Saturday, February 5, 2011

Recruiting Roundup - Final Edition

Big day today. At 1:00pm Coach Grantham gets a nose guard that has the size and the talent to play early, often, late...whenever the hell he wants to. Your scouting report may say he's down to Florida and Georgia. But in truth he's all Dawg.

I really, truly enjoyed every moment of the Crowell announcement. I watched it live thanks to Hedges to Hardwood and then drove home and watched it off the DVR on ESPNU. Crowell was a must have, no bones about it. Losing him would've been embarrassing and tragic. His announcement was both awesome, necessary and sexy.

Today, John Jenkins' announcement will change our 2011 defense in one breath. He's the talent and the size we have needed. To my knowledge, there's no television coverage and there will be no discussion from the floor of Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. But even though he's not the cherry on the top of the 2011 class, he's definitely the gravy.

Do your Momma proud Big John! A Dawg Nation awaits your waist size!

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UPDATE: Fletcher Page is wearing a parka in Conneticut at Francis T. Maloney High School. You can follow his twitter HERE.

From the Southwest Corner...


Like a bad episode of déjà vu. Damn. Just...damn. Instead of trying to put words to typeset, I've decided to repost from November of 2009. There's not a game between the hedges coming up and this time it's Big Bad Bruce joining his predecessors, but the message is basically the same. I'll just add a caution to remember that this is a family pet first and foremost, and that goes for Dawg fans just as much as others.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Clint Eastwood once said to Uga, I'm gonna make you a celebrity. To which Cecilia Seiler responded, Excuse me, Mr. Eastwood...but Uga is already a celebrity.

That one little story from the making of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil explains a lot about the gap that exists between those who understand what a dear mascot Uga truly is and those who have no clue.

On Saturday we'll pay our respects to a dog that transcends the term that defines his role in college football nomenclature. A mascot is simple, common...a side show. Uga is the University of Georgia. His passing is forever etched in our minds as it is the stone mausoleum in Sanford Stadium. When we look towards the Dawg House, our hearts will sink.

For a football game inside Sanford Stadium is to be played not just between the hedges, but on Uga's turf. There should always be opposing players just outside of his leash's reach. But on Saturday evening, Uga VI's Loran's Best will be playing upstairs with Uga V's Whatchagot Loran. Perhaps Erk will even throw down a bag of ice. There'll be a tussle.

And we'll smile. Cuz our mascot is adored. The Uga lineage has posed for more pictures than any Hollywood star on the supposed walk of fame. Each interaction is cherished. Each casual glance rewarded with that lovable wrinkled countenance. How else could you explain the fact that Uga's line in August is longer than all others...put together?

Sonny Seiler once described Picture Day as Santa Claus at the mall - times 100. Fitting of a dog who has both a family...and a nation.

RIP Uga, you DamnGoodDawg!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Trivial Update - Believin' in Belin

#ThursdaysRTrivial is coming up right after this PSA: two donuts at Butts-Mehre will make Herschel's trophy case picture frown at you.

#ThursdaysRTrivial episode 66 "Believin' in Belin" It's the weekly Twitter Twivia show thats full up on donuts. REPLY back your answer for a chance @ a fabulous prize. Our now former LB coach was an All-SEC player @ Wake Forest during '87-90. But what are his daughters' names?

Just couldn't let Coach Belin get out of town without becoming a guest on my mostly weekly trivia show. And broke just in time.

Warren Belin came to us of course from Vanderbilt where he spent a few years helping to make our lives miserable on offense. Add to that the job he did with our inside LBs this season and he's definitely ready for Sundays.

Warren, we hardly knew ya. 

But plenty of tweeps knew enough about his family to tweet in Camryn, Morgan and MacKenzi. First by a narrow margin was Scott, who breaks a nice run by Shan our second place finisher. After those two came Angie and Nama. A logjam of talent, no losers but only one winner. The fabulous prizes in order of finish:

  • Scott - a snazzy Belinesque beige safari hat, rumored to have been thrown at an unnamed linebacker during a Memphis practice.
  • Shan - Coach Taylor's super stern, extra awesome coaching sunglasses. After Wednesday *sniff* he ain't gonna need em.
  • Angie - a very used Novak Djokovich wrist band, I think it absorbed most of Andy Murray's dignity.
  • Nama - a bottle of Geritol now that you're officially an old man, welcome to the club! Take one a day with a tall glass of Sweewater 420.

Tune in next week when Vanna White guest hosts. Would you like to buy a vowel?

Coaching Carousel, getting dizzy in Athens

Searels' leaving wasn't so much expected as understood. Not to mention probably the best case scenario for all parties involved. Belin's departure hit me from left field. I'm glad for him, yet deeply saddened for us.

So, who's coming? If getting a 17 year old to give a 6-7 team a look is hard, you'd think an established coach with a family and a good job would be next to impossible. But there's plenty of good coaches out there.

Sounds like the OL hire will come very soon. I'd be surprised if we make it to Monday without hearing something. Low's list looks to be the most reasonable and complete that I've seen (h/t Senator). Personally I'd love to lure Hugh Nall back to coaching and to Athens, but beyond that I'd take Greg Adkins in a heartbeat. He's tough, knows the SEC landscape and can recruit with the big boys.

As for Belin's successor, this gets interesting if Grantham doesn't already have someone in mind to fill the spot (which I would assume he does). If he aims at the NFL like most think he will, he might have to go deeper on his list but is likely getting a good coach that can pick up right where Belin left off. If he goes too deep with the names I wonder if he might be forced to restructure some. Hope it doesn't come to that though, some continuity would be nice.

Both hires are extremely important obviously. Our offensive line never found any consistency last season, but returns everyone except for Boling and Strickland. Meanwhile our linebackers are talented but young. Hope the right calls are made and two good coaches answer them.

UPDATE - UGAsports' Radi Nabulsi seems to think the Will Friend rumor has more than traction...if you can read through his cryptic updates.

2011 Signing Day Wrapup, part two

Yesterday's part one.


I think it's important to remember that the kids who signed Wednesday began their journey towards Athens when things weren't so sugary sweet. Sure, some of them have had eyes on Georgia for years. But going back to when they could officially be offered through when they could take their official visit always stood against a backdrop of turmoil. A disappointing 8-5 season followed by Coach Richt's only losing season punctuated by a dismal performance in a dismal bowl was not for the faint of Dawg hearts. Imagine being recruited to trust in the guy you're seeing getting beaten on the field and blistered in the headlines, blogs and message boards.

Yes, Coach Richt and staff deserve all the praise offered their way this week. They took a 14-12 record over the last two seasons into coaches' offices and mommas' living rooms all across the southeast and sold it to a class of quality athletes and fine young men. They went head to head with the last 5 seasons' national champs and more than held their own. That kind of fact doesn't always translate into recruiting rankings. Lemmings rankings bother me none. Taking some talent away from Saban impresses me plenty. 

Once Jenkins signs tomorrow, the coaches will also have addressed needs on the roster and plugged the glaring holes with players who should be able to contribute early. And yes, playing time is at a premium in Athens. You come off a stretch like the Dawgs have and you can offer roster spot competition liberally. But most all of the signees in this class were destined to compete early regardless of where they went.

In short, Coach Richt's staff managed their available scholarships as valuable commodities and maximized their own state's resources in a year when it was both necessary and difficult to do so. Georgia had a wealth of talent in the class of 2011 and to watch it go to other schools near and far would have damaged the program for years to come.

Moving Forward

So what now? The coaching staff may deserve a pat on the back, but they certainly can't rest on any laurels. A 6-7 season doesn't erase itself with one 5 star holding a puppy, as cool as that was. And the signees themselves can't rest either. The 2011 class is mostly in good academic standing; the losses are expected to be minimal. But now that ESPNUs camera crews have moved back to Bristol and Chad Simmons has at least gotten a nap, these guys need to hit the books and make sure they walk across that stage later this spring.

The coaches need a nap too. They've worked hard, they can even take a deep sleep if they need one. But moving forward, "wrong" needs a wrench, and there's no monkeying around. I purposely distanced myself from Coach Richt last month with good reason. I can't take anymore of the off season rah-rah until I see results on the field. And it's not just about Ws, it's about playing with a purpose other than trying to avoid a loss. So far the other side of the leaf has had positive results. Now it's time to get a couple coaches to fill the staff's attrition and start the overhaul. 

Throw the stale Xs & Os out with the garbage and start afresh. Don't finish the drill this Spring, put the whole thing back on the drawing board. The brand new recruiting class has afforded the coaches the opportunity to have talent compete with talent. Jay Rome pushing Orson for snaps, I dig it. Ray Drew preaching to 90,000 on a Saturday...can I get an Amen!?

And the players on campus now have hopefully done some hand wringing, gotten rid of all that was crappy in 2010. To be quite honest, they're lucky they only lost two coaches. If they are to save the ones who are left, work has to be done. Personally, I don't even need to hear about it or see it in my Twitter timeline.

I just want to get a taste of it in mid April and then soak it in this fall.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Coach Belin Going Pro

Carolina Panthers have already selected a number one coach, Warren Belin will leave UGA to take a similar position with the NFL franchise. 

Not good news for Dawg fans, but I'm not surprised how fast this guy has moved. He's a damn good coach.

2011 Signing Day Wrapup, part one

That was a hell of a signing day. It's been a while since we've had that kind of anxious excitement the first Wednesday in February. Usually it's just flat out anxiety mixed with a little heartbreak. Decided to break this up into a couple posts. So today we'll look at the hits and the misses, saving the analysis and the what now part for tomorrow.

The Big Picture

The only position of need we didn't address was fullback. Chapas and Munzie are gone which leaves Zander Ogletree (Soph) and a soon to be converted tight end Bruce Figgins. Every other area was addressed, soundly.

You can't lose an AJ Green and not expect to readjust offensively. And Bobo will have the next best thing to a 4th year of #8...numerous athletes at his disposal the next few years. There will be no Knowshonshirting Crowell, and Mitchell, Conley and Rome will avoid a year on the bench as well. I can never get enough big guys up front, so I would've liked to see another tackle in the class. But this would've been a bigger issue had Glenn or Sturdivant left.

However, the true upgrade this class provides is on the defensive side of the ball. We got bigger, and we got faster. We have athletic defensive backs that can ride all of the rides at Six-Flags, the kind that Lakatos wants to develop. And we have guys ready to fit into Grantham's front seven. Drew may not pick up exactly where Justin Houston left off, but it shouldn't take him long.

Saturday, the final piece of that front seven puzzle falls into place.

The Misses

I thought we'd steal Jeoffrey Pagan, but his announcement is both a firm reminder that you can't win every recruiting battle with Nick Saban and the mind of a teenage boy is often an overly impressionable thing. The Asheville defensive star never seemed settled into a decision very long (just ask Dabo). But I guess we can count our lucky stars Pagan switched from his initial commitment to Florida.

Antonio Richardson is a big fish that we just were never able to fall into sync with. He wasn't interested in us early and by the time he came around to visit Athens it was really too late to reel him out of state. But let me be clear that we missed on his signature but clearly staged quite a coup in getting him on campus and to throw our cap in the ring. Let's just hope our Pastor has a message for UTs Tiny in the coming years.

Dickson and Bray were the true misses; bonafide Dream Team targets that fell across state lines. It's hard to beat yourself up too much when the last two national champs were the recipients of the facsimiled transmissions, but when you're in it until the end with an in state recruit you have to expect to get the signature. They both would've made nice additions.

The Hits

Before we get to the dramatic late comers, it's important to recognize that not one of the commits (some of which had been in our ledger for a year or more) ever wavered, at least not publicly. Richt joked about Jay Rome finalizing this class for him and immediately wanting to work on next year. It's that type of enthusiasm that had built itself into a fever-pitch by the time Malcolm Mitchell had adjusted his cap.

Kent Turene gets a bad rap I think, mostly from people preoccupied with star ratings. Along the lines of long time commits Wilson and Herrera, Turene is another linebacker with real good size and can cover the width of the field. Grantham wanted this guy badly to help fill the middle. Plus, how can you not love this quote from the one time USC commitment: USC is Hollywood, it's not home. Georgia is home.

Yesterday was a perfect Groundhog Day moment as we watched Crowell finally take his stage. It was a moment that seemed to be inevitable, picture perfect in every way. A blue-chip recruit destined for a program that was desperate for his talent. It was a moment Bama fans had hoped for, but Dawg fans had dreamed of, over and over. There's more to come Saturday but this was a chance for Georgia's top talent to be the icing on the cake, on air live across the nation for all of the sport to see.

As he held that puppy up I couldn't help but think: Isaiah Crowell...the cool other side of the pillow and the exclamation point at the end of DREAM TEAM!

NSD Videos

Apologize about the video upload #Fail to the Live Blog* yesterday. Fortunately, YouTube made things much simpler last night. So below are the four I was able to get when the coaches took the stage.

But'd be impolite of me if I did not thank those of you that came by with your clicks, comments and enthusiasm. In terms of traffic I imagine yesterday I was as close to the rarefied air where legends like the Senator, Kyle King and Westerdawg have set the bar. I'm pretty honest about my reluctance to follow the whims and fancies of 17 year olds, but experiences like yesterday make things like blogging a little more fun.

Hell, maybe one of these days we'll finally get the first Wednesday in February the props it deserves...a national holiday.

My post NSD wrapup is almost done, but needs a little more work. So until it achieves post-ready status, here's some moving pictures from a corner of Butts-Mehre about 5 feet away from Bobo's Blackberry. In this first one, Coach Richt emerges from the Dawg's National Signing Day bunker to talk to the assembled fans and media members.

Next CMR fields a question about the Dream Team concept and discusses recruiting in general. Listen closely. The big difference in what he really says here and what he says just about every year, is that he and his staff actually focused on the state of Georgia. They made it a priority in words and in action instead of just giving it lip service.

Funny moment as CMR starts to discuss Valdosta's Malcolm Mitchell a bit too soon. Then he talks about athletic department profits in terms of the football program and the progress they're making.

Now that Valdosta High's fax machine got plugged in, CMR talks about Mitchell specifically and how he anticipates the playmaker can make an impact.

Pretty good day. I've got some amends to make with the head guy in the wrap-up. All in all it's just one step (that should have one more BIG boost Saturday), but it was an important one. A very important one. It's one thing to run this state on one Saturday in late November almost every year. It's quite another to recruit it year round the way our coaches did.

More later. Go Dawgs!

*LiveBlog brought to you by iPhone, Waffle House, TwittelatorPro and Duracell Instant Charge.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

National Signing Day 2011

Welcome to the 3rd annual NSD coverage, live from Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. Have iPhone, Waffle House indigestion, fax paper and a battery backup...will travel! The live blog below goes live at 6:00am. Follow along as time allows for updates, some pics and (fingers crossed) some video.

I'm streaming some twitter feeds of media and recruiting types straight to the live blog so you can get info as it happens. There's also a couple polls up you can vote on. And of course comment as often as you'd like. If you have a question, just let me know. I'll activate comments as often as I can.

Some time savers while you wait:
  • Kit and Kyle have their latest podcast up, where they cover some recruiting, Stacy Searels leaving and a little basketball.
  • In case you haven't heard it yet, Derek and Ol' Dawg have their annual reverse-recruiting show for your listening pleasure.
  • Also, to give you an idea of what the hell I do at Butts-Mehre all morning, here's last year's live blog and 2009's NSD Journal
  • Once you tire of my song and dance, you can also check out the official one at
  • And lastly, Groo summarizes this recruiting season up to the big day. Great read.
With any luck, Champ Bailey will again ask me how the class is looking. Cuz I think we'll be able to say...pretty damn good!

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Gray Leaving

    Logan Gray has decided to leave Athens after graduating this May with a degree in Speech Communications. He will transfer for his last remaining year of eligibility so that he can play and pursue a Master's degree closer to his home in Missouri.

    Gray said he wants to play at a school where his family can see all of his games.
    ‘I would like to thank Coach (Mark) Richt for giving me the opportunity to be a Bulldog the last four years, and sticking beside me throughout the whole experience,” Gray said in a statement on the school’s athletic website. “I would also like to thank my teammates for everything.”
    Gray had nine catches for 105 yards and one touchdown last season, but just one catch since September. He also had six punt returns for 39 yards.
    Wherever he ends up, I hope Gray returns 20 punts for touchdowns. Damn Good Dawg, I wish him well.

    Recruiting Roundup - 24 hours til NSD

    National Signing Day Preview

    Regardless of how you spend the National Holiday tomorrow, remember that if it is in front of a computer the F5 key refreshes the fax machine. Don't let the boss catch you singing Glory, Glory, especially if he did his undergrad work on North Avenue. In fact, it might be a good idea to go ahead and get any projects completed before tomorrow's big day.

    Especially if you're already cutting out tomorrow like your humble blogger here. Then it can wait until Thursday. For now, let's speculate and prepare ourselves.

    - Late Additions to the Class -

    Signing Day times of interest:
    Antonio Richardson - ??? 10:00am
    John Jenkins - Saturday, 1:30 2:00pm

    Those are the key names to watch for tomorrow. If you know what time Turene and/or Richardson are signing, feel free to update in the comments. Both Pagan and Crowell are down to UGA and Bama. I still think we get both along with Turene. If we add Richardson I'll be pleasantly surprised.

    I'm both thrilled and frustrated it'll be Saturday before we get Jenkins' official decision. Thrilled for him that he's going back home to do it. Frustrated that we have to wait a few more days to see his Georgia cap.

     - Late Subtractions to the Class - 

    Again, I'm not expecting any of the 23 current commits to leave us at the alter. But as I frequently remind myself and my readers, we are dealing with 17-18 year old kids for the most part. You never know who's getting in who's ear just before ink hits paper, especially when coaches have been on a dead period the last couple days. But regardless, everything I've read says this group is solid red.

    Here's a complete list of current commits courtesy of

    David AndrewsC6-2275Norcross, GA (Wesleyan)
    Sterling BaileyDE/LB6-5260Gainesville, GA (Eas Hall)
    Devin BowmanATH6-0175Rossville, GA (Ridgeland)
    Chris ConleyWR6-3180Dallas, GA (North Paulding)
    Watts DantzlerOT6-8330Dalton, GA (Dalton)
    Zach DebellOT6-7265Tarpon Springs (Tarpon Springs)
    Ray DrewDE6-5243Thomasville, GA (Thomas County Central)
    Quintavious HarrowS6-0190Columbus, GA (Carver)
    Amarlo HerreraLB6-2215College Park, GA (North Clayton)
    Christian LeMayQB6-2200Matthews, NC (Butler)
    Hunter LongOL6-3293Eads, TN (Briarcrest Christian)
    Nick MarshallATH6-2185Rochelle, GA (Wilcox County)
    Chris MayesDT6-5295Griffin, GA (Spalding)
    Malcolm MitchellCB6-1187Valdosta, GA (Valdosta)
    Corey MooreS6-2195Griffin, GA (Griffin)
    Jay RomeTE6-5255Valdosta, GA (Valdosta)
    Chris SandersATH6-1185Tucker, GA (Tucker)
    Justin Scott-WesleyWR6-1210Camilla, GA (Mitchell County)
    Sanford SeayWR6-2198Leesburg, GA (Lee County)
    Damian SwannDB6-0175Atlanta, GA (Grady)
    Nathan TheusOL6-3255Jacksonville, FL (Bolles)
    Xzavier WardOT6-7255Moultrie, GA (Colquitt County)
    Ramik WilsonLB6-3218Tampa, FL (Jefferson)

    ** LeMay and Conley have already enrolled **

    - Speculative Surprises -

    I guess you can potentially throw the likes of Dickson and Bray in this category, which I will loosely define as players expected to sign elsewhere that change their mind at the last minute. I've seen it defined as a DaPrick'd as well.

    There's just barely enough reason to think that Dickson and Bray might consider a late change. They both liked Georgia late in the game and have had friends and family in our corner. But if Rogers spurning UGA last year created a whirlwind of discontent, Dickson and Bray doing anything other than what's expected would be a Richter scale earthquake of seismic proportions. Just don't see it happening. 

    However, the way the coaches have recruited and the recent excitement that has been created, I wouldn't be totally dumbfounded if someone came out of left field.

    - (Too Early) Semi-Conclusive Thoughts -

    If we are fortunate enough to add the likes of Crowell and Jenkins to that list, I would say the coaching staff have not only done a helluva job getting a lot of talent to sign, but also made good use of the scholarships in covering all positions. Especially ones of dire need. If we can add a couple of those other targets then we're already ankle deep in gravy.

    We'll look at this more after everything's official, but I keeping reminding myself that we're coming off a 6-7 season and only 14 wins in the last 26 games. So one thing I'll be listening for in the NSD wrapup interviews is how they sold the UGA brand despite the disappointments on the field. Because it was more than a Dream Team concept when you get right down to it. 

    Two quick examples that impress me: 1) TE is one of our deepest positions with Orson Charles and Aron White already fighting for starting snaps and Figgins and Lynch behind them. Yet CMR and staff were able to get one of the nation's top TE prospects in Jay Rome to come to Athens. 2) Although the departure of Stacy Searels is likely to end up a good thing for all parties involved, the timing was bad as they always tend to be in those situations. Yet we have held onto our commitments in his area as well as a good group of linemen. Not to mention adding at least one more despite not having a definite name as the 2011 OL coach.

    - Parting Shots -

    Stop by for the live blog tomorrow. The way I figure, it'll be one of those I was there when type of experiences where you one day look back and tell your kids you were a part of Bernie's 3rd Annual Live Blog...or, it'll be worth the click to see the disaster I can make of one solitary event. Either way, win win!

    Also, in case I'm swept away from the excitement of so many glazed doughnuts, don't forget about From Hedges to Hardwood's live blog of Crowell's announcement tomorrow.