Archive for January, 2012

Georgia connections in Super Bowl XLVI

Giants linebacker Michael Boley celebrates his sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the second half Sunday. / The Associated Press

Giants linebacker Michael Boley celebrates his sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the second half Sunday. / The Associated Press

When the New England Patriots face the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, the state of Georgia will be well-represented.

Here are the players with Georgia connections:

NEW ENGLAND

–Deion Branch, WR, Albany: Legend has it that on the day of Super Bowl XXXIX, Branch called a dozen of his former football coaches to thank them for their support. After talking to his coaches, Branch tied the Super Bowl record with 11 receptions and was named MVP of the game. He played at Monroe High.

–Gary Guyton, MLB, Georgia Tech (Hinesville): He was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent on May 2, 2008. Guyton was the lone undrafted rookie to make the Patriots’ opening day roster in 2008. He went on to play in 14 games with two starts, becoming the first undrafted rookie linebacker to start for the Patriots since …

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COFFEE RUN: 8 nuggets from Mike Smith

Falcons coach Mike Smith has been busy filling out his new staff.

Upon returning from Mobile, he shot this little video with the team’s website.
If you can’t watch the entire 9:08, here are some of the highlights:

1. The Falcons have nearly completed their new offensive playbook.

2. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan with utilize a “multiplicity” of defenses. (Will sprinkle in some 3-4 principles.)

3. The coaches are set to do their specific position-by-position evaluations.

4. They have to concentrate on the top juniors who have applied for the draft between now and the combine.

5. They are getting ready for the combine testing. They will stress mental, physical and psychological testing. He’s looking forward to getting the medical grades from the doctors.

6. To get ready for Free Agency, which starts March 13, the coaching staff is set to get their assignments from the personnel staff of the players they will evaluate. Smith noted that every free agent will not be …

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UPDATED: Thomas, Danna and Weidinger finalize staff

 

Matt Ryan already has a working relationship with Glenn Thomas, who's set to become the Falcons new quarterbacks coach.

Matt Ryan already has a working relationship with Glenn Thomas, who's set to become the Falcons new quarterbacks coach.

UPDATE: Glenn Thomas (quartebacks), Joe Danna (defensive backs) and Andrew Weidinger (offensive assistant) were officially named to the staff Tuesday night.

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Glenn Thomas,  34, has quietly worked behind the scenes as the offensive quality control assistant for the Falcons over the past four seasons.

He will replace Bob Bratkowski as the team’s new quarterbacks coach.

From 2001-07, Thomas spent his coaching tenure at Midwestern State. He was a graduate assistant coaching wide receivers from 2001-04. He coached the school’s passing game and quarterbacks in 2004. He was the coordinator from 2005-07.

In 2006, the school led all Division II teams with 470.1 yards of total offense per game. In 2007, Midwestern State led the entire NCAA in total offense (550.0 yards per game) and rushing (317.0 yards per game).

Thomas, a Texas Tech graduate, …

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FREE AGENCY: Falcons to focus on line play

MOBILE — Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff is gearing up for free agency.

With no lockout this offseason, there will be a return to normalcy in the NFL. Free agency will come first, followed by the draft.

After last year’s labor dispute was settled, a frenzied free-agency signing period began in late August.

The Falcons, who are projected to be about $28 million under the salary cap when it’s announced this week at the Super Bowl, are working on a few contract extensions that could keep some of their 17 unrestricted free agents off the market when it opens March 13.

“That’s going to be important for us to really analyze what’s in free agency and really dig into where we are with the draft,” Dimitroff said in an interview with the NFL Network. “It just allows us to be a little bit more creative; whether if we want to make moves and how we are going to approach things.”

Dimitroff’s main offseason focus is to improve the offensive and defensive lines. …

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Pat Hill agrees to become Falcons new OL coach

Pat Hill (Associated Press)

Pat Hill (Associated Press)

Former Fresno State head coach Pat Hill, who was fired in December after going 4-9 last season, has agreed to terms with the Falcons to become their offensive line coach, the team announced Saturday.

Now the Falcons only have to fill their openings at quarterbacks coach and defensive backs coach.

Miami assistant Joe Danna is the leading candidate to replace Alvin Reynolds as the defensive back coach.

Hill spent 15 seasons the head coach at Fresno State, where he led the Bulldogs to a 112-80 overall record and went to 11 bowl games.

Hill was let go with two years left on a three-year extension signed after the 2009 season. He was owed about $512,000.

Hill led Fresno State to 15 wins over Bowl Championship Series teams during the last decade, which is the highest win total of any non-BCS team in the nation.

Hill has NFL experience. Prior to becoming the head coach at Fresno State, Hill spent five seasons as the tight ends and offensive line coach …

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SENIOR BOWL: Spotlight is on the tight ends

The South team practicing in Fairhope, Ala. on Monday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)

The South team practicing in Fairhope, Ala. on Monday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)

MOBILE — The diversified play of tight ends in the NFL playoffs has put the spotlight on the group of six players at that position who are getting ready for the 63rd annual Senior Bowl.

While the practice sessions were moved inside Thursday because of rain, the tight ends continued to be closely scrutinized. The game is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

During the NFL playoffs, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham (6-foot-7, 260 pounds), San Francisco’s Vernon Davis (6-3, 250) and New England’s Rob Gronkowski (6-6, 265) and Aaron Hernandez (6-2, 250) all made some spectacular plays in the passing game. Hernandez even ran out of the backfield as a running back.

North coach Leslie Frazier. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

North coach Leslie Frazier. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Tight ends with a combination of size and speed are difficult to defend with a linebacker, who is usually too slow, or a safety, who may not …

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SENIOR BOWL: South coach Mike Shanahan

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

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SENIOR BOWL: UGA’s Boykin has strong first practice

 

UGA's Brandon Boykin taking a break during Monday's practice. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)

UGA's Brandon Boykin taking a break during Monday's practice. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)

FAIRHOPE, Ala – Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin had a strong first practice for the South team on Monday. 

He drew praise for WashingtonRedskins defensive back coach Raheem Morris (formerly of the Tampa Bay Bucs) after breaking up one pass.

“Nice job Boykin, way to get down hill,” Morris said.

Boykin has interviewed with seven teams already, including the Falcons, Carolina and Philadelphia.

He felt his first day of practice went well.

“I was kind of getting acclimated back in that football shape,” Boykin said. “It was my first time putting the pads on in about a month.”

He had seven to eight interivews already. He’s chatted with the Falcons, Carolina and Philadelphia.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

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SENIOR BOWL: Saban on Julio Jones trade, Paterno

Nick Saban

Alabama coach Nick Saban before his interview on NFL Network at the 2012 Senior Bowl on Monday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbtter@ajc.com)

FAIRHOPE, Ala. –  Alabama coach Nick Saban attended the South’s practice at Fairhope Municipal Stadium on Monday.

He said he wasn’t surprised that Falcons rookie wide receiver Julio Jones turned in a strong year and led the rookie class with eight touchdowns.

“He’s focused on what he wants to do,” said Saban, who coached Jones at Alabama. “He stays focused on the things that are going to affect his performance and he’s very mature about it. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he had a great year as a rookie. A lot of people criticized the Falcons for moving up to pick him. I think it was worthwhile for them and I think he proved them very much right.”

Saban on Paterno

Saban said that he considered former Penn State coach Joe Paterno a friend and that his death was a loss for college football.

“I can’t say enough about …

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Shakeup continues as Alvin Reynolds is fired

MOBILE — Defensive backs coach Alvin Reynolds, an original member of head coach Mike Smith’s staff, was fired, the team announced on Monday.

Alvin Reynolds

Alvin Reynolds

 The Falcons have been undergoing an intensive review of their football operations since they were blown out 24-2 by the New York Giants in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs on Jan. 8.

Reynolds spent four seasons with the team.

“We would like to thank Coach Reynolds for his dedication and hard work over the last four seasons,”  Smith said in a statement released by the team. “We wish him all of the best.”

Reynolds, who’s coached in the NFL for 18 seasons, became the fifth coach from last season’s staff to either be fired or leave for another position.

Former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey left to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Former defensive coordiantor Brian VanGorder left to take the same position at Auburn.

Quarterbacks coach Bob Bratkowski left to become the offensive …

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