I don’t know how many fans will still be in the stands at the end of Saturday’s money game against Florida Atlantic, but this is one game where you don’t want to be late. Beloved interim mascot Russ finally will assume the title of Uga IX during a special ceremony that the university says is scheduled to take place with about 11 minutes remaining on the pregame clock. Kickoff is set for 7:35 p.m.
So get there on time for a rousing chant of “damn good Dog!”
Speaking of DGDs, Herschel Walker steals the show in the new Heisman TV spot. Check it out.
Now, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Beach Dawg Living Among Gators writes: Bill, as always appreciate your on the spot insight on all things Dawg. People seem to be all giddy about Saturday’s win, but I’m having a hard time seeing that game as a defining moment. In fact, it gives me concern. Looking at the stats Mizzou played us pretty much even. Look at yards gained: Passing/rushing/returns — UGA: 113/242/110, total 465; Mizzou: 102/269//106, total 477. Remember that Buffalo also gained a bunch on our highly rated defense. Are we really ready for the more “seasoned” SEC teams? Your thoughts?
I’d say if you come out of a game where the stats were pretty even with a 21-point win, that’s pretty encouraging and shows you’ve got a team that a) doesn’t give up and b) has big-play capability. You’re right, there’s plenty of room for improvement. But as I noted in Thursday’s Blawg, I thought Georgia’s defense did a remarkable job controlling a fast-tempo spread offense considering four starters missed the game. With the exception of a couple of breakdowns largely attributable to the absence of suspended players, the D did a nice job of keeping Mizzou in check. And while there were plenty of mistakes on offense (the many false starts being the most obvious and irritating), I was very pleased that the Dawgs were able to answer with their own scoring drive every time the Tigers went ahead. Would Saturday’s effort have been good enough to beat South Carolina? Probably not. But Georgia’s defense should be back to full-strength by then and the offense hopefully will be a bit more consistent. So while I’m not giddy, I’m feeling better about this team than I was a week ago.
Danny Brown writes: Bill, What do you think of the talk this week about Jarvis Jones possibly figuring in the Heisman race? I know the odds are against a defensive player winning the trophy, but what are his chances of making the list of players invited to the Heisman ceremony?
You’re right that any defensive player is a long shot, as LSU’s Honey Badger found out last year, since Charles Woodson is the only defender who’s ever won the Heisman Trophy. But if Jones keeps up the pace he’s been on so far, winning multiple national player of the week honors, he’s as likely as any defensive player to make it to the final group of contenders. As Jones said this week in response to various websites listing him among the Heisman top 10, “Just to be in New York, man, it would be a great accomplishment.” Of course, it’ll help his case a bunch if Georgia has a big season.
Mike in Woodstock writes: Bill, I love your blawg. Any idea why the referees didn’t call that blatant horse-collar on Mizzou at the end of [Todd] Gurley’s big run in the 4th quarter? Did they change the rule in the offseason and I missed it?
Thanks, Mike. No, they didn’t change the rule. That was a blatantly illegal tackle, as replays confirmed. I assume the refs either didn’t see it clearly or thought the tackler had him by the jersey (which would have been legal). You could make the case that such instances show a need for video review to include rectifying missed calls, but that probably would slow games down even more, so I don’t think it’s likely to happen.
Matt in Starkville writes: I’m increasingly confused about the [Mike] Bobo controversy. Half the detractors say he’s too predictable; the other half say he never sticks with what’s working. Obviously, you can’t stick with anything and not be predictable. So what gives? I find the complaints pretty contradictory. I happen to think Bobo is darn good, although I can’t imagine why there was not more running attack @ Mizzou.
The complaints from past seasons about Bobo’s playcalling being predictable in certain situations (mostly third and long) and the complaints about him too frequently departing from something that’s working aren’t contradictory. Both have been valid complaints at various times. But I have to say that for the most part I’ve thought Bobo has done a pretty good job so far this season and I was particularly impressed with the adjustments he made in the Missouri game, going to the four- and five-receiver shotgun formation heavily in the second half.
Scott S. writes: Hey Bill, Love the column and your insight. Does it seem that our offensive linemen are always really packed in tight to you? It seems that way to me and I have always wondered if that might have something to do with our running game woes. We haven’t always had the brightest running backs (Ealey, C. King, Carlton Thomas, Crowell, etc.) but they do seem to have some talent yet we almost always seem to have trouble establishing a consistent run game going back several years. With all the huge guys up front and the large defensive linemen, it’s difficult to create much space in the short amount of time it takes to hand the ball off. We mostly run up the middle and the other teams have keyed in on that and often load the box. Keith Marshall seems really talented but has not had much room to break anything yet this year. Anyway, just wanted your thoughts on that. Are our line splits tighter compared to other teams? Could we create more space by spreading out some?
Offensive line splits seem to be a matter of coaching philosophy. Some teams use wide splits, but most teams feature tight splits, because it makes it easier to double-team rushers and prevent blitzes up the middle. It also helps set up runs or passes to the outside. You tend to find wider offensive line splits with option teams and, of course, teams running the spread. You can find a good explanation of the pros and cons of both approaches at Smart Football.
Paul Suttles writes: Hi, Bill. Enjoy reading your blog on the AJC. I just had a thought concerning the balance of power in the SEC. We’ve heard all about the dominance of the SEC West over the last few seasons, and it’s hard to argue with that considering the success of LSU, Alabama and Auburn. However, have you noticed the polls lately? The SEC West has two teams (LSU and Bama) in the top 25 while the East provides four (Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee). I’d say that, as it stands at this particular moment in time, the West is top heavy with LSU and Bama, but the balance of power just might be swinging back in the other direction towards the East. Time will tell. A lot of it depends on how good Florida and Tennessee can be this season and if they have their programs turned around … but for all the talk in the off-season about the murderer’s row that is the SEC West intra-division schedule, it’s looking like the SEC East intra-division schedule might be more difficult than expected. I’m a Georgia fan, so I’m admittedly more concerned about how Georgia’s season will play out, but I will say that the Dawgs 2-0 start is a good sign for the program considering the fact that UGA has improved as a team as the season has gone on (if recent history is any indication). Should that be the case this year, and should South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee all improve over the course of the season as well, I think a valid argument could be made that the SEC East has once again become the dominant division in the best conference in the nation. Thoughts?
You make a good point, assuming Tennessee and Florida do indeed prove to be stronger this year than last. I think with the apparent decline of Arkansas and Auburn, the SEC East is probably overall the stronger division top to bottom this season, though Bama and LSU are still probably the two best teams in the conference.
Justin Cade writes: Bill, For all the accolades that followed prize recruit Ray Drew to Athens when he signed with the Dawgs back in 2011, we sure haven’t heard his name called very much. Why do you think that is? From all we’ve read about him, he sounds like a classy young man with a Pollack-style motor on the field. He had a solid game at Vandy last year, racking up a few tackles, but I wholeheartedly believe he’s capable of a lot more. I’m not trying to take anything away from the starters as I believe Georgia has one of the best defensive lines in the country, but it seems to me like an increased role for a player the caliber of Ray Drew could only help. Also, how is Ms. Olivia liking her first year at UGA? Keep up the good blawgin’!
Ray Drew’s progress up the depth chart has been slow so far, but keep in mind that he outgrew his original linebacker spot and is now a defensive end, plus he missed some time in preseason camp with a concussion. And he’s got Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington ahead of him on the depth chart. Still, I have a feeling that by season’s end Drew will become more of a factor. And my daughter Olivia is so far very much enjoying being in Athens. Thanks for asking.
Phillip Joiner writes: One of your readers mentioned this a few weeks ago and I was really hoping you might revisit it. The old “Herschel” on one side and “Walker” on the other was an obvious and clear tribute by the Sanford fans to the greatest dawg … but another reader wrote to you that a “Richard” and “Samuel” chant might not be such a bad idea. After all he has sacrificed for the program, and not getting a single carry the veteran makes the biggest special teams play in recent memory. I figure a chant for Samuel Saturday would let the younger players really “feel” how much the fans respect a team oriented warrior who leads by example. A Jarvis Jones chant will probably happen regardless — and deservedly so.
I don’t know whether either of those chants is likely to break out spontaneously, but if the cheerleaders want to mix things up a bit, I think that would be a good way to get the crowd more involved.
Scott Watson writes: Hi Bill! Why don’t we have the sidelines from the 20 and around the end zone framed in red (for the red zone) like we had at one time? The Auburn game in 2007 comes to mind. I think it really makes the field pop with color but we seem to have done away with this look. I have noticed so many other teams have adopted this design but was curious who makes that decision and why don’t we splash a little color too?
I put your question (which I’ve had from a couple of other readers in the past) to UGA sports information chief Claude Felton, and he replied: “I think the simple answer is we have decided on a field with less paint and a cleaner look. A significant amount of paint, especially dark colors like red and black, is especially hard on the grass.” So now you know.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg