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April 22, 2008

UGASports Roundtable

Welcome to the UGASports Roundtable.

Each week, publisher Steve Patterson will pose one question each to the staff of UGASports and post their answers on Tuesday mornings.

Additionally, each week one staff member will pose a question to Patterson as well.

Chad Simmons
Recruiting Coverage - Editor
How much do you hear about the recruiting rankings, what other writers might be saying, or message board posts, or anything concerning college football sites from prospects? In addition to your immediate reaction to that question, I would like to know if prospects every lobby for higher rankings? How often do you come across one that is unhappy with some aspect of the recruiting process as it pertains to phone calls from reporters, posts on message boards, or anything else that involves Internet college sports sites?

I hear a lot about all of the above. I talk to many prospects daily, high school coaches, and quite a few parents in what I do. Many, if not all of them know where to find the rankings, where to look to see what fans say about their player/son, and many are in tune with what is being said on Rivals.com.

Kids like to know how they are thought of by their potential school's supporters and Recruiting Analysts across the country. Some take it to heart and some just laugh, but most are aware of where to look, how to find the information, and a lot of them look every day or multiple times a week to see what is being said about them.

Prospects are always lobbying or asking how they can earn that extra star, how they can move up in the rankings, why that guy is rated above him, and so on. These guys I deal with are competitors, and most of them are the star of their team, so they expect to be number one. I am always honest with them about my evaluations, and I let them know what I need to see or where they can improve in my eyes.

Often, to the question about being unhappy or frustrated with calls from the reporters. Not too much other than that, but many recruits out there get tired of answering the phone, answering the questions, being put on the spot, and never getting any time to relax until they commit. I think the media has pushed a few kids to possibly commit before they would have in a perfect world. That does not mean that the recruit did not go to the school of his dreams, but it means that the recruit did not recruit on his own time. The message boards are looked at and they do get reactions from recruits, but it is nothing like the constant phone calls/text messages to my knowledge.

Anthony Dasher
Team Coverage - Senior Writer
Tell us about how UGA goes about recruiting for men's basketball. We know so much about the assistant football coaches and recruiting for football, but most fans probably do not know as much about the assistant coaches for basketball. Do the assistants have geographic areas, do they depend on film more, how do they do it?

"Basketball recruiting is much different than football recruiting. Mike Jones serves as Coach Dennis Felton's "recruiting coordinator," but unlike football, football, Georgia's basketball coaches don't have an assigned area to scout.

While they do incorporate a lot of film, Oliver, Pete Herrmann and Desmond Oliver and Coach Felton get out on the road as much as they can, going to high school and AAU games. In many respects, basketball recruiting is much harder than football because we're talking smaller numbers of players, therefore the competition for the top talent can even be keener than it is for football. (Check back for a story on this topic Wednesday)

Radi Nabulsi
Director of Operations
If Georgia experiences any major bumps in the road between now and the SEC Tournament next month, where will it be? Also, why will it be at that part in the schedule and what weakness will it show?

Look to the Ole Miss series to maybe be Georgia's Achilles heel in the future. The Rebels have the lowest team ERA in the league and are in the upper third in runs scored. Georgia's main issue or at least their greatest inconsistency has been the batting in the bottom of the order. The 6-7-8-9 hitters have been rally killers or easy one, two, three innings. If Georgia were to get an injury to any of the top 5 hitters that would mean five of their nine hitters are weak, which is most of the lineup and that's a problem.

Also Sunday starter Nathan Moreau hasn't been as sharp lately. He's not been horrible by any stretch, but he's not his normal self. Luckily guys like Dean Weaver and Alex Mcree have been solid, long relief specialists all season.

Georgia's midweek starters have also been inconsistent. When Georgia plays in the SEC Tournament or NCAA Tournament they will probably need a fourth starting pitcher. Somebody needs to step up.

Kipp Adams
Recruiting Coverage - Basketball
With Georgia signing five guys for the Class of 2008, coupled with a roster of current players that features a lot of young players which means they will not sign more than three or four players for 2009; how many players are you currently tracking for the Class of 2009? Who are they?

A simple glance at the roster points out that after this year, 11 players will still be on the roster. While that means currently only two spots are open for scholarships, every UGA fan knows attrition can occur overnight. Another injury to Chris Barnes or Jeremy Jacob, or a young player that is out of the rotation becomes frustrated by lack of playing time, and more spots could open fast.

With Combo Guard Demario Mayfield already on board, Georgia could go a number of ways with their other ship. But the first priority for Felton has got to be top player and Five Star forward Derrick Favors. Not only does he have program changer (Michael Beasley comes to mind) abilities, it would be a morale booster to fans seeing their team beat out national powers for an instate player. This also brings its own set of problems as well. You cannot use his scholarship on another player, and the longer he waits to make his decision, the greater the possibility that UGA may have to turn otherwise top talent away. This is why the recruitment of Favors may be almost as important to his job security as the actual season next year.

I expect UGA to try to stay in on these four players as well. Athletic forward Ari Stewart from Wheeler has the ability to drive and shoot, and with his size would normally be the top player in state if not for Favors. Center prospect Shawn Kemp from Cherokee High is an emerging talent that has just now started to see his potential realized. Explosive guard Mfon Udofia from Miller Grove can break a game open in a moment's notice. Terrance Shannon is another player UGA is heavily recruiting and he is an explosive banger who can get it done inside.

While any of these players would be a great addition to the Dawgs? team, you have to think it begins and ends with the South Atlanta star. Felton cannot be expected to lock the borders down as fellow Coach Mark Richt has been able to do, as there is much more talent than scholarships in Georgia. But everyday that goes by the pressure mounts for UGA to take that next step towards greatness, and it seems to revolve around reeling in the local star.

John DuPont
Features Writer
Even when Georgia is the pre-season darling of so many in the SEC, or at least in the Eastern Division, the Florida Gators remain the dominant storyline in the conference with their exposure by ESPN. Why is that Florida and descendent Steve Spurrier, now at South Carolina, can say "Jump" and the national media says "How high"?

There are a couple of schools of thought here. The first one has a political connotation; I mean, as in Washington-type politics. I know that sounds strange, but think about it: Florida decided the 2000 presidential election! Florida has South Beach. It's a sexy place. And we all know what a hotbed it is for football talent. That makes it a natural magnet for TV.

On that same note, whether it's Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer that you love to hate, major media knows how to punch fans' buttons. Drawing again from a political example, think about Bill Clinton. He was a lot more interesting to cover than Al Gore. Controversy sells, and TV producers know it hacks off the rest of the SEC fan bases to give Florida and Notre Dame (well, not lately) that "favored child" status. The other angle is much more football-oriented. There is a lot of residual value that comes from winning a national championship. Meyer will get a lot more mileage out of it, because he's only two years removed.

Spurrier is still benefiting from the one he captured 12 years ago. And oh, by the way, Darth Visor is a Heisman Trophy winner who coached a national champion. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone else in that category. That makes him pretty unique.

Steve Patterson
Publisher
We get emails and see on the Vent how ESPN has a "bias against Georgia." We all saw the impact how comments made by analysts affected the outcome of who played in the BCS title game. First, in your opinion, is there an "ESPN bias" and if so is there anything the football team can do to garner a fair shake from the network which obviously wields so much power within the college game. - Question by Anthony Dasher

Funny you should ask this as it is very similar to my question to DuPont on the fan-perceived Florida love fest in the media, but you singled out ESPN, cited the controversy at the end of the 2007 football season, and that network's place in the college football landscape.

The answer to your question about the bias: I don't think so, and I agree with DuPont that Florida's success warrants the coverage. Is there anything a team can do to change that, as far as getting the same attention? Yes, win, and win a lot over time with colorful characters that are easy to market.

Now, about ESPN.

First off, there is no doubt that ESPN has an inordinate amount of influence on college football fans others in the media than they probably should. But hey, ESPN was willing to take a gamble on emphasizing college football years ago when they started College Football Gameday, and that show is synonymous with college football for most fans.

Add to that the fact that the host and co-host of that show are wildly popular in the college football word, and then the various scoreboard and recap shows they have both on TV and radio with Rece Davis and former coaches like Jim Donnan, and even the most paranoid fan has to admit ESPN's college football presentation and coverage is far more entertaining than anything else available.

The problem comes in when the hosts of these shows deviate from objective coverage and champion their own ideas. Certainly, opinion and banter as a large part of the off-field enjoyment of college football, but sometimes these hosts' opinions can direct the overall train of thought even if it is not intended.

Georgia fans are quick to point out that in 2006, when undefeated Michigan and undefeated Ohio State played in their final games of the regular season and the Buckeyes came out on top, some on ESPN put forth the notion that, since these were the hottest two teams in college football, that they should have a rematch for the national championship since they played each other so close (Buckeyes won 43-39) and had been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation.

It was good conversation for a while, but it did not happen in the end and Ohio State fell miserably 41-14 to Florida in the national championship game, and Southern Cal dismantled Michigan 32-18 in the Rose Bowl. A year later, when Georgia and Southern Cal were both on winning streaks that garnered national attention towards the end of the season; these same hosts agreed that the Trojans and the Bulldogs were the hottest teams in the country.

When the cards fell such that Georgia and Southern Cal should move into the national championship game when the teams ahead of them unexpectedly lost crucial late season games, these same hosts suddenly changed their tune on Georgia as one of the hottest teams in the nation to an undeserving late bloomer who did not deserve a shot at the national championship.

We all know the rest of the details on the Georgia question at the end of the 2007 season. Should a non-conference champion be eligible to play in the championship? Well, there was nothing in the rules that said otherwise, and head coach Mark Richt, who was more than willing to ride the wave of excitement his team had generated since the celebration in Jacksonville, was quick to voice his opinion. In the end, it all fell on deaf or indifferent ears and Georgia was reduced to less than qualified for the big game and given the consolation prize of the Sugar Bowl date with Hawaii.

I think one comes across as a bit paranoid to talk too much about ESPN's control of the college football conversation, but there is no way fans and media can watch all the games, and the hosts of that network's shows can paint the picture how they like.

For past editions of The Roundtable, The Mailbag, or Five at Five
select "Staff Notes" from the Quick Links drop down menu to the upper right or
click here.

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