Monday, May 24, 2010

CAN AARON MURRAY STAND THE HEAT OF THIS GEORGIA SUMMER?





Spring practice 2010 ended and everyone anxiously awaited news as Coach Richt prepared to release his post-spring depth chart that would include a ranking of each of the three quarterbacks vying to land the starting spot for the DAWGS this season. Well, a lot changed before that could happen. Zach Mettenberger was dismissed from the team and…then there were two. Coach Richt dropped his list on us and red-shirt freshman Aaron Murray sat on top with Logan Gray coming in at number two. Soon thereafter we learned that Gray was considering a transfer to another school in search of playing time and what had been a three-man race was suddenly perilously close to becoming a one-man option. I created more than a little nervousness for this member of the DAWG Nation flooded with ideas of security coming only with my visions of Murray being tied to a wheelchair, wrapped in bubble wrap and rolled into a man-sized safe until the season opener. Eventually we found out that Gray had decided to stay and that he had done so for all the right reasons. For a moment I was easing back towards some level of comfort worried only that this now rekindled quarterback derby could possibly drag into the season, thus mucking up my preferred option of a clear-cut starter being solidified prior to the season’s opening kick-off. Then I heard that Gray and Richt were seeing eye-to-eye on a position switch to WR and I quickly reverted back to my paranoid ways, looking for all the bubble wrap I could find to ship to Athens.

An unforeseen byproduct of this melodrama playing out was that I found myself concerned that by moving to WR, Gray may have once again derailed himself in his attempts to see the field. Gray sacrificed valuable practice time at quarterback during his early years in the Classic City working on special teams units in an effort to help the team win and get in the game sooner. It is my opinion that this hurt his development in the long run when it came to competing for the starting quarterback position. His employing the “TEAM me” philosophy came back to bite him in the end. Now Gray hopes to make an impact at WR this fall, while still remaining an “emergency” option at quarterback (as I see it now). His actual practice time at each/either position is still to be determined.

Now there is a chance that this will work out well for everyone involved. Georgia needs every player that will to step up and be a reliable option at WR this fall. Gray has the athletic ability necessary to be a viable option, but will his knowledge of the passing game translate to him running good routes or catching a ball in traffic? I guess we will all find out together. There are recent success stories to turn to for hope in this scenario. At Kansas, Kerry Meier moved to WR after Todd Reesing was tabbed as the starter at quarterback and Meier was just drafted in the fifth round (165th overall pick) of the NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons…one round and 26 picks ahead of college teammate and full-time WR Dezmon Briscoe (6th rd, 191st overall pick). I just hope that Gray, by making this move at this point in his career, can still salvage some meaningful game action and help the DAWGS win and that he won’t just end up spending another year languishing…torn and straddling that line between two positions and not giving himself a good opportunity to succeed at one.

As for Murray, it’s his show. If he thought summers were hot in Tampa, just wait until he experiences this one. I know that young trigger man Hutson Mason is on his way to campus in a few weeks, but assuming Gray will be given every chance to make a successful move to WR, we all know that Murray will be the DAWGS starting quarterback in the fall. I’m a little torn with this situation. I’m glad it looks like there will be a definitive starter at QB headed into the fall and that Murray will have every opportunity to grow into his role as a leader of the team, but the DAWGS are now seriously lacking in not only experience at the position but sheer numbers as well.


Courtesy Dawgpost.com


It is a simplistic view to be sure, but if “should” and “ought to” write the story of the 2010 Georgia campaign Murray should benefit from being the only new starter on the offensive eleven and he ought to benefit greatly from a deep and veteran offensive line, a talented set of skill players and an aggressive defense that promises to provide several more offensive possessions as a result of the takeaway than last year’s offensive squad had. Murray’s job…make good decisions with the football, let your play-makers make plays for you and don’t turn the ball over. Sounds simple enough, but I have feeling that as good as we all believe Murray to be (because we’ve been told so by the coaches and seemingly everyone else) there still will not be much that qualifies as simple for the DAWGS new signal caller.

I’ve tried to express my feelings about Georgia’s current quarterback situation, but I really believe this is just the beginning. I am only one person. Just one DAWGS fan with one a lonely opinion. I deeply appreciate each of you that choose to read my thoughts in this forum, but it is a small voice and it is only May. Very soon there will be writers with a much greater audience than mine and well known voices that perceivably carry a much greater weight than that which I employ here that will have their say on this topic. They will opine at a dizzying rate and their perspectives will cloud the DAWGosphere, rising high and growing dark like the storm clouds driven by the scorching temperatures of a Georgia summer’s day, blotting out most every ray of positivity from the bright and shining sun rising on the day that is Georgia’s upcoming football season with a storm of questioning doubt. Voices like mine that are reasonable but hopeful will be much like the whisper of a child…not discernible in the fury of the storm.

Whatever pressure Aaron Murray is feeling right now he should dismiss as a happy day in the park. His slate is clean and he stands at a fresh and new beginning. We in the DAWG Nation are hopeful and positive. Coaches Richt and Bobo have every faith that he will continue to grow and develop into the leader the DAWGS need him to be and Murray knows he has done it before. It is everyone not bleeding red and black, everyone not lucky enough to call the University of Georgia home and everyone in the national media ready to fall at the alter of Saban or cuddle up to the new batch of reptiles in Florida that will rain on Murray’s parade. I will be putting my faith in Murray’s self-confidence and Richt’s tutelage and experience to weather the storm, but make no mistake….there is a storm a comin’.

Glory, Glory.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

OLD SCHOOL, HEART WARMING PERFECTION: OAKLAND’S DALLAS BRADEN IS A DAMN BEAST!!!




If you’re a sports fan you have probably heard the story. If you’re a baseball fan you definitely have. The story of Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Dallas Braden and his outrage that New York Yankees superstar slugger Alex Rodriguez would have the audacity to jog over-top the pitcher’s mound on his way back to the dugout back on April 22nd. Braden decried the move as breaking one of baseball’s “unwritten rules” and took the act as a personal slap in the face. Rodriguez didn’t ease the tensions much when he sniped at Braden through the press saying he did not want to “extend his 15 minutes of fame” by discussing the matter further. If none of this is ringing a bell, just hit up the old Google with a quick search and you can fill yourself in on all the sordid details.

I am about as old school as it gets and I agree with the Oakland pitcher in this situation. But…full disclosure…I have never been a fan of A-Rod’s. I see him as a player that is driven only by money and personal glory that has major league talent, but bush league character between the lines (not to mention the character he has displayed when NOT between the lines). From his efforts to swat the ball out of the fielder’s glove on his way to first base or shouting at an infielder as he runs past on a pop-up to his steroid use, when it comes to playing the game the right way Rodriguez leaves much to be desired. So, you can see how I could come to my conclusion.

Today, Mother’s Day 2010, Braden pitched the 19th perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball against the Tampa Bay Rays. He did this against a team swinging pink bats and wearing pink wristbands in honor of Mother’s Day, but also to raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer. Braden, a man that lost his mother to cancer when he was in high school, did this with his grandmother looking on from the stands. With old school street cred on his side and a heart warming story behind him, Braden was perfect.

You can read the details of Braden’s efforts HERE in the game recap, an SI opinion HERE or another opinion HERE in a piece submitted by my former co-worker Steve Berthiaume.

There is nothing more that I can say here that hasn’t already been written or that won’t be penned in the coming news cycle, but I can make the one proclamation that this forum has to offer and that is that Dallas Braden is A DAMN BEAST and I am thrilled to be able to say it is so.


Cary Edmondson/US Presswire

Saturday, May 1, 2010

GEORGIA AND MARK RICHT STEPPING OUT WITH A NEW EDGE




A lot was made recently about Georgia’s coaching staff being all over the top in-state football prospects last week like mud on a jockey’s goggles at this weekend’s Kentucky Derby. Georgia’s coaching staff is canvassing the state this spring in an effort to lock down all of the top football talent as they build a “Dream Team” that they believe will help them compete for SEC and national titles. My first thoughts were “Why is this even a story?” This is what I expect. Isn’t this what we all should expect? This is what I had hoped was happening all year, every year during every football recruiting cycle. The coaches always say how important it is that they recruit the top players in Georgia and I just assumed they were doing that anyway. Doing what they said they were doing. And I’m sure they did recruit those players. Yet, each year there were players that decided somewhere other than Georgia was the place they needed to be. Now I’m not na├»ve enough to think that the DAWGS will get every top in-state player every year, but I do believe it is the obligation of the coaching staff to try…to make every effort to bring those players on board. Not because they need to do this to make me happy, but because it would seemingly be in their best interest to do so in a never ending effort to win championships. Apparently, I was expecting too much or at least had the wrong idea about what was going on in the recruiting processes at the University of Georgia before this spring.

Well seemingly things are different this year and I am not complaining. Articles like THIS ONE and THIS ONE go into great detail about the extents to which the Georgia coaching staff are going to bring the state’s top players to Athens.

This could just be a new method of recruiting at Georgia and that will be that, but I don’t think that’s the case. Maybe the bigger point here is that this is a sign that something is different about Georgia this year. Maybe it means that there is something different about Mark Richt. Maybe this is just another sign that CMR has decided that being good is not good enough.

Let’s look at the signs. During the last few months we’ve seen a reinvigorated Mark Richt. The “new” fire first flashed publicly during the Georgia Tech game when a premature cold water bath drew the ire of the head DAWG. Soon thereafter, we saw the head coach fire virtually his entire defensive staff that was led by a long time friend, stare down the odds and lead his team to a bowl win with graduate assistants coaching his defense that had a noticeably different attitude. We watched as he stood firm against the doubts and criticisms that swirled during the coaching search that would produce his new defensive coordinator and we have supported the coach and the program each time some harsh discipline has been doled out this spring, trusting that the head DAWG knows what is best for the program.

The reports out of Athens during spring practice offer us further proof that things are different around the practice fields these days. The new defensive staff seems to be long on teaching the fundamentals of the game and an aggressive style of play with a healthy dose of nasty and short on tolerance for not offering up either. As a result, it seems that the offensive squads have noticed and have realized that they too must raise their level of play if they are going to survive in this brave new world of the DAWG. If this conclusion is right, the results we see on the field in the fall should be impressive.

I don’t see CMR every day and I don’t know if I’m just making stuff up or there is actually a difference in the way the man is demanding that Georgia football handle its business. I hate to write this next part, but I must. You see a Nick Saban or an Urban Meyer go about their work, you look at the results they achieve and you must acknowledge that there is a difference between them and everyone else. You just get a sense that they demand a certain level of commitment from everyone involved with their programs and that they set the example and lead the way. The bottom line is they have gotten the results that every coach, every player and every fan wants for their team and there has to be a reason. That reason is an attention to detail and a commitment to perfection that others have not matched in recent seasons.

I could be totally out on a limb here, but I see the last few months in Athens as a series of signs that tells us CMR has decided there is more that can be done in pursuit of a national championship and that he intends to lead the way and set the example. I believe this new commitment to slamming the door to our great state and it’s players in the face of our opponents in recruiting is just another sign that CMR realizes the bar has been raised and that something more must be done if he is going to take Georgia from a really good program and consistent winner to a level that will bring him and the DAWGS that elusive national championship.

Glory, Glory.