Pruitt Changing My Mind On Indoor Practice Facility

One of the topics that gets beaten worse than a dead horse is Georgia’s lack of an indoor practice facility.  Vanderbilt has one.  It hasn’t helped them with wins and losses.

Florida has been pretty successful over the last decade without one.

Georgia hasn’t not won a national championship because of lacking an IPF.

The recruiting hasn’t suffered much because of the lack of one.

Everyone just needs to get over it.

But…if Jeremy Pruitt wants one, then by George, build the man one.  Build him two.


The End Of The Muschamp Era

When some monumental event occurs in your life, you remember exactly where you were.

I remember where I was the day I heard that Will Muschamp was hired.

For several years after we got married, my wife and I got together with another married couple around Christmas.  We would go to their house and have a dinner and exhange small presents.  These friends lived in Athens, and we decided that we would take a trip to the Mall of Georgia and have dinner and do some Christmas shopping.  Having to fight the crowds was much more tolerable with friends than going it alone.

After a day of fighting the crowds, we decided to eat a nice dinner and forego the food court, though a good food court is hard to beat.  We were eating some Bang Bang Shrimp at Bonefish near the Mall of Georgia, and the 2010 Heisman Trophy Celebration was on the bar TV.  I was going to the bathroom and walked by the TV, and I saw the breaking news.  Then during dinner my phone started blowing up.

I thought, “Wow!  What a great hire by Florida.  This means trouble for UGA.”

My mindset at the time was Georgia was 6-6 with an embattled head coach.  Florida just hired probably the best assistant coach at the time.

I’m glad to be wrong.

I found out Muschamp was fired while driving home Sunday morning.  My wife as on Facebook and said, “Will Muschamp was fired this morning.”  My response?

“Oh, Ok.  What’s for lunch?”

Muschamp was a flop as a head coach, but was definitely the right hire at the time.  Like we say about our situation in Athens, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.  Sometimes the next big thing isn’t what it is all cracked up to be. Muschamp will be a defensive coordinator at a high-profile job soon…and he will become a head coach again at another BCS Power 5 Conference school.

When that day comes, he needs to evaluate what went wrong at Florida.

First, what went right.  He is a phenomenal defensive mind, and clearly can bring in high level defensive talent.  Florida’s SEC rank in total defense while Muschamp was at Florida:

2011: 5th

2012: 2nd

2013: 2nd

2014: 4th

But what went wrong.  Florida was consistently the most (or near the bottom) penalized team in the SEC during Muschamp’s tenure.  That is a reflection of their head coach.  The man is a maniac on the sidelines.  You can’t expect your players to play with discipline if your coach doesn’t have any.  And the offense was, well, offensive.  Here are SEC rankings for penalty YPG and scoring offense:

2011: 12th(out of 12); 60 ypg……..8th; 26 ppg

2012: 14th; 69 ypg………….10th; 27 ppg

2013: 14th; 59 ypg…………14th; 18 ppg

2014:  12th; 58 ypg……….9th; 29 ppg

Hey, give Boom credit for something.  The Florida offense actually had improved this year.

It will be interesting to see where Muschamp lands.  Since he is going to be getting paid big bucks, he can afford to  be picky.



Ending the Game Strong

Georgia got the ball on their own 2 yard line after Amarlo Herrera intercepted Nick Marshall’s pass on 4th down.

The clock said 11:25 in the 4th quarter as Georgia’s offense hit the field with a 20 point lead.

11 plays (10 runs) and 6:34 later, Nick Chubb walked in the end zone to ice the game and extend the lead to 34-7.

One thing this Georgia team can do, as it has shown the last couple of years, is end the game.

Think back to 2013…against South Carolina and Florida, Georgia got the ball back with about 8 minutes left in each of those games, and never gave it back.

The Auburn defense was tired.  It was a methodical drive. Gurley’s last great Georgia run was a 31 yard run on 3rd down that gave Georgia the ball near midfield.  Gurley got 5 carries on that drive;  Chubb got 5 carries as well.

Also, don’t forget about the Clemson game this season.  Georgia was holding on to a narrow 3 point lead going into the 4th quarter.  It scored 21 unanswered in the final frame.

This team knows how to close the deal.

Also, I want to get this out there, too.  For anyone who complains that Gurley shouldn’t have been in the ball game that late, you don’t know what you are talking about.  Sure, it is easy to second guess.  But Auburn has an explosive offense and a penchant for luck, so you didn’t want them to get momentum and score quickly.  Georgia did what they needed to do, and what we clamour for them to do more often: step on a team’s throat at the end of the game.  Don’t be ignorant, or stupid.


Thoughts On Auburn

A few thoughts on a glorious gameday in Athens…


-Three of the biggest plays of the game didn’t count for anything, but got the crowd ramped up.  I said if Gurley takes his first kick off to the house, the place would come unglued.  I saw the hole open up and he was gone.  Unfortunately, the penalty negated it.  When I saw the flag, I stopped roaring and started cussing, but the electric play still got the fans excited.  The fake punt was the same way.  It was a ballsy play call that showed Georgia was playing to win the game.  Finally, the screen pass that Chubb stepped out-of-bounds on was an awesome run. He lowered his shoulder and delivered the boom.

-The crowd was awesome.  When our fans are committed to creating an electric environment, Sanford Stadium is a great sports venue.  Wish it happened more often.

-Evil Richt > Agressive Richt > Passive Richt.  When Richt coaches to win and not to lose, he is at his best.  I wish we saw this more often, too.

-Mason would have had a monster day if his receivers could have caught the ball.

-I knew Auburn was in trouble when, and I can’t remember exactly the time this happened without looking it up, but they threw the ball on three straight plays to go three and out.  It happened early in the game.  It showed they were taken out of their gameplan.

-Speaking of Auburn….I still think they are a very good team.  The grind of the SEC just caught up to them.  But Malzahn, and I’ve said this before, can’t seem to make good adjustments as the game goes on.  The first series they scored.  When he gets off the script, the in-game adjustments aren’t there.  It hasn’t been as bad as it was when he was the coordinator for Chizik, but we saw that again on Saturday.

-Our offensive line is playing as well as it has since probably 2005 or 2006.

-I’m sure I’ll go more into this later, but it just really, really sucks for Gurley.  Can’t say anything else about it.

-I’m going to say what you all are thinking, but because it hurts too bad, I am only going to say it once:  how in the hell did we lose to Florida?  WTF.

-The irony of Herrara getting an interception when he just should have dropped the ball was not lost on me.

A few more things to talk about later but Saturday was a complete day.  Great tailgating, saw some old friends who I haven’t seen in while, and the Dawgs capped off a great weekend with an awesome performance.

Go Dawgs!



Stopping Auburn: Think Tech

A few parting thoughts on this brisk Friday morning.

Auburn’s offense reminds me a lot of Georgia Tech’s option offense.  A lot of misdirection with receivers going in motion and what not, and the threat of the pass.  Nick Marshall will give it to the sweep guy, to Cameron Artis-Payne, keep it, or throw it deep.

Very similar to the Paul Johnson’s triple option, just with better athletes and more competent coaching.

Auburn doesn’t throw it a lot-in fact, they are last in the SEC in pass attempts with 216.  Florida, Georgia and LSU only have fewer pass attempts, just to give you some context.  Auburn’s passing yards per game is 220; Georgia is 196.

Where Auburn gets teams in trouble is their passing game, though.  It is the opposite of Georgia.  Auburn will run the ball, run the ball, fake the sweep, run it some more, then BOOM!  hit a big pass over the top to Sammie Coates.   Auburn has 9 passing plays of 40+ yards.  That is 3rd most in the SEC, behind Kentucky, Texas AM and Alabama.  Coates does his damage on 2nd down, with half of his 20 receptions coming on 2nd down.  Of his 10 2nd down receptions, 4 have gone for 15+ yards, and 4 have gone for 25+ yards.

So Auburn isn’t going to throw the ball much.  But they can be dangerous in the passing game, with Marshall throwing it up, and are their most dangerous on 2nd down.  Auburn has 796 of their 1984 passing yards-40%- on 2nd down.  A good chunk of those yards are Coates’.

So the key for stopping Auburn and the explosive play will be for Georgia’s defense to win 1st down.  If Auburn has success running the ball on 1st down-and they average 6.23 ypc in that situation-then it opens up the play action deep pass.

If Auburn gets into a situation where they are having to throw it when they have to, not when they want to, their offense isn’t nearly as effective.

Georgia needs to focus on Auburn’s running game and play disciplined, assignment football.  Just like they do against Georgia Tech.

In the years Malzahn has been associated with Auburn-2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013-let’s take a look on how Georgia has also done against Tech.

2009-Auburn: 24 points; Tech: 24 points

2010-Auburn 49 points; Tech 34 points

2011:  Auburn 7 points; Tech 17 points

2013: Auburn 43 points; Tech 34 points (2OT)

Georgia has superior athletes to Tech, and probably about even to Auburn.  But the key to stopping Tech is being disciplined.  The times the Georgia defense has been successful against Tech, they have been successful against Auburn, too.

One thing that can help Georgia are penalties.  Auburn is dead last in the SEC in penalties, and it ain’t even close.  Auburn is flagged for 68 yards per game.  Seeing how this is a night game, the first time in 6 weeks the Dawgs have been at home, and the first time in 3 years Auburn has come here, the crowd should be raucous.  A rowdy crowd could cause Auburn to make some mistakes and get put in unfavorable down and distance situations.

If Auburn is having their way against us on the ground on 1st down, we are going to be in for a long night.


Full Support For Coach Richt

I wanted to go ahead and get this out there before the Auburn game, because depending on the outcome of the game, the following statement could be construed as a knee-jerk reaction:

I fully support Mark Richt as coach at UGA and think he is the man for the job.

If you are a frequent reader of the Grit Tree, this sentence should come as no surprise to you. I’ve been as ardent of a Richt supporter there is. However, even I have been rattled. I guess everyone goes through these sort of things. I was wavering on if I thought it was time for Richt to go.

It wasn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to the Florida game, either (and no, this isn’t a response to whipping Kentucky). I had these thoughts since the end of last season. My internal conflict intensified, not after the South Carolina game, but after the Tennessee and Vanderbilt games. After Missouri and Arkansas, I was like everyone else in America, praising Coach Richt. But after the Florida game I was near despondent. I have never broken up with a serious girlfriend. My wife is my college sweetheart. Wanting to part ways with Coach Richt was the closest thing I knew about a breakup.

It was the aftermath of the Florida game, when I saw all the negativity out there on the internet and on Twitter, that strengthened my resolve. I was in a low place, but after some time to think, I snapped out of it. Here are my responses to the often-cited criticisms:

Mark Richt doesn’t care about winning, and he isn’t enough of a competitor.

Of all the complaints, this is the biggest BS one of them all. The man doesn’t put in the hours, the years of coaching in the SEC if you don’t have a competitive spirit. Just because he doesn’t make a jackass of himself on the sideline, like Will Muschamp, it doesn’t he mean he doesn’t care.

I mean, for crying out loud, the man had to have hip replacement surgery a couple of years ago. He was in intense pain as he walked up and down the sideline. Coach Richt has made plenty of money, and could make plenty of money if he ever decided to go into another field, TV or another coaching job. If he wanted to become a missionary, he could do so.

Clearly, he wants to coach, and he wants to win.

Oh, and ask Penn Wagers if Mark Richt is a docile and passive coach.

Mark Richt will never put Georgia in a position to win a National Championship.

I’ve tried this exercise before, but humor me again.

Which of the following teams were more deserving to play for a BCS National Championship?

Team A: Beat teams who had a combined record of 78-62 before the bowl game, had one loss to a 8-5 team by 7 points. Beat 4 teams who finished in AP top 25.

Team B: Beat teams who had a combined record of 60-69 before the bowl game, had one loss to an 8-5 team by 7 points. Beat 4 teams finished in the AP Top 25.

Both of the above teams won the SEC Championship with 1 loss. Team A is UGA in 2002. Team B is LSU in 2003. The only difference? Outside circumstances dictated who played for it all. Yes, even the great and almighty Nick Saban has needed a little bit of luck to win the National Title.

Saban did go undefeated in 2009. But his 2003 team needed help. His 2011 team needed help, and I still argue that Oklahoma State should have played LSU for it all. His 2012 team needed a lot of help to get back in the conversation, though give the Crimson Tide credit for winning the SEC Championship that year.  Georgia was finally the same recipient of luck in 2012, and just couldn’t quite get it done in Atlanta. While the loss to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game was disappointing and heartbreaking, I certainly wouldn’t call it damning.

How many times have we all said, “If there was a playoff in the Richt era, Georgia would have a National Championship?” In the current format, the 2002, 2007 and the 2012 teams would have certainly made the playoff. Maybe even the 2005 team.

Georgia has been to Atlanta 5 times in Richt’s 13 seasons, and are a win Saturday from probably making that 6 times in 14.

Sure, I’m as disappointed as you are about not winning a SEC Championship since 2005. I cringe when I see the talent we have had over the years, and all the Dawgs making contributions in the NFL, and have those players not help Georgia win it all.

But the criteria for winning it all has changed. Sure Richt couldn’t win the National Title under the old criteria. But don’t you think we should see how this new playoff structure plays out before we start jumping to conclusions?

Georgia could hire another coach and they could come in and win a National Title immediately.

Let’s go back to 2001. The following coaches have played for a National Title, with bold representing a win:

Larry Coker, Frank Solich, Jim Tressell, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban (3), Pete Carroll, Mack Brown, Urban Meyer (2), Les Miles, Gene Chizik, Chip Kelly, Brian Kelly, Gus Malzahn, Jimbo Fisher.

This is a very exclusive list…somewhat.   Ask yourself, is Nick Saban walking through the door at Butts-Mehre? Is Les Miles? Urban Meyer? Pete Carroll? Do you want Jim Tressell, Bob Stoops, or Mack Brown? Chip Kelly isn’t coming. Neither is Gus Malzahn. I don’t want Frank Solich or Jimbo Fisher.

Everyone after 2010 was saying, “Dan Mullen should be the next head coach.” Of course, now that looks good. No one in their right mind after 2012 would dare say Dan Mullen over Richt.

At one point, I thought Kyle Fitzgerald at Northwestern would be good. Same with Al Golden. I think that has proven to be incorrect.

The point is, it is cyclical. After 2010, Georgia fans would have loved to see Gary Patterson be the head coach in Athens. After 2013, after TCu went 7-6 and 4-8, Patterson wasn’t the trendy name. He is now.

Consistency is the key. Georgia has been close many times, could be really close now with a playoff. For every Auburn example, I say look at Tennessee or Alabama. Alabama went 10 years from the end of Gene Stallings before Nick Saban came in. They suffered through Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula. 4 head coaches in 10 seasons. Alabama had 5 losing seasons during that time period, and several other 7-5 or so.

Be careful what you wish for.

Georgia’s record versus ranked teams is bad, therefore the program is trending downward.

The best sports talk radio host in the history of the medium, Bill Shanks, was going through Richt’s record versus ranked opponents since 2008. He said that since the record was mediocre, therefore the program was on the decline. Going by his criteria-teams that were ranked at the time Georgia played them, I calculated that Georgia is 12-19 since 2008. Why choose 2008 as your arbitrarily assigned starting point?

The reason I ask that is Georgia wasn’t very good at all in 2008-2010. Georgia went 8-5 in 2009 and 6-7 in 2010. The point is, Georgia didn’t had a hard time winning period during that time, regardless if the team was ranked or not. They did not have good teams, period.

I’ve said before that 2009 was the last year of the “old” Coach Richt, and 2010 began the career of “new Coach Richt”. Recruiting has improved in the past 4 years, administrative changes have been made, and Richt has made changes to his coaching staff.

Against ranked opponents, Georgia did as follows: 2008, 3-3; 2009, 1-3; 2010, 0-3: 2011, 2-4; 2012, 2-2; 2013, 2-3; 2014, 2-1.

I think it is unfair to judge the 2014 team based on the sins of the 2008, 2009, and 2010 teams. In the past three seasons, 2012-present, Georgia is 6-6 versus ranked teams. In the past two seasons, Georgia is 4-4 versus ranked teams. And this year, Georgia is 2-1 versus ranked teams.

If you are being fair, you can’t be too critical of the 2013 team and the coaching job there. The team that started the season obviously wasn’t the team that finished the year.

2010 was the low point, but the program has been on the upward path since then.

In conclusion, there are things that Coach Richt does that drives me bonkers. He is not perfect, and not immune to criticism. Can we complain? Sure. Can we be critical? Of course. Should we have the torches and pitch forks on standby after every single loss? Absolutely not.

Things were bad a few years ago. Things are getting better. Coaching is there. Coordinators are there. Recruiting is there.

But he is a fine coach, and I think we are should stick with Coach Richt, warts and all, to lead us on to bigger and better things. If things turn south again, like in 2008-2010, then we may have to revisit this conversation.

But for now, be patient. Stick with it.







Neat Stories About Two WWII Vets

I lost my grandmother this past spring.  She was 88 years young, and was the last of my surviving grandparents.  All four of my grandparents grew up in hard times during the Great Depression.

As we remember the Veterans today, remember the ones who stayed at home.  I love a good History Channel documentary, especially one about WWII.  There was a particularly good one this past spring called The World Wars.  What gets lost in these great documentaries about these colorful personalities and the soldiers who went around the world to fight are the stories of the women who stayed at home.  We all know Rosie the Riveter, but really the women who stayed back, sacrificed for the war effort, worked in the factories, etc…they are the heroes, too.

Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII and served in the Pacific Theater.  They grew up not far from one another in rural Northeast Alabama, probably no more than 30 miles from each other.  Didn’t have a clue who each other was.  When my mom and dad started dating in the late 1960s, my grandpas sat around and talked.  They were talking about a battle, and soon they realized that they were on the same island at the same time, stationed just a few miles apart from one another.

Two poor farm boys from Alabama literally went all around the world.  Didn’t know each other at the time, but some 20+ years later, they reconnected when their children met in Chattanooga.

I just think that is pretty cool.



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