THE TEN AT TEN
1. We have a long way to go before we can come anywhere close to judging how good Brian Schottenheimer is going to be for Georgia as offensive coordinator. But I have to admit, I’ve been somewhat taken aback by the some of the negative reaction to it from outsiders.
I happened to catch Barrett Sallee of the Bleacher Report on the radio the other day and he hasn’t backed down a bit from his initial response that Schottenheimer was “a bad hire” for Georgia and “a downgrade from Mike Bobo.” Sallee shared his strong opinion on UGA’s new coordinator shortly after it was announced in January and he has continued to recite that refrain in his many interviews since.
Sallee concludes that Schottenheimer was “abysmal” as a coordinator in the NFL, which I guess is based on the St. Louis Rams’ offensive fortunes under Schottenheimer’s guidance in recent seasons. Last year, the Rams finished in the bottom third of the NFL in total offense (28th, 314.7 ypg), passing (23rd, 212.5), rushing (20th, 102.2) and scoring (20.2 ppg). Never mind that St. Louis was having to play the season with a fourth-string, free-agent quarterback due to injuries to Sam Bradford and other quarterbacks.
But if you pull back the focus to look at Schottenheimer’s overall body of work, it looks pretty impressive to me.
Before joining the Rams, Schottenheimer had a reputation for producing powerful, run-oriented offenses with the New York Jets. From 2008-2010 they ranked ninth, first and fourth in the league in rushing and ninth, 17th and 13th in scoring, respectively. And Schottenheimer has a pretty impressive football pedigree. The son of longtime NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer, he has coached with the Chiefs, Chargers and Redskins for more than 13 years in the NFL and played quarterback under Steve Spurrier at Florida and coached some college ball after that. I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing Schottenheimer’s not a dolt as a game-planner or play-caller.
So what does Schottenheimer have to work with at Georgia? Granted, he has to oversee a quarterback transition from Hutson Mason to either Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta or Jacob Park. But he has a pretty decent foundation on which to build.
Consider this: Seven starters return from a record-setting Bulldogs’ offense that led the SEC in scoring (41.3 ppg). In addition to four offensive linemen — a pretty good start right there — those returnees include some major points producers in tailback Nick Chubb, the SEC’s returning leader in touchdowns (16), and placekicker Marshall Morgan, the SEC leader in overall scoring (115).
Again, we’re just in spring practice and I’m hoping to talk to some offensive players after this afternoon’s workout to get a feel for what kind of coaching they’re getting from “Schotty,” as they call him. But a “bad hire” and “a downgrade from Mike Bobo?”
Let’s be sure to pay attention and get back to Sallee in December.
2. When it comes to Georgia basketball recruiting, there has been a lot of talk about Jaylen Brown. And understandably so. The 6-foot-7 wing from Wheeler High is rated the nation’s No. 2 prospect and would be the most dynamic recruit the Bulldogs have landed since perhaps Dominique Wilkins in 1980.
But at this point, UGA has not even been able to get Brown to take an unofficial visit to Athens, much less an official one. In fact, AJC recruiting reporter Michael Carvell informed us yesterday that Brown this past weekend took to a secret visit to Cal. Brown also took an official visit to Michigan before that and already has taken officials to Kentucky (his rumored frontrunner), UCLA, Kansas and North Carolina.
Doesn’t sound like the Bulldogs are that close. However, Brown allegedly is telling people they’re still in it. There is some UGA influence in Brown’s circle. Patrick Hamilton, who starred at guard for the Bulldogs in the late 1980s, is an assistant basketball coach at Wheeler. And Wheeler alum D.A. Layne, a UGA letterman, still lives and works in the area.
But generally it has been mighty difficult for Georgia to attract recruits of Brown’s ilk. And while I’m sure Brown would flourish under Mark Fox’s guidance, that’s not necessarily how he builds his program. His success primarily has come through developing players over the course of three to four years. Brown, it would seem, won’t be around college but one season.
3. That said, the Bulldogs already have signed three prospects about whom they feel very good in William “Turtle” Jackson, Derek Ogbeide and E’torrion Wilridge.
Jackson is a 6-4 guard from nearby Athens Christian School who is probably the highest profile of the recruits. Wilridge is a 6-7 forward from Beaumont, Texas, who could help the Bulldogs on the wing or inside. Ogbeide is a 6-8, 240-pound forward from Atlanta’s Pebblebrook High who might have the most immediate impact.
Bulldogs fans who were paying attention got to see Ogbeide versus Brown in the Class AAAAAA state championship game earlier this month. And the game did not disappoint. In fact, Wheeler won 59-58 on Brown’s two foul shots with :00.5 remaining – after Ogbeide allegedly fouled him, of course.
Anyway, Fox talked about his signees shortly after the Bulldogs exited the NCAA tournament with a 70-63 loss to Michigan State this past weekend.
“Turtle Jackson is terrific,” he said. “He can play a number of places. He can put the ball on the floor, has great ball skills, I think he’s outstanding. Derek Ogbeide is physically ready with his body to step in and do what he does best, which is rebound the ball and give us a physical presence inside. E’torrion is another guy that’s long and athletic and understands how to win. We think all three will be good freshmen for us next year.”
4. Of course, to make room for the newbies, some grizzled veterans will be moving on. And for Nemi Djurisic, that’s a particularly emotional endeavor.
The 6-8 forward hails from Montenegro, an Eastern European province. But as one might expect, he has become very fond of America and Athens and the University of Georgia in particular. And while he’d like to stay around, he knows his basketball pursuits will likely take him far away.
“As I walked into the locker room, the emotions among the team, the things the players said to each other, it was really amazing and makes you realize this team is special,” said Djurisic, who finished with 1,123 career points, 28th on UGA’s all-time list. “This is something I will always remember. It’s a hard moment for me but also one I will always remember. I know I have the support of a lot of guys around here and I will really, really miss them.”
Djurisic said he hopes to graduate in the next semester or two, then he will pursue professional ball.
“Hopefully I’ll finish strong and graduate with good grades because I’m a little bit behind,” he said. “Then I’ll find a way to get myself a job playing basketball. I really want to play basketball professionally. It’s something I’ve always wanted. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to do that.”
Djurisic took the loss to Michigan State hard and was having a hard time getting over his two missed free throws late in the game. But in the end, he was walking away proud and said he’d “always be a Bulldog.”
“I give my team credit for competing and leaving all we had on the floor,” he said. “At the end of the day, we had a great season. It’s been a great journey for me. I’m proud of this state and proud of this program.”
5. Vince and Barbara Dooley recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary, and they went to great lengths to do it.
Like about 1,400 miles.
The Dooleys traveled to Honduras with a small contingent of friends and family, and it was not just to ring in their long-ago nuptials. In a gesture orchestrated by Bob Hope – founder and president of Hope-Beckham, a public relations in Atlanta – a soccer pitch for children in the distant outpost of Olancho, Honduras, was dedicated in his Dooley’s honor.
Along with Bob and Susan Hope, the Dooleys for years have been committed to helping the children of the Agalta Valley in Honduras. There is a school there named for the Hopes and they and the Dooleys have been providing support for the area for years through the “Mariposa Miracle” project.
6. Now that there’s a Dooley Field in the rugged outreaches of Central America, perhaps that will reignite discussions of a Dooley Field closer to home.
There has long been a group of UGA supporters who believe that Dooley – who served Georgia as football coach and athletic director for 40 years and led the Bulldogs to a national championship in 1980 – should have his name permanently associated with Sanford Stadium in some way.
There are some that believe it should be renamed Sanford-Dooley Stadium. Others believe UGA should simply name the field there for the coach, as in Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. Auburn did the same for Pat Dye, and he did not achieve anywhere close to the success Dooley did at Georgia.
UGA has already named the area of South Campus that houses most of the Bulldogs’ athletic facilities as “The Vince Dooley Athletic Complex.” There is a bronze statue created by Stan Mullins erected on the corner of Pinecrest and Lumpkin streets to draw attention to that.
7. Speaking of venturing far from home, Georgia gymnastics is used to hosting NCAA regionals. But this year the Gymdogs will be heading west to Northern California. Ranked 10th after its fifth-place finish in the SEC Championships this past week in Duluth, UGA will enter as the No. 2 seed in the Cal-Berkley Regional.
Joining the Gymdogs in order of seeding will be Utah, Boise State, Cal, Utah State and Brigham Young. The six teams along with individual competitors will compete at Cal’s Haas Pavilion Saturday, April 4, at 9 p.m. ET.
Cal is one of six regional hosts along with Auburn, Iowa State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and West Virginia. The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors who are not on an advancing team from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the national championships in Fort Worth, Texas, April 17-19.
Coach Danna Durante is trying put a positive spin on the challenge of having to compete so far from home.
“We are excited to be heading out west for the regional this year,” she said. “It’s going to be a great competition with five other teams. This is the time of year when we need to be at our best, so that is what we are working toward.”
8. A UGA program that does not appear to have slipped this year is tennis. The fifth-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team extended its winning streak to nine matches with a 4-0 win over South Carolina Sunday afternoon in Athens. Coach Manuel Diaz’s Bulldogs (15-2, 7-0 SEC) remain in sole possession of first place in the SEC and improved to 10-2 in indoor matches. It’s the outdoor season but Sunday’s match was moved indoors due to rain.
The Bulldogs now have six shutouts this season, including two in a row. UGA is also 28-1 in the last 29 SEC regular season contests. Georgia will play host to 17th-ranked Vanderbilt on Friday at 5 p.m.
9. Same goes for Jeff Wallace’s women’s tennis program. The fourth-ranked Lady Bulldogs recorded 4-1 SEC road victory over on Saturday. That extended their current winning streak to four matches and keeps them in second in the league standings. They’re 43-9 all-time against the Lady Vols.
Georgia (13-4, 6-1) will be on the road again this weekend against Arkansas and Missouri.
10. This & that: Georgia’s Chelsea Wilkinson was named the SEC’s pitcher pitcher of the week on Monday, the first honor for Wilkinson this season and the third of her career. Wilkinson posted a perfect 3-0 record last week and is now tied for first in the SEC with 16 wins. The Bulldogs (28-5, 6-3) host Georgia Southern on Wednesday (6 p.m.), then travel to Tennessee for a Saturday-Monday series. … Georgia’s baseball team got a rare SEC road sweep at Tennessee this past weekend. The Bulldogs (15-9, 3-3), play host to Mercer and Kennessaw State Tuesday and Wednesday before venturing back out on the road to face South Carolina this weekend. …. Former UGA wide receiver Chris Conley threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Athens-Clarke Little League at its opening-day festival this past weekend.