Myself and a friend had the privilege of attending the second scrimmage on Saturday along with a tour of the new West endzone upgrades. Here's what we observed....
First of all, the new locker room and recruiting lounge are insane. The locker room runs basically the width of the field. Pictures you see don't do it justice for how large the facility is. The lounge up top can hold over 200 people with a gaming area and it's lined with 90" TV's along the top of the walls. It has a balcony on the outside that overlooks the Dawg Walk area where recruits will stand to watch. Previously they were at Tate or the other end where it starts. Now they'll be on top of the action, literally. When the recruits walk in they are greeted by a foyer where all the uniforms are on display as well as the SEC and Rose Bowl trophies and interactive video's promoting UGA. Across the top there's a stock market type ticker with all former Bulldogs in the NFL and their career earnings. Quite impressive. The best part, however, is Kirby's office in the locker room. He has his own lounge where he will presumably get the commitments. No stone was left unturned. The Uga statue that previously was on the East endzone is now on the West endzone concourse at the "North" tunnel along side the Olympic torch and some other historic items as a little homage to UGA/Sanford Stadium. In addition to all of that, the 100 level has been upgraded as you've probably seen by now with graphics along the previosuly boring gray walls and images of historic plays with a portion of Munson's call. These things are long overdue and we've finally got the appropriate people in place to make it happen. You'll notice now in the East endzone we've recognized the retired numbers and National Championships that can also be backlit at night. I think we're the last sport organization in the world to do this. Better late than never! The East endzone used to have temporary bleachers where the recruits sat, that area has now been turned into some field suites and the home locker room is a lounge for the field suite members. The recruits will now sit in the West endzone along the sides of the tunnel where the team will run out. Yes, the opposite endzone as you've seen your entire life. It's going to be a great change.
To the scrimmage.....
The first thing you immediately notice is the size of the team. Everyone is huge. Everyone is fast. Everyone is good. No slight to the Rhett McGowen's of the world, but they don't exist on this roster. Even the Aaron Davis' or Brendan Douglas'...they were major contributors and did a fine job, but this roster doesn't have them. It's a loaded roster. I say this as a compliment to the current team not bashing previous players or staff. Example, the third team WR's were Matt Landers and Tommy Bush...I think we all expect at least Landers to contribute this season and he was running 3rd team most of the day, but also got work with the ones. Just goes to show how deep the roster is.
It was very interesting to watch all the coaching that goes on. So many voices yelling at once and getting their message across in a timely manner. It's the same as gameday when you see the coaches, where they are standing and how they are coaching but you don't hear it on gameday like we did in a basically empty stadium. I can't imagine how chaotic it is on gameday with 90,000 people in there.
Speaking of time, Kirby wastes none. For example, and I'm sure this is fairly common, but I never saw it at a handful of practices before Kirby's arrival; the opening kickoff of the scrimmage was booted out of the endzone by Rodrigo and to avoid a wasted rep, there's an assistant standing beside the return man (Mecole) and once the ball passes him the staffer hands the ball to the return like a handoff and it's a live (thud) return until the returner is touched/bottled up. Everyone gets work. No wasted reps.
Jayson Stanley also got work at kickoff return and he looks really good running the football. He did however miss a short kickoff where he ran up to field the ball about 10-12 yards in front of the goal line and dropped it. The kickoff team was right on top of it and made the scoop and score. Otis Reese if I'm not mistaken. Who by the way is as advertised. He's going to play. I can't express enough how big the team is. The secondary finally looks like a Bama/LSU secondary. Big, long bodies and very athletic.
Sticking with the secondary, a player to watch is 29 Chris Smith. The buddy I was with sat with Smith at Gala earlier this year and gave me a heads up to watch him based on words his high school coach said, which was basically, this kid is gonna play. I was pretty unfamiliar with him, but now having watched him, I believe he will play a lot. He got tons of work and he was all over his man every snap. One particular play he was on D-Rob who ran about a 9 yard hitch and the ball probably shouldn't have been thrown his way, but it was and I have no idea how D-Rob made the catch because he was COVERED UP, but credit to D-Rob and his ability, he made the play. It was encouraging to see both those guys compete at a high level.
D-Rob got some touches but nothing out of the ordinary. We didn't get to see him show off but it's easy to see he's a weapon.
There was hardly any running. It was all pass. The OL is good, but the DL is really good. After the scrimmage I'm not really concerned with the defense. They're big, fast, athletic and knew all their assignment's. Keyon (Brown) Richardson had a big day and was in the backfield all day. A birdie told me Pruitt once told him he would never play a down at Georgia. Unfortunately that's been fairly accurate, but here's to hoping he has a strong season.
Staying on defense, Deangelo Gibbs got most of the work with the first team at star. LeCounte was also out there a lot and I would say the first team secondary from my view was Baker, Campbell/Webb, Gibbs, LeCounte and Reed. Also getting a lot of work with the ones was Chris Smith and Eric Stokes. The second/third teams were Jarvis Wilson, Speed, Bishop, Poole, Brini and the others I mentioned that worked with the ones in no particular order. Tyson Campbell is impressive. I think he might start. The DBs were heavily rotated 1's-3's, clearly some position battles going on.
The ILBs were Natrez and Monte Rice. I feel pretty good about those two. After that it was Juwan Taylor who's getting a lot of work with the 1's, Quay Walker, Nate McBride, Tae Crowder and I believe Channing Tindall. Quay Walker is a specimen. He looks like Rolando McClain. Maybe it's his number. Excited about him.
The DL/OLBs were the usual suspects. Jay Hayes will be a great addition to the DL rotation. D'andre Walker is bigger than last year and looks like he's ready to break out. Walter Grant looked good in coverage several times.
Cox and Anderson are freaks. The lone play I personally saw Zamir run the ball, he bounced outside and Cox just ate him up. It was a big league play.
Anderson is FASSSST. He explodes off the ball and will be a force sooner than later. I'm interested to see how quickly he makes an impact, for Cox I think it's immediately.
Malik Herring had a nice pick where the pass was batted and he tracked it down with a diving INT about 15 yards behind the LOS. He looks great. Really excited about him. Tae Crowder also had a pick. Cannot remember who the QB was. Seems like it was Fields during the "Fastball" period where they run as many plays as they can in a certain amount of time. Not the 2-minute drill or Nascar, a literal portion of practice where they go lightning fast until told to stop.
Offensively - Crumpton played A TON and he had a big day. He's not afraid to go over the middle or get in traffic. He caught everything and once ran away from everyone...except JR Reed who tracked him down from the other hash at about to 10 yard line. It was roughly a 50 yard gain. Exciting to see on both sides of the ball there.
Godwin rode the bike all day but was in pads and participated in sprints at the end. Couldn't get an update on him from anyone.
The OL is MASSIIIIVVVVE. But man are they in some serious shape. Specifically Isaiah Wilson. I don't think I've ever seen anyone like him not on the WWE. Gaillard is the smallest by far and he's not real small but he clearly doesn't look like the rest of them. Salyer and Trey Hill got a lot of work too. I think they might contribute at some point this season.
I was really impressed with John Fitzpatrick. He had a nice day and one particular play caught a crossing route and took off down the field and had a loud collision with Ameer Speed in which Fitzpatrick won. Wasn't quite Herschel and Bill Bates, but fun to see nonetheless. A gain of about 30 yards. He can flat move for a big guy.
Justin Fields is clearly a future star, but to me, Jake Fromm is clearly the starter. His command and his reads, his poise, etc were all ahead of Fields Saturday. Fields was really good when he could throw to the first read. He was step behind the WR on a lot of throws and sometimes looked to be just throwing to the person or spot he was most comfortable with. Having said that, he probably should have connected with Ridley for a 40-50 yard TD but I think Ridley lost the ball, at least I'm hoping he did. Fields put it on the MONEY and Ridley ran a beautiful post-corner and got plenty of separation but seemed turned around in the endzone, but the ball landed DIRECTLY next to him. Would like to see Ridley step up and make some of those plays down field.
Stanley wasn't in the receiver rotation really...He did get banged up on a special teams play and I don't remember seeing him after that, but prior to he wasn't in the rotation that I remember.
Mecole has beefed up and looks great. Looks more explosive than last year.
On the Zamir injury. I'm sure you've seen by now, but he was the gunner on a punt and the injury was fairly non contact away from the ball. He was engaged with Mark Webb and towards the end of the play Webb was just kinda trying to shed Zamir and he went to the ground and immediately grabbed his knee. I hate it for him. I have a myriad of thoughts on it but I'll keep them to myself for now.
On the punting - Camarda's first punt was an absolute bomb. After that, not so much. This is the position to watch for the remainder of fall camp IMO.
Rodrigo was Rodrigo. He missed one wide right from about 40 yards but the others were easy money and he looks to have some more velocity on his kicks.
JAMES COOK. He's legit. He's a different back. I probably cant tell you anything you haven't read, but I saw it with my own two eyes. He's a player. He's fast, he's shifty, he's strong and he can catch. He probably had 20 touches. If he didn't it seemed that way. He's for real.
Swift clearly has a different body than last year. He's built like Sony. He's not small.
Holyfield and Herrien are absolutely shredded. Both looked good when they had opportunities, but James Cook was the star of the RB's mainly because he had so many more touches.You will love him.
Finally, at the end of practice they lined up on the goal line and had to do 20 yard sprints while starting in a 3-point stance. There were 3 groups. OL/DL, Specialist and LBs, then Backs/Receivers. Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson beat everyone on the line every single time in their group and Thomas was a good step ahead of Wilson. He's really athletic. Justin Fields won every single sprint for the backs. It was really cool to see the team finish and give great effort after a really physical scrimmage. They're in tremendous shape.
I came away very impressed with the roster and less concerned about the losses on defense outside of Roquan. I had a friend do a house blessing for a current players mother in the Spring, and the player told my buddy the 2017 roster would be the least talented roster Kirby has moving forward. I don't think this guy was around for 2016, ha. I say that to say, after seeing the newcomers and how much legit action they got in the scrimmage, I believe it. I'm less concerned about the losses of Bellamy and Carter than I was and I'm definitely not concerned about the losses in the secondary. I am however mildly concerned about ILB and depth. What obviously remains to be seen is can these super talented guys come up with the game changing plays that Bellamy, Carter and Roquan did time after time last year? Talent is in place to be very good for a long, long time but what happens when the lights come on? We'll see.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
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RARE BREED 18
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RARE BREED 18
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
I don’t know about you, but I’m in full recovery mode. Like, I feel like I played the game. The only other time I remember feeling like this is after the ’07 Florida game. I’m whipped.
And then there’s the program. We must now recover. And we are. I never felt like we were collapsed. I didn’t really feel like we got outcoached. I could nit-pick play-calling. Listen, this game has gotten simpler and simpler to me. If you can’t block ‘em, you can’t win. We were searching for answers. The reason we recruited Fields so hard is a mobile QB is the answer to the unanswerable question: How do you beat a team you can’t block? You have a QB they can’t tackle. We’re all on team Fromm for 3 more years, as well we should be, but Kirby is covering all the angles to try and build a program.
We worked some year 2 magic, but it’s much more like Saban’s year 2. They became a monster, but they couldn’t beat the other monster, Florida & Meyer & Tebow. It took them till year 3. They got better in year 3. So will we. And we’ll be way better in year 4.
We’re not going anywhere. The bummer of it all is that it’s hard to win that semi, and it’s hard to win the SEC. We have to win 2 slobber-knockers to get there, and then we had to play a team that didn’t win OUR league. I’m bitter about that, but I know they were the best team and deserved to be there. It’s just frustrating. I’d like to see us get in at 11-1 one day, then I’ll be quiet. What I don’t like about it is that it’s a beauty pageant. I don’t know if Bama was better than OSU. I know OU, UGA and Bama all looked pretty evenly matched and OU beat OSU, but that means nothing. What I know is that winning the SEC means so much because you win it on the field. You earn your way in.
The bottom line is they had a whole lot more better players, and that made a difference as the game went on:
· JK Scott is a weapon of immeasurable proportions. His ability to land that ball high and at the goal line in the corner, where you can’t down it, is incredible. Plus, they have so many athletes that can cover kicks they keep you pinned deep.
· The move to Tua was the riskiest move I’ve ever seen in a title game. That’s why you recruit. And it might have been a panic move, but it was calculated. Saban knew Kirby was going to lock down the run game and Hurts wasn’t going to get by #3 much.
· Ben Cleveland has some work to do, but he’s been a huge part of our success. We saw what a dominant D-line looks like.
· We have Roquan. They have 3 of him.
· The difference was simply this: We have 1 player who MIGHT start in their secondary (18) and another (20) who might sniff playing time. Dom and Parrish would be on the Kickoff team and Aaron Davis wouldn’t be on the team in Tuscaloosa. Their secondary is something to watch. No one is open, like, ever. They bat the ball away so incredibly. They play tight. They’re huge.
Saban has better players. That’s what this thing is all about, man. Yes, you can make a great or stupid decision that wins or loses a game. Yes, if you can recruit but can’t gameplan, you’ll be fired (see: Jones, Butch). But, the more players you get, there smarter you start looking.
Bama has been ranked #1 in composite rankings for all of 2013-2017, meaning every player on their team was part of a #1 recruiting class. Our average ranking for that time period is #7. We had some special kids in that bunch, for sure. We also had a bunch that haven’t panned out and we’ve still got a few holes on the team.
For ’18, we are ranked #1 and Bama is ranked #5, so far. For ’19, we’re #1 and they’re #3, so far. That’s a much different story being written, a much more even story, and we’ll get to play them again in that stadium. It hurts. But I just don’t feel like I did in 2012. I thought that was Richt’s shot. I don’t feel like it did in Jax in ’02. I’m just happy to be really good with a really bright future. I’m not depressed. I was depressed after losing to Vandy for the 2nd time. I was depressed after losing to Nebraska in the rain. I was depressed after a hail mary.
Bigger and better things to come.
Beat Austin Peay!
Thursday, January 4, 2018
Boys, are you still pinching yourself?
I really do feel like I’m living in a dream. Ben will get to hear my sermon, but I can’t promise it’ll be my best. Thank the Lord I had the foresight to write it shortly after Christmas. I finally got to watch the whole Rose Bowl and the first half of the Sugar. A few Rose thoughts:
· I’ve been to 3 Sugar Bowls, 2 in NOLA and the one in the ATL. The Rose is epic. I’d imagine the Sugar is pretty good as a playoff site, too. But it was epic. Everything. The parade, the stadium, the field, the flyover. Just epic. Then the game happens. I do believe that field and the scene pulls the best out of the kids.
· A million unsung heroes in the game. My favorites are the 3 WRs in the game on the winning play: Crumpton, Simmons & Blount. Those were literally our 3 WRs on the biggest play in UGA history since we carried Vince off the field in the Superdome. Their job is to block. They did it. If I’ve learned anything from Kirby, it is THIS belief and system of getting players to buy in. Richt believed that (see his reaction to Richard Samuel at Mizzou in 2012), but I’m not sure he could get 85 guys to do it.
· Our D settled in. That offense is no freaking joke. I’ve heard Kirby talk about facing Manziel. Sometimes you just get in a match like that. I’m not sure any other team in the country could have beaten OU but us that night. I really believe that. They might not have scored 48 on Bama or Clemson, but they’d have scored enough and I don’t think their offenses could have kept up.
· Chase had sent me the video of Sony’s wild dawg score against the Cocks, but it was a designed run up the middle that he bounced to the outside. I looked at Chubb’s vs. Miss St. and the one to tie the game at the end of regulation. They both went opposite Jake. Sony ran to Jake’s side. Why does that matter? One, it was a great call. If you watch the play, OU lines up 6 to the other side and 5 to Jake’s side. They were even literally leaning the other way as the ball was snapped. Essentially, if Nauta could hook the end, everyone was blocked. Tyler Simmons did a phenomenal job of not getting a holding call by releasing as his guy fought toward Sony. Sony shook the tackle and was off. Two, for Monday, do we see a play where Sony/Nick pitch it back to Jake for a TD to the weak side? If you see us with a similar set, but say, Godwin, is in there with 2 blocking WRs…look out. Or, I know Stanley is suspended and would usually be in there, but did we put Crump in there as a guy w/ speed to show the look?
· From :06 in the 2nd QTR, Kirby coached actual circles around Lincoln Riley. BTW, I like a coach w/ emotion, but I really like Kirby’s. He doesn’t get riled up about TDs in the middle of the game. Riley was all over the place jumping up and down. Kirby has gotten excited 3 times this season: Bellamy’s strip in South Bend, Swift’s TD in the Benz, and Sony’s run. Huge, game-clinching plays. Don’t celebrate a TD in the 2nd QTR…they mean nothing.
Monday Night Thoughts:
· We have 4 decided advantages, in my book:
- QB. I think Jake is light years better than Hurts in nearly every area but running. If the cat from ND can’t get loose on us and Baker can’t…I don’t think he can. I don’t think he can throw it on us, either.
- Leadership. What we have in Nick, Sony, Dom, Wynn, Bellamy, and Zo is something that I can’t even remember seeing in college football. Too many players leave early. We’re like that ’06 Florida basketball team.
- Hunger. We want it more than they do. I believe they wanted Clemson in a bad way. I do believe that ’15 Bama game will come into play a little. Do they think we’re still THAT team? Do they guys that played in that game want to show something to those Bama boys?
- Coaching. Seriously. Saban is the greatest in the last 40 years. But I think Tucker and Chaney are light years better than Pruitt and Daboll. Bama’s offense is boring.
· My brother commented how good their kicker and punter were. Kept them back up all night. The kicker missed a chip shot FG, though.
· Just don’t turn it over. Simply. Don’t. They’ll score on it if we do. Jake needs to play very, very smart.
· They have better players, across the board, but it’s not by much. We have so many better, front-line players, I think it’s a wash.
· The biggest advantage is they have numbers on their helmets and they’re Bama…and we have to decide we don’t care.
· After some time to digest it, I’m glad it’s not Clemson. I hate them, and I’d be sick thinking about losing to them. Moreover, we’ve got to climb that Bama mountain. Had they beaten Auburn, we might not even be here. We might have lost to them in the Benz. I feel much more confident now that I would have then.
· After getting here, I’m not sure how to tell this to some fans of, say, a South Carolina, but…they’re never going to get here. It’s so freaking hard to get here. You have to do so much. You have to win so many games and beat so many good teams. If we can pull this off, our last 4 games will be wins over Tech, Auburn, OU and Bama. Whew. You have to be really good and have a bunch of really good players and have really good coaches. This season has taught me that middling programs that dream of a national title have a loooooooong way to go to get there. It’s hard enough for the blue bloods.
· Quick Trivia: Did you know Kirby Smart is 3-1 vs. Top 10 teams?
We’re going to win by double digits. We’re better than these guys. We are truly the most complete and best team in America. We did what I wasn’t sure we could do – win a shootout. Bama isn’t going to be able to score on us. Kirby is going to be ticked about the last game and our D is going to come in laser focused and they’re going to have trouble moving the ball. We’re not going to do that sideways crap Clemson does. We’re going to come right after them with the best backfield in America and through the ball downfield. We’re going to get to Hurts with a pass rush, and we’re going to win.
There’s one thing left, well, two, that this senior class hasn’t done they can do on one night in the same game: win the natty and beat Bama.
Dawgs 31 – Tide 19
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Let me wipe away the tears…
It was a magical night. The place is palatial. And it was worse than bonkers. I thought we had over 60% of the crowd once we got in there. And we were just much louder, even early on. Walking around and looking at fans before the game, I just thought to myself, “They don’t want it like we do.” You could see it on their face. They just won a natty 7 years ago…not 37. That made a difference in the crowd, I think.
· Jake was phenomenal. He’s going to be amazing. He can make a lot more throws than you think he can.
· The lines were the difference. We got continual penetration, and protected well after the first drive.
· Chaney called the best game of his tenure, I thought. Just everything worked. The pass to Nauta HAD to be called on first down. All of it was brilliant, and the incomplete pass on 3rd before their substitution penalty was a great call.
· Bellamy causes a fumble. Zo causes a fumble. In the biggest games, they’ve made plays. I thought Zo was quietly dominant. He was chasing guys all night. He didn’t necessarily make the play, but he was causing havoc.
· We got Nick to the 2nd level. His 77 yards were hugely important, and he ran plum angry.
· We won the game for many reasons, but the bottom line is at this point in the season, we proved to be much, much deeper.
· The bottom line is that team lost 3 games. They played some great teams. I don’t know what their future is. I remain skeptical of Gus. It’s like after we played them, we had them totally figured out. I don’t think we win by 21 if Kerryon plays, but I think we win. Holland and Kerryon are junors and probably gone. Stidham is eligible for the draft. Dude is 6’3”. I’d draft him. I think he can sling it.
Tournament of Roses Edition:
· Clemson’s QB played at my high school rival. I’ll need a sedative if we play them. Me not likey. I don’t like anything from Wren High School. Anything. Have I mentioned I don’t care for Clemson?
· It will be 75 years to the day when we play in the Rose Bowl since Sinkwich and Trippi trod there. Interestingly, Sinkwich had a bum ankle that game and the freshman Trippi carried the day.
· I love Kirby. I think we’re playing with house money right now. I think we’re going to be back often in the next decade. It’s possible we’re a little star struck when we get to L.A. But, right now he hasn’t done anything Richt didn’t do. Richt finished 3rd in final ballot of the season before the bowls. We’d have played #2 Ohio State in the playoffs had they been around. The man was incredibly unlucky. We played in SECCG 3 out of his first 5 years. I contend that a lot of that had to do with extreme consistency at the QB position for 5 years. We should have that the next 3-5 years.
· It was raining all week before an SECCG we were playing indoors. We play a semifinal in warm California and have a month to prepare in chilly Georgia. Think that indoor is important now, Greg? I do think the way Kirby has structured practices in the indoor has helped us. I also think McGarity is mostly a goober.
· I don’t think Clemson can beat Bama. Best point on that game I heard all day was from Jesse Palmer. It took 2 other-worldly performances by Deshaun Watson to make those games close the last 2 years. Do we think Kelly Bryant is capable of that? I don’t. Make him throw and I think they’ll lose.
· We’re going to get new unis with the pretty silver/diamond swoosh! Yay, uniform nerds!
· Defensive notes. Thought Marcus Spears was dead on when he said that we have to be delighted to not have to cover a jet sweep. We get to play a traditional air it out team. We’re going to be able to pin our ears back. Aaaaaaand…we won’t have an SEC crew, so they might call holding. Seriously. The Sooners might not hold and if they do it might get called. I think there is potential for Bellamy, Walker and Zo to have a day. Will we spy Ro on Mayfield?
Is it really still 4 weeks away?
Gracious. That’s a long time to smile.