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.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I truly appreciate all of you. Thanks for visiting here and reading my dribble and commenting and genuinely understanding that JASPER'S KNEE WAS DOWN!!

Go Dawgs!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

BMac be gone

Well, this answers one of this morning's questions.

On Brown leaving and others staying and then others maybe leaving too

Been on the road and although I'm now back home, I'm up against the last minute Christmas shoppers. But real quickly...

Sounds like Smart really, really wanted Thomas Brown to stay. But a significant pay raise + title upgrade + loyalty to old coach was too much. I hate it because it was great having Brown back. He was a great player turned coach that did things right on and off the field and happened to have loved the gym as much as the field. What a great role model for players...but time to move on.

And whoa! Todd Hartley is gonna be Richt's special teams' coordinator? That's result of Richt calling the plays down in Miami I'm sure. How else could he make room? Just wish he'd've chosen to do that this past January too.

I would expect the Tax Slayer Bowl to be Lilly last run as a Dawg too. Surely he's heading to Miami as well.

Rocker and Sherrer have been retained. That's something I suggested would happen last week but was a week off on the timing. Sherrer has experience with Kirby prior to Athens and Rocker is a hot commodity, both as a position coach and as a recruiter (read: he has his hands on several current UGA recruits).

What's next? Well, who will be the defensive coordinator? Again, I suggested the bowl game could be a test for Sherrer. But if so, I would think we'd already know he was being tabbed. Instead, I would expect someone Smart is close to will get the nod. Meaning, someone either already on staff or currently coaching in Tuscaloosa. The reason I say that is there seems to be less and less chatter from other teams as to who Kirby is talking to. So keep an eye on Mel Tucker, current Alabama defensive backs coach, as well as Sherrer.

Also, while we're keeping an eye on folks. How about current head coach Bryan McClendon. He seems headed for Columbia SC. But will Brown leaving open up something for the long time Bulldog? I hope so. I just can't stand the thought of him working for the 'Chump.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is bowl game a test for Sherrer at DC?

Rumors that there might be more coaching news coming in the very near future. Maybe as soon as today. 

I’m expecting Sherrer and Rocker to be retained. Not sure if an official defensive coordinator promotion will be made public, but I could see the bowl game serving as a hands on interview for Sherrer. He and Smart have worked together and I think he'd be a good fit on the new head coach's staff from what I've read. And if I'm right about this then Rocker should be held onto as well.

That's just a mixture of tea leaves, rumors, and hopeful prognostications. Enjoy!

Related; take a look at Groo’s post on the staff turnover and transitions. He has a nice chart put together for your eyes to make some sense of things.

Here’s what I don’t understand. (And I apologize for not having a link to this, but yesterday was pretty busy and I just saw it on twitter as I scrolled quickly for some news.) Why was Glenn Schumann in Tuscaloosa yesterday? Jim Chaney and Sam Pittman observed practice in Athens. Why couldn’t Kirby’s lone defensive hire thus far do the same?

That one question is a reminder of just how awkward coaching transitions can be, which Groo’s post alludes to in detail. I’m reminding myself daily that this is something Kirby Smart has been waiting for awhile. In my mind, he can take as much time as he needs to get the right hires in place.

But you can concoct a scenario where we have current assistants who are in flux, coaching our current team, while being rumored to be heading elsewhere next year.

That makes for messy bowl practices and messy recruiting. Albeit during the dead period, but still messy. And Smart's old boss seems to agree.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Eason high fives DawgNation!!

With some serious Top Gun bravado yo!

Yes. He's re-re-re-committed y'all! All the feels! Let's hit the interwebs for some reaction.

When emotions take control over your limbs.

And YOU get a quarterback!! And YOU get a quarterback!!

Dawgventers gettin' crunk!

Coeds dig the quarterbacks man!

Down in Gainesville, McIlwain discusses with his staff
why the UF girls aren't as pretty.

Meanwhile, on the way back to Tuscaloosa, Coach 
Smart stops off for some ribs.

#ugatwitter feeling the joy

All the recruiting websites that wanted As Jacob
Eason Turns to draw out another few days weeks months.

New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney

Meanwhile, on his way back to 3rd period. Eason pauses 
to give the crowd one more look.

Monday, December 14, 2015

About Jim Chaney, and also Sam Pittman

I’ve heard for years from people outside of Athens that Georgia fans feel entitled to win. I’ve never been sure how I felt about that sentiment. But the knee jerk reactions to the Jim Chaney hire help me understand that viewpoint a little easier. Did people really think that Kirby Smart would just read the Dawgvent or Twitter for his list of candidates?

Is bringing the long term assistant a bit underwhelming? Sure. I guess. But what did we really expect? It’s situations like these - where we have days to watch plane logs and ruminate and pontificate and speculate - that make it easy to lose perspective. I think Smart wanted Enos and when that didn’t happen, he zeroed in on his next couple choices.

Chaney’s offenses may not jump to the forefront when you’ve been doing nothing but reading the rumor mill for a week. But I come back around to these two points:
1) The addition of Sam Pittman makes the Chaney hire much easier to understand. Georgia is about to get much bigger and more physical along the offensive front. These two coaches have worked well together at Tennessee briefly and then especially at Arkansas. They’ll do much greater things than Schottenheimer and Sale were (not) able to do this past season.
2) Everyone that is so quick to point to Pittsburgh being ranked just below Georgia in total offense this season...well, they have a point. But Chaney also has a track record for getting the most out of his players at key times. Jonathan Crompton comes to mind (all too easily). And so does Arkansas’ two 1000 yard rushers in 2014.

And you know, next season he’s going to have his hands full breaking in a young quarterback (most likely) while getting the most he can out of his backfield. In that frame, the Chaney hire makes perfect sense to me.

About Jacob Eason

Why are people worried? It's Athens going up against Gainesville. C'mon.

And if you need any more reassurance than what dan and Radi got out of Ben Cleveland, I just can't help you.

"Oh yeah, there were tons of females just following him around ALL NIGHT LONG. It must be nice to be a quarterback. Lineman don't get that kind of love. I thought it was funny. I was just laughing how all these girls were dying to talk to him and drooling all over him. I'd never seen anything like it."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Coaching rumors, final episode

Last week was my first time here at the blog in terms of a head coaching search. But I’ve written through many, many assistant searches. And this one is different than those others in that information is extremely hard to come by. So, I’m going to sit back and wait while hoping that the coordinator hires come fairly quickly.

Here’s some other thoughts:
  • More and more it is looking like Thomas Brown will be the only holdover for Smart’s staff. (They’re pictured together here visiting with a top defensive back target in Chad Clay.) Just sounds like those we thought might stay are looking elsewhere. It’s going to upset the wife especially that Rocker is leaving. And McClendon and Lilly have been here a long time. Hope they get a proper send off at the bowl game.
  • They’ll be missed. But, as I’ve said before, we want Smart to get his guys. He’s been waiting for this.
  • I still expect S&C badass Scott Cochran to end up following his friend to Athens. It’ll take a fight to get him. But I would expect Smart and UGA to be ready to drop the gloves and pay the man. Cochran coming to Athens would significantly help Smart’s transition here.
  • Back to the coordinators, I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone come out of left field. For all the talk about Kirby not having any experience as a head coach, he’s been around enough places and enough years that he’s met plenty of folks. I bet he knows what he wants as an offense just as much as he does on his side of the ball.
  • Some chatter yesterday about Alabama linebacker coach Tosh Lupoi coming to Athens. Here’s some more information on who he is from Roll Bama Roll. The short of it, another former grad assistant that became a position coach. Oh, and also a stud on the recruiting trails.

So, we wait and see. I’ll update if we start to hear something substantiative. Until then, Go Dawgs!

Coach Richt in motion

Was going through some notes last night and realized I'd left a couple things from last week in the notebook. Nothing important or wordy to add. Just some videos to close out an era.

First off, Richt stands up to a local radio asshat after 2012 SECCG.

I had this Vine from the SEC Carwash this summer up throughout the season. Not sure why I find it so humorous. It's just a classic.

And you probably saw this one making the rounds yesterday. Nice curtain call. Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Athletic budget rocket surgery

Leave it to Brad to sum up my main point here in 140 character tweets.

You just fired a successful coach. The message is that you desire to be more successful. So, belly up to the big table brothers!

Give Kirby what he needs, and then give him what he wants too.

Coach Kirby Smart, "relentless energy and passion"

I was able to watch the official press conference last night. It’s not often that we see a head coaching change, much less one that has been this dramatic. So it seems appropriate to share some thoughts.

I say it was a dramatic change because a week ago we were coming to grips with the firing of a coach who spent 15 seasons elevating the program. And a week later we’re welcoming home a former captain who has been waiting patiently on the right time and opportunity to “come home”. As I contemplated that it struck me again how much Kirby Smart in December 2015 reminds me of Mark Richt in December 2000; about 40 years old, beautiful family, longtime successful assistant coming from a program considered to be the gold standard for all others, and more than a little awestruck by the moment.

Before I get into what Coach Smart actually said (and there was plenty), it was clear he was a mixture of nervous and excited. While I know some of that is because of how Nick Saban runs his program, limiting assistant coaches’ exposure to the cameras and voice recorders, it appeared to me that most of the nervous excitement just came naturally from the moment. As a result, I found him to be honest, genuine, and emotionally balanced between feeling pride for how he got to this point and pride in the direction he wants to take Georgia football.
via OnlineAthens

“....relentless energy and passion…”

I don’t recall the question that prompted Coach Smart to use that phrase, but it’s the only time I looked away from the screen to write down a note. As I watched his demeanor and his mannerisms, his energy and passion was apparent. As I observed the times he took a moment to choose words carefully and how he weighed those times against when he charged right in with an answer, his energy and passion was evident. As I reflected on his career that had lead up to this moment, his energy and passion was obvious.

Smart spoke with emotion, specifically when recognizing his family, and he spoke directly, specifically when asked about his vision. Of course there were the baited questions that tried to shine a flashlight on administration’s role in staff decisions, but there were some really good questions that helped Smart address how he’ll manage the next month with two hats and how he’ll handle recruiting during the program’s time of transition. And even when it was clear he was tired of standing up there and was ready to hit the road, he took more questions and coupled them with direct, honest answers.

Coach Smart won’t coach in his first game for many months, but I hold no doubts that he’s ready to be a head coach. Any questions I have are now more along the lines of how he’ll runs things differently than his mentor. I think it’s clear Smart will be involved in all aspects of coaching and game preparation, just like Saban. And I think he’ll grow tired of taking questions during media sessions because he’s constantly thinking of other things he could be doing to get ready for the next game, just like Saban.

But you couldn’t watch that introductory press conference yesterday without thinking how much different the two men are. One of the interesting long range storylines will be how Kirby Smart branches away from Nick Saban’s tree. However, you also couldn’t watch the press conference and realize just how much Kirby Smart has learned from the men he’s played and coached under. He spent most of his time coaching under Saban. And I think that’s where the “relentless passion and energy” nugget comes from.

You see, it will be the relentless part that is key. It’s the relentless part I hope everyone heard because that’s the part we’ve been missing. I’m not saying Coach Richt or his predecessors weren’t goal-driven and hardworking. Not in the least. But the men who wrote their checks weren’t constantly pursuing perfection. The support for the common goal hasn’t always been abundant or even on the same page. That complacency is no longer acceptable. McGarity lead the search, President Morehead nodded his agreement, and the Board voted their unanimous approval. Everyone is on board.

Kirby Smart has spent his lifetime persistently chasing a dream. And his dream doesn’t end at yesterday’s podium. It’s just beginning there.

Sixth Annual Bowl Pool - The Feats of Strength

Previously known as #Festivus4TheDawgNus, this bowl pool is the only one you'll find that is brave enough to drag the Festivus Pole out of the crawl space and cheers uncontrollably at the sight of Sony's Jazz Hands.

For you lifers, sorry about the name change. As I set it up, ESPN told me the name for that group had already been taken. Personally, I suspect the title may have been intercepted. But that's just me in my 2015 dark place talking.

Enough of the melodrama, here's the deets: click the link below and enter the password, create your entry as well as your entry's name; the bowl selection is "straight", so you're only picking winners (no spread and no confidence points to negotiate); feel free to share the link (preferably through this blog post, or look for the tweet and/or bookface posts. Then just sit back and watch how badly I beat everyone!!

PASSWORD = thehumanfund

If you're unfamiliar with the celebration of Festivus you are still allowed to enter my bowl pool. But you first must watch "The Strike" episode in its entirety (check your listings for TBS "Seinfeld" reruns) or simply use his clip to get you started.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Coaching rumors, "The Smart Way"

One thing is definite, player development and defensive guru is joining new head coach Kirby Smart in Athens.
All indications are that strength coach Scott Cochran will do the same. Some other tidbits:

  • Whether Tracy Rocker is retained is probably up to the defensive coordinator hire, as some say he's definitely staying and some say he's definitely going.
  • As for who the defensive coordinator will be, Tyson Summers, currently serving in that role for Mike Bobo at Colorado State, is gaining some traction
  • On the offensive side, it's as clear as mud. I watched most of the Western Kentucky game Saturday to get a look at the play calling of Tyson Helton, who had entered the weekend as one of the hottest names. My impressions were mixed. A lot of boundary to boundary passes and jet sweeps early on seemed to bog the offense down into punting situations. But once the Hilltoppers started throwing and running downfield things seemed to open up. And the red zone play calling I thought was pretty imaginative.
  • Whoever Smart taps here, I would expect things to develop quickly. He has a press conference today to be officially introduced (at a secret location!!) and then he hops on a plane to go meet Jacob Eason. He's going to want to have some clear answers for the top prospect when he walks in that door.
  • Remember, the Easons are coming to Athens this weekend for the Gala. I'm sure they'd love to have some face to face time with the new coordinator on that official visit.
  • Back to Smart, I'm sure his goal is to at least have the coordinators set before he heads back to Tuscaloosa next week, at a minimum. But, this isn't something he's going to rush into just to fill in his staff. He's waited a long time for this and I'm sure he's developed a list of people he respects in the field.
It's an exciting time. I know a lot of people are on edge as far as Eason after he visited Gainesville last week. But to be honest, I'm not worried. Things would have to really go south quickly for the relationship to sour enough for him to back out. Smart is an excellent recruiter. He's going to sell his vision to the Easons tonight and reassure them that Jacob's best interests are of the utmost importance to the new staff, even as it evolves. The Clevelands were impressed yesterday. Smart knows what he's selling. Even if it's different for Jacob without Bobo and now Richt in Athens, the new guy will close the deal.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Kirby comes home

It's official now.
"It's an honor and privilege to return home to the University of Georgia and my home state," said Smart. "I'm deeply appreciative of the faith President Morehead, Greg McGarity, and the Athletic Board Executive Committee have demonstrated in asking me to lead one of the truly great college football programs in the country. I also want to thank Coach Saban. I have been fortunate to spend 11 seasons with him as my mentor and have learned a tremendous amount from him as a coach and teacher. I'm honored and excited for the opportunity at Georgia and promise high energy, effort every day, and hard work every minute on the part of all our coaches, staff and student-athletes."
Welcome back to Athens to him and his family. Go Dawgs!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ten thoughts on McGarity's worst week

Isn’t it cute when a columnist, one that absolutely doesn’t live in his mom’s basement (like a lowly blogger does) and fling poo at the walls to see what sticks, writes about something of which he knows nothing? You know, a columnist that has spent numerous words and time just asking if a certain coach should be fired and just why he might think that coach should be fired? Only to write a complimentary piece about the man who eventually did what said columnist suggested.

Congratulations Mr. Bradley! Mrs. McGarity just highlighted your name for the Christmas card list!

Let us not forget that Mr. McGarity actually spent more time talking to his ol’ buddy Mark last year than he did Mike Bobo. As a result, Bobo left his alma mater for a head coaching gig (not a big problem) feeling as though his services were not appreciated (big problem). Especially when the Athletic Director turned right around and gave Richt the money Bobo so richly deserved to one Brian Schottenheimer.

As the kids say, “YGTBFKM.” Some other facts as well as suggested conclusions as I see them.

  1. Yes, McGarity has lied. Part of his job is protecting certain information to make sure the University and Athletic Dept. he represents are cast in a favorable light. But he looked bad doing it. There was no PR savviness involved in anything he said. At all. No leadership qualities.
  2. I figure Greg McGarity to be someone who delegates. I guess the associate who typically handles Monday press conferences called in sick that day. Too bad.
  3. One of the biggest issues was the search firm he hired. As Schlabach suggested, it’s name is Google. But follow the timeline, and bear with me because this gets complicated: on Monday about 10am McGarity says there will be a full search and vetting of candidates...then, on Tuesday about 9pm news leaks that Kirby Smart is not only indeed the choice, but has agreed to terms...probably.
  4. That’s a doozie. What it says to me is McGarity talked out of a side of his mouth the boo$ters hadn’t approved of yet. I think the AJC’s breaking of the story came from persons close to the program and not necessarily employed by it.
  5. And really, that’s just another incongruence between our AD and the guys writing the checks. I do absolutely believe McGarity would prefer an exhaustive interview and vetting process for the biggest hire of his tenure. But I believe the boo$ters had decided after the Florida game that change needed to come. It’s been awhile since Georgia has fired a coach, but I remember how things move along once the coach has lost the money players.
  6. Meanwhile, Richt’s name gets (albeit loosely at the moment) tied to the Miami opening that came in the days before the WLOCP, and South Carolina’s search is hitting a full stride. At some point Kirby Smart, the guy at the top of many influential persons’ lists (probably including McGarity) evolves into Ray Tanner’s chief target. I think this coincides with Tom  Herman slowing his roll a bit as he was the hot name out there.
  7. So the plan is in place to force Richt out and bring Smart in. The problem was Richt didn’t lose another game after Florida like many expected (maybe even hoped…??) and the fanbase was more than a little surprised Sunday when the ax fell. Couple that with the timing between the “mutual parting of ways” announcement and the “team meeting with Butts-Mehre bouncers” and suddenly there’s a firestorm of malice and a potential PR nightmare.
  8. Luckily, a press conference is scheduled for the next day. The press can ask Richt some questions and then at a later time after Richt has driven his Ford F-150 into the sunset, McGarity can have his turn when it will be easy to deflect questions and focus on the task at hand of finding a successor. All he’ll need is a hot mic and some band-aids to re-assure the masses (which by this time are local, regional, and national) that this is a minor flesh wound and everything is going to be okay.
  9. But oh no! It’s a joint press conference!! Richt, already the besmirched hero, is right beside McGarity whose only friend at this point is Mark Bradley. Richt doesn’t even break a sweat saying goodbye. Meanwhile, McGarity leaves behind a pool of Clairol for Men in his seat. Band-aids don’t equate to a tourniquet.
  10. Compounding matters is the apparent back and forth over autonomy as it relates to the new staff after UGA just got rid of the last coach in America without such a luxury. Even if these were just rumors, they come during a week when rumors are a dime a dozen. Like when a blowtorch enters a gas station, things get heated.

You can decide which (if any) of those ten points you believe, and then proceed with your online betting. I mention them all to illustrate that as we near the beginning of the Kirby Smart era, it appears that at a minimum there is a divide between the administration and the fanbase. And while that can be repaired, there may also be a divide between the athletic director and the power brokers. That one is a slippery slope filled with potholes and barbed wire.

As the Smart “news” was “breaking” Tuesday night, I received a text from a buddy mentioning the rumor that there’s a push to make Frank Ros (1980 captain and recently retired Coca-Cola VP) the new UGA Athletic Director. Since then I’ve read it in two other places. Doesn’t mean it’s any more true or that McGarity’s job security is actually in hot water.

What it does mean is that the guy could use a better week to follow up his worst; a week in which he has more than one friend.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Coaches, rumors, bowls, and transfers

Sunday evening is going to be busy. Once bowls are announced plans will start to finalize all over the place. We should find out our bowl destination, gain a clearer picture of coaches that will be helping the players prepare for the bowl, as well as which coaches are planning to join Kirby Smart. Specifically, who is staying and who is going? Also, who will be the coordinators and what coaches do they prefer to bring with them and how that matches up with current staff that want to stay.

Whew. And by the way, before we delve into Smart’s potential staff, I’m very happy for Bryan McClendon. Former Richt player carrying the torch for his former boss’ last team in their last game of the season. Of course it would have been nice to see Richt on the sideline one more time in red and black. But it just didn’t play out that way.

Okay. I’ve seen a lot of strong opinions (myself included) over the possibility of Smart wanting Muschamp to coordinate the defense. This doesn’t excite me for two reasons: namely that I don’t recall having a whole lot of trouble with his defense the times we’ve gone up against Auburn. Sure, Florida’s defenses while he was the head coach there were a different story. So maybe I should cut him some slack. But, the guy’s also a little bonkers. I mean there’s such a thing as intense motivational tactics and then there’s out of control hissy fits that can cost the team penalties, yards, and focus.

However, if this is who Smart wants, who are we to judge? Kirby has waited a long time for this opportunity and should fill his staff with people he wants coaching alongside him.

Defense aside, the offensive coordinator is probably Smart’s biggest decision. I heard Coach Donnan talking about the roster Richt left behind. My brief summation of it would be that the defense is full of young talent and the offense has Sony Michel and hopefully Nick Chubb…

Talk about Eason all you want, but if he ends up coming to Athens (and I think that he will) and he evolves sooner rather than later as the starter, he’s going to need time to develop. That’s why I’m hoping some of the transfers that come out of this coaching change (and I’m sure we’ll have a few) aren’t at the quarterback position.

The name that comes to mind first is Faton Bauta. Can’t think of a better player to put on display the work ethic Eason will need to emulate if he’s to become this world beater people have made him out to be. But given the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine not seeing some attrition at the quarterback position.

Changing channels a bit, Smart is looking to bring in a staff (not just coaches, a staff) that can stand up to anyone off the field. Yes, his success as a head coach is yet to be determined. How will he manage the game, timeouts, the referees, fourth down decisions…? Those are things that, for the most part, have been managed and micro-managed for him until next Fall. But recruiting, strength and conditioning, player development, game planning...all areas that Georgia fans should be excited about, immensely.

Now, some names:
  • On offense, appears that Thomas Brown is favored to remain and the feeling may be reciprocated. McClendon and Lilly are more of a question that will probably be determined by the coordinator hire. Although it would be a shame to lose either as they’ve been in Athens so long and are established recruiters, again it comes down to guys that are the best fit for Smart’s first staff.
  • On defense, Muschamp is interviewing with South Carolina and (as we talked about the other day) Pruitt may not even want to stay. Sherrer has been mentioned as one that Smart wants to retain. Rocker seems 50/50.
  • Staff. Cochran would be a huge get for Smart. And it’s being treated as a foregone conclusion that Bama’s S&C guru is leaving for Athens. But like we’ve said, Saban will put up a fight. After all, the only time I’ve seen Nick honestly, genuinely smile, is when he was talking about Scott Cochran. In the end, friendships between the Smart and Cochran families may (hopefully) run deeper than professional respect. And surely (hopefully) the UGA boosters that have put this all in play wouldn’t balk at competing salary-wise. Surely.
  • Also, the mysterious Glen Schumann, as Football Scoop describes as the “well-hidden gear in machine” that is Alabama’s defensive dominance. Can Smart lure him away as well? If you’re scoffing at the thought of spending any time worrying about a staff assistant, if Schumann is important enough in Alabama’s defense to Saban to include in the game planning, there’s no question he’d be someone Smart would want by his side as he transitions from coordinator to head coach.

That’s a lot to chew on. And like you, I’m sure tired of all the speculation and back and forth. I was a little surprised Smart is (allegedly) staying with Alabama through the post-season. But I also recognize he’s been there for many years. If Saban wants him to continue, I’m sure Smart is compelled to stay.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Coach Richt - a personal memoir from his era

"Being a part of Georgia is something I get to do everyday. 
And I'm very grateful for it." 

"That I loved Georgia and I did it the right way."

- Mark Richt

It's been a hard week. You've probably heard all the analogies of losing a friend, saying goodbye, grief and loss. But it's also a time of reflection, remembrances, and thankfulness. Thankful because Georgia football is where it is today because of this man.

Mostly, I take solace in seeing that Coach Richt is at perfect peace. After all, it will be him and his lovely wife Kathryn that will certainly work hard to make the transition easier for his staff and their families, all while making a big transition of their own.

So I’ve started this post three different times in three different ways. Approximately 1500 words later I’ve come to realize that this tweet is the best that I’ve got.
I also realize that I’m writing this for posterity in many ways. Something to look back on fondly, in all its highs and lows, and with a tone of appreciation and thankfulness. Something to help my own kids (maybe even my grandkids if we can manage to keep the Internet afloat that long) remember this time period that has come to a close. You know, a glimpse into what our house has been like since just before they were born all the way into their teenage years. Yes, perhaps the best way to show my appreciation of the Coach Richt Era is to recall some key moments of the last 16 years and 15 seasons and how we shared them as a family.

December 2000 - Richt is introduced as the new head coach to succeed Jim Donnan. I remember watching the press conference with my wife. We both remarked at how young he looked. I also remember seeing their kids (Johnathan, David, Zach, and Anya) sitting with Kathryn and immediately impressed with his genuineness in the way he talked about family, his faith, and wanting to win in Athens.

October 6, 2001 - Wife and I are watching the noon kickoff of the Georgia-Tennessee game. The Vols sprint out to that early lead, but it’s close from there on out. Unfortunately, Jenn has to leave for work at halftime when it’s tied 17-17. After P-44 Haynes secured the victory and the Hobnail Boot had broken their nose, I called her with the news.
We won. We beat Tennessee in Knoxville!”
“No we didn’t. You’re lying.
It was then that I realized I would never find the words to describe what had happened. Georgia had finished the drill. The team was confident in the moment of truth and had executed to perfection. What a strangely intoxicating feeling!

The girls with Coach, and some weird guy
whose hunker down done broke.
August 2003 - By now we have a one and a half year old and Richt has helped us knock the lid off the program with his first SEC title. The popularity of the program shows at “Picture Day”. I brought my little girl, complete with stroller and diaper bag, as well as my neighbor Allen and his young son Logan. Uga is the most popular pic, especially with kids, and we’re glad we are early as the mascot’s line is halfway around the Classic Center by the time we get there. After waiting for an hour or so, someone comes out and draws an imaginary line just in front of us and says that everyone behind that line isn’t getting a picture with Uga.

We dejectedly make our way to Richt’s line as he is a fairly close second to Uga at this point in his career. We’re not too far off either, but still find ourselves in a race against the clock before the event closes. Otherwise we’ve driven an hour and spent an entire afternoon waiting in lines for nothing. Should have made it easily, but this is before they cracked down on memorabilia hoarders that required so much attention for the twenty items they brought in. Five o’clock came and went and Richt was still posing and signing. He stayed an extra hour to fit everyone else in. He posed with my little girl and signed a picture to her. She smiled. What a great day!
The Tailgate Crew

September 2005/2006 - Wife and I make the road trip to Starkville and Nama and I make the one to Oxford the following year. There’s nothing like seeing the Dawgs on the road. And these two trips were highlight type experiences back during a stretch when Richt’s teams were world beaters on the road. The band, the road whites, singing Glory, Glory in an opponent’s stadium, the team coming over to greet the fans after the clock drains, Coach Richt with the thumbs raised to the crowd...ain’t nothing better than that as a Georgia Bulldog fan. And Coach Richt embraced all of it. He always said he loved Georgia. More importantly he always showed it with his actions. He walked the walk and this was the time period I really started to feel a connection with Mark Richt as both the coach of my football team as well as a man on this Earth.

September 2007 - My oldest is six and I think it was Western Carolina because I remember Conner asking me what a Catamount is. I answered like any proud, intelligent father would, “Hey sweetheart, the cotton candy guy is coming up the aisle!” Georgia rolls and the crowd is pretty into it. Even though the opponent was a cupcake, it was pretty exciting to see Stafford and Moreno and Brown and Massaquoi click on all cylinders. As we near halftime I begin to worry like most dads do when they bring their young ones to games - Is she going to ask to leave soon? I want to see some of these backups play. Plus the cotton candy is long gone. It’s a matter of time before she’s done as well. Which is why it caught me off guard when she looked at me, eyes full of excitement, and asked “Dad, can we stay the whole game?!?

"Yes honey. We absolutely can stay the whole game." Got a little dusty up there all of a sudden.

September 2008 - Wife and I take the kids to the Central Michigan game. My youngest was four at the time and takes the entire scene in, from the flags on the field pregame to the trumpet in the southwest corner. She could do this because her older sister was taking care of searching for the cotton candy vendors. :)  Y’all probably remember the biggest highlight of the game. If you don’t, perhaps Mrs. Wendy’s question at pre-school the next Monday and Ainsley’s subsequent response will refresh your memory.
“Anything exciting happen this weekend?”
“Yeh! Knowshon jumped over a guy!!”

The next week, I start a blog before the South Carolina game and then we head out west to Tempe. Nama, Ann and I take the town by storm. AJ Green was superhuman and Knowshon defied gravity. It was a dry heat and we left it a dry town. Almost just like we found it. Again, ain’t nothing like being a Road Dawg!
Sun Devil Stadium
  Dawgs On Top!         

January 2009 - Speaking of Road Dawgs, the family heads down to Orlando to see Stafford and Moreno’s last game. Somehow we manage this without them realizing just how close we are to Disney World and avoid the trip costing an arm and a leg. (Sorry, kids. But to be fair we had recently taken y’all there...twice)

May 2009 - Here you can read about the one time I got to interview Coach Richt. And by interview, I mean when you have a buddy that wins a supermarket contest that allows you to eat nachos and ask the head coach a question. The post is a comical review of the evening, but it was a pretty cool experience for sure.

That time Kathryn and I had lunch and she
insisted on a picture with me.
December 2010 through 2011 offseason - Like any long term relationship, there is a period of darkness. I declare that Richt and I are on a break, which was my humorous way of coming to grips with Richt's only losing season.

June 2012 - The dance between embracing a coach and loving a program is a slippery one. In this post I attempt once again to reset the expectations as well as set the bar high. It was as difficult to read as it was to write, but I think it’s as fair an assessment as I could manage. The reason I mention it here is twofold: 1) we may look back on this 2012 team as one of Richt’s most talented and resilient, especially in terms of leadership within the roster, and 2) …..(next slide please)...

Rare moment when no one pictured
is on their Twitter phones.
December 2012 - My favorite post of the 4000+ in the history of the blog leads up to Coach Richt’s biggest game in his career (imho). Having responded to national lack of respect, and rallied the team after getting steam-rolled in Columbia SC, Richt leads the team back to Atlanta for the second year in a row. The Dawgs go toe to toe with mighty Alabama for the right to beat Notre Dame and become National Champions. The wife and I give everything we’ve got because that’s exactly what our team did. She showed the Bama fans around us what true team spirit looks like and I nearly out-sprinted Ogletree to the endzone on the blocked kick. I can honestly say, walking out of the Georgia Dome that night was the weirdest experience I’ve ever had as a Georgia fan. I’ve walked out of stadiums elated with wins and dejected over losses, many times over. But to feel so immensely proud while so very depressed was something I’ll never forget and I'll never get over.

Who has the bigger smile?
June 2014 - My youngest loves some football. If you follow me on twitter you know this already. She’s got quite the arm. Jennifer and I sign her up for Coach Richt’s camp and when I show up at Butts-Mehre to drop her off I’m less surprised that there are like 150-200 kids there than I am that there’s only one girl...the one I brought. Competing is easy for Ainsley, but taking the stares and the casual comments about her gender was less so. Still, Richt’s staff put her completely at ease. From his secretary Ms. Hunt to Coach Inman and everyone in between, she settled in and got in line. I was supposed to leave her for the day, but couldn’t help but return after one trip to Jittery Joe’s to see how things were going.

What’s the word for when the pride you have for your kid crosses paths with the pride you have in your team? At the end of the day, once again Coach Richt stayed late to sign all the t-shirts, pictures, gloves, and footballs. He wasn’t even upset when Ainsley pulled out of his line to get a picture with Christian Robinson first.

Sunday - Ironically, Ainsley and I had just finished throwing the football. As we walked into the house I checked my phone.
“Oh no. Really?”
“What is it Dad?’
“They fired Richt.”

From mine to yours Coach...thanks!
You blink and suddenly your little girl has gone from the excitement of Knowshon “jumping over a guy” to this young lady with beautiful eyes that are filled with the same questions an adult ponders - “What’s next? Who’s the coach? Where’d the time go?” - and you have to explain that this is one of those times when there are more questions than answers.

We had nearly 16 years and 15 seasons with one of college football’s greatest coaches. We saw Mark Richt grow from that young guy trying his best to emulate his own personal role models and make them proud, to a seasoned coach and a magnificent molder of young men. We're all better for the experience, all the highs and the lows and the in-betweens. As a dad, a fan, a man, an alum, an Athenian...I'm eternally thankful for the experience.

Come to think of it, perhaps there are two answers that I have after all. I know that the University of Georgia will never have a finer representative for the program we hold so dear. And I know that my family was blessed to have shared this time with him as part of the Georgia Bulldog Nation. 

Thanks for reading. And feel free to share your own memories below.
Go Dawgs!