Spring practice shifts into high gear Saturday as the Dogs put on full pads for the first time. This is when the serious hitting starts and the competition for starting jobs really heats up. Speaking of which, a reader has a question about one of the more interesting spring battles as we dip into some of this week’s Junkyard Mail …
Poposhandarius writes: How are the tight ends looking? Will Lynch and Jay Rome be splitting snaps?
A lot of folks might have assumed that Rome will ascend to the starting spot this season since he was ESPN’s top-rated tight end prospect when he signed last year with Georgia (sometimes known as Tight End U). Rome redshirted last year and spent time on the basketball team. But towering New England Yankee Artie Lynch, a redshirt junior who has waited his turn behind Orson Charles and Aron White, isn’t going to step out of the way. Lynch told The Red and Black: “My goal is to be the starting tight end for Georgia for the next two seasons.” This should be one of the more competitive positions for the Dogs. You’d have to figure Lynch as the more solid blocker, but he showed at G-Day a couple of years ago that he can make big catches, too. “Artie’s made some huge plays, caught like a 40-yard touchdown [on] a little post pattern,” quarterback Aaron Murray told the R&B. As for Rome, Murray said, “Jay’s looking awesome. You always want him to be here for workouts and throwing, but I definitely think he got quicker [and] more fluid with everything just doing so many basketball workouts, so he looks good.” Lynch, who has started out the spring at No. 1 on the depth chart, is banking on keeping the job by proving to Mike Bobo that he’s dependable. “To be honest, I really just want to gain the respect and confidence of Coach Bobo,” he told the R&B. “You depend on the dependable. You don’t depend on the undependable, which sounds pretty basic, but it’s really the truth. I think if I can show him that I have the knowledge of the offense and he’s able move me around to different spots, I’m more than happy to do that.” Actually, that attitude on Lynch’s part could wind up giving Rome more playing time at TE, as backup QB Hutson Mason told The Athens Banner-Herald this week that Lynch is getting some reps at fullback as well. “He knows tight end really well since he’s been here for so long, so he’s learning fullback, just seeing how he handles it. As a quarterback, you always want some guys in the backfield that are going to be able to protect and pick up the blitz. You never worry when Artie’s back there if you’re going to get smacked in the backside. He’s 280 pounds, and he’s grumpy.” Lynch said he’s also been lining up in some formations as an H-back, a hybrid of fullback and tight end. Whether it’s at TE or FB, I like the sound of big and grumpy. Right now, I’d say Lynch is likely to be the starter at tight end but he and Rome should split the playing time. And that looks like a good plan.
Barry Marshall writes: I know Alabama and LSU and USC are the teams getting mentioned most often so far as likely contenders for this year’s BCS national championship, but I’m thinking if the Dawgs win the East again as expected and can put together a full four quarters against LSU or Bama in the Dome and win the conference, they might actually wind up with a pretty good shot at the crystal ball. Am I just having your typical spring dream, Bill? Does anyone else give Georgia props in the BCS?
Actually, Bruce Feldman of CBSsports.com ran down some of the dark horse contenders this week and noted that Vegas has the odds for Georgia at 14-1. Said Feldman: “There is a lot to like about the Dawgs in 2012: Aaron Murray is back for a third season as the starting QB; they are deeper at RB and almost everyone from a nasty defense returns. Another huge factor of why I’m thinking of boarding this bandwagon is the schedule: You realistically cannot get a much more manageable route as an SEC team that what Georgia has this fall: They avoid Bama, LSU and Arkansas, the league’s three most talented teams; they traded Boise State for Buffalo in the non-conference; they get Ga. Tech in Athens. And Florida and Tennessee are still sorting out rebuilding issues. The one snag is an October trip to South Carolina. Oh, and they have the SEC juice of six BCS titles in a row. I still think Bama and LSU have better shots to win it all, but at 14-1, the Dawgs would be a tempting pick.”
Steve Segrest writes: Several weeks ago you had a discussion on the low student attendance at games. When I walked around campus in visiting my daughter, I was amazed at the number of women, saying to myself, “It’s like UGA has become a school for women.” My daughter was just never really interested that much in sports. The high number of women at UGA probably answers your question on attendance.
UGA says that 60 percent of its fall 2011 total enrollment of 34,765 was women. Now, granted, some of them probably aren’t as interested in football as guys, but I’ve known quite a few female students at UGA that were ardent football fans — and some guys who weren’t. The demographics might be a slight factor, but from what I’ve heard from UGA students the main reason for the empty seats at games is students’ inability to resell their tickets since they went to loading them electronically on the ID cards. When they could resell hard tickets easily, the seats were full. Now that they can’t, you sometimes get several thousand empty seats. Seems like there’s a pretty simple solution there that the athletic association is avoiding because they don’t like students scalping their discounted tickets.
David Rosenberg writes: Love your column. I am a third-generation Bulldog. With the Lady Dawgs getting bounced from [the NCAA] Tournament and occupying the same conference as the great Pat Summitt, it begs the question: HAS ANDY LANDERS UNDERACHIEVED AT UGA? I love Coach Landers and think he has done a very fine job building this program, but it seems as though they cannot take the next big step. We want ALL our teams to do well, so I ask this question as part of wanting excellence in all our sports.Interested in your opinion.
Along the same lines, Rakkasan Dawg writes: I think it’s time Andy Landers retired from UGA and here is why. Not since Miller twins has UGA been remotely competitive. They’ve steadily fallen off the top tier of NCAA teams. Even in the SEC Kentucky has surpassed the Lady Dawgs. I don’t see a competitive team at the school anymore and I think this stems from the top. Coach Landers is no longer getting the competitive Georgia players and none nationally that are as impactful as that 02-03 class. UGA is in danger of becoming an also-ran team if there is not significant shakeup at the top. … What say you?
I think a good case can be made that the Lady Dogs basketball program has reached a plateau over the past several years and this year’s team was certainly a disappointment, having been expected to at least put Georgia in the Sweet 16 again. Still, Landers remains an enthusiastic coach and he has a veteran team returning next year, including four starters, plus four of the incoming freshmen are four-star recruits, so it’s not like Georgia has fallen off the map in that regard. And that should help with the lack of depth that was a problem this season. So I don’t see any immediate change on the horizon. You also have to keep in mind that Landers built the UGA women’s program from scratch and has had a lot of long-term success, which athletic director Greg McGarity is well aware of, having worked with Landers as the team’s sports information director years ago. You don’t push out a Hall of Fame coach casually. Still, if the Lady Dogs continue to just barely make the NCAA and not advance, I wouldn’t be that surprised to see Landers and McGarity have that discussion in a couple of years over whether it’s time to retire.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg