Bulldogs Blog

Ye Olde pre-spring mailbag

ATHENS - And so it begins. ... Wait, that's probably a bit more melodramatic than necessary. Spring practice is important and newsworthy, but let's not go too crazy.

At least it fills the gap. And this year there actually are some legitimate storylines. Last year, conversely, was a veritable snooze-fest, as the imminent arrival of the Dream Team had the team in kind of a holding pattern.

The mailbag is never a snooze-fest, thanks to you readers. So if you're not busy camping out for tickets to "The Hunger Games," or figuring out what "The Hunger Games" really are, then dive right in for some intelligent questions and some less intelligent answers:



Seth, how's your bracket? Mine's in trouble with FSU and Mizzou out. Any official word on how many games Smith will be out?

- Zachda



I like how you snuck the loaded question in there late.



First off, nothing firm on Smith. Greg McGarity told me that any arrest of this kind usually results in one game (or 10 percent of the season), but added that Mark Richt can add games at his own discresiossion. That’s what Richt chose to do with the Sanders Commings situation. But marijuana possession is considered a bit less serious than domestic battery, no matter the extenuating circumstances. Should Richt only give Smith one game, it will open him up to some criticism that he was taking it easy on him so he’d be there for Missouri. But hey, that is the policy.



As for my bracket, I’ve got my Final Four intact. But I’ve lost a couple Elite Eight teams – Vanderbilt and Missouri. Yeah, I should’ve learned my lesson about the Commodores. But I got fooled by their SEC tournament run, and all that talent. Three first-round picks, and one of the best shooters in the country. Sigh. No more, Commodores, no more.



What is the depth chart for DB's going to look like the first 2 games?

- Richard Collier



That’s the big question, ain’t it? Let’s take Smith out of the equation now for both games. Damian Swann is the heavy favorite to start at one spot, probably the field corner. Then the question is whether Malcolm Mitchell plays there or not. If he does, pencil him in as the second or nickel corner, and after that Devin Bowman and incoming freshman Sheldon Dawson are basically the only other viable options.



That is, unless Corey Moore moves down from safety, which is a distinct possibility. Blake Sailors, the former walk-on and special teams-star, could also have a chance. I’m sure another player or two will emerge from the available walk-ons.



Is there any news regarding the eligibility of Kolton Houston?

- Captainbc



Nothing new. I was told on Monday by UGA that there was no change in his status, but he will be practicing.



I understand that Crowell and Boo would want to say, along with Samuel of course, what about Carlton Thomas? With how this is shaping up it seems like he may be last in line to taking any snaps, any grumblings of transfer? I would say they same about Brandon Harton, but I imagine he probably wouldn't be able to find a better situation to end up in.

-Dan H.



Harton didn’t come to Georgia expressly to play football, so I don’t imagine he’ll be looking to go anywhere, unless he now has a taste for it and wants badly to play. Thomas has one more year of eligibility, and obviously it’ll be tough to play, but who knows what he’s thinking: Maybe he’s confident, maybe he’s just happy to finish up school on scholarship, etc.

Of course, just because all these guys are here for spring practice doesn’t mean they’ll still be here by the fall. A lot of that may depend on what happens over the next few weeks.



Any chance any of the seniors at UNC look at UGA? They have pretty good corner; safety and WR that could all play right away.

- Michael Gates



This actually hasn’t received much attention. But I did check with Andrew Carter, who covers North Carolina for McClatchy Newspapers, and he says that seniors – and only seniors – will indeed be allowed to transfer from North Carolina without sitting a season. But no North Carolina seniors who spoke on the first day of spring practice expressed an interest in leaving. That’s all we’ve got for now.



Thank God spring practice is starting because it means we are getting closer to football season. In your opinion, who do you think will replace Brandon Boykin as a punt returner and kick returner? Branden Smith has experience but I do not trust him with the ball in his hands. Also, who would you project as the starters on the offensive line? Your thoughts?

- Patrick Lowe



Mitchell volunteered for that duty last month. The kid wants to play everywhere. But if he does end up playing cornerback, then I would tend to downplay his chances at returning kicks.

My sense is it'll be Smith when he's available, either after one or two games. The coaches have more confidence in him, and it's not like he's been a fumbling machine returning kicks, or the numerous times he's been put on offense.

Other candidates: Carlton Thomas has done it, Rantavious Wooten, if healthy, has the pretty quick, and Tavarres King has gotten practice reps. Justin Scott-Wesley would also seem an ideal candidate because of his speed.

I saw Jay Rome play in high school in football and basketball. I felt he was grossly overrated in both. It appears he has no SEC level skills in basketball. I believe he has only average speed and poor hands in football. Will he be asked to bulk up (he does not like the regimen of weightlifting) and play O guard?

 Thanks,

- Valdosta Victor



Hmm, interesting take.



I’d be shocked about any move to the line. The fact Rome was even used by the hoops team shows he has the athletic ability to play at a skill position, and he doesn’t need to be Usain Bolt to play tight end. I guess we’ll just see about those hands.



I do think that Rome will be fascinating to watch as he develops. Rome and Ray Drew were both elite, five-star recruits a year ago, but there were whispers from people in south Georgia (mainly coaches, and some fans like yourself) who felt they were being over-rated. It’s too early to make those pronouncements. But let’s just say I’ve always been hesitant to say either Rome or Drew were destined for stardom. Spring practice may give us some insight on their futures.



To me, what happened to Michael Bennett last year is more of what Georgia needs.  Highly-touted guys are great but I'm wondering who's going to step up this year and make a name for themselves.  Who do you think will have a big year out those under-the-radar type of guys: Xzavier Ward, Scott-Wesley, C. Moore, Devin Bowman, David Andrews/Dantzler...?

- Kyle Dix



All of those guys you listed have a lot of potential - and I would have downplayed Ward until I heard he had put on 40 pounds in the offseason. Long-term, Corey Moore may have the most potential, but he's blocked at safety right now by a couple seniors. Maybe he plays a bit of cornerback this year. Scott-Wesley has a lot of athletic ability but there's a lot of talent in front of him too. David Andrews is the favorite to start at center, while Dantzler could use the spring to grab a tackle spot - at least until John Theus arrives.

So basically, I would say all those guys have long-term potential, but their best chance to be a true impact player probably won't come this year. And that's actually a good thing for the program, because it means there's a lot of talent coming back.



I'm trying to assess the basketball season this year, and I'm curious if there were objective measures (RPI or otherwise) which would indicate if UGA was close to getting selected for the NIT.

 

When you finish second to last in your conference, you certainly don't deserve an invitation to a post-season tournament.  I see that MSU, Ole Miss and LSU made it in.  Is there a magic cutoff (over 500 winning percentage) for the NIT?  It just makes me wonder if one more win or two more wins would have gotten us in.

- Rob



No, the Bulldogs were way off. For one thing the NIT doesn’t generally take teams with losing records – although that’s not technically in their bylaws.



But here’s one interesting nugget: Georgia was 101 in the RPI, at least according to the most recent rankings on realtimerpi.com, and that’s the best RPI rank for any team with a losing record. The Bulldogs were sandwiched in between Robert Morris (24-10) and Yale (17-9) and ahead of Maryland (17-15), Arkansas (18-14) and UCLA (18-14). What does that tell me? That Mark Fox knows how to schedule; it was a big main reason the Bulldogs made the NCAAs last year.



It also does show that a change of three, maybe four, results and Georgia would have made the NIT. The losses that really stand out are at South Carolina, and home to Georgia Tech, two teams that were just terrible. Flip those two, and beat Auburn or Ole Miss, and Georgia probably makes the NIT. For whatever that’s worth.

Any word on if (Jay) Rome will continue to play basketball next season?

- CaDawgFan

Rome said during the season that he would take it on a year-by-year basis. But the expectation was that since he won't be redshirting on the football team next season, that if he joined the hoops team again it would only be in January. Considering how little Rome played, and the fact the hoops team hopes its scholarship big men develop, I'd tend to think Rome won't play hoops again in 2013.

I know baseball is a secondary sport and that means David Perno might get some extra leeway from McGarity but when you look inside the numbers its pretty obvious that Perno has struggled in SEC play. How long do you think he has?  He comes off as pretty unlikable in media situations and I've rarely seen him take responsibility for losses. He has no problem saying what his players did wrong but I've rarely heard him show much culpability when it comes to things he can control as a manager. (i.e. UGA has 19 errors in 20 games this year, and they are 1-5 when trailing after 6 innings.



Perno has finished .500 or worse in 6 seasons. (02, 03, 05, 07, 09, 10).

Perno's record in SEC Play - 141-155-1

Record v Ga Tech 16-18

Record v Clemson 11-12

The only SEC programs he has a winning record agains are Arkansas, Auburn, Miss State, & UK.  (note only one is an SEC East team )

- Eric



To be fair, Georgia did open the season with a series victory over Tennessee. You've got to let the season play out. Plus, Georgia is expected to make a second straight NCAA tournament, so I would suspect he's not going anywhere.

But I do understand your criticism. I would point out that McGarity wasn't afraid to make a move on one non-revenue coach during his first few months on the job (the volleyball coach). I just wouldn't anticipate it being this year with baseball unless there's some sort of epic collapse.

Speaking of which ...

I know this is not a topic that you cover often, but I wanted to ask anyway. I just checked the HoopGurlz (women’s basketball) list of recruits for the 2013 class and the state of Georgia has ten in the top sixty. Since Georgia has the two top football players for the 2013 class and everyone is going to be all over Mark Richt if he doesn’t get Foster or Nkemdiche, I was wondering if you can get a gauge on how Andy Landers will fair if he doesn’t get any of these ten.



2. Kaela Davis – Buford -- DE committed from Tennessee



3. Diamond DeShields – Norcross



8. Allisha Gray – Washington County



17. Alexis Brown – North Gwinnett



19. Sydney Umeri – The Love School



26. Shalya Cooper – Norcross



30. Kristina Nelson – Buford



35. Nigia Green – Saint Francis H.S.



52. Kylee Smith – Alpharetta



60. Peyton Whitted – North Gwinnett



I think it’s a fair question considering that the statement made by Greg McGarity was that he wanted to win championships in all sports.

- Cleveland Williams

And you wrote this e-mail before Georgia fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament, as a fourth seed, to Marist.

I also understand the frustration with the Lady Bulldogs' inability to break through lately. Detractors will argue, with some validity, that the program has plateaued. That's why it will be important for Landers to rake in a good recruiting class - but also to perform well next year, when he has all but one player returning from this year's team.

But understand this: Landers will almost certainly leave on his own terms. He has basically built the UGA women's basketball program by himself. He will have a lot of rope, a bit more than Perno ... who has a bit of rope himself.

Did Rontavious Wooten ever get his medical redshirt approved? The Georgiadogs.com website doesn't mention it in their bio on Wooten, and they still list him as a junior, not a redshirt sophmore. He did play in 3 games and caught a TD pass, so I don't think it is a given he got the approval.

-IveGotAnItch



The official web site hasn’t updated any bios, just the listed roster, so I wouldn’t look anything into that. (Other players are still listed by their 2011 year, i.e. Aaron Murray a redshirt sophomore.) Plus, he would now he a redshirt junior. Wooten will apply for the redshirt, if he hasn’t already, and he should get it if you go by precedent. As long as you haven’t played more than the first four games (and get hurt) you qualify.



Just wondering your personal opinion...at spring football practices, what are you looking forward to seeing the most?

- Beeg

The coaches continuing to wear long-sleeve shirts even though global warming has resulted in 90-degree days in March. For some reason the Mike Bobos of the world have to show their players they're tough enough not to just wear a friggin' T-shirt.

Fashion aside, the tailback competition and Malcolm Mitchell's cornerback experiment are easily the two most pressing issues. I'm also curious to see how Christian LeMay does, because he can earn the No. 2 job now that Hutson Mason wants to redshirt.

Most important question: nawlins best dish, drink, restaurant, bar, how much weight did you gain.

- Dawgcpa81 (Via Twitter)

Indeed the most important questions. It was two weeks ago but I think I can jog my memory:

Best dish: Gumbo at the Bourbon House. They claimed it was award-winning and it tasted like it.

Best drink: Abita beer. I had one with a raspberry aftertaste, also at the Bourbon House. (A lot of free advertising I'm giving them. Next time I'm in New Orleans I expect a comp.)

Best restaurant: I'll take the aforementioned establishment out of this for the sake of not being repetitive. So let's go with Mother's, where I went for the red beans and rice (which was okay) but was very impressed with the Po Boys.

Best bar: Believe it or not I wasn't out tripping the light fantastic on Bourbon Street. That's what being old and in a committed relationship will do to you. The other problem was Georgia's games were so late on Thursday and Friday. But on Wednesday night I enjoyed a good dinner and a few drinks at the Palace Cafe, along with a couple of my colleagues on the Bulldog beat. (There also might have been a rowdy group of Georgia administrators next to us, led by tweeting fiend Mark Slonaker, but I will not confirm this.)

Weight gain: A lot. Too much. I'm still trying to jog it off. But it was worth it.

Ever have any interaction with the late Furman Bisher? I'm a little too young to have read his work, but I do know about his hatchet-job on Wally Butts and Bear Bryant. That's an interesting subject that not many in my generation may know about. Thoughts?

- Chris Lee



The Butts-Bryant story is actually a fascinating one. Back in 1963, an anonymous story appeared in the Saturday Evening Post alleging that Bryant (then the Alabama head coach) and Butts (then Georgia's A.D.) had fixed a game. Bryant sued and won. Here's a comprehensive story from the Birmingham News.  

In any case, Bisher always denied he wrote the story. While he did write on a freelance basis for the Evening Post, he was adamant it was another writer, Frank Graham Jr.

I didn't grow up in Georgia, but I do know a lot of Georgia fans felt Bisher favored Georgia Tech. Maybe he didn't, maybe he was just being a good columnist. I don't know. All I know is that I've run across a lot of fan bases that think so-and-so writer or columnist has it out for them, or favors the rival. (I've made no effort to hide that I favor Sewanee, and I have an axe to grind against the University of Guam.)

Columnists that show some backbone and call it as they see it are always going to rile up a few people. Furman Bisher is a guy that had a lot of respect from his colleagues in the journalism business, both for his writing and journalism.

Upon arriving in this state a decade ago, I did have the fortune to be around Bisher a little bit. I always found him to be generous with his time, and not at all a big-timer. In fact, I once sat next to him during a Georgia-Georgia Tech baseball game, and being a shy cub reporter I didn't introduce myself and hardly spoke to him. I figured he'd prefer it that way. The next day was the Georgia sportswriters awards, and that year they named their main award after Bisher. When I (through some clerical error) was announced as the winner and came up to claim my award, Bisher looked at me, smiled and looked away, then said: "I sat next to him at the game yesterday, and he never said hi!"

Rest in peace, Furman Bisher, the man who interviewed Shoeless Joe. A life full lived.



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