I spent a couple of days this week recuperating from some oral surgery, but I’ve been keeping track of Georgia spring practices, where Jeremy Pruitt seems to have brought a fresh new energy to the entire team, not just the defense. Offensive line shuffling continues and their performance so far appears to be lagging a little behind the rest of the team, but good things are being heard about names like J.J. Green, Leonard Floyd, Jonathon Rumph and, thankfully, Todd Gurley. The Dawgs hold their first scrimmage Saturday, so that’ll no doubt give us more to talk about.
In the meantime, let’s get to some of the Junkyard Mail that’s arrived this week. …
Peoples Champ writes: What you think about Chubb & Michel? And could we be in for a major ground attack, with the 6-headed monster?
I don’t know about a six-headed monster, but even with J.J. Green moving over to defense, Georgia certainly will be stacked at tailback with a pair of five-star recruits joining an already talented corps of backs when Sony Michel and Nick Chubb arrive this summer. I know the question has been raised in some quarters about whether the Dogs have too many tailbacks and can keep all of them happy and on the roster but, as was driven home by last season’s injury situation, you can never have too many tailbacks in the SEC. Assuming everyone enters the fall healthy, you’d expect Gurley and Keith Marshall to get the biggest chunk of carries, with sophomore Brendan Douglas and redshirt-freshman A.J. Turman also in the mix.
As for the two celebrated newbies, both will be allowed to compete for playing time, Mike Bobo has said. I think it’s likely at least one of them will see some action this fall while it wouldn’t surprise me for the other to be redshirted. Which will that be? Hard to tell. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Michel, out of Plantation, Fla., was the more highly touted recruit as the nation’s No. 2-ranked running back prospect, and is considered the speedier back and perhaps more of a home-run threat. He’s also considered more of a threat catching the ball and might get a shot at kick returns. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound Cedartown product Chubb, who was the No. 8-ranked back in the nation, is generally viewed as more of a physical, grind-it-out back but also has shown some explosive break-away speed. Anyway, the biggest plus to Georgia adding Michel and Chubb to the roster is that if the Dogs lose Gurley (or possibly Gurley and Marshall) to the NFL after this season, there will be a couple of very talented backs in the line to take their place.
Annie Perry writes: Bill, I’ve been hearing a lot this week about Jeremy Pruitt introducing a “dime package” to Georgia’s defense, and that seems to have a lot of folks excited. I know the “nickel package” is when a linebacker is taken out and a fifth defensive back is put on the field, but I’m not familiar with the dime package. What exactly is that?
Basically, a dime package is when you use six defensive backs. The nickel name makes sense since it involves five, and they just went with the next coin up for this package, which some teams call a “six-pack.” In the very rare instances when a seventh defensive back is inserted in the game, that is sometimes called a “quarter” package. And in prevent situations against “hail Mary” passes, an additional defensive back may be used, and that’s sometimes called a half-dollar package. The reason so many folks are excited about Pruitt employing the dime in Athens is that he used it with success at Florida State, while Todd Grantham didn’t employ the dime much and didn’t use it at all last season, preferring to stick with the nickel package and its “star” position (a hybrid linebacker-cornerback). In recent practices, Damian Swann has been moving into the box in the “money” spot (similar to the “star”) in dime situations, leaving either Ramik Wilson or Amarlo Herrera as the lone inside linebacker. The dime package is used in particular in third-and-long situations and is considered a good way to combat short slant passing routes across the middle of the defense, where a traditional linebacker might not be fast enough to cover. Since the Dogs have been burned by such plays, the use of the dime package sounds like a great idea, though it sometimes can be vulnerable to unexpected running plays.
Doggy Daddy writes: Bill, after the National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that Northwestern football players are university employees and should be allowed to unionize, I’m seeing lots of dire predictions about what this could mean to the future of college football. I know there’s quite a bit of pro-union sentiment among Georgia’s players, so should I be worried?
First of all, the Georgia Bulldogs aren’t likely to unionize because even if the NLRB ruling is upheld, it only applies to private schools. Plus, Georgia is what’s called a right-to-work state, and even if athletes were considered employees, workers at public institutions aren’t allowed to unionize in this state. If private schools can unionize but public colleges can’t, might that give the private schools a recruiting advantage? Possibly. One thing that is likely to happen, though, is this movement bringing some long-needed changes to how the NCAA governs college football. While the first thing some people think of when this subject comes up is players being paid, that’s not actually the main emphasis of the current unionization movement. They’re more concerned with better disability insurance for players and former players, the time requirements on players (who usually aren’t able to manage part-time jobs in addition to playing sports) as well as players getting a share of the merchandising money that schools make off their efforts. It’s also likely to add momentum to the idea popular among coaches at major colleges (especially in the SEC) that players should be either paid a stipend or scholarships should be adjusted to cover the “full” cost of going to school. The NCAA has played ostrich on these issues for too long, but the rise of a union movement may at last bring some action there. Bottom line: I’m not sure unionizing is really in the best interests of college players (if you’re an employee, after all, you might be called on to strike and also can be fired) but the NCAA and its member schools do need to do a better job of taking care of student-athletes.
Ron Olliff writes: For 2 decades SEC women’s basketball was Tennessee and Georgia and no one else. The last few years have seen several schools pass Georgia where it is now in the lower half while Tennessee has been able to stay on top even with a coaching change. Now after that humiliating first round loss last week, isn’t it time for the AD to consider putting [Andy] Landers out to pasture with a gold watch? Last year’s Sweet 16 was aberration. He is getting outrecruited and the play of team is poor.
I’d say you’re overstating your case a bit, Ron. Landers’ Lady Bulldogs started this season with 11 straight wins and were ranked as high as No. 15 in the nation before going 0-4 to start SEC play. Yes, they finished in a five-way tie for sixth place, but they also made their 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance (the fourth-longest active streak in the country) and, contrary to your recollection, made the Elite Eight in 2013. Yes, it’s frustrating that the Lady Dogs haven’t made it further in recent years and haven’t won it all, and this year’s team definitely seemed to run out of steam late in the season. But Landers’ record isn’t exactly one that would point toward the need for immediate regime change, either. And since the 61-year-old head coach signed a three-year extension last summer that takes him through the 2017 season with a pay hike, I’d say it’s a good bet he’s not going anywhere unless he decides to retire.
Finally, here’s an update on last week’s report on the UGA hockey team’s upcoming sold-out debut at its new home rink at the Classic Center in downtown Athens:
Before the 7:30 p.m. April 9 meeting with Georgia Tech, there’ll be pre-game entertainment starting at 5:30 p.m., including an Ice Dogs Walk, a player autograph session, kids’ activities like a bouncy house, face-painting and games, and music, plus an appearance by Hairy Dog and the Hockey Ice Girls. The Ice Dogs Walk will be open to the public outside the Classic Center, starting at 5:30 p.m. at Dirty Birds restaurant on Washington Street and continuing through the main entrance of the Classic Center on North Thomas Street.
The Ice Dogs will play all of the 20 home games in their 2014-15 season at the Classic Center between September and February, and on Tuesday, April 8, fans can come check out the new rink and be the first to purchase season tickets at Select-A-Seat Night, in addition to seeing the Ice Dogs practice. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the Ice Dogs practice at 7:30 p.m.
Reserved seating season tickets are $185, and premium reserved seating is $260. Fans can go to ClassicCenter.com to buy tickets, call 706-357-4444 or visit the Classic Center box office at 300 N. Thomas St. in downtown Athens. Go here for additional information on the team.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg