Let’s jump straight into some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
David Rosenberg writes: I’m 43 and a 3rd generation Bulldog. I take pride in the fact that Georgia plays in what many consider to be one of the toughest conferences in football. However, I take no joy in bitter rivals like Auburn or Florida winning national titles; or even having the opportunity to play for one. Do I have respect for their accomplishments? Sure. Do I relish the idea that the “SEC” has a team in the game? If it is not Georgia? No! Georgia last played for a national title 30-plus years ago. The loss to Alabama in the SEC title game in 2012 crippled their best shot at a title. The 2013 Dawgs beat South Carolina, LSU, Tennessee, Florida, and Tech! Now, if someone would have told me those wins would be on our schedule before the season started, you would have thought Georgia would be headed to Pasadena. But again, it is not to be. The season is not over and Richt and Grantham look like they will be teamed up for another season. So, here’s my short take on what Richt must do for this program. 1.) Fix special teams. I don’t care how you do it; hire a coach, spend hours on it, learn coffin corner, get someone to put kickoffs out of the end zone … whatever. Just fix it! 2.) IMPROVE THIS DEFENSE DRAMATICALLY! Better technique. Better understanding. Better discipline. 3.) The offense has to be consistent. 4.) Better organization on the sidelines by the coaching staff. I cannot stand the idea that the SEC may win an 8th straight National Title and of those wins, Georgia not only will have ZERO, but they won’t even have appeared in the game. I don’t want to say next season is TITLE or BUST, but with the new playoff format and all the talent Georgia has returning, there should be no reason they aren’t in the hunt. If Richt hooks his wagon to Grantham another year after the dismal performance of this defense, then their fates should be linked next year.
David, I’m with you in not wanting Auburn to win another national title. That’s a recruiting advantage we don’t need them to have. And aside from the offense (which I think has been pretty consistent and impressive, considering the number of skill players lost to injury this season), I agree with much of what you wrote, though I part with you at the very end. While I do think the 2014 season should and will decide Todd Grantham’s future at UGA, I believe it’s an overreaction to lump Mark Richt in with him. I liked what our Mark Bradley had to say this week on the subject of schools dumping coaches who’ve been successful over the long haul for an unknown possible upgrade. If the defense underperforms again, I believe there’ll be change at defensive coordinator. But not at head coach. I think the next letter writer sums it up pretty nicely …
Bill Russell writes: Hello Bill, I have been enjoying your column for years, and I always appreciate seeing the different perspectives regarding our beloved Bulldogs. I was on the 5 year Herschel plan (1978-83), and got to experience the highs and lows of those years. I remember when people were calling for Dooley’s head after we were absolutely crushed by Virginia at homecoming in ’79. I also remember the next three years, and nobody was predicting that we would ever win a national championship under Dooley’s guidance. Like most, I have agonized over the play of the defense, but I also think that there are some factors people are not talking about much; like how explosive offenses were this year in the SEC, and how we managed to play almost all of the really good ones. (Not to mention two nonleague opponents who are going bowling.) We did this with the greenest defense in memory, and a bevy of injuries on offense that would have sunk most programs (see Florida). I read that the D never got better, but compare how it performed against Auburn with the subsequent games Auburn played against Alabama and Missouri and the D looks like it did improve, but it also played dominant offenses at the end of the year. Could the coaching have been better? I’m sure that every coach on the staff would affirm that it can, and I hope that we will see an improvement next year. The decision about who will be coaching under Richt is Richt’s alone. He has put a product on the field that we can all be proud of, and I like that he actually graduates his players. I agree with you, one play from the national championship is a pretty good season, and there is no reason to believe that we will not ultimately be in the mix. And remember, it’s a game. It’s an awesome, gut-wrenching, sometimes fall-on-the-floor-in-despair, or fly-in-the-air-in-elation game, but still a game. I hope that everyone will remember those who are suffering actual life altering situations, and also our soldiers and veterans as we contemplate another holiday season. Have a very merry Christmas Bill, and let’s hope that the Dawgs have an outstanding bowl performance and a 2014 season full of proud memories!
Great job of putting it all into the proper perspective, Bill!
Harry Vincent writes: Bill, I bet all the nattering nabobs of negativity with their incessant Fire-Bobo mantra practically swallowed their chaw over him winning the national offensive coordinator of the year award from 247Sports.com this week. I think Mike’s one of the most dynamic offensive coaches in the country and has been underrated for far too long. How about you?
I agree Bobo has shouldered far too much of the blame for the Dogs’ offensive shortcomings in past seasons and hasn’t gotten enough credit for having one of the nation’s most productive offenses over the past couple of years. Basically, ever since Bobo decided to go uptempo and spread it out a bit more a couple of years ago, Georgia’s offense has been one of the most dangerous around. Of course, a lot of that is down to having a player like Aaron Murray at quarterback. And the arrival of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall was the final piece in the puzzle. We saw, unfortunately, during the up-and-down season with Isaiah Crowell how crucial it is to Bobo’s offense to have a good tailback. As for this year’s award for Bobo, I think a definite factor may have been the recognition of what a terrific job he did despite losing so many marquee players for all or much of the season. The only subpar game I thought Bobo had as a playcaller this season was Vandy, and that was directly attributable to the rash of key injuries. The 2013 offense so far has averaged 38.2 points per game and gained an average of 489.8 yards while playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Considering the salary disparity between Bobo and the overpaid defensive coordinator at UGA, I think another big raise for Mike is in order this offseason.
John in Norcross writes: Since we have a bye week in week 2, and Clemson has an easily movable FCS game, do you think there’s any chance our game gets played on Labor Day? I know the Labor Day games are usually hosted by ACC schools, but I feel like ESPN could pull the strings to make it happen if they really wanted to.
It doesn’t look like that’s even being considered, John. I ran your scenario by UGA sports information chief Claude Felton, who noted flatly, “The Clemson game is locked in for the Saturday.”
OconeeDawg writes: Bill, I’m trying to decide whether I think the move of Tramel Terry over to defense is a good idea or not. On the one hand, I know there’s a definite need for his kind of talent in our secondary, but I also remember last year when they moved another receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, back there and it basically was a wash. A great receiver became a so-so cornerback. Why should it be any different this time?
Basically, I think it’s a good move. Terry would be pretty far down on the depth chart at receiver next season, and as you noted, an infusion of talent is badly needed in the secondary. Although he played some defense in high school and was recruited as an “athlete” rather than for a specific spot (though receiver or running back seemed the most likely), I’m sure he faces enough of a learning curve in Grantham’s overly complicated defense that it’ll be a while before he’s ready to start on defense. However, I think one of the key reasons for the move is the lack of takeaways this season by Georgia’s pass defense. As Grantham noted this week, Terry can “catch the ball” and “that creates turnovers … a guy like that can really make some plays for you.”
Jim P. writes: Bill, The Dawgs do have some talented players on defense. It isn’t all doom and gloom. One shining star this season was leading tackler Ramik Wilson. I know it is pure speculation, but do you believe, as a junior, he will leave early for NFL draft? Do you know of any other early draft eligibles (offense or defense) that will realistically consider at this time? Selfishly, I hope not.
Wilson said this week that he hasn’t asked for a projection from the NFL draft underclassmen advisory committee but he hasn’t yet made up his mind about returning for his senior year. He said he plans on leaning heavily on the advice of his position coach, Kirk Olivadotti, who has a lot of NFL experience. I think Wilson leaving is a long shot, and Richt has indicated that he thinks it’s unlikely that the Dogs will lose any underclassmen to the NFL this season. “I’m not hearing a lot of buzz about it right now,” the head coach said. “I think guys feel like they’ve got more to prove. I’m hearing a good vibe about what the guys feel about the future of next season. …I get a sense that guys really want to have an exceptional year next year, especially on the defensive side of the ball.” If Georgia does escape losing anyone early, it’ll certainly make for a nice change from recent years!
Robert Kushner writes: Bill, why has Quayvon Hicks’ playing time gone down so much? I thought the way be blocked and was used by Bobo was a huge weapon! What’s up?
You’re right that Hicks showed signs early in the season of really being an offensive weapon, but then his productivity and playing time declined. From what I understand, the fullback starting spot has continued to be “an ongoing competition,” as Richt put it, between Hicks and Merritt Hall basically because Hall is more consistent with his blocking, and that’s a major consideration in Georgia’s offense. Both have continued to play, however, and that’s not a bad thing. As Richt has noted, it’s a very physical position and “it’s good to have more than one.” During the season, Hicks mentioned another factor: conditioning. He noted that in the first couple of games, when he was getting most of the reps, he tended to get winded. The better shape he’s in, the more he’ll play. I still think Hicks is going to help win some games down the road.
Michael writes: Love the Junkyard Blawg! Question I have is for the road uniforms, why don’t the Dawgs go 1980-retro (Tennessee game) and wear red pants? I think it looks a heckuva lot better than the silver britches do with the white tops. Plus, we could channel our inner Herschel!
I actually think the white tops and silver britches look pretty good, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the red pants return for road games and I’ve heard quite a few other fans say the same. (I would not like red britches with red tops, however, and I think a lot of other fans feel that way, too.) I’d never want Georgia to hop on the uniform-of-the-week bandwagon like other schools, even if that approach is popular with today’s college players, but I believe red britches on the road occasionally and black jerseys for the final home game each year would make for a happy medium.
A couple of other notes …
Freshman Pierce Wallace, a member of the painted-up UGA Spike Squad who’s come to be known as the Georgia Joker for his garish face makeup and green fright wig, will be inducted into the ESPN Fan Hall of Fame, the sports channel announced. Wallace, a mainstay in Section 109 of Sanford Stadium, and a couple of other sports fans will have their names engraved above three vintage stadium chairs that sit on the lawn at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Each of the three received more than 85,000 votes during 10 days of online voting, ESPN said. Congratulations, Pierce!
Also, if you’re looking for a last-minute gift for a member of the Bulldog Nation, the UGA Athletic Association is offering “official gift cards” that can be used toward ticket and concessions purchases at participating home events. Fans can use their gift card when ordering season, mini-plan and single game tickets online, over the phone and in-person at the ticket windows to regular season home events in baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, football and gymnastics and for concession purchases in baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and gymnastics. Gift cards can be purchased in the amounts of $20, $40, $60, $80 or $100 online or by calling 706-542-9003.
Hope everyone has a merry Christmas!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg