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Q&A with Burnt Orange Nation

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As I noted earlier this afternoon, Burnt Orange Nation recently conducted an interview with three Georgia webloggers.  Dawg Sports was among those questioned and the answers have been posted for your perusal.  

Since Paul Westerdawg prudently elected to post his answers at the Georgia Sports Blog, I thought I'd do the same.  

Here are Burnt Orange Nation's questions and my answers:  

We've got a hell of an interesting, and closely-scrutinized, quarterback battle brewing here in Austin, but we're not the only ones. Who do you like to emerge as the main man behind center for the Dawgs next fall?

The name "Tereshinski" carries great weight in Bulldog Nation . . . and strikes fear into the hearts of spelling bee contestants everywhere else.  

Dawg Sports:  The smart money would have to be on Matt Stafford, but I'm not ruling out Blake Barnes and I'm starting to believe Joe T. will hold the job longer than most folks think he will.  Barnes carried a fair degree of hype coming out of high school and I'm not yet sure whether Stafford is generating more buzz because he's actually better or because he has novelty going for him.  The picture will come into slightly sharper focus after the spring game on April 8, but, during the opener against Division I-AA Western Kentucky, Mark Richt might just put the "quarter" back in "quarterback," giving Joe T. the snaps in the first, putting in Stafford in the second, starting Barnes in the second half, and giving Joe Cox the chance to do mop-up duty in the final period.  (Speaking of Cox, let's not forget that he spent his high school days throwing to Mohamed Massaquoi, so he may sneak into the starter's role out of sheer muscle memory.)  In any case, I'm just hoping we get enough production out of the running backs to take some of the pressure out of whichever signal caller ends up earning the job.  

What other spring positional battle is most critical to the Dawgs this year?

Dawg Sports:  The receiving corps.  With Leonard Pope in the N.F.L. and Sean Bailey out for the season, opposing defenses are going to concentrate on Mohamed Massaquoi the way Georgia Tech's opponents key on Calvin Johnson.  We're hearing good things about Mikey Henderson coming out of spring practice, but several guys have to step up if all that Q.B. talent is going to be used for anything other than handing off to Thomas Brown 25 times a game.  (Not that I'd mind if we handed off to Thomas Brown 25 times a game, of course. . . .)  Heading into last season, I was looking for A.J. Bryant to become the next big thing, if only because I was hoping Rece Davis's David-Greene-to-Reggie-Brown touchdown call ("Greene . . . Brown . . . gold") would be replaced by the D.J.-Shockley-to-A.J.-Bryant call ("D.J. . . . A.J. . . . T.D."), but it didn't happen.  Georgia's entire receiving corps has to start living up to its potential if the Bulldogs are going to contend for a fourth division title in a five-year span.  

Mohamed Massaquoi:  the jersey number is not coincidental.  

What is Mark Richt's greatest strength as a coach? His greatest weakness?

Dawg Sports:  Let's start with the bad news.  When asked about Mark Richt's greatest weakness, my knee-jerk reaction is to say late-game time management.  It's an exaggeration to say that poor clock management cost the 'Dawgs the Auburn game and the Music City Bowl in Coach Richt's first year, but it's not much of an exaggeration.  In 2002, it appeared that this problem had been solved in the offseason; Coach Richt's clock management at the end of the Alabama game that year was exceptional and the result was Georgia's first win in Tuscaloosa in the program's history.  However, the same problem has reared its ugly head again, most recently in the Sugar Bowl against West Virginia.  When highlighting Coach Richt's greatest strength, it's hard to narrow it down to just one.  Given the coach he followed in Athens and the coach under whom he studied in Tallahassee, Coach Richt's insistence upon discipline has been a pleasant surprise and a refreshing change of pace.  His calm sideline demeanor is not only dignified, it instills confidence in his players (without which I am certain the Red and Black would have lost some games---most notably, the 2001 Tennessee game in Knoxville, which marked a changing of the guard as assuredly as the 1983 Auburn game in Athens) and gives extra force to those rare instances in which he expresses his displeasure (as when he chewed out the offense on the sidelines at last year's Mississippi State game).  On the field, I would have to say that Coach Richt's greatest strength is his ability to get his team to open up a can on what ought to be a daunting opponent once each season (51-7 over Georgia Tech in 2002, 41-14 over Tennessee in 2003, 45-16 over L.S.U. in 2004, 34-14 over L.S.U. in 2005) and his greatest weakness is a tendency to stumble against one opponent every year that has absolutely no business taking the field with the 'Dawgs (Boston College in 2001, Florida in 2002 and in 2003, Tennessee in 2004, West Virginia in 2005).  Vince Dooley didn't win every game he could have won, as evidenced by his record against his alma mater, but, with rare exceptions (like the 1979 season opener against Wake Forest), he won every game he was supposed to win.  I'll be glad when Coach Richt gets to that point, but, in the meantime, I'll just have to content myself with winning 10 games a year and being in contention for the Eastern Division title every autumn.  (It's a 'Dawg's life.)  If I had to sum up Coach Richt's greatest strength in a single word, there's no question that word would be "character."  

Mark Richt's greatest strengths:  imparting a work ethic, instilling a winning attitude, promoting teamwork, and building character.  His greatest weaknesses:  he sometimes goes more than 3,000 miles between oil changes, occasionally forgets to floss between meals, and periodically fails to coordinate his jacket with his necktie.  

Fearless Prediction: ____ will be the biggest challenger to Georgia in the SEC East, and _____ will be the biggest flop.

Dawg Sports:  If Vandy, fresh from the dizzying heights of nearly getting the win in Gainesville that would have made the 'Dores bowl-eligible, crashes back to earth and goes back to winning two games a year, do they count as the biggest flop?  There's no question that Florida is the favorite to win the division this fall and Urban Meyer showed me enough in his first year to convince me that he can hit big league pitching.  Whether this whole spread option thing takes off in year two or (more likely) Coach Meyer shelves his gimmicky offense for a more reliable approach, I look for the Gators to be the major challengers for the East crown.  I don't know that any team will qualify as a "flop"---Kentucky and Vanderbilt will be bad, as usual; Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee will be good, as usual---so, by default, I'd have to pick South Carolina.  The reports of the Gamecocks' improvement were greatly exaggerated last year; the Evil Genius took over a 6-5 team and led it all the way to 7-5.  South Carolina will win some games---and I take the Bulldogs' date with the Palmetto State Poultry in Columbia very seriously---but anyone who's expecting the Big Chickens to turn into consistent winners is bound to be disappointed.  

Go 'Dawgs!