ATHENS - After nearly a month of traveling, from a marriage in Maryland to a honeymoon in Mexico to a frenetic SEC media days in Alabama ... it's good to be back in the home office in Athens, answering questions from you good people.
And yes, I am in the Classic City, getting ready for the start of practice a week from now, and not at the airport staking out the arrival of Penn State players.
That subject was heavy on the mind of those who e-mailed in their questions. There were plenty of other subjects, including some old favorites - Mike Bobo's playcalling, special teams concerns, roster management - as well as some new ones - Georgia's toughest match-ups on offense and defense in 2012, the Bulldogs top rusher this season, and more.
But let's start with the news of the week:
What are the rules about "recruiting" Penn State players? Do they have to declare their leaving first? Once recruiting begins, are the same rules as recruiting high schoolers apply?
The NCAA released a comprehensive set of guidelines the other day, and here’s a link to those. Essentially, the normal recruiting rules have been suspended for the next month, and coaches can call and text all they want, and players can take official visits, and all that good stuff.
But my initial reaction when I saw the rules reinforced my opinion that there won’t be this massive exodus many are expecting – at least not yet. The rules also stipulate that current Penn State players have until the start of the 2013 preseason – this time next year, basically – to transfer and play immediately at their own school. I think it’s likely that we’ll see a small number of players leave over the next week, while the rest will rally around the program and their teammates. It’s the natural emotional move, especially since these players are all on the Penn State campus, and see their coaches and teammates every day.
Update: An hour or so after this blog was posted, Penn State redshirt freshman OLB Deion Barnes announced on Twitter he was staying. Barnes, who had Georgia as a finalist, was one candidate to consider the Bulldogs. So there you go.
But as time moves on, I think the reality will set in, and a larger number of players will decide to bolt. Especially younger players.
Two questions along the same lines:
Do you think our new S&C coach from PSU will be able to pull any PSU players to UGA? I'd think an experienced OL or 2 could make a huge impact and provide much needed depth. Same thing for DB's. We certainly have room....
- John Brown
Are there any experienced Penn St Offensive Lineman that could help us out that Coach Thomas could sway to come down to Athens?
- Hawk, Decatur, GA
It doesn’t look like many veterans will be available. The experienced players are the ones who are tending to rally around the school right now; several of those O-line starters were among the group that on Wednesday proclaimed their desire to stay.
I’m sure John Thomas, who spent two decades as Penn State’s strength coach, has made some calls behind the scenes. He’s also helped Georgia’s staff with any necessary player evaluations. But I think his overall role in this is limited. The Penn State players most likely to transfer are younger players, and Thomas didn’t get to know them as well as the younger players. And it’s not automatic that Thomas had a great, close relationship with a player, or at least enough to be the difference in where he decides to transfer.
As a final thought on all this, however, I will add this remains a fluid situation, simply because it’s so unique and unprecedented. It’s impossible to predict. The only thing I’m really comfortable guessing at is that Georgia will not get a massive influx of transfers. I’m not even sure at this point they will get one.
Just asking for a little prediction, who do you think our leading rusher will be at season's end?
- Brannen Salmon
Not Silas Redd? (Insert smiley face here.)
That’s an excellent question. I would have guessed Isaiah Crowell, but with him gone, I’m going to go with Keith Marshall, but I don’t say that with a huge degree of confidence.
I don’t expect Marshall to start right away. My money is on Richard Samuel or Ken Malcome. But Marshall is the high-upside guy, along with Todd Gurley, and Marshall has the benefit of having been on campus all year. By the end of the year I would guess that he has the most yardage. It’s going to be a committee approach until someone emerges from the pack, and I’d be surprised if anybody does. But I would say Marshall is the most likely to get carries in every game, and he has considerable upside.
How come no one is taking Richt to task for his mismanagement of scholarships? We have 68-69 guys on scholarship (if you remove walk ons given scholarships, etc). This is less than a team on probation. Do you think this could end up being Richt’s downfall in a few months? The fan in me hopes not, but the Walter White in me sees a serious flaw.
- Geoff Sandels
Oh, I think plenty of fans have been bringing it up ever since the week of signing day. But if you mean why media members haven’t hammered away at that point, here’s an explanation from one of us. (That being me.)
If you go back to signing day, the Bulldogs were in a good spot in terms of roster numbers. They had only lost one player to the draft, and all the defensive players had returned. They signed 19 guys, six under the limit, but there weren’t a ton of recruits out there that you could second-guess a program like Georgia for not offering. Maybe one or two here or there, such as Charlie Hegedus, the receiver who went to N.C. State. But otherwise no one stands out. My opinion, and it seems to be shared by the staff, is that anyone Georgia signs at that point will only be just as good as one of the walk-ons that plays their way into a backup role (Blake Sailors, Connor Norman, Brandon Harton, etc.)
It was only after signing day that the attrition came: The three freshmen dismissed for the dorm theft came the same week. The time around spring practice saw the transfers of Carlton Thomas and Derrick Lott. The past month has seen the departures of Crowell and Quintavius Harrow, and the two signees (Leonard Floyd and John Atkins) not qualifying. And this isn’t even counting the drug suspensions, whatever they end up being.
You could certainly argue that Georgia should have prepared itself for the attrition. In the future, they will probably do that, and perhaps “over-sign” in the sense of going over the 85 limit, at least as of signing day, and bank on some unexpected departures.
For now all the Bulldogs can do is try to over-sign for the 2013 class, which they can do as long as they have a lot of early enrollees. And that’s the plan right now.
But in the short term, if depth does become a huge issue for Georgia, those who take Richt to task for it will hopefully be a bit specific: Which additional players would they have signed, and which attrition would they have prevented?
1. I saw on your Twitter feed that Jenkins and Geathers are now over 360 pounds! At that size, are they still effective in terms of speed, agility and conditioning?
2. To have a successful year, at what point in the season does our offensive line need to gel? Statistically Missouri’s defense is not too much of a concern.
3. By the way, no more leaving the post for 2 weeks. My boss started getting curious as to why I was more productive at work.
- Allen Jones
1. Very good point about the nose tackles and their agility. I will be interested in Rodney Garner’s thoughts on that, because Garner is a pretty straight shooter when it comes to his D-linemen. My own thought is that if Richt was volunteering that information, he doesn’t consider it a bad thing. Jenkins and Geathers have put on that weight while participating in the team’s offseason program. If they were showing up on campus after a summer of home cooking, then it would be a major concern.
2. I wouldn’t write off the Missouri defense, especially if it has a chance to look pretty good against an inexperienced Georgia front five. At a minimum, the Bulldogs need to have the line in good shape by the South Carolina game on Oct. 6. But that Missouri game is key too. It would really help Will Friend’s unit if it makes as much improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 as it did last year: Remember how AWFUL the line looked against Boise State? It made pretty quick improvement the next week.
3. Sorry about that. In my defense, the honeymoon actually would have been longer had the SEC not moved media days up a week. I’m assuming that was how they got back at me for voting Oklahoma State No. 1.
Seen some analysts projecting a loss for us in the Zoo this year. Citing a depleted secondary and lack of running game. On that note what are your expectations for our secondary and running backs in that game? How has Mitchell adjusted to his new roll and do you expect him to be "lockdown"? Prediction?
- Trae Merchant
First off, by “the Zoo” I have to assume you mean Missouri. Do I live too sheltered a life that I didn’t know that’s what Faurot Field was known as?
I’m not ready to make a prediction on the game yet, mainly because I’ll forget what I said by the time the game actually rolls around, and I don’t want to be That Guy, who makes a dozen predictions so he can claim at least one of them was right.
But as far as those two main concerns for the game: We don’t actually know yet if Georgia’s secondary will be “depleted” for that game. We know Sanders Commings, who would have been the No. 1 corner, is out. But we’re still waiting on Bacarri Rambo’s status, and they may leave us waiting on that for awhile. Branden Smith should only miss the opener, at least going by the UGA punishment guidelines, so he’d be there for Missouri. And we know Mitchell will be there, and yes the $64,000 question there is how good he’ll be. Ask me again after we see him against Buffalo. But people tend to forget about Damian Swann, who likely slides into that No. 1 cornerback role. It may be that Mitchell is only the nickel cornerback against Mizzou.
As for the running game … who knows. Georgia lost its biggest breakaway threat when Crowell left, but Marshall could still be that guy. Samuel and Malcome could be good enough to hit the hole and move the yardsticks. The key question is whether there are any holes to hit. The offensive line is the bigger concern when it comes to the running game.
Last year in the Boise game we saw a new wrinkle in the no-huddle offense. Any ideas about this year's main innovation?
- Lucas Puente
They kept that no-huddle look a secret right up until the actual Boise game. It didn’t actually help them very much, but I still don’t expect Richt and Mike Bobo to volunteer any planned innovations for this year. They know they have a reliable quarterback and good receivers, so what they’re going to be most worried about is the running game.
I’m actually curious how much of a staple the no-huddle will be this year. I suspect it stays, because the team used it comfortably last year. Bobo’s thinking in installing the no-huddle was to increase the amount of plays per game for the Georgia offense. But I think there’s an argument for trying to get the offense off the field. The Georgia defense is going to be the strength of the team. While the offense is still trying to work out the kinks on the line and running game, wouldn’t you want to put as much of the game in the hands of your defense?
Just a thought.
1. Much has been said good and bad about OC Mike Bobo and his skill as a play caller. What do you expect from him this season in his play calling? What will be a good sign that it will be a good season for him...and (uh-oh)then bad signs...
2. Why does UGA struggle in Special Teams? Why doesn’t Coach Richt take this on as his mission to improve it?... Much the way Urban Meyer did in Florida.
1. Bobo is aware of the criticism, but he’s hard-headed in the sense that he’s not going to let it dictate his play-calling. I don’t see the offense becoming more wide open for the sake of being wide open. But, to piggy-back on my answer to the previous question, I could see the passing game taking a central role. For all the questions on the line and tailback, here’s what Georgia knows it has: A star quarterback, a good group of receivers, and a left tackle it feels good about (Kenarious Gates, and perhaps eventually John Theus). That right there is a formula for passing the ball a lot early in the game, rather than wasting drives trying to establish the run.
2. Meyer was actually the team’s special teams coach. Richt could always adopt that role, but he doesn’t have that in his background. I’m sure special teams are going to be a major focus this preseason, but mainly as a reaction to the struggles last year. Richt didn’t see the need to fire a current assistant and hire a pure special teams assistant. As he sees it, they’ve had some good special teams years under the current arrangement, so no need to change that. Certainly, it’s a debatable point, and one that will be talked about again if the special teams are again a problem.
In your opinion, who is the most dangerous matchup for the Dogs D and why (SEC Championship NOT included)? For example: South Carolina may be the most well rounded on O, but my opinion is that UT may be able to put up more points with Bray, Hunter, Rogers big-play factor. Or is it someone else?
I am pretty sure that, in the absence of LSU and Bama, UF will be the toughest D... But please respond to that if you disagree. Thanks!
Excellent question. (Not to say the previous ones weren’t.)
Tennessee’s offense gets forgotten, but as you mentioned they have plenty of talent there in the passing game. But the running game starts the season as a concern for the Volunteers.
Florida’s offense could be a big problem if it establishes a quarterback by Oct. 27. Remember, new Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease was at Boise State last year, and while he had Kellen Moore to work with, the Broncos looked really good against Georgia.
Missouri also poses a bunch of problems with dual-threat quarterback James Franklin, assuming his shoulder is healthy. There’s also stud freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and a spread offense that Georgia will be seeing for the first time.
Still, South Carolina is likely to have the best player on Georgia’s schedule this year. The Bulldogs have to stop Marcus Lattimore, and make the Gamecocks beat them with Connor Shaw.
But considering everything, my opinion here in July is that Missouri is the toughest test, because of Georgia’s secondary issues.
Oh, and I do disagree with Florida being the toughest defense on Georgia’s schedule. I would say South Carolina, which also has the best defensive player Georgia will face this year, DE Jadeveon Clowney – as well as DE Devin Taylor, DB D.J. Swearinger and OLB De’Vonte Holloman. I have questions about the new coordinator, Lorenzo Ward, but there’s little doubt the Gamecocks have the most talent defensively in the SEC East – other than Georgia.
Finally, I requested that people keep the multi-question questions to a minimum.
So someone only had five:
1.How is married life? What’s been the best part? Biggest transition?
2.Penn State got penalties that some have described as being close to the death penalty with 65 scholarships. Last time I checked, UGA had 69 on scholarship. Are we inadvertently giving ourselves the death penalty?
3.What’s the fullback situation like at UGA? Normally we have a beast there, but this year it seems like we have some inexperience.
4.Why does it take six months to announce penalties/suspensions? That’s just silly.
5.What’s the deal with Kolton Houston. Seems more than ridiculous that we still don’t know his situation.
- Eric White
1. Honestly, the only real adjustment is the ring. I’ve never worn one – my high school teams never sniffed a state championship. Other than that, La Profesora and I have simply resumed our happy life in Athens, and it’s been wonderful so far.
2. Actually, the way the NCAA docked Penn State scholarships was that it can only sign 15 players in each of the next four classes. (So it doesn’t have to cut 20 guys by next year.) Where that really hurts is that it won’t be back at its full allotment of 85 until 2020.
3. Samuel was ticketed for fullback – it was even his listed position in the media guide – until Mr. Crowell’s early-morning car ride on June 29. Now Samuel is back to tailback. I could still see him getting a lot of reps there if Marshall, Malcome and Gurley emerge. But for the moment, Zander Ogletree is likely to start the preseason as first on the depth chart – but keep an eye on freshman Quayvon Hicks. He has drawn a lot of praise from veterans.
4. I agree, it’s silly. At first, it was because of the appeals process. That’s not it anymore. Richt finally admitted last week that he knows what the suspensions will be, but isn’t going to tell us yet. If this is an effort to get some sort of competitive advantage, then I would point to last year’s opening-game suspension of Rambo. If it messed up Boise State’s gameplanning, I couldn’t tell.
5. Still no official word on Houston. The expectation has always been that he’ll be available, but something in Richt’s tone last week seemed less confident than before. Maybe I was reading too much into that. We'll have to see.