The scheduling of future nonconference opponents for the Dawgs, the quarterback competition between Jake Fromm and Justin Fields, and the one glaring deficiency at G-Day are just some of what UGA fans are talking about as we head into the long offseason.
Let’s check out some fans’ thoughts and questions in the latest installment of Junkyard Mail …
Any thoughts or rumors on the Dawgs trying to schedule a Power 5 opponent between 2021-2024? They have a home and home with UCLA in 2025 and 2026. I get playing two easier games each year with Georgia Tech, however, the other nonconference game should be versus a Power 5 school. Fans deserve those type games and will travel, as we saw versus Notre Dame. Clemson, Florida State, Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan are my top 5. Go Dawgs!
— Cam L.
I agree. Other than Notre Dame in Athens in 2019, the upcoming nonconference schedules, aside from permanent fixture Georgia Tech, definitely aren’t very exciting (with the nadir being the 2018 lineup of Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee and UMass). As you mentioned, the Dawgs play UCLA in 2025-2026, and they also will play Virginia in the 2020 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. The recent addition of Indiana State of the FCS Missouri Valley Conference in 2023 doesn’t qualify as what you’re asking for, Cam. I doubt San Jose State in 2021 does, either.
As you say, scheduling a couple of cupcakes per season is understandable, but three is asking too much of the fan base. Plus, as we saw last season, an early game against a Power 5 nonconference opponent looks really good on a program’s résumé come College Football Playoff time.
The most-wished-for opponent that I hear about from UGA fans is Clemson, located about 78 miles from Athens. Once a storied annual rivalry, it’s been reduced to a couple of times a decade or less — no new games against the Tigers have been announced since the 2013-14 series, which the two programs split.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney would be on board with the Dawgs and the Tigers playing more often, as he’s mentioned numerous times in recent years. Just this past week, he said that reviving the rivalry would be “great for both fan bases.” And, a couple of years ago, Swinney said, “If it were up to me, we would play Georgia every year. It just makes sense.”
I doubt Clemson ever will return to Georgia’s schedule on a yearly basis, because both schools also have annual nonconference games against in-state Power 5 rivals, and it would limit scheduling flexibility. But, as I’ve said numerous times here, I’d like to see Georgia-Clemson on the schedule more frequently.
As for other potential Power 5 opponents, Michigan also would be a popular choice, but UGA athletics director Greg McGarity has said that a pairing with the Wolverines isn’t likely because they are “tied up” with other scheduling. A couple of years ago, it was reported the Bulldogs were working on scheduling another Big Ten opponent, but nothing appears to have come of that.
Personally, I’d like to see Texas on the schedule, and I imagine Longhorns fans would, too. A few years ago, The Dallas Morning News ranked the loss to Georgia in the Jan. 2, 1984, Cotton Bowl as the most heart-wrenching moment in Texas football history.
How about you? What Power 5 program would you like to see Georgia schedule in football?
Meanwhile, several readers have weighed in on Georgia’s current quarterback competition and my recent Junkyard Blawg on the pros and cons of the Dawgs trying to play both Fromm and Fields …
Hi Bill, I see a key issue with giving Fields “mop-up” duty only, and that is — when does mop-up time start? Is it when the combination of score differential and time remaining is such that there is no chance of losing the game? … What good does that do, then, as far as giving him game experience? … I’d rather see [the backup] get some “real” real-world reps.
— Hal Pate
Me, too. See my answer to the letter below.
Bill, unless playing Fields this year helps us win games, absent an injury to Fromm, I’d prefer to see him on the bench. I understand that he is the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster, but I don’t want to waste a year of eligibility just to see him in mop-up duty, which might give him some experience in case there’s an injury and he’s needed, but, if we can redshirt him, it sets the table for two full years and maybe three years as the full-time starter.
— Brian D. Miller
I’d say the chance of Fields being redshirted is just about nil. As you point out, he’s the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster. If Fields somehow replaces Fromm as starter (whether through injury or competition), I think it would be best for him already to have some real game experience. And mop-up time generally is the best option for getting that, unless Kirby Smart wants to rotate QBs, which I think is unlikely.
Use Fields in the “Wild Dawg,” as you suggested, with Fromm split wide, and perhaps run some plays where Fromm goes in motion and Fields laterals to him and Fromm passes off that set. … Another reason to get Fields some real playing time is if Fromm (heaven forbid) tweaks a knee. But, by all means, use different plays for Fields.
— John Dyer
That’s certainly one possibility for getting Fields some playing time other than late in games when the outcome already is decided. And, the run-pass option of the Wild Dawg would fit his talents. Of course, Fromm is pretty great in the red zone, so introducing a less-experienced player into that situation carries with it a bit of risk. But, from what I saw of Fields in the G-Day game, I’d say he’s up to it.
Bill, I have two questions for you. First, I haven’t seen any punt stats on incoming freshman Jake Camarda. As woeful as our current crop of punters appear, this seems to be a key special teams question.
Secondly, I am once again left with the puzzling question of why the Falcons appear to historically avoid UGA players [in the NFL draft]. … It is widely believed that the Pats have the most savvy personnel evaluation in the league, and now that they have drafted two more Dawgs in the first round, they have four of our guys on their roster. Head man Bill Belichick even came to Athens to work out our guys. Where is Dan Quinn and the Falcons head office in all this? Does someone need to remind Arthur Blank & Co. there is a boatload of talent in their backyard?
— Pete Talmadge
First, your question about incoming freshman punter-kicker Camarda: He was rated as the No. 1 punting prospect in the country by the 247Sports composite, and he averaged 46.2 yards per punt last season at Norcross High School, with a long of 65 yards and 13 punts downed inside the 20-yard-line.
If Camarda can keep up that average, it would keep Georgia’s punting game on the successful level established last season by graduate transfer Cameron Nizialek, and would be a considerable improvement over the mediocre punting we saw in the G-Day game, where Marshall Long (the starting punter in 2016) averaged 35.3 yards on 3 punts, though he did have one of 49 yards. Bill Rubright averaged 37.7 yards on 3 punts, and Michael D’Angola averaged 37 yards on 2 punts.
As for the Falcons, their relative lack of interest in Bulldogs players through the years always has puzzled me, too. The Falcons haven’t drafted a Dawg since they took Akeem Dent in the third round of the 2011 draft. The only other Georgia player drafted by Atlanta since general manager Thomas Dimitroff was hired in 2008 was running back Thomas Brown. Dimitroff has said he has a great relationship with UGA, but it just hasn’t worked out lately to take one of the school’s players. Still, passing up Todd Gurley in 2015, in favor of pass rusher Vic Beasley of Clemson, strikes me as a questionable decision by the Birds, even though Beasley has done pretty well (making the Pro Bowl in 2016).
Hey Bill, what’s the story on this Bulldogs Tailgate Club that UGA is advertising? I understand it’s going to be based in Reed Quadrangle, just outside Sanford Stadium. Is it going to take up the whole quad? In other words, are you going to have to pay if you want to tailgate at Reed? And, I read on another site that it’s only open to members of the Magill Society, the big-money donors. Is that true? Frankly, with all the restrictions they put on tailgating on North Campus a few years ago, and now this, I wonder if everyone who wants to tailgate is going to be able to find a spot without paying!
— Henry County Dawg
A couple of other readers have asked about the Tailgate Club. I put your questions to Matt Borman, executive associate athletic director for development and executive director of the Georgia Bulldog Club, and he confirmed that, yes, the paid tailgating area will take up all of Reed Quadrangle. For those who previously tailgated there, and who don’t want to pay, he noted that “we have multiple other grassy spots on campus that are open to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis.” Among those areas are Myers Quad and areas along Lumpkin Street and East Campus Road.
As for who is eligible for the new paid tailgate area, Borman said, “it is available to everyone.” Originally, he said, the offer was made exclusively to Magill Society members, but not all the spaces were taken, so now anyone can buy in. There are about 50 tents total, he said.
For those who haven’t received the solicitation to join the Tailgate Club, it offers customizable tailgate packages and catering options, plus a parking pass in the North Deck. Members will have access to nearby portable bathrooms and hand-washing stations in Reed Quad, and the club will take care of cleaning up your tailgate site. You also can check personal items with Tailgate Club personnel when you go into the stadium and reclaim them up to an hour after the game.
Not allowed: additional tents, deep fryers/low country boils, golf carts/ATVs, propane tanks, open flames/campfires, loud generators, large speakers, or any grills or cooking devices. Already prepared foods will be permitted, or you can buy their catering package. You can bring your own drinks (the club’s catering will not sell alcoholic beverages), but you must observe all local and state laws governing alcohol consumption. Bluetooth personal and portable speakers will be permitted. Tailgaters who add a generator or media package to their order through the club will have access to a power source at their tailgate.
The Bulldogs Tailgate Club will open at 7 a.m. on game day and close at the end of the first quarter. Tailgate guest capacity is determined by the size of tent purchased, with packages ranging from 10 people maximum ($2,800) to 20 people maximum ($6,400) to 40 people maximum ($13,440).
As of right now, only season packages are available, but the club’s website says individual games will go on sale in late summer, if any spots are still available after package sales.
Do our spring sports seem down to you? Baseball and softball are doing very well, but our tennis teams are not up to our usual standards (eighth seed in the SEC Tournament?), and I have heard next to nothing about our golf teams. Is this a one-year blip, or the start of a new reality?
— Paul Anderson
I wouldn’t say this has been a down year for UGA’s spring sports, just not a great year. And I doubt it signals long-term problems. UGA is usually pretty strong in spring sports.
As you noted, the softball team (currently ranked No. 6 in the country) is having its usual success, and the baseball team finally is having good year under Scott Stricklin — in fact, its best since 2009 — and is ranked No. 20 in the nation, with a No. 5 RPI according to the NCAA. The Diamond Dogs (30-13 overall, 12-8 in SEC play, as of Saturday) have taken both games against Georgia Tech so far this season, and swept a series with Clemson.
The other spring sports haven’t fared as well. The men’s golf team finished 11th in the 2018 SEC Men’s Golf Championship and will learn their NCAA Regional assignment this Wednesday. The women’s golf team will compete in the NCAA Tallahassee Regional on May 7-9. The Bulldogs are the No. 9 seed in the 18-team field for the tournament, but have steadily improved as the season as progressed. The men’s tennis team, ranked 18th nationally, saw its run in the SEC Tournament end at the hands of No. 5 Texas A&M. Georgia, now 13-10 overall this season, will find out its NCAA Tournament fate this week. The women’s tennis team, ranked No. 8 in the country, lost in the quarterfinals of the SEC Women’s Tennis Tournament, but still have the NCAA Tournament to come. Freshman Katarina Jokic has been named the 2018 SEC Freshman of the Year, and the team produced the largest contingent of All-SEC honorees in the conference, with six players tabbed. The track and field teams are doing well so far. And, the top-ranked SEC champion Bulldogs equestrian team, a perennial power, lost to the second-ranked Auburn Tigers in that sport’s national championship. In the individual event competitions, Georgia won the national title in Equitation on the Flat.
So, not a bad spring, just not quite up to past UGA standards.
Bill, Tom Crean … used car salesman, snake oil con man? Listening to this guy talk about UGA’s b-ball history, and Georgia as one of the greatest basketball programs, went beyond ludicrous. Love the enthusiasm. Dislike the B.S. He’s all over the map on craziness. Hope he can recruit, coach and win at Georgia. I have a feeling we should have waited to make a nice offer to Loyola-Chicago’s coach [Porter Moser]. History will tell which coach has more success in the future.
— Jim P.
Crean’s ebullient style is a contrast to what Bulldogs fans are used to from Mark Fox, but he has a solid record as a head coach, and, if that over-the-top enthusiasm lights a fire under a good-but-not-great program, so much the better.