Ten@10: Three emerge as strong OC candidates

Stanford's Mike Bloomgren has come a long way as a coach since leaving FSU as an undergrad in 1999. (USA Today by Kyle Terada)

Stanford’s Mike Bloomgren has come a long way as a coach since leaving FSU as an undergrad in 1999. (USA Today by Kyle Terada)

THE TEN AT 10:

1. Georgia’s offensive coordinator search, at this point at least, appears to be coming down to three primary candidates: Mike Bloomgren, Kurt Roper and John Lilly. Sources indicate all three will interview with head coach Mark Richt this week.

All three have strong characteristics and appear to be good fits.

  • Bloomgren is currently offensive coordinator and associate head coach at Stanford. And while that’s far away, he’s an FSU graduate who was there at the end of Mark Richt’s tenure as offensive coordinator, was a grad assistant at Alabama and lists North Florida and South Georgia as two of his recruiting areas for The Cardinal. He’s also an offensive line coach, which the Bulldogs also need.
  • Roper

    Roper

    Roper is obviously available after his one-year stint at Florida under former coach Will Muschamp left him out of work. And while the Gators certainly didn’t distinguish themselves offensively during Roper’s brief tenure there, there was the matter of the 418 yards rushing they managed in the 38-20 upset win over Georgia in Jacksonville on Nov. 1. And Roper’s very well-respected in the business. He did great work developing quarterbacks under David Cutcliffe at Duke and Ole Miss. His pupils include Sean Renfree and Eli Manning.

  • Don’t discount Lilly. The Bulldogs’ tight ends coach and co-special teams coordinator served as interim OC during the Belk Bowl and, at last check, that went pretty well. Despite losing quarterback Hutson Mason and leading pass-catcher Michael Bennett during the course of the contest, Georgia piled up 505 yards and 37 points against Louisville and the Cardinals’ Top 10-ranked defense.

I’d expect this process to wrap up fairly quickly. The AFCA Convention begins Sunday in Louisville. If it’s not completed by then I’d think it would be by the time that event is over on the 14th.

2. Interesting observing the reactions to Athletic Director Greg McGarity’s latest moves. Most recently, McGarity made the decision to extend Richt’s contract (details still pending) and approved Richt’s request to provide a contract extension and salary increase for defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Greg McGarity's moves as athletic director have been logical and deliberate. (AP photo)

Greg McGarity’s moves as athletic director have been logical and deliberate. (AP photo)

AJC columnist Mark Bradley touched on this on Monday, but McGarity truly seems to be damned if he does or doesn’t these days. Heading toward the end of 2014 and the fourth year of his tenure, the meme was that McGarity was cheap. A lot of it has to do with the Bulldogs not having an indoor practice facility.

One must consider that one of McGarity’s first acts when he arrived at UGA from Florida was to preside over the ribbon-cutting for the ridiculously-inadequate, not-of-his-doing Nalley Multipurpose Facility and Butts-Mehre expansion. That cost $33 million. One could see how an IPF might not seem a big priority to him or the UGA board, for that matter.

Then, on the heels of Georgia’s dominating victory over Louisville to complete a 10-3 season, we’re hearing now that he’s “rewarding mediocrity.” Richt has just three years remaining on his contract. As an administrator, you can’t leave him dangling without at least four or five years on his contract, especially in the midst of what appears to be bountiful recruiting season.

Meanwhile, Pruitt was getting overtures from every direction after Georgia’s defense improved across the board in his first season. In NCAA rankings, the Bulldogs went from 45th to 20th in total defense, 78th to 16th in scoring, 60th to fifth in passing yards allowed and 102nd to fourth in turnover margin. To be clear, Pruitt’s raise and contract extension was Richt’s call. But it required McGarity’s approval, and Georgia could not sit idle and let Pruitt slip away to one of the Bulldogs’ SEC brethren.

From where I sit, I haven’t seen McGarity do anything but exactly what was required. It seems to me he is simply making the moves that have to be made.

Linebacker Jake Ganus led UAB in tackles last season before the Blazers disbanded their football program. (Photo by Mark Almond of AL.com)

Linebacker Jake Ganus led UAB in tackles last season before the Blazers disbanded their football program. (Photo by Mark Almond of AL.com)

3. Speaking of Pruitt’s defense, the Bulldogs were hoping to get a significant boost on that side of the ball from their crop of early enrollees for spring semester. The eight early arrivals started classes this week and included seven defenders.

Among them are two badly-needed transfers at linebacker: Jake Ganus  from UAB; and Chuks Amaechi from Arizona Western Junior College. There are six would-be high school seniors are in the group, including defensive linemen Michael Barnett of Dorchester, S.C., Johnathan Ledbetter of Tucker, and Natrez Patrick of Atlanta’s Mays High School. Georgia also signed safeties Johnathan Abram of Columbia, Miss., and Jarvis Wilson of Tupelo, Miss.

The only offensive addition is tight end Jackson Harris of Columbia, Tenn. Harris, Ledbetter, Patrick and Barnett are all 4-star rated prospects, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.

4.  Speaking of signees, one of the Bulldogs’ former ones committed to the Oregon Ducks recently.

Paris Bostick, who had a curious year-long stay at Georgia and redshirted, left the program after spring practice last April and transferred to Santa Monica College in California. The former safety from Tampa’s Plant High was held back by a toe injury his first season at UGA, then converted to linebacker. He is slated to play linebacker for the Ducks.

Bostick told The Oregonian he had a hard time fitting in at Georgia under Pruitt. “He came in and he didn’t have a rover position in his style of defense, so that left me trying to make room at safety, linebacker,” he said. “Not knowing exactly what position I was, I was learning two different playbooks. It wasn’t the right fit.”

Bostick is expected to play outside linebacker for the Ducks.

Frazier

Frazier

5. In case you haven’t noticed, Georgia (9-3) is off to its best start in men’s basketball since 2011. The Bulldogs won their sixth game in a row this past Saturday against Norfolk State, thanks in particular to the strong play of J.J. Frazier. The sophomore guard came off the bench to play a career-high 25 minutes and score a career-best 20 points in the 63-50 victory.

The 5-foot-9 Frazier has been a big difference maker for the Bulldogs of late. He has logged career highs in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and minutes in Georgia’s five most recent games.

Free of knee issues, senior forward Marcus Thornton flying high as the Bulldogs' leader in scoring (13.7) and rebounding (7.2). (UGA photo by Sean Taylor)

Free of knee issues, senior forward Marcus Thornton flying high as the Bulldogs’ leader in scoring (13.7) and rebounding (7.2). (UGA photo by Sean Taylor)

6. In fact, Frazier and senior forward Marcus Thornton would have to be considered two of the main reasons for Georgia’s resurgence this season.

Thornton is playing the best basketball of his career. The fifth-year senior has established a new career scoring high three times this season, topping out with 24 against Chattanooga on Dec. 4. Now the Bulldogs’ leading scorer and rebounder, Thornton has picked up three “double-doubles” this season and, according to UGA, now has scored 27 percent of his career total points in just 12 games.

Thornton received a medical redshirt year in 2012-13 after a knee injury in the season’s ninth game sidelined him. He has had three knee surgeries since coming to UGA from Westlake High as the reigning Mr. Georgia Basketball in 2010.

Georgia continues to get solid play from guards Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines, wing Juwan Parker and forward Nemi Djurisic.

7. Georgia is doing everything it can to keep its home-court unbeaten streak going in the Arkansas. UGA, which is 7-0 at Stegeman Coliseum this season, offering tickets to the game at the discounted rate of $8 apiece. The only catch is they must be ordered online using the promotional code of MBB6.

Georgia and Arkansas split a pair of regular-season games last season, with the home team winning each time. The Bulldogs won 66-61 in overtime on Jan. 18 in Athens and the Razorbacks won 87-75 0n March 1 in Fayetteville. Both teams eventually reached the post-season NIT second round.

Jack Bauerle returns to the deck for Georgia just in time for Saturday's home meet against powerhouse Texas. (UGA photo)

Jack Bauerle returns to the deck for Georgia just in time for Saturday’s home meet against powerhouse Texas. (UGA photo)

8. Jack Bauerle makes his return to the pool deck this Saturday, just slightly later than planned.

The Bulldogs’ swimming and diving coach was cleared last by the NCAA to return from a year-long suspension and coach during competitions for the Jan. 3 meet at South Carolina. But recent shoulder surgery prevented the 61-year-old  Bauerle from traveling.

As it is, Bauerle has the opportunity to make a much more triumphant return – or at least a meaningful one — this Saturday. The Bulldogs play host to Texas, one of their national rivals. The Longhorns’ men are ranked No. 1 to Georgia’s No. 3, while the Lady Bulldogs are ranked No. 2 and the Texas women are ranked sixth.

Bauerle has been under some sort of suspension or another since Jan. 4, 2014, when UGA launched an investigation into his involvement of an academic matter regarding star swimmer Chase Kalisz. On Dec. 16, the NCAA determined that Bauerle had indeed violated rules regarding improper benefits and coaching ethics. He was given a one-year recruiting restriction (which expires in April) and the school was fined $5,000 but no probation was levied against the program.

I’ll be talking to Bauerle this week.

9. The No. 19-ranked Georgia Lady Bulldogs (13-2, 1-1 SEC) got back on the winning track this past Sunday with a 64-47 victory over Alabama in their SEC home opener at the Coliseum. Coach Andy Landers’ squad had gotten off to a 12-0 start before dropping back-to-back road games at Seton Hall and Mississippi State.

The Lady Dogs would be well-advised to get another winning streak going because the end of the month offers an extremely challenging stretch. Starting with its Jan. 22 home game against Texas A&M (14-2, 2-0), Georgia will play four teams that are currently undefeated in league play and have only six losses between them in Tennessee (12-2, 2-0), Kentucky (13-2, 2-0) and South Carolina (14-0, 2-0).

10. Georgia’s gymnastics team has improved on its finish from the previous year in each of the last two seasons. If that trend continues under third-year coach Danna Durante, the Gym Dogs could be in for a special year. Last year, Georgia achieved its best finish since the 2009 NCAA championship season.

But first things first. No. 7-ranked Georgia will have to be in midseason form in its season-opening meet as it hosts No. 8 Michigan on Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum (4 p.m.). That task will be made all the more difficult without vault specialists Brittany Rogers and Lauren Johnson, who are out with injuries.

Durante is hoping an incoming class of five freshmen can help.


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