Bulldogs Blog

Ye Olde Mailbag

ATHENS – As many of you know, the Waffle House is now the official cheap restaurant of the Georgia coaching staff.

Steak and Shake? IHOP? Huddle House? Try your luck with Georgia Tech or Auburn.

By the time you read this, Mark Fox and Mark Richt may or may not have had their celebratory meal, planned for whenever Richt signed his new deal. (It was Fox’s idea. But Richt sounded excited to go along with it.)

All of this is worth mentioning because, as I was posting my mailbag, the news broke about Richt’s contract being finalized. And that led to a few more questions, specifically about the buyout – or lack of one, in the case of if Richt ever wanted to leave.

A few of my readers’ ears perked up over that, one saying it “makes no sense” because the buyout was in place to “do away with constant rumors of teams pursuing him.” Another asked if I thought there was anything to read into about all this.

All I can tell you is this: I’ve always held that if Richt ever wanted to leave, or Georgia ever wanted him to go, money was never going to be a factor. Georgia’s athletic association has more than $72 million in a reserve fund, and continues to annually make money. And Richt also had 11 years of multimillion salaries banked up, and if it was a matter of going to another school coming after him, the other school would pay a lot of the buyout.

So basically, I think the buyout was always more symbolic. And now Richt and Greg McGarity are trying to send the message that everyone loves each other so much that there’s hardly any need for a buyout.

There’s the answer to the questions from late in the week. Now here’s the rest of the mailbag:

When do you think the big conferences will just forget the NCAA, form mega leagues, and go to a big time playoff system? Also, pay the players, make it semi-pro, and have the NFL fund it? It already is semi-pro. Make it like baseball and have majors, AAA, AA? Players could always take correspondence courses - wait a minute they already do.

- Rodney

I’m not sure anything is off the table right now – except your NFL funding proposal. The colleges don’t need the money. But some radical approaches, such as letting college athletes have agents, doesn’t seem as verboten as it used to be. (Baseball players already have “advisers” who don’t get paid until they sign. Why can’t football and basketball players.)

We’re going through some major changes in college sports, and it’s just a matter of how major. A football playoff is already upon us, and there’s already been a lot of realignment. But how much further it will go I can’t say with much degree of confidence, other than an eight-team playoff, which I think is inevitable.

But I can say this: The powers-that-be are going to keep trying to straddle that line between making money through sports and keeping academic integrity. I was in Atlanta on Wednesday night for the welcome to the SEC bash thrown for Missouri and Texas A&M. I spoke to the presidents of both of those schools, as well as other school officials who aren’t involved in athletics. When you do that, you remember that these are still intellectual types who live in a different world than us sports fans. But the place was also teeming with alumni of each school. Those same presidents also know most of those fans aren’t showing up en masse if sports isn’t involved, and they aren’t donating money if they’re not excited about sports. So it’s all a tough balance for these presidents.

The main problem, as I and many others see it, is the NCAA doesn’t have a single, all-powerful commissioner, like every pro league does. The NCAA president doesn’t wield immense power. Instead power lies in the commissioners – and there are a half-dozen of them at the major level – and a bunch of committees. So to get back to your original question, on when there will be mega-conferences, no one knows because all of these major things don’t happen in a vacuum. They come in a series of decisions, sometimes connected to each other, and sometimes not.

Now, back to Georgia football:

When are we gonna hear about suspensions? What’s the hold-up?

- Trey Young

I wish I knew for sure. At a minimum, I would expect to hear something on Branden Smith soon; he has entered pre-trial intervention in Alabama, according to a report by the Athens Banner-Herald, which I haven’t been able to confirm yet. Assuming that’s true, then Smith isn’t fighting the charge, so you can expect an automatic one-game suspension to kick in.

As for the other guys, the latest I was told was there was a process that was still being handled. But it’s unclear if that process is an appeal, or the school deciding when to announce something. The hope is that there will still be uncertainty come August, meaning we’ll have to be asking Mark Richt every day about it.

I really enjoyed your top 10 most important for 2012 series. Great idea and excellent work...would love to debate the pecking order over lunch at Meatslanger's BBQ.....on your expense account, of course! My question is this: Over the years, UGA has landed several excellent recruits from the state of North Carolina. Currently, what staff member(s) is/are responsible for that area of recruiting; and, what do you attribute the UGA recruiting success to in the Tar Heel state?

- Louis, Leesburg, Ga

Thanks for the kind words, and glad you enjoyed the series. I’ll have another one kicking off next week.

Bryan McClendon was the main recruiter for both Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley, but that’s mainly because he’s their position coach. Georgia’s emphasis doesn’t seem as much on territory as it is on position. That may change with new on-campus recruiting coordinator Daryl Jones. There are geographic areas for each coach to recruit, but what often happens is that once it’s decided Georgia is going to pursue a guy, his position coach takes over. So does the offensive or defensive coordinator. For instance, Todd Grantham in the stretch run for this year’s recruiting class. He didn’t have certain geographic areas, but he still pursued Jordan Jenkins and others.

To go back to your question on UGA’s success in that state: Each case is different, and this year Marshall and Gurley were personally tight and liked the idea of playing with each other. But in general, the state of North Carolina still doesn’t have a dominant football program. People there grow up wanting to play basketball at North Carolina, but not football. So out-of-state schools are always going to be able to go in there and get some big-time guys.

Can you give a recruiting update? What are the remaining slots/positions for the class of 2013 that the coaches are looking to fill and who are we targeting as well as the expected ceiling of those players. Also any word on who in the 2012 class is still waiting to qualify?

- Vincent Ng

For a simple list of commitments, you can check out my most recent update, from Monday. (I’ve been doing this every time a commitment comes in.) They have four commitments each at cornerback and receiver, which are big needs, and three each from offensive linemen and inside linebackers. Those were big needs too, but they’re going to continue to pursue more offensive linemen.

Georgia is still at least somewhat involved with four of the nation’s top six recruits, as judged by 247sports.com. But one (ILB Reuben Foster) is committed to Alabama, and another (DE Robert Nkemdiche) is likely headed to Alabama. DT Montravius Adams from Dooly County is a top Georgia target, as is OL Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla.) Safety Vonn Bell (Rossville) is another name to watch for the Bulldogs.

Actually, there will be lots of names. Georgia expects to sign more than 30 guys, depending on how many can enroll early.

As for which 2012 players are still waiting, the only ones who are reported to still be short of qualifying academically are defensive linemen John Atkins and Leonard Floyd. But neither case is thought to be serious right now, it’s just a matter of a class or a test score. The official reporting date isn’t until the start of August. Where it could be a concern is if they qualify too late – such as Devin Bowman last year – which leads to an eventual redshirt because they’ve missed too much time. Neither Atkins or Floyd is expected to be an immediate impact guy, but each has a chance to get some time off the bench this year.

Who is a new face on defense that you think has what it takes to step in and be an immediate impact player?

- Jack Bauer

Depends on your definition of “new.” If you mean a newcomer to the team, then I couldn’t predict anybody right now being an impact guy. The defense just has too much coming back. Jordan Jenkins and Josh Harvey-Clemons would seem the best ready to step in if there’s an emergency, and I will be interested to see how much they utilize Harvey-Clemons in that “spur” role that Todd Grantham has talked about. Now, if you’re talking about players who didn’t play much last year, I’d refer you to my “most important players for 2012” series, with Malcolm Mitchell, Damian Swann and Corey Moore all set for bigger roles on defense. Swann in particular is a guy who was set to play a lot anyway, even before the off-field issues.

1. How hot is Perno's seat next year?

2. At first glance, the new b-ball schedule looks slightly favorable for the Dawgs... do you concur?

3. Between his blog about Greyhound buses and his Mariachi band photo w/ Aaron Murray yesterday, can we expect more comedy from Watts Dantzler or do you think he is peaking at the moment?

4. Who is your darkhorse to win Euro 2012?

- Eric Kriebel

1. Perno’s seat will be warm, as evidenced by his “reorganization” of the staff on Thursday. It actually sounded more serious than it was, as two coaches already on staff added duties: Jason Eller became pitching coach and Allen Osborne because recruiting coordinator. That struck me as Perno having some duties taken off his plate. In any case, it’s at least an acknowledgement by Perno that something needed to change – or at least publicized as having changed.

2. Not sure I agree with that, at least based on current information. That could change once we see the entire SEC schedule; all we know now is Georgia gets South Carolina twice – and yes, that should be good, because the Gamecocks once again look like they’re going to stink. The nonconference schedule looks like it will be pretty similar. South Florida, which Georgia gets in the SEC-Big East Invitational, was pretty good last year. And Mark Fox is looking for at least one more marquee opponent.

3. Dantzler is a pretty outgoing guy, and many reporters on this beat are silently rooting for him to play enough to be interviewed regularly. Others falling in that category are Keith Marshall, Chris Conley and Ray Drew. (Thankfully, we know we will get more of quote-machine Arthur Lynch this year.)

4. I can't really help you on European soccer. That's Gentry's department. But I have ready access to an expert on European economics, if you want to try that next time.

Wondering why we would choose not to host visitors in Jax. If we're only allowed to host every other year as the home team, it still evens out. Any why would only the home team be allowed to host anyway at a neutral site? Are the two schools being outvoted by teams in the league who recognize the value in that game?

- Andrew

No, Florida and Georgia mutually agreed not to take advantage of the rule change. It was requested by Texas A&M (which occasionally plays games in Arlington, Tex.) and Arkansas (which plays occasionally in Little Rock). Keep in mind, those teams regularly play those “neutral-site” games that really aren’t. Those schools will benefit from the rule change every year. Georgia and Florida would alternate.

I tend to think this is a bit overblown.. Why waste a recruiting visit on a game six hours from Athens, when coaches aren’t allowed to have contact – or really want to, considering the travel to the game, and the necessary prep. It would seem a better use to have those officials visits take place in Athens. And once again, Georgia would only be able to do this once every two years. There really isn’t enough of a tangible benefit to justify it. It’s also not like this has been a major source of consternation before this point.

1. What's your gut say about a college football playoff? Four best teams, or conference champs? BCS, or selection committee? Neutral sites, or home field advantage? Even though the SEC is united, sounds like there's still convincing to do with other conferences.

2. In a recent mailbag you took a shot at Phil Mickelson. Why no love for Lefty?

3. In another Mailbag (are you freaked out yet by my memory of your mailbags?) you said Peggy was the soul of Mad Men and a character the show couldn't do without. Thoughts now that she will likely have a much smaller role (or none at all)?- Thanks,

Ghost of Lane Pryce

1. It will be the best four teams playing within the bowl systems, of that I am sure. The championship will be bid out, and I’d be surprised if Jerry Jones doesn’t win the first one. But whether we end up with a selection committee or the BCS standings, I’m not sure. I have a feeling that it will end up BCS standings because they’re used to that, but if so this would be a good chance to blow up that system. There’s no reason coaches should be voting on it. Too much of a conflict of interest.

2. Did I take a shot at Phil? I don’t remember. But that does sound like something I would do. I don’t know, I guess I fall in the category of people that see him as a tad phony. But I’ll root for him in the Ryder Cup.

3. Yes, I said that, and I still feel that way, which is why I’ll be surprised if she’s not back in some way. Peggy, as a woman who rose from secretary at the business, is the transition from the old world to the new world. Do they just throw her away? The only explanation is that the writers aren’t happy with Elizabeth Moss as an actress, or there’s a salary dispute, or she was pregnant and they needed to write her off for awhile, or something like that. Or the other explanation is I’m totally wrong. But it can’t possibly be that.

Seth, who you got winning the NBA finals?? What do you think the chances are that our studs who were drafted in the MLB end up coming to sunny Athens to play? I'm holding on to false hope, I know. Oh, and what's the best bet in craps??

- Zachda

Do I dare pick Oklahoma City in its first Finals experience? It’s who I’ll be rooting for, because Kevin Durant is so likable, unlike well, you know. As for baseball, it doesn’t look good for keeping anybody. They knew they were never going to see Byron Buxton, the second overall pick, and then the other two were picked in the first two rounds. And as for craps, that’s not my game. I’m a roulette guy.

Seth, I have a new question. What happened with the students for UGA to change their policy from a few years ago?? When I was there, students had paper tickets and could sell them as they please. NEVER a problem with student attendance. Why not going back to the paper ticket system??

- Zachda

How long ago were you a student? As I’ve researched this, the prevailing opinion is this has been a problem for a long time. I can tell you they would not be happy with the idea of students selling their paper tickets.

No love for your boy Shawn Williams from Phil Steele....What are your thoughts on the different ALL SEC teams that recently came out?

- Gordon Smith

I’ve never been surprised for the lack of Williams awards recognition. Bacarri Rambo and his interceptions overshadowed him. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

The only All-SEC teams I recall seeing are Steele’s. There will be plenty more. On Steele’s list, I was struck by seeing Isaiah Crowell and Tavarres King on second team, right there with Aaron Murray. Defensively, eight Georgia players made one of the four teams, but a few of them are going to be suspended.

With the way teams around the league are trying to keep up with each other in terms of facilities, does UGA have any plans to add to Sanford Stadium any time soon? It would be nice to see them get closer to the 100,000 mark which seems to be the magic number everyone is trying to reach.

- Stew

That hasn’t really come up at any board meetings lately. It may be something worth running up the flagpole, but I think there have been too many issues with attendance (particularly students) for the motivation to be anything other than just trying to reach that 100,000 mark.

1) What do you make of Derrick Henry's flirting with Alabama? Is he trying to make sure he is still loved by us, scared he won't get playing time with IC, TG, KM, or is it something else? Are we wavering in our commitment to him any?

2) Time frame for Baccari Rambo punishment announcement ? Your over and under on number of games he will sit out ? I say 2 1/2.

- Robert K. Burnham

1) This is why I’m glad I don’t cover recruiting on a daily basis. You’re talking about teenagers, who are prone to say and do different things on different days. It’s nothing new for a recruit to supposedly be committed but to actively visit other schools. (My favorite was a few years ago, when one recruit said he was committed to South Carolina, but his favorite was Auburn. Well ok.) But with Henry, considering Georgia’s depth at tailback, and the fact he’s not an in-state kid (he’s from the Jacksonville area) it wouldn’t be the world’s biggest upset if he did switch to Alabama. But I’m not going to sit here and tell you what my gut feeling is, or make any predictions, or anything like that. Too hazardous to do that in recruiting.

2) As stated earlier, I’d love to know the time frame. Is the appeal being waited on? I don’t know if it’s that or they just don’t want to announce it. I’d be surprised if it isn’t four games, because that’s what it’s due to be and that’s what Rambo was told in March. Now could they decide to buy his inadvertent brownie excuse, and reduce it, or throw it out completely? Perhaps. But I’d be surprised.

What do you think is happening with Russell Henley and his golf game? He has made only half (5 out of 10) cuts, only one top 25, and he has made only $15,890. Missed the cut in Athens where he was defending champion. Meanwhile his teammates Brian Harmon and Harris English are on the PGA Tour, have made 11 and 13 out of 16 cuts and have earned $473,018 and $818,206, respectively. He was more highly thought of than those two in his college career, but now they have him in his rearview mirror.

- Anonymous

It may just be a bad year for Henley. The struggles have come too quickly to be anything major. He told me it was just a matter of consistency, not the long or short game or anything specific. That’s usually a sign of it being a mental thing. He’s only in his first full year as a pro. If he’s still missing cuts regularly next year, then Henley fans should go into panic mode. But not yet.

Enjoying your social media footprint in covering the Dawgs! If the D continues to improve to the point that it is a dominant force week in and week out, I have to think that Todd Grantham's stock will continue to rise & create a potential promotional opportunity for him (NCAA Head Coach/NFL DC). Should that opportunity afford itself, do you think he would look to take any of the other defensive positional coaches with him? And in looking for a replacement, does Coach Richt look to promote from within again (a la Willie Martinez) or hire another outsider? Would be curious to hear your thoughts.

- Josh Cahill

This is a question that I’m sure is being bandied about in Richt’s brain, and he’s glad he didn’t have to deal with it this year. There isn’t a natural in-house candidate – the only defensive assistant with coordinator experience is secondary coach Scott Lakatos, and that was most recently in 2000, at Maine. The Martinez experience may also make Richt hesitant to promote in-house. But you notice I’m saying “may” and “might” a lot. The only way to know for sure is when Grantham leaves, and we don’t know if that will be after next season or well after that. The only near-guarantee I can make is Georgia will stick with the 3-4.

Many are expecting a great year. I think we’ll do well, but I’m concerned with having two freshman kickers. I think that could a difference maker. Look at last year. Drew did a great job in the Vandy game to get off kick off late that may have saved the game. That’s experience. And, Blair certainly could have done better last year, but will a freshman do any better?

- Tre'

Actually, it was Butler’s tackle in that Vandy game that may have saved the tackle. (One team insider began referring to that as the $2.9 million tackle, that being the amount of Richt’s base salary.)

But your point is taken. And – once again harkening back to my “most important players” series, that’s why I had new kicker Marshall Morgan at No. 3 on my list. Collin Barber, likely to be the new punter, will also be under the spotlight, but not quite as much as place-kicker. Maybe Georgia can take heart in the fact that its kicker struggled last year, and they still won 10 games. (But could have won 12 with better kicking.)

If we had the Dream Team, followed by the Ring Team, can I propose a name for this year's recruiting class (assuming it's not so obviousthat it's already in use):

The Dream Army.That is all,

- Jud

Consider it proposed.

Prediction Time:

Over/Under: UGA gets 20 rushing TDs in 2012

Better defensive statistics in 2012: Damian Swann or Malcolm Mitchell.

Preseason prediction for the Charley Trippi award: Malcolm Mitchell or Branden Smith

We're finishing Dexter season 5, now. What should my wife and I enjoy next? MadMen season 1, Breaking Bad season 1, or Sons of Anarchy season 1?

- Meansonny

You challenge me so with this quick-hitting format. Let me see how I can do:

Under 20 TDs. They had 15 last year in 14 games.

Swann over Mitchell, because Swann stays on defense all year.

Mitchell wins the Trippi award.

Did you think I’d vote for anything other than Mad Men? Come on, dude. Actually I’m a big Breaking Bad fan too, so you can’t go wrong there. I’ve heard good things about Sons of Anarchy, but I’ve never seen it.

Hello Seth! I was running through my normal morning blogs and caught a post by the Senator about some B1G bloggers from the four letter network writing about the college playoff picture. Adam Rittenburg and Brian Bennett are the ones. After reading a few of their posts, I see a VERY big sense of bitterness they have for the SEC. But when I read this “Perhaps that will placate the SEC loudmouths who couldn’t pull themselves away from Chick-Fil-A long enough to bother reading the actual specifics of what the Big Ten proposed” I must say It was uncalled for. You can attack my conference, but NOT my Chik-Fil-A! How dare he! All joking aside, not really, what are your thoughts on getting personal in journalism?

- Dawgwood

To be fair, at least they went with Chick-Fil-A rather than Waffle House.

Getting personal in journalism? I always try to keep it professional, but I also can’t help the snark on occasion. I just try to make sure it’s not mean-spirited or a cheap shot. I’ve been in this business for over 15 years now, and what I’ve found is I always remember my mistakes – going over the line or getting a fact wrong – more than I cherish my good one-liners. It’s also different based on your job: Some bloggers out there never have to step foot in a locker room or interview their subjects, so they take some pretty brave shots. I’m a beat writer, so I see these guys almost daily. Does that mean I hold my fire sometimes? Maybe I shouldn’t, but yes, I do. But I also take some shots at other people – Gene Chizik and his vanilla personality is someone I may do that with, including earlier in this sentence.

The general rule for most people is you shouldn’t write anything about somebody that you wouldn’t say to their face, or at least be able to defend if they complained about it to your face. (I can just imagine myself saying: “But Gene, you are SO boring.”)

But THE most important thing, and I can’t underestimate this enough, is if you’re a true journalist, and you take a shot at someone, you should show up the next day to take your medicine, or to defend yourself.

Finally, a Mad Men spoiler is coming, if you don’t want to read on, stop now:

What do you think of the death of Pryce ? And most importantly do you think we were robbed of a Pryce vs. Campbell rematch?

- Richard Collier

I could see where the writers felt the Lane Pryce character had hit its peak, and didn’t really have anywhere else to go. I knew it was coming before I watched – someone else spoiled it for me, sadly – but I still thought it was well done. You think he’s going to do it earlier in the car, and he doesn’t, and then later . Boom, you find out about it along with the other characters. So you know his thought process, but you’re left to discover it and absorb it along with his fellow office mates. The writers didn’t hit you over the head with it.

It was also a wonderful character moment for Don Draper, another one where he shows redeeming qualities. He does the right thing when he finds out about Pryce embezzling, and (so far as we know) doesn’t tell anybody about it after they find the body. Don Draper is kind of like Tony Soprano in that way: So many ugly things, but still a round character, who you want to root for, and every time you think it’s safe to do so, he does something to reverse it.