Q, T and Mr. B have now spoken. The message out of Flowery Branch and the Falcons Headquarters is this: All is well and the vibe is a positive one. Full speed ahead to the draft and free agency!
So, here we go. This week, there was one hire and two firings. Gone are two pricey veterans, as safety William Moore and newbie Justin Durant. Another chair was added to the Falcons personnel table, with the hiring of Pioli's buddy Joel Collier. Right now, the Falcons have as many personnel guys as they do quality players. Now they are asking you to trust them. As you already know, I'm having a difficult time with that.
You've probably heard...Q desires more speed at the linebacker position. The guess here says he gets it with the Falcons 1st round pick. And there are plenty of OLB prospects to choose from this year. The challenge is finding the right dude, which we've had a problem doing. The hunch here says Q prefers Miles Jack, but we'll see come draft night.
I'd have a hard time passing on Reggie Ragland and A'Shawn Robinson, if they were still on the board. Just saying...
All these Falcons personnel guys probably know Q needs a couple interior offensive linemen to make the offense work, but the tight-end spot needs to be addressed too. Hope one of them brings that up. A pocket passer like Matt Ryan needs a go-to-guy at tight-end, who can work the short to intermediate zone away from Julio. That's when Shanahan doesn't have Matt trying to roll out.
Stay tuned, Falcons fans. No telling where Q's clear vision is going to take us!
It's going to be a better product than we witnessed last year. The talent that will start the season in Atlanta appears to be more big league. This one should be interesting! All that young talent we traded for will be pushing towards their Atlanta arrival. There will be a lot to keep track of.
Hart and Coppolella have certainly done a good job of giving the Braves fan base a lot of homework this spring. And I'm planning a few trips over to AAA-Gwinnett this season, as part of my research, once the season begins.
There are plenty of pitching prospects to keep an eye on this season, but my #1 focus will be on Dansby Swanson. I totally enjoyed watching him win at Vanderbilt and appreciated the way he played the game. He's got an all-around skill set, which means he can hit, field, throw and run. Just loved how he competed too. It's no wonder he was the #1 pick in the MLB Draft last year. Still a little surprised that the Braves were able to get him. Dansby is a very polished player (smart and fundamentally sound), so let's turn him loose. Might be a good time in Braves Country to be near the AA/AAA teams. Probably will see a lot of Dansby Swanson this year.
Speedy outfielder Mallex Smith is another Braves player that has my attention. Infielder 'Ozzie' Albies also has some 'game.' Both of these guys hit it last season. Both can steal bases. Love that combination! This is a big year for those two guys.
Obviously, the Braves brass is excited about the multitude of pitching prospects they've lined up. And it is impressive! Allard, Sims, Toussaint, Jenkins, Fried, Hursh & Newcomb. Foltynewicz gets another close look. Wisler showed flashes of being a keeper last season. Best I can tell, the Braves A-list is 10-15 arms deep now. That is a lot of young arms to see develop this season. I've started a Braves "Pitching Prospect" Notebook for 2016. How about you?
The Braves "Re-Design" got a little ugly last year. But now, these young guys are one step away from "The Show." It'll be fun to track this year. Hope to see you down at Turner Field one last time!
It's time to "close," out on the college football recruiting trail! The posturing is coming to an end quickly. It's almost time for the teenager to make the big decision. So, the next few days coaches like Kirby Smart will be asking for the business (sign with us)!
Right now, Georgia's 2016 class is getting a composite score of #9 in the nation. Not bad. Actually, that's pretty good. But it could be a better! And it just might be a week from now. There are some big prospects still out there considering the new Bulldogs. Coach Smart has a shot to land multiple impact guys.
If Kirby and his staff can reel in Derrick Brown, E.J. Price and Mecole Hardman that would be huge! Price and Ben Cleveland in the same O-Line class would be a boost. Both are bigger and stronger prospects. Brown and Thompson (soph) would be strong young duo to build around on the D-Line. That's what Coach Smart is looking for...getting bigger and stronger on the LOS! By the way, I'm digging that! Bet Jacob Eason is too!
Coach Smart has seen the difference (from his former view in Tuscaloosa) and is out to change it. The best teams are winning a lot of battles up front. Georgia has come up short there in recent years. That needs to change.
Great to see Jacob Eason help get some help, as far as players to throw the ball to. Charlie Woerner looks like a big, talented target.. Issac Nauta hits campus with a big rep and looks capable to catching some balls. Sure like the look of these two.
MecoleHardman is a playmaker. Demetris Robertson is another dynamic receiver. Right now, Georgia is reportedly in the mix with both. Eason better be working these two hard.
Kirby has this one shot to get off to a great start. Go get it. Finish this class out strong and Georgia will jump into the Top 5 nationally. That's a win for Kirby Smart and the Bullodgs. A strong first start. One that was needed.
I've finally hit the wall with my Falcons. Call it a loss of confidence with the head honchos. Refuse to be one of the sheep any longer, ignoring the truth. Fact is, we've got almost no shot of turning it around.
And get this: Nothing is going to change. The same people are sticking around to make the same bad decisions. Bad decisions in free agency. Poor decisions in the draft. More of that is coming! Yet, they tell us, "all is well."
Quinn and Dimitroff have this "shared vision," as it relates to personnel matters. And Coach Shanahan is set to have a "blending" of ideas, in year #2 with Matt Ryan. Everything is ok, at Falcons headquarters. No reason to dwell on those two matters, because the Falcons have now moved on to free agency.
Let me guess, Q & T are planning on bringing in some awesome fits, as it relates to scheme. Now they won't be big splashes. Can't really do that. These new faces will be cost efficient. Good fits, as they will call it. It'll be awesome. Just wait.
Then, in the draft, Q and T really take charge. Add a couple more young dudes for Q's defense. Guys with long arms, and big hands. Look great getting off the team charter flight, but can't play dead in a western.
Yes, I've hit the wall. Lost hope.
Still can't believe we skipped on Gurley, though I do like Freeman.
I'm frustrated we're wasting Matt Ryan's prime, running a system that doesn't take advantage of his strengths. Shanahan had him moving around constantly. HE'S A POCKET PASSER! This is Quinn's fault, by the way. And Thomas, we still can't protect him, with that O-Line. Plus, we need a talented TE and an impact WR.
Mr. Blank is still listening to the same people. Don't Dan Reeves & Fran Tarkenton live in Atlanta? Come on, man. Get some help. Hire them as consultants. Those are two of the greatest NFL legends, who live just down the street. Me and you would gladly take their advice! Guess there is too much water under the bridge, with Coach Reeves & Mr. Blank.
More tomorrow, on The Buck & Kincade Show. Please keep me updated on any good news.
Georgia's new head coach Kirby Smart was interested in a 'culture change.' He's gotten exactly that, at UGA. And isn't that the way most new head coaches would want it? I believe so.
...Old with the old, and in with the new. I'd bet Greg McGarity had an agreement in place with Kirby that it would be 'Kirby's call,' on the staff, on and off the field. When your negotiating to get one of the top candidates, you've got to give that power up somethings. So, it was Kirby, 'do what you have to do, to get it right."
Smart's staff looks to be full of 'smart hires.'
The offense looks to be in good hands, with Jim Chaney and Coach Pittman taking over. Dell McGee appears to be an excellent hire, as the new RB coach. He's got strong recruiting contacts and the respect of the HS coaches, all over the Peach State. James Coley has all those Florida connections, to keep that pipeline pumping.
Georgia fans will be thrilled with the special teams hire of Shane Beamer. Bulldog fans have long screamed about Richt not going to a special teams coordinator. This solves that.
The new hires for Kirby's Strength & Conditioning Program at UGA should be well-received. Scott Sinclair and Ed Ellis reunite. They worked together previously, so the band is getting back together, again. The roles are reversed now. At UCF, Ellis was in charge. Now, Sinclair's the boss. Both have outstanding rep's and are certified strength & conditioning coaches. Kirby changed the weight room culture and that was important.
Mel Tucker appears to be the DC, so look for that announcement to officially come down after the title game. Tucker has that impressive NFL resume, which sells to big-time recruits. He also is now well-versed on teaching the Saban/Kirby Smart defensive scheme, after spending this past year coaching the Alabama secondary.
I'd say Kirby Smart has just about cleaned house. He was looking to change the culture. Best I can tell, he's taken a big first step.
This is a strong move by the Braves brass! Bringing Chipper back! Makes a lot of sense to me.
It's one of those "No Brainer" deals. Chipper wants back in, well not all the way back in, but back in the mix. The Braves need some good PR, because its been a tough run lately. The Braves need his help.
Some of the boys down at the coffee shop where asking, "what exactly will Chipper Jones be doing for our Braves?"
Well, Chipper can impact the organization at multiple levels, without having to commit to going to work everyday (as a hitting coach). This is perfect for CJ.
Dude can talk hitting as well or better than anyone in the organization. And this "Special Assistant" assignment allows him to bounce around. He can help the Altanta Braves line-up. Chipper can offer his expertise to the guys in AAA-Gwinnett, AA-Mississippi or A-Rome. He can go check out the top draft prospects, prior to the draft and offer up his scouting report (huge). Imagine the awesome job Chipper will do "recruiting." Might be signing a few free agents in the next couple of years.
I like it. You should like it too. And I know most of you do! Perfect fit.
Chipper Jones should be involved with the Atlanta Braves. Just like Hank Aaron. Now let's get him to work! Got to the get new SS Dansby Swanson to coached up and in The Show! Need to get Chipper scouting these top prospects soon. And tuning up Freddie Freeman's swing.
It looked to me like the new head coach at Georgia won the introductory press conference. Kirby Smart stepped up to the podium and quickly took command of the situation. And it was a packed conference room, at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.
No question was avoided. No member of the media got talked down to. Coach Smart played it cool, although he did start to get a little emotional speaking about his Dad, Mom, wife and kids. So, he's human.
Kirby impressed by saying all the right things. This was the job he'd always wanted. The Dream Job. Thought and hoped one day this opportunity might come. And it has.
Couple of thoughts: 1- It sounds like to me Coach Smart will stick with a Pro-Style offensive system & 2- Kirby has control in hiring HIS Coaching Staff. Who will he hire? He wasn't there quite yet. That'll get done in the coming days, while he's recruiting, but I wouldn't count on many guys on the current staff making the transition.
The Offensive System is a big deal. Kirby wants balance. Wants to play-action pass, off the run. I like that too. One of his comments I like the most was his line about what his offensive plan will be: Go get the best players and then, get them the ball!
And does he plan on being "Hands On" with the defense? Well, Kirby plans being hands-on with every area of the program! That brought a round of applause from a group of football lettermen that attended the pressor.
Smart also pointed out why the Bulldogs have been coming up short, as far as a SEC Title goes: A lack of quality depth across the board, on both sides of the ball. Got to find some big, physical dudes to play on the line of scrimmage. Yes sir! Like that too.
He spoke about demanding class & integrity from his players. A relentless passion. Plus, toughness, effort and character. Sounds good!
As soon as Kirby Smart finishing with the Q & A, he jumped on the UGA jet to hit the recruiting trail. No time for a deep breath. Got to get out to Washington and talk to Jacob Eason. Got to get the message out to all the other recruits.
I believe UGA got the right man for the job. And did I mention how he's one of those "Attention to Detail" guys? Again, sounds good to me. Real good.
No time to waste. Coach Smart has to be back in Tuscaloosa soon, as Alabama focuses in on another national championship. He's got to hit the ground in a full sprint, before he heads back to Alabama.
Kirby's top priority is to assemble a strong coaching staff. Bet he's worked on this for a few years now, getting ready for this moment. Will he get all the guys he planned on getting? Probably not, especially with Muschamp getting the Gamecocks job. Lot of competition for coaches right now.
Not real concerned about the defensive side of the ball. Kirby can handle that.
I am anxious to see who he hires to run his offense at Georgia! This is a critical hire. Will he go with a coach that runs the spread offense or stick with a pro-style OC? Stay tuned.
Obviously, the timing has him wanting to get his recruiting message out there quick.
Winning over the current team is another priority. There is a lot ot get done.
Stay tuned later today, I Chuck Dowdle and I interview Kirby. You can hear that on today's Buck & Kincade Show!
by Buck Belue
It appears that Kirby Smart is about to take over the UGA Bulldog football program. Count me among those that believe this was a SMART hire, by Greg McGarity. Kirby was the best FIT. And that has almost nothing to do with the fact that Kirby once played for the Bulldogs.
The FIT has everything to do with this: 1- Kirby Smart has flourished working next to the greatest CF head coach of his time (Nick Saban), 2- he has recruiting contacts/relationships in place all over the state of Georgia. Best I can tell, those two items are features no one else has right now.
Is he the perfect candidate to replace Mark Richt? Well, no. I don't believe there is a perfect candidate out there. But he's the best fit. Also, I trust that he will assemble a strong coaching staff, with or without Will Muschamp.
Does he have head coaching experience? No. Of course, that will be the primary criticism of this hire. Critics will point out how UGA was the best job available and that Greg should have taken advantage of this opportunity to conduct a high-profile, national search... which would include interviews with men like Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly, David Shaw, Jimbo & Dabo. They'll criticize McGarity because he didn't approach NFL dudes like Belichick, Mike Tomlin & Sean Payton about the job. Go big & bold!
So, why didn't Greg McGarity do this? That's really not his style or UGA's style. McGarity should be credited with getting his guy. No messing around. He made it happen.
I've known Kirby since his playing days at Georgia. He lettered all four years, playing defensive back. He displayed an uncanny ability to anticipate offensive plays and QB throws (check that all-time interception total/One of best in UGA history), so he made a lot of big plays. Kirby also competed hard. I respected these two traits, when he was a Georgia player.
Kirby is a coaches son. I knew all about his Dad, Sonny Smart, who once was the Bainbridge HS coach, down in SW Georgia. So, Kirby's a lifer. Grew up observing his Dad leading the way. And of course, taking notes next to Saban the last 9 years has been helpful too.
What kind of coach is Kirby? Tough and demanding. He's got that competitive fire that is easy to see. (controls it more effectively than Muschamp). He relates well with players. He's a motivator. Rarely satisfied.
Back in 2000, I stopped in Valdosta and dropped by the Valdosta State Blazer football office (where I coached previously) to see how Muschamp & Smart were doing. Will (the DC) had just brought Kirby in to be his secondary coach.The room was full of laughter, as the story-telling continued. At that point, they were just getting their coaching careers started. Both were making chump change. They've come a long way in 15 years.
I spoke with Samford Head Coach Chris Hatcher, who hired Smart at Valdosta State and asked what stood out about Kirby. Here is his scouting report: full of energy, an attention to detail that stood out and easy to be around and work with.
Will Will Muschamp join Kirby in Athens? Bet that's the plan. My main question is Jacob Eason's #1 thought: Who will be Smart's OC? Stay tuned.
It was time. A good time for a change. The last 3 years have seen the 'Dogs drop down in the SEC power stucture. So, Greg McGarity stepped up and made a tough decision. Mark Richt was out, because the UGA power brokers no longer believed he could lead the program back up the ladder.
Coach Richt exited in such a classy manner. Sticking around to coach his guys in the bowl game! Willing to assist during the transition, when it comes to recruiting. This is sort of unprecedented! And it was good to hear about his one regret: that he has passion for coaching QB's and calling plays and wants to get back to doing that at the next stop. he talks the talk AND walks the walk. It's refreshing! Wish him the best.
I believe that Kirby Smart is the top candidate and the best FIT. As I stated on The Buck & Kincade Show, forget the fact that he PLAYED for Georgia, for a moment. He's still a great fit because: 1- Kirby's been Saban's trusted assistant for years, and 2- Smart has recruiting contacts all over the state of Georgia.
Best I can tell, with Kirby Smart there wouldn't have to be a total overhaul with the staff, like there would probably be with Tom Herman.
It appears to be the right time for Kirby to split from Alabama. I'd imagine this Georgia job is at the top of his wish list. Well, here it is. If he wants it, I believe he'll get it.
But stay tuned.
Even though both program's are down and looking up at the competition this season, this Georgia-Auburn game is intriguing. The Tigers played their best football last Saturday out in College Station, Texas. The 'Dogs are trying to salvage a season gone bad and beat up on a bad Kentucky team last week.
Muschamp's Auburn defense looks bad on the stat sheet right now, but they've put together their two best performances just in time for Coach Schotty and the boys. These units share some of the same frustrations this season: poor performance on 3rd down and in the Red Zone. Difficult to shine against top caliber competition, with those two stats.
Look for the 'Dogs to feature Sony Michel, again. And that's a smart decision these days. The 'Dogs are not getting much from the QB position, so the run game has to shine. The changes on the UGA O-Line gave the offense a little boost against Kentucky, but they'll face a tough challenge against Auburn's D-Line. One of the key battles will be Isaiah Wynn, the new left tackle, taking on Carl Lawson.
Jeremy Pruitt has had some the success against Gus Malzahn, in the last two match-ups. Last season, the 'Dogs defense shut down the Tigers to the tune of 7 points. Sure glad they didn't actually fire him last week. His unit right now leads the SEC in Red Zone defense & pass defense.
Auburn has turned to Jeremy Johnson, again. Dude started fast against Texas A&M. The Tigers jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Bet Johnson earned a little respect from this teammates! Malzahn is focused on spreading out a defense, with wide formations...so he can pound the rock inside. Wonder if the belly of that Georgia defense is up to the challenge?
Should be entertaining! Right now, the Georgia-Auburn series is actually tied at 55-55-8. The next chapter breaks the tie.
So disappointing. It's the 3rd straight season the Bulldogs have come up short, in the SEC East. There are 4 games left on this 2015 schedule, but let's face it... this season is busted. It ends in failure, once again.
Still can't believe Bauta got the start in Jacksonville. Dude's been watching on the sideline for 4 years and CMR starts him in the biggest game of the season. Tough spot for Faton, obviously. The stat sheet shows 4 interceptions. There were many big play opportunities missed too. Richt put him in a terrible position.
Against the Gators, the 'Dogs lost every major battle. Offense. Defense. Special teams. Coaching. That about sums it up.
Simply a bonehead decision by Reggie Davis to try and catch the punt, inside his own 10 yard line, IN A SCORELESS GAME. That was a middle school move. And a devasting blow.
The offense hasn't scored in over 20 possessions. The running game has disappeared. The 'Dogs were a miserable 2-14, on 3rd & 4th down situations against Florida. Kicked 4 field goals in the last 2 games. Wow. That's terrible.
The defense gave up big plays and struggled to slow down the run, in Jacksonville. Sound familiar?
Am I embarrassed? I'd say, real disapppointed. Expecting better than this. The 'Dogs have fallen and are stuggling to get back up. Richt believes they can pull out of this funk, but he might be the lone ranger on that one.
All the talk in the Bulldog Nation this week is about Greyson Lambert's record-setting performance and Nick Chubb's run at the great Herschel Walker. And well it should be! Lambert's performance was amazing. Obviously, that performance cemented his status as the Bulldogs QB this season. Chubb now has 11 consecutive 100-plus yard games and could tie Herschel's UGA record of twelve this Saturday against Southern.
But there are some other items surround the 'Dogs that need to be pointed out. Coach Brian Schottenheimer's South Carolina performance was impressive. His play-calling on 1st-and-10 situations were aggressive, especially when compared to his calls against Vanderbilt. Maybe they planned on holding some aggressive play calls back, heading into this game.
When the game was still competitive (and not wrapped up yet), Coach Schotty got Greyson some confidence building passes early in the game, on 1st-and-10. My game notes had Greyson getting (9) first down pass calls out of the first 20. That's bold for this team, which is for good reason run-first. Lambert was 9-9 in those nine 1st-and-10 situations. Nice.
We got to see the back-up O-Line against SC too. Lamont Gaillard got a look at right guard and looks like a good fit. Kendall Baker got some time at right tackle and looked like he could grow into that spot. Left tackle is the key spot moving forward, with big Theus exiting. Just seeing these two guys was encouraging. Bet Jacob Eason was watching too.
Right now, Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Greyson Lambert are busy trying to win the QB competition. Richt & Coach Schotty are trying to be fair, with each of the 3 guys getting reps with the #1 Offense, to get camp started.
No time to waste. Got to perform at a high level right now!
Here is my list of "How to Win the Job."
1- Be perfect with the "Run Audibles." This will be a Run-First Offense. The QB has got to get the offense into the right run play versus different defensive looks. It's called the "Check With Me" system. Call a run play in the huddle. If the QB gets to the line of scrimmage and sees a bad fit, he changes the play, perhaps to the other side. If the QB can't get this right at a high percentage, they will drop out of the competition.
2- Sell the Play-Action Fake! With Chubb, Michel & Marshall running behind that tough O-Line, the play-action passing game should be money! The QB needs to sell-out on the fake & then, hit some big plays downfield. Study Peyton Manning.
3- Don't take unnecessary risks with the ball. No reason to force balls into to tight spots, with Pruitt's Defense ready to Hunker Down! Throw the ball away, if the play is not there! Punt it. Let the defense force a turnover and the offense gets the ball back, with better field position. Don't turn the ball over!
Obviously, there is a 4th item that is critical to winning a QB job. That's help the team win, when you get in the game. That's how you really win the job!
So, the SEC Media Days have ended. The "Dog & Pony Show" has packed up and left Birmingham, but it'll be back next year!
Coach Spurrier showed up in shades. Just loved that! And the "Head Ball Coach" wasn't buying that talk about the Gamecocks having a down season. They plan on playing a much better brand of defense this season, with Coach Hoke taking over.
Coach Saban got another bad rap from the media, by bringing up that NFL Draft underclassmen draft grade release date. It sounded like an excuse, but it really wasn't. Those guys are just picking on Saban.
Bret Bielema stole the show, as far as the media's entertainment value goes. Dude came ready to engage and have some fun with it. And how about those Nike Air Jordan Air Force One kicks he had on, with that suit and tie? Coach Mullen's street cred went up too, with those Adidas 350 Boost Lows he was throwing down, with that suit and tie.
Coach Richt had that new summer look. Tanned...but a tight haircut. Really like how now he won't be led down just any road, with the media. Not the time and place for that one. Mark did a nice job of not telling the media anything meaningful.
Is Georgia's new QB going to be Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert? David Pollack believes so. Coach Richt says he's got a 33% chance of winning the job. Me? Not sure yet. I mean, this guy just showed up on campus this past week.
I had a source tell me a story recently that provided some insight. Several weeks ago, his son worked out with Lambert. Ran some routes and caught some balls. Two things: 1- He's got a Plus-arm, like Ramsey and 2- Greyson had a good working knowledge of the playbook. Son left impressed.
He's also got some meaningful game experience, which should help him, in this battle to win the job. Will he win it? He gets a shot to win it. That's all any guy really wants. A shot. But it won't be easy. He's got to master the offense and earn respect from the coaches and team in roughly 3 weeks. That's a tough assignment.
And after watching the G-Day scrimmage again this week, I still believe the 'Dogs could win, with Ramsey or Bauta. Hand it to Chubb. Let that OL block. Hit a few plays off play-action, in the passing game. Protect the ball and let that Pruitt defense cause trouble. Both guys can do that.
Quarterback isn't the only position Coach Mark Richt is wondering about, as he fires up his Big Green Egg over the summer. But yes, it is the most pressing issue heading into the season. Good coaching can patch up things, in other spots. But not QB.
Greyson Lambert is the newest member of the UGA QB group. Richt tells us this is about a couple of things. The job is open, so bring on some more competition. Also, it adds depth to the position group. Both those things are true. No one has grabbed hold of the job yet. And preseason practice sessions can give QB's a dead arm, if they have to throw it too much.
I'm thinking it's asking a lot of Lambert to come in and earn the job in 3 weeks of practice. He's got to pick up the new terminology and scheme. Get to know his teammates. Sync things up with his new receivers. That's a lot to ask of him.
Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta should feel like they have an advantage, coming out of spring practice, where Coach Schotty changed things up on offense. New verbage. New plays. As far as the competition goes, well... bring it on. May the best man win.
This Bulldog Offense is built to run Chubb. Looks like the QB needs to pick his spots to make big plays. Can't be making mistakes! Lambert threw some picks last season at Virginia. Ramsey has had a few. Got to get that cleaned up, if you want to be the guy on this team.
This will probably extend into the early season. Even if say, Ramsey earns the opening day start, he's got to deliver come gameday, to keep the job. Bauta should have a package, even if he doesn't start the season as the #1. Dude can run it. I'd bootleg him. Let him run that Zone Read. Get the man a Red Zone/Short Yardage package of plays ready!
For Jacob Park to get in the mix, he's got to blow Coach Schotty away later this summer. Obviously, he exited spring the #3 dude. That's put him into a real underdog position.
The word out of the Jacob Eason Camp is encouraging. Not stressed about Greyson Lambert coming in. That's a good thing (see depth & competition remark earlier).
It's been a few years, since Braves fans have seen much production at the top of the line-up. Things got so bad we had Jason Heyward leading off. It's been a unproductive run up top.
But Nick Markakis and Andrelton Simmons have changed that trend. Things are looking up. There is production up top now. And slugger Freddie Freeman must be thrilled, because he is swinging a red-hot bat right now. Proctection behind Freeman is important (Pierzynski has helped), but runners on base in front of Freddie is key too.
Markakis has been a hitting machine this season. He's "squaring up" more balls than anyone in the Braves line-up. Hits it hard! Hits it hard to both sides of the field! Nick has been impressive. Great start to his Braves career.
Andrelton has benefitted from his move from the bottom or the order to the top. Simmons was 12-38 on the recent homestand (.315 BA). The new focus on putting the bat on the ball has helped him. Looks like he is on his way to the All-Star game.
Freeman just completed an amazing homestand, where he went 18-39 (.461). He's feasting, right now. When he doesn't hit it hard, the bloopers are falling in.
These 3 guys have combined for 45% of the Braves runs scored. Sure is nice to see all that production up top. We haven't seen that in a long time.
The Georgia Bulldogs G-Day was a good watch. It was awesome to have that Sanford Stadium press box view, for our special edition Saturday morning College Football Today Show that day. Hope you tuned in for some of that...680's Branden Adams was bringin' it!
Pruitt's defense has a shot to "Hunker Down." Reggie Carter & Tim Kimbrough look capable of playing tough at ILB. Both Tramel Terry and Malkom Parrish flashed at CB. Mauger & Sanders have taken a step forward at safety. Obviously, edge pass rushers would be the strength of this defense, with Floyd, Carter & Jenkins. The big need is inside, on the D-Line. The 'Dogs need Chris Mayes to play tough and freshman Trent Thompson to make an impact.
Left impressed with all 3 QB's. Bulldogs could probably win with any of the three. Bauta seems to be getting the best look, after throwing it 25 times at G-Day. Ramsey only threw it 9 times. Both of them appear to have quickly adjusted to the new scheme/terminology. Park & Ramsey can get the ball downfield. Both have strong arms. My eye says Ramsey holds a slight edge over Bauta. Stay tuned.
Great to see the Hawks flying into the NBA Playoffs. Nets up first and we whiped the floor with these guys all 4 times in the regular season. Millsap looks ready to roll. How far can the Hawks go? Can't wait to see it unfold!
Braves got out of the gate fast! Winning with pitching & defense! Let's all hope this holds up over the 162. It's a journey. Bullpen has been awesome. Getting some clutch hits. And the farm system is loaded with prospects we need to keep an eye on.
By the way, totally enjoyed playing golf twice this week out at TPC Sugarloaf. Came up little short in Matt Ryan's event (Matt Ryan won his own tourney and accepted a Matt Ryan autographed football). It was fun. The State Bank Pro-Am for the Greater Gwinnett Championship (Champions Tour) provided my highlight of the week. Got to play on the Infiniti of Gwinnett team, led by Billy Andrade and we captured 1st place at -17. Bernhard Langer & Miguel Angel Jimenez teams finished few shots back. Andrade was awesome! I ran in a few long putts to help the team! Great experience!
Got to hang out with Coach Richt at Georgia's Pro Day. And with only one practice behind him, Mark wasn't ready to talk too much about the team yet. It's too early for that, but he did sound encouraged about the overall talent level and the changes to the staff.
"Coach Schotty" takes over a 'Dogs offense that should be good. Chubb, Michel and Keith Marshall might be the best RB trio in college football. Period. Coach Richt commented about having 3 legit tight-ends this season (Rome, Blazevich & freshman Jackson Harris). If Isaiah Wynn can take over the center spot, the O-Line looks rugged. This offense should be able to "Ground & Pound!"
Offenses that can run the ball have an opportunity to hit big plays in the passing game, off play-action. That fake to the back keeps linebackers & safeties closer to the line of scrimmage and opens up some shots downfield.
That's going to help Brice Ramsey and Jacob Park a lot. Both can sling it. Both will get a good look. Should be a good competition. Brice has "arm talent" and Jacob can throw it from the pocket and on the move.
Best case scenario out wide is this: Malcolm Mitchell stars as the "Go-To" receiver and Justin Scott-Wesley steps in as the #2 option. Plus, the 'Dogs need Shakenneth Williams and Isaiah McKenzie to come on strong.
If these things happen, this Bulldog offense has a shot to be dangerous.
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.