So, SEC Media Days have come and gone, Mark Richt will be making his annual visit to the Cobb Galleria Monday, and season tickets will go into the mail the second week of August. Now, it’s starting to feel like football season! So let’s check the Junkyard Mail. …
EarthDawg writes: Bill, what do you think of these critics who blame Mark Richt’s recruiting for the disciplinary problems at Georgia, saying he’s taken too many risks and ignored “red flags” with players like Isaiah Crowell. They act like Richt is cruising reform schools looking for junior hoodlums. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Crowell recruited by just about every major football program in the country? Aside from a reputation for taking himself out of the game a lot in high school, I don’t recall any red flags raised in advance about Crowell.
You’re right. Alabama, Florida, Southern Cal, Auburn and other schools offered a scholarship to Crowell, a consensus five-star prospect, and gladly would have enrolled him, yet you don’t see anyone questioning Nick Saban’s recruiting judgment in going after him. “We’re not recruiting bad kids,” Richt said this week. “We’re competing for the same guys everybody else is in the league.”
Looking at the disciplinary problems that have cropped up at UGA in the past year and concluding that Georgia’s head coach must need to change the sort of kids he recruits — especially without explaining what sort of players you would go after instead of the ones every school wants — is a facile argument that doesn’t take into account the realities and complexities of modern-day college football recruiting. As Richt reminded reporters, coaches are limited in the amount of contact they can have during recruiting and do the best they can to root out character flaws in advance. But they’re not able to peer into the future and see how an 18-year-old will react to the freedoms and temptations that come with attending a large university in a hard-partying town like Athens — particularly kids who’ve gotten the star treatment and been coddled and enabled throughout high school to the point that many don’t think everyday rules apply to them or don’t expect to be held accountable.
As for comparing Georgia’s situation with other schools, you have to factor in that not only does UGA have one of the strictest policies in the country for recreational drug use — with the quickest and stiffest penalties — but Georgia players also happen to reside in one of the most closely policed college towns around.
And once the players run afoul of the rules, Richt tends to come down on them harder than many other coaches. Do you really think Stephen Garcia would have lasted through five suspensions at UGA? And how many coaches would kick a quarterback off the team who’s good enough to become the starter at a school in the same conference — and not put any restrictions on where the player could go? Zach Mettenberger wound up at LSU, where first drug offenses rate no suspension and where last year three players (including the Honey Badger) missed just one game after apparently failing at least a second drug test.
Richt correctly noted this week that the playing field isn’t level in the SEC when it comes to drug policies or discipline. “Some people have policies that bring certain things to light and some people don’t,” he said. “To say these issues aren’t happening around the country [isn’t] really realistic.” Not only did Les Miles sign Mettenberger after he was kicked off Richt’s team, but last season Jordan Jefferson missed four games for LSU after being involved in a bar fight. Should Miles rethink his risky recruiting?
Certainly, there’ve also been problems at Auburn, where four players were kicked off the team for being charged in an armed robbery. And yet it’s Richt who carries this reputation for having discipline problems, not Gene Chizik.
It’s not that Richt has a discipline problem or a recruiting problem as much as he has a perception or publicity problem. UGA players get called out more because of tougher policies and get punished more severely. Perhaps the school’s publicists should try flipping the discussion by emphasizing the higher standards to which the Bulldogs are held and making that the topic of national and regional sports talk rather than the numbers of players who run afoul of the rules.
Matt Cafaro writes: Bill, I don’t know about you, but Richard Samuel is finding his way up my list of favorite Dawgs of all time for his unselfish devotion to his teammates and our Alma Mater. Hines Ward was another Dawg in a very similar situation, and he reacted the same way, with the same attitude: “Put me anywhere on the field, and I’ll play as hard as I can.” I think special attention needs to be paid to Samuel this year by Bulldog Nation for his willingness to sacrifice playing time (to acclimate himself to LB again) and a whole redshirt year in order to do his part to make the Dawgs a better, deeper team. Maybe extra cheers whenever he gets in a game or a standing ovation on Senior Day at the end of the year, or perhaps some attention from the AJC. Something, anything that brings credit to his team-first ideals. I know most of us like to think that ALL the Dawgs should feel and do as guys like Hines and Richard do, but the sad reality is, that just isn’t the case, as we’ve seen MANY selfish, me-first players come and go in Athens (Isaiah Crowell just the latest example).
Well said. I don’t believe Samuel’s unselfish attitude has gone unnoticed by Georgia fans and those who cover UGA, but a bit of extra recognition for his refreshing devotion to doing whatever the team needs certainly is deserved. I know a lot of fans were heartsick when Samuel’s terrific game against the Gators last year ended in injury, and certainly those of us in attendance at G-Day noticed the boost he provided when put in at tailback in the second half. Here’s hoping he gets the senior season he deserves. If he does, it can only be to Georgia’s benefit.
Andrew Smith writes: Hey Bill, Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel seems to be building up the SEC season opener atmosphere. Given UGA’s tendency to take a few games to “warm up” for the season do you see this game being closer than when both teams are in late-season form? Does the fact that the Mizzou QB has only been throwing a few days after surgery now play a factor in your decision?
It’s too early to know what sort of shape QB James Franklin will be in come Sept. 8. If he’s not back 100 percent at that point, it might balance out somewhat the Georgia defense missing however many starters. But to answer the first part of your question, yes, the slow starts Georgia teams have gotten off to in recent seasons is a major concern. If the Dogs’ offense shows up against Mizzou looking as not-ready-for-prime-time it did in the Dome last year against Boise State, it could be a long night for those in red and black.
Art Finley writes: Bill, Here are a couple of recent headlines . . .
May 31, 2012: The football games scheduled for 2020 and 2021 between Georgia and Ohio State have been called off. Ohio State recently informed UGA that it is exercising its right to cancel the games, which had been set up in a memorandum of understanding between the schools in December 2010. “They couldn’t make it happen due to the Pac 12-Big 10 football schedule deal,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said Thursday, referring to a recent agreement between those conferences for a series of regular-season matchups beginning in 2017.
July 13, 2012: “We are disappointed to announce today that the Big Ten/Pac-12 strategic collaboration announced jointly in December 2011 unfortunately will not be consummated,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement.
Do you think there is any chance that AD McGarity will contact Ohio State about reinstating the memo of understanding for Ohio State and UGA to play?
It depends on how much strength of schedule ends up figuring in selections for the new four-team playoff. If that really does wind up being a determining factor, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Georgia and OSU take another stab at scheduling a home-and-home. I’d certainly rather pay to see the Dogs play the Buckeyes than Florida Atlantic or North Texas, wouldn’t you?
UPDATE: Speaking to reporters prior to Monday’s UGA Day, Greg McGarity said that he plans on calling Ohio State to see about renewing the deal.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg