College football season is gearing up. SEC Media Days was this week and preseason practice is set to begin Aug. 4. Dawgs Fans should note that the annual picture day has been changed this year to Saturday, Aug. 15, rather than the traditional date of Aug. 22.
Now, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Ben Taylor writes: Bill, thanks for keeping my Dawgmania stoked during the long offseason with your Blawg. I’m generally optimistic about the coming season, but I’m really wondering about something that I think is being overshadowed by all the talk about who the starting quarterback will be. And that’s the switchover from Mike Bobo to Brian Schottenheimer. I know the ultimate say in Georgia’s offensive philosophy is Mark Richt’s, but the execution of it and the tendencies of our attack will be coming from someone different this year. Schottenheimer said when he was hired that he was going to adapt to the UGA system rather than having all the players and other coaches adapt, but then in spring practice we heard all the offensive players talking about having to relearn everything. I’m a bit concerned that our revamped offense might be a bit slower out of the gate than most people expect. Sure, we’ve got Nick Chubb, but I’m betting everyone will be loading the box to slow him down, daring Schottenheimer and our new QB to throw the ball. Bill, what do you expect to see offensively? Are you worried about any hiccups in the smoothness of our attack?
Ben, Richt said this week at SEC Media Days that “it will be tough for the fan to really see a lot of difference” in the Dawgs’ offensive attack, and I don’t really expect to see any major changes. Even if Bobo were still calling the shots, I think the offense would rely heavily on the running attack early in the season until the new quarterback, whichever one it is, gets fully acclimated, and the coaches sort out which receivers behind Malcolm Mitchell are going to be the go-to guys. Richt emphasized again this week that while Georgia will be serious about running the ball, “we’re going to be serious about throwing the ball, too.” He’s explained before that most of the “changes” instituted during the spring were just different terminology for the same types of plays. And this week he said “the types of sets and personnel groupings will be very similar to what we’ve done in the past. The plays themselves are very much the same. There’s a few things, obviously, that Schotty believes in, route concepts and game concepts, things like that. But when you put it all on the field I think we’ll look very similar in style.” Still, I don’t expect Schottenheimer’s approach to be identical to Bobo’s. In particular, based on what he’s done in the past and what he’s said so far, I think we can expect to see much more emphasis on throwing to the tight ends, especially until the receiver corps gets more experience. I don’t expect to see Georgia becoming more of a spread team relying mainly on four- and five-receiver sets. Bobo mixed some spread in with Georgia’s usual pro sets, and that apparently will continue. Said Richt: “We’ll get into the spread to some degree, but we still want to have a physical running game to complement a play action passing game and complement our ability to spread and do those kinds of things.” Bottom line: We’ll probably see some tweaks, but basically the same offense as we’ve seen over the past four years or so.
Steve Rodgers writes: I hope Coach Richt and staff read the very interesting pieces that you have in your articles and take to heart some of the things that the “fans” want to know and see. Georgia is in need of the type season we should have had at least 5 times under Coach Richt’s tenure and would have if we didn’t have that one “burp” game where we let a less than stellar opponent beat us when we were 2 touchdown favorites. Getting by Alabama and Tennessee without a loss this year should pave the way for an undefeated season in my eyes and most UGA fans. The other thing is we have had many great players since Herschel but not many have been given the Heisman hype that a school who believes in winning and their players must give to put a player in the limelight for the award. I attended every home game as a season ticket holder last year and have been to countless UGA games since Coach Richt took over and Nick Chubb is the real deal. Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin wasn’t heard of until he had that whopper game with over 400 yards rushing and 4 TD’s last year and he ended up in contention for the Heisman and he was nowhere near the back Chubb is. Chubb could start the season easily doing that against our first opponent and that would vault him to the top of the Heisman race. It excites fans, inspires players, and would keep Georgia from having the aforementioned “dump” game where our hearts get broken. I believe Jeremy Pruitt is the best defensive mind in college football, not Will Muschamp, so his defense with the new players and freshmen will create turnovers and open opportunities for Chubb and company to score more and often and Richt shouldn’t be afraid or compassionate about running the score up on opponents; they would do it to us, especially Florida/Auburn/Alabama. Wins equals recruits that are picking between us and Alabama/Auburn to come our way. They see a Heisman winner, a defense that will stop other SEC offenses, and winning all games we should and those we are a toss-up with; and UGA will begin a real dynasty, bring home a national championship, keep those Georgia recruits home wanting to play for UGA, and have another Heisman winner that can help recruit in the future. … I am looking for an undefeated season and a Heisman winner. Anything less and the finger pointing will start again.
You’ve got a pretty good scenario there, and I’m sure that’s exactly what Richt and his staff would like to do. Sometimes, unfortunately, things like injuries and suspensions can get in the way. As for a Heisman for Chubb, I think if he gets off to the sort of start Todd Gurley has last season, he’ll be one of the frontrunners. Had Gurley not had to sit out those four games, he definitely would have been in contention. But I wouldn’t look for UGA to launch any sort of media hype campaign pushing Chubb for the Heisman. They’ve basically said before they don’t think those campaigns are really effective any more since just about all games are available nationally on TV and big performances get lots of social media attention. Heisman-worthy numbers, of course, also bring more mainstream media attention. Some players handle that better than others. Richt said this week that Chubb is a “pretty quiet, unassuming guy” who “doesn’t really like the hype. You can go back to his recruiting. He was very low key. He decided he wanted to be at Georgia, did it quietly, didn’t have a big old press conference, and stuck to his decision, didn’t do a bunch of stuff to bring attention to himself. He doesn’t care about that. He cares about working hard, playing hard, and helping Georgia win. I really appreciate that about him.” The head coach also noted that, “as far as Heisman Trophy and all, I’ve been blessed to coach a couple of them in years past, and to me, that’s as much of a team award as it is an individual award. Rarely does a guy win a Heisman if he’s not on a team that’s winning at a very high level. So the team is going to fight like mad to win, and if something like that happens, that would be wonderful.”
Via Facebook, Brian Davis writes: Defense wins championships and I can only hope that Georgia’s defense is finally a stout one this season. I feel very good about it, though, as Pruitt and his assistants hauled in our best defensive class is a LONG time. Certainly better than [Todd] Grantham and the last few years of Willie [Martinez]. If we play great defense, we have a chance to win a lot more big games, because we won’t have to score at least 30, if not around 40, to win games against good teams. A lot of our issues have been on the defense in recent years (minus Richt’s squib kick decision, of course). Only time will tell.
Indeed. Georgia’s defense made a lot of progress in Pruitt’s first season, though there were a couple of letdowns, primarily in defending the run. But the fresh talent up front, including Trent Thompson, should help with that. Certainly, a stout defense would take some of the pressure off the new quarterback.
Don Joel writes: I am very optimistic. For the first time, I truly believe we want to win. This is the Pruitt era. … I talked to a business associate last week in Atlanta who played under Richt. He says we are in the first year of the second coming of Bobby Bowden. He says that Richt, like Bobby, will be the face of the program. He will go to see mama and win her over. If you get the mama, you get the boy. Pruitt will be the defensive head coach. And Schotty will be the offensive head coach. He’ll do the play calling. God knows R should never be allowed to do so. Remember Tech! So R’s role is the face of the program, the greeter when the recruits come to Athens and the guy who talks to mama about how he will take care of her boy. … I can abide the new set up with R so long as we win meaningfully.
I have to shake my head in disbelief when I see fans going on about Richt and his coaches and Georgia’s players not really wanting to win. That’s just ridiculous. Do you know how hard both the players and coaches work throughout the year? Of course, they want to win, and they always have! But wanting to win isn’t enough. I do agree that the addition of Pruitt has been a big boost for the Georgia program. He not only is an ace recruiter, he has the head coach’s ear and has been able to effect changes in how UGA goes about preparing to win. I think the recent influx of cash from the SEC Network, concurrent with the athletic administration’s long overdue decision to loosen the purse strings and keep up with rival programs in staff and facilities, also should help achieve the program’s ultimate goals. But Richt remains the head coach and that means when it comes to making key decisions in games (like whether to kick it deep or squib it against Tech) it still will be up to him to make the call. He’s not a stupid man, though, and I believe the next time such a situation comes up he’ll be less likely to make one of those timid, trying-not-to-lose calls.
Evan Aldrich writes: Love the Blawg! Whatever happened at Shattle Fenteng? The guy was the talk of last offseason at cornerback following a stint at junior college, but he hasn’t been mentioned at all in 2015 following a “rib injury” in spring practice and he was not a projected starter at CB in the media guide rolled out this week. Also, what is the deal with his shoulder? I do not know many elite, NFL-quality athletes that have medical redshirts or season-ending injuries due to an undisclosed shoulder injury. This kid was given a great opportunity to play for a young defense, I hope he capitalizes on it and gets hungry. Too often with young teams, players grow complacent with starting or getting playing time on their OWN team, unaware or uninterested in the competition and growth occurring on opposing teams. Pruitt has changed that culture for the most part but hoping guys like Shattle buy in.
I don’t think there’s any conspiracy involving the injuries to the junior college transfer. It takes a while to come back from a nagging injury like the one that forced him to take a medical redshirt last season, but, despite that, shortly before he had another setback by hurting his ribs this spring, the word out of practice was that Fenteng was getting back in the flow and becoming more comfortable hitting. Now that he’s healthy again (Richt said this week he didn’t think there was anyone on the team who wouldn’t be able to participate in preseason practice), I think Fenteng will be given every opportunity to stake a claim to playing time, and hopefully the arrival of more talent in the defensive backfield will provide him with the now-or-never mindset you describe.
Bruce in PA writes: Bill, great job on 101 reasons [to be a Georgia Bulldog]. How ’bout James Brown and “Dooley’s Junk Yard Dogs”? Oversight or did it purposely not make the list?
The Godfather of Soul and “Dooley’s Junkyard Dogs” were on the original 101 reasons list I did in 2009, about half of which gave way this time to some fresher reasons. But it’s still one of the cooler things about being a Georgia Bulldog! And, if you missed my updating of the 101 reasons to be a Georgia Bulldog, you can find it here.
That’s all the mail for this week. If you haven’t yet weighed in on the debate started on Fox Sports about whether Georgia is college football’s No. 1 underachiever, go to my Blawg entry here.
And, finally, Georgia football released a new hype video this week. Check it out!
Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. 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.