Had a great week with the Braves! Good timing for us, as we beat some of the position players to camp. This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. My Dad used to pack me and my brothers up and head to spring training almost every year. Hope to get my two sons down there soon, but not in that pop-up camper Dad used to drag down to Tampa.
Didn't get to see a lot of players hitting against live pitching this trip, but I did leave with some first impressions. Thought I'd share a few with you.
The Braves top-rated prospect Jose Peraza passed the "eye test." Looks like a player. And man, he looked smooth as butter fielding the ball at 2nd base, Good arm too. Can't wait to get back down there in a couple weeks to see him handle the bat.
Obviously, the outfield situation is wide open, now that Melvin Upton, Jr. is on the shelf for a couple months. Just a guess, but I have some doubts about Markakis being ready for opening day. Both those guys were penciled in as starters. So, the competition is on. Keep an eye on young outfielder Eury (you-OOR-ee) Perez, who was blocked with the Nationals. This guy can run and steal bases. Hit .300+ in AAA last season. He'll get a good look in camp. Might end up starting in centerfield to start the season.
Jonny Gomes looked like the new sheriff arriving in the clubhouse. Had some trouble finding his locker (next to Upton), before entertaining the media, with a couple good one-liners. Meanwhile, new reliever Jason Grilli was playing the role of the Mayor... interacting with most everyone, shaking hands, etc.
Shelby Miller was being labeled "athletic" by a few of the Braves. Reports of him throwing around some weights was making the rounds. And yes, he has the look of a MLB pitcher. Sure hope he delivers. He sounded excited about working with Roger McDowell.
The new Braves are going from big-swinging, bomb-chasing to a put-the-ball-in-play, back-up-the-middle approach this season. That's a big transition, but Mr. Hart sure has flipped the roster, with hopes that this change can actually take place.
And make no mistake, I'm "All-In" too. Got so tired of watching the last 2 teams taking big swings at pitches out of the strike zone...chasing. The "situational hitting" was among the worst in MLB. Struggled to move runners into scoring position. Struggled to get hits with runners in scoring position. It was tough to watch, especially in September last season!
This batting order looks more capable of putting the ball in play. HItting the ball back up the middle. Hitting the ball behind runners. The top of the line-up looks to be in a better place, with Markakis and/or Callaspo/Jose Peraza. The hope is this line-up can play some small ball and manufacture some runs.
It's back to a formula of 1-Good Pitching & Solid Defense and 2- Professional hitting approach.
Nick Markakis hits up top. He's a pro. Swings at strikes. Hits RH's & LH's. Plays strong defense. Alberto Callaspo can put the ball in play and move Markakis into RSP. If pitchers refuse to throw Freeman strikes, then he walks. That means, Gomes, Pierzynski & Chris Johnson will be asked to deliver quality at-bats, in the middle of the line-up.
Couple of new dudes I'm looking forward to seeing at camp are LF's Zoilo Almonte & Dian Toscano. Could one of them have a breakout season? Almonte & Toscano are contact hitters, which fits.
2B Jose Peraza will be the talk of camp. Braves top prospect, playing a need position. He's hit in the minors impressively. Can run fast. Flash the leather at 2B. But is he ready for "The Show?" We'll see.
Who knows, if the Braves situational hitting improves, with the change in philosophy...maybe this team can contend, with a strong pitching staff and gold glovers at 1B & SS!
The Braves are showing up at Spring Training in Orlando. Here we go. So, you better brush up on all the new players. Between now and the end of camp, there are going to be a lot of decisions made on the 25-man roster. President of Baseball Operations John Hart has been busy accumulating talent. There will be plenty of competition this spring.
It's gotten crowded at 2nd base and in left field.
Alberto Callaspo was hired by Hart to take the lead at 2B and compete with the Braves top prospect Jose Peraza. Callaspo is a switch-hitter, with a career .267 BA. Dude broke in with the D-Backs, but has spent his last 7 years in the AL. Also, 2B Jace Peterson was acquired in the Justin Upton trade, so he's in the mix. Phil Gosselin is back. And veteran Kelly Johnson has returned. Little crowded at second, uh?
Out on left field, there is a log-jam too. Hart brought in Jonny Gomes. Hart added former Yankee Zoilo Almonte. Cuban Dian Toscano gets a shot. Todd Cunningham and Joey Terdoslavich will be back in big league camp. Suddenly, Eric Young, Jr. has been signed and gets a look. Got to figure there will be a lot better defense being played this season out in left.
Stay tuned. These two positions will get plenty of talk on 680 The Fan.
So, Mike Bobo is out and Kurt Schottenheimer's in. It sure looks like a good scheme fit. And how about Georgia stepping up and paying the market value to get Kurt in here? Impressive to everyone, other than Coach Bobo I bet (underpaid for years).
Competition can't be calling UGA cheap anymore. Both Schottenheimer and Jeremy Pruitt are getting paid. Just like they should be. That's what the "top guys" are getting these days. Plus, did you hear? An indoor facility is in the works.
Richt got an NFL QB & OC to replace Mike. Kurt has a rep for being "Run-First," which fits with Chubb and Michel ready to run. He also doesn't hesitate to spread the field with 3-4 receivers and throw it out of the shotgun. So, that fits too. Brice Ramsey can get the ball downfield and won't have to learn new terminology, so this hire is positive for him too.
Can Schottenheimer adjust to the college game quickly? Can he recruit? This remains to be seen, of course. He will bring some new ideas and fresh leadership. Change can be tough, but this transition could be a smooth one.
'Dogs aren't looking to sign a quarterback in this class, so no pressure to make an immediate impact. It also sounds like Class of 2016 QB Jacob Eason thinks this hire made a splash (at least his Dad seemed impressed).
Schottenheimer does need to quickly form some solid relationships with the Bulldog QB's and offensive players. A priority will be breaking down the SEC competition, like Alabama... who will be coming to Sanford Stadium later this year.
How long will he stay? Don't worry about that one.
QB Blake Sims, Alabama
RB Josh Robinson, Miss State
RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR Pharoh Cooper, SC
WR "Duke" Williams, Auburn
WR Bud Sasser, Missouri
OT La'el Collins, LSU
OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OG A.J. Cann, SC
OG Greg Pyke, Georgia
C Max Garcia, Florida
TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas
DE Preston Smith, Miss State
DE Shane Ray, Missouri
DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DL Dante Flowler, Jr.
LB Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB Benardrick McKinney, Miss State
LB Martrell Spaight, Arkansas
DB Landon Collins, Alabama
DB Brian Randolph, Tennessee
CB Senquez Golson, Ole Miss
CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
CB Jon. Jones, Auburn
KR Marcus Murphy, Missouri & Quan Bray, Auburn
PK Elliott Fry, SC
Punter J.K. Scott, Alabama
The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry is set to add another chapter. And it sure appears like this one is going to be a high-scoring, shootout. Some serious scoring may be about to happen Between the Hedges.
On paper, Coach Bobo's 'Dog offense leads the SEC, by averaging 43 points per game. Malzahn's Tiger offense is averaging 38.7. Over on defense, the Tigers have allowed 38.8 points, over the last 4 games. Pruitt's defense has allowed 33.6, in the last 3 games. A little quick math: On paper, Bulldogs set to win 41-36?
Auburn fans are complaining about slow starts. Coach Malzahn pointed out this week that he needs to do a better job early in the game. In losses to Mississippi State & Texas A&M, early turnovers put the Tigers in catch-up mode. Both times, that approach led to disappointing losses.
Now Nick Marshall has to deal with losing his "Go-To" receiver. "Duke" Williams went down last Saturday with a knee injury. That hurts Auburn's offense. Marshall has gone to Williams on 3rd down plays and in the red zone. He won't be there to get the ball to Saturday. Coates is a deep threat, but not a consistent route-runner, with good hands. Nick Marshall has not targeted Sammie once in the red zone this season. Ricardo Lewis is a one-trick-pony at WR (run deep). Quan Bray & Melvin Ray could see their big-play opportunities go up. Or Gus might just want to run it more.
Give Hutson Mason credit. Dude was sharp in Lexington! Threw some daggers. Need some more of that against Auburn, obviously. Hutson is completing 69% of his passes, with 15 TD's and just 3 interceptions. Playing smart. That's a good quality to have at QB.
Georgia Center "Boss" Andrews believes the Georgia offense is playing its "best football." And now, they get Todd Gurley back!
Can't wait to see this one. It should be fun.
The Gators stepped up and played their best game of the season. The Bulldogs? Not so much. Another unexpected showdown in Jacksonville. One more crazy outcome.
I see it 2 ways. Georgia's D-Line was exposed as barely average. Not really a big surprise, but the Gators clearly won the LOS battle. Pruitt is out there recruiting hard, trying to upgrade the talent level up front and in the secondary.
Looked like Floyd and Jenkins had trouble setting the edge in the run game. Couldn't get off blocks (little holding going on). Allowed those Gator backs to bounce it constantly. These two guys are better getting after the passer in the pocket. Harris threw it 6 times. Gators ran it 20 of their first 21 plays to start the 2nd half. Smart to keep running it, until they proved they could stop it.
Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones combined for 50 carries and 389 yards. That's the worst performance by a Georgia defense, since Auburn's Joe Cribbs and James Brooks torched the 'Dogs back in '79.
The other issue in Jacksonville was the missed scoring opportunities by the Georgia offense. 'Dogs had the chance to grab a quick 17-0/21-0 lead and didn't captitalize. Hutson missed that 3rd down throw to Hicks at midfield. Chubb got stuffed on a 3rd and 2 around midfield. Morgan missed a field goal.
It took Hutson 6 throws and a full quarter to throw it downfield. Once he did, Hutson played well, in bad passing conditions. I can see why he would want to settle into the game and get comfortable, with 30 mph winds.
Gurley could have made a difference, especially early in the game. Yet players I've spoken to maintain they will welcome Todd back with open arms. They like him. They want him back. No real hard feelings here.
The dream of being involved in the 4 team playoff is shot. But an opportunity to be SEC Champions is still out there. This is a proud leadership group. Look for a strong finish. Take care of business and bounce back in Lexington. Then, get ready for Gurley's return against Auburn next. Stay tuned.
It seems everyone is a playcaller. We all could do it better, right? That's all I've been hearing at the coffee shop & at work this week, after Georgia's tough loss at South Carolina. Bobo "should have handed it to Gurley 3 times," I keep hearing.
One play. One bad play. And you're a bum. Kick Coach Bobo to the curb, with Coach Richt. Down at the coffee shop Monday, Big Al told me that one. He wants Coach Pruitt to get the head job.
That 1st & Goal play from the 4-yard line is the hot button. Power run formation (2 FB's & 2 tight-ends) Bootleg was the call. Would have been perfect against man coverage. But the Gamecocks played zone. The plan was for Hicks to cross the formation into the flat. In man coverage, a rub would challenge his defender. Easy TD.
Instead, the SC defensive end Gerald Dixon played it perfectly. He didn't collapse down, when he saw Hutson Mason's pitch fake to Todd Gurley. Hutson wanted to kill the play, by throwing it low and incomplete to Hicks, but Dixon deflected the throw. The ref's and Gary Danielson missed it. So, it looked like an obvious grounding call, when the deflected ball fell over by the center. Unfortunate. Looked worse than it was supposed to.
Hutson didn't have time to think about it. He had to react. "Should have thrown it out of the back of the end zone," yelled the critics. Maybe so. No time to consider. These moments happen quick. Throwing the ball at the target seemed like a safe decision normally. Not this time.
That holding call on Kublanow was poor too. That brought back another Gurley highlight reel TD run. Dude didn't hold. Check the replay. Guess the refs CAN call holding on any play.
Best I can tell, Coach Bobo has a package of plays designed for Todd Gurley to get the ball. Both in the running game and in the passing game. That package is large. Probably 50% of the Bulldog playbook this season.
Coach Bobo also has a package of plays, using Gurley as a decoy. To take advantage of defenses who are selling out to stop Todd. Watch some of the plays where Gurley doesn't get the ball...and you can see the pull on the defense. Multiple guys are overreacting to Todd's movement. Anyway, this is a smart way to play it. Keep them guessing.
By the way, I thought Coach Bobo did an effective job of game-planning and play-calling against the Gamecocks. Mixed in the spread/shotgun package early. Still came with some smashmouth I-Formation power run. Utilized multiple weapons. Gurley got it 10 times in the 1st half and 12 in the 2nd half. Scored 35 points and left 10-17 more out there. Could have put 50-plus on the board.
Pruitt was right. It wasn't Coach Bobo's fault. The defense got shredded. Period. 'Dogs have no impact players on the D-Line. That's bad. Need to find out can cover the best and get them coached up, before the next big game. And also, Coach Pruitt has got to get that middle of the field, intermediate zone defended better. He did sprinkle a little magic in there to get a couple of stops. But it was disappointing to see them give up long TD drives, immediately following a Georgia scoring drive.
Back to Coach Bobo...if he ran it with Gurley 3 times in that situation and got stuffed. Would you rip him for being "too conservative?" Just wondering.
Tough loss. Not a killer, but tough one to take.
Coach Mark Richt's Bulldogs have gone 4-2, against the Gamecocks in Columbia. Winning record is nice, but it certainly hasn't been easy. Just take the last 2 trips: lost both and scored a total of 13 points. The Bulldogs offense has struggled over there.
On the last trip to Columbia, Murray & Gurley got shut down and the 'Dogs got blown out 35-7. "Gurshall" was limited to 76 yards. Ouch. A late TD drive prevented getting shut out.
In 2010, the 'Dogs fell 17-6. Murray got shut down and so did the running game (rushed for 60 yards). Lattimore chewed us up. The 'Dogs offense settled for 2 Blair Walsh field goals. Not good.
Basically, the Georgia offense has averaged 11.5 points per game, in Columbia, since Coach Richt took over. Again, thank goodness for "Hunkering Down" on defense. David Pollack saved the Bulldog Nation, on that 2002 trip, with a strip for a TD. David Greene led a big 4th quarter comeback hitting Fred Gibson & Reggie Brown to save the day, in 2004. That explosion let to just 20 points.
Got to get this offense cranked up this visit. Win the battle up front, which seems possible, after that Gamecock performance against A&M. Must be Gurley going earlier. Design some quick-hitting pass plays, which take advantage of Michel & McKenzie's playmaking ability. Take a few shots deep too. Hutson knows a good match-up when he sees one...
Put the number 28 on the board. No, maybe 30. Knock down the wall, quiet the crazy crowd and send them home early. Enough of this defensive struggle stuff over there. Score the ball! Sounds like Coach Bobo is challenging this group to deliver a memorable performance. Tell'm, Coach! A couple of field goals won't get the job done.
Put on your seat belt and settle in, folks! Football season kicks-off this week, with plenty of intriguing match-ups. I've got "Section HD" in our home ready to go. Added some audio boost for the big screen this season. Let's go!
Over at Alabama, Coach Saban should reward QB Blake Sims, with a start against West Virginia, in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. Sims, a Gainesville HS star, has shown great loyalty and dedication to the Crimson Tide football program. Plus, the quarterback competition with Jacob Coker, whom transferred in from Florida State, has been described as being close. Give Sims the start and then, get Coker in the game after a couple of series.
What are you thinking? I've got a lot of guts to publicly advise Coach Saban? Oh please. This is obviously the right move.
Clemson hits Athens with a new quarterback. Senior Cole Stoudt finally gets his shot, after watching Tajh Boyd play a ton of football. New Bulldog DC Jeremy Pruitt has a plan. And don't you just know that plan is to apply pressure in the pocket. Stoudt is a pocket dude. Georgia has big questions in the secondary. Better get a pass rush in this one. Can't wait to see Pruitt turn loose Leonard Floyd, who seems poised for a breakout season. Looking forward to seeing fab freshman Lorenzo Carter too. Carter is a 6'6", 240 lb. beast, who has had a solid summer camp.
Over at South Carolina, Coach Spurrier is trying to replace the best QB in Gamecock history. Connor Shaw was just fantastic, especially on 3rd down. He converted something like 35 1st down runs last season. Got to find a way to get it done on 3rd down without him. Dylan Thompson is a thrower, not a runner. Wonder what the Gamecocks 3rd down plan will look like against Texas A&M?
Let's get this season started!
Summer is beginning to wind down. Children will be back at school in a minute. Must be time for NFL training camps to open! And the MLB season heads into the stretch run for a postseason spot. Our Braves are back in the mix! Will the Falcons bounce back?
Obviously, the Falcons need Julio Jones to bounce back with a monster season. Can't wait to see him out there in full stride, running down some Matt Ryan deep balls. Sure hope that injured foot holds up! No reason to rush him during training camp. Just get him ready for the Saints to open the season. Julio's return is a big deal for the offense, with Tony retiring.
Another huge key to the season is for #1 pick Jake Matthews to step in and make an immediate impact at tackle. This O-Line has got to take a large step forward and Matthews rookie success is a big part of that. Plug and play! Sure hope it's quality! The first practice I attend, I'm going straight to the O-Line area.
Will Roddy White get a contract extension? This needs to get done now. Both sides need each other! We're waiting.
Looking forward to evaluating DT Ra'Shede Hageman too. And RB Davonte Freeman! Both those guys are in a position to earn some playing time during camp. Be real nice to get some impact out of those two dudes.
Not sure about you, but I'm expecting nothing short of a bounce-back, 10-6 season. Let's get it started!
As for the Braves, it appears to be a battle to the finish line with the Nationals. Got to like the recent success we've had on those guys.
Gattis is a big key. Need him in there catching and swinging the bat in the middle of the line-up! And he's clutch. That's a quality this line-up desperately needs down the stretch. Sure like Alex Wood's chances of making a big impact too. He should have plenty of gas left in the tank and I know he's motivated! Jason Heyward is another dude trending up. He fits so much more comfortably in the middle of the line-up. And J-Hey really pounded the ball leading into the break. Need more of that.
Can the Braves win the East? Sure. Can they win a postseason series? Well, we haven't seen that in a while. Be nice to see Freeman, Simmons, Heyward and the boys to break through come postseason time.
Mr. Blank has his best men on the job. Dimitroff, Scott Pioli and Lionel Vital lead a huge Falcons personnel department. It's almost time to pull the trigger on some huge draft picks. And there is no room for any more mistakes.
The Falcons are drafting near the top in each round for a change. They should be able to land some big-time talent, in the first 3 rounds. Right now, the Falcons select at 6, 37 and 68. And remember, this is the deepest draft maybe ever.
Obviously, the pressure is on Dimitroff to deliver big this time. Got to find some players that can help get team back on track this season. Sure hope the pressure to hit it big won't make them trade up from #6. It looks to me like they can hit it big by just staying right where they are now.
The needs are obvious: Offensive Tackle, Pass Rusher, Free Safety and Tight-End. Maybe a Running Back or Receiver in the later rounds.
At #6, the Falcons can probably choose between Lewan and Matthews. Either dude would be a huge boost to the O-Line and Matt Ryan. Looks to me like the Falcons have planned this path. They hit the D-Line hard in Free Agency (Jackson, Soliai, Babineaux, Jerry & Peters). Now, it's time to hit on an O-Tackle.
That means taking a Pass-Rusher at the top of Round 2 is a priority. Hope to see Auburn's Dee Ford still around. Again, Falcons go at #37 and Ford is projected to be there. If not, trade up and get him! Ford would be a good fit in Atlanta's scheme. Stand him up at the LOS and turn him loose on the pass rush.
Round #3 could bring a Free Safety or a Tight-End. That selection comes at #68. Should be some talent to choose from.
Almost time to roll the dice. Sure hope Thomas Dimitroff and the rest of the Falcons personnel staff come through. We're counting on them.
Jeremy Pruitt's new Bulldog defense is the big topic, as Georgia kicks-off spring football this week. It's a completely new staff on defense, so don't you know Pruitt, Rocker, Sherrer and Eckler are anxious to get out on the field and see what they've got.
Pruitt has got to find some answers in the secondary. The Bulldogs safety play last season was weak. Not that the cornerback play was outstanding either. Both J.J. Green and Tramel Terry have been moved over from offense to help save the day. Both need to deliver.
The 'Dogs have to find a monster at D-Tackle too. Garrison Smith is gone. Who steps up? Mayes? Taylor? Somebody needs to Hunker Down inside.
Over on offense, Coach Bobo has encouraged star running back Todd Gurley to come out, work, and help lead. Are you concerned about Gurley slacking off? No worries. Gurley will be fine, when the season rolls around. No need to get him hit this spring, but he does need to work.
The big concern on Georgia's offense is the interior O-Line. Boss Andrews is solid at center, but the 'Dogs need to replace both guards. Mark Beard slides down from tackle and appears poised to grab one guard spot. Brandon Koblano appears ready to step up. Or maybe Watts Dantzler takes over. Need to get these two spots solidified this spring.
Seriously. Why? Because this fall Bobo wants to pound the run game with Gurley and throw it from the pocket with Hutson Mason. Can't do either, if the inside of the O-Line is questionable.
It's time for our Falcons to make some serious personnel decisions. Free agency is upon us. The draft is not far away. And the Falcons need some impact players! Mr. Blank wants this team back in the playoffs this season. The pressure is on.
Obviously, this team is need of some "difference-makers." Impact guys to plug in, especially on the line of scrimmage. Also, need to find a tight-end and a free safety.
First look: the D-Line. Looks like the Falcons could get Clowney, if the Texans pass on him up top. So, if that happens, Dimitroff could move up to Rams-2, or Jaguars-3 to get Clowney. Thomas has former associates in both places. If they stay at #6, Barr and Mack would be alternatives. Both can rush the QB. D-Tackle is a huge need. Got to resign Babs, right? Jerry and Peters aren't impact guys. Babineaux deserves an extension. Give the man some money and then, go get another tackle in the draft and/or free agency.
Glad to hear that the Falcons would consider moving Baker over to right tackle, on the O-Line. Can't see how the Falcons could pass on the elite OT's, with that #6 selection. If Matthews is there, I'd take him. If he's gone and Taylor Lewan is on the board...move back a couple spots and take him. Grab a FA OG. I'd be feeling a lot better about this Falcons O-Line, with a couple additions.
Jarius Byrd getting plugged in at Free Safety would be nice. A big receiver, with a 4-5 round pick might be in order. Drafting a physical, run-blocking tight-end would be a big lift too. Maybe Arthur Lynch?
One thing is obvious. The Falcons have to hit on a few guys to get this car back on the road. Can't be missing this off-season, bro.
Pretty soon, we'll be hearing the sound of "Play Ball!" Spring training is underway for the Braves and this sets up for another very interesting season. Can we get back to the Postseason? And can our team finally win in the Postseason? The journey begins now.
Looks like the Nationals will be the competition, in the NL East. The Mets, Marlins and Phillies don't appear to be ready to win big this season. Guess that could change, but for now the Nationals look like the team to beat for Atlanta.
The Braves are busy investing in this young, talented core. Sure like to see Freeman & Teheran getting locked down for long-term. And Heyward got a multi-year extension. Those are 3 key players! Great to see them get taken care of by the organization.
Obviously, the Braves need both Uggla & BJ Upton to step back up, after the disaster last season. Pressure in on both of these dudes to bounce back with some kind of positive impact. Can't wait to see them and speak with them next week.
Gattis is under the spotlight too. Replacing McCann. The guess here says Evan will be solid, but we'll see. He can hit it. Looked strong framing pitches behind the plate last season too.
Looking for Alex Wood to have a breakout season, after getting some experience last season. Great stuff. Funky delivery. Smart. Competitive. Should be getting the ball more too, as the 2nd lefty out of the bullpen. O'Flaherty is gone to Oakland. Need Wood to step it up in 2014. Sure like his chances.
Biggest concern for me is this: Can the bullpen deliver another awesome season? Kimbrel will be lights out, but can Avilan, Walden & Carpenter be dominate? Stay tuned.
And join B&K all next week from Orlando and Braves Spring Training!
Super Bowl 48 is going to be special! And no, not because it's in New York City. What's special is seeing the NFL's best offense take on the top defense. It'll be the 5th time since 1970 and the defense leads 3-1. Wonder how it will turn out this time?
That one time the best offense beat the top defense was when the 49ers ko'd the Broncos, 55-10. Joe Montana threw a Super Bowl record 5 touchdown passes. Can Peyton do something like that?
Manning's Broncos offense has punted just once in the playoffs. Think about that one. Peyton carved up that Belicheck Patriots defensive scheme last weekend. His next TD toss will be his 60th of the season. He's got 5 big-play weapons surrounding him and a good O-Line. Seahawks better bring it!
The Seattle defense is allowing 14.4 points a game, which is tops in the NFL. The Seahawks 30 interceptions lead the league. Opponents 3rd down conversion rate: Seahawks #3 in the NFL at 35.2%. And they lead the NFL in forced turnovers. Sounds like Peyton and the Broncos offense better bring it!
Can't wait to see this. Offense versus defense. Peyton Manning and all those weapons facing Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom. Sign me up. Looks like it could be a classic.
Now this was the change most Georgia fans were looking for! They wanted Grantham out. And they wanted some big splash hire. Boom! Grantham gets overpaid by Louisville. And boom! Richt lures in FSU's Jeremy Pruitt. Impressive!
Pruitt is one of CF's rising star defensive coaches. Disciple of Nick Saban. Runs an aggressive 3-4 scheme, which turns into a heavy dose of a 3-3-5 set against these spread offenses. His reputation is that he does an awesome job of teaching his players WHY they are playing a certain scheme. Sounds good to me.
Jeremy also has the reputation of being an oustanding recruiter. Can go get the difference-makers! That's huge too. And a big part of the job.
Coach Richt sold him quick on Tuesday. Rolled out the red carpet! Offered him a big raise. Got him to sign the dotted line. One report stated that Richt was surprised at Coach Pruitt's knowledge of the Bulldogs defensive depth chart.
Pruitt must have been impressed with the idea of developing Leonard Floyd and hopefully Josh Harvey-Clemons. The Bulldogs return almost everyone on defense. Seminoles lost a lot of players on defense.
Anyway, huge hire for Richt! Great get! Pruitt looks like a great fit. Can coach & recruit! Georgia fans must be thrilled! Welcome to the Bulldawg Nation, Coach Pruitt! Let's get this defense back to Hunkering Down!
Georgia Bulldog fans everywhere must be thrilled. The change most of these fans were looking for was Coach Grantham leaving. But like this? Shocker.
Todd was aware of the heavy criticism raining down on his defense. The contract extension was down to one year. Probably not going to be renewed, because of the performance level the last two seasons. And suddenly, Bobby Petrino comes calling with a huge offer. Reports of the deal being 5-years & $5M guaranteed are accurate.
Boom! Grantham is gone.
Coach Richt has a shot to make a real impact with this hire. Got to get the best candidate possible. Up top of the A-List? Kirby Smart. Go back to him and see if the timing is right to make the jump back home. Maybe it is. Some things have changed, since he turned down the job 4 years ago. Offer him the job. Blow him away with the offer. Roll out the red carpet! Kirby remains Candidate #1.
Who does Richt turn to, if Smart turns them down? Jeremy Pruitt looks like a great fit too. The first-year FSU defensive coordinator is a Saban disciple. Teaches an aggressive, attacking scheme. Right now, he's working on a deal paying him $540,000. Coach Pruitt would be Candidate #1A.
Heard Mizzu DC Dave Steckel wanted the job. Would Gene Chizik be a B-List Candidate? Michigan State's DC Pat Narduzzi won The Broyles Award, for the nation's top assistant this year, but I doubt he's a real candidate at Georgia. Randy Shannon has those Miami ties (Richt played there). Looks like Vandy DC Bob Shoop is off to Penn State with James Franklin, so he's not a candidate.
Keep an eye on Bulldogs ILB Coach Kirk Olivadotti. Great reputation. NFL background. Football lifer (Dad longtime coach). If Smart and Pruitt stay put, Olivadotti could get a shot.
But the "Big Splash" would be luring Kirby Smart back home. Start there.
The final push in recruiting begins on Thursday. Need a DC in place by the end of the weekend to make this work. Time to make it happen, for Coach Richt.
Coach Jimbo Fisher believed this Seminoles team was special and it certainly turned out that way. They loved each other. Cared about each other. Played for each other. Auburn provided the season's biggest challenge and the Seminoles refused to lose. Didn't crack under the early & late game adversity. Impressive.
The Tigers came to win too. The D-Line was knocking Jameis around. The secondary was covering up FSU's talented receivers. Coach Ellis Johnson put together a nice plan. Had the Tigers front moving around pre-snap and bringing heat a lot of the time. Still hard to believe that the 'Noles went 2-12 on 3rd down and won.
Jimbo should have attacked that Tiger scheme with the run game. Want to stand up and move around pre-snap? Well, here comes some downhill running plays. The FSU trio at running back only got it 19 times, but averaged 6.2 yards a carry.
Seminoles defense had a nice plan ready too. The plan was to take away the edge runs, where Marshall could hurt them. Or that speed sweep could hurt them. Tre Mason did some damage inside, but it didn't come easy.
In the end, it came down to Kelvin Benjamin making a play. Big play. He went up high and brought down Florida State a 3rd National Championship. Auburn didn't give away the game. FSU came back and took it.
The 4th quarter was a blast! Lavonte Whitfield took it to the house (what wasn't parkey booming those kick-offs out of the end zone?). Mason went boom, with a 37-yard TD gallop. Back came the Seminoles in the final seconds to win it. Amazing stuff.
Already looking forward to next year, when we will celebrate a 4-game playoff!
The Auburn Tigers have a shot to win 2 BCS Titles in 4 years. That's outstanding. Win or lose, Tiger fans should be proud on their team. What a great ride it's been this season. Worst to first is an amazing magic carpet ride. Malzahn and staff coached these guys up.
The challenge appears LARGE. The Seminoles are loaded, on both sides of the ball. And coached up too.
How do the Tigers pull off the upset? Force some turnovers would help, but the way the Tigers run the ball gives them a decent shot, right? Can the FSU defense slow it down? Look for FSU to play aggressively and man up out wide. Crowd the box on 1st down. Try and force some bad plays and get Nick Marshall dealing with a lot of 3rd & Long situations. Tigers aren't built to throw it 40 times from the pocket. Keep an eye on this...
I believe Auburn's D-Line and Front-7 have to play big. Win the battle up front. Pressure and hit Jameis Winston. Coach Garner is rolling a lot of guys in, up front...still Ford, Egua, Wright and Adams need to win individual battles. Because if Coach Ellis Johnson has to put an 8th man in the box to defend the run, Auburn is in serious trouble.
Don't believe that Mincy and Therezie can hold up. Chris Davis on Kelvin Benjamin should be a great match-up. Keep an eye on that one.
Tigers could use a couple big plays in their return game.
My best guess? FSU 48-31. Seminoles run the ball effectively and hit explosion plays in passing attack. FSU defense does enough to help a winning effort. SEC domination comes to an end. And so does the BCS 1-game formula.
This time next year, we'll be in the middle of a 4-game playoff!
Hope everyone gets what they really want this Christmas! Talked about this on the show this week and got some interesting calls. Did you hear some of this?
One dude wants the Braves to drop some big cash on an "Ace." Get a load of this: word on the street says the Cubs wanted Justin Upton or Jason Heyward in a deal for Jeff Samardzjia. Seriously. Can't be giving those guys up.
In fact, I'm all for investing in this group of young guys...Heyward, Kimbrel, Freeman and Simmons. Keep this young core together.
Another guy wants the Falcons to draft a big, tough & talented offensive tackle, in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Good news to report: Looks like an abundance of talented tackles will be available. Jake Matthews will probably be off the board, but guys like Cyrus Kouandjio, Morgan Moses, Cameron Erving, Antonio Richardson and Taylor Lewan will be there for the taking. Good year to be searching for a big, young tackle. And Matt Ryan will love this investment.
The Bulldogs are off to Jacksonville for the Taxslayer.Com Gator Bowl experience. The rematch with Nebraska. The advice here says hit the "First Coast" twice this season. Tee it up. Walk on the beach. Hit that favorite spot for dinner. It'll be fun. Plus, you get to see Todd Gurley play ball and check out Hutson Mason again.
What do I want for Christmas this year? Well, I want my 3 children to have a memorable Christmas. And Kelley too. We'll hit the Lake Lanier's "Magical Nights of Lights." Get the annual shot of Audrey, Braden & Rhett with Santa. Maybe hit our favorite Kani House. Relax. And watch some football.
Take care and make some special memories.
One of the best times of the year, isn't it? Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time. Families gather for an awesome meal and there is plenty of football to go around. Saturday should be outstanding. Rivalry games are lined up all day long.
Georgia Tech's lost 4 in a row to the 'Dogs. Jackets haven't beaten Georgia at home since '99. But could the Bulldogs be vulnerable, with Aaron Murray out? Might appear that way, but the guess here says Hutson Mason plays a strong game. Don't you just know that Todd Gurley's getting a full load in this game. Give it to him early and often!
Tech's best shot at an upset might be turning pass-rusher Jeremiah Attaochu loose on Hutson Mason. Gates and Theus have their hands full in this match-up. Might be a good reason to run Gurley early. Attaochu looks too quick for those Georgia tackles to handle in pass-pro.
Bet Coach Paul Johnson targets the Georgia safeties, in the option game. That group has been a step slow reacting all season. Harvey-Clemons, Moore and Matthews are in the spotlight against this Tech option scheme. Can they react and tackle? They'll be tested. Show up late and Robert Godhigh might be gone...
I've got Georgia winning 24-16. Also, in the 78th Iron Bowl, I've got Alabama slamming Auburn, 31-13. Look for the Tide defense to do a solid job against the Tiger rushing game. Wonder if Malzahn will be aggressive early and take some shots downfield against these Alabama DB's. Sammie Coates needs some big-play opportunities.
South Carolina looks to make it a record 5 in a row against Clemson. Tigers better step up on the line of scrimmage! Boyd and the gang better convert some 3rd downs too. Should be a good one.
Probably not going to be much fun, down in the Florida Swamp. Seminoles are poised to lay a big number on the Gators. Muschamp is trying to survive. Jimbo might feel for him, but FSU is trying to advance to the BCS title game. No mercy!
Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. We appreciate you all!
Grantham's Georgia defense is now halfway through the season. All those young pups have had time to get coached up. So, when do they elevate the performance level? Or is this how it's going to be the rest of the season?
Appears as though safety Josh Harvey-Clemons is improving with each game. Leonard Floyd also has the ability to grow into a difference-maker. Cornerback Shaq Wiggins has flashed some playmaking ability. Need all 3 of these guys to play ball the rest of the season, for this defense to improve.
The secondary seems to be a step or two slow reacting a lot. Not enough plays being made at safety and corner. Got to get that cleaned up. Might be past time to simplify the scheme.
With all of the injuries suffered on offense, it's unfair to ask those guys to pick it up. Got to be a little drop-off on that side of the ball, right? No Gurley or Marshall. No Mitchell, Scott-Wesley or Bennett. That hurts.
Coach Grantham is under fire right now. Lot of folks out there criticizing his defense. The 3rd down scheme is particularly bad. Can't force turnovers. The fight and effort are solid. But the results are disappoointing.
The SEC East is up for grabs. Missouri's schedule is killer. The Gators are struggling to score. The Gamecocks might run the table, so the 'Dogs need to step it up. Still time to earn a spot in Atlanta and play for a title.
Only way that happens is if the defense starts Hunkerin' Down. The time is now.
Hope to see you baseball fans down at Turner Field this week, as the NLDS gets underway. Braves & Dodgers! Sounds good to me. If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best. So, bring on the Los Angeles Dodgers!
Dodgers just got some bad news on star outfielder Matt Kemp. He's out for the postseason, because of an ankle injury. And Andre Ethier's ankle is hurting too. They might have to go with Van Slyke in right and Puig in center. The Dodgers are quick to point out this trend: Dodgers were 42-8 without Kemp in line-up this season.
The Los Angeles line-up included only 2 guys that finished up the regular season with a strong month at the plate. Michael Young (acquired from Phillies) hit .314 & Juan Uribe hit .308 in September. Puig struggled in the final month, hitting .214.
One other trend to take note of: Dodgers went 12-15 in September, going 7-9 on the road. It's not like they hit the postseason on a big hot streak.
The Braves line-up has to find a way to score a few runs off Kershaw & Greinke, in Games #1 & #2. Clutch hits are huge in the postseason, obviously. Got to cash in, when there are opportunities.
Maybe it'll be Freeman at the plate, when the scoring opportunity comes. Freeman hit .443 (58-131) with runners in scoring position during the regular season. Gattis has come up huge too. Chris Johnson has delivered. Would love to see McCann deliver a big hit, in what could be his last opportunity in a Braves uniform. Talk about huge.
Medlen isn't scared to face Clayton Kershaw. And Minor won't be intimidated by Greinke. Bring it on, boys!
Can't wait to see this series. See you at Turner Field.
Should be a great atmosphere at Sanford Stadium Saturday. The LSU Bengal Tigers invade Athens along with ESPN GameDay. And why not? Two Top-10 teams will be knocking heads.
The big storyline is this: Both teams have experienced, balanced offenses...and both teams are trying to grow up on defense quickly. This could develop into a high-scoring battle.
Grantham's defense has rapidly improved, since Clemson. However, this looks like the toughest test they'll face this season. The LSU O-Line is big, tough and physical. The fullback is a monster. The Tigers WR duo is the best in CF. The running back (Hill) is a beast. And obviously, Mettenberger can sling it.
Time to Hunker Down!
What makes LSU offense so difficult to stop is the balance. They can line up and run it downhill and they can spread you out and make you defend the entire field. That's a tough combination for any defense.
Somehow Grantham has to figure out how to load up against the physical running game, without leaving themselves vulnerable against the deep shots. And get ready for Cam Cameron (LSU OC) to come after freshman CB Brendan Langley.
Can the 'Dogs slow down Hill? Can they get pressure on Mettenberger? Will they force a few turnovers? Tune in Saturday. And hope Murray and the offense has a great day.