We won’t know until August whether Mark Richt’s 2011 Dogs will crack the AP and coaches preseason rankings, but Georgia moved up in the post-spring practice edition of the Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 poll from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.
Schlabach, who used to cover Georgia for the AJC and knows the SEC well, had seven conference teams ranked (more than any other conference), with Alabama at No. 2, LSU at 5, Arkansas at 11, UGA at 17, South Carolina at 19, Florida at 24 and Mississippi State at 25. South Carolina slipped from 15th place in Schlabach’s post-signing day ranking and Florida fell from 20th. Auburn had been ranked in the earlier listing but didn’t make the cut this time. Boise State, UGA’s opening opponent, ranked 7th.
Georgia’s placement was up one notch from 18th in the earlier ranking. Said Schlabach: “Bulldogs coach Mark Richt probably isn’t on the hot seat, but his program definitely needs to regain momentum in 2011. Georgia lost star receiver A.J. Green to the NFL draft, and then starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant suffered a season-ending knee injury during spring practice. Quarterback Aaron Murray returns for his second season as a starter, but the Bulldogs left spring practice still searching for a No. 1 tailback. Incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell will have a chance to win the job during preseason camp. The Bulldogs should be better in Year 2 of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme, especially if JUCO nose tackle Jonathan Jenkins is as a good as advertised. Tackle Kwame Geathers’ improvement during the spring was a big surprise. Georgia plays only four true road games (at Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech) and plays Boise State in Atlanta and Florida in Jacksonville.”
So what do you think? Does Schlabach have the Dogs too high? About right? There might even be a few folks who think they’re not ranked high enough (and if so please share the reasons for your unbounded optimism).
PAYOFF FOR COACHING OR RECRUITING?
A lot of eyebrows were raised when our Chip Towers reported that Georgia running backs coach Bryan McClendon had his salary more than doubled in the offseason, despite the Dogs ranking 10th in the conference in rushing in a losing season last year. But as Dawgs 247 pointed out, the raise for McClendon, which UGA says was a counter-offer to a bid for the coach from another school, came shortly after National Signing Day in February, and McClendon was the lead recruiter in Georgia signing Crowell.
Anyway, the news of the hefty raise certainly explains Richt’s heated response last week in Macon to a fan who harshly criticized McClendon.
“Bryan McClendon is a hell of a coach, he’s a hell of a recruiter,” Richt said.
Maybe the order of importance there should have been reversed.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg