Breaking down its Top 25 for 2009, ESPN.com lavishes so much praise on its No. 16 team (link requires registration) you wonder why the team in question — namely, Georgia — isn’t ranked, like, No. 6. I’m usually pretty high on the Bulldogs, but I’m not as optimistic about these Dogs as Chris Sprow seems to be.
It’s Buzz policy not to quote overmuch from a linked article — that’s why there’s a link; you can read it yourself — but because ESPN’s Insiders is a pay site and not everyone has $39.95 to burn, I make an exception. So here goes. Mr. Sprow writes:
• “Last year, Stafford had plenty of weapons to utilize, but he was always on the run. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Stafford was drilled 93 times last season, up from 77 as a sophomore. Because of that, a Georgia offense that still managed 31.5 points per game [third in the SEC] was too star-driven. [Offensive coordinator Mike] Bobo admits that Stafford had a tendency to [focus on] his most reliable players while on the run.”
• “While the previews will say the Dawgs get back seven starters on offense, Bobo contends they get back eight … and that’s just on the offensive line. ‘We actually have eight guys back [on the O-line] that have started games for us, and we can move them around if we have to,’ Bobo says. Because of that, he thinks [Joe} Cox will be able to get more options involved. And he'll need to. 'Right now, we really have just one proven playmaker, but it's not how we'll play where we're just tossing it to [A.J. Green]; you’ll see us spread it around.’ ”
• “When Georgia gets expected improvement in the secondary from a team that picked off only 11 passes last year [eighth in the SEC] and up front from a team that sacked the QB just 23 times [ninth in the SEC], perhaps even against this schedule you could see a jump.”
• “For as good as the Dawgs looked on paper to begin last season, injuries, combined with star reliance, made that paper flimsy. This year, with Cox in charge and more healthy depth on both sides of the ball, on paper maybe it’s not as pretty, but it feels as thick as a phone book.”
Me, I say Georgia faces more “ifs” than “absolutelys” this time around, which is why I picked the Bulldogs to lose four games. But there is a chance, as Sprow suggests, Georgia could figure things out in a hurry. Still, I keep coming back to this: Minus two players who went in the top dozen of the NFL draft, a lot of guys must pull a heavier load.
Don’t know about the veracity of this, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes the Patriots might be interested in Michael Vick. And now you ask: To play … where?
At last check the Pats had a QB. (I forget his name. Y’all help me here.) And Florio never quite says what New England might do with Vick. Make him a backup? A red-zone QB? The Wildcat implementer? Ambiguity aside, it’s a great rumor.
In his ESPN.com blog, Buster Olney quotes Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell as likening Tommy Hanson to Dwight Gooden: “[Gooden] was the same, in the way he knew he belonged, and every fifth day he knew he was going to kick someone’s butt.”
I wish McDowell would say something half that good to me. But I get the feeling he doesn’t like me. He has contracted the Smoltz disease, I fear.
I wondered what the Braves were doing last week, and I was encouraged to find I wasn’t alone. Keith Law of Scouts Inc., writing for ESPN.com’s Insiders, was left bewildered by the whole Braves’ draft (requires registration), not just the Round 1 choice of Vandy lefty Mike Minor.
Quoth Law: “I’d love to know what happened in Atlanta to change its scouting philosophy; this is a team that would typically shy away from college players in general and college pitchers in particular, and the Braves went as college-heavy as any team, including taking a low-ceiling college arm in Mike Minor with the seventh overall pick in the draft. They took Princeton’s David Hale at [No.] 87; Hale has a good arm but mediocre command and wasn’t that successful in getting Ivy League hitters out, which is a big red flag for someone who can sit at 92-94 mph.
“Their third pick was Mycal Jones, a short [listed at a generous 5-foot-10] and slight [165 pounds] shortstop from Miami-Dade JC who can run but plays out of control at the plate and in the field. They didn’t take a high school player until the 10th round; last year, they started out with three prep arms and took only one player from a four-year college in the top 10 rounds. Money could be part of the explanation, but not all of it.”
With that, another meeting of the Frank Wren Fan Club is in session. First on the agenda, how do you “play out of control at the plate”? (And don’t say, “Be Jeff Francoeur.”)