Ye Olde Mailbag

semerson@macon.comNovember 15, 2012 

ATHENS - Normally I don't go for silly Internet-inspired nicknames and memes. If anyone ever shortens a coach's name to CMR or CTG, I immediately imagine punching them in the face. Sometimes I actually do.

But I gotta say this: I love 'Gurshall.' And it's for one reason: Convenience.

Someday, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall may have enough separation that you can't refer to them together. But until then, for a writer it's pretty nice to just shorten them to one name. There is a 140-character limit on Twitter, after all.

This week I asked Marshall, as the butt in the 'Gurshall' cow suit, how he felt about it.

"It's kind of cool," he said. "You're getting compared to one of the greatest ever, so it's cool. I don't think too much about it."

Georgia, incidentally, is crediting senior receiver Tavarres King with creating the name. But Marshall disputes that.

"I think someone actually tweeted it on Twitter, a fan or somebody," Marshall said. "Then everybody ran with it."

Now for the mailbag, where the first rule is we lead with queries from Afghanistian, and the in the absence of that the second rule is we lead with queries that blow smoke up my butt:

Fifteen free visits a month!? I get that many before lunch. I don’t even subscribe to the online versions of my local papers, but for you my friend I will gladly pay up. You’ve become too valuable to me and I can’t abandon your updates and stories now over money. Now that the awkwardness is over, this may not be a mailbag type question but I (and some of the other Georgia fans I know around upstate SC) always enjoy when stories are done about Coaches and their families. I don’t know maybe some behind the scenes stories of what it’s like for the coaches, how they cope during the season with family time etc. I really enjoy the pure football material, not complaining. Just a thought. Thanks for all the good work.
- Chris Bailey, Greenville, S.C.

Thanks Chris. We really appreciate the business, and I’ll do everything I can to justify you (and others) shelling out some of your hard-earned money.

That’s a story idea I’ve wanted to do, and would hope to pursue down the stretch of the season here. A lot of people probably don’t realize the man-hours involved, and that it doesn’t stop with the season: The recruiting season is probably worse, because of all the travel. At least during the football season a coach can run home to feed the kids. I’ve also been intrigued by the family aspect in college football: These days in society the wife is increasingly the main breadwinner – it’s the case in my household – but that’s almost never the case with football coaches.

Has CMR ever considered a freshman ban from the media? No reason I'm asking just seems like a logical idea.
- Clinton Burkes, via Twitter

I won't hold the CMR thing against you. Grrrr.

I suppose the question is being raised because of Johnny Football Manziel, who has yet to speak to the media because of Texas A&M’s rule against freshman speaking. (Manziel is actually a redshirt freshman, making it curious.) Nick Saban also has the same rule, as do some other coaches. Saban has traced it back to his Michigan State days, when then-freshman Plaxico Burress gave the next opponent some bulletin-board material.

To answer the question directly, Richt has never indicated he would do that, and based on his continued permissive behavior on Twitter, I wouldn’t think he would. The closest Richt comes is keeping freshman off limits the first five days of the preseason – it’s called an “acclimation period.” And freshman are generally less available than non-freshmen during the preseason.

Obviously as a media member I would argue against a Texas A&M-like policy. I don’t think having to speak to the media twice a week (on Tuesdays and after games) has adversely affected the performances of Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and Jordan Jenkins. Nor did it affect Malcolm Mitchell last season. And speaking to the media was the least of Isaiah Crowell’s freshman issues.

I’d also point out that the most incendiary comments we’ve seen this year were from non-freshmen: Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson is a junior. Georgia’s Shawn Williams is a senior. Chad Slade, the Auburn player who said Jarvis Jones wasn’t hard to block, is a sophomore.

Again, I’m a media member so I’m biased. But I just think such a policy is silly, and counter-productive. As we saw with Burress, the problem wasn’t that he was a freshman.

Which sideline is Georgia for the SEC game? I would rather not sit amongst the Roll Damn Tide types.
- Andrew Powell, via Twitter

Georgia will be on the home sideline, opposite the press box. Thanks to Chuck Dunlap in the SEC office for the info.

Watched UGA men’s basketball team lose to Youngstown State last night and was really disappointed in the way the team looked. I mean barely getting double figure in points in the first half is beyond cruel for fans to watch and will not generate any fan support.

1. Will UGA ever bite the bullet and build a new arena to help attract talent, especially local talent, to the program. I know they spent $13 million in renovations to Stegeman two years ago and added a new practice facility, but would that money have been better used towards building a new arena?

2. What’s up with the coaching staff and no Georgia connection except for the newly added/hired operations assistant? Should this staff not have more southern flavor with the assistants so that we can recruit better? One assistant with an Alabama connection, one assistant with VA Tech connection and one that came with Mark Fox from Nevada.

3. Big question. Is UGA really serious about developing a true winner in men’s basketball or are we hearing true AD speak with articles last week that state the Greg McGarity is pleased with direction of program?
- Cleveland Williams, III, Stone Mountain, GA

1-I know Greg McGarity is committed to basketball, given his background, and he saw at Florida how valuable it can be to an SEC athletics department. However, I wouldn’t bet on a new basketball arena anytime soon. I agree that Stegeman isn’t a great arena, but I don’t think it’s the main problem getting the top-flight in-state talent to Georgia.

2-On the face of it that’s true, but remember that practically everyone in college basektball recruits the Atlanta area. And Phillip Pearson, having coached at Alabama for years, recruited Atlanta a lot. Now, after four years on the job, Fox and his assistants surely have enough contacts and inroads in Georgia. It’s just about closing the deal. They were close on Tony Parker and Robert Carter, but couldn’t get them.

3-McGarity is serious about basketball. He attends games and was sitting at the press table on Monday night, right next to the Georgia bench. But being serious about having a good program doesn’t automatically equate to firing people and razing the program. After all, this team did go to the NCAA tournament as an at-large just two years ago.

1- The basketball game vs. Youngstown State was an embarrassment for Georgia. I realize Fox is a good coach, but that didn't look like a well-coached team. It was apparent to me that there has been no real improvement made in the off season, with the exception of #Tim Dixon (and of course Kenatvious Caldwell-Pope) . Dixon had a nice hook but can't play defense. Nemanja Djurisic was inept, Vincent Williams is going to struggle at point. Yeah, it's one game. But they had Italy to become more of a team, and then show this as a result? Am I taking one early game too much to heart?

2- Everyone keeps pointing at the top three in college football, noting where each team could lose one game. But will Oregon losing one game really help Georgia? There seems to be a tide of opinion against Georgia because of the South Carolina game (not sure it's all deserved). My thinking - if Oregon loses one, it will become a beauty contest between them and the winner of the SEC, with Georgia being left out if they win the SEC... In my mind, they have to lose two to help Georgia's case. Thoughts?
Dawgs Dawg, Tucker

1-No, I don’t think you’re blowing it out of proportion, because it also came on the heels of a sluggish opening win, but also because you’re not calling for anyone’s head. If you were, then I’d say you were blowing it up. Bottom line, this team has a lot to work on, but people need to keep in mind it has only been two games, and perhaps the team’s best frontcourt player, Donte’ Williams, hasn’t played yet.

2-That’s an interesting take on Oregon vs. Georgia, which I haven’t heard. My sense is Georgia would still get the nod based on momentum: Oregon will have lost late in the year, and Georgia will have finished strong, with a win over Alabama. As I wrote in my column for Tuesday’s papers, Georgia could be on the verge of changing the narrative of its season to one that it just laid an egg at South Carolina, but is still a great team. I’m not saying I agree with that assessment, but if the Bulldogs are able to beat Alabama, that will be the argument for them.

With talk of all new SEC coaches, any UGA assistants being mentioned for them or others?
- Clem McDavid, Charlotte, N.C.

Not yet. I tend to think Todd Grantham and Mike Bobo will have to go the non-SEC route first, either to a Sun Belt-type school, or a lower-tier ACC school. The slow start by Georgia’s defense doesn’t help Grantham, nor does the memory of the choking incident or last year’s screaming match at Vanderbilt. Bobo’s best shot may be after 2013, considering almost everyone is set to return on Georgia’s offense, and they could put up some huge numbers next year.

What's your thought on how well Jordan Jenkins has played this year as a true freshman? Also, how much playing time do you see Josh Harvey-Clemons getting at OLB vs the option? Thanks!
- Patrick, Athens

Jenkins has been great, and his play is a great sign for next year, that someone will be able to fill the expected pass-rushing void when Jarvis Jones goes pro. The thing that stands out to me about Jenkins is how much he’s been around the ball, often without getting credit for a tackle or tackle-for-loss. As for Harvey-Clemons, he’ll be at OLB the next two weeks, but that doesn’t guarantee he plays a lot. It may just be in a backup role, perhaps with extensive time once (or if) Georgia puts the game away. Harvey-Clemons was adamant that his future is at safety, but considering how little he’s played this year, any time on the field will be a good preview of what he could do in 2013.

I've noticed after every play Christian LeMay has been in on he trots to the sideline to (what it appears at least) get the next play. I thought at first maybe it was just the team milking more clock since he's only seen mop up duty, but I don't recall seeing Parker Welch doing the same thing. Is LeMay really struggling that much to learn the offense he has to have the play hand delivered to him by a coach?
- Swwacoma

I’ll have a story running tomorrow about LeMay and Welch, and the backup quarterback situation. But I’m not spoiling anything by saying that the coaches do say Welch has had the edge because of knowledge of the offense.

Long time, first time. What's up with Ken Malcome? I know he's no Gurshall, but he's a bruiser and can eat clock and yards. Why not run him a little more often? Thanks and Go Dawgs! Immahangupanlissen.
- Russ in Houston, TX

The coaches make sure to mention Malcome every time they get, which may partially an effort to keep him happy. But they are committed to a committee approach, so Malcome has to be ready in case either freshman goes down. The simplest answer for why Malcome isn’t playing is the easiest one: Gurley and Marshall are playing too well. Understandably, the coaches don’t want to take them off the field.

I'm excited to see Josh Harvey-Clemmons get more playing time, although I suspect he's getting reps at OLB to provide us with some speed on the edge against the triple-option. At the end of his time at UGA, what do you suspect JHC's permanent position will be?
- John Smellson, Atlanta

Harvey-Clemons expects it to be safety, while Richt and Grantham are non-committal. Frankly, my time on this beat have told me to trust the player – not to say the coaches aren’t telling the truth, but that coaches have a lot on their plate and want to be careful with what they say publicly, while players just tend to say what they know. Remember last spring, when Jordan Jenkins told me that Harvey-Clemons might get moved to safety, and the coaches pooh-poohed that? Well ….

Georgia's Special Teams have been anything but special this year. However, there's one aspect that particularly irks me: Punt Returner. Are we the only team in America that refuses to return punts? I'm sure other teams have designated fair catch specialists too but they probably don't use them for every punt. I know we tried putting Mitchell back there but he had some ball handling and judgment problems. My point is punt returns can change a game instantly, whether you score a TD or even just flip the field. Early on in Richt's tenure we had guys like Damien Gary and Thomas Flowers making big time plays in the return game. Now we've settled for these fair catch specialists, i.e. Logan Gray and Rhett McGowan. It's like we're not even trying. Surely there's someone talented enough on the team to return punts. What's the deal?
- Richt Flair from Roswell

From a purely empirical perspective – i.e., the feel of it – Georgia is way too conservative on punts, or at least it is now, in an over-reaction to being too daring early in the season. Malcolm Mitchell’s muffed return at Missouri, which could proved disastrous, sticks out the most.

Delving into the stats a bit more, Georgia has returned 21 punts this year, which nationally ranks 91st out of 120 teams, and seventh out of 14 teams in the SEC. When it comes to actual return yardage, Georgia ranks 76th, and ninth in the SEC.

But here is the defense for Georgia’s over-cautious approach on punts: The offense is doing a good job. When you don’t feel great about the decision-making or reliability of your punt returners, why risk a turnover when you like the chances your offense can get the job done?

1-We have a history of moving players around when facing Tech's triple option (e.g. Jakar Hamilton to corner in 2010 & Branden Smith getting a lot of touches on offense last year). I saw that mentioned Josh Harvey Clemons was getting reps at OLB yesterday at practice, but curious if anyone else was being shifted around?

2-How much more dangerous - if at all - is Vad Lee than Tevin Washington? Should we be wary of a resurgent Tech offense under Lee or is our defense licking their chops over the prospect of facing the freshman in our last home game of the year?

3-Honest question, who do you think has a better defense, Georgia Southern or Georgia Tech?
- Lucas Puente, East Palo Alto, Calif.

1-A bunch of OLBs have been practicing at end, including Cornelius Washington, Josh Dawson and James DeLoach. But those guys move around some anyway, especially Washington. Grantham tends to be sneaky with these matchup switches, so we may see more surprises on Saturday. And he could also make more switches for the Georgia Tech game, after having the Georgia Southern game to gauge the effectiveness of it.

2-My Georgia Tech knowledge is woefully short, so I’m turning to Stan Awtrey, who covers the Jackets for us, and here’s what he said: “Vad Lee is much more dangerous that Tevin Washington. He's very quick and makes people miss with his feet. His arm is stronger than Washington's, too. Washington's advantage comes with experience and his knowledge of the offense. Lee knows more about running the offense than he did even five or six weeks ago, but a defense could still fool him; there's not much a defense could throw at Washington that he hasn't seen. If Tech stays true to form, they'll start Washington and bring Lee in for the third series, then go with the hot hand.”

3-As bad as Georgia Tech has been defensively, let’s not get too cute: There’s still a huge difference between ACC-caliber and FCS-caliber athletes. (Insert your ACC joke here.) Georgia Southern’s defense has allowed an average of 29 points the past three games, to Chattanooga, Appalachian State and Howard. And only twice has it allowed less than 10 points. Appalachian State managed 551 yards of total offense. But one thing for Georgia to be wary of: Georgia Southern has 25 sacks this year, with 10 different players having at least one sack.

Seth, We all know Hutson Mason plans to redshirt to get that one-year separation from Murray. My question's are this: Do you think he would be a starter at any other SEC schools? If Mason does get his shot do you see him as a DJ Shockley type guy for UGA or a place filler until Brice Ramsey or Christian Lemay develops?
- Cstringer

History, and the current depth chart, show that once Murray leaves Mason will be the starter for as long as he can perform the job. It’s really hard to project whether or where Mason would start if he had transferred. My guess is he’d probably be the starter at quarterback-deficient schools such as Auburn and Kentucky, but otherwise it’s so hard to say, because we’ve never seen him play in a critical game time. All we do know is Georgia coaches have seen enough in practice that he’s way ahead of the other backups.

1- I am a little surprised that I do not see Aaron Murray’s name at least in the top ten for Heisman consideration. As a Georgia fan who watches every snap, I have been critical of him (Anti-David Greene comments), but would think on a winning team with nice numbers, he would at least be top 10 from a national perspective. Why do you think this is?

2-Do you see significant improvement in the state of the men’s basketball PROGRAM under Mark Fox. Not this year’s team, per se’. But the program as a whole? He had the initial jolt of enthusiasm when he arrived, which happens with most coaches. But is the program better off today than when he was hired?

3-Your Turkey Preference? Smoked, fried, roasted, or ham?
- Scott C. Davis, Montgomery, Ala.

1-Well, depends on where you’re looking. I honestly haven’t seen a list that stretched to 10: The Heisman Pundit straw poll only went seven deep this week, while ESPN’s experts poll stopped at nine. Either way it’s clear Murray is out of the running for an invite to New York, barring a huge performance in the SEC championship.

2- Given the talent that was on hand when Fox took over (Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, Jeremy Price and Dustin Ware) you could argue they’re about back to where they started. But Fox, unlike his predecessor, has banked an NCAA tournament appearance – or at least one that didn’t take a miracle SEC tournament run. This year’s team is young, and the best player is a sophomore. The key will be getting Caldwell-Pope back for at least another year, and getting an increase in production from the frontcourt.

3-Smoked or roasted. I want my chicken fried, not my turkey. And I’m a fan of Jon Hamm, but not, you know, ham.

I would like to preface my question with a few stats:

Jarvis Jones: 8 games, 56 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 10.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 13 QB hurries Manti Te'o: 10 games, 92 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 6 interceptions, 1.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 5 QB hurries

One of these gentleman is roundly considered a Heisman finalist, one is not. Please explain citing something other than one of them wears a golden dome.
- @homeboyupstairs

Good points, but it’s not just the Golden Dome: It’s the fact Notre Dame is unbeaten and seen (accurately) as having a better shot at the national title. It also doesn’t help Jarvis that he missed two games.

I wouldn’t rule out Jarvis making a run at it, and as a Heisman voter, I will confess that I wouldn’t mind giving him at least a third-place vote. What’s going to hurt Jarvis these next two games is playing two straight triple-option teams, which means much less opportunity to pad his sack total. (As another scribe mused the other night, David Pollack may have been the one to order these games scheduled.)

At a minimum, though, Jones should be an All-American for a second straight year, and he’s probably the SEC defensive player of the year, unlike last year.

Who do you think have been the top three players at UGA during the Richt era?
-Jim P., Blackshear

Interesting question. Just going by production and importance while at Georgia – not where they were drafted or pro career – then I’d have to say David Pollack, Jarvis Jones and David Greene. The first two are the most clear-cut, in my mind. Anybody disagree?

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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