Like many of you I had some time off this week, but let’s get back in gear with a look at the cover of this year’s UGA football media guide, which is now available for perusing online. And if you’re one of those folks who still want a printed hard copy, you can order one from the Georgia Athletic Association. Just send a check for $18 to: UGA Media Guide, P.O. Box 1472, Athens, GA 30603-1472.
Now, let’s get to some Junkyard Mail. …
Terry Perkins writes: Bill, did you see Cornelius Washington’s comments on Facebook bashing the UGA fans who were criticizing Isaiah Crowell after his arrest? I couldn’t believe his disrespectful attitude toward the fans any more than I could his blind support of his former teammate, the accused felon. Do you think Washington is typical of the sort of players Mark Richt has brought to Athens, and if so does that at all disturb you?
Terry is referring to Washington’s Facebook post in which he said fans “think you know so much, but in reality you know nothing” about the players and their struggles. He said, “99% of you don’t give a crap about us outside of football. When we’re doing well you’re all in our faces, when things get tough and we need encouragement you’re nowhere to be found. You’re fake and I despise you for it. We shall band together guys, we’ve been working hard and we only need each other. NONE of those outsiders will contribute to our survival as a team or as individuals, you can guarantee that.”
Predictably, the reaction among fans on various social media sites was rather critical of Washington, with many echoing the rather heated sentiments that fan Bobby Nettles of East Atlanta posted on his Facebook page. In extremely blunt language, Nettles noted, among other things, that UGA football players have many advantages that fans never had and advised Washington and his teammages that “Your little boy brains need to catch up to your full grown man bodies … You’re blessed with health, superior athletic ability, and keen minds … every advantage possible. Free school, a huge support system, the adulation of fans everywhere … and somehow, we just don’t understand?”
Before we use one ill-considered Facebook post as an indictment of UGA players in general and Washington in particular, let’s keep in mind we’re talking about something posted by a college student who was reacting in anger to what he perceived as unfair criticism of a teammate. It’s one of the dangers of today’s “instant” communication that a tweet or FB posting or email is sent before you’ve had a chance to think it over.
Fortunately, after doing so Washington has apologized. In a recent Facebook post, he addresses the “Dawg Nation” and says, “I am at fault because no matter how I felt I should never have let those feeling[s] get control of my better judgment. I should have kept it to myself and let the entire situation die down. My biggest regret about the whole thing is that it has cause[d] so much disruption amongst the team. I forgot for a minute that I am here to get an education and play football and that pretty much is the extent of my responsibilities. I am not here to complain about the fanatics and for that I do apologize. I am a leader and I care about the guys that I lead. Believe me, I do know and understand that my teammate made a very bad decision and had to face the consequences, but I[‘d] rather support him than be negative toward him. I[‘d] rather help him succeed because I saw all the work that he had put in since spring and I was looking forward to seeing him play! The bottom line is that he has moved on and I’m happy he has found a place to continue his career, but the best thing for UGA football is to let this go and move forward positively. I would like to ask all the fans and supporters out there to help us with this by letting it go also. We have to continue to work hard and do our very best to get to Miami like we planned and I want all of you along for the ride.”
In the wake of that post, Nettles has responded in kind on his Facebook page: “In the face of scathing criticism from myself and others the young man stood tall and took responsibility. If you liked my rant pertaining to Mr. Washington, you should LOVE this. Well done young man, and I apologize if my rant got a little bugged eyed nutty.I hope you have a great season and I’ll be barking with the rest of the pack …”
Dr. Dawg write: Bill, I’m really alarmed at the roster attrition that’s decimating our football team! We were already way below the limit of 85 players on scholarship, and now we hear that in addition to Cootie Harrow not making grades, Brandon Burrows is transferring in order to get more playing time in a defense more suited to him and we have another player waiting to hear from the NCAA clearinghouse. Plus, of course, the guys suspended for the early games. And who knows what sort of injuries will hit once camp starts in August. I’m concerned we’re going to wind up playing walk-ons a lot more than ought to be the case with a team contending for the conference championship. Are you as worried as I am?
Yes, I am. It appears with the recent departures that UGA’s roster has dipped below 70 scholarship players, not counting the walk-ons awarded battlefield promotions. To put that into rather alarming perspective, that’s less than the scholarship limits imposed on Southern Cal as part of its NCAA probation! While the reasons for the many departures from the program have varied from academics and arrests to injury problems, disagreements with the coaching staff and frustration over lack of playing time — making it difficult to identify an underlying cause — there’s no denying that the trend is disturbing. And once full-contact drills start, Mark Richt might find it difficult to field the sort of two-deep roster he’d like to have. In the past, similar problems saw Richt cut back on contact in practice, only to regret it later when his players got pushed around a bit by opponents. So that problem could rear its head again. And while most fans have applauded Richt’s determination to have starters playing special teams, that’s also likely to increase the chance of injuries and make the lack of quality depth a factor. The UGA staff has indicated they might sign as many as 30 players in the next class to try and bolster the team’s ranks, and increasingly that looks like something they’re absolutely going to have to do.
Josh Cuevas writes: Bill, Now that the Isaiah Crowell situation has had a chance to sink in, how about an objective post mortem on his time at UGA? … I remember few athletes who came to Athens with such immense expectations and then actually showed themselves to be worthy, athletically, of the accolades as true freshmen. Yet by the time the news broke last week of Crowell’s arrest, very few Bulldog fans, justifiably, thought twice about showing him the door. With the flashes of brilliance juxtaposed against the suspensions, the time he took himself to the sidelines when he was needed on the field, and ultimately the arrest, it’s a strange and sad end to what was once unlimited potential. I hope the young man can do something productive with his life, but his story, in retrospect, will likely go down as one of the sadder cases in the annuls of Georgia football.
That’s a fact, Josh. During those brief times last season when Crowell was completely healthy and stayed in the game, he looked like a definite game-breaker. Unfortunately, he appeared to lack the toughness that is an essential for long-term success as an SEC back. Whether he could have developed that this season, we’ll never know. At least we can fully understand now why UGA continued to recruit five- and four-star backs even after having Crowell named the AP’s SEC freshman of the year.
Jonathan Brian Perren writes: Bill, I wanted to ask with the upcoming playoff and selection committee choosing the 4 teams for 2014 what do you think the number of universities will be that will try to beef up their nonconference schedules against weaker teams from a BCS conference to try to take schools from the FCS schools like the SEC likes to do out of their schedules? To me it looks a lot better to play a weaker team from a BCS conference in the PAC 12 such as Oregon State or Cal, Big 12 (Kansas or Iowa State), and Big East (San Diego State or Temple) or even an independent like BYU than to have a Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, or Georgia Southern on the schedule. I know Clemson is going to be on the schedule in the future but my understanding is that it will be every 6 years not a yearly game. What is your take and how many AD’s do you see trying to schedule this way to please a playoff selection committee beyond 2014?
If strength of schedule really does become a determining factor in the playoff, I think you’ll definitely see a turnabout in scheduling philosophy, and Greg McGarity has indicated he’s holding off on future scheduling right now until he can see how this works out. Does Georgia need to play the sort of killer schedule that it had in 2009? No. But having a Clemson or kickoff classic type opponent on the schedule, say, every other year isn’t too much to expect. And, yes, I think you’re likely to see fewer FCS teams taking those cupcake spots and more teams from the likes of the Sun Belt and MAC conferences. Of course, Georgia Southern and other FCS schools are talking about moving up to the top division, so they still might show up on SEC schedules.
Phillip Joiner writes: Bill, The following are the running backs coaches of the Mark Richt era, the players they had under their purview who contributed, and their on and off the field performance:
Tony Pierce (2001-2002): Verron Haynes , Mike Gilliam, Musa Smith, Michael Cooper, Tony Milton, J.T. Wall, Ronnie Powell. Wall and Haynes got shots in the NFL and Smith became a 1,000-yard-plus back.
Ken Rucker (2003-2004): Cooper, Gilliam, Milton, Powell along with Tyson Browning, Kregg Lumpkin, Danny Ware, Brannan Southerland and Thomas Brown. Browning was used well as a scatback and returner, while Ware, Lumpkin and Brown all made NFL rosters
Kirby Smart (2005): Smart continued to develop the careers of Lumpkin, Ware and Brown.
Tony Ball (2006-2008): Coached Lumpkin, Ware, Brown and Southerland as well as Fred Munzenmaier, Shaun Chapas, Knowshon Moreno, coached the first few uneventful years of Richard Samuel, Caleb King and Carlton Thomas.
Bryan McClendon (2009-present): Samuel is switched to linebacker. King is dismissed from team. Washaun Ealey is dismissed from team. Thomas leaves team. Isaiah Crowell is dismissed from team. Ken Malcome gets suspended, quits team, comes back to team.
Busts like Albert Hollis (who never contributed) and players who didn’t pan out like Dontavious Jackson are not included in the above compilation. There seems to be an obvious and shockingly alarming rate of failures under the watch of Bryan McClendon. Does this not merit a closer look by the head coach and athletic director? Thanks Bill! I’m 35 years old, and the Buffalo game will be my 125th as a Dawg in attendance!
When you’re talking about individual cases, whether it’s Ealey or King or Crowell, it’s tough to pin the blame for their failings on their coach, as I noted last week. But when you look at the overall situation with running backs over the past three seasons, it does seem fair to ask whether perhaps McClendon’s value to the program as a recruiter is overshadowing his lack of success as a position coach. It’s a discussion that probably needs to be taking place at Butts-Mehre.
I’ll answer more Junkyard Mail next week, so if you have something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics or a question for the Junkyard Blawg, send it to email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg