THE TEN AT 10
1. Looks like Willie Martinez is coming back to the SEC. The former Georgia defensive coordinator, so vilified his last couple of years in Athens, is joining new Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder as defensive backs coach for the Tigers. Nothing is official yet but there are multiple reports Martinez was in Auburn on Monday, including THIS ONE by Charles Goldberg of The Birmingham News. It will be the fifth time the two men have coached together, including hitches at Boca Raton (Fla.) High School, Central Michigan, Central Florida and Georgia. Martinez, 48, resigned as defensive backs coach at Oklahoma in January. He was fired as Georgia’s defensive coordinator in December of 2009.
Of course, this means the Bulldogs’ last two D-coordinators will be conspiring against them in November (and on the recruiting trail well before then). That continues a long tradition of Georgia coaches ending up at Auburn and vice-versa. Last time we checked the conference-expansion gurus are still planning to continue the “Deep South’s Old Rivalry” at least one more year.
2. As expected, Georgia reported a secondary violation because of head football coach Mark Richt’s nationally-televised comments about Josh Harvey-Clemons on ESPNU on national signing day, according to documents obtained Monday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via open records laws on Monday.
To recap, Harvey-Clemons announced on TV at 9:15 a.m. he was signing with Georgia and actually appeared to sign something. At 9:45 a.m., Richt answered questions about Harvey-Clemons’ addition an ESPN reporter in Athens, also on live television. According to UGA’s report, Richt realized at 11 a.m. that Georgia still had not received Harvey-Clemons’ signed letter-of-intent and immediately reported that to compliance. Athletic Director Greg McGarity’s letter of explanation to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, dated the next day, noted that UGA finally received Harvey-Clemons’ faxed letter-of-intent at about 8 a.m. on Feb. 2 and that the time and date listed next to Harvey-Clemons’ signature was 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 1.
All of which means very little. Though Georgia admitted to a violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.10.2, McGarity asked Slive “for relief of prescribed penalties” due to the “de minimis” nature and “mitigating circumstances” of the violation. De minimis is latin for “so minor as to merit disregard,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
3. Meanwhile, I filed an update this past weekend on the on-going disciplinary troubles in Georgia’s secondary. I learned this past Friday that UGA’s Office of Student Conduct is reviewing the domestic violence/simple battery case against cornerback Sanders Commings to determine whether it is a violation of the school’s conduct code regarding “physical abuse” and if it needs to be dealt with on the university level. Interestingly, though, the interviews available so far from that investigation indicate the school’s inquiry may do more to help Commings’ legal case than hurt it. The arraignment for the Bulldogs’ senior start is scheduled for March 22.
As for dismissed defensive backs Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders, each of them has landed (or will land) at junior colleges. Marshall already is enrolled at Garden City Community College in Kansas and Sanders plans to enroll at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville in April. Both players are hoping Richt and team members will allow them to return next year, according to their respective head coaches. Wide receiver Sanford Seay, who was also dismissed for being involved in the same theft incident as the other two players, has not determined his next move, according to reports.
4. Georgia’s men’s basketball team has a chance to win three SEC games in a row for the first time since knocking off Ole Miss, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas in four consecutive days to win the 2008 SEC Tournament in Atlanta. The Bulldogs (12-12, 3-7 SEC) are coming off a stunning win over No. 18 Mississippi State in overtime in Starkville this past Saturday. They beat NCAA Tournament bubble team Arkansas in Athens this past Wednesday.
Now the Bulldogs visit South Carolina Wednesday night and it appears to be the most winnable game so far. The Gamecocks (9-15, 1-9 SEC) are currently last in the league. But coach Mark Fox isn’t expecting an easy go of it. “South Carolina has already played Kentucky twice, already played Florida twice, and then had Vandy and Alabama at home,” he noted. “So I think their schedule has been really hard. I think they’re like us, a group that’s continuing to get better and continues to play a little better each week. I’m sure we’ll see them at their best on Wednedsay night.”
5. Several Bulldog players are starting to assert themselves as we enter the last third of the regular season. Gerald Robinson Jr., who was named SEC Player of the Week, seems to have been willing the Bulldogs to victory the last couple of weeks. His offensive and defensive plays down the stretch were the difference against State. Also, freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who hit the game-deciding 3-pointer in OT, is starting to display the all-around skills that made him a five-star rating. Also, Donte’ Williams and Nemanja Djurisic are creating some post offense and a still-hobbled Marcus Thornton has proven to be defensive and rebounding force.
6. Speaking of Georgia basketball, I ran into former Bulldogs Carlos Strong (1992-96) the other day refereeing youth basketball games in Oconee County. It was wonderful to see the 6-foot-8 forward in action at Herman C. Michael Park as he lent his talents to the 7- and 8-year-old kids there. He’d blow his whistle if they traveled or double-dribbled, take a second or two to show them how to do it correctly, then hand them back the ball.
A former McDonald’s All-American from Athens’ Cedar Shoals High, Strong played professionally in the NBA, CBA and Europe and hasn’t been out of professional basketball very long. Now he’s running the “Carlos Strong Skills & Drills Basketball Camp” through Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department. He also recently returned to classes at UGA where he is finishing up his degree in child and family development. Strong told me hopes to coach on a full-time basis in the near future.
7. In women’s hoops, Anne Marie Armstrong, a 6-foot-3 junior from Norcross, was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday based on her work in Sunday’s 76-63 win over Vanderbilt. The former Miss Georgia Basketball scored a career-high 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting and played all 40 minutes against the Commodores. Armstrong’s honor comes on the heels of teammate Krista Donald being named SEC Freshman of the Week the previous week.
8. Speaking of Donald, she didn’t play in the Vanderbilt game after having some major dental work done, meaning that the Lady Dogs were at less than full strength for a game yet again this season. Women’s basketball publicist Mike Mobley shared an amazing stat with me this week regarding the team’s struggle to stay healthy this season. Injuries, illnesses and the like have forced Lady Dogs to miss a combined 158 individual days of practice this season. That tally does not include losing 6-4 Marisela Rodriguez sitting out the season due to a pre-existing knee injury.
All told, coach Andy Landers said he has had what he expected to be a full complement of players for just four practices since November.The only Lady Bulldogs not to miss a workout due to a health condition are Jasmine Hassell, Khaalidah Miller, Tamika Willis and Danielle Bennett. “We’re calling those four our ‘birthday party ponies,’” Landers quipped. “They’re healthy as horses so we ride them hard for two hours every day.”
Here’s the good news: Georgia (19-6, 8-4 SEC) appears to be at full strength heading into this week’s critical games against South Carolina and Florida. The No. 21-ranked Lady Dogs are currently tied with South Carolina for third in the SEC.
9. Baseball starts on Friday with season opener against Presbyterian at Foley Field. It looks like it’s going to be a good year for the Diamond Dogs as coach David Perno brings back what might be the most experienced team of his tenure. Eight position players and eight pitchers are back from the team that reached the NCAA Regional Finals in Corvallis, Ore., last year. And they should have a strong starting rotation built around all-star right-hander Michael Palazzone, who was 10-5 with 3.14 ERA in 2011. But Georgia is already having to overcome some injury problems in the bullpen. Tyler Maloof, who had 18 saves in 19 opportunities this past season, has been shut down since early fall with a back muscle issue. Perno is not certain when Maloof can get back but best guesses are mid to late season.
10. THIS & THAT: Kudos to Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph for going the extra mile(s) and tracking down former Georgia basketball players Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins with the L.A. Clippers at Charlotte’s Time-Warner Cable Arena. For his trouble Emerson gained some nice insights into the lives of the two NBA rookies and their feelings about how the Bulldogs are doing without them. . . . Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247.com got in touch with former Georgia signee Chris Mayes, a defensive lineman out of Griffin’s Spalding High, and reports that Mayes will enroll at Georgia in January. Mayes also said he’s going to redshirt this coming season so he will have three years of eligibility remaining at UGA. . . .
The No. 4-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team plays host to Georgia Tech Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Tennis Center. The Bulldogs lost to the Yellow Jackets last year, breaking a 24-match winning streak. . . . The Georgia Gym Dogs moved up to No. 4 from No. 6 in the national rankings after knocking off No. 3 Arkansas this past Friday. Anybody else just noticing that the NCAA Gymnatics Championships are going to be held at Gwinnett Arena April 20-22? . . . The No. 10-ranked Georgia softball team is playing host to five teams in the 9th annual Georgia Softball Classic starting Friday. . . . Former Bulldogs Brian Harman, who’s now a pro, teamed up with an amateur to tie for first in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week. Harman finished 20th individually. . . . The current men’s golf team opens the spring season in the Puerto Rico Classic this weekend. . . . The No. 11-ranked women’s golf team was in the lead in Puerto Rico on Monay after All-American Marta Silva Zamora and teammate Emilie Burger each carded opening-round 66s. . . . The Georgia swimming and diving teams compete in the SEC Championships in Knoxville beginning Wednesday.