Let’s jump right into a sampling of recent Junkyard Mail …
Ken Crow writes: Bill, I really enjoy the Blawg and your down-the-middle approach to fandom. You’re not afraid to criticize when you think it’s warranted, but you remain supportive of Coach Richt and the program and don’t continually harp on the negatives. I also appreciate your obvious love for the school and your hometown of Athens. I really wanted to get to the Classic City for G-Day this year but wasn’t able to because of some family stuff. I enjoyed your report from the game and was encouraged by what you said about the quarterbacks, running backs and defense. So who surprised you most at G-Day?
Thanks, Ken. While I thought Jay Rome’s long touchdown catch-run was the highlight of the day, it wasn’t particularly surprising, as I’d expected him to do well. And I was pleasantly surprised by the play of the starting offensive line. But I think the biggest surprise for me probably was the play of linebacker Ramik Wilson, who led the Red team defense with seven tackles (two for loss) and an interception that he returned 19 yards. And, of course, there was the play where Reuben Faloughi knocked the ball away from Black QB Parker Welch and unheralded senior defensive lineman Ricky Lowe grabbed the ball in midair and ran it back 62 yards for a touchdown, probably the highlight of his playing career at UGA. Those are the moments that make G-Day games fun.
Ed from Avondale Estates writes: So I’ve heard [Isaiah] Crowell has grown up and looks great, [Keith] Marshall is the real deal and Boo Malcome had a great spring. I’ve even gotten the position-of-the-day updates on Richard Samuel. Why no [Todd] Gurley updates? I have high hopes for that kid and he’s gotten no spring press. What’s the word?
The word is he’s still in high school. Gurley was not one of the UGA signees who enrolled early this year. But the coaches are very high on his potential and while he’ll start out preseason camp in August behind all the other tailbacks, I have a feeling his talent will show pretty quickly. Perhaps even enough for him to avoid taking a redshirt season in a crowded tailback corps.
Richard Hong writes: I wish someone would write an article that would explain why the QB position is not a wide open competition to see who should be the starter for this year. Sorry, but my untrained eyes just don’t see why people think [Aaron] Murray is such a good QB. He throws a lot of interceptions, makes a lot of bad decisions, can’t get out of the pocket when he needs to, fumbles when he does run and CANNOT throw the ball on the run. So please, would someone tell me what I’m not seeing?
On a similar note, Michael Jones writes: I like Aaron Murray but I am concerned with his accuracy and his trend of turning the ball over in big games that absolutely kill the Dawgs. Have you heard of outside the box training for Murray to get him to be more accurate and protecting the football? He got us to the SEC Championship game, I just want to see him make the next step.
I know there’s a segment of Bulldogs fandom that’s very down on Murray and convinced that Mark Richt and Mike Bobo are blindly letting him hold on to the starting quarterback’s job despite the obvious talents of backups Hutson Mason and Christian LeMay. Some folks even believe there’s some sort of “conspiracy” to keep Murray in a job he doesn’t deserve. I suppose some fans are remembering how Jim Donnan fell in love with Quincy Carter and ran off all his other quarterbacks. But this situation is nothing like that one. There’s a reason Murray made some All-SEC teams and is routinely cited by national sports media as one of the best QBs in the conference. He was the SEC’s No. 2 passer, throwing for 3,149 yards and 35 touchdowns a season ago. He ranked second in passing yards per game, second in total offense and fourth in passing efficiency. Of the returning quarterbacks in FBS football, only Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley threw for more touchdowns (37) in 2011 than Murray. Yes, Murray threw too many interceptions last season and had a couple of very costly fumbles. Richt himself has noted Murray needs to do a better job of taking care of the football. But as I wrote when we discussed Murray in January, the argument can be made that his tendency to fumble or throw a pick 6 at the worst possible time might be at least in part attributable to the sketchy protection he was getting from Georgia’s erratic offensive line and, in the last couple of games, the lack of a consistent running attack. This year he’ll again open the season behind a questionable OL, but he should have a much more potent, consistent group of running backs, which Bobo has said he thinks will make Murray a better quarterback. And sheer experience should help Murray make better on-field decisions and improve his ball security. He’s a good on-field leader and showed in last year’s Florida game that he can make big-time throws in tough situations, especially those two fourth-down touchdowns. I know, the knock on him is that he’s yet to beat a really good team. And I’ll agree that Mason and LeMay both show a lot of potential. But, frankly, from what I’ve seen so far, neither one is ready yet to supplant Murray.
Devon Wade writes: Bill, I am a former Tucker Tiger and if you know anything about Ga. high school football you will know that Tucker High School has been a UGA pipeline for several years now. It is most definitely Dawg Country. However, when I graduated high school I landed at a small liberal arts college right outside of Columbia, Mo. (right in the middle of Tiger Country). My roommate during my entire time in college is a die-hard Mizzou fan, and of course I am a Dawg through and through. We have always joked around about whose team would win if the two ever faced. Well lo and behold the semester AFTER we graduate they become division rivals and I know he has been salivating with the recent suspensions of key players going into that game in Columbia (which I will be at with him). I am still confident that between now and then CMR can get some players to fill in the holes in the secondary and I think our front seven can get enough pressure to make [Mizzou quarterback James] Franklin more uncomfortable than he has ever been. I believe our defense is still more talented than theirs even without several starters. Should I have reason to still be confident that we can pick up the W in Columbia minus key players? Appreciate your consideration. Big fan of the Blawg.
Thanks. I tend to agree with you, Devon. While Georgia won’t enter the game against Missouri at full-strength, I think the Dogs’ defensive front seven will be formidable. And from what I saw last year of Mizzou’s defense, I don’t believe it’s yet SEC-ready.
Richard Judy writes: Enjoyed your comment about my hero, Fred Birchmore. I am a ’73 UGA grad, and just after graduating I hiked the Appalachian Trail from Maine back to Georgia. Fred and [son] Danny read an article I wrote in the old AJC Sunday Magazine and asked me to counsel them on their upcoming Georgia to Maine AT thru-hike. I was invited into the Birchmore home and quickly discovered what special people these were. Fred and Danny needed no advice from me, but they made me feel like a real friend. A few years back, when my daughter was a J-school student at UGA, she contacted Fred about doing a story for the old UGAzine publication. He treated her like royalty and said very kind things to her about her old man. Fred was a class act, the kind of man who deserved a century of high-quality living.
Thanks, Richard. You’re right that the Birchmores are a very special family and Athens and UGA are both much better off for them having been there.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg