Word that Kirby Smart is apparently pursuing a dual-threat quarterback to follow pro-style passer Jacob Eason has generated quite a bit of chatter about a possible change of direction down the road for the Georgia offense.
But, really, it’s just Smart doing what he said he was going to do at his introductory UGA press conference.
What’s gotten fans and commentators excited is reports that the Bulldogs have made an early scholarship offer to rising junior QB Emory Jones of Heard County — especially the part where Jones said, “Kirby said he wanted more of a Deshaun Watson-type quarterback, and he sees that in me.”
One of the biggest fan complaints about the latterday Mark Richt era at UGA was the Dawgs letting Clemson lure Gainesville native Watson away by getting such a late start recruiting the exciting prospect. The young player had even called them out on social media about it.
The highly ranked Eason, initially a Richt recruit, is another in the recent line of prototype pro-style quarterbacks to play for the Bulldogs, and Smart, who came from a school where a pro-style offense has been the norm, was no doubt thrilled to convince him to stick with the Dawgs after the previous staff’s departure.
But Smart has made it clear all along that he won’t be limited in his QB recruiting by the style of offense Georgia traditionally has run.
Asked at his first press gathering what style offense he’ll run, Smart said: “Now to say are you going to be spread or are you going to be pro? I don’t think you can pigeon hole yourself into that. I like to think you’ve got to be both in both situations. You’ve got to utilize the talent you have on your team. What kind of players do you have on your team? What does it set up to be successful?”
Smart said his basic philosophy will be: “Go get good players, get them the ball.”
He elaborated on that at a mid-January press briefing, saying: “You do whatever you have to do to win the game. If that becomes a dual-threat quarterback, then we cross that bridge when we come to it. I do think that creates challenges for the defense. If you find the right guy, which I agree with you there have been a lot of good ones to come out of this state, then you use that.”
Richt never seemed comfortable with dual-threat QBs during his time at Georgia, other than early signee D.J. Shockley (who rewarded the coach with his second SEC championship).
It sounds, at least, like Smart is going to be more open to going after the state’s best QBs, no matter what style offense they come from. If that proves to be the case, it bodes well for Georgia’s future offensive diversity.
And that’s definitely a good thing.
CLEARING UP G-DAY CONFUSION
Over the weekend, quite a few Dawgs fans on social media started sharing what appeared to be news that the kickoff of the April 16 G-Day game had been shifted to 2 p.m. But that’s not the case, athletic spokesman Claude Felton tells me.
The misinformation was generated by someone sharing an announcement of a kickoff change that appeared to date back to 2010. (One tipoff that it was outdated info was a reference to the game being carried by the CSS cable channel, which doesn’t even exist any more.)
I contacted Felton, and he said that the gates of Sanford Stadium will be opened to fans at 1 p.m., with the past lettermen’s flag football game due to kick off at 1:15 p.m. The main G-Day intrasquad game will kick off at 4 p.m., as originally announced, and will be carried by one of the ESPN channels (though Felton said they’ve not yet been notified by the SEC office which channel).
If you want to be among the 93,000 fans Kirby Smart hopes will fill the stadium, make your plans accordingly.
GIVING UP ON THE BASKETBALL DAWGS?
Despite recent losses having pretty much put them out of the NCAA picture (unless they win the SEC tournament), Mark Fox’s basketball Bulldogs showed Saturday against Ole Miss that they’re not quitters.
And there were a couple of occasions in the back-and-forth game where they could have folded. After jumping out to an early 12-point lead, one of those lengthy scoring droughts that have plagued this year’s UGA team (this one lasting 6:27) allowed Ole Miss to take the lead with a 13-0 run before Georgia finally bounced back and took a one-point lead into halftime.
Then, the Bulldogs fell behind by as many as eight in the second half before getting back into it. My brother Tim and I were at the game and I remarked at that point it might turn out to be another of those whoever-has-the-ball-last-wins games like the earlier loss to Ole Miss.
But the Dawgs’ defense basically shut down the Rebels from that point on and gradually pulled away for a convincing 80-66 win.
However, while Fox’s team might not have given up, I had to wonder about their UGA student fan base, which was noticeably absent for the most part from the game at the Steg. The student section was as sparsely filled as I’ve seen it for a non-December game in a long time.
I don’t know whether the noon tipoff was just too early or, more likely, the downturn in the team’s fortunes prompted many students to give up on the team’s chances this year.
But the students have one more chance to show up and support the team. After a visit to South Carolina this week, the Dawgs will close out their regular-season home schedule at 4 p.m. Saturday when they take on Alabama in Athens.
Here’s hoping the student section is full and loud this time.
FIND A SPOT FOR HINES!
Since retiring from the NFL after the 2011 season, former UGA star Hines Ward has made no secret of the fact that he’d like the chance to return to Athens in some sort of coaching capacity for the Dawgs.
Ward mentioned his desire to coach at UGA again when former teammate Kirby Smart was hired back in December.
And Ward, who was inducted into the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame this past weekend, brought up the coaching idea again last week in several local media appearances, including in an interview with WSB-TV/Channel 2’s Anthony Amey.
“Hey Kirby Smart, if you are out there and you want a receivers coach, give me a call,” Ward said. “It would definitely be something that I’d have to think about.
“The bug is still there. Television is great, but I’ve always had the coaching bug and I really don’t want to coach in the NFL. If I ever got into coaching, I’d want to give back to my alma mater.”
Of course, Smart already has a receivers coach and doesn’t currently have any vacancies on his new staff. But, having worked for Nick Saban, who’s famously creative in finding new ways to supplement his coaching staff, surely Smart could figure out how to bring Ward back into the Bulldog family as an active participant.
Having the gregarious Super Bowl MVP and “Dancing With the Stars” champion greeting prospects visiting Athens certainly would be a plus for the Georgia program.
C’mon, Coach Smart, find a way to bring Hines home!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.