Daily Archives: April 13, 2015

“Because we always knew.”

If the fix is in on who’s starting at quarterback, the coaches have done as good a job fooling the players as they have us.

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Observations from the fitty, G-Day edition

Fabulous weather.  Great crowd (although color me skeptical about all the “record crowd” talk).  Cold malty beverages and fried chicken at the tailgate.  Athens on a Saturday.

Anyone who has a problem with spring games doesn’t have a soul.

Keep in mind this is an observations post.  I can only get into the weeds so far, especially for a scrimmage with new faces, players changing teams mid-games and lots of walk-ons who I’ll probably never see step on the field outside of G-Day.

That being said, on to the bullet points.

  • The quarterbacks.  Well, what do you know?  The coaches weren’t blowing smoke up our collective asses.  None of the three candidates have taken control of the job, which isn’t to say there’s not a favorite.  I suspect pretty strongly that Richt and Schottenheimer would like for Ramsey to step up and put the other two away.  He is the most physically gifted thrower of the three, and it’s not really close.  His two bombs to McKenzie and Davis were picture perfect and close to effortless.  Deploying that arm would restore a part of the offense that went missing last season, the deep pass threat, that they would clearly like to have in the holster.  But… Ramsey’s footwork and his judgment are still works in progress.  He stared down receivers way too much for my liking.  And that’s why Bauta is still legitimately in the picture.  He worked his checkdowns.  He looked calm in the pocket.  He doesn’t have Ramsey’s arm, true, but he’s got enough to make things work.  If the coaches could combine Ramsey’s arm with Bauta’s brain, they’d have their starting quarterback today.  Park was Park.  He’s got skills, but he’s also got issues with timing and his receivers, most noticeably on a couple of throws with Scott-Wesley that simply didn’t look right.  He had a funky handoff with Turman that led to a fumble.  His interception, the only one of the day, came off a throw he probably shouldn’t have made.  Bottom line, those saying there’s a two-man race right now ain’t lying.  The best thing I can say about the situation is that it’s not hopeless.  There’s an SEC-caliber quarterback among the three; it’s up to Schottenheimer to coax that out of one of them.
  • The offensive line.  The best news is that there’s legitimate depth for the first time in ages.  The second string offensive line looked better than I’ve seen the number twos look in a spring game in a long while.  At center, Wynn looked shaky on that bad snap, but otherwise didn’t embarrass himself.  He’s got a summer to keep working, which can’t hurt.  The downer is that I saw the old bugaboo, handling the speed rush, troubling the tackles on more than one occasion.
  • The running backs.  If you were wondering, A.J. Turman showed he can play.  He ran with authority and showed a nice burst on his long touchdown run.  As nice as that was, it paled in comparison to Chubb’s man-among-boys 17-yarder.  The only thing to worry about in this department is health.
  • The receivers.  Speaking of which, oh, boy.  Thin to start with, McKenzie’s and Mitchell’s early departures due to injuries made a bad situation worse.  In McKenzie’s case, that’s a real shame, because he clearly flashed the improvement Richt gushed about at the presser following the previous scrimmage.  Behind them?  Davis looked good getting open on Ramsey’s 60-yard toss.  Scott-Wesley looks like he knows what he’s doing out there, but doesn’t look to me like he’s regained all his speed.  Help comes in August, which is good, but I’m afraid we’re going to be holding our breaths here about health and depth until we see if any of the newbies can contribute in a hurry.
  • The tight ends.  Here, on the other hand, depth isn’t a problem.  Jackson already looks like a college player and Jordan Davis stepped up and played well.  Add in Rome and Blazevich, and there’s plenty to work with.
  • The offensive coordinator.  You can stop freaking out now.  The playcalling was vanilla.  But it was also familiar. Chubb being protected and the quarterback battle meant that Schottenheimer was going to throw a fair amount, but you could tell the running game is still the bedrock of the offense.  Schottenheimer likes his tight ends, something I’m not going to complain about, but he was willing to take deep shots, too.  And I saw enough progression with the quarterbacks, particularly Bauta, to think he’s going to be fine as a position coach.
  • The defensive line.  All in all, not bad.  Outside of those two big touchdown runs, both d-lines didn’t look too overmatched playing the run.
  • The outside linebackers.  Holy crap.  This position is going to be ridiculously good this year.  Carter and Jenkins pretty much had their way all day on the pass rush and they were far from alone.  And when Floyd and Bellamy return?  Hoo, boy.
  • The inside linebackers.  With the running cut back, these guys may not have gotten as much of a chance to shine as they would have liked, but there was some solid play.  Ganus got screwed on what should have been a quarterback sack, but otherwise had a quiet game.  Carter and Kimbrough looked solid.  There were a lot of completions underneath to fullbacks and tight ends, so that’s still something that bears watching.
  • The secondary.  Depth remains a concern here, although I like what I saw out of the two early enrollees from Mississippi.  McKenzie knifed through the coverage on his TD reception, but out of the slot, that’s gonna happen.  I can’t say I’m overly concerned as of yet, though, for three reasons:  (1) Pruitt; (2) help on the way in August; and (3) what’s likely to be a more than stout pass rush.
  • Special teams.  Other than the kickers, there wasn’t any.  And the kickers didn’t exactly show out.  I’ll chalk Morgan’s miss up to new holder issues, but Colin Barber doesn’t have that excuse to fall back on in explaining a mediocre day.  Two scores on Saturday were set up with poor punts – at G-Day, nobody cares all that much, but against a conference foe, that stuff will come back to bite you.

Overall, my biggest impression of the day is that the athleticism and speed of the front defensive seven is the best it’s ever been in Richt’s tenure.  And in the hands of a competent defensive coordinator, that can cure a lot of secondary ills.  I think we’re going to enjoy watching Georgia play defense this season.

I’ve taped the replay, so I’ll watch that sometime during the week and share anything I glean from it that’s noteworthy.  In the meantime, feel free to chime in with what you saw.

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The transition you hadn’t thought about.

New quarterback.  New center.  New offensive coordinator.  We’ve been chewing over all those changes this offseason.  But here’s one I bet didn’t cross your mind until Saturday:

Morgan is transitioning with a new holder this spring.

Quarterback Faton Bauta was in that role Saturday. Adam Erickson was the holder for Morgan’s first three seasons when he went 46 of 59, including an SEC record 20 straight.

“That’s a big part of the kicking game,” Morgan said. “It’s just different timing, a different person, it just takes a little bit to get used to.”

Kicker Thomas Pritchard has also worked as the holder this spring.

“Our units coming together,” Morgan said, “we’re going to work a lot in the summer and have a great fall.”

I’m not trying to be one here, but is there any reason to let a holder battle go on over the summer?

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“If a team can finish ninth in its conference and then be crowned national champion, your playoff is too big.”

Michael Elkon noticed something about the latest Final Four…

After a year in which college basketball was roundly criticized for being boring, too physical, too slow, too defensive and increasingly unpopular, the Final Four and the Championship Game got the best TV ratings in decades. Both the Final Four and the tournament as a whole got their highest ratings since 1993.

Like 2015, 1993 featured the rare trio of No. 1 seeds reaching the Final Four.

… and draws a useful conclusion for college football from that.

So what does this mean for college football? Simple: the tournament is an endorsement of modern-day college football in two important respects.

First, the 2015 tournament shows it’s much better to have the best teams playing the semifinals than it is to have a stagecoach full of Cinderella. Yes, it was fun to see VCU, Butler and George Mason make Final Fours, but the viewing public tuned out because it gauged that these were not the best teams in the country. In contrast, put together a Final Four with three No. 1 seeds and another perennial power, and you have TV gold.

Right now, the College Football Playoff is designed to produce that exact formula. It aims to take the four best teams in the country, not the four that have gone 4-0 in a tournament.  [Emphasis added.]

Two things in response:  he’s right and ultimately it won’t matter that he’s right.

The same people who are responsible for the current enlarged basketball playoff field – and would have been happy to bloat things even further had some broadcaster been willing to pay for the privilege – are making the call on college football’s postseason.  And there are too many elements of a perfect storm out there waiting for just the right moment to spring Bill Hancock’s next breathless announcement about how this time they’ve really got things nailed.

If I can mix aquatic movie metaphors for just a minute, we’re all just waiting for someone to say they’re gonna need a bigger boat.

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This is why we shouldn’t make fun of other schools’ fan bases.

I’m just sorry I didn’t run into these folks yesterday.

It’s a Southern thing.  And I do understand.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football

ESPN clown car down for repairs

SI‘s Richard Deitsch reports that Lou Holtz is out at ESPN.

SI.com learned over the weekend that ESPN has parted ways with Lou Holtz, who had been a college football studio analyst with the network since 2004 and worked most notably with host Rece Davis and analyst Mark May on ESPN’s Saturday College Football Final pregame, halftime and postgame studio coverage. Holtz was also a regular contributor to SportsCenter and ESPN Radio. The decision, according to sources, was closer to a mutual agreement between the parties than Holtz getting forced out. The 78-year-old said last May that he would retire from broadcasting after the 2014 season though at the time the network said Holtz had not informed them of such thinking.

Asked why it parted with Holtz, an ESPN spokesperson said via email: “Lou brought a champion’s perspective and a legacy of accomplishment to our coverage along with his distinctive style and humor. We appreciate his contributions and wish him all the best in the future.”

While the normal reaction from a college football fan with a functioning brain to news like this would be something on the order of “jeez, what took you so long, Mickey?”, Deitsch gives us a dose of unintentional hilarity with this:  “There are plenty in Bristol who knew the Holtz-Mark May shtick was long past its shelf life and this is a good time to change things up.”

Oh, really?

I don’t know how anyone up there could have gotten that impression.  And I don’t have much faith that the same people in charge who thought crap like that was worth broadcasting regularly are going to do a bang up job with the retooling.

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