Bulldogs Blog

Ye Olde Post-Spring Mailbag

ATHENS – One of the great disappointments of my life thus far is that no one has ever asked to have one of my empty water bottles as a momento.

Mark Richt, however, can check that off the bucket list. In case you missed it, near the end of his appearance Tuesday at the Augusta Bulldog Club, the dashing Mr. Richt was asked by a woman if she could keep his water bottle. Richt, not missing a beat, complied.

A few days later, the natural follow-up: No, I don’t see the water bottle on E-Bay. You can, however, purchase the following Richt-related items:

- A Georgia mini-helmet autographed by Richt ($59.99 asking price)

- A 2011 media guide autographed by Richt ($33.99)

- A 1982 photo of Richt playing QB for Miami ($13.88)

- A helmet signed by Richt and A.J. Green ($144.99, and insert your Green-jersey joke here).

In all, as of Thursday morning I saw about 60 items available for bidding that Richt had signed. So I guess we should credit the woman in Augusta for not being a financial opportunist, and just being an old-fashioned stalker. Kind of refreshing, I say.

There’s a good chance this mailbag will be on E-Bay, it’s just that good. So let’s get right to it:

“Hey Seth! Thanks for your work covering the Dawgs. Being in Afghanistan right now, I get all my Dawg news from your blog. Here’s my questions: Is all the hype coming out of USC for real, or can we count on them to implode (like they do nearly every year)? I’m originally from South Carolina, and with family in Columbia, this is THE game of the year every year, and the stakes are even higher now with the game being pushed to later in the season.

- Wes

‘Dawg Fan in Afghan Land.’

Thanks for the question and for being over there, Wes. So obviously we jump you ahead in line.

We know Steve Spurrier thinks he has a good team because he’s running his yap, like last week’s quip about Georgia and the early-season suspensions. (Early in his tenure at South Carolina, Spurrier kept quiet, and said openly it was because his team wasn’t good.)

I really think 2012 could play out a lot like 2011 – Georgia doesn’t beat South Carolina, but wins the division anyway. Thanks not only to that schedule, but that the Gamecocks still seem good for at least one inexplicable loss every year – like last year's loss at home to Auburn.

Which brings us to Spurrier’s wacky proposal to choose division champions based on division record. A South Carolina board of trustees member proposed the same thing a couple months ago. I could be wrong, but I’d pronounce this proposal dead on arrival in Destin. If it makes it that far. First off, it would render the cross-division games meaningless. Might as well just cancel non-division games and play two more Sun Belt teams per year. Secondly, it is transparently whiny on the Gamecocks’ part, and they should be better than that. (The athletics director there, Eric Hyman, is a guy I have a lot of respect for, and I doubt he’ll embrace this.)

Plus, this is all cyclical anyway. In future years it will be Georgia with the more difficult non-division schedule. So if you were Georgia, the smart thing to do here in response to Spurrier’s proposal would be to say: “Sure, we favor it … starting in 2013.”

With spring practice done how many incoming freshman do you see getting serious playing time in the fall? Do you think Todd Gurley can work his way into the tailback rotation?

- Morty Seinfeld

There will be a ton of true freshman getting serious time, mostly out of necessity.

Offensive tackle John Theus is the first one that jumps to mind. So do Josh Harvey-Clemons and Jordan Jenkins, who could be candidates to start at outside linebacker later in the season, once they know the system. Out of necessity, cornerback Sheldon Dawson will play, as could receiver Blake Tibbs and fullback Quayvon Hicks.

And then of course you have kicker Marshall Morgan and punter Collin Barber. They have all but been handed the gigs.

Gurley would seem to be a bit behind the established tailbacks, and even Keith Marshall. But Richt is talking like he thinks Gurley is just as good as Marshall, so Gurley could make up ground very quickly. At this point I would guess Gurley will not redshirt.

A bunch of other freshmen could play because of depth, such as tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith. Perhaps the only recruit who right now I would predict to redshirt would be quarterback Faton Bauta, and even that’s an open question.

You have mentioned that you believe Theus will be a starter when he comes in the fall.  What makes you think that his 5 star rating is any different than that of Ray Drew's last year?  Everyone thought he was the prize in recruiting the class before and he hardly saw the field.  I just don't understand why some like I. Crowell are shoe ins, then ones like Drew aren’t.

- Pubert149

Fair question. But you have to take every recruit on a case-by-case basis. For the record, I was correct last year when I said Crowell would either start or be the top backup, and that Drew wouldn’t play right away. This time I’ve been saying all along I’d be surprised if Theus didn’t start at one of the tackle spots. The depth chart is a big consideration in each case: Drew was blocked at outside linebacker, and now at end. On a weaker defense, he’d be playing a lot by now. As for Theus, you’ve seen the Georgia offensive line, right?

But as someone who is around to interview and listen to the coaches talk, I also operate on that instinct. And Richt seems very clear on Theus, such as what he said this week in Augusta: “Theus is just one of those guys who has a very good chance to play as a freshman, and even start.” Richt has also compared Theus to A.J. Green and Matt Stafford in terms of immediate impact. 

What's up with the offensive line? Your depth chart kind of solidified some positions but is this group angry? Are they going to get pushed around by the Alabamas and LSUs of the world? We seem loaded at skill positions but I worry about our o line protecting Murray and establishing a running game.

-Geoff S

Well, they won’t get pushed around by the Alabamas or LSUs unless they play in the championship game. But your overall concern is a legitimate one.

I wouldn’t push the panic button on the line, but it’s obviously the biggest question on the offense, and probably the team. (Once the secondary gets through its suspensions.) The good news for Georgia is the schedule isn’t as front-loaded as last year, so there will be a bit more time to get it sorted out and perhaps survive unscathed. (Missouri in Week 2 being the big hurdle.) Last year the line looked awful in the opener, but by the end it was at least an average SEC line. It helped that there was size – the biggest in college football – but what was needed was experience. This year it’s kind of the same dynamic, although a bit smaller at center with David Andrews. That center spot could end up being the key, but so will whether Theus is as good as advertised, and whether guys like Kenarious Gates and Chris Burnette are more than just serviceable.

Why should we expect anything different from Marlon Brown? Every spring we hear he's poised to make an impact.

- Stephen Walters

I hear ya. In fact I was reluctant to write a story on Brown this spring, having gone through this before. But the final week – partly because you run out of stuff to write about – I gave in. But I asked all the particulars – Brown, receivers coach Tony Ball and Richt – why they thought this year was different. They all said it’s just a matter of Brown staying healthy. We’ll see.

1) What vibe are you getting from Grantham and the other defensive coaches in regards to having possibly 4 starters suspended to start the season?


2) Defensive backfield- Realistically how good or bad are we at that position assuming Rambo, Commings, and Smith are suspended for Mizzou. From your observations how ready do the back ups look? Are players like Connor Norman, Blake Sailors, and Sheldon Dawson really SEC caliber defensive backs or are they really only being mentioned due to a  combo of spring happy talk and our deph problems being that bad? the first two because they're walkons and callously speaking the odds of a walk on having a significant impact at this level are slim and none. The latter because he's a true freshman.


3) Also in regards to your tomatoes, (It sounds liek you've already planted them) I've had great success by applying a thin layer of mulch which helps keep moisture in and weeds out. Wetted down sheets of newspaper topped with straw or grass clipping works really well even if it's a little bit of an eyesore. All else fails find a farmer's market. Best of luck.

- Vincent Ng

3) Didn’t think there’d be horticulture in a sports blog, huh? We are nothing if not versatile here.

(And yes I'm answering in reverse order. I'm the master of ... uh ... answering questions in reverse order.)

2) I haven’t seen Dawson yet, so I’m not really qualified to comment on him. Norman did see some time last year, so of those three I’d say he’s the most ready, perhaps even moreso than Devin Bowman. I think the biggest problem in the secondary will be depth and experience, at least while the suspensions are being carried out. Safety Corey Moore and cornerbacks Damian Swann and Malcolm Mitchell have a ton of long-term potential. But will they be ready to star at Missouri? And if any of them get hurt, the Bulldogs will be in big trouble back there.

1) The vibe we got in the preseason was they were pretending it wasn’t happening. The starters got reps like normal, and in fact when the safeties were hurt they switched Sanders Commings back there, even though he’s the one guy whose suspension has been announced. It was the same deal on offense, where Hutson Mason continued to get No. 2 quarterback reps, even though the plan is to redshirt him. The preseason, I suppose, is when they’ll really prepare the backups. And even then it may only the final week of practice.

What are the chances that Chris Sanders returned to the UGA football team after this season? Nick Marshall?

- Will B.

Very good in Sanders’ case. The fact he went to Georgia Military while the others ended up further away tells a lot. Plus Sanders was at the spring game, remains in touch with a lot of teammates, and his role in the dorm theft doesn’t appear to have been as involved. That said, I wouldn’t call it automatic. As for Marshall, I wouldn’t consider it very likely, but I wouldn’t rule it out. But not likely.

Aside from two drives at Florida last year, and one giant hole he took advantage of at Arkansas in 2009, what in Richard Samuel's body of work makes Richt/Bobo/anyone else confident in his ability to generate positive yardage? I see a big guy, with poor footwork, high pad level and a poor sense of balance - that's called a linebacker if we're being generous...

- Bob, NYC

There is merit to what you say. I tend to think the coaches know Samuel is limited in terms of being a side-to-side runner, which is why he’s more likely to be used as a short-yardage back and a fullback. I think that’s a role he could do very well in. (And no chance he goes back to linebacker.)

1) What do you think the chances are that Rambo's appeal goes through? Like percentage wise?

2) Do you think the loss of Drew Butler is going to have a significant impact? He consistently bailed out our offense and helped the defense enormously.

- Hunter

1) Maybe 10 percent …. “So you’re saying there’s a chance!” … Just imagine the derision that would be inflicted upon UGA if it gave Rambo a pass and bought the pot-brownie excuse. Maybe I would up the percentages to 25 percent that it gets reduced to two games. If I thought UGA were that diabolical, I could see this defense of the drug policy as some precursor to granting Rambo’s appeal, i.e. an effort to establish toughness but grant extenuating circumstances. But if you’re going to be serious about this policy, then every potential violation after that will claim this pot-brownie excuse, and that’s not a precedent you want to set.

2) Butler is a loss that gets overlooked a lot, because he was so dependable. Barber was worthy of a scholarship, and Georgia has a great track record with specialists, so it’s likely there won’t be a huge drop-off.

Which player impressed you the most during spring practice? Are you a Widespread Panic fan?

- Cattledawgs

A few guys stood out: Arthur Lynch as a pass-catcher, Jay Rome’s athleticism, Malcolm Mitchell (before he got hurt) with some athletic plays at cornerback, and Cornelius Washington at end. Also, while we’re focusing on the O-line problems because it was dominated by the defense, it bears pointing out that John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers were inflicting that damage.

Widespread Panic isn’t really up my alley, but I know they’re an Athens band, and if they do a show at the 40 Watt, I’ll try to be there just for the experience.

Can I have your water bottle?

- David

Yes. And then you can re-fill it, at your expense, with a margarita, unsalted, and return it to me. Thanks in advance.

At what point will UGA get a big lead and NOT be overly conservative and falter as we did in the bowl game?

- Adam Blake Keith

I thought the play-calling complaints would wait until fall. I guess not!

Did not notice Faton Bauta in spring game at all ....even though he was dressed out....any info on injuries, or any other reason that he did not participate????

- Warren Flanders

Bauta had a slight hamstring injury which kept him out of G-Day. He was limited in the last week of practice.

Baseball--What the the Dawgs chances of making the NCAA tournament?

Football-Will Cootie Harrow play DB this year with the need so strong early?  Who else stepped up at DB to help fill the void? 

And with Kolton Houston starting, can we assume his NCAA issues are behind him?  When will there be an official announcement reinstating him so we aren’t just trusting the untrustworthy NCAA that everything is OK with him?

- JoeDoe

Baseball: The Bulldogs do seem likely to make the tournament, but they haven’t cinched anything up yet, and hosting a regional seems out of the question.

Football: Harrow had a pretty decent spring, and in the spring game made a couple plays. I don’t know if he’ll be a member of the playing rotation, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Otherwise, no one else who hasn’t been mentioned really stood out.

Kolton Houston: Richt was askd this week about this, and he repeated again that they expect him to be eligible but nothing is certain. Reading the tea leaves, I would guess they’re expecting a positive ruling from the NCAA, which hasn’t been able to render one or notify Georgia yet because it is comically understaffed when it comes to enforcement and eligibility.

Always intrigued by walk-ons. Last year there some buzz about Eddie McQuillen, the 6'8" guy. Is he any closer to serious playing time? How about any other walk-ons?

- Larry

There was buzz about McQuillen? I guess I was out that day. Yes, he’s 6-8, but no he was not someone in the rotation. The only walk-on on the line who gets looks is Hugh Williams, and he has yet to see serious playing time.

But walk-ons, or former walk-ons, will continue to be a factor with the attrition this program has seen. I mentioned Norman and Sailors earlier. Brandon Harton also isn’t out of the picture at tailback. Ditto for Taylor Bradberry and Rhett McGown at receiver. Parker Welch keeps getting reps at quarterback. Adam Erickson is the punter/kicker who seems the most likely to push Morgan and/or Barber. Luis Capella, a cornerback, got some time on G-Day and with the depth there keep an eye on him.

And one name I keep hearing at fullback is Merritt Hall, who is a redshirt freshman.

Any plans disclosed yet to honor the 70th anniversary of the '42 Nat Champ team? Throwbacks, patch, etc?

- Governor Milledge

I asked UGA about this, and they said there weren’t any immediate plans. There also aren’t many players from that team still with us. But they could always end up doing something to honor the team.

Last year all we heard about was 1) the Miami scandal and 2) the end of the NCAA. How come we never hear about those things any more?

The fight scene in last week's Mad Men might have been the most unintentionally funny scene of the series...especially for Don. When he pulled the drapes closed, I lost it.

- Jonathan

Oh, I’m sure the Miami stuff will come back. The investigation is ongoing, but I would assume it won’t mean the end of the Miami football program, as some were predicting. It won’t be a slip on the wrist, however. And as we’ve seen the next scandal is just around the corner. Programs like Georgia are just praying they’re not next, and hoping their boosters are obeying the rules.

The Pete vs. Lane fight was awesome. I also burst out laughing when Don pulled the drapes. But I disagree that it was unintentionally funny – I think it was intentional, and it worked. You kept thinking: Are they really going to follow through on this? When will cooler heads prevail? And they never did, which was great.

Not that I condone fighting. If a couple of my fellow beat writers started to go at it, I’m sure I would step in and … Well, probably not. And let’s face it, I’d either be the one pulling the drapes or one of the combatants.