Archive for January, 2012

ESPN: Tech is the second-worst at keeping in-state talent

Jonathan Dwyer: One of the exceptions who proves the rule. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Jonathan Dwyer: One of the exceptions who proves the rule. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

One of the charms about ESPN is that the Worldwide Leader has enough correspondents to satisfy every viewpoint. Just yesterday, ESPN recruiting correspondent Jamie Newberg was lauding Georgia Tech for its success in finding prospects of lesser portfolio. But now comes LaRue Cook of ESPN the Magazine to serve as the bad cop.

Georgia Tech, Cook writes, is the nation’s second-worst program at attracting high-end in-state players. (Only Arizona keeps Tech from being No. 1.) Cook’s rationale: Over the past five years, the Jackets have landed only two of the 74 Georgia recruits ranked in ESPN’s top 150.

Wait. It gets worse.

Neither of the two — Jonathan Dwyer and Morgan Burnett — was landed by Paul Johnson and staff. Those two were signed by Chan Gailey, who last coached Tech in 2007. Only one Tech signee under Johnson, Cook writes, has cracked the ESPN 150, and that was Vad Lee of North …

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Recruiting mavens weigh in on Tech, UGA and recruiting itself

Josh Harvey-Clemons Lowndes: With whom will he sign? (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Josh Harvey-Clemons of Lowndes: With whom will he sign? (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

If you follow college football, you cannot ignore recruiting. Even if you think it’s overblown, attention must be paid. As Jamie Newberg, the ESPN recruiting analyst, said Monday: “Those stars [rankings for each recruit] do mean something. You just have look at the national champions the last 10 years to know that.”

Then this: “But then you look at a guy like [Virginia Tech's] Frank Beamer — he’s never in the Top 10 [of recruiting rankings] but he gets the guys who does what he wants … Paul Johnson has done a good job in that way, too.”

Paul Johnson, as we know, coaches Georgia Tech, and Tech is often seen as an afterthought on National Signing Day. The SEC schools load up on five-star guys and the Jackets make do with lesser lights, and when you look at the rankings — and we all do — Tech is never in the Top 10. But here’s Newberg on this Tech class,  rated the nation’s 57th-best by

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Hoops insider: So which is the bigger dud – Tech or UGA?

"Why aren't we better? You're asking ME?" (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

"So why aren't we better than this? You're asking ME? " (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Hoops Hysterics

1. Georgia is tied for last in the SEC. Georgia Tech is dead last in the ACC. Which team is more disappointing? Georgia, and not just because the Bulldogs managed to lose to Tech in Athens. (The Jackets are 3-9 since.) A team in Year 3 under its coach, as Georgia is, should be much further along than a team in Year 1, as is the case with Tech. If the Bulldogs don’t win a big game or two the second half of the league season, the advances of last season will be canceled out.

2. How many NCAA tournament bids will the ACC command? How many for the SEC? The ACC could get stuck on four — North Carolina, Duke, Florida State and Virginia — if North Carolina State continues to slide and Miami doesn’t make a big push. The SEC has four almost-certains — Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State — but Alabama lost four in a row and, its RPI of 33 notwithstanding, could be overtaken …

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Peyton Manning: A weird and ugly ending is at hand in Indy

Peyton Manning, shown not playing. (AP photo)

Peyton Manning, shown here not playing. (AP photo)

The Super Bowl dwarfs all else in North American sports, but the Super Bowl will be only the second-biggest story in this year’s host city. Of greater interest in Indianapolis is what’s happening with Peyton Manning, the only NFL player who’s a team unto himself.

Everybody knew Peyton Manning was a great player, but just how great was revealed only when, for the first time since he was drafted out of Tennessee in 1998, he wasn’t able to play. For 13 seasons and through 227 consecutive starts, Manning made the Colts a viable concern. Then he had offseason neck surgery and was so slow to heal that he missed not just a start but a season.

With Manning, the Colts had made the playoffs 11 times in 12 seasons. Without him, they did well to win two games. They were the NFL equivalent of the Cleveland Cavaliers after LeBron James took his talents elsewhere, and here we thought that in football no one man could mean half that much. For …

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Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech on Labor Day: Who benefits?

Which Tech will fly higher? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Which Tech will fly higher? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Georgia Tech hasn’t confirmed that it will move its game against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to Labor Day evening, but an announcement should be forthcoming. (The holdup is because the Jackets are shuffling some other games.) So if Tech-Tech, which has become a midseason ACC marquee game, becomes a high-profile opener instead, who benefits?

Tech, I say. (Heh, heh.)

Virginia Tech benefits in that it gets the only other team to win the ACC Coastal since the league moved to divisional play at its place so early. As we know, Paul Johnson’s offense is unlike most others, and teams that have extra time to prepare tend to fare a bit better than those that don’t. (Johnson argues that this bit of conventional wisdom is overblown, but here we note that, of Georgia Tech’s five losses in 2011, three — against Virginia, Virginia Tech and Utah — came against opponents who had more than one week to ready themselves.) That said …

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Who’ll grab hold of the SEC East – UGA or South Carolina?

Will Isaiah Crowell and Georgia leave South Carolina in the dust? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Will Isaiah Crowell and Georgia leave South Carolina in the dust? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

For the first 10 years of the SEC East’s existence, Florida usually won. When it didn’t, Tennessee did. Then Mark Richt arrived at Georgia — and, not incidentally, Ron Zook took over in Gainesville — and the Bulldogs won the division three times in four seasons. Then the Gators, under new and better management, won three times in four years. And then, in 2010, something strange happened: The East was taken by none of the above.

South Carolina finally broke through, and two weeks into the 2011 season the Gamecocks were poised to consolidate that gain. They’d beaten Georgia in Athens. The Gamecocks had four of the more talented players — Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney — in the nation’s most talented league. But Carolina lost at home to Auburn and booted wayfaring quarterback Stephen Garcia from the squad for good and lost Lattimore to a knee …

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Hoops insider: Does UGA have a shot versus No. 1 Wildcats?

Will it be a stress-free night for Coach Cal at the Stegasaurus? (AP photo)

A stressful night for Coach Cal at the Stegasaurus? (AP photo)

(Yet again, let me note that this feature is part — but only a small part — of our weekly college basketball package, which runs every Tuesday in the print AJC. I offer my contribution for your digital perusal.)

Hoops Hysterics

1. Does Georgia have a prayer against No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday? Sure. As good as the Wildcats can be, they trailed in the second halves of both SEC road games, and neither of those — at Auburn, at Tennessee — was against top-shelf competition. At 1-4 in league play, the Bulldogs aren’t top-shelf, either. But they’re at home, which means something.

2. If you had to pick one team against the field to win the national championship, would it be Kentucky? North Carolina? Missouri? Syracuse? None of the above. I’d pick the same team I picked — incorrectly — last March. I’d pick Ohio State because I think Jared Sullinger, whose numbers are almost the same as a sophomore as they were as a …

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So why haven’t these Falcons gotten closer to a Super Bowl?

"Extra, extra! Read all about it! Team that beat Falcons wins NFC!" (AP photo)

"Extra, extra! Read all about it! The team that beat the Falcons wins NFC!" (AP photo)

Three times in four seasons, the Falcons of Mike Smith and Matt Ryan have been eliminated by the eventual NFC champ. This isn’t, however, to suggest they keep being undone by an unlucky draw. In each case, the Falcons entered with the better regular-season record. When it happens once or even twice, we can shrug and say, “Them’s the breaks.” When it happens three times since 2008, we pluck at common threads. And we find …

In each case, the Falcons held a lead. They’d rallied from a 14-3 deficit to lead 17-14 at the half in Phoenix on Jan. 3, 2009, but the Arizona Cardinals — who’d lost four of their final six regular-season games to finish 9-7 — scored the next 16 points. The game turned on the second play of the second half, when Darnell Dockett thwarted Ryan’s handoff to Michael Turner. Antrell Rolle grabbed the ball and returned it for a touchdown.

Against Green Bay in the Georgia Dome …

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Joe Paterno is gone, but our struggle with his legacy endures

Statues are made of bronze. People, alas, are flesh and blood. (AP photo)

Statues come in bronze. People are more complicated. (AP photo)

In death as in life, timing matters. Had Joe Paterno died Jan. 22, 2011, he’d have been hailed as the one coach who’d negotiated the murky waters of contemporary college football and left, both his sport and this world, with dignity shining. Every obituary would have included, no further down than the second paragraph, the line: “He did it the right way.”

But Joe Paterno died Jan. 22, 2012, and today every first paragraph is duty-bound to mention of his forced departure from Penn State 2 1/2 months before his death, a departure triggered not because some recruit was given a new car but because a longtime assistant coach was indicted for child sex abuse.

Joe Paterno took two national championships, won more games at the major-college level than any other football coach and never saw his program penalized by the NCAA. Had he died at age 84, as opposed to 85, we would have mourned his passing while celebrating a life …

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More from Wren the GM: On Fredi, the bullpen and the Phillies

Frank Wren likes what the guy he hired to replace Bobby Cox did in Year 1. (AP photo)

Frank Wren likes what the guy he hired to replace Bobby Cox did in Year 1. (AP photo)

For your listening enjoyment, here’s a bit more from this week’s conversation with Braves general manager Frank Wren. (Other snippets of the Wren Zen can be found here.)

On the the epic collapse of 2011: “We have to learn from it and grow from it.”

On starting pitchers Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, whose injuries helped undo the 2011 season: “[Tommy] feels great. We feel very good about where he is. Jair was ready to pitch a week after the season was over. And Tim Hudson [who underwent offseason back surgery] should be ready or close to ready by the end of spring training. He says he feels better than he has in two or three years.”

On whether or not a major personnel move will be warranted: “I think we’ll have more answers at the end of spring training. If everyone bounces back, then we’ve got a good ballclub that doesn’t have a major need. I’d rather be in that position [than having to …

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