Pre-spring football mailbag (and some basketball and baseball too)

semerson@macon.comFebruary 28, 2013 

The scouts are very impressed with this week's mailbag, clocking us in at 2,439 words, typed at an impressive 45 words per minute. In beat writer mailbag world, that's Cornelius Washington-esque.

Of course most of the credit is to you the reader. I just do my best to answer. Here are your questions, and my best attempts to answer. (The scouts also appreciate humility, so I'm pandering.)

Seth, I am familiar with the 25/85 scholarship limits (and most exceptions). My question is one of curiosity. Is there an 'average' number of offers the typical SEC program extends each year? I would be curious how UGA compares with others. It seems to me that each program really over-extends themselves. I'm curious as to by 'how much' and what is standard operating procedure as the numbers (offers vs. allowed to sign) begin to converge?
- Ray

Every program is free to handle it the way they want to, because the NCAA enforcement on the scholarship limit doesn’t kick in until the signing class arrives. That’s why the SEC set its standard at 25 – which means you can sign 125 guys over a five-year period, but allows for normal attrition to get you down to 85. There’s also no rule, at least in the SEC and most leagues, for signing more than you have room for. It’s not an issue for Georgia, but Alabama is reportedly 10 over right now, and even Vanderbilt is a few scholarships over.

Now as for your specific question, I know Georgia is pretty careful about the 85 number. There may be a time or two that technically they have more offers out that they can sign, but that’s usually because there are offers out to players they know they’re not likely to get.

The coaches and the recruiting staff are actually on top of this a lot more than people think. In the main coaches’ meeting room at the Butts-Mehre there is a “big board” – which is literally about 15 feet long – that lists all the offers, commitments, etc. And that’s standard for every program.

I've been pleased with Coach Richt's willingness to change and try new things to get better lately (changing D coordinators, using more starters on special teams, putting the best players on the field, expanding the offense, etc.). He seemed resistant to that in the early part of his head coaching career. Other than his mention of potentially looking in to directly coaching the kickers, do you know what else he might be focusing on this offseason?

One of the things that worries me is Georgia's early season performance issues against non-cupcakes (e.g. 2011 Boise St, 2009 Ok State). Compare the "feel" of those UGA teams with, say the "feel" of 2012 Alabama vs Michigan. With Clemson and their threat of running a million offensive plays on opening weekend, UGA can't afford to figure it out as they go. Do you think this is an issue in Richt's mind? Is this something he might be looking into improving? Thanks for your coverage,
Lee Carpenter, Greensboro, NC

Second question(s) first: I can’t jump into Richt’s mind, but this theme is one worth exploring – i.e., asking him and other coaches about – as we get closer to the opener. Or perhaps this week. It’s a good point you bring up. Richt has said the team just wasn’t emotionally ready for the Boise State game a couple years ago, and has indicated the players were just too wound up.

The difference this time, beyond it being a true road game, is the team is coming off a 12-win season – compared to half that many the season before the Boise State game. Most of the players on this year’s team will have played and won in some big games, and played and lost in some big ones, and played well but lost the biggest one, vs. Alabama. So perhaps that maturity will carry into the Clemson trip. Or perhaps not. It’s a good story angle, so I’ll steal it, thanks for the idea.

As for Richt’s offseason changes, I don’t expect anything major, just perhaps some minor, incremental stuff that doesn’t really get noticed publicly. The mentality around Richt and the program seems to be that the way they did things produced a very good season in 2012, so while there’s always room for improvement, there isn’t cause for major change that would mess with what has worked.

Even though UGA recruiting class was in top 10 but just barely, what are Richt and his staff's plans for next year since they lost so many top players in state of Georgia? I understand competition is getting stiffer each year but UGA coaches & AD have to have a plan to tackle so many top players leaving the state. Believe UGA got only 2 out of the top 10 of Georgia high school players. Gotta do better due to strength you continue to see in SEC.
- Wayne and Elaine Murray

I guess the plan will be … to try just as hard? From what I can tell, they don’t see any systematic or effort-related reason for not getting Montravius Adams, Reuben Foster, Alvin Kamara and company. They did try. Sometimes you just strike out. And in Daryl Jones, the coordinator of recruiting, they have a man with longtime experience and contacts in the state of Georgia.

I’m sure the coaches would also counter with two facts: They did sign 21 kids from Georgia in this class, and this same staff did pretty well recruiting the state in previous years. Last year they got the consensus top two players in the state (Jordan Jenkins and Josh Harvey-Clemons. And the year before UGA ran the table with the so-called Dream Team. You could argue, and I guess I just did, that Georgia just had a bad year in 2013, at least in terms of those top-10 guys.

If they have similar troubles in the 2014 class, then it will cause some serious introspection and perhaps some action. But in the meantime, the feeling is it was just one of those years where things didn’t break Georgia’s way at the end.

In a few years, however, I’ll be curious to see a re-ranking of the top 10 in-state recruits, based on actual college performance.

1. Have enjoyed watching Coach Fox this year - would anyone like to see the youger Dixon and Cannon get more playing time and the senior Florveus a bit less - he also seems to have brick hands.

2. How hot is the seat for Coach Perno - sure would like to see us be a bit more competitive- would even drive over to see some games this spring...

3. Hope everyone packs out First Baptist Atlanta in a few Saturdays to hear Coach Richt - his son is doing the music!
- Thomas Johnson

1. Yeah, I’ve noticed that about Florveus too. Then again, no post players on this team have shown much skill finishing in traffic – or sometimes even without traffic. For two years they haven’t had a dependable guy they could send the ball down to, who you knew would overpower defenders and score. That’s a talent problem. Cannon has shown some good low-post moves, but neither he nor Dixon appear much stronger than the SEC defenders they have to score on.

2.The baseball team’s start certainly isn’t encouraging. And it’s not against top-flight competition. The only thing you can say at this point is it’s VERY early, and the lesson of the men’s basketball season is not to bury a team too quick.

3. David Richt has quite the voice. He’s done the anthem at two basketball games so far. At one of them, I caught his dad trying to film it on his I-phone before realizing it was too far away. Kind of a nice father-son moment.

I was like a lot of other fans, a bit let down on signing day. We seem to have put all our eggs in Tunsil's basket and wound up without a left tackle for the future. It hurts when you look at the talent that the state of Georgia had this year and we missed out on most of the top 10 based on ratings. I'm real excited about the talent that we did get. I'm hoping that this was just bad luck and not that the program has lost its luster that it used to have. It's great to see our roster is getting closer to being full. I hope we continue this trend. Also based on what I'm seeing at the Combine, our strength and conditioning program seems to be really working out. What's your thoughts on these?
- Larry W. Tucker

I do agree that Georgia ended up relying too much on its confidence in signing Tunsil. To be fair, the staff felt it had good reason. So did recruiting analysts. But in the end Georgia probably missed on George Adeosun because Virginia had recruiting him earlier and harder. Then again, we’ll see how good Adeosun ends up being: No one expected him to be an immediate starter, so he may have just been additional depth, which the team now has on the offensive line. The question is whether it has enough front-line talent, especially beginning with the 2014 season, when it will be working in a new quarterback.

Strength and conditioning: You can certainly draw the conclusion it has vastly improved based on what we’ve seen from the combine. You could also point to the results the past two seasons – being better on the line of scrimmage, and slightly better in the second and fourth quarters.

Or it could just be the quality of the players themselves. Cornelius Washington, for instance, has been a physical specimen since he was recruited to campus. I’m not sure he’s the product of the strength program so much as good genes. It’s also just a reflection of what was expected to be a deep group of draft prospects for Georgia; whether or not Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree go as high as expected, you’re still probably going to see 10-12 ex-Bulldogs drafted in April.

Seth, I guess I missed it so you could enlighten me on how Ogletree did at the combine? Hopefully it was better than Te'o.
- Tim, Cartersville Ga

Tim, to hear it told I could’ve done a better job at the combine than Te’o.

According to a story on NFL.com, Ogletree “met expectation” by running a 4.70 in the 40. The story, by Chris Wesseling, points out that Ogletree’s “background check will be more telling than the position drills.” Ultimately, from what I know of Ogletree, he’ll end up interviewing decently with teams. It’s not like he was a raving maniac. He’s actually pretty soft-spoken. But again, a DUI on top of a four-game drug suspension, on top of the minor theft arrest as a freshman – that’s a lot for NFL teams to think about.

I know mat drills were implemented again this off season, but is Terenshiski implementing any changes for this year’s off season strength and conditioning program? What is the typical daily weight lifting regimen look like?
- Patrick Lowe

Mat drills actually were put back in last year. So the program only took a year off from them. I haven’t been told of any new major new wrinkles this offseason; remember, last year they did some of the mixed martial arts stuff, and added the speed coach, Sherman Armstrong, as well as John Thomas from Penn State. So Tereshinski is probably giving it a second year to settle in. I'm sure there are a few wrinkles here and there, but so far I haven't heard of any major new endeavors.

I’m not inside the weight room, so I’d have a hard time telling you point-by-point what the weight-lifting system is like. Although I did have the pleasure of watching some of it a couple weeks ago when the UGA athletics board held its meeting right next to the weight room. It was fairly amusing to see men in suits try to talk over a bunch of clanking weights, as well as Malcolm Mitchell staring in and laughing.

Could you discuss the nose tackle situation? Could you also give heights and weights for each guy?
- Trae Marrchant

At this moment I couldn’t predict with much confidence who will be the starting nose tackle. In fact I wouldn’t be confident in picking the top two. Todd Grantham talked this week about “mixing and matching” John Taylor and John Atkins between end and tackle, so it seems he may try what he did with John Jenkins, playing him at both spots as well. Conversely, guys that would clearly seem to be ends, Garrison Smith and Ray Drew, will get a look inside.

That said, for guys that will primarily be candidates for nose tackle, here are your vital stats:

John Atkins: 6-4, 305
Chris Mayes: 6-4, 315
John Taylor: 6-4, 335
Mike Thornton: 6-1, 302

Toby Johnson (6-4, 310) and DeAndre Johnson (6-3, 311) arrive this summer. If the former is healthy he could be in the mix. The latter at this point seems a redshirt candidate.

What's the situation with Watts Dantzler? Still battling injuries or is he ready to contribute to o-line depth?
- Travin Bernanding

Here’s what Mike Bobo – who is a pretty straight-shooter – said on Wednesday about the line:

“We've got all five guys back up front, but we played with our lineup some, and we felt like some guys were coming on late in the year in Mark Beard and Austin Long, who deserved some playing time. And they'll be competing for starting jobs this spring, along with hopefully Watts Dantzler getting in the mix, a guy like Greg Pyke we redshirted. These are guys that we've got to see if they're ready to play and ready to be contributors to this offense. If they're one of the top five, they're going to play. We'd like to have more than five and create some depth there.”

So basically Dantzler starts out as a second-teamer again, with a chance to make a push. Frankly, and this is just speculation on my part, but I do plan to ask, I wonder if Dantzler and Georgia might benefit from Dantzler taking a redshirt year. I’m sure Bobo and Will Friend would rather have him for depth this year, but long-term it might be a wise decision.

How high will you have #UGA ranked when the AP poll rolls out? Will #GaTech make your top 25 coming off a CGG birth & a bowl win?
- @SoHoTailgating, via Twitter.

Well, I don’t know yet whether I’ll have the AP vote again. (It's on a year-to-year basis and they don't ask until the summer.) So I’ll answer it hypothetically:

Georgia would almost certainly be in my top 10 but I haven’t researched it enough to say where. Still, you’re talking about a record-setting offense returning nearly everybody, and a defense that could be better than anticipated. The schedule is tougher, but I try not to let that affect how I rank teams.

At the risk of downplaying what Georgia Tech did … I’m going to downplay what Georgia Tech did. It only made the ACC championship game – no great accomplishment anyway – because Miami made itself ineligible. Beating Southern California was more impressive, but that Lane Kiffin-coached team was a train wreck by the end of the year. Right now I wouldn’t consider the Yellow Jackets for my top 25.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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