Archive for August, 2010

A Bulldog comes home: Old friends hail UGA’s new athletic director

Greg McGarity as a sophomore in my Athens High 1970 yearbook.

Greg McGarity as a sophomore in my Athens High 1970 yearbook.

Greg McGarity officially becomes UGA’s athletic director Wednesday, though the hometown boy actually couldn’t wait that long to start and has been on the job for a couple of days.

A lot of Athens folk, including me, were thrilled when it was announced that McGarity was returning to the UGA athletics department where he literally grew up. Greg impressed a lot of people in Athens both as a kid and while working his way up through the ranks of the UGA Athletic Association before leaving for the No. 2 job at Florida in 1992.

I didn’t know Greg that well when we were kids, since he was two years behind me in school, but I knew his brother Stu and was even better acquainted with his dad, who taught my Sunday school class for a couple of years and ran the selling of football programs at UGA home games. He and my father were friends and that’s how I came to sell programs.

My main memory of Greg is that he was great friends …

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It’s a Dawg’s life: One week to go!

Are you ready for some Dawgs football? (AJC staff)

Are you ready for some Dawgs football? (AJC staff)

Well, a week from the moment I’m writing this my wife and I will be strolling down Lumpkin Street on our way to Sanford Stadium for the the Dogs’ season opener.

I’ve never understood those folks who are still showing up after the game has started; I like to get to the stadium about an hour before kickoff so I can chat with the other fans who sit around me, soak up the game day atmosphere, watch the players warm up and get on my feet and yell as the Redcoats strike up “Krypton Fanfare” and the team walks toward the east end zone.

A friend asked me yesterday if I still get excited about the first game of the season after all these years and I said that while the prospect of seeing the Dogs play Louisiana-Lafayette might not have me at a fever pitch, the answer is definitely yes.

My pulse still quickens as I turn the corner onto the Sanford Drive bridge and the stadium looms over me. I still get a surge of adrenalin on hearing …

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Maybe Mark Richt needs to add a driver’s ed teacher to his staff

Another Bulldog traffic arrest.

Another Bulldog traffic arrest.

Well, we’re making progress. Of sorts.

At least Washaun Ealey, arrested early today on misdemeanor charges of driving with a suspended license and leaving the scene after hitting a parked truck in a campus deck, had a real license, albeit suspended. He wasn’t driving on a learner’s permit like some of his arrested teammates. And he wasn’t riding a scooter out of an alley.

Sorry, I know I should take any arrest by a UGA football player more seriously. But, really, the continuing ridiculous saga of the Bulldogs’ traffic court problems has become something of a joke. A not very funny joke.

The stupidest thing Ealey did was leave the scene after parking service attendants confronted him about the collision and told him to wait for police to arrive. It’s hard to figure how he thought he’d skate on that. Had he not noticed that UGA football players are not immune to arrest?

No alchohol was involved, thank goodness, so I’m not sure whether a couple of …

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UGA fans fired up? Worried? Yeah, we’re all that

Should Dawgs fans be concerned about Aaron Murray's practice stats? (Johnny Crawford / AJC)

Should Dawgs fans be concerned about Aaron Murray's practice stats? (Johnny Crawford / AJC)

Nine days and counting, and from what I’m hearing and seeing the UGA fan base is alternating between sky-high optimism and nervous fretting.

Take my friend Dan, who I was chatting with earlier this week. “Do you realize,” he said, “that we were three or four plays from finishing 10-and-2 last season?”

Dan put the onus for the Dogs’ disappointing 2009 showing squarely on the defense, and more specifically Willie Martinez. Which is why he’s so high on Georgia’s prospects this season. “We were that close last year and yet our defense was terrible.”

He believes that even with the Dogs having to learn the new 3-4 defensive scheme installed by Todd Grantham, “there’s no way the defense won’t be better this year.” And that means a better record, he believes, because Grantham’s more aggressive style should produce more turnovers than Martinez’s read-and-react scheme did.

Of course, quarterback …

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Richt faces decision on Hutson Mason: Play him or redshirt him?

Mark Richt must decide whether to play true freshman Hutson Mason early in the season. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

Mark Richt must decide whether to play true freshman Hutson Mason early in the season. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

There’s been considerable debate here in the past over the way Mark Richt and Mike Bobo have handled Georgia’s No. 2 quarterbacks, with a vocal contingent arguing that the Dogs should always have a backup who has real-game experience.

This year, of course, that’s complicated by the fact that Georgia’s starter doesn’t even have any real-game experience.

Plus, no one’s entirely sure who the backup quarterback is. Nominally, it’s still Logan Gray, who has appeared in preseason camp to be on his way to establishing himself as a viable receiving threat, though he’s currently hobbled by an ankle injury. In practice, the backup has been true freshman Hutson Mason, who ideally would get a redshirt year to master the Richt/Bobo offense before having to take a snap when it counts.

Richt has described the lack of experience and depth at QB this year as “scary,” and the decision …

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Back-to-back challenges loom large for Dawgs

Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn, seen celebrating here last season with Caleb King, are expected back for the opening game but have missed a lot of practice. (John Bazemore / AP)

Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn, seen celebrating here last season with Caleb King, are expected back for the opening game but have missed a lot of practice. (John Bazemore / AP)

Last week’s vacation provided a much-appreciated break from a lot of things, but being a UGA fan wasn’t one of them.

We spent Wednesday through Friday over in Athens, my hometown, and this time of year that’s sort of like Red and Black Immersion Therapy, what with a shopping spree at the UGA Bookstore, a visit to Butts-Mehre while cruising through campus and visits with old friends — which naturally included lots of conversation about the coming football season.

Among the recurring themes in recent conversations with Bulldogs fans is the early-season challenge that Mark Richt’s team faces with back-to-back noontime late-summer SEC games against South Carolina and Arkansas.

With Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn having missed much of the preseason camp and a bunch of other offensive linemen hobbled during August, …

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Dawg fans should take a moment to celebrate

Brother-in-law Steve Bryant welcomes Greg McGarity back home Friday as McGarity's sister Peggy looks on. (David Tulis / Associated Press)

Brother-in-law Steve Bryant welcomes Greg McGarity back home Friday as McGarity's sister Peggy looks on. (David Tulis / Associated Press)

There’s always plenty to worry about when you’re a Dawg fan.

The SEC wars lie ahead and Mark Richt’s 2010 Dawgs have a lot of potential, but also a lot of question marks. We saw early last season how the loss of a starter on the offensive line can get the running game out of sync, so we’re all crossing our fingers that Cordy Glenn’s bout of mono doesn’t leave a chink in that wall protecting young Aaron Murray and opening holes for Washaun Ealey and Caleb King.

Elsewhere in Athens, Mark Fox’s basketball team lost a signee this week who didn’t qualify academically, and while it’s not a major blow, it won’t help as Fox tries to live up to growing expectations for his second season in Athens.

And looking ahead, the baseball program is coming off its worst season in ages and David Perno is finding out just how quickly folks can forget about a …

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Making the right hire in Athens and lighting a fire under UGA’s quarterback

A good day to be a Dawg.

A good day to be a Dawg.

A pretty good day in Athens, to say the least.

Word leaked Thursday that Michael Adams will indeed call Greg McGarity home from Gatorland to run the University of Georgia’s athletics program, Mark Richt announced that two-way player Branden Smith is “academically in good standing” for the season, and UGA was named the 19th best public college by Forbes magazine, 10 spots above where it ranked last year.

Only downer Thursday was word that senior safety Quintin Banks’ gimpy knees are forcing him to hang it up as a player, but at least he’ll still be contributing to the team as a student coach.

Frankly, I was a bit surprised by the speed with which the decision on Georgia’s new athletic director was made, though as a fellow native Athenian I was also delighted with the choice of McGarity, whom I started touting for the job as soon as it became clear Damon Evans needed to go. Back in 1988 when Greg was first named an assistant AD at Georgia by Vince …

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It’s almost time for UGA fans to start tailgating … but where?

North Campus tailgating last year. (Photo by Bill King)

North Campus tailgating last year. (Photo by Bill King)

The Dogs scrimmaged Tuesday, my season tickets arrived, I sent off the check to reserve our spot at the church where we park and I made my reservation for the kickoff meeting of the Touchdown Club of Athens.

It’s starting to really feel like football season!

Aside from the annual shopping spree at the UGA Bookstore with my daughter next week, that pretty much takes care of my preseason preparations. But if you’re one of the folks who do tailgating in a major way (we don’t), you’ve got some issues to resolve thanks to the new restrictions, especially if you used to tailgate on the historic North Campus quads and Herty Field.

As you’ll recall, the university got fed up with the trashing of North Campus the past couple of seasons and decided to clamp down on tailgating there by issuing new rules that essentially allow nothing but low-key picnics in the area. Among the items no longer allowed are all the ingredients of …

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Bulldog Bites: On weak opening opponents and SEC power rankings

Are the Ragin' Cajuns worth sitting in the early September heat?

Are the Ragin' Cajuns worth sitting in the early September heat?

With tickets still available to Georgia’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette, I asked someone who follows the Dogs religiously but only goes to the occasional game whether he was considering taking in the home opener.

“Naw,” he said. “Noon kickoff. Too hot. I’ll watch it on TV.”

I asked another fan, who has season tickets, whether he’d be there on Sept. 4. Nope, he said. “I’m going to let a friend take my seats. I just can’t see sitting there in that heat for Louisiana-Lafayette.”

Let’s face it, as home openers go, this year’s isn’t particularly compelling. While I expect the game eventually will be an official sell-out, there’ll probably be some empty seats — just as there usually are for games against weak opponents.

And yet a year ago when the Dogs opened on the road against the highly touted Oklahoma State Cowboys, fans (and Mark Richt) were complaining that Georgia’s nonconference schedule was too tough with …

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