Daily Archives: March 19, 2014

Spring optimism always tastes great.

Here’s a nice tall glass of Kool-Aid to chug:

Last year, with all the injury problems and all the bad luck, four of Georgia’s five losses came by five points or less, and the other came without Gurley. That 8-5 record is misleading. Despite the loss of a quarterback who didn’t get enough credit for keeping the team afloat in its close wins, a young team is about to become a veteran one, and an injured one a healthy one. And that’s how close games can suddenly become convincing wins, and how a team that’s always coming up short regains a foothold as a championship contender.


(h/t Ben)



Filed under Georgia Football

You can’t stop settling it on the field. You can only hope to contain it.

John Pennington:

When the conference commissioners decided to do away with polls and computers in favor of a selection committee, we warned that come March everyone would be reminded of all the things they dislike about selection committees.  Here we are.  And with people complaining about the sheer randomness of the seeding process as well as the hard-to-figure out invitation process for the final four or five bubble teams, it should all be quite worrisome for college football fans.  If there’s this much debate over 68 teams, how hot will temperatures rise when we’re talking about a bracket that will include only four teams?

The good news is that the football panel will have a former Secretary of State, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, and a career basketball man to help pick the teams and set the matchups.  Yes.  That was sarcasm.

If anything, the 13-member football panel should expect to receive even more hate mail than the hoops group.  As we noted above, more teams will be getting turn-downs in football.  And American sports fans are also more passionate about college football.  (Check the TV ratings and recent TV contracts if you need proof.)  There will be some serious howling when a team ranked in the top four of all the (now meaningless) polls gets jumped by a fifth- or sixth-ranked team that won its league.  Top 25ish SMU not getting one of 36 at-large bids?  Try an SEC runner-up getting bounced by a lesser-ranked Big Ten champ.

Every March we’re treated to Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale and Seth Davis and Andy Katz telling us what the hoops committee got wrong.  Set your DVRs.  This December we’ll get another batch of analysts telling us everything the football committee botched in carrying out its duties.  So prepare yourself right now to be disappointed.  We see no way the College Football Playoff selection committee escapes controversy.  The basketball committee never does.

That last point – how often do we bitch about ESPN’s narrative?  Is there any reason to think the selection committee will be immune from that?  Of course not.  A couple of loudly trumpeted “controversies” about a deserving number five and we’ll find ourselves in the same kind of mess that playoff proponents insisted the BCS created.

We’ve got playoff fever.  And the only prescription is more playoff.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil

Mike Ekeler is looking for a few ugly men.

Don’t take my word for it.


Filed under Georgia Football

“It looked like we were organized and knew what we were doing.”

Call it the birth of a new persona, if you like.  Recharged Richt.

“We as coaches were kind of. …it felt as close to 2001 since I’ve been here,” Richt said of his first season. “It felt like the first day of a new staff and I think a lot of it is because we obviously had a new staff on defense, but even change in the practice schedule as much as we did, it was brand new for me. It was brand new for the offensive staff.”

Richt called the first day of spring practice “outstanding,” even with what he admitted was the distraction of the Monday night arrests of four football players.

“The defense obviously was going through some brand new stuff for them and the players as well,” Richt said. “Just a lot of excitement, a lot of anticipation. We actually on Monday we got in the staff meeting, went over the practice on the board, talked about where everybody is going to be at every period. Then we went out in the field as a staff and we walked through it all where everybody was going to be. Then at the end of the player meetings we took the players out there and we just walked and said this is where this drill is going to be, this is where this drill is going to be, this is where we’re going to do period four, five, six or whatever. We kind of dress rehearsed where everybody was going to be throughout the practice and then today when we did it, it showed.”

I know we’re veering dangerously close to happy talk territory here, but it does seem like the fresh blood on the staff has encouraged Richt to change his approach this spring and that he’s more upbeat as a result.  (Certainly, it feels differently than Grantham’s spring debut, although that may be due more to Richt recovering from the tough decision to fire Willie Martinez than anything else.)

And there is some method to the new madness.

Basically, Pruitt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo changed up the practice structure and tempo to where reps are now going to double the number of players at one time. A very fast pace was demanded, and in return, players would condition during practice and not have to condition so long as no one was cited for loafing during practice (which would mean the whole team would run).

There’s that “p” word again.

It’s the first day and you don’t want to read too much into things, but it’s at least a little encouraging to see that the team bought into the changes.

According to Richt, “There was not one time when I had to add a team sprint to the end of the day. Everybody was busting it. The coaches were pushing and the players were responding well.”

Richt also added this about the defense: “I was pretty impressed with the fact that our defense could get lined up as quickly as they did. The offense was going fast-paced and high-tempo, and the defensive coaches got the boys lined up and when the ball as being snapped, considering so much was brand new to everybody, I was kind of curious to see how that would go.”

Organization.  Players lining up quickly.  It’s a start.


Filed under Georgia Football

Are spring games doomed?

John Infante believes we’re on the verge of seeing the spring game disappear as an annual event.

All over the country coaches are doing away with spring games. Texas A&M was forced to by renovations to Kyle Field. But Oklahoma State and Pitt did so voluntarily. This is becoming a trend and it will likely be a terminal one for this annual spring tradition.

Why?  It’s a victim of mandated time constraints.

The spring game is counted as one of the 15 practice sessions that make up spring practice. In addition to the overall limit of 15, no more than 12 sessions can include contact. Of the 12 contact sessions, only eight can including tackling. And of the eight tackling sessions, only three can devote more than 50% of the time to 11-on–11 scrimmaging. Spring games obviously count as one of those three scrimmages.

So it makes sense that coaches are moving away from a fan- or competition-focused spring game to an open practice or doing away with it entirely. Coaches have precious little time to work with their team in the spring. Unlike other sports this is the only skill instruction coaches can provide between the end of the football season and the start of fall camp. Not only does a spring game take away from this time generally, it takes away from the most limited subset of this time, 11-on–11 scrimmaging that includes tackling.

And time may become even more constrained.

As limited as that time is, it could be getting even more limited as well. If contact during practice needs to be reduced for safety reasons, one of the easiest places to try and reduce it will be in spring practice. 12 sessions with contact might become eight, eight sessions of tackling might become four, and three scrimmages might become two, one, or none.

Infante mentions changing the spring game to a meeting between schools (an idea I’ve always liked) as a way to save it, but if player safety concerns grow, I don’t see how an inter-school scrimmage helps.  It’s sad, but the only thing I can come up with to counter Infante’s argument is that ESPN sure likes the added broadcast product it’s gotten from these glorified scrimmages over the past few years.  Is that enough?

The spring game is a beloved tradition, particularly in our neck of the woods.  But like so many things driving college football these days, ultimately it won’t be about what we fans want.  That doesn’t mean we won’t miss it if it goes.


Filed under College Football

In case you missed it, spring practice started yesterday.

There was plenty of non-criminal coverage, too, as Emerson, Estes and Weiszer all turned in good reports on the day.  A few items of note:

  • Health.  Overall, something of a mixed bag, but better than I anticipated.  Gurley looked healthier than expected.  Wilkerson and Marshall went through some non-contact drills and accelerating full-speed and cutting.  Malcolm Mitchell has progressed enough that Richt thinks he could run some routes competitively, and wouldn’t even rule out the possibility of Mitchell facing off against a defender this spring.  On the other hand, Scott-Wesley and Rome didn’t do much of anything.
  • J.J. Green.  He’s moved to cornerback. “He looked pretty natural out there, I thought, as a corner, the couple little spots I saw,” Richt said.  It can’t hurt.
  • Checkgate.  All four of the arrestees practiced yesterday.  “Ready for our first spring practice!” Matthews tweeted at lunchtime.
  • Quarterbacks.  Mason’s the clear-cut number one guy, which is no surprise.  It sounds like there’s still a lot of work to be done with his backups, though.  “Faton is next, and Faton is getting a lot more reps and he’s doing well. You could tell he’s still not 100 percent certain on every single situation, but we pride ourselves at Georgia to try not to waste any plays offensively. In doing so, the quarterback has got to make a lot of decisions at the line of scrimmage according to what he sees defensively. … Brice is certainly a lot farther along than he was a year ago. And you know Jacob, his head is spinning. I can’t imagine how bad his head is spinning right now. He did some good things as he’s trying to learn what to do.”
  • Pruitt the position coach.  Hands on:  “Pruitt was working with both the safeties and the cornerbacks, bringing them together for various, hard-driving drills. It was impressive that Pruitt made sure to identify each player by his first name, walk-on or scholarship guy, and he coached every single one of them through each drill.”
  • Special teams.  Per Richt, the goal is for defensive starters to each be on two special teams units.  That’s different.
  • Position changes.  Other than Johnny O’Neill moving outside, it doesn’t sound like much is new.


Filed under Georgia Football

Boom goes the shotgun.

Florida, as we’ve been told repeatedly over the last couple of months, is about to throw off the shackles of underperforming offensive schemes and unleash the hounds with Kurt Roper’s super-duper new pedal to the metal spread attack.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if Muschamp has completely bought into what’s coming.  Take this quote:

Muschamp rattled off a series of statistics that convinced him that running and passing out of a shotgun will fit the team’s personnel better than last year’s system. For example, in 2012, the Gators averaged 6.8 yards per running play out of the shotgun, and more than 60 percent completion percentage on passes from the gun. When Driskel was under center, Florida was a shade over 4 yards per carry, and its completion percentage was less than 50 percent.

2012 stats?  It took him more than an entire season to glom onto that?  I believe I detect a faint whiff of reluctance there.

If it takes Roper a while to get the kinks worked out – and let’s face it, there are a lot of kinks to work out – how patient do you think Boom will be?


Filed under Gators, Gators...

Leave chaos to the professionals.

Both sides have filed briefs in the NLRB hearing about certifying Northwestern’s football players as a union.  There are several interesting assertions made by each, but a couple in particular are worth pointing out, considering some of the arguments I’ve read from you in comments on the subject.

One is about player compensation.  Many of you believe that an athletic scholarship represents the way a student-athlete is compensated for providing his or her services.  It may surprise you to learn that the school disagrees with you.

Although CAPA claims that a full-ride scholarship — worth $61,063 at Northwestern — is compensation, the university claims otherwise. From the brief:

Athletic scholarships are purely that—scholarships—and as such they are not treated as compensation for purposes of income taxes or withholdings… Student-athletes at Northwestern do not pay taxes on the athletic grant-in-aid… In addition, student-athletes at the University do not receive W-2’s for the athletic grant-in-aid.

Athletes also receive a stipend for food and living expenses when they move off-campus, but there are no tax deductions or withholdings from that money, either. CAPA argued that because some of the stipend money is deducted for mandatory meals, that means the university gets to decide what the players do with their money. However, Northwestern said that the money deducted for those meals is part of the “board” covered in the scholarship. The university also said athletes don’t receive benefit plans that other Northwestern employees receive.

Now some of this is obviously legal hairsplitting.  But it’s also the kind of thing that comes back to bite you in the ass if the players prevail and at some point demand payment.

And how about this admission from Northwestern?

Northwestern contends that a “hypothetical free market does not and cannot exist in college sports under the current NCAA framework. Instead, chaos would exist under a regime where some football teams are unionized and some are not.”

At least it’s honest about that.  But it’s hard to understand how a free market is okay for schools negotiating TV contracts, no problem for conferences raiding other conferences for new members, fine for coaches and administrators negotiating employment contracts, but not so for student-athletes facing increasing demands on their time from their athletic programs as well as the risk of physical injury.

I guess chaos is in the eye of the beholder.


Filed under Look For The Union Label

“Maybe ya’ll wanted to hear about football.”

Or maybe not.

Technically it was a nondescript first day of spring football practice. But because four of his players were arrested and jailed on theft charges 18 hours before it started, Georgia coach Mark Richt was greeted by a couple of dozen media members and cameras from all four of Atlanta’s network television stations after the 90-minute practice concluded.

None of them got the answer they were seeking: How does he plan on punishing the four offending players?

Kinda rude of Mark not to accommodate them.


Filed under Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles