Category Archives: Georgia Football

Another GATA tale

Kirby Smart tells the story of visiting the New England Patriots’ place of work.  I’m not sure this part comes out the way it was meant to:

“So throughout the day – I realized that when I went to the bathroom, they posted over the urinals, in the restrooms, and over the doors before they close: DO YOUR JOB,” Smart said. “So I’m kinda getting the message here.”

I don’t think I want to know.

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“And these guys aren’t just talented, they’re huge.”

David Ching has a nice help-is-on-the-way piece about Georgia’s offensive line recruiting here.  Best line:  “For one thing, they certainly won’t need a redshirt season to add size.”

Pittman will take whatever blessings he can get in that regard, I’m sure.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

Should they stay or should they go…

Here’s a quick hitter from ESPN on early departures from the SEC East.

Teams hit hardest: Florida, Tennessee

These two are the only teams in the SEC East that are losing multiple underclassmen to the 2017 NFL draft. Florida was hit with five departures, including four on defense: linebacker Alex Anzalone, defensive tackle Caleb Brantley and cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson (offensive tackle David Sharpe was the fifth departure and lone offensive player to declare for early entry). That’s a lot of talent on defense to lose — Brantley, Tabor and Wilson are all projected first-round picks based on Todd McShay’s rankings. Tennessee lost three: its best defensive player (defensive end Derek Barnett), its leading receiver (Josh Malone) and its all-purpose yardage leader (running back Alvin Kamara). Barnett will be the hardest to replace, with 32.5 sacks over the last three seasons (best in the nation) but all three were productive for the Volunteers.

Most fortunate team: Georgia

The Bulldogs got some huge news when running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel opted to return for their senior seasons. These days, running back draft prospects often leave early — because too many carries can adversely affect one’s draft stock — but Chubb and Michel bucked that trend and Georgia’s offense will reap the benefits in 2017. Linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy and safety Dominick Sanders also said they’re returning, so the Bulldogs made out pretty well, with receiver Isaiah McKenzie being the only key underclassman to declare.

Biggest surprise: Three running backs staying in school

It’s a strong draft class for running backs but to see three of them — Chubb, Michel and Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb — decide to come back was a bit of a surprise. Chubb and Michel were especially surprising given their past injuries and Chubb even admitted he considered leaving because of the uncertainty that lingers mentally after his 2015 knee injury. Webb has more carries than any other SEC running back over the last three seasons (739). Their teams certainly welcome them back with open arms, and they’ll be key parts of any success the Bulldogs or Commodores have in 2017. Kamara (Tennessee) and Stanley “Boom” Williams (Kentucky) were the two key SEC East running backs who decided to declare for early entry.

Bottom line:  it’s a big gap closer for Georgia.  No, it’s not everything, but that plus recruiting should make for an interesting reordering of talent in the division over the next couple of seasons.

 

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football

Why I whine.

As someone who’s run a fan blog about Georgia football for over a decade, I rarely feel the need to explain myself any more, as there’s plenty of material posted here to do that kind of lifting.  But in light of recent comments I’ve seen here questioning my support for Kirby Smart, it seems like one of those moments is upon me.  So let me take a couple of minutes to clear the air.

I said immediately after Smart’s hire — actually, I think I may have even posted the sentiment before the hire — that Kirby is Georgia’s head coach and that in and of itself makes him worthy of my support.  End of story.  Nothing in that regard has changed; to suggest that I’m rooting for him to flop out of a sense of cynicism, or bitterness arising from Mark Richt’s dismissal is ludicrous.  I’ve been a Georgia fan for decades.  I want Georgia to win games and titles, pure and simple.  Not only that, but my fandom clock is running late.  I don’t have time to sit through a mediocre four-year run and then wait to see if the next guy is the one to pull the program’s proverbial nuts out of the fire.

So, please, stop with that bullshit.

That being said, there’s a big difference between supporting the football program and the head coach and being critical of shortcomings in both.  I simply don’t see how the 2016 season is worthy of being exempt from criticism on just about every level.  That doesn’t mean there haven’t been positive developments, many of which I have noted on more than one occasion, or that there isn’t reason to have expectations for better times coming soon.  But I’m not going to sugarcoat.  It wouldn’t feel right to me and I doubt you’d appreciate my lack of honesty.

I will say that for those of you who claim to detect a rise in my level of cynicism about Georgia football, you may have a point, even if it’s misdirected.  What’s fed into that isn’t Smart’s first year performance, which in the cold light of hindsight, could have been expected.  It’s the organization to which Smart is a part.

2016 did nothing to change my opinion about how the athletic department is run.  If anything, it reinforced my worst impressions.  Talk about cynicism — the way B-M milked our enthusiasm over the new coach’s honeymoon period with the state legislature and our pocketbooks with increased ticket pricing in the face of mediocre home scheduling could teach me a few lessons.

Then there’s the process that led to Smart’s hire.  Feel free to dismiss it in your enthusiasm, whether that’s due to Smart himself, the importation of the Process, Richt’s dismissal, or some combination of the three, but I’m not of the same mind.  There’s a reason that matters, too.  Greg McGarity’s track record as an evaluator of coaches, when it comes to hiring and firing, is consistent in that he has yet to find a single head coach who’s delivered excellence.

Doubt me on that?  Check out the current Learfield Directors’ Cup fall standings, where Georgia stands a proud 71st.  That’s actually a slight uptick from the previous fall. Yes, Georgia’s standing will improve after the spring, largely because results from the quality programs with coaches who weren’t hired by McGarity, like swimming and tennis, will kick in.  But that hardly changes the underlying concern I have.

Maybe you can separate that, but I can’t. For one thing, it’s hard for me to accept that Smart escapes that history, other than as the result of sheer, blind luck.  Maybe that will turn out to be the case, but that’s one helluva way to run a railroad.  Speaking of which, that’s the other side of my attitude coin.  Even if Kirby Smart proves to be every bit the quality hire we hope he is, to succeed, he’ll have to beat fourteen SEC schools to do it — Georgia’s conference competitors and Georgia’s athletic department.  That’s a lot to ask of the guy.

So you’ll have to forgive me if I seem a little more negative at times than you’d prefer.  You’re not Kirby Smart, but don’t take it personally on his account.

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Who pushes Eason in 2017?

If you start with the premise that, while Jacob Eason is a tremendously talented quarterback who had his expected struggles starting as a true freshman in the SEC, he is being counted on by the coaching staff, his teammates and the fan base to take the next step forward in his second season, then the question becomes what’s the lever that moves him there?  Is he sufficiently self-motivated to push himself to the next level, or is he someone who’s wired to do that by competition?

If it’s the latter — and as Eason enjoyed a stellar high school career without being pressured by competition, that’s far from a given — it’s a little hard to see where that might come from.  Lambert, who lost the starting position to Eason by the second game of the season, is gone.  Brice Ramsey, who wound up a second straight season as the starting punter, is by some accounts wavering between staying and going.

Then there’s Jake Fromm, the other five-star recruit who’s now sitting in quarterbacks meetings with Eason.  While you can never say never, it’s hard to see how replacing one true freshman who had to learn the ropes with coaches, players and an offense he’d never played in before with another who would have to experience the same learning curve would be a recipe for success.  You’d have to think the coaches are fervently hoping the light goes on for Eason, which would allow Fromm the benefit of a redshirt year getting comfortable.

But that gets me back to the question in the header.  If Eason needs to be pushed towards greatness, who’s gonna do the pushing?

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Does Georgia football need a change of perspective?

We all heard about Georgia’s buzz phrase for this past season.

Junior cornerback Aaron Davis met with the media after Wednesday’s practice and talked about the new mantra.

“We have this new motto: ‘Attack the Day,’ ” he said. “So just take each day for what it has and try to have your best practice every day.”

The new slogan has been put in as a reminder that the team just needs to improve on that day of work. It is meant to lead to incremental improvement throughout the offseason, season and, hopefully, into the postseason.

Under Mark Richt, Georgia used “Finish The Drill” in the hopes of the program reaching its first goal, which always was to win the SEC East. Richt constantly said when that if his team won the division and got to Atlanta, it likely had a great chance to play for a national championship.

Davis says Smart has not even brought up the idea of the championship game since he took over in January.

“Every team in college football wants to win a championship. But winning a championship has never been stressed,” Davis said. “That’s nothing he’s ever expressed to us.”

Davis said the coaches constantly remind the players to “ATD.”

“During workouts, during practice, all the coaches remind us, especially Coach Sinclair (strength coach Scott Sinclair),” Davis said. ‘He reminds us ‘attack the day.’ Get better today and just do all you can.”

Whether that was a successful approach for 2016 is a question I will leave for the subject of another post in the near future.  What I’m somewhat curious about is whether that’s the way Georgia needs to go about its business next season.

It’ll be the second year for the coaching staff.  If recruiting the class of 2017 plays out the way it appears to be headed, that, plus the attrition hit that most of the other schools in the SEC East are taking, would leave the Dawgs in the position of being arguably the most talented team in the division.  Add to that another potentially weak schedule and Georgia is likely to be pushed as the 2017 East favorite, regardless of how Kirby Smart wants to frame things.

Much is likely to be expected.

Expect Georgia to get the full-fledged Tennessee Vols treatment next summer, as the club that could make the leap from “uninteresting bowl team” to “playoff contender.” For Kirby Smart’s sake, let’s hope things work out better for the ‘Dawgs than they did for the Vols (who finished 9-4 overall).

Still, the hype will be justifiable for Georgia, a club that benefitted more than any other from a handful of players turning down NFL opportunities to return to college. Nick Chubb will be back for a fourth season after rushing for 1,130 yards this season and Jacob Eason is back after tossing 16 touchdowns as a true freshman. On defense, a number of key players, including linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive tackle Trenton Thompson return.

You can attack the day all you want, but if you coach your team to another year of missing the trip to Atlanta, the day isn’t all that’s likely to be attacked at season’s end.

I’m not mocking Smart’s day-to-day approach.  It’s a sensible tack to take for a team that’s settled into excellence mode and needs to stay on an even keel instead of racing ahead of itself.  But for a team that’s young and unproven on the one hand, that faces rising expectations on the other, is it wise to pretend to ignore those expectations?  (And let’s be honest, if the chatter gets loud enough, pretend is all they’ll be doing.)

Or is it better to adopt a mindset that embraces the expectations?  That’s the argument made here.  I don’t know the players as well as the coaching staff does, so I’m not sure it’s for me to say one way or the other.  But I don’t see how being labelled the 2017 version of Booch is a good look for Kirby.

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“Everyone’s fighting for the Snickers…”

Okay, red zone defense may have left something to be desired, but there were bright spots on that side of the ball for Georgia during the 2016 season.

One is turnovers.

Georgia ranked 10th in the nation in turnovers gained with 27, including 15 interceptions and 12 fumbles recovered. That was the Bulldogs best national ranking in that category since 2011 and up from 43rd in 2015.

“I think our guys understand that you have to take the ball away,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said before a Liberty Bowl win over TCU, “so attacking the football, forcing takeaways and working to win the turnover margin is very important.”

Georgia had a plus-7 turnover margin in its eight wins and plus-one in its five losses in the first year under coach Kirby Smart.

“If you practice high-pointing the ball and ripping at the ball Monday through Friday then on Saturday it comes easy,” outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said.

Statistically speaking, there is some luck involved (primarily tied to where the ball comes loose), so we’ll have to wait and see if this was simply a random showing, or if the coaches’ emphasis on forcing takeaways is in fact paying off.

While there may be a factor with turnovers that can’t be controlled, I don’t think you can say the same thing about this area of performance.

Look who stopped the run last season.  Looks like at least one lesson from Tuscaloosa took.  And with the development of the defensive line, I only expect that to get better.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!