Buck Belue’s Top 5 Receivers in the Deep South – BY BUCK BELUE

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UGA’s Jermaine Burton evades Tennessee defensive backs in a 2020 game. (Photo: Tony Walsh / UGA Athletics)

July 30, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Quarterbacks normally love to sit around the campfire and talk about receivers. I’m no different. In fact, I’m comfortable discussing the old-school, throwback playmakers and continue to track these current big-plays guys too. Entering 2021, there are some big-timers waiting to make plays.

Here is my Top 5 Receiver List in the Deep South.

  1. Justyn Ross, Clemson. Sounds like Ross will be back in action, after dealing with a scary spinal condition. Word on the street says the Tigers will play him in the slot, instead of the X-WR spot (where he played previously). His ball skills on contested catches are tops, just ask the Tide. He averages 16.7 yards per catch and is a mismatch advantage, inside or outside. NFL talent and maturity. Set for a huge season working with Big Cinco.
  2. Treylon Burks, Arkansas. A little under the radar entering this season but make no mistake… this dude is a playmaker. He has polished up his route-running and has developed into a dangerous, all-around receiver. He can hurt you down the field and is also dangerous after the catch on short throws. In his first two seasons, he racked up 17 plays over 20-yards. Explosive.
  3. John Metchie, Alabama. The next big thing at Alabama playing receiver. He flashed last season with 55 catches and averaged 16.7 yards per catch. I like his all-around skill set. Great hands. Outstanding route runner. There is a lot to like.
  4. Kayshon Boutte, LSU. This playmaker exploded onto the national scene last year, when he lit up Ole Miss with a 14-catch, 300-plus yard, 3 TD performance. Excels working the middle of the field on crossing routes. Strong physically on the slant route. Coach O re-installed the Joe Brady passing scheme, so Boutte will be featured a lot. Competitive. Athletic. Expect a big season.
  5. Jermaine Burton, Georgia. This weapon did not look like a freshman last season. He burst onto the scene making plays downfield and quickly developed chemistry with JT Daniels. Burton’s press-man release is outstanding, which allows him to get separation. He seems to have a special knack for adjusting to the deep ball. Has great hands. Advanced route runner. I’m looking for him to be one of JT’s go-to guys and take another big step forward.

Please understand that this is a Deep South list. So, that eliminates some of College Football’s top-rated receivers. We all know Chris Olave and Marvin Mims are special players. As far as Arik Gilbert goes, I’m anxious to see him play at the X-WR position and anticipate he is going to be special too.

Stay tuned. Tracking all these players should be fun!

Buck Belue
Host of the “Buck Belue Show”
680 The Fan – Atlanta

 

A reaction to Texas & Oklahoma (likely) joining the SEC: Welcome – BY DAN MATHEWS

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Oklahoma quarterback Tanner Mordecai (15) tries to get past Texas defensive back Chris Brown (15) during an NCAA college football game in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

July 26, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – My reaction is the same as pretty much the one Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher had at SEC Media Days… Be careful what you wish for. 

If/when the SEC accepts Texas and Oklahoma as new members… I’ll welcome them in with open arms. If they want to play strong competition in college football’s best league, they’re welcome to join up. 

I think this needs to be looked at as good for those who were already the 14 members of the conference. It doesn’t change anything for them. It also isn’t going to change things miraculously for Texas. 

I’ll just speak from what I know of the fanbases. The said, I’m not as familiar with Oklahoma’s, as I am with Texas. 

For Texas, their football issues are simple. They don’t get the same players as they did when Mack Brown had Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium rocking from 2004 to 2009. 

Recruiting has slipped for the Longhorns and the results are what we’ve seen over the last 10-plus seasons. Texas has not been relevant since losing to Alabama in that national title game to end the 2009-10 season. 

Culture at Texas has also held them back. Kids in the state of Texas don’t pick the Longhorns because “they’re Texas.” So what? I want to play in Austin and go 8-4 every year? How about no…

There’s a reason that Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron and Jimbo Fisher have eaten Texas’ lunch in recruiting… They can actually sell tangible results and the hardware to prove it. Plus, they’re in the game’s best football league. 

There was a time that hiring Steve Sarkisian would have been beneath UT’s hiring standards as a football program. Those days are gone. Current athletic director Chris Del Conte accepted that reality and went out to get college football’s hottest assistant coaching prospect, over a proven head coach. 

Texas needs the SEC. Oklahoma does as well. 

The Sooners have year in and year out been good enough to make the College Football Playoff. However, they have not been good enough to win a semifinal game. They’ve been four times and lost all four times. 

The good news for OU, is they’ve recruited very well since Lincoln Riley took over the program in 2017. According to 247Sports, the Sooners have not brought in no worse than the 12th best (2020) signing class. This means that Riley is getting good enough players to compete for a national title. 

There shouldn’t be much of a surprise, that Texas wants in to the SEC. I’ve already mentioned their relative lack of success (by their standards) on the recruiting trail. All of those schools that I mentioned earlier are a huge reason for their lack of championship success. 

One of the main culprits of their recruiting frustration, was in their own state last week speaking to the Texas High School Coaches Association annual convention in San Antonio. You guessed right… That man was Nick Saban. 

Over the last few recruiting cycles, Saban and his Alabama program have been able to treat the Lone Star State as almost like a home base for their recruiting efforts. Saban is incredibly calculated and it’s no mistake that he made that trip to San Antonio for the sole purpose of a speaking engagement. He wants to keep that success going. 

It was only about a day after the Crimson Tide coach was in Texas, that the Longhorns and Sooners to the SEC rumors broke. Is it THE reason why the movement started? No, it’s not. But, it’s also another reason why these two programs are looking for a better possibility of success than their current standing.

The Big 12 for Texas and Oklahoma has a ceiling. They’re now starting at a lower level in the next building over, that is taller than the current one they reside in. The SEC is the right move for them. 

As for the fans of programs who are currently in the SEC, don’t be afraid. Embrace them and get ready for even better competition. 

Brand names are good for college football. Two of the major brands in college football joining the league is nothing but a good thing. 

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

GA Tech Football Single-Game Tickets On Sale August 2

Season tickets, 3-game packs, Stinger Mobile Passes all available now!

Ga Tech Yellow Jackets
Photo: AP Sports

THE FLATS – Single-game tickets for all seven of Georgia Tech football’s 2021 home games will go on sale on Monday, August 2, Georgia Tech athletics announced on Monday. Presale opportunities are available for those who click HERE to register.

Single-game seats start at $25 for Georgia Tech’s seven home contests. The Yellow Jackets will host six games at Bobby Dodd Stadium in ’21, including the Sept. 4 primetime opener versus Northern Illinois (7:30 p.m. kickoff) and the 115th edition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate against archrival Georgia on Nov. 27. Additionally, Tech will host its first “Mayhem at Mercedes-Benz Stadium” battle versus North Carolina on Sept. 25 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta, marking the first of six games that the Jackets will host at the home of the Atlanta Falcons over the next six seasons.

For fans that want to guarantee the best seats for all the excitement of Georgia Tech football in the heart of Atlanta this season, there are three ways to purchase tickets now – 3-game mini-packs, Stinger Mobile Passes and season tickets.


3-GAME MINI-PACKS

Georgia Tech football 3-game mini-packs include a guaranteed seat for “Mayhem at Mercedes-Benz Stadium” versus North Carolina on Sept. 25 and tickets to any two of the Yellow Jackets’ first five games at Bobby Dodd Stadium this season (Sept. 4 vs. NIU, Sept. 11 vs. Kennesaw State, Oct. 2 vs. Pitt, Oct. 30 vs. Virginia Tech and Nov. 13 vs. Boston College). Tickets for Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate versus Georgia are not included in 3-game mini-packs.

3-game mini-packs start at just $175. For more information and to purchase 3-game mini-packs online, click HERE.


STINGER MOBILE PASSES

The Stinger Mobile Pass is a flexible ticket option that guarantees a seat for all six of Georgia Tech’s home games at Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2021, including Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate versus archrival Georgia on Nov. 27. Stinger Pass seat locations vary from game to game, with tickets delivered to the holder’s mobile device on gameday. Stinger Pass holders also have the flexibility to customize their Yellow Jacket football experience by exchanging tickets amongst games throughout the season.

In addition to a guaranteed seat for all six games at Bobby Dodd Stadium this season, Stinger Pass holders will receive priority access to purchase tickets for Georgia Tech’s highly anticipated “Mayhem at Mercedes-Benz Stadium” matchup versus North Carolina on Sept. 25.

Stinger Mobile Passes start at just $145. For more information and to purchase Stinger Mobile Passes online, click HERE.


2021 SEASON TICKETS

Starting at just $299 per seat, season tickets include reserved seats for all seven games on the Yellow Jackets’ 2021 home schedule, including “Mayhem at Mercedes-Benz Stadium” versus North Carolina on Sept. 25 and the return of “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” versus archrival Georgia on Nov. 27 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. For full 2021 Georgia Tech football season ticket information, click HERE.

Kroger to be Presenting Sponsor for 680 The Fan’s Annual Tailgate Golf Classic

Kroger to be Presenting Sponsor for 680 The Fan’s
Annual Tailgate Golf Classic – Sponsorship to benefit L.E.A.D.

– Funds will help foster a new generation of leadership, using baseball to teach African-American boys how to overcome crime, poverty and racism –

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ATLANTA July 16th, 2021 – Kroger announced today that it will be a presenting sponsor for 680 The Fan’s Annual Tailgate Golf Classic.

“Kroger’s sponsorship will benefit L.E.A.D., providing funds for the organization’s mission to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform Atlanta, using baseball to teach African-American boys how to overcome three curveballs that threaten their success: crime, poverty and racism,” says Felix Turner, corporate affairs manager for Kroger’s Atlanta Division. “We are honored to help further this important mission.”

The 7th Annual Tailgate Golf Classic will take place on Monday, August 30th, 2021, at the White Columns Country Club in MIlton, Georgia. It is an 18 hole golfing event to kickoff the start of the 2021 football and tailgating season where each foursome is paired with an ex-college football player. Previous celebrity guests include Danny Wuerffel, Jason Campbel, Brian Finneran, and more.

“The sponsorship is part of Kroger’s Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan, featuring steps developed in collaboration with associates and leaders to accelerate and promote greater change in the workplace and in the communities we serve,” Turner says.

ABOUT KROGER
At The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), we are Fresh for Everyone™ and dedicated to our purpose: To Feed the Human Spirit®. We are 30,000 associates who serve customers daily by delivering a seamless shopping experience throughout Kroger’s Atlanta Division, which includes Georgia, Eastern Alabama and South Carolina. We are committed to creating #ZeroHungerZeroWaste communities by 2025. To learn more about us, visit our newsroom and investor relations site.

About L.E.A.D
We are a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization operating in Atlanta, Georgia. Through our year-round Pathway2Empowerment, sport based youth development (SBYD) programming, we are inspiring and equipping Black males with the empowerment they need to live sustainable lives of significance.

About 680 The Fan
Dickey Broadcasting Company has been an Atlanta sports leader for over 28 years. In addition to launching the sports-talk radio format in Atlanta, Sports Radio 680 The Fan/Dickey Broadcasting Company also owns and operates multiple radio networks including the Braves Radio Network and Southern Sports Today Network, and a recently launched news talk station XTRA 106.3. The company also manages robust digital offerings, and a sports-based events series,Tailgate Central.  Dickey Broadcasting Company headquarters and studios are located inside the Battery Atlanta next door to Truist Park.

Allison Filmore – Executive Director FedEx Cup

Allison Filmore, Executive Director of the Tour Championship, talks with Cellini & Dimino about the upcoming FedEx Championship at East Lake. Expect the biggest names in golf to appear to play for the Championship Cup like Bryson DeChambeau, John Rahm, Brooks Koepka, and Jordan Speith!

Best of all, the fans can experience championship golf Sept 1st – 5th IN PERSON! Tickets are available at tourchampionship.com!

allison filmore, pga tour, fedex championship, east lake golf

Braves Season Over Without Acuna? – BY BUCK BELUE

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Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr., center, is helped onto a medical cart after trying to make a catch on an inside-the-park home run hit by Miami Marlins’ Jazz Chisholm Jr. during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

June 12, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA –
It seems like a crushing blow. Acuna goes down with a torn right ACL. Out in Braves Country, all our hopes for a strong 2nd half run at a fourth consecutive National League East title has suddenly evaporated.

Soroka, d’Arnaud, Ozuna, Ynoa and now Acuna. It feels like five consecutive hard body blows, on the way down to the floor.

The Braves opening day outfield line-up is all gone at the All-Star break. Pache couldn’t hit, got dinged up and is now banished to AAA-Gwinnett. Ozuna did the unthinkable and will probably never wear a Braves uniform again. Now Acuna.

Ronald Acuna, Acuna, 680 the fan, the fan, 680am, 680, mlb, nl east, braves, atlanta braves,
Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr., center, is carried to a medical cart after trying to make a catch on an inside-the-park home run hit by Miami Marlins’ Jazz Chisholm Jr. during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Right now, the thought of who replaces Ronald in the line-up is in the “don’t really care” category. But if you need to know, it’s Adrianza, Drew Waters or someone coming our way in a trade (one of the low-cost, no name options).

And speaking of trades, the Braves woke up this morning suddenly in the “Sellers” category, as it relates to the upcoming MLB trade deadline.

Alex Anthopoulus focus overnight has most likely shifted to sell off mode. At the top of the Braves trade list, I would imagine reads like this: Charlie Morton, Drew Smyly or maybe even Freddie Freeman (who’s contract runs out at the end of the season).

As far as Ronald Acuna, Jr. goes. He now faces surgery and rehab. The torn ACL return time is 8-12 months. If all goes well, he should be back in the Braves line-up sometime around next June. Or maybe after the ’22 All-Star break.

The hope here is that Ronald comes back stronger and maintains his trade-mark explosiveness post-surgery. It’s going to be a long ride back. So, his determination is going to get tested along the way.

Setbacks like this can humble you. The experience can also make you tougher. Maybe Acuna needed a dose of both. Perhaps this difficult challenge ends up making him better.

I’m going to miss watching him play the game the rest of this season. Acuna had become must-see TV, especially against the Marlins. Even on losing nights, we could look forward to something special from Ronald. We won’t have that the rest of the way.

This has been a difficult season to enjoy. So many injuries and struggles. It’s been a tough watch. Don’t expect it to get any easier in the seasons second half.

Buck Belue’s Top 10 QBs In the Deep South – BY BUCK BELUE

FILE – Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) and Stetson Bennett prepare to play Cincinnati in the NCAA college football Peach Bowl game on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / AP FILE)

June 11, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – The countdown is officially on for the College Football season and I’m ready to reveal my list of Top 10 Qb’s in the Deep South. First up, the Honorable Mention list.

Jeff Sims and Emory Jones are both looking to break out and legitimize their talents and I believe both are likely to do so. Sims took a big step forward during Georgia Tech’s spring practice and his skills are impressive. Jones will most certainly take advantage of Dan Mullen’s QB Whisperer reputation to be effective in a more run-oriented scheme. Max Johnson and Conor Bazelak also made my list.

Here is my Top 10 list heading into the 2021 season.

10- Cornelius “Quad” Brown, IV. Georgia State Panthers.

The Sun Belt is loaded with quality quarterbacks and “Quad” is one of them. Stands tall in the pocket, at 6’5”, 210 and can spin it. As a freshman, Brown threw it 300 times at a 59% clip, with 17 touchdowns. He ran it for 300 yards and 7 TD’s. I expect to see a better version in year #2. He’s got all of his receivers returning. Keep an eye on “Quad.”

9- Bo Nix. Auburn Tigers.

New leadership will impact Bo. Mike Bobo and Bryan Harsin both played QB, so the new scheme is going to be more QB friendly. He will get coached up hard and pushed to improve, especially in the pocket. Expectations are high with him and he’s not exactly lived up to the hype so far, but I expect to see him playing at a higher level. Last season, Bo was 5th in the SEC in Total QBR. I expect him to be #3 this season.

8- Grayson McCall. Coastal Carolina.

He had a breakout season as a freshman last year, with 26 TD passes and only 3 picks. His 69% completion rate is certainly impressive, as a first-year starter. He also ran for 600 yards and 7 touchdowns. Grayson thrived in the Chanticleers “Triple Option Spread” scheme. Expect another big season, with 9 of 11 starters returning on offense, including his Go-To WR.

7- Dillion Gabriel. UCF Knights.

His first two seasons have been amazing. Last season, he threw it 400 times and finished with 30 TD passes and only 5 interceptions. Dillon manipulates the pocket effectively and has a special feel for the game. I do wonder if Malzahn’s scheme will get less out of him (Heupel’s scheme fit Dillon perfectively). Gabriel finished #20 in Total QBR last season and I expect to see him knocking on the Top 10 this season.

6- D’Eric King. Miami Hurricanes.

I enjoy watching him play the game. Dual threat talent. Impressive competitor and leader! Threw it over 300 times last season (23 TD, 5 INTC, 64%) and did some damage with his feet (Ran for 500 yards and 4 TD’s). Dude can play (Sure hope he survives the season opener against Alabama).

5- Bryce Young. Alabama Crimson Tide.

Obviously, a lot of this is based on projection. Young only threw 22 passes last season, but he looked outstanding in the spring A-Day scrimmage (25-44-330 & TD). He’s got a special presence about him on the field. Cool. Confident. And he’s got some outstanding players surrounding him. Metchie & Bolden are playmakers. Solid O-Line. My educated guess: 3,000+ yards passing and 25 touchdowns.

4- DJ Uiagalelei. Clemson Tigers.

Biggest arm in College Football. Big body and tough to sack. Great scheme fit: Tigers will spread the field with 4-5 WR’s and throw a lot of wide, short routes. Throws a catchable ball and is highly accurate. Clemson will throw it 40 times a game with Big Cinco, so he’ll put up some huge numbers, in his first year as a starter. Looks like a future #1 pick.

3- JT Daniels. Georgia Bulldogs.

Healthy and comfortable in the Monken system. Makes a lot of good, quick decisions. Accurate short to intermediate. Nice touch on the deep ball. Tough. Doesn’t mind stepping into the throw and taking a hit. Manipulates the pocket well. Good leader. Plays with swag. JT will have a lot of weapons to target this season: Gilbert, Jackson, Burton, Washington, Cook, Smith, Rosemy, Blaylock, Mitchell, Justin Robinson, McIntosh & Milton. Daniels will be running an explosive offense. Expect to see JT join Murray, Zeier, Greene & Stafford in the exclusive 3,000 Yard Season Club and also, watch him join the 30 Touchdown Season Club, joining Fromm and Murray.

2. Sam Howell. North Carolina Tar Heels.

Sam’s going to spin it over 40 times a game this season, with the offense built around his skill set. The Rep: Sam is the best “Deep Ball” thrower in College Football. He also plays consistently at a high level. You don’t see him have any of those 5-interception games. He was #14 last season in Total QBR. He needs to cut down on the sacks, but the NFL scouts seem to love him. And I respect his play enough to put him at #2.

1.Matt Corral. Ole Miss Rebels.

The most accomplished QB in the Deep South. Led the nation in Total Offense last season (384 yds gm) and finished the year #3 in Total QBR. Gunslinger style of play. Fearless. Avoids a lot of sacks and makes plays on the move. Dynamic skill set. Ran for 500 yards and 4 TD’s. He did have a couple of nightmare games (6 picks against Arkansas and 5 against LSU) but over all he was outstanding. Fits the Kiffin scheme perfectly. Expect more big numbers this season.

 

The College Athlete Finally Has Power – BY DAN MATHEWS

680 the fan, college football
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signs an executive order allowing college athletes in Ohio to earn money off their name, image and likeness Monday, June 28, 2021, at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. The order would bring Ohio up to speed with more than a dozen states who now prevent universities or college athletic conferences from punishing athletes if they are compensated based on their sports performance. (AP Photo/Farnoush Amiri)

July 1, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Name, Image and Likeness is here and I’m ready to see what it will bring. This along with the transfer exemption is giving the athletes what a lot of people have wanted for them… Power.

We have heard people complain about the money made by institutions and the lack of funds that athletes are able to bring in. Some suggested that we just pay the players!

Former Ohio State University quarterback Cardale Jones speaks at a ceremony where Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order allowing college athletes in Ohio to earn money off their name, image and likeness, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. The order would bring Ohio up to speed with more than a dozen states who now prevent universities or college athletic conferences from punishing athletes if they are compensated based on their sports performance. Jones said “I’m just excited for the future of student athletes and the opportunity for them to take advantage of their name, image and likeness and the branding created on and off the field.” (AP Photo/Farnoush Amiri)

That blanket just pay everyone would not have worked. It wouldn’t have worked, because that means that all athletes across all sports would have needed to be paid the same amount. Are you really going to tell me that a major university football player would have been fine making the same amount as say a swimming and diving athlete? Nope.

This is the best way for the athletes. The ones who are the most popular and receive the most coverage will benefit the most. They should! The demand is there for them.

It doesn’t matter how good a starting right guard at Georgia is. They will never be more popular in the fans eyes than the starting quarterback or hard-hitting linebacker.

The supposed worry about this dividing the locker room is not going to be an issue. Players know that certain position groups get notoriety over others on the team. The players who get the ball, will usually fit into that category.

As for players being blocked by their coaches or other authority types in their respective programs? Think again… They’ll be encouraged to use their “NIL.”

Any remote word of a coach stopping an athlete from an opportunity will spread like wild fire in public and on the recruiting trail. Programs are already embracing NIL. All you have to do is get on social media over the last few days.

As for the transfer exemption, it serves its purpose and will eventually level itself out. We’ve all heard about the huge number of athletes who have entered the transfer portal over the last few months, since the rules were eased.

The players who have the most value on the field/court were going to benefit from this rule regardless. It will work itself out, because this offseason is going to be a huge teaching tool for coaches and athletes a like. Just look at the enormous amount of names in the portal and tell there is a way that everyone can find a landing spot in the same division of play that they’re leaving. There’s not enough spots to land. In the future, it is going to take athletes having to be honest with themselves about the decisions they’re making.

But Dan, what about if the coach who recruited them leaves? Sure, I get that. But are you in a worse position with your program, without them in the building? If the answer is yes and you truly believe an opportunity is better for you elsewhere; you should take that chance.

The moral of the story, is athletes now have options. I think deep down that is what we wanted for them.

Dan Mathews
Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

For The Hawks: Stop with the doom and gloom! – BY DAN MATHEWS

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Atlanta Hawks’ Bogdan Bogdanovic reacts after scoring during the second half against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

June 30th, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – The Hawks are potentially two wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals. Is that something we thought we’d say in 2021?

The Hawks overcame the odds and brought their Eastern Conference Finals series to 2-2 with the Milwaukee Bucks. The 110-88 final is not one that most of us saw coming, without Trae Young being on this floor.

atlanta hawks, lou williams, 680 the fan
Atlanta Hawks’ Lou Williams (6) keeps the ball away from Milwaukee Bucks’ Jrue Holiday (21) during the first half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

But you know what? Shame on us who doubted this team.

I said it back before the playoffs started, that this season was a huge success. You went from being an injury riddled team, that was coming up short of expectations and eventually had to fire your head coach. Even getting to the playoffs was a huge feat.

As the stage has gotten larger for this team, they’ve seemed to respond. Most of the expects picked them to lose to the New York Knicks and… They didn’t. The same was said inter series with the Sixers and they won. Now, they have the chance to do it all again. Why doubt them now?

atlanta hawks, 680 the fan, nba playoffs
Atlanta Hawks fans react as guard Cam Reddish forces Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton to lose the ball out of bounds but maintain the possession during the second quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in the NBA basketball playoffs Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/ AP Sports)

As for the doom and gloom? Save it with the “same old Atlanta sports” talk. This group isn’t the same, old Atlanta team. They’re special. They’re building something special.

This is a team who when the moment gets the largest, seems to step up and succeed. How many Atlanta teams have we seen come up short in those spots?

We already knew how good Trae Young is on the floor. Honestly? He’s probably made even more people in this town believers in his game.

I hope we get to see him again in these conference finals. Because, they need him to reach their goal.

When I was younger, my brother would tell me to “act like I belonged,” when I was trying to fit in with a team or make said roster. I never really understood what that meant. The beauty with age, is that you can understand advice like that a little better.

The Hawks are overall still a very young team. But wow do they act like they belong.

I hope they continue this magic run. Because honestly, it’s fun to have people feeling this excited about sports in this town again.

Dan Mathews
Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

Are the Braves buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? – BY BUCK BELUE

braves, mlb, nl east, 680 the fan, 680am, 680, the fan,
Atlanta Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte (11) and third baseman Ehire Adrianza (23) celebrate after scoring during fifth the inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

June 24, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – As pen hits paper, the Braves are hovering around .500 and still in the National League East mix. The team has been what some of the old-timers call “treading water.”

But the MLB Trade frenzy starts soon. What will the Braves do? Obviously, this team as constructed needs some help quick, in the bullpen and the outfield. However, one more losing streak could place the Braves into the dreaded seller’s market.

Word on the street says Liberty Media has told Anthopoulus that he will have money to spend at the trade deadline. How much? No info on that number. My best guess would be $5M.

So basically, we are talking about adding a bullpen piece, or a bargain centerfielder. Don’t get me wrong, either one of those additions would be welcomed. But don’t expect anything huge.

Ozuna put his family and the Braves in one horrible situation. Replacing Marcell would take something huge. Think for a moment how big it would have been to be getting him back for a late season run. Instead, the team will be probably looking for a bargain bat.

The Braves also have enough quality prospects to get something done by the trade deadline, but they have shown a reluctance to move any of these guys under Anthopoulus.

It’s reasonable to believe that Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright, Kyle Muller, Drew Waters, Wilson Contreras, Cristian Pache, Tucker Davidson or Jasseel De La Cruz would all have some marketability on the trade market. The educated guess here is that the untouchable prospect right now is catcher Shae Langeliers.

A combination of those guys should be able to provide the Braves immediate help.

Worst case scenario is the Braves fall back, become sellers and wave the white flag. Build for next year. This was supposed to be a World Series run year. This would be so disappointing for the fan base out in Braves Country.

Imagine trading Freddie Freeman at the deadline. That might not be so crazy, if the Braves aren’t serious about resigning him to a big-money, market value (5 Years/$136M or $27M per) contract extension. Just saying. Better to get something now, if you are going to lose him at the end of the year.

The Braves fan in me is hoping that this team can finish the first half of the season on the up-and-up and stay in contention. The team is currently playing a little better. We need that to continue that trend in the month of July.

Or else.

Business of sports – Alex Lau COO of AVP & The Return of Volleyball To Atlantic Station

Alex Lau, COO of AVP discusses the upcoming volleyball tournament at Atlantic Station w/Cellini & Dimino. What can we expect besides top level volleyball competition?  A beach scene, a party scene and a return to Atlantic Station! Listen for information on dates and tickets!

Expanded playoffs are good for Kirby Smart… But how good? – BY DAN MATHEWS

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FILE – Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) celebrates with Georgia coach Kirby Smart after scoring a touchdown in the second half of a NCAA football game between Georgia and Missouri in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Georgia won 27-0. (Joshua L. Jones/AP File Photo)

June 16, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – I’ve had a co-worker here at 680 The Fan who has brought up that extended College Football Playoff fields would have meant a different narrative for Kirby Smart. I’m not sure I completely agree with that. 

Yes, 12 teams would have seen the Dawgs in the playoff field for the last three seasons. But, I do not think that takes away from the issues that still face Kirby during his time at Georgia. 

Smart is entering his sixth season and has one SEC title under his belt. They are recruiting at a level we’ve never seen, as evident in 247Sports.com‘s Blue-Chip Ratio. Kirby is also 17-11 against ranked opponents during his first five seasons on the job. 

The issues still remain, that Kirby hasn’t figured out how to solve the puzzle of beating Nick Saban and Alabama. I’m not saying it would be a passing of the torch in the SEC. But, I do think it would be a huge sigh of relief from Georgia fans when they finally accomplish this feat. 

Another issue is still being mired in the more than 40 year drought of not winning a national title. The overall belief in Kirby is still high. Trust me, you all let me know in my one Kirby piece I wrote. 

There is value in being one of the 12 teams playing for the national title at the end of the season. We can’t go back in time to figure out if they had a national title run in them for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons. 

The issue that Kirby could face is recalibrated expectations from the fanbase and experts. Soon enough, just getting into the playoff is not good enough. 

Let’s take Oklahoma as an example. The Sooners have shown no issue of getting into the current four-team field over the last few years. Their problem has been not getting out of the semifinal round. I get it, they’re in the field every year. But, don’t you think OU fans are already starting to want more from Lincoln Riley? 

Every major college football program has a reputation. Clemson is another example of one who kept progressing as a program and eventually became what they are. Don’t we remember “Clemsoning?” That was a thing, until it wasn’t. 

Kirby has gotten better in games versus ranked opponents over the last two seasons. In fact, Georgia is 8-3 in said contests. He gets the chance to improve that record on September 4 against Clemson in Charlotte. 

The 12-team playoff field should have Georgia expecting to be part of those teams, if they continue to recruit at the rate they are. The law of averages tell you that soon enough you’ll have the right group to make something special happen. 

I just know that if Kirby does make the CFP and not win a national title? I think that will become a problem for him. 

Mark Richt was not fired because he didn’t win. They had the “mutual parting of ways.” because he didn’t win enough SEC titles, beat Florida enough or win a national title. 

The expectations only increase at places like Georgia. They rarely if ever decrease. 

Dan Mathews
Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

Tom Fanning with Cellini and Dimino – East Lake Golf and Southern Company’s Relationship

Tom Fanning joins Cellini & Dimino to discuss the fascinating and long history between Southern Company and East Lake Golf Club. From the land grant to being the host course of the 2021 PGA Tour Championship, the ties between the two go a long way back in history! Listen for the fascinating story!

Plus, Tom speaks on winning the the Bobby Jones Award and why it’s a story of the award coming “full circle”.

Georgia fans: Nick Saban is staying a little while longer… Good – BY DAN MATHEWS

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FILE – Alabama head coach Nick Saban leaves the field after their win against Ohio State in an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game in Miami Gardens, Fla., in this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, file photo. Saban, who has won a record seven national championships, has agreed to a three-year contract extension running through the 2029 season. Alabama announced the extension on Monday, June 7, 2021, including $8.425 million in base salary and talent fee for the current contract year with annual raises of unspecified amounts. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

June 9, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Nick Saban isn’t stepping away from the field anytime soon. I’m good with that and Georgia fans should be too. 

Saban put his signature on a contract extension that keeps him at Alabama through the 2028 season. Some would say that’s bad news for everyone else in college football. Why is that the case? 

I for one love greatness and try to appreciate it at the time. I don’t mind seeing the Crimson Tide go on the run that they have over the last nearly 15 years. Georgia’s head coach is in Athens, because of said run of success. 

UGA’s “obsession” with Alabama is valid and should be accepted. Who the hell doesn’t want to be Alabama? If you don’t, then you’re kidding yourself. Nick Saban is Alabama’s success. 

When Georgia beats Alabama, it needs to be with Nick Saban on the opposite sideline. You want to beat the Tide when they’re at their best. 

Beating Saban is still the test that Georgia needs to prove is possible for them to take the next step as a program. Clemson needed to prove that and did in 2016. LSU had to do it in 2019 and did so in Tuscaloosa. 

Let’s breakdown what the right comparison is for Georgia-Alabama at this moment… The Crimson Tide are the New York Yankees, while the Bulldogs are the Boston Red Sox. It’s more like the early 2000’s version of the two legendary franchises. 

The Red Sox postseason shortcomings were well documented leading up to their World Series winning 2004 season. They would make the postseason, play the Yankees and lose. The most crushing to that point was Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run to beat them in the 2003 American League Championship Series. 

In that 2004 offseason, the Red Sox pulled off the huge trade to pick up Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Sox needed another frontline option to go with Pedro Martinez, if they were going to have a chance at winning the whole thing. 

Georgia can be the 2004 Red Sox in 2021. They have the quarterback (JT Daniels), offensive options, strong play on the defensive front and the experience of playing for a chance to reach the College Football Playoff. 

The only thing that could make this 2021 season absolutely magical is beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game or CFP. Like I’ve said, it would be even better with Saban on the other sideline.

Georgia beating Saban won’t suffice in coming the next time these two programs meet during a regular season. It needs to mean something and it needs to hurt. 

UGA owes Alabama for the 2012 and 2018 SEC Championship Games. They also owe them for second down and 26 yards to go. 

Also, Georgia fans are probably ready to shove it to the loud mouths on social media who act like they’re part of Alabama’s on-field success. 

There is zero disrespect for the job Nick Saban has done in Tuscaloosa. In fact, it’s far from me showing disrespect. I just want to see Georgia finally pick up that elusive win and I want it to happen against Saban. 

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

The Time Clearly Is Now for UGA: It’s all there – BY DAN MATHEWS

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PHOTO: AP SPORTS

June 2, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – The wish list coming out of spring practice was pretty simple and Georgia seemed to have gotten good favor with the transfer portal. Cornerback Derion Kendrick and tight end Arik Gilbert are Athens bound.

You needed to get older in the secondary and you did that. You wanted another weapon in the passing game, especially after George Pickens tore his ACL. You accomplished that goal as well.

It leads us to the next statement… It’s time to win a national title. The pieces are there.

Name another team in the country who added one of the top young offensive players, who came off a 35 catch for 368 yards in eight games? You cannot.

Most coaches would dream to get this lucky and Kirby Smart pulled a rabbit out of his hat on Tuesday. The 6 foot 5, 245 pound tight end isn’t just a tight end. Gilbert is a matchup nightmare.

I would say to think of Gilbert like another Kyle Pitts. He’s probably a little bit more polished a tight end, in terms of blocking and playing out of the three-point stance. But in terms of his speed, size, hands and route running? He’s incredibly advanced.

Just take a look at Gilbert’s tape from early last season for LSU. Myles Brennan couldn’t wait to find Gilbert on the field. Most of his damage was done earlier in the season.

Does it translate to Georgia’s offense? It should. If you cannot make a player like Gilbert work in your offense, then you’re the problem. Don’t overthink it and get him involved.

I’ve been critical of UGA’s handling of the tight end position in the past. This program hasn’t gotten a tight end like Gilbert. Mainly, because it can be argued that he’s just as good an option split out wide at receiver.

Without Pickens on the field, this offensive unit is already dangerous. You’ve got the strong group of running backs. Plus, you factor in Jermaine Burton and third down machine Kearis Jackson at receiver. We still haven’t mentioned another year in the program for fellow beast tight end Darnell Washington. Also, the return of Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Dominick Blaylock from injury.

I’ve even left some names off the list of potential difference makers on this offense. That’s how deep they are now at the skill positions.

If Georgia cannot make this season work at an unreal level of production offensively, then it’s never going to happen. You cannot have this level of talent and not be the best in college football.

The college football game is won on offense now. You’ve got that figured out for the most part. I still have my concerns over the offensive line. But, it could very well be that they just went up against a superior defensive front on G-Day.

This will be Kirby’s best chance to win a national title since he’s gotten to Georgia. He seemed to feel pretty good about this team during spring practice. How will he feel now?

The issue in the past hasn’t been for the lack of expectations heaped upon Bulldog football teams. It has been with making good on some of those lofty expectations. It’s time to make good on them.

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

I’ll remember Julio Jones as a Falcon for what he was: “GREAT”! – BY DAN MATHEWS

FILE – In this Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020 file photo, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) warms up before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Atlanta.(AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)

May 26, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA –
It appears that Julio Jones’ time with the Falcons has come to an end. I’m not sad, mad or disappointed. 

Julio clearly wants an opportunity to win a title before his career ends and he’s welcome to feel that way. It’s his career and he gets to deal with the backlash of (allegedly) requesting a trade to get out. 

There’s no right way to break up. In life, business or sports, someone is going to feel like they got the short end of the deal. In this case, I think it’s best for both sides to move on. 

The Falcons need to do what is best for them, in terms of getting a package of picks and maybe even a current player (at a much cheaper price salary cap wise). Wherever Julio Jones goes, I hope he wins. 

He was a beast in college at Alabama. He’s been a beast from day one with the Falcons. I’ll always remember the 180 yards and two touchdowns he had against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. I’ll remember the long catch and run against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football to electrify the team to a win. 

Julio Jones has been a player that cannot be duplicated. His size, speed and strength is something that only belongs to Julio. 

Yes you can criticize Julio for being frustrated, after signing his most recent contract a couple of years back. I have been critical of that fact and him wanting out. 

I’m honestly kind of surprised that I’ve seen the reaction from Falcons fans that I’ve seen regarding Julio’s comments to Shannon Sharpe on FS1 and supposed wishes. We also haven’t had a chance to hear his side of the story. We’ve only really heard the reports up until this week, that the team was open to trading him for cap concerns. 

Like I said, it’s a breakup. Falcon fans feel like their relationship was put into the public. Truth is, it was coming to an end and there was nothing that could be done about that fact. 

As time passes, I think Julio will be remembered fondly for his greatness in a Falcons uniform. People thought that the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre would never mend fences. That came to pass after the years came to pass. 

It’s ok to feel hurt by this coming to an end. I’ll remember him for how great he was while in this uniform.

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

Phil Mickelson’s win is one for all of us – BY DAN MATHEWS

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Phil Mickelson holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Kiawah Island, S.C. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

May 24, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – That was fun to see Phil Mickelson walking up 18 with all the gallery around him on the way to his PGA Championship win. It was a sight that golf fans haven’t gotten in at least a couple of years. 

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Phil Mickelson hits off the 16th tee during the final round at the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Kiawah Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phil is still one of the fan favorites. But, he is not the Phil that golf fans came to love over the years. 

He’s 50 and about to turn 51. He hadn’t won since taking Pebble Beach in 2019. Phil also needed a special exemption to be a part of this year’s US Open field in his home city of San Diego, Ca. 

It would seem that Phil’s better days were behind him. He’s almost like Eddie Money in the song ‘I Wanna Go Back.’ The chorus of the song for those who aren’t familiar… 

“I want to go back

And do it all over

But I can’t go back I know

I want to go back

‘Cause I’m feeling so much older

But I can’t go back I know.”

That probably was a little bit of that feeling with Phil. He’s a competitor. He has 45 PGA Tour wins and five major titles heading into this weekend. However, we all want to end what we’ve started on our terms. 

So, Phil took it into his own hands. He’s taken control of his health, by getting himself into the best physical shape he’s ever been in his playing career. All weekend long the CBS broadcast crew talked about his mental approach and working on that part of his game. 

Phil is an example to all of us. It’s never too late to change and improve. Maybe some of us want to take control of our physical health. Do it. You can. Maybe we want to get back to playing a sport we did at a younger age? Go do it. 

Given the last year plus that we’ve had to go through, we needed Sunday at Kiawah Island. It continues to remind us why we needed sports to come back and why we’re glad it returned. The crowds, the storylines and success stories are what we love to see. 

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

There is a college football commissioner: His name is Greg Sankey – BY DAN MATHEWS

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Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Monday, July 15, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

May 21, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – There is a college football commissioner: His name is Greg Sankey

Ask and you shall receive college football fans. You wanted a college football commissioner for Power Five football and I’ve found them. 

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is the man for this fictitious job. He has proven time and time again to be a proactive leader, rather than being a reactive one. 

The SEC’s leader did not need to provide for $23 million in COVID-19 aid to go to their 14 member schools for relief from pandemic financial losses. But, he looked at the upcoming TV contract and said we can help them all now. 

That money he just gave the schools is going to go a long way towards protecting their universities crown jewel… Football. Like it or not, football moves the meter on these college campuses. 

Think about how many facility construction projects can now become a reality from this front of cash? Think about the trickle down effect and how non-revenue sports programs are being able to survive at these schools? 

Sankey’s first recent act of being able to showcase his strong leadership skills came in the summer of 2020. On the day that the Big Ten/PAC 12 announced that fall football was not going to take place, the cancellation mob was coming for the largest target of all… The SEC. It was Sankey who said they were going to wait, use the time allowed to them to get more information from the medical experts and then decide on whether fall 2020 was a viable option for football. They waited, got the information and decided to hold practices and play the games. 

Make no mistake about it, college football was played in 2020 because of Sankey. His green light for funds to go to their schools in hopes of offsetting financial losses is one that other conferences are envious of seeing from the SEC. 

I said it on the Chuck Oliver Show yesterday, that Sankey being college football’s “commissioner” is like a part in the movie War Dogs. I’ll explain and it’ll make since. 

The movie is about a couple of friends played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller who won a three hundred million dollar contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. Long story short, they get involved with some shady people, exploited a government initiative and soon got into legal trouble with the authorities. 

The part that reminds me of Sankey’s unofficial role, involves an element of surprise. Teller and Hill are getting into a fight while riding in an elevator. Once they get to their floor, the Feds are there to arrest the, The Feds were dressed in their tactical gear and had their automatic guns with them. The officers are pleasantly surprised to see the two and one of them says something to the effect of “that saves us the trouble,” of going upstairs to arrest them. 

Sankey is Teller and Hill being brought to the authorities (college football fans). The connection is that Sankey is the man for this job by surprise. 

The SEC has been a leader for the rest of college football. While Greg Sankey is in charge, that will not change. Other conferences will continue to follow and try to match their success. 

Dan Mathews
Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

The Blame Kirby Smart Game: Use of Transfer Portal isn’t one of them – BY DAN MATHEWS

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Georgia head coach Kirby Smart talks to his players before Georgia’s spring NCAA college football game, Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

May 20, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Kirby Smart is not afraid to use the transfer portal. This has been proven time and time again.

I bring this up, after the Outkick.com article a few days ago that highlighted a Kirby Smart “loss” in the transfer portal, with former Tennessee linebacker Henry To’o To’o choosing to continue his playing career at Alabama. People I trust in the recruiting/beat media never once told me that Georgia was in on To’o To’o. From the beginning, I’d heard Alabama or Ohio State.

To say that Smart believes that players “should come to you” is ridiculous. Smart’s staff has proven almost every year, that they’re willing to supplement the roster with the transfer portal. Georgia doesn’t need to “get with the times.”

How about some evidence?

2016 (pre-transfer portal)- Georgia added offensive lineman Tyler Catalina, defensive back Maurice Smith and defensive back JR Reed.

2017 (pre-transfer portal)- Punter Cameron Nizialek

2018 (pre-transfer portal)— Wide receiver Demetris Robertson

2019- Wide receiver Lawrence Cager

2020- Tight end Tre McKitty, quarterback Jamie Newman and quarterback JT Daniels.

2021- Defensive backs Tykee Smith and Brandon Turnage.

Georgia might not be done with adding players in 2021. UGASports.com‘s Radi Nabulsi said the other day on the Chuck Oliver Show, that he expects UGA to add another cornerback (possibly former Clemson CB Derion Kendrick) and offensive player. I would have to believe offensive line is the priority on the second wish.

Let’s face it too, Kirby Smart has recruited well. They finished sixth in 247Sports’s 2016 rankings. They were third in 2017, first in 2018, second in 2019, number one in 2020 and just finished fourth in the most recent cycle. They have not always recruited at this level.

Matt Loede wrote this article and this isn’t a slam session of him. He made his point and I’m just laying out to facts to say why he’s wrong.

Using Smart’s quote about not wanting to use the portal lacks context. No coach at a major college program wants to rely on the transfer portal. This is even considering the new one-time transfer exemption. Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Ryan Day, Jimbo Fisher and Ed Orgeron would all like to rely on the players they’ve recruited and signed to their programs.

Swinney has been notorious for his reluctance to use the transfer portal. He even said as much, during a February press conference.

“Our philosophy has always been to recruit high school kids,” Swinney said via TigerNet.com. “We’ve signed two transfers since I’ve been here. I’ve not gone to the portal to address needs ever. We’ve just always taken a lot of pride in our evaluation and development of high school kids, and that’s never going to change.”

I mean, don’t mind Dabo Swinney… He’s only won the ACC seven times and the College Football Playoff twice.

If you want to blame Kirby for questionable coaching decisions in crucial spots? Then, that’s a fair critique. They haven’t won enough championships (conference or national)? Again, that’s fair.

But saying that Kirby is behind the times on the transfer portal? Sorry Matt, I can’t ride with you on that one.

Dan Mathews
Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

BRAVES HAVE A BAD VIBE GOING ON RIGHT NOW – BY BUCK BELUE

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Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Huascar Ynoa throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

May 18, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Braves Country is bummin! The first quarter of the Major League marathon season has been tough to watch in the Deep South. It’s amazing that we’re still in the NL East mix.

Soroka lost for the season. D’Arnaud probably not coming back. Ynoa in frustration fractured his right hand and now is on the shelf for a couple of months. This is absolutely crazy!

This could be a long summer,” one Braves insider lamented to me recently.

Even Acuna has scared us on two occasions, with the thought that he seriously injured. Remember him getting hit in the pinky? And that incident running it out full-go to first base provided some anxious moments.

Any way to reboot this season? Seriously.

Let’s all take a really deep breath. And try to relax. This is going to get better, right? No way we continue down this dark, bumpy road.

The Braves bats are capable to doing some damage. We can score more runs. Freeman settles in and finds his mojo. Ozuna starts banging it. Dansby erupts. Riley starts playing longball. Contreras earns the catchers spot the rest of the way, by squaring balls up. Albies delivers big. Acuna avoids injury and puts up MVP numbers.

Then, the bullpen finds some consistency in the late innings, during those high-leverage moments that are slipping away right now. Maybe Anthopoulus brings in some more help.

Chris Martin and Shane Greene should provide a boost in the set-up role. Braves fans need both of those right-handers to come through the rest of the way. Matzek and Luke Jackson have been dependable so far. Will Smith is another critical piece to the puzzle.

The rotation is barely hanging on, with Ynoa’s foolish, knucklehead move. Come on, man. Everyone knows you use your non-throwing hand to hit the wall!

So, right now the rotation looks like Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Charlie Morton, Smyly and Wright and/or Wilson.

Also, there are top prospects that Alex Anthopoulus could use in a trade. Kyle Muller and/or Tucker Davidson would love to break into a Major League rotation right now. Outfielders Drew Waters and Michael Harris have some market value. Suddenly, the Braves have a stockpile of quality catchers, so maybe package one of them (Langeliers or Contreras).

This Braves team needs help now.

I remember when Anthopoulos got hired, he mentioned something in his opening press conference that got my attention.

He told us about how he understood that Braves Country didn’t care about winning in AAA. All they cared about was winning in Atlanta.

Just wanted to remind him of that.

I’m not ready to give up on the season. We’ve got 75% of the trip left to go. There is time to get it turned around. All I’m saying is that I need a little dose of hope.

Let’s make a deal. Or two.

This Hawks team is already successful, but… – BY DAN MATHEWS

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Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) shoots as Houston Rockets forward Kelly Olynyk (41) rushes in to try to block during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

May 18, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA –
I said before the season and still maintain that just making the playoffs was a massive success for this team. When you have a core group who has in most cases never experienced postseason success, you can’t get too greedy with expectations. 

If I were to tell you before their first game in December, that this team would finish 41-31 and win the Southeast Division? You would take that in a heartbeat. What if I told you that Lloyd Pierce would be let go and this team would play without key members of their organization for much of the season? I think you’re getting the same answer. 

This team’s success to this point is very much a huge credit to Travis Schlenk’s ability to build the roster. Major kudos also need to be given to soon to be permanent head coach Nate McMillan. 

This is still a young roster in their core group of players. A team full of young players would usually do one of two things in the event of a coaching change. They would just punt to the next season and start over again. Or, you can do what this team did. They responded to McMillan and were ready to help this team reach their potential. 

In all honesty, we should be getting ready to watch this Hawks team take part in the Play-In tournament. But, a seven or eight seed in the playoffs would have been a huge jump from winning no more than 30 games in a season.

However, you’re here now. So when you get into the playoffs, make the most of it. We’ve gotten tired of hearing the national media (Bill Simmons) take shots at Trae Young, right? So, it’s time for Trae to stop that narrative and turn it around to him being one of the best in the league. This is the time of year when you can change the way people think about your game. 

I get that I’ve said this season is already a success. But, make it even more successful. Win this series against the Knicks. Honestly, I think you’re the better team and a bad matchup for New York. 

If they do win this series, give the next team a hard time. It will more than likely be the Philadelphia 76ers. You would be a huge underdog, but still play them like you have nothing to lose. 

I want this Hawks team to come out of the playoffs with all the national experts singing the praises of this team. The playoffs are when you get that chance. 

So again, make the most of this chance. Show the rest of the league that this is only the beginning of this team being a competitor for the Eastern Conference title and a run at the NBA Finals.

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

Georgia Tech Football to be at 100% Capacity for 2021

Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium, Sept. 1, 2020. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)


Bobby Dodd Stadium and on-campus tailgating to return to full operations for upcoming season

May 12, 2021
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech athletics confirmed on Wednesday that it will operate Bobby Dodd Stadium at 100% capacity and full on-campus tailgating will return for the 2021 football season.

Georgia Tech joins the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta United and Atlanta Falcons in announcing the return to 100% capacity at their respective facilities. The Braves and United returned to 100% capacity at Truist Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, respectively, this month. The Falcons will be at 100% capacity at MBS this fall.

“Thanks to encouraging trends regarding the number of people becoming vaccinated and the declining spread of Covid-19, as well as updated guidance from public health experts, we’re grateful and excited to announce that we will be able to welcome Georgia Tech fans back to full stadium and tailgating operations on campus this fall,” Georgia Tech director of athletics Todd Stansbury said. “We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our entire community, but are confident that we can maintain a safe environment while bringing back the full college football gameday experience that we all know and love on The Flats.”

Georgia Tech football plays six home games at Bobby Dodd Stadium this fall, beginning with its 2021 season opener versus Northern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 4. In addition to its six home dates at Bobby Dodd Stadium this fall, Tech also hosts “Mayhem at MBS” versus North Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 25, the first game in a six-year series that will see the Yellow Jackets play one home contest per season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium from 2021-26.

2021 GEORGIA TECH FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS

2021 Georgia Tech football season are on sale now. Starting at just $299 per seat, season tickets include reserved seats for all seven games on the Yellow Jackets’ 2021 home schedule, including “Mayhem at MBS” versus North Carolina on Sept. 25 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the return of “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” versus archrival Georgia on Nov. 27 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. For full 2021 Georgia Tech football season ticket information, visit ramblinwreck.com/footballtickets.

Single-game tickets will go on this summer. Click HERE to receive information and presale opportunities when they become available.

If you’re annoyed with anyone, don’t be upset with Tim Tebow – BY DAN MATHEWS

tim tebow, 680 the fan, the fan, 680am, 680, jacksonville jaguars
FILE – Former Florida football player Tim Tebow speaks to fans after he was inducted in the Ring of Honor at Florida Field during the first half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Gainesville, Fla., in this Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, file photo. Tebow and Urban Meyer are apparently getting back together, this time in the NFL. The former Florida star and 2007 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is expected to team up with his college coach by signing a one-year contract to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL Network reported Monday, May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

May 12, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Tim Tebow is a competitor and wants to play football. Urban Meyer, general manager Trent Baalke and the Jacksonville Jaguars want to give him that chance. 

This should be the end of the story. But, it isn’t. 

We can’t take things with nuance or for a specific instance anymore. We have to immediately share our snarky thoughts on social media or like/share someone else’s. 

If you’re going to be upset with anyone in this situation, don’t make it Tim Tebow. Also, if you’re “angry” about this? Get a life… 

I can understand if you’re annoyed about Tebow getting a chance to play in the NFL again as a potential tight end. If you feel that way, then direct your annoyance to the Jaguars front office and Meyer. 

It’s their football team and they can run it how they see fit. All Tebow has done here is make his desire to play known and the Jags took him up on his wish. 

People can talk about Tebow being away from the game since 2012 and you’re right this seems odd to do this. I would ask them, have you seen him play tight end lately? Do you know for a fact that he cannot play the position? Chances are, the answers to those questions is no. 

I like many of you have my doubts about Tebow’s viability to play in the NFL. In fact, I made a bet over the air on Tuesday, that I will allow myself to be hoisted up 50 feet in the air at The Battery Atlanta, if Tebow indeed does make the 53 man roster for the team. I am deathly afraid of heights too. 

If the Jaguars want to make a mockery of their football team with this move, then let them. Meyer and Baalke are the ones who will have to answer to owner Shad Khan if this significantly backfires. 

I also think many of you are looking at this all wrong. Jacksonville is a strong alumni base for Tebow’s beloved Florida Gators. He’s from Jacksonville. Plus, he has a strong following of people who are not Jaguar or Gator fans. They’re Tim Tebow fans. 

You cannot tell me that we will not see Tebow’s jersey number released very soon. Then, we’ll likely see Tebow jerseys on sale in the Jags team store and online. 

It’s called business, folks. The Jaguars are here to make money and be profitable. That’s what drives NFL franchises. You don’t like it? Don’t spend your money with them. 

This isn’t about Tebow being selfish and taking away a space from another player. It’s up to the Jaguars, if they want to allow this to happen. 

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

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Thank you AA: Braves show commitment with Shane Greene signing – BY DAN MATHEWS

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Shane Greene (19) works against the Miami Marlins in the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

May 10, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – This Braves bullpen needs help! It’s not for ineffectiveness, but for the impending wall if they continued down their current path. 

The bullpen ERA is 4.56 and that has them 11th out of 15 teams in the National League. They’ve thrown over 125 innings of pitches through 34 games. Those numbers show this group needs help. 

The good news, is that you’re getting help on the way. You have to expect that Chris Martin will join this group soon. More importantly, you get a great option back in Shane Greene. 

The Braves signed Greene on Sunday to a one-year, prorated deal. He’s immediately heading to Triple-A Gwinnett, in order to get ready for a return to the major league club. 

You have to tip your hat to the job that Tyler Matzek, AJ Minter, Will Smith and the rest of this bullpen have done to this point. The truth is, they’re not good enough as currently constructed to help this team win the National League East and get back to the postseason. The numbers tell you that. 

Greene is a huge help to give this team a chance at getting back to the National League Championship Series. He was a key part of the team who made a run last season, with his 2.60 ERA in 28 appearances in 2020. Losing Mark Melancon hurt. Not having Greene around has proven to hurt them at times as well. 

This signing is every bit as strong as making a huge trade at the MLB deadline in July. It seems to come at a perfect time, as the Braves offense seems to be coming to form. 

The good news is that we’re approaching the middle of the second month of the season and you’re in striking distance of the NL East lead. You still have not played your best baseball. 

You’ve had some bright spots on this roster at times. Plus, you’ve had some players you’re counting on, who have yet to find their stride. 

It is refreshing to know that the commitment is there to make this team as competitive as possible in 2021. This will not be the last move needed, in order to make a strong push for a World Series title. 

It will be great to get Mike Soroka back for the months where you need to play your best baseball. If he’s Mike Soroka, that is like making another strong trade for this team. 

The fact that you’re not going to have Travis d’Arnaud around for much of the season, might make me interested in adding another strong offensive catcher through a trade. The same goes for a starting rotation arm, if you don’t start getting better results consistently out of Charlie Morton or Drew Smyly. 

This season is the one, where the Braves need to make “The Trade,” if it presents itself at the deadline. I am talking something like the Astros did in 2017 to get Justin Verlander. You’ve got the prospects. If presented, pull the trigger. This team is good enough. The fans are ready to be champs again. 

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

Falcons Draft: Mixed bag but mostly positive reaction – BY DAN MATHEWS

atlanta falcons, 680 the fan
Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

May 3 2021 –
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – The Falcons pick up nine players over the three days of the NFL Draft. Overall, I like what they did. 

I think they had two goals over the three days. One, they wanted to take the best available player who could also help their strength… The passing game. Two, they wanted to add depth to key positions of need. 

One thing I didn’t like, is that the running back position was not addressed. I believe that is a concern heading into the season. 

These are the three things I noticed over the last three days. 

  1. Add depth to the offensive line and actually promote good competition: The Falcons made the decision to go forward for at least this season with Matt Ryan as their quarterback. It is clear from the last three days of the draft, that they want to give Ryan the best opportunity to succeed. First and foremost in reaching that goal, is to make sure he down’t take as many hits. I love the additions of Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield (tackle competition) and Drew Dalman from Stanford (guard/center competition). I like that the team has spent five picks on the offensive line over the last few years. If nothing else, you’re giving yourself a better chance at getting your starting five correct. It is good that they’re making Matt Hennessy earn the start at center through training camp and preseason games. The same goes for Kaleb McGary at right tackle, now that Mayfield is part of this team.

  2. Where are the running backs?: That was kind of disappointing over the weekend, I’m not going to lie. While the running game in the NFL is not the most important part of your offense, it is still very important. Yes, you would like to have a strong offensive line to make that happen. The depth now looks to be there up front. It is hard for me to believe that the Falcons couldn’t have used one of these nine picks to add help in the running game. 18 running backs were drafted over the weekend and not one was by the Falcons. It’s clear that they want to go the veteran route to add to this group heading into the season. No disrespect to Mike Davis and Qadree Ollison… But, I still need someone else to be part of the group to make me believe in their potential high level production.

  3. I like the direction of the defense: Five of the nine picks belonged to Dean Pees’ defense. A lot of people are very impressed with the second round selection of Central Florida safety Richie Grant. He is known as a disciplined player who has a nose for the football. Has that been a description of a Falcons defensive back over the last few years? No, it has not. The Falcons needed help in the secondary and added cornerbacks Darren Hall from San Diego State and Avery Williams from Boise State. They added help on the defensive line with defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji from Notre Dame and defensive tackle Ja’Quon Graham from Texas. This is needed for a line that is going to be part of a defense that is “multiple” in their looks the season, from what Dean Pees told us earlier this offseason. That side of the ball needs capable depth and hopefully added that. Aside from Ogundeji, I’m not going to say I know anything about these players. We’ve all seen the highlights and it’s what most of us have to judge from at the moment. That said, I still do not understand the perceived reluctance to draft players from SEC programs, much less from Georgia. I’m not saying it’s a must. But, I also think it is a pretty good group to pull from…  
Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7
WFOM-AM 106.3 FM ‘XTRA SPORTS AND TALK’

Falcons draft weapon Kyle Pitts at #4! – BY BUCK BELUE

FILE – Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts (84) scores a touchdown during an NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Gainesville, Fla., in this Nov. 28, 2020, file photo. The Southeastern Conference championship game features two of the nation’s top playmakers, and neither is a quarterback. Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts are the real stars of the league’s most potent offenses. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP, File)

April 30, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – I’m thrilled with the Falcons first round selection! Bet Matt Ryan is too. Fontenot made the right move.

For a minute, I was thinking the best move would be to trade back and accumulate more quality picks in order to rebuild the defense. But obviously, nobody wanted to offer up a #1 pick in next year’s draft for Justin Fields or Mac Jones and make the trade up.

So, Fontenot stayed at 4. And took the draft’s #1 rated player not named Trevor Lawrence. As you know, it’s called taking the best available player.

But the smart move doesn’t stop there.

Apparently, finances require that we cut Julio Jones loose in a cost-cutting move salary cap wise.

So, with receiver Kyle Pitts in the fold now, the Julio exit won’t be a killer blow to the offense. With Pitts, Matt Ryan still has a match-up advantage in the passing game.

As you’ve probably heard me say on The “Buck & Hut” Show leading into the draft, I totally love Kyle Pitts skill set and it was on full display at Florida. Mullen had Pitts lining up all over the field. Tight-end flexed. Spilt out wide. At the slot. At X & Z. This man is a big receiver, not a tight-end.

Pitts is a weapon.

The rest of the story is this: Kyle Pitts is a high character guy! The Falcons are investing in a mature, hard-working young man. That counts for something in my book. Looks like the Falcons feel the same way.

As far as passing on Fields and Mac Jones, well they both landed in good spots. I wish them both the best. Justin is probably better off not here in his home town (lot of distractions) and Mac simply wasn’t a Top 5 pick.

Fontenot and I have the same NFL 1st Round Draft philosophy: Go get the Best Available Player!

And now, the new Falcons General Manager can go address all the needs this team has entering the 2021 season. Most of them are on defense.

That’s right, focus on needs in the rest of the draft.

Today we get the 2nd & 3rd rounds. Go find a corner and a safety. Please draft a quality defensive lineman! Focus on an interior offensive lineman too. The Falcons need to upgrade on the line of scrimmage!

Maybe pull in Asante Samuel, Jr. Or Alabama tackle Christian Barmore. Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari is available to come off the edge. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey or Ohio State’s both Wyatt Davis look like a quality play.Nick Bolden at linebacker would be a nice addition. Maybe that TCU safety Trevon Moehrig?

Would you be shocked if Fontenot tool Stanford QB Davis Mills with today’s 2nd round pick? He can spin it and they said they would draft a QB.

Fontenot left the 1st round with a good first impression! Now, go get it done the rest of the way and let’s get this Atlanta Falcons team ready to go in 2021!

Dan Corso – Atlanta is Bidding for the 2026 World Cup

Cellini & Dimino are joined by Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council to discuss the city completely reopening after the COVID restrictions and what will be coming up for sports in Atlanta. 

Chief among them, the World Cup is coming to the United States in 2026 and Atlanta is one of 17 cities bidding to host.

Beginning May 7, Atlanta Braves to Expand Capacity to 100%

ATLANTA (April 28, 2021) – With vaccinations across the Southeast increasing and health and safety protocols still in place, the Atlanta Braves are set to resume normal Truist Park seating capacity beginning Friday, May 7 as the team begins their third homestand of the season with a series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Truist Park before the Pandemic. (Photo: Scott Maxim, 680 The Fan)

“We have had great success welcoming our fans back safely to Truist Park,” said Derek Schiller, President and CEO of the Atlanta Braves. “Our outdoor environment, the demand from our season ticket holders and fans to watch us play in person plus safety measures which are in place make it feel that now is the right time to get back to full capacity at Truist Park.” 

All modified health and safety measures at Truist Park will remain in place.  Measures include wearing a face covering unless actively eating or drinking, cashless concessions, mobile ticketing and ordering, and a no bag policy.  Enhanced sanitization efforts throughout the ballpark will also continue.  Revisions to the seating capacity or other health and safety measures will be subject to continuous review throughout the season.

Tickets for all remaining 2021 games, beginning with Friday, May 7th, are currently available at www.braves.com/tickets   

For a complete list of what to expect at Truist Park in 2021, fans can find additional information at www.braves.com/letsplay

 

Mr. Blank, emotions can hurt you: Especially in the NFL – BY DAN MATHEWS

falcons, julio jones, 680 the fan
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) makes the catch ahead of Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith (29) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

April 28, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA –
Trying to lock up players to long-term deals in order to make them “Falcons for life,” is what has the team in its current situation. Team owner Arthur Blank’s words of the past are coming back to bite him.

Giving huge long-term deals to Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett and Devonta Freeman were the signs of being too close to this team. I get it. The team is your investment. They are your business. Please feel free to run them any way you wish.

FILE Atlanta Falcons’ Arthur Blank walks the field before an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP FILE Photo/Michael Perez)

It is a noble thing to be known as the owner who will pay players. Just please don’t let the personal relationships melt into the professional ones that need to be had first and foremost.

Ryan’s deal in 2018, was the rate of doing business with a proven winner at quarterback. That is what NFL teams did. Those days, with the proliferation of the passing offense in college are starting to become a thing of the past.

In regards to Jones, that was almost a “poison pill” that was signed in 2019. $64 million guaranteed? Jimmy Sexton is a heck of an agent. Even though there is no other Julio Jones in the NFL… You still should have resisted the urge to pay a wide receiver that type of money.

With Freeman, you had gotten everything you could out of him production wise. Hindsight is 20-20. But, the long-term money should have gone to Tevin Coleman. Freeman was basically like a second round draft pick in the NBA, who becomes a very productive player. You find said player… You don’t pay them.

I can understand giving Jarrett the money they did. He’s probably your best defensive player. Part of that was probably due to the previous general manager not finding much success on either line and wanting to keep a player who performed at a high level for one of these positions.

I bring all this up to say this… Let’s general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith do their jobs. I’m not saying you won’t let them. But, you’ve brought them in to build this roster back to a competitor in the NFL.

In other words, no more “Falcons for life.” Long-term commitments in a salary cap world almost never meet at the right intersection. Your current GM is on the record saying that they have to make trades to fix the current salary cap constraints.

Atlanta fans love your commitment to this city and organization. But please, leave your heart out of it when it comes to contracts. No one is going to doubt that you care about the Falcons being a winner. You’ve proven that with your financial and emotional support of the team.

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

The Time Is Still Now: Matt Ryan’s successor needs to be here soon – BY DAN MATHEWS

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan gets sacked by Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

April 21, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – As the draft process has moved along, I’ve come off my hope for the team to stay at four and draft their future quarterback. 

The needs are more pressing with other positions on the field and the value probably doesn’t match up to what you immediately want in return. But, I do want Matt Ryan’s successor to be picked early in the draft. 

If the possibility is there in the second or even third round? Take it. 

Here’s what we know… Matt Ryan is the Falcons quarterback for this year and likely 2022. The team’s money is tied up in him and Julio Jones. 

What I think, is that they’re going to give Ryan and Julio a chance at having a competitive team over the next two years. So, take Kyle Pitts is you feel like that fits what in the short term and he can put this team in playoff position? Take him. 

But, I also want the drafted rookie getting almost every meaningful snap in the postseason to hopefully get them ready for the future. Make a commitment at pick 35 or 68 and go with them. The future will be here before you know it. Don’t wait for it and then react. 

Let’s face it, we’ve been pretty fortunate with Matt Ryan over the last few years. In the last 11 seasons, Ryan has missed only one game. Before missing that home game with the Seahawks, Ryan had missed only two games before then. It is unbelievable to think he could maintain a high level of play, after taking so many hits from defenders. 

Over the last three seasons, Ryan has been sack a total of 131 times. That is 42 in 2018, 48 in 2019 and 41 last season. That’s unheard of! 

This guy is all-world tough and this organization had let him down in terms of protection. We talked about this fact a couple days ago on ‘The Front Row.’ I heard Matt and Chuck talking about the same thing on ‘Chuck and Chernoff.’ 

Let me just give you some context to how impressive it is, that Ryan hasn’t missed more games. We were to believe that Andrew Luck retired from football, because of the beating he took on the field. Right? Luck was sacked at most 41 times in a season. The first season was 2012 and then in 2016. 

Getting hit in the NFL takes it’s toll and this team cannot afford to take a huge step back at quarterback. This is why at the very least, the team needs to have their future quarterback ready to play. 

Suggestions? You can wait to get Florida quarterback Kyle Trask (my personal pick) or Stanford’s Davis Mills on day two. Trask has the starts and production to make you confident in his selection. Mills needs just a little more seasoning. 

Mills played in 14 games during his Stanford career and threw for 3,468 and 18 touchdowns during his career. The number of games played are a little bit of concern. His lack of interceptions at eight are something that I like. Completing about 66 percent of his passes are something else I like as well. 

The other upside to doing this, is that you’re not going to insult Ryan. He gets it. He’s at the end of his career and has been nothing but a professional during his time with the team. I’m very confident that he’d be a great mentor to whoever you select. 

Like I said, it doesn’t have to be on night one. But, give me a chance to know who is next at QB as soon as possible.


Dan Mathews
Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7

 

Georgia G-Day: Positives outweigh negative for the most part – BY DAN MATHEWS

uga bulldogs,
CORRECTS ID TO ADONAI MITCHELL (5), NOT MATT LANDERS – Georgia wide receiver Adonai Mitchell (5) makes a catch as defensive back Lewis Cine (16) closes in during the first half in Georgia’s spring NCAA college football game, Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

April 19, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Notice that I said positives… I think there were plenty of them with this Georgia performance on Saturday.

There is more good news, than the one piece of bad news. The offensive line needs to get on the same page and do so fast.

It’s not out of the ordinary to have the defensive line/front ahead of the offensive line. That was evident on Saturday. The offensive line looks to be working different combinations at the moment and you would expect them to do so.

The Bulldogs started with Xavier Truss at left tackle, Justin Schaffer at left guard, Warren Ericson at center, Tate Ratledge at right guard and Warren McClendon at right tackle. Jamaree Salyer also got looks at left guard and tackle on the afternoon.

The first team defense picked up four sacks and five tackles for a loss on the afternoon. That is good news, if you look at it as the defense appears they’ll be able to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season. That is a much needed part of this defense, that you’d like to see this season with an inexperienced secondary.

Kirby Smart himself even voiced some concern about the line, when he met with the media after the game.

“We are not where we need to be on the offensive line,” Smart said. “If we are going to be a good team, we have to protect the quarterback, and we have to be able to run the ball. That is one of the areas where we are going to have to take some of the largest leaps in order to get where we want to go next season.”

As it stands right now, I’m told that Georgia has 83 players on scholarship. The limit is 85. Rusty Mansell of dawgs247.com told us last week on the Chuck Oliver Show, that the team will sign a cornerback out of the transfer portal this offseason. I would place offensive line ahead of that priority.

This offensive line needs to be good this season, because this is the best shot this team has had at a national title since 2017. They’ve got the quarterback, receivers and running backs to get there. This line is what could be an issue for them this season. If there’s a standout player in the portal that fits this need? Go get them.

The good news? JT Daniels is the real deal. He struggled early, but then got into a rhythm in the passing game. He used some check down throws to get him in a groove and then started to connect on some downfield throws. It was nice to see freshman Adonai Mitchell have the day he had. The same goes with Demetris Robertson on that 59 yard touchdown strike.

Daniels has command of this offense. Protect him and this team will be in position to make the College Football Playoff. If not, it could be a long day against Clemson on September 4.

Another positive from Saturday? The secondary actually looked pretty good. The black team rolled with the same group of five for most of the game. Redshirt freshman Jalen Kimber and senior Ameer Speed were the outside cornerbacks. Senior Latavious Brini was the “STAR.” The safeties were senior Christopher Smith and junior Lewis Cine. Aside from the long touchdown throws from Daniels to Mitchell and then Robertson? They really didn’t give up huge plays. Even those plays were one-on-one’s.

This team looks good from what we saw on Saturday. They’re going to be tested early against a very good Clemson team. But, the talent is evident and this team should at the very least be back in Atlanta this December for the SEC Championship Game.

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7
WFOM-AM 106.3 FM ‘XTRA SPORTS AND TALK’

Buck’s G-Day Postgame Wrap-Up – BY BUCK BELUE

Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) throw a pass in the first half during Georgia’s spring NCAA college football game, Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

I was impressed. The talent Kirby and his staff have assembled is elite. And the talent shows up at every position group. With JT Daniels spinning it, this 2021 team has the look of a contender.

My Top G-Day Observations:

  1. NO REASON TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT O-LINE: Coach Luke is working with a stockpile of talent. At left tackle, Truss looked improved and Salyer was rock solid. Amarius Mims was more polished than I had anticipated and he looked comfortable with the 2’s at LT. Warren McClendon and Broderick Jones handled the right side. Tate Ratledge looked strong inside, competing with Shaffer & Webb. Van Pran and Erickson were both impressive at center.

    jt daniels, g-day, uga, ga bulldogs
    Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) throws from the pocket during the first half in Georgia’s spring NCAA college football game, Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
  2. TIGHT-END DARNELL WASHINGTON looks ready to have a breakout season. Fit and comfortable in the scheme now, this guy is a beast. He is such a mismatch advantage and I can’t imagine Monken not getting him 10 targets a game.
  3. CORNERBACK IS STILL THE #1 CONCERN. Ameer Speed looks like a sure thing to start at one corner spot. The other corner position looks wide open. Jalen Kimber was the best man cover guy, among the young dudes. Lovasea Carroll and Kelee Ringo aren’t quite there yet.
  4. JALEN CARTER IS DOGS BEST DEFENSIVE LINEMAN. The super sophomore lined up inside at tackle and outside at end and looked good mixing it up. Relentless and competitive. A hand full.
  5. INSIDE LINEBACKER IS A STRENGTH. Nakobe Dean will lead the team in tackles and both Quay Walker and Channing Tindall were busy taking care of business. This trio will shine.
  6. THE WIDE RECEIVERS LOOK LEGIT. Adonai Mitchell stole the show at G-Day, with his playmaking skills. I got to see Jermaine Burton, Dominique Blaylock and Rosemy-Jacksaint running routes and catching the ball, in pregame warm-ups. The guess here says all 3 will be full go at the end of the summer. Kearis Jackson is a player. Arian Smith is dangerous. D-Rob is dependable. Justin Robinson turned some heads this spring. I was impressed with slot receiver Ladd McConkey, who made some noise at G-Day. Brock Bowers is a big receiver masquerading as a tight-end. That’s 10-deep. Impressive.
  7. RUNNING BACKS ARE EXCELLENT RECEIVERS! Zues, Cook, Milton and Edwards caught 22 balls. Daniels recognizes good receivers when he sees one. Loved to see him checking it down to the backs and getting them involved.
  8. CARSON BECK SHINED AT HIS COMING OUT PARTY! This was our first chance to see Beck play ball and he was impressive (22-31 with 2 TD’s) getting the ball down the field. Like his mobility too. He’s earned the back-up job. Vandagriff got a few snaps and showed off a good arm and the ability to make a play outside the pocket. The QB competition next spring will be interesting.
  9. COACH SMART LOOKS READY TO OPEN UP THE OFFENSE. Coach Monken dialed up 60 passing attempts, his QB’s threw for 680 yards and they went for forty-one 1st downs. JT Daniels has earned Kirby’s trust and watching this offense is going to be fun.
  10. THE EDGE RUSHERS HAD A QUIET G-DAY. Adam Anderson and Nolan Smith must be laying in the weeds, as it relates to the Clemson game. Need these two guys to show up big on game day. 

 

 

Georgia G-Day Primer: What Are My Expectations For Saturday? – BY DAN MATHEWS

uga, bulldogs, jt danniels
FILE – Georgia quarterback JT Daniels: Who will step up this year to replace George Pickens? (AP File Photo/L.G. Patterson)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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?

Dan Mathews
Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host 
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7
WFOM-AM 106.3 FM ‘XTRA SPORTS AND TALK’

Buck’s G-Day Preview – BY BUCK BELUE

georgia bulldogs
FILE – Georgia coach Kirby Smart calls plays from the field during the NCAA college football team’s G Day at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., Saturday, April 22, 2017. (John Roark/ AP File Photo)

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.


Atlanta Braves’ Dansby Swanson, center, celebrates after a baseball game to clinch the NL East title against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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)



FILE –  Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud watches during a spring training baseball game in Sarasota, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

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 th
e 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.

FILE – Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, left, talks into the ear of pitcher John Smoltz as Smoltz waits his turn to throw in the Braves first spring training workout Saturday, Feb. 17, 1996 in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP FILE Photo/Tannen Maury)

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

mlb umpire
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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!)

  1. Welcome back 162 game season…we hope!

  2. Albert Pujols is hitting .299 for his career and this pains me!

  3. 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.

  4. Man…the Astros got off easy!

  5. Welcome back Tony LaRussa.

  6. I can’t believe its been 32 years since the film “Field of Dreams” came out.

  7. Miguel Cabrera is the best great player who isn’t thought of that way.

  8. YouTube is in the Baseball Business. What’s next? Disney +? Hallmark? The WB?

  9. There sure are a lot of Ivy Leaguers in The Game.

  10. What ever happened to attending “The School of Hard Knocks” and being all the better for it?

  11. I’m OK with bat flips…I’m also OK with rib shots.

    File – Andrew McCutchen (AP File Photo/Keith Srakocic)
  12. I miss managers going nose to nose with umpires.

  13. 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.

  14. The ballpark pretzel is the only thing in the food world that can range in flavor from “life changing good” to “absolutely awful”!

  15. Remember when we were just counting down to Craig Kimbrel getting 500 saves?

  16. Sandy Koufax is the definition of Regal.

  17. Trevor Bauer is making HOW MUCH?

  18. Remember when spring training used to be held in Cuba?

  19. The first two lines of The Constitution should read,”Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio, a Nation Turns It’s Lonely Eyes To You.”

  20. I think Rob Manfred and Tony Clark should just fight! Full-on fisticuffs! Lets GO!

  21. Mike Trout has 12 ABs in the postseason.

  22. Pardon me while I wipe away a few tears…I’m back!

  23. 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!

    Trevor Bauer (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
    Trevor Bauer (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
  24. 2021 is officially the Dumbest moment in the history of the very Dumb Designated Hitter situation!

  25. The “HARDBALL PODCAST” is a gift from The Baseball Gods. Trust me, it’s like you’re in the room with Phil Rizzuto!

  26. The world needs more scouts not mathheads in The Game.

  27. 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!)

  28. Nolan Arenado was born to wear a Cardinals uniform.

  29. Jon Lester and Max Scherzer: The two toughest pitchers in baseball reside in Washington!

  30. Billy Martin would have loved David Eckstein.

  31. Dale Murphy is a heck of a fella!

    Dale Murphy (Photo: AP Sports)
    Dale Murphy (Photo: AP Sports)
  32. Kevin Cash pulling Blake Snell killed a small piece of the Baseball soul in me forever.

  33. 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.

  34. 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!

  35. They should all kiss the Ass of the ghost of Curt Flood AND the Ring of the aforementioned ghost of Marvin Miller!

  36. 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

freddie freeman, atlanta braves
FILE – In this Oct. 13, 2020, file photo, Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman watches his two-run home run during the fourth inning in Game 2 of the baseball team’s NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Arlington, Texas. Freeman easily won the NL MVP award Thursday, Nov. 12, topping off a trying year that saw him become so ill with COVID-19 he prayed “please don’t take me.” (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

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

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker. (Willie J. Allen Jr./AP)
Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker. (Willie J. Allen Jr./AP)

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.

680 The Fan – Live Broadcast Home Opener

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That’s more like it! Braves allow us to breathe – BY DAN MATHEWS

atlanta braves, 680 the fan
Atlanta Braves outfielders Ender Inciarte, left, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Marcell Ozuna celebrate after the first baseball game of a doubleheader at Nationals Park, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Washington. The Braves won the first game 7-6. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

April 8, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Yesterday was much better as a Braves fan. Right?!

That was the Braves team we’ve come to know and love over the last couple of years. They had a tough game, but found a way to win. That’s what great teams do. 

How about the first game of their double-header against the Nationals. They were down 4-1 in the second inning and Max Fried was not featuring his best stuff. Not a great situation to be in, even for a seven inning game. But then, the bats came alive! Five runs in that second inning and a rare lead gained. 

The roll of great news continues, when Fried takes a Juan Soto comebacker off his right calf. It did lead to a deflection over to Austin Riley at third base and a tag on the running Trea Turner. Fried finishes the inning and then is lifted for Josh Tomlin. 

Fast forward to the end of the game, Will Smith has a chance at redemption. Uh oh, it was not looking good. A lead-off walk to Soto, a swinging strikeout of Ryan Zimmerman, and then… An RBI double by Starlin Castro down the left field line. Yeah, that’s awesome. Yet, Smith still did what a closer is supposed to do. He got the final (two) out(s) with a 1-6-3 double play. Game over and a win! 

In game two, you’re facing Stephen Strasburg. Yeah, that’s what they needed. But, Huascar Ynoa was AMAZING. You didn’t have many available arms in the bullpen and needed to ride with Ynoa for as far as he could take you. Is five innings of two hit ball, with five strikeouts good? I’d say that’s good. 

In the seventh, the hero strikes again! Dansby Swanson gets his lone hit of the day and Manager Brian Snitker makes the move. Pablo Sandoval grabs a bat for catcher Alex Jackson. He works Tanner Rainey to a full count and then… Crack! Deep fly to straight away center field and over the wall. Braves lead 2-0. 

The bottom half of the inning belongs to Sean Newcomb. Yes, that Sean Newcomb who has struggled with command of his pitches in the past. He comes out throwing a high-90 MPH fastball and strikes out the side. 

These two wins were significant, because they allow for everyone to take a deep breath and relax during today’s off day. It also shows them what they already know… They can win in almost any fashion. 

Yes, Marcell Ozuna is struggling at the plate. He’ll come around. Will Smith has been a little shaky in the last two outings. But, he’ll be where you need him with more work. 

I do think there is something there with Newcomb in the back end of the bullpen. A 99 MPH fastball coming at you from the left side? Good luck to you as a hitter, who is standing 60 feet, six inches away. 

Yesterday told us what many already knew… They’ll be fine. This club is too talented and will have better days ahead on the field. Let’s keep the momentum going on Friday. We owe the Phillies one. 

Dan Mathews

Chuck Oliver Show – Anchor/Fill-In Host
WCNN-AM 680 The Fan, also on FM at 93.7
WFOM-AM 106.3 FM ‘XTRA SPORTS AND TALK’

The Braves outfield is one of the best in the Majors – BY BUCK BELUE

cristian pache, atlanta braves
Atlanta Outfielder Cristian Pache (JOHN BAZEMORE / AP PHOTO)

April 7th, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – The new Atlanta Braves outfield has a chance to be one of the best in Major League Baseball, with Ozuna, Pache and Acuna in the line-up! Seriously, Braves Country already knows that Marcell and Ronald are ballers, so if the rookie in center field comes through, this group could really be special.

Cristian Pache flashed his skill set a little bit last season and I’m excited about his game, but not enough to really be sure what he is going to bring to the party. His end of the season highlight reel is going to be epic defensively, but the great unknown is how the kid will hit major league pitching.

Pache’s scouting report speaks of him being a “plus-defender.” Think about a young Andrew Jones. Cristian can go get it in the gaps and gun down aggressive base runners. Fans get ready to be entertained.

Offensively, Pache has worked hard to improve his swing at the minor league level. It’s now much shorter & quicker than it used to be. Combine that with this physical maturation and the Braves might have gold glove caliber center fielder, who can hit twenty bombs and join the 40 doubles a year club in the future.

Hitting 8th in the batting order this season will present some potential problems, as far as getting quality pitches to hit consistently. Opposing pitchers will be trying to make him chase pitches out of the zone. So, plate discipline will be a big key for him.

Over in right field, the Braves feature the 7th rated player in Major League Baseball, in Ronald Acuna, Jr.

Acuna’s skill set is amazing. He provides instant energy in the lead-off spot. Acuna can hit, hit for power, run, steal and play the field. He also has fun doing it, which is awesome for the team and the fans.

This also might be the season where we get to see Acuna join the 40-40 Club. That’s 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in the same season. Only four players have done it; Jose Canseco, Alfonso Soriano, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. Talk about special!

Ronald Acuña Jr. leads the Braves outfield in 2021. (Photo cred: John Bazemore, AP)
Ronald Acuña Jr. leads the Braves outfield in 2021. (Photo cred: John Bazemore, AP)

Expect to see Acuna doing more amazing things this season. Can he improve? Sure he can. Ronald should settle into right field now, with Pache taking over in center. That should help Ronald clean it up defensively.

Marcell Ozuna signed the multi-year deal he has been looking for and is back protecting the N.L. MVP Freddie Freeman in the batting order. He can “Stir It Up” offensively. Ozuna almost won the Triple Crown last season. The man can swing the bat! He also rakes against the top pitchers.

Also, don’t be concerned about his play defensively. It’s true that Marcell is not the gold glove fielder he used to be. So the Braves will play him deep with his feet on the warning track, tell him to hit the cut-off man and let Pache roam into the left-center field gap. No worries, man.

Ozuna is also a super teammate and a guy with a High Baseball IQ. I’ve seen him holding court in the clubhouse talking hitting with Albies, Acuna and Austin Riley. Riley told me later that Ozuna can remember in detail, how each pitcher he’s faced has tried to get him out.

Around the Majors, The Dodgers outfield looks world class with Bellinger & Betts as headliners, the Angels with Mike Trout, Dexter Fowler and Justin Upton are impressive, Robles and Soto give the Nationals some juice, and The Yankees show off big Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks. There’s no question these are all impressive outfield combos.

However, if Cristian Pache delivers in his rookie season, the Braves outfield can match-up with any in baseball for years to come.

Who looks to be the favorite in this year’s Masters Tournament? – BY DERRICK THOMAS

April 6, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – The 2020 Masters Tournament was unique for many reasons.One of the most glaring differences from other years was the ridiculously low scores.A number of records were broken, including the all-time scoring mark.

Suffice to say, we won’t see 20 under par this week.In fact, we won’t see anything close.Augusta National is reportedly already firmer than it was at any point in November (and the tournament hasn’t even started). Expect much higher scores in 2021.

That being said, someone will don a Green Jacket (hopefully by) Sunday evening. But who?These are our favorite bets, our least favorite, and some we just can’t touch.

Best Bets:

Justin Thomas (Park Ji-ho/Yonhap via AP)
Justin Thomas (Park Ji-ho/Yonhap via AP)

Justin Thomas (12 to 1; +1200)

Justin Thomas is fresh off a huge win at The Players Championship three weeks ago.Outside the Genesis Invitational in February, Thomas has finished in the top-15 of every (stroke play) event he’s entered since the Tour Championship in September (where he tied for 2nd).Now the #2-ranked player in the world, JT has improved on his results at Augusta through the years, ascending to a fourth place finish in 2020.

Thomas dealt with an embarrassing moment on live TV, the ensuing loss of sponsorships, a scary situation surrounding his good friend Tiger Woods, and the death of his (very influential) grandfather – all in the span of a few months.Perhaps these events have inspired the 27 year-old’s fantastic recent form.

November 2020 felt like Dustin Johnson’s time.April 2021 feels the same for Justin Thomas

Jon Rahm (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Jon Rahm (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Jon Rahm (+1200)

Jon Rahm is the best player in the world without a major title.And it’s not even close.Likewise, the big Spaniard is probably the most underrated golfer on Earth.That will change when (not if) he wins his first major championship, and The Masters looks like his best shot.He finished in the top-10 each of the last three years and has never been cut at Augusta.He’s #3 in the world and already posted top-5 finishes at the US Open and The British, so there’s plenty of major experience for the 26 year-old.

He just hasn’t sealed the deal.Rahm was tied for the 36-hole lead here in November. A 72-71 over the weekend didn’t cut it.Perhaps the birth of his first child this past weekend will provide the “dad strength” Rahmbo needs to close out a major.His chances are as good as any player’s in the field.I’ll take those odds.

Worst Bets:

Bryson DeChambeau (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Bryson DeChambeau (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Bryson DeChambeau (+1100)

In November, DeChambeau said he saw Augusta National as a par-67 course.He recently amended that to par-68 (which still puts him at 14 over par in 2020). Whatever, Bryson. His record at Augusta speaks for itself.

Of the 58 players with at least eight rounds at Augusta in the last three years, DeChambeau ranks LAST in strokes gained-putting per round.He improved his putting in 2020, but he has never cracked the top-20 in the Masters. Worth nothing that Augusta National does not allow green-reading books, something Bryson very much relies on.

Sure, Bryson could win this tournament.We just saw him run away with the US Open in September. However, he should be nowhere near where we find him, the second favorite behind only Dustin Johnson.See above for better options (and better odds)

 

Rory McIlroy (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Rory McIlroy (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Rory McIlroy (+1400)

At age 24, the career Grand Slam seemed like a given for Rory.Now seven years later, we’re all still waiting.

McIlroy has a fine record at Augusta, finishing among the top-10 in six of the last seven Masters. He finished tied for 5th last year.Unfortunately, his recent form leaves something to be desired.He missed the cut at The Players and failed to advance out of group play at the WGC Match Play.

Rory said last year he wasn’t in any rush to win this tournament, as he foresaw “more opportunities in the future.”Now 31 years-old, those opportunities are fleeting for McIlroy.He has won virtually everything a professional golfer can win – except The Masters.It would be a great story, and many (myself included) would love to see Rory pull it off, but I can’t justify these odds for a guy without a major win since 2014.

Phil Mickelson (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Phil Mickelson (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Phil Mickelson (+12500)

No chance.If you’re looking for long odds, throw it down on Matthew Wolff (also +12500), or see below.

Deep Value

Cameron Smith (AP Photo/Matt York)
Cameron Smith (AP Photo/Matt York)

Cameron Smith (+4000)

Who?!Casual golf fans wouldn’t recognize Cameron Smith if he walked up and slapped them in the face. The 27-year old Aussie doesn’t play often on the PGA Tour, so don’t feel so bad.But those paying attention to recent Masters tournaments know the name.

Smith has finished in the top-5 at Augusta two of the last three years.In November, he posted all four rounds in the 60s.No one has ever done that at The Masters.To quote the great Roy McAvoy: “not even Nicklaus.”

This golf course suits Smith’s game, and his mullet fits perfectly into the pristine Augusta landscape.I liked him more at +4500, but he’s worth the long shot.

Sungjae Im (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Sungjae Im (+4000)

Once again, don’t feel bad if this name doesn’t ring any bells.The South Korean just turned 23 in March, but already has four professional wins.Im was the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2019 and made his first Masters start in November.He made the most of it.

Sungjae’s tie for second in the 2020 Masters was the highest finish ever for an Asian player. Winning the Masters in his second attempt would establish Im as a god-like figure in Korea.The pressure may be too much for such a young man, but this guy is mentally tough and can’t be counted out.

Matt Kuchar (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Matt Kuchar (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Matt Kuchar (+10000)

At 42, there’s no denying most of Kuchar’s best golf is behind him, but his record at Augusta is undeniable.He was the Low Amateur here in 1998, and boasts four top-10 finishes, missing the cut just twice in 14 career appearances.The former Yellow Jacket has finished in the top-10 of all four majors at least once, but never sealed the deal.

He’s a long shot for good reason, but given his recent form and loads of experience, there’s some value here.

NOT TOUCHING:

Dustin Johnson (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Dustin Johnson (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Dustin Johnson (+900)

DJ is the favorite this week, as well he should be.The defending champion is the best player in the field when he’s putting well. And he has been putting well of late.

Not much has changed since November.But everything will be different.He’s hosting the Champions Dinner.He’s dressing in the Champions Locker Room.He has already won this tournament.

Perhaps there’s a reason only three players have ever won back-to-back Green Jackets (Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods).If he can put aside the distractions, there’s no reason to believe he can’t repeat.Regardless, at these odds, I’ll put my money elsewhere.There are too many other options with better price tags.

Jordan Spieth (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jordan Spieth (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Jordan Spieth (+1100)

Of all the storylines heading into Augusta, the saga of Jordan Spieth may be the most compelling.And I just don’t know what to make of it.

A 3-time major champion and former world #1, Spieth won here in 2015 (and should have added another title in 2017).He responded to the epic collapse of 2017 by winning the British Open later that year.But that was it… for a long time…

And then he won last week.He’s been trending in the right direction, so it wasn’t a huge shock, but that was the Valero Texas Open.This is The Masters.

If he drives the ball well, his stellar iron-play and magic-wand-of-a-putter give him as good a chance as any player in the field.Regardless, Spieth has to show more consistency on the biggest stages before we can pick him over the likes of Thomas and Rahm.

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