Daily Archives: August 9, 2016

Smith vs. Saban: “It’s not personal.”

The Smith family continues to work the media diligently.

Inside this hotel meeting room are Maurice Smith and several family members.

It’s Saturday night, hours after Smith graduated from Alabama.

But the family isn’t celebrating.

Instead, they’re seated around this long rectangular table talking about Smith’s ugly ongoing battle with Alabama and sharing their frustration regarding Alabama’s handling of this process while continuing to emphasize that they believe Smith and other graduate transfers should be able to transfer wherever they want. Even if it’s in the same conference.

Smith, a senior defensive back, continues to seek a release to Georgia. Tide coach Nick Saban continues to tell him that he can’t transfer to Georgia or any other SEC school.

It’s become a frustrating, draining situation for both the Smith family and Alabama.

Okay, making the public case is the only weapon they have at their disposal, but will it work?  Maurice Smith claims time isn’t an issue for him (“There’s really not a deadline. I’m willing to go as far as it takes to play the season at the school that I desire, which is Georgia.”), but the reality would seem to be otherwise, unless he’s willing to play without a scholarship.

Does Nick Saban strike anyone as the kind of man who digs in, only to relent later?  I can’t say he does me, but according to Kirby Smart, Saban’s changed a little over the years.

“On a scale of one to 10,” Smart said, “(with 10 being) just out-of-control, just manic, all ball when I first got with him, I really feel like that’s toned down to an 8 or a 7.”

Saban deals with his assistants and his players in a different way than he once did. While he still presents the same hard-nosed facade to the media, Smart said the Crimson Tide coach is more vulnerable with his teams today.

“He was more emotional with those last three or four teams,” Smart said. “The one that won it with A.J. (McCarron) and C.J. (Mosley) down in Miami (in 2012). That was a team that was really emotional. He got emotional with Blake Sims’ group (in 2014). You hear it in his voice, where, when I go back to the first years, and even LSU, there was never that emotional side. He would never let a team see that, where he choked up a little bit.”

These days, is he vulnerable enough to react to a little mockery?  (The ‘Bama fan base isn’t.)  If you check PAWWWLLL’s Twitter feed, Finebaum is having a field day with this.

Color me skeptical, although it has to be said that in other instances, public perception has caused other programs to relent.  And Smith’s message is tough for Saban to rebut.

Seated in the corner of the room near the end of the conversation, Smith is asked, “Why Georgia?”

“Honestly, I believe it’s the best fit for me personally to just walk in and have an opportunity in front of me to play and also get on film,” Smith says. “And also, our (former) defensive coordinator is there. Coach Smart, he’s the head coach now. So it’s just an all-around good fit for me to come in. It’s almost the same system as Alabama, so it will be an easy transition and also the playbook. And I don’t have a lot of time to get on the field and basically get my senior year underway, so I think that would be the best opportunity and the best choice for me to move to.”

If part of the collegiate athletic experience is providing the opportunity for student-athletes to prepare for a chance at a professional career, how can Saban argue there are football programs better suited for Smith than the one where his former coaches run the defense he’s played in for three years?  Smith calls that a business decision and, for once, the phrase isn’t trite.

But can he find the story has enough traction to force Saban to respond?



Filed under Nick Saban Rules

Who could have figured?

I’m sorry to pick on poor ol’ Dean Legge, who’s just trying to earn a living, but really, I don’t need an insider’s account to know that Georgia’s biggest concern going into the season is this:

In talking with a slew of folks over the weekend, the No. 1 problem heading into the 2016 season is depth. More than anything else, quarterback play included, depth is the top concern of those most in the know.

“If you look at all of the starters you can really be a pretty good team,” said one insider. “Honestly, and I might be biased, but I think No. 16 is about right to start the season. But I’m telling you right now, we are on the precipice of being in serious danger of losing a few games if someone gets hurt. The offensive line isn’t super deep; obviously you don’t yet know your starting quarterback; the running backs – don’t get me started. That could be a real mess. We just are not deep enough anywhere. Maybe at linebacker.”

That’s just the sentiments of one insider. In my calls around to folks this weekend to check on their thoughts on the Saturday practice, that was repeatedly stated – UGA’s depth is a real concern.

This is not exactly a dark secret to anyone who can read a depth chart or recall the story of Georgia’s recent recruiting classes.  Although I think I’ll go out on a limb here and say there isn’t a depth problem at tight end.  Consider that insight on the house.


Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

The day the rabbit’s foot died.

Speaking of the departure of Gus’ good fortune, Bill Connelly nails it to the day — indeed, the moment.

On November 8, 2014, a week after pulling off a staggering escape at Ole Miss (the game in which the Rebels’ Laquon Treadwell injured his leg and fumbled just shy of the go-ahead touchdown), Auburn hosted Texas A&M, another suddenly flagging program. The Tigers were 24-point favorites, and even though they trailed 35-17 at halftime, it felt like only a matter of time until the inevitable comeback. They had won nine of 10 one-possession games under Malzahn. They would find a way.

Indeed, the score was just 41-38 in the final minute, and Auburn was driving. But a miscommunication between quarterback Nick Marshall and center Reese Dismukes resulted in an errant snap, and A&M recovered it to seal the upset.

Since that moment, they have lost six of nine one-possession games and are 8-10 overall. And two of their three close wins averted upsets; they played not to lose against Kentucky last year and just barely succeeded, and they needed overtime to take down FCS’ Jacksonville State.

And, yeah, to reiterate the message from my last post, that schedule is just brutal:  “If the Tigers are indeed the 24th-best team in the country, they will labor to find six wins.”

Um… good luck with that, Gus.


Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Stats Geek!

Kirby Smart’s best friend this season?

If you want to know what Georgia has a chance in 2016, check out this interactive layout of strength of schedule, based on Brian Fremeau’s FEI ratings.  You may have trouble finding Georgia there, but it’s on the low end of the SEC.

Oh, and Gus had better hope he finds that rabbit’s foot.  Auburn’s SOS is almost literally off the chart.


UPDATE:  A look by conference…


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

A program’s gotta know its limitations.

It must have killed Mark Bradley to type this.

As AD, Bobinski went through several publicists — Wayne Hogan was pushed aside after one year, Dean Buchan after two — but it was uncertain whether subsequent hires ever yielded whatever it was Bobinski wanted. Because what Bobinski wanted wasn’t exactly clear. He spoke grandly of his vision for Tech athletics, but he said pretty much what every AD — save Dave Braine — had said: That the Jackets were striving only for the best.

In the cold light of hindsight, the unloved Braine stands revealed as a teller of truths. He famously averred that, at least for Tech football, inherent impediments existed that would keep the Jackets from achieving lasting greatness. More than a decade later, his evaluation has been revealed as truth. Tech has had some superb seasons, followed immediately by seasons rather less superb.

Say what?  I thought the Jackets were on the fast track to greatness after the Great Win of 2008.  Derailments can be a bitch, man.

Then again, I guess you could say Bradley is arguing that Paul Johnson hasn’t failed Georgia Tech.  Tech has failed the genius.


Filed under Georgia Tech Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

Today, in beer is coming

Here’s something you wouldn’t have heard ten years ago.

New Belgium Brewing has given the school $4.3 million towards the construction of an on-campus football stadium. Both New Belgium and Colorado State are located in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“We’re delighted to expand our partnership with New Belgium Brewing – and to honor the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of our community by highlighting a tremendously successful, home-grown brand at the new stadium,” CSU president Tony Frank said in a statement.

As part of the gift, New Belgium gets north end zone hospitality naming rights.

A school “in partnership” with a brewery… what’s the world coming to?

And think of the naming possibilities at Georgia.  Greg McGarity’s mouth is probably watering just thinking about it: “Marjorie, get Don Leebern on the phone for me, please.”


Filed under It's Just Bidness

Tuesday morning buffet

Eh, there are always a few tasty morsels ready to fill the chafing dishes.

  • Here’s a handy guide to the new rule changes.  (h/t)
  • If you’re interested, here’s a little more detail on the low blocking zone rule change.  After hearing the talk there about tight ends, I wonder how much Georgia will be affected by this.
  • This probably won’t help BYU’s chances of joining the Big 12.
  • Admittedly, this has nothing to do with college football, but I simply couldn’t help myself by linking to it.
  • Big talk from Hugh Freeze“It hasn’t stolen our joy at all.”
  • Wonder who the best and worst coaches are in close games?  Here you go.
  • Pro Football Focus gives a preseason look at North Carolina.  They’re fairly impressed, although at least Kirby won’t have to worry about defending an athletic quarterback in the opener.
  • Thomas Brown on Mark Richt“When he released the opportunity to be the OC and call the plays and take over the head coaching role only (at Georgia), it took some of the competition out of him.”


Filed under ACC Football, Big 12 Football, College Football, Georgia Football, SEC Football, Tim Tebow: Rock Star

Is there a difference between hair-splitting and hypocrisy?

This may have been lost in the shuffle of Saturday’s open practice, but Kirby Smart upped the stakes in the Maurice Smith saga with this:

Kirby Smart never mentioned his former mentor’s name, but he has now officially broken with Nick Saban.

Asked on Saturday about Maurice Smith, Smith said that if a player graduated from Georgia and wanted to transfer, he would let him do so without restrictions – even in the SEC.

“Absolutely,” Smart said.

That’s a direct difference from how Alabama is handling defensive back Maurice Smith, who graduates today and is seeking a transfer to Georgia. But Alabama is not releasing him, citing SEC bylaws, though it permitted another player (Chris Black) to transfer after last season to Missouri.

Cry hypocrisy!, proclaims Kevin Scarbinsky.

As everyone knows by now, Saban and Alabama are blocking defensive back Maurice Smith from transferring to Georgia to play for the Bulldogs this season as a grad transfer.

As we also know, Smart somehow neglected to mention his beneficent belief in an exception for grad transfers back in March when he outlined his own restrictive Saban-like policy that “we will not release kids to SEC schools unless it’s a special situation.”

What’s a rivalry without a little hypocrisy?

Smart also voiced his support then for doing exactly what Saban’s doing here, preventing a player from following a former coach. Smart was Smith’s coordinator at Alabama, and new UGa defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was Smith’s position coach.

Nice to see how much privilege Smart believes that undergrad degree should buy you.

Saturday’s question about Smith’s desire to move from Alabama to Georgia gave Smart the opening to show current and potential future Bulldogs how much he’s willing to put their interests first. As opposed to, say, a certain dictatorial SEC West coach with five national titles.

The shot at Saban was unspoken but unmistakable.

This is great news for current and future Bulldogs because Smart’s now on the record supporting the common-sense belief that a young man who earns his undergraduate degree also has earned the right to play his final season of college football elsewhere if he so desires.

Can’t wait to see Smart stick to that stance when someone like Jacob Eason wants to exercise that option down the road.

Dude, the odds of Jacob Eason exercising a graduate transfer to anywhere but the NFL are about the same as my dating a supermodel.  That is to say, nonexistent.  But I digress.

Yes, the timing of Kirby’s noble stand is certainly convenient for Georgia.  And it would be a lot cleaner if Smart hadn’t put the conditions on Turman’s transfer that he did.  But let’s be clear about some things.  First of all, even if Smart had retained Mark Richt’s policy on transfers, does anyone really believe that would have made any difference whatsoever to Nick Saban here?  Of course not.  (To be fair, Nick Saban hasn’t accused his protege of hypocrisy here.)

Second, it’s worth noting that both Saban and Smart qualified their stance on transfers with the “unless it’s a special situation” special sauce.  Smart is taking the blanket position that graduation is precisely the kind of special situation that qualifies.  As a first time head coach with only a few months under his belt, he has the luxury of that stance without contradicting himself.

Unfortunately for Nick Saban, with a lengthy track record, he doesn’t have that luxury, which is why the Chris Black transfer is being thrown back in his face with some effectiveness.  Jon Solomon found another example of Saban hedging his bets.

That’s what happened when Ole Miss granted a release this offseason to kicker Andy Pappanastos, who graduated in the spring and transferred to Alabama with immediate eligibility. Pappanastos was on scholarship at Ole Miss but rarely played. He is a walk-on at Alabama and figures to compete for Alabama’s starting kicker job in 2017, though he could play sooner if needed, AL.com reported in March. Saban had no problem accepting Pappanastos from another SEC school, yet Smith’s interest to transfer to Georgia is deemed unacceptable.

Solomon goes on to tar the two coaches with the same brush (“Coaches and schools view players as assets they can control. Saban and Smart want what’s best for the player — unless what’s best may not align with the competitive interests of the coach.”), and while I’m not going to argue with his point about the unfairness of restricting player transfers, I’m also not going to pretend we’ll see significant change any time soon.

But what I do think we should settle for at a minimum — and when I say “settle”, I mean hold coaches accountable — is requiring a head coach to outline a transfer policy that can be explained to recruits in a truthful manner without bullshit.  To me, it’s no different than grayshirting or other methods of roster management.  As long as a kid goes into a situation fully informed, with his eyes opened about what could happen down the road, and is willing to accept that, it’s fine.  Ironically, I’ve defended Saban in that regard before, because I don’t think he’s had to soft sell his roster management policy.

From that point of view, I can defend Kirby’s hair-splitting regarding transfers, at least for now.  As long as he’s telling recruits he intends to let graduates transfer freely and sticks to that, he’s not being a hypocrite.

But you tell me how Nick Saban explains his transfer policy to recruits.  I doubt “whatever suits me best at the time” is a good sell, but what do I know?


Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules

At Georgia Tech, an arms race with no arms

Paul Johnson is feeling unloved these days.  He wants more than Georgia Tech is prepared to give.

“We are way behind and there is no question about it,” Johnson said. “I would like to see (new) facilities and whatever. If you look at the other schools we are behind in most every aspect from facilities to staff to salaries or whatever.”

On Saturday at a press conference, Yellow Jacket athletic director Mike Bobinski said he feels like the football program is fully funded and there have been no requests for new facilities or additional staff. Johnson refuted that notion.

“We had a plan for a locker room and a locker room would be great. We had several meetings and they drew it up and it would be big for the program,” Johnson said. “It is about recruiting when kids walk in that is their impression (of the school). It is like you guys know it is an arms race. If you are not building you are falling farther and farther behind.”

So, all it takes to make Tech a recruiting powerhouse are a few shiny distractions?  If the locker rooms are nice enough, maybe the genius figures the kids won’t even need to talk with him before committing.  He really is jonesing for a place that recruits itself, isn’t he?  Although it would be a shame for recruits not to get a sense of his real warmth before signing day…


UPDATE:  It sounds like Paul Johnson won’t have Mike Bobinski to kick around much longer.


UPDATE #2:  An alert reader reminded me of Paul Johnson in happier times.


Filed under Georgia Tech Football, Recruiting

Leaving it to the professionals

So, how tone deaf has Florida been handling the Title IX inquiry involving Gators receiver Antonio Callaway?  This tone deaf:

Florida athletics officials, including athletic director Jeremy Foley, were furious with their university-side counterparts Friday for the way they handled this situation. If not for this, the athletic department could have explained any outcome with this: The university has handled this from the start. Here are all the steps that were taken. This was all by the book.

Shades of We want to build a university our football team can be proud of. Too bad they can’t live up to that lofty standard.

Maybe Foley will testify at the civil trial.


Filed under Crime and Punishment, Gators, Gators...