Georgia G-Day Primer: What Are My Expectations For Saturday? – BY DAN MATHEWS
April 16, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Like many of you, I’m excited to see what the first impression of the Georgia 2021 football team will look like on Saturday.
I do think we’ll get more of a glimpse, than an actual look at this team. There are still players coming through either transfer or finishing up high school to join them for summer workouts and fall camp. It will be exciting to see this group in person for the first time.
- Don’t expect anything earth-shattering on offense or defense: Kirby Smart is not about to give Dabo Swinney any possible advantage on tape with offensive or defensive looks. Like most coaches, Smart treats a spring game like NFL teams approach a preseason game. The plan will be rather “vanilla.” The offense will run their plays, with a couple of deep vertical passes likely sprinkled in. But for the most part, I think people will be pretty underwhelmed in terms of expecting much excitement with play calls. Defensively, they’re going to be in a “base” look the whole day. We won’t see blitzes or anything out of the ordinary. This is a chance to see who gets to the ball carrier and can make reaction plays.
- I want to see these young defensive backs: We are going to have our eyes on some very young cornerbacks, in Ameer Speed, Kelee Ringo, Nyland Green, Lovasea Carroll (converted running back) and Jalen Kimber. The safety spot is in decent shape for now, with Christopher Smith and Lewis Cine on the back end. We will get to see what Tykee Smith brings in the fall, but his position on the field is likely to be determined. Who we see on Saturday, will likely not be the only players in this position group come this fall. Rusty Mansell of com expects that UGA will likely sign a cornerback from the transfer portal. That group of players could start to become available very soon, with the news of the NCAA granting the one-time transfer to undergraduate players.
- Is Kendall Milton the real deal?: Rusty Mansell told us this week on the Chuck Oliver Show that Milton has been impressive this spring. In fact, he goes as far as to say he’s the best running back in the group right now. That’s an eye opening statement, when you factor in that Zamir White, James Cook and Kenny McIntosh (out with a dislocated elbow) are still on campus. Can he become the running back this offense will need this season, in order to get the offense to a championship level? He had 35 carries for 193 yards as a true freshman. He had only one catch last season. Might we see some passes come his way on Saturday?
- How is this offensive line setting up? It should come as no surprise that position coach Matt Luke has been cross-training a lot of linemen this spring. I want to see if someone has a leg up at left tackle between Jamaree Salyer or Xavier Truss. I want to see if Warren Ericson is the man for the job at center. Where does Sedrick Van Tran fit in? I want to see if true freshman Amarius Mims has a chance to crack the starting five. What about Micah Morris?
- Who steps up off the edge defensively?: Replacing Azeez Ojulari and Jermaine Johnson is not an easy task. But, the Bulldogs have players who can step up to the task. I really want to see if Adam Anderson at the “STAR” position (for now) is a thing. What can we see on Saturday from Nolan Smith or Channing Tindall. Like I said, we won’t see any blitzes. We’re also not going to see them be able to hit the quarterback. But, who can win those one on ones with just a straight bullrush? Their goal is no doubt going to be getting the referee to blow the whistle for a “sack.” Also, I want to see if Smael Mondon can make an immediate strong first impression.
- Who steps up at receiver?: We know that Georgia is likely not going to have George Pickens (torn ACL) at receiver for most, if not all the 2021 season. We’re likely not going to see Jermaine Burton (hyperextended knee) get any game reps on Saturday. It would be nice to see Arian Smith on the field, if that sprained wrist has healed up for him. We’ve been hearing a lot about redshirt freshman Justin Robinson this spring and what he’s been able to do on the practice field. How about Demetris Robertson? We all want to see Robertson take a huge step forward in 2021. Kearis Jackson is someone who had a strong 2020 season in the beginning stages of the year. Can he become a massive weapon for the Dawgs in the passing game and on special teams? I would also like to see if tight end Darnell Washington is much improved from his true freshman season. Do we get to see Brock Bowers get some meaningful playing time?
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Buck’s G-Day Preview – BY BUCK BELUE
April 14, 2021 –
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – So, what should you be looking for at G-Day on Saturday? I’ve been thinking about this and have some ideas on what Bulldog players to check out.
The Cornerback Position should be at the top of your list. There is a lot of young talent that we haven’t had a chance to check out yet. And the list is long.
Kelee Ringo (5), Jalen Kimber (6), Nyland Green (1) and Lovasea Carroll (12) are all young corners competing for playing time. This is a big day for all of them. Also, get a look at senior Ameer Speed (9), who is in a position to claim one of these CB jobs.
Coach Kirby Smart needs to find some answers at cornerback before the Clemson game shows up. No time to waste.
The Left Offensive Tackle Position is another area of concern. Clemson will line up some “monsters” on the defensive line opposite the left tackle spot, so Coach Matt Luke needs to get this figured out quickly.
I’ll be focused on both Xavier Truss (73) and Broderick Jones (59) at G-Day. I know Salyer can play. But how close is Jones to being ready? And has Truss improved? I also want to give Amarius Mims (65), the star recruit, an eye test. J.T. Daniels and the rest of us are anxious to see this competition play out.
Obviously, with George Pickens down with a knee injury, the receivers will be highly scrutinized. And they should be.
The Wide Receiver Position features two young talents we haven’t had the opportunity to see yet.
Justin Robinson (9) and Adonai Mitchell (5) are both blessed with an extra long catch radius and playmaking skills, at the X-WR spot. J.T. Daniels is hoping one or both emerge as legit options outside the numbers, sort of like Pickens.
Warning: it will be hard to keep your eyes off #0, tight-end Darnell Washington, who reportedly has taken a big step forward this off-season. He will play a role in replacing Pickens too. This guy is a beast and a mismatch, at 6’7” 280 pounds. The ball needs to go his way.
Speaking of spinning it, I’m looking forward to seeing J. T. Daniels too. J.T. played some awesome football in those four games last season, which has me believing he will play at an even higher level this season.
But I’m also excited to see the other quarterbacks.
It will be the first chance to examine quarterbacks Carson Beck (15) and Brock Vandagriff (12), who are sure to get some reps in the scrimmage. This will be the beginning stage of their competition to replace Daniels when he exits.
Yes, I understand this is a lot of keep track of…but take a check list if you need to. We’ll talk about these young pups later!
Heads up: 680 The Fan has a special Buck Belue College Football Today Show scheduled for Saturday, from 10:00-12:20 live from Sanford Stadium. I’ll be joined by Brian Hoyt and Adam “Road Dawg” Gillespie.
One more thing: My new podcast “Buck’s Beat” features legendary Bulldog quarterback David Greene this week and we talk about G-Day, J.T. Daniels, replacing Pickens and his Good Ole Days at UGA. You can find Episode 11 where ever you get your podcasts, or you can also find it at thepodcastpark.com . Remember to like and subscribe.
New Broadcast Schedule
The 2021 BRN Regular season Network Broadcast Schedule is now posted and ready for download! Just scroll down below.
“OLD SCHOOL” VS. “NEW SCHOOL” BASEBALL – BY CARLOS MEDINA
April 12, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – One of the takeaways from the 2020 Atlanta Braves season was that the Braves, for one season, joined the modern analytics baseball lineup. With the rule changes of 2020 including the universal DH, the Braves altered their lineup to get their best hitters the most at bats during the 60-game season. With the DH now out of the National League for 2021, the optimum Braves lineup will change from the one they used last season. But many of the aspects of the analytics lineup can still be used for the Braves in 2021.
Old School Baseball Lineup 1. Fastest man bats first (Dansby Swanson)
New School Baseball Lineup 1. On base percentage (OBP) and ability to take the extra base is valued. (Ronald Acuna)
Old School Baseball Lineup 2. Consistent contact hitter, bunter bats here. (Ozzie Albies)
New School Baseball Lineup 2. Best overall hitter bats here. (Freddie Freeman)
Old School Baseball Lineup 3. Best overall hitter bats here. (Freddie Freeman)
New School Baseball Lineup 3. Quality hitter with power bats here. Weighted runs created plus (wRC+) important here. (Marcell Ozuna)
Old School Baseball Lineup 4. Best power hitter bats here. (Ronald Acuna)
New School Baseball Lineup 4. Slugging Percentage leader, best SLG% available hits here. (Travis d’Arnaud)
Old School Baseball Lineup 5. RBI run producer bats here. (Marcell Ozuna)
New School Baseball Lineup 5. Slugging percentage and wRC+ huge here, another dynamic athlete who is one of the best hitters on the team bats here. (Ozzie Albies)
Old School Baseball Lineup 6. Best remaining hitter who can produce runs. (Travis d’Arnaud)
New School Baseball Lineup 6. Good hitter with high on base percentage (OBP) who can run. (Dansby Swanson)
The modern baseball lineup was on display last season for the Braves. We’ll see what the 2021 version looks like as the organization has become very comfortable with mixing both new and old school approaches.
THE “SUFFERING ATL SPORTS FAN” & WHY THAT SHOULDN’T APPLY TO BRAVES FANS – BY TUG COWART
April 11, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – It seems like this answer is an obvious and resounding “YES,” until you re-live some of the pain that has become synonymous with being an Atlanta sports fan. The existence of the idea the “suffering Atlanta Fan” started with plays like the Lonnie Smith base running error in 1991 or 1996 meltdown vs the Yankees. I live and die by the Braves and I would be happy with only 1 more World Series in the coming season(s). Yes, I know, it sounds crazy but it’s true. In the 90’s at the time it was happening, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I kept saying we can get there but we can’t get it done. I was not satisfied with always being relevant, always being in the playoffs and seemingly always losing without another World Series title.
John Smoltz has said many times he would have liked to have won another World Series title. Smoltz has also said he was satisfied with winning an unprecedented 14 straight division titles, a feat that will never be replicated…ever! Smoltzie correctly contends that the Braves were competitive season in and season out and that Braves fans knew their team would be in the playoffs every year. For a long time, I disagreed with that stance. I was wrong and John Smoltz was right. Huge surprise that one of the greatest pitchers of all time and one of the greatest Braves of all time had a better perspective than a fan, like me, had. I have so many times argued against the Smoltz point of view and now feel foolish for having done so. You may have done it too and it is ok. Just realize, like I did, that you’re wrong.
So, here we are, it the 2021 season, and the Braves have now won 3 division titles. It has been so much fun to watch the “new” baby Braves, like Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley taking their place on the field and hopefully one day in Braves championship history. If the Braves continue to go to the playoffs, continue to win the division, an NLCS and even the World Series and maybe win one, just one, over the next ten years I will be a happy Braves fan. I will also know from experience that I witnessed something incredible, again.
In Honor of the Late, Great Larry King – BY CHRIS DIMINO
April 10, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – In honor of Larry King who passed away earlier this year, I have put together a list of things that both he and I feel as we get ready to hear “PLAY BALL” 2021!
(Side note before we start: If you have to ask who Larry King is, congratulations on being young!)
Welcome back 162 game season…we hope!
Albert Pujols is hitting .299 for his career and this pains me!
I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “Pitcher Workload” this year. I think I’d be able to buy a vacation home in Boca.
Man…the Astros got off easy!
Welcome back Tony LaRussa.
I can’t believe its been 32 years since the film “Field of Dreams” came out.
Miguel Cabrera is the best great player who isn’t thought of that way.
YouTube is in the Baseball Business. What’s next? Disney +? Hallmark? The WB?
There sure are a lot of Ivy Leaguers in The Game.
What ever happened to attending “The School of Hard Knocks” and being all the better for it?
I’m OK with bat flips…I’m also OK with rib shots.
I miss managers going nose to nose with umpires.
20 years ago The Seattle Mariners won 116 games. By that time, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriquez AND Ken Griffey Jr. were gone and they haven’t been back to the Postseason since.
The ballpark pretzel is the only thing in the food world that can range in flavor from “life changing good” to “absolutely awful”!
Remember when we were just counting down to Craig Kimbrel getting 500 saves?
Sandy Koufax is the definition of Regal.
Trevor Bauer is making HOW MUCH?
Remember when spring training used to be held in Cuba?
The first two lines of The Constitution should read,”Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio, a Nation Turns It’s Lonely Eyes To You.”
I think Rob Manfred and Tony Clark should just fight! Full-on fisticuffs! Lets GO!
Mike Trout has 12 ABs in the postseason.
Pardon me while I wipe away a few tears…I’m back!
Trevor Bauer couldn’t hold Sandy Koufax’ jock, Bob Gibson’s, or for that matter, 50 other guys that I could name off the top of my head!
2021 is officially the Dumbest moment in the history of the very Dumb Designated Hitter situation!
The “HARDBALL PODCAST” is a gift from The Baseball Gods. Trust me, it’s like you’re in the room with Phil Rizzuto!
The world needs more scouts not mathheads in The Game.
I have no idea what the hell San Francisco’s ballpark is called, but it’s the best ballpark in The Bigs with the best address in the history of EVER: “24 Willie Mays Plaza”! (Sorry ghosts of everything Dodgers!)
Nolan Arenado was born to wear a Cardinals uniform.
Jon Lester and Max Scherzer: The two toughest pitchers in baseball reside in Washington!
Billy Martin would have loved David Eckstein.
Dale Murphy is a heck of a fella!
Kevin Cash pulling Blake Snell killed a small piece of the Baseball soul in me forever.
Marvin Miller is finally getting into the Hall of Fame. I’m hoping his family goes against his wishes and attends, but if they don’t I would like to volunteer to give his speech in Cooperstown.
Have you seen Fernando Tatis Jr.’s contract? How’s $340 Million after playing 143 games sound to you? Consider this: Hank Aaron played in 3298 games and made $2.1 Million TOTAL!
They should all kiss the Ass of the ghost of Curt Flood AND the Ring of the aforementioned ghost of Marvin Miller!
I’m driving to Vero Beach when this pandemic thing is over to just sit on the old pitchers mound and pay my respects.
FROM A GUY WHO WASN’T “SERIOUS ENOUGH” TO “TEAM LEADER” – BY KEVIN MCALPIN
April 9, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Over the last 11 years, Braves fans have been spoiled, having a chance to watch the career of Freddie Freeman evolve into the player he is today.
While the 2020 season was his most memorable to this point, Freddie has proven to be one of the most consistent players in Major League Baseball. While superstars like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and others usually are the ones on the covers of video games and magazines, Freddie Freeman deserves to be right there with them.
Originally a second round pick of the Braves in the 2007 Draft out of El Modena High School in Southern California, the now 31 year old first baseman is a four time All-Star, two time recipient of the Silver Slugger Award, a 2018 Gold Glove Award winner and this past season, Freddie took home the ultimate personal award as he was named National League Most Valuable Player.
While all those individual accomplishments are great, there’s one thing missing from his trophy case that his mentor Chipper reminded him about at the start of Spring Training.
Freddie spoke on a brief exchange he had with Jones saying, “I was talking to Chipper today and he said, ‘You’ve got every award now, but you’re still missing one thing.’
‘Yup, I know and I’m coming for it,’” Freeman replied.
This was in reference to Chipper still having Freddie beat in the World Series ring department.
While some players relish in the personal accolades, that’s not good enough for the Braves first baseman. “I have one goal, and that’s to win the World Series” Freddie declared in early March.
Let’s jump back to the MVP thing for just a second.
Winning one brings you, as Brian Snitker often says, “instant credibility”. It’s what he referred to when the Braves brought in Josh Donaldson in 2019 and the clout referenced to former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel when he was added midseason a couple years ago.
Earning the Most Valuable Player Award is a big deal, and Freeman joined some pretty exclusive company in 2020, becoming the first Brave to take home the award since Chipper Jones in 1999. The only other players in franchise history to earn such an honor were Terry Pendleton (1991), Dale Murphy (1982, 1983), Hank Aaron (1957), Robert Elliott (1947) and Johnny Evers (1914).
Of course the MVP Award is mostly based on offensive statistics, but I still believe Freddie is an underrated defensive first baseman.
With guys like Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo and others in the NL, his defense was often overlooked, but in my opinion, nobody makes a 3-6-3 double play look easier than Freddie Freeman. His ability to do the splits, stretches and lunges as saved countless errors from his infielders over the years, something his teammates often point out when asked.
I remember a conversation I had with Andrelton Simmons years ago, and even back then, he credited Freeman with saving a few errant throws that he didn’t think many other first baseman could get to.
A couple years ago I did a segment on MLB Network, asking who I thought would be the next Braves player elected to the Hall of Fame. Obviously, it’s extremely difficult to project, but the organization had gone through quite a run with the likes of Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, Chipper, Bobby and John Schuerholz. After a moment of consideration, the answer was clear. I don’t know what the next decade will hold for Freeman, but up to this point he’s certainly among elite company who have already found their homes in Cooperstown. Baseball-Reference has him listed with Eddie Murray and Carl Yastrzemski as the most similar batters at this point in their respective careers with Eddie Murray appearing to be the closest comparison by age.
Will Freeman’s career continue to evolve into one that could land him in baseball’s most exclusive club someday? Braves fans hope they’ll have an opportunity to see that career from start to finish with an induction ceremony for Freddie in Cooperstown as the finale.
No matter how things end up, there’s no question Freddie Freeman is an elite player. He’s become one of the “faces of the game” and should continue to be on that level for a long, long time to come.
Around Here He’s Just Snit – BY MATT CHERNOFF
April 8, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Braves manager Brian Snitker has done one of the most improbable things any coach or manager can ever do.
He’s become a lovable sports figure without winning a championship. As a manager or a coach in professional sports it’s so hard to become beloved without winning the ultimate prize but Snit has done just that.
In fact he’s not Brian Snitker to fans around Braves country. He’s just Snit.
Snit is entering his 5th season as Braves manager which seems improbable in itself considering the fact he took over the Braves as an interim manager at 60 years old.
This is the final chapter of Snit’s professional career and it was supposed to a career tip of the cap to him by giving him a chance to manage at the big league level for the first time.
Snit took over a 9-28 team and has gone 353-317 since then with a .578 winning percentage over the last 3 seasons.
Snit has won 3 straight division titles, 2 playoff series and was within a win of the World Series.
Snit is beloved despite the fact that he’s not a great tactician and he’s pretty old school in his methods at times. Those things don’t seem to matter. Braves fans love him because they see the love he has for his players and the organization.
Snit’s story was essentially written by 2015. As a Braves lifer who spent 40 years in the organization, he was never supposed to get a shot at managing the big league club at 60 years old. Well he did get his shot and to say he took advantage of it would be a ridiculous understatement!
Now Snit has signed an extension that could keep him with the Braves thru the 2024 season. If that happens, Snit will manage until he’s 69 years old which is the same age Bobby Cox was when retired as Braves manager.
If Snit is here thru 2024 that would mean he’s on the job for 9 years. That’s just crazy.
If you polled Atlanta sports fans I would bet Snit would have the highest “Q-rating” as a coach or manager in Atlanta since Bobby Cox.
Think about that… if we ranked the most beloved local coaches and managers in local sports history Snit would appear on the same list as Bobby Cox.
Bobby Cox who managed a World Series team and led a team to an unprecedented run of success for 15 years.
Snit is a lot like Bobby in that he’s so easy to root for so many reasons. Snit wears his emotions on his sleeve. He sounds like you and me and he doesn’t fall into boring coach speak or dumb slogans.
Snit’s success and longevity as Braves manager is as improbable as anyone I’ve covered in Atlanta sports.
Now Snit has to write the perfect ending to the story of his career by leading the Braves to a World Series win.
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