There are a lot of stressed-out kids in Athens right now, as UGA is in the midst of final exams, so here’s wishing the best of luck to my daughter and all the other Bulldogs!
Meanwhile, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Chris Pugh writes: Bill, I’m concerned that we Georgia fans and the media are setting ourselves up for a disappointment. I hear a lot of people yelling, “National champs this year, we’re gonna go all the way” and how this defense is gonna be better then last year’s. Look, I love my Dawgs but the last 2 years’ schedules have been pretty dang easy. And this year is no joke, we could easily lose four games, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we lose to Clemson with a young defense playing Clemson’s high-powered offense. What’s your thought on this?
This is the time of year when fan (and media) optimism runs high, but you’re right that Mark Richt’s Bulldogs face a much more daunting schedule this season. And the rebuilding defense remains a big question mark. On the other hand, Mike Bobo should command one of the nation’s most dangerous offenses this season. Plus, the quality of talent replacing the departed players on defense has a lot of folks thinking Todd Grantham’s 2013 squad might wind up outshining last year’s defensive unit. The big unknown is whether the Dogs will be able to avoid their seemingly traditional slow start in the nationally televised game at Clemson. Richt teams haven’t always fared well in the intense spotlight, and the hype over that game is going to be huge. Both teams will probably enter the game ranked in the Top 10, and David Pollack indicated this week that ESPN’s “College GameDay” most likely will be on hand. As for Clemson, the Tigers’ fast-paced offense definitely will be a challenge for the largely inexperienced Georgia defense, no matter how talented the young Bulldogs are. That’s why the early line has Clemson a 2-point favorite. On the other hand, the Tigers’ defense, on paper at least, may have trouble handling Aaron Murray and Co. It could wind up a shootout, in other words. As I’ve said before, I think Georgia’s best hope is to establish the running game early with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, which would set up Bobo’s play-action passing attack, keeping Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense off the field as much as possible. Beyond Clemson, of course, Georgia faces two other tough games in the opening month of the season: South Carolina and LSU. I’ve heard a lot of fans say they’d be thrilled to take two of those three games. One thing’s for sure: If the Dawgs somehow manage to make it through the first month of the season undefeated, the national championship hype will really start to intensify.
Stephen Segrest writes: From the NFL Draft, one could conclude we have problems on developing defensive linemen. Such great physical abilities in players like Kwame [Geathers] and Abry [Jones] and them not even being drafted. The underuse of Cornelius Washington (and being drafted purely on his super “potential”). Big John [Jenkins] not going until 3rd round (when the hype was 1st round). Is Coach Rodney Garner leaving a blessing? Can you give us something positive we can “hope” for?
Garner was known more for his recruiting than his defensive line coaching, and even that was a bit suspect in his last couple of seasons in Athens. The defensive line was expected to be a strength of the team last year, but despite having all that NFL-caliber talent, Georgia’s defensive front definitely underperformed, especially against the run, from the first game on. Whether new defensive line coach Chris Wilson is able to improve on Garner’s results remains to be seen. Like we’ve discussed here recently, the Dogs won’t be quite as big on the defensive front this year, but they could be more athletic and they should have more depth, which might enable more rotation of players and less likelihood of them running out of gas in the second half, as apparently happened against Alabama’s running game.
Graham Balch writes: I saw [you had] a question about the SEC Network and basic cable. I don’t even have basic cable, as I watch TV using Roku or through the Internet. … I wanted to ask if the SEC Network has any plans for broadcasting football games on its Roku channel? I think a growing number of fans would watch it there (and sadly for us but good for them we can’t skip past the ads like you can using DVR) if we could. In fact, I think the SEC Network could make more money charging for its channel and doing ad-free broadcasts of games and it wouldn’t have to get cable companies to pick up their channel.
The new SEC Network will include plenty of football in addition to every other sport the conference’s schools play, and it will be available on cable, satellite and on all the digital platforms, where additional sporting events will be offered in addition to a live linear stream of the television network. The network also will be available on computers, tablets, mobile phones and other consumer devices like Xbox provided you are a subscriber of an affiliated cable, satellite or telco provider. Fans looking to learn more about how they can get the SEC Network can go here for more information.
Jim Cooney writes: Good morning Bill. With the Diamond Dogs mired in another dreadful season and what I understand the last year of [head coach David] Perno’s 5-year extension from 2008, what are the prospects that Perno is retained and given a 4-year extension to help with recruiting and give him the opportunity to hire a more than capable coaching staff? (Seeing how the current pitching coach has never coached pitching before.) Not to be negative, as I truly understand what Perno has done for UGA baseball, heck look at the left field wall…. ’90, ’01, ’04, ’06,and ’08 Omaha trips. (Yes, I realize ’87, but Perno was not on that team.) But ever since Mike Montgomery could not get out of the 3rd inning in Game 2 of the championship series, the program has been on a steady decline. I understand there were back to back years of horrific injuries … Still, the program has missed the post-season more often than it has made it …. and this season’s play is brutal. Your thoughts?
This year has, indeed, been brutal for the Diamond Dogs, with generally poor pitching, poor hitting, poor fielding and a couple of players dismissed from the team for poor behavior. But expectations weren’t that high to start with for this year’s team, which was picked to finish sixth in the SEC East in a preseason coaches’ poll. However, while they lost two to Arkansas last weekend, they played better and the games were close. After Friday’s gritty win against Tennessee, they’re 17-28 overall and 5-16 in conference play. They’ll still be hard-pressed to even make the SEC tournament, much less the NCAA, but there’s hope. I think how they finish will loom large in athletic director Greg McGarity’s decision after the season on whether to retain Perno. As the coach has pointed out, his program has gone from just about worst in the league to playing in the College World Series the next year twice before (2004 and 2008), so a rebound for the program isn’t impossible. But the trend since 2008 has been pretty distressing, no doubt about it. Asked recently about the baseball program, McGarity said he’ll review the situation at the end of the season. He faces a tough decision.
Montana Hamby writes: Will UGA basketball ever recover? Is it time to start thinking that Mark Fox is not successfully recruiting players to build a better roster year in year out? My concern is that no big name recruits will ever attend UGA when they will certainly have better options (i.e. Tony Parker, Kevin Ware, etc.) What do you think?
I answered a similar question a couple of weeks ago, but to recap: Yes, recruiting (or, rather, the lack thereof) appears to be Fox’s main weakness and may lead to his downfall. He doesn’t appear to be really tapped in to the circuit of AAU coaches in the South who play such a key role in college basketball recruiting. Still, Fox is the coach of a major conference program located just over an hour from the basketball talent hotbed of metro Atlanta, so he ought to be able to do better than he has so far (with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope being his only real recruiting coup). If he doesn’t manage to land a top-flight player this fall, that might well doom his long-term prospects in Athens.
Got something you want to discuss concerning the upcoming football season or some other aspect of 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