The most significant news nugget this morning is the announcement by Claude Felton that Blake Barnes will be transfering to Division II Delta State following the Sugar Bowl. Barnes will have 1 year of eligibility left for when he joins the Fighting Okra. Yes, that's their unofficial mascot.
Barnes came to Athens as a former Elite 11 quarterback with high expectations. Somewhere along the way, he just sort of fell behind in the quarterbacks race and ended up fourth on the depth chart behind Tereshinski, Stafford and Cox. Other than one alcohol arrest that literally could have happened to 88.5% of students at the University, he was a model backup. A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and, from what I've heard, just a generally nice guy. I have to imagine that with all the fanfare he had coming in that the occasional glimpses of frustration we saw over the past couple of years were only the tip of the iceberg. Quarterbacks want the ball in their hands, and Barnes just wasn't ever going to see meaningful snaps in the red and black. I'm sure that was incredibly frustrating.
It's at times like these that I think it's important for us as fans to remember that college football players are in fact just college kids. Not moving parts in a football machine. Not pro football players who get a paycheck whether they're in Boston or San Diego. They only get one ride on the merry-go-round and have to make the most of it. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Blake Barnes all the luck in the world. I for one will be pulling for him to come in and take Delta State by storm. He'll always be a Bulldog as far as I'm concerned.
I guess this means that we probably have another scholarship we can use this year rather than next if we really need one. I don't think that's particularly likely at this stage of the recruiting game, though. And this won't really free up a slot long term because Barnes was going to be gone after 2008 anyway. The only realistic option would seem to be a "sign and place" guy in this class, but I don't know that we have any of those still on the board. What's more likely is that this frees up a scholarship for a deserving walkon, which is a good thing in my book.
Also noteworthy is that Henry County wide receiver Chris Jackson has changed his verbal commitment from Georgia Tech to Alabama. This was not all that surprising. Jackson really seemed to like Chan Gailey and his assistants, and was aligned more closely with them than with the school per se. Another guy to keep in mind throughout this transition is D.J. Donley. The talented two way player from Charlton County chose Tech to play wide receiver, versus Georgia, where he was being recruited as a defensive back.
While Johnson is saying all the right things about his scheme, and he may throw the ball more at Tech than he did at Navy, remember: leopards don't go vegetarian because they pass a field of pretty radishes. Johnson will use the talent he has, but he's a run-first coach by habit and design. He beat Notre Dame and owned the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy because his teams played pretty good defense and moved the ball on the ground, even when opponents knew what was coming. In the ACC, he'll face light, fast defenses that will be vulnerable straight up the gut. Johnson will exploit this. I would be surprised if one of Tech's current receivers doesn't transfer before spring practice. That's not a shot at Johnson or any Tech players. It's just the reality of going from the delightful stir fry of play action passes and counters that was the Gailey offense to the bloody rare antelope steak that is the triple option (that's a compliment, by the way).
And while I'm thinking about it, today is the last day to get into ESPN's BowlMania pick 'em game. The Unknown Stuntman has been kind enough to set up a Dawgsports group, which I'm going over to join this evening (after I figure out which FSU players won't be suiting up against Kentucky). I'd encourage you to join, just for the heck of it.