Fox Worth Long-Term Investment

The Georgia basketball season has only two regular season games remaining. But that doesn’t mean the end of the season is all that close. After a home game against LSU Wednesday and a trip to Tuscaloosa this weekend the team still has a few weekends (plural) to play.

With a sweep of the final two games (which isn’t entirely out of the question), Fox’s dawgs would wrap up the SEC slate with a 10-6 record. At worst, the team will finish at even .500, 8-8. And a 9-7 finish may be the most likely outcome. That’s a significant improvement from last year. Or any year since the Harrick era. What Mark Fox has done in a mere two seasons is outstanding and even he recently admitted that things are ahead of schedule. A team that couldn’t win on the road to save their lives last year seems comfortable away from home. They haven’t been blown-out a single time all season. And the game doesn’t run entirely through any one (or even two) players.

But the team isn’t great yet. They have blown a frustrating number of leads. They rarely play a complete, consistent game. They have no bench depth and even the starters don’t play with the consistency you hope for from you stars. Fox’s work is by no means complete.

Winning one of two remaining games and getting a win in the SEC tourney should land Georgia in the NCAA tournament. You’ll recall the Dawgs visited the tourney just back in 2008, but we all have enough distance now to realize that was pretty much a fluke. A really exciting, fun fluke, but a fluke nonetheless. So this is no small accomplishment. With a few more strong games the Dawgs could sneak into the top half of a regional bracket. Even with a mediocre finish the Dawgs would probably land with a seed between 9 and 11.

A small amount of the credit for this great success does belongs to Dennis Felton for signing the likes of Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price. But it would have been infuriating to watch Felton squander all that talent, draining shot clocks with no set offense and stomping his foot through the floor as the defense broke down time and time again. Fox has turned them all into impressive players though. And he hasn’t just benefited from Felton’s kids. He’s shown himself to be quite the recruiter as well- he has a McDonald’s All-American committed in this next class and got Mr. Georgia Basketball last year.

When Damon Evans hired Fox he was a relative no-name (at least in these parts), and maybe even a slight disappointment for folks who wanted Anthony Grant or someone else with SEC ties. But he has turned out to be worth every penny he’s been paid. The only problem is that after another great season other schools may come offering a lot more pennies than Georgia has been paying. Schools that value basketball, aka the ACC and Big East, have surely noticed his success.

If Greg McGarity and the Georgia athletic department value having a great basketball team they need to secure Fox for the future before anyone else has the chance. Winning in the SEC East doesn’t appear to be getting any easier. Calipari is now in the division and it will take the NCAA a couple years to follow him to UK. Billy Donovan doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Bruce Pearl may get himself in enough trouble to have to leave, but at the moment he’s still leading talented squads. And Kevin Stallings is one of the most underrated coaches in America.

What gives me hope on the administration side is McGarity’s years at UF. He knows first-hand the value of a dominant basketball program and how well football and basketball can benefit one another. Not that smaller sports aren’t important, but basketball can generate funds and broad fan interest that tennis and equestrian can’t

The only question is about Fox. Since arriving in Athens he’s said all the right things- that Georgia is a place that should win, with the facilities and in-state talent any coach would envy. But he’s never made any Richtian statements about wanting to end his coaching career in red and black. If a great offer came we can’t be sure what he would do. But if Georgia can secure him with a long-term contract and top tier money you’d hope he might feel some obligation, even desire, to stay.

Here’s hoping McGarity plays this one aggressively.

Summing Up the 2011 Class

Another year of recruiting has ended and most of the dust has settled from National Signing Day. For the Dawgs, though, things weren’t wrapped up until John Jenkins made his announcement Saturday. In all Coach Richt, Coach Garner and the rest of the bunch landed 26 new players for the program. In terms of ranking it actually isn’t Richt’s best class ever, but it certainly feels the best.

Battle Hymn Notes is not where you’ll find the most in depth recruiting coverage (I haven’t seen a second of film on at least half of these guys), but here are some thoughts on the class as a whole, the coaches’ efforts in landing these kids and some individual players:

Mike Bobo owned South Georgia this year. The Dawg’s inability to keep talent from south of Macon in the state has been well-chronicled in recent years. But Bobo was key in landing Crowell, Rome, Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and others. He went toe-to-toe with fellow native Georgians Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp and came away with a near sweep.

We obviously don’t know all the ins and outs of the coaches’ schedules on the road during these contact periods but it seems like Richt, Garner, Grantham, Bobo and Lily especially were just killing it. They were obviously all over the state here, but also in Florida, in Mississippi and even in Connecticut multiple times. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say they simply out-worked some other staffs they competed against.

Outside of the coaching staff the one individual UGA fans owe a debt of gratitude  is Ray Drew. One signee after another has identified him as the ring-leader of the Dream Team and pointed to his persuasion as part of their decision. John Jenkins basically said the Drew took an official to Miami just to recruit him to Athens, which he successfully did.

Of all the players in this class Drew excites me the most by far. There are never guarantees when it comes to player production, but it seems he’ll really thrive in Grantham’s system. Just as encouraging though, he seems like a kid of incredible character. There is no worry he’ll end up in the custody of Athens-Clarke County’s finest. And he seems to be an outstanding leader of the rare David Pollack breed. His peers are already responding to his leadership and I suspect even his elders will sooner than later.

As wonderful as the in-state nature of this class is, it’s influence won’t fully be known for a few years. That’s obvious when it comes to on-field production, but I think we’ll also look back in 2-3 years and know for sure whether this class really turned the tide in leading the state’s best talent to stay at home. How great it would it be if Saban, Chizik and Dooley had to begin assuming all the best players in Georgia were inclined to play in Athens and would have to be convinced otherwise?

I’m ceratinly happy to have Crowell too. I saw him play once. He took his first touch 90 yards, busting through the line, cutting to the outside and leaving everyone in the dust. I’ve been sold ever since.

I know the coaches have said in previous years that we’ve had great classes go relatively unnoticed just because they’ve been wrapped up weeks previous to Signing Day. But this was a good year for the late drama. It not only helped morale in the fan base but also garnered attention from rival fanbases who saw Richt as a dead man walking just a few weeks ago.

I don’t know about long-term impact but I believe Jenkins was the most important piece of this class for the 2011 season. And after his commitment I head from him and Grantham he’ll be wearing #6 so that he can see the field on offense a bit too. I have loved Chapas and Sutherland, but I can’t tell you how excited I’d be to see 340 lbs. of man lined up at FB when the Dawgs are on the goal line.

Other players that excite me:

Justin Scott-Wesley- The Dawg’s haven’t had too many athletes like this. Bobo needs to find creative ways to get him the ball like Florida has done with their track guys in the past.

Amarlo Herrera- An early commit in this class that has the build to do really well in Grantham’s LB-friendly scheme.

Malcolm Mitchell- A filthy athlete who the coaches will probably fight over as long as he’s in the program.

Cornerbacks- There are four in this class as the shortest one is six foot even. The best of the bunch will be probably Nick Marshall, a great athlete who by most accounts could have been a perfect QB for Tech’s system, but moved to the defensive side of the ball just so he could be a Dawg.

Players and areas of concern:

Offensive line- look at this group and then take a peek at Texas’ o-line commits for this year and it’s not hard to see why Searels saw greener pastures in Austin. It’s not a terrible bunch, but none of them seem like guaranteed contributors. Most need to gain weight, lose some pudge, learn the position better, etc.

Defensive line- Other than Jenkins there was only one other defensive lineman in this class- Chris Mayes. There are currently a lot of defensive ends in the program, but this will need to be a top priority next year.

Overall it will be interesting to see how the two no-name players in this class turn out, receiver Sanford Seay and safety Cootie Harrow. Time with tell if Harrow was just offered to entice Crowell. He certainly produced in high school but he’ll either be a diamond in the rough or simply enjoy a free education.

You never know who will be the “bust” in any particular class, but if I had to put my money on one here it would be QB Christian Lemay. He’s got a great arm, but he’s still pretty small, will be stuck behind Murray for at least three years and you just never know how things like his suspended senior year in high school affect a kid. He could easily turn out to be a Blake Barnes type player who just gets caught in between better players and never sees the field.

What are your initial reactions to the class?

10 Offseason Days to Live in Infamy

Since the end of the Georgia Tech game the coaches have had one primary objective: the Dream Team. The rumblings about the Dream Team started back last summer as the coaches picked up one commitment after another and garnered interest from the most talented players in the state. Then the season started and the Dawgs went four months without picking up a commitment. A slew of early games made it tough to have visitors all season. A terrible season didn’t make things any easier.

The misery of the 2010 season finally came to an end. There was nothing that could be done to fix it. There was little that could be done to guarantee success in the future. Except recruit.

Contrary to what some fans think, even a top 5 class won’t change the program in a day or a year. But recruiting is the lifeblood of a program and though it may change things slowly it will change them.

In early January the commitment drought finally came to an end. After being stood up by Xavier Dickson and Quan Bray the Dawgs finally got a pledge from a relatively unknown receiver out of Albany, Sanford Seay. Then they started rolling in. Damien Swann was the first big name in months. Then Ramik Wilson committed unexpectedly. This last week things really started to pick up. Another unexpected recruit, Cootie Wilson, Isaiah Crowell’s best friend, committed just days after getting an offer. Valdosta teammates Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell were the most recent pledges last Thursday.

National Signing Day is now ten days away and the biggest fish are still left to fry. The in-state players everyone has wanted  from the beginning are still uncommitted plus a few more. The Dream Team idea is still alive and well. In the next two weeks we’ll know whether it’s a reality.

Here are the few names to know in the next two weeks if  you haven’t been keeping up all along:

First and foremost, Isaiah Crowell. He’s the standout RB from Columbus who has offers from everyone but is supposedly down the Dawgs and Bama. He’s waiting until Feb. 3rd to make his pledge. It doesn’t take a genius to watch our ground game and figure out why he would be a great addition. He’s just the type of player the Dawgs can’t let leave the state.

Just a hair behind him in importance is Ray Drew, another five-star in-state kid who could rush the passer very well in Grantham’s defense. Drew has made almost no effort to narrow his list and seems to enjoy toying around with fans more than any recruit in recent memory. He’ll be announcing Friday.

The player the Dawgs might need most is a JUCO nose tackle by the name of John Jenkins. At 6’4″ and 340 pounds he could take up a lot of space on the defensive line. Everyone hopes he could be our Mt. Cody or Nick Fairley. There is ceratinly no guarantee he’ll be that good, but he’s more likely to be a dominant nose tackle than anyone on the roster now.

The last one is Kent Turene, a current USC commit who visited Athens last weekend and could very well make a switch soon. He’s not an impact player on the level of the previous three, but would just go to show the momentum the coaching staff has picked up if we can land him.

There are a few others that could end up Dawgs as well, but there is a lot to look forward to in the next 10 days. The future could look much brighter than it seemed December 31st in Memphis. Or we could lose them last minute and the heat could turn right back up.

Only time, ten days, will tell.

My prediction (with absolutely no insider info): the Dream Team lives. I think we land Crowell and Drew. I’m slightly less confident in Jenkins. Even less so in Turene. But I really do think this staff has been zeroed in on recruiting, has the mojo and will finish the drill.

An Unhappy New Year

Kris Durham’s tears told the story.  As the Georgia senior left the field yesterday it hit me: this guy wasn’t crying because his team had lost in his final collegiate game.  He wasn’t crying because the Liberty Bowl had meant so much to him.  Durham was crying because he felt alone on that field.  Here’s a guy who had played his guts out for four years and had overcome an ACL injury, only to finish his career on a team that simply just didn’t care.  You have to hurt for the guy.

There were so many things wrong with this season that I won’t even try to begin explaining them.  There are too many things broken about this program that I won’t try to begin fixing either.  Simply put, the culture of Georgia Football is a me-centered world right now.  Yesterday, I saw no team.  I saw offensive linemen raising their arms in disgust with each other when they missed a block.  I saw defensive backs high-five each other when a pass fell incomplete, even though they were 10 yards away from actually making any kind of play.  I saw a coach display a total lack of confidence in his players when he decided to kick a field goal after a 90+ yard drive.   There is no quick fix.  This is a group that is dysfunctional on a multi-layered scale.  I heard the comment yesterday that watching the game was like, “being forced to watch a bad movie you’d already seen.”

The hope for 2011 won’t be the “we’re going to reevaluate everything” mantra.  That was so 2008…and ’09.  The hope for 2011 will be that these players and coaches never forget how humiliating this loss was.  Clips from this season need to be running on a constant loop in the Butts-Mehre building.  Scores need to be posted around the weight room.  Quotes from other teams and coaches of how easy it was to play Georgia this year need to be visible.  When all that sinks in, maybe, just maybe, the desire to win will finally trump the desire to go pro.

Sometimes, the worst pain is the best medicine.  Lets hope that rings true for a very sick program.

Liberty Bowl Preview

A late Merry Christmas to all our faithful BHN readers out there. We hope you’ve been enjoying the holidays and that a few of you are making the trip to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. Yours truly will be working through New Years and stuck in Atlanta, the fifth game this season that I’ve been unable to attend either because of work or a wedding. Maybe in retrospect I’ll consider it a blessing in light of the season’s outcome, but I’m still bitter at the moment.

While we all hoped back in August for a bowl destination in a warmer location with a later date, there was a point in September when bowling seemed unlikely to happen at all. So let’s embrace reality, and the Liberty Bowl, and get a peek at what to expect on New Year’s Eve in Memphis.

The Dawgs will face a relatively unknown UCF team in the Liberty Bowl. The C-USA champs rolled up 10 wins, but their most impressive win of the year was over East Carolina. Their three losses came to NC State, Kansas State, and Southern Miss, but they weren’t blown out by any of the three. The team is led by George O’Leary, who went 3-4 against the Dawgs when he was the Nerds’ fearless leader (losing to Richt in 2000 and 2001). The Knights will be looking for their first bowl win in school history while the Dawgs will look to avoid their first losing season in 13 years. Needless to say, the two teams are coming off very different seasons. In many senses the game clock at the Liberty Bowl won’t just be counting down 60 minutes of game time, it will count down the seconds until this miserable season is behind us. The 2011 season has plenty of uncertainty, but I don’t think anyone other than the team’s seniors will be sorry to see 2010 behind us.

Here, on schedule, are your storylines and players to watch in the Liberty Bowl and our final prediction for 2010:

Storylines:

Freshman Phenoms- There isn’t a Dawg fan alive who doesn’t realize Aaron

Godfrey- since we're sure you had no idea what he looks like.

Murray was the only thing that kept this year from being a complete and utter disaster. His numbers were great, not just for a freshman, but for any college QB. But as it turns out, the Liberty Bowl will feature two freshman signal callers (the only bowl game to do so, FYI). UCF’s freshman is Jeff Godfrey. He didn’t get his first start until the third game of the season, but still tallied 2042 passing yards, 13 TDs and only 6 INTs. Quite the athlete, he also ran for 546 yards and accounted for another 9 TDs on the ground. Good quarterbacks normally make for good games, so these two guys playing older than their age should be fun to watch.

Defensive Improvement- The improvement in the first year of the Grantham era was certainly less than what the coaches and fans hoped for when he was hired after the bowl game last season. The team especially struggled against the run, where UCF really excels. One of the excuses/reasons we heard all year was guys still struggling to pick up the new system and play freely. One would hope that with 15 practices there could be some serious improvement and a gameplan in place to stop UCF’s mobile QB. If the Knights can match their season average of nearly 200 rushing yards/game it could be a frustrating day for Dawgs fans.

Richt’s Hot Seat- There are lots of reasons the coaches and players should

A new haircut would help too.

want to win this game- finishing with a winning record, sending the seniors out with a win, not losing to a C-USA team, etc. But one that shouldn’t be overlooked is the effect it will have on the temperature of Richt’s seat from January 1st until the Dawgs kickoff in the Dome Labor Day weekend. A loss to UCF, and a 6-7 season, will provide enough fuel to keep the critics’ fires going strong for those eight full months. A win doesn’t take all the heat off, but at least it doesn’t turn it up. With a win and a solid finish to recruiting the fanbase could enter the offseason hopeful.

Players:

Aaron Murray- While UCF gains nearly 200 yards/game on the ground, they surrender only 11o yards/game rushing. With Caleb King out of the game and the line still an uncertainty every game hopefully the coaches have accepted that just like the Auburn and Tech games, any chance of winning lies squarely on Aaron Murray’s beautiful right arm. He’s got weapons a’plenty. You know AJ wants to go out with a bang. So does Durham. And I can’t imagine the UCF corners and safeties are looking forward to this game. If Murray can do what he’s done all year the Dawgs should outscore UCF and win.

Akeem Dent- Name the last dual-threat QB the Dawgs didn’t struggle to defend. Since Pat White gashed the 2005 team in the Sugar Bowl mobile quarterbacks have been a series of recurring nightmares. Ultimately, it’s the linebackers who have to neutralize QBs like Godfrey, chasing him down on the run and dropping back into coverage when he wants to throw. And no UGA linebacker has improved more at both of those things this year than Dent. This is no less than the third time we’ve called on him as defensive player to watch, but he continues to be the one solid contributor on that side of the ball.

Blair Walsh- On special teams you have to hope the Dawgs won’t be punting or even kicking field goals all to often. Wearing out Blair Walsh’s leg with kickoffs would be much better! But hold your breath every time he does  kickoff because UCF’s return man, Quincy McDuffie, is second in the nation with 32 yards/return. Watch for Walsh to boot them out the back of the endzone when he can and toward the corners at other times to keep McDuffie neutralized.

Prediction:

There really isn’t a lot to like about the Dawgs position going into this game- just trying to end a miserable season, with multiple players suspended, against a team looking to close their best season in school history with a win over an SEC team. Then again, it’s hard to imagine UCF stopping the air assault Murray and Co. will put on. The Dawgs offense may well become totally one-dimensional in this game and the game could easily turn into another shootout with a team that runs at will on our defense while the Dawgs pick up passing yardage in huge chunks. In the end I think the Dawgs’ size on defense, which UCF hasn’t seen many times this year, get one more stop (but probably only one more) to get the win and push the bowl winning streak to five- 38-31 Dawgs on top.

SEC Bowl Preview

The SEC enters another bowl season with an impressive 10 teams qualified for postseason play (sorry, ‘Dores and Rebel Bears). We, SEC fans, always take pride in the performance of our conference, hoping to beat the Big 10/11/12 as often as possible and simply reinforce in the minds of all Americans what we’ve always known to be true- that the SEC is the best in the land. For the fourth straight year we have a conference team playing for the national title. There are four opportunities to remind the Big 10/11/12 that they are slow and fat. There are two chances to put the “parity=mediocrity” ACC in their place. And of course the Dawgs can claim supremacy over the C-USA with a win in Memphis, woohoo!

Here are some brief predictions on each SEC bowl, just in time for bowls to kick off this weekend (and the good ones to start in three weeks);

Tennessee vs. North Carolina- This seemed very unlikely for the Vols at one point (namely, late October), but their fight back to 6-6 has been rewarded with a virtual home game in Nashville. Scanning the UT schedule this year it’s not hard to realize that they never beat a legitimately good team (Kentucky is the only bowl-eligible team they defeated). But I think Bray will continue to play well and the “home field” advantage will give the Vols the win over a UNC team that has disappointed all year long.

Georgia vs. UCF- We’ll have a full preview of this game closer to the 31st, but I’ll let the cat out of the bag- the Dawgs aren’t losing this game. Since the SEC and C-USA have been matched up in this contest the SEC is yet to drop a game. UCF had a great season, but didn’t beat anyone from an AQ conference, though they played Kansas State and NC State close. I don’t predict a dominating win, but the difference in talent level will be too much for the Knights.

South Carolina vs. Florida State- This is basically the consolation prize for the losers of the SEC and ACC championship games. It’s been a great season for USC, but since Spurrier arrived they have severely underperformed in bowl games. After getting blown out by Auburn you have to wonder how they’ll respond. You also have to wonder if their fans will be excited to return to Atlanta for the second time in a month. It’s no more than a gut feeling, but I think the Noles will win this ballgame.

Alabama vs. Michigan State- The first of four straight SEC-Big 10/11/12 matchups pits Saban against one of his former teams. Though Michigan State was a co-champion of their conference, Bama, who finished fourth in their division, is a heavy favorite. And while Orlando is certainly not where Bama hoped to spend the holidays, Saban-coached teams rarely come out flat. The Tide should roll in this one. SEC: 1 Big 10/11/12: 0.

Florida vs. Penn State- You can never be sure how a team going through a coaching transition will play in a bowl game. And what’s going on at Florida right now is especially unusual. I’d love to pick Penn State, but when you look at who they beat this year it’s impossible to justify. In the end the Gators will pull it out to send Meyer out on top. When Mike Pouncey and Ahmad Black carry him off on their shoulders try not to jump for joy or throw up in your mouth, whichever your impulse might be.

Mississippi State vs. Michigan- Like the spread? If so, this is the game for you. Mullen and Rodriguez run very different versions on if, but both have been offensive innovators since the spread hit college football. It will be a good chance for us SEC fans to see the phenom that is Denard Robinson. The difference between these two teams is that Mississippi State has a defense, and a pretty good one at that thanks to new DC Manny Diaz. The other Dogs should get a win in that Jacksonville stadium where our Dawgs so rarely taste victory.

Ohio State vs. Arkansas- To me, this is one of the more intriguing games involving an SEC team. Arkansas has slipped into the Sugar Bowl for the first time as an SEC member to face An Ohio State University that all SEC fans love beating. This game is really a toss-up but I think Mallett’s arm and Ohio State’s mental block when it comes to SEC teams will give the Hogs a memorable end to a memorable season. And in case, you’ve been scoring at home, that’s SEC: 4 Big 10/11/12:0.

LSU vs. Texas A&M- Outside of the BCS Title game I think this will be the best bowl game featuring an SEC team, and one of the best overall. Two rabid fanbases, both within driving distance of Dallas, and two very good teams facing off in the JerryDome. TAMU hasn’t lost since switching quarterback mid-season and is a much better team than the one the Dawgs played in Shreveport last year. But LSU’s only losses were close games with teams that made BCS bowls. As crazy as it sounds LSU may be disappointed to be here. In a toss-up I’m taking the Aggies. On a side-note, I just realized I’ll be in Dallas for work while this game is played- if by chance you’ve got connections to any tickets help a blogger out!

Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky- Pitt failed to be any good for the third straight year under Dave Wannstedt so they fall into the hard to predict, coach-less team category. On the other hand, the reality that Kentucky is in a bowl game is evidence that teams should have to play somebody decent in their non-conference schedule. This is undoubtedly the least interesting SEC game, but I’ll give it to the Wildcats solely because they have Randall Cobb.

Oregon vs. Auburn- I’m in a dilemma. For a few years my stance has been that I’d cheer for any SEC team in bowls except for Florida. And this SEC streak of national champions really is great. But I’m so over Auburn. If they lose and the NCAA takes the season away, their fans don’t have to experience the agony of a title taken away (which I would very much enjoy watching). If they win and the NCAA doesn’t vacate the season then they get the dream season every fanbase fantasizes about. Regardless of my internal conflict, we should be glad we’re getting to see the two best teams, two unbeatens face off. In the end I think Auburn’s magic lasts one more game and the Tiger Eagles come out on top.

Those predictions give the SEC an 8-2 bowl record. Not too shabby. Realistically a 10-0 sweep isn’t out of the question. Only Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas are underdogs in Vegas and none by more than 3 points.

What are your thoughts? Was I too generous to the SEC or do we have a shot at the sweep?

The Crucial Next 60 Days

The Dawgs will only play one game in the next two months (or next 8 months for that matter). But one could make the argument that the next 60 days are the most crucial two-month period of Coach Richt’s career at UGA. I’m not sure I buy it given that coaches are ultimately judged by what happens on the field, however, you could certainly contend that it’s the most crucial offseason in Richt’s career and what happens in Memphis and on the recruiting trail between now and National Signing Day will play heavily into Richt’s chances of making it through the next season.

Just because the season is over certainly doesn’t mean Richt, his staff, or even the players won’t be busy. Here are the program’s top 10 objectives for the next two months, in no particular order of importance:

1. Win the Liberty Bowl- I know many cynical fans will say this game is meaningless. And that’s somewhat true… if we win. But if we lose to a C-USA team there will be a lot more negative energy around the program between now the kickoff in the Dome next September. The primary objective of the coaches and players is to win football games and there is one more on the schedule before we can mercifully put 2010 in the books. If nothing else there is something to be said for finishing with a winning record, even if that’s miles behind the team’s goals for the season.

2. Get practice time for the youngsters- Richt has been adamant that he doesn’t view bowl practice as spring practice. But that doesn’t mean the coaches can’t utilize 15 practices to the most of their potential. The coaches and players are used to prepping for an opponent and installing a game plan in far less than 15 practices. We’ve had some guys with potential spend most of the year on scout team and it would be great to let them run our schemes some in bowl prep. While winning the bowl game is valuable, it’s not like we’re playing for the national title here. Surely the coaches can find some middle ground that will put the team in a position to beat UCF and get reps for guys who took redshirts this year.

3. Sign all our current commits- The Dawgs currently have 16 guys ready to sign on the dotted line in February. And while the class is hopefully nowhere near completed it certainly won’t create any momentum toward Signing Day if guys start visiting others places and bailing as a few did last year. There may not be a real immediate impact type player committed yet, but there are guys with serious potential, who got offers at other SEC schools, that we can’t afford to lose.

4. Get as many prospects as possible on official visits- From all the news that came out of the Tech game and the Senior Gala last weekend it really seems like the coaching staff has some recruiting mojo right now. There were no commitments out of last weekend, but by all accounts it was a great success for the 18 official visitors on hand. Some key targets are still set to take visits in January. Our chances go up significantly every time we can get a kid and his parents on campus. The more targets we can bring to Athens between now and Signing Day the better chance we have of signing the Dream Team.

5. Sign Isaiah Crowell- There are a handful of prospects out there that could really “make” this class with their pledge at a all-star game or on National Signing Day. Many think Crowell would head that list. He would certainly be a great compliment to Aaron Murray and might provide the best running threat we’ve had in Athens since Knowshon. Also important, he, like several other uncommitted Georgians, is between the Dawgs and Tide. Getting him to stay in state, reversing a disturbing recent trend of top talent crossing the border, would be a big step in the right direction.

6. Sign Ray Drew- Drew has offers from every major program in the country and has done little to whittle down his list thus far in the recruiting process. He took his official visit last weekend and he and Richt got some quality time on a fishing trip Saturday morning that Richt prioritized over the first 30 minutes of practice. He would fit Grantham’s scheme well and again, it’s important to keep him in state as opposed to letting him slip to Auburn or LSU.

7. Sign John Jenkins- When Grantham came in he claimed he didn’t need a Mount Cody to make his 3-4 defense work. After a season on the field many of us Dawg fans would beg to differ. But Jenkins could be that guy. He’s currently committed to Oklahoma State, but the Dawgs have put a full court press on him recently, even sending coaches to Connecticut this week to meet with his family. At 6-4, 340 he could literally change the face of our defense. At this point I’d say he’s less likely to end up a Dawg than Crowell or Drew, but he’s got that huge upside at a position where we have incredible need.

8. Sign Malcolm Mitchell- Mitchell is another highly rated player that spent last weekend in Athens. Florida and Bama are also high on his list. Until the visit it seemed the Dawgs might be behind others vying for his services, but again he would provide talent at a position (CB) where there is serious need. Moreover, the Dawgs have struggled to sign talent out of  Valdosta recently, but getting Mitchell and Jay Rome as a package deal could change that in a hurry.

9. Sign Jay Rome- Of all the individual prospects mentioned here Rome seems the most certain to sign, as he admitted he came close to committing last weekend. The Dawgs aren’t dying for a great tight end with White and Charles still on the roster, but you just can’t let a talent like Rome get away. And if he’s added to the roster we might see Charles flexed out as a receiver more often (which would be great with our lack of receiver depth) and Rome used as a traditional tight end in the Georgia model of Watson or Pope.

10. Add new staff to the Strength and Conditioning Program-This one is by far the least expected on the list. Richt has given no indication that any such thing might happen. But there are been message board rumblings that there’s more to the story of replacing Van Halanger with Tereshinski. There may be someone from NFL ranks coming. I don’t think anyone can say putting Tereshinski in charge was a bad move, but just a confusing one. Richt could re-earn some trust if there were another chapter to that story.

What did I miss? Any other top priorities for the next two month? Anything I listed not really that important?