The Two Davids, a tribute

Talk about your ultimate Verne Crush:

Of course, Lundquist helped bring the story of boyhood friends and later Georgia stars David Pollack and David Greene to a national audience with their youth league photo.

“From Snellville,” Lundquist said. “I never heard of Snellville until I met the two Davids. …I’m not sure why we became friends but the three of us did despite the generation and a half difference, almost two generation bridge. I respected their friendship, I respected their leadership, I respected what they did for the University of Georgia and what they meant to the university and still do.”

Said Greene: “Here’s the thing about Verne. I loved going and sitting down on Fridays. Just good people. It was him and Todd Blackledge at the time doing the color. Just good folks.”

Lundquist even wrote the foreward to Loran Smith’s book “The Two Davids” for the players he said “very quickly became two of my favorite players in the entire conference.”

I bet the GPOOE™ doesn’t have a Lundquist foreword to his book.

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More RPO thoughts

I didn’t feel good about Georgia’s chances last week, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why that was so.  Against Tennessee, I’m again not bullish on the Dawgs, but this time I can tell you why.

For those grousing about the Bulldogs’ lack of sacks this season, facing a bunch of RPO teams is the chief reason for that. Georgia has only four quarterback sacks all season and is 13th in the 14-team SEC in that statistical category as a result.

Florida leads the SEC in that department with 17, or 4.25. But even the Gators struggled in that regard this past Saturday facing Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs and the Vols’ RPO system. They logged one sack for eight yards. Meanwhile, Dobbs completed 16-of-32 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran the ball 17 times for 80 yards and another score as Tennessee scored 38 unanswered points in a 38-28 victory.

Florida had the top ranked defense in the country before playing Tennessee.  (The Gators are now fourth, which ain’t bad.)  Georgia, umm… doesn’t.  Which leads me to think that unless the Dawgs can make this game into a shootout, or Tennessee starts hemorrhaging fumble turnovers, Saturday won’t be pretty.

Davin Bellamy would probably tell me to chill.

“‘Zo’ should be second in the SEC in sacks right now with three. So, yeah, sacks will come,” Bellamy said. “But I think we do a pretty good job of affecting the quarterback. I kind of think people get confused. Sacks aren’t everything. You still have to play football, and we’re doing a great job of playing our keys and striking people up front and spilling stuff to the linebackers. That’s stuff that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.”

That’s nice, but it’s the stuff that is showing up on the stat sheet that’s making me nervous.

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The bane of Mel Tucker’s existence

One thing I noticed during the Ole Miss game — not that it took any sort of special analytical powers — was how much Georgia’s defense struggled with Kelly’s mastery of the run-pass option.  (I was also impressed that I never saw a flag on Kelly for throwing past the line of scrimmage or one for ineligible lineman downfield on some of those plays.)

Well, guess what?  Tennessee has a few RPO calls in its bag of plays, too.

Davin Bellamy had two words to describe what it’s like to defend a run-pass option play, which has become a staple of a lot of spread offenses throughout college football.

“Very frustrating,” he said.

He has good reason to have that take.

Throughout the majority of his football upbringing, Bellamy was taught to rely on instincts as a defender. In a passing situation, he was to beat the blocker off the line of scrimmage and get to the quarterback. In a run situation, he was to set the edge or control a gap.

But now, the run-pass option threat on offense has changed the way the game is defended. Georgia has been the victim of big plays from run-pass options in each game this season. North Carolina, Nicholls State, Missouri and Mississippi all ran run-pass option plays, in which the quarterback had the choice to go with a run or pass after the ball was snapped.

Tennessee is another spread offensive team with run-pass option plays. Georgia, which was gashed for 510 total yards against Mississippi, will try to get a better grasp on run-pass option plays Saturday.

“It kind of takes away your tenacity,” Bellamy said. “You kind of got to play your keys and not just get off the ball and do what you want to do. You just gotta make sure you’re in the right position for everybody.”

That’s not what you want to hear when your lack of pass rush (Georgia is next to last in the SEC in sacks) isn’t helping your secondary make plays.

Missouri burned Georgia with quick passes. Ole Miss did some of that, but quarterback Chad Kelly also had plenty of time to throw. And after getting the benefit of a good pass rush last year, Georgia’s secondary isn’t getting it this year. That’s left Georgia’s secondary often on an island, and at Ole Miss that meant height mismatches.

Tennessee also has tall receivers. Georgia knows it can’t just let the quarterback and receiver play throw and catch, as Ole Miss did.

Big difference between knowing and doing, though.

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It’s Saban’s world and the SEC is just living in it.

With Les Miles’ firing, Nick Saban is now the senior SEC coach, in terms of years at the current job.  While it’s tempting to react merely by saying what took things so long, the actual data is eye-opening.

Not counting interim guys like Ed Orgeron, who’ll pilot the ship at LSU for the rest of this season, whoever follows Miles full time will be the 22nd SEC head coach introduced since Saban landed in Tuscaloosa.

Now every other current SEC member has changed coaches at least once since Alabama hired Saban in 2007, though Texas A&M did it while still in the Big 12.

Here’s the sobering and staggering part. New doesn’t always equal better. Of all the SEC coaching changes in the Saban era, only two have landed men who went on to win a conference championship.

Both happened at Auburn.

The Tigers won the SEC and BCS titles two years after Gene Chizik replaced Tommy Tuberville, and they won the SEC title and played for the BCS championship the year after Gus Malzahn followed Chizik.

That’s it. That’s the sum total of SEC coaching changes in the Saban era that have led to a conference championship. Two for 21. You can’t fire string-pulling boosters, but that .095 batting average makes you wonder why more ADs and school presidents don’t get whacked.

C’mon, man.  Get real.

That is why you change coaches, right? To win more games and better compete for championships? It hasn’t really turned out that way except at Auburn.

That doesn’t stop ADs, presidents and string-pulling boosters from cutting loose coaches as accomplished as Miles and Mark Richt.

If Saban has changed the equation in the SEC, it’s to make winning itself insufficient at certain programs and put all the emphasis on winning championships. Trouble is, the record shows changing coaches doesn’t mean you’re going to win championships.

Everyone’s gonna look smarter the day after Saban retires.

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And on the seventh day, they lifted.

It’s interesting to read this piece about changes Georgia has made to its training program in conjunction with the story about Texas A&M I linked to yesterday.

Are the players buying into it?  Ask Greg Pyke.

“You’d think that if you came in and just played a hard-fought game, especially after Missouri, you come in at 3:30 (a.m.) and then have to lift at 2 p.m.,” senior offensive tackle Greg Pyke said, smiling. “It’s tough, but I think that’s what makes our team have that edge in the fourth quarter, that we put ourselves in those positions to kind off just out-work people.”

Indeed, Georgia has out-scored its opponents 24-10 in the fourth quarter this season. But opponents have out-scored the Bulldogs in the first, second and third quarters.

The full-lift on Sundays isn’t the only major game-week change. There’s also a full lift on Wednesdays. Under the previous coaching regime, according to receiver Isaiah McKenzie, there was a “light lift during the week – when we could.”

Does that leave you anymore fatigued during the week and in the lead-up to the game?

“Oh it doesn’t affect us,” Pyke said. “Because we lift today then have Thursday and Friday and Saturday. So you’ve got three days off – from lifting.”

I like that little qualification at the end there.

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I got ‘yer workplace right here.

For those of you who like to insist when the circumstances suit you that schools and football student-athletes operate in a workplace environment, I have some good news:  there’s a former Southern Cal player who agrees with you.

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Kirby Smart and the vision thing

So, Dean Legge is getting virtual nods and back pats over his “Critics Are Missing Kirby Smart’s Vision” post yesterday.  It’s basically a more optimistic version of where the program appears to be after Smart’s first four games than my post on the same subject from last weekend.

Legge is putting all his eggs in the faith basket based on Smart’s proven recruiting prowess and his experience as an Alabama assistant.  And he may well turn out to be right based on that.  It’s too early to tell.  But this passage lines up nicely with one of the points I made:

I’m watching the games – obviously – but what I’m watching closer is where Kirby is trying to take UGA. The results of this program (Ole Miss should never beat UGA 45-14 in any sport let alone football), are important in the moment for sure, but Kirby has a vision for where UGA should be now, where it should be in the future and what it will take to get there. For the record: No one ever said this was going to be pretty. More than anything else that matters… and this is important… Kirby is willing to do something about it.

This is the sort of thing that has been sorely lacking not just in the football program or athletic department at Georgia, but the academic institution itself. Even with the new medical school, the University of Georgia is still trying to figure out if it should compete at a national level as a major research institution or just churn out the top in-state students who will go out and make this state a better place.

Vision has been missing there, quite frankly, too. Kirby doesn’t have that problem. His situation, obviously, is much simpler.

Still, vision has been missing in the athletic department and football for some time now…

I can’t argue with a single word there.  There’s a problem, though:  Kirby may have a vision, but, other than “win more games than Mark Richt”, none of the people he answers to have one.  That only works out in the long run if Smart is able to bring his vision to fruition before the AD, the school president and — perhaps most importantly — the big boosters lose patience with his approach.  I have no idea as I type this how long a time frame that is, but I feel certain it’s a good deal shorter than the one Mark Richt was allotted.

Some of it will have to do with how ugly things get in the short run.  And the results from the first quarter of the season certainly qualify as ugly, as even Legge admits.  If Kirby sticks to his guns, something I expect, and the wins come slowly as he adjusts the program, what’s the patience level from Butts-Mehre going to be like?

To make matters worse, while lists like this don’t mean shit right now, if they become the general perception of things after the season, you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think McGarity will get some serious grumbling thrown his way over it.  No, that doesn’t mean that Smart gets canned after one season.  It just means that his leadership will be questioned more by people who, as I said before, don’t have a clue.  You tell me if that’s any way to run a railroad.

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