I got sumthin’ that’ll smash
Baby baby bring it back
Baby baby bring it back
Finna show y’all where it’s at
– Shawn Mendes
And so, in its new incarnation, we proudly bring you back the mailbag. Let’s make this a staple of each week from now on: Send in your questions anytime, and every Thursday I’ll post responses.
A word of apology first to those whose questions I couldn’t get to. The amount of submissions this week was pretty high, and flattering, so we had to whittle it down lest this resemble Les Miles’ opening statement at SEC media days. Let’s get to it:
I think the biggest question going into this season is about fan expectations. I’m one of those fans who was ready for a change. Thankful for Mark Richt, but believe we needed someone new to get us over that hump. That being said, Kirby Smart’s inheriting a team with a lot of question marks. From QB to the health of the backfield to the D-line. All pretty important positions in the SEC.
So my question is this: What’s a reasonable expectation for Kirby’s first year? Looking at the schedule, I’m thinking 9-3 heading into bowl season isn’t bad. Obviously, I don’t want multiple 9-3 seasons, because that’s basically what we had under Richt. But I just don’t think it’s realistic to necessarily expect an SEC Championship in year one.
– Weston Burleson
I’ve actually gotten this question during some radio interviews, and the more I’ve answered it lately, I haven’t put a number on it. Well obviously, at least eight wins heading into a bowl game would seem to be a minimum. That’s what Richt did in his first season. But there’s something else I think Georgia fans want: A competitive team every week.
Don’t have that one or two games a year where the team just gets blown out, or has an inexplicable loss. Alabama and Florida last year. Florida in 2014. The South Carolina loss in 2012. (I sort of throw out the four losses in 2013, even Missouri and Vanderbilt, because of Georgia’s massive run of injuries that year.)
Let’s say Georgia finishes 9-4 this year, with losses to Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida and … oh, maybe an unexpectedly good Auburn. But in each of those four losses, Georgia keeps it close. It’s impossible to know for sure before the season actually plays out, but my guess is that kind of season would at least leave Bulldog fans feeling good about the program’s future. The concern about Richt was that one or two losses a year was always going to happen, and thus prevent the program from getting over the proverbial hump.
Now having written all that, if Smart keeps having 9-4 seasons, even if every game comes down to the wire, people will point out that Richt averaged 10 wins a year and we shouldn’t stand for this. But we’ll cross that bridge if we get there.
First of all, I love the Chip and Seth Show (and for that matter the Seth and Gentry Show at the Macon Telegraph). What is your inclination as far as the running back pecking order (assuming Sony Michel isn’t available)? Chubb probably shouldn’t be quite the workhorse he was pre-injury, but Brendan Douglas carrying the ball anytime other that at the end of a beat-down game is usually a slightly better option than the quarterback kneeling. (Before you say “what about the ’14 Missouri game?”) He also fumbled away the ’13 Vandy game. If Elijah Holyfield’s “not a big deal” injury turns out to be a big deal, then how likely is Brian Herrien to see some carries?
– Brian Fowler
First off, I loved seeing some news alerts on Wednesday night that Chubb would be playing in the opener. First off, UGA and Smart didn’t announce that, and it’s also not breaking news: Yeah, it’s been fairly obvious for awhile that he was going to play, barring a setback. But I digress.
Much of the rotation depends on Michel’s status. Since he “only” has an arm injury, if he’s cleared anytime next week he could play right away. His legs are fine. If he is cleared, he could be in line for about 7-10 touches. And he would slide in right behind Chubb, and ahead of Douglas — who I still think is No. 3 on the depth chart, but with Holyfield and Herrien breathing down his neck.
Keep in mind, Douglas is a good pass protector, and no matter what you think of his running abilities, there’s value in that. Michel is a good pass protector too, but even if he’s cleared you’d have to think he’ll be limited in that role. Holyfield (assuming he’s cleared to play, which I think he will be) and Herrien offer more breakaway ability, and their carries depend on Michel’s status.
Side note No. 1: I had never heard of Shawn Mendes, or that song. I just wanted some song lyrics and did some Googling. Songs by Elvis Presley and the Black-Eyed Peas also came up, but the Mendes song seemed to have the most appropriate lyrics. I looked up whether he’s related to Eva Mendes. He’s not.
Who is going to start at QB for UGA against the Tar Heels? … Just kidding . . . Seriously, what would be the harm in starting (Jacob) Eason all year? This isn’t going to be a championship season either way, and having a battle-hardened VETERAN QB in 2017 would seem like a better chance to build that championship-caliber team. Your thoughts?
– Mike Jackson
I figured I’d take at least one quarterback question.
I see your point, and I’m sure it’s crossed Smart and Jim Chaney’s minds. They may have even leaned in that philosophical direction at one point: Hey, this is the honeymoon year, no one’s getting fired, let the freshman take his lumps, take some short-term literal losses but be rewarded with long-term gain … right?
First off, there could be actual long-term harm to a quarterback if he plays before he’s ready and fails. It could harm his psyche, he could develop the yips, go gun-shy in the pocket, etc. Now, from what we’ve seen of Eason — just judging him from interviews and what I’ve heard — he seems to have the “it” factor, and there wouldn’t be a danger in him losing his mental edge. My sense is if he played and struggled, he’d shake it off and learn from it. But he’s also never really faced much on-field football adversity, so we don’t know that for sure.
Secondly, the coaches are competitors. It’s easy to say “lose now, so we can win later,” but ultimately coaches always want to win now. That’s not a show of weakness, either. Winning this year will make recruiting easier. Beating Tennessee at home, beating Florida, avoiding upset losses to South Carolina, Auburn and Georgia Tech … each would help on the recruiting trail and with the psyche of the program more than losing.
That’s why ultimately I think Smart and Chaney will start the guy who each week gives them the best chance to win. And it could be Eason. But if it’s Greyson Lambert, fans shouldn’t be dismayed.
Side note No. 2: I honestly think the reason they haven’t announced a starter is they really haven’t decided. It’ll be either Lambert or Eason, I believe from what multiple people have told me, but it’s still being decided whether to start Eason or get him experience off the bench.
Despite the obvious excitement of high recruiting marks, why was Eason never considered for a redshirt? Seems to me having a year of being in the system and practicing could benefit his long-term success?
– John Vaughn
For the same reason that Richt always regretted redshirting Knowshon Moreno, and other elite players are never redshirted: There’s no chance, barring injury, they’ll be around more than four years. So play ’em.
D’Andre Walker: Not a peep regarding the above young man all summer? I don’t think it’s just me, but a lot of folks were talking about what a “beast” he was in the spring game. Is he still at linebacker? Are we so deep, and so good at this position, he can’t even break into the two-deep rotation?
– Fretwell Crider
Walker has been running second-team outside linebacker all preseason, and you could hear a lot about him this season, especially if there’s an injury ahead of him. Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter are juniors, and top backup Chuks Amaechi is a senior, leaving Walker in line for a pretty bright future. He just needs to keep adding the right weight to his frame – he’s in that Lorenzo Carter/Leonard Floyd mold, long and athletic, and in his brief time has shown flashes, like last year when he blocked a punt.
With Smart’s comment on no fullbacks on scholarship, do you think the tight ends may be seen in backfield often? Maybe Brendan Douglas as fullback? Thoughts?
– @portcitybbq (not his real name)
When Smart said “I’m not a fullback guy,” it made for a good quote, but upon further explanation it didn’t really mean he didn’t want to use fullbacks. Mainly, he just won’t use scholarships on them. (And that’s always a flexible stance if a good one comes along.)
They’re still going to use a fullback, and in our practice viewings we’ve seen Glenn Welch and Christian Payne serving as blockers for the tailbacks in play-polish drills. But it’s only natural to look at the depth at tight end, and Chaney’s reputation for creatively using the tight end, and wonder if we won’t see Isaac Nauta in the backfield, for instance, catching a short screen pass, or something like that.
Side note No. 3: During my investigation of Shawn Mendes I discovered he was Canadian. This made me re-examine my decision to feature his lyrics, but it was too late.
Thanks for keeping Readers informed about Tailback U. I would like some thought on Tae Crowder — has he been lost in the shuffle? He is a beast of a player and somewhat oversized for a running back — any chance we will see a position change? He would be a heck of a linebacker.
– Deanna Brogan
Crowder is the new A.J. Turman: He made an impression on people during G-Day and now they’re very interested in him, but he’s blocked by super talent ahead of him. That doesn’t mean Crowder will end up transferring to Florida Atlantic. He’s only a redshirt freshman and will have a chance to grow into a bigger role. I could also see a switch to receiver or even the secondary, but he’d probably have to put on weight to be at linebacker.
There is no reason for the re-occurring concession/bathroom fiasco — Greg McGarity should be ashamed of the facilities (or lack thereof). They are a direct reflection of his administration.. So much moola spent on practice facilities and the like — I have been in cleaner BARNS.
– Deanna Brogan again
Have to admit I’m mostly ignorant on the bathrooms, as I get to use the relatively clean ones in the press box. But I’m putting this out there to give you a voice.
Where can I find a list of the 85 players on scholarship this season?
– William Abbott, Hiram
The only official list is in someone’s office in the Butts-Mehre building. I could submit an Open Records Request for it, but thanks to Rep. Earl Ehrhart and the State Legislature, we know how long that will take.
Side note No. 4: Don’t worry, I won’t go all First Amendment on all of you today.
But just doing my own count — the players who arrived on scholarship and the walk-ons we know have been awarded scholarships — I believe they’re a couple under the 85 limit. Why not go to the full 85 and reward a few? Just guessing, but it’s probably to provide some flexibility if there’s another in-season transfer or two.
Seeing that most of the attention this offseason has been geared toward Jacob Eason and the quarterback decision or running back depth and the recent performance of Elijah Holyfield, whats the word on Mecole Hardman? Haven’t heard much about him. Didn’t he have an INT in a scrimmage or am I thinking of someone else?
– Andrew Crumbley
Yes he had an interception in the first scrimmage. Roquan Smith had a couple. The second scrimmage was cleaner for the quarterbacks: None was picked off, from what I was told. But you didn’t ask about the quarterbacks, Andrew, and for this digression I’m sorry but sometimes I just can’t help myself.
Hardman is running second team at cornerback. I’m sure he’ll play on special teams, not as a punt returner — looks like Isaiah McKenzie is the man again there — but perhaps on kick return, and as a gunner on punt or kickoff. As for defense, the question is how much substituting they’ll do in the back end: It appears Malkom Parrish, Rico McGraw, Juwuan Briscoe and Dominick Sanders are set, and probably Quincy Mauger if he’s healthy, but Aaron Davis is also in the mix, while Maurice Smith, Hardman and Tyrique McGhee are pushing for snaps too.
Do you think that the media prohibition at practice is virtual paranoia or is it standard, constructive, uh, practice at most schools? Nice pun, by the way.
– Ed Letts
I always appreciate someone who compliments themselves. Good job. Media viewing access to Georgia’s practices this year has actually been on par with the Richt era. Most schools have been cracking down over the years, partly out of the increased Belichickian/Saban-ian paranoia of our times. But it’s also the splintering of the media, and the media’s ability to broadcast footage; it’s harder for schools to control what the media can put out there, in terms of video and audio of drills. That’s usually what they don’t like out there. They also don’t like some depth chart information getting out, but it’s generally the other stuff.
Most beat writers — I’m fine speaking on their behalf on this because we’ve talked about it — don’t really want to see all of practice. It can be kind of boring, to be honest. We’d just like to see a bit more than the small window we get, when it’s just individual drills. Yeah, depth chart information, who’s playing and who’s on scout team, that’s nice. But it’d also be good to see who’s actually playing well, which freshmen make big plays, etc.
And to Smart’s credit, the one open practice we go to see, on Aug. 7, was illuminating in that regard. Speaking just for myself, if I got three entire practices all preseason, and 15-20 good minutes of practice on the other days, I’d be satisfied that I could give my readers a good accounting for how the team looks.
How has Mitchell Wasson been kicking this summer? We mostly hear about Rodrigo Blankenship and William Ham.
– Ishmaiah Jay
Wasson didn’t arrive until a bit later because of his walk-on status. From everything we’ve heard, it’s coming down to Blankenship or Ham. In fact Smart, without saying their names, said “both guys are battling it out.”
There hasn’t been enough attention on the place-kicking situation, and that may be partly the media’s fault for not asking enough, but it’s also the fault of circumstances: We don’t get to see the kickers (or punters) during the media viewing period, and the quarterback situation has overshadowed them.
Seth, how hard would it be for you to put a UGA player’s game jersey number by each player’s name when you write about them. I’m at least half way through the season before I can grasp offensive lineman, defensive players, and second string players’ numbers on the field. Might help old men like myself get geared up a little quicker. A big fan of yours and the Dogs.
– Dave Caswell in Nashville, TN
Ha, thanks for the kind words, Dave. I don’t see us doing that anytime soon, and it’s not really done anywhere else. Hopefully the pictures we put with the stories help, but we follow Associated Press style around here: Class, position, first and last name. And I confess, a lot of times I have trouble remembering the numbers myself, so if I have to look up a player’s number every time I refer to them, well, I might go verklempt.
Side note No. 5: That’s it. We’re done.