Final Thoughts

No posts for awhile, but these are my final thoughts heading into the Boise game tomorrow evening.

1. Is the front seven as improved as we’ve been lead to believe?

If so, this could be exactly what we’re looking for in being able to contain Kellen Moore and Doug Martin.

2. Can the Dawgs handle a quick sucker punch and mount a comeback?

This is the biggest question facing this team, in my opinion. Boise likes to play the Indianapolis Colts game of shock and awe at the beginning of a game and putting a team behind. This makes the opponent one dimensional (i.e. lots of passes) and allows their defense to pin its ears back and come after the QB. Can Georgia withstand an early onslaught and make a comeback?

3. What is the psyche of this team?

After the last few years, the only thing this team has going for it is a culture of losing. Has this team shed that mentality or will it tuck tail if the going gets tough early on?

I’d like to believe this team can hang with Boise State, but right now there are just too many questions for me to honestly answer this. Right now, I believe we won’t know what the 2011 version of the Georgia Bulldogs are all about until halftime of this first game. I’m firmly in the “wait and see” camp when it comes to this team.

My prediction:

UGA 31, Boise 27.

I don’t know why I feel this way, but whoever scores 30 first is going to win this game.

Where do we go from here

By my calculations, it’s been nearly a full year since I last posted when Gamecock Man at Garnet and Black Attack was so gracious to exchange Q&A’s with me last year just a few days prior to the beginning of the end of the 2010 UGA football season. Since then, we’ve gone through the whole turmoil that was losing four in a row, a heartbreaking loss to Florida, losing to Auburn when Mike Bobo decided to take his foot off the gas, and then the humiliating end to 2010 with the worst lack of effort I’ve seen from a Mark Richt coached team against UCF. The whole time last year, there were many times when I wanted to weigh in and add my thoughts, but I remembered a post by Paul Westerdawg a few years ago:

You want to know why I haven’t blogged much the past few weeks? What’s to say? From mid 2005-2008, the song has remained mostly the same. We got a 6 game reprieve from our problems in late 2007, but it’s been the same problems for most of that period. It gets redundant saying the same things over and over. “If we tackle well, don’t get lots of penalties and score points in the redzone, blah, blah, blah.” It gets old talking about that every week.

This is the mindset I’ve pretty much been in since I got back from the game in Columbia last year and didn’t really feel like talking about UGA football much. Much to commenter Darth’s delight, I’ve decided to finally update something here.

Now we sit here roughly 36 days away from opening kick-off in the Georgia Dome against Boise State and I don’t really know how I should feel about the upcoming season. Normally, this is a time of great excitement and anticipation for me, but frankly I’m not truly feeling it this year. I suppose it’s the old “fool me once – shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me” syndrome”. While I’d love to buy into the offseason hype and believe everything is going to be okay and it’ll be just like 2002-2005 all over again, it’s just too soon for me right now to do that. I’m firmly in the wait-and-see camp.

With all that said, now I have to figure out where I go from here on out to make this blog interesting without getting myself too worked up. I suppose an easy topic this off-season has been the question of how warm the seat on which Mark Richt resides truly is. However, this is a touchy subject and I don’t want to get in a pissing war with these guys who are utterly done with Mark Richt nor do I want to get in a pissing war with these guys who believe that Mark Richt is going to turn this thing around by citing examples such as not giving up on Bear Bryant or Vince Dooley when they went through rough stretches in the middle of their careers and the schools were subsequently rewarded by sticking with their men.

Personally, I believe both are right and wrong to an extent. The “cold blooded sausage makers” are right in that the argument that we can’t get anybody better than Mark Richt is false considering there are a ton of coaches that we could have hired that would have done much better over the last three years than Mark Richt. I also believe that they’re wrong in completely writing off Mark Richt because I genuinely believe he truly realizes how far awry the program had slipped and he’s now reinventing himself and how the program goes about its business in a way that hasn’t been there since DJ Shockley was running the show in Athens.

I believe TKK is right in that given a long enough sample size we are going to see highs and lows and what we’re seeing in Athens the past few years is an inevitable low point that would occur for any coach given enough time in any high profile job (even the great Urban Meyer lost five games last year and Nick Saban lost six games his first year in Tuscaloosa). I also believe he’s wrong in citing the Bryant and Dooley examples, because it’s never as simple as saying that “my belief must be true because everything that has ever happened in the past will happen again”. While Mark Richt very well may turn it around, the idea that he should be held onto by citing the Bryant and Dooley examples is false. Mark Richt should be retained because performance on the field improves this year, not because history says he should.

I suppose the point I’m getting at is that the fanbase is divided right now (however, it’s not in the black and white manner that these guys would have you believe). While there are certainly a few that will defend Richt to the end and some that are truly done with him, I believe the bulk of us rest somewhere in the middle. We know that the program isn’t where it can and should be, but we also don’t believe that we should just keep railing on how much we want Richt gone. The fact of the matter is that Mark Richt is the coach right now and will be for 2011. There’s no need to get worked up about who we could get or when he’s going to get fired. In my mind, the goodwill he’s built up in Athens is all but gone, but the man is still the head coach at my alma mater and me bitching and moaning about him isn’t going to get him fired or retained any time soon. Ultimately what I’m saying is that it’s time to stop debating what will or won’t happen sometime in the next six-eight months and rather we should hope for the best from the young men and coaches that will represent our alma mater this fall. While I will truly never understand the perpetually optimistic UGA fan, I’ll also hold equal contempt for the fan that decides to spend all his/her time railing on how bad the current coaching staff/program is. At some point, you’ve got to get behind your program no matter how bad it gets and trust the people up top (i.e. Greg McGarity) will make the correct decision going forward.

Talking With the Enemy: Q&A with Gamecocks Blogger Gamecock Man

For my first post (I know it’s already Thursday, so sue me) that is Gamecock preview related, earlier this week I exchanged a Q&A with Gamecock Man who runs the South Carolina oriented SB Nation website, Garnet and Black Attack.  Check them out as they do good work over there.  Here are my answers to his questions (note that the questions between us were exchanged prior to the AJ Green news from today):

1. This was the esteemed Senator’s pre-game analysis for last year’s game.  Removing the obvious references to Jon Fabris and Norwood, is there any reason to expect this year’s version to be different, last year’s results notwithstanding?

Yes and no–I don’t expect a high-scoring game, but I also don’t necessarily expect another 13-9 or 14-7-type of game, either. I definitely expect this year’s bout to return to the mean and not look like last year’s Twilight Zone game. That said, from my perspective as a Gamecocks fans, our team appears to have the best offense we’ve had in many years. I don’t doubt that UGA is going to be bringing a stout defense to Columbia, but I also expect that we’re going to find ways to move the ball fairly effectively. On the other hand, the jury is still out on our defense. Although we only gave up 13 points because we were great inside the 30, our defense gave up a whopping 400 yards last week. Granted, a lot of that came on USM’s last couple of drives, while the third-stringers were in, and word is we’ll get a potential All-SEC guy back in Chris Culliver. I also think too much has been made of our inability to hastle USM’s QB; the Golden Eagles were running a lot of quick screens and the like that made it difficult for us to rack up the sacks. Still, we didn’t exactly dominate their offense, and that makes me worry a bit about UGA moving the ball. The one good thing I saw was that we did well defending the run, and slowing down King and Ealey will be really important for us against your team.

Whatever happens, I expect this to be another close one.

2. This may have been my biggest criticism from last week’s USC/Southern Miss game, but was Garcia really that impressive?  If you’d been listening to the Palmer/James train, you’d think he was a front line Heisman contender.  What I saw were a bunch of WR screens coupled with short dump offs to the flats and short crossing routes.  He wasn’t really needed to make a difficult throw down the field, which I assume he will at some point against UGA.  Are South Carolina fans genuinely excited that this could be a big time year for Garcia or is the excitement more along the lines of amazement that he didn’t make any plays that would be considered “dumb” for a change?

I do think you’re right that Palmer and James, and probably some of our fans, overplayed Garcia’s performance last week. He was a little off on two or three throws that could have made the game an even bigger blowout than it was; there was one post route that sticks out in my head where Alshon Jeffery had a huge lead on a mismatched corner but where Garcia threw it behind the route. That said, he did make a couple of really nice downfield throws, so you have to give him credit for those, too. I do think you’re right that some of the reaction may just be people making too much of the fact that they’re just relieved that he didn’t do anything that seemed particularly stupid–he protected the ball and, perhaps even more stunningly, never got sacked despite feeling a bit of pressure at times. That’s progress for him, though, and if he can continue to do that as well as be an excellent passer at least most of the time, I think he can have a pretty good year.

3. I have to ask it, but this whole “hot seat” discussion.  Is this a creation of a zealous media looking for ad revenues and page hits during the off season (I’m looking at you Paul Finebaum), an increasingly vocal minority of UGA fans, or is there some reality to this? (before answering this question, I’d direct you to this blog post by former Gamecock beat writer and current Bulldog beat writer Seth Emerson when posed the same question)

I’m not exactly sure how to approach this question, as I’m not privy to the UGA admin’s feelings about Richt or even your own, although you’re certainly suggesting that he’s not on the hotseat. Here goes, though–as far as guys like Finebaum goes, I think we all know they’re just trying to stir up controversy, draw readers, and increase ad revenue. And certainly, saying Richt is on the hotseat is a little extreme–I couldn’t imagine UGA would fire him unless he completely tanks this year. At the same time, though, isn’t it possible that Richt is starting to feel a little pressure? Don’t get me wrong; I think he’s a great coach who has had a lot of success at UGA. But what happens if he goes 7-5 again? His last few seasons, with the exception of 2007, have looked a lot more like the Goff / Donnan years than Richt’s heyday from 2002-2005. I’m assuming that he’s got to do better than that at least most of the time to keep his job totally secure. All that said, I expect a nine- or ten-win season for the Dawgs this year, which should clear things up nicely for him. But if he struggles, I would think that “vocal minority” might get a lot more listeners than it has right now.

4. Is there really a perpetual Chicago Cub type “next year is our year” mentality around the Gamecock program or is this a myth perpetuated by fans of opposing schools as something to rib our neighbors to the East?

Yes and no. (I think I’ve answered like this to all of your questions, but there it is.) We don’t really believe that every year is the year. Only the most optimistic (some might say insane) Gamecocks fans, for example, believed that we would compete for an SEC Title in either of the past two years. We didn’t have a QB in 2008 and were very young last year, and the reasonable ones out of us were just hoping for winning seasons, maybe eight or nine wins if we got lucky. It’s the vocal minority thing you mentioned, though–the ones expecting SEC Titles are oftentimes the loudest and most obnoxious, and they get taken to be representative of the whole fanbase.

That said, I won’t deny that we’re generally a very hopeful bunch. When trying to figure out why we seem to feel more optimism than our history would allow, you have to remember that, at least in the last decade or so, we haven’t been an awful team. We’ve had a few pretty good years–2000, 2001, and 2005, in particular–and in the others we’ve generally been competitive. Each year seems to have a win or two that could reasonably make one believe that big things are on the way–think UGA in 2007, or Ole Miss last year. And a lot of our losses tend to have this “if only we could have made that one play” kind of quality. There’s a way in which the Gamecocks are constantly dangling the prospect of success right ahead of us, and the fact that it always seems so close makes us believe that eventually it’ll happen.

5. Since both our alma maters have dealt with some level of hand wringing from the NCAA and its apparent lack of commitment to timely responses regarding the eligibility of some players in question (South Carolina didn’t hear until a few hours before kickoff and UGA had to sit out AJ Green for the season opener due to no confirmation from the NCAA on a ruling), what is your thought on the whole process? Hypothetically speaking, let’s say AJ Green is held out this Saturday because no decision has come down and UGA loses by 3 points, but Monday the NCAA determines he was eligible.  If something like that happened, there’s no way the NCAA can win the court of public opinion.  Is there something the NCAA can do to expedite this process or is the NCAA so lacking on credibility at this point anyways, does it even matter if it tries to save face?

(Note–this answer is coming after the Green decision came down.) I think the NCAA really needs to figure out how to make its decisions quickly and equitably. While I don’t want to suggest that it’s played favorites, it has appeared to be inconsistent when it comes to how long it takes to wrap up each investigation, and that–whether malicious or not–is not equitable treatment. In that sense, it’s undermining it’s very purpose in carrying out these investigations, which is presumably to make sure that no one gets an unfair advantage. In that sense, it’s really important for these guys to get on the same page. Unfortunately, almost nothing about their procedure suggests that’s what they want to do; their bylaws and rulings are filled with vague, open-to-interpretation language, and that makes it seem as if they want to be able to hand down rulings in a completely arbitrary manner. At any rate, I think it’s going to be hard for them to come back from the PR hit they’ve taken this offseason. But the writing may be on the wall for them–if a serious conference reorganization was ever to come to pass, don’t be surprised if the conferences try to get together and create a new governing body that works in their interests.

Again, I’d like to thank Gamecock Man for being a good sport and taking some time to answer my questions.

In Other News…

I was going to add some posts earlier this week for a South Carolina preview, but real life took an unfortunately strange turn with fire drills at work and the such.  However, in regards to THE STORY today, I’ll try to add some logical input to this discussion like Kyle, but honestly my initial knee jerk with no thought put into it impression was this: The NCAA can go eat a huge dick.  I think Orson’s headline here sums up it best:

AJ GREEN SUSPENDED FOUR GAMES, SAYS RANDOM PUNISHMENT GENERATOR

I have no disagreements that what AJ did was wrong per the NCAA rulebooks.  He sold a game worn jersey to someone that is connected to an agent (may be an actual agent or may be a friend of a friend of an agent, that’s not been made clear in the press release from the NCAA) and he profited from his own name.  That would be considered an impermissible benefit per the NCAA rulebook and AJ should have to face the penalties as such.  Ironically, there were no explicit rules against the selling of memorabilia until 2003 when several members of the UGA 2002 SEC Championship squad elected to sell their Championship rings to collectors, so if any school’s players should be knowledgeable about the rules regarding the sales of memorabilia, it would have to be UGA.

However, there’s a big part of me that tends to agree with Doc Saturday’s assessment and the inherent hypocrisy between the NCAA and its’ member institutions.  The fact that AJ may or not have been connected is not what caused the NCAA to come down with the sledgehammer here, it’s the fact that as Doc Saturday says:

A.J. Green’s only crime was trying to make a buck off A.J. Green

This is obviously me being facetious, but had AJ been able to sell that jersey while sharing the profits with UGA, does one honestly believe the NCAA would care as much?  Is there not a certain hint of irony that on UGA’s athletic department’s website store, I count 20 different versions of a UGA #8 jersey for sale?  Therein is the problem.  UGA can just claim that it’s selling a jersey with the school’s logo on it and those jersey sales have nothing to do with the current guy wearing # 8.  They can tell us that there are just as many fans of Terrence Edwards buying those jerseys as fans of AJ Green.  As the Doc puts it:

This isn’t selling tickets. In any other avenue of American life, Green would have a stake in that business, because he essentially created it with his popular talent. But that could be any No. 8 who plays for Georgia, right? Or any No. 2 for Ohio State, or any No. 22 for Alabama, right? There are still a lot ofTerrence Edwards fans around, you know. Go team!

That is what just irks me about all this.  The NCAA and its member institutions have no problem exploiting these young men for millions of dollars every time they step onto the field on Saturdays on national television while providing numerous hoops to jump through to prevent these players from capitalizing on their own good name and talent.  It’s for this reason and this reason alone that nobody should be surprised at the record numbers of draft eligible juniors and RS sophomores that have entered the draft in the past few years.  Why should they continue busting their butts for an extra year when they could suffer a career ending injury while they see everybody around them getting rich (including their own coaches) and they can’t have a piece of that pie?

I have no clue how this situation ever gets rectified, but with the sheer dollars flowing through big time college football programs these days with them having what essentially is slave labor, the situation just seems inherently unfair.  I don’t blame AJ, or any player for that matter, that likely comes from a less than affluent background and sees a way to pay some bills or buy something nice for himself by selling a jersey or something like that.  I don’t know what can be done about this ultimately, but at some point the NCAA and its member institutions are going to have to face the reality that they are sending grossly wrong messages to their players with a rulebook that craps on the guys that actually create the real value in the system.

And it begins

Not many posts lately, I realize.  I’ve been watching college football all night and forgot how great this time of year is.  More to come on the Dawgs and our opponent Saturday.  Until then, enjoy all the Wann-stache failures and Sakerlina shellackings til your heart’s content.  It’s FOOTBAW season!

One Random Thing

I, like Rex, have finally made the decision that I’d like to drop a few pounds.  I was in pretty good shape for the better part of high school and my first four years of college.  However, I let myself go a bit during my fifth year of college and my three years in the real world.  I decided to take up a workout regimen and update my nutrition to get healthy again.  I’m fairly tall so my in shape weight when I was playing soccer in high school is still around 190 or so.

I’d like to use The Hobnail Boot as my own public forum to keep myself accountable and maybe some of you can share your similar stories.  I’m currently 16 days into my new regimen and I’ve already lost an inch of my waist and am down five pounds from where I began (I’m at a comfortable 214 as we speak).  I have about fifteen pounds to go to reach my initial goal (get under 200), but optimally I’d like to get down to 185 or so.  I’ll keep you guys up to date, but I think this is a great forum to share my progress with and to provide some level of accountability.

Mark Bradley continues to bring teh stoopid

By now everybody’s heard about the Tennessee football player arrests from Thursday night followed up the UGA football arrests Friday night.  Here was Mark Bradley’s post on Friday with this sound advice:

“There’s always another arrest waiting to happen in a college town, and that town could well be yours. Bradley’s Rule: Tempt not the football gods by busting a gut laughing, lest tomorrow ye weep bitter tears.”

I don’t disagree with his logic there.  Every school has its own problems, so what sense does it make to gloat in the misery of others.  The problem is that he directed it right at UGA fans because one of the arrested was some hot shot recruit that UGA coveted and were surprised when he chose Tennessee on Signing Day.

Today in wake of the UGA arrests he follows up with this gem and basically a shit-eating ‘I told you so’ attitude.

“Yesterday I cautioned Georgia fans about not gloating over the arrest of Da’Rick Rogers, the Tennessee signee who spurned the Bulldogs at the 11th hour. I mentioned that these things have an uncanny way of evening out. So uncanny that …”

What a freaking Nostradamus that guy is.  We should all bow at his greatness.  Seriously, what a turd in the punch bowl the AJC has become when it continues to employ idiots such as Mark Bradley.  No, it’s not like other fanbases with rooting interests outside Athens could possibly poke some fun at or gloat a little at the misfortunes of the Tennessee faithful.  I don’t even know why I get so aggravated about teh stoopid coming from the local paper, but idiots like Bradley could be taken a little more seriously if they’d stop going after the low-hanging fruit (I know, I’ll anger the most populous fanbase within my paper’s reaches and that’ll really increase the page hits) rather than actually step back and be realistic about the situation (you know what, people in Gainesville and Tuscaloosa probably find this just as funny as those in Athens).

I’m not a properly trained journalist by any means, but I’d be willing to bet that I’m more prepared to be an objective sportswriter than most of the hacks out there today.  Now that I’m stuck with this kind of crap on a daily basis, I’m really going to miss David Hale.

Numb

That’s the only way I can describe my emotions about the “news” today.  After seeing Damon Evans’ face after all those home games with that PSA about drunk driving, I just don’t know how he can go on as the AD at my alma mater.

On one hand, I don’t believe he should be fired or resign because I know far too many people that have received DUI’s that aren’t bad people, just made a bad choice.  The man shouldn’t have to throw away his career for what is now a personal problem where no one was hurt and it had nothing to do with his job.

On the other hand, the UGA Athletic Association has a specific policy regarding how it disciplines student-athletes when alcohol is involved.  How can he possibly hand down a judgment and have any credibility anymore if he’s allowed to stay on?  I don’t know if a suspension works in this situation.

This isn’t something I ever expected to come from one of our high ranking administrators.  This is the type of thing you’d expect to happen to somebody like Les Miles, just because he’s so bat-shit crazy.  I never thought the phrase DUI and the name Damon Evans would ever be in the same sentence.  I’m just numb today.

Live blogging USA/Ghana from Dark Horse

Okay, it’s halftime. US held it’s own ground after the early swarm and resulting Ghana goal. I learned two things from that first half:

(1) Only the US can commit fouls in the attacking zone apparently.
(2) Ghana’s defense is as good as advertised.

Let’s get that equalizer early in the second half. Don’t know how much more of this drama my heart can take.

Golden chance by the Yanks to start with one helluva save by the Ghana keeper.

US much more aggressive this half. Might be exposed to good counterattack.

PK!!

Goooooooooaaaaaallllllllll!!!!!!

Wow. Ghana’s keeper has been amazing.

Overtime.

Tough loss, but I’m proud of our boys.

A Moment of Appreciation

As most of you have heard, David Hale is taking a job with his hometown paper and he’ll be leaving the Dawg beat soon.  Kyle has done his usual excellent job of summing things up with the appropriate level of respect and humor.  To me, Hale has been one of the best reporters I’ve read on a regular basis.  Even excluding the fact that he covers my alma mater, his approach and his level of integrity as a reporter are unparalleled in this day and age of the reporters (cough *Mariotti* cough) making themselves a part of the story.  To me, a good reporter is like a good umpire in baseball.  If you don’t notice him, he’s probably doing a good job.

David, I’m gonna miss reading you reporting on the Dawgs on a daily basis.  Your stories at the Ledger as well as your blog were regular stops during my work days.  I wish all the best for Mr. Hale and I hope he can truly understand how much we’ve appreciated his efforts and his work over the last two plus years while covering our Dawgs.  You will be missed, good sir.  Now, if you could only do something about that Delaware traffic situation on I-95…

Seriously, two Sundays ago I was driving from north New Jersey back to Baltimore and it took me two hours to complete the 20 mile stretch of road in Delaware that connects New Jersey and Maryland.  As far as I’m concerned, all Delaware represents is a traffic jam.  Thanks for all the great stories and I wish you the best of luck as you progress in your career, David.