What We Are Hearing

In politics the notion of the post mortem is a a common thing. It is a look at what went right, wrong and hopefully what can be done to correct issues that crop up. The fact of the matter is that, in recruiting, the post mortem is usually pretty quick.

So here we sit nearly two weeks after Kirby Smart’s first Signing Day, and now is the time where the “truth” starts to seep out about the class that just signed. 

Two different sources have told me that UGA was never going to sign Derrick Brown - not after Mark Richt was fired. It had nothing to do with Richt himself, instead it had to do with timing. Richt wound’t have signed Brown, either, and we know that Kirby didn’t sign Brown. 

By the time Richt was guiding the Bulldogs to their 13th win over Georgia Tech this century, Brown had already decided that he was going to sign with Auburn. 

“That was a done deal the weekend he went to the Alabama-Auburn game in November,” one highly-placed source said. 

But this is recruiting, and even though that was the way it was going to be, Brown kept up the show that Alabama, UGA, Tennessee and Auburn were all still in the boat with the run up to Signing Day. Some media outlets were played along the way - reporting that Brown’s interest in other schools besides Auburn was very serious. It might have been, but, again, he was only ever going to sign with the Tigers. 

For the record, the same could be said for Mecole Hardman - he was never going to sign anywhere other than UGA. In fact, he tried to burry his affection for the Bulldogs by not even having their logo in sight before bursting through a banner to declare - to no one's surprise - that he was picking UGA. 

The same could be said for Isaac Nauta, although he didn’t have a signing ceremony. 

So why pick on Brown? No reason. But one has to wonder at what point the media - recruiting media or mainstream - will start reporting what they know rather than what is said by a parent of a recruit or the recruit themselves. You know, report, not just pass along what a prospect is saying without any context.

I never thought Derrick Brown was headed to UGA. I never predicted that. I left him off of my final list of prospects who would sign with the Dawgs. That’s not because I am a genius… hardly. Its that you can tell when the players are going one place or another. If you don’t pretty much know, then that means they are going elsewhere. 

Again, the question remains, however, just how long this dog and pony show will continue with a recruiting industry allowing it the entire run up to Signing Day. 

With that said, here’s a legit look at where the Bulldogs stand with a few top prospects in the years to come. It’s already looking very good for UGA with William Poole, who will be picking between the Bulldogs and their rivals the Gators sometime soon. 

Kirby already correctly pointed out that UGA is in real need for offensive tackles in the future. Fortunately for them they’ve moved up for two big in-state targets - D'Ante Demery and Andrew Thomas. UGA is trending for both, but Demery likely to commit sooner in the recruiting cycle. 

Another prospect on commit watch? Mary Person’s Malik Herring. Keep an eye on him. The other prospect to keep an eye on for a possible flip in the near future is Cedar Grove OL Justin Shaffer. He’s still committed to Louisville, but insiders say he should be considered a Georgia lean.

One insider intelligently pointed out to me last week: “Jacob Eason can’t win the national title in the next few years without a quality left tackle. Just can’t do it. Going to be a lot of pressure on him already. UGA needs to sign some tackles who can play when he’s older.”

Keep an eye on Sprayberry RB Trey Sermon. At one time, he was the talk of the UGA 2017 RB list, and he could re-emerge there. He was on campus Saturday, and UGA likes him a lot.  He missed over half the season with back surgery, so the Bulldogs, like others are monitoring that.

Only basketball below… if you dare.

What do 2015 Oklahoma State, 2014 Nebraska and 2012 West Virginia’s basketball teams have to in common?

They are the only three teams in the last four seasons that have been at-large selections by the NCAA Basketball Committee with fewer than 20 wins. That’s a select group - 1% of the field over the last four years to be precise. That is not a great number for Mark Fox and his team. Sitting at 14-9, that means UGA is - in all likelihood - going to have to figure out how to squeeze out at least six more wins in the next (at least) seven games to have a real crack at the NCAAs. Getting in without winning those six games puts Fox and company hoping to be 1%ers, but likely ending up with the 99%. 

I will point out that doing so is no small feat. Its asking a team that currently has a 56% winning percentage this season to win 86% of the next seven games.

Of course, several 20-win teams miss the NCAAs each year - keep that in mind, too. 

The schedule is not easy. The next two games are critical. Tuesday’s home date with the Gators could change the momentum of the season; then there is the test at Vanderbilt, where Fox has only won once and the Bulldogs have only won 13 times in the last 100-plus years. Beating Auburn seems easy enough, but that game is on the road. Then Ole Miss comes to Athens to close out February. A Thursday trip to Columbia to face a solid group of Chickens comes before what could be hyped as a win-or-go-home fight with Alabama to close out the regular season. 

To be clear, however, basketball nerd site RPIforecast.com says the Bulldogs will end the regular season with 17-12 record and an RPI of 70 - well outside the range of an at-large selection by the NCAA if we are to go on recent history. 

Even if the Bulldogs get hot and win four of the six remaining games (losing only on the road at Vanderbilt and at South Carolina), they would likely still have a lot work to do in Nashville at the SEC Tournament. UGA would then be 18-11, and according to RPIforecast.com, would have an RPI of only 60 - again, not good enough to get in.

No one (I hope) is suggesting that UGA can get into the NCAAs with its regular season alone. That, friends, is impossible. A one-and-done scenario in Nashville sends the Bulldogs to the NIT… and that is not a certainty with the new rules of the NIT, and not yet knowing UGA’s exact final record. 

So there is much work to be done - and very few Missouris and Mississippi States left on the schedule to feast on. Needless to say, a slip up along the way to Auburn, Ole Miss or Alabama - all games RPIforecast.com gives the Bulldogs a better than 63% chance of winning - and Georgia is probably going to have to win the SEC Tournament to get into the NCAAs. Don’t look now, but Kentucky is suddenly pile-driving people by 30… winning the entire thing in Nashville is going to be pretty tough for anyone not screaming: “Go Big Blue!”

The reality is that Georgia is going to have to win a lot more games - and win the games that matter - to get into the NCAAs. I disagree with the AJC’s optimistic view of UGA’s tournament situation. Outside of winning every game left on the schedule, UGA will not pull up to Bridgestone Arena in “very good shape” no matter how “good” or “not bad” their losses are. UGA doesn’t have enough good in its season as it stands this moment; and any more bad is likely toxic. Any loss could end UGA’s slender NCAA hopes.  

That leads to the question of Mark Fox’s future at Georgia. The AJC also wrote early last week: “For now, McGarity can bask in the afterglow of change (Kirby hire). He should enjoy it while he can. Basketball season concludes in March, and there will be more decisions to be made.”

Perhaps the AJC doesn’t have an optimistic view of UGA’s tournament situation after all. It is difficult to follow the conflicting views that can pop up over there. If UGA is “very good shape” then its hard to imagine that “more decisions (will) be made.”

The truth is that, seven years in, if Mark Fox does not get to the NCAAs this spring there probably will be a very hard look at the future of the program under his leadership. Are two trips to the NCAAs in seven years good enough for UGA? Are things going to be better in 2016-17 than they are right now? Better question: If McGarity just fired (or “mutually agreed” to) Mark Richt for winning 75% of his games, what does that mean for a coach who is winning 55% of his games?

And for folks saying: “Oh, UGA doesn’t care about men’s basketball the way it does about football.” No argument here, but that’s a simplistic view of things. UGA does care about football above everything else - that’s certain. But UGA cares about men’s basketball second - in front of gymnastics, baseball, women’s basketball and track and field… all spots where coaches have been fired or “mutually agreed” to step down. 

Again, this is an important next seven games for Fox at UGA. 


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