Archive for April, 2014

Amid feast-or-famine home schedules, Dogs fans long for the Longhorns

Which opponents would you like to see come face the Dawg Nation in Athens? (Perry McIntyre Jr. / UGA)

Which opponents would you like to see come face the Dawg Nation in Athens? (Perry McIntyre Jr. / UGA)

Last week I was chatting with someone who moved here three years ago from Big 10 country and has never seen an SEC football game in person. He asked me which Georgia game in Athens I’d recommend he try to attend this season.

I ended up suggesting the Tennessee game, because it involves two SEC teams (unlike the season opener against Clemson), the weather is likely to be a little more moderate (unlike the season opener against Clemson) and he wouldn’t have to wait until mid-November for Auburn.

My son chided me for offering up only the third-best home game on this year’s schedule to a newcomer, which brought home to me what a terrific home slate the Bulldogs have this season, starting with the return match in a home-and-home with ACC power and long-ago regular UGA rival Clemson (over whom the Dogs are favored by 7 points in the first betting spread out of Vegas). Throw in the …

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Fan talk: UGA football rivalries, adding a ninth SEC game and more! (UPDATED)

The future of the Georgia-Auburn rivalry is on a lot of fans' minds. (Associated Press)

The future of the Georgia-Auburn rivalry is on a lot of fans' minds. (Associated Press)

Note: This blog originally was posted Saturday before the SEC decided on Sunday to stick with an eight-game schedule and permanent cross-division rivals (See update below). At the time of the original posting, there was the possibility of adding a ninth conference game, and the question of how best to protect permanent cross-division rivalries like Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee was on the minds of a number of readers. Here’s the discussion in this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

Emory Breed writes: My solution is to move Bama and Auburn to the EAST and move Mizzou and Vandy to the WEST … Problem solved. Then the Bama-Tennessee and Georgia–Auburn rivalries are no longer cross rivalries and LSU can dump the Gators if we do away with the cross-division. Simple.

Southern Dawg has a similar proposal. He writes: Realignment is the easiest way to keep the traditional rivalries that count. The …

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SEC politics could doom Georgia-Auburn as annual rivalry

georgia auburn helmetsIt’s time for Mark Richt, Greg McGarity and Jere Morehead to bite the bullet and join Alabama’s Nick Saban on the nine-game train in the SEC. That is, if maintaining Georgia-Auburn as a yearly rivalry is really UGA’s top priority when it comes to conference scheduling, as Richt and company repeatedly have said.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said Monday at an Associated Press sports editors gathering that a decision will be made soon on whether the conference goes to a nine-game schedule. The athletic directors are due to vote on the issue soon, and the SEC’s presidents and chancellors (who have the final say) will decide how to structure the football schedule from 2016 onward before the May 27-30 meetings in Destin, Slive said. In fact, Slive indicated a new schedule structure should be in place by early May (though it might not be announced until Destin).

Up for consideration are four possible scenarios: continue the current setup of playing eight conference games divided into …

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Fan talk: Clemson opener, lack of defensive progress, Hutson Mason’s leadership, SEC schedule and more!

Mark Richt understands how Dabo Swinney feels about kicking a player off his team. (John Kelley / UGA)

Mark Richt understands how Dabo Swinney feels about kicking a player off his team. (John Kelley / UGA)

Mark Richt began his spring tour of booster clubs this past week with a stop in Greenville, and it being South Carolina the subject of Georgia’s season-opener with Clemson in Athens naturally came up.

“It’s exciting to play that type of game in game one,” the Greenville News quoted Richt as saying. “It was a tremendous amount of excitement at Clemson a year ago. Their fans did a phenomenal job. Their staff and players did a great job and won the game. So, we need to match that or exceed that type of intensity as a fan base and as a staff and as a team. We’re looking forward to that challenge.”

Richt, who’ll be missing a few players of his own (as usual) for that first game, commiserated with Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, who’s having his own problems, having previously suspended four players for the UGA game and now having announced the dismissal from the team of sophomore …

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Bulldogs’ spring wunderkinds don’t always become regular season stars

Will J.J. Green's spring success story carry over into the fall? (John Kelley / UGA)

Will J.J. Green's spring success story carry over into the fall? (John Kelley / UGA)

Something that new UGA defensive coordinator (and quote-machine-in-the-making) Jeremy Pruitt said the other day brought home to me the futility in trying to use spring practice storylines to predict regular season fall headlines.

Talking about his resistance to giving out honors this time of the year, Pruitt said about spring defensive MVP Ramik Wilson and Coffee County Hustle Award winner J.J. Green: “To me, those awards are spring awards. Those two guys may end up being starters, leaders or whatever, or they may not play. It’ll be up to them between now and fall camp.”

While I think he was laying out the extreme possibilities just to make a point — the likelihood of either Wilson or Green not playing this fall seem remote — Pruitt’s attitude is in line with what Georgia has experienced in recent years.

Last year, all the spring talk about the big hits freshman safety Tray Matthews was laying …

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Quarterbacks, defense the main focus as Red and Black battle on G-Day

Todd Gurley didn't have to work that hard to be the best back playing Saturday. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)

Todd Gurley didn't have to work that hard to be the best back playing Saturday. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)

Saturday was a fine time to be in Athens, what with the absolutely gorgeous spring weather and a chance to spend a couple of hours watching football at Sanford Stadium with my brothers and 46,000 other folks. Plus frisbee-catching dogs!

So, now to the main questions asked by Bulldog fans who couldn’t attend this year’s G-Day game, won 27-24 by the Red team (featuring the first-string offense) over the Black team (with the first-string defense):

First, how did Hutson Mason look? Very good. He completed 18 of 27 passes (almost all in the first half and including his first five) for 241 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, continuing his trend this spring of strong play. (In fact, head coach Mark Richt said after the game that this was the worst of Mason’s three spring scrimmages — which I think qualifies as Dawg porn.) I liked the pace of Mason’s offense, which featured a lot …

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Bulldog Bites: What to watch for at G-Day and icing Georgia Tech!

Brice Ramsey is battling for the backup quarterback spot. (Steven Colquitt / UGA)

Brice Ramsey is battling for the backup quarterback spot. (Steven Colquitt / UGA)

I’ve had a couple of folks ask me this week: What will you be watching for at Saturday’s G-Day game?

Well, like most Dogs fans, I’ll be interested to see how the defense looks under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, particularly the secondary, though I’m not expecting to see anything but vanilla schemes in the spring intrasquad game.

As Mark Richt said this week, “I don’t think we are going to try to do a lot of things on defense Saturday. I think we’ll line up and play some good, solid fundamental defense. I doubt we will do everything that we’ll do in the fall. We aren’t going to try to trick anybody, but just see who can play defense.”

Mainly, I’ll be watching Georgia’s defenders in terms of fundamentals like tackling and covering — which is what Pruitt has stressed during spring practice — to see if there’s any obvious improvement from last season. And with a crowd of players competing for the …

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Fan talk: Defensive changes, cupcakes, special teams, basketball and more!

New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is preaching a more uptempo style of play. (John Kelley / UGA)

New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is preaching a more uptempo style of play. (John Kelley / UGA)

Let’s get straight to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

Stuart in Austin, Texas, writes: Bill, I’m encouraged by the information coming out of the first few spring practices regarding the defense. Focusing more on fundamentals (specifically tackling and bringing opposing players to the ground vs. the bumping often done under coaches Willie Martinez and Todd Grantham), increasing the overall pace of practices, evening out the reps for all players, keeping the schemes and terminology simple, and better communication particularly in the secondary. This new run to the ball without overcomplicating the schemes sounds good, but I’m concerned it could hurt us against teams like Auburn and Georgia Tech where disciplined, assignment football is crucial. Martinez and Grantham defenses did perform relatively well against both AU and Tech. In the 2014 BCS Championship game, Coach …

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Bulldog Bites: Pondering Keith Marshall and ranking SEC coaches and greatest UGA players

Would you redshirt or play a healthy Keith Marshall in 2014? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Would you redshirt or play a healthy Keith Marshall in 2014? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

The good news out of Georgia’s spring practices is that tailback Keith Marshall is “a lot further along” than running backs coach Bryan McClendon expected in coming back from knee surgery.

Although he’s not participating in any full-contact plays, Marshall is going through the running drills and practicing hard, like he doesn’t want to take that possible medical redshirt that the coaching staff’s been considering if the back isn’t fully recovered by the start of preseason camp in August.

On the one hand, having the Dogs’ one-two punch of Todd Gurley and Marshall back together leading a loaded running back corps sounds like the best possible outcome for Mike Bobo’s offense, especially with an offensive line that might still be trying to gel as the season starts.

But with Brendan Douglas back and talented five-star recruits Sony Michel and Nick Chubb coming in this summer, there are some Bulldog …

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