
6. Mark Fox, Georgia and Rick Stansbury, Mississippi State

Top 12 Coaches Overall

1. Nick Saban, Alabama
2. Billy Donovan, Florida
3. John Calipari, Kentucky
4. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
5. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
6. Les Miles, LSU
7. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
8. Gene Chizik, Auburn
9. Mark Richt, Georgia
10. Mike Anderson, Arkansas
11. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
12. Anthony Grant, Alabama

Here's a link to the breakdown of votes.

And, because you know you're curious, here's how yours truly voted:

Football coaches

1. Nick Saban
2. Steve Spurrier
3. Bobby Petrino
4. Dan Mullen
5. Mark Richt
6. Les Miles

Basketball coaches

1. John Calipari
2. Billy Donovan
3. Kevin Stallings
4. Mike Anderson
5. Anthony Grant
6. Mark Fox

Top 12 coaches combined

1. Saban
2. Calipari
3. Donovan
4. Spurrier
5. Stallings
6. Anderson
7. Petrino
8. Grant
9. Mullen
10. Richt
11. Fox
12. Stansbury

A few quick bullet points:

- My criteria was basically this: If I wanted a coach for the next couple seasons, who would I want. So that allows for a bit of projecting (in the cases of Mullen and Grant) and reliance on track record (Spurrier, Richt). And it also includes what coaches did outside the SEC, such as Anderson's track record at Missouri, and Fox and Grant at mid-major schools.

- Yeah, I didn't pick Chizik, despite being a few months off winning a national championship. For the moment, I still see Gus Malzahn as the top coach on that staff, with Cam Newton and Nick Fairley also being a bigger difference than Chizik, whose career record is still just three games over .500 (27-24). But maybe he'll prove me wrong.

- Relative to each sport, it sure looks like the SEC has a deeper trove of basketball coaches at the moment. Thanks to turnover, the football coaches are heavy on unproven coaches (Derek Dooley, James Franklin, Joker Phillips) and previously successful coaches whose seats are getting hot (Richt, Houston Nutt and arguably Miles.)

All that said, while I did put a lot of thought into it, like everyone else I voted while on stakeout in a hotel lobby, possibly while hungry. So blame any major oversights on that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Bulldog makes the Open (again), and another gets drafted

Russell Henley is headed back to the U.S. Open.

The Macon native, who finished tied for 16th in the Open last year, qualified again on Monday. It came in dramatic fashion, as The Telegraph's Jonathan Heeter reports.

Henley just finished his senior season at Georgia, where he helped the Bulldogs reach the championship match of the NCAA tournament. Henley hasn't officially turned pro yet, but he already has one win under his belt: The Nationwide Tour's Stadion Classic, last month at the UGA golf course.

- Georgia had one current player picked on the first day of the MLB draft, and had a signee picked too.

Outfielder Zach Cone was selected with the 37th overall pick by Texas. That technically makes Cone a first-round pick, as the Rangers were picking in the so-called "sandwich" round, with a pick as compensation for losing Cliff Lee as a free agent.

“It was exciting to get the news on the plane, and it’s a great opportunity,” Cone said in a release by UGA. “I’m sure I’ll be talking with them in the next couple of days.”

Also in the compensation round, Bulldog signee Dante Bichette Jr. was picked by the New York Yankees, at 52st overall. The son of the former major league slugger, Bichette Jr. is a native of Orlando, Fla.

The draft continues Tuesday and Wednesday.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An interesting idea worth exploring: Eliminating kickoffs

Rugers head coach Greg Schiano is thinking a bit out of the box. Okay, maybe not a bit. It's way outside the box. But I like it.

Schiano is proposing a novel concept, in reaction to the serious injuries that have resulted from kickoffs. One of Schiano's players, Eric LeGrand, was paralyzed just last year.

The proposal is to eliminate kickoffs altogether, as detailed in this story in the Newark Star-Ledger. While kickoffs are an exciting play, they have also proved dangerous, thanks to players rushing at each other and colliding at high speeds.

So what replaces the kickoffs? Punts, or at least a punting situation: In every situation where there would have been a kickoff (opening play of each half, after touchdowns and field goals) the team that would have kicked off will instead have it fourth-and-15 at its own 30. Most teams would punt it away, but maybe a team would go for it, just as they do when they try an onsides kick.

“It would lead to much less impact and fewer collisions, but it would still be a way to get the game started in similar field position.” Schiano told the Star-Ledger.

There are downsides: Kickoffs are an exciting play, and years of tradition will make it hard for the sport to make such a drastic change. And punts are boring. (Sorry, Drew Butler.) Some will also argue that injuries will happen regardless.

Still, my first instinct is to say I like the idea. Beyond the health benefits, it would create excitement: A fourth-and-15 vs. an onsides kick? Give me the shotgun formation and the dynamic quarterback.

Once upon a time, the 3-point shot in basketball would have seemed too ridiculous, too radical of a change. But it's been in effect for decades now and has probably helped increase the popularity of the sport.

Then again, with this proposed football change you're talking about taking away an exciting play, which is more difficult for people to embrace.

At a minimum, it would be great to see a smaller conference - someone at the non-FCS level, or the Sun Belt or WAC - try it on an experimental basis for a year, and see how it goes. That's a reasonable request.

So, what do y'all think?

UPDATE: Andy Staples of likes the idea too. And he writes a better column than me about it. The passage I like:

When I forwarded Politi's column for discussion on Twitter on Monday, plenty of Internet tough guys countered with the "Quit crying, it's a violent game" argument.
Those people probably wouldn't know a thigh pad from a Thighmaster. More than 100 years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt thought college football had grown too dangerous. While some wanted to ban the game, Roosevelt saw the value in a slightly-less-violent contact sport. So he called a summit of representatives from the football-playing schools and forced them to create rules to make the game safer. They banned the "flying wedge" and forced offenses to spread players across the line of scrimmage. They also legalized the forward pass, which probably brought howls from the purists.

With apologies to Teddy, Schiano's idea doesn't mollycoddle anyone. Quite the contrary. Of the recent rash of attempts to make football safer, Schiano's idea may be the first conceived with safety in mind that could make the game more interesting and make it more of a test of actual football skill.

And Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman actually wrote about eliminating kickoffs all the way back in October.

While the catastrophic injuries attract attention, nearly every kickoff leaves someone on the ground, grabbing a knee, an ankle or holding their arm.

“Basically, it’s a 70-yard blitz,” Boise State special teams coordinator Jeff Choate said. “The guys that do that (cover kicks) for us, a lot of them miss games, whether it’s a stinger or some other shoulder injury. Some things need to be examined in that reguard.”

I don't know if this constitutes a movement, but it will be interesting to see if the idea takes hold in more quarters.

This and that: Baseball, golf and football enrollees

ATHENS - As you can tell by the dateline, I'm back in the classic city. And it's good to be back, even though it's scorching hot and there's no ocean nearby to jump in.

There's a river, and a bunch of man-made lakes, but they're gunky. The dog has no problem jumping in them, but I'm a bit more discerning.

In any case, we are pretty much arriving at the doldrums-of-summer stage, as the season has ended for a bunch of Georgia spring teams. That doesn't mean stuff isn't going on. But it's not very much stuff.

Your news update:

- The Georgia baseball team saw its season end very late on Sunday night, as it fell to Oregon State in the NCAA tournament regional final. The Bulldogs lost 6-4, and even if they had won would have had to beat the Beavers again on Monday night.

This was very unfortunate not only for the Bulldogs, but for snarky people out there with middle-school senses of humor who wanted to make puns based on Oregon State's nickname. Yours truly of course finds this very immature.

- The Georgia men's golf team almost won the national title, but was defeated by Augusta State, 3-2, in Sunday's final. Ironically, the championship came down to the final match, where UGA's Harris English was defeated by Patrick Reed, a junior who began his career at Georgia.

- Summer school starts this week, so most if not all of the football signees will be registering for classes. Schools don't usually announce that players have registered - i.e., made it into school - but the only player we know who isn't making it is Chris Mayes. The Bulldogs pretty much knew the defensive tackle wouldn't make it when they signed him. (And the new over-signing legislation by the SEC will probably discourage teams from doing so in the future.)

It's also important to note that a player enrolling at UGA doesn't necessarily mean they're in the clear. You still have to make it through the NCAA Clearinghouse, so any excitement about players getting into school is a bit premature.

That said, from what I know right now, there's no cause to be concerned about anybody else on the signee list.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The week that was: Winners and losers

Here's my overview of the SEC meetings this week, which proved eventful and somewhat contentious.

The winners, in my opinion, of the week that was:

- Mike Slive
- The Georgia-Florida axis
- SEC basketball
- Steve Spurrier
- More cowbell
- Bobby Petrino

And the losers:

- Football coaches in general
- Nick Saban
- Houston Nutt
- Dan Mullen
- Graduate students
- The beach

The story (and here's that link again) has more details on each.

In other news, two things to watch in Georgia sports today:

- The baseball team, which staved off elimination on Saturday, faces Creighton in an elimination game on Sunday at 4 p.m. If the Bulldogs win, they'll face Oregon State at 9 p.m., and a win in that one would force a single game on Monday for the right to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals.

- The Georgia men's golf team is in the NCAA championship match, and faces Augusta State on Sunday. Here's the story on that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Notes: SEC revenue up (surprise surprise), 7-on-7 crack-down, hoops

DESTIN, Fla. - Roster management wasn't the only item up for discussion at the SEC meetings. Here are my notes after Friday's meeting of the presidents and athletics directors.

I'll have one more report from Destin before the weekend is out. Otherwise, it's back to Athens and the grind.

Well, not a grind. Athens is a great town. It just doesn't have a beach.

Slive, SEC presidents have their way: A crackdown on over-signing

DESTIN, Fla. - The coaches voted one way. The presidents over-ruled them. And SEC commissioner Mike Slive showed, at least for today, that he really runs his conference.

At least that’s the read from Friday’s events, when the SEC school presidents voted – unanimously, according to Slive – to crack down on over-signing.

The annual limit on recruits was dropped from 28 to 25. The coaches voted unanimously against that two days before, according to South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.

But Slive, who put together a series of roster management proposals, won the day.

“They don’t agree with everything, but I think they are some things with which they do agree,” Slive said. “Obviously they had their own interests to pursue. I though the conversation was helpful. Some of the issues we were able to accommodate their concern, some of them we were not.”

The conference now plans to send an official request to NCAA president Mark Emmert to have the NCAA adopt a uniform standard. There had been concern about the SEC putting itself in a position of competitive imbalance, but Slive, whose league has won the past five BCS championships, was adamant.

“No one, no one wants to win more than I do,” Slive said. “But we don’t want to win at the expense of young people.”

Georgia president Michael Adams, a vocal opponent of over-signing, was beaming as he departed the meetings.

“It’s a good day to be in the SEC,” Adams said. “People did the right thing. … People voted right. This was a good high point for us, I think.”

The 25-limit wasn’t the only part of the package of proposals that passed.

- The conference will now approve all requests for medical disqualifications. If necessary, it will seek an outside opinion.

- The exemption allowing graduate students to transfer in and not sit out a year was also eliminated, although it won’t go into effect until later. That means former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson would still be able to play at an SEC school this year.

Meanwhile, the league also announced that:

- Schools are now prohibited from hosting seven-on-seven events on campus. The move is an effort to combat what Slive called the “creep” of importance of seven-on-seven coaches and organizers, similar to AAU basketball.

- The SEC will distribute $220 million to its schools, an increase of 5.3 percent over last year. The $220 million is for the 2010-11 fiscal year, with most of it ($113 million) coming from football television.

UPDATE: My full story is now posted at You can read it at this link.

Live from Destin: Over-signing to be decided. Probably. Hopefully.

DESTIN, Fla. - The SEC's dominant, and perhaps overblown if you believe some coaches, issue is set to be ruled on Friday. And we'll be camped out at the Hilton waiting for the presidents and commissioner Mike Slive to reveal their ruling.

On another note, and a curious one, Mark Richt saw the need to clarify his public stance on Steve Spurrier's proposal to pay players $300 per game. Richt was not one of the six SEC coaches who signed on to Spurrier's proposal. He gave a fairly tame reaction at first on Wednesday, saying it was a nice idea. But UGA released this from Richt on Thursday night:

"I am all for providing more financial help for our players. I'd even go so far as to say I'd be willing to help fund it if there is a way that's possible. I just don't believe Coach Spurrier's idea is feasible.

"If we're going to do something like this, we have to do it for all 125 guys, not just 70. That would create all sorts of morale and chemistry problems. Doesn't everyone practice? Can you imagine trying to decide a dress list knowing that you'd be cutting out 55 guys who are working just as hard every day? Also, if we do this for football, I believe you have to do it for every sport across the board at every level of the NCAA. This is much bigger than SEC football.

"I'd prefer spending time talking about ideas that have a legitimate chance of becoming reality."

You could surmise that Richt felt a bit of blowback from his initial statement, perhaps from those who thought it would be bad P.R.-wise, i.e. for recruiting. But Richt is also the kind of guy who would give it real thought and decide to come back with a clearer, thought-out statement. After all, Spurrier's idea surely caught him by surprise. (And who knows if the six coaches who did sign it really cared much about what they were saying.)

The bottom line is Spurrier's idea, while noble, has no chance of passing. Slive and NCAA president Mark Emmert made that clear within hours. So why did Spurrier propose it? Having covered him, I think he's just clever enough to see the recruiting pay-off, as well as the opportunity for it to make headlines and deflect from the Stephen Garcia situation and the over-signing proposal.

But I also know Spurrier's has a fairly liberal social streak. (Remember his shot at the Confederate flag?) So I don't doubt that he honestly thinks it's a good idea. And he deserves credit for at least trying.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ealey headed to Jacksonville State

Last month we found out Washaun Ealey would be leaving the Georgia football team. On Thursday the tailback's destination became known.

Ealey enrolled in classes at Jacksonville State on Thursday, according to football team spokesman Greg Seitz. Ealey would be eligible to play right away at the school, which is an FBS (formerly Div. I-AA) school.

Ironically, Ealey would still have a chance to play at Kentucky, since Jacksonville State plays there on Oct. 22. Last year Ealey broke a Georgia program record with five rushing touchdowns at Kentucky.

Ealey led Georgia with 811 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010, but it was still considered a disappointing year. He was suspended for the opener after a three-misdemeanor arrest, and was briefly suspended from team activities in February. Spring practice became a lost cause for Ealey after a hamstring injury.

Destin update: Presidents ready to 'hunker down' with ADs before vote

The SEC presidents appear to be concerned about going further than the rest of the country on roster management issues, but may do it anyway.

At least that’s what could be gleaned from South Carolina’s Harris Pastides, who was the only school president who was talking when the meeting broke up.

UGA president Michael Adams declined comment on his way out. He said none of the presidents would say anything.

That memo apparently didn’t reach Pastides, who said there was a “vigorous” and “lengthy discussion” over the roster management issues.

“And I think you’ll see the presidents tonight hunker down with their athletic directors and come together for a vote on that as well,” Pastides said. “But we think, we’d love the SEC to take a lead role on doing the right thing, and we would hope the NCAA would adopt whatever we do. I think that’s where our Ads and coaches are on. They don’t want us to be so far out front that we’re the only league that clamps down on that. We’re interested in seeing clarity on that in terms of what happens in the nation.”

The main point of contention is whether to keep the limit at 28 recruits per class, or cut it down to 25. The football coaches voted 12-0 against that, according to Pastides’ own coach, Steve Spurrier, who then added that the presidents “may” feel differently.

Pastides declined to give his own opinion, other than to sum up the league’s conundrum.

“I think most of the discussion was around if we go first and we do something that is viewed as restrictive and conservative, would that be a challenge for the rest of the country and to the other leagues,” Pastides said. “Or might we just be left out there as the only league. And we decided to do what was best for the college athlete. And I think that’s what we’ll vote tomorrow.”

NCAA president Mark Emmert was in Destin and spoke to the presidents, but Pastides said the issue didn't come up.

On Thursday, I asked Emmert about it, and he didn't indicate a uniform standard was in the making yet.

“The way it works with a whole array of issues is the NCAA sets a national standard and then if conferences want to be more restrictive then they can be," Emmert said. "So if the SEC or any other conference wants to have a more restrictive approach to that, then they’re welcome to do so. That’s a local decision that they can make.”

My take on this: SEC presidents, as a whole, want to be restrictive on roster management. But they’re deciding whether to do so over the objection of their coaches.

Either way, we should find out on Friday.

NCAA president Emmert: 'With many people we may have lost the benefit of the doubt'

Here's my story, just posted to, on the issues affecting the NCAA, amid its recent scandals.

Some key passages:

NCAA president Mark Emmert was up front when asked if the NCAA has an image problem:

“Of course it does. I don’t think there’s any question about it. And we can’t pretend otherwise,” Emmert said, sitting in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel as he attended the SEC meetings. ...

“We’ve had a number of very high-profile cases that are very disturbing coming out, and they put us in a position where with many people we may have lost the benefit of the doubt,” said Emmert, the president of the NCAA since last year. “We have to address those issues, the real ones and the perceived ones and make sure that we restore people’s confidence in the integrity of intercollegiate athletics. That’s essential.”

And Mark Richt says you can still win in college football without competing in the so-called gray area.

“I think you can win without ...,” Richt started to say, appearing to choose his words carefully, “without you know, feeling you’ve gotta cheat. That you’ve gotta break the rules or bend the rules.

“Everybody’s human. Everybody’s gonna make mistakes. The rule book is sometimes very specific, and sometimes it’s very vague. It’s hard to sit there and never have a secondary violation. But from a gut level philosophical point of view do I think you can win by doing things right and doing things within the rules, yeah.”

Again, you can read the full story here.

South Carolina game time set

It turns out Mark Richt wasn't completely right about the Georgia-South Carolina game being at night.

The SEC has announced that South Carolina's visit to Athens on Sept. 10 will have a 4:30 p.m. kickoff and be broadcast on ESPN. And as usual, the Georgia-Florida game, set for Oct. 29, will be on CBS at 3:30 p.m.

Richt had told Bulldog fans at a Greenville, S.C. meeting that the game would be at night. Technically he could end up being right if the game goes late. But it might have to go an overtime or two for them to turn on the lights at Sanford Stadium.

It also probably won't be a fun time for them to be out in the sun.

Live from Destin: Day three

DESTIN, Fla. - The spotlight now shifts to the school presidents and chancellors, who meet this afternoon. They're not supposed to do any voting until Friday, but they're at least here and discussing the week's major topics.

Wednesday proved to be an eventful day. For a rundown, here are our three stories in today's papers:

- Steve Spurrier made a surprise proposal to pay players $300 per game. It was quickly shot down by the higher-ups, including NCAA president Mark Emmert. The NCAA prez told myself and fellow McClatchy reporter Josh Kendall of The State that paying players in such a manner "would be the death of intercollegiate athletics."

- Divisions in men's basketball are no more, or at least will be once athletics directors ratify the recommendation of the coaches' vote on Wednesday. Georgia's Mark Fox and SEC commissioner Mike Slive were among those in favor of the move.

The schedule remains the same for the 2011-12 season, but the league will immediately begin studying a new schedule format. That's where it'll get tricky; who are which team's natural rivalries, will everybody try to get Kentucky on their annual schedule, will the schedule be expanded to 18 or even more games?

- Finally, the roster management issues are now before the presidents. The coaches supposedly voted 12-0 against limiting each class to 28. (I say supposedly because Spurrier claimed that, but no one else confirmed it.) Mark Richt softened his rhetoric after meeting with fellow coaches.

But it certainly seems that they're on the opposite side of the issue from the presidents and many of the athletics directors. The question now is how much sway the coaches have with their bosses.

Slive appears to be pushing for some tangible action, and Emmert told us that he was "very pleased" with Slive for putting it on the agenda. But when I followed up by asking Emmert if there should be a uniform rule for each conference, he called it a "local issue."

I'll have more from Emmert in a later story.

- My favorite moment from Wednesday was Nick Saban. The Alabama head coach was the first to leave the joint meeting with coaches and A.D.'s, and made right away for a back elevator. The media horde still managed to get in some questions, following Saban to the elevator, where he appeared to blame us for the whole controversy.

“You all are creating a bad problem for everybody, because you’re going to mess up the kids getting opportunities by doing what you’re doing," Saban said icily. "You think you’re helping them, but you’re really gonna hurt them."

Hey, what'd I do? Wha' happen?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Roster management: Coaches have their say, now it's up to presidents

DESTIN, Fla. - SEC football coaches emerged from their final meetings on Wednesday in apparent agreement on roster management issues. Now the question is whether their bosses will go along.

The SEC is looking at a number of proposals to curb some issues such as over-signing, gray-shirting and medical disqualifications. Coaches, in favor of roster flexibility, made their case to their athletics directors in a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Now the issue will be decided by presidents and chancellors, who will vote on Friday.

“Friday afternoon we’ll find out what the league would like to do with these issues. … It’s always spirited dialogue,” commissioner Mike Slive said. “There’s nothing about the SEC that’s not spirited, I can tell you that.”

The most controversial proposal is to limit each signing class to 25 recruits. The current limit is 28, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban made his position quite clear.

“What’s the problem with 28?” Saban said. “You all are creating a bad problem for everybody, because you’re going to mess up the kids getting opportunities by doing what you’re doing. You think you’re helping them, but you’re really gonna hurt them. You take one case where somebody didn’t get the right opportunity but you need to take the other 100 cases where somebody got the opportunity because of it.”

South Carolina's Steve Spurrier put it a bit more nicely.

“We’re in favor of over-signing. We’ve never had a problem of too many qualifying and not having room,” Spurrier said. “All the coaches are in favor of the 28 and so forth. The presidents I don’t think are, but that’s OK.”

Spurrier said the coaches voted 12-0 to keep the limit at 28 and not drop it to 25. But he didn’t know if that would sway the presidents and chancellors.

“I don’t know. They’ll make the final call,” Spurrier said.

Georgia's Mark Richt had been among the vocal opponents of over-signing, and letting players go at the last minute. He didn’t come out and say he was in favor of over-signing now, and wouldn't get into the voting, but said after the meeting that the coaches “agreed almost unanimously” on the roster management issues.

“I think there was some education,” he said. “You get your proposals to look over a week ago. You read them then and you’re like, Hmm. Then yesterday morning, I got here and for about an hour I read them again and I’m trying to make total sense of everything, and it’s hard to get the entire gist of it. Then you start discussing these things getting lived out, it starts to make sense and you understand it better.”

Richt also said the roster management issue did indeed get as much attention behind the scenes as it was getting in the media.

“I’d say in our head coaches meeting, when it came to proposals, that was the one that had the most discussion to it,” Richt said. “I thought it was a very good discussion. I thought we had some good ideas that we presented. But we don’t want anything – there’s more conversation and more process to be done before everything gets spewed out all over the airwaves. It’s better that we don’t say anything at this point, and see where it goes.”

Update: Hoops coaches vote to (basically) eliminate divisions

DESTIN, Fla. – The SEC men’s basketball coaches have recommended that the league essentially stop using divisions, and the move is expected to be formally approved Friday.

The schedule will remain the same for the upcoming season. But the league standings will not be broken into East and West anymore, and the tournament will be seeded 1-12, with the top four getting byes, regardless of division.

“I think we’re tired of our league being presented as two different ones,” said Georgia head coach Mark Fox, who favored the move.

In the meantime, the SEC will also study future scheduling, under the assumption that the old division model (two each vs. fellow division foes, one each against the other division) will no longer exist.

“The issue comes down to, if you look at last year, Tennessee got in the tournament with an 8-8 record and Alabama was left out at 12-4. And they get listed in a (separate) set of standings,” Fox said.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive, a former chairman of the NCAA selection committee, felt it was a good move for the league.

“I’m pleased that we’ve come to this conclusion,” Slive said. “I think it’s better for SEC basketball.”

The move still has to be approved by the league’s athletics directors on Friday. But all indications were that the recommendation by the coaches would carry the measure through.

"I would hope so," Slive said. "But I don't vote."

Slive said expanding the schedule to 18 games, or even more, would be on the study list for the future, and could happen for the 2012-13 season.

Live from Destin: Update on possible hoops changes

DESTIN, Fla. – Basketball and football coaches are slowly trickling into the main ballroom to meet with the athletics directors. It’s still hard to get a firm grasp on what may happen on the basketball front, as far as changing the division and conference structure.

Before going in, Georgia’s Mark Fox said the basketball coaches, meeting separately Tuesday and Wednesday morning, had a “heated” and “excellent” dialogue.”

“It’ll be really interesting to see what the A.D.’s, after we go upstairs, how they feel,” Fox said. “Because again, what their discussions have been about, I don’t know. We had a lot of discussion about divisions, yes.”

The range of options for the league include eliminating divisions, adding two games to the league schedule, and seeding the tournament according to league finish, and not divisions.

“We did have very active dialogue, the most active dialogue we’ve had since I’ve been in the league, regarding a lot of topics,” Fox said. “But I think the general consensus is the coaches in the league now are genuinely concerned with doing what’s best to help the league. I really felt like all the conversations weren’t selfishly driven, they were motivated by an interest to make the league better.”

The word last year was that Western Division coaches blocked an effort to have the tournament re-seeded, rather than go by division finish. But on Wednesday one Western coach, Trent Johnson, answered “hopefully” when asked if re-seeding the tournament may happen today.

“I said this from Day one, I like the model that the Pac-10 has,” said Johnson, the former Stanford head coach. “You go one through 10 and play each other twice, you have a true champion and you celebrate your overall league champion more than the tournament. But we all know the tournament is money-driven.”

Live from Destin: Day two

Destin, Fla. - The media horde is back, yours truly amongst them, sitting here in the atrium of the Hilton hotel. The athletics directors are convened behind closed doors with the commish (Mike Slive, not Michael Chiklis), while the football and basketball coaches are downstairs, probably discussing how much they love each other.

There should be some actual news to come out of today's meetings, unlike yesterday, which was mostly about setting the groundwork and taking people's temperatures. In case you missed it, here are my stories from day one:

- On roster management, i.e. oversigning and grayshirting, everyone has opinions (though Mark Richt was less eager to provide his), but there remains plenty of disagreement.

- On basketball, there was talk about some fairly drastic changes - getting rid of divisions, re-seeding the tournament by using the RPI - but Mike Slive said after the meetings that he didn't expect any major changes to be voted on this week.

- The A.D.’s will meet with the football and basketball coaches in separate meetings this afternoon. That’s when there might be some real movement on issues.

The most likely tangible result is some vote on basketball: My guess is they will vote again on tournament re-seeding, and there’s a better chance it passes this year. I’ll also be curious if other coaches agree with Mark Fox about getting rid of divisions. But based on Slive’s comments, I’ll be surprised if they do anything more today than just talk about going to a 12-team set-up.

As for football, it would be surprising if they vote on over-signing. Right now it looks like the coaches are on one side, and the presidents are on the other. Some of the presidents are trickling in earlier – South Carolina’s Harris Pasites arrived Tuesday, and Georgia’s Michael Adams is supposed to come in today. So perhaps there will be a meeting of the minds.

The A.D.’s seem to be caught in the middle a bit. Greg McGarity and his coach and president are on the same page, luckily for them. I spoke to another athletics director off the record yesterday, whose coach has not publicly been vocal about the issue, and that A.D. was up front that he thought 25 was a reasonable limit:

If you sign 25 every year, this A.D. stated, and figure in redshirts, that’s 125 players, more than enough to be safe with academic casualties and transfers and get to the overall limit of 85. But this A.D. kind of threw up his hands to say: Can we get the coaches to agree?