UGA mailbag: The vindication of Jim Chaney as things look up for Bulldogs offense

Welcome back to the UGA Mailbag, the post-SEC championship, calm before the Rose Bowl edition. This week we hear from a Georgia fan who lives in Oklahoma, and we answer questions about Natrez Patrick, Jacob Eason, the officiating in the SEC Championship Game, the Georgia basketball team and much more.

But first, we’ve led a few of these mailbags with hard-edged questions about Jim Chaney and Georgia’s offensive play calling. So it’s only fair that we again lead off with the subject, considering the upward trend:

Is it (past) time for the Jim Chaney naysayers to quiet down? Count me among those who had serious doubts coming into this season, but (with the exception of the first Auburn game) the offense has been outstanding this season. Nationally: 12th in yards per play, 10th in yards per rush, 9th in yards per pass, 23rd in points per game. I know our fan base has a lot of amazing offensive coordinators who missed their true calling, but doesn’t Chaney deserve credit for averaging 35 points per game with a true freshman quarterback?
– Will

In a word, yes. Chaney did a magnificent job this season adapting to his personnel. Not just the play calling but the scheme. There’s been more zone blocking for an offensive line that, much like last year, isn’t as big and as skilled as an Alabama. It also was a great call by Chaney or Kirby Smart, or maybe both, to put in more run-pass options and make them a staple of the offense. The formations and schemes have been built around what Jake Fromm can do. Speaking of which, Chaney did a great job adjusting after Jacob Eason went down with injury. Both are essentially pocket quarterbacks, but with different enough skill sets that they had to throw out some of the playbook just a few plays into the season.

And yes, when Chaney did have a bad game play calling – the first Auburn game – he got a do-over and made the best of it.

That doesn’t mean complete vindication: Chaney would be the first to tell you he didn’t have a good 2016. And as I’ve written before, Chaney’s track record is one of ups and downs, very good years mixed in with disappointing ones. So we could be right back here next year having another one of those debates.

But there’s no debating what’s happened to date this year. To date.

I live in Oklahoma and have been putting up with OU fans since I matriculated from UGA in 2002 – I am very excited to see this long debated topic settled in the Granddaddy of ‘em all.  There’s going to be a shortage of crow around here one way or another.  Strangely, the sports media here, and pretty much all the fans, seem to think this will merely be a walk through for OU on the way to Atlanta.  Unlike what I presume to be a priority for most UGA fans, it does not seem as though many intend to travel to the Rose Bowl.  I was just wondering what the prevailing sentiment was there at “home” about OU in general and UGA’s prospects in this game?  By the way, having observed these teams all year, I do not agree with Mr. Pollack that they will score 30.
– James Colvin

James, I suspect most people reading this would rather hear more of your thoughts on the Sooners and this matchup than whatever my pithy answer would be. Particularly why you don’t agree with David Pollack. Write in next week.

But for now I’d say that gauging people’s thoughts around here there’s a mixture. Some are cautiously optimistic, having seen their team pass major tests already, as well as seeing Big 12 offenses get shut down by SEC defenses before. These same people, then, sometimes forget when that didn’t happen. Such as when, ahem, Oklahoma routed Alabama a few years ago.

Most people, though, I’d sum up as feeling like anything else that happens is gravy. The floor this year, as far as people calling it a successful season, was winning the East. Check. Most assumed Alabama would be the opponent and didn’t think Georgia was at that level yet. We may still yet see that matchup. But whatever happens from this point on, it’s been a great season.

Why haven’t we heard more about Natrez Patrick? Isn’t this a no brainer that he is gone?
– Jon Betchick

Perhaps Smart will announce something on Thursday night, when he doubtless will be asked about it again at the playoff coaches joint press conference. Perhaps Smart will continue to say he’s “gathering information.” From reading the arrest report and watching the body cam footage, Patrick may be telling people he didn’t partake, and Jayson Stanley does appear to be pleading with the officers to put it all on him, and that it was his car. Clearly, Stanley was aware that his teammate was facing his third strike.

But it’s a tough situation. This is Patrick’s fifth involvement in a marijuana incident. There were three arrests, the first two leading to suspension, and last year when a resident assistant was called to his room, and the previous year when he (and others) were in the car when Chauncey Rivers was arrested a second time. That said, Patrick was not charged in either of those two incidents.

Still, when you know you’re on your third strike, even if you’re not partaking, why are you riding in the car with someone who is? Why are you putting yourself anywhere near anybody who is? Look, I’m no chest thumper when it comes to marijuana. I’d probably vote in favor of legalization. And UGA’s strict rules on it deserve some re-evaluation, given the national mood. But those are the rules, and for Patrick to put himself anywhere near risk of a third strike is bad judgment, at minimum, and I’m not sure he has the benefit of the doubt anymore.

Lightning round

I didn’t recognize the ref’s for the SECC – New guys? Are they graded and is that grade made public? Thanks.
– Perk

Referee John McDaid and his crew were indeed SEC officials. McDaid was hired by the SEC as a referee before the 2015 season, after working in the Big East, and a National Championship Game at one point. It was mostly McDaid’s usual crew working with him during the conference championship game, with some “minor adjustments due to various protocols and recusals,” according to an SEC spokesman. They will, of course, be graded out as they always are, but results will not be made public as they never are.

Hey Seth with Gus Malzahn now looking to be making $7 million a year what is your best guess to what Smart is gonna make after this year?
– Chris Pugh

Less than Malzahn, but more than his current salary of $3.75 million. Much of it depends on how the playoffs go. Win a national title or appear in the title game, and that could push it well above $5 million. Keep in mind, though, Malzahn had leverage because of Arkansas’ interest. But if UGA isn’t proactive enough to agent Jimmy Sexton’s liking, you may see Smart’s name start to pop up for an NFL job. (He did coach there in 2006, after all.) But as I’ve written before, I don’t think Smart – and thus his agent – are going to push as much for his own salary to increase as they are for money to keep current assistants and hire more good ones, as well as for more money for facilities.

Does coaching staff, in addition to obviously preparing and game planning for the Sooners, do so as well this month for possible title game vs. Clemson or Bama? Having a month to get ready for Rose Bowl, and a quick one-week turnaround for title game, how does staff prepare and practice? All 3 playoff teams present such different challenges…
– JV

My guess is it’s being treated the same way the SEC championship was once the team knew they would be in it and playing either Alabama or Auburn. There are support staffers – video coordinators, quality control staffers, graduate assistants – already breaking down film of both Clemson and Alabama. The team itself may even sneak in some practice preparation. But not more than a period or two a day, I’d guess.

If Jason Eason is going to transfer, when would you expect that announcement to be made? Thanks.
– Jimmy Taylor

Not until at least Georgia is done playing. There might have been news if Georgia hadn’t made the playoffs. But keep in mind, Eason is one injury away from being Georgia’s quarterback with a national championship on the line. Even if a decision already has been made, I doubt it will be announced until the Bulldogs are done playing.

Has anyone heard of what Eason’s plan are for the 2018 season? Is he going to transfer, stick around? It’s been quiet on that front except for the once-in-a-while outlandish claims from non UGA beat writers.
– Greg

Eason was asked multiple times in the locker room after the SEC championship and said each team that he’s “just taking it day by day.” Divine from that what you will. Unless you’re divining from it that he’ll definitely stick around. Because I wouldn’t divine that.

As the final seconds of the SEC champ game ticked away, the cameras on the CBS broadcast zoomed in on an assistant handing Kirby a sheet of paper. Kirby then exploded at the guy and screamed in his face for a few seconds. Do you know who he was screaming at and why?
– Ben

There were several questions about this. I’ll confess I didn’t see it in real time. I was on the sideline but watching the players celebrate, and I haven’t had a chance to ask Smart about it. Josh Lee is his operations assistant, and Smart’s right-hand man for a lot of matters. I don’t have much idea what it was about but I remember seeing Lee shortly afterward with a smile on his face, so whatever it was I’m sure he wasn’t scarred for life.

Thanks for the great work all season long. With the chance to speak with freshmen after championship game, who impressed you the most in their interviews?
– Dave Marler

I didn’t get a chance to talk to every single freshman, but Andrew Thomas was really good. It’s easy to see why he was tagged right away as a smart guy who was ready to take in the offense. Isaiah Wilson, even though he was redshirted, also seemed like a sharp kid who we will (hopefully) enjoy talking to in the future. And Jake Fromm, of course, though I didn’t exactly have a one-on-one with him. More like a 50-on-1.

Has the targeting rule worked? I can’t remember a Georgia player (or opponent) being ejected this season.
– Ashley Griffin

Absolutely it has worked, at least it’s had its intended effect, changing certain behavior. You don’t tend to see people launching or leading with their heads anymore. But given the national mood, the targeting rule was probably just the first of many steps that will be taken to make the game safer. As it should be.

What other blue blood teams has UGA never played or only played once? Obviously we’ve played ND twice now…
– Moos

Ah, a great question: Oklahoma may be the last such program that Georgia has never played, unless someone wants to make an argument for programs like Illinois (don’t). Georgia has only played Ohio State once (1993). Georgia has twice played Michigan (1957 and 1965), UCLA (1943 and 1983) and Notre Dame (1981 and 2017).

‘Tis the basketball season question

Hi Seth. Big Dawgs basketball fan and happy for a strong non-conference start for the first time in a while. However, I’m frustrated (seemingly every year) with the high turnover rate. It can be painful to watch and can lead to us playing down to our opponents. We seem to have a lot of live ball turnovers or errant passes. Is this a function of scheme (e.g. players are beholden to following a half-court set and ultimately forcing the ball), younger players getting more minutes or the type of players we recruit? Any thoughts on underlying cause(s)?
– Jared Kelso (PS: I’ll have another couple of questions later in the year on our poor free throw shooting and general boring style of play.)

In the words of Todd Rundgren: I don’t want to work, I just want to beat on my drum all day about Mark Fox not whittling down his rotation and substituting often, which may be the underlying cause to the turnovers. Players don’t get in much of a rhythm and it can affect cohesion. (I’ll also point out that while I’ve played recreational and team basketball all my life and watched it all my life, Mark Fox is paid a lot of money because he’s much better at coaching it and has developed his philosophies for good reasons.)

Georgia is off to a pretty good start, which is critical. The past two years they’ve gone into SEC play already behind the eight ball when it came to their NCAA résumé, but this year they already have two true road wins (Marquette and Cal State Fullerton) and at least one probable top-50 win (St. Mary’s should be by the end of the season, and we’ll see about Marquette), and the lone loss was a neutral-site game to a good team (San Diego State, which also could end up top 50.)

Good signs: Georgia is playing well in the clutch.

Bad sign: Georgia is in too many close games because it isn’t blowing teams out, needing to pull out close ones against not only the good teams but Winthrop and Texas A&M Corpus-Christi. But those were still wins, and as I always say, margin of victory doesn’t matter in the RPI.

Let’s talk about me  

Curious if this year is more work/less work and more fun/less fun for you than years past?
– @FakeSkyMiles

Your handle points to my answer: It’s been fun from a travel standpoint. Special, actually. I’ll see Notre Dame and the Rose Bowl in the same season. A bit different from the usual.

The drawback is it’s more work, though as mentioned in the mailbag last week, the workload of covering a championship team sure beats the hell that is covering a coaching search. The poor Tennessee writers are going to write books about what they’ve been through. Those that don’t die drinking first.

Finally, some love advice

Curve ball here. My bride/wife who I thought I knew and was full blooded American, threw me for a loop over the past weekend. Movies got brought up and she mentioned she had never seen Pulp Fiction. Blown away, but eventually understood because not everyone is a QT fan. Here is where things took a hard left and I began to question her Americanism. Never seen the Sandlot, or (take a seat)… the Goonies. You think you know someone. Should I consider cutting ties or introduce this lady to some American classics? The risk – she is in her early 30’s and may be too old to appreciate the movies.
– JRT812

My wife had never seen the Star Wars movies, which was certainly a character flaw, but I also saw it as a challenge to make her appreciate the greatness of the movies. She failed that challenge. But she also produced two children, is vastly more successful professionally than me, as well as better looking, smarter and funnier. So we’ve come to an agreement where I stop trying to make her finish the original trilogy, and I agree not to watch The Cutting Edge or Love Actually.

Oh wait, you asked me a question: Yes, if she’s a keeper, then you keep her, despite her flaws. Remember: We are men. We have many more flaws than women. As they tell us every day. Which we appreciate. Because we need to improve our flaws. Our many, many flaws.

The post UGA mailbag: The vindication of Jim Chaney as things look up for Bulldogs offense appeared first on DawgNation.

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