Monthly Archives: February 2017

Today, in false bravado

You’d think by now Hugh Freeze would have learned to quit writing checks with his mouth that his… ah, hell, forget that.

Not likely this year, brother.

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UPDATE:  Check out who (almost) brings up the rear at this year’s SEC Media Days.

I guess they’re hoping Boom leaves ’em on a high note.

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More on that fresh set of eyes

Last week I mentioned that Smart hired another analyst, former Minnesota offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson.  Marc Weiszer flushes out Johnson’s background a little, with a couple of quotes.

In one season at Minnesota, the Golden Gophers improved from 22.5 points per game in 2015 to 29.3 but ranked 107th in the nation in total offense, with a 357.2 yard average. Johnson and the Minnesota staff were fired after a 9-4 season.

The Lakeville, Minn., native and former Northern Iowa quarterback spent five seasons as offensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette where his teams ranked in the top 35 nationally in rushing from 2012-14 and 10th in the nation in red zone offense in 2014 at 91.2 percent.

Georgia last year was 64th in red zone offense (84.4) while Minnesota was 36th (87.5).

“I was told by everybody who’s coached with Coach Johnson before that he does a tremendous job of taking advantage of weaknesses and how people have to defend him,” then Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys said last August. “I have to think in the red zone everybody has certain ways they like to play, and I have to think that he made good decisions on how to attack what they were doing.”

Penn State coach James Franklin, before his team beat Minnesota 29-26 in overtime last season, described Johnson as running an “efficient, balanced offense, uses multiple looks, formations, personnel groups, mainly two personnel groups, 11 personnel, one back, one tight end, three wide receivers, and 12 personnel, one back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. Big, physical line.”

Taking Franklin at face value, it sounds like Minnesota was running a lot of the same stuff last season Georgia was.  Minus the big, physical line, of course.

That being said, if Johnson’s got a few insights into successful red zone offensive play calls he’ll share with the class, it certainly can’t hurt.

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Phil Steele’s got your returning starters right here.

Here’s why that matters:

For instance, last year there were 19 teams that returned 16 starters or more, including their QB. Of those 19 teams, 12 had a better record in 2016 than they did in 2015. Four had the same record, and only 3 of the 19 had a weaker record.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there were 14 teams that returned 11 or fewer starters that did not have a returning starter at QB. Of those 14 teams, 0 had a better record. Of the 14 least experienced teams, 13 had a weaker record in 2016 than they did in 2015 and one had the same.

And here’s why that matters to us.

SEC
RK TEAM TOTAL OFF QB DEF
T3 Georgia 17 7 1 10
T3 Kentucky 17 8 1 9
T9 South Carolina 16 10 1 6
T9 Vanderbilt 16 9 1 7
T25 Auburn 15 8 1 7
T25 Missouri 15 10 1 5
T48 Florida 14 9 1 5
T48 Tennessee 14 7 0 7
T71 Arkansas 13 7 1 6
T71 Mississippi St 13 7 1 6
T86 Texas A&M 12 5 0 7
T103 Alabama 11 6 1 5
T103 LSU 11 6 1 5
T103 Ole Miss 11 5 0 6

That’s right. Georgia is tied for first in the conference and third nationally.  This will also mark Georgia’s first season with a returning starter at quarterback since 2013. (I don’t count Lambert last year, because we all knew he was just holding down the fort temporarily until the coaches moved Eason in.)  I don’t see how that can hurt.

As for the rest of the SEC, a few notes…

  • Yeah, I think we can discount Alabama only bringing back eleven.
  • On the other hand, Ole Miss is really adding up the suckitude for 2017.
  • Only three SEC teams don’t have returning starters at QB.  A sign of better times to come?
  • The top four teams are all in the East.
  • Missouri led the conference in total offense and was fifth in scoring offense.  The Tigers bring back all but one starter on offense this season.  Whoa, baby.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water, SEC Football

If it’s spring practice…

… then it’s time for Roquan Smith to be nicked up.

Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith could miss spring practice due to a recent surgical procedure on his pectoral muscle.

If the injury forces Smith to sit out the spring, it would be the second year in a row he has been limited during this time of the year. Smith was originally deemed out of last year’s spring practice following wrist surgery but was able to participate in a limited fashion while wearing a black non-contact jersey.

Last year turned out fine for Roquan, so I’m not exactly sweating this one.  Still, it’s a shame that it looks like we’ll be missing a few familiar faces on the defense at G-Day.

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Musical palate cleanser, sex and guns and rock ‘n’ roll edition

A good friend of mine alerted me to this sordid tale of crime in my fair city.

Rock ’n’ roller Rick Derringer is 40-some years past his 1970s’ All American Boy phase. His flowing golden locks and shiny silver jacket is replaced by a short-cropped cut and a conservative business suit.

Derringer was dressed like that last week because he was appearing at the federal courthouse in Atlanta to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of trying to bring a loaded gun through airport security…

The aptly named Derringer got caught last month at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after returning from Cancun, Mexico. Transportation Security Administration officials found his Kel-Tec pistol in his carry bag after he left Customs and he went back through security to fly home to Florida.

Yeah, Derringer, gun, I get it.  But that’s not the best part of the story.  This is.

I asked Derringer, a diminutive and pleasant fellow, how he found Bruce Harvey to be his attorney.

“The FBI recommended him,” Derringer said. “The FBI agent was a fan.”

Sometimes you really gotta love this country.  Anyway, here’s a slice of seventies magic — live, with Edgar Winter, it’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo”.

Lawdy mama, light my fuse, indeed.

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The once and future Trent Thompson

What’s happened with Thompson at the time he was taken to the hospital last week and what may be in store for him down the road is pretty interesting, not so much for what it says about Thompson, but for what it might indicate about how the bureaucracy now interacts with the football program.

Read what Chip Towers now reports about how the police handled the incident.

The new report – notably described as “sick person” under “Investigative Type” —  is from Sgt. Seth Robinson. He is introduced as “a drug recognition expert and emergency medical responder.”

Robinson was on the scene and is represented on body-cam footage viewed by DawgNation. Initially, Robinson reports that he believes they’re dealing with a person under the influence of drugs. He cites Thompson’s “dazed state,” “red eyes” and non-reactive pupils.

“Based on my training (Thompson’s behavior) could be caused by drug use,” specifically, “narcotic analgesics,” Robinson writes.

Then Robinson stipulates, and the body cam footage corroborates, that Thompson doesn’t actually say that he took “OxyContin,” as was stated in the initial report. He’s asked if he has taken “any pain pills” and Thompson answers yes. Asked how many he says”two.” Asked what kind, he responds “yeah” only after Robinson mentions “Oxies.”

But it’s also important to realize that Thompson was virtually incoherent at this point and largely unresponsive. After determining that Thompson is a football player, Robinson and other officers are concerned that he may be suffering from a possible head injury incurred during practice or in a fight.

Eventually, though, Robinson got around to taking Thompson’s pulse. When he does he is “surprised” to find it at 120 beats a minute, which is “not consistent with narcotic analgesics.” And they learn from a call to Bryant Gantt of UGA athletics that Thompson is “on some medication” prescribed by team doctors.

Finally, Robinson makes a very significant conclusion at the end of his supplemental report:

“I advised Lt. Gregory that even though he admitted to having taken OxyContin that I believed at this point something else was also taking place and causing the medical emergency. … Based on the information we obtained from athletics staff and what was observed, I believed there to be multiple issues and without knowing exactly what he was taking a determination of exactly what was going on would not be possible.”

Again, this is from an employee of the same UGAPD that once arrested a player for refusing to give his middle name.  Has somebody kidnapped Jimmy Williamson and replaced him with a pod person?  Compared with past approaches we’ve seen with interaction between football players and the local cops, the humanity and professionalism on display there is jarring.  Don’t tell me that if this had happened two or three years ago, we wouldn’t be looking at a mug shot instead of learning that Thompson was struggling with a medical problem.

So, it’s worth considering what’s going on here.

Add to that what Thompson faces when he’s ready to rejoin the team.

One key component to all this will be whether Thompson can maintain his academic eligibility in the meantime. As we all know, student-athletes are required to complete a minimum amount of class credits toward their degree each year in order to remain eligible to compete in athletics. Thompson having to sit out spring semester has to be detrimental in that regard.

However, NCAA rules and regulations allow for schools to pursue a “progress-toward-degree” waiver to restore eligibility for competition. According to the NCAA’s official website, To qualify for such a waiver, “institutions must document the mitigating circumstances that caused the deficiency. A common circumstance is a student-athlete facing a serious medical issue or other personal hardship.”

Yeah, I know — UGA and NCAA consideration have not always been a winning combination.  But I will say there is some precedent for the school supporting its players in a medical context with the NCAA, as Ron Courson was dogged in his pursuit of getting Kolton Houston reinstated.  It will be interesting to see how purposefully organized the school is with Thompson’s waiver effort.

Maybe things really are getting better.  It’s not like stranger things haven’t happened.

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Hard times in the SEC

Word must have made it out to Montana that the Southeastern Conference ain’t all it’s cracked up to be lately, ’cause Stewart Mandel is on the mother.

I’ve got to say a couple of the reasons he cites, like a new crop of head coaches he labels “overmatched”, come off as a bit leaky.

More recently, the SEC since 2015 has lost four head coaches — South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Georgia’s Richt, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and LSU’s Miles — who had all at been at their schools for more than a decade.

Admittedly none of them went out on top, and perhaps that’s part of the problem. “LSU held on to Les Miles way too long. He was a dinosaur,” said Sallee. “Spurrier was living off Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore at the end.”

Your point being what, exactly?

The intriguing argument Mandel makes is that Nick Saban has managed to pull off the neat trick that Bear Bryant used to accomplish in the days of 100-man rosters — sign your kids and also the kids the other schools would’ve signed.

Kiffin can recite old Rivals.com recruiting rankings. He knows that his 2010 USC class and his buddy Steve Sarkisian’s 2015 class both finished No. 1 — and that every other year between and after, Saban claimed the top spot.

“It’s just complete domination in recruiting — no one has ever worked harder at it,” Kiffin said of his former boss. “Defensive players, they all want to go to Alabama. Even if you have to wait a year or two to play, you know you’re going to go out and have a chance to play in the NFL.”

He cites the example of 2017 defensive end Jarez Parks, a consensus Top 100 recruit nationally who opted to sign with Alabama despite the fact he’ll have to grayshirt for a semester. Guys like that used to be suiting up for the other teams.

“We’d go to play last year, and we knew that no matter what, when we walked onto that field, our roster was more talented than every team we played,” said Kiffin. “If you accumulate all of the (best recruits), now you’re not playing against them.”

That might explain Alabama’s dominance, but it hardly explains why the rest of the conference may have taken a slide against the rest of college football.  As Mandel himself notes, it’s not as if SEC recruiting has collapsed of late.

The SEC has hardly surrendered its longstanding recruiting dominance. From 2009-12, SEC schools signed 16 Rivals.com Top 10 classes. From 2013-16 that number rose to 22.

If Saban robbed the SEC, then the SEC robbed somebody else.  So much for that narrative.

Wade through the noise, and you get to the one reason that makes some sense.  It’s the quarterbacks, stupid.

In 2013, the SEC enjoyed a modern high point at the quarterback position. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, South Carolina’s Connor Shaw and Georgia’s Aaron Murray all finished among the top 12 nationally in pass efficiency. Manziel won a Heisman. McCarron was a finalist.

Three years later, Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs was the conference’s highest-ranked passer … at No. 20. Only two others, Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Arkansas’ Austin Allen, finished in the top 30 last season.

“Last year was a lot of QB ineffectiveness, injuries and inexperience,” said Sallee.

Gosh, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

SEC quarterback play in 2016 blew chunks, to put it mildly.  Mandel kind of glosses past it, but lost in that passage is that Jalen Hurts, despite all the advantages that come with playing for Alabama — including being coached by Lane Kiffin — finished a middling 44th in passer rating.  I don’t mean that as a knock; shoot, Hurts was a true freshman playing in the SEC.  But it’s clear that the conference had a ton of talent and experience at the position just a few seasons ago that it lacked in 2016 (nor did it help that Kelly ran into injury problems).  File that under shit happens and watch to see if the next round of new blood at the position manages a better showing in the next couple of seasons.

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