The plan was for the mailbag to be posted on Thursday morning. Then something else happened. Surely, the delay can be understood, as it answered the main mailbag question for, oh, about the last nine months.
We now look forward to there being no more quarterback controversy, not this season or ever again, so that we may focus on the real issues, namely black jerseys, silver britches and whether Rambo and Ogletree are suspended.
And if you laughed at that sentence but said to yourself, “No one asked about any of that in this week’s mailbag,” then you haven’t been paying enough attention around here. Of course someone did.
Big subjects, small subjects, and everything in between, we try to tackle them. Apologies again for not being able to get to every question, but hopefully this is entertaining and informative for all of you. Here we go:
Have you noticed a different team culture and/or attitude shift with the players themselves vs. previous teams at Georgia?
– Jeff Toole
There were several versions of this question. So far I haven’t been able to detect any huge, overriding culture change, at least one that’s noticeable. I know people want there to be, that everything’s different now with a new coach, who’s spinning everything into gold and fixing all that ailed the program.
We’ll see. But Mark Richt won 74 percent of his games during his 15 years, and 74 percent his final five years as well. He didn’t do that by sitting around. There wasn’t a country-club atmosphere around here.
What I will say is that the hire of Jeremy Pruitt three years ago sparked a noticeable shift in energy on that side of the ball, and eventually into the program as a whole, and that’s continued under Smart. That’s why the change may end up being fairly seamless; the program was already undergoing a sort of Alabama-ization, and it’s just ratcheted up a bit more.
A culture change isn’t necessarily what was needed, as I’ve said many times. It’s the end of whatever led to the ugly loss syndrome, as I’ve called it. The unexpected loss or non-competitive performance (Florida and Alabama last year) that ultimately doomed Richt. We won’t know the answer to that until this season has played out.
Is the UGA starting offensive line going to be able to succeed against all opponents? Last year it seemed to struggle at times against the big boys like Bama, but this year the line is going to be bigger overall while retaining a lot of experience. I see this offensive line as being a strength.
– Austen Bannan
It has the looks of a good line, but not great. Is there a first-round pick in the group? Maye Isaiah Wynn eventually as a guard, where it looks like he’ll line up on the first play Saturday, with Tyler Catalina at left tackle.
That was the important thing for Georgia this preseason, Catalina being good enough to win that job. He will probably sub out, with Dyshon Sims going in at left guard and Wynn moving out to left tackle. But if Catalina can be a solid SEC left tackle – and if Greg Pyke can too at right tackle, a new position for him – then Georgia should be in good shape. But a lot has to go right for this line to be a dominant unit. Right now it just needs to be good enough to not get in Nick Chubb’s way, and to give Greyson Lambert (and eventually Jacob Eason) enough pocket time. I think it can do that.
So I remember hearing all the reports in the past about how Aaron Murray used to stay late, work overtime, etc. on his timing, etc with receivers, working on technique, etc. Does Eason do those things?
– Jonathan Rabhan
Yes. I’m not sure it’s quite to the extent that Murray (and Hutson Mason) did. But I asked someone I trust over the summer whether Eason was putting in that extra time, and when I was told he was, I knew he was going to make a serious run at the starting job. He’s got some personality and likes to have fun – Murray did too – but that doesn’t mean you can’t also be a film rat and leader off the field. Lambert has that reputation too, as did Faton Bauta.
Whatever happens on the field this season, that’s the good news for Georgia going forward: The five-star quarterback also has the intangibles and appears willing to put in the work.
I know that there is an abundance of talent at tight end. Who will be the first guy on the field Saturday at that position?
– Andrew Crumbley
Jeb Blazevich starts, I believe. He’s been going first-team every time we’ve been out there. But Jackson Harris and Isaac Nauta get in early as well. Harris is a good blocker, and Nauta has very high upside. They could get super creative and put all three on the field in one package: Blazevich could flex out, Harris at tight end, Nauta at H-back or flexed out.
(No, I have not seen that package in practice. Yes, we do sometimes see interesting packages or pass routes in practice. No, I do not say what they are.)
And which 2015 signee not named Trent Thompson makes the biggest impact this season on defense? (Natrez Patrick, Roquan Smith, Juwuan Briscoe, Rico McGraw, Jonathan Ledbetter, D’Andre Walker, etc.)
– Andrew Crumbley again, getting greedy
It’s a measure of how good Georgia’s 2015 signing class was on the defensive side that you had to list so many names as possibilities.
Briscoe and McGraw are starters right now, it’ll just be a matter of if it stays that way. Ledbetter, once he returns from suspension, could have a big impact, but it’ll just depend on how much that sets him back. Walker will need injuries ahead of him to make a big impact. Don’t sleep on DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, who’s in line for a starting job: No “or” by his name on the depth chart.
But my answer: Roquan Smith. He may begin sharing time with Patrick and Reggie Carter, but Smith has had a really strong preseason, and has the potential to not only lead the team in tackles – which an inside linebacker usually does – but also rack up some sacks, interceptions (he had two in one scrimmage, including a pick-six) and force and/or recover some fumbles.
If Ledbetter’s drug and alcohol treatment drag on, can he get a medical redshirt? Sounds crazy, but alcoholism is a recognized disease, so it seems to me that he should be eligible. Based on his recruiting, he struck me as a guy who only needed 3-4 years to turn pro, but it’d be nice to know so he doesn’t rush anything and gets the time he needs to get mentally healthy.
– Nathan Jaworski
Yes he can redshirt, and doesn’t need a medical redshirt. You only need a medical if you’re going to eventually apply for a sixth year, and thus be able to cite two years in which you had to redshirt for medical or injury reasons. Ledbetter played last year, so he still has a redshirt year available.
But no, I don’t believe he will redshirt. We won’t yet know how many games Ledbetter will miss, but he’s been getting a lot of snaps in practice, all signs pointing to having a prominent role.
Thanks for the hard work and bringing back the mail bag! I promise to keep my question short, but do you have any information on Ben Cleveland? I apologize if I missed any previous information, but I cannot remember the last time I heard something about him. Seems like one of the bigger guys and I was curious if he will play or redshirt.
– Jacob Tanner
Right now, he’s a candidate for a redshirt. After working second-team left guard for most of spring, and early in the preseason, he was moved back to third team, where he’s been most of the preseason.
It was always going to be difficult to start, especially after Lamont Gaillard’s strong spring basically closed off the second starting guard spot. But it now also looks like another true freshman, Solomon Kindley, has fared better this preseason, and would be one of the first guards off the bench. Obviously Cleveland camp to campus with a lot of hype, but if he’s not going to get significant time this year it’s not a bad idea to redshirt.
My question is regarding Javon Wims. There has been plenty of talk surrounding Terry Godwin and Riley Ridley, but how is Javon Wims doing in camp? Being that he is our tallest receiver, one would hope that he fits into the game plan.
– Braden Mossbarger
Wims has been involved in the main receiving rotation, at least from what we’ve seen during the media viewing periods. I would expect him to play off the bench against North Carolina, and be given a chance to earn a bigger role.
Wims’ size will be useful, but don’t forget about the tight ends, who are big guys too. And while Michael Chigbu is three inches shorter than Wims, Chigbu has done very well this camp and may be that guy (when it’s not the tight end) who gets the pass in those tough, short-yardage passing situations.
How have you and other media professionals had to change due to the 180 degree change of how information is released by the Smart regime versus the Richt regime?
– Scott Shepard
Honestly, it’s overblown. It’s not a 180 degree difference, it’s more around 50-60 degrees. The media practice viewing is about the same, if not better. Not that it’s good. It was already pretty limited under Richt. Information is still leaking out, to be frank. I don’t think on a vast football program – 125 or so players, 10 full-time coaches, a big and growing amount of support staff – you’re going to be able to stop that. And during media availabilities, Smart himself is relatively similar to Richt in terms of information. Smart may be a bit better. (We get more out of Smart if for no other reason than he talks so much faster than Richt, more questions get asked at press conferences.)
What’s changed is we don’t get assistant coaches anymore. And we get much less in player availabilities. We’ve gotten Dominick Sanders, bless his heart, five times this preseason, and Reggie Carter and Brandon Kublanow four times each. But we’ve never gotten Juwuan Briscoe or Rico McGraw, for some reason. We’ve never talked to any of the quarterbacks, kickers, punters, freshman (true and redshirt) or graduate transfers.
We’ve gotten 21 players this preseason, off a team with about 80 scholarship players. Twelve of the 21 players we’ve received have come up multiple times. I didn’t do a count on the last few years under Richt, but it had to be close to 50 players during the last preseason, as we got all the quarterbacks, and most of the freshmen and transfers. In addition, the players we’re getting are more liable to issue boilerplate answers. It’s not that media members are looking for bulletin board material. We just want insightful or anecdotal comments, and those are harder to come by now. But we’re working on it, and adjusting.
The way I’d sum it up is day-to-day information is still coming at about the same rate, if not more. But a chance to speak to more people on the record, and write quality features, has decreased.
Do you think Nick Chubb and/or Sony Michel will forego their senior years and go to the NFL draft? Nick doesn’t seem like that type of guy and values his education, and Sony seems like he needs to prove that he is an NFL-caliber back.
– Rafael Cruz
I see what you’re saying. But Chubb is educated enough to know that tailbacks only have a certain amount of tread on those legs, and that if he has a good, healthy year, returning for his senior year won’t help his stock much. But who knows, maybe he surprises people. Michel may be more likely to return, if Chubb goes pro and Michel thus has the chance to be a featured back. But NFL teams would also have plenty of film on him to know what he can do.
Even if both left – and not saying they will – Georgia would be fine. Elijah Holyfield has the talent to be a featured back, and the commitment of D’Andre Swift, if it holds, is big. Brian Herrien and Tae Crowder would also only be sophomores next year.
You seem to be a qualified and unbiased authority on Georgia football. Let’s do an over/under before the season starts. History will judge your predictions.
1-Chubb: 1,500 yards this season
2-UGA passing: 2,500 yards
3-Leading receiver yards: 600
4-TE receptions: 30
5-UGA offensive points per game: 30
6-UGA defensive points surrendered per game: 17
7-UGA wins: 8.5
– Allan Harvey
That’s a lot of pressure. But I’ll bite:
1-Under 1,500 yards, but only because Michel and Holyfield are behind him.
2-Over. But I’m not hugely confident about that.
3-Over. Terry Godwin should approach 1,000 yards.
5-Under. Not by much.
6-Over. But also not by much.
7-Over. But … not by much.
Love the coverage on DawgNation, but do you have to be such a grumpy grump all the time? Just kidding, sort of. Anyway, real question: I haven’t heard much about Shane Beamer since springtime. Anything worth saying about him? And by virtue, special teams (aside from the kicker/punter situation)?
– Nathan Olive
When am I grumpy? On the Chip and Seth show? Well anybody would look grumpy next to Chip. And on the podcast? Well all the interviews come mid-morning, when my coffee has worn off and I’m starting to get hungry. And if you mean in my writing, well look, everybody else is all hunky-dory over a new coach, but someone has to be the wet blanket. I volunteered for this calendar year, Jason Butt said he would be next year.
We haven’t heard too much about special teams because other than who will kick and punt, it’s been hard to write much. I know it’s been said that they’re going to try to put their best players on special teams, but saying that isn’t exactly unusual. (How many coaches ever say: “We’re putting our second-tier guys on special teams, can’t risk injury to our good players covering a %&*$&#& punt.”)
As for Shane Beamer, we’ve never been able to interview him, so that makes it harder to do a story on him or special teams. It’s not impossible, but takes a bit extra work, and there are only so many hours in the day. It’d be a lot easier to just ask Beamer ourselves, but ce la vi. (And by the way, I’ve seen this misnomer out there that assistant coaches have to take a lot of time to do interviews. When we used to get them, it wasn’t every week, and a 10-minute session was considered long. So it’s not exactly taking a ton of their time.)
See, now I’m grumpy again. Sorry.
How do you let Greg McGarity get away with completely ignoring any and all questions regarding the debacle of the non-silver Silver Britches? Claude Felton ran his mouth two years ago and basically stated the pants “are in the mail”, yet we still do not have any answers whatsoever. None. Zero. The dude has held his job for 30+ years, and absolutely will not respond to direct emails regarding the pants. Is this not the very essence of arrogance? How do you gentlemen in the media find this acceptable?
– Brent Huss, Pasadena,
I am shamed, and am turning in my press card today.
Look, among all the things out there to hold McGarity’s feet to the fire about, I’ll confess this isn’t at the top of the list. The last time I asked McGarity about it he said it was a Nike thing, that they don’t have silver in that texture and design. That was a couple years ago, so it may be worth revisiting sometime in the future.
Seth, I just returned from a North Carolina visit to see my Grandpa. He is 87 with pneumonia and has a hard time speaking, but one of the things we did talk about was the GA/NC game this Saturday. I read every article and listen to every pod cast that is posted. With that being said I want to thank you Seth and Chip for all the information you put out there. It helped me to have something to talk about with a man (my grandpa) who has been cooped up for three weeks and sound like I know what I am talking about. I love them Dogs almost as much as my grandpa. Thanks for what you do and I envy the devil out of your job. It must be a blast and frustrating at the same time.
– Jeremy Osteen
That’s a great note to finish on. Thanks for sharing that, Jeremy, and my best wishes to you and your grandfather. I don’t have either of mine with me anymore, so cherish the days.