Daily Archives: December 5, 2006

Hitting the recruiting trail – in Athens

Chip Towers, in an aside in a post he wrote today in the AJC’s Bulldog Blog, mentions that Carter Strickland is preparing an article on Georgia’s apparent change in its approach to JUCO players.

I have to admit I’m intrigued.

Anyone familiar with the program over the past few years is aware of the almost complete absence of JUCO players in the recruiting classes since Richt became head coach (Georgia signed two in Richt’s first class who were Donnan legacies and none since then). The class of 2007 will have at least four JUCO signees. What’s changed?

That’s the part of this story that I’m interested in. What we’ve been told is that Richt generally doesn’t like JUCO kids because they only have two years in the system and Richt prefers that his signees are around for four. But late this summer, Coach Garner spoke with the press and gave a different indication for the absence of JUCO signees:

It’s often too difficult to sign a JUCO player who can meet Georgia’s qualification standards, said Rodney Garner, Georgia’s recruiting coordinator.
“It’s just tough for us to find a curriculum here that we can get them into where they would meet initial eligibility,” Garner said, “where they would have enough credits to transfer.”
Georgia’s academic standards often work against many junior college recruits, and that sometimes prevents Garner from recruiting a player who could fill an immediate need.
“It’s not that easy,” said Garner, citing defensive line as one of those positions where he’d love a junior college player. “There are definitely a lot of need positions that we wish we could go out and address through the junior college route.”
Garner says he’s working with the school’s academic support staff to find a solution, if one exists, that would help such a player qualify at Georgia. After all, other schools that claim high academic standards – like Florida, he said – have been able to sign junior college kids.
“They’re supposed to be a very high academic institution, but they get some junior college kids in,” he said. “We haven’t been able to do that in a while.”

That caught my eye when it came out. Mainly because other athletic programs at the school – baseball and basketball, for example – have brought in JUCO kids during the period of Richt’s tenure. Why does the football program face academic issues that evidently other programs don’t?

Interestingly, Garner continued to work the press, and Josh Kendall wrote an article a couple of days later about the JUCO admission process. Here’s something Garner had to say to him:

“Here at the University of Georgia we just have a hard time getting junior college kids in school,” Garner said. “It’s not that easy.”In fact, Garner said, it’s tougher at Georgia than at any school in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs haven’t signed a junior college player since the Class of 2001, which included offensive lineman Kareem Marshall and defensive back Brandon Williams.

“There are definitely a lot of key positions we wish we could go out and address through the junior college route,” Garner said. “It’s just hard for us to get them in.”

Sounds like some pretty strong lobbying on his part, doesn’t it? The question was, who was he lobbying? Perhaps a little hint appears later in the article:

Jere Morehead, Georgia’s senior vice president for academic affairs and the school’s faculty athletics representative, said there is no reason it should be tougher for a junior college student to get into Georgia than into Florida, for example.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard that,” Morehead said. “Neither coach (Mark) Richt nor Rodney has discussed any issues with transfers with me. I’d certainly be glad to sit down and discuss it, but I didn’t think that was a concern. I didn’t really think we focused on taking transfers in our program. Typically, you like to grow your students from within.”

Why is an academic bureaucrat passing judgment about how a football coach should develop his athletes? Especially someone who admits that communication on an issue important to the program was lacking? There’s no real answer given in the story.

Anyway, Garner indicated in the article that he was going to press hard on the issue:

This week, Garner forwarded the transcripts of three GMC players to an academic official at Georgia in hopes of getting the go-ahead to continue recruitment, he said. In the past, Bulldogs coaches have waited until the last minute to forward transcripts of JUCO prospects hoping the players would use the time to add credits or good grades.

“We’re going to try a different route this year,” Garner said. “It’ll be interesting to see what they say.”

Those three players are defensive linemen Jarius Wynn and Corvey Irvin and offensive lineman Vince Vance. [Emphasis added.]

“We really want to recruit them, but if they say, ‘Hey, they can’t get in school here,’ we’re wasting our time and those kids’ time,” Garner said.

Evidently he was successful, as all three of these kids committed to Georgia recently. I’ll be interested in seeing if Strickland’s article lets us in on all of the recruiting Coach Garner had to do to make this work…

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This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Or not.

I mentioned below that ACC commish Swofford probably had a bad hair day in the wake (pun intended) of the disastrous results of the ACCCG. In particular, I posted that “(t)he Gator Bowl folks are almost in a state of open revolt about welcoming Georgia Tech back after that stirring loss…”

I wasn’t exaggerating:

…Gator Bowl representatives are reluctant to discuss the situation publicly, but it’s no secret they’re livid over the ACC strong-arming them into selecting league runner-up Georgia Tech instead of Clemson to play in the Jan. 1 Toyota Gator Bowl. Tech’s selection is causing major flak between a 60-year-old bowl and its dance partner for the past decade…

You ask why?

…Why is the Gator Bowl steaming? Because it guaranteed the ACC and its schools about $8 million between the league title game and the bowl game. And when the GBA took a financial bath on Saturday’s poorly attended contest, it hoped the ACC would provide a lift by consenting to a Clemson-Texas bowl matchup (favored by CBS).

When that didn’t happen, a blissful relationship between the Gator Bowl and ACC suddenly turned chilly…

Asked to comment on the dispute, Reggie Ball said: “Come on, dog. It’s a game. The Gator Bowl’s the Gator Bowl. It’s a good bowl, but it’s no speed bump.”

Or something like that…

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And you’re not the only one… with mixed emotions…

Here’s a site that lets you sign on to a petition objecting to the new NCAA clock rule. (And check out the school by school breakdown – what’s got the Gator Nation all riled up?)

As the title to this post indicates, I have mixed feelings about the rule. On the one hand, anything that reduces the number of plays in a game is more likely than not to be a bad thing. On the other hand, I have this feeling – which I freely admit to be subjective – that Richt and staff did a great job of exploiting the effects of the rule in shortening the end of the game. The Tech game is a perfect example: the winning drive was 7-8 minutes long, with more runs than passes and several third down conversions. Giving Reggie-dog the ball back with under two minutes remaining was just what the doctor ordered.

Given Georgia’s previous clock management (mis)adventures, the fact that these guys seem comfortable working with the rule leads me to think that maybe it shouldn’t be messed with. (Or maybe it’s just that with fewer plays, there are fewer opportunities to screw up.)

Anyway, compare what Richt and staff did with Chan Gailey’s questionable decision on Tech’s final possession of the ACCCG. Granted, Ball pulled one of his typical boneheaded moves by refusing to throw the ball away on a 3rd and 10 play and taking a sack instead. Instead of going for it, though, Gailey elected to punt with 1:45 left in the game and only two time outs left. Not an insurmountable problem under the old rule, but under the new rule the clock doesn’t stop for a change of possession. Thus, Tech had to burn a TO immediately after the punt and only had one left. Even if the Tech defense held (which it didn’t) and forced a punt, the clock would have still run with Wake’s punt, leaving almost no time for Reggie to throw a final interception to conclude the game. Given those odds, Chan should have elected to go for it.

Of course, when it comes to the new rule, nothing compares with this. If the NCAA in its infinite wisdom decides to revise the clock rule, the newest version should be named in Bielema’s honor…

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