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July 27, 2015

The Coach Comes Around

Although I occasionally question its programming, the SEC Network's latest 30-second coaches commercial set to Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around" is outstanding. However, after seeing the commercial for the 100th timeand, that's just in the last few daysI decided the terrific tune needed a change of scenery, so to speak.

Here's my video compilation of Georgia football's last four head coaches with a heavy emphasis on the current head Bulldog of them all, and the program's most legendary, plus a couple of notable assistants, and the Man in Black in the background:

July 14, 2015

Funny, What A Touchdown Will Do

At Clemson in 1985, Peter Anderson spots what 
would be his once-in-a-lifetime touchdown
something he could tell his grandchildren about. 
I was really happy to hear one of my favorite Bulldogs from my youth, center Peter Anderson (1982-1985), was recently chosen for induction into the UGA Circle of Honor.

Nicknamed the "Bell Cow" by Vince Dooley because he was "the one [offensive lineman] with experience and the one guy who keeps everybody going," according to the head coach prior to the start of the '84 season, Anderson was a leader and the "glue" which held together a couple of rather inexperienced offensive lines in 1984 and 1985, both of which emerged as reputable units. I was also fond of Anderson because he hailed from, of all places, New Jersey. As a kid who had barely seen outside the state of Georgia, I thought any Bulldog from such a faraway state had to be pretty cool. 

But, what really captivated me, along with other Bulldog enthusiasts of the time, about Anderson was a freakish scoring play he executed 30 years ago at ClemsonBesides a lineman scoring a receiving touchdown, perhaps the most infrequent manner in which a Bulldog has tallied points is when a lineman has scored a "rushing" touchdown, which can only occur if he first happens to recover a teammate's fumble. The accidental touchdown play is so rare, it has occurred only five times, all scored by different Bulldogs including Anderson, during the modern era of Georgia football, or for the last 75 years. 

A video compilation of these five once-in-a-lifetime touchdowns, and a description of each below:

JOHN JENNINGS (1971 vs. Ole Miss)
Against the Rebels in Jackson, Miss., Georgia tailback Ricky Lake broke off a first-quarter, 5-yard run from the host's 44-yard line, but was suddenly blindsided by a defender as he attempted to break a tackle.  The ball popped up in the air and into the awaiting arms of senior left guard John Jennings, who later said he wasn't even sure if it was legal for him to run with the ball. But, run he did, scoring on a 39-yard rumble for the first score of what would eventually be a 38-7 rout by Georgia over Ole Miss. Jennings, who was nicknamed "Pie Face" by animated teammate Bobby Poss, claimed he had never signed so many autographs when the Bulldogs' plane later landed in Athens after the game, adding, "Funny, what a touchdown will do."

"I have to believe it's an NCAA record for number of yards by an offensive guard on a touchdown run," said Dooley the following week. "I've never seen anything like it in football." Nor has anyone seen anything like it in UGA football ever since as the once-in-a-lifetime touchdown by Jennings, or what was dubbed the "Pie Face Pitch," has remained the only one of its kinda "rushing" touchdown by an offensive lineman where the Bulldog actually ran with the ball.

MIKE WILSON (1975 vs. Kentucky)
After trailing 10-0, Georgia scored 13 consecutive points against the Wildcats in Athens, and then proceeded to recover a third-quarter fumble in Kentucky territory. Eight plays later, quarterback Ray Goff ran a keeper from the 4-yard line, fumbling just shy of the goal line into the end zone. "I thought Goff had scored," said junior left tackle Mike Wilson who, like Jennings, was also a "pie," "Moon Pie," as nicknamed by teammates, "but the ball popped out and I fell on it." Scoring what he believed was his first touchdown playing organized football, Wilson made perhaps the most critical play of the game in what eventually ended in a close 21-13 win for Georgia. After the victory, the first-timer had a bit of valuable information to share: "Us linemen don't get to handle the ball too much, you know." 

PETER ANDERSON (1985 vs. Clemson)
Trailing Clemson 13-10 in the fourth quarter of the third game of the '85 season, the Bulldogs' faced 2nd-and-4 from the Tigers' 6-yard line. Keith Henderson was given the ball on a dive, and it squirted out of the fullback's grasp at the 3-yard line and into the end zone. Center Peter Anderson came off his block, looked around, and spotted the ball sitting in front of tight end Troy Sadowski, who was oblivious to the lost ball. "I wasn't about to give it up," said Anderson, who dove on the fumble for the touchdown. "That's one I'll tell my grandchildren about," added Anderson following a 20-13 Bulldog win. "That's an offensive lineman's dream."

After 22 seasons of Dooley choosing the team's permanent captain at the end of each year, the head coach made an exception in 1985, selecting Anderson as the team captain midway through the season. Such an honor is another distinction Anderson can tell his grandchildren about, and one you can bet was partly bestowed early because of his end-zone alertness at Death Valley.
JON STINCHCOMB (2002 vs. Auburn)
A win over Auburn in '02 would signify a trip for Georgia to the SEC title game for the first time; however, the Bulldogs trailed 14-3 at halftime, and it actually should have been by a greater margin. Incensed, fifth-year senior and starting left tackle Jon Stinchcomb, who was the team's offensive captain for the game, gave his teammates a stirring motivational speech in the locker room at the half. The pep talk proved to be powerful, evidently even inspiring the speaker, whose awareness to pounce on quarterback David Greene's fumble into the end zone late in the third for a touchdown when trailing 21-10 would provide the winning margin of a 24-21 victory for the Bulldogs.    

According to Greene in my book, GAME OF MY LIFE Georgia Bulldogs: "From Auburn’s 4-yard line, I kept the ball on a quarterback draw but fumbled into the end zone just prior to reaching the goal line.  Fortunately for me, one of our linemen, Jon Stinchcomb, who was my roommate at the time, jumped on my fumble for a touchdown. After the game, I jokingly said that I fumbled purposely to allow my roommate to score a touchdown: I didn’t want to take all the glory myself (laughing)."

NICK JONES (2003 vs. Auburn)
During a scoreless, first-quarter affair at Georgia Tech in 2003, the Bulldogs were at it again, executing for the second time in just a little over a year one of the more unconventional ways of scoring a touchdown. This time, it was true-freshman center Nick Jones recovering the fumble for the score, but the fumbler was the same as beforequarterback David Greene, who coughed it up between the 1- and 2-yard lines. "I like to spread the wealth a little bit," said Greene of his end-zone fumble following a 34-17 win over the Yellow Jackets. "Sometimes I'll just roll the ball out there for them."

Worthy of mention, consider that Greene, arguably the greatest signal caller in UGA football history, is responsible for two of the mere three rushing touchdowns by Bulldog offensive linemen in which a quarterback "rolled the ball out there." In addition, Greene rarely "spread the wealth," fumbling just twiceone recovered by the opponent, one by Georgiain the 15 games between his end-zone fumbles for touchdowns against the Tigers and Jackets.  

Perhaps even more notably is the inconsistent manner in which UGA officially (statistically) recorded the five unusual touchdowns. Rightfully, Jennings, Wilson, and Stinchcomb are credited with a rushing touchdown, and the number of rushing yards where the fumble was lost (39, 1, and 1, respectively) on no rushing attempts. Jones is credited with a rushing touchdown on no attempt, but in gaining no yards (when it should be a gain of 1 or 2 yards). Whereas Anderson's score, which should have been credited as 3 rushing yards and a touchdown on zero rushing attempts, was curiously not even recorded in the rushing totals, but simply recognized as a touchdown of the "other" variety. 

About the only thing consistent with all five touchdowns is winning; the Bulldogs are a perfect 5-0 when the freakish but fortunate play occurs. Therefore, as Erk Russell would say, and Brad Nessler restated, indeed, I'd rather be lucky than good.

July 1, 2015

All in the Family

I recently returned home from a week-long vacation with my wife's family, whereupon my side of the family held a weekend-long family reunion of sorts. And, if there was one thing I noticed, and such an observation is likely just another sign of me aging, as they say, the apple certainly doesn't fall far from the tree.  

I'm guessing it's like this with all families, but whether by way of actions, behaviors, mannerisms, etc., it is rather remarkable how much alike children are to their parents, and even to extended family members.

While on vacation, an intriguing article was brought to my attention regarding eight African-American brothers surnamed "Chubb" settling near Cave Spring, Georgia, as illegal slaves and before the Civil War. Yet, despite all of the obstacles they must have faced, within the next 20 years, the brothers and their families had established their very own community, Chubbtown.

And, you can probably guess what current Bulldog (photo) is a descendant of those eight determined brothers. 

Seeing Nick being mentioned in the article reminded me of the connection in characteristics between family membersmy family and othersand the compelling and notable connection Chubb shares with several other of his fellow descendants.

The Chubb Football Family:

HENRY CHUBB, Nick's father
Hailing from Cave Spring, "big" Henry starred for the Darlington School in Rome as a high schooler. After being named Honorable Mention All-State as a senior in 1979the first Tiger running back to be recognized as such in the school's historyHenry attended and played football at the Marion (Ala.) Military Institute under head coach Jim Goodman. After two years, he followed Goodman back to Georgia to be part of Valdosta State's first football program (photo). In 1982 and 1983, the first two seasons of Blazer football, Henry led Valdosta State in rushing each year, totaling 1,143 yards on 221 carries (5.2 avg.). 

AARON CHUBB, Nick's father's cousin
Aaron, a few years younger than cousin Henry from relatively nearby Rockmart, was also named Honorable Mention All-State as a high school senior (1983)the only Rockmart HS player over an eight-season span (1980-1987) to be recognized as such. Aaron became a mainstay on Georgia's defense beginning as a redshirt freshman in 1985 (photo). From then through 1988, he started two seasons at defensive end and his senior year at outside linebacker, totaling 251 tackles, including 16 for loss (five sacks), while breaking up nine passes. Aaron ended his career ranked in the top 20 in Bulldog history in career tackles. Drafted in the 12th round by the New England Patriots in 1989, he was one of just three Georgia linebackers drafted into the NFL during the decade of the 1980s (by comparison, three Bulldog linebackers were selected in the 2013 draft alone). 

HENRY CHUBB II, Nick's half brother
"Little" Henry, or Henry II and Nick's older brother from a previous marriage by their father, was a two-way standout for Ware County HS at quarterback and defensive back. As a senior in 2004, he was recognized as a First-Team All-State defender. Playing for Troy University in 2005 and 2006 (photo), including starting at cornerback as a sophomore, Henry totaled 44 tackles, 1.5 sacks, intercepted a pass, and forced a fumble. After transferring to Georgia Southern in 2007, he was limited to two games, but totaled six tackles, an interception, and forced a fumble. Since his playing days, Henry has coached football and track on the high school level, and was also a football assistant at Birmingham-Southern College. 

ZACH CHUBB, Nick's brother
Two years older than Nick, Zach initially was the trigger for his younger brother's uncanny determination, according to their mother, Lavelle. Later, with Zach at quarterback and Nick at running back, the dynamic duo combined for more than 2,850 rushing yards and 34 rushing touchdowns in 2011, leading Cedartown HS to its first playoff appearance and winning record in nearly a decade. As a senior that season, Zach earned 7-AAA All-Region honors, totaling 1,542 yards and 15 touchdowns of total offense. Since signing with the Air Force Academy out of high school in 2012, Zach has been somewhat limited with injury, while seeing time with the program's JV team, Air Force Prep (photo), at defensive back. 

BRANDON CHUBB, Nick's distant cousin
Brandon, the oldest son of Aaron and a year older than distant cousin Zach, is entering his fifth-year senior season of 2015 at Wake Forest (photo). Playing for Hillgrove HS in Powder Springs, Brandon earned first team All-Region 5-5A and first team All-Cobb County honors at linebacker as a senior in 2011. Choosing Wake Forest over Central Florida, UAB, Air Force, and Appalachian State, he has tallied 219 combined tackles in three seasons (2012-2014), including two years as a starter for the Demon Deacons. Also, Brandon has recorded 10.5 tackles for loss, five passes defended, and two forced fumbles. An All-ACC honorable mention selection last season, he is another "Chubb" besides Nick who enters 2015 as a preseason all-conference honoree.  

BRADLEY CHUBB, Nick's distant cousin
Bradley, Brandon's younger brother by three years, was the second-highest rated recruit  (3-star prospect according to Rivals) of the younger Chubbs (behind 4-star Nick) coming out of high school. At Hillgrove HS, Bradley was considered one of the top 50 outside linebackers in the nation according to, choosing NC State over the likes of Iowa and Georgia Tech. As a true freshman last season, he played primarily on special teams and sparingly at linebacker, recording only four tackles. However, entering 2015, Bradley will likely start at one of the Wolfpack's two defensive end positions. 

And, remarkably, there's more...

Nine-year-old Harlem Diamond, who hails from Cedartown, was rated a year ago by the National Sports Report as the No. 1 youth (9 and under) football player in the entire country. At one point, the youngster was averaging roughly a staggering four touchdowns and 12 tackles per game. Harlem is the son of his head coach, Jamey Diamond, the 1999 state 2-A Defensive Player of the Year as a linebacker at Cedartown HS and a signee at Middle Georgia College. 

And, the Diamonds are kin to the Chubbs, proving sometimes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree even when that tree has some extended branches. 

June 19, 2015

When Perhaps 'Four's a Crowd,' and Certainly 'Five'

Even with the 85-scholarship limit, Georgia 
has demonstrated perhaps four scholarship 
QBs is one too many, and certainly five.
My blogging hiatus due to an overload of "real" work has ended—for now. And, it's good to be back blogging about the Bulldogs, coming on the heels of what has to be the most unique, late-preseason quarterback carousel in the history of UGA football: first, Georgia native Greyson Lambert decided to leave Virginia and committed to becoming a Bulldog, followed by Jacob Park apparently deciding to leave the program last week. Still, the next day, it was reported Park's decision to leave was not a "done deal," only to be announced the following day that he indeed was transferring.  

Yet, amidst the confusing comings and goings of Georgia signal callers, what I was most intrigued with were comments made by Park's high school coach, Ray Stackley, as the quarterback was supposedly being pursued by Bulldog coaches, who were attempting to persuade Park to stay, and not transfer.

According to Stackley, Georgia "definitely" wanted Park to stay and were "excited by his talent." Also, in speaking with Park's parents, who had spoken with Coach Richt, Stackley said, "[The parents] tell me [the Bulldogs] definitely don't want to lose [Park]. [The coaches are] trying to talk him into staying. They want to keep him around."

If what Stackley said was entirely accurate, and there's no reason to think otherwise, I wonder "why"? I observed Jacob Park throughout spring practice and, although a quality quarterback who'll serve some program well, he was undoubtedly thirda distant thirdon Georgia's depth chart, and certainly fourth with the looming emergence of Lambert.

Why would Bulldog coaches "want to keep" Park around and go as far as trying to "talk him into staying" when it's apparent he would have been Georgia's fourth-string quarterback who, aside from a serious rash of injuries, would likely never play significantly for the Bulldogs, especially with Jacob Eason's forthcoming arrival in 2016?

Perhaps Park was requested by coaches to remain at UGA, and this is simply for the sake of argument, because it would make Coach Richt "feel better": "I think I'd always feel better with four or five [quarterbacks] on scholarship, quite frankly, just as a normal practice" Richt said to the media in May. "We're just in a year where we have three. We hope that everybody stays healthy."

So, regarding the number of quarterbacks on college scholarship, what is "normal practice"? It depends. You'll find some head coaches who believe three quarterbacks are enough, while other programs aim for as many as six. As far as Georgia is concerned, beginning with the 1994 season when scholarships were limited to 85 for I-A programs, the Bulldogs' average number of scholarship QBs annually have varied depending on the "era": 1) the 1994-1995 seasons, 2) head coach Jim Donnan (1996-2000), and 3) head coach Mark Richt (2001-present). 

The following is the total number of different scholarship QBs serving each era followed by, most telling, the average number of scholarship QBs per season:  

1) 1994-95: 6, 4.0
2) Donnan: 14, 5.2
3) M. Richt: 17, 3.6
(Richt era includes three QBs for 2015—Ramsey, Bauta, and Lambert)

Although Richt feels it is "normal practice" to carry four or five QBs on scholarship, he has averaged just 3.6 annually while in six of his 15 seasons he had three or less QBs on scholarship. And, just once (2013) has Richt had five QBs on scholarship, or roughly the same number Coach Donnan averaged per season (5.2). Notably, despite having a coaching tenure lasting one-third of the Richt regime (5 to 15 seasons), Donnan nearly had as many different QBs on scholarship as the current head coach (14 to 17). 

It's one thing for a quarterback to be on scholarship, but it's another thing if he actually sees playing time (especially as a true freshman QB). The following is the average annual number of scholarship QBs to "play" (and, I use the word "play" loosely, meaning the QB was responsible for at least one rushing or passing attempt), including and followed by the average number who started at least one game. The results are remarkable, revealing Georgia's yearly average over the last 21 seasons of 2.5 scholarship QBs to see playing time, including 1.3 to start a game has remained rather consistent over the years no matter the era:

1) 1994-95: 2.5 QBs played, 1.5 QBs started
2) Donnan: 2.4 QBs played, 1.4 QBs started
3) M. Richt: 2.5 QBs played, 1.3 QBs started
(Richt era through last season)

What's the significance? Well, if a program is averaging only 2.5 scholarship QBs annually to see the field for at least one play, including just 1.3 to start at least one game, there are going to be a bunch of scholarship QBs who only stood on the sidelines (especially during the Donnan era). The following is the average annual number of scholarship QBs who did not start a game, including and followed by the average number who did not even see playing time:

1) 1994-95: 2.5 QBs not start, 1.5 QBs not play
2) Donnan: 3.8 QBs not start, 2.8 QBs not play
3) M. Richt: 2.4 QBs not start, 1.1 QBs not play
(Richt era through last season)

I'm not running a major-college football program, but it's evident Georgia would be just fine having three quarterbacks on scholarship, especially considering its annual average of just 2.5 QBs having run merely a single play since the 85-scholarship limit was implemented. I know, injuries and suspensions happen, and you can never be too careful, but the fact remains not once beginning in 1994 have the Bulldogs played four different quarterbacks in a single season. What's more, only once in 21 seasons (2006) did Georgia have three different quarterbacksonly threeresponsible for more than a dozen plays. 

Therefore, especially for a head coach who has been scrutinized in recent years by some for not oversigning players, instead of aiming to have perhaps four, and certainly five quarterbacks on scholarship as a normal practice, I'd be more focused on the fact that an average of greater than one scholarship QB annually during your tenure doesn't even see the field. 

That annual scholarship QB under Richt who wouldn't have seen the field would most likely have been Jacob Park in 2015, and perhaps beyond if he would have been persuaded into staying. Of course, the situation could have been worse, like playing under the previous coaching regime, when Park would have stood on the sidelines with two other scholarship quarterbacks.  

May 1, 2015

A Bulldog Break

I'm taking a break from blogging—a short hiatus from this site as I continue to tackle what has turned into two full-time jobs.

I'm not complaining, writing magazine articles, covering the Bulldogs, and working on two book projects—all college football relatedis a good deal. However, it literally has me dreaming at night about deadline dates, which isn't.

Not that I've been blogging that much recently anyway but, for what it's worth, it'll be even less, like not at all, for the next three or four weeks. In the meantime, I still will continue to routinely post at my UGA Football FB page. Also, checkout DAWGTIME from time to time as we add content and further develop the site.

So, as Loran Smith would say, Charles, you're from South Georgia. You like boiled peanuts, don't you? 

Um, I mean, the other thing he's acclaimed for saying: Until next time, c'est la!

April 7, 2015

What The Hail?!?

The rare colored photo is a peek inside Memorial 
Stadium just as the '63 Georgia-Clemson game is 
being interrupted by a massive hailstorm.
With the up-and-down temperatures seemingly starting to finally subside, while keeping with the theme of the turbulent Georgia football program of the early 1960s, I wanted to pass along a story I heard a few weeks back concerning the Bulldogs in what has to be the most unusual moment in their history from a weather standpointa turbulent account I had never heard before.

I arrived at Clemson University to meet with the school's most prominent historian, interviewing him for a magazine article I'm writing involving an incident in Tiger football from 1963. However, before we discussed the subject matter at hand, knowing my association with Georgia football, he wanted to tell a story from that same season involving his Tigers and my Bulldogs that seemed much more interesting.

As he walked with his wife to Memorial Stadium for the Georgia-Clemson game in mid-October of 1963, the weather was sunny with temperatures in the mid-80s. However, "I remember saying, 'that cloud over Seneca looks threatening,'" recalled the historian regarding a pitch-black sky over the nearby town less than 10 miles away.

On the game's opening drive, Clemson fumbled inside its own territory, and Georgia recovered. Nothing seemed too unusual concerning the rivalry from back then as the Bulldogs soon scored on a run by quarterback Larry Rakestraw, and Georgia held an early 7-0 lead.

With the score remaining the same and the first half drawing to a close, the temperature suddenly dropped to the high 50s, or nearly 30 degrees lower than what it had been only 45 minutes before. And then, the heavens opened up.

"First, there was sleet for about 10 minutes, and then it poured hailthe size of golf ballsfor another 10 minutes," said the historian. "The hail was like I had never seen before, or since." 

During the hailstorm, as the story goes, everybody ran for cover under the stands, including Clemson Head Coach Frank Howard and Georgia Head Coach Johnny Griffith, who met underneath the seats, decided there would be no halftime show, and to delay the start of the second half for 30 minutes.

"That's truefor some," the historian said of those seeking shelter. "That was before Memorial Stadium had an upper deck, so only a portion of the crowd [of 24,000-26,000] could squeeze under the lower level stands. Everyone else headed for shelter in bathrooms, concession stands, and literally inside ice chests."

So, where did the historian and his wife find shelter?

"Nowhere!" he exclaimed. "Every place was filled. However, fortunately for us, the hail stopped after about 10 minutes, and then it "just" rainedhard!"

Also, as the story goes, the grounds crew promptly worked through the rain, picking up all the hail off the field. "Grounds crew?" the historian inquired. "We didn't have a grounds crew back then. We had to send the freshman team out onto the field with push laundry carts to scrape up all the ice."

Before the heavens above Clemson would  
open up, Georgia's Rakestraw (R) runs for 
a touchdown against the Tigers. 
The historian adds it is the only Clemson game he has ever attended, and he still goes to them today more than 50 years later, where he left early. "I was always taught that you never leave early from church, you never early from the opera, and you never leave early from a football game. But, I had to make this one exception. We were soaked, and battered and bruised from hail."

On the walk back to the car, the historian and his wife finally had a stroke of good luck when they heard their names being shouted. "It just so happened to be a couple of friends of ours, calling from their apartment for us to come inside," he said. "One friend said, 'you look like drowned ducks.' I answered, 'we feel like it.'"

Back at Memorial Stadium, playing on a drenched, icy field for the entire second half, the Tigers scored a game-tying touchdown in the third quarter, and the score remained deadlocked to the end, 7-7. And, although Georgia missed three field goals, including two that were blocked, the Tigers should have been the victors, having twice as many first downs (20-10) and total yards (291-146) than the Bulldogs.

So, as they say, "Hail to the Victors" because, in a way, both teams came out victorious on the gorgeous-turned-turbulent afternoon: Because he didn't lose to Georgia, Frank Howard said he was "happy with a tie," whereas the Bulldogs won against the odds, which were set at Clemson as a two-point favorite.

As for the historian and his wife, in a way, the pair came out victorious, as well. Once inside their friends' apartment, they were treated to a cozy fire and "hot buttered rum drinksafter a few of those, we didn't care much that we had been soaked and beaten up by hail," he said, "or, for that matter, really care much for the football game either." 

March 20, 2015

Butts' R-Rated Rant

Whatley on top;
Butts bottom
Twelve days prior to facing Alabama in Georgia's season opener 55 years ago in 1960, Wally Butts addressed his coaching staff at 8 p.m. after practice. The Bulldogs' head coach was upset, to say the least, and absolutely went off on his staff (and players). 

And, assistant Jim Whatley was there to take down the entire R-rated outburst by Butts.

Butts' tirade posted below was given to me by a friend in West Virginia, of all places, who has never had any association with UGA football. He told me a player under Coach Butts gave it to him, and swears the recorded raving prior to the '60 Alabama game is the absolute truth. Regardless, I thought it was rather humorous and entertaining. It's a little dirty, and I try to keep this blog relatively clean, so I did my darndest to mark up the profanity.

Finally, if anyone can shed any light on the following rant (i.e., Have you seen it before? Is it legitimate?, etc.), please feel free, but only if you can keep your comments PG-rated...

March 18, 2015

Spring Has Sprung!

I'll be covering the Dawgs all spring and into the fall at, posting articles, videos, photos, and more. 

Come on over and take a look, beginning with my first report of spring practice, where I learned yesterday that Jeremy Pruitt, just in case you've been wondering since the Belk Bowl, still doesn't play!

February 25, 2015

Here's John (for Johnny)!

With OC Charley Trippi there for support, DC
John Gregory backs up Johnny Griffith as head
coach against Alabama in 1961. 
It's been a long, three weeks since my last post. Recently starting a new full-time job covering a few college football teams, including our beloved Bulldogs, while in the thick of working on two book projects both due to be released this fall, more of the same sporadic blog posting is anticipated over the next few months. 

A reminder: please visit and "like" my UGA football page, where I post at least once, often multiple times, nearly on a daily basis.

Speaking of continuity, or lack thereof as is the case recently with my blog, following Tony Ball's departure and Thomas Brown's arrival, I discovered Georgia has now experienced three or more annual coaching changes, whether by coordinator or position coach, entering back-to-back seasons under the same head coach for only the second time in the last half-century-plus since Coach Dooley's arrival in 1964. The only other time this occurred was in 1999-2000, or entering the final two seasons of the Coach Donnan era.     

Such coaching changeoverlikely, a sign of the times, so to speak, more than anythingreminded me of the overall importance of assistant coaches to a program, especially to the players, beginning with the recruitment process (just ask UCLA about Roquan Smith), and the head coach they serve under. Thus, I'm prompted to tell the intriguing but obscure story of a particular Georgia assistant coach from a long time ago, who loyally served under a pair of Bulldog head coaches, only to be caught between the two in the end:

"No, I don't think so," answered the only person reachable for comment at the time, Winnie Butts. "Probably one of the assistants will do it."

Winnie, the wife of Georgia's then-previous head coach, Wally Butts, was who remained after the quick departure for Athens General Hospital by her husband and the wife of the then-current Bulldog head coach, Johnny Griffith. Griffith played and been an assistant under Butts, and had succeeded him less than nine months earlier. He was rushed to the hospital to undergo emergency surgery for acute appendicitis, and Winnie was left to answer if her husband was going to fill Griffith's spot the next day as Georgia's head coach for its 1961 season opener against Alabamawhat was supposed to be Griffith's first game at the helm.  

"What A Way To Start A Season," headlined the United Press International, "and also a head coaching career," might I add, for Griffith, who at 36 years old was set to be the second-youngest head coach in the SEC. While Griffith laid in a hospital bed, assistant John Gregory was handed the daunting task of heading up a team less than 24 hours before facing the third-ranked Crimson Tide and their head coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant. 

Gregory had college head coaching experience, guiding McNeese State to a combined on-field record of 12-6-1 in 1955 and 1956 before departing for Georgia, where he was named ends coach under Butts, and chosen over the likes of the esteemed Joe Tereshinski. With Griffith replacing Butts four years later, Gregory was promoted to defensive coordinator, but first he'd have to undertake an even bigger task.

Just a touchdown underdog to Alabama at Sanford Stadium, Gregory's Dogs hung around the Tide for a half, trailing only 10-0 at intermission, until the visiting foe opened the flood gates, building a 32-0 lead late in the fourth quarter despite the fact they had gained only 256 yards of offense. Georgia's offense, which totaled a paltry 112 yards and five first downs, finally found paydirt on the game's last play when Dale Williams tossed a 13-yard touchdown to Carlton Guthrie.

In the hospital, Griffith had planned to follow the game by radio but reportedly slept through the 32-6 loss. While on the field, the defeat was unfortunately a sign of things to come for the next three seasonsall losingwhich made up the Coach Griffith era. 

Gregory was the defensive coordinator for the first two seasons of Griffith's tenure, but absent from the 1963 campaign because of a certain article printed in the Saturday Evening Post in March of that yeara piece many in the Bulldog Nation are quite familiar with, although you probably won't find it mentioned anywhere in the annals of UGA football. Of course, the article claimed Butts, who was Georgia's athletic director at the time, gave away "Georgia's plays, defensive patterns, all the significant secrets Georgia's football team possessed" to, ironically, Alabama's Bryant prior to the teams meeting in 1962a 35-0 loss by the Bulldogs in Birmingham with, this time, Griffith present on the sidelines versus the Tide.

Because of the article, Butts filed a libel suit against the publisher of the Post, resulting in an 11-day trial prior to the start of the 1963 season. In defense of Butts included two Georgia assistant coaches, including Gregory, claiming the plays supposedly passed between Butts and Bryant wouldn't have aided Alabama significantly. On the contrary, testifying for the publisher were three Georgia coaches, including Griffith, declaring the information would have indeed helped the Crimson Tide.

After emergency surgery, Griffith (right) is back
the next week vs. Vandy. After the next season,  
Gregory would be gone for his backing of Butts.
Despite the fact Gregory had first curiously signed a statement indicating the information allegedly passed would have actually helped Alabama, and the popular opinion of the time was Butts and Bryant were likely in cahoots to "fix" the 1962 Georgia-Alabama game, Butts came out of court on top (similar to another aforementioned ex-Bulldog head coach when it seemed to most he probably would lose a highly-publicized trial).

Regarded as a star witness in Butts' successful suit, John Gregory had stepped up and defended his old head coach against an opposition, which included his current head coach, after previously relieving the current head coach two years before, all of which involving the same competitionAlabama and Bear Bryantin successive seasons. 

Soon after the jury awarded Butts a whopping $3.06 million in general and punitive damages, Griffith asked Gregory to resign from his coaching position at Georgia, and not surprisingly. The head coach really had no other choice but to ask for as much; as Gregory would say to the media, "I assumed that I was [already] fired."

The response to Griffith's request for a resignation over the phone: "I would not resign," according to Gregory. And then, perhaps motivated by all that time spent in a courtroom, where two coaching legends faced a head coach who would be forced to resign himself less than three months later, Gregory added to his refusal that Griffith, "could talk to my attorneys."

February 4, 2015

Another Signing Day That's Great, But Will It Eventually Translate?

Later today, there should be lots of smiles because
of yet another great Signing Day, but will the
smiles still abound in subsequent football seasons?
It's Signing Day! And, at least as of late last night, it appeared Coach Richt and his crew were going to ink another top-10 class by the end of this afternoon. A top-tier class would notably be Georgia's 12th class in a row (2004-2015) of ranking in the nation's top 12, which ironically followed four consecutive years (2000-2003) when the Bulldogs' recruiting class ranked 13th or lower in the country (and, as I've mentioned here before, I prefer using Phil Steele's recruiting rankings because he combines the ratings of roughly a dozen reputable recruiting services into one).

Georgia's Signing Day prowess is widely recognized, like by the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum, who said on his show last week that the Bulldogs were "amazing when it comes to recruiting." He then added, "exactly how that translates on the field...could be why we have so much conversation about Mark Richt." Finebaum indicated the success Nick Saban, for example, had in recruiting "translates" to on-field success, whereas for Richt, not so much.

I wanted to see exactly what Richt's high-ranking recruiting classes had translated towas Finebaum correct in his assertion? I've done something similar at this blog before, comparing annual team recruiting rankings with the final on-field polls during the Richt era staggered by two seasons, assuming it takes about two seasons for your average recruiting class on the whole to make a significant impact, while for what it's worth, it also took two seasons (2001 to 2003) before most of Georgia's starters under Richt were his own recruits, and not Donnan's. 

Calculating the top-25 team recruiting rankings from 2001 through 2012 (where 25 points were given to the team with the annual No. 1 recruiting class, 24 points to the annual No. 2, etc.) and the last 12 final top-25 AP Polls from 2003 through 2014 (where 25 points were given to the team with a final No. 1 AP ranking, 24 points to a No. 2, etc.), I discovered the following, where Georgia's 182 recruiting points ranked 10th in the nation, while its 139 poll points ranked 8th: 

Combined Recruiting Rankings, 2001-2012
Southern Cal, 270
Texas, 253
Ohio State, 230
Florida, 222
Notre Dame, 211
Florida State, 205
Michigan, 205
LSU, 200
Oklahoma, 199
#10: GEORGIA, 182
Tennessee, 166
Miami, 151
Alabama, 147
Penn St, 131
UCLA, 103

Combined AP Poll, 2003-2014
Ohio State, 216
Southern Cal, 179
LSU, 177
Alabama, 170
Oregon, 158
Oklahoma, 145
Texas, 142
#8: GEORGIA, 139
Boise State, 135
Florida, 119
TCU, 118
Auburn, 117
Florida State, 108
Wisconsin, 103
Virginia Tech, 101

I first noticed that of the AP Poll teams ranked 13th or higher, No. 8 Georgia was the only program not to at least play for a national championship from 2003 to 2014 and/or finish an entire season undefeated (as in the cases of Boise State and TCU).

Regardless, I then calculated the correlation coefficient between the recruiting rankings and the AP Polls for all FBS teams, resulting in 0.741Now, I had never even heard of such calculation before last April, but with +1 being a perfect positive correlation, 0.741 is considered "very strong." In other words, there is undoubtedly a relationship between the 2001 through 2012 recruiting rankings and the final AP Poll rankings staggered two years later. Therefore, if a team consistently lands top-10 talent, then it should be reflected on the field with top-10 poll finishes, or what appears to have resulted at Georgia during the Richt regime.

However, although the Bulldogs' national ranking in regards to poll points is two slots higher than that of their recruiting points, the latter is 43 points less than the former, which is the 14th worst, or most underachieving, in the FBS (just below No. 13 Texas A&M, and right above No. 15 Washington). The top-5 overachieving teams and underachieving programs in terms of difference between 2003-2014 poll points and 2001-2012 recruiting points:  
Overachievers, 2003-2014
Boise State, 135
TCU, 118
Oregon, 104
Wisconsin, 87
Louisville, 73

Underachievers, 2003-2014
Notre Dame, -158
Michigan, -131
Tennessee, -128
Texas, -111
Florida, -103
#14: GEORGIA, -43 

Having the 14th-lowest difference in the FBSis it really all that significant? Probably not. Any "underachieving" during the entirety of the Richt era actually pales in comparison to that of Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida during the same time frame.

Notwithstanding, Finebaum did say "why we have so much conversation about Mark Richt," and from what I recall, the "conversation" really started to heat up around 2009 when clearly the program's lofty recruiting did not translate in on-field performance. For a smaller sample size, measuring from 2007 through 2012, Georgia had the 7th-most recruiting points in the nation, yet only the 16th-most poll points from 2009 through last season, for a difference of minus-62, or the 7th-most underachieving team in the FBS: 

Underachievers, 2009-2014
Southern California, -101
Texas, -95
Notre Dame, -86
Florida, -85
Michigan, -64
Tennessee, -64
#7: GEORGIA, -62
Miami (Fla), -52
North Carolina, -48
Oklahoma, -45

On the contrary to the first half of Richt's tenure, beginning in 2009, Georgia's underachievement in the polls compared to its recruiting is very much comparable to that of, as mentioned before, Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, and you can add USC to the top of the underachieving list.

In summary, the Bulldogs are shaping up to have yet another stellar recruiting class in 2015, but will it eventually translate to stellar seasons? For the past six seasons it hasn't; instead, top-tier recruiting at UGA has translated to top-notch underachieving.