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FIRST & GOAL HOMECOMING EDITION Logan Gray gets a shot Saturday. Will he capitalize? • 3B Georgia coaches: Hot or not? • 4B


FIRST & GOAL

2B | Friday, November 6, 2009 | The Red & Black

Small-town safety making big time plays By TYLER ESTEP The Red & Black

Whenever a small town kid returns home, it’s with open arms and open admiration. In the case of Bacarri Rambo, Georgia’s freshman safety with the tough-as-nails name, you would think it would be even more so. In sporadic playing time, Rambo has two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) for the Bulldogs, tied for the team lead. When he goes home to Donalsonville (pop. 3,000), they’re just proud to know him. “The people back home, they don’t really care about the plays,” Rambo said. “They just know that I play for Georgia and they’re excited. People that I grew up with, they haven’t ever played with somebody that went [to a Division I school] or went to Georgia. So they get very excited that they know someone and they get around someone that’s playing college football. Making plays and stuff, I know they’re going to be asking autographs and this and that, but I love everybody.” As a standout at Seminole County High School in extreme southwest Georgia, Rambo did it all, on both sides of the ball. He was the leader of the Indians’ option offense at quarterback, played linebacker and returned kicks. He excelled at everything. Donalsonville is about a 10 minute drive from both Florida and Alabama. But come college football Saturdays, there’s no question of allegiance. “Everybody’s watching the Dogs every Saturday and watching to see how much playing time he gets and get excited by it, talk about it,” said Seminole County football coach Alan Ingram. “Having kids out of a small school go out and play, that’s a big thing for the community. It brings a little bit of excitement, and a little bit of recognition to the community. Everybody’s tickled to death and proud of him. He’s a good kid. He represents the school and the program here, and the community, in a great way.” Technically, this is Georgia’s homecoming week, as they get ready to host Tennessee Tech on Saturday. But with a Georgia bye week before Florida, Rambo got the chance to go home for the first time since the Bulldogs started camp this summer. “I’ve never been away from home that long,” he said.

*** For Rambo, this season seems like it’s been a long time in the making. In taking a redshirt last year (affording him the opportunity to play scout team quarterback for Florida and Georgia Tech, who run similar offenses to what he did in high school), Rambo found himself in an unfamiliar position — on the bench in the fall. “It really brought me down, because I’ve been playing football since I was like

DANIEL SHIREY | The Red & Black

▲ Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo has made the best of sporadic playing time at safety as a redshirt freshman. four,” Rambo said. “And I’ve never sat out a day in my life, and then my freshman year I was sitting out. It was really tough but I just stayed with it and fought, and it got me here to this point.” Ingram praised Rambo’s work ethic, citing that he “never missed a practice for any reason” during his four years at Seminole County. It was tough for an alleverything superstar to not participating in games at all, much less playing seemingly every position. “But he’s very intelligent,” said Georgia safety Bryan Evans, who’s adopted Rambo as a “little brother.” “And he made the most of it. He listens. And it shows on the field when he plays.” It’s still early in Rambo’s Georgia career, but the kid from rural Georgia is already showing why he was one of the most highly-recruited talents in the South. “I’ve been dreaming of catching interceptions and scoring since I was a little boy,” he said. “I plan on having more than

that. It’s very exciting just playing here at Georgia, feeling the team working, the team’s brotherhood, the coaching staff showing you love. It’s very exciting and I’m blessed to be here.” *** Rambo didn’t play much in the Bulldogs’ last game against Florida, with Evans, a senior, getting most of the reps. There’s been some clamoring to give him and some of the other younger guys more time in a struggling secondary. Rambo will likely get plenty of action against a FCS opponent Saturday, continuing his grooming as the Georgia safety of the future. “He’s earned playing time, he’s playing well,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt. “And he’s continuing to practice well. I don’t think he would have to start to say that [preparing him for next season] was happening. He’s playing plenty to help us be ready next year.” And, if you ask Rambo’s high school

coach, that could be one hell of a year. “I predicted when he left here that if they played him over there on defense and he got time on the field, had two or three years starting, my prediction was that he’s going to beat [Jake Scott’s school career interception record of 16] there,” Ingram said. “He’s going to have a great opportunity, a great chance to beat that thing. He’s got two already and darn near had two more.” It appears Rambo will get that playing time. Evans will be gone after this season, and the 6-foot, 210-pounder has seemingly already penciled his name in to fill the void. “He has all the potential in the world,” Evans said. “He’s already pretty big to be a redshirt freshman You can only get bigger and faster. He loves contact, hopefully he’ll be like another [former Georgia hardhitting safeties Greg] Blue or [Thomas Davis]. He has that nose for the ball. It’s going to be fun watching him.” Especially in Donalsonville.

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FIRST & GOAL

The Red & Black | Friday, November 6, 2009 | 3B

DANIEL SHIREY | The Red & Black

▲ Second-string quarterback Logan Gray has been promised at least one full series in Saturday’s homecoming game against Tennessee Tech.

Backup QB looking to make most of opportunity By FLETCHER PAGE The Red & Black Logan Gray has been chasing approval since his first day in Athens. The sophomore backup quarterback has heard all the naysayers discarding him because of size and passing skills. He’s ready to prove he’s an SEC quarterback. Coach Mark Richt is ready to give him more time on the field to prove it. “Right now you can count on at least a series with Logan, more than just a situation like red zone or something like that,” Richt said. “We want to give him a chance to play at least one series.” Gray’s been labeled a mobile quarterback, which can read also as non-passer. But Gray says he’s excited to prove he’s a complete player, not just a change-ofpace, or running specialist. “I want to prove that I’m capable of making plays and getting in there in situations for more than just one play, putting together a drive or whatever it may be. I think also being kind of a running quar-

terback, a lot of people, especially with throwing the ball, feel like I’ve always been talking about proving myself and stuff.” With criticism of starter Joe Cox simmering, many fans want to see a different quarterback play in preparation of next season. Some have skipped over Gray, pegging freshman Aaron Murray as the man for next year – just another case where Gray has been doubted. “I think Aaron is going to be a real good player and the coaches are going to do what’s best for the team,” he said. “I think we’re just trying to do what’s best right now. I can only worry about myself, not who’s behind me. I’m just focused on me and I don’t even pay attention to all the other stuff. I’m just paying attention to what I can control and focus on that.” Richt says Cox is the starter. Murray will be redshirted this season. That leaves Gray in the middle. Gray had over 20 offers to play football in college. Oklahoma and Florida were among those Georgia beat out. But since arriving, Gray has been a

question mark behind center, not because of poor play, but a lack of opportunity. His athleticism got him on the field to return punts and cover kicks. But the time spent working on special teams took away from quarterback meetings. In preseason practice, coaches talked about using Gray to confuse defense. He’s mobility could give a different look, another option. Gray’s not ashamed of his running ability. But that’s the only skill the coaches have taken advantage of this season. He’s been inserted in games still close only to run the ball and not very often. In mop-up duty Gray has thrown only seven passes, completing one. Against Florida he threw an interception returned for a touchdown. “I talked to him after the game and said, ‘Look, I’m not going to hold that against you, put in a bad situation, backed up against a very good defense,’” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “I said it was something to learn from and to take advantage of for future opportunities because he might have some in the near

future.” Tennessee Tech will be his first opportunity to play a full series with the game still competitive. Despite the lesser opponent, Gray’s guaranteed drive is another chance to prove, to find an identity. “I feel like if he gets the chance he’ll take advantage,” said receiver Rantavious Wooten. “Anything can happen.” He knows he’ll be in for more than one play. He knows he won’t just run the ball and come back to the sideline. He’ll have to manage the game, read the defense and make calls. “It will probably be in the first half,” Bobo said. “We haven’t nailed down precisely what series it’s going to be, but we’ll get him in there, change up some things and get him some work.” Gray says he’s not trying to do too much. He can’t prove everything in one series. But he can show he is ready to command, take charge and lead. And a few completed passes would help quiet the naysayers. “I definitely want to make the most of it,” he said.

Wooten stepping up in Green’s absence By FLETCHER PAGE The Red & Black

And so life begins without Adriel Jeremiah Green – at least for this weekend. Georgia’s biggest playmaker is sidelined with a bruised lung, replaced by freshman Rantavious Wooten. Wooten has four catches for 91 yards this season. Those are ordinary onegame statistics for Green. “It’s a concern and it will be a little bit different,” said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. “We’re losing our No. 1 playmaker for this week and it’s a concern. But it’s also an opportunity for other guys to step up.” Wooten has impressed coaches with his route running and catching ability. His 5-foot-8, 158-pound frame make Wooten a unique, shifty individual. He’s just unfortunately behind the SEC’s leading receiver on the depth chart. But with Green out, Wooten will see extensive playing time Saturday. “His opportunities have been a little bit limited because he’s playing the same position as A.J.,” Bobo said. “It’s been a struggle for him to grasp everything in the playbook

and it’s not really fair to move him around. In our base offense he plays the same position. We feel he knows that well and he’ll play a significant amount of time this week.” Sitting behind Green has kept Wooten’s role limited. But there are advantages to watching a player who practices and studies like Green does. “Every day in practice I’m watching A.J and the things he does,” Wooten said. “I just try to imitate what he does. I feel like it carries over. Coaches see that.” Wooten came to Georgia from Glades Central High School in Florida, with a football program Georgia coach Mark Richt has praised. Richt says players who come from Glades are more physically and mentally prepared for the college game than most. “Even in the summer, we don’t get to watch, but you get reports from the veteran guys about the freshmen,” Richt said to reporters this week. “They just loved Wooten from the get go for his quickness and ability to change direction and how quickly he picked up the route running and good hands.”

Though Wooten came to Athens polished as a receiver, he still had to learn the playbook. Given Wooten’s playmaking skills, coaches wanted to use him in a variety of ways, mixing his position and even inserting him in the backfield for plays. Wooten’s not described just as a receiver, but a football player. Learning all the added intricacies was a challenge. “Things were a little bit been slow,” he said. “I had to learn the formations and get up to speed on the plays. My confidence has risen though.”

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Wooten didn’t play in the season opener, but has been used in various capacities since. Aside from his four catches, Wooten has four carries. Though the statistics aren’t overwhelming, Wooten’s potential to consistently make plays is on the rise. “Wooten playing a position behind A.J. certainly hasn’t given him a lot of opportunities,” Richt said. “He’s taken advantage of the opportunities he’s had to this point. This [weekend] will be the biggest opportunity to this point. I think he’s up for it.”

DANIEL SHIREY | The Red & Black

▲ With superstar A.J. Green out this week, Georgia freshman Rantavious Wooten will step into his starting role at flanker.

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4B | Friday, November 6, 2009 | The Red & Black

FIRST & GOAL

HOT OR NOT?

With Georgia mired in a 4-4 season, the media, the message boards and the fan base have erupted in debate. Should Bulldog coaches be held responsible? Is it the players’ fault? What should be done? There’s no clear answer. Here’s our two-sided look at why Georgia coaches should and should not be on the hot seat.

HEAD COACH MARK RICHT

▲ Georgia head coach Mark Richt has enjoyed the most successful decade in Georgia history.

JUST CAN’T LEAVE

JUST GOTTA GO

The argument: Dude’s won two SEC championships in nine years. Three Eastern Division championships. Ten wins a season. Everyone has a bad one.

The argument: Richt is 10-7 in his last 17 games. He has no edge, and the gimmicks are getting old. It’s just time for a change.

• Richt was 82-22 coming into the season, and has brought Georgia football back to the national spotlight.

• If you’re on this side of the argument, his loyalty to the two coaches below could cost Richt his position. The “Nice Guy” argument also applies.

• 102 players have graduated since 2005, a problem that needed to be rectified (Richt-ified?).

• Richt is 2-7 against Florida.

• If you run off a genuinely good guy like Richt for one bad season, who the hell would want to take this job?

• Complacency, complacency, complacency. Richt has been successful with his ways while at Georgia, and maybe Florida, Alabama, LSU and Tennessee have passed him by keeping an edge.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR WILLIE MARTINEZ JUST CAN’T LEAVE The argument: Past success (and future potential) overrides current struggles. • 2007: Eighth nationally in sacks, 14th in total defense

JUST GOTTA GO The argument: Martinez’s defenses have allowed at least 37 points in nine of Georgia’s last 17 contests. The area he coaches (the secondary) is arguably the most beleaguered part of the defense.

• 2006: Eighth nationally in total defense, • Georgia rushing defense = 60th in the country, behind teams like Duke, Troy and fifth nationally in pass defense Kent State. • 2005: Eighth nationally in scoring • Bulldog passing defense = 73rd in the defense, allowing just 16.4 points per country, with only five interceptions. game

▲ Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez is under fire from the Bulldog Nation.

• There’s a lot of young talent on the 2009 defense (particularly in the secondary) that has the potential to turn things around

• Total defense = 68th in the country. Right behind Akron, Buffalo and LouisianaMonroe.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE BOBO JUST CAN’T LEAVE The argument: Without Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford, Bobo is still assembling an offensive identity — with the benefit of only three seniors.

The argument: Under Bobo this season, Georgia’s total offense is 97th in the country and playcalling has been perplexing at times.

• His development of David Greene, D.J. Shockley and Stafford makes him a premier groomer of signal callers. Young quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger came here for his tutelage, proving his recruiting worth.

• Georgia rushing offense = No. 99 in the country. Averaging just 109 yards per game, wth only six rushing touchdowns total.

• All except for one year of his coaching career has been spent under Richt. The two know each other inside and out.

▲ Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has dedicated his last 17 years to Georgia football. PHOTOS BY DANIEL SHIREY

JUST GOTTA GO

• The passing offense is 61st in the nation. Georgia quarterbacks have thrown for 13 interceptions and 15 touchdowns.

• Bobo doesn’t seem very open to changing the offense to suit personnel • He’s open to new ideas, calling the last (read: Logan Gray). two games from the sideline.


FIRST & GOAL

The Red & Black | Friday, October 6, 2009 | 5B

A LOOK AT TENNESSEE TECH’S

COACH WATSON BROWN

CITY, BABY!

FULL NAME: Lester Watson Brown DATE OF BIRTH: COLLEGE:

April 19, 1950

Vanderbilt, 1973

HEAD COACHING EXPERIENCE OVERALL RECORD: 106-169-1 AGAINST GEORGIA: 0-6

The last time Georgia and Tennessee Tech hooked up was during World War II. And the Bulldogs were the far better team even then, earning a 67-0 win in 1943 In the spirit of things, here’s a look at memorable “cupcake” games in recent Georgia history. Oct. 30, 1982: UGA 34, Memphis State 3 In what turned out to be a third-straight SEC championship season, and the final year of Herschel Walkers Georgia career, the Bulldogs rolled over Memphis State. They would go on to trounce Florida 44-0 the next week.

Vanderbilt (1986-90): 10-45

Cincinnati (1983): 4-6-1

UAB (1995-2006): 62-74

Rice (1984-85): 4-18

Tenn. Tech (2007--): 13-19

Let’s face it — Tennessee Tech isn’t the toughest of opponents. The Golden Eagles are the only FCS team on Georgia’s 2009 schedule, and they have two losses in the Ohio Valley conference.

Austin Peay (1979-80): 14-8

HIS LAST TIME AGAINST GEORGIA:

I had a chance to coach against coach Brown while we were here at Georgia and he was at UAB [in 2003]. If you remember that game, it was 16-13 final. Actually, it was 16-13 late in the game, they’re driving the field, and I think we had a sack, a turnover or something – a big stop – to keep them from getting into field goal range to tie it or even go ahead. — GEORGIA COACH MARK RICHT

Oct. 29, 1988: UGA 59, William & Mary 24 Two-thirds of the way through Vince Dooley’s final season as Georgia’s head coach, the Bulldogs pounced on overmatched William & Mary, in the only ever meeting between the two schools. Aug. 31, 1991: UGA 48, W. Carolina 0 Coming off an abyssmal 4--7 season under coach Ray Goff, the Bulldogs started their 1991 campaign on a different note, pounding Western Carolina. Georgia would turn it around that season, finishing 9-3. Dec. 1, 2001: UGA 35, Houston 7 In the final game of coach Mark Richt’s first season in Athens, the Bulldogs rolled over the Cougars. Sept. 2002: UGA 45, Northwestern State 7; UGA 41, New Mexico State 10 In an SEC Championship season, the Bulldogs got two easy games in a row and took advantage, putting up 96 points and parlaying that into consecutive close wins against Tennessee and Alabama. Sept. 6, 2008: UGA 56, Central Michigan 27 In an otherwise uneventful game, Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno literally hurdled over Central Michigan defender Vincent Agnew, a move that would be missed by ESPN highlight broadcasts. —Tyler Estep

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FIRST & GOAL

6B | Friday, November 6, 2009 | The Red & Black

JOE COX VS. LOGAN GRAY

Backup quarterback Logan Gray will get at least one series Saturday, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said it would likely come in the first half. If he does well, even though it’s against a team with two losses in the Ohio Valley Conference, it will open up the door for more griping from Georgia fans about Gray’s replacing Joe Cox. The fact is, Georgia’s coaches unanimously voted that Cox is still the Bulldogs’ best option at quarterback, and, at this point, he probably is. But we’re curious to see how Gray responds and performs when he’s put in a situation that isn’t built for disaster (see: down 17 points late in the game inside his own 10-yard line).

THE SMALL PICTURE

WATSON BROWN VS. HISTORY

Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown has matched up with the Bulldogs eight times (as a player and coach), and he’s got a perfect record — 0-8. The former Vanderbilt player and coach, as well as Alabama-Birmingham head man, has never won against Georgia, but he has come close. His UAB team took the Bulldogs down to the wire in a 16-13 loss in 2003. Georgia coach Mark Richt gushed about Brown earlier in the week: “I have the ultimate respect for coach Brown and what he’s capable of doing with his team. I’m sure he’ll probably bring that memory back up to his players even though they weren’t at UAB, but I’m sure he’ll make mention of that, or at least know in the back of his mind that you can get after Georgia with one of his teams.”

Estep and Page take GEORGIA vs. TENNESSEE TECH a level deeper

GEORGIA’S RUNNING BACKS VS. THEMSELVES The job of featured Georgia tailback has been Caleb King’s from the onset, but injuries have kept him from being consistently in the lineup. King gets his starting job back Saturday, and, for one, we’d like to see him run with it. We’re not football experts, but King seems to have the best vision and fluidity of the three backs. Speaking of the other two — freshman Washaun Ealey has been fun to watch, but, right now, lacks the well-rounded game that is necessary of a Georgia back. Richt called his pass blocking into question after the Florida game, and, even against an inferior opponent, this week could be a good one for Ealey to at least work on his technique and understanding who to pick up in protection. Richard Samuel is, without a doubt, the most athletic of the three. But he’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in silver britches.

Freshman Rantavious Wooten will be one of several Georgia receivers looking to assert themselves in the absence of A.J. Green Saturday.

GEORGIA’S OFFENSIVE LINE VS. CONTINUITY

Photo by DANIEL SHIREY | The Red & Black

Georgia’s O-line has been shuffled around like a deck of cards this season. Just when it looked like the five was set with Clint Boling, Chris Davis, Josh Davis, Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones, Boling is hampered by a knee injury. Boling, the most consistent lineman over the past two years, is listed as probable for Saturday. If he can’t go it will just be another shakeup that will threaten a line that has struggled to find its identity this season.

A.J.’S ABSENCE VS. STEPPING INTO THE LIMELIGHT

Georgia’s A.J. Green won’t play Saturday, the first game he’ll miss in his young career as a Bulldog. This may sound like a concern, but with Tennessee Tech coming to town and a host of young receivers yet to get solid reps, it could be a blessing. Freshman Rantavious Wooten will start at Green’s position, but fellow youngsters Tavarres King, Israel Troupe and Marlon Brown will also see greatly increased roles. It will be interesting to see who stands out given more of an opportunity, albeit against a lesser opponent.

ESTABLISHING CONFIDENCE VS. DEVELOPMENT

Most teams use games against Division II opponents to fine tune and establish confidence early in the schedule. Georgia’s played such a grueling schedule that they weren’t afforded that chance, and it comes now in Week 10. In other circumstances, Richt would have the luxury of using less-experienced players to work on developing them for the big show. But with the given circumstances, starters are still finding their way and trying to build confidence for the final stretch run of the season. It’s a tough spot.

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First & Goal 10-6-09