Tuesday, March 22, 2011

10 Questions: Spring Football with Fletcher Page

Welcome to my little corner of the Dawgosphere Fletcher Page, senior minion at the DawgPost. I understand that you are the infamous Irwin Fletcher's step grand nephew's cousin. So really the question on everyone's mind is has your car ever hit a water buffalo?
High flyin'...
Funny. Did you know the director/producers of Fletch settled on Chevy Chase to play the leading role without actually seeing any of his previous “work.” Lucky for him. Coincidentally, Dean Legge had never read anything I’d ever done until after he hired me. Thankfully. Like Chase, a few props and aliases have helped make this Dawg Post gig work out for me. In turn, I think this means I have nothing but flops and failure to look forward to in the next 20 years!

With that little bit of business out of the way...I'm truly sorry there's no sofa to sit on. We haven't replaced it since the time Coach Fabris flipped out, turned it upside down and threw it down the stairwell insisting it was too modern and sleek. So pull up a milk crate, there's beer in the cooler.
...straight shootin'
I’ll take a Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout if you have one. If not, Budweiser works fine—better actually.

Okay, on to the Ten Questions!! which is a new feature here. You've dropped by to discuss Spring Drills, which are set to begin in full this week. The format for this is simple, I ask a question in Georgia bold print type...you give an answer in Courier plain text. (Yep, just like you've been doing. You catch on faster than Hale did.) This both helps combat my inferiority complex and helps the reader to follow along. Of course, we prefer that the answers be insightful, but we'll just see how that goes. Bonus points for humorous references and at the end we see how you fared against a super computer named Hal.
I think so…

Good. Off we go...

This off season has brought some coaching changes. I know you haven't seen them all work together yet, but what are your initial impressions of Friend and Olivadotti?

Well, coach Friend is definitely an offensive line coach…and he’s definitely from the South. That much I can tell for sure. I haven’t been able to read too much into his hire (I struggle with the books that don’t have large, colorful pictures). I’ve yet to hear him talk specifics, but I anticipate he’ll be fine.

As for Olivadotti (we’ll call him Coach O to help cut down on pronunciation hesitation), he doesn’t really have the look or sound that most coaches possess, which I find to be awesome. He’s a good storyteller, talks at length and has a good sense a humor. He gets my “I’m in the media” stamp of approval because over the years I’ve dealt with coaches who were the complete opposite.

Anyway, I think Coach O would fit in nicely as a new character on The Office. He’d be cast as an insightful guy who has a decade of experience at a higher sales level and pops a sly witty punch or tells a detailed narrative every now and then. It could work.

Trust me, you wouldn’t know Coach O was a football guru if you passed him in the grocery store. But I bet as you were deciding on paper or plastic, he’d be scheming. I’d classify him as a schemer. For whatever that’s worth. 

Every winter we hear a lot about team morale and a new attitude. This offseason there's some pretty direct comments coming from certain players regarding the negativity that left town. Is this something you've picked up on covering the team? And how much of a difference do you think we can expect this year and going forward?
Yes. Getting rid of Marcus Dowtin was overdue. Dude was a locker room 7-10 split. A few others that needed to go are out of the program, too. And some of the players who didn’t leave, had their “Get in or get out” moment too (See, Ealey, W).

Speaking of Ealey, early indications are that he and Caleb King are working really hard both around Butts-Mehre and in the classroom. What have you heard on this front and what expectations do you have for them in the Fall?
I’m still not completely sure both will be here in the fall…I have nothing to base that on. I just don’t want to extend my hand for fear of getting slapped on the wrist again.

I have heard both are on board. But the past is hard to run from. They’re doing what they can to pile up enough positive plays to make everybody rest at ease. I think I’ve made enough running back references in this paragraph.

I have always preferred King in this discussion, so I won’t flip now. I think he’s set to have a better year than Ealey because he’s the better all-around back. He can block better and catch the football.

Of course, this is assuming they’re still in school…and if Isaiah Crowell needs any rest next year. Relax, that was meant to be funny. Sort of. The last part at least. 

AJ left a lot of catches behind for Coach Ball's squad when he declared for the draft. Do you see several receivers picking those up or one player filling his role?
A.J. is leaving a lot of catches…but he’s also leaving essentially all the opportunities, too. I like Tavarres King to lead the unit. He’s gained (more) weight, is plenty fast enough to stretch the field and now has a wide-open road in front of him to work with.

From there, it looks like there will be a committee of players to make up the rest of the unit. Marlon Brown is the “I’ll prove my worth this time around” guy. Rantavious Wooten is the niche speedster. Israel Troupe is the senior guy. Michael Bennett is the “I swear I’m not Kris Durham—please stop comparing us” dude. And there are plenty of true freshmen coming in to provide new blood.

I’m not sure who will be able to get separation (wide receiver liner).

On the defensive side of the ball there's a lot of changes too with the departure of Houston and Olivadotti coming in to replace Belin. One thing I think we've lacked in the past few seasons is a true leader on defense. Is Christian Robinson filling that role? Is someone else ready?
Christian Robinson and Jarvis Jones are exactly what you need as leaders on your football team. Jarvis has more talent than just about anybody on the team. He’ll talk about what needs to happen, too. That’s important. And Christian has become that guy that makes other players feel bad if they leave early or don’t show up for something “voluntary.” Both of those guys form a scary good leadership combination that I think Georgia lacked on the defensive side last year.

You need your starters and producers to also be vocal and command respect in the meeting rooms. That cannot be overstated. Just because you’re good and on you’re way to the NFL doesn’t mean you’re also a leader. I’m afraid some people get this confused at times.

Regarding Coach Richt's "letter of admonishment" (for the missing man formation in recruiting Isaiah Crowell), do you think this is a new leaf he's turned over?
Do you mean, “Is Georgia finally getting out and cheating to get the best kids available?...Take that Saban…”

Much has been made about these violations committed during the recruitment of Ray Drew and Isaiah Crowell. The funny thing is—a competitive advantage was not gained because both of those guys were going to pick Georgia. Drew was a done deal way before he ever thought to invite former Bulldog greats to his announcement. And Crowell was set on Georgia for a good while, too.

The Drew thing was out of the coaches’ control. But Richt should have known better than to pull the “game simulator” out of his back pocket for Crowell. It was obviously a violation—and it wasn’t even needed to seal the deal. And if Crowell’s mother hadn’t let the cat out of the bag to the media, nobody would have ever known a thing. Wait…am I furthering the case for why people should be guarded against people like me?

We have a few 2011 freshmen already on campus and many more 2010 signees taking off their redshirts. Are there any that you think we should look for at G-Day?
Forget G-Day. Go to or the watch The Masters. Oh wait…Georgia fans can’t use Augusta this year as a legit excuse for missing the spring game this year, can they?

I guess we’ll actually have to take it a little more seriously.

This crop of redshirt freshmen is fairly bleak—the Slim Pickens of comedy as I’ve referred to the 2010 recruiting class. Of those redshirted, I find the offensive linemen to be the most pertinent. Brent Benedict, Austin Long and Kolten Houston (a darkhouse I’ve been touting for some time) will all be competing for playing time. With Benedict and Long, serious injuries have held them both back, but they’re both extremely talented. Seeing how these players progress (though some may find offensive line battles to be far less exciting than watching for skill players on the verge) intrigues me the most. 

One concern a lot of fans have is the position changes that seem to strike a couple players each year. Kiante Tripp played every position but QB and never settled anywhere. A similar problem seems to have driven Nick Williams from the team altogether. And now Bean is returning to the offensive line, again. Some shifting seems natural as athletes grow and develop. But how concerned should fans be about this difficulty in finding spots for certain players? 
Maybe Kiante should have played quarterback. Maybe run a little Note Dame box. That could have been the answer. Or he at least should have logged a few minutes for the basketball team. He had skills on the hardwood in high school.

Anyway, I don’t think there is much concern here. When a player changes positions, the stories inevitable leak from the media about how the player feels “more comfortable” or “is excited for a fresh start.” Most of the time that’s spin.

Usually, a switch means that a player wasn’t/isn’t going to get on the field at his previous position and depth, or lack thereof, at another spot encouraged a move (this theory is valid, excluding the Alec Ogletree move. That doesn’t count). Don’t be fooled—it’s not like the coaches “can’t figure out what to do with so-and-so…” The truth is, they’re trying to milk as much out of player as they can, wherever that position may need to be. 

Georgia's ineffectiveness late in the game has gone from bad to worse the last couple seasons. Can a new Strength & Conditioning program have any instant impact? What do you think are some realistic indicators of improvement this Spring, then later in the Fall? 
Hey, I think you guys should be happy as long as there are no shoulder injuries this offseason. Seriously, those weights are heavy!

I really think a new strength and conditioning program can make for some serious change over the course of an offseason. The players have had over two months leading into spring, and they’ll have right at eight months by the time fall camp begins. When it comes to working out, that’s plenty of time to make a difference.

I think the biggest change involved the increased nutrition awareness. Cutting out fried foods and carbonated drinks (even if it for “just” five days out of the week) will make a difference.

As for indicators of this change, I’m not sure what the media and fans will be able to glean from spring, summer or fall. The players will still look impressive (they always have). They’ll still be in shape and running around and all that…the chief indicator will be the scoreboard after 12-plus games next fall. 

At the risk of jinxing the "sedated headlines" so far, a constant topic in the off season around Athens is discipline. In my eyes, Georgia (and more specifically, Mark Richt) gets unfairly labeled as out of control when in large part the issues are non-violent in nature and seem to be things that happen on campuses across the nation. Is this just an Athens thing, or are we simply more sensitive to each arrest due to the fact that the AJC has to sell more clicks?
I’ve probably taken an unpopular stance on this topic. I don’t think the ACC police or the media treat the football players unfairly. (Ducking…checking my peripheral…ducking again).

Everybody in Athens has to watch out for the police. I’ve never been arrested in Athens. But my best friend was (on a ridiculously bad deal). And I’ve had numerous other acquaintances (students and/or visitors for a weekend) get arrested for petty, petty, petty things. It’s just the way it is in Athens. The police have to control a large college-aged demographic and they run a tight ship. If you slip up, you walk the plank, so to speak. That’s just the way it is, the way it was and the way it always will be.

And when it comes to the media, if a college football player gets arrested it is news. Simple as that. Maybe the media in Gainesville or Tuscaloosa or Knoxville aren’t as vigilant. I can’t speak for that. But, college football players are getting a free education, they are public figures and many people depend on what those players provide the University of Georgia community. A great deal of responsibility comes with that. I can promise you this…I have never seen anyone covering Georgia get excited about running with an arrest story. But we still have to do it.

Anyway, getting that tangent (which most of you probably hate me for) out of the way, I don’t think the program is “out of control.” Counting walk-ons, there are over 120 kids Richt is responsible for. That means there are 120 chances for a mistake each and every day. Things happen—and so far this offseason, none of those “things” have happened. I think the team—coaches and players—should be commended for that. If they’re going to be raked over the coals when negative actions go down, they should get a pat on the back when no arrests occur. But I guess most people don’t hand out complements for doing something the way you’re supposed to do them in the first place.
Bernie, I think we got way too serious on that topic. Weren’t we talking about Chevy Chase?


Well, Tierra del Fuego Fletcher. Appreciate your input. Your answers have put you in a position to surpass Hal with a correct answer to this one bonus question. Take your time, choose wisely. No googling. What was your cousin's step grand uncle's favorite NBA team?

The 1991 Denver Broncos. Hands down.

Ok, let's go to the tape...

Looks like a Broncos jersey to me. Congrats Fletcher. Don't forget to use some SPF while at Woodruff Fields this week. It's been good talking about football again.

Go Dawgs!


Anonymous said...

The best off season commentary yet. My new girl friend f. paige.

Anonymous said...

And Bernie, you aren't far behind sir.

Bernie said...

Anon...not good to drink and comment that early in the morning. Blogger clearly states that that type of activity must wait until after 1pm.

Unless you attach an actual name to your words. Then it's a free-for-all.

Thom said...