From Alabama 2007 to Clemson 2017

As Chip Towers argues for yet another program template for Georgia to follow…

So Clemson and Swinney have provided the formula for Georgia. And the Bulldogs’ fan base would be well-advised to take note of the timeline. The Tigers went just 19-15 those first three years. But they won 10 or more every year since, including 28-2 these last two, when the roster brimmed with upperclassmen.

I honestly don’t think it should take Georgia as long to get to a similar place, not with the way Smart is recruiting. Make what you will about recruiting rankings — the Dogs are currently No. 3 nationally — but it is a game of odds and the more highly-rated acquisitions one makes, the better the chance they’ll be able to help you.

… I can’t help but come back to something that crossed my mind as I watched the national championship game unfold, namely how the paths of Clemson and Georgia have diverged so dramatically in just two seasons after this game.

Did Clemson grow that much more talented than Georgia from 2014 to 2016?  Or was there something else that came into play?

As ever, it’s about development and chemistry, two areas on which Swinney and the Tigers get very high marks. We don’t know that yet about Smart and his staff, but we do know it’s a point of heavy emphasis. He certainly knows what great players look like and where to get them. Coaching them up is what we’ll have to wait and see on.

About that “we do know it’s a point of heavy emphasis” thing — exactly how do we know that?  I mean, yes, there are areas where we saw signs of player development, like the defensive front seven, for example.  But if you watched Georgia’s offensive line or special teams play, it’s a stretch to say that was a team-wide phenomenon.

Bottom line, player development is what’s separated Alabama from Georgia for almost a decade now and helps to explain why Clemson pulled down that national title that’s eluded Georgia for 36 years now.  Can Kirby Smart close that gap?  The jury is out.

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102 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

102 responses to “From Alabama 2007 to Clemson 2017

  1. raintdog

    Maybe the fact that Clemson had a once in a lifetime player in Watson is not being emphasized enough. Bobo told him he couldn’t play for UGA.

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    • James Stephenson

      And yet this article states:

      “He holds no ill will against Georgia, which waited long after Clemson and other programs to offer. Watson noted that he is, in fact, the only 2014 QB with an offer from the Bulldogs.”

      The problem is Dabo recruited him two years before UGA did. And that is the story.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dawgman3000

        The problem is Dabo recruited him two years before UGA did. And that is the story.

        Yes, UGA being late to recruit him was a colossal failure that was magnified by him holding up a championship trophy. He was less than a freaking hour from campus.

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        • Gaskilldawg

          We recruited him early, but we had a policy against offering 9th graders and I think 10th graders. The policy was because we believed that if we committed to a kid we would stand by a commitment and we did not want to offer a 9th grader and then the kid not grow and develop.

          Whether you agree with that policy or not, that is why we did not OFFER Watson as soon as Clem.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. The Nelson Puppet

    Clemson fans have been patient with Dabo. It wasn’t that long ago that Sakerlina won 5 in a row against the Tigers. I doubt UGA would tolerate Kirby losing 5 straight to Tech.

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    • Otto

      While I see your point, SC did have a SECCG trip, GT is not on that level.

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      • Cpark58

        Except 2012 and 2014 when Tech gave #12 and #2 Florida state all they wanted in the ACC championship.

        Just because they are an unlikeable bunch doesn’t mean they don’t need to be taken seriously. Tech almost always takes us to the brink but yet we laugh them off like they are a joke or losing to them is akin to losing to Georgia Southern.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I sure as shit won’t. (Not that it matters)

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  3. OdontoDawg

    I think another fair question is, does Kirby have a record of developing players? Obviously, the defensive talent at Bama while he was there was elite to begin with, and many were developed into even more outstanding players. But how much of that is a result of Kirby’s work and how much of that is a result of the greater process at Bama?

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  4. My first question is: is bama v.2016 any better than Bama v.2012? I don’t think so.
    My second is: does the fact that Clemson made play inside the 5 with the clock expiring where as we didn’t mean that Clemson is significantly better at football? That’s seems a tough argument.

    Since 2014 where the programs have diverged is most noticeably at the qb position.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Truth

      The QB position and, from the Dawgs’ perspective, the center position — does anyone remember David Andrews’ great game and impact he had on firing up the Dawgs? BTW, he’s snapping for Tom Freakin’ Brady now. Belichick don’t make too many mistakes.

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      • David Andrews … 3-star, AA private school. He was the type of player people around here constantly bitched about our o-line recruiting philosophy. If he doesn’t get hurt in the ’14 Cocktail Party, who knows what happens? But he did and then we fell apart.

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        • OdontoDawg

          That’s a fair point about the bitching.

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        • The answer to 5 star busts is 3 star overachievers. The answer to 3 stars who are getting their ass whupped by 5 stars is to sign 5 stars. Thus, the cycle of fan-based recruiting opinions/nonsense is complete.

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          • I want as many 5-star players as possible because over time they beat the team of 3-star players. The bottom line is that you have to recruit the right players and develop them. David Andrews is a perfect example of that. He went to Wesleyan in Norcross, played against generally a lower level of competition, flew under the radar screen of the recruiting services as a results. He worked his @$$ off at UGA under Will Friend and behind Ben Jones. Now, he’s getting paid and may be getting a ring in February. Good for him …

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            • lakedawg

              And speaking of Ben Jones, check his rating out of HS, 2 or 3 star and he is now being paid by Tennessee Titans.

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        • Bazooka Joe

          David Pollack was also a 3 star…..yet he and Herschel are our only 3 time all-americans.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Got Cowdog

    “Bottom line, player development is what’s separated Alabama from Georgia for almost a decade now…”
    And that in a nutshell is why we have a new coach and staff.

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    • Whose program is 75% 4/5 stars and whose program has more players in the NFL? I see we’re pushing the player development myth again.

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      • dawgman3000

        The bigger question is why do some of UGA players excel once they get to NFL while being marginal players in school? Geno Atkins and Danell Ellerbe are just 2 that I can think of off the top of my head.

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        • Brandon

          so Geno Atkins and Danell Ellerbe were “marginal” players at UGA? LOL OK. I’d love to know what a good player looks like to you.

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  6. Sides

    Dabo has recruited well and hired good assistants. Watson is a special talent that will be a number 1 pick. The hire of Brent venerables combined with Watson on campus turned the program.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The other Doug

      Yep. Venerables + Watson = Dabo is a genius

      Dabo reminds me of Gus with Cam Newton at QB.

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      • Except Dabo can recruit quarterbacks and that’s a BIG difference. He hooked Watson, has a top flight qb coming this year and a commit from the no. 1 player in the class of 2018. That’s not insignificant. Whose Gus’s best HS QB recruit? Mitch Mustain?

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        • Actually, I think what Dabo has done since that night when we played them to open the 2014 season is pretty special considering this … Chad Morris left after that season. Morris was the architect of the offense. He left to be a head coach. Clemson didn’t go out and hire another name OC/QB coach.

          Instead, Watson’s development the last two years has been handled by Co-OC’s who also coach WR and RB and a QB coach who is the recruiting coordinator.

          FWIW, Chad Morris was the primary recruiter for Watson.

          http://247sports.com/player/deshaun-watson-13254

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          • Which tells me that ultimately about the player, not the coach.

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            • But there is a symbiosis there and the mixtures vary in every case – it is art and science – even in the case of the Process.

              Again juxtapose UGA and Clemson since our meeting in 2014. We each had young QB’s on the roster who the fans and media thought were going to be “the guy”. We started Mason (but folks thought it should be Ramsey) and they had Stoudt (but it was obvious Watson was going to be the guy there.) We had good but disappointing seasons. Each team lost their OC to a head coaching job. Both HC decided to keep the same basic framework for the offense system when they needed to replace the outgoing coordinator.

              UGA hired an NFL experience OC and QB coach and then decided that our QB of the future wasn’t the guy. We brought in and played graduate transfer at QB while recruiting a new QB of the future. It didn’t work out and that staff was gone.

              Clemson hired a young QB coach, handed over the OC duties to two coaches and Watson has developed into a really good college QB who has been the best player on the field in the last two NC games. Watson is the biggest part of it but his supporting cast has been really good and the decision split the duties between three coaches has worked out for them.

              Not saying it would have worked here if that had been the approach. But the circumstances and results are interesting.

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              • Good post, Jack. That afternoon I knew Watson was a player. When he dropped that dime of a TD pass right over Amarlo Herrera’s head and then Stoudt went back out on the next drive, I was so glad Watson didn’t go back in until the game was starting to get out of hand.

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        • The other Doug

          Dabo has recruited and developed one QB. That’s why I see him in the same place Gus was with Cam. Sure, Dabo might repeat it with another QB, but right now he hasn’t.

          Dabo has had great success recruiting and developing elite WRs, and that is a big part of their success.

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          • Dabo has recruited and developed one QB.

            Tajh Boyd turned out okay.

            Clemson’s got two five-star QBs coming in with its next two recruiting classes as things stand right now.

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          • Cam was not recruited by Gus. Urban Meyer signed Cam. Richt signed Marshall. Gus hasn’t recruited a decent qb out of HS yet. That isn’t a problem for Dabo.

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            • The other Doug

              lol. So, Cam just magically appeared on the practice field at Auburn? The bagman has to be told who to recruit.

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              • If you want to credit HC’s for second chance recruiting then that’s fine with me. Most people understand that you have to recruit kids out of HS not wait around and catch the cast offs, but you have whatever reality you’d like to have.

                Gus can’t recruit QB’s and hasn’t. If you want to say he’s the best recruiter of kids who’ve both fucked up at the place they were originally recruited to and also play QB, I couldn’t care less. If you think signing Watson = picking up Newton for a year (as OC btw), whatever. You’re entitled to be just as FOS as you choose to be,

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  7. James Stephenson

    Watson will not be the number 1 pick, it’s crazy but he is listed as the number 3 QB. However, on the day of the game, he was the 2nd best player on the field when he played.

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  8. Timphd

    The QB is where we lost it. Mason and Lambert, while good Dawgs were not of the caliber of an SEC QB. The miss on Ramsey hurt a lot. The jury is still out on Eason. Of course the loss of Bobo shouldn’t be understated either. By the time he left he was one of the best OC’s in college. Compare him to his two replacements and see where we stand if he is still here.

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    • Yep. Ramsey and Park misses, plus whatever the F went on with Faton were crippling.

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    • Agree on the loss of Bobo. I will always believe that McGarity wanted rid of Richt and not even trying to pay Bobo was plenty to handcuff his HC. Hell–it only took a year with no Bobo.

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    • As I mentioned above, I think what Dabo has accomplished since Chad Morris left (same year as Bobo) and how they have managed since then is special. He has played for the NC twice and won once since his elite OC and QB coach left to go be a head coach at a Non-Power 5 program.

      We replaced Bobo with an ex-NFL OC and it didn’t work, so we got a whole new coaching staff. Dabo divided the duties amongst 3 coaches and it has worked out better than anyone could have believed.

      Having Watson clearly helped because he is a special talent.

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  9. 92 grad

    They had a veteran qb, quality depth on both lines, veteran receivers, and a great defense.

    They have a group of coaches and assistants that worked very well together.

    We don’t have either at this very moment, and we’re not even close over the last 2 years where our offensive staff got blown up, Pruitt (which I am very disappointed that he isn’t here), and that dang roster of ours where we have good players but not in the right places.

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  10. Bill

    Player development was never going to help the offensive line. Catalina and Kublanow were the players they were going to be as seniors. They weren’t getting any better. Same with Pike.

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  11. Atticus

    Offensive line got worse, QB worse, depth worse, leadership and upperclassmen worse. Simple.

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  12. NoAxeToGrind

    If I remember correctly, Dabo gets rid of coordinators and assistants that do not work out and will not let them hang on ad infinitum when their uselessness has been established. We will see what Smart does. He appears to have one that would merit consideration now.

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  13. Biggus Rickus

    Clemson beat Georgia in 2013 and may very well have won that 2014 game if they’d realized just how ready to play Watson was as a freshman. And is the idea that recruiting and player development help you win some kind of mystery? I’m pretty sure everyone is trying to do that. Also, team chemistry is bullshit. If you see a reference to chemistry you know the writer is just throwing shit at the wall. “That team wins. They must have good chemistry.”

    Clemson won because they’ve accumulated good talent overall, have good assistants, and stumbled on the best QB in college the last two years. That’s it. Put a lesser player at QB, and they lose the game Monday night, because Alabama has even better talent to go with their good assistants. Swap QBs and Alabama wins that game 51-7.

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    • “Swap QBs and Alabama wins that game 51-7.”

      Hammer meet nail. Deshaun Watson is a difference maker at the most important position on the field. Congrats to the young man because he seems to deserve it (I don’t like the archer thing, but that’s a hell of a lot better than $Cam’s Superman thing).

      We had a difference making type of player in 2013 and 2014 by the name of Todd Gurley. It’s too bad he got his ankle rolled up against LSU to miss the 2 winnable games we lost in 2013 and was thrown under the bus by our AD in 2014.

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    • sUGArdaddy

      Agree on some points, but…

      -If Todd doesn’t get hurt in the 2013 game we handle them. They couldn’t stop him. Them’s the breaks.

      -Chemistry does mean something. Boulware would not start in front of Natrez and Roquan, and he would not start for Bama. But he started for the National Champions, and is a team leader. There is and will always be something about chemistry in sports.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In ’13 and ’14, no one in orange wanted to tackle Gurley. In ’14, Vic Beasley made a bunch of business decisions where he wanted no part of #3. It’s too bad he tweaked his quad on that long run. He still came back and gave us a chance.

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      • Biggus Rickus

        To the Gurley point: Maybe. Maybe not. The defense wasn’t exactly shutting down Clemson.

        As for chemistry, I daresay most teams have leadership and cohesion, some of them with terrible records. Ben Boulware may or may not start for Alabama or Georgia, but he’s not some terrible player at New Mexico State. He’ll likely be drafted in the late rounds, which makes him one of the most talented 224 players in his class (give or take).

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      • Debby Balcer

        The Clemson team believes in and supoorts each other chemistry matters. It is one of the intangibles.

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    • They also have a offensive system that doesn’t overthink things: get big, tall, freakish WR and get them them the ball on quick passes or deep bombs. They built an offense the the objective of winning college games, not developing NFL players for free.

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  14. Go Dawgs!

    I don’t want to see Jake Fromm take a snap next year, and I only want to see him in mop-up duty of Eason’s huge wins in 2018. Just pointing that out so you know I’m not one of the lunatics who have already written off our starter and want to go through another year of a true freshman quarterback.

    That said, I am really excited about with Fromm and Hardman and the incoming class is the chemistry they have. Fromm and Hardman are out there recruiting and traveling the state to build these relationships that will hopefully bear fruit on the field in years to come. I wonder if that’s something that’s been suggested to them by the coaches or if it’s something they’ve done on their own. Either way, I’m excited about the leadership that’s going to be coming into the program along with the athleticism. When it’s Fromm’s time to be the starter, I think he’ll be a great one.

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    • dawgfan

      Eason better show a lot of improvement in several areas of his game because it looks like Fromm has what it takes to either make Eason work hard to improve or take his position. I would like to see Fromm take a RS this fall but CKS needs to win next year and will play the QB that gives us the best chance to do that as he should.

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  15. Greg

    Hear what you are saying…however, I pretty dang sure it will not take him 3 years to start (Eason still there). It will be sooner rather than later in my opinion….still think it will be some time this year, he is a special talent. Of course I could be wrong .. : > ). “Go Dawgs”!

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    • If Fromm becomes the starter as a true freshman for whatever reason, look for a bunch of Dantzlering and the use of the phrase “throwaway season” around south campus. I would love to see him as the starter as a redshirt sophomore/true junior because that means the light came on for Eason and he’s headed to the NFL.

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      • Russ

        Exactly. Fromm takes the RS next year, then backs up Eason’s MNC campaign in ’18. Fromm starts as a RS sophomore, backed up by whatever top-rated QB Kirby hauls in at that point.

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      • I can’t help but be amused by the “If Fromm becomes the starter as a true freshman” talk. Somehow Chaney, who’s blamed for Eason’s stunted development, is going to have a totally different impact on the next true freshman QB, or Fromm’s so good he doesn’t need coaching to start.

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        • Otto

          Agreed but I don’t see Eason’s development as stunted as many do.

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          • Russ

            Nor do I. I think Eason still needs to work on his footwork (like most young QBs) and his touch/accuracy. Of course, those are linked so improving the footwork will help immensely.

            Eason showed great poise as a true freshman. It seemed like the coaches really emphasized minimizing mistakes, so they limited the playbook with him. Whether or not that was him being slow to pick it up, or coaches slow to trust him with more, we’ll have to see. I think Eason will be a great QB at Georgia as long as the coaching keeps up.

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        • Yep, this year looked like Chaney had never coached a true freshman starting quarterback before. I wouldn’t want him trying to find the right formula with his 2nd true freshman.

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          • Otto

            Eason had a higher passer rating, more TDs and fewer INTs than Stafford as a Freshman.

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            • I know you’re trying to start a Chaney vs. Bobo debate … I have no interest in that. IMO, Eason did not get better through the season, and I place that blame directly on “I haz a fat pencil.”

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              • Otto

                I disagree. Eason improved under center Eason’s biggest problem is he had zero experience prior to entering UGA under center, and UGA does not have the OL to run out of the shotgun like Bama.

                Liked by 1 person

    • Mettenburger? I hardly even know her!

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  16. LakeOconeeDawg

    Nice read here on what we are getting with Fromm……………………..

    https://www.dawgnation.com/football/recruiting/theres-one-more-jake-fromm-story-from-texas-that-must-be-told

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  17. Snoop Dawgy Dawg

    Not your doing that the Watson comments keep coming up, but Richt’s whiff on Watson cost him his job. Put Watson at QB for the dawgs and Richt is still here. Period. full stop.

    The difference between Clemson and UGA for the 2016 season, to me, was a tale of 2 positions. Watson and Hyatt. You put both those players on UGA, we’re probably 11-1, 12-0 playing Bama in the SEC Championship game. Their impact is that great and our roster is that close. Watson makes our wide receivers play up to their rankings all of a sudden.

    Our world class RBs are seeing holes to run through and the right checks at the line put them back to their freshmen and sophomore forms. Defenses aren’t stacking 9-10 in the box against them.

    Hyatt locks down the left side for pass blocking. You can call me Pollyanna if you’d like, but missing on Hyatt and Watson was the difference between hardware and a new coaching staff, all else being equal.

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    • Hyatt was never coming to UGA. He’s a Clemson legacy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

        I agree. Don’t think Watson was ever coming either. I followed his recruiting closely. Bobo pretty much drove back and forth between Camden and Gainesville recruiting Ramsey and Watson until Ramsey signed with us. Buddy of mine was Ramsey’s coach at Camden. Watson was all in on the offense Chad Morris ran and never truly looked elsewhere at any point in the process. He committed around signing day as a sophomore.

        I was trying to respond to your question of how did the two teams diverge so greatly since 2014. I’d say it’s the difference between a true NFL LT and Deshaun Watson, and not a lot else. Hyatt just happened to be that LT for Clemson.

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  18. MLB2

    Going from wanting to be like Bama to wanting to be like Clemson. It’d be damn nice if the powers that be would commit to being the best Georgia that we could be. Commit to the G should apply from the top too.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. allthegoodnameswereused

    Watson is huge part of this but let’s not forgot Clemp’s son had the first million dollar coordinator. UGA has almost twice the revenue that they do yet they outspend UGA. UGA didn’t have an IPF or multi year contracts for assistants. Someone mentioned Bobo above and the fact is they weren’t paying him market value. The powers that be want to win, it’s just not the first priority.

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    • Hogbody Spradlin

      It’s Climpson. CLIMPSON. Sheesh, get it right.

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    • “The powers that be want to win, it’s just not the first priority.”

      If you’re talking about the AD, I would agree with that. His first priority is maximizing $s and not pi$$ing off the big donors.

      If you’re talking about the President, I’m not sure I agree with you. I think he wants to win .. otherwise, there would be no IPF. There would be none of the other facility upgrades we hear about.

      On the Bobo question, I think he let the university take advantage of the Mama discount for a long time. Even if we matched financially what CSU was offering, he wasn’t going to stay because he knew it was time to leave the nest for a head coaching position. The problem was he took Will Friend with him, and we ended up stuck with Jeremy Pruitt’s buddy, Rob Sale.

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  20. The programs diverged due to a lot of reasons. Overall talent isn’t one of them, BUT:

    Mitch Hyatt came in and changed the offensive line at Clemson as a Freshman. Georgia has had no comparable talent at LT since Theus left. Hyatt >>>>> Catalina.
    Watson became Watson and we kept digging at qb.
    Clemson continues to innovate (or steal recent innovations) on offense while we have become pretty boring and traditional. This allows Clemson, with the right QB, to push teams like Bama. Bobo was able to do that; Schotty was not, and the future does not look bright on Chaney.

    For the future I expect:
    1. Wilson and/or Thomas to significantly upgrade our tackle positions and therefor our offensive line as a whole.
    2. Eason to begin to flourish, particularly with the improvement’s to the OL in mind;
    3. I have no major hopes on Chaney. Whether he can take elite talent and mold it into to something great like Dabo did has yet to be seen and is the great unknown. More, it’s unclear to me whether Smart wants Georgia to be a prolific offensive team.

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  21. Mayor

    How short our memories are. In 2012 Georgia came within 5 yards of beating Bama and winning the SECCG, plus a likely win over ND for the BCSNC. If CMR doesn’t choke on the last play of that game he is probably still in Athens and a lot of the recruiting difficulties, particularly with the OL, would have cured themselves with guys lining up to play guard, tackle and center for the Dawgs. It all really gets back to that one play…….

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  22. Macallanlover

    Can kick all the tires you want, and I understand “close but no cigar” as well as anyone here, but UGA was one play in 2002, 2007, and 2012 from playiog for the BCS title. It isn’t like we have been at the bottom of the pile and are so far behind Clemson. If a kid from NCST doesn’t blow a chip shot FG against Clemson this year, they would have been watching the title game on TV Monday night, just like we all did. Always takes a good piece of fortune for all the teams that have made it, we may be cursed but we aren’t pitiful.

    And Watson made the right choice, Clemson was a better fit for him. Take your Red and Black hats off and, if you were his father/mother, you would have advised him to go to Clemson also. Congrats to Dabo and Clemson, our time will come.

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    • Russ

      Bingo. Dead on.

      Congrats to Clemson, they stepped up when they had the chance, but it took some luck along the way, just like every other team before them.

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    • Mayor

      “…UGA was one play in 2002, 2007 and 2012 from playing for the BCS title. It isn’t like we were at the bottom of the pile….” My point exactly.

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  23. Will Trane.

    Watson vs Ramsey
    Bobo vs another NFL coach.
    What damn template.
    What we have here is a failure to communicate…or recruit.
    No way in hell Watson would have had the success at Georgia he had a Clemson. First, he would not have fit the UGA offense like he did Clemson.
    I just wished Towers, Emerson, and those guys would stick to writing little bears, or piglets, girl hair locks, and etc. Plus they can throw in a count down clock on it too.
    Makes you want to run out into the middle of Sanford Stadium and shout, give me a freaking damn break man.
    Another quarter of play against Bama, and Dabo plus Watson would have put up 28 more points.
    Process and whatever the hell … more than just a QB for Dawgs … about some freaking lineman, and for sure some receivers. Dawgs only had one under CMR’s last 3 years.
    Stop trying to copy another program and just build your own. Who do you think Saban or Dabo followed.

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