Replacing a legend is nearly always a thankless job, but new head coaches rarely step into a more difficult situation than Jay Clark did following on the high-heels of Suzanne Yoculan.
Yoculan built the Georgia program into a national power, winning 10 national championships, including five consecutive NCAA titles to cap off her incredible career.
The drop-off during Clark’s brief tenure, unfortunately, was just as dramatic, with the Gym Dogs missing the NCAA tournament completely one year and never making it to the final six.
It’s a shame, especially since Clark was Yoculan’s longtime assistant and was instrumental in those championships. If Yoculan had gone ahead and hung it up when she first announced her retirement in 2007, instead of coaching two more valedictory seasons, it’s entirely likely that Clark, her designated successor, would have begun his head coaching career at UGA with two national titles. That, of course, would have built up more than enough credit for him to survive through a few lean years.
But that’s not the way it went, and while the Gym Dogs spent most of this season as a Top 5 team, they wound up finishing 11th in the recent NCAA tournament. So Clark’s resignation Friday doesn’t come as a big surprise.
I’m particularly sorry to see it happen, though, because Jay, a close friend of my brother Jonathan, is a UGA grad and, more than that, an ardent Bulldog fan through and through. As he told our Chip Towers Friday, “I’ll always be a Dawg. I’ve always loved this place and I always will.”
Here’s wishing the best for Jay Clark, a damn good Dawg!
Now, let’s get to some Junkyard Mail …
Ron in Asheville writes: Hi Bill, In the old days, I hardly gave the South Carolina game much thought. Now, I want the Dawgs to whip Spurrier’s team by 50 points. What are our chances of reversing the Gamecock win streak this fall?
As I wrote a couple of months ago, it’s kind of early to be handicapping the season, but at this point I’d say South Carolina definitely looks like the toughest game for the Dawgs in 2012. True, the Gamecocks lose star receiver Alshon Jeffery, but they have highly touted freshman Shaq Roland coming in. Carolina does have to replace a couple of starters on the offensive line (not as extensive a rebuilding project as Georgia’s), but Connor Shaw looks to be coming along pretty well at QB and, of course, at running back Marcus Lattimore should be the class of the conference, if he’s fully recovered from last season’s injury. On defense, Jadeveon Clowney is back but the Gamecocks have to replace several key starters, so that’s probably their biggest question mark. I expect the Georgia-South Carolina game to be a close one, as usual. But fortunately for the Dawgs, the schedule again favors UGA, so even if Steve Spurrier manages to take his third in a row, Georgia still stands a good shot at winning the SEC East. And that’s what really counts.
SammyDawg writes: Bill, now that Michael Adams is on his way out, I think it’s inevitable that Vince Dooley’s name will somehow get attached to UGA’s stadium, don’t you? I don’t expect it to happen until after Adams is gone (he’s too small a man to make a magnanimous gesture like that), but I figure his replacement will want to heal the rift in the Bulldog Nation by reaching out to the Dooley camp. I favor Sanford-Dooley Stadium over Dooley-Sanford Stadium, but I’d be happy with either one. What about you?
Sammy, I think your analysis is probably spot-on. Between the two choices you offer, I’d tend to favor Sanford-Dooley, but I’ve actually come around to preferring Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium, which would allow the former coach-athletic director to be properly honored without going against the wishes of the Sanford family, who are on record as being against a hyphenated name.
Skyler Holcomb writes: Bill, First and foremost let me just say that I thoroughly enjoy reading your Blawg. It is by far my favorite source of information regarding my Dawgs. I know that the issue of drug testing and the possibility of uniformity has been a highly debated subject among universities and so forth, but my question is this, why would UGA pick the week after spring break to drug test the players? I agree with the university’s stance on drug related punishments, but come on. They’re just setting themselves up for failure if they test these 19, 20, 21-year-old kids the week after their one major break from school. What’s your stance?
I agree that testing right after students returned from spring break was not the most competitive move UGA’s coaches could have made, but perhaps they were looking to send a larger message to the players, who had been warned right before the break. If so, let’s hope it was received.
Jesse Murrah writes: Bill, I’d like to know more about our new kickers. Kickers are just about the most important players on any team, but they never get talked about until they miss. I have heard that one of our new guys kicked 98 percent of his high school kickoffs out of the end zone. It would be great if he did that 100 percent of the time with the Dawgs, eliminating kickoff returns (I’m thinking Honey Badger) and forcing opponents to start every drive on the 20.
Incoming freshmen Marshall Morgan (placekicker) and Collin Barber (punter) are considered the likely starters, though they’ll have to win the jobs in preseason camp. Morgan is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and reportedly has a very strong leg. It’s notable that while kickers are usually pretty much ignored by the recruiting services, he was generally considered a three-star prospect. He was extremely reliable kicking field goals in high school, hitting 15 of 16 his junior year and 10 of 12 as a senior. His longest to date is 59 yards, I believe. He’s the one you’ve heard about putting 98 percent of his kickoffs in the end zone. And while he’s seen as a placekicker, he can punt as well. Barber, the favorite at punter, is from Cartersville. He averaged 43 yards on his punts, was variously rated as a two-star or three-star prospect and was ranked as the No. 6 high school punter in the nation.
Traveling down a well-worn path, Zackariah M. Craig writes: What has Aaron Murray done that makes him untouchable as the starting QB? I would argue that UGA has won in spite of him. UGA has not beaten any team that had more talent than it has since Murray was the starter. In addition, Murray comes up small in all of the big UGA games. SC, UF, LSU, and Boise State were all poor games for him. 0-2 record in bowl games even though UGA had the better teams. Is there anything that can happen this year to open up the QB competition?
Short of an injury to Murray, I think you better get used to him as Georgia’s starter. Meanwhile, here’s a reader who takes a different view of the quarterback situation …
Robert Clements writes: The thing that gripes me the MOST is the rentless bashing coach Mark Richt for playing Murray instead of [Hutson] Mason and the stupid statement that Murray has never beaten or has only beaten ranked teams a few times, blah, blah, blah!!!! Do you ever see them say Jarvis Jones or Tavarres King has never beaten any team? Football is a team game and if one or more don’t do their job bad things can and usually do happen. Nobody of sound mind actually believes CMR does not play the guys that give UGA the best chance of winning. At least the trolls have gotten off Isaiah Crowell while they are on Murray. IC, by the way, will be the top RB in the SEC IF he stays healthy.
You make a good point about it being a team game, though quarterbacks tend to get more than their share of the blame for a loss. As for running back, I don’t know if he’ll be the top back in the SEC, but a healthy Crowell certain should be among the conference’s best. And, fortunately, he looks to have stiff competition on his own team.
Stew Lipham writes: Heard on Dan Patrick show that Mo Lewis’ son is 6′8 in 8th grade and has two D1 offers, but not from UGA. For the love of our program, why not?!
Both New Mexico and Memphis have offered early scholarships to Chris Lewis, a 6-foot-7, 190-pound forward at age 14 who is already attracting a lot of attention. However, making scholarship offers to kids still in middle school isn’t the norm, though it’s certainly a good way for a school to get an athlete’s attention. Still, before his high school days in Milton are done, he’s likely to have lots of offers in hand, including one from UGA.
Got something on your mind concerning UGA athletics or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg