Archive for January, 2011

Dogs, Jackets take a beating in ESPN poll (no surprise)

To say Mark Richt and Paul Johnson both face challenges this offseason would be an understatement. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Mark Richt and Paul Johnson have seen their teams lose points with pollsters. (Brant Sanderlin)

A few weeks ago, we brought you “news” of the first 2011, way-too-early, preseason college football rankings, which appeared on the website NationalChamps.net. Georgia was ranked 21st. Georgia Tech didn’t even make the top 50.  Both proceeded to go splat in bottom tier bowl games.

ESPN has an advantage over NationalChamps.net (besides name recognition). The website waited until after the bowl games for a little more perspective. So this shouldn’t surprise you: After bowl losses to Central Florida and Air Force, respectively, neither the Bulldogs nor the Jackets made the top 25.

Former AJC staffer and pal Mark Schlabach just released his top 25, and I’m wagering it will be pretty close to the first Associated Press rankings (which generally don’t come out until August). Georgia and Tech fans: cover your eyes.

Schlabach’s top 25 lists Oklahoma as the No. 1 team, followed by Alabama, …

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Should Braves consider bringing back Andruw Jones?

Andruw Jones hit 19 home runs last season with the White Sox.

Andruw Jones hit 19 home runs last season with the White Sox.

Hey look: Andruw Jones is still available and the Braves could use a right-handed bat and an extra outfielder.

OK, all together now: Schultz, you’re an idiot.

Truth is, I’m not pushing for the Braves to sign Jones.  But I’m not completely dismissing the idea, either.

Have to admit, I’m only bringing this up because I’ve received a few emails in the last couple of days from readers asking me about Jones, and our resident baseball man David O’Brien tells me he also has been fielding questions from fans.

First, let’s address the negative: Jones will be 34 in April, obviously isn’t the Gold Glove center fielder he used to be with the Braves and often stirs up gale force winds when he’s at the plate.

Now here’s the positive: Playing for the Chicago White Sox last season, his third team in three years, Jones hit 19 home runs in 328 plate appearances. That roughly translates to a 40-home run season as a regular (which he’s …

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Falcons’ Abraham excelling, even with thoughts on mom

John Abraham carved "I (heart) Mom" into his hair as tribute to Maggie, who is battling lymphoma.

John Abraham carved "I (heart) Mom" into his hair as tribute to Maggie, who is battling lymphoma.

FLOWERY BRANCH – John Abraham was in the seventh grade when he hobbled into the house one day with a sprained ankle. He told his mother he had turned it in the backyard playing football. That almost ended his athletic career right there.

“She hated sports,” Abraham said Tuesday, laughing. “She didn’t want me to play sports any more. She only came to watch me play football once in high school. She didn’t even realize how good I was until recruiters started coming around.”

Soon, Maggie Abraham found out what everybody else already knew. Her son became an all-SEC defensive end at South Carolina, a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets, a four-time Pro Bowler and one of only 25 NFL players to record 100 sacks.

This season, at the age of 32 and in his 11th season, Abraham has enjoyed arguably the finest year of his career, leading the Falcons with 13 sacks. He batted down four …

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Digi-Blog goes to Falcons camp (no Flowery Branches)

photographerFLOWERY BRANCH — The Digi-Blog hasn’t ventured into cold weather before. But given we’re in Snowmaggedon 2011, I figured: “Why not?” And how ironic is it that the week the Falcons play the Green Bay Packers — who are used to this sort of thing — the Falcons’ practice fields are under snow?

All the Falcons’ players and coaches made it to today, but 0n Monday running back Antone Smith was a no-show. “He said he couldn’t make it out of his neighborhood,” running back Michael Turner said. “Something like he was the first one on the street and it was it was all ice. He gave some war story. So we had to fine him a little bit.”

I’m still looking for Ledbetter. He must have some war story, too.

(UPDATE: Falcons coach Mike Smith said there actually were two players who didn’t make it to Flowery Branch Monday and one Tuesday. Cornerback Dominique Franks could not make it out of his subdivision Tuesday. Also, I just spoke to Ledbetter. He said the weather has not affected his wine and …

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Poll time: Who’s most important Falcon vs. Packers?

John Abraham has led the team with 13 sacks.

John Abraham has led the team with 13 sacks.

But his car slid off I-985 Monday.

But his car slid off I-985 Monday.

Assuming I can get my car out of the garage, I’m off to Flowery Branch this morning for Falcons practice and a column later. If I can’t get out of the garage this morning, I’ll be live blogging off of “Curb Appeal” or some fabulous gemstones on QVC.

The subject of the intended Falcons piece likely will be John Abraham, assuming he can make it to the team’s facility safely after he slid off the road on Monday and had to be rescued by Kroy Biermann. (Nice teamwork.)

Who is the Falcons’ most important player Saturday night against Green Bay?

  • Matt Ryan (Duh. He’s the quaterback)
  • Michael Turner (Falcons need to run)
  • Roddy White (Falcons’ best weapon)
  • John Abraham (They need pressure)
  • Dunta Robinson/Brent Grimes (Coverage is key)

View Results

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Abraham, with 13 sacks,  is having one of the best seasons of his career — even while near the end of his career. I’ll …

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Saints gone, Vick gone and Falcons ready to defend turf

Brent Grimes (20) and William Moore, here tackling the Packers' James Jones, are two big reasons for the Falcons' improved defense. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Brent Grimes (20) and William Moore are two reasons for the Falcons' improved defense.

The New Orleans Saints are gone. Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles are gone.

Can you do without the drama? Thought so.

The Falcons’ first opponent of this postseason will be Green Bay. That hardly qualifies as an easy draw. At the outset of this season, many  considered the Packers the best team in the NFC. But with the potential of Vick returning to the Georgia Dome in two weeks (nobody really relished that scenario) and the possibility of a third game against division rival New Orleans (were you really hoping for a showdown game against the defending Super Bowl champions?), this was as good a scenario as the Falcons could have hoped for.

They will be at home. They have had a week off. They will be facing a Green Bay team coming off a physical and emotional win and playing in a short week.

If you wonder whether the Falcons are good enough to beat Green Bay, maybe you’ve forgotten …

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A.J. Green makes exit official, and Dogs lose best weapon

The next time you see A.J. Green do this, it will be in the NFL.

The next time you see A.J. Green do this, it will be in the NFL.

The least surprising Georgia transaction of this offseason could have the greatest impact.

Bulldogs wide receiver A.J. Green ended the lack-of-suspense Sunday: He will pass up his senior season and declared himself eligible for the NFL draft.

Bulldogs coach Mark Richt will have a difficult enough time trying to turn around a team that went 6-7 this season, including 3-5 in the SEC. But now he has lost his team’s best weapon and quarterback Aaron Murray’s No. 1 target.

This was a foregone conclusion. Green, who had 23 touchdowns and 166 receptions in 32 games, can’t improve his draft stock. Actually, the only thing that could have elevated where he will be taken in the draft just happened — Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, the expected first overall pick,  announced he is returning to Stanford.

That means Green could be the first overall selection. At the very least, he is a lock to go in the top five picks. The …

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A.J. Green could be No. 1 overall pick in NFL draft

A.J. Green could be Georgia's second No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in the last three years, joining Matthew Stanford.

A.J. Green could be Georgia's second No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in the last three years, joining Matthew Stanford.

With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck announcing that he’s returning to school for another season, there’s only one question:  Does A.J. Green send him a thank you note?

If Green says he’s coming back to Georgia, it would be even more stunning than Luck’s decision. I follow this general rule: When a college player sells his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000, he’s ready to make money.

By Luck staying in school, Green could be the first overall pick. That would give Georgia two first overall selections in the last three years (Matthew Stafford went No. 1 to Detroit in 2008.) It would be a nice honor for the school but there also could be a sense of, “Why didn’t we do more with them?”

Green is considered a lock top-five selection. ESPN’s Mel Kiper ranked Green as the fourth best prospect on his current “Big Board” (requires Insider subscription), behind Luck, …

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Mark Fox succeeding in changing basketball culture at Georgia

The lower hand shows where Georgia was when Mark Fox arrived. The upper hand shows where the Bulldogs are now. (Jason Getz/AJC)

The lower hand shows where Georgia used to be. The upper hand shows where Mark Fox has brought them. (Jason Getz/AJC)

ATHENS – Not that it was some great revelation but Georgia officials were pretty up front with Mark Fox during the interview process in 2009 about the state of the basketball program. It was a mess. So in that sense, he knew he wasn’t stepping into Eden.

But have you ever booked a room in a low-budget hotel, had low expectations and when you arrived wondered if you had just missed the hurricane? That was Fox last season. He expected bad and witnessed something worse.

“I know last year I said that I wasn’t surprised with where we were because they were so honest with me when I got here,” the Bulldogs coach said Thursday. “But as I reflect, it was probably in worse shape than I wanted to admit. We’ve made progress. But there’s still days where you feel like the train ran you over.”

Possibly. But these days, that train mostly runs through Paul Hewitt’s office at …

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Aaron gets wish: Steroid users kept out of Hall of Fame

Mark McGwire's eventual admission garner votes.

Mark McGwire's admission didn't garner votes.

Rafael Palmeiro's emphatic denial didn't fly.

Rafael Palmeiro's emphatic denial didn't fly.

Last year I spoke to noted non-steroid user Henry Aaron about baseball players whose muscles and career statistics were obviously chemically enhanced, and his response was the verbal equivalent of taking a rip at a fastball.

Quoting: “My feeling has always been the same – the game of baseball has no place for cheaters. There’s no place in the Hall of Fame for people who cheat.” (For the rest of that column, click here.)

Well, Aaron is getting his wish. So is everybody who wants the baseball Hall of Fame free of cheaters.

Lower profile than the news that Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar were elected to the Hall of Fame was the word that Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell and Juan Gonzalez weren’t. They’re the first four players from the steroid era — and suspected steroid users — who’ve been on the HOF ballot.

The contempt most voters have for suspected cheaters is obvious. …

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