Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Give Sulek his due.

Much attention has been paid to the fact that Jeremy Sulek, a walk-on, was called on to play in place of injured Alec Ogletree this week.

Let me explain something to you - first off, just because a kid is a walk-on doesn't mean he's not talented. The kid finished with 7 tackles on the day, and that's nothing to sneeze at. In fact, over in South Carolina, they're applauding the 7-tackle debut of Jadeveon Clowney. Also, throughout the entirety of Coach Richt's tenure in Athens, there have been walk-ons who have made good.

JT Wall, walk-on.
Verron Haynes, walk-on.
Tra Battle, walk-on.
Reuben Faloughi, walk-on.

There have been others, naturally...but these are four who have done much more than simply been "every now and again" guys. Sometimes a kid just slides under the radar. Coaches aren't known for just tossing in walk-ons for no reason.

Case in point...2000 - I was the fifth Defensive End on the team. Charles Grant, Josh Mallard, Bruce Adrine and Demetric Evans all played in front of me. Nic Clemons was a true freshman, as were Will Thompson and Arnold Harrison. Clemons, Thompson and Harrison were redshirting. I can promise you, without a hint of doubt, that if all four of the players in front of me had gone down with injuries, I would still have been on the sideline. I can promise you that. Redshirts would have been burned, or positions changes would have happened. Why? Because our team would have been better off with four defensive tackles, or with one of the highly-talented freshmen in the position than with me. The guys on the other side of the ball were simply far bigger, and though I played with a lot of passion and a lot of intelligence, I wasn't going to hold my own for 60 minutes against guys who outweighed me by 100 lbs.

I say all of that to say this - If Sulek is the guy who gives us the best chance to win, then what does it matter that the kid is a walk-on? "Sulek did not hold any scholarship offers..." who cares? Perhaps he didn't grow into his body until he was 20 years old. I have no idea. Now, is he as naturally gifted as Amarlo Herrera? Probably not. But, if Amarlo Herrera isn't running the defense we're calling, will his talent matter?

Counter Point: There were a few plays on Saturday when Sulek was a bit confused about his coverages. Now, is it possible that if Herrera had been the one making the mistakes, he could have made a better recovery? Sure, that's possible. But, I'll take the less naturally-gifted kid who's in the right place 85% of the time over the highly-talented kid who is only in the right place 50% of the time.

Of course, this will cause the fanbase to argue: "But Dukes! We're GEORGIA! We should never be in a position where an injury to a safety-turned-linebacker leaves us without another high-quality athlete ready to step in. Our talent-base, history, and resources should always produce enough high-level recruits to never deal with that kind of dropoff." To this, I have to agree. And, in an ideal world, America doesn't suffer 10% unemployment, a tank of gas doesn't cost me a month's rent, and ice cream is a perfectly acceptable diet food. The fact remains that we are in the position we're in. We lost two linebackers (Dowtin, Samuel) as a result of off-season moves, and we apparently don't do nearly as much cross-training as I thought we did in the linebacking corps. Still, we are in the position we're in. As such, it is the coaching staff's responsibility to find the answer. And believe it or not, they do know a hell of a lot more about this game and this team than any of us do.

So, I'll defer to them. Coach Grantham has said he is in the practice of fielding the 11 players who give us the best chance to win. If one of those 11 is Jeremy Sulek, then damnit, support the kid and cheer him loudly. Another walk-on making good - proud to see it.

Go Dawgs!


Jake said...

I think the problem is that Sulek is the only person that knows how to play that position, from what I have read. Not taking anything away from him, but the coaches are making it sound like he got it by default because nobody else was prepared.

When you are talking about a team that has top 10 recruiting classes year in and year out, how can it be that we have a walk-on as backup to our starting ILB?

Ben Dukes said...

He's not the only player who knows the position, but he may be the player who understands the nuances the best. Herrera has only been on the team for a couple of months, and Gilliard may have a few issues that would have hurt him in last week's gameplan. I have no idea.

Also - as for the top 10 recruiting classes and all....linebacker is a position where we definitely had recruiting issues for a period of years. Couple that with early exits (both drafts and transfers) and you start to understand why we may be a bit thinner in the middle than we'd like. You don't generally count on losing a starter for half the season during the first quarter of the opening game.

Should there have been better contingencies for that possibility?

It would be easy to say so. Still, I have to think that the coaching staff will make an adjustment.

Bob said...

My only problem with the kid is that he is listed as 6'1" and 209, way too small for a ILB. SC will run him over for sure. He could know how to be in position to make every play but a 209 kid filling the gap against 240 Rb is a dead man walking.

Kelly and Brad said...

Good point Dukes. Everyone praises Boise for taking two star talent and turing them into players then we play a guy that's not a five star recruit and everyone loses their mind. I remain hopeful.

jferg said...

Makes you wonder why we don't recruit a full 22 man roster, plus a few extras for our 25 every year. What I mean is recruit an entire offense (5 OL, TE, 3 WRs, QB or FB, RB) and an entire defense (3 DL, 4 LBs, 2 CBs, 2 Safeties) plus a few athelets or whatever to round out your 25. Now, every year you have 3 to 4 deep at every position. Recruiting is the beginning of all of our woes. Incomplete coaching hires are 1(b) of our woes.

Servants of the Governed said...

I was a walk-on under Goff and graduated in 1996. I played in the 1995 season after playing at Presbyterian my redshirt freshmen year and sophmore year. I love your blog from the perspective of a player who knows what the game is really all about. Teamwork. I remember many walk-ons whose intangible presence and leadership contributed in many ways to the overall dynamic of the team when I was there too and later earned starring and supporting roles in the games. Our kicker, several wide outs and many other walk-ons were standout athletes and likely would have had a starring role somewhere else if they didnt just love the Dawgs and want to be on the team. But as a former player who was initially recruited at a D-2 school and then came to Georgia as a seemingly expendable scout teamer, the moral of my personal story is that I never had so much fun playing football as I did at UGA even though I never played a down during a single game. I dressed and that was enough for me to impress my wife to marry me and she thought that was impressive. So as far as I am concerned, I got what I needed out being a Dawg..a hottie wife who I love, has given me three boys and who loves the Dawgs as much as I do. So to all you walk-ons know this: Wearing a Dawg uniform and standing on the sidelines in front of 95,000 people aint about you getting playing time..its about impressing the chicks..and it works. John Wetzler