No practice this week? Ah, there’s still plenty to discuss in the UGA mailbag: What Kirby Smart will do to fill out his coaching staff with the departure of Kevin Sherrer, the present and future of the Georgia backfield, the future at several positions, and not the least of all … uniform news for the Rose Bowl!
Spoiler alert: No black jerseys.
But first, for those who pester us to provide actual football insight, we delve into this …
We all “know” defense wins championships. How many times in the last 10 years has an offensive team carried the day against a top ranked defense for the championship? (Or in the playoffs?) Thanks,
― Mike from Warner Robins
This is a great question, and I began to think I had to search way back … until I realized it happened last year.
Alabama had the No. 1-ranked defense in the nation and was loaded with NFL talent ― and it got torched by Clemson and Deshaun Watson for the national championship. The previous year the national title game matching the same two teams saw Alabama needing to outscore Watson and company to win. That bodes well for Oklahoma. But here’s what doesn’t bode well for Oklahoma: Last year Clemson also had the nation’s eighth-best defense. This year Oklahoma comes in ranked in the 50s. Maybe that’s impacted by having to play all those high-octane Big 12 offenses. We shall see.
Three years ago, Ohio State and Ezekiel Elliott rolled in the semifinals over Alabama (with its typically very good defense) before winning the title by beating Oregon, which had a much weaker defense. That year, Ohio State’s defense was ranked No. 19 nationally.
Four years ago, Auburn stormed into the final BCS championship game with one of the nation’s top offenses and was stymied by Florida State, which not only had Jameis Winston but the nation’s third-best defense – led by new Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt.
The lowest-ranked defense to win a national championship in the past decade was Auburn in 2010, which finished No. 60 nationally in total defense. That year it beat Oregon, which was ranked 26 spots better in total defense – but didn’t have Cam Newton.
I know Kirby Smart and staff are running their legs off trying to visit everyone before the dead period with this early signing period coming up, have you any idea when he will announce Kevin Sherrer’s replacement? Reading that some possible recruits are wondering and hoping to know before they sign.
I suspect it will take a bit. The concentration is on recruiting, then will come bowl practice – and I’d guess that Sherrer will continue to coach at Georgia until the Bulldogs are done playing. Jeremy Pruitt is staying at Alabama, after all, and Sherrer appears to be leaving on good terms. He just got a raise and a promotion.
It’s an interesting dance, Sherrer can go out and recruit for Tennessee while this is going on, and Georgia deputizes someone else to recruit in his place; Jay Valai has been doing so. Smart is undoubtedly searching for a replacement in the meantime, and he could be ready to announce the hire before Georgia heads to the Rose Bowl.
Or he could wait until after the College Football Playoff. Keep in mind, that coincides with teams being able to hire a 10th assistant, so now Smart has two looming openings. Sherrer’s departure could impact how he wants to use the extra spot.
Do you agree with Greg McElroy on a lot of coaches getting fired Dec. 21st? Also, what role do you anticipate Kirby filling with the 10th assistant?
― William Easom
I didn’t hear former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy say that, but I’ll trust you’re not putting words in his mouth ― especially since he’s not wrong. It happens every year, such as when Georgia defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was let go after signing day last year.
So I wouldn’t be surprised if the timetable just gets moved up, especially if a bunch of recruits sign. This was also why a lot of coaching vacancies were filled early, and why I suspect some assistant coach movement is on hold.
The early signing period has ended up having a lot of implications, and they’re going to be discussed and revisited in the coming months.
Seth: your in-depth coverage of Georgia football is simply unparalleled. But let’s sift through the fluff and get to what’s most important for this game; what color uniforms will the Dawgs be wearing for the Rose Bowl? *It’s asked before every neutral-site game (and anticipated blackouts) so why make everybody wait until game week to find out …
― Brent Jarnicki, Cincinnati, Ohio
Straight from the Rose Bowl spokesperson, and, yes I did actually email to ask: Georgia will wear white as it is the lower-seeded team and thus technically the road team. Oklahoma will wear its crimson red home jerseys.
I’m very pleased to be the official uniform correspondent of the Georgia beat corps, answering all your needs.
Do we seem to rotate more players in than other schools at most positions like we do at running back? Seems like we are having success recruiting multiple top targets at the same position and preaching the competition for playing time. Seems RBs have bought into sharing snaps to showcase their skills yet save their bodies for the pros, is this a new trend in other positions or just happen to be we weren’t as deep as needed and just stocking up.
― Rob McRae
It’s a combination of both: College teams have been rotating tailbacks for a while now, which makes it easier to recruit multiple really good tailbacks and thus have more of them to play. I can remember covering the Auburn team in 2004 that had Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. I may be missing a previous team, but it seems that Auburn backfield set the tone, which is why you see teams like Georgia able to recruit Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall in the same year, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the same year, and then get Zamir White and James Cook when D’Andre Swift was already on campus.
If Georgia weren’t so deep it wouldn’t spread the carries around. Remember when Chubb carried it 38 times at Missouri his freshman season – and then another 30 the following week? That was because Gurley had just been suspended and Marshall and Michel were both hurt. You do what you have to do to win games, whether that’s keep feeding the one great back you have, or spreading the carries around multiple great backs.
Having said all that …
I’m concerned about running back depth for next year. With Zamir White’s ACL injury, UGA is down to 4 running backs and only 3 have any playing experience. What are you hearing about the staff signing another running back or bringing in a preferred walk-on? Any word on position changes to RB? Tae Crowder comes to mind here as a candidate.
– The Goat Man
Hold on. First off, are you married to the Goat Lady? This is a serious question. OK, semi-serious. But there’s a series of children’s books – which of course we’ve bought, because we now own every children’s book ever written ― by a woman who rescues goats, and they’re actually good reads. And by good reads I mean short reads. But anyway …
White’s injury may scramble the thinking a bit for next year, but I haven’t heard any scuttlebutt about signing a third tailback. Crowder could be an option if depth gets really thin, but he did get some playing time at inside linebacker late in the year so he could be developing well there. At minimum, White’s injury lessens the chances that Elijah Holyfield or Brian Herrien would be permitted to transfer elsewhere without a good effort by the coaches to talk them out of it.
Who is the young looking coach with brown hair who is always talking to Jake Fromm on sideline?
That’s Jesse Stone, the graduate assistant for offense who works closely with the quarterbacks. He was brought in mainly by Jim Chaney, who had him as an offensive quality control member at Arkansas in 2014.
Can Nate McBride use his speed and power to pick up where Roquan Smith leaves off, or is he too reckless? Do you think we’ll see much of him going forward this season since Natrez Patrick is presumably out?
– Matt in Brisbane, Australia
Both are fair presumptions at this point, though not certain. We’re still waiting on clarification of Patrick’s status, and Smith hasn’t declared yet. Let’s say they’re both out. Monty Rice and Juwan Taylor were the top two reserves this year – both actually starting a game apiece – so they might be first in line. McBride will be in the mix too, along with fellow freshman Jaden Hunter and Crowder, presuming he stays at inside linebacker.
When will the assistant coaches be available to speak to the media – will that occur prior to or after the Rose Bowl? If UGA wins and makes it to the National Championship game would they be allowed/required to talk to the media again?
The offensive and defensive coordinators will have press conferences leading up to the Rose Bowl, and I believe, but am not sure, they’ll be available before the National Championship Game. I believe assistants are also fair game in the locker room after each game, but both Mel Tucker and Jim Chaney declined overtures after the SEC championship. Apparently they didn’t feel like they were authorized by Smart to talk. As for position coaches, that doesn’t happen here anymore.
Who do you think the opening day 2018 offensive line will consist of?
Well I don’t want to scoop my own postseason depth chart, but what the hell: LT Andrew Thomas, LG Kendall Baker, C Lamont Gaillard, RG Solomon Kindley or Ben Cleveland, RT Isaiah Wilson or Cleveland.
Basketball! Hoop! Hardwood! I’ll stop now!
In your opinion what’s been the difference so far with Mark Fox’s squad and pulling out close games? Has Fox changed up the team’s preparation? Is it a certain player making the difference?
― Brooks Case, Orlando
It’s a good early season trend, but we’ll have to see more before we say this team has turned around that part of it. The level of competition has to be taken into account: St. Mary’s and Marquette are usually pretty good, but the reason Fox hasn’t gotten those breakthrough type wins is they weren’t able to close out the Kentuckys and Floridas of the world.
Still, if this continues, then maybe the veteran makeup of the team helps. Yes, even with one freshman starting (Rayshaun Hammonds) and two others contributing a lot of minutes (Nicolas Claxton and Teshaun Hightower). You’ve got seniors in Yante Maten and Juwan Parker, a junior running the point in Turtle Jackson, two more juniors getting key minutes down the stretch of these games (Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards). That has to help.
The inside baseball section (but about football)
How often are coaches and other recruits truly surprised by the recruit announcement choices?
― Drew Corbett
I couldn’t give an exact percentage with any confidence … but I could give you an estimated percentage with a lack of confidence: 70 percent of the time the coaches already know, 15 percent of the time they think they know but aren’t sure, 10 percent of the time they’re completely in the dark and 5 percent of the time the sportswriter is bad at math.
What’s your process, as a UGA beat reporter, to become properly acquainted with Oklahoma, a team that you’re presumably not super familiar with (relatively speaking, of course)? Do you go back and watch every one of its games, etc.?
Well, I won’t go back and watch all of their games, that’s for sure. Actually, I probably won’t go watch any of their games. I did watch the start of the Big 12 championship closely, knowing that was a potential matchup. But most of my preparation comes via looking closely at numbers and speaking to people who have played them – as I did in my two stories earlier this week – and to experts who have watched them closely.
Beat writers tend to compare notes to each other a lot. We’re all really busy and try to help each other out.
By the way, in the spirit of this and some other questions lately, I’d like to invite people to continue asking questions about how we do our job. Seriously: The Washington Post, in the wake of everything going on in the world, is trying to inform more readers about what goes into reporting and stories. There’s a lot of stuff that we in the reporting business take for granted but are realizing the public doesn’t necessarily know. For instance, the use of anonymous sources: Some people think that the sources are actually anonymous to the reporters themselves. Uh, no. We know who they are, but shield their identity when we use their information to protect them.
I realize sportswriting isn’t exactly Watergate, but I do take the journalism part of the job very seriously, as do my colleagues. So if anybody has any questions about how the sausage is made, fire away and I’ll try to answer.
And finally …
Did you know that Reinhardt Univ is playing for NAIA National Championship Saturday? Season is dedicated to their late coach, Quentin Moses ― former UGA player. Lots of UGA connections-Greg Blue is also a coach. How ‘bout a shoutout? The media has ignored them all season!!
― Lisa Bryan
That’s a great note to finish on. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. Here’s the story I did back in February after the tragic death of Moses, his friend and her daughter. From reporting that story I really came away thinking the world lost a wonderful person. Such a sad story, but glad to see something good, however comparatively minor, coming about.