Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tough To Get A Mad On

Growing up, I was never the most aggressive kid.  I was kinda chubby, kinda slow, and didn't really get "mad" about much in life.  I was fortunate.  My Dad had a good job, we had a nice house, and I didn't want for much.  Mom never saw fit to lock the pantry, so Nilla Wafers and peanut butter were ready for the taking.  Simply put, I was happy.  And that was good ... because I'm a different animal when I'm mad.

My next-door neighbor and good friend, John, knew this.  He saw something in me and knew that I changed when I was mad.  When we'd work in the yard, pulling vines off trees, and one was too stuck for him to get, he'd just piss me off, and I'd rip the thing down...sometimes with branches attached.  If we were clearing trees, he'd set me off, and I'd give 'em hell with an axe or a bat, whichever was closer at hand.  I was a bit destructive when angry.

That came in handy in football.  A fairly placid player, I didn't do much when I first started playing.  Then, something in me changed.  I don't know if it was teenage angst, or the team bully, but I learned to focus my anger on the football field.  When I did, things were different.  I could suddenly run faster.  I could suddenly hit harder.  I took better angles.  I focused more.  The angrier I was, the better I could play.

And then we played McIntosh.  McIntosh wasn't a powerhouse of football.  To be honest, I don't know if they won a game in any season they were on our schedule.  Their style of football was almost "Cute" - the coaches knew we weren't going to take them seriously.  It was going to be tough to get a mad on.

The Dawgs face a similar foe in Buffalo.  As much as their writers and bloggers like to trumpet their respective achievements, they ain't been in this kind of fight before.  The only recent experience these guys have with the SEC (other than a 2008 tilt with new-member Mizzou) is last year's debacle in Knoxville, losing 41-10.  41-10 and TN wasn't incredible.  So, anyone with a shred of true objectivism will go ahead and admit that the Bulls don't stand a chance in this one.  I'm not that interested in the pre-determined win.

What I'm going to be interested to see this weekend is whether or not the Dawgs will come out angry.  The season ended with a fizzle in 2011.  They lost very little of consequence as far as personnel is concerned.  Apparently, they gained a ton in the strength/speed categories.  So, the question becomes one of attitude.  Will these Dawgs come out hungry, and more importantly, ANGRY?  The media has been so over-focused on the "weak schedule" that they've glossed over the fact that the team ain't all that bad either.  That ought to make a few guys mad.  The linemen have been told they're a big question mark once again.  That ought to get under their skin.  Aaron Murray has been praised by his coaches, but targeted by bloggers (myself included) at times for choking when faced with the big one.  That ought to downright piss the kid off.

And then there are those kids like me - the ones who rarely get a chance to see the field.  They've worked their asses off right beside those scholarship kids all summer.  They've given everything they can to the program...and all they hear is how the team is crap because there aren't enough SCHOLARSHIP players on the roster?!?!  Well kiss my lilly white one, buddy.  Those boys, should the starters do their jobs, should be playing by the mid-third.  And if they are, they damn sure better be angry.  They better be angry that they've been overlooked.  They better be angry that they had to wait so long.  They better be angry at every stat-loving recruiting-board junkie that thinks nothing of their talent.

They better get a mad on.

And then they better Man Up and take it out on a Buffalo team who didn't do anything to them other than accept a sizeable paycheck to lay on Sanford Altar and be sacrificed to the gods of SEC Football.

If 2012 is to be The Rreckoning, then our boys need to put a mad on and be the Wrecking Ball.  I don't care who's on the other side of the field.

Go Dawgs.

btw- We beat McIntosh 55-10.  It was 42-0 at halftime (if memory serves), and we starters didn't touch the field after the first possession in the third.  That's when the younger kids got THEIR mad on.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

He's 17 and in High School = I don't care

Friends of late have been filling my inbox with recruiting information.  I am fully aware of how important recruiting is to a football program's success.  It's isn't hard to look at five years' worth of recruiting rankings and determine which programs you'll most likely find residing in the top 15 of the polls over the same period.  You gotta have the Jimmies and Joes to go along with the Xs and Os.

That being said, I don't care what Bryce Ramsey did on Friday night.  God bless the kid.  I hope he has a great season, I hope he wins the state title and more accolades than his bedroom wall has room for.  I hope he stays solid on his commitment to Georgia, and I hope his girlfriend gives him "star treatment" after every win.  But, I don't care.  I'm not paying attention to it.  I'm not combing every statistic and reading every half-written article about his performance hoping to glean a little insight into what his career as a Bulldog will be.

Why?  Because I've been around football long enough to know that what you do when you're 17 does not dictate what you do when you're 21.  What you do at Camden County does not dictate what you'll do in Death Valley.  By all accounts, many of the recruits for Georgia's 2013 class are "the real deal"...something I believe I read practically every season.  Then comes attrition, and injuries, and non-qualifiers, and thugish behavior like driving around with unregistered weapons.

I think I've gone on record enough times stating that what I care about is Georgia Football...and Georgia Football, for me, exists in the time period between game one and our bowl game every season.  It exists on a 100x53.33 yard field.  It exists in the space between 15:00 in the first quarter and 00:00 in the fourth (and the infinite clock and down makers of college OT).  That's Georgia Football to me.  Until a recruit dons the red and black, runs out of that tunnel, steps of the sideline, and performs in a game, he doesn't have an impact on my life.

When he does, though, I'll cheer as loudly for him as anyone else in the stadium/bar/living room where I watch the game.  At that point, he's not only a bulldog, but He's My Dawg ... and I love the kid.

Go Dawgs.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stats are lying bastards

"The Stats Don't Lie"

You hear that all the time.  Well, I suppose that's true.  The Georgia Bulldogs DID have the 116th best redzone scoring percentage...or, the 5th worst as some would call it.  Yes, they allowed the opposing team to score 91% of the time that the opponents got inside the 20.  That's horrid.

Nevermind the fact that the raw number was 29 scores...which was actually good enough for #22 in the country.  Oh, and only two teams (Alabama, Boise State) gave up less than 20 scores from within the redzone.

So we're clear, Georgia only allowed their opponents into the redzone 32 times.  32 times in 14 games.  That's less than 3 possessions per game.  Let's not forget turnovers inside the 20, either.  I can remember a few of those (how about losing to South Carolina after a couple?).  Six teams in college football allowed their opponents to enter the redzone less often.  Six.

I'm not trying to sing high praises on our ability to prevent scores, I'm really not.  Doing further digging, I found that Georgia allowed their opponents into the redzone 8 times in every month of football.  8 times in September (Aug/Sep actually, due to the first game being in Aug), 8 in October, 8 in November, and 8 in December (December/Jan...yay bowl game).  What's scary?  The D allowed 7 scores in Aug/Sep, 6 in October, and then 8 in Nov and 8 in Dec/Jan.  After GA/FL, our defense did not stop ANYONE in the redzone.

Yup, that's frightening.

Let's look at it....

1st game after Florida - New Mexico State... 2nd quarter, NMST gets to the 11, pushes to the 5, and settles for a field goal.  4th Quarter, playing against reserver, NMST hits a big pass to the 10, then scores on a run.  (2nd TD is from outside redzone - long pass from 22)

2nd game after Florida - Auburn - 1st quarter, AU gets a HUGE pass of 45 yards to the UGA 10.  Then, they get some penalty help, and on a 3rd and 4 hit the FB/TE freak Lutzenkirken for a TD.  They don't sniff the redzone again.

3rd game after Florida - Kentucky - 1st quarter, UK gets a HUGE pass of 46 yards to our 15.  They end up with a field goal.  2nd Quarter, Malcome fumbles on the UGA 27.  A couple passes and a pass interference penalty later, and KY has a 1st and goal at the 2.  The Dawgs give up the score.  And, Kentucky ends their redzone attempts.

4th game after Florida - Georgia Tech - 2nd Quarter GT drives the option game down to the UGA 9.  Three plays later, they kick a field goal from the 4.  Then, a steady option drive goes 80 yards in 7:07 and results in a score.  ouch.    4th quarter, GT hits a 36 yard pass to our 17.  Two plays later, they score on a 16-yard run against our backups.

5th game after Florida - LSU - We're up 10-7 in the third when the wheels come off.  Murray fumbles on our 26.  Two plays later, Hilliard hits a 15 yard run for a TD.  The next drive, we three-and-out, punt and they return it to the 17.  Three rushes (and an incomplete pass) later, and they score again.  We throw a pick.  They get a few good runs, including a 20-yarder to our 9.  Jefferson hits a pass for TD.  The final two LSU scores are off a 49-yard run, and a pick-six.

6th game after Florida - MSU - 3rd Quarter, Murray throws a pick at our 48.  They have a good sustained drive, and score.  Murray throws a pick-six for their second score of the quarter.  4th quarter, they hit a 50 yard pass to our 9.  On third down, they hit a seven yard TD pass.  Later, they drive from their own 15 to a 1st and goal from our 1 on a mixture of medium and long runs and passes.  Maybe the defense was gassed.  Either way, we give up a TD for the tie, sending us into OT. In OT, they kick a field goal from the 18 and a field goal from the 11.

In summation, yeah, it wasn't the way you want to end a year on defense.  Every time an opponent got into our Redzone, they scored.  Sure, it was only 16 times in 6 games, but that's still too many.  But, what did we learn our greatest weakness is?  Well, it appears to this casual observer that if we eliminate redzone turnovers, and huge passes, we reduce the number of opportunities even further.  Also, the two OT possessions are pretty much gimmies anyway.  The drives start on the 25, so all they need is five yards to get a "red zone" possession...and a fieldgoal from 20-and-in is considered a gimmie.

Does our redzone defense need to improve?  Of course it does.  But, was it as dire as the stat of 116/120 would lead you to believe?  Not a chance in hell.

Go Dawgs.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Former Bulldog Walk-On Lands in Spotlight

Yep, this is a self-serving post.  For those of you who are completely unfamiliar with my efforts outside of football and blogging, allow me to introduce myself...I'm Ben Dukes, and I sing country music.

A couple of months ago, while on hiatus from blogging, I had my first small stroke of success in the entertainment world - I performed my National Television Debut on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

If you want a practical explanation of just what in the hell that could possibly have to do with Georgia Football, I'll tell you.  First off, I played Georgia that could be relevance enough.  Further, though, I learned something through Georgia Football that has been incredibly valuable in my life since the red and black gridiron.  Those who do not know my story may be interested to learn that it took me a year and a half to earn a spot on Georgia's football team.  Until the spring of my sophomore year, the coaches had never even seen me in pads.  I'd been constantly redirected to the weight room and sent away without so much as a skills test.  When it looked like that would happen to me for a fourth time, I said no.  I told Coach T that he'd never seen me play football, and that I was a better football player than weightlifter.  He let me participate in spring practice, telling me the guys on that field could knock me through a wall.  Four days later, Rodney Garner told me I'd need to be ready for fall camp - in four days, I showed my position coach that I belonged on that field.  I worked on the scout team, pissing off the scholarship guys by going too hard...I was Rudy, with a little more size.  Those were hard days...but they taught me the value of sticking through and not taking "no" for an answer.  Ten years ago, I moved to LA to pursue entertainment. I've had my share of doors closed in my face, heard a hell of a lot of "no's"... but here I stand, ten years later...and I've played MY MUSIC on National TV.  

I've spent my life in the shadows of others, riding the pine...but on that day, I was able to be the star of the show.  Not too shabby for a kid from LaGrange, Georgia.  

If you like what you see/hear above, stop by my webpage OR, if you're a facebook user, LIKE my facebook page .  Hoping to do a tour through Georgia next year.  If you know anyone who wants to book some good old-school country-rock, hit me up!

Go Dawgs!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Elite 11 ... Years Later

I saw a post on facebook today, urging me to watch the Elite 11 on ESPN tonight "if I'm a football fan."  I gotta say, my football fanship is not in danger of being revoked by not watching it.  I'm not saying that I have no interest in the abilities of 11 kids who may or may not end up contributing at all to my own personal entertainment in the future (ok, maybe that's precisely what I'm saying) but rather that this is not football.  This is a competition which exists to build hype around players, increase their exposure, and perhaps grant them opportunities for scholarships where they previously would not have existed.

Aside from all of that...I got to thinking about the validity of this "Elite 11" concept...and wondered how many "Elite 11" QBs go on to be "Elite" in college.  Of course, not wanting to dive into a 2-week research project, I simply looked at the college careers of the QBs in the class with Aaron Murray, our current Elite-11 prospect.

I recognized some of the names, and some I've never seen before.  You can imagine my surprise and happy disposition when I realized that our own Aaron Murray stacks up pretty favorably against the majority of the NIKE Elite 11 of 2008 (which, I may add, did NOT include Matt Barkley for some reason I don't recall).

Of the 11, only three played in 2009, and only one as a starter.  Tom Savage started for Rutgers in Big East in 2009, before a 2010 injury sidelined him and derailed his career.  He has since moved to AZ, where he sat out a year, and then to Pitt, where he will sit for 2012 as well.  By the time he starts his final season of eligibility at Pitt in 2013, he will have been out of the game for over 2.5 years.  Garret Gilbert was highly praised in 2009 for the way he "didn't screw it all up" in the BCS title game, and that he was a plucky replacement for the injured Colt McCoy.  His sophomore season produced more INTs (17) than TDs (10) and he was replaced as the starter in his Junior year.  Richard Brehaut, UCLA, was a backup in 2009 and has seen his completion percentage drop every year since.  He has amassed 12 TDs and 9 INTs in three years as a Bruin.

Three of the Elite 11 have no stats to speak of in the three years since their distinction.  Raymond Cotton (Ole Miss) and Eugene Smith (WVU) have apparently been unheard of by ESPN since.  Zach Mettenberger  (UGA) showed promise during a redshirt season and the following spring, being locked in a battle with current starter Aaron Murray.  However, certain indiscretions derailed his UGA career and he was removed from the team.  Last season, Metts wen 8-11 for 92 yards and a TD while playing for SEC Champs LSU.

In actuality, the battle for "Most Elite" of this group appears to be a three-way race between Clemson's Tajh Boyd, UGA's Aaron Murray, and Bama's A.J.McCarron.

Going by titles, McCarron is easily Head and Shoulders above the other two. He wears a big ring to prove it.

When you look at their most recent books of passing work, though, you'll see some striking similarities.

So I guess it begs the do we apply "Elite" status?  McCarron completed a much higher percentage of his passes, but threw for over 500 fewer yards than Murray, and almost 1200 fewer than Boyd.  He also didn't throw 1/2 as many TDs as either.

But he has a BCS title.  They don't.

Who won?

Go Dawgs.


Amendment - The Petis pointed out to me that the player once known as "Eugene Smith" has come to national prominence as "Geno Smith."  And, when doing research on THAT young man, well....

I mean, he's a pretty clear-cut above the rest of the competition in most categories.  One has to wonder how he'd fare in any conference other than the Big East... but still, he's gettin' it done.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Walk Ons, Scholarships, and...hey guys, I'm back.

I read the news yesterday that a number of Walk-Ons were granted scholarships.  I love it when this happens.  I know all the recruit-niks out there will scream about roster mis-management and about how we should never be in position to grant so many scholarships to Walk-Ons.  However, when I hear things like that ... I think of names like Verron Haynes and Tra Battle.  There are always talented kids who don't get scholarships.  Then, there are turds who do.  When the turds who get scholarships wash out, sometimes the overlooked athlete gets a shot.  How can you not like that storyline?

I have to admit, I feel particularly happy with the news that Rhett McGowan received a scholarship.  I say this, because two years ago when I was at G-Day, I noticed this kind of lanky-ish receiver making a ton of plays.  I had to look him up to figure out who he was.  He was a walk-on, buried on the depth chart, and an afterthought on the roster.  But, I told my friend The Petis right then that this kid was going to earn a scholarship and at some point in his career could very well factor into a game.  I said that, because from the club-level seat where I sat eating my hotdog and chicken fingers, I could see Rhett's heart.  He was taking the opportunity he was given, and absolutely making the most of it.  Now, we probably have one of the more talented receiving corps that we've had in recent memory.  The corps is so good, they can toss Malcolm Mitchell over to defense.  So, the opportunities to make plays on gameday may be slim for Rhett.  But, he struck me as a sure-handed kid with a big heart and some good athleticism.  Unsung Heroes are made of such stuff.

Go Dawgs.