Archive for January, 2010

Grantham’s aggressive style pleases this Dawg fan

Todd Grantham is saying all the right things so far. (Dallas Morning News)

Todd Grantham is saying all the right things so far. (Dallas Morning News)

Like most UGA fans, I’ve been closely parsing Todd Grantham’s initial words about his defensive plans for the Dogs, and so far I like what I hear.

Now, granted, in the recent past there’s often been a disconnect between what we hear and what we end up seeing on the field. Remember all the talk last summer about Joe Cox’s accuracy and how Bryan Evans was coming into his own at safety?

And while the lion’s share of the focus is likely to be on Grantham’s plans to go with three defensive linemen and four linebackers, instead of the opposite under Willie Martinez, the scheme wasn’t always the problem under Martinez. Too often, the Dogs showed poor fundamentals when it came to tackling and getting off blocks. I’m anxious to see how that (hopefully) improves under Grantham.

But what I particularly liked, though, was Grantham’s very first promise in the prepared statement UGA released announcing his hiring: …

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Should Richt have gone the NFL route from the start?

Another bonus for Todd Grantham in taking the UGA job: He won't have to wear orange again. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Another bonus for Todd Grantham in taking the UGA job: He won't have to wear orange again. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Are we there yet?

Yes, at last. This morning Mark Richt has confirmed Rivals.com’s Tom Dienhart’s report that he’s hiring Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham as defensive coordinator. No details on the terms of the deal yet from Richt but Dienhart Tweeted that it is for three years and will make Grantham “third highest paid DC in the nation.”

I think Richt has made a good hire. Not a hire that will leave Bulldogs fans with stars in their eyes, but one that probably would have been hailed as a fine move if it had come more quickly and if it hadn’t been preceded by the Georgia coach going after bigger college names who were long-shots to start with and eventually turned him down.

Grantham, who formerly was defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, seems like the best of the “realistic” candidates for the Georgia job.

He’s another Nick Saban

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Richt aiming high has not hurt UGA

Mark Richt has shown he's serious about upgrading Georgia's defense. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Mark Richt has shown he's serious about upgrading Georgia's defense. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Time for some perspective. You want to see a college football program damaged by a coaching search, look at the University of Tennessee and what their successful but misguided pursuit of Lane Kiffin last year has yielded.

But spare me the wailing and hyperbole about the state of the program in Athens. The idea that Mark Richt’s unsuccessful pursuit of three high-profile defensive coordinator candidates has inflicted humiliation and damage on his program might make for lively blogging, but it’s far removed from reality.

The fact that Bud Foster, John Chavis and Kirby Smart all were long-shots with no reason to leave their present jobs needs to be kept in mind. Maybe in a more gentlemanly era they wouldn’t have used Richt’s interest as public leverage to pry some more bucks out of their current bosses, but that’s unfortunately the way it’s done these days. And at least Richt and Damon …

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It was the safe decision, but was it the smart one?

Kirby Smart

Kirby Smart

Having spent most of my day off today (I’m now working Tuesday-Saturday) away from the computer, I checked back in to find that the rumor one of my brothers had called me about earlier today is true: Kirby Smart isn’t coming home.

It’s disappointing for Bulldogs fans, of course. Smart had been the sentimental favorite for the defensive coordinator job dating back to, well, actually long before Willie Martinez got fired.

But it’s not really all that surprising. When you consider to the move from Tuscaloosa to Athens, what was really in it for Smart? More money? Doubtful. If Alabama hasn’t already matched Georgia’s offer, it likely will.

A chance to make a name for himself away from the shadow of Nick Saban? Well, yes, that was the biggest selling point Mark Richt had going for him.

That cuts both ways, though. Smart wants to be a head coach one of these days. By going out on his own at Georgia, he might have been able to build a strong case for himself. But there …

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On the BCS, SEC and Dawg of the Millennium (so far)

First off, congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide for a terrific BCS national championship win over a resilient Texas team. Since it wasn’t Florida, I was actually rooting for the SEC team this time around. It says a lot that it was an off year for the conference, and yet the coaches’ trophy still remains in the SEC.

Amid all the conflicting rumors involving the UGA defensive coordinator position, Kirby Smart and the Texas Tech head coaching job, I’ll just say this: If Mark Richt somehow does manage to land Smart and he brings that aggressive, attacking Saban brand of defense to the Dogs, there’ll be a lot of happy fans in the Bulldog Nation.

Oh, and one more thought: It looked like it actually physically pained Nick Saban to try and smile as he hoisted that crystal football after the game. Mr. Charisma, he’s not. But you can’t argue with the results.

Now, back to the business at hand. After all the best-of-the-decade lists that have been trotted out over the past week, …

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Dogs may be in for a quarterback battle

In the minds of many fans, Georgia’s quarterback situation for next season is pretty clear-cut: Aaron Murray will be the starter, Zach Mettenberger will be the backup and Logan Gray, the only QB on the team with any game experience, will yield to the inevitable and switch to another position, possibly wide receiver, in order to get more playing time.

Nice and neat.

Aaron Murray (Bob Andres / AJC)

Aaron Murray (Bob Andres / AJC)

But that scenario might be in for some rewrites. First, the coaches indicate that whether Gray moves or not is up to him. You’d think he’d want to go into spring practice in the position he’ll play next fall, but he might decide to give the quarterback job one more try, at least through G-Day. And, who knows, if he’s still at QB come September, Mark Richt might decide to play it “safe” and at least start out the season with Gray.

That would not be a popular decision, but Richt has gone that route before with Joe T. back in Matthew Stafford’s freshman year.

Also, fan expectations might …

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It’s a great day to be a Georgia Bulldog

The Dogs got clutch play from Ricky McPhee. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

The Dogs got clutch play from Ricky McPhee. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

Say this for Mark Fox: It didn’t take the new Georgia basketball coach long to get his first signature win.

To be sure, the men’s basketball Dogs are still an undermanned unit that faces a long, tough slog in the SEC wars beginning Saturday at No. 3 Kentucky. But facing No. 17-ranked Georgia Tech, a heavily hyped team with the nation’s most celebrated freshman class, Fox’s team played smart, hung tough and, most importantly, showed good coaching. The fact that the Dogs currently are the SEC’s best free throw-shooting team is an indication of that.

Georgia’s lone quality player, Trey Thompkins, came up big with 20 points in the 73-66 upset win, but here’s the key to what kind of night it was for the heavily favored Jackets: The Dogs’ Ricky McPhee, a former walk-on, hit two key baskets near the end of Tuesday night’s game at Stegeman Coliseum and scored 16 points, twice as many as Tech’s much heralded Derrick …

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UGA-Tech rivalry goes full-bore all year long

A full house is needed at Stegeman Coliseum tonight. (Georgiadogs.com)

A full house is needed at Stegeman Coliseum tonight. (Georgiadogs.com)

Any time Georgia and Georgia Tech meet in athletics, there’s plenty of trash talk and bad feeling between the two camps.

Which is as it should be. What good is an in-state rivalry if the word “hate” doesn’t get bandied about regularly? And in that regard, the folks from North Avenue make it so easy. …

The main focus of the rivalry between the two schools may be in football, but it’s hard to beat the atmosphere at a men’s basketball game between the Dogs and Jackets, especially the student sections.

Unfortunately, the UGA athletic association schedulers, who didn’t do Mark Richt any favors this year, have made it tough for new coach Mark Fox as well by agreeing to play Tech in basketball a couple of days before classes resume at UGA, thus possibly negating some of the Dogs’ home court advantage, which has been considerable in this series. UGA has won 24 of 27 games played against Tech at Stegeman …

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Bulldog Nation plays waiting game

Like sands through the hourglass …

As Mark Richt’s search for a defensive coordinator crawls along like a TV soap opera, Dog fans must do something they’re not generally known for: exercise patience.

Each week seems to bring another hot name to the fore who then milks Georgia’s interest in him for a raise from his current employer. Such is the coaching game.

The consensus media view now seems to be that Kirby Smart’s statement at a press conference Sunday that “it’s been great having these players and doing this” at Alabama and “I’m looking forward to it next year” pretty much indicates he’s taken himself out of the running for the UGA job.

Well, maybe. We still don’t have a definitive statement from Smart. He hasn’t said flatly that he’s staying at Alabama. He hasn’t said he’s not coming to Georgia. That may simply mean he’s still negotiating his new deal with Nick Saban. But we don’t know.

Perhaps that means Richt will end up hiring his new DC from the ranks of NFL …

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