UGA’s annual Picture Day for fans will be held Aug. 18 in the Reed Plaza area of Sanford Stadium, with Mark Richt, his players, other Bulldog athletes and “interim” mascot Russ on hand.
Special ticket coupons will be required for access to Russ and Richt. Those tickets will be distributed to the first 150 fans lining up at 8 a.m. at the East End ticket windows on East Campus Road.
The UGA cheerleaders and Hairy Dawg will be available from 1 to 5 p.m. Russ and other University of Georgia sports teams will be available from 1 to 3 p.m. Georgia football players will be on hand for photos and autographs from 3 to 5 p.m. in Reed Plaza on the north side of the stadium between Gates 2 and 4. Richt will also be available from 3 to 5 p.m. for those with ticket coupons.
Fans will be able to enter Reed Plaza through Gate 2 across from the Tate Student Center and Gate 4 through the East Campus Road entrance into the plaza. Both gates open at 1 p.m. Parking is available to the general public in all campus lots surrounding the stadium. Handicapped parking will be available in the Tate Center lots.
Concessions will be available in the plaza. Fans can purchase UGA merchandise at the UGA Bookstore located next to the Tate Center. The bookstore will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Because of problems surrounding student-athlete autographs across the country, no outside items may be brought to Picture Day. The UGA Athletic Association will provide each fan with two free schedule posters to be signed by the players and head coach. No other items will be permitted.
Now, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Bubba King (no relation that I know of) writes: Bill, I am an avid reader and lifetime Dawg fan. … I know this time of the year, everyone is channeling his/her inner Munson, dwelling on upcoming opponents and missing pieces of what would otherwise be a perfect puzzle. I am no different. Who will pose a bigger problem for the UGA offense this year, South Carolina’s defense or Florida’s? I know South Carolina has a couple stud DE’s, but UGA had no problem moving the ball on them last year and they are missing some key players from that unit. Florida, however, returns just about everyone from a team that held Murray to 40 percent passing, and if not for a couple miracle 4th down receptions and Richard Samuel IV’s heroic 4th quarter effort, UGA would have once again been trucking back home with the loss. What are we gonna do to move the chains on those guys this year?
Both teams should have tough defenses this season. The Gamecocks had the nation’s third-best defense last year and are expected to be pretty good again this season despite losing several starters to the NFL and graduation as well as longtime defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, now coaching Southern Miss. They have pretty stellar returning talent, including Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and D.J. Swearinger. They should be stout as usual against the run, and while the linebacking corps and secondary will be a bit inexperienced, their pass rush will be awesome, which is a big concern for Georgia with its green offensive line and a quarterback sometimes prone to turning it over under pressure. The Gators’ D, which ranked eighth nationally last season, is again expected to carry the team much of this season, as it returns 15 of its top 16 tacklers. One caveat is that star defensive end Ronald Powell tore his ACL in the spring and while Will Muschamp expects him to play this year, it’s questionable whether he’ll be 100 percent. Florida’s run defense was rather porous last year (just ask Samuel) and the Gators may have depth problems. It’s hard to predict this early, but my inclination is to say that the Gamecocks’ defense might be a tougher nut for the Dawgs to crack than the Gators’.
Andy Simmons writes: Bill, what was up with Mark Richt this week? First he announces at UGA Day in Atlanta that he’s going after some Penn State players, which made sense considering Georgia’s depleted roster, and then a few days later he issues a mysterious statement that he’s not going after any of Penn State’s players. Hard to believe he pulled a 180 like that in such a public way. Any idea what was behind it?
The most surprising thing about it all wasn’t that Richt considered going after some of the Penn State players once they were declared available, or that he has backed off now that it seems few of them are of a mind to transfer. What opened many eyes wide was Richt telling fans and press about Georgia coaches going over the PSU depth chart only hours after the NCAA sanctions were announced. Normally he plays things much closer to the vest, but maybe he was caught up in the momentary excitement of the hunt. In reality, this situation has developed so suddenly and so close to the beginning of preseason practice that few of the Nittany Lions are likely to move — at least, not at this time. My guess is that whatever direct contacts UGA may have made produced little interest. Then, Friday, when the Dawgs247.com Website obtained a copy of the initial list of 19 Penn State players Georgia told the school it was interested in, I’m guessing Richt concluded that was only going to fan the flames and it would be better to publicly put the whole story to rest. So he issued his statement that, “Currently, Georgia is not pursuing any of Penn State’s football players. We wish Coach O’Brien and the players the best.” You’ll notice that doesn’t close the door if any PSU players look Georgia’s way in the future.
Tony Piska writes: Hi Bill, I attended the UGA Day fan gathering on Monday, and while Coach Richt received a well-deserved standing ovation, Coaches [David] Perno and [Mark] Fox were not afforded the same treatment. Football has always had top priority in Athens, of course, but I felt that our outstanding baseball and basketball coaches were slighted in this case. What are your thoughts?
I don’t think it was an intentional slight and I doubt they took it that way. The football coach usually gets a standing ovation at those affairs, whether he’s had a great season and is to be congratulated or has had a disappointing one and the fans want to show they’re still on board. But historically the same doesn’t apply to other sports at UGA, and Perno and Fox had teams that went through mediocre seasons last year.
Low Country Captive writes: Hey Bill, Love your blog, brother! Thanks for all the insights of a rabid yet objective fan. Wondering how you feel about our running game this year. Yes, Crowell was a knucklehead and, while talented, nobody needs more distractions and suspensions. Goodnight, dumb prince. That being said, I can’t buy the hype of “we’ll be OK without him.” The guy had moves and speed. O-line is a huge concern. If we are lucky enough to have 5 solid guys performing, we have no depth. Yes, we have talent in the backfield but it’s all a big mystery as to what that talent might do. If it were so solid why in the world would we move the man without a country, Richard “Selfless” Samuel, back to TB? Wondering what your honest assessment and concerns are about our running game. Everything else about our team sure looks good in ‘012! Go Dawgs!
You touched on my biggest concern when it comes to our running game: the offensive line. If the line can block adequately, I think Boo Malcome and Richard Samuel will be steady, if unspectacular, ball carriers and freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley have breakaway, star potential, though it might take a while to develop. Early in the season, I think Mike Bobo will be inclined to depend more on his quarterback and talented receiving corps. But, even there, the play of the OL will be crucial.
Brannon Nealy in Richmond writes: Bill, My question/comment centers around special teams. I am a lifelong Bulldog fan living in Virginia now and I have seen Frank Beamer’s teams win many games on their special teams play. With the competitiveness of the SEC, I am surprised UGA has not hired a special teams coach or put more emphasis in that area of the team. In my opinion, it can make the difference on whether or not UGA goes 10-2 or 12-0 this season. Would love to hear your thoughts.
You’re preaching to the choir on that subject, Brannon. I wrote a Blawg on Georgia’s special teams situation a few weeks back that you can check out here, but essentially I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude despite Richt’s statements that the Dogs will spend more time in practice on live kicks and will get more starters out on the field for kick coverage. We have a pair of true freshmen as placekicker and punter, as well, so that’s a big unknown. Beyond on that, though, as I said in the earlier piece, I’d like to see a heightened sense of awareness on the part of both the special teams players and the coaching staff. Last year Georgia was a sucker for a fake punt (not for the first time under Richt). And against LSU you watched the Dawgs punt with a true sense of foreboding because they didn’t seem to know how to counter the Tigers’ return game. That’s got to change.
David Rosenberg writes: Bill, Love your column. I have been a Georgia fan all my life. I cannot imagine how I would feel about my university had it been embroiled in the type of situation in which Penn State finds Itself. Penn State grew to greatness under Joe Paterno. Unfortunately, it appears that as his power grew, so did his need to be held accountable, which the university failed to do. This is a tragedy for the victims, the families, the students, the athletes and the university. We all want to win. Mark Richt has done everything at Georgia one could ask with the exception of that elusive “title.” I know that sticks in the craw of many Georgia fans, as does the appearance of having a “discipline” problem at Georgia. But Richt made the correct point, that the reason it appears there is a discipline problem is because Georgia actually disciplines their athletes for poor behavior. Richt has been and continues to be a very good coach; but more importantly, a very good man. No hero worship, but could you ever imagine a man of Richt’s character even being on the fringe of something so heinous?
No, I can’t. And Richt’s record shows he wouldn’t likely tolerate such behavior. Take the case of Zach Mettenberger, for example. As Richt said at SEC Media Days, he’d known Zach “since he was a little peanut” and Mettenberger’s mom has worked in the football office ever since the head coach has been at Georgia. But when Mettenberger got hit with two counts of sexual battery stemming from an incident in which he grabbed the breasts and touched the buttocks of a woman in a bar, he was kicked off the team, even though it meant he’d likely wind up at another SEC program (LSU, as it turned out). If Richt was inclined to cover for anyone, you’d have thought it might be Mettenberger, but the coach acted forthrightly. I have no doubt he’d do the same again if circumstances like those in Happy Valley were to occur in Athens.
Serotta writes: I read your long-winded response [in last week's Junkyard Mail] about Richt’s constant problem recruits. You seem to avoid the point most are making. Yes, many schools recruited your RB [Isaiah] Crowell. However it’s doubtful he would’ve strayed under [Nick] Saban or many other programs given their leadership and track record. However under the Richt regime it’s the same ole rotten tune every year. He has a consistent track record of not having disciplined players OFF the field. You can twist the story all you want but these are the facts. And many would make the case his players have trouble being disciplined ON the field during critical times. See Bama, SC, Fla, Colorado & Boise games as examples. Richt fielded loaded teams during the years Matt Stafford played for example but how many times did those teams underachieve? At some point the coach leading the program has to be held accountable. The national press will continue to hold Richt accountable for his undisciplined program no matter how many folks in Athens hide their heads in the sand.
It’s tough to discern exactly what point you’re making other than you don’t like Richt. You maintain he doesn’t discipline his players, but that’s inaccurate. He’s kicked players off the team and suspends them too frequently for many folks’ liking. Clearly, he does discipline his players. Now, maybe you’re making the point that if players need dismissing or suspending, that reflects an overall failure on the coach’s part. Since that’s the way you think, I hope if one of your kids ever gets in trouble, you step up and shoulder the blame since you don’t appear to think these young men are responsible for their own actions. You also seem to have an idea that players at UGA get into trouble because Richt is soft on them. It sounds like you’ve bought into the myth that players at some schools, including Alabama, don’t break the rules because they’re scared of their head coach. Of course, it’s also possible that at those schools the discipline issues haven’t been as high-profile as Georgia’s not because their players are more likely to toe the line but because the program isn’t as up-front about dealing with misbehavior. Certainly, schools such as Alabama and LSU don’t have a drug policy as tough as Georgia’s. As for on-field discipline, again, I’m not sure what you have in mind. In certain games against some of the teams you cite, Georgia in recent years had breakdowns in execution that resulted in a loss. At other times, they simply got outplayed by better teams. And in some instances they beat those teams. Yes, ultimately, when the team loses the blame falls on the head coach, but I don’t see how what you cite points to a lack of discipline on Richt’s part.
Jim Parry writes: Bill, Non-Bulldog question: If NCAA police are vacating Penn State wins since ’98, will that make Bobby Bowden all-time leader? I believe his ego really wants to be #1. He didn’t publicly mention that it mattered to him, but I think he was trying to hang on for that as much as anything in the end.
As a result of the wins vacated by the NCAA action against Penn State, Joe Paterno’s former total of 409 victories now stands at 298. Ex-FSU coach Bowden is indeed now the all-time winningest FBS coach, with 377 wins. It would have been more but he also had victories vacated from his record after the 2009 NCAA sanctions levied on the Seminoles. Eddie Robinson of Grambling is now the all-time winningest coach in Division I history with 408 wins. The most wins at any level is held by John Gagliardi of St. Johns University, a Division III program in Minnesota, with 484 victories. Bowden’s response to becoming the all-time wins leader: “The thing is, what happened is so bad, is so drastic, that it overcomes anything that’s happened to me. There’ll be no rejoicing in the Bowden household, I’ll tell you that. … I’m saddened by what happened at Penn State.”
Jay Johnson, assistant principal at Rockmart High School, writes: Bill, I had the opportunity to hear [Richard] Samuel speak to 60-plus kids this morning at Cass High School. Head football coach Rick Casko asked him to speak at his “young kids” camp. Samuel told his story of switching positions multiple times quickly, but focused on 3 things for the kids: 1. Academics come first. It was revealed the he only made 2 B’s in his undergraduate studies, one an 89, and that his mother threatened to pull him off the team. 2. Respect your parents/teachers/coaches. He told kids he wouldn’t have his degree or future if it weren’t for these people. 3. Work ethic. He told them that “hard work pays off.” You may already know all of this, but if not, as much bad publicity as UGA has earned, I think other Dawg fans would enjoy hearing about our players that are doing things the right way.
Samuel may not be the most talented back at UGA, but he’s the kind of player coaches love because he puts the team first and is smart and a hard-worker. I’m glad the kids at Cass got a chance to be exposed to the best kind of Georgia Bulldog. Thanks for sharing.
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