Debating the wisdom of Georgia's position switches

semerson@macon.comMay 21, 2014 

Then-cornerback Brendan Langley (4) defending a pass against South Carolina in 2013.

JIM HIPPLE — John Kelley

The mailbag begins with a question I've heard from several Georgia fans lately. I attempt an answer.

Tramel Terry was signed as a receiver/running back. I understand we don't need another running back at this point, but why was he pulled from the offense and put on defense where he doesn't have a lot of experience, while at the same time they pull Brendan Langley from the defense where he does have experience and they designate him a receiver? What is the reasoning behind this move?
- Add Harris

From a roster management standpoint, you can understand the confusion. And I’m not going to sit here and tell you that both moves are great ideas and will pay off, because we just don’t know yet. I was always dubious of the Malcolm Mitchell move to cornerback, which luckily for Georgia was temporary, and I’m not quite sold on Terry at safety rather than receiver. In Langley's case, he did play some receiver in high school, and I have to imagine that Mike Bobo and Tony Ball saw something in him that makes them think he can play the position.

You also have to consider the timing of each move: Terry’s switch came under Grantham and company, and Langley’s came after Pruitt had a chance to see him for all of spring practice. Langley’s move was also more of a football one, while Terry’s had injury reasons behind it: The coaches (and Terry) felt the ACL injury took away a bit of his explosiveness and cutting ability, and thus he may be better suited to defense. Terry didn’t make much of a much up the depth chart during spring practice, but when Pruitt was asked about that he preached patience, citing the injury and position switch. So that bears more watching this preseason.

Maybe I'm alone here, but it seems that ever since Coach Pruitt arrived he hasn't been too happy with any of our defensive (secondary specifically) personnel. I don't think he opened up all secondary jobs to light a fire/prove a point. I think he did it because he knows that there isn't much talent back there and he needed to just start over. Maybe that speaks to Grantham's recruiting and a difference of vision between the two coaches. Am I far off here? Have you noticed a difference in the 2015/2016 players that Pruitt is going after? Size/Speed/Ability etc...
- John from C-Town

Oh, you’re not alone. Early on my sense was Pruitt was just doing the ol’ “break ‘em down then build ‘em up.” But I’ve moved more towards your position based on recent events. It’s not just Shaq Wiggins’ transfer and Langley’s move to offense. In the past week I've also heard Mike Bobo and Richt talk up the incoming defensive backs, especially Malkom Parrish, an indication that behind the scenes Pruitt is saying the same things he's said publicly.

This is normal for a coaching transition. Pruitt didn’t recruit any of the holdover players, and he talked this spring about a difference in philosophy on playing weight. It may go back to another difference in their backgrounds: Grantham liked bigger players, perhaps feeling they fit his NFL-inspired schemes, while Pruitt, with his college and high school background, prefers lightness and speed.

Your article today about a simpler schemes being "music to Mark Richt's" ears brings up a question I've been wanting to ask for a while. Was there tension between Richt and (Lord) Grantham during the season over the complex defensive schemes? Also, did Grantham simplify the defense at all as the season progressed?
- Stu

It would be hard for me to say for certain on the second question. Grantham never really said so, and players tended to say that it wasn’t being simplified, they were just picking it up better. That doesn’t mean Grantham didn’t dial it back a bit, but just didn’t want to say so publicly.

As for the question of friction, I don’t know that I would go that far, but look at what happened: Grantham got an offer to leave, and Richt either didn’t try to match it, or Grantham didn’t give him a chance. Richt did say publicly at one point last season that he felt there should be more subbing at inside linebacker, and it didn’t happen. Otherwise there was no other obvious public friction - it's just not really Richt's style - and if things were bad behind closed doors I don’t think Richt would have planned to retain Grantham.

Let's put it this way: Richt and Grantham were never close personal friends, the way Richt was with Willie Martinez. It was always a professional arrangement between Richt and Grantham, and in January that arrangement ended. And now Richt and his new coordinator are clearly on the same page.

What are the odds the new scheduling actually sticks until 2025? Thinking league goes to 9 games before then.
- Garrett Tolfinski

I’d put it at 50-50 right now. Yeah, sorry, that’s me straddling the fence again. But it’s also how I read the situation right now.

The conference will stay at eight games for at least the next few years, I’m pretty certain of that. The ACC’s decision to also stick with eight gives the SEC some cover. Plus, I never sensed much desire within the conference to go to nine, so you’d need a change in leadership, or opinion, among the league’s influential minds.

The market is going to dictate this. If the SEC loses a spot (or two) in the four-team playoff because it’s schedules are perceived to be too light, then it will go to nine. Or if attendance continues to dip and schools decide it’s because there are too many powerpuffs on the schedule, they’ll go to nine – because then the increased gate revenue will stay in the league, rather than go to Clemson or Notre Dame half the time.

Along a similar vain …

Recently, each conference has been reconfiguring their schedules in order to better prepare their conference for the new College Football Playoff. Do you believe retaining the eight game conference model is best for our conference or do you believe increasing the conference games to nine (or another configuration) would better help the SEC in regards to the College Football Playoff? (Please only focus on the conference's interests and not just Georgia's interests)
-Ray, Lawton, Oklahoma

If I were the commissioner of college football, I would expand the playoff to eight and then order every conference to go to TEN games. That gives you an even number of home and away games (except for Georgia, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma), puts every conference on the same playing field, enhance the ability of teams to face different opponents, and gives teams a bit more leeway in order to get into the playoff. Make the schedule harder, but also a bit more forgiving.

But with the current state of things – only four teams in a playoff – I don’t begrudge the SEC staying at eight. I find the complaints from the other conferences to be a bit amusing. It’s not like the SEC has been skating along all these years because of easier scheduling. It won seven national titles in a row, and nearly made it eight this past year. Its nonconference record, in the regular season and bowls, speaks for itself.

Plus, the thing I never hear mentioned enough is how unwieldy an odd number of conference games will be. That’s why I’d expand it to 10. If the SEC went to nine, there might be years where Georgia only plays three SEC games in its own stadium. And you’d have years where division titles were decided based on who had the extra home game.

But I also think it’s ridiculous that teams will go so long without playing each other. Part of the problem is the leagues are too big, but that horse is out of the barn. So right now there are no easy answers, which is why the SEC got so bogged down in all this. The best two solutions in my mind were these:

- Move Alabama and Auburn to the east, making their matchups with Tennessee and Georgia division games, and move Missouri and Vanderbilt or Kentucky to the west. But this apparently is never going to happen. (And I imagine Alabama would then want to somehow preserve its new rivalry with LSU.)

- Keep the eight-game schedule, as well as the permanent Tennessee-Alabama and Georgia-Auburn games, but let the other 10 teams rotate their two cross-division games. I asked Greg McGarity about this, and he said it was broached but didn’t really go anywhere.

Were you surprised about the Jim Donnan verdict?
- Steve Davan

Having been in the courtroom for almost all of the trial, no I was not.

The prosecution never, in my mind, directly connected Donnan to the alleged wrongdoings of Gregory Crabtree, his ex-partner who has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. There was never a smoking gun – a term also used by the jury foreman in post-trial interviews – to say that Donnan knew this was a Ponzi scheme and was actively participating in it. There was more than reasonable doubt. This was a criminal trial, so the threshold was much higher to convict on any of the 41 counts than if it were a civil trial. (But Donnan has also won in three bankruptcy court hearings, for what it’s worth.)

I also felt the prosecution was a bit too methodical, just hammering away at which investors put in money, and presenting a very evidence-oriented case, though without the evidence that I just mentioned. Meanwhile Donnan’s very capable Athens lawyer, Ed Tolley, did a good job of speaking to the jury. The prosecution did close well in its final arguments, but by then it apparently was too late.

What is Richard Samuel up to these days and what ever happened with coach Lakatos?
- Patrick

Samuel has been working in Atlanta as a personal trainer, according to his Twitter account. Lakatos and his family have remained in Athens this spring, from what I understand, and he has not pursued another job in coaching. As I wrote at the time, the stated reason for his resignation – personal reasons – was legitimate, from what I heard from multiple sources.

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