I’ll be off the next few days, so let’s take an early dip into some Junkyard Mail, starting out with a fan who not surprisingly wants to talk about how national signing day went for UGA. …
Grady Bowers writes: Bill, I know that Mark Richt said he was “excited” about the recruiting class he just signed, and I gather from what I read online that most fans agree with him. I hate to be the yeah-but guy and yet I can’t get past the fact that while Georgia once again landed a consensus Top 10 recruiting class, it was only the sixth best in the Southeastern Conference. Are we really losing ground to the likes of Tennessee? If you can make me feel better about this situation, Bill, I’d be most grateful.
Well first, Grady, as I wrote in Wednesday’s Blawg, I tend to think the ranking of recruiting classes is an artificial and superfluous competition that doesn’t actually win you anything. Yes, I realize the class rankings are (loosely) based on the star ratings various recruiting services assign to the prospects, which are in themselves pretty much a subjective guess at which players are mostly likely to be the best. That said, whether you are thrilled that Georgia overcame a complete replacement of its defensive coaching staff to still land a Top 10 class that included the No. 1 ranked prospect in the state in Lorenzo Carter, or are dismayed that Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn and Tennessee’s classes were ranked higher, probably falls into is-the-glass-half-full-or-half-empty territory. Let’s face it, SEC schools are ridiculously good at recruiting and even if you accept the premise that five conference schools got better classes than Georgia, the Dogs still were perceived as having the eighth best class in the country.
To me, the more important question is whether Mark Richt and his staff (including national recruiter of the year Bryan McClendon) got what they needed. I think at running back, the answer is a resounding yes since they brought in two five-star recruits to back up the likes of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. As we’ve learned the hard way, you can never have too many great running backs in the SEC. Said Richt of signees Sony Michel and Nick Chubb: “We will absolutely give those guys a chance to show what they can do, and if they can be productive, we’ll get them in the game.”
Georgia also restocked pretty nicely at tight end with Jeb Blazevich and surprise signing Hunter Atkinson. And I was thrilled they added a potential game-breaking kick returner in Isaiah McKenzie. That was a dire need that had to be addressed. “His No. 1 job is going to try to be that kickoff-return, punt-return guy for us,” Mike Bobo said Wednesday of McKenzie. “That could be the difference in a ballgame for us.”
Adding five-star Carter to the pass rush is big, too.
Yeah, I would have liked to see a five-star player signed for the offensive line, a perennial problem area for Richt teams, but the four players they got there are pretty solid three- or four-star choices. I’d also have liked to see a five-star signee in the defensive backfield, but four-star cornerback Malkom Parrish does look likely to be able to help out fairly early.
Overall, it’s a pretty balanced signing class, and keep in mind that the Dogs return an awful lot of starters from last year’s team.
Ted Sellers writes: Bill, I thought your National Signing Day “heartbreak” piece was one of the best summations I’ve ever read of how ridiculous the recruiting game has gotten. And I say that as a reformed recruitnik. I used to get all caught up in following those kids all year long, but when it got to the point where people were anguishing over what some 17-year-old tweeted, well, I decided I needed to step back and just wait until the class is signed before getting all wound up or let down. Thanks for putting that into words for me in a really nice piece of writing.
Glad you enjoyed it, Ted. I love that college football fans are passionate all through the year, and not just during the season, but I’d rather focus more on the players we have than fret about which way some potential future players are leaning.
Theron Altman writes: Bill; what is the latest news on the last hire for the defense? I heard an internet rumor about Freddie Roach from South Alabama??? As you know he is an ex-Bama player and a very good defensive LB. Give me your thoughts! Thanks
We may find out who’s filling that position before the day is out, Theron. Citing an unnamed source, CoachingSearch.com is reporting that the most frequently mentioned name in connection with that vacancy, former Southern Cal linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, is going to get the job. It’s notable that he has some special teams experience, too, though Richt is waiting until the staff is complete before announcing exactly who’ll be doing what.
UPDATE: UGA made it official this morning. This is from the athletic department release:
Mike Ekeler, linebackers coach at Southern Cal in 2013, has been named Inside Linebackers Coach at the University of Georgia according to an announcement Thursday by UGA head coach Mark Richt. Ekeler had previously served as linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at Indiana (2011-12). A native of David City, Neb., he had served as linebackers coach at Nebraska for three seasons (2008-10) under head coach Bo Pelini. During his three years in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers won or shared the Big 12 Conference North Division title all three seasons. “I was extremely impressed with his knowledge and energy during the interview process,” Richt said. “He was highly recommended by many coaches and administrators with whom I talked and we’re very excited that he’ll be joining our staff.” The move completes the Georgia defensive staff which includes Jeremy Pruitt (Defensive Coordinator/Secondary), Kevin Sherrer (Sam Linebacker and the Star position or nickel back), and Tracy Rocker (Defensive Line and Will Linebacker). Special Teams responsibilities among the staff are still to be determined according to Richt.
Patrick writes: Bill, Enjoy the read, especially in the off season. It’s a nice combination of scoop, football knowledge and logic. Thoughts on [Hutson] Mason’s arm after watching him in the last two games? His pass reminds me of Pascual Perez’s infamous eephus pitch — it has no velocity and appears to be almost pushed. Let’s hope he knows his way around Atlanta better than the late-Pascual.
From what we’ve seen so far, I think on short to medium passes, Mason throws a very catchable ball, and I like the way he surveys the field before turning it loose. However, I think it’s also obvious he doesn’t have the arm strength of Aaron Murray, so we might not see as many long throws downfield. I’d love for him to prove us wrong on that, though.
TD Dawg writes: I enjoy your columns, and appreciate your hopeful enthusiasm for our beloved Dawgs. I must admit ever since I stepped foot on campus in the Fall of 1982, I have been a loyal supporter of our Dawgs. Got spoiled with Dooley, then had to suffer through Goff and Donnan. Reckon that’s what makes me appreciate Richt so much, although my frustration level has grown greatly over the past few years with not being able to get over the hump of winning the SEC or national championship. However, it does my heart and soul good to travel long distances to see them play and enjoy the fellowship of meeting other Dawg fans who have made the trek, too. For instance, a few years ago at Arizona State. My wife and I left early that week, enjoyed Vegas, then the Grand Canyon where we met up with at least 50 or so Dawg fans. It was interesting to see the looks on other tourist’s faces at all these rabid football fans. So do you think we will get back to having some good road games scheduled in other parts of the country? Or will the long conference schedule make that hard to do?
I think those long trips to other parts of the country are pretty much a thing of the past, TD. Greg McGarity made it clear from the onset that he wasn’t a fan of that sort of trip (hence getting out of the contract with Oregon). And I do remember that the coaches said the long trip back from Arizona might have been a factor in the team not looking very good against Alabama the next week. McGarity has said that with Georgia Tech on the schedule every year, he’s not going to want to add another major nonconference opponent most seasons, though he’s already shown a willingness to agree to a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. I’d love to see Clemson come back on the schedule for a home-and-home (though preferably not as the opening game of the season, considering our tendency to have starters suspended then). Basically, though, the key factor will be whether the conference goes to a nine-game schedule. If that happens, I think the nonconference schedule is mainly going to be cupcakes.
Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg