A belated Happy New Year, Dawg Nation! I am finally getting re-adjusted to east coast time, overcoming the 5-hour English time differential. If you ever travel overseas, do yourself a favor. Always buy travel insurance. Our flight home was delayed a full 24 hours because of the little 747 landing gear problem at Gatwick. Thankfully, it was merely an inconvenience for us and not a bigger issue for others. We were literally pushing back from the gate when we were told the airport would be in a "one-hour delay." We did have to spring for a hotel and other stuff which is reimbursable. If an English pilot ever tells you that are in a little "one-hour delay," he's lying. I suppose he was trying to be polite, but it's code for "your not leaving for another 24 hours." Anyhoo...all's well that ends well. I'm just happy to be home. I digress. A ton of stuff has happened in the last few days. Here's a look back and a look ahead.
1. This post was set to publish yesterday, but the breaking news regarding a Mark Richt extension being in the works and Jeremy Pruitt's new 3-year, 1.3 million dollar deal demanded a slight delay. More details to follow, but the fact that Greg McGarity is agreeing to pay up is huge news. Pruitt is a high-demand coach that has improved our defense this season. The Dawgs finished ranked #4 in the nation in turnover margin (+16). We lost 7 fumbles on the season and threw 6 picks, but forced 13 fumbles and intercepted 16.
Pay the man The man got paid and rightly so. Someone would have paid him more.
2. Kudos to Mark Fox's Hoop Hounds on their important road win in Manhattan, Kansas. I stumbled onto the game as Georgia just took a 15-point lead with about 11 minutes or so to go...and watched it evaporate in the blink of an eye. MaconDawg's recap sums it up nicely as Georgia showed great calm and poise in the final 3:00 minutes and gutted out an RPI building road win.
2A. It feels good watching a team that, despite limitations, seems to be poised to do some damage in Conference play. Our Out of Conference RPI is a solid 18...and that victory over Seton Hall (RPI 18) is the Cuban cigar amongst the fine Dominican's and a few Swisher Sweets at the moment.
3. Georgia's search for an Offensive Coordinator continues to play out, and now Mark Richt is in the market for a new Director of Football Recruiting to boot. We now know that Ronnie Letson will be joining Mike Bobo's staff at Colorado State as an on-field assistant. Ronnie, We hardly knew ye. It sounds like there was some back-and-forth on this for several days. In the end, I believe Mark Richt is really trying to aid Mike Bobo to have as much success as possible. This is Classy with a capital C. I thought John Lilly made a strong case for himself on Tuesday night, adjusting on the fly with injuries to Hutson Mason and Michael Bennett (another ACL tear). This really changed the blueprint for the second half. The current pool of Coordinator candidates ain't exactly blowing me away at the moment.
4. Regarding the Offensive Line Coach hire. I'd pay good money just to see that resume list, too. Will Friend was hitting his stride this season, and we need to replace him with someone who won't just manage all that talent we have returning for 2015, but someone who can recruit and develop as well (or better) as Friend was beginning to do. This is critical. Why?...
5. ...for the sake of holding together some key pieces of an incredible 2015 recruiting class. There's going to be a ton of drama in the next month. Tons. We are fighting like mad to hold onto a couple of commits like Van Jefferson (Ole Miss...again?), but as is the case in every recruiting cycle, some names previously not mentioned are being mentioned if you just read the bullet points on some of the pay sites.
6. Big offensive tackle prospect Pat Allen has de-committed, which is not a shocking development considering the relationship he had with the now departed Will Friend. Frankly, I'm not surprised more guys haven't bailed and this still could happen with the current coaching staff uncertainties.
7. We will not undersign this year. That is a fact. There are a few guys that might be on the roster at the moment that won't be here in a few months, either. Signing day might just have a few "Isaiah McKenzie" moments as we head down the stretch...that last-second, out-of-the-blue kid who winds up boosting an already great class. Exciting times, but still much work to be done with replacing departed staffers and holding down the current group.
7A. Jeremy Pruitt dipped into the state of Maryland on Thursday when defensive back Juwuan Briscoe (6-0, 180) of Waldorf (Stone H.S.) committed over Ohio State.
8. Winning the Belk Bowl certainly helps. It was refreshing to see a motivated team effort in a bowl game again. Much of the motivation was largely due to besting Todd Grantham. I think the seniors wanted it, and stressed this to the underclassmen. It was a pleasure to watch. Oh, and Nick Chubb.
9. Random Quickie! A 2015 wish list...don't blink!
- Quarterback development and a great spring camp for Brice Ramsey and Jacob Park. Richt is going to have to get back to his QB coachin' roots here, along with the next OC who will certainly have to have some solid QB coaching chops.
- Ball protection emphasis for Sony Michel. He's fumbled a few times lately. He's still a freshman. Next season, he's going to have to protect the rock.
- Keith Marshall back to the 2013 edition. You can never, ever have too many quality backs in this league. Keith is going possibly going to have to reinvent himself, but I still like his skill set particularly as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He's got to get his confidence back.
- Imagine a bigger, stronger Jeb Blazevich. Now, imagine a Conference Championship.
- I could lose 30 lbs before Easter.
10. Despite the loss of Mike Bobo and Will Friend, the players seem to think Georgia is moving towards becoming a playoff team sooner than later. This piece and the thoughts from Damian Swann - who may have benefited the most in Jeremy Pruitt's scheme this past season than anyone else on defense - speaks volumes.
11. I feel a whole lot better about the program this Saturday than I did a few days ago. After reading the widely circulated Mark Schlabach article written after the Belk Bowl victory, I truly began to believe that our biggest problem wasn't X's and O's, but dis-functionality. That, my friends, is a program killer.
12. Alabama might start getting a Sugar Bowl complex. They are now 0-3 for their last 3 trips in the Superdome. If we play them in an SEC Championship next season, perhaps we could petition that the game get moved from Atlanta to New Orleans. Oh, and say what you will about Urban Meyer (yes, he's an ass), but the man can coach. I believe they'll meet their Waterloo when the play Oregon.
13. Florida State got exposed, but there is absolutely no excuse for this. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the 'Noles implode the other day. I'm surprised this didn't happen sooner.
14. Oregon looks like a dominant team at the moment. I assume they'll handle Ohio State. I'd rather see them play TCU. The die has already been cast for an 8-team playoff.
14A. Most folks can remember the names of the teams that played each other thus far in the Bowl Season. Can anyone remember the actual names of the Bowls? I'm having a tough time, too.
15. Back to Pruitt. Now that he's locked up for the next 3 years, I am looking forward to the final signing day tally on the defensive side of the ball. Kids respond to this guy. They want to play for him and be coached by him.
- The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is on ESPN today at 1:00 EST. Bulldog Illustrated has the particulars for you here. If you want to see the future of Georgia football, watch this game on your NBC station. Six verbal commitments, led by big Trenton Thompson who has been dominant in practice, are playing for the East squad.
- What are your thoughts on the current pool of Offensive Coordinator candidates? Might we go internally (Lilly) or is there a shocker out there waiting to take over an absolutely loaded offense in 2015?
- The indoor practice facility looks like it's also being addressed along with improvements to the Sanford Stadium player's facilities. I know Mark Richt put as much diplomatic pressure on Greg McGarity as he could, and President Jere Morehead also had to sign off on this. But to that unnamed booster(s) who picked up the phone and raised some hell, I want to say, "Thank you." You know who you are.
It's been about the strangest season of Georgia football that I can remember. The highs were as high (Clemson, Mizzou, Auburn) as the lows were low ('Sakerlina, Florida and Tech). I hope we never have to deal with another Gurleygate or similar ever. I said that after the A.J. Green jersey thing, too.
We have got to close out the 2015 signing class as intact as possible. I like the quality and character of young men on this team. Is it too much to ask for that the Spring Game roster remain eligible on opening day 2015? After all we have been through this season and a shift in player evaluation now and in the future, I am optimistic.
As Always…GO DAWGS!