Saturday, September 12, 2009

Coach Hodgson Returns

Moore to Hodgson to Taylor.

A Trifecta in Bulldog lore. A play that made the legendary Bear soil his houndstooth britches. You no doubt have run the play yourself. Drawn it up in the dirt. Executed it to perfection in the backyard..maybe even the intramural fields.

The flea-flicker. Awesome.

I grew up with Coach Hodgson's kids, even though they were Clarke Central "students". His youngest son Chris and I did a LOT of "studying" during our time at UGA. And by studying I mean exploring the effects of vodka on the human's abilities to fail Political Systems.

I even visited Mr. Hodgson and his lovely wife Maryann in a place called Mahwah, NJ. It was a great place to spend spring break as a sophomore, even despite the fact that I only packed shorts.

Welcome home Coach. While most Dawg fans will claim it was the lure of the hallowed hedges that beckoned you. I'm pretty sure it was the grandkids.

And if your Super Bowl ring ever gets too heavy, you can trust me to return it...??

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just Kick'n It With Rex

Part two in a two part series

When compiling the statistics for Part One of this series I was truly looking
for answers. Watching as many Georgia football games as we do (and often for a second time on Sunday afternoons) it has become apparent over the last couple seasons that our kickoff teams are working in a different era.

As mentioned earlier, Kirouac and Coutu were Dawg place kickers who adapted pretty well to directional kicking system. In April of 2007 when rule changes came into effect however, Fabris and Richt became the old washed up Rock and Roller trying to make it in a hip hop world.

Remember Pat Boone briefly trying to make it in the hard rock scene? No more Mr. Nice Guy.

I guess in a way I can relate to Fabris and Richt in that regard. But when I get exasperated trying to tune the radio dial, I power up the iTunes. You know what I'm saying? You adapt. You make use of the resources and technology at hand.

Fabris evidently is not into Darwin.

On the Fifth Quarter Show last Saturday night, Kelin Johnson and AJ Bryant commented that that's just Coach Fab and to get used to it (h/t The Junkyard Blawg). He evidently likes the "challenge" of the more difficult kick.

So how much more difficult is it? To find out I reached out to a Georgia legend, someone who knows more than a thing or two about kicking. You've been reading his blog and maybe his tweets for a while now, so who better than Rex Robinson to help an average Dawg fan understand the technique of place kicking?

When I extended an email pleading for help, he responded with one in turn telling me to call him. That's just how Rex rolls. And when we spoke I understood why an actual conversation was necessary. The man bleeds red and black and he has a large place in his heart for kickers. Every kicker.

My first question related to what it must be like for Blair Walsh to practice nailing a 50+ yarder to score three points for Coach Lilly, then grab a tee and try to directionally kick it to the spot Fabris wants. If you've read Rex's blog as well, you may be familiar with this post where he uses a golf analogy to help his readers understand the level of difficulty. He sprang another great one on me:

It's like trying to hit a 7 iron with the height of a 9 iron. It's possible, but it's tough to do consistently well.

Amen. The image of a young golfer with a junior set of clubs came immediately to mind. Of course, when you are a beginner, only having a half set of irons is functional. But if I were to arrive this afternoon at the local course just to have the "pro" take away half my bag...well, I would be a lot worse than the 20 handicap I am now.

And Rex's passion for these kids is evident. These kickers are recruited based on one type of kick and then they are forced to change. In a directional system, basically the kicker is being asked to keep the ball in the air as long as possible while also putting it down to a specific portion of the field. But what really makes it a difficult adjustment is scaling back the power and/or refocusing that power through a different part of the football for height versus distance.

Dawg fans don't have to bark back too many years to recall the name Andy Bailey. In high school, Bailey had a leg to rival practically any kicker ever to kick 'tween the hedges. But once in Athens he stagnated and lagged behind in the competition for kicking time. Fans may have forgotten, so maybe now's a good time to ask why?

Well, for starters, they don't get a lot of tutelage after leaving high school. Due to the NCAA restrictions on the number of coaches in a program, kickers are pretty much left on their own. Many employ private coaches during the summer to develop techniques and skills to make them better kickers. During the season, they are on their own.

So the anatomy of a directional kick has been dissected. A stubborn coach who likes "challenges", a kicking technique that goes against the muscle memory of a talented kicker and insufficient training. That would leave the slack to be absorbed by the other 10 players who "cover" the kick. Although Richt is quite obviously afraid of the long kick with a low trajectory, a few weeks ago he did take a stand against the personnel being used to make up the kick coverage team.

Historically, Fabris has preferred the backup defensive ends and the scout team fullbacks for this role. Richt now wants the faster and more agile athletes, even if it means playing the greenhorns. From my vantage point in section 333 last weekend, the orange jerseys ate our guys up after the kick. I applaud using the more athletic and faster players on special teams, but I guess time will tell if Fabris' stance against the notion is sound.

These things however are certain: since the beginning of the Richt era we're allowing more than a first down more yardage in our opponents' starting yard line (18 in 2002 vs 29 last season), the kickers we recruit have talents that are at best wasted during this Dawg tenure and at worst are never developed, and our coaches have failed to adapt to new NCAA rules that should be putting more pressure on the return team and not solely the kicker.

In short, Fabris handling kickoffs has been a disaster.

When I asked Rex to evaluate the kickoffs in Stillwater there was a fairly lengthy pause. Then, I thought Blair did pretty well. Yes, he did. About as well as the kid could holding a 7 iron, 130 yards from the flagstick.

Who's That Comin'...week two

And now...if your blood runs red and black...

Trivial Update

We've had close finishes before, but yesterday's ThursdaysRTrivial was super close. Only 16 seconds separated two winning answers. Riding a two week winning streak, @allyugadawg came in just behind @MikeInValdosta with the correct tweet. I guess that's what I get for posing an easy question: What legendary coach was the head man at both GA Yech and Clempson?

Ally says Mike had to use Google. Mike says Ally shouldn't have wasted time typing the name John. Regardless, I just hope they enjoy the free coke and hot dog as they strike a pose atop their very own, slightly used John Deere.

@namaman...I'll give ya a beer tomorrow.

And a BIG shout-out to @alanashley for pointing out that it's a little ironic that neither team has a know, despite being coached by him.

Tailgate Predictions
  • Cox starts, Gray plays and the defense finishes. Dawgs roll 24 - 7 over the lamecocks. As Mackie would say, take that to the bank!
  • Marcus Lattimore, arguably the nation's top RB prospect, visits Athens this weekend....and decides the Dawgs are worth another looksee ($). And that USC (the fake one) ain't even a half a bag of chips. (For a free look at which prospects are spending an official on us this weekend, click here.)
  • At least a half dozen nerds oversleep their first class this morning after a pretty serious bender last night. Too much Halo, Mountain Dew and DingDongs.
  • Terrelle Pryor may be a raving idiot, but on national tv he begins a Heisman campaign in earnest by beating the Trojans. Say what?!?
  • Auburn is favored by two TDs against Missy State?? Did Vegas not see last year's game? I say the teams combine for a whopping 10 points Saturday.
  • Slurban breaks a sweat...running onto the field. Then, not so much.
  • TCU proves an even more formmidable opponent for the Wahoos than...William and Mary. Really?
  • On Monday Al Groh goes luggage shopping.
  • And the under is looking good to me on the number of visor throws tomorrow night. The OBC just ain't so animated any more.

Studio Analysis

It's been a LOOOOONNG week Reader. A week full of mixed messages, confusion and suspense galore. Joe's been defensive. Bobo's accepted blame. Fabris chewed more glass.

But in this Dawg's eyes, the excitement surrounding the home opener is just as palpable. Just as electric. Perhaps more so. Tomorrow night the Dawgs will run out onto the field in the greatest stadium in college football. Don't let the QB rumors intrigue you too much. And don't let the chicken sit too long on the grill.

While we're at it, don't let directional kicks force you to skip the opening kickoff. Don't let what happened in Stillwater sway your opinion of the bite in these Dawgs. And don't let any chickens see you sitting on your hands.

Reshad was hard at work Sunday morning trying to improve and give us a turnover. It's gonna happen. You know it. I know it. Most importantly our team knows it. The mistakes made in Oklahoma are fixable.

I fixed my (crap) this week Reader. How 'bout you? It's time to let the Dawgs bark. It's time to put the red in red zone. It's time to tee it up 'tween the hedges.

If you ain't got it...I kindly ask that you not bring it. Cuz it's Saturday night in Athens.

Go Dawgs!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just Kick'n It With Fabris

Part one in a two part series

South Carolina beat NC State last Thursday night 7-3. Georgia lost to Oklahoma St. 24-10 Saturday. With two offenses suiting up 'tween the hedges Saturday night that are (self-admittedly) struggling, we may not figure to see many kickoffs other than the two that are required.

However, Coach Richt sees the special teams playing a pivotal role Saturday night:
"As I look at this game I'm seeing two defenses that played pretty darn good andtwo offenses that are trying to find their way. More than likely special teams will be the deciding factor in this one."

That seems pretty evident, especially if you add in turnovers. But despite what the fans want (and what makes the most sense), Richt also sees directional kicking as the preferred method of operation when the ball is teed on the Dawgs' 30 yard line.

"The fans want the long kick but the longest kick (Saturday) had the longest return. The kicks that were a little shorter had better hang time and ball placement and we covered those better. I wouldn't say because we kicked deeper that was the cause, necessarily. We should have contained it, surrounded him and forced him inside to where our coverage teams were, and we didn't do a good job of that."

I wasn't gonna split hairs, but...OK. On Saturday, when OSUs kicker went deep (ask Branden Smith just how deep) I saw an organized and disciplined array of orange jerseys rushing downfield to cover their kicker's boot. One more...and why exactly did we fly a kid who's tendency has been to kick it deep when teed from the left coast all the way to Athens?

Back in May, Rex asked the coaches to just let these kickers relax and kick it deep. If you are like me you held out hope that Fabris had finally lost his argument. The stats don't lie. Gone are the days of Kirouac providing a 46.7 yard net on kickoffs and an avg starting yard line for our opponents at the 18. Gone are the days of kicking from the 35. And gone is the 2" tee.


kickoffs yards avg TBs OB Net YdLn
2002 92 5472 59.5 0 0 46.7 18
2003 83 4826 58.1 0 0 40.6 24
2004 69 4183 60.6 21 6 * *
2005 78 4807 61.6 22 1 43.2 21
2006 67 4113 61.4 15 5 40.6 24
2007 80 4751 59.4 1 4 40.7 29
2008 77 4591 59.6 4 9 40.3 29
* couldn't find these stats for '04
** couldn't find any kickoff stats for '01

In the post linked above, Rex relates the reason why Kirouac was so successful. Without getting in over my head with the technical stuff, Kirouac had a style set up for the type of kick Fabris and CMR want.

Enter Coutu, who did pretty well too in the directional system until the rule changes in April of '07 - placement moved back from 35 to the 30 and tee lowered to 1". Coutu handled most of the kickoffs during the 2007 campaign, but his numbers went down dramatically...and understandably.

Walsh has been a different story. I remember after he committed finding clips of him on YouTube where he's just booming it. And while I don't doubt the decision to use him as a true freshman, how hard must it have been to adjust that thundering style with all that beautiful distance, to the directional stylings that bring such joy to Coach Fabris' life?

Well, that's a question I just had to pose to a Georgia legend and a kicking coach hisownself, Rex Robinson. That'll be the meat of Part Two, Kick'n It With Rex.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Locker Notes - South Carolina

Losses hurt. They hurt the fans cuz we have so much passion and ill will for the opponents. They hurt the players and coaches cuz of the time and hard work put into preparation.

But now preparation is underway for the SEC opener. I've jotted some notes on stickies for certain players and personnel to get us ready and on the same page. Afterall, when the trumpet blasts and they run out onto the field, we ALL gotta be ready to play more than one quarter of football. me put them up in their lockers:

  • Reshad Jones - We've been pretty critical. But that hit in the fourth Saturday was textbook football. Those horse(bleep!) flags that littered the field should be forgotten. That's the type of highlight that makes Dawg fans (and NFL scouts) sit up and take notice.
  • Bryan Evans - Thanks for giving the best receiver in the nation whose last name isn't Green a taste of what SEC football is like.
  • Joe Cox - The number 107 tells me everything I need to know. That's the number of votes you received out of 110 from your teammates as this year's captain. I just hope you got the bottle of GermX I sent you.
  • Richard Samuel - The ground is not our friend. Avoid it at all costs.
  • Tony Ball - We just can't use three receivers all season. Take a look behind you at 28, 17 and 15. You know, the ones twiddling their thumbs...?
  • Justin Houston - You are missed. I'm glad Coach suspended you. There's some lessons that are more important than football. But we're desperately looking forward to your return. Keep preparing for it.
  • Trinton - Damn. Just damn.
  • Bobo - Remember the One and Done? Be aggressive. It becomes you.
  • Fabris - I'll give you a free smiling lesson for each touchback this season. How 'bout it?
  • Branden Smith - We understand your excitement. And we know you don't have to run out of the endzone in practice (see note Fabris). But here's an example of college level math: putting knee down in endzone = 20 - - - > CORRECT!
  • Caleb King - We've been pretty critical. But the door's still open. That seat at the head of the committee board room table is yours if you really want it.
Feel free to add more that I may have missed.

An Olympic Sport by 2024

I can't wait.

Make sure you have your set cleaned off and ready to go.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stillwater Was Due South

Just some parting shots at the road trip that deflated some optimism but was still a good time.
  • Mad props to Ann, the holder of the Sky Club card.
  • At the risk of throwing a proud sponsor of UGA Athletics under the plane, some Delta stewardesses (...or whatever) don't understand AIRPLANE MODE.
  • Kids in Wichita Wal-Marts act remarkably similar to kids in GA Wal-Marts.
  • If ever in Wichita, steer clear of the Mexican restaurant (name escapes me...) adjacent to the Wal-Mart. Some people (hillbillys namely) miss the deep end of the gene pool. I think the waitress there had a family gene pool that had been cemented over....about a century ago.
  • Crossing to the other side of the tracks, Old Town Wichita was an oasis full of cheap beer, decent music and good food.
  • When David drives I can clearly see the green light to drink.
  • Driving into Stillwater is eerily reminiscent of my one and only trip to Starkville. There's a water tower...and a stadium.
  • Funny how small gas n sips had about 238 cars parked in each of their parking lots, while the vast stadium parking lot resembled a ghost town. (...tumbleweed blows by...)
  • Something just short of a suitcase of canned beverages is almost enough to overtax a regular sized styrofoam cooler (available at your local Wal-Mart) during a trek across campus.
  • If you found Chris Bryan Saturday and were able to wrangle him in, please return him to Milledgeville's mental hospital.
  • In lieu of tailgating, most Cowboy fans prefer to walk casually into stadium with finger pistols haphazardly aimed at the clouds and "shooting" non-stop.
  • Tanner was right, OSU has a very good splitendhalftackleback. I didn't believe the media guide when it said he weighed 215 lbs.
  • Even as hospitable as the 'poke fans were, Dawg fans are still the greatest in the world.
  • T. Boone Pickens Stadium is kinda like putting an elegant evening gown on a very wealthy, yet ridiculously old wrinkly man.
  • The Orange Power chant while Sturdivant was tended to added up to classless. At the end of the game before I exited, I made sure I found the one orange fan near me who hadn't made an ass of themselves and wished her a good season.
  • Congrats to Cody the Parking Lot Attendant for coming the closest in MY STRAW POLL as to the eventual outcome of the contest. Enjoy the cowpies Cody!!
  • Nama is better at video blogging than he is at flip cup.
  • Lastly, a 24oz Fat Tire for $3.50 - - - > yup! I signed up for that at Emerson Biggins.
There's NO place like home...There's NO place like click!

Tuesday Headers

These pretzels are making me thirsty:

While yesterday's meatloaf is about all the hindsightin' I'm gonna do over the opening loss, I do plan to have some final (casual) thoughts on the trip to the midwest up later today.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday's Meatloaf - Where's Square One Again?

Happy Labor Day! ....OK! Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let's get to work.

Raise your mouse pad if you were offended by our offensive play calling? There were more than a few things that irritated me about the loss, but this by far leads the field.

This offense was supposed to be Katie bar the door, no holds barred, punch ya in the mouth then run right by you. Come on Reader, you heard the same quotes and read the same articles I did. Like this one, where Bobo is basically drooling through his words over Wooten: "He's got a little bit more quick twitch than some of our other guys...he's got some change of direction. Not that the other guys don't, but he's got some quickness."

Heard a lot of rumblings about Cox as I left the stadium. Let's keep in mind the guy's not the type of QB to win games on his own. He needs a supporting cast. He needs to be put in a position where he can manage a game, not be forced to win it with his arm.

Ching says the entire offense is to blame in this crappy piece. We all pretty much knew that the offense wasn't a corvette. But Bobo has the keys the last I checked. There's enough talent to make it a dependable yard gaining machine.

Let's crank the engine Mike!

Today's Ingredients
  • In Tempe, pretty much everyone came from one direction. Playing the Cowboys meant having Dawg fans coming from different directions - Ok City, Tulsa, Wichita or from right there in Stillwater. While there weren't as many fans as last year's big OOC game, the Dawg turnout was impressive.
  • Wichita was nice. Old Town had a decent nightlife and the beer served there reminded me of Athens back in the early 90's - cold, plentiful and cheap.
  • Sturdivant is gone for the season. Kinda like a nightmare that repeats for this kid this time every year. In semi-related news, Makiri Pugh tested positive for the swine flu.
  • Penalties. Okla State lost the battle there garnering over a hundred yards in yellow flags, but it hardly feels that way does it? And someone please explain to me how RJ making a devastating yet legal hit is unsportsmanlike but their Burt Reynolds lookalike mascot can shoot his cannon sized gun off during an effin' play with no flag? Enjoy your T-Bone sized paycheck zebras...
  • Defense played well, real well. BUI gives em a B, sounds about right. I might go a little higher since they were continually put in bad positions, yet held a potent offense to 24 and a stud receiver to three catches. Two complaints: turnovers. much as Robinson was keying on Dez Bryant, would've been nice to blitz that nickelback. As much as Bryant is the type of talent that makes his QB look a lot better than he actually is, our defense could've made him look a lot worse.
  • Of course there are others that think Robinson is worthy of higher aims. A bigger question though may Bill Young really that good?
  • Is there another team on God's green Earth that doesn't have a kicker who can boot the ball into the endzone? Something tells me Dan Bailey didn't grow up in Poland either.
  • I thought punting was a bright spot. Drew Butler is gonna prove to be quite the commodity and helped back me up in taking him as an impact player. In Hale's fleeting thoughts, he picked a nit that Butler's numbers were inflated by a couple of lucky bounces. While that is true, I'll disagree in that I think the hangtime was pretty good. Regardless, whether it takes a lucky bounce or some improved hangtime Butler may be our team's MVP until the offense comes around.
  • Kit tells some Dawgs to get over themselves. Reminds me of the last opening game loss. As we were exiting the stadium I actually saw a kid burn his new t-shirt commemorating the Donnan regime. That's not hyperbole Reader. Walking down the ramp, next to a bare-chested kid who's t-shirt is on fire. Smoke, flames...Dawg angst at it's most combustible.
  • Dawgcast episode #200, the bicentennial. Whether it covers a happy event or not, reason for congratulations guys.
  • Another feat came from Flushing Meadows Saturday where John Isner beat 5 seed Roddick in 5 sets of US Open play.
With every loss come suspensions: Fabris and Bobo...time to run some stairs. On second thought, can just run from the 30 to the opposite endzone about 5 yards deep. If you start to drift towards the sideline, I'm shipping you to Poland.

Great big Shout-Out to Nama for all the video footage this weekend. Glad you understand being the BDB technical director is currently a non-contract position.

Have a great Monday Reader. Don't Labor over the loss too much.