Posted: 10:51 am Saturday, May 17th, 2014
Fan talk: Offensive line talent, defensive backfield concerns, true silver britches and Jacksonville! (Updated)
By Bill King
Let’s get straight to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Larry Tucker writes: Bill, Any thoughts on why we seem to miss out on so many O-Line prospects? This year the state is loaded and already the top 5 are committed to out of state schools. When was the last time we have had an O-Lineman go in the first round of the draft?
First of all, Larry, I think it’s way too early to be fretting about the 2015 recruiting class. However, you’re not alone in worrying about how the OL will perform this coming season, particularly considering all the shifting that went on during spring practice. And, yes, the offensive line has been a perennial area of concern during the Mark Richt era, perhaps due in part fo a fair amount of turnover in OL coaches. Current coach Will Friend was hired in 2011, replacing Stacy Searels, who came to Georgia from LSU in 2007, replacing Neil Callaway, who was named offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at UGA when Richt assembled his original staff in January, 2001.
But Georgia has had some NFL-worthy talent on the OL during that time. To answer your question, the last Dogs offensive lineman to go in the first round of the NFL draft was George Foster, who was taken by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2003 draft and spent eight years in the league. (Before Foster, the last first-round pick was Matt Stinchcomb in 1999, during the Jim Donnan era.) The next highest OL draftees in the Richt years were Cordy Glenn, taken in the second round in 2012, and Jon Stinchcomb, taken in the second round in 2003. But, working our way back, Georgia has also had Ben Jones, Justin Anderson, Clint Boling, Chester Adams, Ken Shackleford and Max Jean-Gilles drafted off its OL.
Of course, it would be great for the Dogs to get more five-star OL recruits like John Theus, but, as he told the Macon Telegraph recently, Richt doesn’t think a dominating offensive line is a necessity. “I’ve coached offensive football a long time,” the coach said. “I don’t want to make anybody mad at Florida State, but we didn’t have dominating offensive lines, but we had some great skill people that were able to make some great plays. If you have a bunch of linemen that know what to do, and can stay coordinated and get their hat on the right guy, and fight like mad, you can neutralize a defender for long enough for a great skill guy to get on by, or get the ball off, whatever it might be. I mean, I’d rather have five guys that are in sync, that are a little above average, than three of them that are superstars and two guys that can’t play. You’re not gonna get it done. Because all it takes is one guy to blow it, and you’ve got a negative-yardage play. It can be very frustrating.”
Jim P. writes: Bill, Simple question … Who the #%!! is going to man our defensive backfield this year? … I’m afraid our promising season can be derailed again by our defense. Regardless of Coach Pruitt’s influence. Doesn’t matter who the coach is, if they don’t have enough players to man their positions.
It’s certainly a major concern, Jim, what with Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins gone from the team and Brendan Langley moving over to offense. Right now, you can pretty much figure that the pair of seniors in the secondary will start: Damian Swann at one of the cornerback positions and Corey Moore as one of the safeties. The other safety is likely to be Quincy Mauger or Tray Matthews (who faces a possible suspension for Checkgate), though senior walk-on Lucas Redd made a move during the spring and Tramel Terry, who came over from the offense, could be a factor once he learns the position. It looks like the nickel back or “star” will be another recent defensive convert, J.J. Green. But predicting the starter at the other cornerback spot is pretty much a crap shoot. Redshirt-freshman Aaron Davis, a walk-on, wound up the spring on top of the depth chart, but Sheldon Dawson, Devin Bowman or Kennar Johnson could get playing time, and Reggie Wilkerson, returning from ACL surgery, also will be in the mix, possibly backing up Swann. One thing I would count on: Incoming players Malkom Parrish, Shattle Fenteng, Shaq Jones and Dominick Sanders will get the opportunity to battle their way up the depth chart at cornerback or safety right from the start. Like I said earlier this week, Jeremy Pruitt has his a big job ahead of him.
Matt in Brisbane, Australia, writes: Greetings, Mr. King, from the Land Down-Under. I suppose as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate the value and the excitement of the individual football games more and more. The stories, the outrageous characters (who can’t appreciate having Spurrier, The Hatter, and Reverend Richt all in the same conference?!), the rivalries, and the heroism of the players — they all are what make college football transcend all other sports. I am concerned that the recent obsession with the national title has taken the shimmer out of lots of wonderful games. I would be so proud if Georgia could finally win a title, but I would much prefer it if every game were REALLY a new contest, independent and exciting, regardless of the national title prospects of the teams playing. We all know deep down that the individual game is the most exciting thing. Remember two or three years ago when James Franklin at Vandy was UGA’s Enemy #1, and we barely got by in Nashville? That was exciting. Compare that to Bama’s recent thrashing of Notre Dame in the NC game. Just sayin’…. Anyway, I agree that it makes football way more exciting if you have teams with a lot to lose playing each other, but have we gotten a little crazy? As a side effect, that is obviously why the SEC is hesitant to play more good games. Maybe I’m being sanctimonious, but maybe the national title will soon ruin the spirit of college football. Conference titles, though, I think are fantastic. Even still, I’ll be missing and craving all the excitement come fall.
I agree completely, Matt. I know there is a contingent of Dismal Dawgs who declare the entire Richt era a failure because he hasn’t brought a national championship trophy back to Athens. But if you take that very limited view of what constitutes success in college football, you’re going to generally be unhappy, no matter what school you support. I like your way of looking at it, and I hope you’re able to follow the Dogs this season Down Under.
John David writes: Bill, I know that UGA is currently working with Nike to bring back true silver britches, which excites me to no end. That leads me to two questions. 1) What is the current state of that effort? I seem to remember hearing something a couple years ago about trying to have them ready for 2014, but I haven’t heard any news lately. 2) Also, I would love to see the Dooley-era red pants return (with stripes, not the solid mess from the Boise game a couple years back), but ONLY for a few away games each year. Thoughts? Thanks, love the Blawg.
Thanks, JD. Athletic director Greg McGarity said back in March that Georgia is “working with our partners at Nike to create a more ‘silver’ silver for the Dawgs’ silver britches,” and this week I checked with Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton, who said: “Uniform design and production is quite a lengthy process these days but the new ‘silver’ should be good to go for the 2015 season.” So, not this season, but next. As for the red britches, I’m with you in supporting the idea of occasionally wearing them on the road with the white jerseys (never at home with the red tops), but McGarity has indicated he’s less inclined these days to mess with Georgia’s traditional uniform after “our one experiment in Atlanta wasn’t very popular” (a reference to the infamous Power Rangers uniforms against Boise State).
Rick Martin writes: Bill, I am sick and tired of hearing people complain about UGA’s home schedule. All of this could be solved if they would just move the Florida game to home-and-home. I also would ask the fans, would you rather have to drive 6 hours after a win or a loss?
Rick, as I said a couple of weeks ago, I don’t think there’s any strong sentiment among athletics officials at either UGA or UF to move the game out of Jacksonville now, although if the SEC were go to to a nine-game conference schedule, that could change, possibly to an arrangement that alternated Athens, Gainesville and Jacksonville. However, if you take the game out of Jacksonville — with the 50/50 split in seating and the surrounding party atmosphere — it no longer would be one of college football’s marquee events. It would be just another important game in the SEC East.
Finally, I wrote the other day that Richt told fans in Albany he wasn’t afraid of attrition, but he didn’t actually make that comment in his address to the fans at UGA Day. Rather, he said that in a one-on-one interview with Gentry Estes of Dawgs 247 before the fan event. So, here’s credit where it’s due.
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About the Author
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.