Archive for August, 2013

Despite the defensive question marks, Dawg fans feel pretty good

Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs' ground game look to be a key to a Georgia win in Death Valley. (Associated Press)

Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs' ground game look to be a key to a Georgia win in Death Valley. (Associated Press)

Seems like just about everyone I’ve run into this week has asked me if I’m ready for Clemson and the new season.

Well, sure, but what I’m more concerned with is whether Mark Richt’s Bulldogs, especially the defensive secondary, are ready.

Overall, most fans are optimistic about Georgia’s prospects this year, despite opening with a September schedule from hell. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the wholesale remaking of Todd Grantham’s defense, and making its debut at Clemson against Tajh Boyd and the Tigers’ explosive, hurry-up, no-huddle offense certainly will mean a baptism by fire.

Also, the game will be played in a rather intimidating atmosphere — Death Valley — and Richt teams haven’t exactly come out of the gate with all cylinders firing in recent seasons’ opening games.

But you’ve got to feel pretty good about Georgia’s …

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Making book on the legendary Georgia-Clemson series

georgia-clemson flagAs noted here before, the Georgia-Clemson football rivalry, which resumes Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, once rivaled Georgia-Florida, Georgia-Auburn and Georgia-Georgia Tech for fan intensity.

And as UGA fan Kyle King notes in his new book from Clemson University Digital Press about the series, “Fighting Like Cats and Dogs,” in the 1970s and ’80s there was no more closely contested or nationally significant rivalry in college football than the clashes between the neighboring schools.

Certainly, Saturday’s game between the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs and the No. 8-ranked Tigers is a return to that lofty status, but to provide more context for those who are new to Georgia-Clemson, I chatted (via email) with Kyle (no relation of mine that I’m aware of) about his book, and the series. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a political science degree in 1990 and got a law degree from UGA’s Joseph Henry Lumpkin School of Law in 1997. The former site manager and chief …

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A primer for young Dawgs who don’t understand how big Georgia-Clemson really is!

Georgia-Clemson logosWe discussed recently here Georgia’s great football rivalries, and it saddens me a little to think that for most younger fans Georgia-Clemson doesn’t fall in that category.

It’s no wonder. Despite being in such close proximity to each other and having such a rich history of gridiron clashes, the two schools haven’t played that much in recent decades: only four times in the 1990s and only twice since then, the last time being a decade ago. That’s in contrast to the period when I came of age as a Georgia fan, when the Dogs and the Tigers met nearly every year (and, in fact, every year from 1973 through 1987). Unfortunately, as conference schedules grew, the yearly grudge match became an occasional thing and one of the country’s greatest rivalries waned.

Of course, even UGA football newbies view this Saturday night’s game as a big one. After all the Bulldogs are the nation’s No. 5 team and Clemson ranks No. 8. It’s the first time in history that both Georgia and its opening …

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Fan talk: Fragile Bulldog hamstrings, big-game ‘strategery,’ high school talent and more!

Rantavious Wooten, wearing the green noncontact jersey in practice Friday, is one of the players who've suffered a strained hamstring. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Rantavious Wooten, wearing the green noncontact jersey in practice Friday, is one of the players who've suffered a strained hamstring. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Let’s dip into some of the recent Junkyard Mail to see what’s on UGA fans’ minds …

Several readers have asked about the rash of injuries suffered by quite a few Dawgs this month, and Brett House is pretty typical of them when he writes: I would like to ask your opinion on UGA’s rash of hamstring injuries this summer. Didn’t we hire a new coach/trainer that was to focus solely on stretching and speed? As I read down the injury list (I think it had 14 names on it post Wednesday night’s scrimmage) there were countless players with hamstring strains. I realize summer camps will have a certain amount of attrition, but with the new focus on speed training, this kind of surprises me. Your thoughts?

Injuries are a regular part of preseason camp, particularly strained hamstrings. And there’ve been several Bulldog players with …

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Georgia has a 2014 schedule sure to have Spurrier grinding his teeth

uga logo classicGeorgia could hardly have hoped for a better result than the 2014 football schedule released by the Southeastern Conference Wednesday.

The Dogs drew Arkansas as their SEC West road trip (instead of Alabama as had been rumored early on) and have an open date before the game at South Carolina and another open date before Florida. They’ll also be on the road against Missouri and Kentucky.

The only real downside is that the schedule is front- and back-loaded with home games and Georgia will be away from Sanford Stadium after the Oct. 4 Vandy game until Auburn returns Between the Hedges Nov. 15.

For nonconference games, the season opens as expected with Clemson in Athens and has Troy and Charleston Southern (the week before Georgia Tech).

Georgia will have a new QB (albeit one who has been in the program for years) but with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall back as juniors, all those young defenders back and still a lot of O-line talent. Throw in this schedule and UGA …

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Georgia-Florida is a rivalry, but what about the Gamecocks?

The annual game in Jacksonville is Georgia's most intense rivalry. (AJC file)

The annual game in Jacksonville is Georgia's most intense rivalry. (AJC file)

A recent ESPN.com article on the top five rivalries in the SEC has generated quite a bit of conversation among fans.

Topped by Alabama-LSU, the list (which focused on the rivalries considered hottest right now) also included Georgia-Florida, the Iron Bowl between Bama and Auburn, Georgia-South Carolina, and the Egg Bowl match of Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

Notably, Georgia-Auburn, the game widely known as the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, didn’t make the cut.

Now, knowing how devoted ESPN is to being trendy (they listed Alabama-Texas A&M as a rising rivalry on the basis of, what, one year?), I imagine the fact that Georgia has dominated its series over Auburn recently (the Cam Newton blip being the exception) is probably one reason that much-heralded series didn’t make the list. Neither did Alabama-Tennessee, which also has become one-sided.

But the Georgia-Auburn series still has all the …

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Athens in August definitely gets a Dog ready for some football!

Tradition is a big part of the appeal of college football. (Olivia King)

Tradition is a big part of the appeal of college football. (Olivia King)

There was certainly no morning chill in the air last week in Athens. In fact, it was hot and muggy when it wasn’t spitting rain on us as we were moving my daughter Olivia into the brand-new Rutherford Hall for her sophomore year at UGA.

But it felt like fall to me.

Even when I haven’t had a child attending school in Athens, an August visit to the campus has been an annual ritual that I’ve looked forward to renewing. There’s nothing like a visit to campus as Athens awakens from a sleepy summer to get your red and black blood rising, what with hundreds of sorority girls taking to the sidewalks doing the rush thing while parents and students trundle handcarts full of belongings and strain to carry couches and futons into the reopened dorms.

And the capper is when Olivia and I have our annual shopping spree at the UGA bookstore. Joining the many other parents and students wandering with arms loaded through …

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UGA football heroes: Who’s on the All-Richt team?

Knowshon Moreno tops the running backs on the All-Richt team. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Knowshon Moreno tops the running backs on the All-Richt team. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

A dozen years into the Mark Richt era at UGA, it seems like a good time to take stock of the amazing talent that has played under him and compile an All-Richt team of the best players at each position.

It’s a fun exercise for a Bulldog fan, but tough when it comes to deciding between some of the stellar athletes who’ve played in Athens over the past 12 years. So I’ve taken advantage of the fact that most teams rotate what you might consider co-starters at some key spots to allow myself some latitude in making my choices. Basically, that’s my excuse for not narrowing each spot down to one name!

So here goes, the Junkyard Blawg All-Richt Team:

OFFENSE

RB: Knowshon Moreno and Musa Smith. Moreno, an All-American, was a lock for the first spot. I put Richt’s first tailback in the other spot. A couple of folks I solicited nominations from thought Todd Gurley already deserved a place on the list as …

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UGA fans hope preseason camp eliminates question marks

Preseason expectations for the Dawgs are running high.

Preseason expectations for the Dawgs are running high.

The SEC media have anointed Mark Richt’s 2013 Bulldogs as the favorite to threepeat in the East, Georgia is likely to be a Top 10 team in most national polls and Mike Bobo’s offense is expected to be among the most productive in the country, but as preseason camp gets under way at the Woodruff Practice Fields in Athens, an awful lot of question marks still hang over this team.

Not the least among them is the almost total rebuilding job on defense necessitated by graduation and players leaving early for the NFL. As a friend put it back at the end of last season, this year Todd Grantham is really going to have to earn those big bucks. Last year, he came into the season with what was supposed to be one of the nation’s top defenses, loaded with talent worthy of playing on Sunday, and yet the defensive Dawgs proved decidedly ordinary. What can he do this year with a roster that’s loaded with talent but extremely short on …

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