Archive for June, 2010

One forecast sees this as the year of the Dawg in SEC East

Quarterback Aaron Murray already has a year in Mark Richt's offensive system. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Quarterback Aaron Murray already has a year in Mark Richt's offensive system. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

So far the preseason estimations of Mark Richt’s team have varied wildly, though most predictions have Georgia improving modestly over last season but still behind Florida in the SEC East.

And then there’s Tom Poisal of the highly respected philsteele.com, who says “Georgia is poised to re-take the throne in the SEC East from Florida” this year. Poisal says the key game is South Carolina. “If the Dawgs survive that test in the sauna that is Columbia in September, they will be off and running barring injuries.”

Poisal’s appraisal of the Dawgs addresses the concerns of an inexperienced quarterback in Aaron Murray and the transition to a new defense.

He thinks this being Murray’s second year in the program will help. “Expect statistics mirroring David Greene [in his redshirt freshman year] and Matthew Stafford’s 2nd year on the Georgia campus at minimum. Murray has a much better …

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Water cooler topics: In what universe is Petrino a better coach than Richt?

Yes, someone actually thinks Bobby Petrino is a better coach than Mark Richt. (Associated Press)

Yes, someone actually thinks Bobby Petrino is a better coach than Mark Richt. (Associated Press)

The water cooler’s a pretty good place to be this time of year, so here are some choice topics for those conversations around the fountain …

Paul Finebaum, the Alabama-based columnist/talk show host known for stirring the pot when he’s not genuflecting to Nick Saban, put out his annual ranking of SEC coaches. The list being topped by Saban and Urban Meyer is no surprise and certainly easily justified.

But then Finebaum gets out his ladle and lists Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino (!) third and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier fourth, with Mark Richt in fifth place. Snipes Finebaum: “Everyone loves Mark Richt (blah, blah, blah), but can the guy coach? That’s a strong question to ask for someone with two SEC titles and a glittering résumé. However, Georgia fans have stuck their heads in the sand recently, giving Richt a blank check while blaming everyone else.”

So apparently, in Finebaum’s …

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Making noise in Athens, new mascot, Isner, Sturdivant

Trinton Sturdivant's return could shake up the Georgia offensive line. (Georgiadogs.com)

Trinton Sturdivant's return could shake up the Georgia offensive line. (Georgiadogs.com)

The buzz in the sports media that those South African vuvuzelas might show up at SEC football games this fall thankfully has been put to rest by conference official Charles Bloom, who noted that Mississippi State’s cowbells earned an exception to the rule against noisemakers on the basis of tradition. “I do not believe a vuvuzela is tied traditionally into one of our institutions,” he said. But as far as Sanford Stadium, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Not even the cowbells are welcome in Athens, where the official stadium policy reads: “Artificial noisemakers (air horns, cowbells, etc.) are not permitted in Sanford Stadium. Be considerate and allow your neighbor to enjoy the game.” Organic, natural noise only, please. … I hear from the bulldog breeding community that the latest litter of bullpups sired by interim mascot Russ came up empty as far as a possible Uga VIII. That doesn’t …

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Going back to Athens town

There are plenty of good times to be had in Athens. (University of Georgia)

There are plenty of good times to be had in Athens. (University of Georgia)

Come September, thousands will be making the trek to Athens for home games at Sanford Stadium. Many come in a day or two early; others linger through the weekend, enjoying the other attractions of a city widely acknowledged as one of the best college towns around.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for football season to enjoy the offerings of Athens, some of which are hailed in the current issue of Garden & Gun magazine, which calls Athens a place where “music, food and football” come together.

Besides hundreds of places to drink beer (as you’d expect in a college town), there are rich cultural offerings thanks to UGA and some great restaurants. (Last year, I ran down some favorite places to eat in the Classic City, and to that list I’d add the Royal Peasant Pub in Five Points, a tiny spot offering some of the best fish and chips around.)

But the thing Athens is best known for besides UGA and football …

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The Big Dawg wins … finally!

John Isner a winner again. (Associated Press)

John Isner a winner again. (Associated Press)

A master of understatement, former UGA tennis great John Isner summed up how he felt after his marathon match against France’s Nicolas Mahut by saying with a grin that he was “a little bit tired.”

After playing the record-breaking match lasting 11 hours and 5 minutes, it’s a wonder either of them could even stand, much less endure the award presentation and stilted interviews the All England Club put them through at the end. Isner graciously praised his opponent as “an absolute warrior,” and Mahut said “John deserved to win. … He is a champion.”

And then, as if they hadn’t been through enough, they were dragged down to the scoreboard to pose for pictures! Wimbledon was really milking this one.

This wasn’t pretty tennis. It was grind-’em-out, back and forth. But in the end Isner won it with a couple of fine shots.

The overwhelming impression, though, was of the two players’ determination. Isner truly lived up to his Bulldog …

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Will you miss customized UGA football rebroadcasts?

Will you miss Buck Belue on the Georgia football rebroadcasts? (Rodney Ho / AJC)

Will you miss Buck Belue on the Georgia football rebroadcasts? (Rodney Ho / AJC)

As a UGA football legend, Buck Belue is beloved in the Bulldog Nation for, among other things, the comeback win over Tech during his freshman year and, of course, the 1980 pass to Lindsay Scott in Jacksonville.

As a broadcaster, though, there’s less of a consensus about Belue.

Some Georgia fans love Buck and his Valdosta drawl. Others I hear from can’t stand him as a TV color analyst (or radio talk show host, for that matter).

Well, the latter group won’t have Buck to kick around any more, at least as far as the CSS rebroadcasts of Georgia football games go. UGA associate athletics director Alan Thomas confirmed to Marc Weiszer of The Athens Banner-Herald that, as had been rumored for a while now, the CSS TV rebroadcasts of Georgia football games will simply be a repeat of the SEC broadcast rather than a unique production focusing on UGA.

That means the we’ll no longer have Belue paired with Matt …

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David Greene on Aaron Murray: ‘The kid wants to be great’

David Greene remembers what it was like to be a redshirt-freshman starter at quarterback. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

David Greene remembers what it was like to be a redshirt-freshman starter at quarterback. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

When Georgia fans outline the best-case scenario for how quarterback Aaron Murray will turn out, they naturally look back at the last time we had a redshirt freshman take over as signal caller.

After all, David Greene went on to become the winningest quarterback in NCAA history until supplanted in that spot last year by Colt McCoy.

So when I had the chance to chat with Greene this morning, we talked about what Murray is going through and what he needs to do to put himself and the Dogs in the best position to win games.

This summer, Greene said, the two most important things Murray can do is work in the weight room to get stronger “so you can take those hits,” and “more than anything, work on building a good rapport with his teammates.” Summer passing workouts “don’t completely simulate what it’s going to be like, but it allows you to work on your timing and get to …

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Marking Father’s Day the Bulldog way

Fran Tarkenton was the hero of the 1959 win over Auburn. But my Dad did his part. ... (University of Georgia)

Fran Tarkenton was the hero of the 1959 win over Auburn. But my Dad did his part. … (University of Georgia)

My first really indelible UGA football memory involves my Dad, which is not really surprising since he’s the one responsible for me growing up devoted to the red and black.

It was Nov. 14, 1959, and I was 7 years old. The Georgia Bulldogs were playing the Auburn Tigers at Sanford Stadium, and for some reason lost to the passage of time Dad wasn’t at the game. Instead, he was sitting in our living room on Hope Avenue in Athens listening  anxiously to the voice of the Dogs, Ed Thilenius, describe the action. I remember he was nervously eating
oranges.

Time was running out for Wally Butts’ boys, who were trailing 13-7, when Georgia guard Pat Dye, the future Auburn coach and athletics director, recovered a fumble by the Tigers quarterback. The Dogs had one more chance, and it came down to fourth-and-goal from the Auburn 13 with 30 seconds left.

In a play that we later …

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Dogs only need to be a little better to top last year

Aaron Murray's play will be a key to whether the Dogs improve their turnover ratio. (Bob Andres / AJC)

Aaron Murray's play will be a key to whether the Dogs improve their turnover ratio. (Bob Andres / AJC)

Games often turn on a play or two. Seasons can turn on a game or two.

Fletcher Page of Dawg Post brought that to mind in a chat with the Chapel Bell blog when he noted: “To me, last year was a last minute (and disgraceful call) loss to LSU, and a flop on senior night against Kentucky away from a 10-win season. Despite a poor defense, turnover prone quarterback, and sketchy playcalling, that’s the truth.”

Well, sort of. The Dogs did pretty well give the Kentucky game away in the second half with turnovers. But it wasn’t just the bad flag on A.J. Green that allowed LSU to come back and win that game. Terrible kickoff coverage and lousy tackling on the 33-yard winning touchdown run had something to do with it, too.

And these close calls work both ways. Had Rennie Curran not broken up that fourth-day pass at the goal line with 22 seconds remaining, Georgia might not have come …

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Welcome to Athens, Jarvis, it’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog!

Some nights, it's even greater than usual to be a Georgia Bulldog! (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Some nights, it's even greater than usual to be a Georgia Bulldog! (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

In celebration of Jarvis Jones deciding that playing linebacker under Todd Grantham is the best way to prepare for an NFL career, here are five more reasons it’s great … to be … a Georgia Bulldog, presented in no particular order …

You get to go to school in Athens. I mean, really, is there any better college town than the Classic City? As Southern Living recently noted, there’s a vibrancy there that many other college towns can’t match. Great places to eat or drink beer. A beautiful campus. The best-looking women in the SEC. An internationally renowned music scene. Plus UGA sports. What’s not to love?

One of the most impassioned fan bases in college sports. As Mark Richt put it in an interview with Dawg Post, “There is so much passion and love for Georgia. Some of the folks have never stepped foot on campus and love it — that is their team; they want them to do well.”

You get to wear …

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