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 quarterback Chad Kelly, who was battling senior Cole Stoudt and freshman Deshaun Watson for the starting QB spot. (Stoudt was subsequently named the starter by Swinney.)

The Georgia head coach said that when it comes to making such a difficult decision like kicking a player off the team (which he’s done several times), what matters is the long-term best interests of your program.

“I don’t know how good Kelly is. I don’t know where he was in their mindset, and I don’t even know what happened,” Richt said, “but somewhere along the line, they were like, ‘We can’t have this and sustain this program the way we want to sustain it.’ I’ve tried to make decisions based on the long haul. You can make a lot of decisions that may help you in this game or in this recruiting class but won’t really help you down the road. If you’re consistent with those types of things, it helps you have the stability and the longevity.”

With Missouri coach Gary Pinkel also having recently kicked a star player — wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham — off his team, perhaps the Richt approach to discipline is starting to catch on just a little bit. One can hope, at least.

Now, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail …

Bob the Bulldog writes: Bill, I didn’t get to the G-Day game, but I watched it on TV and I’m concerned about the state of the Dogs’ defense and new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. I was expecting to see some improvement from last year with [Todd] Grantham gone, but the first-string offense hung 405 yards on our first-string defense, and 314 of it was in the air, thanks to a secondary that didn’t look any better than before. There were too many pass interference calls and they got burned on long balls way too often. And what’s this with starting Aaron Davis, a redshirt-freshman walk-on? I’m as into warm and fuzzy success stories as much as the next guy, but if a walk-on who’s hardly played any football in a couple of years is considered one of the best we got at defensive back, I’d say we’re in deep doo-doo. And then, after G-Day, I heard nothing but negative talk from Pruitt about our defensive players and how nobody stood out, nobody deserved an award, they’re too fat and all that. Tell me something about our defense to pull me away from the ledge, Bill!

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has been pretty brutal in his assesssment of his players. (John Kelley / UGA)

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has been pretty brutal in his assesssment of his players. (John Kelley / UGA)

OK, here goes, Bob. First of all, don’t dwell too much on yardage and points given up in the spring game by the first-string defense. Unlike Grantham, Pruitt didn’t really care whether his Black team won that scrimmage or not. That’s why he kept telling his team not to bother looking at the scoreboard. Some of those long balls might well have been sacks, too, if the Red team quarterbacks hadn’t been wearing noncontact jerseys. The defensive line and pass rush looked pretty good to me. Pruitt also didn’t want to tip his hand to early opponents Clemson and South Carolina. Pruitt was running a vanilla defense and didn’t even spend much of the spring installing his schemes, preferring to spend time evaluating the talent he has. That’s why he made spring practice an open competition this year, with the idea that everybody has to earn their playing time.

Pruitt was sending a message to players who, in the past, might have gotten a bit complacent with their position on the team. Thus, you had someone like Davis getting elevated to the first team. Don’t get me wrong, as I said in my G-Day report, Davis acquitted himself well and I could see him getting playing time down the road. But I’ll be shocked if he winds up as a starter. Also, keep in mind that former running back J.J. Green, who drew plaudits all spring for his transition to defense and his aggressive manning the star position, was held out of G-Day by an injury, as was the oft-ailing Tray Matthews, and that makes a big difference.

I liked the energy and the pace I saw from our defense on G-Day, but, yes, the secondary remains very much a work in progress and, out of all the position groups on the team, it’s the one we should be most concerned about. As for Pruitt’s rather brutal assessment of the state of his players, I think that’s a case of the old tearing-them-down-before-you-build-them-up approach. I’ll be surprised if we hear him talking like that in August. Plus, I think he’s right. Georgia’s defenders didn’t just look confused by Grantham’s complicated schemes and late signals last season, they also looked a tad slow. In today’s world of no-huddle, hurry-up offenses, putting a greater emphasis on getting in shape is a must.

Jim P. writes: Bill, thought you might like this Hutson Mason quote. It was in a taped interview on “Dawg Report” before the G-Day game on CSS: “We’re doing our best. I’m doing my best to lead this team. Anybody that doesn’t want to be all in the Georgia way is gonna have to be gone. These guys are your best friends, but sometimes they need a kick in the butt. They need to realize what’s your mission here. Are you trying to make friends with everybody or are we here to win a championship?” Sounds like a leader that is focused. Makes me believe he has also read his teammates the riot act about misbehavior and to cut out all the nonsense. Gotta love the attitude. Go Dawgs!

Hutson Mason needs to be one of the Dogs' outspoken senior leaders. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)

Hutson Mason needs to be one of the Dogs' outspoken senior leaders. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)

Thanks, Jim. Mason sounds and looks focused, and as one of the senior leaders of this team, that’s a real plus. Let’s hope we’ve already lost all the players to disciplinary action that we’re going to lose for that first game. We can’t count on Clemson continuing to lose players, too.

Sandy Barrett writes: Bill, I saw your comments on how loud the canned music was at G-Day and how people were plugging their ears, and I certainly can believe it. Even on radio and TV you could tell the music was cranked up way too loud. I don’t mind them trying to rev up the crowd, particularly the student section, by playing music between plays, especially since other schools do it, and I don’t even mind it being hip-hop or hard rock, even though those aren’t my personal preference. But making it physically uncomfortable for folks in the stands when you’re trying to enhance the game day experience to stem declining attendance doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

I’m with you on that, Sandy. I have no problem with playing pre-recorded music — though I will say I hope they’ll continue to amplify the Redcoat Band, as was done late in the season last year (and unfortunately was not done at G-Day). Also, I hope the recorded music will be used judiciously to complement the Redcoats, rather than replace them. But most of all, as I said after G-Day, I hope they turn it down a few notches. Particularly under the overhang in the lower level, where the p.a. speakers are, it was deafening.

TopDawg writes: Bill, I can’t help but notice that all the recent discussions about nonconference opponents and whether or not to play all cupcakes or a couple of major programs, end with the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not the SEC is going to go to a nine-game conference schedule. Seems like we’ve been in limbo on this for a couple of years now. What’s the latest?

According to ESPN, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said recently that the conference will decide at the spring meeting in Destin next month whether to stay at an eight-game conference schedule, or go to nine beginning in 2016.

I’ve gone back and forth on this issue. On the one hand, I can see why the conference’s coaches are against adding another SEC game, since it’s the toughest conference in college football and the top teams tend to beat each other up already. Plus, for teams that have a major-college nonconference rival on the schedule every season (like Georgia), that only leaves you room for a couple of easy games.

However, I can also understand the argument in favor of the nine-game schedule since the other major conferences are going in that direction and strength-of-schedule could end up being a deciding factor in choosing the four teams that make the new College Football Playoff. Don’t forget, the main impetus behind the playoff finally coming into being was dissatisfaction in the rest of the country over an all-SEC BCS championship game. So the odds of the SEC getting two teams into that four-team playoff (as it probably should most years) are already a bit long. If the SEC gives the selection committee an easy out by playing one more cupcake than other conferences do, it’ll be even tougher.

GYM DOGS IN SUPER SIX!

Finally, Danna Durante’s Gym Dogs advanced to the Super Six of the NCAA Championships in Birmingham Friday by placing second in their semi-final session. That’s the second year in a row UGA has made the Super Six, a nice turnaround from the down years under former coach Jay Clark. Now it’s time to take the next step and get back on top, where UGA gymnastics was for so many years under Suzanne Yoculan.

Georgia was one of four SEC teams that made it into the Super Six this year, along with defending champion Florida, Alabama (which won in 2011 and 2012) and LSU. The other two finalists are Oklahoma and Nebraska.

The Gym Dogs will begin their quest for an 11th national title on beam Saturday at 7 p.m. EDT. Links to live video, live audio and live scoring will be available at GeorgiaDogs.com.

Go Gym 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.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

132 comments Add your comment

Clemson Idol

April 19th, 2014
12:07 pm

Good luck matching or exceeding Death Valley’s environment lol. UGA is trying to get to Clemson’s level currently ie finishing #7 in the nation and a current Top 5 recruiting class. Me thinks the Tigers get the job done again Aug 30th. Advantage Morris skilled offense and a deep Venables defense. Make sure Ga has a backup QB plan. Beasley from Adairesville, Ga is the nations top returning DE in college football.

I dropped my fried twinkie

April 19th, 2014
12:11 pm

“It’s exciting to play that type of game in game one,”

It sure is because the Dogs never know who will be able to play or who is suspended.
Clem&Son and the Dogs will both be missing a few players.

HotDawg

April 19th, 2014
1:14 pm

Don’t worry about GA atmosphere. LSU and SC games last year matched any intensity anywhere.
And now Clemson Clampett’s think they’re a powerhouse?
The game last year was only a field goal difference on Clampett’s field, while GA had suspended and injured players.
Don’t get to full of yourself Clemson Clampett’s.

dawgfan

April 19th, 2014
1:32 pm

When will Richt catch on to the approach of having his team prepared for big games? I’m still waiting on that one.

Nice fluff piece though Bill. Are you his agent?

BigGDawg

April 19th, 2014
1:40 pm

Dawgs should in Clemson opener by at least 2 TDs.

Joey

April 19th, 2014
1:46 pm

Bob the Bulldog and like-thinking Dawg fans will probably be disappointed this season, because it will be next to impossible to turn around our lousy D from last season. Not to mention, some of the 5-Star talent that we put on the field last year is gone (JHC) and going (Matthews). Does anybody else think Matthews will be around by kickoff this Sept? I don’t – and I bet Pruitt ain’t counting on him anymore either.

I think Pruitt will improve our D by late season, and in the future, but he apparently ran into a fortune of talent last season at Tallahasse, because even his former boss Saban needed a full season t Bama before his D looked like a Saban D.

Logical Dawg Fan

April 19th, 2014
2:16 pm

Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither is a championship defense. The defense isn’t going to be a shutdown D to start the season, because even Jeremy Pruitt isn’t going to take a sorry defense like last year’s to shutdown immediately. I think they will be decent at the start of the season and 1/2-2/3 of the way into the season they will really start to gel. And by 2015, with a very talented class coming in will be more likely to play at an “elite” level. Like Joey said, even Saban needed a full season to make his defense elite.

Logical Dawg Fan

April 19th, 2014
2:27 pm

That being said, our future is bright on defense with Pruitt’s recruiting prowess and some very good defensive coaches on the staff. Pruitt and the staff will develop the players and they won’t be confused when they are lining up like Grantham’s players did. I already really like our 2015 class.

Anyways, did people really expect our defense to become a force during spring practice? With a couple starters out with injury and all of the new changes? That’s simply unrealistic and unfair to the new coaches and players. It’s going to take some time. What people need to keep in mind is (like Bill mentioned) J.J. Green and Tray Matthews (who is going to miss some time due to the suspension) figure to both play a lot, but both missed the game. AND, we have many talented recruits coming in who should either play a lot or start on this year’s defense. Malkom Parrish, Shattle Fenteng and maybe a couple of others could very well factor into who starts against Clemson. I’m happy for Aaron Davis, but with all the new recruits coming in, things should really look different this summer in the secondary and the o-line. These new recruits (especially in the secondary) aren’t going to just hand the job to the returning players.

Logical Dawg Fan

April 19th, 2014
2:30 pm

And Clemson has some guys missing the game as well. Four guys suspended (at least) and their talented redshirt freshman Tyshon Dye tore his Achilles in February so there’s no guarantee he’s going to be able to play… and if he does play, he’s likely to not be as good as he would without that setback.

Was There Sat Sep 18 1965

April 19th, 2014
2:45 pm

Love open with this type game!

The OlgGuy

April 19th, 2014
3:03 pm

I see some of the Tech poser haters have found the blog.

The other Tech trash will be here later. How was T Day on a Friday night in the rain?

Did both fans show up? Friday night football – just like in high school. Appropriate.

I dropped my fried twinkie

April 19th, 2014
3:07 pm

The Oldguy is still crying about everything like a little girl.
Don’t you have something to say about anything mentioned in the article?
No!
I didn’t think so.

up yours

April 19th, 2014
3:15 pm

my fear is we will see why even when Murray was at his worst in games we had nobody to turn to, as for the Defense you can not tackle 12 yards downfield every play.

Jason 73

April 19th, 2014
3:21 pm

Joey,

I agree. I don’t see 28 being around long. CMR said he needed to take ownership of the hamstring issue, let alone the possible suspension. Another Grantham recruit that doesn’t have the heart of a DAWG. I can easily see Langley starting at FS against Clemson.

Jason 73

April 19th, 2014
3:24 pm

I like Mason. You will probably see the screen game a lot more this year. Offense will be fine. How fast the D can get Pruitt’s schemes along with ST will be the tell all.

DawgNole

April 19th, 2014
3:56 pm

BK: “. . . for teams that have a major-college nonconference rival on the schedule every season (like Georgia), that only leaves you room for a couple of easy games.”
_____________________

And “a couple of easy games” should be gracious plenty, Bill. Your argument in favor of adding that 9th conference game made a whole lot more sense than this. And keep in mind that those cupcakes will NEVER generate the excitement or earn the respect and ranking the Dawgs get by playing (and hopefully beating) Clemson (which we’ve done far more often than not over the years) or any other decent D-1 opponent.

DawgNole

April 19th, 2014
4:04 pm

Was There Sat Sep 18 1965
April 19th, 2014
2:45 pm
Love open with this type game!
_______________________

CO-SIGN!

DawgNole

April 19th, 2014
4:06 pm

I dropped my fried twinkie
April 19th, 2014
3:07 pm
The Oldguy is still crying about everything like a little girl.
_____________________

Didn’t you notice? He changed his name to “The OlgGuy.”

Vampire Bill

April 19th, 2014
4:09 pm

I prefer playing a creme puff game one mostly because CMR’s teams are never ready in time. Suspensions do play a part in that of course. New QB, New D, Patch work this and that. I try to have faith and believe in the G but sometimes it’s just hard.

Perry

April 19th, 2014
4:23 pm

The #1 offense played against the #2 defense, not the #1 defense.

rchris

April 19th, 2014
4:44 pm

Bob the Bulldog – Aaron Davis is the real deal. Injuries stopped him in HS, but if he stays healthy he will be a force. You heard it here first.

DawgTillIDie

April 19th, 2014
4:45 pm

Cedartown Dawg Has to be a BAMA fan. Look at the spelling….

I dropped my fried twinkie

April 19th, 2014
4:45 pm

Perry what makes you think that? No team plays #1s against #2.

AKDog

April 19th, 2014
4:54 pm

mason—bigger, stronger arm than murray — mark this down—the dogs win the sec easily—usc and missouri lost a bunch of talent and fla will suck again. With the great dog D, the dogs beat alabama for the sec title!!

Jason 73

April 19th, 2014
4:59 pm

What I saw of Davis in the Spring game, he played well. Thought he had tight coverage on his guy. Wiggins was the one I saw getting burned over and over again, as well as the majority of the PIs. Not slamming on Wiggins, think he will correct things in the fall. Back to Davis, as a Soph in HS, he was being recruited by SEC teams. He has the talent just been injured. Look for him to excel on STs and possibly in the dime pkg.

Sad and Pathetic

April 19th, 2014
5:29 pm

“With Missouri coach Gary Pinkel also having recently kicked a star player — wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham — off his team, perhaps the Richt approach to discipline is starting to catch on just a little bit. One can hope, at least.”

Translation: If more SEC teams begin to recruit kids who can’t stay out of trouble, then maybe UGA will have a shot at winning an SECCG again — one of these days.

Bill King

April 19th, 2014
6:02 pm

AKDog:

Mason may be bigger than Murray, but it’s pretty well accepted by all involved that he does not have as strong an arm as Aaron did. Particularly shows up in the long throws downfield.

Bill King

April 19th, 2014
6:04 pm

Perry:
If you’re talking about G-Day, it was the #1 offense against the #1 defense.

Bill King

April 19th, 2014
6:05 pm

DawgNole:
From the standpoint of the fans getting their money’s worth, cupcakes definitely are not welcome. But you need to balance your schedule against what others are doing, and most SEC teams only play one tough nonconference opponent (or, in the case of some, none).

John Galt

April 19th, 2014
6:06 pm

AKDog @ 4:54

Not sure that Mason has a stronger arm than Murray. I also hope that we don’t find that Mason is no Murray. No one wins the SEC easily and I am not convinced that Florida will suck again. Muscrat’s job is on the line this year and I think that they will be ratcheting up the pressure to win. Lots of good talent on several teams in the SEC who all think they have a shot at the title: Bama, Auburn, USCe, LSU, TAMU and, sooner or later, 10RC, Ole Mess and Gaytors will show up with the recruiting classes they have had over the last few years.
That being said, I think (hope) UGA has as good a shot as any of them, barring the injury bug from last year or the weed testing yet to come.

heeldawg

April 19th, 2014
6:13 pm

@Clemsonidol:

You guys won a hard-fought contest at your place by 3 points when Georgia’s best receiver went out in the first quarter with a knee injury and their best player (Gurley) played only two quarters because of an injury. Now, the best QB in your school’s history is gone and the best receiver in your school’s history is gone, the Dawgs return 17 starters and and you think you are going to win that game on the road? Keep on dreaming–Georgia is 41-18-4 against Clemson overall, and has won 5 of the last six meetings between the two schools. Order gets restored in Athens this fall!

John Galt

April 19th, 2014
6:48 pm

heeldawg @ 6:13

Yeah. What he said!

gRindL98

April 19th, 2014
7:01 pm

Bye bye to Richt and Co. After another stinko season.

Dawg78

April 19th, 2014
7:18 pm

How many suspensions so far for the Clemson game in Athens?

Dawghog

April 19th, 2014
7:23 pm

Come Aug 30th TG3 is going to open up a can of you know what…….

BIGMIKE

April 19th, 2014
7:25 pm

I’mdone with the AJC. I’LL BE DAMNED IF I’M GOING TO PAY FOR THE PRIVELEDGE OF EXPRESSING MY OPINION OR EXPOSING THE WEAKNESS OF OTHERS.

The OldGuy

April 19th, 2014
8:00 pm

See, I told you the Tech trash would find their way to this blog eventually.

It’s like moths to a light bulb. And I did stay on subject in my post.

The subject of creampuff games was addressed and I mentioned Tech.

I dropped my fried twinkie

April 19th, 2014
8:13 pm

The Oldguy……good to see you remember how to spell your own name. I guess you have sobered up now.

I dropped my fried twinkie

April 19th, 2014
8:15 pm

The Oldguy are you now going to say ANYTHING meaningful about the issues eluded to in the article or just keep crying.

dawgfan

April 19th, 2014
8:28 pm

Pruitt’s comments should be extremely alarming to anyone that cares about Georgia football. His T-Ball comment was priceless and spot on. That’s Mark Richt Football. Let’s pat ourselves on the back and everybody should feel good about themselves. What a bunch of crap. We’re soft and weak. Pruitt was on a 14-0 national championship team just last year. Based on his comments he seems to think we’re quite a ways a way from that level. This should be obvious to anyone that has watched Georgia football the past 8 years.

You have to wonder if Pruitt knew what he was getting in to.

DawgVoiceofReason

April 19th, 2014
8:59 pm

Time will tell about Pruitt’s decision

I dropped my fried twinkie

April 19th, 2014
9:02 pm

How Bout them Jackets?
Beat Auburn then the Dogs for the Capital City Match Play Championship crown! ‪

Dawghater

April 19th, 2014
9:10 pm

Yada Yada Yada

Dawghater

April 19th, 2014
9:12 pm

I have been gone 3 months and nothing has changed,

Dawghater

April 19th, 2014
9:13 pm

I see Dumb350 is dumb as ever.

Snagglepuss

April 19th, 2014
9:16 pm

@I dropped my fried twinkie:

That would be “alluded to” not eluded to”!

I dropped my fried twinkie

April 19th, 2014
9:39 pm

Dawghater 350 has been banned or something cause his posts are gone.

TU

April 19th, 2014
10:10 pm

Richt and Bobo have built a black label quality offense compared to SEC offensive units. Pruitt has inherited a Pokemon level of gym trainers on defense. Pruitt can commensurate with Kiffen on the performances of their units in their Spring Games.

RHall55

April 19th, 2014
10:23 pm

Let’s talk about another issue…OL…today Bailey Sharp of Sprayberry committed to AU…so now M Hyatt to Clemson; D Warmack to AL; B Sharp to AU; W Sweet to NC; etc….where will Kaleb Kim go?…where will Nick Wilson go? where will Chuma Edoga go? If Friend gets none of these….it is evident that these kids do not want to play for a mediocre OL Coach…has not done his job since he has been @ UGA…under-recruited OL and under-coached his players!! Don’t blow smoke about his performance!!!

DawgVoiceofReason

April 19th, 2014
10:34 pm

Bulldawg35 being gone has been a definite improvement here. Now if dawgfan, flat tire and Thomasbrown would disappear the blog might be enjoyable again.