“That’s the fun of football.”

Those of you who object to a spring game between two schools because of the (perceived) increased injury risk, how do you feel about spring practice in general?

You know who spring practice isn’t particularly good for? For veteran, established upperclassmen who have already been through two or three of these things. Like they say about that other sport that’s going on this time of year, for the guys who already know the playbook, are physically and mentally fit and have proven themselves in real games that actually count, you just want them to survive and advance through spring football.

Georgia has several players who fall into that category this year. Tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel come to mind immediately. So do outside linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter and safety Dominick Sanders. These are just a few of the players who probably could do just as well lifting weights and running regularly and reviewing their playbooks and game video a couple times a week.

How to get the most out of star players such as those guys without the undue risk of injury is one of the great balancing acts coaches all over the country will be trying to manage this spring.

“I think as a coach you’re always worried about that,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of protecting star players from injuries during the spring. “I know some coaches in college football who have the philosophy that if you’ve played 1,000 snaps in your career — which, let’s be honest, we’ve got a couple guys that have done that — is spring (practice) going to get them better.”

You may think I’m being snarky, but I’m really posing this based on statistics.

It has been a while now, but the NCAA did a study back in 2007 in which it determined that spring football had the highest injury rate of all sports – 9.6 injuries per 1,000 participants. The second-highest rate was women’s gymnastics (6.1), followed by men’s wrestling (5.7) and men’s soccer (4.3). The next was men’s football in the fall, with a 3.8 injury rate per thousand, or one-third of spring football.

That considerable drop in injury rate was thought to be because fall practices were generally less physical than in the spring. Coaches feel like they can risk it with no games to worry about every week in March and April. And, of course, players have the rest of spring and summer to recover.

Not coincidentally, spring practice durations were cut back to a maximum of 15 per year shortly after that study was published. And only a limited number of those can be of the full-pads, full-contact variety.  [Emphasis added.]

That’s not a perceived injury risk, that’s a real injury risk.  So, what about spring practice?

Personally, some of this reminds me of the people who opposed Todd Gurley running back kickoffs because he might get hurt, despite the fact that he was the most prolific returner on the team (and like he couldn’t get hurt as a running back — which he did).

Perhaps we should leave it up to the noted philosopher Lorenzo Carter.

But you know what else? These guys like to practice and to hit. They enjoy what they’ll be doing out on Woodruff Practice Fields the next month a lot more than the agonizing off-season, strength-and-conditioning training they’ve been put through since late January.

“I mean, I kind of want that,” Carter, the rising senior outside linebacker said of going through full-contact drills. “That’s the fun of football.”

Fun of football — is that even allowed anymore?

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Filed under College Football

The opposite of coachspeak

If you want to know why I have a soft spot in my heart for Mike Leach, one reason is because you never know what he’ll say next.

That immediately brought this to mind.

And that’s the thing.  There aren’t that many coaches that can get me to Gram Parsons in one shot like that.

The dodge ball comment on the end is just a bonus.

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Filed under Mike Leach. Yar!

“I think Georgia is the enigma in the East…”

Here’s a really nice piece from Ed Aschoff that illustrates why it’s so hard to get a handle on what Kirby Smart’s program should be capable of this season.

Here’s the thing:

We think Georgia should be really good this year. Maybe not really good, but SEC East champion good.

Soon, a large contingent of media will likely pick the Bulldogs, who return 10 starters from a pretty solid defense and have a young superstar in the making at quarterback, to win an SEC East that’s still a mess.

You have the Nick Saban clone in Kirby Smart entering his second year as head coach after signing the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class.

Honestly, we (that’s media and your average consumer of college football) keep wanting to believe that when Georgia should win the division it should, well, win the division.

So 2017 leaves us with a red-and-back conundrum. Are we ready to confidently anoint Georgia as the SEC East favorites?

Confidently?  Are you nuts?

Actually, no.

The truth is we really don’t know and we won’t know for months. Those 10 returning defensive starters to a unit that ranked in the top five of the SEC in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense sounds so enticing. The fact that the sensational running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel returned to help uber-talented quarterback Jacob Eason kinda makes us want to pencil Georgia into Atlanta … twice.

But we have to show some restraint and patience.

Restraint and patience are warranted because we’ve been there before without the expected results plenty of times.  At some point, you’ve got to cross the finish line if you want to change the perspective.

Make sure you read the quotes from anonymous SEC coaches Aschoff cites.  There are plenty of logical reasons to expect a contender this year, but logic by itself doesn’t win titles.

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Filed under Georgia Football

It’s Junior’s world, and Florida Atlantic is just living in it.

Sure, I doubt this lawsuit has any legs, but the notion that any athletic director would hire Lane Kiffin and expect a normal college football program environment as a consequence baffles me.

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Filed under Don't Mess With Lane Kiffin

Tweaking continuity

I don’t want to make too big a deal about this.  Then again, it shouldn’t be underestimated, either.

In each of tight end Jeb Blazevich’s first three seasons at Georgia, he had to adjust to a different offensive coordinator. Last year, there was also a new head coach and a new position coach.

That’s why continuity on Georgia’s offensive coaching staff for the first time since 2014 has lightened the burden entering spring practice, which began on Tuesday.

“It saves me a lot of studying, a lot less stress,” the senior said. “Just time spent away from here learning it. In terms of practically what it can do for the football team, we’re able to take bigger steps forward.”

You can say the same thing about every offensive position group — in fact, even more so for the offensive linemen, running backs and wide receivers who went through multiple position coaches before Smart’s arrival.  It’s kind of hard to get into a groove when you have to unlearn some old things as fast as you take on the new.

No, I don’t expect to see Georgia transformed into a top ten offensive juggernaut overnight as a result.  I do expect that familiarity should make it easier to progress up the 2017 learning curve, though.

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Filed under Georgia Football

It was an innocent question.

Alabama’s spring practice may have started, but when it comes to media relations, Nick Saban is already in mid-season form.

“But philosophically, I don’t know where you came up with where we go to ball control. That’s not what we do. The New England Patriots threw the ball over 60-something percent of the time, which is more than we threw it. So, where does that assumption come from or do you do what everybody else in the media does — create some shit and throw it on the wall and see what sticks, which is what I see happening everywhere? And the people who scream the loudest kind of get the attention and then we pass some rule that everybody has to live with or some law and the consequences mess up a lot of other things. Do it all the time. We’re doing it right now.”

Saban then went off on a tangent, raising concerns about high school coaches being prohibited from working summer camps, although the NCAA rule to which he was referring was unclear.

Eventually, he got back to his original point.

“It’ll mess everything up,” Saban said. “It’s the way it goes. It’s the way it goes in the world of politics and the way it goes. The same thing with you. ‘We’re going to be more conservative and ball-control offense.’ I never said that. No one in this building  ever said that. So where did you come up with that? Did you have a dream about it or what? If we caught some passes in the national championship game — we had guys open — we wouldn’t have had to control the ball. We would have had to score more touchdowns.”

Methinks that Clemson loss hasn’t set too well with the man.

By the way, that Coke bottle’s looking good. Does Saban use the same Coke for each presser, or do they change bottles?

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules

Kirby Smart, “internal discipline” and the Georgia Way

With spring practice kicking off yesterday, there were lots of shiny objects to draw our attention, but I’m most intrigued by a relatively minor issue Smart raised in his presser, that being Riley Ridley’s status after being busted for marijuana possession.

Following his arrest earlier this month, Georgia sophomore receiver Riley Ridley will face “internal discipline” according to Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during his press conference on Tuesday. Smart said that he was disappointed in Ridley, but did not specify the punishment he would receive or his role on the team going into spring.

“He’ll receive internal discipline,” Smart said during his press conference. “I’ll say this, we are very disappointed in his decision and do not condone that behavior and I think Riley is going to learn a value lesson from this mistake.”

Okay, stadium steps and puking.  Got that.  But what about game suspension?  Crickets there.

Now I don’t want to read too much into that.  It’s very possible that Smart didn’t want to discuss that which is beyond his control, which is something he’s clearly indicated before about Georgia’s drug policy.  But I can’t help but wonder if there’s something going on behind the scenes regarding the charges, something that, in other words, might also explain the reticence about a game suspension.  If those go away, it’s a whole new ballgame, so to speak.

It might be worth keeping an eye on Ridley’s fate over the summer is all I’m saying.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football