Junkyard Mail: Do the Dawgs really deserve their early Top 10 ranking?

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Josh Dawgson sacks Clemson QB Cole Stoudt. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)
Josh Dawson sacks Clemson QB  Cole Stoudt. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Josh Dawson sacks Clemson QB Cole Stoudt. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Let’s get straight to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

Harry Charbonneau writes: Bill, I do not see how the Bulldogs can be ranked as a Top 10 team at this point. Their pass defense is very weak and they have not yet developed an effective passing game. All great teams have strong defenses and balanced offenses that are strong in both the passing and running game. The Dogs are not there yet. In fact, I am very concerned that they will not be able to defeat South Carolina. What do you think?

Harry, based on just one game played, I think Georgia deserves its ranking as much as any other team in the Top 10 does. Frankly, I wish there weren’t any rankings until October. As for the team’s perceived weaknesses, while you accurately point out concerns about the Dawgs after one game, I think you overstate them. Jeremy Pruitt’s defense got off to somewhat of a rough start against Clemson but then got on track and played a superb second half, limiting the Tigers to 15 yards and one first down. The pass rush got stronger as the game went on. The secondary, which looked vulnerable early on, broke up five passes and got one interception. And even when they were getting burned on long passes in the first half, they were at least in position (an improvement over last season).

Hutson Mason didn't throw a lot of passes against Clemson, but he didn't need to. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Hutson Mason didn’t throw a lot of passes against Clemson, but he didn’t need to. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

As for the offense, that took a while to get on track, too, but Mike Bobo was smart enough to know that it wasn’t a day when a balanced offense was really necessary, as the running game was more than getting it done. That’s called taking what the other team gives you. So Georgia attempted only 26 passes. But Hutson Mason completed 69 percent of them!

Yes, I’m concerned that South Carolina will note that Georgia didn’t really stretch the field with its passing game against Clemson and will load the box to try and stop Todd Gurley and company, but it’s worth noting that it was the short passing game of Texas A&M that tore up the Gamecocks’ defense last week. And as Mason gains more confidence in his protection (which broke down at times against Clemson), I think you’ll see the passing game open up. Bobo noted after the game that there were a couple of plays last Saturday where Mason had receivers open downfield and didn’t pull the trigger. I believe that will get corrected, as Bobo and Mark Richt are both on the case, with the latter noting on this week’s “Bulldog Hotline” that “we’re going to have to throw the ball better than we did this last game to continue to have success throughout the season.”

Joe Burger writes: Hey Bill, Week 1 is down and we (UGA) are getting a lot of national attention and love from the pundits in the college football sports world. So, what does coach need to do to keep focus on simply “the next game?” And just as importantly, how do we keep teams honest against our offense — teams are going to stack the box against our run, and we are going to need Bobo and every single offensive player to be on for every series. I really get the feeling that this team has it in them to not only be good, but great. … We shall see!

I think the coaches no doubt have reminded the team of what happened the last time the Dogs visited Columbia, and what it’s like to play in Williams-Brice Stadium, so focus shouldn’t be a problem with this game. And, like I said above, Mason needs to make it clear early on that Georgia has a vertical passing game to go along with that tremendous posse of running backs. On the other side of the ball, the defensive front may find it a bit more difficult to get to South Carolina’s quarterback than it was with Clemson, so the secondary needs to be playing heads up (literally, turn around and look for the ball!) from the start.

N Roper writes: Thank GOODNESS we finally have a D-Coordinator who actually makes halftime adjustments. I am definitely a Pruitt AND a Gurley man! Go Dawgs!

Yes, the turnaround in success by the Georgia defense from the first half to the second half was quite remarkable. It’s still very early days, but I was encouraged.

OkieDawg writes: Hi Bill, What do you think about Coach Bobo coming down and coaching from the sideline? The direct eye contact with Hutson may be better than the telephone call from the coaching box. I know the analysis of the defensive formations is easier from the coaches box but we have other coaches who can do that. I think Bobo has matured and become a better O-coach than in the days he was sent upstairs. I also think he can bring some energy to the sidelines.

Bobo tried that starting midway through the 2009 season and running through the 2010 season, neither of which was considered very successful. For the 2011 season, he returned to the box, and that’s worked out pretty well for Georgia’s record-breaking offense. So I don’t think you’ll see him returning to the sideline any time soon.

Not all sections got red shakers for the Clemson game. (Jim Hipple / UGA)

Not all sections got red shakers for the Clemson game. (Jim Hipple / UGA)

Connie Braxton and Sherrie Griggs Shell both want to know why there weren’t any of the red shakers distributed in their sections of the upper deck at the Clemson game.

I put that question to Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton, who reported back there simply weren’t enough red shakers for all the UGA fans in Sanford Stadium. There were 48,000 shakers put out last week, Felton said, and they covered all the lower seating areas and the upper sections of student seating. They were not put in the Clemson seating areas which was most of the 600 level and a little of 300.

Paula Bechtler writes: Hi Bill! My supreme elation for our win over Clemson was diminished by only thing on Saturday night: my experience in trying to buy drinks/food for my father and myself. Thank you for having already mentioned it in your column. I hope that the UGA Athletic Association takes note (although they should have already done so).

I left our seats in Section 133 about 2 minutes before the half to use the restroom and buy 2 waters, a hot dog and a sub sandwich. I went up the steps (probably should have went down instead) and saw a line at the ladies room, but knew I had to do that before I got in line for concessions. There was a worker in the restroom, but she was moving slowly, and at least 2 stalls were perpetually out of use because they needed toilet paper.

When I got out of the restroom, the concessions line had grown considerably. I considered giving up and just trying to buy water from a vendor who was walking around, but my Dad is diabetic and I knew he needed something to eat. I got in a long line for concessions that seemed to fork at the front and go to two or three registers. After standing in line for 10-15 minutes I noticed that people had formed another (shorter) line next to us for one of those registers. That was irritating, but what could I do? (I wish there were stanchions/line guides leading up to the registers). The line moved agonizingly slow … when I was about 4-5 people from the register, we heard the kickoff for the second half, which further frustrated all of us. …

When finally I reached the front, I saw that part of the problem was the poor souls who were working the counter … they were overwhelmed and under trained. I gave my order, paid, and waited and waited. Finally the girl told me they were out of sub sandwiches. I was so irritated that I just asked for my money back.

There has GOT to be a better way!!! Either let us bring in food and drinks, or make it so that we are not wasting our money on tickets for a game that we don’t get to watch while we are stuck in line (and yes, I know there are TV’s in the concessions area, but I can watch TV at home for free). Thanks for letting me vent. It was still a great day and an incredible game! Go Dawgs!!!

Yours is a common complaint among fans attending games at Sanford Stadium, Paula, and frankly it didn’t look like the “improvements” made this year made much of a difference. Attention to detail seemed to be lacking last week. As I previously pointed out, more than 20 minutes after the gates were opened, the restrooms in Reed Plaza were still locked!  And I hear at least one of the so-called “misting” stations was late opening, too. UGA has one of the most beautiful stadiums in the country, but sometimes the running of it is strictly second-rate.

Another issue came up at the Clemson game with the mess they made of handling student entry into the stadium. FreshmanGirl writes: I really don’t understand why the athletic association felt it necessary to warn everyone with emails that if you didn’t get there early you might not get in to the game, and then made thousands of students wait in line well over an hour. People were fainting from the heat and humidity! Then, once you got in, there was a rush to get the bracelets that let you in to the good lower-level sections and not enough people handing them out. What a mess! And the pushing and shoving in the concourse outside the student sections was downright dangerous!

You’re right, FG. The scare tactic email backfired on the athletic association and it didn’t help that they then opened the gates 10 minutes late. I don’t know what the solution is to the wristband problem other than perhaps opening the student gates earlier so that there’s not such a mad rush and increasing the number of people handing out the wristbands. Another possible solution would be to go to assigned student seating, with upperclassmen getting priority on the seats in the preferred sections. Of course, as UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson pointed out in an article on this problem published this week in The Red & Black, no plan is going to make all students happy. As he said, “No matter what process we choose, whether general admission or assigned seating, I don’t know if we could meet all expectations.”

I heard quite a bit from fans this week about the canned music played in the stadium, with the “karaoke cam” coming in for particular disdain. SC Dawg writes: Bill: While rap and hip-hop aren’t this guy’s thing, I thought the young lady running UGA’s in-game piped-in music did a really nice job as evidenced by both the players’ and recruits’ reactions to it and enjoyment of it. However, when they chose to do a “karaoke” segment and play a love song right after the Redcoats had finished “Krypton” and leading into the 4th quarter, it was a fireable offense. That one choice, had we been behind in the game or not had the momentum we had, could have sucked all of the energy right out of the stadium. What in the world were they thinking? Please use your platform to ask people to call the athletic department and tell them to never do that again!

The difference in volume between the canned music and the Redcoats was disconcerting to some fans. (Ted Mayer / UGA)

The difference in volume between the canned music and the Redcoats was disconcerting to some fans. (Ted Mayer / UGA)

And Patrick Yaggy writes: Hi Bill, I always appreciate your thoughts on the atmosphere in Sanford, so I’m curious about your take on the following: The improved stereo system is definitely apparent in the quality of sound, but the biggest effect it had on the atmosphere to me was how the increased volume of the music minimized the band by comparison. I thought the band would be miked up, and think it should be in the future to match the volume of the music between plays. On a related note, that stadium-wide karaoke rendition of The Outfield’s “Your Love” was really strange and took away some crowd momentum.

I agree that not only did the karaoke segment not work well, but the choice of song was poor. As I wrote after the game, I thought the canned music generally was well-used to fire up the crowd at key moments, but they overdid it by continuing to blast it during timeouts when no one was paying attention. As for the Redcoats, I was concerned early in the game that they didn’t appear to be amplified at all, but that seemed to be taken care of later in the game and, in my section at least, we could hear them pretty well. But you make a good point that the the volume for the band was still much less than with the canned music. I’m not sure what can be done to boost the volume on the band, but I hope they do something.

David Duke writes: Bill, Always enjoy reading the blog. One question: How do you pronounce Sony’s last name? Is it indeed “Michelle” as we heard so often on the SEC Network? I always assumed a hard K, as in Michael. Just wondering.

It’s no wonder you were confused, David, as even the co-hosts of the postgame “Dawg Talk” couldn’t make up their minds, with Jeff Dantzler pronouncing Sony Michel’s name as “Michelle” and Kevin Butler calling him “Michael.” The correct pronunciation is what Dantzler and the SEC Network were using: “Sony” like the electronics company and “Michelle” like the first lady’s name.

William L. Ramsey writes: Mr. King, Your blog is the first thing I check out for UGA news and commentary. I very much enjoy your take on things. Here’s a quick question that I haven’t heard asked much and can’t find any information on. What’s become of A.J. Turman? I thought for sure he would be one of those backfield stars capturing headlines by now.

Thanks very much, Mr. Ramsey! As was announced in early August, redshirt freshman Turman is recovering from foot surgery. Most recently, he’s been seen at practice wearing a protective boot. Mark Richt said Turman probably will be ready sometime during the season. But with all the folks ahead of him at the tailback position, his best chance of making it on the field probably will be special teams.

Joseph in Kennesaw writes: Hey Bill, Long time reader and UGA alumnus here. With all of the recent stadium expansions and renovations across the conference such as LSU, Texas A&M, Miss State, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ole Miss, have you heard anything about a possible expansion to Sanford Stadium? I know we just got an improved sound system and better cell service, but what about stadium expansion? LSU is now over 100,000+ and Texas A&M will be over 100,000 once theirs is completed. I realize that Sanford Stadium is sort of land locked with the bridge on one end, dorms on another side, and the road/train tracks on the other end but there’s ways around that. I understand ticket sales might be a factor too for cupcake opponents but it certainly wouldn’t be a factor for the bigger opponents. What do you think?

This question comes up every few months, and as I said last time it was raised, I don’t think UGA needs to be in any stadium capacity race, despite the expansions at Texas A&M and LSU. While those schools apparently think they can fill those seats, generally speaking college football attendance is on the downswing, even in the SEC, thanks to high ticket prices, parking hassles and the appeal of flat-screen high definition television sets at home. Sanford is still mostly sold out, but just barely for some games, and overall UGA registered a minor attendance decrease in 2012 with an average of 92,723. And that was in a successful season in which the Dogs won their second consecutive SEC East title. There are already more than enough seats for the cupcake games. The most feasible expansion plan for Sanford is adding seats on the east end to take the capacity to 102,000 to 104,000, but unless the possible addition of a ninth conference game sometime in the next couple of seasons gooses fan interest, I wouldn’t think that’s likely to happen any time soon.

That’s all for this week. Next week, we look back to my first season as a UGA alum and ahead to South Carolina.

Go Dogs!

Got something you want to discuss concerning the football season or 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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