In the wake of the opening game, there was quite a bit of Junkyard Mail this week. Let’s check out some of it. …
Andrew Smith writes: Hey Bill, I just watched the Mothership’s view of what to watch for in Week 2. Todd McShay conveyed that he wants to see more hunger out of the Dawgs this week. With all of the hype and pressure Mizzou is placing on this game, do you think the captains and leaders of this team have everyone ready to play? If you imagine Munson asking that question it seems even more intense.
That’s the big question, Andrew, and I’m imagining you giving it a desperate growl like Munson. Sometimes Mark Richt’s Dawgs show up for these games loaded for bear (or Tiger), as in the first half of the SEC Championship. Other times, like last year’s Georgia Dome game with Boise State, they look like they’d rather be somewhere else. We don’t want them too ramped up (in particular, we don’t want Aaron Murray so hyped he’s overthrowing his receivers again), but a fast start to take the crowd at the Zou out of the game definitely would be a big plus.
Jim P. writes: Saw news and notes about all the new bells and whistles at the stadium. Gotta be honest, I don’t attend a game to watch it on TV or be distracted with social network garbage. Nice to hear UGA has all these new gadgets, but the only thing I would be interested in is typical game information, out of town scores and an occasional replay for questionable plays and exciting highlight. Guess I’m “old man” football!
The social media aspect of game day at Sanford Stadium is not intrusive; at the first game it mainly consisted of voting for what song you wanted played in the fourth quarter and some fan pictures. It was refreshing to have more replays of controversial calls, though. You may like your game day experience old-school, but a lot of younger fans see tweeting and texting as a part of even attending a football game. And the reasoning behind the SEC loosening up on replays and highlights is to encourage fans to show up. They realize they’re in competition with big-screen high-def TVs (along with cheaper food and more comfortable seats) in fans’ own homes, so it’s an effort to entice you to experience the game in person without losing those frills. If it helps fill empty seats, it seems like a good idea.
Dale Shirley writes: Bill, I noticed that Zander [Ogletree] didn’t play vs. Buffalo. Something going on or has he just fallen out of favor?
I haven’t seen a report of any trouble involving him, though with UGA’s stealth suspension policy I suppose it’s always possible that he was held out but no one noticed because he wasn’t expected to play much any way. Basically, Zander was an undersized fullback who got considerable playing time last year because Georgia was shorthanded at the position. With the rise of former walk-on Merritt Hall, the arrival of highly touted true freshman Quayvon Hicks, and veteran Richard Samuel getting time at fullback, Ogletree has simply been beaten out on the depth chart.
Several readers were alarmed by Georgia’s mostly lackluster defensive showing against Buffalo in terms of what it means for the Mizzou game. Let’s start with Brian Davis, who writes: Bill, I was at the game Saturday and our lack of overall defense concerned me. I was very disappointed in the lack of push from the defensive line and the lack of blitzes from Coach Grantham. I was disappointed by the play of our secondary as well. Most of the guys on defense seemed to be walking around like they were not mentally into the game rather than playing with the emotion they played with most of last season. Do you think the performance of the defense can be attributed to a lack of interest in the opponent or is our defense simply average without Ogletree, Rambo and Mitchell?
First, keep in mind that just as Georgia was deliberately running a pretty vanilla offense against Buffalo to avoid giving Missouri valuable game film to watch, the same appeared to be true for Todd Grantham’s defense. It was scaled back. Yes, the absence of starters in the secondary and, especially, Alec Ogletree in the middle, was definitely a factor, but the defensive line clearly didn’t play its best. The heat and humidity might have been a factor there, but it’s also likely they weren’t taking the Bulls very seriously and simply didn’t bring their A game that day. If we see the same thing this Saturday, we’ll know Grantham has a real problem — but I don’t anticipate that happening.
Next, J McKinney writes: Hey, love your Blawgs! Amazing stuff. My question is, do you think we were holding back purposely [against Buffalo] since we have Mizzou this weekend? And what are your thoughts on how Richt has been handling the questions/concerns on the suspensions/injuries? Do you think Rambo/Ogletree will play this weekend?
OK, check up above for the answer to your first question. As for the lack of information provided on suspensions and injuries, I know it bothers the folks who cover the UGA beat, but I can see the UGA coaches’ reasoning: If you’re not required to provide the information to the press (and your upcoming opponent), why not keep them guessing? Frankly, I doubt the uncertainty over which defenders Georgia will have on the field will be much of a factor for Missouri, but there’s always a chance it could be. I think the odds are we won’t see Bacarri Rambo this week, but since this is Alec Ogletree’s first violation of the drug policy, there’s a chance his suspension might have been just for the Buffalo game. At least, I hope so.
And Nick, who describes himself as Georgia’s #1 fan stuck in Rocky Top, writes: How concerned are you with Georgia’s defense going into the Missouri game considering they allowed Buffalo to score 23 points? What key players will be coming back from suspensions against Missouri?
We won’t know all the suspended players until kickoff, but it’s definite that we won’t be seeing Sanders Commings and Chase Vasser. As for how concerned I am about the defense going into the Mizzou game, I’d certainly much rather Georgia was at full-strength for what looks on paper like one of the season’s bigger challenges. But even with the missing players the Dogs’ defense should be pretty formidable up front, especially against Missouri’s somewhat makeshift offensive line.
James, UGA Class of 2011, writes: Hey Bill, I love reading your columns on the Dawgs. Obviously everyone is all abuzz about player suspensions and the ambiguity of when those suspensions will be up. Coach Richt has been pretty tight lipped about the subject. Has anyone given any thought to asking Richt if this is Rambo’s first failed drug test? Because if I recall correctly, Rambo was never suspended last year for a failed drug test. Remember, he was speeding, pulled over by a police officer, and his passenger was arrested for possession of marijuana. Rambo was merely suspended for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If this is Rambo’s first failed drug test, University policy is that he be suspended for 10% of his team’s schedule which for football is? That’s right, one game. Seems to me Rambo’s already served his time after missing out last week against Buffalo. You think he’s in this Saturday?
Rambo’s first go-round last year apparently was considered a violation of the UGA drug policy, even if it wasn’t his marijuana in the car, so this is considered a second offense and it’s likely his suspension this time around will be for more than one game. His high school coach said the initial ruling was four games, as reportedly mandated by the UGA policy for second offenses, but Rambo planned to appeal that. If he did, he probably made an argument similar to the one you offer. Since the Georgia coaching staff isn’t talking, it’s unknown at this point whether any appeal was successful and whether the suspension was reduced. Even if it was, I have a feeling we won’t see him against Missouri.
Trevin Bernarding writes: Bill, I have sat in Section 108 since 2000, and my first visit to the stadium was in 1976 at Georgia Tech game. The amenity improvements the past few years have been outstanding. … Simple things like having family restrooms for those of us with little ones makes the game day experience that much better. And fried Oreos! But I was disappointed this past Saturday on two fronts. With it being so hot, drinks were obviously much needed. We did not have a single vendor hawking drinks in our section the entire game. Looking across the way, I saw plenty of bright yellow shirts in the stands. Did you have vendors come down into Section 104? Where was this 20% increase of vendors? What is going to happen when we have a sellout? This caused another undesirable effect in that the concession lines both at the top of 108 at the plaza, and the lines under the bridge, were incredibly long. Fortunately, standing in line now allows you to watch the game on TV, another recent improvement. But this didn’t make up for the thirsty people sitting in the hot sun waiting for me to get back. I enjoy your blog! I read every entry.
Good question, Trevin, about the announced increase in vendors. I wondered where they were, too. I saw a couple of folks selling cold drinks in our section early on, but they weren’t in evidence for most of the game. Hopefully, there won’t be any other games this season that are as hot and muggy as last Saturday, but in general I get the impression that the distribution of vendors is uneven — too many in some sections and hardly any in others. Let’s hope the stadium concessions folks continue to work on that problem.
Summing up the game against Buffalo, Steve Segrest writes: The Bad: pass protection. Seeing the young backs miss blocks is understandable (and surely they will improve) — but seeing [center David] Andrews getting mauled numerous times and knocked backwards by a non-SEC caliber tackle is troublesome. The very good: Michael Bennett is such a great football player. Not the 5-star blazing speed athlete, but if everyone had his dedication and work ethic, the Dawgs would go 12-0.
I’m also a big fan of Bennett as well as Chris Conley, who had a nice catch and also blocked a punt on special teams. You’re right about the offensive line being less than impressive, though in fairness it was their first outing. That’s why the tight ends were mostly kept in to block and didn’t get involved in the passing game.
Finally, Cheryl Stephens writes: Bill, I really enjoy the Blawg and especially the Junkyard Mail. So here’s my question: Was that really Samuel L. Jackson narrating one of the videos shown on the scoreboard before last week’s Georgia game? It sure sounded like him and one of the people sitting next to me said it was him. I know he had visited one of the Dawgs’ preseason practices. If it was him, that’s so cool! Do you know where we can see the video other than at Sanford Stadium?
It was indeed the “Pulp Fiction” legend providing the voiceover for the new “Commit to the G” video. And you can check it out online here. As a bonus, you can find another fun video that former UGA quarterback Matt Stafford did for ESPN here. It’s good to see Stafford doesn’t take himself too seriously.
I’ll answer more Junkyard Mail next week. Do you have something you want to discuss concerning the new football season or UGA athletics in general? Got a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg