ATHENS – Maybe I’m just not that smart. Maybe I don’t know enough about football. Maybe I’m just too invested in being a reporter whose job it is to get information.
But I have to say, this whole Georgia policy on being coy about suspensions … Sorry, I’m not seeing it.
Oh, I see the reasoning. But it seems to be an emotional one, not one rooted in great practicality: If you’re the Georgia coaches, you feel that if your school is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage by having a more stringent drug policy, you’re not going to volunteer any suspension information under this policy. An attempt to equal the deck a little bit with your opponents, who don’t have as stringent a drug policy.
But here’s the thing: It’s not a secret anymore. It hasn’t been since spring practice. Missouri knows what’s going on. Its head coach, Gary Pinkel, has said his team is preparing for the Georgia defensive scheme, not specific players. But even if not knowing the status of a safety and inside linebacker is a headache for Missouri, is it a difference-maker in this game?
Any advantages of with-holding the suspension information is outweighed, in my opinion, by the negatives. It’s a distraction to the team. A minor one, sure, but so is the advantage of keeping Missouri in the dark. And as for perception of the program, this has become a two-month story, a constant question for Mark Richt and his coaches. And please, don’t expect reporters to stop asking about it, any more than I would expect fans to stop asking us reporters about it – as evidenced by what you’re about to read.
About a third of the questions I received for this mailbag were about Rambo, Ogletree and the drug policy. I suspect it will be a heavy topic in my Friday live chat (at noon, as usual).
Yes, there has been plenty of other pre-Missouri coverage: Breaking down the matchup, talking about the difference in each team’s offense, and some old man football stuff. But the drug suspensions, and the will-they-or-won’t-they-play debate, has been an undertow in advance of this game. And it didn’t have to be that way. Announce a suspension (or lack of one), and it’s a couple lines in a game advance story, and a quick mention in TV pregame coverage. But maintain the mystery, and it multiplies. Rather than put it to rest and talking football, there is still this swirl of speculation, questions and debate about Rambo and Ogletree’s status.
I'll admit I was wrong if Georgia wins on Saturday, and Pinkel comes out and says something like: "They really had one on us: Not knowing whether Rambo and Ogletree would play killed us."
But in the meantime ... I'll just start answering your many questions about it.
1) Have Rambo and Tree been available for interviews this week? I assume not.
2) I thought I saw Zander Ogletree in just a jersey and shorts during the game last week. Was he suspended/hurt/other?
- Bryan Grantham
1. No, they have not. But that could just be part of the subterfuge.
2. He was not announced as being suspended, although to be fair, Richt was never asked about it. Rambo, when he was suspended for the Boise State game last year, also dressed out. But as for speculating on Zander, who did not play, I’d prefer not to go there.
If I'm not mistaken, when Bacarri Rambo was suspended for the Boise State game last year it was not for a failed drug test. It was because a passenger in his car had marijuana with them. If Rambo did fail a drug test, could UGA possibly go with tradition and only suspend him one game? Or do you think if is more likely that they have counted it as a second offense?
My understanding is UGA’s policy is that it doesn’t have to necessarily be a positive drug test for it to be a violation of the code. That said, as I’ve stated before, since this is UGA’s policy, if they want to amend it on the fly, or if the review board wants to give Rambo a break for extenuating circumstances, they can do just that.
My first question is what are your thoughts on how D. Bowman played? Have the coaches said anything about how he performed. I was a bit surprised considering he was never mentioned during the spring and scrimmages. My second isn't a question, but a comment on the suspensions. If Ogletree and Rambo were cleared to play, don't you think Richt would say they were playing? I think by him not saying whether they are or aren't is just silly. It's apparent they aren't.
Second question first: Indeed, when Branden Smith was cleared, Georgia announced it and let Smith come out and speak to the media about it. But that fell under their new policy of dealing publicly with “public” incidents, such as arrests. That’s why we know Sanders Commings and Chase Vasser are out two games. Rambo and Ogletree are internal. The fact they haven’t been announced as playing shouldn’t be a clear sign they’re still suspended. It’s still part of the attempted subterfuge to make Missouri confused.
As for Bowman, he seemed to play pretty well, especially considering he wasn’t really prepared to be the nickel back in the lead-up to the game. That happened after Malcolm Mitchell got hurt on Thursday. That’s why you didn’t hear Bowman get mentioned very much before the game.
What do you think the chances are that Ogletree is only suspended one game with Rambo suspended for 2 or 4? Also who would play if we don't have Theus or Dantzler available against Missouri?
- Jackson Bailey
It’s tricky on the suspension lengths. If you go by the UGA policy, and if this is indeed Ogletree’s first offense, then it’s a one-gamer. And Rambo, seeing as how this is his second offense, as widely quoted by his high school coach, then that means four games. But … it’s UGA’s own policy, which they can amend if they want, and it goes through a review board, which could decide extenuating circumstances, either to increase or decrease the length.
My gut tells me Theus will play and start, but if he can’t, and if Dantzler isn’t healthy enough either, then junior Austin Long is being prepared. Xzavier Ward, the very tall redshirt freshman, is also getting a look.
What do you make of Shawn Williams' tweet (@36SLY36) about freeing Tree and Rambo that's being RT'd by many players?
- Lucas Puente
I’ve learned a long time ago that it’s not a great idea to look a lot into player’s tweets. That can be hazardous to journalism. I prefer to go by what I see and what they say when I talk to them – and unfortunately, Williams hasn’t come up to speak to the media in the past couple weeks. That stinks, because Williams has been one of my favorite players to talk to, and I appreciate his candor. Come on Shawn, come on up!
How long did it take you, as a reporter, to get used to asking people questions to which you already know the answer (e.g., asking the UGA coaches about the defensive suspensions over the past two weeks/the entire summer)? I almost feel embarrassed for reporters when they have to keep asking people things that they (and we) already know, but about which the Generalized Public demands fresh answers.
Good question Ben. Short answer: You find different territory to plow. For instance, on Tuesday my colleague Marc Weiszer at the Athens Banner-Herald asked Richt whether he thought the uncertainty was a competitive advantage for Georgia. And a day later, I asked Richt if suspended players would make the trip. Richt fielded more point blank “will they play” questions from non-local media on Sunday and Wednesday, and from a fan on his radio show on Monday.
I've got a UGA question and a media/college football question. First - IF Ogletree were to play this weekend and Rambo were NOT to play, what do you think the possibilty could be (in this scenario) that Tree plays safety instead of linebacker? (I'm gauging my Tree-1 game/Rambo-2 game suspension scenario based on junk I keep reading on blogs. I know...it's speculation.)
Secondly, what is your opinion of certain 4-letter sports networks/websites already making bowl predictions? I mean gosh, early season polls I somewhat understand, but bowl predictions before a game is played, and then they refresh the predictions after game 1!!! Who do they think is even reading these things?
I doubt the Ogletree-to-safety scenario, considering he continues to work at inside linebacker in the portion of practice the media can watch. But at this point I wouldn’t put anything past Grantham.
Something I would put in play, if Rambo isn’t back next week, is Sanders Commings getting some time at safety. He’s played there before.
The bowl predictions are fun before the season starts, as a way of projecting how you think teams will do. But once the season starts, well, yeah, they aren’t to be taken as some grand piece of wisdom. I think even the people doing them know that.
Note: That’s it for now. Non-suspension questions will come in a separate post in a bit.