THE TEN AT 10:
1. Football coach Mark Richt was speaking again Tuesday night, this time down in Albany on the latest stop of the Bulldog Club tour. Gentry Estes of Dawgs247.com was on the scene and asked Richt about two things specifically: (1) Had he heard the remarks of Florida coach Will Muschamp guaranteeing a Gator victory in Jacksonville in late October? (2) And what’s this stuff about Ken Malcome being listed fourth team behind Caleb King, Carlton Thomas and walkon Brandon Harton on the recently-released post-spring depth chart?
On Question 1, Richt said he was “notified immediately by plenty of people” of Muschamp’s remarks. As for his reaction to it, Estes reports Richt said with a smile, “I thought that was a good thing.”
As for Harton being ahead of Malcome, Richt said: “It’s just the way we saw it. We just laid the depth chart out as to how they performed in the spring. … From the beginning of spring until the end, (Harton) was the best runner we had. He ran the ball better than anybody in the spring. Washaun [Ealey] missed a bunch, and Ken Malcome missed a bunch. . . . The kid [Harton], he showed us something.”
You can read Estes’ full report HERE. And here is a link to the Albany Herald’s coverage of the event.
2. Matt Stinchcomb and his buddies are at it again. The annual “Countdown to Kickoff” UGA football celebration he organizes along with his brother Jon Stinchcomb and former Georgia quarterback David Greene has grown so much over the last six years that it now has to be spread out over several days of the summer to fit it all in.
The first leg of this year’s event kicks off on Saturday, June 4, with “Dawgs for Kids Night” at Maggiano’s in Buckhead. It’s a fundraiser dinner — beneficiaries include Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Transplant Foundation — that features silent and live auctions for UGA memorabilia and special prizes. Among the prize packages fans can bid on is a “real gameday experience,” in which fans can ride to Sanford Stadium on the team bus, go through the Dawg Walk and remain with the team during pregame warmups on the field.
“Georgia has been great about giving us access and opportunity to put together some really neat stuff from an experience standpoint,” said Stinchcomb, a former All-SEC offensive lineman (1995-98). “As Georgia fans, this stuff is as good as it gets.”
There is also the “Celebrity Dawgleg Golf Classic” on July 15 at the UGA Golf Course and the “Fan Festival” on July 16 at the Woodruff Practice Fields in Athens. That’s when former and current Georgia players gather to provide autographs for and take pictures with Georgia fans. Information on tickets and other Countdown to Kickoff activities is available at ugakickoff.com.
3. Quarterback D.J. Shockley, captain of Georgia’s 2005 SEC Championship team, is guest host of this year’s Countdown to Kickoff. I spoke to Shockley briefly on Tuesday and found out he’s still pursuing his professional football dreams. In a couple of weeks Shockley will be heading up to Omaha, Neb., to rejoin the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL (United Football League).
“It’s a situation where I just feel like I can still play,” Shockley said. “I was only with the Falcons for four years, so my arm’s still good, my body’s still good and I still feel like I can play. It’s another chance for me to display to NFL teams that I can still play at a high level. So having the chance to still play is awesome. And the talent level in the UFL is very good. It’s a made up of a lot of guys who have been in the NFL and are trying to get back. So the competition level is high. I think it’s great league to get better and also to get film so the NFL can see you.”
In Omaha, Shockley will be joined by former Bulldogs and NFL veterans George Foster and Jermaine Phillips. I’ll have more later on Shockley, “Greenie” and the Stinchcombs.
4. Speaking of former Dogs, after winning the competition on the hit TV show “Dancing with the Stars” Tuesday night, UGA letterman Hines Ward thanked the “Bulldog Nation” and the “Steeler Nation” for helping with the voting. In the meantime, Ward seems to have captured the rest of the nation with the infectious smile and warm demeanor that his football fans have known for years. He had an email exchange with our radio and TV reporter Rodney Ho earlier this week. And here is a link to an early video of Hines explaining why he decided this was something he might want to do. Congratulations, Hines. All that and a Super Bowl MVP, too!
5. Junior pitcher Michael Palazzone has put together a spectacular season for the Bulldogs and is the main reason they were able to secure an SEC Tournament bid after missing out on the eight-team event last season. Now there’s a good chance they could lose the right-hander after this season.
Georgia opens tournament play against No. 3-ranked Vanderbilt tonight at 8:30 p.m. and, once again, Palazzone (9-3, 3.17 ERA) will take the mound with much on the line. The Bulldogs (28-28) need to win at least three games in the tournament in order to secure NCAA regional bid. In case you missed it, I wrote about Palazzone in my SEC tournament preview.
But regardless of what happens in the tournament, Palazzone has already made a favorable impression on scouts and will likely get taken in the Major League Baseball Draft June 5-7. Though he doesn’t light up the radar gun with his power – he can throw in the high 80s — Palazzone makes his living by changing speeds and throwing any one of three pitches at any time. That and his stellar worksheet in the toughest league in America (7-2, 3.22) may be enough to earn early notice in the draft this time.
Palazzone (6-2, 197) has been drafted twice before. He was selected in the 18th round by the Atlanta Braves coming out of Lassiter High School and went to the Cleveland Indians in the 32nd round (960th pick overall) last year (because he was 21 years old). Now 22, Palazzone said it’s still his dream to play professional baseball. Don’t be surprised if he goes fast as he has the additional leverage of being able to come back to UGA to play his senior season.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Palazzone said. “There are 30 teams out there. I’m just hoping one of them takes an interest in me.”
6. Defending women’s champion Chelsey Gullickson of UGA and three members of the men’s tennis team were set to begin play in the singles portion of the NCAA Championships on Wednesday.
Gullickson will open up her defense of her national indidual title against Clemson’s Keri Wong at 1 p.m. in the first-round of the 64-player draw. Wil Spencer, Sadio Doumbia and Javier Garrapiz were representing the Bulldogs, who got knocked out of the team portion of the tournament with a 4-0 loss to Southern Cal in the semifinals. Spencer will play at 1 p.m. ET against Louisville’s Austen Childs, while Doumbia will face Gonzalo Escobar of Texas Tech at 2:30 p.m., and Garrapiz will battle the Red Raiders’ Raony Carvalho at 6:30 p.m. In the women’s draw,
The 32-team doubles tournament begins Thursday, with Garrapiz-Hernus Pieters and Gullickson-Kate Fuller representing Georgia.
Georgia men’s players have won the NCAA Singles title four times: Mikael Pernfors in 1984 and 1985, and Matias Boeker in 2001 and 2002. Pernfors beat teammate George Bezecny for the crown in 1985. The Bulldogs have won three NCAA doubles titles including Ola Malmqvist and Allen Miller in 1983, Boeker and Travis Parrott in 2001, and John Isner and Antonio Ruiz in 2005.
Gullickson became the third player in Georgia history to win the NCAA women’s crown last year and the first since Angela Lettiere in 1994. Lisa Spain won the title in 1984.
The Georgia men reached the semifinals of this year’s team tournament before falling Monday to Southern Cal, while the women advanced to the quarterfinals where they were upended by Stanford.
7. Speaking of the tennis, one of the Georgia’s alums, John Isner, gave the professional tennis world a thrill on Tuesday when he almost pulled off an upset of No. 1 Rafael Nadal inthe first round of the French Open. At one point the 6-foot-9 Isner had Nadal on the ropes with his serve-and-volley game before eventually falling 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4 in the first round. It was the first timne in 40 career matches in the French Open that Nadal had been stretched to five sets.
“What it came down to is the way he played in the fourth and fifth sets,” Isner told The Associated Press. “I haven’t seen tennis like that, ever.”
Said Nadal: “Quite clearly,” this is a match that I could have lost.”
8. It was a red-letter day for UGA athletics with regard to academics this week as the NCAA released its latest Academic Progress Rate report. Eight Georgia sports teams were among the top three in the SEC, including men’s golf with a perfect score of 1,000. The football team’s score of 976 APR tied Florida for second, only one point behind league-leading Vanderbilt.
The APR, now in its sixth year, measures the eligibility, retention and graduation of student-athletes competing on every Division I sports team. It also serves as a predictor of graduation success. The most recent APR scores are multi-year rates based on the scores from the 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10 academic years. NCAA sports falling below the established point cutoff of 925 are subject to penalties including scholarship reductions. UGA will not incur any penalties as all 20 NCAA Bulldog sports were significantly above the cutoff score.
“These scores are indicative of a great deal of effort and hard work by our student-athletes,” said Georgia AD Greg McGarity. “Our coaches and academic counseling staff have done an excellent job of supporting our student-athletes and we’ll continue those efforts to keep improving and performing at a high level.”
Other Bulldog teams ranking among the SEC’s top three include women’s basketball (2nd), women’s cross country (2nd), women’s swimming and diving (2nd), men’s indoor track and field (3rd), men’s outdoor track and field (3rd), and women¹s indoor track and field (3rd).
Eleven UGA teams1 increased their team scores over last year, including men’s basketball (946). Coach Mark Fox’s Bulldogs saw four seniors graduate this spring.
9. Georgia’s softball team will be reaching some rare air if it can get by Baylor in the NCAA Super Regional in Athens this weekend. If the Bulldogs (50-12) can win the best-of-three series, they will advance to the College World Series for a third year in a row. They already were the only team in the country to reach the national Final Four in 2009 and 2010.
This year’s team features eight seniors who have will leave UGA as the most successful group ever recruited to Georgia: Jennie Auger, Alisa Goler, Brianna Hesson, Sarah McCloud, Katie Murphy, Taylor Scholpy, Laura Trout and Megan Wiggins. I’ll be profiling that group later this week. The series against the Bears (43-12) begins Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
10. THIS & THAT: Georgia also claimed second place in the annual SECall-sports competition sponsored by the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group. The Bulldogs were boosted by SEC championships in men’s tennis and women’s swimming and diving, second-place finish in women’s tennis and third in women’s basketball, men’s outdoor track and field, and gymnastics. Florida took first place. Georgia last won the overall SEC All-Sports Trophy in 2005-06. . . .
For those who missed the SEC Track & Field Championships in Athens on May 12-15, ESPNU will air a two-hour highlight show tonight from 8-10 p.m. The UGA men finished third at the meet with 99 points as juniors Brian Moore (javelin) and Matt Cleaver (3000-meter steeplechase) won individual titles while freshman Justin Welch (hammer throw) and T.J. Davilmar (shot put) had runner-up finishes in their events. The Lady Bulldogs were fourth with 94 points as junior Nikola Lomnicka won her second consecutive hammer throw crown and sophomore Maria Augutis captured the triple jump title with a personal-best effort. . . . The track teams compete at the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Bloomington, Ind., on Thursday. The three-day meet will determine which competitors advance to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 8-11. . . .
The 12th-ranked Georgia men’s golf team squeaked by in the NCAA Colorado Regional and qualified for the championship round of the NCAA tournament, which begins next Tuesday in Stillwater, Okla. The 30 teams in the field will play 54 holes of stroke play, which will determine the individual champion. The top eight teams then will move on to match play to crown the team champion. If the Bulldogs are to claim a third national title (they won in 1999 and 2005), they’ll have to play better in the tournament’s first round. Georgia has carded its worst round on the first day of all but one tournament it has played in this season.