Category Archives: Georgia Football

I was gonna ask a good question at Hoover, but then I got high.

While I’m sure there will be a myriad of subjects discussed at this week’s SEC Media Days – I learned five years ago there’s no shark in Hoover that can’t be jumped – here’s one subject I’m skeptical we’ll hear much about:

We knew this was coming: you do not lose Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, Connor Shaw and James Franklin without some sort of dropoff. But it does create an interesting debate this week: just who is the best QB in the SEC?

Wallace and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott have their supporters. Auburn’s Nick Marshall will likely be first-team All-SEC, based on where his team ended last season and the location of SEC Media Days. Alabama’s Jacob Coker has never participated in a practice at the school, but is the presumed starter. But the answer may be either Missouri’s Maty Mauk or Georgia’s Hutson Mason. Both started games because of injury last season and impressed. It’s their job now, and each one has the skill (and the schedule) to go on a run through the SEC.

I just don’t see much traction for Mason in a preseason conversation like that. Anyway, it’s likely that Marshall’s sucked all the oxygen out of the room this week.  Then again, Clay Travis could always ask Gus Malzahn if Nick Marshall’s the best quarterback in the conference when he’s high.  Maybe I should hold off on my doubts.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, SEC Football

Capturing the Zeitgeist

If you haven’t read Seth Emerson’s piece on Mark Richt’s Paul Oliver Network, take a minute to do so now.  It’s a terrific take on how Georgia’s head coach is wired and how he’s lucky enough to be in a position to do something about a matter that concerns him.

But that’s not why you should read it.  This is:

Richt sat in a private room at his office this summer. His voice lowered.

“Paul, somewhere along the way, lost hope,” he said.

Oliver never called Richt looking for help. Richt doesn’t want to presume that the inability to find work was the reason for his depression. But Richt sensed that any man with a wife and kids would feel pressure to provide.

“It’s one of the things that I believe God has ordained us to do, is to provide and protect for our families,” Richt said. “When you’re not able to do that, your ego takes a beating, or however you want to say it.”

The coach took a deep breath.

“I don’t want any one of our guys to feel like, ‘I don’t know where to go, I don’t know where to turn,’ ” he said.

There will be cynics who argue that this will help Richt with recruiting, that it can help his good-guy image and encourage players to go to Georgia.

Richt himself brought up that side of it.

“I can promise you it doesn’t have anything to do with recruiting,” he said. “I’m sure it could help recruiting. But I can assure you I’m doing this because I really care about these guys.”

After fourteen years in Athens, it’s amazing that he still thinks there’s a need to reassure some part of the fan base about his motives.  And that’s not meant as a reflection on him.  But it’s obvious that he does.

This season will be Richt’s 14th as Georgia’s head coach. He’s only 54, and yet there is always speculation that he could walk away to pursue non-football measures.

But the Paul Oliver Network is just that, and Richt feels he can do more good by staying as the head coach at Georgia. It empowers him, because this is a major way he can make a difference on the job.

“It fires me up,” Richt said. “I’ve always had a greater purpose in coaching than trying to get a raise or trying to win a championship or coach a Heisman Trophy winner. I mean I’ve been blessed to win championships, coach Heisman winners, All-Americans, national championships, ACC championships. I know we didn’t do that at Georgia as a national champion. But you know, I experienced all that. And if that’s all there is at the end it’s empty, unless you help these guys.

“And that’s what people misunderstand sometimes. I’m highly motivated to win the national championship. But just because I care about them beyond football they think, ‘Oh he’s more worried about that than he is winning.’ No that’s not true at all. Not true at all. I want to win, and we’re gonna do the best we can to try to win. But I feel like we truly are educators, and we truly have a responsibility to help these guys.”

And, sadly, he’s right about that.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Life After Football

“I’m competing against everybody, Gurley included.”

This is what respect looks like.

Gordon didn’t need the uncomfortably hot sitdown on the union’s patio to perk up quickly for an interview. About 10 minutes in, he reveals what he’s really after.

The running back crown.

Then he reveals what might be in his way.

SEC running backs.

Specifically, Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon.

This is not a derivative of empty football trash talk that floods message boards and timelines. Gordon actually does a ton of research on his running back competition. He followed Gurley and Yeldon “heavily” last season, he says, searching for stats on his iPad whenever WiFi allowed. There’s healthy admiration here.

That this could be a historically loaded tailback class nationally isn’t lost on Gordon, a redshirt junior who eschewed the NFL draft after a 1,609-yard season in part to compete against the best.

As the NFL continues to devalue running backs, these three have potential first-round ability and play in systems that run the ball by committee, which helps stave off injury.

Gordon respects them but make no mistake. He is coming for them. The race for the country’s best running back — and possibly a Heisman invite — is “on.”

“It’s been on,” said Gordon, whose Badgers open the season against another tailback factory, LSU. “I’m competing against everybody, Gurley included.”

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Filed under Georgia Football

“We’ve got to get lean so we can sustain for a long period of time.”

Georgia isn’t waiting to see if there’s going to be a change in the substitution rules.  Mark Richt is embracing the physical reality of defending the HUNH.

The rise in up-tempo offenses prompted a change in the Bulldogs’ summer conditioning plans that have been in place these recent weeks leading into August and the start of preseason practice.

“One of the big things for us is football is now becoming a very high up-tempo game,” UGA coach Mark Richt explained recently. “It used to be 30, 40 seconds between a play. Now it could be as short as 10-to-18 seconds between plays. So you’re exerting and then resting for a short period of time. So now, even in the weight room, we want to go hard, rest a short time, then go ahead. A quicker recovery time. We’re not going to run the longer distances anymore. We’re going to run the shorter distance.”

During previous summers, the Bulldogs have run 200 yards, 300 yards and other long distance drills. But they planned to do away with that this summer.

“We’re going to train these guys all summer long in exactly the way we think that you have to go,” Richt said. “We’re going to go hard and recover — quickly. So that’s a big change in how we’re going to train everybody.”

Will it work?  I have no clue.  Do I appreciate him being proactive on this front?  Hells, yeah.

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Filed under Georgia Football, The Body Is A Temple

Georgia’s latest depth chart is an elaborate post-deconstructionist experiment.

Seriously, my first thought upon reading this is that the coaches did it so that when they get asked about it at SEC Media Days, they can smirk at the media and respond, “you guys thought we were serious about that?”.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Rehabbing Georgia’s secondary, one step at a time

Okay, okay, I know that Mark Bradley quoting Tom Luginbill about the level of talent on the Georgia defense might as well be entitled “Troll dem Dawgs”, but, still, I think I’m gonna have to offer a corrective suggestion to this:

It’s as down talent-level-wise on defense as I’ve seen certainly in Mark Richt’s tenure. They don’t have depth. … I don’t know outside one or two guys that would have started for Florida State last year. Coaching is one thing, but they’ve got to replenish their depth and talent pool.

Only a fool would say that there hasn’t been a talent drain out of Georgia’s secondary during this offseason, but I’m hard pressed to see a lack of depth on the line and with the linebacking corps.  But even in the case of Georgia’s defensive backs, how much of that perception should be chalked up to pure talent and how much to a failure to develop and deploy the talent effectively?

Which brings me to this rather intriguing piece about the ups, downs and potential redemption of one Damian Swann.  There’s a lot there, so you should read it in its entirety, and I can’t say I buy in to all of his observations, but I won’t deny that this does ring true:

Swann’s inconsistencies in tackling usually stemmed from neither dropping his pad level nor wrapping up at the point of attack. He also has a habit of not implementing the nuances that come with being a sound tackler, from time to time.

He goes on to illustrate that with the very play – Swann’s whiff of Sammy Watkins in last year’s opening game – that popped into my head as I read that.  Anyway, it’s a long piece.  And Swann is just one defensive back.

It’s worth keeping that in mind as we watch Jeremy Pruitt rebuild the secondary.  It’s not going to be an overnight sensation.

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Filed under Georgia Football

With Pruitt, even the happy talk is serious.

It’s the offseason, when a frustrated Dawg fan’s heart turns to fancy.  We relive last season’s flaws, whether they’re of the tactical, talent, attitude or any other variety that comes to mind, and we grasp at whatever straw we think is the perfect remedy.

We appreciate new straws the most.  Novelty is exciting.  Novelty is promise.  Novelty is hope.  (Not to mention there are only so many times we can be assured that this is the season some flaw is really going to be fixed before tuning out altogether.)

Jeremy Pruitt is this year’s straw, baby.  The question is, how different a straw is he from his predecessor, whom, you may recall, was a pretty hot straw for us, too.  Seth Emerson gets at that some here:

But when Pruitt walked into a team meeting at Georgia in January, minutes after being hired as defensive coordinator, he received a standing ovation. It wasn’t so much for his credentials, though by then many players were aware of them. It was more because he represented a new start, something Georgia’s defense desperately needed.

“A lot of guys probably needed a fresh start,” senior cornerback Damian Swann says.

Before getting into why Pruitt is seen as the right guy at Georgia, it’s important to know the state of the defense — both playing-wise and emotionally — after last season.

Todd Grantham had his good moments in four years as defensive coordinator, especially the first two. He brought a much-needed fire to the defense, which was one of the best in the nation in 2011. But the unit struggled the following season, which was a surprise given all its talent, and last year it struggled even more, crippled by youth and inexperience.

Yeah, there’s that.  But Grantham got plenty of mileage out of Willie Martinez’ failings, too.  So why aren’t we more cynical about what Pruitt’s up to?

I would suggest that one reason is Pruitt appears to have a low tolerance for bullshit.  Some of that can be gleaned from the offseason departures from some of last year’s defensive starters.  There are also stories like this:

… No player on the roster would say Georgia is better off without those guys. However, there has been an increased sense of resolve among the players I spoke to, as you can see here and here. Even the incoming freshmen can tell that there has been a paradigm shift with the new coaches. I overhead this conversation two weeks ago:

Player 1: “Coach [Jeremy] Pruitt doesn’t talk to anybody…”

Player 2: “He hasn’t spoken to Lorenzo [Carter] since he got here.”

It was off the record so I omitted their names. We may never find out if that was a real thing or just an exaggeration. The point is, Pruitt doesn’t appear to be a player’s coach. He is tough, demanding and doesn’t coddle anyone. In the short run, the team has been hurt by transfers and dismissals, In the long run, the team will be strengthened. The players still on the roster keep telling me they love Tracy Rocker, Kevin Sheerer and Mike Ekeler, but I think there is more respect (and a little bit of fear) when it comes to Pruitt.

Now this may turn out to be little more than myth-building.  (Which is not to say that myth-building can’t be an effective motivator.)  But in any event it has a different feel to it than what we’ve been accustomed to for a while.  I’m almost tempted to say it’s VanGorder-esque, except even VanGorder didn’t run players off the way Pruitt’s been willing to as a price for his demands.  (VanGorder wasn’t the recruiter or team player Pruitt has demonstrated himself to be, but that’s a subject for another story.)

I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.  But I’m not gonna get too crazy about it yet.  I don’t think Pruitt would approve.

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Filed under Georgia Football

“I think this Georgia team is capable of being a surprise.”

Mr. Steele explains the case for Georgia being in the national title picture:

“This year my No. 1 surprise team is the Georgia Bulldogs. When you look at Georgia, they had five losses last year. But let’s look at why they lost five games last year. First of all, coming into the year you knew their defense was going to struggle.They had a lot of freshmen and sophomores in the two-deep, and they gave up 29 points per game, which is extremely high for the University of Georgia. Well, now they bring in Jeremy Pruitt, who’s the defensive coordinator, and he’s going to look like a genius. They’re coming off a horrific season for their defense. They’ve got eight starters back. So they’re now a veteran unit and Pruitt knows a thing or two about defense. In fact, he’s been a part of the last three national championships: two with Alabama and one with Florida State. He’s trying to make it four in a row this year. I see Georgia’s defense giving up more like 304 yards per game this year, a big-time improvement. …

“Then you factor in that schedule. They get Clemson at home. Florida, of course, at a neutral site. Auburn comes in at home. As we know, Auburn needed a tipped-pass touchdown to beat them at the end of the game last year, and that was at Auburn. So the only game I have them an underdog all year is at South Carolina, I’ve got them a slight three-point underdog. I think this Georgia team is capable of being a surprise.”

Last year’s defense yielded 375.5 yards a game, so, yeah, lopping almost 20% off of that would be one helluva big-time improvement.  From your lips to Gawd’s ears, sir.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water

Mark Richt was HUNH before HUNH was cool.

You want to talk about pace and the Georgia offense?  Well, the season Georgia posted its highest average of offensive plays per game was way back in 2003.

GEORGIA’s AVERAGE OFFENSIVE SNAPS PER GAME BY SEASON

2003: 73.1
2013: 72.7
2011: 72.6
2001: 71.3
2002: 70.1
2004: 68.8
2007: 67.2
2012: 66.0
2008: 63.5
2005: 62.9
2010: 62.6
2009: 61.0
2006: 59.1

Over the next three seasons, Georgia’s averaged dropped by fourteen plays per game.  Gee, I wonder what caused that?

Georgia football coach Mark Richt continued the two-year fight for his no-huddle offense this week at the SEC Meetings.

“He and I talked about it for the last three hours,” Bobby Gaston, the league’s director of officials, said Friday afternoon on the second day of the meetings at the Sandestin Hilton.

Since coming to Georgia, Richt has all but ditched the fast break offense he made famous at Florida State because, he says, the league’s officials don’t allow him to go fast enough to make it worthwhile. SEC officials are required to pause for 12-14 seconds between each play, and that’s not going to change despite Richt’s arguments, Gaston said.

“He doesn’t agree with it, but he knows what we’re doing,” Gaston said.

The mandatory pause is to allow the officiating crew to get in position, Gaston said. Richt argued that the officials should put the ball in play as soon as they are set, regardless of how much time has elapsed, but Gaston said that would provide the offense an unfair advantage.

“Mark Richt would eat their lunch,” he said. “He would go straight to the ball and snap it. He’d get in 100 plays. We have about half the coaches who think we go too fast and about half who think we go too slow so we must be in about the right spot.”

Smug asshole.  I wonder how Gaston feels about that now.

I don’t buy conspiracy theories for the most part.  But that decision, more than anything else I can think of, makes me question now and then if somebody in the SEC office was out to get Richt.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Steele ranks Georgia’s position groups.

Just thought you might be interested on where he sees Georgia’s position groups from a national perspective.

  • Quarterbacks:  outside top 45
  • Running backs:  2nd
  • Receivers:  10th
  • Offensive line:  42nd
  • Defensive line:  15th
  • Linebackers:  1st
  • Defensive backs:  25th
  • Special teams:  21st

Keep in mind, that DB ranking came before Matthews’ dismissal.

The QB ranking may raise a few eyebrows, but keep in mind how inexperienced Georgia is at the position going into the season.

That being said, if the secondary and special teams turn out to be respectable, this has the makings of being a good season.

As a bonus, here’s another set of rankings that echoes Steele about running backs and linebackers.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water