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.

Find me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

192 comments Add your comment

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
10:50 pm

he thinks it’s like a mobile home…

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
10:57 pm

MC dawg,

I guess you’re one of his sleep-over friends, too?

Sometimes, I think ignorance is contagious. If the prospect of 35 being victorious over me in anything is possible in your small mind, then I bet I can correctly guess who you voted for in the presidential election, as well as your favorite LEGO set…

JAKE the 3rd skin

December 30th, 2013
11:00 pm

Mobile home?

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:03 pm

…the indoor practice facility…yeah…he’s thinking mobile home…

monte cristo dawg

December 30th, 2013
11:11 pm

Your funny in your own mind GUTRAKE. He won and youll still enjoy your OT vs TECH!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:12 pm

Enter your 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 and/or social activity; by men confounded by their ineffectiveness of being relevant or important.

comments here

IndoorFieldDog

December 30th, 2013
11:15 pm

GUTRAKE whats up with the Mobile home thinking?

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:19 pm

MCdawg,

It’s obvious from your capitalization of my handle that it indicates your worship of my superior status to 35, as well as all of the accompanying knowledge that I dispense for your consumption.

BTW, if you are a true DAWG fan, then you would revel in the come-from-behind victory over the North Avenue geeks…

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:23 pm

IndoorFieldDog,

What is your question specifically? I may have misunderstood your post to dawgfan…

IndoorFieldDog

December 30th, 2013
11:25 pm

GA has no indoor practice field as ALL Dawgs fans know…Was making a funny reference that Richt cannot take his indoor practice field on road thus not completing all practices.

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:30 pm

Okay, stretch your imagination a little bit more…dawgfan thinks the facility is like a “mobile home”…i.e. you can roll it down the highway to Jacksonville…

Still not understanding?

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:32 pm

Seriously, where do you think the proposed indoor facility should be?

TammyWarEagle

December 30th, 2013
11:34 pm

love watching fodder on Bulldog sites!!!!!! 6 things to remember doggies:
1. Mason ready though lil weaker arm.
2. No D guys leaving this yr.
3.And D experienced and Grantham has 1 more(or 7 more) yrs left.
4. Richt is experienced with his 13 yrs as one of GREATEST HCs!
5. GUS 1st yr NATL. Championship game
6. WARDAMNEAGLE!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:39 pm

TWE,

Enjoy it while you can. Things will start going downhill next year. Just like what happened after Cammy, Tammy.

Your bespectacled coach will be looking for a AAAA high school job in three years. You’ll see.

IndoorFieldDog

December 30th, 2013
11:39 pm

Odd question gutrake..If youve been to Athens GA plenty o places!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:42 pm

IFD,

Is that your final answer? Or will you expand on that…

TammyWarEagle

December 30th, 2013
11:43 pm

Definition of a fool: tryin to win a Natl Championship on a blog and cryin and throwing aquarium pebbles at Champions..see Gutrake

TammyWarEagle

December 30th, 2013
11:46 pm

11:39pm……We went downhill for 2 yrs before another National Championship game..Doggies?.Go to sleep lil doggieboy your done here for the night! WAR DAMN EAGLE!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:47 pm

You must be drunk, CammyTammy.

I am quite sure you can’t win a championship on this blog, cryin’ is for prepubescent kids, and I don’t keep exotic fish…

Do you have an adult nearby in case you start projectile vomiting?

TammyWarEagle

December 30th, 2013
11:57 pm

Its NickkyTammy for those of you like yourself remembering Dads 1980 Championship!

Gutrake

December 30th, 2013
11:59 pm

Add one more “k” in there and you’ll come closer to your roots…

TammyWarEagle

December 31st, 2013
12:00 am

Your acting like an exotic fish with that 11:39 comment you uneducated football dork!

TammyWarEagle

December 31st, 2013
12:02 am

Add 1 more National Championship and youll come closer to an SEC team past 8 yrs!

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
12:04 am

Ahhh! The old education line…ahh…okay.

Look, CammyTammy, take my advice. Go sleep it off while dreaming of tipped passes falling in your hands…for that matter, if I were you, I’d buy a lottery ticket…

TammyWarEagle

December 31st, 2013
12:06 am

Night Gutracker! Enjoy tomorrow with your doggies so you boys can wallow in Gator bowl and Richt ineptitude while contemplating WAR EAGLES Natl. Champ. game! WAR DAMN EAGLE!

Gutrake

December 31st, 2013
12:07 am

Goodnight, Jezebel.

TammyWarEagle

December 31st, 2013
12:08 am

Night RGTres

porkLoinDog

December 31st, 2013
12:25 am

Cannot argue with you Tammy…Lots of work to do with our team.

LADawg

December 31st, 2013
12:26 am

Disappointed in “mid-tier” bowl? Not really. That has become our lot as Dawg fans. Only 3 times in the CMR era have we gone to a BCS bowl.

Expectancy of a NC? Not really. If, as Bill said, we competed regularly for SEC championships, wouldn’t we regularly be competing in BCS bowls rather than regularly competing in mid and lower tier bowls?

I believe the reason for NC expectancy for Dawg fans is the amount of talent in Georgia that should predominantly become Bulldogs and the amount of talent on the roster. Unfortunately, this staff lets the best talent in the state escape to out-of-state schools and the talent we do have don’t maximize their potential until they get to the next level.

Sad but true!

CarrowayDawg

December 31st, 2013
12:40 am

LA: Well said…though we have the talent but our coaches cannot coach it…starting at the TOP..RICHT! Enough talent between the Hedges!

LADawg

December 31st, 2013
1:06 am

Thanks, Carroway. Seemed to be stating the obvious. I used to be a big Richt fan but over time he has proven that he cannot attract top flight assistants which is an absolute necessity since he has no clue about defense and every phase of special teams.

The best recruits not only want to play at the next level, which Richt and staff have excelled at, but they also want to play for championships so they sign with Bama or programs with new coaches. They know what they’re going to get with Richt and the Dawgs.

CarrowayDawg

December 31st, 2013
1:23 am

Agree with “wanting to play” for Championship” part But Bobo is great and Grantham has NFL pedigree so you lil off base with no “top flight asst”.

GTBob Jr.

December 31st, 2013
1:25 am

Dad just posted on Tech site that schedule gets tougher next yr for GA Tech cuz Vandy on it!

Castle pine canine

December 31st, 2013
1:35 am

Isn’t it a shame about Tech!

Carrawaydawg

December 31st, 2013
1:38 am

LA: You play at UGA and ya play in front of 80-95K each week and on TV each week. Thats what kids care about!

GTBob Jr.

December 31st, 2013
1:42 am

LADawg

December 31st, 2013
1:45 am

Bobo is at UGA because he was held over from Donnan as a QB coach due to his Dawg days as a player. I agree that he is a keeper. Grantham, however was third or fourth choice and his NFL “pedigree” is less than stellar. His results with UGA are obvious. Other than UGA, nobody wants Grantham, NFL nor college. Same for all of the other coaches other than possibly Bobo.

Carrawaydawg

December 31st, 2013
1:49 am

twixt the hedges LA..twixt the hedges! no importance of the coaches.

old dog

December 31st, 2013
9:40 am

Until we start over on defense, we will not be where we need to be. We need a new defensive coordinator, a new defensive philosophy, and an upgrade on recruiting (we have some good ones, for sure, but our d-backs are not up to the caliber we need.) We likewise need to step up a little up front. Our o-line is ok, but exceedingly average, as good teams have exposed us. Murray was put in the position too many times where he had to put major points on the board for us to win, as our d would have some great plays and hits, but over-all could not consistantly get it done. We have skill players for sure, but a few hosses up front on the o-line and an entirely new start, top to bottom, on defense are what we have to have to rise above mediocrity. We can whine all we want, but until the above issues are addressed we will all be here same time, same results next year.

old dog

December 31st, 2013
10:01 am

By the way, some teams have addressed their issues. Over the next year or two, watch Auburn (ugh) and Ole Miss, who played tons of freshmen this year, but will be a force to be reckoned a couple of years from now. We will just be what we are right now without some major moves…………

Dog4Life

December 31st, 2013
11:52 am

Old Dog, you do understand that Lakotas is doing a good job. Because we lack an adequate pass rush and possess very slow ILBers who are constantly out of position, i do not care how good the CBs and Safeties are they cannot cover option reads and spread offensive WRs for more than 5 to 6 seconds. Do not blame Lakotas on this, the DBs are getting better and are good (though I cannot explain Damien Swann–but some of the new guys at DB were injured). It is the slow developing and confused complex scheme–also Grantham takes for ever to get a play in–put blame where it is deserved the DC. Our D line performed well but our LBers and stupid confusion hurt us more than anything. I do agree that the O-Line has got to get better. We do have issue there but again it is due to scheme; too many zone blocking assignments and long developing pass plays–blame that on OC. If the O-liner cannot hold a block for more than 3 to 4 secs then change the scheme to make it fit the abilities of the O-Line. There are many complicated reasons why we do not play up to our ability at times. Up tempo suits our O-Line; trap inside blocking with quick hits at the 2 and 3 holes make Gurley’s life reasonable. I cannot figure out why we get away so often from what is working and kill our momentum–mind-boggling. More over spare me the mix it up crap–as coach used to tell us–if they can’t hit the fastball why would you speed up their bats with curves and changes? Bobo is too concerned about balance in the game plan–somewhat commendable but don’t change what you are doing to create balance–if they have a bad pass D kill with the pass–if they cannot stop the run–kill them with the run–ala Bama–what they did to us in the second half of the SECCG–we couldn’t stop the run and they hammered us with the run–we didn’t give out due to lack of depth, we couldn’t stop the run. Saban stopped trying to beat us with McCarron and beat us with Lacy and Yeldon.

gary reese

January 2nd, 2014
10:27 pm

Bill, I have been reading AJC reportage and analysis on Georgia football since 1968. You are the biggest loudmouth know-it-all I have read. Your good points are overshadowed by your pettiness and self-absorption. Honest critics are honest enough to praise too. And hey, try occasionally featuring a fan inquiry that doesn’t necessarily include the obligatory kissing of your behind. Why don’t you just go ahead and coach a team somewhere and get your championship behind you?