“Trouble, oh we got trouble
Right here in River City!
Gotta figure out a way
To keep the young ones moral after school!
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble …”
– The Music Man
OK, two things:
1. I can never hear that song without actually thinking of “The Simpsons” monorail episode, a brilliant takeoff on the Music Man. If you go watch this link now and forget to come back to this page, then I’ll understand.
2. Who actually knew Jacksonville was known as River City? Do people in Jacksonville know that? (James Carville once referred to Jacksonville as “Macon, but with a river.” That was evidently not a compliment.)
So yeah, it’s not the River City Shootout, as they’re trying to call it, especially if the winning team doesn’t even crack 20 on Saturday, as many are predicting. But I’d also like to push back on the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party name. Not out of political correctness, but accuracy: How many cocktails do you actually see there? My walk from the media parking lot to the stadium is usually strewn with cans of Bud Light and maybe, for the high-class set, a Michelob. It’s a fun scene, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like people are sitting around holding garden parties and sipping Martinis with their pinky fingers extended.
Anyway, this is the mailbag. Let’s get to the questions.
After all the anger from fans over the Vandy loss, the stat that sticks out to me the most is that Georgia has lost 6 games since the beginning of 2013 where they were at least 10 point favorites. Anyway, it seems to me that UGA is looking a lot like the 2006, 2009, and 2010 UGA teams. All were breaking in new QB and struggled to find an identity. UGA fans are rightly upset over the Vandy loss, but do you think UGA fans have set expectations for this season too high? Aren’t we UGA fans used to falling short of expectations? Maybe some just thought that would all change in year 1 under Kirby?
Anyway, change is hard, sometimes necessary, often times for the better and mostly requires patience.
– Charles Forrester
This is going to sound like I’m picking on you, so I’ll apologize in advance, Charles. I’ve heard this line of thinking from a lot of people lately: We should have expected a down season, but Georgia will be better in the long run. Maybe both are true. But there are holes in both of those arguments.
How many people were actually expecting a down season? How many were picking 7-5 or 6-6, both of which are now realistically possible? (Though 9-3 or 8-4 are both still realistic too, if this team figures it out.) Personally, I saw this as another 10-2/9-3 type Georgia team, the same type of team I’ve seen … well, for a very long time.
The coaching change was made because the powers-that-be were tired of being merely good. They wanted to win a championship. I didn’t hear any of them in the offseason predicting that Smart’s first season would be rough. They weren’t expecting championships right away, they just wanted hope and tangible signs that what they hated about the last few years of the Richt era wouldn’t happen anymore. Instead, all of it has already happened within the first seven games: A lopsided loss, an unexpected loss to an inferior team, a weird last-second loss. And there have also been questions about undisciplined play, offensive play-calling, etc.
I’m painting a bleak picture. I don’t know how you don’t when assessing the first seven games. But there’s no reason the picture can’t look different in five games. It starts with Saturday: If Georgia, which seemingly is just playing for pride now, comes out and out-plays Florida, that’s a great sign going forward. This is a week that will tell a lot about Smart’s motivational and head coaching abilities.
Can we expect the offense to morph into Easons’s strengths, i.e. the shotgun formation going forward? And if so, when? Good coaches work with what they have, not the other way around.
– John Vaughn
I’m not privy to the gameplan – and believe me, I’d love to ask Jim Chaney about it – so I’ll just have to guess. Well, make it an educated guess.
Georgia wants to be a physical, run-oriented team that uses the run to set up the pass, not the other way around. When they went the opposite direction against Tennessee the results were very good. But that was a must-win game for Georgia. Frankly, if that Hail Mary isn’t caught, I could see Georgia continuing with that approach, deciding to do what works as they try to win the SEC East.
Instead, we all know what happened, and now it seems like Smart and Chaney are trying to find that happy medium with Eason. They don’t want to take away what he does best, but they also want him learning to manage a pro-style offense, to drop back and pass, etc. And considering Florida’s secondary is loaded, especially at cornerback, that would point to the “old man football” approach in Jacksonville.
Side note: Speaking of Macon and Jacksonville, both cities claim the Allman Brothers. A little hard journalistic research (Wikipedia) reveals that the band originally formed in Jacksonville, then moved to Macon. So there’s that. Anyway, both cities still pale in comparison to the Athens music scene. Or at least that’s what I was told by Gentry before I moved here, immediately got married and had children and ceased to have a life. But anyway …
I’m as disappointed in the Vandy loss as anyone, but I keep reading about how we were “whipped up and down the field,” which is simply not true based on the stats. Our offense couldn’t translate to points, but we held them in check aside from the initial kickoff. As a matter of fact, take away that return and a 1% play in the Tennessee Hail Mary, and we’re a 1 loss team in control of our destiny in the East. My question is, are you hearing as much negativity across the board, or is it mostly contained to Facebook comments and forum posts from exaggerating pessimists?
– Billy Thompson
You’re right about the thin line between being 6-1 … but also 2-5, as I pointed out in my story this morning. Think about what Missouri and even Nicholls State fans are saying. It’s remarkable how many close games Georgia has been involved in, and how one play at the end of the game dictates the mood for the following week … or the entire season.
As for your question, I wouldn’t say the feeling around the team or the Butts-Mehre building is negative. Clammed up is more like it. People realize there’s not much good to talk about, so they’re not. Yes, they could be 6-1, but when one of the losses is at home to Vanderbilt, you don’t want to go around touting that as a near-win. As Bill Parcells said, “you are what your record says you are.”
Georgia seems to use mats at mid-field on the sideline, with circles numbered 1-10. What are those for (and why only 10)?
Good question, because I had seen it too and hadn’t thought to ask. Thanks to your question, I did.
It’s for special teams, and making sure the right personnel group goes out. For instance, when punt return is supposed to go out, they have one player stand on each number. It stops at 10 because the kicker or punter is doing his own thing (kicking or punting into the net, usually.) So they have the other 10 guys line up, one on each number, and make sure they don’t send 12 (or 10) men on the field.
And for all the problems on special teams this year, they haven’t had a penalty for too many men on the field. There have been other penalties – offsides on kickoffs, hitting the other team’s return man too early – but not too many men on the field.
Side note No. 2: Tom Petty is not from Jacksonville, but he’s from Gainesville. Close enough. Anyway, did you know that when Petty was growing up one of his first guitar teachers was Don Felder, the future founding member of the Eagles? The music group, not the Philadelphia Eagles. And by the way, if you ever watch the great Showtime documentary on the Eagles, Felder did not leave the Eagles on good terms. Whoo boy.
Should Georgia consider looking at 5* kicker Lucas Havrisik out of California? The kicking game has been somewhat inconsistent this year and I feel this guy would be a great player and a DGD! He does live in Cali though and I don’t know if Kirby would extend the scholarship to a kicker. Thoughts? (He kicked a near 65 yarder as a sophomore)
Well, you made me go to Google. He does indeed appear to be good, but I have to be honest here, I cannot endorse the idea of trying to spell “Havrisik” correctly over a four-year period.
Seriously, though, with every made field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship, it diminishes the chances Georgia will offer a scholarship to a kicker. Blankenship is still just a freshman, and he had a good resume’ coming out of high school. So the staff would love for him to establish himself over the next five (maybe six) games as not only the kicker of the present, but of the future.
Do you have any update on Ben Cleveland? Can we expect him to start/see significant playing time in 2017?
– Will Burgess
The thing people have to remember about Cleveland is that he’s still only 18 years old. So while he may be huge, there’s a reason they decided it would be better for him to redshirt this season.
Come this spring, he’ll be in the mix at one of the guard spots, perhaps even tackle. Three starting jobs will be available, with Lamont Gaillard likely shifting from right guard to center. Dyshon Sims (the sixth man right now) is most likely to take one of the three spots. Solomon Kindley and Aulden Bynum would be next in the pecking order, based on this year’s depth chart. But Cleveland, Pat Allen, the incoming freshmen, they’ll all be given a shot too.
Side note No. 3: Scott McKenzie, who wrote the folk song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers In Your Fair)”, was actually born in Jacksonville. Believe, I’ve got more of these, just wait.
It’s funny that no one talks about one of the biggest complaints against Mark Richt – player development. Even Steve Spurrier joked about players coming to UGA seemed to disappear. It is frustrating when other coaches develop their one and two star players and they beat our three and four star players. Under Richt this usually happened once or twice a year, along with getting beat by higher rated teams. My question is, in your opinion, how long do you think it takes to develop players to play as instructed (i.e. when a defense is called for a screen pass, they are there to defend it) and to perform at a high-level week to week? Personally, I think it takes longer than the 10 months Kirby has been on the job. Only four months of actually coaching (or thereabouts). I’ll ask a second question, what does player development mean to you?
– David Benfield
I agree in the larger sense that it’s too soon to evaluate Smart and his staff’s impact on the development of these players. It’s not a one-season career. But it’s also not like, with most of these players, this staff was starting over. It’s the same defensive system – two out of four coaches back there were retained – and basically the same offensive system, just with new coaches. It’s certainly an interruption to the development process when you have a new position coach, but that’s mitigated by not having a very different scheme to learn.
As for your second question, I have no idea why you’d care what I think of player development, or anything really – the idea here is you come for the side notes, not the insight. But since you asked, yes development is vitally important, which we’ve seen a lot at Georgia. Some under-recruited players were better because they should’ve been rated higher: Dominick Sanders springs to mind. But in most cases it’s also a credit to the coaches who developed them, and in fact almost every player requires it. A.J. Green didn’t, but basically everybody else needs some measure of teaching and coaching. Malcolm Mitchell was a five-star recruit, but left Georgia a much more complete player (and person). Three-star recruits like David Andrews, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett ended up much better players, partly because they were underrated, but also because of how well they were coached and thus how much they improved.
Will Georgia and Florida be wearing home and home jerseys on Saturday like last year, or will we get back to home and away jerseys? Do you ever think Kirby would do something crazy, like say bring out the hideous black helmets again?
Yes, each team will be wearing the blue and red jerseys again. This will be third year for that. As for black helmets, you never know, but whenever Smart gets asked a uniform question he reacts like he’s being asked to let his dog call plays. He just doesn’t think it’s worthy of active discussion. (But yes, fans are interested, which is another reason it’s a shame they don’t take calls on Smart’s radio show. When reporters ask questions like this, it’s easy for a coach to laugh and make fun of the question. It’s a lot harder to do to fans.)
What were we talking about? Oh, right, black jerseys. The unofficial plan is still to wear them for the Louisiana-Lafayette game, but it still hasn’t been confirmed.
Side note No. 4: I’ve been ordered to stop with the Jacksonville music references. The phrase “Seth, you’re making Jacksonville music references, you should really be better than that” was invoked. I didn’t agree with the sentiment, but gave in to the request.
Jeff Schultz is taking some abuse from Georgia fans, but I have to agree with him. How in the world did the two athletes pass that drug test after the cop smelled that much marijuana odor in the room? Who supervises the drug tests? Also, can players be tested at any time?
Jeff’s column stands on its own, and lays out the specifics off the situation, so I won’t address that part of it. I will say that the very fact an incident report was filed shows there was no police conspiracy to keep this quiet. They investigated, chose not to make any charges, and then it became the university and the football program’s issue.
Yes, drug tests can be performed at any time. It’s UGA’s own policy, so it can decide when to test, how often to test, who to test, and who does the testing. (I’m not sure whether it’s out-scoured to someone like LabCorp or is done in-house.) One interesting side note: The results of drug tests are rarely publicized, for obvious reasons, but in this case they were because Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith agreed to waive their HIPPA rights.
What is a bigger pet peeve for you: Calling the mascot UGA (instead of Uga) or referring to Kirby Smart as CKS?
– Allan Harvey
Oh, this isn’t even close. I can deal with calling him UGA, as that’s the (semi-official) name for the university, and thus an easy mistake to make. But the whole coach abbreviation thing? It’s an abomination, and has been since it was first introduced, and I’m not softening on it. His name is Kirby, or Coach Smart, or Mr. Smart. It’s not exactly a burden to have to type a few more letters. No, this whole thing is a result of the texting/Twitter culture we live in where we want to abbreviate everything. Well, I’ll have you know that in my day –
Before SSE could finish that thought, his Internet access was cut off by his editors, concerned about SSE’s well-being. Thank you for reading the mailbag.