Daily Archives: August 11, 2009

All over but the shouting

If you dial over to Finebaum’s radio show, as I’m wont to do on occasion (it’s tough to find better sports comedy out there, to tell the truth), you’ll find that this is a fairly common sentiment expressed by the Tide Nation:

I’m beginning to get a sense of déjà vu. I’m having memories of the early Nineties, a period in SEC football history when the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators met annually in the championship game. Both programs dominated their respective divisions, and the only question at the beginning of each season was which team would win the “big” game at the end. Now it seems that history is about to repeat itself; the Tide and the Gators are currently loaded with superior talent and speed. They are also led by two of the best coaches in the nation. I have no doubt that these two SEC “superpowers” will meet in Atlanta for the next three or four years in a row.

Actually, I may be selling this dude’s fellow travelers a bit short.  Most of them are equally convinced that after Tebow graduates, things will revert to an even earlier era, when ‘Bama under Bryant ruled almost unchallenged.

The fun part of the post is where he dismisses the rest of the conference contenders the way that most of us dismiss the mid-majors from BCS title game discussions.  Here’s what he has to say about Georgia:

… I also mentioned the Georgia Bulldogs earlier in this article. Honestly, I believe that Mark Richt is a great recruiter and a very good coach at game time. He also has a huge talent-base surrounding him. But, something is missing in Athens, and it’s called a “killer instinct”. In order to compete with relentless competitors like Meyer and Saban, Richt must push himself to the brink. By the way, he hasn’t changed anything yet. Actually if Mark doesn’t figure out how to stop others from raiding his home turf for great players, he will no longer have the problem, because he won’t be the coach.

I could quibble over that “killer instinct” remark – after all, Richt and Saban have battled each other to fairly even terms, and whatever a killer instinct is, it must have nothing to do with winning the SECCG or the Sugar Bowl, since ‘Bama didn’t pull either off last year – but I’m always curious when I see people challenge Richt to stop in state talent from crossing over the border.  Given the math, how exactly does one propose he do that?

And it’s not exactly as if Georgia’s recruiting is suffering from it (whatever “it” is) either.

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UPDATE: On the flip side, Gary Danielson tells Tony Barnhart a few different things about Georgia and Alabama.

“I think Georgia is going to be the surprise of the conference. I think their quarterback play will be good enough and Mark Richt will go back to doing some of the things he likes to do-solid quarterback play, running back by committee, a defense that runs to the ball. I don’t think they can play worse defense so it is given they’ll be better on defense. They got humbled last year but that’s the way it happens sometimes. But you have to understand that they have a tough schedule so they may not win as many games. They lost the No. 1 pick in the draft (quarterback Matthew Stafford) and one of the best running backs (Knowshon Moreno) that they’ve had in a long time. But they will have a quarterback (Joe Cox) who gets the job done. He’s not a star but he’s like David Greene was when they won the championship (in 2002). They will be a much tougher out this year because of those five offensive linemen (who return).”

Can Alabama repeat in the SEC West? “I thought they were ahead of schedule last season. I know Nick (Saban) thought that. Nick is really good at identifying what his teams need to do and then taking advantage of what they have. Last year he saw what he had and made the most of it. Some things broke well for them last year. It was a down year for quarterback play in the SEC which led him to have the advantage of defense. There just weren’t a lot of people in the league who were able to take advantage of his defense. So he just dominated games with strategy and strength. They controlled the offensive line of scrimmage with two great tight ends and tackles. It was like having four tackles out there. This season things won’t be as comfortable because they lost three starters on the offensive line. But defense gives them a chance every time they play.”

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Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, Recruiting, SEC Football, The Blogosphere

“Do you change?”

I haven’t done much posting on the first few practices because it’s early and because, quite frankly, the usual suspects like Hale and Weiszer (along with the guys at The Red and Black) are doing great jobs getting us info that I presume you’re following as steadily as am I.

But I’ve got to admit that Weiszer’s article on Brandon Bogotay prompts an observation or two.

It illustrates one of the key battles to keep an eye on this month.  No, not the battle between Bogotay and Blair Walsh over who wins the kickoff job.  It’s the battle between kicking the ball into the end zone  and directional kickoffs.  And judging from this Coach Fabris quote, it’s a battle that’s going to go down to the wire.

“Do you change?” asked assistant coach Jon Fabris, who oversees the unit. “That’s kind of like saying we’ve been running the offense we’ve been running here and we sign a Michael Vick – that kind of guy. Do you implement some things for (Georgia’s dual-threat backup quarterback) Logan Gray? Do you emphasize some things to show him off? That’s no different than that deal.”

Um, let’s just skip past that whole Logan Gray-as-Michael Vick thing, if you don’t mind.  Is Fabris suggesting that Bogotay should be deployed as a change of pace type on kickoffs?  That makes little sense.  If bottom line Georgia’s opponents start off with worse field position on average with directional kicking that with end-zone kicking, then you stick with directional.  But if kicking another way proves to be a better way to skin the cat, what’s the point of deploying it only on occasion?

Now I know things aren’t as simple as kick the ball as hard as you can and see where it lands – even Richt, whose decision to offer the scholarship to Bogotay in the past offseason without doing any personal scouting is one of the most intruiging moves I’ve seen him make, offers a caveat.

“They still have to kick it to a spot, whether they kick it in the end zone or not,” Richt said. “You can’t just spray the ball any old where. You can’t kick with reckless abandon and say, ‘I hope it’s going out of the end zone,’ because if it doesn’t, your cover team has no prayer.”

But you can tell he’s not married to any particular philosophy.  He simply knows that kickoff coverage is an area that is in need of drastic improvement this season.  Fabris, on the other hand, sounds like a man in need of some convincing.

“What can a guy do?” Fabris said. “Not only what can he do once, twice, 10 percent of the time. What can he do, not 100 percent, but fairly consistently and what can you hang your hat on? If it’s just sometimes this, sometimes that, you don’t know what you can hang your hat on.”

The NCAA moved kickoffs from the 35-yard line to the 30 before the 2007 season. Walsh had four touchbacks and kicked eight of his 75 kickoffs out of bounds last season. The out-of-bounds kicks were particularly painful because they carry a penalty that can give the receiving team possession at its 40-yard line.

“Go way, way back and the idea of kicking the ball to a certain area of the field certainly isn’t to kick the ball a yard from the sideline – just to get it down in the general area,” Fabris said. “If the ball is sprayed out of bounds, it’s like a wide-open receiver if the ball is thrown 15 feet over his head. After a while, if that ball keeps not being thrown right, you have to say, well, what else can we do?

“If you were the head coach and you had a guy that could put the ball in the second row of the end zone every time, what would you do?”

Like I said, it’s something to watch over the next three weeks.

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UPDATE: Now we know who Fabris’ favorite kicker is.

“Billy Bennett did not have a real strong leg,” Fabris said. “In fact, he never kicked off until his senior year and really did it out of the bottom of his heart because we didn’t have anybody, but the thing about Billy is even though he didn’t have a very strong leg, he knew where it was going to land just about every time. At least that was the thing. He could place the ball. You’ve just got to know what you can do. And of course, the more things a kid can do, (the better). For example, the winds blowing fairly good at your back, `Hey, I think we can get this one in the end zone five yards deep.’ ‘Hey, go for it.’ How about the next quarter when you’re kicking into it? That doesn’t’ work anymore.”

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Filed under Georgia Football

Tuesday morning buffet

Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day:

  • “… and with the departure of speedster Percy Harvin, the Gators were looking for someone to offer a change-of-pace style behind Tebow.” I thought that was John Brantley’s role.
  • Were I a Kansas State booster, it would be a very long time before I’d open my checkbook again.
  • Here’s a 40-yard dash claim I’ve never heard made before:  “A college sprint coach friend of mine insists that if Bolt or Johnson focused on training and preparing for a 40-yard dash, they’d run closer to 4.0 flat than 4.3.” I’m not sure I buy that, but I’ve wondered if anyone has checked to see if Usain Bolt has any ability to catch a football.
  • “College athletics programs still operate within university systems. That alone alters the free-market concept. Within a university system are different parameters — and guidelines — for paying or rewarding any employee.” Because?  How many columns do you figure Ron Morris has written about “any employee” besides those in the athletic department over the years?
  • And, hey, don’t take my word about that:  “Imagine how invigorated our country’s pursuit of innovation would be if our news reports covered research discoveries as enthusiastically as they do college football…”

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Filed under College Football, Gators, Gators..., It's Just Bidness, Media Punditry/Foibles