Let’s go straight to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Randy Carter writes: Bill, what is it with Mark Richt/Mike Bobo annointing a starting quarterback without making him earn it? Just because Hutson Mason was Aaron Murray’s backup, why should that mean he’s automatically going to be the starter for the Dawgs next season? And yet Richt and Bobo don’t even seem to be considering having a real quarterback competition. If Mason is the best, let him prove it by beating out Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey in an honest to goodness battle where everybody starts out even. I just don’t think it’s healthy for the program to say that just because Mason is the veteran he gets to start. Anybody remember Joe T. and Joe Cox? How’d that work out for us?
This will be Mason’s fifth season in the program, and so it’s natural he’d have a better understanding of the playbook than the other quarterbacks. He was the longtime backup to Murray and he took over the last two and a half games of last season. No wonder he is “obviously ahead of everybody,” as Richt said after practice this week. Likewise, the next longest-standing player in the QB room is Batau, so it’s not surprising that he finished the season as Mason’s backup. Ramsey is coming off a redshirt freshman year, so you’d expect him still to have some ground to make up. And Jacob Park just entered UGA as an early enrollee and, barring a rash of injuries, is likely looking at a redshirt year. Given all of that, it would be pretty shocking for anyone other than Mason to start.
Still, all we can do is take Richt at his word that everybody on the team, including Mason, is competing for a starting job. Here’s what the head coach said this week: “Let me just say this about the QB situation: Hutson’s obviously ahead of everybody. But we don’t want any position to think there’s no chance that anybody can take my job, or take playing time or whatever. So we’re telling everybody to compete for the starting job. We’re not saying, hey try to win the No. 2 job. I’m not trying to cause a controversy at all, because Hutson is clearly in the lead. But it’s going be his job to keep it that way and it’s going be the other guy’s job to try to close the gap. And I told that to the rest of the team, too.”
Assessing the guys challenging Mason, Richt said that Batau is “doing well” but “still not 100 percent certain on every single situation.” Ramsey is “certainly a lot farther along than he was a year ago.” As for Park, “you know Jacob, his head is spinning. I can’t imagine how bad his head is spinning right now” as he learns the playbook, Richt said.
ChillyDawg writes: I wasn’t a fan of Todd Grantham and thought he was overrated. While he did pretty well with a veteran defense, though the 2012 D didn’t really get going until they were called out publicly before the Florida game, Grantham seemed pretty clueless when it came to shaping a defense out of inexperienced players last year. The biggest disappointment for me, and the biggest indictment of Grantham as a coach, was the lack of improvement shown over the course of the season, especially in the secondary. I’m hopeful our import from FSU [Jeremy Pruitt] will have more success. Bill, have you seen anything so far that makes you think this will be so?
Well, we won’t know for sure until we see the results on the field against real opponents, but I like a couple of things Pruitt has done so far: He’s said every position is open for competition and he’s gotten Richt to rejigger UGA practices so that everyone gets the same number of reps, which should help in developing depth. Too often during the Grantham era there was a reluctance to spell the starters with bench players. Also, Pruitt is simplifying things, which hopefully will fix another major problem that irked me last season: Grantham’s inability to get his defensive signals in quickly and get all the players on the same page. I liked one fan’s description of it last season when he said that before a snap Georgia’s defense looked “like a Chinese fire drill.” Communication was a real problem, especially in the inexperienced secondary. And Grantham’s complicated playbook, while fine for the NFL, left too many players having to think rather than react and then wonder what the heck happened after the play. Toby Johnson told the Athens Banner-Herald: “That’s the thing I like about the defense, there ain’t 50 million calls.” And players said this week that Pruitt is making them drill over and over and won’t move on to the next thing until they get it right. Safety Corey Moore told the AJC: “He wants to make sure everybody gets it and is on the same page. Just being real, that was a big issue last year, communication.”
Buford Bulldog writes: Bill, I was shocked to see that our own Kevin Butler, hailed by the Bulldog Nation as a hero and a member of the UGA football game day broadcast crew, jumped on the Herbie the Curbie bandwagon by agreeing with the former Ohio State QB (who’s apparently never recovered from the 1993 Citrus Bowl loss to Georgia) that Mark Richt’s players get in trouble because they take advantage of his “forgiving” heart and don’t fear any consequences. You and many others already have done a good job of shooting down Herbstreit’s flawed premise, but I can’t believe Butler bought into that crap. As far as I’m concerned, he’s besmirched his Bulldog bona fides and ought to be removed from the game day team. What do you think?
Hold on with the pitchforks and torches, Buford. Most of the time, I agree with just about everything Butler has to say about Georgia football (especially special teams and the kicking game), but I have to admit I was suprised by what I hope was a not very well thought out shoot-from-the-hip tweet (“your dead on Kirk ….. No consequences, no fear… just plain stupidity every year. Embarrassing for University.”) that reflected more Butler’s frustration over another black eye for the program he loves rather than his actual opinion of Richt’s disciplinary policies. I expect facile, superficial commentary from the guys on ESPN, for whom percention is reality, but I’m disappointed in Butler. However, I don’t think one ill-considered tweet should negate all that Butler has done over the years for UGA (including siring a pretty great punter). Kevin is still one of my favorite Dawgs. I just hope next time he thinks before he tweets.
And in another note concerning the arrest this week of four UGA football players, Jim P. writes: Bill, I was just worried about getting through spring break without problems. Now this! … It might be time for Hutson Mason to have a team meeting and read his teammates the riot act, being his last and only starting year as QB.
Jim, I think you’ve touched on a good point. A lot of Richt-bashers act like the coach should be able to diagnose potential miscreants in the recruiting process or do something to prevent his players from making stupid mistakes off the field, which is a totally unrealistic stance. These are kids still in or barely out of their teens! But there’s nothing like peer pressure when it comes to getting teammates to tow the line, and that’s where the senior leadership, which includes Mason, comes in. If they haven’t already held a players-only team meeting to get everyone’s head in the same place for the coming season, it’s high time they did so.
Finally, Blawg reader Connor Kelly, a UGA alum who is an adviser to the UGA club ice hockey team as a member of the UGA Hockey Foundation, sent me an excited note this week with the news that the Classic Center in Athens has already sold out the April 9 UGA ice hockey game against Georgia Tech that will mark the Ice Dawgs’ first match at their new home arena.
Total attendance is expected to exceed 2,000, which is especially impressive considering the match is being played on a Wednesday night. And season tickets for the 2014-15 home games in the Classic Center (which only recently got ice rink capability) will go on sale soon. The season will begin in September and run through February, Connor said.
The original plan, he said, was to wait until the fall for the team’s Classic Center debut but “there is so much buzz surrounding the program right now they decided to do a single (spring) game against Georgia Tech to capitalize on the momentum.”
Connor added that “the team roster has nearly doubled following the news of the arena, and many more players are now trying to transfer in so they can play for the Ice Dawgs. I have a feeling that many local high school prospects in Atlanta will start considering UGA as a place to play rather than moving up north to chase their dream of playing college hockey. This will only make the team more and more competitive. The future looks bright for hockey in Athens!”
Thanks, Connor, please keep us updated.
And go Ice Dawgs!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg