Junkyard Mail: Why should the Dawgs be SEC East favorites? (Updated)

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Nick Chubb is a big reason Georgia is a favorite to win the SEC East. (Associated Press)
Nick Chubb is a big reason Georgia is a favorite to win the SEC East. (Associated Press)

Nick Chubb is a big reason Georgia is a favorite to win the SEC East. (Associated Press)

UPDATE: In case you’ve had trouble finding the Junkyard Blawg, it’s now a part of the Georgia Bulldogs coverage at Cox Media Group’s DawgNation. You can find the most recent post here: dawgnation.com/football/championship-season-key-3-avoiding-those-crazy-no-show-games.

First, a reminder that on Tuesday the Dawgs will hit the Woodruff Practice Fields for their first session of preseason camp, and Georgiadogs.com will provide a live webcast from near the practice fields. The live show, hosted by Scott Howard, Chuck Dowdle and former Bulldog quarterback D.J. Shockley, will include interviews and some live look-ins at practice. The free webcast is set to begin at 3 p.m., a half hour before practice is scheduled to start. The webcast also will be archived for those unable to watch live. Georgiadogs also will webcast Mark Richt’s Media Day press conference live at noon Tuesday.

Now, let’s dive into some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

Confused Dawg in Gator Country writes: Bill, While watching a sports show recently, I finally heard an analyst ask the question that I have been asking all summer long. With the Dawgs once again picked to win the East, one has to ask: WHY? What’s different about this year? We may be a tad more talented than last year, but we were still the most talented team in the East last year. And the same could be said for quite a few years when we have ended up playing in the Capital One/Outback/who gives a crap bowl. Why do UGA fans feel a sense of optimism when our schedule is certainly more stiff than it has been in quite some time? If we couldn’t win our division when UF was horrible, UT was once again below standard and SC was 7-6 … Are you kidding me? We are supposed to get excited now? Coach Richt is entering his 15th year and we are all supposed to think that now he’s got it figured out? I refuse to believe that there is any other coach in this league who has done less with more. And I certainly refuse to take the bait in year 15. … Help me out here, Bill.

Confused, I feel I should point out that Georgia has indeed won the SEC East two of the past four years. So, as you alluded to, it’s not really that anything is different about this year. Georgia is usually among the picks for the SEC East title (and usually should be), though last year more folks went with South Carolina (which shows what preseason predictions are worth). Why should the Dawgs be the pick in the East this year? Well, South Carolina looks to be down. A lot of folks are high on what they see as a rising Tennessee program, but many aren’t sure the Vols have enough depth yet. Florida is a major reclamation project. And Kentucky and Vandy are Kentucky and Vandy. So, that’s a big reason for picking Georgia. Another: Nick Chubb and an experienced offensive line. Yes, the schedule is slightly tougher, and quarterback and wide receiver still present unanswered questions, but Jeremy Pruitt’s second-year defense should be able to better last season’s improved performance, especially with some highly touted new talent up front, more experience in the secondary and some of the conference’s (and perhaps nation’s) most talented linebackers. Whatever you think of Richt and his track record, you’ve got to admit he hasn’t been afraid to shake things up over the past couple of years, and he’s finally getting the administrative support in terms of resources that previously had been missing. Whether Georgia is ready to win its first SEC title in a decade and make the College Football Playoff this year is still open to debate, but the Dawgs certainly look to have what they need to win the East.

FSU's Bobby Bowden consoles Miami quarterback Mark Richt after the Hurricanes' 24-7 loss to Florida State in 1982. (Associated Press)

FSU’s Bobby Bowden consoles Miami quarterback Mark Richt after the Hurricanes’ 24-7 loss to Florida State in 1982. (Associated Press)

In response to the second part of my series on keys to a championship season, focusing on avoiding bad coaching decisions, Ed Keibler writes: Great article … spot on. I have lamented for years Coach Richt’s cavalier attitude toward time management, timeouts and special teams. I believe it is the result of his years under the tutelage of Bobby Bowden. Bobby built his team with awesome offense and great defense and his schedule (unlike an SEC schedule), which he could manipulated to look very difficult but really be peppered with easy games that allowed for greater emphasis on the tough games. The point being, he won without good clock management and great special teams. (see “wide right” etc.) I believe that if Coach Richt would go back and study his career he would see that those three aforementioned areas have kept him from being an awesome coach instead of just a great one. Having said all of that, I don’t agree with those who say plays like the Hutson Mason rollout last year against South Carolina and the pass vs. Alabama which was tipped and caught to end the game were poor calls. Those were just good plays on the part of the opposing defense and armchair QB’s like myself would be lauding them to the heavens if they had been successful. The greatest play in my Georgia history is “Run Lindsey Run,” and the defensive back for Florida who fell down is still getting grief every year from the Florida fans. Keep up the great work. Go Dawgs.

And Steve Upshaw writes of that same Blawg: Today may be your best work ever, Bill.  Truly outstanding piece. For the 1000th time, I don’t want Richt fired, but it just seems he never learns from his catastrophically timed blunders.

Thanks, guys. Ed, I have to agree with you. I’ve always thought Richt’s problematic approach to special teams was something he unfortunately picked up from Bowden during his years as an assistant at FSU. As for his problem with clock management, his statement last season about letting too much time slip away while he decided what to do against Florida perhaps points to him overthinking things a bit too much. And, Steve, you have a valid point that, in some areas, Richt seems to have had some recurring problems. He’s a smart man, though, and we have seen him change in other ways, so I haven’t given up hope.

A fan fondly recalls the days when Wally Butts was UGA's head football coach. (University of Georgia)

A fan fondly recalls the days when Wally Butts was UGA’s head football coach. (University of Georgia)

In response to my recollections last weekend about selling game programs at Sanford Stadium when I was a kid, Dr. Bob Williams in Chino Hills, Calif., writes: Bill, When I was at UGA (1959-1962), we had a pretty good Saturday routine. I worked part time at the school infirmary (the old one) as an x-ray tech and attended classes. We used to watch the kids on the railroad tracks watch the game free; watch [Fran] Tarkenton and [Pat] Dye and all the rest; smuggle in a bottle to beat the cold with our favorite date and have a terrific time. Greatest of all was to beat Auburn and GT (they were still hot in Bobby Dodd’s days). My brother, ABJ ’56, was there when the drought was broken with the Jackets. Back then, as you recall, it was either GT or UGA in the state. And possibly Auburn, with [George] Rose from Brunswick. Bama was still under the Bear and [Joe] Namath was hot, later the Snake [Ken Stabler]. … Too bad we cannot return to a parallel universe and do it all again: Wally Butts, Orange Bowl win over Missouri, the kick by Bobby Walden that went a thousand yards, killing Spurrier when he was quarterback at Florida, and all the memories that went with those years. Yes, memory lane can be fun.

Thanks for sharing those college memories, Bob. My earliest recollections of Georgia football are from the days of Tarkenton and Dye, though I didn’t start attending games until late in the Johnny Griffith era. I’ve always urged kids to enjoy their time in college; it’s some of the best days you’ll ever experience.

Also in the mood to reminisce, Lee Eidson writes: Lots of memories there Bill. … I lived at Clark Howell my freshman year and Saturday mornings were always exciting! I wonder how many of the Y boys that played before the games are still out there. My cousin Rick and I snuck through a hole in the fence one time to get into a Tech game. And now he is in law enforcement!!! And, of course, not many people ever took a walk in the tunnel under the stadium. I can’t say that was my best time I ever had at the stadium though! All memories of growing up in Athens and cheering the Dawgs! Thanks for sharing your own!

Wow, having been in the concrete culvert enclosing Tanyard Creek under the stadium puts you in rare company, Lee. Though, knowing the general state of that creek, I’m not sure I envy you! I remember when Secret Service agents had to check out the culvert before Prince Charles came to Sanford. I never snuck into a game, but there were a couple of times when a cop on the main gate let us in for free because he knew my Dad.

Georgie probably will have a tough time hanging on to defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. (John Kelley / UGA)

Georgie probably will have a tough time hanging on to defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. (John Kelley / UGA)

Cedrique Chaney writes: Hey Bill, I’m huge Dawg fan all the way from Washington so it would be great to get a response. It seems as though ever since Jeremy Pruitt took over as defensive coordinator that the atmosphere around the program has changed. This off season has been a lot quieter with suspensions, recruiting seems to be picking up, and he also helped push for the indoor practice facility. So my question is, do you think we’ll ultimately lose Coach Pruitt or do you see a situation in which he becomes the successor to Coach Richt? Kinda like the Bowden and Jimbo Fisher situation years back. Would love to know your thoughts.

Cedrique, those coach-in-waiting jobs generally seem to have gone out of favor after they didn’t work out in several cases, but if Pruitt continues to live up to his growing legend and is still on staff when Richt decides to retire, I’m sure he’d be a strong candidate. Of course, if Mike Bobo has success out at Colorado State, he might have an edge, having head coaching experience. Heck, by the time Richt retires, it’s also possible (if not probable) that Pruitt will have moved on and will have worked as a head coach. Bottom line: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pruitt getting attractive offers to leave UGA in the next couple of years, though I can’t see him leaving for anything less than a job as head coach since Georgia seems willing to pay him handsomely in his current job.

Raymond Hsu writes: Bill, I had read reports that we are lacking in depth in the receiver position. I know we recruited some receivers in the upcoming class to fill in some void, but why don’t coaches move Tramel Terry back into the receiver position? I didn’t understand why the coaches even considered moving him to cornerback. The last I heard from Tramel is when he played safety against Troy this past season.

Terry was a wide receiver in high school and was named Mr. Football in South Carolina at that position, but, after taking a redshirt year to recover from an ACL tear in a high school all-star game, the UGA coaches he should be playing defensive back and, so far, that doesn’t appear to be changing. Coming back from an ACL always takes time, and the transition to defense wasn’t easy for Terry. He made his UGA debut last season against Troy, making three tackles and snaring an interception. Although he didn’t attract much attention after that, he actually played in 10 games, and finished the year with six tackles and that one pick. He has good hands, but it’s taken a while for him to develop his tackling and coverage skills. However, he’s considered to be in contention for more playing time this season at cornerback, along with Aaron Davis, Shattle Fenteng, Devin Bowman and Reggie Wilkerson.

Warren writes: Bill, I read your article as to the football game between UGA and Tennessee this year. I think UGA has the best coaches and talent is about even between the two teams. I read years ago that coaching is 65% of the win factor in football. I believe this to be true. Therefore UGA should win unless the CHIHUAHUA shows up rather than the BULLDOG.

Warren, as I wrote in that Blawg entry back in May, I’m not sure I’m completely sold on this idea that Butch Jones has the Volunteers ready to contend again this year. I tend to agree with those college football analysts who think Big Orange is still a year away from truly being back, though I acknowledge that the road trip a week after hosting Bama could be Georgia’s biggest challenge of the season. So, yes, the Georgia-Tennessee game Oct. 10 in Knoxville may well decide the SEC East for 2015. And, you’re right, if Georgia pulls one of its infamous no-shows, like in Jacksonville last year, it could be tough. But that’s the subject for an upcoming Blawg …

A lot of Georgia fans are looking forward to visiting Notre Dame and Touchdown Jesus. (Associated Press)

A lot of Georgia fans are looking forward to visiting Notre Dame and Touchdown Jesus. (Associated Press)

John in Norcross writes: Hey Bill! I was looking at the Wikipedia page for Notre Dame football, and noticed on the future schedules section that it said one of their 2017 home games will likely become a “Shamrock Series” game, where they play a “home” game at a neutral site (such as Boston College at Fenway this year and Army at the Alamodome next year).  Based on their previous selections, it seems like the most likely candidates would be NC State, Wake Forest, or us. Do you think there’s any chance our game at Notre Dame gets moved to another location?

John, it’s possible but I’d say it’s unlikely, since the stated purpose of UGA scheduling such games was to play in one of what Greg McGarity called college football’s “iconic stadiums,” and Georgia fans planning on traveling to the game no doubt would be disappointed if the game wasn’t played within the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. Let’s face it, the Alamodome in San Antonio is hardly an iconic venue, so I’d say UGA officials wouldn’t be very inclined to play the game someplace like that. However, Georgia might be more inclined to consider playing somewhere other than South Bend in the Shamrock Series if it was a legendary venue like Yankee Stadium or Soldier Field.

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

Junkyard Blawg mugBill 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.

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