Mailbag: The holiday version

semerson@macon.comDecember 21, 2012 

ATHENS - The year isn't technically over, and I'll coming to you live and often next week from Orlando. Still, it seems as good a time as any to say thank you to all of you for a wonderful year:

- Thanks for reading my feature and enterprise stories, which I try hard on, and occasionally one of them is good. - Thank you for reading this blog, which can sometimes be snarky, sometimes be informative, and sometimes be fun, but would never be anything if no one read it. - Thank you for following my Twitter feed, which is snarky way more than sometimes, but hopefully is also a good use. - And thank you for being a rabid fan base, because it keeps me in business and helps feed by growing family.

Speaking of which ... I realize the switch to the paywall (after a certain amount of free visits) isn't ideal. But as I've stated to those of you who have written, the decision was made above my pay grade, but I also support it, because - to be brutally honest - the old system wasn't working for us. So far, the new system appears to be going well. But I certainly understand if some of you are still frustrated by it.

As we head into the new year, I'll continue to make it my mission to make it worth your hard-earned dollar to sign up here - or at least to get in your 15 free visits per month.

In the meantime, I should let those of you who read this on a mobile site that we have a couple aps that allow you 60 free visits per month. Here are the links:



And now that I've finished my shilling, let's get on to what I'm most thankful for: Readers.

1- The men's basketball team is really awful. Since Fox wasn't hired by this A.D., is it time for him to start worrying? Personally, I think he's a good gameday coach/X's and O's guy, but just doesn't seem to be recruiting at a high enough level (KCP notwithstanding) to compete for NCAA bids.

2- "I think Hutson Mason would have either spiked the ball with 15 seconds to go or thrown the ball over the rusher to Mitchell for a touchdown." Isn't it nice that people stopped making crazy statements like this towards the end of the football season?
- Bryan Grantham

1. I got a couple questions about the basketball team and Fox's status this week. And that's not surprising, even with the team beating Mercer to get to 3-7. (Small victories!) The Bulldogs are indeed off to a terrible start, but before anyone jumps too far ahead and draws up coaching lists, keep these things in mind:

- The season is one-thid done. - This is a pretty young team. - The SEC is pretty bad this season, and there's plenty of chance to get some wins.

Very few people around Athens believe Fox is in any trouble. I've learned in this business never to issue absolutes, so I won't say it's out of the question. But people need to remember that this team made the NCAAs just two years ago, after which Fox got a contract extension. There hasn't been much in the way of off-field trouble. Fox has good relationships with the right people, whether it be Greg McGarity or Mark Richt.

Frankly, as bad as things may seem now, I think it would have to get worse, much worse, for anything to happen after this season.

2. Yes, exactly. Things worked out pretty well on the quarterback front this season, with what could have been a sticky situation had Murray been hurt during a game. But that never happened, so Mason will take the redshirt, and at some point in the next two years we'll find out just how good he really is. 1. In your video this week with Gentry, you mention that you think the drop off in defense next year may not be as steep as many are predicting, citing this year's underachieving unit. Next year, though, the Dawgs will face much tougher competition. Does your thinking include the fact that we add Clemson, LSU, and what will likely be an improved Florida offense (they can't get any worse)?

Thanks for your coverage and all your work this season. Hopefully you get a nice holiday break before heading down to Orlando.
- Will Brown, Atlanta

Thanks Will, and same back to you over the holiday. You make an excellent point about the quality of the opposition. And don't forget about South Carolina, which won't have Marcus Lattimore but still has Connor Shaw at quarterback.

My point on the defense is that this year, even with all that talent, it was pretty average statically. Prior to the Shawn Williams verbal carpet-bombing, it was pretty disappointing, and only the fast finish saved it. So next year, with a few starters back, but some decent other players filling in, could I see this unit performing just as well as this year's? I certainly could. I'd be surprised if it were as good as the 2011 defense, but again, we're just comparing it to the 2012 version right now. And for the purposes of the team being successful, that's the comparison that matters, because the expectation is the offense will be just as good in 2013, if not better. (Assuming Aaron Murray comes back.)

I read your article on Malcolm Mitchell wanting to be a full-time receiver and was wondering if the coaches have made it clear to him that he has a brighter future as a defensive back rather that a receiver. At the next level a 6’ 1” corner with his speed is not as common and is more valuable that a 6’ 1” receiver which is common.
- Cleveland Williams, III

(This question was sent in just before Mark Richt made it final that Mitchell will play receiver in 2013.)

I see your point, Cleveland, and while I have no confirmation of this, I'm fairly sure Todd Grantham has said that to Mitchell behind the scenes. Actually, Grantham has said that to me.

But Mitchell made it pretty clear that he prefers receiver. So that's a big part of it. Plus, there's no guarantee that Grantham is right about him being an NFL star at receiver. Frankly, Mitchell didn't seem that special to me in the four games he played cornerback this year. Yes, maybe he'd be better after more work at it, but he did go through spring practice and the preseason there. Plus, he looked pretty good at receiver as a rookie.

My feeling all along was Mitchell belongs at receiver, assuming a decision had to be made. At cornerback, Mitchell would only be the boundary corner, with Damian Swann set for the top role. But Mitchell is the team's top receiver, one of the top playmakers. He's more valuable to this team at receiver, and Richt apparently agrees.

Can you inquire to the SEC Commissioners office and find out what justification they are using to allow Quentin Dial to play in the NCG following his cowardly attack on Aaron Murray? As we all know, other players in the conference were dealt one game suspensions for the same infraction. Why has he been given a reprieve of the same punishment for the same conduct? Appears the SEC isn't fair in enforcing their rules. Or maybe it's just a matter of which school you play for and who the head coach is. Would appreciate you getting a direct statement regarding their decision not to suspend rather allowing internal action from the school.
- Bart

Well, the SEC has said all it's going to on it, so the original statement is as direct as we're going to get, unfortunately.

Frankly, I could see the hit not being worthy of a suspension, even for one half, if the SEC had not set the precedent with other suspensions. That was the main reason the decision not to suspend Dial caused some consternation. It was certainly helmet-to-helmet, and the SEC admitted there should have been a penalty. That wasn't the issue. The issue was whether the hit was egregious enough to warrant further discipline. The SEC decided not, and we are to believe it had nothing to do with Alabama's next game being the national championship.

That was an interesting day. I heard a lot from Alabama fans on Twitter about Sheldon Dawson's eye poke of Dee Milliner. (You can insert your "eye for an eye" joke here.) Then the Crimson Tide fans quieted down after Dawson admitted to it, and Richt said he had punished them, although not with a playing-time punishment. So far I haven't heard Nick Saban weigh in on what if any internal discipline Dial is facing.

I also heard from a colleague wondering why all the hub-bub, did anyone actually believe Dial was going to be suspended? That wasn't the issue either: As I said, the SEC set itself up for criticism, whether warranted or not.

Seth -Why in the world didn't Herrara play more at ILB in the SECCG? Gilliard was eaten alive, and only saw Herrara on STs. Made NO SENSE.
- C. Davis

To be fair, I'm not sure Herrera would have done too much better. Alabama has a great offensive line, probably three guys that are going to be starting on Sundays next year. And the tailbacks aren't too shabby either.

In a larger sense, though, I'm sure there are some personnel decisions that Grantham wishes he had back. The defense could have substituted a lot more, and the SEC championship game - not to mention a few other games - exposed the problems on defensive line. There may not be a huge drop-off from John Jenkins to Kwame Geathers at nose tackle, but there is at end when Abry Jones is hurt. So playing Jenkins and Geathers together may have been the best solution, rather than more playing time for Ray Drew, Mike Thornton of any other candidates.

If the run defense is going to be better next year, the line is going to need some help.

Any word on Richard Samuel's draft possibilities. Saw where he was invited to NFLPA Bowl. Georgia does have a history of RB's who didn't overwhelm at UGA but then went on to play in NFL.
- Eddie

That NFLPA Bowl actually looks kinda decent, with Herman Edwards and Dick Vermeil slated to coach it. (One team will be implored to "PLAY ... TO WIN THE GAME!!!" while another will have its coach cry.)

Samuel is a guy who could sneak on to someone's practice squad, and then who knows what happens after that. I'd be surprised if he were drafted any higher than the sixth round, if he's drafted at all. But much like Aron White last year, Samuel is a guy with fallback options after football, who should have a bright future no matter what happens.

In the end, clearly Samuel is a guy that was hurt by the team not leaving him at one position. Nobody really knows if he would have made a good linebacker, but we never really got a chance to find out. At tailback, he showed some promise at times last year, but this year it became very obvious the team had two better options in the freshmen. None of that is really Samuel's fault.

I do suspect that the experience with Samuel loomed in Richt's mind when he decided to keep Mitchell at receiver. Richt's quote of "He needs to stay at one position" to me says it all.

Please publish a list of duties for UGA assistant coaches, especially the duties of Rodney Garner the recruiting coordinator. With the rumors circulating of a pending job offer from Auburn I thinks it’s important for UGA fans to understand what the duties of the recruiting coordinator is. When reading the UGA recruiting blogs it seems that fans think he is totally responsible for signing every recruit. I also don’t think that fans understand how important and how valuable of a recruiter he is.
- Cleveland Williams III, again

Events overtook us here: You sent in your question prior to Garner leaving. Many of my thoughts on this are already on the blog, in the earlier post analyzing the news.

Georgia doesn't provide a list of the areas covered by all its assistant coaches. But I do laugh at the notion that Georgia should just be happy to see Garner go. Should I list all the defensive linemen who have gone pro under his watch? Should I list the ranks of Georgia in the recruiting rankings while Garner's been the recruiting coordinator? He gets credit for all that.

Garner doesn't recruit everybody: He was the coordinator in title and practice. But in many ways at Georgia it's a team effort - tight ends coach John Lilly is very active, and the coordinators (Grantham and Mike Bobo) take a heavy role in players recruited on their side of the ball. But Garner has a ton of contacts around the southeast, and he knows the business. His loss won't be a debilitating event for Georgia's recruiting, but it certainly wouldn't help either.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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