Fan talk: Playing it coy on suspensions isn’t helpful

Josh Harvey-Clemons' grandfather says his suspension is because of an academic problem. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Josh Harvey-Clemons' grandfather says his suspension is because of an academic problem. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Hope you had a good holiday week. The King family had a very nice Christmas, including lots of UGA-related gifts exchanged, ranging from shirts, a fleece jacket, basketball shorts and books to a Bulldog cutting board and coasters featuring the arch!

And, of course, between feasting and watching a John Wayne movie marathon we spent a little time talking Georgia football as Mark Richt’s team was making its way down to Jacksonville for Gator Bowl practice— amid news reports that, predictably, a couple of members would not be taking part in the game because of suspensions.

That’s never a good thing, no matter what sort of infraction was committed by defensive players Josh Harvey-Clemons and Sheldon Dawson, but the way Richt handled the situation this week, repeatedly refusing to answer any questions about the suspensions, allowed rumor and speculation to run rampant for a few days, which isn’t helpful to his program.

Let’s face it, when you heard the two Dogs were suspended for the bowl game because of a “violation of team rules,” the first thing that popped into your head was drugs, right? In recent years, that phrase has come to be considered a sort of code for “caught with weed” or “failed a drug test.”

Fortunately, some sources close to the program quickly started leaking to reporters word that the suspensions actually were related to academic problems, and then Friday Harvey-Clemons’ grandfather confirmed that was the case with him, though we still have no certain word on Dawson’s suspension. But resorting to the “grapevine” to manage this sort of PR problem seems wrong-headed.

I understand if school policy precludes the head coach talking to the media about a player’s academic standing, but if that’s the case UGA should urge the players involved, or their families, or some designated spokesman (usually their high school coach) to speak up and set the record straight. Or perhaps Richt could at least say publicly what the suspensions are not about.

Playing coy in these instances doesn’t serve the player, the team or the school’s best interests.

Now, let’s get to some holiday week Junkyard Mail …

Jackie T. writes: Bill, I’m really more of a “neutral” observer than a Dawg fan, having gone to NYU before moving down here, but I enjoy reading your Blawg and getting some insight into all my Red and Black friends and neighbors. Speaking of which, I get the distinct impression the Bulldog Nation is greeting next week’s bowl game with a collective yawn. I realize the Gator Bowl isn’t part of the BCS, but there are a lot of fan bases out there that would love to have their team playing in the postseason, and especially in a New Year’s Day bowl game in Florida. Are your Bulldog brethren spoiled or fair-weather fans or what?

Jackie, I’d say your characterization of UGA fans’ interest in the Gator Bowl as a “collective yawn” is a bit of an overstatement. Yes, it’s true that a mid-tier bowl after an 8-4 season isn’t what Bulldog fans had hoped for — or expected after Georgia had knocked off South Carolina and LSU — and facing a rematch with the same opponent as last year certainly hasn’t helped stoke fan excitement for either Georgia or Nebraska. But from talking with fans over the past couple of weeks, I get the impression that UGA backers are anxious to see the team close out the season with another win and also want to see whether Hutson Mason can continue the progress he started with the tremendous comeback effort against Georgia Tech. While Bulldog fans understandably are disappointed with the unfortunate way record-setter Aaron Murray’s career at UGA ended prematurely, I think they’re a bit excited about next year’s starting QB getting some valuable playing time against major competition in advance of that looming 2014 season opener against Clemson. But, to get back to your point, fan bases for major SEC programs like Georgia generally aren’t satisfied with anything short of a top-level bowl, if not a conference championship and a shot at the national title. And I don’t think Richt and his staff would want them to be.

In a related question, Kathleen White writes: Just curious — how are ticket sales for the Gator Bowl going? I read a week or so ago that UGA had only sold about 7,000 tickets in mid-December and that Nebraska had only sold about 3,000. I think the schools had allotments of 12,000-15,000.

Kathleen, UGA sports information chief Claude Felton tells me that the most recent figure he heard, which was from the end of the week before Christmas, showed Georgia had sold about 7,500 tickets. Of course, more UGA fans than that are expected to attend the Gator Bowl, as a lot of folks buy tickets on the open market rather than through the school. Meanwhile, Nebraska’s athletic department announced this week that it had sold about 4,000 of the 12,750 tickets it was allotted for the bowl. About 1,000 of those tickets were donated to the Veterans Ticket Foundation.

From California, Napoleon writes: What happened with our secondary this year? And who’s to blame? Lakatos or Grantham? It seems like Swann took a step back although he was the most experienced.

You’re right about Damian Swann not living up to expectations, though he improved as the season went on. Do you put the blame for that on his position coach, Scott Lakatos, or the player himself? A bit of both, probably. As for the rest of the secondary, admittedly it was the weak link of Georgia’s defense this season, and there’s a combination of reasons that can be cited. A lot of experience was lost off the 2012 team and any time you have to start true freshmen or inexperienced players in the secondary in the SEC you can expect to have a hard time. Plus, because of injuries Lakatos had to constantly reshuffle his lineup all season long, which didn’t help in the secondary’s development. Another aspect of the problem: A couple of very talented players who would have been expected to be starting in the secondary this season were kicked off the team. One of them, of course, wound up switching to quarterback and leading Auburn to this year’s BCS championship game. Also, a bit of the blame for the lack of depth that resulted in Georgia having to play so many green players this year probably should be placed on recruiting failures. Ultimately, of course, all of that falls on defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. If you can say that an assistant coach is on the hot seat, well, I think Grantham faces that prospect next season.

Hutson Mason likes to run a hurry-up offense. (Johnny Crawford / AJC)

Hutson Mason likes to run a hurry-up offense. (Johnny Crawford / AJC)

Bill Collier writes: Bill, I always look forward to your columns and I appreciate your honest insight to Dawg football. Couple of questions. Hutson Mason has said that he likes a “fast paced” offense. Can/will Mike Bobo accommodate him? Or will the offense coaches make him adjust do the “slower” pace that they have run with Aaron Murray? Second question. Ed Orgeron is available. He was defensive line coach/head recruiter for USC (hmm, sounds familiar). I would think coach Richt would want to look into something for him with UGA. Any thoughts or rumors?

Actually, Bobo instituted a hurry-up, no-huddle aspect of Georgia’s offense a couple of seasons ago and used it with Murray whenever the flow of the game dictated it. But you’re right that Mason prefers an uptempo pace even more, having played that way in high school, and based on what we’ve seen in the past game and a half it looks like Bobo is going to accommodate him. After Mason got off to a bit of a rough start against Tech, Bobo went hurry-up, emphasizing the quick passing game, and that seemed to get his new QB back on track. So, yes, I expect we’ll see even more uptempo offense next season. As for Orgeron, first of all, Richt doesn’t have a staff vacancy at the moment, despite many fans’ wishes. And let’s just say I don’t think Orgeron would be a very good match for the way Richt likes to run his program. Aside from past domestic personal issues, Orgeron has generated some controversy over his recruiting style. He’s managed to land some top talent but has become known for recruiting moves that have pushed the envelope on what’s considered acceptable by NCAA standards. Not what Richt likes to call the Georgia Way.

Luke writes: Hi Bill, Really like reading your Blawg! I love the Dawgs ever since I could understand what football is. However, I have a question that is imprinted on my mind each season, especially as I read through Georgia fan comments. Why do us Georgia fans expect a national title contender each year? Fact: UGA has won 2 national titles according to the official Georgia athletics site. I’m not coming at this from a critical nature, just curious what your thoughts are and the thoughts of other fans out there.

Luke, my answer harks back to what I said above about the Bulldog Nation’s feelings about the Gator Bowl. Georgia certainly hasn’t had the sort of success at winning national titles that, say, Alabama has, but UGA still has a top-tier program in the nation’s best college football conference and so a shot at the national title is certainly a reasonable expectation. And last season Richt’s team came within 5 yards of making it to a BCS championship game that they would have been favored to win. Even this year, take away the incredible rash of injuries to key players on the offense and, despite a suspect defense, Georgia probably would have made it to the SEC championship game for a third year in a row, and the winner of that game usually is in the national title conversation. Bottom line: UGA is frequently in contention for an SEC championship, and that means it’s not out of line for the fan base to dream of another national championship.

One last note: If you’re looking to watch the Gator Bowl game with other UGA grads, the alumni association has up a list of 18 cities across the country that are planning viewing parties. You can check them out here.

Go Dogs!

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

192 comments Add your comment

Skokie Dog

December 30th, 2013
11:07 am

@ Mr. Duh: I get it. Anyone who has facts that contradict your assertions is a troll. Guilty as charged…

John

December 30th, 2013
11:28 am

And last season Richt’s team came within 5 yards of making it to a BCS championship game that they would have been favored to win.
………..one time in 13 years from a University that puts more players in the NFL than any other SEC team (or close to that)……..

Even this year, take away the incredible rash of injuries to key players on the offense and, despite a suspect defense, Georgia probably would have made it to the SEC championship game for a third year in a row…….DOUBTFUL, we need to quit making the injury excuse. Our offense STILL averaged close to 38 points per game even WITH the injuries. The results of this season lay at the feet of poor coaching, the Defense, and special teams……funny, same as usually is the case.

maconexpress

December 30th, 2013
11:29 am

I for one believe that Hudson Mason can led the dawgs to a national championship. I’ve seen glimpse of his leadership skills, his ability to see, think, and react under pressure….to top it off, he’s a ga kid…….uga plays better when the signal caller is from the state of ga.

I’m as disappointed as anyone with CTG’s defense this seasons but I will not underestimate this man. He knows it’s do or die next season(his complex playb is not an option) so I expect to see a different approach. If he doesn’t deliver, he’s history and CMR will look BAD for keeping him around.

Scoring Defense
2010 Rank 36th
2011 Rank 23rd
2012 Rank 18th
2013 Rank 80th
2014 ???????? (should rank in the top 10 with everyone returning)

Scoring Offense
2010 Rank 30th
2011 Rank 33rd
2012 Rank 18th
2013 Rank 19th
2014???????? (With Mason at the helm I’m expecting better results)

RiffRaff

December 30th, 2013
11:54 am

Hutson Mason gonna surprise a lot of folks. Liked the way he threw a block in the Tech game. Glad he’s getting some rep’s before next season.

dawgfan

December 30th, 2013
12:31 pm

Yeah because we’ve certainly had a dearth of talent at QB before now. Thank God Hutson I taking over. Nothing can stop us now.

Just say no to Kool Aid.

I dropped my fried twinkie

December 30th, 2013
12:31 pm

Hudson Mason is the TEE MARTIN to Peyton Manning?
Is that really what some of you people think?
IF Hutson is that good the WHY hasn’t Preacher Man MARK played Hutson more?
All this sounds like the ???????? running back is the NEXT NEXT NEXT NEXT…Herschel Walker we have heard fans say for 30 years.

dawgfan

December 30th, 2013
1:09 pm

Hutson Mason will throw for 3,000+ yards next year, 25+ TDs and complete 65% of his passes….

…but we’ll still lose 2 or more games just like always because “continuity is a good thing.”

My money is on 8-4 again.

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
2:00 pm

35 and dawgfan,

BOO!!!

BigDawg

December 30th, 2013
2:25 pm

Fellow Dawgs- the Dawgs can win a National Championship under Coach Richt but it will take him humbling himself and admitting what he has been doing just isn’t quiet working. That is a Big Ego thing and to admit one is wrong and to make necessary changes.

1. Recruiting the Best offensive and defensive linemen- games and championships are won in the trenches – must bring in 5 to 6 offensive linemen and 5 to 6 defensive linemen per class.
2. Special Teams have to be a priority in getting a ST coach and spending quality time working on kickoffs, returns, punts and place kicking- extra points and field goals.
3. Team discipline- players need to take responsibility for each other on and off the field.
4. Coach Richt has to somehow find it in himself to be more animated in a positive way on the sidelines- be more involved in the game- the players feed off of his low key demeanor most of the time.
5. Better clock management which is a recurring theme with this team.
6. Coach Grantham has to drop/change his complicated defensive schemes- simplify things, get the calls in quicker so players are ready to go when the ball is snapped.

These are only my opinions.

Go Dawgs

icedawg

December 30th, 2013
2:26 pm

I do not see why a very simple explanation cannot be adopted for reporting suspensions. Suspended for academic reasons. Suspended for moral reasons. The details can be left out. If the press would like more details they can approach the player and/or family. Regarding Richt’s performance as a coach, his winning percentage is slightly higher (.74) than Vince Dooley’s (.72, not counting the 10 ties). Dooley had the good fortune during his tenure of having Erk Russell as D coach for a significant number of years and it was during that time that the DAWGS really played defense well and aggressively. Good D coordinators are hard to come by and for some reason now across the college/university and professional spectrum there appears to be a shortage of D coaches that can figure out how to even slow down offenses. Who is to say that making a change at that position now will solve the DAWG defense problem? The D has not proven that it can stop the good teams. Hence, 10-2, 9-3 and 8- seasons, no BCS, and few SEC championships.

Dog4Life

December 30th, 2013
2:34 pm

1) Hutson Mason is a better QB than Tee Martin; 2) Tenn that year had an underachieving offense but a very over achieving D–Damn they only allowed something like under 20 pts per game (barely scored 21 per game and almost lost to Syracuse and Arkie). 3) stranger things have happened–if the defense can keep the other team under 25pts per game, we do have a chance regardless of the naysayers on here.

My issue has been, and remains CTG and his inefficiency with D schemes and play calling. Just because one can talk Xs and Os doesn’t mean a thing. Many theoretical physicists are good in the class room but cannot make it happen in the world of applications (applied and theoretical). We remain confused and lost 70% of the time on D. If things had improved significantly by the Tech game I would be slightly encouraged, but alas! they were lost also many times during the Tech game. I have no crystal ball. i can only hope.

NCDawg

December 30th, 2013
2:37 pm

Coach Richt chose not to say anything about the suspensions because the details were not all out. How hard is that to grasp? A reporter asks”, What about Harvey Clemons and Dawson?” Is he supposed to just reply “I think it’s an academic thing but I am still waiting on full details”? C’mon. That is retarded.

There will always be speculation whether you state the cause specifically or if you opt to not talk about it. There will always be people who think it’s a cover up. That’s the f’d up world we live in now.

Anybody ever think that part of the punishment might have been to be “left out”? To just not talk about it it and send the message that “we don’t detract from what responsible players are doing by addressing what those that didn’t hold up their end of the bargain did NOT do.”

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

dawgfan

December 30th, 2013
2:42 pm

I’m not sure I agree BigDawg. I don’t think it’s an ego thing at all. I think Richt is plenty humble. He can’t possibly think “I’m a genius and my system works so well” because it doesn’t work that well. The results speak for themselves. No, I think it’s a work ethic issue. All of those changes that you listed would take good ole fashioned hard work to implement. Richt isn’t interested. He’s on auto-pilot. He’s on auto-pilot because he’s comfortable where we are and not much more is demanded of him. He’s coasting and hoping the ball bounces our way but if it doesn’t he’s okay with that. There’s no drive there. No ambition. You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

I think he’s a great guy but what does irk me is that I think he strings us along. I think he’s a master at public relations. He’s probably better at that than he is at coaching football. He knows all the right things to say. He knows how to strike that perfect balance of getting people excited while at the same time tempering expectations. It’s pretty sharp really. All the while nothing changes behind the scenes. He’s mailing it in knowing a C+ effort will get us 8 or 9 wins bare minimum just based on talent alone.

I’m not buying it anymore.

NCDawg

December 30th, 2013
2:45 pm

Dog4Life – the problem is implementation of theory. It may even pass muster in a simulation but “real world” application is where it is really at. The 2011 defense was good… not great. They did not seems as confused or lackluster as the past 2 editions have been.

The scheme would work if he had the same players 2 years in a row and 2x the practice time. It’s just too complex and unfortunately seems to fly against the players’ natural instincts. Retraining someone is very difficult. Maybe next year the guys will have a better grasp on it but I’m not holding my breath.

dawgfan

December 30th, 2013
2:53 pm

We played 4 ranked teams in 2011 and lost to every single one of them. The defense gave up 38.75 ppg in those contests. Our defense was not good in 2011.

You really need to lay off the Kool Aid.

UGA Insider

December 30th, 2013
3:12 pm

Let me warn all UGA fans about this game with Nebraska…UGA is NOT ready to play football. CMR has taken so many practices off and the team is down in Jax partying their faces off.

This is basically what happens most of the month of August before big games such as Clemson and Boise State. Does everyone understand that CMR would rather schedule cupcakes the first week then begin tough practices the week of USCe?

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
3:18 pm

Fellow Bloggers,

Since dialogue on this blog descends rapidly, I say we agree on a plan. Of course, everyone says they’re adults, but not everyone utilizes adult reasoning.

So, in the interest of adult conversation and valid back-and-forth, let’s all adhere to some rules:

1) No longer use the word “kool-aid” or any derivation thereof. It makes you look stupid and ignorant. The fad has faded.
2) Stop repeating the same old stale lines regarding Richt. Implement meaningful criticisms instead of the juvenile crap that you’ve already heard from others.
3) If the game is somewhat complex to you, don’t be ashamed. Not everyone knows the intricacies of the schemes, line-ups, options and other details. So don’t comment on these things. It becomes obvious that you are clueless. Then you look as if you are just passing time on a computer instead of debating about our team.
4) Keep things in context. Just because you still hurt from a game in 2008, don’t lump it in with this year’s 2013 squad. Again, it shows an infantile grasp of things and you wind up having to expand that argument to other years to help you make sense of things in 2013. You lose credibility and no one wants to discuss anything with kids who have no credibility.
5) Show a level of maturity and you will have a meaningful discourse. If you continue the path that you guys are on…I will have to put you in your place. Some of you know how that feels and it ain’t good.
Lastly…) Show your loyalty instead of your loathing. It puts you in a better light…GO DAWGS!!!!

P.S. Try to check your spelling if you can. It’s like listening to a teenager that says…”it was like, you know, like so, you know, like rad, dude. It was like, wow, like, I was, like…) Get the picture?

dawgfan

December 30th, 2013
3:42 pm

The guy who calls people “doo doo heads” wants maturity and adult conversation? That’s rich.

Yes, let’s keep things “in context” so we don’t have to deal with facts that we don’t like. Richt was our coach in both 2008 and 2013 was he not? There’s your context Captain Clueless.

Speaking of credibilty, you might have some if you did anything other than whine about other peoples’ opinions. Try offering up your own for once. I’ll give you 3 free posts before I start making you look stupid. Promise.

Thanks.

Bulldawg35

December 30th, 2013
4:06 pm

Gut rake

Nobody cares about your dumb wanna be rules.

Bulldawg35

December 30th, 2013
4:46 pm

Richt took the team swimming in the beach….we have already missed practice time now coach goes swimming…..just wow!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
5:18 pm

Notice the first two to bite…35 and dawgfan.

Hmmm…

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
5:33 pm

dawgfan,

While it is true that you exhibit a slight edge over 35 in the amount of toys in your box, your inclination to agree with his blathering is quite simply, a dead giveaway. So, in the interest of compromise, I will, once again, inform you of posts past.

I have made numerous salient points before that have utterly destroyed your arguments. When that happens, you and 35 immediately turn to the “Kool-Aid” words and other sophomoric rants.

You seem unable to grasp the language of reason and lucidity. Therefore, the rest of us think that you may have some unresolved mommy issues. That’s why most of the posters here ignore you two or they simply don’t reply.

I’m just trying to help you graduate into the world of grown men. I want you to leave your childish ways behind you, because your self-esteem would be greatly enhanced by dialogue within the realm of logic. Hysteria, the word, has its root form in a mental illness of women, hence the term “hysteria”. That’s why you are often pummeled as a mommie’s boy and nobody takes you seriously.

Dude, I’m just trying to help you find the light…that’s all.

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
5:34 pm

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
5:42 pm

Whoa! I thought three posts would make you rain down alphabet blocks on my head! This is number four. Trouble counting?

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
5:45 pm

Okay…to help you out…this is post number five. It’s all of the fingers on your one hand…

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
5:51 pm

…five, six, pick up sticks…

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
5:53 pm

See…that’s what I mean by putting you in your place. My work here is done.

Bulldawg35

December 30th, 2013
5:53 pm

Gut rake

Well look here….more phycological BS from the mr wimp himself. You sir have an L on your forehead! Yepper!

Bulldawg35

December 30th, 2013
5:57 pm

Gut rake

You learning how to count here buddy? What a whip! Lmao!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
5:57 pm

Gutrake

December 22nd, 2013
4:56 pm
GUTRAKE DEFINITION (2013):

“Richt-rage”:
an uncontrollable, juvenile angst directed toward Coach Mark Richt; delusional, narcissistic attitude toward a football coach that exhibits qualities of confident manhood; usually expressed by under-educated men of limited vocabulary, social activity; by men confounded by their ineffectiveness of being relevant or important.

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
5:59 pm

35,

I will get to you shortly. Clean up your room…NOW!

Bulldawg35

December 30th, 2013
5:59 pm

Gut rake

Chanel your name back to paddy….you will feel better.

Bulldawg35

December 30th, 2013
6:02 pm

Well why don’t you clean out your mouth! Clean out the tobacco between your teeth redneck! Lmao.

Bulldawg35

December 30th, 2013
6:06 pm

Sounds like I would rather have Richt rage than a man crush….gut how is that toilet working out for you? Lmao!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
6:11 pm

35,

Do you ever talk to real people about the game of College Football? Surely, they must tell you how stupid you sound…right?

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
6:24 pm

I think we need to wait until dawgfan puts all of the dishes away. Mommie must be very domineering. Besides, that spaghetti sauce is hard to clean up…

Bulldawg35

December 30th, 2013
6:33 pm

Ole miss held tech to 17 points…..UGA allowed 34 points to tech….my gawd we might have the worst defense in the nation!!!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
7:25 pm

35,

Typical of your thinking.

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
7:33 pm

Since you like to bring up games of the past, Air Force held them to 7 in 2010.

Point: If given more than a week to prepare for the triple option, it is easily defeated.

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
7:33 pm

But you wouldn’t understand that, would you, 35?

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
7:35 pm

That’s because you’re not very bright. All you want to do is stir the pot with stupid sticks…

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
7:36 pm

Feel kinda’ stupid now, don’t you?

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
8:09 pm

Crickets? Hmmm.

I am still living in your heads–rent-free! Boo and bye-bye…

“Better to be silent and thought to be a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Bulldawg35

December 30th, 2013
8:24 pm

Yeah I do think Air Force has a better defense than we do! What’s your point!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
8:36 pm

Try looking at the facts. 2013 statistics are available even to Cretans like you…

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
8:49 pm

Facts are stubborn things, Sport!

dawgfan

December 30th, 2013
10:32 pm

It’s official. Only 11 of the 15 allowed practices were used for bowl prep. And people wonder why we can’t win a championship.

Continuity is a good thing….

monte cristo dawg

December 30th, 2013
10:33 pm

Dawg35 won GUTRAKE! Tech took us to OT with your boy Granthams D!!!!

Boykin

December 30th, 2013
10:40 pm

dawgfan complaining again…Allow us to enter 2014 with positivity bloggers!

IndoorFieldDog

December 30th, 2013
10:47 pm

dawgfan you cannot take an indoor practice field on the road.