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Good mailbag.

 

The Athletic:

Is it more fair to compare Kirby Smart to Nick Saban or Dabo Swinney? Georgia mailbag

Seth Emerson

Georgia is in the middle of spring practice, there are important things afoot, so it’s a perfect time to reminisce about that time Mark Richt announced that Jeremy Pruitt had not been fired.

We’ll get to that. But first let’s go very big picture when it comes to the current coach:

Everyone compares Kirby Smart to Nick Saban and I feel like that is unfair. Saban has had years of coaching experience and it took him a while before he won his first national championship. Obviously Kirby was given a much better team with Georgia but the coaching experience is still a major factor. So with that said, how would you say Kirby compares to Dabo Swinney? Both were first-time coaches taking over programs and both are recruiting now on an elite level. Should Georgia fans hope for success in the way Clemson has had it or is Alabama a better competitor to compare yourself to?

Connor E.

I was there the day that Dabo Swinney essentially became Clemson’s permanent head coach: It was a home win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, the season that Tommy Bowden was fired and Swinney, a mere receivers coach, was made interim head coach. Upon beating Spurrier and the in-state rival, the crowd chanted Dabo’s name, egged on by star running back CJ Spiller, and it was pretty clear the Tigers had their man.

But he didn’t win his first national title until eight years later.

Saban was in his 10th season overall as a head coach. Urban Meyer was in his sixth, as were Phillip Fulmer and Ed Orgeron. (And Smart is entering his sixth season.)

Steve Spurrier was in his 10th season. Les Miles was in his seventh. Tom Osborne needed until his 22nd season, Bobby Bowden until his 24th. Bear Bryant, going way, way back, took until his 17th season.

But there are counter-examples: Bob Stoops, another coordinator who got a head coaching job at a marquee program, won it all in his second year. Jimbo Fisher won it in his fourth year. Lloyd Carr did it in his third year. Barry Switzer won it in his second year.

Since 1936, there have been 57 head coaches who have won a national championship (as defined by AP or coaches polls, BCS and Playoff champions). Nineteen of them won it after being a major-college head coach for five years or fewer. Fourteen of them won it in between their sixth and 10th seasons. Twenty-four took until their 11th season or later.

So there’s your CFB history lesson for the day. As for Connor’s actual question, Clemson has two national championships in the last five years and has been in the Playoff six consecutive years. I’m sure Georgia fans would settle for that. Having been there at the ground floor for both regimes, there are definite similarities: Bowden and Mark Richt had both hit a ceiling, and Swinney and Smart were both energetic, young coaches who knew the terrain. Smart actually had more early success but hasn’t lived back up to it, while Swinney ramped his way up.

Swinney through his first five full years: 47-20 (so not counting 4-3 as the interim in 2008).

Smart through his first five years: 53-14

Every situation is different. Smart gets compared to Saban not only because he worked with him but because they’re in the same conference, and built their programs in the same way. But as for pure head coaching ability, Swinney is the much more apt comparison to Smart. Remember the term “Clemsoning”? You don’t hear it much anymore. We’ll see if the narrative on Smart changes soon too.

How many seasons does Kirby Smart have without a Natty before his seat starts getting hot?

Joel S.

Oh, there’s a long runway here. Barring some sort of scandal, Smart can remain the head coach for the foreseeable future as long as the program is consistently relevant when it comes to the national picture. That’s not just the administration, but the fan base, as evidenced by the survey we did earlier this year.

Two things are creating this championship-or-bust question: 1) He was hired to replace Mark Richt, whose only major failing was not getting to the national championship, so Smart will always be measured against that. 2) The recruiting is so strong that detractors wonder when the national title will result. That’s fair. But Smart is the one doing the recruiting, so he deserves credit for that.

He’s also got a very good winning percentage and was within a busted coverage of winning a national championship, so it’s not like there’s no evidence he can’t eventually win it. Most Georgia fans and power brokers understand that.

It seems like every year, the elite teams have at least one guy who can make the plays on those “50-50” balls. George Pickens was undeniably that guy for Georgia, which makes his loss sting that much more in my book. Who do you think best fits the role for this year to be able to fill that void when Pickens isn’t available?

Caleb R.

There’s no one on the team who can do exactly what Pickens can. Darnell Washington comes closest, and he could be the guy if Georgia figures out how to exploit him the way Florida did Kyle Pitts. Still, a tight end isn’t usually the guy you’re talking about on those 50-50 balls deep or down the sideline, those back-shoulder routes. They can be, but not the way a receiver is because the tight end is usually drawing someone of comparable size.

Maybe Georgia gets someone else to emerge between now and the season. Maybe Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is ready for the start of the season. Maybe Pickens is ready for the stretch of the season.

In the meantime, it may behoove Georgia to avoid just plugging in the receiver who most closely resembles Pickens. It’s like a basketball team that loses its center: Do you just plug in the next-best center because he happens to be big, or do you play your best five and tweak the way you play? It’s usually the latter, which is why at this point Georgia is probably better off flooding the zone with its best receivers — Kearis Jackson, Jermaine Burton, Arian Smith, a healthy Dominick Blaylock — and playing a speedier, more vertical game.

Seth, what kind of advantage would a player have being redshirted for a year but not playing as opposed to being a senior in high school. For example, Kelee Ringo vs. Nyland Green.

Ryan M.

You’re basically a sophomore in everything but name only when you’re a redshirt freshman. Especially these days when you can actually see the field in up to four games and preserve your redshirt. Even when you haven’t — as Azeez Ojulari had not before the 2019 season — you’ve been around the program and the campus. You’ve been in the strength and conditioning program, you’ve acclimated to campus and the life of a college athlete.

Ojulari is a good example because — like Ringo — he only redshirted because of injury. Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell are another interesting comparison: Campbell won the starting cornerback job in 2018 — the only true freshman that year to start the opener — but he struggled and was eventually replaced by Stokes, a redshirt sophomore.

Georgia has actually had very few true freshman start right away under Kirby Smart, at least when you consider how good the recruiting has been. That’s why Ringo and Jalen Kimber, who appeared in three games last year, begin with a lead on Green for starting jobs. That doesn’t mean Green or other freshmen won’t start. But experience — on and off the field — still matters.

What does it say about UGA strength staff to have so many knee injuries during the Kirby smart tenure? Are there any other major programs with the same level and number of injuries? How do we compare in losing our potential stars to other programs?

Connor S.

You’re talking to somebody who covered the 2013 season, when half the offense seemed to go down with injuries. Then Todd Gurley tore his ACL the next year, then Nick Chubb had his ugly injury the next year … Nah, this isn’t new. And it’s not unique.

There’s recency bias and a tendency to only focus on your own program. Smart was actually very lucky with injuries his first few years: The 2017 team had a remarkable lack of season-ending injuries. Alabama, on the other hand, was hit hard that year and I remember asking Scott Cochran in the lead-up to the national championship whether he felt any responsibility, and he said there absolutely was a strength-and-conditioning effect. Most people agree with that — but also say luck is as big a factor.

A former football player now in the medical field put it this way: “There’s definitely exercises and workout plans to strengthen while also working out the knee, but no one has it figured out. Some years you can be fortunate and not have lots of injuries, others not so much.”

On multiple occasions, your tweets have ruined my viewing experience while watching a game on my phone. For instance, I knew Bama would make a miracle 3 to send the game to overtime against UCLA because your tweet popped up before the guy took the shot on TV. Same with the bomb to James Cook last year against Bama. Are you trying to sabotage my viewing experience on purpose … or should I just stop getting your alerts on Twitter?

Sincerely, Slow-streaming viewer.

Matt S.

Wow, thanks for making me feel terrible. If it would help, and if you have a young child, look for an early Sunday morning alert about the Easter bunny.

Actually, I feel you on streaming, which is why a couple times we have abandoned cutting the cord and returned to cable. Still, I will take your criticism to heart and re-think my fast tweeting habits — or tweeting at all, which is usually pretty good advice that few, sadly, adhere.

What is the weirdest and/or most interesting news you remember covering on the Dawgs beat?

Matt M.

So I’ve been on the beat more than a decade now, and when I got here someone told me: “Well you just missed covering the athletic director being fired after a DUI, so it’ll be hard to top that.” And now that I think about it … have we?

The definition of “weird” and “most interesting” covers a lot of things. If you’re talking on the field, there have been some, uh, doozies. And off the field, you all know all the hits: Todd Gurley’s autograph-selling, A.J. Green’s jersey-selling, Todd Grantham yelling at James Franklin, Todd Grantham making the choking sign at a Florida kicker, and a myriad of wacky brushes with the law: A player accused of confiscating a parking boot, two players charged with smoking pot while living in dorm room 420, three players kicked off the team for stealing from a teammate’s room …

But ultimately, the entire 2015 season could qualify by itself. The chaos of that season has given birth to plenty of tantalizing rumors that aren’t really true. But it was true that coaches were openly hostile with each other (even if not literally fighting). It was true that in the lead-up to the biggest game, the team secretly promoted the No. 3 quarterback because they liked his running ability (and then didn’t run him in the game). It was true that the school fired Mark Richt, tried to gussy it up as a mutual separation, then allowed Richt to sit next to the athletic director at a news conference where Richt made clear he wanted to keep coaching. And then took the Miami job a few days later.

But ultimately, Nov. 5 of that year was the weirdest. It was a few days after the Florida debacle, and rumors were swirling that Jeremy Pruitt was being fired. Someone, it’s still not clear who, tweeted a fake quote from Pruitt that essentially said Georgia embraced mediocrity. There was a radio station report in Atlanta that it could be happening, which added that there had been “physical altercations,” and as someone on the beat I can attest that the messages were flying. We were chasing it down, and finally, around noon, we had enough confirmation that it was not, in fact, true. But we ended up getting scooped by Richt himself, who in a very uncharacteristic move addressed the rumors and shot them down with a tweet.

 

We now know that Richt and Pruitt were already on their way out, the power brokers having decided after the Florida loss to make the move and hire Kirby Smart. But it wasn’t happening that day. This was not quite unlike the lead-up to the previous year’s Belk Bowl, which provided what to me was the weirdest moment on the beat:

Enough rumors swirled that Richt was being fired after the game that Richt was asked about it — by a non-Georgia writer, and non-national writer, because we all realized it was a silly rumor and not appropriate to ask at a news conference. But another writer had no such reservations and asked Richt if he was resigning in front of the room, as well as game MVP Nick Chubb, sitting a few feet behind his coach.

“Nick, did I resign in the locker room?” Richt said, smiling.

“No,” Chubb said back, chuckling.

Now I still don’t know if all this tops what happened with Damon Evans in July of 2010. But it comes pretty close, doesn’t it?

https://theathletic.com/2491866/2021/04/02/is-it-more-fair-to-compare-kirby-smart-to-nick-saban-or-dabo-swinney-georgia-mailbag/

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SoFl_Dawg
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18 minutes ago
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#637
Alright so scrimmage over.

Both sides of the ball had wins today. Yes, the two most talented WRs are out, but must give some credit to defense for making plays.

WRs who stood out today: 

Demetrius Robertson-huge day with 2 bombs caught, KO for a TD, and another KO for about 40 yards. “He looks different, like he realized he was in a money year.”

Justin Robinson-5-6 catches for about 160 and a score. Was seen limping but appears to be OK.

Adonai Mitchell-worked mostly with the twos but looks really good. He and Carson have developed a nice chemistry. Caught several balls today. “He’s a steal.”

To my surprise, Jackson Meeks did participate today and caught a deep pass over Nyland Green. I hear he looks OK but there’s clear separation from him and the other WRs.

Arian Smith was cooking prior to going down with a wrist injury. Saw that sprained wrist which is good news. 

DWO was not seen much at all today. He was out there but didn’t see participating.

Broc Bowers had a strong day. He does look as advertised from previous chatter. He had 4-5 catches including a big one down the sideline.

Seither got burn today, then he got BURNED. Major Burns with the hit of the day on Seither. Forced an incomplete pass. Fortunate both bounced up.

As mentioned earlier, Kendall is receiving and running strong. I’ve seen video of him catching a 50 yarded earlier this spring, and now hearing he had a strong day against the ones.

Zamir’s performance was described as OK. “He probably avg. 4 yards a carry”. Nothing splashy today. Described as dancing a bit today.

James Cook had a strong day receiving. He beat the 2s for a score on another wheel route. That’s his second in as many practices. FWIW, I did hear that the ones (Channing and Quay) defended the wheel route “perfectly” today. Forced an incompletion to Cook in that regard earlier on.

JT had an up and down day, “but still looked good.” Hearing his command is strong at LOS. Connected on 4 bombs today. Mechanics look better. Feeling was he was probably around the 70% completion. Also had the INT (in the end zone) and had several passes defended from defenders. Part of its ball placement. Part of it is lack of chemistry. It’s early and the kinks are being worked out. JT to Drob was pretty good today. Also hit Justin twice and one finished with a one handed grab. Great coverage by Kimber, better catch by Justin.

Carson was running with the twos and looks like he should be second in line. Had a strong day, despite the hand injury. He looks different due to his size back there. He had several great throws against the 1s. His chemistry with Adonai Mitchell was strong.

Brock Vandagriff also looked good going mostly against the 3s today. “He’s got a ways to go, but has a really strong arm.” 

On defense, Jalen Kimber with a handful of PBUs today. “He’s really good.” Also had a nice open field tackle on Zamir towards the boundary that would’ve been a huge gain had he not made that tackle. Zamir is a bull so that’s impressive with current weight.

Ameer Speed continues to look good despite giving up a couple of bombs today to Jrob and Drob. He also had a few PBUs.

Ringo made a few plays today. He looks physical and gets a good jam. He was beat several times today but had a nice PBU.

As far as the trenches, the feeling is the DL won the day overall. They gave up a few explosive runs to Kendall but outside of that, they were strong. Mentioned the JD99 fumble return. Hope we see video of that. Nolan had a really good day; consistently in the backfield. Jalen Carter was immovable. Starting OL: Truss, Salyer, Ericson, Shaffer, McClendon. Interior pressure won the day with two deep of Davis, Carter, Stack, and Wyatt. These guys consistently collapsed the pocket. The twos on OL rotated a lot. Was too hard to keep up with. Can say that Jones and Mims were at T positions but interior couldn’t keep up with. Nolan forced a couple of sacks and went against Mims out there. Mims was later seen limping off and didn’t finish practice but I’m told he will be OK.

Back with more later.

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I was able to stream it. A.Mitchell was definitely a steal, looks real legit. Washington trucked a guy bad for a long run. Did anyone see much of ringo? I looked didn’t see him. Vandergriff to me looks like he could be the best qb on the team at some point this year.

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6 hours ago, Turkeydawg said:

Is he going to be that guy that can never get healthy?

I hope not. Was surprised how many times AD was targeted, he def looks legit but that was surprising/concerning maybe. Who did Washington beat and then truck for his long catch early on. 

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49 minutes ago, Dawgfanbrock said:

I hope not. Was surprised how many times AD was targeted, he def looks legit but that was surprising/concerning maybe. Who did Washington beat and then truck for his long catch early on. 

AD looked solid, as did Kearis.  DR had a strong showing.  Smith still looks raw to me.

It looked like the guy Washington destroyed was a walk-on db.

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