Let’s get straight to some Junkyard Mail …
WinderDogg writes: Bill, am I crazy to believe that despite losing John Jenkins, Kwame Geathers, Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams, that this year’s Dawg defense might actually play better than last year’s? I know part of the problem early in the season was lack of continuity and rusty players as a result of the suspensions, but with the exception of a couple of games (mainly Florida and Auburn), I thought last year’s D never really lived up to its advance billing. And the run defense consistently was poor from the opener against Buffalo on through the game against Bama. My thinking is that all that hype went to their heads and they didn’t play as hard as they could. This year, with a younger and hungrier crew, I’m thinking the defensive performance might actually more closely resemble the defense we saw much of the 2011 season. What do you think?
I’m hearing that idea about Georgia’s defense actually being improved this year more and more, and not just from UGA fans indulging in wishful thinking. The fact is that the 2012 Georgia defense did underperform, especially the defensive front coached by now-departed Rodney Garner. Do I think the Dawgs will be playing shut-down defense right from the start with a bunch of new starters? No, that’s unrealistic. And with the daunting schedule that Georgia faces in September, the start could be rough. But as Todd Grantham has pointed out, it’s not like this year’s defenders lack game experience (except, maybe, in the secondary). And there’s a lot of very promising talent on the team. Garrison Smith has shown what he can do up front. Ray Drew and Josh Harvey-Clemons now get a chance to justify those stars that were attached to their names out of high school. Many observers already have pegged Jordan Jenkins as a rising star. And then there’s the player I think is likely to be the Bulldogs’ defensive leader this year: Damian Swann, known to his teammates as “Cinco.” Swann is the lone returning starter in the secondary, but he already is a playmaker, having finished last season in impressive fashion. Remember the Florida game? Swann forced a fumble, intercepted a pass and got a sack. In the Ole Miss game, he recovered two fumbles, one of which he returned 53 yards, and got another sack. He had seven tackles against Alabama and six tackles and two interceptions against Nebraska (giving him a team-leading four interceptions for the year). If Swann picks up where he left off, it’s going to be a big plus for Georgia’s defensive hopes.
John V. writes: Bill, The opening kickoff for 2013 being moved to prime time on national TV makes me nervous. Another bad loss on the national stage could damage any momentum we have coming into a huge opening month schedule. What say you?
A loss to Clemson might damage Georgia’s standing in the polls, but early nonconference losses tend to hurt a team less in the long run, especially if they’re to a Top 10 team. Basically, the Dogs’ September schedule this year is a high-risk, high-reward scenario. Still, wouldn’t you much rather see Georgia playing Clemson than some cupcake with a directional name?
Strong Sauce writes: Mr. King, Enjoy your blog. I’m a Georgia ex-pat who currently lives in Cleveland, Tenn. I co-host a sports talk show on 101.3 FM The Sports Drive, Monday-Friday, 5-7 p.m. … and have a question: We’ve seen a couple of cases recently where we’ve (UGA) recruited 5-star guys whose bodies haven’t fully developed and finished growing, i.e. Josh Harvey-Clemons and Ray Drew. It worked out well with [Alec] Ogletree moving from safety to MLB, but isn’t this a risk? JHC is still playing safety at 6-5 217, and Drew now has his fist in the dirt, learning a completely different position. Do 5 stars and innate talent mean anything if the player will be hindered by learning diferent positions? By the way, I have high hopes for both of these guys. Great kids, too. Just wanted your opinion. Go Dawgs. Sic’em.
Thanks. A lot of kids, not just five-star recruits, arrive in college still growing and needing to build up their bodies. That’s not unusual. Drew, who now weighs 280, basically outgrew his original outside linebacker spot, but he’s had a season now playing off the bench at defensive end and finished last year with 23 tackles, 8 quarterback pressures and a tackle for loss. Plus, he’s feeling comfortable at the new position now. As he told our Chip Towers recently, “I have good size and I can move well for my size. I’m working on my quickness off the ball also. So I feel with my combination of size, speed and power I can be — I don’t want to say a force to be reckoned with — but I believe I’ll do very well this year.” As for Harvey-Clemons, while Grantham is very high on the kid and has talked about possibly playing him some at outside linebacker, so far in spring practice he’s worked exclusively at strong safety and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the position where he spends most of his time this season since he’s still a bit light for a linebacker. As he bulks up a bit and Georgia develops other talent at safety, a move for him like Ogletree made could pay off for the Dawgs eventually.
Howard Unger writes: Bill, a friend of mine told me he read that if the ACC falls apart, the SEC might not be interested in Florida State. I can pretty much see why the University of Florida would object to FSU joining the conference, but other than that what might be the obstacle to getting the Seminoles in the SEC?
Basically, it comes down to television. Thanks to the Gators, the SEC already has the Florida market in its TV footprint. And as FSU athletic director Randy Spetman noted in a recent talk with ESPN, “Unless you bring in a revenue [stream] for them so that they don’t reduce their conference distribution to themselves, they aren’t going to bring you in. That’s what I don’t think people evaluate as much. It would be great to be in the SEC with our radius of schools and the way our fans travel and their fans travel, but if they bring Florida State into the SEC, I’m trying to see, how do we sell that we bring them enough additional revenue that we pay for ourselves and they make more money off of us? They have Florida just two hours away that has the TV market here.” In other words, if the Seminoles don’t bring a new TV market to the table, why give them a piece of the SEC pie? Of course, the argument in favor of the SEC taking FSU is that it’s a marquee program with a national reputation. But a good case can be made that if the ACC falls apart, the SEC would be better off adding TV markets by taking Virginia Tech and/or one or more of the North Carolina schools (who would burnish the conference’s basketball and academic standing).
Bubba King (no relation) writes: UGA has been blessed in recent years with stellar play out of the long snapper position. I mean, how many bad snaps can you remember in the last 5 years? I can’t really recall one on a field goal or punt. With Ty Frix exhausting his eligibility and Nathan Theus taking over, I am concerned. There is not a more valuable spot on special teams than the LS, in my honest opinion. It all starts with him, and I was wondering how many guys on the roster cross-train at the position in case something unforseeable happens to our up-and-comer?
OK, I know we college football fans tend to be obsessive, but I’m not sure we need to be fretting about what Vince Dooley used to call the “long snappah.” Theus has been in the program a couple of years and was recruited specifically as a long snapper (though being John Theus’ brother also might have been a factor). So we should be fine. But another redshirt sophomore, Wright Gazaway, also is competing at the position, so the Dawgs aren’t just relying on Theus.
That’s it for this week. A tip of the cap to Mark Fox and the basketball Bulldogs for a great win over Kentucky. Speaking of basketball, if you haven’t yet seen “Miracle 3,” the ESPN Films documentary about the 2008 tornado-hit SEC tournament (in which former UGA coach Dennis Felton and the Dogs play a surprise starring role), you can check it out Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPNU, 1:30 a.m. March 15 on ESPN2, 5:30 p.m. March 15 on ESPNU, and 7 a.m. March 17 on ESPN2.
Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or maybe a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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