Archive for June, 2009

UGA coach: You don’t replace Moreno

SouthernPigskin.com asks former Georgia receiver Bryan McClendon, now coaching the Dogs’ running backs, how you replace a Knowshon Moreno and McClendon’s answer is forthright: “Well, I don’t think that’s possible. … If people are looking for that, everybody is going to be a little disappointed. You can’t replace a guy like him. I have to make sure the young backs know that it’s not their job to be the next Knowshon, but it’s their job to be the best they can be; just focusing on that … on getting better. … Even though [Moreno] played an integral part of what we did as an offense and as a team, he has moved on and we need to move on, too.”

Along those lines, I’ve been thinking this week about how Georgia’s offense is likely to play out this season. Assuming they’re not hit by another rash of injuries, the line should be pretty good. Maybe great, but let’s keep our expectations moderate. Whether we end up with one featured back or tailback-by-committee, most observers expect a …

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That first time at Sanford Stadium

My brothers used to tease me about the way I could remember details of our childhood in Athens. “What grade were you in? Who was your teacher?” they’d jokingly ask when I’d mention something from when we were growing up. And I could usually tell them.

But while I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of the Georgia Bulldogs, for some reason I’m not exactly sure when I attended my first game at Sanford Stadium.

In contrast to the fuzzy memories I have of my first game, my son recalls exactly when he and his sister first got to go with me to see the Dogs play. For young Bill, it was the 1991 game against Cal State Fullerton, when he was 6 years old, and for Olivia it was the Louisiana-Monroe game in 2005, when she was 11. Their mom is pretty sure she didn’t attend a game until she was a UGA freshman.

I have the vaguest recollection of being taken to a game when I was very young, but I don’t know when it might have been. The sounds of the band are about all I recall.

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P.M. Roundup: Linebacker practicing at safety

A few brief items worth noting before heading home …

Mark Richt had mentioned that sophomore backup linebacker Nick Williams, a special teams mainstay last year, might be looked to for depth at safety after John Knox departed UGA due to academic issues. And that’s the way it’s going in summer workouts, junior safety Reshad Jones tells Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald. Williams, Jones says, “is pretty versatile, but right now he’s working strictly with the secondary.” …

ESPN.com reports the lineup has been released for SEC Media Days being held July 22-24 in Hoover, Ala., and Georgia’s turn comes on July 23, with two of the more quotable Dogs, quarterback Joe Cox and defensive tackle Jeff Owens, scheduled to be on hand. … 

UGA track and field star Chris Hill, who recently won his second straight NCAA javelin title, is forgoing his final season of eligibility to turn pro, the Red & Black reports. Hill has signed with an agent and looks forward to working out a …

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Previewing Dogs’ offensive line

Georgia tackle Trinton Sturdivant’s injury last August was the first of several that forced Georgia to go with a patchwork offensive line much of the season. Of course, as a result of all the mixing and matching that OL coach Stacy Searels had to do last year, the 2009 line is an experienced bunch that’s expected to be the main strength of the offense. 

Talking with David Hale of Bulldogs Blog, Sturdivant previews what the starting OL might look like, based on what’s happening in summer workouts. Sturdivant, who says his injured knee is fully recovered, is playing left tackle, with Vince Vance (also coming back from ACL surgery) at left guard, Ben Jones back at center, Cordy Glenn at right guard and Clint Boling at right tackle. That’s all subject to change at Searels’ whim, of course.

Sturdivant also says incoming freshman Chris Burnette has really impressed his teammates with his explosive speed and how quickly he has learned the playbook. Burnette, who came close to being …

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Caleb King ‘pushing himself’

The Red & Black’s Tyler Estep checks in with Richard Samuel on the off-season state of the Dogs’ tailbacks, where Caleb King is penciled in at No. 1 but didn’t finish up the spring with a very firm grip on the starting job. Samuel’s still awfully young but showed flashes of potential last season. Then there are Carlton Thomas, the surprise star of the spring, and Dontavius Jackson, also coming back from injury. And if he doesn’t get redshirted, true freshman Washaun Ealey is likely to get into the mix, too.  

Samuel, who estimates he’s “not quite” 100 percent recovered from wrist surgery in January but expects to be fine when camp opens in August, says the tailbacks themselves aren’t really paying attention to the focus fans are putting on the competition at that position.

“We don’t even really talk about it,” he says. “We just go out there and all help each other out, and if we see a person messing up we’re going to try to help the other person. So we don’t really see it as …

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What are the Dogs’ main concerns on defense?

Most previews of the 2009 Georgia Bulldogs note that with all the uncertainty on offense, it’s going to be essential for the defense to continue the turnaround from last year that was evident in the bowl game. 

Which area of the defense concerns you the most?

  • Defensive end/pass rush
  • Secondary play
  • Tackling and fundamentals
  • Willie Martinez

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The return of Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins, with Kade Weston providing depth, should make the interior DL one of the team’s strengths, and the linebacking corps led by Rennie Curran and Akeem Dent looks pretty deep and strong. 

But what about defensive end, one of the least productive defensive positions last season? Justin Houston had the best spring, but he’s suspended for the first two games, putting the onus on DeMarcus Dobbs and Rod Battle, who missed the spring with an injury. Will Kiante Tripp step up to provide some depth? And will the plan to use linebackers Darryl Gamble and Marcus …

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P.M. Roundup: Safety in numbers for UGA?

A few things you might want to check out before heading home. …

Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald looks beyond this season and figures the Dogs might need help at safety since projected starter Bryan Evans is a senior and junior Reshad Jones already has flirted with jumping to the NFL early. With little proven depth at the position, Weiszer says Jakar Hamilton, currently at Georgia Military College, could be the answer. Hamilton, an NJCAA All-American and a finalist for defensive player of the year at that level, told Scout.com that he’s choosing between Georgia and Alabama and hopes to announce his decision on or around July 11. …

John Pennington defends his Mark Richt “hot seat” piece at MrSEC.com that I wrote about yesterday. Georgia fans apparently have been bombarding him with e-mails. …

T. Kyle King of Dawg Sports makes his case for UGA investing more in its baseball program than it does in basketball, despite the fact that its mediocre basketball team produces …

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What’s the verdict on Stafford?

David Hale of the Bulldogs Blog makes a good point about the way UGA fans feel about departed QB Matthew Stafford: “I’d be willing to wager there isn’t a player in recent history Georgia fans are more split on than Stafford … People either love him or hate him.”

Hale thinks that comes from Stafford’s inconsistency throughout much of his career. That’s certainly a factor,  but I believe the level of hype that accompanied Stafford’s arrival in Athens guaranteed that anything less than an SEC and even national championship during his time behind center would be viewed as disappointing.

As I’ve said here before, Stafford and Knowshon Moreno might have been the most talented quarterback-tailback tandem UGA has ever had, but they’ll probably never enter the pantheon of Bulldog immortals because they left school early without achieving what the Bulldog Nation expected of them.

What’s your take on Stafford? The most talented Georgia QB ever? An overrated player with a cannon for an …

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Don’t blame fans, media for star-crossed season

Dawgs Online has an interesting take on Mark Richt’s frequent comments lately that last year’s team suffered from too much focus by the fans and media on the “stars” and that this year’s team will be better off because the “the star of the team is the team.”

Asks the blog: “Was leaning on Stafford and Moreno really near the top of the list of last year’s shortcomings?” It points out that the Georgia offense was third in the SEC in scoring and second in yardage, even behind a patchwork line.

Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno were stars, and the media and fans focused on them because more often than not they produced. As Dawgs Online notes, it’s difficult to see what the outside attention paid to Stafford and Moreno had to do with the the Dogs having the SEC’s 10th-ranked scoring defense “or a secondary whose interception total was challenged by the defensive line.”

As Dawgs Online concludes: “The trouble with last year’s team wasn’t so much leaning on some of the …

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Getting ready for kickoff time … whenever that is

There was a time you pretty much always knew when a UGA football game in Athens would be kicking off.
2 p.m.

What is your favorite kickoff time in Athens?

  • Noon
  • 1 p.m.
  • 3:30 p.m.
  • 5 p.m.
  • 7 p.m.
  • 7:45 p.m.

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That was back before television was calling the shots. I’ve heard more than a few old-school fans say they miss those times.

Nowadays, you often don’t know until a couple of weeks before a game when it’s going to begin. Will we be in the early slot at noon? The midafternoon kickoff at 3:30? A late afternoon game at 5 p.m.? An early evening game at 7 p.m.? Or the night slot at 7:45?

If we’re playing a nobody and it’s not being televised, it’s probably going to be the current “traditional” kickoff time of 1 p.m.

There are pluses and minuses to most of these kickoff times. If it’s midafternoon, you get more time to do a big lunchtime tailgate before heading to the stadium, but if it’s early in the season you’re sitting in the …

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