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 poor Richard Samuel and Boo Malcome? Do you think there’s room for all these backs or will some of them be “encouraged” to get off the bus?
I don’t think you can ever have too many tailbacks in the SEC. Look at the situation Georgia found itself in this year because of injuries and suspensions. And then there’s LSU, which had quite a bit of success sharing the load pretty equally this season between four tailbacks. That said, I think the best use of Samuel would be to move him to fullback, where he would be a better fit size-wise than Zander Ogletree, his blocking ability would be a plus, and his relative lack of speed wouldn’t be as much of a hindrance. At the very least, I hope the coaches consider cross-training Samuel at fullback and tailback. Heck, the same goes for Malcome. Why have these guys sitting on the bench behind (in no particular order) Crowell, Marshall and Gurley when they can be making a valuable contribution to the offense?
Bo from Birmingham writes: Bill, I was really alarmed to hear this week that some SEC official had said the cross-divisional “permanent” rivalries may have to be discarded. OK, that might not matter much to Gamecock fans, who got stuck with Arkansas as a permanent SEC West rival when they both came into the conference, but can the SEC really seriously be considering doing away with Georgia-Auburn, or even Alabama-Tennessee, another great rivalry? That would be insane!
That was SEC Associate Commissioner Charles Bloom, the conference’s chief spokesman, who told our sister paper, The Austin American-Statesman: “There might not be a permanent rival. Don’t read anything into [the 2012] schedule. But we are staying with eight conference games.” I agree with you that any plan that discards the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry between the Bulldogs and Tigers and the venerable rivalry between the Crimson Tide and the Vols as annual events is a bad idea. And I know UGA athletic director Greg McGarity has stressed the importance of maintaining the Georgia-Auburn rivalry, though he might end up getting outvoted. I’d prefer to see the SEC stay with the 2012 model, featuring eight conference games and maintaining the permanent rivalries. I realize that means you’d only play the rest of the teams from the other division twice (home-and-home) per decade, but I don’t think that’s a major concern for most fans. Do you really care how often Georgia plays Mississippi State or Arkansas? And I acknowledge that going to nine conference games would be more attractive to TV (getting rid of one cupcake nonconference game on each team’s schedule). But the eight-game plan provides more scheduling flexibility for schools like Georgia, Florida and South Carolina that play an in-state BCS nonconference rival every year. Still, if going to nine conference games is deemed the only way to maintain the permanent cross-divisional rivalries, I’d rather give up a cupcake than lose having Georgia-Auburn every year.
Drew in Statesboro writes: With [Orson] Charles departing for the NFL, and [Aron] White graduating, I know a lot of people are worried about the tight end spot. However, I still think Dawg fans should keep that, “we’re stacked at TE” mentality because of all the talent that still remains. Who do you think will step up and be the next star at that spot? [Artie] Lynch, [Jay] Rome, or a new face? Also, might we see one of those move to fullback like [Bruce] Figgins did?
I doubt the coaches will feel the need to move a tight end to fullback when they’ve got all those running backs. As for who’ll start at TE, I’d imagine at least early in the season that Lynch, our favorite New England Yankee, will get the nod on the basis of experience and blocking ability, but I’ll be quite surprised if Rome isn’t getting his share of playing time pretty quickly. And he’s probably more of a receiving threat than Lynch. Anyway, I think we’ll see them both — anyone for some two-tight-end sets? As for freshman Ty Smith, he’s more likely to redshirt. Of course, if the need arises, incoming freshman quarterback Faton Bauta has experience playing tight end in addition to running back, safety and linebacker.
Matt Cafaro writes: Bill, Do you think Mike Bobo’s poor use of Orson Charles during some very key in-game moments the last few years (thinking especially of the second half of the LSU game and the last two bowl games) hastened his departure from UGA? Did Charles decide to leave Georgia because he was tired of Bobo’s head-scratching game planning, play calls and inability to make in-game adjustments?
No, I don’t think Charles left out of frustration. After all, going into the bowl game, he was Georgia’s leading receiver, with 44 receptions for 572 yards and five TDs. Over his three-year career, Charles caught 94 passes for 1,370 yards, which set a UGA career yardage record for tight ends, and scored 10 touchdowns, tying the school record. As for what happened to Charles in the last two games, particularly the bowl game, did you see the penetration that Michigan State’s defense was getting through the Dawgs’ outmatched offensive line? Most of the time the tight end was needed as the sixth lineman for pass protection. I think Charles left because he justifiably reached the conclusion that his NFL prospects were already too good to pass up.
Beach Dawg Living Among Gators writes: While the way too early predictions of a Top 10 team is a warm and fuzzy for the fan base and may give a bit of nudge to recruiting, I believe there are too many intangibles: offensive line, punting, kicking and the offensive brain trust’s inability to go for the jugular and finish the kill!! Auburn and Florida are going to be much improved but, I believe, the most underrated team in the SEC is South Carolina — good defense, improved offense and a coach who thrives on finishing the kill (he and [Nick] Saban are the best in the business in this aspect).
You make a valid point. Georgia has an awful lot of experienced talent returning, looks to be on track for another stellar signing class, and has that favorable schedule. But Mark Richt and his staff are going to have to rebuild an OL that wasn’t that great to start with, and they absolutely must rethink their approach to special teams in order for the Dogs to improve on this season’s 10-4. Richt has indicated a full-time special teams coach isn’t in the offing, but naming one of his assistants to be special teams coordinator would at least be one small step in the right direction. (It’s worth noting that Steve Spurrier’s latest addition to his South Carolina staff is going to coach special teams and tight ends, with the emphasis in the announcement on the special teams duties.)
Mike Ruffin writes: Who will handle placekicking and punting for us next season?
At punter, incoming freshman Collin Barber will certainly get the opportunity to take possession of the job, and at placekicker the coaching staff has high hopes for another incoming frosh, Marshall Morgan.
Also on the subject of kickers, Jim writes: I feel a little bummed for Blair Walsh. Such a nice career to have such a bad senior season. When was the last time UGA has ever been dissapointed in a kicker? I can’t remember one. It’s usually one of our biggest strengths.
Surely you haven’t forgotten Andy Bailey. His fall wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Walsh’s because he was never as good, but after a decent if unspectacular showing as Georgia’s starting scholarship placekicker during the 2004 season, Bailey lost the job to walk-on Brandon Coutu, who went on to an All-SEC career. Then, during the 2006 season when Coutu was injured, Bailey was put back in the spotlight — and proceeded to miss a pair of field goal attempts and an extra point attempt in a loss to Kentucky. That prompted Richt to have punter Gordon Ely-Kelso try taking on placekicking as well, which produced middling results at PK and reduced his effectiveness punting. Coutu fortunately was able to return for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech.
Shep Rose writes: I nearly fell out of my chair when you said that [Matt] Stafford’s performance in the NFL shows Richt and Bobo can develop a QB. His recent success in the pros proves that they are unable to maximize potential of great athletes! I can guarantee that defenses are more complex in the NFL than college, meaning he should have shredded SEC defenses. Fact is, Stafford had a nice career, but never put up great numbers. With an innovative offensive mind at the helm, he could have had an Andrew Luck or Eli Manning type college career.
I’ll grant you that a more wide-open pass-oriented offense might have produced bigger numbers for Stafford (who still threw for 7,731 yards and 51 touchdowns in his three years at Georgia and ranks third in career passing yards behind two four-year starters, David Greene and Eric Zeier). But you can’t blame Richt and Bobo for keeping things balanced when they had a guy named Knowshon Moreno in the backfield. And Georgia’s lack of a championship during Stafford’s stay in Athens had more to do with defensive problems. Also, once Stafford, who was the overall No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, made the jump to Detroit, the coaches there remarked on how well-prepared the young quarterback was. If you’re going to blame Bobo when Georgia’s offense falters, you have to give him credit for his work with Greene, D.J. Shockley, Stafford and, so far, Aaron Murray.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg