THE TEN AT 10:
1. It appears quite likely that Shaq Wiggins will end up at Louisville.
That’s according to his father. Al Wiggins told me Monday night that the Cardinals are the leader among about 20 schools that have shown interest in having the 5-foot-10, 165-pound cornerback transfer in from Georgia. The Bulldogs announced they were effectively releasing Wiggins by mutual agreement this past Friday.
Louisville is, of course, coached by former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. And Louisville, of course, has already claimed another UGA defensive back. Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons transferred there after the coach Mark Richt dismissed him in February for multiple rules violations.
“You have to consider them,” Al Wiggins, speaking by phone from their home in Tyrone, said of the Cardinals. “Coach Grantham is there and that’s where Josh Harvey-Clemons is at. You know, they played on the same side (of the secondary). So that’s definitely something Shaquille and I feel comfortable with. But we haven’t really made a firm decision yet. We’ve still got to put everything on the table.”
Mr. Wiggins declined to mention the other schools they are considering, though he did offer that he wanted his son to go to South Carolina out of high school. But he was out-voted by Shaq and his mother, who both preferred Georgia.
“I think he knows where he wants to go,” Al Wiggins said. “It just has to happen.”
2. As for what happened at Georgia, Mr. Wiggins wanted to make three things clear: That his son had not gotten into trouble with the law; that his son was not in academic trouble; and that they have no problem at all with the University of Georgia.
“The Georgia experience was actually fantastic for me and my family,” he said. “That’s the God’s honest truth.”
Shaq Wiggins had been arrested for driving on a suspended license earlier this year, but wasn’t going to be suspended and the incident wasn’t a factor in this decision, Al Wiggins said. The issue was the coaching change.
Scott Lakatos, Wiggins’ position coach, was not retained after this past season, Grantham left for Louisville for more money and the rest of the defensive staff eventually left for different jobs. The Bulldogs subsequently brought in Jeremy Pruitt from national champion FSU to coordinate the defense. The difference in schemes, techniques and general coaching philosophy is radically different, according to Mr. Wiggins.
He said Pruitt teaches a “T-step” coverage technique rather than the “power-step” Shaq has always utilized and prefers. Despite starting eight games as a freshman last season, Shaq fallen back on the Bulldogs’ depth chart. He also had been reprimanded more than once for improper decorum in the weight room and on the field.
“You can’t blame a new coach coming in with a new tone,” Mr. Wiggins said. “He didn’t do a good job of adjusting maybe. I don’t know, but it’s time to move on.”
3. That said, Al Wiggins insist there are no hard feelings between his family and Georgia.
“I was very impressed with the way Mark Richt handled the whole thing, the way he released him, the way the conversations went with him and Pruitt,” Al Wiggins said. “It was so positive it was unbelievable in a lot of ways. There was nothing negative about it. It was really impressive to see that in modern-day football, that a separation could be as positive as this. I was very impressed with the University of Georgia. They didn’t want him to leave, but they didn’t try to get in his way. They were very professional. There’s absolutely no bitter feeling.”
4. Richt has displayed an increasingly more liberal attitude over the years when it comes to a willingness to let players transfer without much resistance. Schools have NCAA authority to put restrictions on what other programs a player might consider. Richt doesn’t make such stipulations.
Richt explained that philosophy when he talked to reporters in Albany on Monday before a UGA Days event there.
“First of all, I’m not afraid of attrition,” he was quoted as saying in a story on the website Dawgs247.com. “Sometimes attrition is good. Life is too short for guys not being where they ought to be or where they want to be, all those types of things. In the end, you want everybody to be where they want to be and have the best opportunity to do what they want to do. There’s a lot of that going on, but it’s not all that shocking, really.”
5. In the meantime, the secondary has encountered even more attrition since spring practice wrapped up a month ago. Richt also confirmed to Dawgs247.com that the Bulldogs have moved Brendan Langley from defensive back to wide receiver. Langley started the first four games of last season at cornerback and actually edged out Wiggins for that right, but then lost the job back to Wiggins the last two-thirds of the season.
“He’s fast, and he can change direction well,” Richt said of Langley. “We just thought as a staff that it might be a shot for him to help us.”
It’s difficult to say who might start now at the cornerback position opposite Damian Swann. At the end of spring practice Aaron Davis, a walkon, was working with the No. 1 defense at corner, while Langley was getting a look at safety.
In any case, it would appear the door is wide open for signees such as Shattle Fenteng and Malkolm Parrish to come in and earn for immediate playing time. The Bulldogs signed four defensive backs in their last recruiting class.
6. Originally expected to last “three to four weeks,” the Jim Donnan fraud trial in U.S. District Court in Athens could actually get handed to the jury by the end of this week. Prosecutors told Judge C. Ashley Royal they expect to rest their case on Tuesday and lead defense attorney Ed Tolley added they he doesn’t expect to need more than a day to make his case. That could leave a verdict in the jury’s hands by late Thursday or early Friday.
In the original indictment, Donnan and Gregory Crabtree of Proctorville, Ohio, faced 87 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and security fraud related to an alleged Ponzi scheme in which investors lost almost $23 million. Forty-six of those counts were thrown out before the trial began May 6 and there are indications more could be dismissed will be before the case goes to the jury.
7. Obviously, the Georgia baseball team’s game against Georgia Tech tonight in the Spring Baseball Classic for Kids at Turner Field is hugely important. It will decide the season’s series, currently tied at one game apiece. But an even more important series awaits the Bulldogs later this week. They play host to Kentucky in a three-game series that starts on Thursday and will determine whether they earn a spot in the SEC tournament.
Georgia (25-25-1, 10-16-1 SEC) is currently 12th overall in the SEC, which happens to take the top 12 teams for its annual tournament in Hoover. The Bulldogs are a half-game ahead of Auburn (10-17) in the SEC standings and a half-game behind Tennessee (11-16). Auburn plays host to LSU while the Vols Florida in Knoxville. Kentucky is 30-20 overall and 12-15 in the SEC.
So the magic number for the Bulldogs is three. Any combination of Georgia wins or Auburn losses equaling three will clinch a spot. A sweep could move the Bulldogs up to eighth.
“This is what we wanted,” coach Scott Stricklin said. “We hoped we’d be playing meaningful games is May and we are. … We have a chance not only to get into the SEC tournament but to improve our seeding.”
Kentucky features the best player in the SEC — by far. A.J. Reed (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) is not only the SEC’s leading slugger (.350, 21 HR, 63 RBI) but is also one of the league’s top pitchers (9-2, 2.30 ERA).
8. Georgia’s softball team has been making a little history of its own. The Bulldogs won the program’s first SEC tournament championship this past weekend in Columbia, S.C., and were awarded their highest seed ever — fourth — for the NCAA Tournament, which begins this week.
In the Athens Regional at the Jack Turner Softball Stadium, Georgia (45-12) will host N.C. State (34-16), UAB (31-25) and Chattanooga (34-19) Friday through Sunday. The Bulldogs will open against UAB on Friday.
Georgia is making both its 13th-consecutive NCAA postseason appearance, all under head coach Lu Harris-Champer. The Bulldogs are 46-24 overall in NCAA postseason play, and advanced to the Women’s College World Series final four in 2009 and 2010.
Georgia’s softball program continues to flourish under the direction of coach Lu Harris-Champer. The Bulldogs are making their 13th-consecutive NCAA postseason appearance under her guidance and are 46-24 overall in NCAA postseason play. They advanced to the Women’s College World Series final four in 2009 and 2010.
UGA produced a nice highlight video that recaps its run to the SEC title this past weekend.
9. The NCAA Tennis Championships, one of my all-time favorite events, is back in Athens this year and will get under way on Thursday. If you’ve never been you really need to check it out. It’s just a relaxed and enjoyable event to attend, team tennis is a fun format and competition is intense.
The Dan Magill Tennis Complex is considered one of the best facilities in America and has hosted the NCAA Championships a total of 24 times. It played host to 13 NCAA Championship in a row from 1977-89. In 2006, the NCAA opted to have one combined site for the men’s and women’s tennis championships and Georgia has served as a host for the combined NCAA Tennis Championships in 2007, 2010 and 2012.
The odds are good that either or both of Georgia’s teams could play for a title this year. The Lady Dogs are seeded No. 1 while the men are 10 as the Sweet Sixteen gets under way this week. The women play 16th-seeded Southern Cal Thursday at 4 p.m. and the men open against No. 7 North Carolina Friday at 4 p.m. The semifinals and finals are scheduled for Sunday and Monday, respectively.
10. This & that: Condolences to former Bulldog Lindsay Scott. His stepson, Clayton “Clay” Rolland Cross, was shot and killed in an incident at a club in Homerville this past Saturday. Cross, 22, was close to graduating from Morehouse University in Atlanta. … Not surprisingly, freshman Robert Tyler was named the SEC’s Pitcher of the Week. The 6-4, 210-pound right-hander from Cordele pitched a complete-game shutout for a win over No. 11 Ole Miss this past Saturday. Tyler improved to 5-4 on the season while lowering his team-best ERA to 2.57. … While quarterback Aaron Murray (Chiefs) and tight end Arthur Lynch (Dolphins) were the only Bulldogs selected in the NFL draft (both in the fifth round), Georgia had six players selected by teams via free agency. Players from last year’s Georgia team who will get an NFL try include OL Chris Burnette (Bucs), OL Kenarious Gates (Bucs), OL Dallas Lee (Falcons), DL Garrison Smith (Dophins), WR/DB Blake Sailors (redskins) and WR Rantavious Wooten (Dolphins). That number grows to eight if you include Alabama State tailback Isaiah Crowell (Browns) and DB Jordan Love (Patriots).