Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Discipline Issues..Again...Same Story

Here's my quick two cents on this issue, which I've seemed to streamline after having this conversation oh so many times. Just as we've come to expect, just as Clemson seemed to return the favor having four players suspended for the opener, we quickly countered today with the news that four more Bulldogs have gotten on the wrong side of the law.

Here's the long and short of it. UGA doesn't have a discipline problem, Mark Richt hasn't lost control, and we don't have bad kids. Nothing makes me madder than hearing that "UGA has bad kids" or "UGA has a problem program". Here's the deal. We have the same kids as every other school. Heck they chose the UGA hat over our rivals. You think that these other schools aren't recruiting the same type of kid or that kids at other schools aren't smoking weed or drinking underage?

Here's the difference. We have a harsher discipline policy. This incident wasn't weed, but it still might garner a different outcome (which we've yet to see what comes to pass of this matter) than it would at another school. It's been well noted that UGA and Kentucky have the harshest disciplinary policies in the conference. The problem is UGA can't back down from theirs, and the other schools obviously won't bolster theirs. For UGA, it would show weakness and a step back concerning their moral compass. For the other schools, it would put them at a competitive disadvantage to become more lax in regards to theirs.

My problem isn't with the policies... I get that issue. It's that they don't carry out the same punishments as UGA does. Auburn get's to give kids a second chance that cost kids a slot on the UGA roster because they had to uphold their moral standard. It's the fact that Honey Badger or Florida players fail numerous drug tests yet still get to play on Saturday. Mark Richt isn't soft. A soft coach on discipline doesn't cut ties with three standout running backs (Crowell, King, and Ealey) or highly touted safeties (JHC), etc. He's shown that he's not weak when it comes to that matter. It's time for other schools to either step up to a level playing field or the conference to do something. Kids will be dumb... we ALL made mistakes in college. Who doesn't have a story where they should've gotten in trouble in college? These kids will have to deal with the consequences of being in a high profile environment and dealing with the repercussions of potentially throwing away an opportunity that was handed to them. Today's incident was more disturbing than the normal weed smoke or MIP (which UGA has much stiffer standards on these days, just ask the students who are getting sent to jail instead of getting a $50 ticket). They will be held to a higher standard and that's something they and all of us will have to deal with. It's going to come with the territory of having young kids in an environment that is conducive to getting in trouble. Until something changes standards wise concerning other schools, we'll continue to be at a competitive disadvantage. Our players in turn will have to hold themselves to a higher standard.

Just don't give me the cheap excuse that UGA has bad players or has lost control of their program from a disciplinary standpoint. Other schools go through the same crap. We're just charged with having to find a way to deal with this increased standard and the pressures that stem from it.

Hoping for a quieter off-season from here on out (concerning things not on the field).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

NSD Afterthoughts 2014

c/o UGASports.com
First let me say that I'm not a recruiting analyst, and I don't try to post a lot when recruits are coming in, etc. We all have Rivals, 24/7, and Scout memberships for that. This is just my brief overarching opinion on what transpired today (and for that matter, over the past year).

The first item is that going into today, we knew it wouldn't be an "exciting" NSD per se. We had done a great deal of legwork to ink a bunch of names over the past year, and didn't have many guys that had a Georgia hat on the table today. People tend to get over analytical of guys on NSD because it gives them something to root for. Someone tweeted last night that we need to show the same level of excitement for guys who merely ink their names and fax / email them in that committed to Georgia long ago. All that being said the one big target that was a must have and UGA was really in the mix for did sign his name late in the day.

The number 20 is certainly of note, and assuming 21 when Simms comes on board. It's been noted over the past few classes that the overall number may not have been where we desired from a scholarship / numbers standpoint. I certainly would have loved to be in 23-25 number range to fill in the bench and 3-deep after some of those classes. We did however address some positions of need which is obviously very important.

I've said for a while now that I've felt D-Line was a huge position of need for the Dawgs. Over the past few years it seems we've let some of the big talents in this facet of the game escape our grasp (just look at Auburn's defensive line). Lorenzo Carter was our biggest target / need in my mind, and provided a nice end cap to the class when he inked his name. This year we somewhat lacked that prototypical fundamental defensive lineman. Ray Drew started to come on of late and sure there where some stars that rushed the passer from the 3-4 outside perspective, but this is guy we needed. He can be an immediate contributor and fits the mold of what I like to see there.

Tight End was also a huge need in my mind. Jay Rome assumes the reins next year, but we desperately needed to load the hopper with a big time talent. Getting the nation's number one tight end certainly filled that void. Watching Jeb Blazevich film and also his rise through the UA All American game proved that he is indeed an elite talent. He has the right frame to hang some meat on while possessing the route running and catching skills essential to the position.

Our star rankings were pulled up a bit in what some would consider not a need at this time with Running Backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. However, the CFB has started to mirror the NFL game where a running back by committee is seeming to be more of the norm. Loading the bench not only with bodies but elite talents was great for UGA. Hopefully this tandem will come to fruition over time. As we've seen in years past of course, this isn't always the case.

Our secondary certainly could have used some help particularly at corner. Malkom Parrish out of Brooks Co. will hopefully be the spark and a potential future lock down corner. I saw him play this year versus Lovett (at QB mind you), but athleticism is certainly no issue here. Furthermore he could provide a spark in the return game and without getting into a separate conversation that is obviously an area in need of serious improvement from 2013. Guys like Fenteng and Sanders also will serve to add depth to the DB rotation.

Throwing Jacob Park in the mix of QBs over the next 4-5 years certainly doesn't hurt. Sure Ramsey seems to be the heir apparent at the moment and the position may not be of immediate need, but putting another caliber arm in the rotation is always vital.

Overall I thought we addressed key defensive needs, which is where we needed the most depth added.

The one area of need I would have liked to see addressed more in this class is offensive linemen. Right now it appears we only landed two, though it appears Baker from Marist may switch to that side of the ball. No telling on him. Wynn was the keystone of this unit we picked up, but I think depth could be an issue going forward. I would hope this is a key area of focus over the 2015 recruiting period.

What the heck is going on in Florida and North Carolina. For what seems like the 3rd or 4th consecutive year the Dawgs plucked key talent out of both of those states. The state of Florida comprimised over 25% of this class, and we were able to pull two very good kids out of NC in Blazevich and Gaillard in key areas of need. While the state of Georgia may be getting procured a little more than we'd like to tolerate, it should be noted we've had good success in our border state. With the advent of Pruitt I expect to see continued momentum in the state to our south.

We can always say we focus too much on recruiting, but we know all too well it's the lifeblood of our program. While it wasn't the big class we may have hoped for, I think as previously stated it addressed key areas of concern. We also didn't have any big flips on signing day and got most of the guys we really keyed in on. In the end that amounts to a successful day. 2015 is already off to a good start and hopefully Pruitt and company can build on that momentum to lead to another solid class as the next year of recruiting starts.

Go Dawgs. Sent in my donation last night, and ready to get to work on Clemson as our boys hit the mats in the AM.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Quick Opinions on the Pruitt Hire

c/o SI.com
You guys remember that awful game versus Nebraska? Of course you don't. Today UGA went out and did something they haven't seemed to do in a while. The UGA/ADGM/Richt regime went out, targeted someone, and executed with seemingly no backlash. I mentioned in my earlier post today just a few thoughts on Kirby and why he'd be worth the money (not that he was my number one candidate) simply for the fact that UGA needed to make a splash. Well, after marinating on Pruitt they seemingly did just that.

Some quick reactions....

1) While we certainly needed some improvement schematically, we also needed an uptick in the recruiting game. We now have a younger coach with a down to earth but aggressive attitude, but more importantly has key footholds in three key states (Alabama, Florida, and Georgia). We've been pretty successful recently in brining offensive weapons to Athens, but in my opinion have whiffed on a few key defensive targets. This gives us a key piece in that arena. I mentioned earlier we need help at D-Line and now have a strong play for guys like Lorenzo Carter, etc.

2) The players are excited. Just check twitter. There's an attitude of let's get to work. We have good athletes. That's always been the case at Georgia. What hopefully we are seeing is the rejuvenation of a young unit that took a good bit of heat. A chance to rewrite their identity with a renewed attitude. Based on some of the reactions it kind of makes me wonder what the overall attitude towards Grantham from the players was.

3) UGA needed to make a splash to show they had the gumption and ability to still go out and get someone when they wanted them. As it slowly evolved that Kirby (who UGA may have known was not in play) and Pruitt were the top two targets, it made me scared once again that the fanbase might have a meltdown if we didn't land a big time target. We got a guy from a good pedigree, but more importantly has shown the ability to take high end talent and perform with it. He's also from the region and knows the landscape of the South which ties back into the recruiting game.

It's all rainbows and sunshine right now, and we certainly can't tell what the result will be on the field. However for the first time in a while it seems there's a renewed spirit of unity on that side of the ball and momentum in the recruiting realm. Let's hope for a strong finish towards NSD and that spirit of cohesiveness continues.

Some Opinions on Kirby

First, let me say that in no way am I insinuating that KS is our leading candidate, an offer has been made, or anything else related to that matter. I'm merely voicing a few thoughts as to some items relating to him.

The one major point I want to emphasize is that to me the argument that Kirby "can't coach" or is a "Saban puppet" is very juvenille at this point. People that know him echo this, but it's also obvious to assume that Alabama is not paying someone $1.35M dollars to sit on the sideline, flap their arms around, and tell players that they are on defense for 3.5 hours every Saturday. Don't trust someone's opinion who only watches Bama from their couch. Does Nick have input on the defense? I'm sure. I don't understand how this affects an opinion on either person one way or the other. I would think that two savvy defensive minds would want to be able to bounce things off of each other. For Kirby not to ask for advice, and for Nick to not ask for implementation would be a waste.

Kirby would be worth the money (let's say $1.5M). I'm not saying this because he's with all certainty the best DC in the country, I'm saying this because we haven't made a splash like this in a long time. Is he one of the top 10? I'm pretty sure it could be assumed so given the talent that comes in to Georgia. To me, it's more of a perception thing. Mark Richt is going to be the coach next year. People who disagree with that want major change. If it's not coming at the head coaching spot, why not go ahead and make the biggest move to secure a perception change of a "stale" Georgia. Is that perception change worth and extra $400K - $500K? I would think at this point UGA would say yes. You would spend that money anyway through the transactional process of replacing a head coach (if you want change). It would be a firm affirmation that the UGA/Richt/ADGM regime has the understanding that we will do what it takes (whether or not it is the right move).

Kirby would no doubt have an impact on the defense and recruiting in a positive manner. As I said before even if he isn't "the best" DC in the nation, people think he is. You better believe that some of the boys in Athens that play defense do too. He's worked at Alabama, would be the highest paid DC in the country, has been around serious NFL talent, the premier program in the country wanted to retain him 4 years ago, and has worked under the best CFB coach of the past 20 years. Does that make him great? Maybe / maybe not, but you can rest assured it would garner him a good bit more respect than his predecessor. The added perception of momentum gain would also help recruits. Plus he's a Georgia native and could sell that angle. I don't care whether he believes it, he just needs to sell it to a 17 year old kid.

I don't know if KS is the best hire. Only time would be able to tell that answer. I do think that he's worth the money if it's offered and he accepted.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Honest Question: Is the UGA Football Program Stale?

OK, let me cover a few items first before any opinions are jumped to about me. I've been one of the most staunch "Disney" defenders of the Dawgs over Mark Richt's tenure. Mark Richt is going to be the coach of the team next year, so finding the only resolution to our woes being "fire Richt" over the offseason seems a little futile in my opinion. We've endured a pretty tough season, and in no way would I question the heart, energy, or effort shown by the players. Those guys strap on the pads each week while we sit behind our keyboards conjuring up all sorts of opinions. I'm also not one of those guys who says "I'm not going to renew my season tickets because of the return I'm getting on the field".   I purchase season tickets because I love the University of Georgia, love Saturdays in Athens during the fall, and those six or seven home games as well as away games are my favorite days of the year. My time in Athens as a fan before I got there and time as a student will always serve to foster that opinion.

This comes on the heels of the Nebraska loss which of course is going to lead to a negative atmosphere around the program. I realize we had a ton of momentum after the SC & LSU wins, and things took a big downhill turn after all those injuries against Tennessee. It certainly was one of the strangest years in recent memory as far as all the ups (SC, LSU, UT comeback, Florida win, GT comeback, etc.) and all the downs which we don't need to rehash.

My question for everyone at this point is what does the program really have going for it in comparison with our counterparts. What quantifiable unique or distinguishing characteristics does our program have that lead to believing we have positive momentum going forward?

We have been struggling with recruiting. Sure we are landing big classes with some key offensive stars, yet at the same time we seem to have lost the grip on getting the big talent out of Georgia to Athens. A simple review of the in state Rivals rankings over the past few years will show a ton of other schools listed next to the names of the top 10 recruits in lieu of Georgia. You can look along Auburn's defensive line and see tons of young guys who are having an impact that very likely could / should have been Georgia Bulldogs. It appears in a sense, that something has disappeared that made kids want to go to Georgia as their first option.

We have been good, we haven't been great. Some of that we have been so close to. We were five yards short of beating the greatest dynasty of the past 10 years and moving on to a sure fire win against Notre Dame for that ever so elusive National Championship. In 2007, we were one Tennessee loss away over their last 3 games from reaching the SEC title game, beating a 2-loss LSU team, and moving on to the national title game. At the same time, it's been nearly 10 years since we've won an SEC title. We've had some big wins, but we've also had some pretty poor losses. Games like SC 2012, the UCF bowl loss, the Boise State debacle, the Vandy loss this year, the Nebraska loss, etc. have created some negative notions and rightly so within the Georgia fanbase.

We've really struggled on defense and in special teams. We have the bodies out there to get the job done, but the execution schematically has been pretty atrocious. Todd Grantham is an easy place to cast blame, but it appears that he'll be the coach next year. We're consistently giving up 30+ points and in my opinion have lost that junkyard edge we grew accustomed to during the mid 2000s. On special teams we've become a total non-factor in the return game. Punt returns have become a home and prayer that we merely catch the ball, and we certainly know there's little change for a big change. While we can kick the ball pretty consistently even in comparison to programs like Alabama who have struggled in that arena, they still have that sliver of excitement of big special teams return plays that serve to change / threaten the field position battle. We averaged 2.7 yards in punt returns this year. 2.7. This was also hampered by numerous drops, muffed snaps, big returns allowed, etc.

I would also argue that there's very little when the UGA program is looked upon in comparison with other schools that makes us stand out. A staunch defense (Michigan State), a dynamic offense (Auburn), a dynamic stadium environment (LSU), nationally renowned players (Texas A&M), huge recruiting momentum (UCLA, Auburn, etc.), dynamic coach (Bama to Texas Tech on that spectrum) big time bowl wins (Oklahoma, Clemson, etc.), and so on and so forth. While I'd argue we've done great job of protecting the program from embarrassment and downfall on a national stage (Florida, Tennessee) or sanctions (Miami, USC, Penn State, etc.), it seems we're struggling a little bit to push things forward.

Mark Richt is going to be the head coach next year, and Todd Grantham is going to be the defensive coordinator from all assumptions, so I would ask... what can Georgia do to recapture momentum with the resources we have on hand right now?

Some possible resolutions, that could erase these questions quickly.

Win the big game on a national stage. The perfect chance for this would be Clemson in the opener next year. One would assume it will be a nationally televised night game and we'll have tons of eyes on us. We'll also be facing a Clemson team that loses a ton of talent and we should have a better "talent" team on the field and at home nonetheless. It would be a perfect momentum spring board to get things going.

Avoid losing games we shouldn't. We have to get back to a point where when we line up versus Vandy, Nebraksa, etc. there's no question who the better team is after watching the game.

Correct disciplinary / schematic issues. The pitfalls that have hampered us on special teams, relating to penalties, assignment defense, etc. must be corrected. Attention to detail in doing the little things right must be addressed. The mistakes made in these arenas level the playing field when we are playing what we assume to be inferior opponents.

Find a way to recapture recruiting momentum. We've been doing well with skill position players, particularly RBs and QBs, but we have to find a way to get those wardaddies in there on O-Line and on the defensive front that are native to our state and get them believing in where the program is going so they want to be a part of it. Guys like Lorenzo Carter from Norcross would be perfect fits this year, and we need to do everything in our power to get those guys to Athens.

Stadium Atmosphere. Bring Sanford Stadium back to a place that is feared to play in. I've harped on this many times before. We sometimes are tentative to adopt some things that other schools are doing like pumping music into the stadium, but after visiting numerous other college stadiums I think there is a nice balance between a bland atmosphere creation and pumping Sandstorm in constantly. Ticketing procedures have tried to be addressed (Young Alumni program, student tickets, etc.) but there are still strides to be made in the arena. The onus was put on the Sanford crowd during the SC & LSU games this year and the crowd delivered. We have to find a way to make this the norm on a week to week basis.

The lack of a nationally touted dynamic player. Guys like Todd Gurley need to be touted and supported like the big time talents of other schools. Winning games will help to thrust you into the national spotlight, but the program itself needs to make every effort to support these guys as they go through their journeys.

Texas is an interesting case study who is going through a very similar process. They've just let go of their long tenured coach and now struggle a little bit to find the guy they "thought" they could get. It will be interesting to see what steps they can take organically to combat recent momentum gained by their conference counterparts like Baylor or Oklahoma State (who notably lost their bowl games).

Part of me wishes we'd never played that Nebraska game. It would have been nice to exit 2013's hard fought season and move into 2014 with a comeback win where Huston and the defense rose to the occasion for a big win. Nevertheless we went down to a lackluster bowl game and didn't pull out a victory, and therefore are faced with an offseason where organic changes have to be made. In all of this I think there are bright spots for 2014... a powerful offense coming back, defensive talent that needs the right dials turned, an easy schedule where we should be favored versus everyone except Auburn and get some key games at home, etc. It's a good opportunity, and it may be the last for this regime to show what they're made of. Needless to say changes need to be addressed and made during the offseason to show we're taking the right steps to get their. It seems strange that the bar is so high, but in the end I think anything less than an Eastern crown will be an utter disappointment and continuation of things we have seen.

My question is one, do you think the program is stale, and two what changes could be made to stop this trend of negative momentum?

I'll be renewing my season tickets without question, and hoping to see progress and momentum recaptured in 2014. It's a tall task, but it's one we can only hope for.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Chick-Fil-A Trolled All of Us with a Heck of a Bowl Game

When it was announced the CFA Bowl matchup would be Duke vs. Texas A&M I think most of the country, especially of those of us in Bulldog circles, felt it was a poor selection. As they have done in most of their business history, Chick-Fil-A showed they knew what they were doing. Georgia fans felt they had a good shot at reaching the Dome potentially versus a major program like Miami, or at least thought we'd play a big time school like Michigan in the Gator instead of a rematch of last year.

The CFA selection committee couldn't have nailed it any more perfectly. The CFA Bowl has become one of the most anticipated and watched bowl games outside of the BCS, and it seems their selection committee knew exactly what they were getting their hands on.

While most people figured Texas A&M's prolific would blow out a Duke team that was steamrolled by Florida State. Playing right into the recipe for a good bowl game, Duke didn't only show up, but delivered a great opening salvo. The great aspect to the CFA bowl is that millions of eyes are glued to their televisions on New Year's Eve as they wait counting down the numerous hours until the ball drops. What they got to witness was the following....

1) A hungry Duke team that came to play against a new found SEC power
2) Big offense, and big scoring
3) The best athlete in college football giving memorable play after memorable play
4) Memorable plays, be it a pick 6, onside kick, long passing TD, or Johnny Football offensive lineman springboard back to the pocket run outside for a touchdown toss
5) A big comeback and eventual win by Texas A&M

Georgia ended up faltering in their bowl game and proved to be a less exciting team than either opponent in the CFA Bowl. They also guaranteed the casual corporate fan might utilize their tickets just to see Johnny, and had a large travel contingent form the Duke faithful. Sure tickets were readily available for free, but those things were already paid for and the Chicken company had already made their money. Hats of to Chick-Fil-A for taking the gamble and coming through with a riveting bowl game.

Mike Humes (@MikeHumesESPN)
The Chick-fil-A Bowl averaged a 5.3 overnight rating, the highest for a non-BCS bowl on ESPN since at least 2000

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Nebraska 24 Georgia 19: How to Lose to an Inferior Opponent

Bowl games in the end are meaningless I guess, but that left me a lot less excited for 2014 than I was after the Tech game. Yes UGA was playing their backup QB, but Nebraska was too. I watched Nebraska play a few times this year, and they were not impressive.

Things that will cause you to lose to a bad team:

-Fumbling a punt deep in your own territory
-Not being able to score touchdowns in the redzone
-Allowing 99 yard touchdowns where your safety is no where near the play
-Dropping numerous passes
-Placing yourself in 3rd and long situations all day long
-Losing the turnover battle
-Your secondary is pointing at each other after giving up touchdown passes again and again

These are the same mistakes that have plagued us all year. They may echo deeper items (coaching issues, etc.) but that is a conversation for another day.

Bright spots:
-JJ Green - ran pretty well, and had a long kickoff return
-Todd Gurley - he was hurt, and you could tell, but he also didn't make any gestures either way and played pretty well
-Marshall Morgan - he's probably the brightest spot of our year

The defense yes aside from a 99-yard bomb had a pretty good stat line. However, the points they did give up were pretty poor. As mentioned above we seemed to be clueless in the secondary when Nebraska did get some momentum in the passing game. Nebraska is not a good offense.