Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A seven year NSD streak ends

Although I'm not much for the ugly drama that is recruiting these days, I've long been a fan of National Signing Day. Real life will keep me away from Butts-Mehre today for the first time since I started the little blog here.

By the end of the day we'll probably look on this class as a conservative yet impressive one. Smart and his staff have done a bang up job of transitioning right into their own wants and needs while sealing up most of the question marks. The class may end up being a small one, but there could be plenty of excitement as well.

Mostly, I wanted to go today to see Smart speak to the crowd and get a firsthand sense of the new era. For those of you going, enjoy your day in Athens. For the rest of us, we'll use Twitter and the F5 key to keep abreast of developments as we are able.

Go Dawgs!

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For any interested, I have a NSD list I follow for recruiting specific news. You're welcome to use it as well. For you Rivals followers, they have a nifty new app that sends notifications to your mobile device. I've been testing it out the last week and give it a solid thumbs up.

Monday, February 1, 2016

"Should you tweet at a recruit?"

Timely and (unfortunately) relevant...this is genius. (h/t Scott)

The fact that so many engage with high school age kids on this level, thinking that what they type makes an actual difference, is cute in a "Bless y'all's hearts" kinda way. The fact that so many engage with high school age kids on this level to vent their own ill-conceived frustrations is sad, sick, and pathetic.

Hey, just don't be that guy.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Recruiting "spinning up"

Nothing like making a good impression.
Bet Lake Lanier looks nice from that elevation.

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UPDATE: 

Yup. It is quite the view. Thanks Coach Smart!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Smart Era and some paradigm shifts

So now that UGA has entered the era of football where it is “Win or else”, what other changes could we expect that would be in stark contrast to past experiences? Here are some I’ve thought of, but please feel free to expound and/or add some I may have missed.

Media Access. This came up last week after the national championship game as it looks like there will be minimal access to players and some coaches/staff. Not a surprising development considering this is what is comfortable to Coach Smart being under Saban for so long. But it’s going to drastically change the way in which those who cover UGA football develop stories as well as how the rest of us read them.

As a fan, I applaud it. Mostly because Smart should keep with what is comfortable while he makes this transition. Whether it’s due to less distractions and increased focus, or not having certain news leak out, or if it’s just a part of the process, if it helps us win one more game each season that’s cool with me.

(Also, I’d prefer that game be located in Jacksonville. But no one’s asking me...and I digress….)

Recruiting. There’s a plethora of possibilities under this sub-heading. And admittedly, some of you that follow recruiting more closely are probably better able to answer this one. But some things that jump to mind are gray shirts and roster management. The latter of which had already begun to improve as in 2015 we were playing with a full roster, at least moreso than previous seasons.

Admissions. There’s rumors this may have even already come up. But in the past there’s been a recruit here or there that for whatever reason (usually a class showing up on the transcript that might clear the NCAA Clearinghouse but causes some red flag to raise in the Admissions Office, or a discipline issue while the student-athlete was in high school) has been offered a spot on the team and may have even signed the Letter of Intent, but doesn’t clear the tape to get admitted to UGA. For reference, recall michael Grant. He was a highly recruited defensive back (and track star) that chose UGA over Florida, Tennessee, and FSU. He signed but then wasn’t cleared due to a disciplinary infraction that led to his suspension from South Gwinnett High School. He then landed at Stephenson High where he was a star on the gridiron and the track. As I remember, Richt went to bat for him when he was denied admission, but to no avail. Grant was released in full and signed with a grateful Houston Nutt in Arkansas.

More recently, Johnathan Taylor ran out of chances in Athens only to be given a famous “second” chance in Tuscaloosa. I wouldn’t expect that drastic of a philosophy and practice shift. I’m sure Kirby knows that as well. But there’s a lot of new faces around Butts-Mehre. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there are discussions about marginal student-athletes and whether they should be given another chance in Athens.

The Jimmy Williamson Situation. This may have already been evolving as well. If so, we have our new President to thank for it. For I have heard many a story of how the head of UGA Campus Police just did not like Mark Richt. Maybe that’s just me hearing things I want to hear, but there have been instances where very minor legal situations were awfully public. Believe me, if a guy breaks a law I’m all for the legal system stepping in and correcting the behavior. But the fact is that Richt was often forced to answer questions you just never heard other coaches have to address. Which is why so many national Herbstreits felt the need to weigh in on occasions. Will Kirby be forced to navigate the Sheriff’s office the way his predecessor did? On the other side of the coin (and for all those that felt Richt was the reason his players misbehaved), how will Smart’s locker room leadership differ than Richt’s? Convincing young men that nothing good happens downtown after midnight is easy. Having them remember that fact when they’re there is much harder.

Tuscaloosa might be just a day’s drive from Athens. But you don’t have to go back too far historically to see things are handled differently here than they are there.

Also, roster management can have an impact on team behavior too. Think back to those years when we just didn’t have enough upperclassmen on the roster, at least ones who had been in the locker room since their freshman year. Even if a senior doesn’t play much, the coaches and staff are going to point to them as a model for the younger guys. If guys fresh out of high school are given too much power, suddenly the inmates are running the asylum.

To close, I don’t necessarily endorse whole scale changes in the way things are handled, from Butts-Mehre to North Campus. But I think it will be interesting to see some philosophy shifts if nothing else. Like I’ve said, it’s an exciting time. Let’s keep it up.

Go Dawgs!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Smart(er) Era

Watching the program in transition got old quick. I don’t think I’m the only one of us that felt that. And it wasn’t just the feeling of not having a head coach while the interim head coach readies to head to a divisional rival, the old head coach starts recruiting for his new gig, and the newly appointed head guy coaches out his days towards another championship.

No, it was just the feeling of being stuck in neutral. Some fans are clinging on to olden days, some are already at February 3rd on the calendar, while others are somehow and in some way already criticizing the new guy for this and for that.

Neutral sucks. Even if you’re going in reverse, at least you’re moving somewhere.
Welcome home Coach! (VIA)

But now we’re heading down a new road. Hell, it’s a whole new map! I’ve long ago sworn off the recruiting minutiae that burdens so many people, but it’s impossible not to realize the buzz that Kirby Smart and his staff have generated. It’s truly exciting. No, not from a newly updated team recruiting rankings that in essence mean very little. It’s exciting that so many talented players are going to be lining up for offers and spots in these next couple classes.

With one offensive lineman already enrolled and two more committed, if Kirby adds a couple three more to that I may just have to set up a tailgate for Signing Day!

But I do digress. It is an exciting time. Part of that is the deep exhale from the 2015 season (and subsequent transitional December) being over and done. But mostly it’s just the wind in your hair from moving forward. What a nice feeling!

All of that being said, I’ve heard more than a few start to wonder how quickly Kirby Smart’s staff can turn things around build on what was given to him. Even national guys are already putting out their early 2016 rankings, (as if August wasn’t too early for that already). Answering the question of how good we can expect the 2016 Georgia Bulldogs to be begs the follow up question of how long Smart will be given to get this program to the national stage we just watched play out on all of ESPN's network channels.

So hear this Reader, whenever you get in a conversation that arrives at that question, remember that the answer is an easy one - not long. Smart will surely get more than a season to get there, but he must win greater than ten games or else. Again, Smart isn’t building this program up. His task is to stand on the foundation and take it to new plateaus...soon. Very soon.

Yes, the Smart Era brings with it a seat at the big boy table. Georgia Football is no longer a casual poker game with occasional highs and sustained stacks of chips. You either play out your hand and add to those stacks or the House will find someone else who will.

Now, how long 'til GDay? Go Dawgs!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why I'm rooting for Clemson to beat Alabama

My line of vision was barely above his hips as I watched him move ahead of me through the crowd. In the distance you could hear the pre-game cheering and that seemed to only make everyone's gait even livelier. 

And Dad was certainly energized. As I tucked the rolled up program against the inside of my right elbow, effectively securing it from potential tacklers, I recalled the excitement in his voice when he told me we'd be going to Clemson on Saturday. His enthusiasm leading up to our departure that morning had let me know that something special was in store; something exciting.

The paw prints had led Dad's old blue Opel in from Seneca. We'd parked out by the lake and I'd been told to stay close. From there to the stadium I'd peak around his right hip and then switch to his left as I envisioned him as my lead blocker. The air was electrified by the amazing sights, sounds, and smells of college football. 

One sniff and I was hooked.

I remember this hanging in Dad's office, a
humorous reminder that he was in the minority.
(h/t Tbone)
Dad matriculated at Clemson University towards the end of Coach Howard's era. A stint in the Air Force and jobs from Raleigh, NC to Athens, GA had made it hard for him to catch many Clemson home games. But here we were at the end of Steve Fuller's celebrated career at quarterback with two tickets safely tucked somewhere in Dad's jeans. I extended my skinny right arm to lead him into another block. And to let him know I was staying close. 

In the distance the cheerleaders lead the early crowd...C L E M...S O N!!

As a big Georgia fan, I'm frequently asked what it was like to grow up in Athens during the 1980's. The truth is that, at least for me, it's a flood of memories such as these: hearing Larry Munson on the radio, which Dad probably had on so that he could get updates on the Clemson score as much as to hear how the Dawgs were doing; seeing billboards around town of Dooley's face or "How 'Bout Them Dawgs!!" in an effort to sell more cars, hardware, and restaurant visits; or simply the latest prank Dad's coworkers had played on him to fuel the office rivalry between Dawgs and Tigers.

The most fundamental truth however, is that it was a great time to grow up a college football fan. You weren't inundated with eternal instant access, televised regurgitations of network bias, or blatant solicitations towards their calculated agenda. It was just Saturdays, a burning a pile of leaves, and using the old swingset as a goalpost to kick game-winning field goals. It was as much imagination and folklore back then as it is instant highlights and propagandized drama today.

Maybe I just feel that way because I was ten years old back then, but it was pure innocence and wonder. It was hearing a highlight and going to the backyard to try and recreate it. It was hoping the D-cell batteries in the radio propped in the open window sill didn't give out before Rex Robinson kicked that field goal, or Perry Tuttle caught that touchdown pass.

A family heirloom
Having successfully negotiated our way through the crowd and the turnstiles, we climbed up the stadium to our seats. Dad pointed out specific players and key matchups to keep an eye on. They were as small as ants, but they were nothing near so insignificant. In fact, I was captivated by the spectacle of seeing a game live. Their movements and the corresponding roars that erupted from the crowd only intensified the excitement brewing inside my head.

I suddenly understood Dad's enthusiasm leading up to this trip. This was special. My eyes couldn't take in the sights any faster than my ears could soak up the sounds.

Of course it's a new age. More and more my favorite pastime is about the almighty dollar and winning at all costs. But for me, it's always been about relationships. It's about bringing people together to enjoy a Fall Saturday. Fellow alumni, friends, family, former classmates, neighbors, coworkers, loved ones. We find a spot and throw up a tent. We sit beside each other and join our voices as one.

I enjoy those moments like no other. I'll live out my days looking at the calendar towards the next time I get to sit inside Sanford Stadium. My heart swells whenever I hear my own kids yell Go Dawgs! It's eternally coursing through my veins.

Yes, Sanford is my home now. But as you now understand, I first understood the importance, the brilliance, and the majesty of college football back in 1979 sitting beside my dad at Clemson Memorial Stadium. I don't wear orange, but I'll happily yell Go Tigers! when Clemson and Alabama kick off tomorrow night.

I'm not a loyal SEC fan. And I'm certainly not your everyday Clemson fan. But I truly hope my Dad gets to see his team win another national championship tomorrow. After all, he was a great lead blocker back in the day.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Damn Good Hall of Famer

I would be remiss if I did not post some congratulatory remarks to Scott Woerner for being the University of Georgia's newest inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame. Growing up when I did, you couldn't help but appreciate Woerner's ability and knack for making big plays.

Number 19 is the Dawg that practically beat Clemson on his own in 1980, and now he has his rightful place amongst the other greats of our favorite sport.

Please join me, as tonight I harken back to good ol' Larry Munson's words and raise my glass to Woerner Woerner Woerner!!! 




Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 Georgia Bulldogs - it was a tale of two cities

From Athens to Jacksonville, and back again. This past season proved just how important Everbank Field is to our collective psyche.

3-27
24-17

Yet, it was so much more than two trips to Jax. Dramatic wins over South Carolina and Auburn. Hung 50 on Spurrier for good measure. The field goal fest that was Homecoming. But in the end, it still has a feel of what the hell happened? Essentially, back in August how many of us thought a picture like this would be the other bookend to the season?

via ABH
Our wide receivers coach accepting the bowl trophy and a true freshman receiver the MVP. And you thought WR was a position of many questions back when the days were longer and we were in shorts and flip-flops.

I guess Godwin winning the MVP as a freshman is actually easier to believe since Chubb had done it the year before. Still, that picture goes to show how much can change so quickly.

Other than that, since the bulk of our games this year were played in two cities, I would sum up 2015 with a Dickens quote - It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

On one hand, we're happy with another ten win season. Sent this senior class out with yet another win over Tech and 40 wins in their tenure. On the other, it was just another ten win season that left us wanting more in Jacksonville. Again.

Wherever you fall, I was happy to share the journey with you Reader. Despite some uneasiness of the coaching transition, it continues to be an exciting time to be a Georgia Bulldog fan.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Three pillars. Two words. And one heart.

They released the video from the Gala. Many faces are changing, but the spirit will always be there.



Thanks Coach. And thanks to the players, the assistants, the staff, and all their families for their sacrifices in making a great season.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

SEC "fans" sleeping with the enemy

Tonight the SEC bowl season begins. So it's time for my yearly post on why it's idiotic to root/cheer/hope other SEC teams win their bowl games (or any game for that matter).

And I'd like to start with this:
If Alabama wins a national championship on Jan. 11, it helps Georgia. No, really, it does — at least according to Kirby Smart.
Smart, the Bulldogs' new coach and outgoing Crimson Tide defensive coordinator, is currently juggling both jobs. And he knows the best recruiting pitch and publicity he can use for Georgia right now involves earning another championship ring. Even if doing both jobs at once is cutting into his sleep time, and sanity.
"Obviously it's a challenge," Smart said at a pre-Cotton Bowl semifinal media availability on Monday. "It's a time-management challenge. There's only 24 hours in a day. There's only so much you can do each day. And once you accept that and know that you've got to focus on the task at hand – which the task at hand is to get ready for Michigan State – that's what we're focused on here."
Let me be frank...that's all bullshit. No, I'm not against Kirby finishing the season with his now former team. I applaud that just the way I do for Bryan McClendon. And Smart is being truthful about the whole awkwardness when he approaches it from the angle of honoring a commitment to his players.

But Bama winning Thursday does nothing for Georgia. LSU winning tonight does nothing for Georgia. South Carolina winning their bowl game does nothing for Georgia. Tennessee and Florida winning their bowl game does absolutely nothing to help Georgia.

Sure, will I get some measure of satisfaction if LSU wins tonight? Probably, as I need some real help in my bowl pool. But that's really small potatoes and I'm already losing to my wife anyway.

But don't let my logic and superior reasoning get in your way. Go on and fall head first into those ESPN segments where they put the conference records up against each other and pretend like that means something. Be a lemming while you sip your conference kool-aid.

Meanwhile I'll be perfectly happy if the SEC goes 1-9 this bowl season, as long as the one win comes at Penn State's expense.