Mailbag: Yes it's June, let's talk football anyway

semerson@macon.comJune 19, 2013 

From a farm in Michigan, where we are looking over bucolic Midwest scenery, we take a break to address what's truly important: Georgia football. And other stuff. But mainly just Georgia football. Because that's what we do.

1) The only thing glaring at me from post spring depth chart is Brice Ramsey being at the bottom for QB's, behind Faton Bauta and Parker Welch Anything going on there ? Do you think they will redshirt him?

2) I seem to recall something about two years ago When there were some traffic violation and driver's license Issues that we were going to put an assistant coach in charge of monitoring our athletes' compliance with the motor vehicle laws of the state of Georgia. If this is still the case, Re: The John Atkins situation, was this assistant coach just not doing his job , or was he unaware of the motor vehicle laws of the State of Georgia. I mean, a learner's permit? Seriously?br>
3) Who, in your opinion, if anyone, will get killed or kill themselves next week on the Mad Men Season Finale: 1) Megan 2) Pete 3) Bob Benson 4) Don 5) Tedbr> - Robert K. Burnham


1) Ramsey is definitely going to redshirt, barring a calamity befalling the quarterback room. That’s been the plan for him all along. I would have been surprised if Ramsey had been ahead of any other scholarship quarterbacks – or Welch – on the depth chart. There’s no need for Ramsey to play this year, what with Aaron Murray entrenched as the starter, Hutson Mason poised as the backup, and Christian LeMay, Welch and Bauta all having burned redshirts already.
br> 2) It wasn’t an assistant coach; checking the status of driver’s licenses for 85 players is below their pay grade. So I’m sure the task fell to someone involved in football operations, but without knowing the facts I can’t automatically say it was their fault either.

First of all, a 19-year-old should be on top of their driver’s license status anyway. If he knows his license is expired and he’s on his way to correct the error, it would probably be a good idea to get someone else to drive. And by the way, to wear a seat belt. (I know of tenured professors who have been popped in Athens for driving without a seat belt, so spare me the charge that athletes are being targeted.)

So let’s be real, Atkins isn’t exactly blameless here. However, in the long run it’s not a big deal, he’s not going to miss a game because of it, and hopefully he and his fellow players can use it as an educational moment. And yes, the football staff has probably been reminded to get on top of the license situations for every player. It hasn’t really cropped up as an issue the past few years, so it may have slipped down the priority list.

3) It won’t be Don, and I’d be shocked if it’s Pete. Actually, I saw Matthew Weiner quoted somewhere indicating that no one necessarily is going to get killed off at the end of this season. This isn’t Breaking Bad or the Sopranos, where someone getting wacked is a staple of the franchise. I do think this has been an interesting season, and much like Breaking Bad, I hate that there will be just one season left.

I know you are not a recruitnik but does it not seem that the football recruiting in the state of Georgia has turned into a popularity contest for the schools outside of the state? It seems to me that because of Mark Richt’s no-nonsense approach and his lack of flair for the dramatic that kids seem to be picking schools because of impression from media outlets and talking heads on who is hot and who’s not. I read a statement from an actual recruit that if UGA could keep the in-state talent in state that UGA could be dominant. I don’t get a kid saying that and then not having UGA listed as his primary choice.

Please help me understand.
- Cleveland K. Williams

Here’s the thing: Georgia is a huge state. It’s also an increasingly transient one, especially in the greater Atlanta area. There are more “in-state” kids who didn’t grow up rooting for Georgia. The Nkemdiche family last year is a prime example of that. The big concern for Georgia would be if you kept hearing about kids that grew up Bulldog fans choosing to go elsewhere. That doesn’t really happen much. You’re not reading stories where kids are quoted saying: “I love Georgia, I grew up going to games at Sanford Stadium, but in the end I just preferred Alabama.” Not that Georgia doesn't miss out on those types of kids, but it doesn't happen with any frequency that should be alarming.

Georgia is ALWAYS going to be competing for elite in-state talent. Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee, as well as others, don’t have enough talent in their own states to win consistently. They have to come into Georgia, and they have assistant coaches assigned to areas in Georgia. It’s just the way it’s always going to be.

This past year was below-average for Georgia in terms of in-state recruiting. There's no sugarcoating that. But the Bulldogs hope they overcame that by signing a huge class that will produce more players who in hindsight should have been five-star and four-stars. And one recruiting class doesn't bring down or bring up a program. So Georgia can easily point to two previous successful in-state classes (like the Dream Team) and try to repeat that for 2014.

This year, the Bulldogs have 10 commitments, and six of them are in-state. They’re heavy in pursuit of defensive end Lorenzo Carter and inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who are both in-state, five-star prospects. Georgia already has commitments from Dontavius Russell, Malkom Parish and Nick Chubb, who are four-star, in-state kids.

It’s just an issue that, to be frank, I think gets a bit overblown. Georgia doesn’t have an in-state recruiting problem. You know who does? Tennessee, for instance, whose recent struggles have allowed Georgia to pull in Sheldon Dawson, not to mention that Tennessee’s pipeline into North Carolina is broken, allowing the Bulldogs to reel in Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and a bunch of players from the Charlotte area. Georgia, meanwhile, can still go anywhere in its state and be a factor, but knows it will be competing against plenty of other SEC programs.

Lamont Gaillard, David Sharpe, Lorenzo Carter, Raekwon McMillan, Kentavius Street, Dante Sawyer, Elisha Shaw, Cameron Sims, Christian Miller, DJ Smith, Wesley Green, Isaiah Wynn, and Josh Malone are all the big names we've heard of that UGA is targeting. Realistically I can only hope to land 4-5 of those 13 guys if we're lucky. Word on the street is we're leading for Gaillard and Wynn so who, if any, do you think would be the other 2-3 that we may land from that group?
- Garret, Warner Robins

(Many of you out there may have to now put each name into Google to figure out who they are.)

I do my best to avoid making predictions on recruiting, and instead try to provide an overall view. And right now the overall view is that Georgia isn’t going to sign a very big class, probably short of 25, depending on how many early enrollees there are. So with 10 commitments already, the Bulldogs may be halfway there, and can’t actually take commitments from all those players you listed. But if Georgia did land four-to-five of those 13 players, I’m sure they’d be satisfied.

Any news on Richard Samuel’s NFL tryouts or future plans?
- Eddie Bruce, via Twitter

Samuel tried out for the Falcons and Bears, in their mini camps, but wasn’t signed. It looks like Samuel might be moving on to future endeavors already, judging by his Twitter profile, which has been changed to describe himself as a “personal trainer, proud advocate and user of Body By Vi.” (Hey, free advertising!)

Obviously his college career didn’t turn out the way he or anybody anticipated back when he was a five-star recruit. There will be those who blame the team for that, but it seems Samuel was just a victim of circumstance: He was promising at tailback, moved to inside linebacker for depth chart reasons, moved back to tailback for the same reason, then moved to fullback his final season (at least part-time). You can’t really look at the performance of the offense last year and say a place should have been found for Samuel. And defensively, the depth at inside linebacker makes you wonder what kind of impact Samuel would have been able to make there.

It stinks for Samuel, but he’s one of those guys who should have a pretty decent future after football. He graduated on time, was actually a grad student this past season, and interned in the UGA compliance department a couple summers ago.

I enjoyed your top 10 articles. There is no doubt that Aaron Murray's success will translate to success for UGA, but the true difference makers as a group will be the young defensive players. If John Taylor, James Deloach, Tray Matthews, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Sheldon Dawson, Reggie Carter, Toby Johnson, Sterling Bailey, and others break out, imagine the difference this could make? This is not too far-fetched, because only two are true freshmen. Also, speaking of young talent, imagine the impact of Xzavier Ward breaking out at OT. This is what makes college football so exciting.
- Hugh Nash

The performance of those defensive guys is exactly what Georgia is counting on. It’s kind of expected that Jordan Jenkins, Amarlo Herrera and Damian Swann will make the jump and perhaps even be elite-level players. But three out of 11, and four if you count a solid season from Garrison Smith, still doesn’t make for a good unit. There can’t be a hole at the other cornerback spot, as Swann can only shut down one receiver. Someone has to provide rush help so Jenkins doesn’t see two blockers every play. And Herrera can't make 200 tackles.

It’s funny, the optimism from Georgia fans’ about this young defense may have actually reached the point where too much is being expected. I’ve said all along that this unit can put up similar stats as last year’s defense, which in the end should be good enough, as long as the offense repeats its 2012 performance. But expectations still shouldn’t be too high. If this defense ranks in the top four in the SEC, that will be stupendous.

On the other side of the ball, Ward is an interesting case. He’s got the height to be a good right tackle, but he’s never seen significant action, so who knows what you’re getting there? I know he’s the first-team right tackle on the official depth chart, but I still have a hard time believing John Theus won’t be starting. You know David Andrews is the center, Chris Burnette will be at right guard, and Kenarious Gates and Dallas Lee are seniors. Perhaps Ward has long-term potential at tackle, but I’m not quite sold on the idea of Ward starting right away. We shall see.

After checking out our new QB commit and his background it has got me to thinking (dangerous). Have we changed our philosophy on the type Quarterback that we recruit? This guy is a dual treat QB and the one Alabama took was a pocket passer type QB. I always thought we preferred the Pro-style guys who I considered pocket passers. I have read that the guy Alabama got, wanted an offer from us, but never got one. Is any of that true? Are we going after guys who can run because us not being able to land the great linemen? Or are we going to a different type offense. Or maybe we have been going after this type and I didn't realize it.
- Larry W. Tucker

Jacob Park, the QB in question, does have mobility, but he’s still more of a pocket-oriented quarterback. So no, Georgia is not changing its thinking. It considers the ability to run a plus, but not the basis for deciding who it wants at quarterback. Think of Aaron Murray. Or even Christian LeMay who, when he was being recruited, it was because he was tall and fit the mold the staff was looking for, with the added ability to run.

It might have been a bit more interesting if Georgia ended up getting Deshaun Watson, the quarterback from Gainesville who has committed to Clemson. Watson is also considered a pro-style quarterback but has good legs, and Georgia was very intrigued. But in the end the staff decided to focus on Park, who was ready to commit and seemed a good fit.

I've spoken to the coaches and the quarterbacks about the pocket passer-running quarterback debate. It's very clear that the Georgia football program is still very much a pro-style offense, looking for pro-style quarterbacks, but not blind to the added dimension that a runner can bring to that position.

The game for the past couple of years that I have circled red and circled red over again is the game against South Carolina. I honestly think that game on 7 September 2013 will determine the SEC East Champ. Florida is still good, but Georgia and South Carolina are better. I know about the play-making abilities of Shaw and Thompson, the rising stars in Davis and Wilds as running backs, the Heisman hopeful in Clowney, and the only real weakness I have heard is the inexperience at the linebacker position. Other than these things, have you heard anything else about this game? What are your thoughts so far? Because I REALLY want to get last year’s game out of my mind, and the fact we haven’t beaten South Carolina since 2009 is a very depressing fact.
- Ray Bailey, Ft. Sill, OK

It bears noting that Georgia hasn’t beaten the Gamecocks since yours truly moved from Columbia to Athens. So if you want to blame the whole thing on me, feel free.

There’s going to be so much focus on the Clemson game, that the South Carolina game will get lost in some of the preseason hype, but you’re right, it could end up deciding the division. (Even if it hasn’t the past two years.) The game will be in Athens, and remember that during this three-game losing streak to South Carolina, Georgia’s best performance came in 2011, when the game was at home.

The key for me is whether South Carolina will prove to miss Marcus Lattimore (who was healthy for last year’s game), and their departed stars on the defensive side. Clowney is still around and still a monster. But defensive end Devin Taylor also made plays. So did receiver Ace Sanders, for that matter. Georgia sets up to be the slight favorite, but so much also depends on the first week, and what state of mind Georgia enters that game after playing at Clemson.

Though usually good for something poignant and insightful, I have nothing. With the difficult opening stretch and an inexperienced defense, why am I strangely at ease about the upcoming season? Is it because, as opposed to years past, instead of blustery rah-rah speeches circling the wagons and comments from players (in which it was apparent they weren't quite sure themselves) describing their "business"-like approach, the TEAM - actually - is taking a business-like approach to the process of winning (uncharactertiscally and especially the young players)? Even our lone scandal (the unfortunate incident with JHC) was hardly an incident. Any other school and that wouldn't have even made the school paper blotter. Is there a corner for a program and was that corner the Kentucky game last year? Is true confidence, belief, and collective effort toward a team goal present in the Classic City? The question: is this the year?
- James Colvin

I won’t be able to answer that until next January – or perhaps sooner. But I think you do have an accurate read on the mentality around the team. This group seems to have settled back into a steady, professional aura, after a couple years of trying the chip-on-shoulder attitude. There isn’t much reason for a chip now, after coming so close to beating Alabama.

You’ve also got an offense that was wildly successful last year, and has nearly everyone back. And you’ve got a defense that is young and eager. Put those two together, and there’s an expectation that this should be a good team with a chance to be great.

This past Sunday, NBA Finals announcer for ABC (and former NBA head coach) Jeff Van Gundy was on ESPN live, hours before the game wearing a Georgia Bulldogs shirt. A pic can be seen on various twitter accounts (including Ryne Rankin). This was the first time I have ever seen a sports broadcaster wearing any team's gear during any broadcast, and I was surprised ESPN allowed him to go on national television wearing it. Does Van Gundy have some connection to UGA, or some specific reason to be a fan of the Dawgs? I know he didn't attend UGA, and it was very odd (but cool and hillarious) to see him (or any national broadcaster for that matter) wearing Georgia Bulldogs apparel while analyzing another sporting event. If there's any way you can find out why he donned this for the entire nation to see, please let us know.
- Brent (please don't include my last name), Cincinnati, Ohio

I checked around on this, and nobody had a firm idea. The best theory I heard was that Van Gundy, who was in San Antonio at the time, got the shirt from Dennis Felton, who is a scout for the Spurs. But the same person who suggested that theory added later that he doubted Felton had kept much of his Georgia gear.

It was certainly a random thing to see Van Gundy wear, considering the lack of connection. But who knows, maybe a producer or cameraman is a Georgia fan, and when it came time for the interview Van Gundy was cold, so he was quickly handed the shirt without time to think. Better for someone in his position to wear a college shirt than an NBA team and be open to objectivity concerns.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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