First, a bit of fan news you can use …
UGA is reaching out to alumni who would like to be part of the school’s next television promo to be aired nationwide during the 2013 football season (replacing the R.E.M. spot). The university says the new film involves photos and videos of memorable UGA moments creatively coming together, ending to form Georgia’s iconic Arch.
If you’d like to submit your favorite photographic memories of UGA for possible inclusion in the spot, simply visit the special Facebook page they’ve created for this purpose and share your photos. To be considered for inclusion in the spot, your photo must be submitted by Tuesday, April 30.
And here’s another way of showing your UGA pride: A new design featuring the “power G” has been unveiled for the UGA vehicle license tag available to Georgia drivers. The new tag features a red, black and silver-gray design encompassing the entire plate.
In addition to showing the driver’s devotion to the state’s flagship university, the tag also raises money for needs-based scholarships. For each specialty tag in use, $10 goes each year to scholarships through the UGA Foundation.
The new tag replaces a solid white tag featuring the university’s mascot, Uga. The old tags are no longer for sale but drivers who want to keep them may do so. The school says there are currently 60,000 UGA tags on the road.
Now, let’s get to some Junkyard Mail …
Strong Sauce writes: Mr. King, Mike Thornton is a DGD, and very capable, but I am concerned about our lack of size and girth up front. Will this be a problem against stout offenses … e.g. SC, LSU, FLA? Thanks again for the good work. Go Dawgs!
Sauce, I think you’ve hit on the key question concerning the Dogs’ defense in the coming season. The linebacking corps looks solid, with a couple of potential standouts, and the secondary, while inexperienced, has a wealth of young talent. The defensive line remains the biggest question mark.
This year’s DL will be smaller in size than last year’s (at least, the likely starting lineup) but is being billed as more athletic. Last year’s DL (with 370-pound John Jenkins and 346-pound Kwame Geathers) was big but, frankly, underperformed much of the season, particularly against the run. There wasn’t much depth that the coaches trusted, which led to the starters spending too much time on the field. As a result, they wore out. This year, under new defensive line coach Chris Wilson, they’re at least promising that more players — as many as six or seven — are likely to receive meaningful playing time.
Mark Richt has said he expects the front seven to be defense-by-committee. There apparently will be several linemen shifting around between end and nose guard, too. Redshirt junior Mike Thornton is a little small for the nose guard position at 6-foot-1, 301 pounds (up from 289), but so far he has managed to hold on to the likely starting spot, and not just because he’s more experienced. Reports out of spring practice said Thornton, cited as one of the spring’s most improved players, gave starting center David Andrews all he could handle. (The DL in general looked surprisingly good at G-Day, though it’s tough to tell how much of that was a definite off day for the offensive line.) “He’s very low to the ground,” Richt said of Thornton to the Athens Banner-Herald. “David was very used to blocking them big guys and sometimes David could use his quickness to his advantage and get his pads underneath theirs naturally just because of the size difference, but Michael, he’s got some good quicks and he’s got a low center of gravity. David’s had some trouble dealing with him on certain blocks.”
Junior college transfer Chris Mayes, a bit bigger at 330 pounds, may pushThornton for the starter’s spot once he’s got his fundamentals where the coaches want them. And redshirt freshman John Taylor (6-4, 335), who’s mostly been playing end, may see some time at nose, too. Once JUCO transfer Toby Johnson (6-4, 305) arrives on campus and is fully recovered from ACL surgery, he also could be a factor.
So, eventually, Georgia could wind up with a quite a bit of depth on the DL. The big question: How good will they be early in the season when the Dogs face Clemson, South Carolina and LSU?
A couple of readers want to talk Georgia basketball and, particularly, recruiting. Tommy Dawson writes: Bill, I think you can sum up what’s really wrong with our basketball program under Mark Fox by noting that for his lone spring signee, Kenny Paul Geno, Georgia beat out the likes of Middle Tennessee State, Arkansas State and Jacksonville State. You can’t expect to compete in the SEC when you’re recruiting kids that mid-majors (or below) are looking at. It’s not Fox’s fault that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope left after just two years, but you can’t ignore the fact that KCP remains the only blue-chip recruit Fox has landed so far. What’s your take on the state of our basketball recruiting?
And RakkasanDawg writes: Bill, We all know [recruiting] is the life’s blood of any program and the state of Georgia is bleeding talent. I was watching ESPN’s basketball version of National Signing Day and I noticed that, of course, Kentucky, Duke and Arizona did well, but suprisingly LSU, whose basketball program is as moribund as UGA’s, managed to score a top ten recruiting class. … This comes back to Mark Fox. I don’t expect Georgia at this time to beat out the basketball blue bloods for all the big time recruits, but they have to have more than one KCP! Georgia looks to be scraping at the bottom scrap for its players, some of whom might not even make it on mid-major teams. … Georgia has the talent; it is high time Coach Fox (and AD McGarity) surround themselves with those capable of getting them to say “Yes” to UGA.
Well, concerning the signing of Geno, expectations weren’t that high for the spring recruiting period. This time of year, the kids still available are generally of interest mainly to the mid-majors or are JUCO players. And nobody sees Geno as a replacement for KCP. But I think you guys are on the right track: Recruiting (or, rather, the lack thereof) is likely to be Fox’s downfall. Aside from KCP, the players Fox generally signs are not being looked at by top programs. I think Fox is a good x’s and o’s coach and he takes care of his players and they improve under his tutelage. But he just can’t land the big talent. Maybe he’s too colorless, or perhaps coming from Nevada put him at a disadvantage in that he wasn’t tapped in to the circuit of AAU coaches in the South who play such a key role in college basketball recruiting (a situation much different from football). Still, Fox is the coach of a major conference program located just over an hour from the basketball talent hotbed of metro Atlanta. If he doesn’t manage to land a top-flight player this fall, that might well doom his long-term prospects in Athens.
Jay Unger writes: Bill, do you know of any strategies the athletic department has put in place to fill those chronically empty seats in the northeast corner of Sanford Stadium that typically show up so prominently on TV? (Apologies if I’ve missed any references to this in your columns recently.)
That’s what the young alumni ticketing program announced this winter is all about. Ryan Scates, student rep on the athletic board, said the move to take some tickets away from the student body and sell them to young alums just a few years out of school “was designed to directly address the empty seats in the northeast corner. Those sections of Sanford Stadium were where fans saw that students were not coming out to games, and we averaged around 6,000 empty seats per game in those student sections last year. The young alumni tickets will be annually renewable paper tickets designated for that northeast corner of the stadium (Sections 315-317). We have had a tremendous response to this program and anticipate welcoming a large and rowdy crowd for the South Carolina game to open the 2013 home season.”
Sounds like a good plan.
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 email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg