Junkyard Mail: Changes Between the Hedges, Bobo’s offense, Georgia-Florida and more!

Former UGA players Jon Stinchcomb, David Greene and Matt Stinchcomb are once again heading up the Countdown to Kickoff festival. (Countdown to Kickoff)

Former UGA players Jon Stinchcomb, David Greene and Matt Stinchcomb are once again heading up the Countdown to Kickoff festival. (Countdown to Kickoff)

The players are working out in Athens, but otherwise we’re in college football’s summer downtime. Come mid-July, however, the first harbingers of a new season will arrive, including SEC Media Days July 14-17 (UGA takes the spotlight on the last day), and the annual Countdown to Kickoff, organized by Bulldog greats Jon and Matt Stinchcomb and David Greene, which is set for noon to 3 p.m. July 19.

This year, the fan festival will move from its longtime home at the Woodruff Practice Fields to inside Sanford Stadium, which will give the many kids who attend the chance to run around Between the Hedges as they meet current Georgia players and coaches and stars from the past, plus play flag football and participate in mini-camps on the field. The Redcoat Band, Georgettes, cheerleaders and Hairy Dawg also will be on hand. As usual, there’ll be the opportunity to get autographs from Bulldogs past and present.

The cost is $25 for individual tickets or $75 for a discounted family pack of four tickets, and food and beverages will be provided at no additional cost. All proceeds benefit the Georgia Transplant Foundation and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Free parking will be provided in the Tate Center lot off Lumpkin Street next to the stadium. Guests may bring in one item for personalized autographing. For more information, go here.

It’s a fun day for UGA fans of all ages, but kids in particular will enjoy it, even more so now that it’s being held inside the stadium. I remember what a thrill it was for my son the first time I took him on the field at Sanford for a booster club event many years ago. If you’re able to make the trip to Athens in July, don’t miss the chance to make a memory like that!

Speaking of Sanford Stadium, which was dubbed the SEC’s “most beautiful” in a recent survey, let’s see what was said about it in some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

I asked fans on Facebook what could be done to improve Sanford Stadium. Matt Penoyar got right to the point and echoed the most frequent complaint about the stadium heard in recent years from fans, writing: That sound system is atrocious.

Matt, I wrote last September after the North Texas game: “Saturday provided numerous examples of the current deficiencies: There were frequent sound dropouts (the worst resulting in the poor Battle Hymn soloist going unheard and even part of the Larry Munson pre-game spiel being missed); the audio level varied wildly from barely discernible to blasting you out of your seat.” And there were other technical snafus involving the instant replay and game clock. “UGA has a state-of-the-art video board coupled with two-bit sound and clock systems,” I wrote. “An upgrade is badly needed.”

Well, we’re apparently getting the upgrade in sound this season — at least, I hope it’s an upgrade. The UGA athletic board approved $950,000 for improvements to the stadium sound system to take advantage of new SEC rules that allow canned music between plays. It remains to be seen how well the improvements work, though. As I’ve written before, at the spring G-Day game the audio was cranked up so high it was painful.

Also on the subject of needed improvements at Sanford Stadium, Matthew Cafaro writes: Hi Bill, You asked, so I’ll answer. There are cost-effective ways to improve Sanford Stadium without enclosing the west endzone or extending the upper-upper deck around the east endzone. Six, in fact. 1. Make permanent seats in the lower east endzone. Get rid of the ugly green quasi-riser seats. They don’t have to be chair seats as they are now, in fact, they could be like my 2nd fix: 2. Do as (ugh) Ohio State has done, and put those baseball-style backings on ALL of the bleacher seats in the stadium. Those backings have concave indentions where people can rest their back, making for a more comfortable sitting experience. Speaking of more comfortable… 3. It’s time to expand the seats in the club section by about 2 inches each and add padding, like at the Georgia Dome. Make the club seats something people wouldn’t mind paying extra money for, because let’s be honest: having a simple chair back seat isn’t a novelty any longer. 4. Sanford Stadium may be praised for gently-sloping upper decks that aren’t vertigo-inducing like at Carolina or TAMU, but they are also the source for Sanford being relatively quiet compared to our SEC brethren. We must do what Bama and Tennessee did: Build a partial aluminum roof covering the upper-upper deck and the east side upper deck around to the skyboxes. This will keep noise in, creating a much more intimidating atmosphere, as well as proving some shade and improve the overall aesthetic of the stadium. Speaking of which… 5. It’s time to brick-over the exposed concrete on the outside of the stadium. They did it at Bama and Tennessee. They’re doing it at TAMU. It’s time for Sanford to reflect the architecture of UGA’s campus with brick as opposed to exposed concrete. 6. Finally… add a few more rows to the top of the west endzone stands and connect them to Sanford Bridge, creating a new gateway into the stadium, with a standing-room section, akin to Boston’s Green Monster seats, underneath the scoreboard.These 6 fixes do not carry the price tag of adding another upper-upper deck to the east side, or enclosing the west side, they’d probably get our total close to 95,000, and create a more intimidating, yet pleasant, home field advantage.

Wow, you’ve obviously been giving this some thought, Matthew, but I’m not sure how cost-effective it would be to brick over the exterior of the stadium, no matter how cool it might look. Also, I don’t cotton at all to your idea of a partial aluminum roof. I think that sounds hideous. And I can see one problem with putting backs on all the bleacher seats: It would eliminate a revenue source from the folks who currently pay to have a seat back. However, it would eliminate folks trying to squeeze more than one person into a designated seat. I’m not sure access to the stadium directly from the bridge is needed, but a standing-room area at the top of those sections is an intriguing idea.

Ken Ott writes: Mr. King, As of this [week], Bulldog Club members can see their exact 2014 football seating locations by logging into their account, clicking “view my order history,” then the season ticket line, then “view seats” on any individual game. Since many of us request upgrades every year, perhaps some readers out there would be as excited to get this info as I was.

Thanks, Ken. Patrons can indeed view their renewable season ticket seating assignment by logging into the Bulldog Club site. Of course, some of us are perfectly happy with our seats — I’ve had the same ones since 1975!

Frankie Dodd writes: Bill, I’ve seen conflicting press reports on freshman tight end Hunter Atkinson’s status as a student after he quit the football team this week. The original statement issued by UGA was kind of vague, and some reports have indicated he left school while others have said he’s still at UGA. Any official word?

You’re right, Frankie, that the original statement was a little vague when it said Atkinson “has decided not to pursue his football career further and will concentrate on opportunities associated with his long term career goals.” So I put the question to Karen Huff of the UGA athletic office, and she provided the definitve answer: “Hunter did not remain at UGA.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo says fans might see more spread this season. (Steven Colquitt / UGA)

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo says fans might see more spread this season. (Steven Colquitt / UGA)

Jackie Jonas writes: Bill, Last week Larry Tucker suggested Mike Bobo might want to take advantage of the Dogs being loaded at tailback and run more like Auburn does, and you replied that you didn’t see Bobo trying to emulate Gus Malzahn’s mostly-run offense when he’s got one of the nation’s most productive passing attacks, and you expected him to keep a balanced offense. I tend to agree, but one thing that has excited me over the past three seasons is Bobo’s increasing introduction of the spread into what was formerly a pretty standard pro-style offense. That and going more uptempo has made Georgia’s offense much more exciting and one that you certainly can’t call “vanilla,” like Todd McShay did three years ago. What do you think of Bobo’s use of the spread, Bill, and are we likely to see more of it?

I’m a big fan of Bobo’s diversification of Georgia’s offense over the past three seasons, Jackie. I think that’s when he came into his own as an offensive coordinator and signal caller. And he told the Macon Telegraph recently we might see even more spread in his play calling with Hutson Mason at quarterback. Said Bobo: “I think the biggest thing is keep adapting to what you’re trying to do offensively, and get the guys that can make plays the ball. The big misconception [is] we’re gonna be two-back and run it all the time. We were 75-percent one-back last year. And everybody thinks, Well you’re gonna play Georgia you’re gonna be play-action pass. We used to, [but] that’s when we had a little different personnel. … You’ll probably see a little more spread this year, too, because that’s what Hutson is comfortable with.” For fans of the big backs pounding it, though, Bobo added that he’s “still a firm believer that you’ve gotta let them know you’re at the ballpark and be physical running the ball.”

Andrew Wagner writes: Hi Bill, This question is more of a hypothetical “what if” in the future, but it’s had me wondering … what would happen to the Georgia-Florida game if the Jaguars moved out of Jacksonville? I feel like that topic comes up every year as a possibility and despite the Jaguars currently upgrading the stadium, I think there is still a realistic chance they move eventually given attendance woes. I doubt the rivalry game along with the Gator Bowl would be enough to justify the stadium’s existence. Thoughts?

I doubt that would have a major impact on Georgia-Florida, Andrew. The two schools played in Jacksonville at the old Gator Bowl before it was upgraded after the city got an NFL team, and I doubt Jacksonville would want to get rid of its stadium even if the Jaguars left town. A bigger threat to the Jacksonville neutral-site series down the road, I think, is if the SEC goes to nine conference games. Georgia and Florida would be at a disadvantage in having one less home game in the odd-even rotation of home and away.

Robert Thomas writes: Do you know the date yet of the Picture Day that is normally held in the middle of August? Thanks.

Running back Keith Marshall signs for fans at last year's Picture Day. (John Kelley / UGA)

Running back Keith Marshall signs for fans at last year’s Picture Day. (John Kelley / UGA)

Robert, the Georgia athletic office says Picture Day will be Saturday, Aug. 16, this year. And while you’re in Athens for that, you might want to stick around in the evening for another event at Stegeman Coliseum featuring the basketball team and ESPN’s Rece Davis and Amy Robach of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” It benefits the American Cancer Society, and our next letter writer, a UGA superfan who volunteers with the gala, has more on the subject …

Sravanthi Meka writes: Hey Bill! Hope your summer is going well. I was wondering if you could put in a good word for our 5th Annual Suits & Sneakers event to be held a Stegeman Coliseum on August 16th. As usual, it will be a fun night with games, chances to get photos and meet the basketball players, including our newest Bulldogs, and some amazing auction items in the silent and live auctions. In addition, our emcee will be none other than Rece Davis, and we will have a special guest and speaker attending, UGA’s very own Amy Robach! Visit www.suitsandsneakersga.org for more information. … I also post updates on auction items on our Facebook and Twitter pages frequently. Sponsorships and tickets (individual tickets or tables of 10) are still available. Thank you for you support and GO DAWGS!

Thanks, Sravanthi. Sounds like a fun way for UGA fans to cap off a visit to the Classic City and do some good.

Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Email junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

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