ATHENS - Welcome to the most optimistic time of the year: As I write this from the home office, I'm staring out at a cloudless blue sky. Baseball season starts (for real) over the next 24 hours. The Masters tees off. I won my NCAA tournament bracket for literally the first time in my life. Life seems good.
This should also be an uplifting time for the Georgia football program. The story of spring practice should be dealing with the expectations that will come this season, and tamping down all those BCS predictions. Instead, the Bulldogs still can't quite deal with success.
We'll see how long-term these issues are. But when I opened it up for a mailbag I knew there would be a lot of discussion about the drug suspensions, and how it relates to the off-field news of the past few months. It's a story that still needs some sorting through and some reporting, but I hope some light can be provided here.
There were some other topics - thank you for those with your "Mad Men" questions - but the story of the week dominated. So let's get right to it, with points awarded to those who get right to the point:
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Why do we care if these guys smoke pot on spring break?
- Charles Butler
Apparently enough to test them, which is just asking for trouble. If you’re going to test for marijuana – and this will be discussed more later in this mailbag – then I think there’s no problem doing so during the football season. Whatever your feelings on marijuana, it’s hard to argue that getting high in the middle of football season should be tolerated. But over spring break, when the season is far off … I’m sure many will feel that’s of debatable importance.
It is like Richt and staff sit around coming up with sting operations. Let's see, if we test them right after spring break, maybe we can catch a bunch of them. Do we really have to be that strict? Is this part of Richt's philosophy of being as, if not more, concerned with their moral development as he is with their football development? Wonder how many kids on academic or band scholarships would flunk drug tests after spring break. Why should the athletes be treated differently .
I also don't get how this is Rambo's second violation . There was pot in a girl's purse that he was riding with, but no charges were filed and he did not test positive for drugs then (or was not tested at all).I see a big distinction , maybe UGA doesn't ?
What is the Over /Under on Don and Megan's marriage? I give it three more episodes. The age difference is driving a wedge already.
- Robert Burnham
Firstly, you’re aiming your frustration in the wrong directions. The drug-testing program was initiated by the UGA administration. Greg McGarity inherited the drug-testing program, so he defers to it, and Richt just goes along with whatever. Richt doesn’t rock the boat. That’s why he went along with Damon Evans’ go-west-young-man scheduling philosophy.
As for Rambo, that hasn’t been made clear. It won’t publicly, because it’s a student’s private records. But I would imagine that under the drug policy, you don’t just have to test positive in order to have a violation. So perhaps Rambo’s version of events was not completely bought by UGA. Or perhaps there was another violation at some point. All I know is, this most recent pot brownie incident is considered his second violation, and that’s that.
Of course, on the record they're all going to say what Bobby Bowden did, which was you need to do it even if your competitors aren't, but wouldn't it be great if they had a uniform policy. Because they have to say it.
Awkward segue ... I see Don and Megan hanging in there for awhile. There may come a time when Don realizes he made a mistake, but he would stay in the marriage anyway, just so others won't snicker - especially his ex-wife.
1) What are the chances that UGA adopts a more liberal testing policy such as those of the other SEC schools such as Greg McGarrity's former employer? Are the testing policies the same for all sports? If not, is this strictly a Coach Richt policy?
2) There's a lot of talk about the expectations of John Theus but what about the other kid coming in from Maryland?
3) Any news on Parker choosing UGA over Duke and the others?
P.S. I'm pulling for lefty at The Masters but I like Keegan to make a push for the green jacket. What's your pick?
1) It’s the same policy for all sports. Rather than loosen the drug policy, I could see UGA pushing the SEC and NCAA to adopt more stringent guidelines. I asked the SEC about this, and they said they just “review” every school’s policies. I’m skeptical anything will happen. Especially since this is this week’s major issue – but another one is around the corner. We never seem to be up in arms about UGA’s stringent drug policy except when prominent players get caught.
2) Greg Pyke is that other kid. While I’m disposed to like a kid from the great state of Maryland, and Will Friend said he’ll have every shot to play, Theus is still the guy more likely to start right away. Pyke ideally would redshirt and get stronger, but if they don’t like the guys ahead of him this spring, they’ll play Pyke. The depth just isn’t good enough yet.
3) Parker had a top five last week that didn’t include Georgia, then a top six that did. So take that for what it’s worth.
P.S. – I’ll be watching Tiger, much like everyone, but if I had to pick a winner I'd go with Keegan Bradley or Luke Donald ... because I want to sound smart, and they're smart picks.
First, I will ask if you are surprised that so many GA fans are upset with Richt about the discipline issues? I noticed that many of the comments say that he must go because he lacks control. I view it as him having higher standards than most other programs. I would like to get your take on how he handles discipline compared to other programs and the fans reaction. Second, do you think our team will be significantly hurt by the distractions and missing key starters? I'm really concerned that our team will perform badly, even given the easier schedule.
I was on a Columbia, S.C., radio show Tuesday afternoon, and they asked if all the off-field stuff was putting Richt back on the hot seat. No, is the simple and most accurate answer. It would take some more serious offenses for that to happen. The fan reaction does matter, but not as much as how the transgressions are viewed by the administration, and as of this moment there’s no evidence that Michael Adams or Greg McGarity pin this on Richt.
On your second question, the hope for Georgia is that because all this is happening now, rather than close to the season, there’s time to digest the suspensions and figure out how to get through them. There’s also time for all that usual stuff to try to prevent future problems: Players-only meetings, Todd Grantham strangling people, etc. But in reality there’s no real way to gauge how all this truly impacts wins and losses, at least on a mental level. What we do know is that Damian Swann, Corey Moore and others are going to have the onus on them to help Georgia get to 4-0 this season.
I have a friend who is a Techie and year after year the Dawgs with their behavioral failings give him more than ample opportunity to rub their program's "moral superiority" in our face. My question is this: does Georgia really have a problem with football athlete behavior that other schools do not have, or does Georgia objectively have a stricter policy on both drug testing and then enforcing punishment on negative results than other schools like Florida, Alabama, LSU, Auburn and yes, Yech?
- John Lee
For what it’s worth, Georgia currently doesn’t register in the top 10 of the Fulmer Cup, the ranking bestowed by Everyday Should Be Saturday blog. So the Bulldogs have that going for them.
Bobby Bowden made the case the other day that Georgia gets negative publicity because they’re more restrictive. I suppose that’s partly true, along with the scrutiny the program faces.
I’m not Pollyanish about marijuana use. I do think it’s fair to question whether Georgia should be testing and punishing for it. More dangerous drugs such as cocaine, sure, and performance-enhancing drugs for sure.
But as long as there is testing for pot, if you’re a player at Georgia, you’re almost being tested for stupidity. You know you could be tested, so why do it? If you do it, and you get popped, maybe you deserve to be punished.
We can all clearly see the depth evaporate in the UGA secondary, and it's a punch to the gut to see talented players make bad decisions off the field. A year ago, I understand why some players (e.g. Jakar Hamilton) would wish to transfer to get more playing time elsewhere. Maybe I'm missing something, but why would Marc Deas transfer? With the suspensions and transfers, wouldn't Deas be guaranteed great playing time? Is this more the case of Marc not fitting into the system?
- Rob Wright
Deas actually wasn’t guaranteed anything. That was obvious when you heard the coaches mention Connor Norman, a former walk-on, before they got to Deas. (I’d also quibble a bit with your point on Hamilton, who decided to transfer while he was supposed to be taking a medical redshirt. So that wasn’t necessarily a playing-time issue.)
Mark Richt said both Deas and Derrick Lott transferred because of playing time. And Richt was adamant it wasn’t tied to any disciplinary issue. I realize that many will connect some dots – Bacarri Rambo’s high school coach says other defensive players tested positive, and in short order two defensive players abruptly decide to transfer in the middle of spring practice. I’ll allow anybody out there to draw their own conclusions, but the fact is neither was guaranteed to play this year, much less start. So playing time is actually a valid reason in each case.
1) As an educator I was surprised at all to hear Baccari Rambo's HS coach (who I presume HS educator & and or administrator) essentially chastise Mark Richt for testing for pot post spring break? Has there been any reaction around Butts-Mehre to Rambo's coach and his discussions with the media? Do you think that could make for an interesting conversation next time UGA is recruiting a player from Seminole County HS?
2) I know it’s early but who is your Mad Men MVP at this point?
3) UGA fans are dying to know… who do you have in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year?
- Eric Kreibel
1) There hasn’t been any visible push-back to Alan Ingram’s comments, but I imagine behind the scenes someone placed a call to him and told him to cool it. I’m not sure that would work. I know I speak subjectively as a reporter, but it’s refreshing to hear someone speak candidly and get information on the record – such as what really happened last year with Rambo and the suspension for the Boise State game. No one has challenged Ingram’s version of events either. As for the wisdom of testing after spring break, Ingram was far from the only person voicing that sentiment … as you’ll see later in this mailbag.
2) Isn’t Don Draper always the MVP? The show essentially revolves around him. It does seem that Roger Sterling has become almost a cartoon character, or at least comic relief, and I think that’s a good thing. But the soul of the show is still Peggy Olson, in my mind. Her strong female character, an early glass-ceiling breaker, is the transition from the 1950’s start of the show to the change going through society. I’d say Draper is the MVP, but Peggy is the other character the show couldn’t do without.
3) I don’t have the Washington Capitals, those chocking dogs. The Rangers look tough, but I can’t bring myself to root for them. What about the Thrashers? Eh, cheap shot. I guess I’ll be rooting for the Boston Bruins, because it’ll make my future wife very happy.
What’s going on with UGA's on campus recruiting position? How close are they to filling it?
- Jeff F. Jones
My understanding is the position could be filled very shortly. From what I hear, Georgia is taking this position in kind of a new direction, at least in terms of who might be hired. In the past, this type of position has been filled with someone from a football background, or at least someone who has come up through those ranks, as a grad assistant or sports management, or from the high school ranks. This time, Georgia appears to be targeting people from the recruiting field, such as experts who have actually covered the business and built up contacts that way.
We’ll see when it’s official, but I think this could be a really interesting hire.
With all the off field issues and transfers involving the secondary, whatever happened with GMC player that the coaches thought about offering a scholarship too? I forgot his name
- Patrick Lowe
Mario Alford was his name. And still is his name, as far as I know. Alford was set to visit and perhaps commit in February, but that was tripped up a further look at his academics, and a realization he would probably still need another year at GMC to get into Georgia. It’s not a huge setback in the short term for Georgia.
It bears reminding that Alford’s name only came up when Richt called GMC head coach Bert Williams to place Chris Sanders there, and Richt asked if GMC happened to have anybody who could help Georgia in the secondary in 2012. Williams brought up Alford in a “maybe, if he can learn cornerback” kind of way. So basically Alford was just going to be a useful body back there, and someone who would have to learn a new position.
We are getting so low on scholarship players, that I'm convinced that we may never catch up. Next year we are going to be losing a lot of players. Run the numbers. How many would we have to sign if we have a lot of Juniors to leave early, which I think they will?
Again having a Coach that does not believe in taking a chance of not being able to honor his offer to a recruit has us way behind. But here again the coaches that do not always honor the offer they give out, gets all the praise and our guy gets drug through the mud.
Again, how many players would we need to sign this year to get us back to the 85 limit considering Graduation and Juniors leaving early for the draft? We can factor in another 10 for non qualifications, dismissals, and transfers. My guess is over 40.
- Larry Tucker
By my count Georgia is at 73 scholarships, counting incoming freshmen, for the 2012 season. There are 13 seniors. Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree will be candidates to leave early for the draft. For the sake of argument, and accuracy, I’ll keep it there and not factor in your estimate of further attrition. So that’s 60 scholarships committed to for the 2013 season. The NCAA limit is 85. Georgia can sign at least 25, and if it wanted to could sign 31 because of back-counting, after only signing 19 last year.
The sky is not falling. Georgia can make up for it next year. The question is whether the attrition will hurt depth this year, and have the program worse off for 2013, in terms of not having a Chris Sanders or Nick Marshall available to play. (Although Sanders might return after his year of purgatory at military college.)
Seth, have not seen much about Amarlo Herrera this spring........He filled in nicely the early part of last year, any word on how he has looked in spring practice?
- Reverend Whitewall
All reports have been good. Assuming Ogletree is out to start the season, Herrera is probably in a close battle with Christian Robinson to start in that spot, opposite Mike Gilliard. But all four of those guys will play all season.
When you look to 2013, after the mass exodus of defensive players, Herrera is a guy who could be a linchpin in the defense. He has the ability to be an all-SEC linebacker, and he’ll have two years of experience under his belt.
How do UGA fans compare to other fan bases you've covered and interacted with? I'm often very frustrated with how fickle/short-sighted we Dawg fans can be, but I know that it doesn't necessarily differentiate us from the rest of the SEC. The constant harping about Richt and Bobo's job security is a prime example, and perhaps my number one pet peeve.
Not trying to get you in hot water here! Just curious of your impressions after stints covering other teams.
- Will from Atlanta
Interesting question, and one I think I’ve answered before. But it was long enough ago that I forgot, so I might as well take another swing at it.
I think I’ve said before that Georgia fans are a little harder on their teams and coaches than other teams I’ve covered; or at least South Carolina fans, some of whom had a conspiratorial tone: the media was to blame, the police, the NCAA, the SEC, etc. You don’t get much of that among Georgia faithful. Some would argue they’re too quick to blame their players and coaches, but to their credit there’s much less fire directed at the media (and we thank you) or the powers-that-be elsewhere.
Another thing that has struck me is the professional aspect of it, in that they’re quicker to want a player yanked or a coach fired. And there’s a certain segment of Bulldog fans that are in the “what have you done for me lately” faction. I’ve been struck – as have some other media members who read my mailbag – at the number of fans wanting Hutson Mason to replace Aaron Murray, who might be a Heisman Trophy candidate. You also see it in the questions about Mark Fox, or the bench-Blair Walsh sentiment last year.
But all in all, I find Georgia fans to be largely sensible, and knowledgeable. I’m also smart enough (not very smart, but just enough) not to take the views of message board and blog posters as an accurate reflection of the fan base as a whole.
Worried about depth at DB. What percent of plays did the backup DBs play last year, i.e. nickel corner, 3rd safety or further down?
- Sean Campbell (via Twitter)
I don’t have a specific breakdown as far as percentage of plays, but Swann was the nickel corner in some sets, and the dime in others. He’s the only guy – other than Shawn Williams – projected to play more this season who saw extensive time last season. Safety Corey Moore, who will take Rambo’s spot, appeared in 12 games but didn’t play much, making a grand total of one tackle. Cornerback Devin Bowman redshirted. Safety Connor Norman actually saw a lot of time in the Boise State game, and played in every game. Blake Sailors and Quintavious Harrow were special teams stars but didn’t really play defense.
OK you've dodged this sport before but the Gym Dawgs are a local treasure (frequently selling more tickets than men's hoops). So coming off a record 5 consecutive national titles pre-Clark, UGA doesn't win the SEC again (finished 3rd, ranked 6th overall). What's your forecast for the NCAA's and the future of the once dynastic program?
Secondly, did the white wine come spewing out of your nose when you saw January Jones (and a half) on Sunday's Mad Men?
I’ll probably have to dodge the gymnastic question again, simply because I don’t feel educated enough to comment on it. I haven’t talked to McGarity or anyone in the administration for their feelings on Clark. I also think the full season needs to be played out. The showing at the SEC meet was disappointing, but the team did enter ranked in the top 5. If the team had consistently been ranked out of the top 10 I think the situation would be more clear.
The NCAA regional meet is this weekend at Auburn. Perhaps that will provide a bit more clarity.
I am educated enough to answer your Mad Men question: Jones is pregnant, and it’s always interesting how they treat that on screen. The Mad Men writers went the same way as when Jane Leeves got pregnant while filming Frasier – they gave her an eating disorder. But the Mad Men writers also threw in a cancer scare, which seemed a bit contrived to me.
Any insight about Faton Bauta being used in short yardage and goal line situations next year? Blake Bell experienced success in such a role at Oklahoma last year and the two appear somewhat similar.
Right now I would guess a redshirt for Bauta, unless he leaps past Christian LeMay on the depth chart. If Bauta does play, the short-yardage role you mention does sound interesting … But the Georgia offensive staff doesn’t exactly embrace those kind of packages. The packages that everyone talks about never come to fruition – remember John Jenkins at fullback?
Question for the mailbag: To your knowledge, has either the University
or the Seilor family commented on the New York Times Magazine piece a
few months ago about bulldog breeding? Uga was featured pretty prominently.
Bonus question: Can you still buy a "Go You Silver Britches" bumper
sticker in Athens? I haven't seen those since the 80s.
I never heard any official response from the Seiler family, but I’m not sure one was necessary: Seiler was quoted throughout it. I’ve also discussed the bulldog breeding question with Seiler before.
There are several good Bulldog stores in Athens. I’ve only passed by them and never gone in – I know, I know, I’m sorry. But if you’re going to find that bumper sticker, that’ll be the best place.
Wondering what you make of the Gamecocks this coming season. The folks down here in the Low Country act like they won the BCS two years in a row, but the closest they've come to that is beating the Dawgs two years in a row. A feat they still feel unworthy about accomplishing but nobody will say aloud. I've seen a few year old "SEC East Champions T-shirts" lately so they're feeling cocky again. BTW, who would wear such a thing? Eastern Champs? Really? Oh well, a school without a winning tradition must start somewhere. Here's the question: Are the spurs on this bird for real this year? Everyone keeps saying they're a shoe in for an ESPN top ranking (yawn), and I keep thinking about how they lost their biggest stars, the defense lost most everyone and Lattimore is yet to be pronounced healthy or ready. Can this be the year the Gamecocks make it to Atlanta? I say No. They might be the most overrated team in the SEC, much less the nation. What say you? By the way, love your column. Keep up the great work and the humor!
- Exiled in South Carolina
Thanks for the kind words … and by the way, how come none of you other e-mailiers mentioned how great I was when you wrote in?! I should move this question to the front.
People are still bullish on the Gamecocks because they still have big names: Marcus Lattimore (presumably healthy), Jadeveon Clowney … and Steve Spurrier. The offensive line also has some experience. But I’m skeptical of the defense, just like you. The big question is whether there’s a drop-off from Ellis Johnson to Lorenzo Ward. I really liked Ward as a secondary coach and as a guy to talk to when I covered the Gamecocks. But he’s unproven as a defensive coordinator, and with Spurrier running the show, Ward is almost a co-coach, just like Grantham at Georgia. How good Ward is as a coordinator could decide the SEC East.
I was wondering how far Justin Scott-Wesley was down Georgia's depth chart at Wide receiver? I have him in my keeper league and was wondering if I should cut him? Thanks.
I’d say he stands a good chance of seeing some deep balls during the first few games, or at least as long as Malcolm Mitchell isn’t a full-time receiver. Scott-Wesley is one of the team’s fastest guys, maybe the fastest, and if he can run the right routes and be a dependable pass-catcher, the coaches are going to send him on some deep runs.
That said, here’s how I’d put the pecking order at receiver, taking Mitchell out of the discussion for now: Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, Michael Bennett, Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, Justin Scott-Wesley, and then the walk-ons like Rhett McGowand Michael Erdman.
Hey! Love the blog! It helps me get my fill of Bulldawgs news since info is generally lacking on the left coast. I know it is early for predictions but how are other SEC east teams looking for next season? Who lost key seniors and/or had early departures? Maybe a quick synopsis of each team would make me feel better (or worse) with how UGAs offseason has been.
Hi Wayne, glad to help out on the left coast. I don’t think I have enough room here to break down every East team. But as luck would have it I sent in my work for the Athlon preseason magazine on Tuesday, so off the top of my head I can give you a quick run-down on the division:
Georgia will be a lot of people’s favorites just because of the schedule (no LSU, Alabama or Arkansas), and despite the secondary issues the defense still returns almost everybody. Aaron Murray’s presence also makes it easier to pick the Bulldogs. South Carolina will probably be picked first or second, even though it loses most of its defense. (You can read my breakdown of the Gamecocks up higher.)
The only two teams that could really give those two a run are Florida and Missouri. The Gators need to sort out their quarterback situation, and I’m still not quite sold on Will Muschamp, but they do have a lot of talent. Missouri is underrated, but the issue with the Tigers will be the health of quarterback James Franklin; head coach Gary Pinkel said on Tuesday that he doesn’t think Franklin will miss any games, but it depends on rehab. So that situation bears watching all spring and summer.
Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt … they’re not bottom-feeders, and all should be able to pull a surprise or two. But none of them seem capable of contending.
Will an official depth chart be published after G-Day ?
- Robert K. Burnham (again)
Yes, but as always it should be taken with a bit of a grain of salt. But there will be one.
Can you compare UGA football players with professional golfers? The similarities aren't abundant, so it might take some extra wit.
- Gordon Smith
I have ample wit. At least I like to think I do. But this one’s a toughie. Principally because my first instinct is to compare them to the bad attributes of golfers: Tiger Woods’ aloofness, Phil Mickelson’s fakeness, etc.
But I’ll give it the ol’ college try:
Rory McIlroy (precocious wunderkind who is always optimistic) .... Aaron Murray
Stewart Cink (always seems to be tweeting) .... Rantavious Wooten
Justin Rose (everyone says he'll be great, so why isn't he yet?) ... Marlon Brown
Tiger Woods (you could write about him going to the bathroom, and people would wonder what it all means) ... Isaiah Crowell
Charles Howell III (is proud to carry the family name) ... Richard Samuel IV
Bubba Watson (everyone's best friend) ... Arthur Lynch
Craig Stadler (rarely pushes away from the table) ... John Jenkins
Keegan Bradley (possibly the next big thing in the sport) ... Keith Marshall
Zach Johnson (doesn't get enough credit for being good) ... Shawn Williams