I’m pretty shocked. Nobody sent in a question asking who the starting quarterback would be. I was all set to tell you and break the news right here.
But since no one asked, I guess I’ll wait.
A lot of you submitted questions, and apologies to those I couldn’t get to this time. For those that did make it, I’ve organized it this way: A few in-depth (in other words, long) answers, followed by a lightning round (as in short answers).
Here we go:
What is the biggest similarity and difference you have noticed between the first year offseason of Jeremy Pruitt and Brian Schottenheimer?
– Nate Liao
Great question to start out. And I’ll try to answer beyond the obvious, which is the two coordinators inheriting vastly different situations. (Pruitt having to rebuild, Schottenheimer having to maintain.)
Similarities: Not very many. Both kept the same basic system: Pruitt kept Todd Grantham’s 3-4 with a heavy reliance on the 4-2-5, and Schottenheimer kept Mike Bobo’s pro style with a reliance on up-tempo and no-huddle. Both introduced smaller terminology changes, but no playbook overhauls. Both were less media accessible than their predecessors, but in Schottenheimer’s case that probably has more to do with the atmosphere around the program.
Differences: Pruitt came in and immediately put his footprint on the program in ways big and subtle, which many saw as necessary. Schottenheimer has tread lighter, and that seemed the right move as well. Pruitt brought a more hard-edged approach to practice and training, and more than a few players transferred. The only players that left this year after Schottenheimer’s hiring were depth chart-related, and probably would have anyway. Pruitt went about trying to change the culture on the defense, requiring more energy in practice. Schottenheimer didn’t have to do that with the offense, and knew it.
There’s a lot more that could go in there, but that’ll do for now.
Is Trent Thompson going to be to the D this year what Chubb was to the O last year?
– Bryan L. Carson
It’s hard for a defensive lineman in a 3-4 to be as singularly spectacular as a tailback – at least in the pure stats – but Thompson could be very, very good. Everything I’m hearing is he’s as good as hyped and that his work ethic is strong. You’re not hearing the diminishing of expectations that usually comes with a highly-recruited player who takes longer than expected to get acclimated.
Chubb’s importance to the team is hard to overstate, given the tailback injuries/suspension and lack of a deep passing game. He basically carried the team to three or four victories. Thompson shouldn’t need to carry the defense, what with the talent at outside linebacker and improved depth elsewhere. But Georgia’s defense hasn’t had a difference-maker on the line in awhile, and if Thompson becomes one, that could be what takes it to a very high level.
I’m interested on your take on why UGa has been so fortunate this summer to have avoided the “normal” discipline problems (knock on wood). Seems to be 2 possible scenarios, #1 young men 18-21 yrs. old have suddenly changed their behavior OR #2 there has been a “meeting of the minds” between the administration, athletic department, and local law enforcement to use some discretion in enforcement, entrapment, and the publicity of disciplinary actions. The piety from Richt seems to have been quelled by cooler heads because setting young men up for failure doesn’t benefit anyone. Your thoughts please…..and please no party line about “leadership and maturity” on a team of 18-21 year old men.
– Clint Paschal
Clint, if there were an obvious or an easy answer to this Georgia wouldn’t have had the problem in the first place. And I doubt there would be some sort of “deal” with law enforcement to look the other way or handle things in-house. People forget that one of the first things Greg McGarity did five years ago was meet with UGA police chief Jimmy Williamson. No such deal came out of that, and the arrest rate didn’t go down.
I’ve asked a few players and people around the program about it, and Jordan Jenkins mentioned a leadership counsel organized by Mark Hocke, the new strength and conditioning coach. A few have pointed to speakers now coming annually, such as Tim Worley. But if I had to guess at the five biggest reasons I’d go:
1. Luck: Hey, sometimes you just have good years.
2. Attrition: A lot of the players who have departed had at least one off-field incident in their file.
3. Recruiting: A player’s background is mattering more and more.
4. Discipline: Richt has had a pretty low tolerance level for a couple years, and sometimes it takes awhile to take effect in the minds of players that, Hey, I better keep my nose clean.
As for the lack of drug suspensions, one thing to keep in mind is they might actually have one, or some, the media just hasn’t gotten wind of it, or been able to report it yet. But the drug tests are also dictated by the school, so who knows, they might have eased up on that too. Three years ago they drug-tested after spring break. That, unsurprisingly, popped a few guys.
Most people are hesitant to anoint UGA as the team to beat in the SEC. Some national analysts like Kirk Herbstreet won’t even give them the nod in the East. What in reality to you believe is the reason? I know, I know. UGA has tripped itself up numerous times over the years and has earned caution, but is it merely past reputation that keeps them from getting more hype this year? Or is it really the case that the SEC West teams have better talent and coaching than what we expect our of Richt/Pruitt/Schottenheimer? UGA was inconsistent last year but when playing good was every bit as good as any team in the West (hence the drubbing of Arkansas and Auburn). Now they return a deeper, more talented defense that is acclimated to Pruitt and what on paper appears to be a phenomenal running game between the 5 star RB stable and great O-Line. Maybe I’m just drinking the kool-aid, but considering UGA’s competitors also have QB questions, what truly gives with UGA being considered a sacrificial lamb to the SEC West should it make the SEC Championship?
– Austen Bannan
I see what you’re saying, Austen, but I’ll point out that Georgia was the overwhelming pick (74 percent of the votes) to win the East at media days. So Herbstreit is an exception. As for the SEC title, yes Georgia only got 12 percent of the vote, but I think that’s largely a result of the other teams being Alabama and Auburn, who are very good.
Do a lot of people doubt whether Georgia will be good enough to finish the job? I’m sure they are, based on that “ugly loss syndrome,” as I called it in a story this summer. There have been some high-profile instances when Georgia has laid an egg. There have been an equal amount of instances, however, where Georgia came up huge in an unexpected way, and you cited a couple examples. It’s just the egg-laying that the national media types focus on, as do other people.
The only way Georgia can turn that around is to finally win the SEC championship. Personally I think the Bulldogs do have the ingredients to be a great team this year, as well as legitimate questions (quarterback, how good the defense will be) to warrant the reservations.
My question is do you think Richt will be on the hot seat after going 7-5 at best this year, maybe 6-6? Will the calls for Kirby Smart restart?
– Seth Jernigan
I’ve always been loathe to speculate on this type of thing, so here’s what I’m willing to say, as of this preseason: There’s been a slight increase in national chatter that Richt will be in trouble if Georgia doesn’t win the East, but that runs against the prevailing feeling in Athens. This does not feel like a hot seat year. I was here in 2011. This does not feel like that at all.
Now, I would say yes that if Georgia goes in the tank this year – and a seven or six-win season would qualify – then it sets up 2016 to be critical. And who knows, I would never say never about this year. But what a lot of the national and SEC-centric media don’t get – and I respect the hell out of a lot of these guys, they’re just not here every day – is the fundamentals of the situation in Athens. Things have changed here. Recruiting is going very well, especially on the defensive side. Georgia’s defense is setting up to be top-tier next year. The administrative support is finally full-bore for Richt and what he feels he needs.
Of course, that means the pressure to win increases. But I don’t think the pressure is on that warmly quite yet.
I am concerned a little about how Lorenzo Carter seemed to be laughing off the fact that Coach Pruitt was “mad at him”. I know he had a good scrimmage against the 2nd team but I worry that he feels entitled or immune to discipline from the coaches? Did he take the demotion as a true signal and start taking it more serious? Does he feel his talent will have hime starting regardless of his attitude? Is this something we should be worried about carrying over to other team members or are my spidey senses over thinking this?
– Scott Harris
My initial reaction was also to be a little surprised at how Carter literally laughed off the benching, and the “more sacks leads to more money” comment certainly makes it sound like Carter didn’t quite absorb Pruitt’s message. But two things make me think it’s not a big deal:
That’s just Carter’s personality, at least in interviews. He’s an outgoing, unassuming guy, and to date I haven’t heard that be an issue. Secondly, the players that came up to meet the media after the scrimmage were actually chosen by the team, so if Carter was truly in the doghouse I would think Pruitt would have vetoed it. That isn’t to say more messages won’t continue to be sent to Carter, but in the long run I think he’ll be fine.
A.J. Thurman ready to be a legitimate back up?
– Corbindawg, via Twitter
Turman has looked good in camp so far, and I’ve heard good things behind the scenes. He also seems to have edged ahead of Brendan Douglas, from what I can tell. But that’s still only fourth on the depth chart, and those three guys ahead of him are very, very good. Turman deserves a lot of credit for sticking around and coming back from multiple injuries. Now he has to wait for his opportunity.
Seth, really excited about Godwin! What is the possibility that he becomes a difference maker like AJ Green was all those years ago…
– Savannah Gail Garcia
Godwin can be good, but let’s not go crazy yet. Green was a once-in-a-generation type talent. Godwin can be a Malcolm Mitchell type, which is still very good. They’re not exactly comparable – Mitchell is slightly bigger, Godwin slightly more athletic – but they have a comparable ceiling.
How has Keith Marshall looked, does he still have the runaway speed he had his freshman year?
– Roger Collier
Everyone has said he looks very good. Now is he back to his freshman form? Frankly I’ll have to see that first before I proclaim it myself. And by see it, I mean in games. The key for Marshall isn’t just having his old speed, but the confidence in his legs to have the vision to hit the hole or hit the outside.
Based on what you’ve seen and read, which freshman defensive linemen will make the rotation on the defensive line this season? And besides Sterling Bailey, is there any general idea of which players will start on the front three?
– Brian Davis
Trent Thompson is the first answer to both questions. The kid is good. Not sure if he starts from day one, but he’ll be starting pretty quickly. After him I might have said Jonathan Ledbetter but his injury – he’s been out with an unannounced injury since last week – could derail that. Michael Barnett and Justin Young are the most likely other freshmen right now. Among the veterans, seniors James DeLoach and Josh Dawson are a good bet for snaps on the edge, and sophomore John Atkins and senior Chris Mayes at the nose.
Seems like UGA has dramatically improved its depth, especially at DB and LB. Will this pay dividends on special teams?
– Allan Harvey
It very well could. That’s an excellent point. Of course you’ve still gotta have the right players in the right spots – not to pick on Quayvon Hicks and the kick return foibles last year, but … yeah. And walk-ons have historically been some of the team’s top special teamers, most recently Blake Sailors.
I’m a big Pruitt believer and I think he has made a huge difference for our program. I’m expecting big things from him in the years to come. What will it take for Pruitt to leave? How motivated is he to stay with UGA for the next few years?
– Matt Heard
It will take a head coaching job, I assume, just as it did with Bobo. Of course he could make a lateral move, but clearly he had opportunities last year, leading to the massive raise that now has him earning $1.3 million. Richt has a pretty good reputation within the industry as being someone to work for, and the assistants that leave for similar jobs tend to be getting out before the posse arrives (Grantham) or had been here awhile and were ready for a change (Tony Ball, Rodney Garner, etc.).
What are your thoughts on coach Schotty so far?
– Corey Heath
He’s still feeling his way around the program, but getting more comfortable. He’s been more vocal, and willing to raise his voice, at practice this preseason than he was in the spring. You can also tell he’s been around awhile, and dealt with a lot of media, as his press conference answers are immediate, smooth and skilled at not giving away too much information. He’s dealt with the New York media, and dealt with fan criticism there as well, so this whole quarterback thing shouldn’t overwhelm him.
Since you joined the AJC, does that remove the no CMR CJP CBS restriction?
– Coach Davis
And if you don’t know what all those acronyms mean, good.
Except AJC. We like that one.