It's Saturday in Athens

It's Saturday in Athens

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Carlton Thomas OUT at UGA

The bottle-necked competition in Athens at the running back position thinned out just a bit on Tuesday. 

At the start of UGA's first spring practice of 2012, Mark Richt announced to media that Carlton Thomas has opted to transfer. In a statement by Thomas, he made it known that his decision was because "I know this is going to be my final year. I want to be somewhere where I can make impact".

Carlton Thomas was suspended for "violation of team rules" prior to the season opener in the Georgia Dome against Boise State last season, and once again later in the year when a slew of UGA running backs failed a random drug test, resulting in the suspension of all of them for the New Mexico State game.

You are entitled to your opinion on the departure of Carlton, but I strongly feel he was given the "Washaun Ealey treatment" and escorted to, and pushed out of the door. However, Mark Richt being Mark Richt, I am sure he will have the help and support of UGA in finding a new place to call "dorm sweet dorm".

As far as the impact at the running back position in Athens, I feel this helps it. There were simply too many heads on the roster to get an adequate amount of reps for each. With the arrival of Keith Marshall already on campus, Todd Gurley coming in a few months, and Derick Henry (the potential #1 overall running back in the nation in the class of 2013) already committed to UGA, added to experienced Isaiah Crowell, Richard Samuel, Ken Malcolm, and Brandon Harton, there is NO hurt in the backfield due to this move.

Best of luck Carlton. I sincerely hope you find your place, and get that degree!!

Go Dawgs!!!

Jarvis Jones Pre-Spring Practice Interview ***Dawg Day Exclusive***

Returning All-American, Jarvis Jones
I had the pleasure of exchanging some tweets, and then some emails with returning All-American Outside-Linebacker Jarvis Jones the last few days. 

He was kind enough to take time out of his busy student-athlete schedule to answer a few questions for me going into Spring Practice, which begins today at 4:05pm. Check out the interview below, and find out Jarvis' thoughts on mat drills, Malcolm Mitchell joining his defensive squad, running the 3-4, and Ray Drew cooking squirrel on campus.... Enjoy!

Dawg Day Afternoon: How did mat drills go a few weeks ago?
Jarvis Jones:  Mat drills were great, we really improved mentally and pushed our body to the max. Team unity was definitely built.

DDA: What was your highlight of Spring Break?
UGA's favorite spring destination.

JJ:  Lol my spring break highlight.. umm on the beach in Panama City was the place but my highlight probably was just being there with all my teammates and classmates enjoying our break. 

DDA: Going into Spring Practice, your defense has 10 of 11 starters returning, and receiving big praises from many national media outlets. How do you expect the attention to affect the focus of the team during the crucial spring period?
JJ:  Being that we did a good job last year and that we still have those same players in those position more is expected of us. Though at the same time we only control what we can. Therefore the media and the national attention will just be something out there. We (team) will continue to prepare the best we can and have fun doing so and lean on each others while not worrying about what people expect of us because we wont and cannot make everybody happy.

DDA: You made it known very early in the process that you intended to return this season, despite many NFL experts predicting you a 1st or 2nd round draft pick had you left. What was the biggest factor in your decision to return?
JJ: Well, obviously it was a big decision that was made but I'm glad that I made it. The reason being is, we have some players on this team and I respect them all including our coaches. I just felt like we were right where we needed to be last year but we lacked experience in certain situation therefore we made mistakes. Now as I look forward to the up coming season, I feel that we've learned from those mistakes and everything that we've experience and that the guys want to win, and its something that we're passionate about, and something that's a goal and for me to say that I'll stay and grind it out was very humbling and respectful for me to do so. 

DDA: How much campaigning did you do with other returning upper-classmen to stay who were also eligible to go pro early? Did you all sit and talk as a unit? 
"Brothers" working together.
JJ:  Lol. I did no campaigning, the guys just believed in what we have here and wanted to be a part of it.

DDA: In only one word, describe the relationship amongst the defense this spring.
JJ: Brothers!! I say that because we all have each others back and we know without one another that we wont get where we need to be and that's the best in America.

DDA: What are your biggest goals of the spring?
JJ:  Most of all stay healthy, improve in the areas we wasn't as strong in including the ones we were strong in. Learn more techniques and to keep people from cutting me.

DDA: April 14th will be your second G-Day as a competitor. Talk about the feelings you get when you get to compete in front of your fans for the first time in months.
JJ: It's always special, anytime you get to be a part of the Bulldogs Nation and get to play between those hedges it's unbelievable. I love every minute of it. Last year we had 43,000 to come out this year I hope that number improves.

Who wouldn't want to play for this guy?
DDA: Running the 3-4 Defense seems to be the popular recent trend in college football. How much of a believer has Todd Grantham made you in the scheme? What would you advise a new recruit who has not yet run it, entering his first spring (or fall) with it? 
JJ: The 3-4 scheme is the best system I've played in. However, Coach Grantham is a special coach and person. He knows how to put his players in position to make plays and I credit him and my teammates for all that I did this past season. As for recruits you have to be a part of it to see it, I can't tell our secrets, lol. Though, the players that just got here at Georgia they're learning and its nothing like HS.

DDA: You were only 1 sack from breaking the UGA single season record of 14 by David Pollack last season. Do you plan on making his record one of your personal goals this fall?
UGA single season sack leader, David Pollack (14)
JJ: I get that question a lot but I've always been a team player and will never be about me. However, I would love to blast his record, but if I don't, so what. All I care about is winning the big ones and that the guys I play with enjoy this game.

DDA: What past college football standout do you consider yourself “trying to be like” or “from the mold of”? 
JJ: I don't think I consider myself after anyone or try to be like no one. I watch a lot of film and if I see something I like that someone does, I add it to my game which makes me more versatile. Though I do watch film on Demarcus Ware a whole lot and learned from him.  

DDA: Todd Grantham has made it known that Malcolm Mitchell will be working exclusively with the defense this spring. From what you know of Malcolm, how ready do you think he is to be a crossover threat?
JJ:  He's an competitor and he's always willing to learn. Malcolm can do a lot and he's very passionate about this game, so I really thinks he's ready and he will have the support and all the help he needs to be ready from the guys and the coaches.

DDA:  I imagine the coaches will not let you unleash the fury on our quarterbacks this spring. How sorry do you feel for University of Buffalo Quarterbacks knowing what is facing them in the first game this fall?
JJ: Never on our quarterbacks, but we have yet to watch film on them so I don't know what they have. Though I do know that we will prepared the best we can and we will be ready to give a statement.

DDA: Do you have any practice or gameday superstitions? 
JJ: I try to keep my same rituals each game and that's just being who I am, not doing the extra things to pump myself up. Though some games the energy levels are off the charts. I try to stay loose and have fun but mentally focused at the same time.

DDA: What is your favorite place to eat in Athens?
JJ: I really haven't found that place yet, I like the Peaches restaurant but I love fish and I haven't found a place that cooks it regularly. Any suggestions lol?? 

DDA: I saw on Twitter the other night that Ray Drew was cooking up some squirrel on campus. Did you receive an invite for some sampling?
Ray Drew's favorite meal?
JJ: Lol no, I did not see that message but I don't think I would have eaten any of it but would have loved to see Ray cooking it.

DDA: Speaking of Ray Drew, Do you think the defense is ready for him to take on a more prominent role?
JJ:  I think he will, after a year under his belt he has learned a whole lot. I definitely think he will contribute a lot.

DDA: There is a new rule in college football that if a player’s helmet gets knocked off during a play, they must remove themselves from the field of play for the next play. Your helmet came off a lot last season. Are there any plans in place to lower that number? A Haircut in your future? New/tighter helmets? 

JJ:  I will not cut my hair, but hopefully adjustments can be made so that my helmet wont come off.

Big thanks to Jarvis for taking the time to work with me. Best of luck to him and all our Dawgs as Spring Practice begins this afternoon! Cannot wait to see them all at G-Day!

***And as requested.... the picture of the squirrel on the grill   <-------


Monday, March 19, 2012

Why Southerners Chant SEC!! SEC!! SEC!!

Battle flag.
I recently got into an argument/debate with a good friend, who simply does not understand  the unity among SEC football fans. This person happens to be from Washington state, and only got his first taste of SEC football within the last few years. This person also prefers his football on Sundays, which is his first big mistake in even attempting to decipher the code of the southern pigskin sirens which seduce our every emotion when the leaves change colors.

Since the argument with him went absolutely nowhere, as in a "I have my opinion and you have yours. I am not trying to change your opinion so please don't try and change mine.", I decided to lay it out to my audience, who are fortunate enough to "get it".

You know you wish this was how you were raised.
If somebody grew up far away from the sounds of cicadas, the sights of hanging spanish moss, the feel of humidity, the smell of honeysuckle, or the taste of butter on every table, they are going to be in for a big culture shock when they decide to invade our turf, bringing with them their foreign ideals and mindsets. In the south, football is not a game played on Sundays by a bunch of rich crybabies who are accompanied by fireworks during player introductions, and lavish halftime shows performed by a bizarro Top-40 musical act. Down here, football is a way of life, played on Friday nights and Saturdays by kids who suit up in order to defend the honor of their community, and are supported by people who have helped "raise them right" in order to respect the helmet decal which graces their suit of armor.

Our football starts here, not at the NFL draft.
The kids that play in the SEC, are kids we have had on our football radars since about the 9th or 10th grade. They are kids we all feel we helped raise, by scouting them out on Fridays, and following their every recruiting trip and rumor. For those outside of the south who claim "recruiting isn't important", try to explain to us how "whoever lands Peyton Manning will not be affected" or "whichever NFL team has the most first round draft picks will not see positive results". Essentially, a college football team has the ability to go out and recruit 3 or 4 of the top recruits in the country, all from the south, get a commit from each of them, and you basically just had 4 of the first 5 picks in the "draft" of college football. And since the majority of these players come from the south, and we have followed them, making them household names while they are looking for prom dates, we declare them family, and can find ways to support them throughout their college careers, even if they are playing for the bitter rival.

There comes the part that is the most difficult to get a foreign NFLer to understand. In the SEC, a game played against a non-SEC opponent has ZERO impact on the conference standings. Whereas in the NFL, if a team's schedule puts them against a non-divisional opponent, everybody else in that division roots hard for the opponent, as a loss from their "brethren" benefits them in the divisional standings. Not saying they fail to understand this, but it's nearly impossible to get them to understand the mindset.

At war with one another. We don't support the rest of the world.
In college football, with its lack of concrete playoffs, a beauty contest ensues throughout the season. When your team, or the bitter rival, goes west to play an Arizona State, or goes north to play a Penn State, or goes up into the valley to play a Nebraska or an Oklahoma State, the beauty of the entire conference is being placed on the line. The last thing we want is an Auburn team going to Nebraska and losing, then later in the year when your team beats Auburn, all the voters and ESPN personalities who have a say so in the rankings say "well, it was a great win for UGA today, but remember, Auburn got embarrassed by a 4 loss Nebraska team earlier in the season", diluting what should have been a rankings-climbing victory. When an SEC school loses to another conference, it dilutes the entire product in the long run. Those raised on southern pigskin understand this. It is not a foreign idea, like "how do those Europeans get excited about a soccer match". We were raised to root for the rival as long as they weren't playing another SEC team. And when they end up losing to a Kentucky or Vanderbilt, well, we consider that the beauty and competition within the SEC. If you think that dilutes our brand, then I have nothing for you.

If you still don't get it, I don't give a damn.
My best advice to those who decide to leave their foreign hometowns, and dive into the rich, deep south, setting up shop while trying to find a nice southern belle, a house with a wraparound porch equipped with rocking chairs, learning to drink sweet tea, and figuring out what a grit is; embrace your surroundings. This includes the religion and culture of our brand of football. We may consider ourselves fourteen individual countries going to war with one another, so long as that war is against.... one another. But when one of the members of our pretentious, pompous fraternity of the south ventures out on their own to face a foreign opponent, by golly they have the unity of ALL there to support them. And that is our opinion. Please don't bother trying to plant yours on our rich soil.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

200 Days till Kickoff..... Reasons to Countdown!!

Valentines Day??.... no, no, no. Only 200 days (or if you prefer, 288,000 minutes) until we congregate in the promise land of the Classic City to see our boys beat the tar out of The University Buffalo.

That has me quite excited. We still have to make it through spring ball, pollen, vacations, mosquitoes, and humidity, so it's not as if kickoff is next week or anything. But 200 days is such a nice, solidly wrapped number of which we are able to feel.

There are several reasons to be excited about this year for Dawg fans. Why not celebrate the day by discussing a few of them:

Expect Jarvis Jones to be a national name
Defense: Oh, the new aged Junkyard Dawgs. The general consensus from Albany to Lake Hartwell, and from Dalton to Savannah, and everything in between, is that the defense will once again be our strongest asset in 2012. Returning 10 of 11 starters from the #4  national overall D in 2011 has Grantham smiling big time. With significant exodus on both Alabama and LSU's D, the Dawgs should easily have the #1 D in the SEC, and should make a push for #1 in the nation. Two things right off the bat: We are SO sorry, Buffalo; and welcome to the SEC, Missouri!!!!

Keith Marshall: Specifically Keith, because he my be the ingredient which was sorely lacking from last year's backs. Keith brings to Athens with him the best attitude I have seen in several classes, as well as his good friend from North Carolina, Todd Gurley. Keith is ready to compete. Keith is ready to give Isaiah Crowell the push he needs to take his game to the next level. Don't expect Keith to ever be caught up in any type of grades or pot-smoking scandal, either. Without a doubt, the work ethic and attitude going into spring will be contagious throughout the entire backfield. Expect him to be the reason Isaiah is the concrete starter in 2012, and then provide one helluva 1-2 punch.

A true leader will emerge
  Aaron Murray: Much of Dawg Nation let out a big moan after the turnovers Murray had in the LSU and Michigan State games at the end of the season. It was easy to forget the 3,149 pass yards and Dawg record 35 TD passes. But Aaron understands what it means to be a college quarterback. Expect Aaron to hit the gym hard this summer, and spend his usual freakish amount of time watching film of his pros and cons from last season. He is only a RS Junior this fall, folks. That is usually the year a NCAA quarterback gets his first start, and comes into his own. Instead, Aaron will be starting his 28th straight game, and developing into the leader we have already seen glimpses of.

Jay Rome: The biggest hit the Dawgs took on offense was the loss of tight ends Orson Charles to the NFL, and Aron White and Bruce Figgins to graduation. However, welcome to the Jay Rome era between the hedges. Expect Rome to mirror Orson Charles in both size and production this fall. With a redshirt year under his belt, and a full spring and summer workout completed by fall, Jay will have the opportunity to show right off the bat why he was the #1 overall TE in the 2011 class. As long as Bobo utilizes Murray's ability to find his TEs over the middle, Jay Rome will be a name known throughout the SEC by season's end.

Watts is bringing it in 2012
Offensive Line: Most everybody is pointing to the line as the scariest area of the Dawgs on 2012. While their argument is valid, there are some serious positives going on that front as well. New additions, John Theus and Mark Beard are ready to fill 2 of the 3 open spots from last year's squad. Do not count out Watts Dantzler as stepping into a starting roll this fall, either. I had the pleasure of hanging out with Watts last weekend, and the kid is a) an absolute monster in size, and b) extremely serious and upbeat when talking about 2012. Just because Watts saw limited time last year, does not mean he wasn't already ready. He was just young, and learning. Expect he and Theus to turn the O-Line into a positive early on in the season.

Athens, I love you.
Athens: Because what else would you rather be doing, on any day of the year, than making the pilgrimage out to Athens for some SEC tailgating. It is what we as true fans live for. There is no campus in America so perfectly fit for hosting the greatest fans on the face of the earth. There is no city more worthy of the traditions and legends that come with the UGA brand. And in 200 short days, we get to meet there, 92,746 strong, to cheer on the seed of life that is.... UGA Football!!!

GO DAWGS!!!!!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Possible HUGE "Mystery Recruit" for Dawgs??

#1 CB in the nation, Ronald Darby
Rumors have been swirling the last few days about a "Mystery Recruit" possibly landing his LOI in Athens on Wednesday.  Specifically, more than one source has listed this recruit as a CB.

I have reason to believe that this recruit is 5 star, #1 CB in the nation, Ronald Darby, out of Oxon Hill, MD.

When Keith Marshall pledged his allegiance to Dawg Nation a couple of months ago, he stated that he was going to attempt to "work on" Darby coming to join him in the Classic City. This trend continued a month or so later, when Marshall's close friend and fellow North Carolinian, Todd Gurley, put on the red and black hat, and spoke with reporters afterwards. He too name-dropped Darby in his wishlist of an entourage to join him between the hedges.

If you do any digging whatsoever, you will find that very recently Keith Marshall has dropped Darby's name on Twitter in a very subtle, nonchalant manor. Is Marshall one of the trustees of knowledge of the "mystery recruit"?

I do not feel I need to convince anybody with insight enough to read my blog, that Marshall and Gurley would be one hell of a recruiting tool if working together. Both are more than respectable young men, with futures as bright as the North Star on a clear winter night in Eastern Georgia. If they both wanted Darby to join them, and have indeed been working him over for the last couple of months, you can safely assume he has been listening.

Darby's recruitment has been one of the most mysterious and intriguing of the 2012 class. It seems every single day, reports have him leaning in a new direction than the day before. Most recently, Auburn "seems" to be the "leader".

But you heard it here..... do not be shocked if he wears the G on Wednesday, and is considered THE surprise of National Signing Day 2012.

Crazier things have happened.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Boys are Back in Town

UGA got some expected news, stirred up with some GREAT news yesterday. 

Sorry Tech, things aren't changing anytime soon.
We all knew Orson Charles was gone. But admit it, just like myself, you held out a glimmer of hope that Aaron Murray would somehow convince his high school teammate and good friend to stroll the sidewalks of the Classic City for one more fall. But when the press conference was called for 2pm yesterday, we all just smiled, and realized that Orson had nothing physically to gain in returning, and it was time for him to ink the big deal and feed his family... for life.

Then last night, the best news since...well, Monday came across the UGA news wire. First, All-American Bacarri Rambo made it known that he would patrol the backfield between the hedges next season. Then 2011 leading tackler and rising star Shawn Williams opted to join him. The train kept rolling with big man Cornelius Washington deciding that his duties to Todd Grantham's scheme were not yet completed.

I had legitimate fears over the last few weeks that every one of these returning players would make the jump to the NFL. Just thinking about it gave me a frustration which seems all too familiar in Athens, when something special begins to take form, then the NFL snatches it up prematurely from our starving fanbase. Not going to be the case this year!! 

A common scene in 2012, no doubt.
2011's national top-5 defense is now likely returning 9 of 11 starters (Branden Smith has not made his decision known, but if Rambo is back.... Branden will be too). Leadership has emerged on the defensive side with Jarvis Jones and rising senior Christian Robinson. Georgia's #1 overall prospect and said to be "program changer", Jordan Jenkins, made it known he will wear the Silver Britches this past week. Things appear, my friends, that the Junkyard Dawgs have returned to Athens!!

I knew the moment Michigan State pushed the ball through the uprights in the third overtime on January 2nd, that that particular loss was going to be hard to swallow. I also knew that very moment that depending on the happenings over the next 2 weeks, that particular loss could be easy to digest. And the things that needed to happen, happened.

National Signing day is now less than 3 weeks away. I expect a VERY strong finish from the Dawgs. Spring practice and G-Day (along with dogwood blooms on North Campus) will be here before you know it. Then we will all take our vacations to the gulf coast, and in the blink of an eye, the leaves on the trees will change again, and special times will be gracing the fine people of Dawg Nation and the great city of Athens, Georgia.

Go Dawgs!!!!
233 days til' kickoff!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Dawgs loss will NOT dilute the 2011 turnaround.

I have heard many Dawg fans say this past week that they "don't care if we lose to LSU this weekend".

While I do not completely agree with their sentiment, I do understand what they are trying to say.

I ALWAYS care if UGA wins or loses. A UGA win, whether it be against Coastal Carolina or LSU, makes me sleep easier at night. A UGA a loss, whether it be against Colorado or Bama, sends a dagger straight into the pit of my stomach which continues to stab for days, if not weeks.

But please recall what so many of us, myself included, said during this past summer. Raise your hand if you also declared that "As long as the Dawgs are in the hunt for, or make it to Atlanta in December, I will be happy." Well here we are, preparing for our second leg of the "Dome to Dome" mantra which was coined by our players during summer camp.

Jarvis Jones is a HUGE upgrade on our defense.
So will you be disappointed if the Dawgs come up short this Saturday? I certainly will. However, I foresee being able to take a potential loss with an unusually positive attitude. I may even possess the abilities, which are foreign to me, to be able to watch the night games after our Dawgs come up short during the afternoon. I've never been able to do that, no matter who is playing.

Just look where we were this time last year. A 6-6 record, with the humiliating and super-frustrating loss to Auburn still stinging. Not even our annual whipping of the Nerds made us feel better after that game. Our entire fanbase pretending to get pumped up about being sent to Memphis for New Year's. The media had about peaked on its 5-alarm fire they set under Mark Richt's seat. The team completely embarrassed by the amount of arrests that had recently taken place...... All while two other teams prepared for the spotlight in the Dome, while we bickered on any blog/message board we could get on. A looooong offseason was ahead of us, and we knew it.

You think we'd see this image ever again last December?
Now look where we are today. 10 wins in a row after losing to two very respectable opponents earlier in the season. A defense that has us as giddy as we have been since the train tracks gang cheered for Erk Russel on our sidelines. A record season by Aaron Murray, which makes us feel VERY good about the next two seasons. For the first time since 1981, we beat Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and the Nerds (and beating rivals is FUN). ESPN is actually giving us positive press throughout the day. We have (though injury prone) a running back which we see a bright future in. A seemingly resurrected Mark Richt, with the media discussing a likely contract extension...... Good days seem ahead in Athens!!

So this weekend, to many Dawg fans, is indeed just icing on a cake we weren't fully expecting to get to eat this season. While a loss will certainly hurt the hearts which beat for Saturdays in the fall in the great state of Georgia, there is simply too much optimism around this program to let us spiral back to those dark days of bickering amongst one another. It should not be hard to tip our hats to the respectable #1 team in the nation, and ask them to represent the SEC well in the BCS National Championship game.

While I certainly am not hoping for or expecting a loss this weekend, I can honestly say that win or lose, we will have done it respectably. And that is exponentially more than we could say this time last year.