UGA recruit Jackson preparing for prep school

Griffin’s Toby Jackson, the only member of Georgia’s incoming recruiting class not to qualify, is disappointed about missing his opportunity to play for the No. 1 team in the nation.

Instead of practicing with the Bulldogs, where he was expected to contribute at defensive end, Jackson has been working out with some high school buddies in preparation for reporting on Friday to Hargrave (Va.) Military Prep.

“I wouldn’t say I’m heart-broken, but it hurts,” Jackson said. “However, I’m happy for the other freshmen and rest of the team. They’ve earned the shot at being No. 1. Hopefully I can take care of what I have to do in prep school and join those guys [at Georgia] in time for bowl practice.”

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Jackson said he has already made the necessary grades, but needs to improve his test scores. He hasn’t had much to do with Georgia since getting the news at the beginning of July that his college career would be delayed.

Jackson hasn’t visited Athens or attended any preseason practices. He talked with a few of the other freshmen recruits in the early summer, but sort of lost contact. However, Georgia coach Mark Richt and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner gave Jackson a pep talk over the telephone last week.

“They just encouraged me, telling me to stay focused and stay hungry,” Jackson said. “They told me to use my time wisely at Hargrave.”

Jackson was arguably Georgia’s most heralded recruit on defense last year, earning the ranking as the country’s No. 5 strongside defensive end by Rivals. He picked the Bulldogs over USC and Miami. Within the last month, Jackson said LSU and Alabama have let him know a scholarship is available if he changes his mind, but he said he is Georgia-bound.

Georgia signed 24 players last year, including Cedar Grove’s Xavier Avery, who opted for professional baseball over football.

– Courtesy of AJC.com

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Georgia Fans, Give Thanks to Mark Richt for Resurrecting UGA Football

Richt Attends Press Conference

Richt Attends Press Conference

The following article is courtesy of Justin Carter at the Bleacher Report (www.bleacherreport.com):

The University of Georgia Bulldogs, along with the Bulldog Nation, should be excited to be ranked at the top of the preseason polls for the first time in school history—but we all know it is not the preseason poll that matters.

One request to those who bleed red and black: Please wait until after the BCS National Championship game before you start running down the street with your pants around your ankles singing “glory glory to ol’ Georgia.”

Trust me—the thought has crossed the minds of many within the Bulldog Nation.

Instead of celebrating something that guarantees little to nothing (the preseason poll), take this time to celebrate the resurrection of Georgia football and give thanks to the man behind the resurrection: Coach Mark Richt.

Times were different before Coach Richt.  UGA fans remember the feeling of being nationally irrelevant.  The feeling of irrelevance was an all too familiar feeling in Athens during the Goff and Donnan eras, but thankfully times have changed.

Yes, Donnan beat the University of Florida once, and Goff headed the attack of “Air Georgia” which was lead by the right arm of Eric Zeier, but neither coach was able to do what Coach Richt has done.

Coach Richt has made Georgia football relevant outside of the South once again.

Expecting to end the season ranked within the top 10, expecting to compete for an SEC Championship, and expecting to play in a BCS bowl game are all expectations that Georgia fans did not have before Coach Richt came to the University of Georgia.

Some may be reluctant to give all of the credit to Coach Richt.  To those people, I ask you to notice the decline of the Florida State football program since the departure of Coach Richt.

Coincidence?  I think not!

Coach Richt is not without flaw, but no coach is flawless.  Mark Richt’s track record as a person and as a coach speaks for itself.  He leads his program based on the same high moral values with which he leads his life.

Georgia fans, be thankful—and do not forget how it felt to be irrelevant.

Fontaine Gets High Marks

Tight End Arthur Fontaine

Tight End Arthur Fontaine

Arthur Fontaine, who committed to Georgia this week, is the No. 5 tight end in the country, according to Rivals.com, but he was the Bulldogs’ No. 1 choice.

Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell, who is based in Connecticut and has seen Fontaine up close, understands why.

“He’s the most complete tight end in the country when it comes to blocking and catching,” Farrell said. “The others are more athletic who are ranked higher, but they’re going to have to learn to block, and Arthur won’t.”

Rivals’ No. 1 tight end, Logan Thomas of Virginia, is a high school quarterback who has never played the position.

Orson Charles, rated No. 4, is faster but lacks size at 6-foot-2, 216. Charles, a teammate of quarterback Aaron Murray, a Georgia commit, also has been recruited by Georgia.

Fontaine, who is 6-5, 240, caught only 10 passes last season and plays in a state not known for its high school football, But he has become a prize recruit based on his work in summer camps.

“He’s a well-rounded, physical, hard-working, typical Northeastern kid who will roll up his sleeves and smack the person in front of him or sneak out into the flat,” Farrell said. “Stealing him away [from Boston College] is a big deal. You don’t get kids out of Massachusetts if BC wants them, usually.”

– Courtesy of AJC.com

Everyone’s Right; It’s All About the Schedule For Georgia

You know the old saying: if you say something enough times, most people will start to believe it.

It often holds true in sports, specifically in college football. For example, some recent conventional wisdom says that Ohio State should be barred from ever playing for the national title again, that players magically shave a few tenths of a second from their 40-yard dash times when they commit to SEC schools, and that Tim Tebow’s bum shoulder caused Florida’s defense to give up 42 points in last year’s loss to Georgia.

None of those things are true, of course, which is why I tend to greet any widely-held off season belief with a healthy amount of skepticism.

Unfortunately for fans of preseason No. 1 Georgia, though, there’s one such opinion I’m having a hard time trying to disprove. That is, on its best day, Georgia might be the best team in the country this year, but a brutal schedule will not allow a chance to prove it in the BCS championship game.

Though the schedule has been discussed ad nauseam this summer, here’s a quick refresher: Five teams ranked in the preseason coaches’ poll, as well as the twenty-sixth- and twenty-seventh-ranked teams, five of them away from home.

I’ve tried to look at this thing from every angle over the last several months, and in this case, conventional wisdom is right on the money. In order to realistically play for a national championship, the Bulldogs would have to go no worse than 11-1 against that schedule and then win a rematch with LSU, Auburn or Alabama in the SEC title game, a feat I’m not willing to predict. (Yes, I’m aware LSU won it all last year with two losses, but judging by 100-plus years of college football history, a two-loss team playing for another national title is much less likely than Georgia running the table this season.)

Plain and simple, the 2008 Georgia Bulldogs would have to be one of the greatest (and luckiest) teams of all time to finish the year with fewer than two losses. It’s not just the number of ranked teams they must play, but the order in which they must play them.

As a longtime college football fan, I’ve found that teams need more than just great players, which Georgia has, to win championships. They need to stay relatively injury-free and catch a few breaks along the way. The Bulldogs know this all too well, as starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant was lost for the season with a knee injury earlier this week.

But it’s hard to stay healthy while playing back-to-back road games against ranked opponents, which allows very little time for recovery. And it’s only natural for a team that’s running on fumes to need some lucky bounces to escape from a tight conference game with a win.

That’s why I expect to see Georgia lose early, once during a three-week run of games at South Carolina, at No. 16 Arizona State, and home against Alabama. The Gamecocks will be breaking in a new quarterback and coming off consecutive games against North Carolina State and Vanderbilt, but if the Bulldogs get past that one, they must take a cross-country flight the next week to take on a Top 25 opponent. Then they’re right back home for another tough conference game.

his is the type of stretch in which injuries begin to pile up and fatigue can take its toll. Depth comes into play, and though Georgia should end the season as one of the deeper teams in the country, it often takes longer than two or three weeks for new contributors to settle into their roles.

And even if the Bulldogs do get through the first eight weeks unbeaten (they also have No. 18 Tennessee at home Oct. 11), there’s that four-week stretch that could be as daunting as any team has ever faced: at No. 6 LSU, versus No. 5 Florida in Jacksonville, at Kentucky, and at No. 11 Auburn. No breaks. No home games. Half of the conference schedule.

I think it’s extremely generous to predict a 3-1 record over those four weeks. Because the games come so late in the season, those teams’ biggest question marks will have long been answered.

LSU’s only potential weakness lies at quarterback, but by the time they face the Bulldogs, the Tigers’ new signal caller will already have faced Auburn, Florida and South Carolina on the road. If Florida sees any improvement from a young defense, it could make a case for being a stronger title contender than Georgia. And Auburn’s new spread offense should be well in place by the twelfth week of the season.

This is not to say Georgia absolutely cannot win the national title more than a few are predicting for them this season. It’s just that, more than any other legitimate contender out there, the Bulldogs are facing an uphill battle.

It’s not enough to be a great team, even if you’re dealing with a weak schedule. You’ve got to have luck on your side.

And looking at their schedule, the Bulldogs might want to think about trading in those black jerseys for a little of Dublin High’s green and gold this year.

So even if it might be foolish to make projections about so many games that, in some cases, are more than three months away, if I was forced to do so, my best guess would be that Georgia ends up as the best three-loss college football team anyone has ever seen.

– Courtesy of the Dublin Courier Herald

5 Reasons Georgia Will Win It All

Article courtesy of Sportingnews.com —

5 Reasons Georgia Will Win It All:

DT Geno Atkins, Jr. Few in the land can play defensive tackle like Atkins. Just don’t expect him to tell you about it. “He’s so quiet that you don’t think he’s focused or into this thing,” says Willie Martinez, Georgia’s defensive coordinator. “But you click on a film, or it’s game day, and he’s right there.” His stats scream superstar: 41 tackles (14 1/2 for loss), 37 hurries and 7 1/2 sacks in 2007.

RB Knowshon Moreno, So. The best tailback in the South, Moreno began his march to greatness with a 188-yard, three-touchdown effort in a victory over Florida last season. “He is the fuse to their offense,” Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown says. He might also be a Heisman Trophy candidate — we’re betting Moreno has big games against Arizona State, LSU and the Gators during Georgia’s championship run.

QB Matthew Stafford, Jr. Stafford (6-3, 237) arrived from Texas with an imposing figure and a heck of a fastball. Over the past two seasons, says an SEC coach, “he has learned how to pitch.” Thanks to better touch on his throws and better decision making, Stafford went from seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2006 to 19 and 10 last season. If those numbers improve further in 2008, watch out.

CB Asher Allen, Jr. For 25 games, Allen had one interception on his resume. Then he picked off Hawaii’s Colt Brennan twice in the Sugar Bowl, showing a flash of the playmaking ability he’ll use to help the Georgia defense this season. A longtime threat as a return man, Allen will cover receivers from South Carolina’s Kenny McKinley to Tennessee’s Lucas Taylor. A few more interceptions against those guys will lift the Dawgs toward a national title.

LB Rennie Curran, So. Curran was a bit player for the first two months of last season. “Then,” defensive coordinator Willie Martinez says, “the coaching staff got smarter and started playing him.” Curran started on the weak side in five of Georgia’s final six games. He collected nine tackles for loss and three sacks and earned a handful of freshman All-American honors. This year, look out — he won’t be scrambling to learn the defense.

The Determination Of The Bulldogs

For the love of God, it was Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt. Yet there were the Bulldogs, jumping up and down like a bunch of lunatics, taunting and trashing the poor saps from Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt.

“There were so many things wrong with that night,” says Georgia coach Mark Richt. “More than anything, it was embarrassing.”

And eye-opening. This is what it had come to last fall at Georgia: After years of building a program in his stoic, steady image, after years of winning championships and doing it all with respect and integrity, Richt found himself grabbing players by their jerseys and yanking them away from the scrum as they jumped up and down on the midfield logo at Vanderbilt Stadium after a last-second victory over a double-digit underdog.

Since when did Georgia, a heavyweight in the big, bad SEC, thump its chest after beating the league’s tomato can with a late field goal? Since when did Georgia, which begins every year with the goal of winning it all, settle for the mediocrity of the moment?

It’s like Tom Brady in a Bentley taunting you in your minivan.

“Looking back at it,” says Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, “it probably wasn’t the right thing to do.”

Looking back, it changed Georgia’s season — it jump-started a talented but wayward team that quickly righted wrongs, won a BCS bowl and now finds itself as the team to beat going into this season. No team is as balanced as Georgia; no team can match its combination of skill players on offense and speed and experience on defense.

After finishing last year as the nation’s No. 2 team, the Dawgs start this fall as a consensus No. 1. And they can thank Vanderbilt.

For months we’ve heard of Georgia’s cathartic victory last year over Florida, about how the Bulldogs finally found themselves in the big rivalry and … blah, blah, blah. That game would mean nothing without the two games that set it up, the two doses of humility that flipped a switch on a suddenly stale team.

It all began on a steamy night in Knoxville, when wounded Tennessee thumped Georgia for the third time in four years. A year before, Georgia had been 5-0 before a blowout loss to the Vols began an ugly 4-4 finish to the season and some internal strife about the direction of the program.

Nine wins at most programs is cause to celebrate. Nine wins at Georgia translates to reflection and recommitment. The four-loss 2006 season — and a loss to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl a year earlier — had one of the nation’s most consistent programs reeling. Richt gave play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and focused more on managing the team.

So last year when the Bulldogs lost at home to South Carolina in Week 2, when Tennessee punked Georgia again, when Richt saw his players dancing — dancing! — after a win over Vanderbilt, the time had come for some serious evaluation. The team that had tanked the previous season was on the verge of doing it again.

“Mark is one of those — what do you call them? — self-realization guys,” says Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, Richt’s mentor and a friend Richt still calls during the season for advice. “Some coaches get so wrapped up in what they’re doing, in doing things their way and not changing, it becomes counterproductive. Part of Mark, I think, was concerned, Could that be happening to me?”

It is here that we introduce Florida week — or as Stafford says, “the week everything changed.” The week Georgia became a complete team because Richt went against everything he believed from the day he started coaching as a graduate assistant at Florida State in the mid-1980s.

Good emotion can fuel a team; bad emotion (see: Vanderbilt) can wreck it. So during the open week before the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party — with Georgia’s psyche still bruised from the loss to Tennessee, the ugly win at Vanderbilt and the reality that the Bulldogs had lost 15 of the past 17 games to the hated Gators — Richt came up with an idea. A contrived, hokey idea to manufacture passion and keep his team emotionally charged for the biggest game of the season.

After Georgia’s first score against Florida, all 11 players on the field were to celebrate and earn a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty — or everyone on the team would be running wind sprints at 6 a.m. Sunday morning in Athens. Seemed easy enough.

“Only somebody in the crowd thought I meant everybody. And everybody went,” Richt says of the Georgia players who flooded onto the field from the sideline. “But when I saw that exuberance, when I saw that energy, when I saw the passion and the fire get unleashed that had been dormant in this football team, I got excited. I got fired up.”

A couple of hours later, Georgia’s shocking 42-30 win featured the most points the Bulldogs had scored in the series since a guy named Herschel ran over the Gators 25 years earlier. A couple of months later — after the Dawgs had reeled off five more wins, including an emasculation of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl — Georgia president Michael Adams publicly demanded a national playoff because — why else? — Georgia got screwed by the confounding BCS.

So now here we are: The Dawgs are everyone’s preseason No. 1, with a quarterback (Stafford) who could develop into the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, a tailback (Knowshon Moreno) who’s a preseason Heisman Trophy favorite and a stout defense that brings back memories of the Junkyard Dawgs from decades ago.

Last year’s team won 11 games with a young offensive line and a quarterback still embracing the subtleties of when to play smart and when to take chances. As Stafford grew up, the offense became more balanced and kept teams from focusing on Moreno. By the time Georgia was resting everyone remotely close to the starting lineup in the fourth quarter of the 41-10 rout of Hawaii, expectations for this fall had begun to soar.

It’s a simple formula, really: Sixteen starters return — nine from a top 15 defense — for what will be the best team in the nation’s best conference.

Though, the Bulldogs will have to play without left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in a scrimmage on Monday. The sophomore will undergo reconstructive surgery next week and might need a full year of rehab.

But if the BCS controversy of the past two seasons means anything, it’s good to be the lead Dawg in the SEC.

Florida edged out Michigan to gain access to the BCS national title game in 2006 and then won it all. A year later, LSU nudged out every two-loss team on the planet to earn a spot in the national championship game and, of course, has the Waterford crystal to prove it.

“If you can navigate this league,” LSU coach Les Miles says, “you’ve got a pretty good chance to be playing in that big game at the end of the season.”

What a quick ascent it has been for Georgia: from a team teetering on East Division irrelevance in the SEC to a team expected to make it to the national title game. Doesn’t matter that Georgia likely has the toughest schedule in the nation. Or that the Dawgs will travel west of the Mississippi for a nonconference regular-season game (Arizona State) for the first time since 1967.

Or that since January, Georgia has had eight players arrested (six suspended) in what has become an embarrassing side story during what should be a glorious time. Forget that only one starter has been suspended (guard Clint Boling for one game) — the underlying theme is one of uncertainty at the worst possible moment.

Sound familiar? Only this time, SEC punching bag Vandy isn’t around to cure the ills.

“The reputation of this team has been damaged, no question,” Richt says. “There’s no way you can say it hasn’t been a distraction.”

A distraction, yes. A deterrent? Hardly. No Georgia team has begun a season ranked No. 1 in any poll. No Georgia team in decades has had this much talent — from linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to shutdown cornerback Asher Allen to backup tailback Caleb King, a freshman bruiser who played so well in the spring that Richt says he will find a way to get Moreno and King in the backfield at the same time.

This team proved a year ago it can make everything all right at the moment it seems so wrong.

“Things happen for a reason,” says senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens. “Go back to last year, and we shouldn’t have been dancing on Vanderbilt’s ‘V.’ Shoot, we probably shouldn’t have been dancing against Florida. But what’s done is done.”

But it most certainly isn’t. There’s one game that sticks out on Georgia’s brutal schedule, a schedule that includes road games against Arizona State, South Carolina, LSU and Auburn. Maybe it’s best if Florida coach Urban Meyer — whose Gators are among a handful of teams who will challenge for the national title — explains.

“It was uncalled for,” Meyer said this summer of Georgia’s end zone celebration.

In his autobiography Urban’s Way, due out in September, he explains in detail: “It was a bad deal. It will forever be in the mind of Urban Meyer and our football team. We’ll handle it, and it’s going to be a big deal.”

Or, as Florida offensive tackle Phil Trautwein says, “What goes around comes around.”

What’s done is done, all right.

What’s yet to come is even better.

– Courtesy of SportingNews.com

O-Line Aftermath

The offensive line isn’t deterred by the uncertainty of life without Trinton Sturdivant.

Center Chris Davis and right tackle Kiante Tripp spoke solemnly about the loss of Sturdivant, Georgia’s left tackle who sustained a season-ending knee injury on Monday.

“Great teams have adversity and we got to find a way to fight through the adversity,” Davis said. “Somebody’s got to step up and fill in.”

There is still no clear-cut favorite on who will take on the responsibility. The offensive line visited Sturdivant in the training room after he went down during Monday’s practice.

“We all went into the training room and gave him a hug and told him we were thinking about him, and I think that brought us together closer,” Davis said.

Sturdivant protected Stafford’s blind side all last season, but Stafford said he isn’t concerned.

The Bulldogs practiced four players at left tackle Tuesday: Josh Davis, who was Sturdivant’s backup; junior Vince Vance, the current starter at left guard; Clint Boling, who started at right guard as a true freshman last season; and starting right tackle Kiante Tripp.

“You got to trust whoever’s in there no matter who they are,” Stafford said.

Davis and Tripp both said they would make the switch to left tackle if the coaches needed them to.

With the potential shuffling, Cordy Glenn is currently No. 1 at right guard but could move to right tackle if Georgia decides to move Tripp to the left side.

Glenn could not share his input because offensive line coach Stacy Searels does not allow true freshman to speak to the media. But Davis and Tripp have been impressed with how quickly he has gelled with the team.

“He’s shown good steps and good initiative to get better,” Davis said. “Honestly I didn’t expect him to jump to a starting roll but he’s come into camp and he’s worked his butt off. He’s earned everything he’s gotten.”

– Courtesy of AJC.com