Legitimate concern about the Georgia-Auburn series?

semerson@macon.comApril 24, 2014 

Ramik Wilson (51) sacks Auburn's quarterback Nick Marshall during Georgia's visit on Nov. 16, 2013.

SEAN TAYLOR — UGA sports communications

The mailbag is broken into two parts because, well, there were lots of good questions, so why shuttle them all into one long post?

I have a bad feeling that the SEC Presidents and Slive are going to axe the UGA-Auburn and Bama-Tenn series in order to make filling their wallets an easier process. Understanding that what I am proposing has a snowball's chance in hell, if the SEC keeps an eight-game schedule, but no longer maintains traditional divisional rivalries, could Auburn and Georgia still play each other as 1 of their "non-conference" games? Since UGA would have eight conference games + Tech + 3 non-conference games, could they use one of those three to set up a game with Auburn (in years that we wouldn't play them on our SEC schedule)? Are there any SEC rules against that? Could you dig and find that out or at least ask McGarity to plant it in his head?
- Jason


Well, I haven’t specifically asked McGarity about that scenario, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that Georgia and Auburn will only play if it’s a conference game. And my sense right now is it won’t be an issue.

Both Auburn and Georgia’s presidents say they want the rivalry to continue. Yes, that’s what you’d expect them to say. But if they genuinely thought the series was in danger, I have a feeling they would be preparing their fan bases in order to temper the bad news. Instead, right now you’re not hearing much scuttlebutt around either school about the rivalry going away. Maybe that’ll change, but the decision is supposed to happen within the next month, so it’s getting pretty late.

Slive is good about not showing his cards, but if I had to guess he’d personally vote to go to nine games, which would keep the two major cross-division rivalries. But if he doesn’t get the votes for that – and I’m not sure the votes are there – then I know Slive is sensitive to the perception that he would be presiding over the end of two more storied rivalries. Slive doesn’t like that Texas and Texas A&M don’t play anymore, nor that Missouri-Kansas has ended. Those aren’t necessarily his fault: Missouri and Texas A&M wanted in the SEC, and those were the consequences. But losing the Georgia-Auburn and Tennessee-Alabama rivalries would be more on Slive’s watch.

One solution is to keep it at eight games, keep the two major cross-division rivalries, but let the other 10 teams have rotating opponents. I’m not sure this would happen, but I suspect that if the 14 SEC presidents were given this option, the votes would be there.

Georgia isn’t likely to support going to nine games, because it also has the Georgia Tech rivalry, meaning you can probably kiss future Clemson or Notre Dame matchups goodbye. But if push comes to shove, I also think Georgia will bite the bullet and vote for going to nine games, if that’s what it takes to keep the Auburn series. Jere Morehead and Greg McGarity are Georgia men, and they don’t want the end of the series on their watch.

It seems like Coach Bobo's positive comments about Hutson Mason depart sharply from his opinion of the rest of the offense, especially after G-Day. Is it because Mason has performed that well, or just because the rest of the group hasn't? Or is it just a matter of a different approach, with Bobo being his position coach and Mason requiring a different motivational strategy as QB?
- Ben in Raleigh


Bobo, by his own admission, is just pessimistic by nature these days. That’s what happens as a coach when your offense is so successful for a few years: You worry more about your players getting complacent and believing their press clippings. It’s only with players that you feel are in a good place mentally that you praise publicly. And Mason apparently has reached that point, in Bobo’s eyes.

Keep in mind, the offense was missing a bunch of players this spring. It’s no accident that Mason, Todd Gurley and the offensive line were praised by Bobo: Those guys were healthy. But Bobo expressed concern about the offense in general, concerns that sure will be helped by the additions of Malcolm Mitchell, Keith Marshall, Jay Rome, Jordan Davis, Justin Scott-Wesley and even Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.

Frankly, I think Georgia’s offense is going to be just fine.

Here are my concerns for the fall in order. QB-offensive Line-defensive backs-special teams-suspensions. What should I worry about the most? Do you have anything to add?
- Mike Mitchell


I’d be a little less concerned about the quarterback spot after the spring. Maybe I’m putting too much stock in the spring, but Mason not throwing a single interception in three scrimmages was encouraging – though of course this is the Georgia secondary we’re talking about. But more importantly, Mason had those two-and-a-half games last year to get a feel for what he needed to work on. He’s not Aaron Murray, and there still might be a drop-off, but with the talent around him, and if the offensive line can be serviceable, then Mason can put up close to Murray-like numbers.

Now if Mason gets hurt, you can vault quarterback to near the top of your list of concerns. But I’m starting to think Faton Bauta can be pretty good, and once Brice Ramsey gets a bit more comfortable, perhaps he can too.
The secondary should be at the top of your list of concerns. That’s a mess, with only Damian Swann seeming to have a hold on a starting spot. (Though don’t look for Mark Richt or Jeremy Pruitt to concede even that.) I think there’s a certain amount of “woe is me” going on with Pruitt and the secondary, but I also think it’s with some justification. I mean, look at what happened last year, and they already lost one guy (Josh Harvey-Clemons), and we haven’t heard about anybody really making a major step forward. J.J. Green, who was on offense last year, managed to come over and vault past a bunch of guys on the depth chart. That’s the state of things.

So I’d re-order your concern list this way: Secondary, suspensions (including the dreaded possibilities to come), offensive line, quarterbacks. And throw special teams in there somewhere, probably before the offensive line.

Curious about Mason's relationship with receivers. When he played late last year, he seemed most comfortable with Jonathon Rumph. This was probably due to the time he spent throwing to him as the second team QB before Murray was hurt. Does Mason seem to have developed better trust/timing with the players who will be starters?
Bob Ho, Tucker


Well, Rumph only caught one pass from Mason at the end of last year, in the Gator Bowl. If you actually look at the stats from Mason’s starts last year, it paints a different picture: Conley caught 13 passes for 219 yards, Bennett caught seven for 108, and Gurley caught 11 for 136. (The now-departed Arthur Lynch also was one of Mason’s favorite receivers.) Bennett got to work this spring with Conley, Bennett and Gurley, as well as Reggie Davis, so that rapport should be there. The job for this preseason (and summer workouts) should be getting Mason comfortable with Mitchell and Scott-Wesley, assuming they’re healthy and ready to go. As for Rumph, I'm not sure how much of a factor he'll be this year. Right now he projects to get some catches, perhaps a nice play or touchdown here or there. But he'll still be fighting for playing time.

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