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Georgia’s Richt Catches Heat For Recent Arrests; “Perception” Issues Remain

On Monday, four Georgia football players were arrested for cashing UGA-issued scholarship checks twice.  Folks from ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit to legendary UGA kick Kevin Butler weighed in on Mark Richt’s discipline.  Here’s what Herbstreit said via Twitter:

 

herbie tweet

 

 

Butler then responded to Herbstreit by tweeting “your dead on Kirk ….. No consequences, no fear… just plain stupidity every year.  Embarrassing for University.”

What neither pointed out is that you could put together a pretty good squad from the players Richt has tossed from his squad: Zach Mettenberger, Nick Marshall, Isaiah Crowell, etc.  All those guys landed elsewhere, including two inside the SEC who Richt had to coach against last year.

Also not mentioned is the fact that perception is worse than reality when it comes to Georgia’s “outlaw” reputation.

Georgia — as we’ve pointed out a few hundred times on this site — has the toughest drugs and behavior policies in the Southeastern Conference.  A footballer busted for an alcohol-related crime elsewhere might be forced to run stadium steps and sit for a quarter.  At Georgia, that’s typically an automatic suspension for two full games.  South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier has poked fun at the Bulldogs by saying he likes playing them early because they’re always missing a few guys.  That kind of comment gets kicked around until outsiders who don’t know any better — and apparently a supposed insider like Butler who should — start believing that UGA has more disciplinary problems than other schools when in fact, Georgia simply disciplines more than other schools.

Kids get in trouble at all schools.  And if your favorite school is on a clean streak right now, consider your football program overdue.  With 100 kids on a roster, there will be alcohol, marijuana and behavioral issues to deal with each and every year.  Georgia deals with them harshly and openly… and the school, the football program and Richt pay a price for that.

Kudos to Georgia and other SEC schools who have implemented strict policies (Kentucky being another), but in a world where Twitter perception is reality, it might be time to stop sweating the small stuff, just as most other schools do.  That will help make the big stuff — like the actions of the four dullards arrested Monday — seem less like the norm and more like the exception that it really is.

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Georgia Is The SEC’s Worst Hoops Nightmare

Mark-Fox-one-fingerWith a weak performance in the non-conference portion of the schedule, the last thing the SEC needed was for one of its worst teams to turn things around and excel inside league play.  Such a situation would further damage the league’s already shaky reputation.

So thanks, Georgia.

In all seriousness, Mark Fox has done a remarkable job of turning around the Bulldogs’ fortunes.  After a 1-4 start to the season, UGA has gone 13-6 overall and — wait for it — the Dogs are currently 8-4 in conference play.  They sit just one game behind second-place Kentucky in the league standings.

While that’s good for Fox’s job status, it’s not good for the Southeastern Conference’s push for NCAA at-large bids.  The Bulldogs have lost four games to teams outside the RPI top 100 (#147 Georgia Tech, #144 Davidson, #162 Temple and #183 Auburn).  UGA’s RPI is a feeble 89th, yet they’ve managed to beat SEC bubble squads Missouri (in Columbia), Arkansas, LSU and Ole Miss.

And they can still do more damage.

Georgia plays at Tennessee this week.  Next week they’ll host Missouri, looking for the season sweep.  They’ll still travel to Arkansas and LSU as well.

Clearly, it’s all too little, too late for UGA and its hopes of earning an NCAA Tournament at-large bid of its own.  But the role of spoiler is still theirs for the taking.  In fact, they’re already taking it.

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Richt Sees A Lot Of Similarities Between His Georgia Team And Florida; Talks Up Gators

gfx - they said itThis weekend Georgia will attempt to win its third in a row over longtime rival Florida.  If the Bulldogs are successful it will mark the first streak of that length from the Dawgs since they topped the Gators in 1987, ’88 and ’89.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s matchup, Mark Richt sees some obvious similarities between the two teams.  “Both of us lost a game out of conference and then lost the last two games,” UGA’s coach said.  “Both teams have had a lot of injury issues an both are fighting to try to stay in the race for the East.  There are a lot of similarities in that regard.”

As any good coach would, Richt also took some time to talk up Saturday’s foe:

 

“They are very good on special teams, they’ve been tremendous on defense and offensively they are kind of a smashmouth team that will take their shots on you.  They are just a very good football team.  We are looking forward to going to Jacksonville.  I’m not quite sure what the weather hold.  As of right now it’s supposed to be rainy and windy, so we’ll see how that affects the game if that happens.”

 

Currently there’s a 50% chance of showers during the game.

Richt isn’t the only one who sees similarities between the two squads.  Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy weighed in on the topic as well.  “Both teams probably expected to be undefeated or have a better record coming into this game.  But both teams still have high hops of finishing the season off well.  It’s kind of like a one-game playoff.”

 

 

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Murray On Gurley: Hopefully A “Full Go” For Georgia’s Game With Florida

todd-gurley-georgiaThere are currently 21 players listed on Georgia’s injury report.  Twenty.  One.

From both sides of the ball and from positions all over the field, UGA’s once highly-ranked team has hemorrhaged athletes in 2013.

“We’ve got so many guys banged up and we really need to get guys back healthy and get guys back on the field,” said defensive lineman Garrison Smith.  “It’s been a lot of banging and it’s a long season and we’ve got some more games left.  It’s time for us to rebound and regroup and get guys right.”

Georgia’s next game is in Jacksonville against rival Florida in two weeks.  And according to quarterback Aaron Murray, running back Todd Gurley — one of the Dawgs’ most important offensive weapons – is on the verge of rebounding and getting right.  Asked yesterday about Gurley’s progress from a badly sprained left ankle, the senior signal-caller had this to say:

 

“He looked good (in limited practice Tuesday).  We’ve still got another two weeks so he’ll be a full go by Florida, hopefully.”

 

Hopefully being the key word in that statement.  Murray’s performance — like the offense as a whole — has declined over the last two weeks as injuries mounted.  Lacking a chemistry with the backup weapons now deployed around him, Murray has seen UGA’s total offensive output drop from 545 and 536 against Clemson and South Carolina to 434 and 454 against Tennessee and Missouri all the way to 221 against Vanderbilt.

And it must be noted that Vanderbilt had allowed 489 yards to Ole Miss, 579 to South Carolina, 523 to Missouri and more than 221 to both UMass and UAB.  Either the Commodores suddenly found themselves or injuries have finally become too much for the Bulldogs.

For that reason, Murray and Georgia fans everywhere had better hope Gurley is ready to go when the Dawgs face the Gators in 10 days.

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Georgia’s Richt Has The Luck Of Job

job_1Before the season began, the MrSEC.com pick for SEC champion was Georgia.  We suspected Alabama was due for a bad break somewhere along the line (it hasn’t happened yet and the Tide shouldn’t be truly tested again until November).  We tabbed UGA for its offense in an age when offenses have been taking over college football.  OK, so we were right on that part.  But another part of our rationale was the fact that Georgia — unlike Alabama — was due for some good luck.  Mark Richt was due for a few Les Miles-type breaks.

Wrong.

At this juncture, Richt — a man so well-known for his Christian faith — must feel like Job.  Disasters are striking at an alarming rate.  One key player after another has been felled by injury.  Three stars have been lost to season-enders already.

 

*  The Dawgs’ #1 receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, went down at Clemson in the season-opener.  Gone for the year.

*  Todd Gurley — UGA’s top running back — was slowed by a quad injury against Clemson.  He missed the second half against LSU due to a badly sprained ankle.  He missed Saturday’s game with Tennessee and he’s 50/50 to play against Missouri this week with that same ankle injury.

*  The Bulldogs lost their #2 rusher when Keith Marshall’s knee buckled in Knoxville Saturday.  He’s done for the year.

*  So is receiver Justin Scott-Wesley.  He, too, blew out a knee versus Tennessee.

*  Fellow receiver Michael Bennett — who missed last season with a bum knee — will have arthroscopic surgery this week to determine if/when he can return from a new knee injury suffered on Saturday.  That’s three receivers down (possibly for the count) already.

*  And don’t expect juco receiver Jonathan Rumph to take anyone’s place.  He hasn’t played this season due to a hamstring injury and Richt says he is “very doubtful” for this week’s Missouri game.

 

That’s just the offense.

 

*  Starting safety Tray Matthews missed the Tennessee game with a hamstring issue, the second time since fall camp that he’s been saddled with a bad hammy.  He’s expected to return against Missouri, but how long before he tweaks the same muscle again?

*  Fellow safety Connor Norman missed the Tennessee game but could return from a concussion this week versus Mizzou.

*  And speaking of concussions, Georgia punter Collin Barber suffered a concussion of his own against the Vols and his availability this week is questionable as well.

 

So, yeah… Job.  But Richt, obviously, is focused foremost on the young men he’s lost:

 

“It’s sad for our players.  You see them work so hard and get into position to play for Georgia and realized their dreams of wanting to play in big games like that and try to win championships and all that.  There is so much work put in and they play so hard for you and work and practice and all that.  When you want to play like that and it’s taken away from you, it’s just very heartbreaking.  I don’t know what hurts more, the pain of the injury or knowing you’re not going to get to play anymore for a while.  I just feel bad for them.”

 

Georgia’s depth chart — especially on its once scary offense — is looking darn well decimated.  Some are even suggesting that the season now rides on a young defense that so far has struggled.

The Bulldogs have half a season to play starting with #25 Missouri on Saturday.  If they manage to hold on to their lead in the SEC East it will be a major credit to the team’s depth and past recruiting.  On paper, the best offense in the SEC is no longer tops in the league.  Especially when it comes to Aaron Murray’s receiving targets.

Perhaps the UGA band should shelve Glory, Glory To Old Georgia for a while and pick up the tune below.  ‘Cause it’s apparent their good guy coach was indeed…

 

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Georgia’s Richt On Dismissing LSU QB Mettenberger From His Program: “It Was Very Difficult”

gfx - they said itIn 2010, Georgia head coach Mark Richt dismissed freshman quarterback Zach Mettenberger from his football team following the young man’s arrest for fondling a woman in a Valdosta, Georgia bar.  Mettenberger eventually pled guilty to sexual battery over the incident.

By now you know that Mettenberger’s mother works in the UGA football office (though Richt gave her this week off as LSU visits Athens).  Richt had known Mettenberger since he was a boy.  It has been reported that the player was not completely forthcoming with Richt following the arrest and that that was what led to his dismissal.

Now Mettenberger is set to return to Sanford Stadium with Les Miles’ Tigers.  And Richt is glad for the young man that’s the case:

 

“It was very difficult (to dismiss Mettenberger).  It’s difficult any time a situation gets to the point where you have to dismiss a guy from the team.  To do it to Zach, knowing Zach for as long as we’ve known him and his mom and dad — they’re family to us.  They’re still family to the Georgia program, so it was very difficult.  I think he understood it.  It wasn’t easy for me, and it wasn’t easy for him.  I’m proud of how he responded to it.  He went to junior college and did extremely well and he got an opportunity to come back to a place like LSU, which is a tribute to him and how he’s put himself in tremendous position for his future.  That’s what you hope for and you dream for these guys when they have an issue.  Like I was saying before, sometimes when guys have issues, we can clean it up and he can have a great story here at Georgia.  But sometimes when they have to leave, I just hope they can move forward and have great success.  Nick Marshall (Auburn’s quarterback) is the same situation.  Some things like that happen, and they have success and it makes you feel good.”

 

Mettenberger’s dismissal might have only sped up the inevitable.  At the time of his departure, he was competing for the starting quarterback job with current Bulldog starter Aaron Murray.  And Murray says that the loser of that battle might not have been long for Athens.

“I doubt both of us would have stayed,” Murray said yesterday.  “I’m sure one of us probably would have left, and you’d be talking to him right now and I’d be at LSU or another squad.”

Murray and Mettenberger are currently ranked 1-2 on the SEC passer rating chart.  Their teams enter this Saturday’s showdown ranked in the national top 10 and very much alive in the BCS championship hunt.  Clearly, what once was a “difficult” situation has worked out well for all parties involved.

(For his part, LSU’s quarterback is expecting “the worst” from Georgia fans when it comes to booing and heckling.  Here’s hoping that’s not the case.  Mettenberger made a mistake, paid for it, and was forced to go elsewhere.  He didn’t decide to leave Athens.  UGA fans should remember that.)

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Georgia’s Richt Happy For Ex-Dawgs Marshall And Mettenberger

mark-richt-halo copyAfter Georgia battles North Texas early on Saturday, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt might just try to rush to a television set to catch that night’s Auburn/LSU contest.  Not only will the showdown from Baton Rouge involved two teams on UGA’s schedule, but it will also feature two quarterbacks who started their careers in Athens.

LSU second-year starter Zach Mettenberger is flying high under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.  He was dismissed from Richt’s team following a spring break arrest in 2010.  His mother remains an employee of the UGA athletic department.

At Auburn, juco transfer Nick Marshall is steadily growing into the dual-threat quarterback Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo offense needs.  Marshall was signed to play cornerback at Georgia — due to depth at the QB position — but he was dismissed from the squad for a violation of team rules in 2011.

Richt, ever the nice guy, says he’s rooting for both young men:

 

“It will be very interesting to watch (the Auburn/LSU game) because I know both of those guys, of course, and we’re going to end up playing both of those teams as well.  I like both of them very much.  I want the very best for them and I’m glad they both landed in a good spot and are having an opportunity to have good careers.  So I’m happy for them and it will be interesting to watch…

I believe in stories of redemption and guys turning it around.  I wished they’d have turned it around at Georgia, but sometimes if happens at another school and that’s fine with me.  I realize those kind of comeback stories happen and I’m real happy for these guys.  I want all the guys that we sign to realize their dreams.”

 

According to Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when Richt’s ability to recruit top talent to Georgia was brought up, the coach downplayed it by saying: “We just try to evaluate the best we can and recruit them and see if they want to come to Georgia.”

The reality of the matter is that Richt once signed three guys — Marshall, Mettenberger and UGA quarterback Aaron Murray — who are all starting signal-callers in the SEC this year.

That’s almost as impressive as Richt’s continued ability to come across the guy you’d most want your own son to play under.

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Spurrier Warned Richt Not To Take The Georgia Job

spurrier-richt-shake-handsNow here’s an odd one.  Not because Steve Spurrier gave Georgia a negative review.  Because of the timing.

Way back in 1991, both Spurrier (then Florida’s head coach) and Mark Richt (than a Florida State assistant) were at the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York.  Their quarterbacks — Gator Shane Matthews and Seminole Casey Weldon — were runners-up to Michigan’s Desmond Howard.

It was at that point that Spurrier gave Richt a tip on his coaching future.  According to Georgia’s head coach:

 

“He told me: ‘Do not under any circumstance take the Georgia job.’  That was the one big of coaching advice he gave me.”

 

Richt was speaking to a Georgia booster club yesterday when he revealed that tidbit.  Ten years after that advice was given, Richt did indeed become the Bulldogs’ coach.  From 2001 on he’s gone 119-41, won two SEC titles and reached five SEC title games.  While not all UGA fans are glad he took the job, that’s a darned impressive run.  The Dawgs have had just one losing season during Richt’s tenure, and that was a 6-7 mark with the final loss coming in a bowl game.  So it’s been a consistent run as well.

The fact that Spurrier would tell a Florida State assistant and Miami grad not to take the Georgia job 10 years before he would get the chance to take it tells us that either a) Spurrier would make a good fortune-teller or b) the Ol’ Ball Coach knew he’d torture Georgia for years.  We’ll go with option b because that’s exactly what Spurrier went on to do during the 1990s.

So does Richt like the coach who so often needles his program with barbs and zingers?

“I like him because he’s a straight-shooter,” Richt told the fan club.  “I think he wants to win fair and square; he wants to play by the rules.  I never had any thoughts that he would try to cheat in a game or cheat in recruiting or anything like that.  Also, when my wife Katherine had that cancer scare, he was the first guy that picked up the phone and gave me a call.”

Kudos to Spurrier for reaching out to Richt in a time of stress.  A classy, kind move.  As for his warning not to take the UGA job, well, you can’t get ‘em all right.

Spurrier was a topic of conversation in the Peach State, obviously, because Georgia outdueled his South Carolina squad 41-30 on Saturday to snap a three-game losing skid to the Gamecocks.

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“We’ve Gotta Get Rid Of Richt!” Says Weeping Dawg Fan

fetal-manOn Saturday night, Georgia football coach Mark Richt took his #5 team to Clemson.  The #8 Tigers had a raucous Death Valley crowd on hand to help make the debut of nearly a dozen new UGA starters one heckuva tough baptism.

The Bulldogs lost a shootout 38-35 — in part — due to an interception, a fumble, and a bungled snap on a would-be field goal attempt.  The verdict?  Richt needs to be fired.

At least that was the postgame take from a weepy Dawg fan who called into an Atlanta talkshow on Saturday night.  A fan who is now having to deal with the fact that his emotional call has gone viral on this here interweb:

 

UGA Fan Crying on Radio

 

A tip of the cap to one of our favorite SEC websites for this one.

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The SEC’s Best Football Programs Part 3: Campus Life

mrsec stat analysis newThis week, MrSEC.com is attempting to rank the SEC’s football programs from #1 all the way down to #14.  For an overview of the series, you can click right here.  You will find — among other things — that we have decided to rank each program in four main categories: Recruiting Base, Tradition, Campus Life and Recent History.

Under each of those four umbrella categories are 20 sub-categories.  Simply put, we’re grading SEC programs in 20 different areas.

Part 1 of our series — Recruiting Base — can be found here.

Part 2 of the series — Tradition — can be found here.

In this installment, we look into Campus Life.  And what exactly does “Campus Life” consist of?  Five categories that would all play some role in a recruit’s decision to attend a specific school.  Included are things such as fan passion, the makeup of the student body and even the weather.  That’s where we’ll start.

Below you will find the average number of sunny days in a year for each SEC campus.  The information comes from climate data provided by BestPlaces.net.  We will assume that the majority of athletes would prefer to live in a sunny environment.  The sunniest spots in the SEC are:

 

Campus Life: Average Number of Sunny Days

  ALA   ARK   AUB   UF   UGA   UK   LSU   MSU   MU   UM   USC   UT   A&M   VU
  214   217   217   224   216   188   214   220   192   217   217   204   209   205

 

No surprise, Gainesville, Florida is the best spot for a warm and sunny recruiting visit.  Starkville, Mississippi actually comes in next with 220 sun-filled days.

Coaches at Missouri and Kentucky — with fewer than 200 sunny days each — have to convince athletes that playing in chillier, gloomier weather isn’t such a bad thing.

 

Next, we look at the male to female ratio on each SEC campus.  Again, we will assume that the majority of football prospects visiting SEC schools are interested in girls.  All the better if the days are sunny and those girls dress accordingly.  There’s a reason schools assign hostesses to visiting recruits.  The table below shows the percentage of female students on each SEC campus:

 

Campus Life: Percentage of Female Students in Campus Population

  ALA   ARK   AUB   UF   UGA   UK   LSU   MSU   MU   UM   USC   UT   A&M   VU
  54   50   49   55   57   51   51   48   52   55   54   49   48   50

 

The edge in this battle goes to the University of Georgia.  According to the numbers provided by CollegeBoard.org, UGA’s student population is 57% female.

On the other end of the spectrum, visitors to Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Texas A&M are going to look around and see a whole lot of other guys.

 

Sticking with the demographic makeup of SEC student populations, we now look at the ethnicity of each school.  Once again we are left to assume that the majority of college football recruits would prefer to attend a school that enjoys racial diversity.  The table below shows the percentage of ethnic students on each SEC campus.  Again, the numbers were provided by CollegeBoard.org:

Read the rest of this entry »

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