THE TEN AT 10:
1. With Washaun Ealey’s departure, the inevitable questions about whether Isaiah Crowell can match the freshman performances of last year’s star SEC tailbacks are in full force. But while Crowell’s high school accolades — nation’s No. 1-rated running back, 10-plus yards per carry — are similar to South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Auburn’s Michael Dyer, they had something Crowell will not have: An experienced and intact offensive line.
Auburn had the best offensive line in the country, starting four seniors and a junior, including All-American tackle Lee Ziemba. They paved the way for Dyer (1,093 yards) and run-first quarterback Cam Newton (1,473). South Carolina brought back four returning starters last season when Lattimore came in and rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Georgia’s offensive line this season will be a comparative patchwork. The Bulldogs will likely start three seniors — center Ben Jones, left tackle Cordy Glenn and right tackle Justin Anderson. But of them only Jones will be playing the same position he did last season. Anderson is coming back over from a one-year experiment on defense and Glenn has played mostly guard during his career.
That said, it is not a unit devoid of experience. Jones and Glenn have 68 starts between them. Kenarious Gates started three games at guard and played in every game as a true freshman. Anderson has played in 25 games on the offensive line with 12 starts. Only Chris Burnette, who projects as the starting right guard, is a true greenhorn.
Georgia’s line would have been comparatively similar in experience to Auburn’s and South Carolina’s had Trinton Sturdivant not suffered a season-ending knee injury in the spring. But he did and the Bulldogs were forced to shuffle again. The question now is if they can make Crowell look good, or vice-versa.
2. Georgia Southern boosters are in the process of raising money to have a statue of Erk Russell commissioned and erected in Statesboro. If successful, it’s likely Georgia fans will have had a hand in making it happen.
Former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, for whom Russell earned his reputation as a crafty and inspirational defensive coordinator, is assisting in the fund-raising effort. He has already offered up a substantial contribution of his own and wrote a letter to Georgia Southern alumni and boosters urging them to do the same.
“I was very excited to learn there is a movement to have a lifetime statue erected at Georgia Southern in memory of my long time good friend and coaching associate, the late and beloved Coach Erk Russell. It will be a fitting tribute to one of the great all time football coaches and one of the great all time people that I have ever known. I never knew a coach that was more loved and respected as Erk Russell. His record speaks for itself. . . . I am very happy and totally supportive of this effort which will be a fitting tribute not only to Coach Russell but to his family and to all of the supporters of Georgia Southern and the University of Georgia. God bless his legacy and the wonderful memories he left for us all.”
“Caleb has become a very dependable football player,” Richt told reporters before the meeting. “People can have a debate on how effective he’s been. But when it comes to knowing what to do, when it comes to pass protection, when it comes to doing the things that we’re asking him to do, he does a good job. I’ve got faith that he knows what to do and will compete well.”
King and offensive lineman A.J. Harmon were benched for the Liberty Bowl because of academic problems. Richt said spring semester grades will not be posted until Monday and, therefore, player eligibility for this fall has not been determined.
5. Sixty-nine athletes, including 12 football players and every senior on the men’s basketball team, will be graduating when UGA holds commencement ceremonies on Friday in Athens.
Among the football players planning to walk are Geno Atkins, Drew Butler, Logan Gray and Tanner Strickland. Also returning after completing his degree is NFL veteran linebacker Tony Gilbert. Men’s basketball players Chris Barnes, Jeremy Price, Connor Nolte and Gerald Robinson are all graduating.
6. It’s going to be a zoo in Athens this weekend. In addition to commencement ceremonies on Friday at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., UGA will be hosting men’s and women’s NCAA tennis regionals at the Dan Magill Complex (Friday through Sunday) and the SEC Track & Field Outdoor Championships at Spec Towns Track (Thursday-Sunday). The track competition is expected to draw thousands to the Classic City. As many as 700 men’s and women’s athletes will be participating and friends and family of many of those competitors will surely follow. Here’s a feature I wrote on UGA steeplechaser Matt Cleaver to advance the SEC track meet.
7. Georgia baseball’s postseason hopes have taken a serious hit this week. They were already dinged pretty good after losing two of three at Auburn, then came a t-bone crash with a 4-2 home loss to Mercer on Wednesday. Now it has become a mathematical situation for the Bulldogs. While their RPI remains relatively high, they simply have to end up at least three games above .500 heading into the SEC Tournament to give the NCAA selection committee any reason to consider them come June. That means they need to win at least five of the final seven regular-season games. That’s going to be a tall order with three at Kentucky this weekend, and then home against Kennesaw State and then three home games against No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt.
8. The Macon Telegraph’s Seth Emerson tweeted that the Twitter ban for Georgia men’s basketball players has been lifted by prolific tweeter/coach Mark Fox. Emerson was apparently alerted to this new via a tweet from rising sophomore Marcus Thornton.
9. It’s really exciting to see that the University of Georgia and the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism has established a news sports journalism major. While it has been in the works for a while, the official announcement was made Wednesday. The formation of the program was made possible by a $1 million gift from Atlanta’s Carmical Foundation, which will fund a “Chair in Sports Journalism and Society.”
Don’t be surprised if this doesn’t have an indirect efffect on Georgia’s football recruiting. Jordan Watkins, a defensive end out of Woodward Academy and a top 10 prospect in the state, is a 4.0 student who wants to major in sports journalism.
10. THIS & THAT: The good news that all of Georgia’s season-ticket holders were able to get the tickets they requested for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State in the Georgia Dome. The bad news is some tickets are still available, at least according to one empassioned fan blogger. . . . The Georgia softball team, at one time ranked No. 1 in the country, stumbles into the SEC Tournament, which begins today in Oxford, Miss. The eighth-ranked Bulldogs (45-11, 17-9 SEC) will face LSU having lost four of their last six games, including a loss to Longwood on Wednesday.