Mailbag: Spring football, baseball concerns, basketball offseason

semerson@macon.comMarch 28, 2013 

A good bunch of questions this week. Spring football? It's addressed here. Basketball offseason rumblings? We delve into that too. The future of the baseball team? Yup, that too. And electric guitar solos? Clearly, that too. So let's go:

Thanks for taking my question. 5'11" 183 lbs. Dawsonville, GA (ding). How do you measure outstanding spring performances as they relate to fall? Are some compliments insincere (meant to encourage kids)? Are compliments more an indicator of improvement as opposed to actual high level of skill/play? Or, do you take them at their word? These will be the playmakers relied upon to win and steal games during the regular season.
- Meansonny

That's a good question. I do think the spring matters, but it often gets blown up a bit by fans. Every scrimmage stat, for instance, doesn't need to be seen as a foretelling for the fall. It's an indicator of where a player is right now. Or it's an indicator that the conditions were windy.

When it comes to evaluating players, I put more stock in the revelations that come from coaches and fellow players. Last fall those comments accurately portended that Todd Gurley was going to be a special player, whereas he had almost been an afterthought to Keith Marshall. But a lot of times it also depends on which coach you're talking to; the offensive coaches tend to be pretty candid and forthcoming - Will Friend will list his current depth chart if you ask - whereas most of the defensive coaches are more close-to-the-vest. (Todd Grantham does seem to be a bit more forthcoming this spring, and his comments on Tray Matthews possibly starting are pretty telling to me.)

Despite Richt's explanation for Christian LeMay's stat line, 1-for-11 just doesn't look good, especially following his mop up time performances last season. Do you have any sense that the coaching staff might consider moving him to a different position if he doesn't show significant progression by the end of fall camp?

Also, any pointers, tips on attending the spring game? Is it still free and will they still take canned good donations? How is parking for the game? I have never been to the spring game but wouldn't mind driving the family down for a hopefully nice, warm, excursion.

Cheers from a still cold and snowy Asheville!
- Jason W.

Regarding LeMay, I haven’t asked but I would have my doubts that they would move LeMay to another position. Perhaps if there were a depth issue at receiver, but right now they look pretty good there.

I did get another question about LeMay’s apparent struggles, so I’ll address it: Yes, the 1-for-11 stat line stuck out. (And what’s interesting about that is that it’s a closed scrimmage, so Georgia could have released a more favorable stat line for LeMay. Instead, to the staff’s credit, they were bluntly honest.) In this space, I wrote before spring that the next few weeks were critical to LeMay and that he needed to make a move up the depth chart, and hopefully grab the No. 3 spot. Well at this point he hasn’t done that. It’s not a hopeless situation for him: Hutson Mason has told me that the coaches have worked on some plays that utilize LeMay’s running ability, which shows they haven’t given up on him. But at the moment his future is murky.

As for the spring game, as luck would have it UGA has just posted a great primer on G-Day for fans on its web site. That should answer most of your questions, including with parking. Also, they haven’t announced anything about canned goods to my knowledge, but they usually do that the week of the game.

Is there any fire to the Tony Parker rumors, or is it just smoke? For that matter, is there even any smoke? I’ve heard everything from a transfer rumor all the way to a medical hardship rumor (that would allow him to play next year) if he transferred back to Georgia. That would obviously be huge for our basketball program, but I’d like to manage my expectations appropriately.
- Stephen Johns, Johns Creek

Anytime it involves the whims of a young man you should manage your expectations. That’s what I tell everyone around signing day.

So I certainly wouldn’t pencil Parker into Georgia’s lineup yet: And if he did come home he wouldn’t be eligible until the 2014-15 season, unless there were some personal hardship issue, and nothing has come to light on that yet. However, I do think there’s enough of a possibility that I’ve written about it this week. By several accounts, Parker doesn’t seem happy in L.A., and it may not matter who is hired as the new coach. And while Georgia wouldn’t automatically be the other choice, it would be the natural one, considering his other choices (such as Duke) have likely moved on. Georgia would happily take Parker.

These kinds of things are impossible to predict, because Parker himself probably doesn’t know what he’s going to do. I’d probably put the chances at under 50 percent that he ends up transferring to Georgia – but there’s enough of a chance that it’s on my radar screen.

And speaking of basketball …

What is the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft ? What do you think the chances are that KCP will declare and go pro? For selfish reasons, of course, I would love for him to stay, but I can’t see it happening. On the other hand, given the scouting predictions of where he would go plus looking now at the Clippers waiving both Travis And Trey recently, another year of playing at a highly competitive level And increasing your draft status could not hurt . (versus sitting on a bench /playing developmental league ). Thanks for all you do . Mad Men next Sunday!!
- Robert K. Burnham, Macon

The most important part of your message, obviously, was at the end there. The countdown is on.

The deadline - as far as the NCAA is concerned - is April 16, a week after the championship game. There doesn’t seem much doubt that the smartest long-term decision for Caldwell-Pope would be to return for his junior year and try to become a sure first-round pick, perhaps lottery. But the question is whether he will make a long-term decision, or is just ready to move on to the next stage in his life. There are just some people that don’t like the idea of going to class for another year, and the NBA minimum salary is almost $500,000.

But I do think, well I’m pretty sure, that Mark Fox and others are gently reminding KCP that the two most recent players to leave the program early are currently out of work. Fox has said he will try to get KCP the most “accurate information” he can, and that likely means scouts and other NBA types telling him he’d be better off coming back, and working on his ball-handling and defense.

What do I think he will do? Prior to the SEC tournament, I would have put it at 60-40 he would return. But after being in the postgame locker room, and talking to Caldwell-Pope and his teammates, I got a different vibe, and I’d put it at 60-40 the other way now. Still, just like recruiting, and players considering transferring, and anything that’s about a young man making his own decision, it’s impossible to be firm about anything. A guy could be sure he’s doing one thing, then wake up another morning and change his mind.

The one thing Georgia has in its favor is that Caldwell-Pope does seem to like college, from what I’ve seen in his interactions with teammates and fellow students. And Fox probably learned from the Travis Leslie experience, in terms of how to handle the situation right and get his player the best advice. But if Caldwell-Pope is just ready to move on, then he will.

How much time does (David) Perno have left?
- Garrett Tolfinski, via Twitter

I get asked a version of this question after every loss – and obviously there have been a lot of them, including nine in a row before Georgia finally beat Clemson on Wednesday night.

Some have asked whether Greg McGarity would make a move during the season. I seriously doubt that, at least as long as Georgia is still in the running for the SEC tournament, which this year qualifies 12 of the conference’s 14 teams. McGarity won’t pull the plug on the season as long as there’s still a chance, and despite the 0-6 start, the new tournament format gives the Bulldogs plenty of chance.

Long-term, however, it’s clear that the baseball team needs to win more, and win soon. Perno has already been given plenty of rope, and deservedly so, because the two major injuries that have happened to their program within the last few years can’t just be glossed over. Perno, in guiding his alma mater to three CWS appearances, has also earned that rope. But he might be at the end of it soon. I haven’t personally spoken about it with McGarity lately, on or off the record, but in conversations with others around the building, there is a sense that the team will need an extremely strong finish, or there will have to be major changes before 2014.

Baseball is in the crapper, basketball in crapper (as well as my continued opinion concerning the tournament, despite your respected effort), this leaves me no choice other than football!

1) In your opinion, how is Todd Grantham planning to plug our middle this year? It was porous at inopportune moments last year.

2) What player has caught your eye the most?
- Scott Shepard, Chattanooga, TN

1) Whether he admits so publicly or not, and Grantham doesn’t tend to reveal much, I think Grantham learned something last year. There was a sense that John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, with a year of co-starting experience under their belt, would be able to do the job well. There was also a lot of moving ends like Garrison Smith and Cornelius Washington inside in certain sets. But the third-string nose tackle, Mike Thornton, rarely played. And the reserve ends, Ray Drew, Sterling Bailey and company, didn’t play very often either. I think that’s the major change you’ll see: No matter who earns the starting nose job, the third-stringer, and perhaps the fourth-stringer, will also see quality playing time. And the same goes for the reserves elsewhere on the line. Now, I’m sure the subbing in and of itself may not be the only tweak Georgia will make, but as I said, Grantham isn’t going to reveal much publicly.

2) It’s hard not to say Tray Matthews, not just based on what I’ve seen in practice but in what teammates and coaches have said. It wouldn’t be shocking at all now to see him start at Clemson, and true freshmen don’t start openers on this defense very much.

Let me start by saying you are the man, loyal Bulldog Blog reader here and you do a great job. With so many productive receivers coming back next season do you expect to see Blake Tibbs or Johnathan Rumph break into the rotation and make some plays in the fall? I would think they would see the field some, but may have to turn some heads in practice to receive meaningful snaps in crunch time. I like Rumph's size out wide and if he can learn the offense I'd like to see him get an opportunity early in the season.
- Sean Davidson

Thanks for the kind words. Georgia’s receiver rotation will be hard to crack, but Rumph and Tibbs each have a decent shot. Rumph’s size gives him a unique advantage – no other scholarship receiver is within two inches of him – so he can slide into some plays the offense had been using for Marlon Brown. Tibbs, a redshirt freshman, has received positive reviews for his camp performance too. Neither will be starting anytime soon, as long as Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett, Chris Conley and Rantavious Wooten are healthy. Justin Scott-Wesley and Rhett McGowan are also close to entrenched in the rotation. But Rumph and Tibbs have a chance to contribute, especially Rumph.

Which will be the first to post an above .500 record again: UGA baseball or basketball?
- Thomas Johnson

Assuming you mean a winning record at the end of the season, I’d say the basketball team, because it has a chance to be better next season even if KCP leaves, while the baseball team has dug itself a hole this spring. But there are too many unknowns involved to be firm in any guesses.

Neither program is really a train wreck right now, as much as some fans want to think it is. It’s good to have high expectations, but it’s also good to have perspective. Or perhaps, after covering some really bad teams over the years, my definition of train wreck is different.

The baseball team is really, really struggling, and the lack of a dominant Friday starter is really hurting it. I’m not sure the pitching can get fixed during the season.

The basketball program is better off than some of the vocal Internet fans think. If KCP returns, this team will contend for an NCAA tournament berth. If he doesn’t, there’s still some young talent on hand, especially Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines. It’s not a hopeless situation.

I have seen some outlets reporting that Keith Marshall looks much more muscular (thicker) and that Todd Gurley looks taller and more lean this season. Is there any way that you can confirm or deny Gurshall's measurables as they are in spring practice. Could you also get commentary or give your personal opinion on whether or not either looks more explosive as well?
- Trae Marchant

Yes, Gurley did tell other beat writers that he had gained weight, to 234 pounds. (I was working on other stuff that day, talking to other players. And when I don’t personally hear it from somebody I say so, rather than write that Player X “told reporters.” That’s cheesy. But anyway …)

With all due respect, I’m not sure Gurley’s weight is a huge deal. He looked pretty good at his bigger weight last year, and there’s six months left before the season, and thus plenty of time to end up bigger – or even smaller. As for Marshall, his issue has been getting back from the hamstring injury, and he’s done that and looks fine now. I’ve seen nothing so far to indicate it’s anything but forward-speed on Gurshall, building on their spectacular freshman year.

The only thing that intrigues me is the possibility of Marshall getting a bigger share of carries this season. He did in Tuesday’s scrimmage, which may have just been trying to test his hamstring. But don’t forget, he also started the Capital One Bowl.

I talked to our AD a couple of years ago about bringing the electric guitar back to The Red Coat Band. As some of the older Dawgs will remember, this was quite a weapon back in the early eighties at Sanford Stadium when the Red Coats would belt out “Another One Bites the Dust”, and James Brown’s, “Dooley’s Junkyard Dogs”. McGarity’s response was that amplified noise was prohibited by the SEC for use by school’s bands. With all of the constant noise I hear in Starkville, (from cowbells) Jordan Hare, (Eye of the Tiger) etc., I think this rule is absurd. Perhaps you could dig a little deeper on the rule, and maybe we can petition the league to make an exception as we try and make a title run in 2013.
- Parker Swift

That’s interesting; I wans’t aware of the electric guitar in the old days. (If the ‘80s qualify as the old days. I was alive, so I feel they should not.)

I wouldn’t hold out much hope for it coming back; the cowbells have gotten a special exception from the SEC, and even then Mississippi State is supposed to only use them at special times. (Sometimes, they don’t, but it’s still the rule.) Schools are allowed to blast whatever they want, within reason, during breaks in the action, but McGarity’s response to you was accurate: The SEC has rules on artificial or amplified noise, and frankly if an exception were made for an electric guitar, then every school would be free to use it, so it would then cease to be an advantage.

Now, if the electric guitar were used to try and replicate Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” then I don’t see the problem. Or, perhaps to calm the crowd after a loss, the guitar solo in Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” For my mind those are the two best guitar solos that actually fit within a song. (Rather than riffs that are clearly just thrown into a song for the sake of someone wanting to do a riff. Talk about artificial.)

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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