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SEC Headlines – 6/14/11 Part Three

1.  ESPN.com has ranked the SEC’s top 10 quarterback situations and the top 10 quarterbacks heading into the fall and Georgia and Aaron Murray top the lists.  (We concur.)

2.  Tennessee has added another invited walk-on to its basketball team.

3.  It looks like a couple of former Bruce Pearl assistants will team up in the juco ranks.

4.  New defensive tackle Daniel Hood wants to “attack it” on the Vols’ D-line.

5.  Here’s a look at some possible SEC breakout players.

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SEC Headlines – 4/26/11 Part Five

1.  This writer has some questions about the money Steve Spurrier will make under his new South Carolina contract.


2.  Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix discussed the Rebels’ 2011 defense right here.



5.  Wondering how many of this year’s project first-round NFL draft picks were four- or five-star recruits?  Most of ‘em.

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UGA QB Murray Injured, On Crutches

Georgia found a quarterback of the future last year in freshman Aaron Murray.  Now the Dawgs need to keep him healthy.

Murray has been seen on crutches today.  UGA’s medical staff is examining him today.  A Georgia spokesman said Murray suffered “some kind of injury” over the weekend.

Reports say Murray broke his ankle in two places while “participating in an activity with teammates and friends on Saturday.”

A broken ankle would likely keep Murray out of spring practice.  That’s not good considering Murray needs as many reps with his wideouts as possible.  Last year’s go-to man, AJ Green, has left for the greener pastures of the NFL.

Sophomore Hutson Mason and true freshman Christian LeMay will split reps if Murray is indeed out for the spring.

Murray accounted for about 50% of UGA’s offense last season with his arm and with his legs.  Let the speculation begin as to how much running he’ll do this fall and on repaired ankle.


UPDATE — Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph has spoken to a source who claims the injury is a foot issue, not an ankle issue.  That source did not believe the injury to be serious.

UPDATE II — UGA has announced that Murray’s ankle is only sprained.  H will undergo rehab and should be ready for spring practice.  Murray rolled his ankle while playing soccer over the weekend.

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Richt Not Looking To Blow Anything Up

Mark Richt held his season-ending press conference in Athens this morning and Dawg fans wanting major changes will be left shaking their heads.

“If you just change for the sake of changing, then all of a sudden you’ve gotta learn something all over again,” Richt said.  “Do I wanna confuse Aaron Murray? … We’re not looking to blow anything up.  In my opinion we’re very close.  I mean, how many teams have what would be considered a down season one year and the next year they are right there?”

Richt said that he will not make changes on the defensive side of the ball because that staff was just overhauled last offseason.  On offense, he said he will not be getting any more involved in play-calling.

“Mike Bobo’s the coordinator, Mike Bobo’s the quarterbacks coach.  Stacey Searels is the running game coordinator.  And they’ve done a great job… so I have confidence in those guys.”

As we noted on Monday, it was unlikely that Richt would make any major changes to his program heading into a make-or-break year.  His comment about confusing his quarterback seems to spell that out quite clearly.

When Bear Bryant reinvented Alabama as a wishbone team he wasn’t facing today’s media circus or a “win this year or you’re fired” kind of threat.  Richt is.  And that gives him less motivation to make drastic — risky — changes this offseason.

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SEC Headlines – New Year’s Eve Edition

Just a few headlines from around the conference today as we prepare to ring in the New Year.

May yours — and your favorite team’s — be happy, safe and blessed.

All the best!


1.  Alabama’s coordinators are prepping for their own days as head coaches.

2.  Bama’s quarterback situation is surprisingly murky heading into 2011.

3.  Oregon’s blitzes remind one Auburn player of Mississippi State’s schemes.

4.  The Ducks’ running backs get the edge over the Tigers’ linebackers.

5.  Arkansas is knocking the rust off in preparation for next week’s Sugar Bowl.

6.  UA and Ohio State spent a lot of money to reach a BCS game.

7.  LSU’s Derek Helton will be tempted to try to punt a ball into the giant video board hanging in Cowboys Stadium.

8.  Freshman Matt Derenbecker is showing off a sweet shooting touch for Trent Johnson’s team.

9.  Mississippi State wants to stop giving up big plays on defense.

10.  Michigan respects MSU’s offense.

11.  Ole Miss blew out Alcorn State 100-62 last night…

12.  And they landed a transfer from Memphis for the future, too.

13.  Excitement is building in Gainesville as the Will Muschamp Era nears.

14.  Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin says he won’t entertain other offers unless he’s let go by Florida.  (Meaning either that he’s lying or dozens of reports of him talking to Texas were completely false.)

15.  Controlling the line of scrimmage will be key in the Outback Bowl.

16.  Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray could break several school records in the Liberty Bowl today.

17.  UGA will be trying to avoid its first losing season in 14 years.

18.  The Dawgs will also be playing for pride.

19.  The intensity of today’s Kentucky-Louisville basketball game will be unmatched.

20.  Here’s how the two teams match up.

21.  The pressure on UK and U of L players — from their fans — is palpable.

22.  South Carolina will be playing for just the second 10-win season in school history tonight…

23.  But this writer says the Chick-fil-A Bowl means more to Florida State.

24.  This head-to-head breakdown gives the edge to FSU.

25.  Tennessee’s basketball team will likely get a tough challenge at home from College of Charleston tonight.

Sorry, no news on Vandy.  What else is new? 

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Video: Aaron Murray Season Highlight

Georgia
Content provided by Georgia Sports Blog.

2010 Season Highlights from Aaron Murray. The video was uploaded to Youtube by pr1sonmike

Watching this is about as encouraging as it gets.

PWD


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UGA’s Murray Has Bruised Knee, Should Be Fine

According to The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Mark Richt told the Atlanta Touchdown Club today that quarterback Aaron Murray suffered a bruised bone in his left knee against Auburn… but he should be ready to play in two weeks against Georgia Tech.

Richt said Murray also suffered “a pretty deep” chest bruise on Saturday.  His status for practice is day-to-day.

The AJC reports that Richt said Murray is “beat up pretty good, actually.”  As for the scary knee injury, “It was more of a blow to the knee, to the bone, (which) is bruised up pretty good,” the coach said.

Close call, Dawg fans.

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Random Post-Auburn Thoughts.

Georgia
Content provided by Dawg Sports.

I’m just gonna put this video right here:

No particular reason. Just like the song.

First things first. The only Nick Fairley hit I was really teed off at was the late hit into the ribs which was clearly an intentional spear. You could actually see him align his helmet at the last moment to drive it right into Murray’s spine. If Ben Jones is suspended two quarters for a chop block, Fairley should be suspended two quarters for that hit. Admittedly, I’m a little uncomfortable with the SEC handing out NFL-type player conduct suspensions to begin with for all but the most obvious transgressions (thrown punches, intentional contact with an official, etc.). I think it’s a slippery slope and risks the appearance of favoritism, which is of course  the last thing the SEC office needs at this point. But Fairley continues to be the subject of these kind of inquiries (he’s also demonstrated himself to be a fair body slammer, by the way), and the SEC continues to turn a blind eye to it. Of course, if he were still at Williamson High in Mobile, the officials could just go back in time and change it to a clean tackle around the waist.

It looks like Aaron Murray is fine this morning despite being the subject of Fairley’s consistent attention.  With Cam Newton in the NFL next season, one assumes that Vern Lundquist will require another young SEC quarterback to be the focus of his unwavering and occasionally creepy affections. You heard it here first, my money’s on Aaron Murray. Did you know that he and Orson Charles played together in high school? That he came back from a broken leg to lead his team to a win in the state championship game his senior season?

The Georgia offense is averaging 33.5 points per game, 29 per game in SEC play. Assuming that Nick Fairley doesn’t come out from behind a dumpster and beat him with a baseball bat (because Fairley’s a finisher that way), Aaron Murray has progressed to the point that he will likely garner some preseason All-SEC votes this summer. Of our 11 opponents, 8 have surrendered more points to the Bulldog attack than their season average. South Carolina has been the only opponent to hold us more than 6 points below their season average. In other words, the vast majority of defenses we’ve played against, including SEC defenses, have given up more points to our offense than they gave up to their other opponents.

I repeat: could those of you who want to get rid of Mike Bobo please give me a good reason other than “unimaginative and/or predictable playcalling?” Because I could give a tinker’s cuss if the other team suspects what’s coming, as long as they continue to be unable to stop it. Auburn was pretty darn predictable last night. On 3rd down Cam Newton was going to take off and run. But I don’t think their fans are complaining about that this morning. Misdirected hostility: it’s what’s for brunch. If we’re unable to plug the leak after A.J. Green leaves then get back to me. But based upon the overall returns this season, Mike Bobo’s offense has kept us in more games than they kept us out of.

Cam Newton is the best college quarterback money can buy. If any signal caller in the SEC other than Ryan Mallett were wearing the blue and orange, I think we win that game. But we simply had no answer for him. Say what you will. Call him a thief in his dorm room, a cheat in the classroom, and perhaps bought and paid for everywhere he goes*, but the guy is a heck of a football player. And Gus Malzahn has done an extraordinary job of maximizing his gifts. This cannot be fairly denied.

This was the first game in which Brandon Boykin looked tentative returning kickoffs. Auburn’s coverage team flew downfield on kicks in the second half, and after that it appeared that Boykin didn’t really want any more of them. For everything else that’s been talked about from this game, I’d submit that our starting field position following Auburn’s last three kickoffs to Boykin, (the 8,14 and 13 yard lines, respectively) may be the one most overlooked.

We looked gassed in the second half. Again. Whereas the Bulldog offensive and defensive lines really seemed to be in control in the first half, by the 4th quarter it seemed that Malzahn sensed blood in the water and was really putting the screws to us with the pace of play. Throughout this season our second half effort has been very good. We’ve fought to come back and/or stay in games. But our players’ spirits are clearly writing checks their bodies can’t cash. I could care less what Cornelius Washington and Vance Cuff’s fictitious 40 times are. I want to see them playing faster than the guy across the line in the 4th quarter. That’s been rare this season, and somebody needs to ask why. Thus begins the broken record portion of our prgramming.

We’re hitting that part of the season at which most of the story has been written, and we can begin to see this team for what it is, rather than what it could be. Like Kyle, I’ve seen enough this season to believe that this year’s Georgia squad is actually better on a play-to-play basis than last year’s iteration, record notwithstanding. The defense is decidedly improved, and It’s frustrating that the wins aren’t there. We’re a Caleb King fumble in Boulder and a pass protection breakdown against Arkansas from being 7-4, and I imagine we’d look at this season a lot differently if that were the case. That’s to say nothing of close losses to Mississippi State and Florida that could have easily gone the other way.

But they didn’t. We need a victory over Tech just to get to a lower tier bowl game, where we can hopefully focus long enough to truck some mid-tier Big East  or Conference USA team to get to 7-6. That sucks out loud, and I hope that none of us lets Mark Richt forget that over the next few months. You can never say what record a coach has to achieve in any given season to be “successful” or “on the hot seat” or “likely to be burned in effigy and/or stuffed and displayed at Bass Pro Shops like a red fox.” There are just too many variables. But I will say this: a third consecutive season with fewer than 9 regular season wins and another loss to Florida might just about do it for Mark Richt’s good will with me. I don’t think that’s going to happen. But if it did, I could see myself coming unhinged.

I support Coach Richt. I care about more than winning football games, and maintain that winning football games is not the only component of his job description. But it’s a big part of the job description and over the past two years we’ve won an unsatisfactory number. Jim Donnan was 16-8 during his last two seasons in Athens. Mark Richt is 13-11 in his last 24. If I wanted to root for a team that is competitive in losing SEC games and perennially finishes just above .500, I’d be a South Carolina fan. Oops, maybe not.

I think we’ll be better next season assuming a) no one sells his jersey to an agent’s runner during the offseason, b) the receiving corps figures out how to take up the slack of losing A.J. Green (one of the biggest ifs in recent college football history given the guys behind him), and c) somebody steps into Justin Houston’s shoes. I don’t feel any worse about this team than I did before yesterday’s game. We lost, I thought beforehand that we would lose. But I am sick of losing to good football teams right now. Just sick of it.

*Allegedly. The allegedly is strongly implied here. Except for the thieving part. Because pretrial diversion doesn’t mean you didn’t do it. It just means that you got another chance. Law degrees: Helping bloggers be snarky since 1999!!!


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Carter’s Notebook: Will Hill At His Best When Gators Needed Him The Most

Gators junior safety Will Hill didn't play early in the season. When he finally took the field, Hill was often quiet as a mouse. Hill roared like a lion in the Gators' 34-31 win over Georgia on Saturday at EverBank Field. Hill had two interceptions, six tackles and broke up a two-point attempt by Georgia when he picked off Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray in the end zone.
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UGA beat writer says Aaron Murray has matured quickly, 3-4 defense is working

Florida
Content provided by Swamp Things – Gators Blog.

Swamp Things continues its blog exchange with two – yes, are lucky enough to get two! – Georgia beat writers this week. This is the first, and comes from Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald. For more insight into the Bulldogs, be sure to check out his work and follow him on Twitter.

1. The Bulldogs are last in the SEC in opponent’s third-down conversion. Why have they struggled to stop teams on third down?
I could write a whole notebook lead about that. Wait. I just did for Thursday’s newspaper. Georgia coach Mark Richt this week laid our several factors for the problems:
–Allowing the quarterback to get out of the pocket to buy time.
–Not being disciplined enough in zone coverage to avoid chasing down the quarterback even when he hasn’t crossed the line of scrimmage.
–Not holding off on curl routes and square-ins while instead pursuing a receiver in the flat.
“It just gets down to leverage, understanding your assignment, making good decisions and kind of knowing where the sticks are,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.

2. QB Aaron Murray has been named SEC freshman of the week twice. Why has he done so well in his first season?
He makes really good decisions. At least so far. Georgia was killed last season by throwing too many interceptions, but Murray has just three in eight games. Not bad for a rookie in the SEC. Georgia coaches made sure not to put too much on him early in the season. In retrospect, they probably played too conservatively. Now they have plenty of confidence in Murray, who has surprised them by his ability to scramble for touchdowns (four on the year). It helps that he also can throw to probably the best receiver in college football in A.J. Green, who is back from his four-game suspension.

3. How has Georgia handled the change to a 3-4 defense?
The numbers would indicate fairly well. Georgia is first in the SEC in rushing defense (99.3 yards per game) and fourth in total defense (306.8 yards per game). It is 30th in the nation in scoring defense at 19.1 points per game, seven less than last season. The Bulldogs are still giving up too many big plays, but there have been less busts in pass coverage during the winning streak than earlier in the season. The three new defensive assistants now have a better sense of the personnel. Players like cornerback Sanders Commings (team-high three interceptions) have gone from backups to starters.

4. Florida has been playing the celebration from Georgia’s first touchdown in 2007 this week. What are the Bulldogs using as their motivation?
As far as I know, winning the SEC East and keeping a good thing going (the three-game winning streak). Then again, nobody told me about the planned end zone dance back in ’07 (popular with Georgia fans) or the black helmets last year (not so popular). They are not coming out and saying it, but I imagine they want to do something about that ugly 17 losses in 20 years to the Gators that players and fans have endured.

5. Is Georgia viewing a win in this game as a season saver? Does it make up for a 1-4 start?
It would certainly be the biggest win of the year given the stage of a national television audience and the opponent — perhaps their biggest rival. To a certain extent, they have saved their season already by rising from the dead of a 1-4 start to be able to still be in the thick of the SEC East race. Of course, if they lose to Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech — or perhaps even two of those three — the season again will be looked at as a disaster by some Georgia fans.


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