Archive for March, 2012

Mark Richt gets new 5-year contract, Grantham extended 2 years

ATHENS — So much for a nice, slow Monday.

Last week, Georgia scheduled a press conference for football coach Mark Richt for today to discuss the relatively mundane details surrounding next week’s start to spring football practice. As it turned out, news came pouring in from multiple directions.

  • The day started with news breaking of starting cornerback Branden Smith’s arrest in South Alabama for marijuana possession. Richt confirmed that was the case and that he had spoken briefly with Smith. Later, AD Greg McGarity confirmed that the arrest would mean a mandatory suspension of up to two games at the discretion of the head coach.
  • UGA also released the news that it had reached agreements on new contracts for Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Richt received a new five-year deal that will extend him through the 2016 season. Financial details are “still being tweaked,” according to McGarity, but Richt is expected to receive a slight raise from the $2.81 million salary …

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Georgia cornerback Branden Smith faces suspension after marijuana arrest (UPDATED)

Georgia starting cornerback Branden Smith was arrested for marijuana possession on his way to the beach for spring break, police and Georgia coach Mark Richt confirmed.

Smith was pulled over near Headland, Ala., at 11:30 p.m. Sunday on U.S. Highway 431 for following too closely and having a tag light out, Henry County Sheriff William Maddox confirmed Monday. Henry County is located in South Alabama along a route frequented by travelers heading to vacation on the Gulf Coast.

An officer detected the odor of marijuana in the 2007 Dodge Charger Smith was driving and a bag of marijuana was discovered under a seat during a search of the vehicle, according to police. Smith and passenger Danze Woods were taken into custody at 11:41 p.m. and transported to the Henry County Jail, police said.

Smith was released on a $2,000 bond by G&I Bonding at 2:15 a.m., police said. Smith is scheduled to face the misdemeanor possession charge on April 10 at 9 a.m. in Henry County District Court, …

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Believe it or not, Georgia not far off from being a postseason presence

Sixty-six-point-six percent of the SEC’s men’s basketball teams will be involved postseason play this year. The Georgia Bulldogs won’t be among them.

That’s no revelation. Nobody was expecting the Dogs to receive some kind of miraculous at-large invitation. They didn’t deserve one. I’m just bringing it up as a point of mathematical illustration.

Four of its SEC brethren is all that Georgia needed to be better than to be involved in some sort of madness this March. Four SEC teams were selected for the NCAA Tournament and four are headed to the NIT in what would have to be considered a relatively down year in the league.

For comparisons sake, four other conferences placed more teams into the NCAA tournament: the Big East (9), Big Ten (6), Big 12 (6) and ACC (5). The Atlantic 10 and Mountain West also received four bids each.

SEC regular-season champion Kentucky (32-2) is the overall top seed in the Big Dance despite its loss to Vanderbilt on Sunday in the SEC tournament …

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Bulldogs run out of gas vs. Vandy in SEC quarterfinals

NEW ORLEANS – Mark Fox insisted he was not concerned about the turnaround his team faced in playing on back-to-back nights in the SEC tournament. But the Bulldogs looked a step slow Friday night as they fell to Vanderbilt for the third time this season, 63-41 this time.

Despite much evidence to the contrary, Fox was still hesitant to admit fatigue was a factor.

“We just didn’t defend well enough,” said Fox, who saw the Commodores outscore his team 39-16 in the second half. “That would be unfair to Vanderbilt to say that. Our defense was pretty good in the first half, but I think they made their first five or six shots to start the second half, and I really think that was the big key. . . . Our defense failed us.”

That poor defense probably had something to do with tired legs. The Bulldogs fought hard and played one of their better games in defeating Mississippi State 61-51 on Friday. But they looked completely different 22 hours later.

After having five players score …

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Bulldogs need more of same from Djurisic against Vandy

Georgia's Nemanja Djurisic (42) was an offensive and defensive force to be reckoned with in the Bulldogs' first-round win over Mississippi State. He'll have to be again tonight against Vanderbilt. (AP photo)

Georgia's Nemanja Djurisic (42) was an offensive and defensive force to be reckoned with in the Bulldogs' first-round win over Mississippi State. He'll have to be again tonight against Vanderbilt. (AP photo)

NEW ORLEANS — There were a number of reasons Georgia was able to dispatch Mississippi State in such a dominating fashion Thursday night. Nemanja Djurisic was a big one.

The 6-foot-8, 230-pound import from Montenegro became the Bulldogs’ first post player to record a double-double all season when he scored 11 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in the 71-61 victory in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. Five of Djurisic’s rebounds came on the offensive end. He added a 3-pointer, an assist and a steal.

“Nemanja is a better player now,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said of the freshman. He’s more experienced and he’s just more comfortable. . . . I thought his effort on the glass was critical to the game. Obviously he made some real key plays for us.”

Two plays loom …

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Georgia shoots lights out in New Orleans for SEC tourney win

NEW ORLEANS – Dustin Ware didn’t get the 16 points he needed to reach 1,000 for his career. But he got something more important – a chance to play again.

Ware did manage 13 points, however, and along with the 23 of fellow guard Gerald Robinson, the veteran back court was a big reason Georgia was able to defeat Mississippi State 71-61 and advance to the second round of the SEC Tournament.

“Dustin’s had a tough year but he shot it well tonight,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I thought he and Gerald played like experienced players, like seniors should play. We had a lot of guys make plays to win tonight. I thought they all felt good about seeing a teammate chip in.”

It was particularly uplifting for Ware, who has been mired in a long shooting slump.

“I wanted to be aggressive,” said Ware, who was scoreless at the half. “Teammates, coaches, they all kept a lot of confidence in me and really kept me going. I saw a few go down and it really felt good.”

Ware was 3-of-6 from behind …

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Auburn acknowledges investigations by FBI, NCAA

NEW ORLEANS — Auburn officials acknowledged Thursday afternoon that its basketball program is currently under investigation by the FBI, NCAA and SEC, but remained vague about the nature of the probe.

“Auburn officials were made aware of a rumor regarding an allegation two weeks ago and immediately reported it to the FBI, the NCAA and the SEC,” Auburn assistant athletic director Cassie Arner said in a statement released by the school. “Because of the nature of the allegation, Auburn is not in a position to make any further comment on the situation.”

Yahoo!Sports, citing multiple sources, reported earlier Thursday that Auburn is being investigated for an alleged points-shaving scheme planned by Varez Ward, a sophomore guard from Montgomery. Ward, who transferred to Auburn from Texas, has been suspended indefinitely for the last three games for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Fellow guard Chris Denson of Columbus was suspended at the same time but was reinstated after one …

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SEC Tournament notes: Bulldogs tour New Orleans’ Ninth Ward

SEC TOURNAMENT NOTEBOOK

The rebuilt houses in New Orleans' Ninth Ward are both modernesque and flood resistant. But much work remains to be done. (Photo from makeitrightnola.org)

The rebuilt houses in New Orleans' Ninth Ward are both modernesque and flood resistant. But much work remains to be done. (Photo from makeitrightnola.org)

NEW ORLEANS – The last time Mark Fox came to New Orleans was in 2007 when he was head coach at Nevada. The Wolf Pack was 28-4 and came for the NCAA tournament as the No. 7 seed in the South Regional.

That happened to be just two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated this city. So Fox took his team down to the Ninth Ward to survey the residual damage. He has never forgotten what he saw there..

“It really was staggering to see it up close,” Fox said.

Five years later, Fox took a different team back to that area on the banks of the Mississippi River. The Georgia Bulldogs surveyed the neighborhood early Wednesday as they awaited their turn to practice at New Orleans Arena for the SEC basketball tournament.

“I just felt it would be good for our players to see what people went through in this region …

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Ten@10: TE Aron White makes most of opportunity at UGA Pro Day

Sporting a new beard and increased upper-body strength, Georgia tight end Aron White had a strong showing for NFL scouts at UGA Pro Day on Monday. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

Sporting a new beard and increased upper-body strength, Georgia tight end Aron White had a strong showing for NFL scouts at UGA Pro Day on Monday. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

THE TEN AT 10

1. One of the Georgia football players who may have significantly helped his cause during UGA’s Pro Day on Monday is tight end Aron White.

White, a fifth-year senior who played the last couple of seasons in the shadow of All-American Orson Charles, performed very well for the 40-something NFL coaches and scouts gathered at Woodruff Practice Fields. He ran the fastest 40 time of the tight ends in the blustery conditions (4.71, according to one scout), looked considerably bigger in his upper body and said he had gained about 10 pounds since the end of the football season while training with “GATA.”

“I feel like I had a really good day out here,” said White, who weighed in at 239 pounds. “I felt very well prepared and I had all the confidence in the world. I felt like I was as prepared or …

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Georgia football players show their stuff for NFL scouts at Pro Day

Orson Charles completes a drill under the watchful eyes of dozens of NFL scouts Monday during UGA Pro Day in Athens. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

Orson Charles completes a drill under the watchful eyes of dozens of NFL scouts Monday during UGA Pro Day in Athens. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

ATHENS — Just back from a windswept day at UGA’s Pro Day. Winds were gusting up to 30 miles per hour across Woodruff Practice Fields as a dozen Bulldogs (including one one-time Dog) were put through the paces by NFL personnel.

According to UGA, 46 scouts and coaches showed up. Among them was Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith.

Most of them wanted to get a look at tight end Orson Charles. Or, more specifically, they wanted to see how Charles did running the 40-yard dash. Charles didn’t run the 40 at the NFL combine in Indianapolis the week before last because he said he simply “wasn’t ready.”

Apparently, Charles still wasn’t ready on Monday because he his “official” time was 4.75. AJC colleague Darryl Ledbetter was there and clocked Charles once with an unofficial 4.67 seconds. In any case, Charles was unhappy with the time — he …

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Georgia draws Mississippi State for first round of SEC Tournament

ATHENS – The good news is Georgia drew a team it beat during the regular season for the first round of the SEC Tournament. That’s the bad news, too.

As the 11th seed, the Bulldogs (14-15, 5-11 SEC) will face sixth-seeded Mississippi State (21-10, 8-8) in the first round Thursday night in New Orleans. Georgia shocked the “Maroon Bulldogs” 70-68 in overtime on Feb. 11th. At the time coach Rick Stansbury’s team was ranked No. 20 in the nation.

As a result, Georgia will be facing a team that not only is fighting and clawing for an NCAA Tournament berth, but one that will also be motivated by revenge.

“Our first game versus  Mississippi State was a terrific win for us,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox, whose team capped the regular season with a 67-55 win over South Carolina on Saturday. “They’ve been nationally ranked most of the year and we were fortunate to catch them on short rest. They are hard to beat because they have a great point guard in [Dee] Bost, great size and good …

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Georgia’s seniors fought hard to fill void left by NBA defectors

ATHENS – They won’t go down as one of Georgia’s most accomplished bunches and many that should be among them won’t be when the Bulldogs’ seniors are honored before Saturday’s regular-season finale. But all-in-all they were darn good Dogs, according to coaches and teammates.

Four players will be recognized during Senior Day festivities before the Bulldogs tip off against South Carolina at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum. On paper they are a four-year letterman (Dustin Ware), a transfer (Gerald Robinson) and two walkons who stuck it out and earned scholarships (Matt Bucklin and Connor Nolte). But all of them are equal in their contributions to the team in the eyes of head coach Mark Fox.

“Because we lost those guys early, all the responsibility of leadership and scoring and teaching guys to defend all kind of fell on those seniors,” said Fox, who’s in his third season with the Bulldogs. “This has probably been as dependent as we’ve been on a senior group, ever really, …

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Georgia’s Orson Charles, other Bulldogs, to perform for NFL scouts

Georgia tight end Orson Charles, who caught nearly 100 passes while playing for the Bulldogs, needs to show NFL scouts he has raw speed to go along with his athleticism. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia tight end Orson Charles, who caught nearly 100 passes while playing for the Bulldogs, needs to show NFL scouts he has raw speed to go along with his athleticism. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Hope you caught all the great coverage D. Orlando Ledbetter provided of last week’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Several Bulldogs were involved, some of whom really stood out.

Georgia aspiring professionals will be putting their talents on display again next week as UGA plays host to its annual Pro Day on Monday at the Woodruff Practice Fields. A dozen players, including one former Bulldog will be put through the paces by NFL scouts.

The event is closed to the public but, again, “D-Led” will be providing comprehensive coverage for the AJC and I’ll probably swing by to check out the festivities and possibly provide a blog or two.

By all accounts, offensive lineman Cordy Glenn was Georgia’s big winner at the combine. He measured 6-foot-5, 345 pounds and ran an impressive …

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UGA football updates on Mitchell, Samuel, Lynch, Murray, Rambo

ATHENS – As promised, here’s a little bit from each of the football players who were available for interviews today at UGA’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.

WR MALCOLM MITCHELL:

The rising sophomore, who wowed the SEC with his big-play ability as a pass-catcher last season, not only hopes to play some defensive back next season, but said he has also raised his hand as a possible kick returner this year.

Mitchell’s not sure how much of any of it Georgia’s coaches will allow him to do. But he’s already working some with the cornerbacks during weekly voluntary workouts on the field.

“I don’t know how seriously Coach Richt is truly looking at it,” he said. “There’s probably a lot he’s still got to think about. I’ll know once spring starts.”

Mitchell said he has met with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and secondary coach Scott Lakatos to discuss the possibilities. All parties have agreed to give him a look at cornerback during spring practice, which begins March 20. But as for the …

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UGA’s Lynch says criticism of Isaiah Crowell ‘unfair, disrespectful’

ATHENS – OK, just got through with the first round of interviews this morning. The beat corps so far has had interview sessions with WR Malcolm Mitchell, TB Richard Samuel and TE Arthur Lynch.

Lynch had the most noteworthy things to say so far, chiefly because he is close to freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell and was willing to comment on him extensively and candidly.

What started the whole thread was Lynch simply offered that Crowell is one of the players that has impressed him the most during off-season workouts. He said the enigmatic freshman has been “leading his group” during mat drills and weightlifting sessions and said he expects “incredible things” out of Crowell this coming fall.

Lynch, it should be noted, is Crowell’s “Big Brother” within head coach Mark Richt’s “Brother’s Keeper” team concept. That is, all underclassmen are assigned a “big brother” among the upper classmen. So Lynch talks and meets with Crowell regularly and knows him better than a lot of players on …

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Let’s talk some Georgia Bulldogs football . . .

ATHENS — Greetings from the gleaming, expansive hunk of glass and steel known as Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.

Y’all ready to talk some football today? I hope so, because that’s what I’m here to do. A couple of weeks ago, I requested interviews with about a dozen or so football players, all of whom will be playing major roles during the Bulldogs’ 2012 campaign. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only reporter to seek an audience with most of these guys. So Claude Felton and UGA’s sports communications staff have arranged to make them available in small groups between now and the opening of spring practice on March 20.

On the docket today are wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, tight end Artie Lynch, quarterback Aaron Murray and safety Bacarri Rambo. We’ll be meeting with each one for 10 or 15 minutes over the next few hours.

I don’t plan to share everything everybody said all day. I’m planning some features over the next few weeks heading into spring ball and will be using some of the …

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