Archive for January, 2012

Keep talking Dawgs!

A personal note: Many of you will recall my writing about my Dad, who raised me as a Georgia Bulldog from as early as I can remember, sent all three of his sons to the University of Georgia, and who, even at the age of 89, has continued to wear his collection of UGA caps proudly.classic uga logo

Well, I’m sorry to report that Dad is in failing health in Athens and I’m shuttling back and forth between there and Atlanta, so my blogging this week may be less frequent. I appreciate your understanding and your good thoughts and prayers.

Even if there isn’t a new posting here, feel free to continue discussing the Dawgs in the comments, but please keep it clean and civil. Thanks.

Go Dogs!

Got something on your mind concerning UGA athletics or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

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Fan talk: Now South Carolina wants to change the rules

sec-pinwheel-logojpg-f806e20b1171f261Time to dip into some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

MonroeDawg writes: Did you see the latest from South Carolina? They’re so upset about losing the SEC East to Georgia that their athletic department is petitioning the SEC to change the rules so that games against your own division count a whole game while games against the other division only count half a game. They still can’t get over the fact that they beat Georgia and all the other SEC East teams this year but lost the division because the Dawgs had a better overall conference record. I can’t believe they’ll get anywhere with this. What do you think?

I think those grapes are mighty sour over in Gamecock country. The proposal you mention came from USC-East trustee Chuck Allen, who can’t handle South Carolina not winning the East two years in a row. One division title and suddenly they’re feeling entitled in Columbia! “It just seems fair that the team that won all its division games would be the division champ,” Allen …

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What’s the biggest concern on Mark Richt’s to-do list?

Mark Richt has some work ahead of him if he wants to have another celebration like this in 2012. (Associated Press)

Mark Richt has some work ahead of him if he wants to have another celebration like this in 2012. (Associated Press)

Outside the Bulldog Nation, Mark Richt’s 2012 team is being viewed as a preseason Top 10 lock, thanks to returning talent (including virtually the entire defense) and a favorable schedule. But all that enthusiasm is being tempered among many Dogs fans by concerns about some of the things on Richt’s offseason to-do list.

The head coach himself has listed improvement on special teams as a top priority for the offseason, saying “there’s no doubt that we’ve got to be a whole lot better on special teams top to bottom.”

In the absence of naming a special teams coordinator (which many of us still would like to see), that’s likely to come down to a commitment to play more starters on the punt and kick teams and an overall greater emphasis on preparation in that area of the game. Of course, the Dogs also will be breaking in a new placekicker and a new punter, so those …

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Does Aaron Murray have the makings of a championship QB?

Can Aaron Murray become an elite quarterback for Georgia? (Associated Press)

Can Aaron Murray become an elite quarterback for Georgia? (Associated Press)

It’s tough finding a consensus lately among Georgia fans on quarterback Aaron Murray.

In his second season behind center for the Dogs, Murray completed 218 of 371 passes for 2,861 yards (a 58.8 percent completion rate) and broke the single-season school record for touchdown throws with 33. He also ran for two scores, giving him the UGA record for single-season touchdown responsibility.

And in the SEC, he ranked second in passing (220.1 yards per game), second in total offense (229.6) and fourth in passing efficiency (146.4).

Stats like that are why Murray made some All-SEC teams and is routinely cited by national sports media as one of the best QBs in the conference. It’s a major reason the Dogs will enter next season highly rated.

But closer to home the excitement over Murray’s passing numbers is tempered by frustration over his penchant this season for devastating turnovers against South Carolina, …

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Fan talk: How many tailbacks is too many for the Dawgs?

Would Richard Samuel be a good fit at fullback? (Associated Press)

Would Richard Samuel be a good fit at fullback? (Associated Press)

All in all, it was a pretty good week for the Georgia Bulldogs — football variety, at least. Todd Grantham’s defense will be intact next season, and Grantham apparently rebuffed interest from the Falcons; the Dogs lost only one player to the NFL draft; backup QB Hutson Mason decided to redshirt rather than transfer; and Mark Richt got commitments from a five-star defender and another highly rated running back. Sounds like a good time to sample the Junkyard Mail …

Harry Peterson writes: Like most Dawg fans I’m thrilled that Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will be joining our team, and I’m one of those who believes the competition will be good for Isaiah Crowell and force him to increase his effort and perseverance. But what is the coaching staff going to do with all those other tailbacks? Carlton Thomas can still maybe serve as a change-of-pace back, if he doesn’t get himself kicked off the team, but what about …

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Returning defensive starters put UGA in strong position

Shawn Williams says all the juniors on Georgia's defense will be back next season. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Shawn Williams says all the juniors on Georgia's defense will be back next season. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

If defense wins championships, as the saying goes, then the latest reports out of Athens mean Georgia should be looking good this coming season.

First, Bacarri Rambo announced that he would be returning for his senior season at UGA rather than enter the NFL draft and now fellow safety Shawn Williams is saying he’ll be staying at Georgia and that he believes “everybody will be back” on defense.

That would mean nine of the regular starters will return from a group that finished the year ranked fifth in the country in total defense, with only departing seniors Brandon Boykin and DeAngelo Tyson missing.

The good news was topped off with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham shooting down return-to-the-NFL rumors by issuing a statement Wednesday that he wants to be at UGA “a long time.” Grantham said he was speaking up “because of the terrific recruiting class we are assembling …

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Dawgs showing up in preseason Top 10 rankings (UPDATED)

Brandon Boykin won the Paul Hornung Award. (Associated Press)

Brandon Boykin won the Paul Hornung Award. (Associated Press)

Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs fared better in the final college football rankings than I had feared, managing to stay in the Top 20 of both polls despite losing their last two games. UGA was No. 19 in the final AP poll and No. 20 in the USA Today Coaches poll.

Of course, it probably didn’t hurt Georgia that one of those final two losses was the SEC championship game and the the bowl loss was a three-overtime affair, or that all four of the Dogs’ losses this season were to teams that finished in the USA Today Coaches’ poll Top 10 and the Top 11 of the Associated Press ranking.

Based on returning talent and a favorable schedule (and perhaps depending on who all leaves or doesn’t leave for the NFL), it’s likely that Georgia will start the 2012 season at least in the vicinity of the Top 10.

Meanwhile, Monday saw running back Keith Marshall on campus in Athens, highly-rated defensive end recruit Jordan Jenkins picking …

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Fan talk: Was Richt coaching ‘not to lose’ rather than to win?

Some fans would like to see a more aggressive Mark Richt. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Some fans would like to see a more aggressive Mark Richt. (Jason Getz / AJC)

There’s nothing like losing a bowl game you should have won to stir up the fan base, even after a 10-win season and division title. And it’s true, as Greg McGarity has noted, that had Blair Walsh made that field goal, fans overall would be extremely happy even though the same problems facing the team would still need resolution. Nevertheless, the Junkyard Mail this week was overflowing with notes from folks who definitely were not happy. Here’s a representative sampling …

Andrew in Charleston writes: Bill, I have watched, like the rest of Bulldog Nation, the coaching staff routinely coach “not to lose” instead of coach to win. Late in the fourth quarter, we needed one first down to ice the game and Bobo/Richt go with three stuffed runs. They put the pressure on the gassed D to “not lose” rather than the offense to win. Does the staff really not have enough faith in their players to get one first down? …

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Big questions temper optimism as Dogs look ahead to 2012

Georgia returns a lot of talent, including Aaron Murray, but still has some major concerns to deal with in 2012. (Associated Press)

Georgia returns a lot of talent, including Aaron Murray, but still has some major concerns to deal with in 2012. (Associated Press)

A week ago, in the wake of the SEC’s 2012 schedule being announced, optimism was running wild in the Bulldog Nation.

This week, after watching the Dogs again collapse in the second half amid continued problems with special teams play and establishing a running game, many Georgia fans are tempering their optimism.

The Dogs still may start out next season as a Top 10 team based on a load of returning talent and an even more favorable schedule than this year’s, but there will be some big challenges, especially if the team is hit with major losses to the NFL. Orson Charles going pro would hurt, but the chance of the defense possibly losing two or three underclassmen is more worrisome.

Meanwhile, the offensive line, which was good enough against middling teams this season but gave up 33 sacks and faltered against the four best defenses Georgia faced, …

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Same old problems plague Dogs in loss to Spartans

Brandon Boykin had a career day against Michigan State — but it wasn't enough. (Associated Press)

Brandon Boykin had a career day against Michigan State — but it wasn't enough. (Associated Press)

Mark Richt’s Bulldogs didn’t have to find any new ways to lose in the Outback Bowl — instead, they simply let lots of familiar problems resurface in suffering another second-half collapse and dropping a three-overtime battle with Michigan State.

Again, the Dogs wasted a superlative first-half defensive effort by giving the opponent a couple of cheap touchdowns thanks to turnovers by an erratic Aaron Murray, whose two interceptions put the Spartans back in the ball game.

Again, Georgia’s almost complete lack of a running game made the Dog’ offense one-dimensional. And was anyone at all surprised when Isaiah Crowell, reduced to a backup role, limped off the field after a handful of runs?

Again, placekicker Blair Walsh, once one of the nation’s premier specialists, proved himself more a liability than a weapon and ended up costing Georgia the game by missing two kicks in OT.

And …

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