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February 22, 2016

Oh, Muddy Waters...

Checkout my UGASports.com Q&A with mid-1980s pass-rush specialist Greg "Muddy" Waters HERE...

February 20, 2016

It's the Individuals that are the Essence

(L to R): Georgia's Brendan Douglas; Pat Douglas at Georgia, at
Georgia Southern; and Erk Russell at Georgia, at Georgia Southern.
I was planning on writing a post about the 1892 Georgia-Auburn game since today is the 124th anniversary of the first contest played in the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry." However, within an hour of me figuring for work that Brendan Douglas needs 285 rushing yards in 2016 to become the 50th Georgia player in history to total 1,000 for a career, I ironically had a phone conversation with Pat Douglas, Brendan's father, prompting me to totally switch gears, so to speak.

First off, in speaking with Pat, I see why Brendan is such a courteous and likable young man; as they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And, like his son currently, Pat was once a Georgia football player, as well. Still, by having had a relationship with one of the greatest Bulldogs of all time, Pat holds a distinction that no one else can claim.

Pat was a walk-on, scout-team defensive back at Georgia from 1978 to 1980. When the Bulldogs' acclaimed defensive coordinator Erk Russell accepted the head coaching job at Georgia Southern College to build a program from scratch after the school had not played football for 40 years, Pat followed Coach Russell to Statesboro.

In just 14 career games at Georgia Southern from 1981 to 1982, including a three-game exhibition/scrimmage schedule which comprised the entire '81 season, Pat remarkably made 12 interceptions and returned a punt for a touchdown. The only individual to play under Russell at both Georgia and Georgia Southern, Pat would then be an assistant under the legendary coach for three seasons, culminating with the Eagles capturing a I-AA national championship in 1985their first of four titles over the next six years. 

Like my post on how the Georgia-Georgia Southern series originally unfoldedthis piece may seem a better fit around the time the schools play one another. However, concerned with more so than simply the teams' rivalry, this post is meant to convey just one of countless examples of how one of the greatest Bulldogs of them all greatly impactedfor the second timea college program, as told by one of the individuals who knew him best.

"'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade'Coach Russell had that saying on his office wall," Pat informed me. "That was his attitude, his demeanor."

Like a lot of people, I have always had a strong admiration for Erk Russell, and his capability of "turning lemons into lemonade," whether involving individuals, or defensive units, like at Georgia in 1975 and the Junkyard Dogs defense, or even entire football programs, like at Georgia Southern during the early 1980s. Pat Douglas was there to witness the entire transformation of the latter.

I was curious how a single individual could be primarily responsible for the miracle of developing a program from a three-game club team one year to a national champion, playing in only its second season at the I-AA level, just four years later.

"Simply, how could one individualCoach Russellbe responsible for a lot of what Georgia Southern was able to achieve so fast?" I asked Pat.

"You said 'a lot of that' was Coach Russell, I say 'nearly all of that' was Coach Russell," Pat replied. "Besides Coach Russell, nobody in the world could have developed a team that fast to a national championship at a program which didn't even own a football at its inception."

Pat was not joking...

Minutes away from Georgia Southern holding a press conference announcing Erk Russell as its head football coach in May of 1981 in front of a gathering of college and town people, the school's athletic director and president agreed that maybe something football-related, like a football, should be on display. 

But, there was a problem: there wasn't a football in sight, in fact, the college didn't even own one at the time.

"They got somebody to run across to K-Mart and buy a football," Pat recalled. "He ran back over, and tossed the football to the athletic director just in time to start the press conference."

Pat concluded, "That's what you call 'starting from scratch.'"

And I'll add, that's what you call making lemonade when you didn't even own a lemon four years before.

From the prominent, like UGA-Auburn, to the much lesser, like UGA-Georgia Southern, rivalries certainly are a part of the great tradition and lore of University of Georgia football. Still, it's more so the individuals both past and present, like Erk Russell and the Douglas', and their stories, which are the essence of college football in its entirety. 

February 9, 2016


The good folks at Rivals made my interview with Jasper Sanks available for FREE at UGASports.com. Check it out HERE

February 2, 2016

Curious Moves from the Past

From Blake Barnes to Aaron Murray to Jacob Park, Coach Richt 
had a tendency to land out-of-state quarterbacks, all while 
curiously signing an insufficient total number of signal callers.
Looking through an overload of historical data while preparing for the upcoming National Signing Day, something regarding Georgia's quarterback signees from the last decade or so really grabbed my attention: 

Beginning with Blake Barnes (Baldwyn, MS) in 2004 and including Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens, WA) this year, nine of the Bulldogs' 12 quarterback signees the last 13 years hailed from outside the state of Georgia. 

Wondering if the Bulldogs' desire for out-of-state quarterbacks during the Coach Richt era was an unusual tendency compared to previous coaching regimes at the school, I began with 1977or, the first season the NCAA limited scholarshipsdiscovering every Georgia quarterback signee, and the hometown of each. 

Comparatively speaking, I found the out-of-state trend regarding Bulldog signal callers has indeed been rather unusual (the percent of QB signees being from out of state is followed by the Georgia head coach and his measured seasons):

25 percent (10 of 40)Vince Dooley, 1977-1988
15 percent (2 of 13)Ray Goff, 1989-1995
22 percent (2 of 9)Jim Donnan, 1996-2000
62 percent (8 of 13)Mark Richt, 2001-2015

Still, I would become even more so bewildered...

Coming on the heels of discovering Georgia's average signing class consisted of nearly one-and-a-half fewer offensive linemen from 2008 through 2015 (averaged 3.6 OL signees per class) compared to 2001 through 2007 (averaged 4.9 OL signees per class), I was first taken aback when noticing as many quarterbacks were signed during the Goff era as Richt's (13)and, Goff's regime lasted less than half as long as that of the recently departed. 

Never mind their hometownsagain, comparatively speakingwhy did Coach Richt sign so few quarterbacks? (the annual average number of QB signees followed by the Georgia head coach):

3.33 (40 QB signees in 12 seasons)Dooley
1.86 (13 QB signees in 7 seasons)Goff
1.80 (9 QB signees in 5 seasons)Donnan
0.87 (13 QB signees in 15 seasons)Richt

So, maybe times had changed; no longer needed was an average of nearly two quarterbacks signed on an annual basis, and certainly not more than three as was the case during the last half of the Dooley era. In this age of college football, perhaps it was quite normal for a major program to average less than one quarterback signee per year.

Not really.

Knowing Georgia had ranked sixth among current big-5 conference schools in overall winning percentage during the Richt era, for a sampling, I looked up the number of quarterback signees from 2001 through 2015 of the five schools which ranked ahead of the Bulldogs in winning percentage: 1) Ohio State, 2) Oklahoma, 3) LSU, 4) TCU, and 5) Oregon.

Compared to Georgia's total of 13 QB signees the previous 15 years, or 0.87 annually, the five other programs averaged exactly 17 QB signees from 2001 to 2015, or 1.21 annually. The difference isn't necessarily significant like when compared to Georgia's previous coaching regimes; still, it's inconsistent enough to mention. 

Therefore, why do I even make mention?

Honestly, it's in no attempt whatsoever to "pile on" our previous coaching and support staffto "hate" on a head coach who left the school two months ago. Georgia has a new head coach, the old one is now in Miami, and I hope only the best for Mark Richt.

Still, I'm left to wonder how a former quarterback, and a coach of quarterbacks for years, who just said last May, "I think I'd always feel better with four or five [quarterbacks] on scholarship, quite frankly, just as a normal practice," did not sign an adequate number of quarterbacks as "normal practice"? More so, at the same time for nearly a decade, he signed an insufficient number of offensive linemen, as well?

And, Georgia sure could have used some extra offensive linemen and another quarterback or two this past seasonwe can all agree to that.

The previous coaching regime undoubtedly did some wonderful things for the University of Georgia and its football program for a lengthy, 15-year period. However, it made some rather curious maneuvers as well. Some of these questionable moves finally caught up with the program last yearthat was evident. 

Unfortunately, such actions from the previous leadership will seemingly impact the current staff. The question is, how long will it take the current leadership to stop the bleeding?