Archive for December, 2009

LSU says Chavis gets raise, will stay

UPDATED 4 P.M.

Georgia’s football program still doesn’t have a defensive coordinator, but the opening continues to prove lucrative for coaches pursued for the job.

LSU said Thursday that its highly regarded defensive coordinator, John Chavis, received a pay raise and agreed to stay in his current job after being offered the Georgia position.

Georgia’s chase of Chavis played out similarly to its earlier pursuit of veteran Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who said he turned down a UGA offer after the Hokies considerably sweetened his contract.

Chavis’ decision could prolong an already month-long Georgia search for a successor to the fired Willie Martinez. UGA coach Mark Richt said for the first time Thursday that the search could extend beyond the first week of the new year.

“I don’t know if it will or not, but it could,” said Richt, who previously had said he hoped to have a new coordinator hired by  the end of the first week of January.

Richt declined to …

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LSU’s Chavis sidesteps talk of UGA job

Click here for new blog on Chavis getting a raise to stay at LSU.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis left speculation swirling Wednesday that he was considering the same job at Georgia.

He was asked twice about the issue at a Capital One Bowl news conference in Orlando -– and twice answered without distancing himself from the UGA job.

The first time, he said:  “Well, we’re excited about what we’re doing at LSU, and my focus has been on LSU and will continue to be on  LSU. We have an opportunity to win 10 ballgames, and certainly that is what we want to do. We’ve got an opportunity to be the third team in the SEC to win 100 ballgames in a decade, and certainly that is what we want to do. So that is where our focus is going to be.  I’ll talk as long as you want to about LSU and about our players. Be happy to do that.”

In other words: a protracted no-comment about the Georgia job.

Later in the news conference, asked pointedly if he would still be at LSU next season, …

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Will Rennie and Reshad go or stay?

So with the bowl game done, we’re at that annual point on Georgia’s football calendar where a few underclassmen deliberate entering the NFL draft.

A year ago, of course, Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and Asher Allen jumped at the opportunity.

This time, at least two players –  linebacker Rennie Curran and safety Reshad Jones — are tempted to do likewise.

If you want a guess, mine would be that both players will go.  But both insist they haven’t  made a decision, and their public comments remain  noncommittal.

“The closer I get to it, the harder [the decision] gets,” Curran said. “I love my teammates, love being here, love Coach [Mark] Richt. . . . I wish I didn’t have to deal with it.”

They have to deal with it pretty soon.

The NFL’s deadline for eligible underclassmen to enter the draft is Jan. 15, but a couple of other dates might be more significant in the process for Curran and Jones, both juniors:

–  Jan. 7: That’s the first day of spring-semester classes at …

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Postscripts from Shreveport

The season began in Stillwater and ended in Shreveport. Along the way, five games were lost and three coaches were fired. And two  graduate assistants got the opportunity of a lifetime.

Granted, yesterday’s 44-20 Independence Bowl victory over Texas A&M isn’t going to hold much of a place in Bulldogs history. But if it is remembered at all years or decades from now, it’ll probably be fondly recalled as the odd little game in which two young grad assistants successfully filled in as major-college coaches on a short-handed staff.

Mitch Doolittle and Todd Hartley probably will go on to long and successful coaching careers, but they’ll never forget December 2009, when their mentors were fired and they were temporarily thrust into the role of helping prepare a defense to face the nation’s fifth most prolific offensive team.

They were savoring the experience — and the result — on Monday night.

“I told the guys in my little pregame speech that I’ve been excited this much only three …

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Dogs’ Curran briefly benched

SHREVEPORT, La. — Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran did not play in the first quarter of Monday’s Independence Bowl as punishment for missing a disciplinary running session.

Curran entered the game in the second quarter and by halftime was tied for the team lead in tackles with five. He finished with eight tackles, second most on the team.

Coach Mark Richt said after the game that Curran’s benching was “not a huge deal at all, other than he had an early-morning run and our policy is that he would not get to play the first quarter of the game.”

Curran said he was required to run because “I had a dentist appointment I went to when I should have been at practice and Coach Richt felt I didn’t communicate too well. … But it was nothing too bad.”

Curran had started Georgia’s first 12 games and earlier this month was named the team’s MVP. He leads the SEC in tackles.

Not playing the first quarter of the bowl “was really tough,” Curran said, “but at the same time it got me pumped …

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Curran’s last game? Costly OL injury?

Shreveport, La. –- Hello from Shreveport, where Georgia’s not-so-hot season will have a cold ending on Monday (mid-40s at kickoff, dropping into the 30s in the second half).

Georgia doesn’t expect a large contingent of fans at the game. About 7,000 tickets were sold from UGA’s 12,000-seat allotment, some of those to Texas A&M fans who were scrounging for seats after the Aggies sold out their inventory. But I did start to see some Georgia fans around town on Sunday.

Overall, the bowl expects a good crowd. Other than Georgia’s unsold seats, all of 49,000-seat Independence Stadium is accounted for. Texas A&M sold out its 12,000-seat allotment, and the bowl sold all of its 25,000. Texas A&M’s proximity to Shreveport helped sales. College Station is about a four-hour drive away, and closer than that are pockets of Aggies fans in east Texas.

The game is what it is, a 7-5 team vs. a 6-6 team, but there are some compelling storylines:

– Gonna be interesting to see how the Georgia …

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It’s official: Koenning is at Illinois

(Updated 2:30 p.m.)

Athens — OK, you can officially remove another name from the list of candidates for Georgia’s open defensive-coordinator job: Vic Koenning was introduced as Illinois’ new defensive coordinator at a press conference in Champaign, Ill., this afternoon.

While Georgia discussed its DC job with Koenning, his reported salary with Illinois — $325,000 — would suggest UGA didn’t aggressively target him. That’s almost the same salary Willie Martinez was making ($325,815 plus bonuses), and indications are that Georgia is prepared to go well beyond that figure for the right hire.

“There was some dialogue [with Georgia],” Koenning said at today’s press conference, “and it made for an interesting last 16, 18 hours, you might say. But when push comes to shove, the character and the drive and the enthusiasm that [Illinois] coach [RonZook exhibited makes sure there was no doubt in the outcome.”

A couple of hours before Illinois’ press conference, Georgia coach Mark …

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The Vic Koenning case

Athens — One more name will be scratched from the list of rumored Georgia defensive coordinators if the University of Illinois’ press conference goes off as planned this afternoon.

And if it doesn’t go off as planned, then today will get really intriguing in Athens.

Illinois has called a 2 p.m.  press  conference to announce Vic Koenning as its new defensive coordinator.

At this late (early?) hour, that press  conference is still scheduled.

Koenning also has talked with Georgia about its DC opening, and by some accounts  Georgia’s interest in him went from tepid to torrid on Thursday.

Rumors were flying for a while Thursday night, intensifying with an 8:45 p.m. Twitter post by ESPN’s Joe Schad that Koenning “now close to deal to become Georgia’s DC, changing from Illinois” and seemingly fizzling with a 10:02 p.m. tweet by Schad that “ESPN.com reports Vic Koenning will land in Illinois after changing mind twice.”

What we know for sure at this point is that Illinois has a …

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Bacarri Rambo: ‘It’s like . . . I was deaf, paralyzed and blind’

ATHENS – Sidelined since a scary collision that knocked him unconscious late in a Nov. 14 victory over Auburn, Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo finally returned to full-contact practice the past two days.

He still doesn’t remember the play that brought a hush to Sanford Stadium, still doesn’t remember being carted off the field, still doesn’t remember the ambulance ride to the hospital.

“It’s like when I was down on the field I was deaf, paralyzed and blind,” Rambo said Thursday.

Teammates and trainers have told him that he spoke to them before being removed from the field and that he inquired about the score of the game in the ambulance, but the first thing he recalls is coming out of a late-night CAT scan at St. Mary’s Hospital.

“That’s when I really came back to myself,” he said.

He repeatedly has watched video of his jarring hit on Auburn’s Mario Fannin, trying unsuccessfully to stir the memory.

“I look at it and I’m, like, ‘I still don’t remember that play.’ I’m, like, …

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Richt on DC search (and other notes)

Athens — Georgia coach Mark Richt said today that he is devoting “due diligence” to the “very important” search for a new defensive coordinator –- a process that he said might not be completed until the new year.

“I think I’ll know when the time is right,” he said.

Richt would not disclose or discuss specific candidates — “I can’t do that,” he said — and he gave  no indication that a resolution is imminent.

“I would say the safest bet – and I don’t want to put a timetable on it – [is that] I’d hate to think it goes much past the first week of January,” said Richt, citing recruiting factors. “Even then I’m not going to say 100 percent because I’m not 100 percent sure when it will happen.”

Asked if the hire could be made earlier –- say, before Georgia’s Dec. 28 Independence Bowl game against Texas A&M –- Richt said: “I just don’t know. . .  It’s just so hard to predict.”

Georgia’s staff has had three openings since Dec. 2, when Richt fired defensive coordinator …

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Dogs have a unanimous All-American

It’s hard to find unanimity in sports, but Drew Butler has achieved it: He’s a unanimous first-team All-American.

The Georgia punter was named to two more All-America first teams today — The Associated Press’ and the Sporting News’.

That puts him on all five of the All-America teams recognized by the NCAA: the Football Writers Association of America, Walter Camp Foundation,  American Football Coaches Association, Sporting News and AP.  In every case, he made first-team.

The last Georgia player to make first-team on all five of those squads was . . .   Champ Bailey in 1998.

(David Pollack made four of them in 2004, as did Greg Blue and Max Jean-Gilles in 2005).

Butler’s honors cap an incredible season for the redshirt sophomore, who is in his first year as the Bulldogs’ regular punter.

“It just goes to show that hard work pays off,” he said a few days ago.

He leads the nation in punting with an average of 48.8 yards on 50 punts, and last week he received the Ray Guy Award, …

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After call from Georgia, Foster gets new deal at Virginia Tech

Bud Foster won’t become Georgia’s new defensive coordinator, but the Bulldogs’ overtures to bring him to Athens will pay off for the highly respected coach.

Hours after acknowledging  contact from UGA about its  job, Foster late Monday agreed to new financial terms to remain at Virginia Tech.

“I’ve been approached for jobs -– the strongest one was Georgia -– and [Virginia] Tech came through with a package that’s going to keep me here,” Foster said Monday night in Blacksburg, Va., according to the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. “I’m pleased with that.

“On the table right now, there’s a nice situation for me to want to continue here and stay here.”

Virginia Tech said terms of the new deal, which had been in the works since the weekend, will not be released until it is finalized. But the key element is an annuity that will pay Foster a  lump sum if he remains at the school another five years.

Foster, 50, is in his 23rd year at Virginia Tech, his 15th as defensive …

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Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster talks with Georgia about DC job

Any college football coach seeking a defensive coordinator probably should put in a call to Bud Foster, Virginia Tech’s esteemed DC. And Georgia’s Mark Richt has.

Foster has been contacted by Georgia about its vacant defensive-coordinator position, the veteran coach confirmed through a spokesman Monday.

“He said he has been contacted,” Virginia Tech associate athletics director Dave Smith said by e-mail, “but that’s it.”

Asked if  “that’s it” means talks haven’t progressed beyond initial contact, Smith replied: “That would be my take, but the only other thing [Foster] said was there really isn’t anything else to say.”

Foster has been on Virginia Tech’s staff for 23 seasons, the past 15 as defensive coordinator. He won the 2006 Frank Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant coach. His defenses often have been among the nation’s best.

He has turned down numerous offers to leave Virginia Tech for other coordinator jobs over the years, including an offer from South …

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MVP? Captain? Most improved? Here are Dogs’ award winners . . .

Rennie Curran, A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Drew Butler and Blair Walsh received top honors at the Georgia football team’s annual Gala Saturday night in Athens.

Curran, the junior linebacker who leads the SEC in tackles, received the Vince Dooley Most Valuable Player of the Year award.

Green, the sophomore wide receiver whose superb year was derailed by two late-season injuries, was named the team’s Most Valuable Offensive Player.

Atkins, the senior defensive tackle who finished his UGA career strong, was named the Most Valuable Defensive Player.

And sophomore punter  Butler and sophomore placekicker Walsh, both models of consistency all season, were named the Most Valuable Special Teams Players.

Other awards and honors:

– Senior quarterback Joe Cox was named the team’s permanent overall captain.

– Senior wide receiver Michael Moore was named the offensive captain, senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens and Curran the defensive co-captains and senior Prince Miller the special-teams …

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Georgia’s Drew Butler wins Ray Guy Award as nation’s top punter

Georgia’s Drew Butler Thursday night was named winner of the Ray Guy Award as college football’s top punter.

The award, presented at the nationally televised College Football Awards Show in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., capped a remarkable first season as Georgia’s  punter for Butler, the son of former UGA All-America placekicker Kevin Butler.

Drew Butler,  from Duluth, leads the nation this season with an average of 48.8 yards on 50 punts, including 24 of 50-plus yards and 17 placed inside the 20-yard line.

“My mom’s birthday was yesterday,  so this should be a pretty good birthday present for her,” Butler said as he received the Guy Award, which was presented by Guy himself.  Guy was an All-American  at Southern Mississippi and a seven-time NFL Pro Bowl punter with the Oakland Raiders.

Crediting Georgia’s entire punt team, Butler said “this is far from an individual honor.”

His sports of choice had been soccer and golf until he decided to go out for his high school football …

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Want to apply for Willie Martinez’s old job?

If you want to apply for Willie Martinez’s old position at the University of Georgia, the job posting number is 20091296.

The UGA athletics department has publicly posted four job openings this week -– one for a groundskeeper (duties include “assist with daily maintenance of playing surface at various athletic facilities, including mowing and irrigation”) and three for assistant football coaches.

Obviously the coaching jobs aren’t going to go to members of the public who learn of them by perusing the postings on the UGA human resources’ Web site. But the jobs are required to be publicly posted nevertheless, and you might get a kick out of the details contained in the postings. . . .

The job summary for Martinez’s former position: “Serve as Football Defensive Coordinator, including recruiting; defensive staff goals, charts, statistics, practice schedules, staff meetings; supervising graduate assistants and student managers; guiding and encouraging students to reach and …

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Coaches agree on three Dogs as first-team All-SEC

The three Georgia football players named first-team All-SEC by the media on Monday got the same honor from the league’s coaches on Tuesday.

Wide receiver A.J. Green, linebacker Rennie Curran and punter Drew Butler added first-team spots in the coaches’ All-SEC balloting to their berths on the Associated Press’ first team.

Butler leads the nation in punting, while Curran leads the SEC in tackles and Green is second in the league in receiving yards per game.

The coaches also named four Georgia players second-team All-SEC: placekicker Blair Walsh, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, defensive end Justin Houston and center Ben Jones.

Walsh,  Atkins, Houston and offensive lineman Clint Boling made the AP’s second team on Monday.

Alabama had eight players named first-team All-SEC by the coaches, while Florida had seven.

In other news today, former Georgia player — and much-rumored candidate for Willie Martinez’s old job — Kirby Smart won the Frank Broyles Award as college football’s top …

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Three Dogs are first-team All-SEC

Three Georgia football players –- wide receiver A.J. Green, linebacker Rennie Curran and punter Drew Butler –- were named first-team All-SEC by the Associated Press today.

Butler leads the nation in punting average, while Curran leads the SEC in tackles and Green is second in the league in receiving yards per game.

Four other Georgia players were named to the AP’s All-SEC second team: placekicker Blair Walsh, defensive tackle Geno Atkins,  defensive end Justin Houston and offensive tackle Clint Boling.

Alabama swept the top three individual honors, with running back Mark Ingram being named the league’s offensive player of the year, linebacker Rolando McClain the defensive player of the year and Nick Saban the coach of the year.

Here’s a link to the full team.

The AP team is chosen by media members. The coaches’ All-SEC team will be named Tuesday.

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Taking note of Georgia-Texas A&M

If you missed it, here’s my story  on Georgia and Texas A&M accepting Independence Bowl invitations.

Now, a few more things:

– If Georgia had not blown a 20-6 halftime lead with four second-half turnovers against Kentucky, the Bulldogs would have finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak -– and probably would be headed to Tampa for the Outback Bowl.

– Let’s hope the weather in Shreveport on Dec. 28 doesn’t resemble that for Texas A&M’s last appearance in the Independence Bowl –  the 2000 game known as the “Snow Bowl.”   A driving snowstorm began during pregame warmups and continued throughout the game, a 43-41 Mississippi State overtime victory. .

– Georgia and Texas A&M had two mutual opponents this season –- Oklahoma State and Arkansas. Both lost to Oklahoma State -– Georgia 24-10 and Texas A&M 36-31. Georgia beat Arkansas 52-41, while Texas A&M lost to the Razorbacks 47-19.

– No. 5 in the nation in total offense and No. 107 in total defense. …

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Like his father, Drew Butler earns All-America honors

Drew Butler now has something else in common with his father: He’s an All-American.

Georgia’s punter today was named to the American Football Coaches’ All-America Team –- the first UGA kicker (punter or placekicker) to earn All-America honors since Butler’s dad, Kevin, did so as a placekicker in 1983-84.

Drew Butler is the first Georgia punter to be named All-America in the modern era, according to UGA. Georgia has had several other players over the decades who earned All-America honors at their primary positions and doubled as a punter.

Butler, from Duluth, leads the nation with a 48.8-yard average on 50 punts this season, his first as the Bulldogs’ No. 1 punter. He is on pace to break UGA’s single-season punting record (45.4-yard average by Chip Andrews in 1984).

Butler is one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award, presented annually to the nation’s top punter.

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Richt on changes, Tech rivalry, Powerade bath

There was no answer to the big question –- call it The Willie Martinez Question -– but there were some interesting comments on Mark Richt’s weekly radio call-in show Monday night.

If you missed it:

The first question, not surprisingly, was about any plans for changing coordinators or other assistant coaches.

Richt’s reply:  “I’m not going to make any comment about anything like that. I think people think that just because we need to get better or make some kind of change — they think it always involves changing of people, too.  And that’s not always necessarily true. But, you know, we’re going to get things back on track, I can promise you that.”

–  Richt was asked about his angry reaction to a slightly premature attempt to drench him in Powerade near the end of Saturday’s victory at Georgia Tech.

He said he had told the players at halftime that he didn’t want to see anyone smile until there was no time left on the clock.  “Sure enough, it’s a minute and 20 …

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