THE TEN AT 10:
1. Greetings from the SEC road. I’m in Knoxville, Tenn., today working on our “Behind Enemy Lines” series. I’m scheduled to meet with coach Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers later this afternoon. I was in Nashville at Vanderbilt yesterday and Seth Emerson will be at South Carolina and Alabama later this week.
Most preseason prognostications tab the Vols as the team most likely to knock off Georgia on the way to an SEC Eastern Division championship this year. So we’ll take as close a look as we can get at what Tennessee has this season and see how things are going with its preseason preparations.
The college football season begins in just 10 days, so preparations are getting extremely intense in everybody’s camp at this point. That’s especially true for the Bulldogs, who are heading into their final scrimmage of the preseason on Thursday without a clear No. 1 quarterback. In fact, if the coaches’ rhetoric is to be believed, Georgia still has a three-man race going for that position.
Of course, there’s nothing unusual about quarterback competitions in the SEC this year. Heading into preseason camps, more than half of the 14 SEC teams – nine in all — did so without having a clear No. 1 at the game’s marquee position.
At least two of those have since been resolved. Texas A&M just settled on Kyle Allen over Kyler Murray this past Monday, while Kentucky tabbed Patrick Towles over Drew Barker last week.
It could be argued that Mississippi State, with highly-touted senior Dak Prescott in the fold, is the only SEC team with what could be deemed a star at the position. Certainly Maty Mauk has been very good at times at Missouri, as have Joshua Dobbs at Tennessee and Jeremy Johnson at Auburn. But they have yet to exhibit the consistent excellence it takes to be deemed a star quarterback in this league, in my opinion. That could change this season, of course.
2. Look for most of these jobs to be settled by the end of this week — Georgia’s included. We’re at the point now that, whether teams want to admit it or not, you have to at least determine who is going to take the first snap of the game, never mind the first series. And unless the plan is to alternate the players every play, that person has to be considered your starter.
The joke around Georgia this summer has been that the Bulldogs are going to open against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 5 with Nick Chubb or Sony Michel taking the first snap and running the ball out of the “Wild Dawg” formation. That way they will not have had to declare a starting quarterback.
At this writing, Georgia’s competition was still being waged between Faton Bauta, Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey (listed alphabetically). On Monday, in the first practice since this past Saturday’s scrimmage, Lambert, the transfer from Virginia, was up first in the rotation, followed by Ramsey and Bauta. But there’s just no way to know whether offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer reset the order based on their performances in the last scrimmage or if that’s simply where the daily rotation fell on this particular day. They have been rotating the 1-2-3 order daily since camp opened Aug. 4.
Whatever the case, something will need to be settled by Thursday, if not before. As the final scrimmage of the preseason, this workout is traditionally somewhat of a dress rehearsal for the opening game. At this point, the Bulldogs are installing play scripts, so they need to know what plays they’re going to run and, in theory, what players are going to be running them. After that, it’s all about repetition.
The sad truth is the last we heard from coach Mark Richt after the scrimmage this past Saturday is he was more confused about the situation than he was going in. That tells me that, when Georgia finally does get to the game, more than one of these quarterbacks is going to play in the first half. I have a hard time believing that it would be three.
3. That’s what we know. Here is what I think: Ramsey is going to be the first quarterback in for the Bulldogs. And I believe it’s his job to lose thereafter.
This is Ramsey’s time. The 6-foot-3, 213-pound product of Kingsland was recruited to Georgia with the intention of him taking over at this point, after Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason had moved on. I think the coaches are disappointed that Ramsey hasn’t stepped up and owned the position the way they would’ve liked him to at this juncture. But the fact that there hasn’t been enough separation between the three quarterbacks makes me believe they’ll fall back on Ramsey by default.
And every indication I get is that it is in actual games where Ramsey will distinguish himself. Jeff Herron, Ramsey’s coach at Camden County who is now at Prince Avenue Christian School, told me that Ramsey is one of those athletes that simply needs to play to truly show his wares. He’s a proverbial “gamer.” Not that it would sway Schottenheimer one way or another, but Herron has shared those insights with the Bulldogs’ new offensive czar.
Herron thinks Georgia should start Ramsey and leave him in the game so he can fall back on his instincts and do what comes natural to him. Let him make some mistakes and learn from them, he said, and not be looking over his shoulder for the hook to come from the sideline.
At this point, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. I believe Georgia will utilize a quarterback rotation, at least in the first game. How long that carries on will be up to the QBs.
4. However the situation plays out, the Bulldogs insist it’s not having a negative impact on the team.
“Whoever is going to be back there week one we’re going to go win with,” senior right tackle Kolton Houston said. “It’s football. I could care less which quarterback it’s going to be. Same with the other 10 guys on offense. We’re going to win with the guy they put back there.”
Richt doesn’t believe the rotation is impending the overall progress of Georgia’s offense, which is coming off back-to-back, record-setting seasons.
“They’re used to everyone rolling in and out there,” Richt said of the rest of the offensive players. “They know they’ve got to work on their own assignments and what’s important for them at their position. I don’t think there’s a clique saying it needs to be him or it needs to be him.”
5. Quietly, college athletes ushered in the “pay-for-play” era this past Friday. Students on athletic scholarship — Georgia’s included — received their first cost-of-attendance stipend checks via direct deposit.
How that affects major college athletics and the athlete’s themselves remains to be seen. Georgia tight end Jay Rome is a fifth-year senior. So it’s definitely an interesting proposition for him.
“That’s definitely something I wished they had put in place earlier on,” he said. “Putting a little bit more spending money in the players’ pockets was definitely a great thing. … I think it’s just going to get better from here on out.”
UGA has conducted several meetings and seminars with its student-athletes to help prepare them for handling the influx of new money. It’s not a windfall — $3,221 for in-state students and $3,743 for out-of-state students — but for those unaccustomed to having some extra pocket change, it could be a life-altering experience.
As one of the team’s elder statesmen, Rome has felt compelled to counsel the Bulldogs’ younger players.
“I told them to just be grateful and don’t blow it all and don’t go out to the mall and spend it all every weekend,” Rome said. “Coach Richt has done a great job making us sit through meetings and kind of teaching us about money management. You don’t want to go out and blow your money every week. We’re learning how to save and everything, and that’s great.”
6. Rome is the leader of what is expected to be an exceptional tight end group for the Bulldogs this season. He’ll turn 23 years old in Decembers, so he definitely stands out in a meeting room that includes sophomores Jeb Blazevich and Jordan Davis and freshman Jackson Harris.
“Oh, yeah, Jeb calls me ‘Grandpa’ all the time; the other guys, too,” Rome said. “We’ve kind of had a history of that in the tight end room. Aron White was my Grandpa. It’s been kind of a tradition for the older guys to take the younger guys under their wings. It’s almost like a parenting relationship. At the same time we’re all brothers.”
As I reported recently, Schottenheimer has a history of utilizing tight ends in his offenses. So Georgia’s tight end tradition appears safe under his watch.
Meanwhile, Rome finds himself in a reflective state of mind as he looks back on a career that started with him coming to Georgia as Rivals’ No. 1-ranked tight end in the country and a two-sport athlete who also played basketball.
“A lot of things have gone by, a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “I think the biggest thing that’s changed about me is just being patient and learning how to ride life’s ups and downs. Never get too high, never get too low. Just how to keep fighting and keep pushing forward.”
Rome said he finds himself marking off a bunch of “lasts” in his career.
“The last Ramsey trip, the last camp, the last first game coming up,” he said. “You always want your last to be your best one. I’m really looking forward to playing this year and having fun and making this my best year.”
7. Rome was recruited to Georgia by Mike Bobo. The Bulldogs’ former offensive coordinator is certainly making his mark as the new head coach at Colorado State. He has developed a reputation for surprising his young team.
This past week, Bobo called up his squad in the middle of an intense workout and promised them that he’d cut the practice short if assistant coach Alvis Whitted, a former world-class sprinter, could run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds or less. Following is a video of what ensued.
8. I went out to Fort Collins a couple of weeks ago to profile Bobo and catch up with a few of his Georgia-connected assistants. It’s absolutely gorgeous out there, Bobo and his staff were extremely gracious and helpful and, quite frankly, there was a whole lot I just haven’t had the time or space to report.
One thing I think is of a lot of interest to longtime Bulldog fans is just the logistics of the transition that Bobo and his family are having to make. He and his wife Lainie Bobo have five children, all under the age of 11, and I think we can all identify with the inherent difficulties that come with moving across the country and starting a new life in a new place.
Of course, I turned to Lainie, niece to Barbara and Vince Dooley, to find out about that.
“It was probably the hardest time we’ve been through, those five months,” Lainie said of the time she remained in Athens while Bobo was in Colorado. “We’ve never had to live apart. We’ve been fortunate to always be together in Athens. We’ve never had to move. So just being with the kids and dealing with all their emotions with moving, because Athens was home and that’s all they knew. And then just not having him to back me up with all the kids at home and keeping up with their busy schedules. They all have their activities and sports that they’re into. It was hard.”
Lainie is happy to report that all is well now. The family has settled into a house near Loveland, Colo., and the kids have started classes and are making new friends at Resurrection Christian School.
Meanwhile, Bobo’s parents, George and Barbara Bobo, are coming to Fort Collins for a two-month visit starting next week to help keep an eye on the kids and to take in the Rams’ games.
“They’re going to come and go during the month of September, visit the West, then the month of October they’ll be here the whole month,” Lainie said. “They’ve rented a place to stay. My parents will come back and forth some, too. So it’s definitely not as convenient, but everybody’s making it work.”
9. Georgia golfer Sepp Straka’s run at the 2015 U.S. Amateur Championship came to an end last Thursday. The Bulldogs’ senior dropped a 6&5 decision to Derek Bard at Olympia Fields Country Club in Illnois.
Straka was the final Bulldog in the tournament as fellow senior Lee McCoy and sophomore Zach Healy were eliminated earlier.
10. Tough start for new UGA soccer coach Billy Lesesne. After drawing to a 0-0 tie with High Point College in the season opener this past Friday, the Bulldogs were thumped by Wake Forest on the road 4-0 on Sunday.
“I think fatigue certainly fed into this after playing in overtime on Friday night,” Lesesne said. “Not getting off to a fast start hurt us. Giving up the second goal off of a set piece kind of put us behind the first twenty minutes or so. We got back into the game, but didn’t capitalize on the critical chances that we had. The second-half we had a chance to go for it and we took some chances, which we paid for on the break. We had a little bit more bite and little more fight out of us the second half. It was a good lesson for us to learn, we learn every time we step out there and we’ll just have to be a little bit tougher.”
It’s not going to get easier any time soon. The Bulldogs (0-1-1) head back out on the road this weekend to the Big 12 to face Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.