Georgia vs North Carolina – The Preview

The Georgia Bulldogs have opened seasons against higher ranked teams than the #22 North Carolina Tar Heels. They have, of course, opened seasons against JV teams as well. However, I would argue that this is the biggest season opener of my generation. You may argue otherwise, but hear me out. We open the season against a top 25 football team that was only a touchdown and 2 pt conversion away from defeating Clemson (eventual Nat’l Title Contender) in their conference championship last year. UNC finished the season 11-3 and went 8-0 in the ACC. Those three losses were by a combined 23 points. They set school (and some ACC) records in points scored and yards gained per game. The offense was extremely prolific. The defense is in their second year under the tutelage of familiar foe, Gene Chizek. Say what you will about how Chizek performed at Auburn without Cam Newton, but he can coach defense. They are most assuredly expected to be better this year on that side of the ball. It’s true that they lost some key players to graduation last year but they return a fair amount as well. But, more on the roster later.

Aside from the opponent for Saturday’s kickoff game in Atlanta, there is plenty on the Georgia side to contribute to this claim of “biggest season opener of my generation.” This season opener marks the first one in the last 15 years with a new head coach. That coach is former Bulldog player, Kirby Smart, who comes with an extensive resume of winning and pretty lofty expectations. He has turned the staff completely over, with the exception of Kevin Sherrer and Tracy Rocker, the lone holdovers from 2015. Nick Chubb, a 2015 Heisman hopeful, returns from a gruesome knee injury suffered in October 2015 against Tennessee. He was the heart and soul of the offense when Gurley was hurt in 2014 and for the first half of the season last year. This will be his first game action in almost a year. The most decorated and highly touted quarterback since Matthew Stafford, Jacob Eason, may or may not get his first college start Saturday, but we know he will see the field. A new era is beginning in so many ways.

The game will be played in Atlanta GA as part of the recent creation of the SEC vs ACC Chick Fil A Kickoff Classic, so a neutral site of sorts. Its right in the middle of one of the most exciting opening season schedules in many years. The weekend includes Auburn vs Clemson, Alabama vs USC, LSU vs Wisconsin and Ole Miss vs FSU, to name only a few. Our game kicks off Saturday at 5:30. There has been an ever growing rift between the SEC and ACC fans as we battle over jabs and records over the last few years. This will be the biggest test in a while with the SEC being given the top 3 ACC teams to face off against on the opening weekend. Anything is possible this weekend but the SEC will need to go at least 2-1 in those 3 games to retain bragging rights. ACC fans would love nothing more than a sweep of Georgia, Auburn and Ole Miss, unless they could somehow include Florida and Alabama. 

Let’s take a closer look at the teams and matchup.

Georgia BulldogsThe biggest question on the mind of Georgia fans as of this writing is, “who will be the starting qb?” Freshman Jacob Eason is competing with fifth year senior Greyson Lambert for that distinction. It is the general thought that Brice Ramsey is no longer in that discussion and will serve as a backup to both. There are two logics in this battle. One is that Eason is the future, Chubb is healthy and we know what we have in Lambert, so let’s go with Eason. The other is that Eason is a true freshman, UNC has a very good secondary and Chubb is healthy so let Lambert protect the ball and manage the game. At this very moment, I find myself somewhere between the two. I would like to see Eason take over the offense and see what he has. I also don’t want to put him in a position to fail early and affect his confidence. It is true, we know what we have in Greyson Lambert, and it’s not a big flashy arm. It’s a steady, calming presence in the huddle that will protect the ball. He will not win any games on his own but likely won’t lose it either. This is where the addition of Kirby Smart as head coach makes things tough. If Mark Richt were still in Athens, I would wager my paycheck that Lambert would get the start and Eason would get a series in the first and second half. But again, now, anything can happen.Aside from the quarterback position, there aren’t many questions as to who will be on the field on the offensive side of the ball. The question of whether or not Nick Chubb would be ready was answered earlier this week with the official word coming from Smart that he would play and start. Sony Michel is most likely out until the Missouri game but Brendan Douglas, along with freshmen Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien, will provide support in the running game. I keep expecting Tae Crowder to appear on the depth chart but to no avail. The Dawgs will likely rotate 6 offensive linemen with Brandon Kublanow, Isaiah Wynn, Dyshon Sims, Tyler Catalina and Greg Pyke starting. Lamont Galliard will get a large amount of playing time in that rotation. The wide receivers will be a mixture of young and very young guys. Michael Chigbu will be the big receiver while Terry Godwin and Reggie Davis will stretch the field. Jayson Stanley and Riley Ridley should see some time as well. Expect to see doses of Isaiah McKenzie in the slot and at occasional running back as well. Jeb Blazevich was expectedly named the starting tight end but I expect to see Jackson Harris and Isaac Nauta on the field Saturday.

Regardless of the starting quarterback, the obvious strength of the Georgia Bulldogs is the running game. The obvious 2015 weakness of the UNC Tar Heels was run defense. I expect to see double tight end sets quite often with Nick Chubb shouldering the bulk of the offense. Not only is that our strength, it also keeps the high octane offense of UNC off the field. This game will be won with ball control and controlling the clock. If Georgia is successful on the ground, it will take a lot of pressure off of the quarterback and a defense that is learning new terminology in a new system from a new defensive coordinator. McKenzie and Godwin should get action in the run game as well to try and keep the defense on their heels, no pun intended. But ultimately, if Georgia wants to control this game, they have to punch UNC in the mouth and keep hitting them until the final whistle blows. You do that with one of the biggest offensive lines in college football and Nick Chubb.The defensive side of the ball seems “relatively” set with their position players with a couple of extra hands that will rotate in on a regular basis. The defensive line will start Trent Thompson, John Atkins and DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle. Trent Thompson is a local boy that we are familiar with down here in southwest Georgia. We are used to seeing him control a line of scrimmage and I am expecting him to take that next step this year. Atkins has fought through some injury concerns but appears ready and has received rave reviews from the staff. Our strength on defense can be found in our linebacker corp. Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy will be the outside backers and are two freakish athletes. Tall, big and fast. This will be their first year as full time starters and they will be asked to carry the load on defense.  

The inside backers will be a rotating threesome of Natrez Patrick, Reggie Carter and RoQuan Smith. The loss of Jake Ganus will be felt in the leadership category and Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd will be missed in the pass rush but this is an extremely capable group. Finally, the defensive backfield should be strong but is currently a muddled mess as it relates to starters. Malkom Parrish and Juwan Briscoe appear to have locked down the starting cornerback spots but safety and the STAR position will rotate some combination of Dominick Sanders, Aaron Davis, Quincy Mauger, Rico McGraw and Maurice Smith. Mauger appears to be the odd man out at this time, provided that McGraw and Smith are interchangeable at the STAR as I expect.  

Defensively, Georgia will look to remain strong in the secondary, where they finished 2nd in the SEC last year. The secondary had a tremendous amount of help from Floyd, Jenkins, Ganus, Carter, Patrick, Thompson and Sterling Bailey last year so I look for the front seven to maintain their intensity and get after the quarterback in this aggressive defensive scheme. Special teams should be improved by the mere fact that we finally hired a special teams coach and he comes from a very good background in the department. His last name is Beamer. I expect Mecole Hardman to contribute immediately in the return game. We might even see some trickery from time to time as opposed to the predictable phase of the game over the last several years.

 North Carolina Tar HeelsNorth Carolina does not question who their starting quarterback is heading into Saturday’s opener. That would be Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky was a highly touted recruit when Larry Fedora took over as head coach at UNC. He is a junior and was fully expected to contribute before now. However, a guy named Marquise Williams came along and he led them to an 11-3 record last year. Trubisky finally gets his shot in 2016 and appears to be a fan and teammate favorite. In limited work in 2015, he was an eye popping 40-47 with six touchdowns. He was also named Mr. Football in the state of Ohio his senior year of high school. He has some solid weapons at his disposal as well in Mack Hollins, Ryan Switzer and Bug Howard. Mack Hollins stretches the field and is a tall receiver that is very tough to cover one on one with a smaller cornerback. However, he is suspended for the first half of the game due to an illegal hit in the bowl game last year. When he makes his appearance in the second half, expect Trubisky to look his way often if the Bulldogs have not covered him up with additional help. Switzer is a Wes Welker type slot receiver and return specialist that knows how to find open holes in zone defense. He may present a strong matchup issue with our bigger backers. Roquan Smith or the STAR would be ideally set up to cover him. Finally, Bug Howard is a 6’5 monster from Wilcox County that will deserve plenty of defensive attention as well.If the receivers weren’t scary enough, UNC boasts one of the best, and underrated, running backs in the country in Junior, Elijah Hood. At 6’0, 220lbs, he rushed for 1,463 yards in 2015, while scoring 17 touchdowns. He was not a big threat in the passing game with only 13 receptions. Senior RB TJ Logan, is a smaller back that is used more in the passing game and would be a starter on most ACC teams. He has the unfortunate problem of being behind a back like Elijah Hood. I’m guessing Keith Marshall and Sony Michel know how he feels. The offensive line returns 3 starters and is less experienced than in 2015 and may be a weakness for the team in the early going. The youngest position on the team is TE with one sophomore and two freshmen. This won’t help the experience on the offensive line.The Tar Heel offense set 62 team records in 2015. You read that right, 62 team records were set on offense in 2015. Those included 570 points in a season, 40.7 points per game, 6,817 total yards, 486.9 yards per game, 73 touchdowns on the season, most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns and most passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season. That offense returns 7 starters. That is the definition of prolific. That is what the Bulldogs are preparing for while Bulldog Nation frets over whether Jacob Eason or Greyson Lambert starts the game at quarterback. Have I painted a scary enough picture of what our defense has to face this Saturday? The Bulldogs are capable, no doubt, but they will have a tremendous challenge in front of them.Where UNC was vulnerable in 2015 was on the defensive side of the ball. The defense returns 6 starters from last year’s unit, including standouts M.J. Stewart and Des Lawrence in the secondary. The secondary is the strength of the defense and will present both Eason and Lambert with confusing looks. Again, more reason for the Bulldogs to hammer the running game early and often. The linebacker group is very young but is athletic and looking to help the secondary match or improve on its 15th ranked pass defense. Cole Holcomb is a former walk on getting his first start on Saturday at the outside backer position. Cayson Collins is the only upper classman of the linebacker group with sophomore Andre Smith getting the start as the third backer. The pass defense only allowed 6.1 yards per pass attempt and had 17 interceptions. You do not attack them through the air.

The defensive line on the other hand, was a veritable sieve in 2015. They allowed an awful 5.13 yards per rush in 2015, bad enough for 109th in the country. Remember, there are 128 teams in that ranking. Nazair Jones and Mikey Bart are two returning linemen to the unit and they are looking to improve with the addition of youngster Jalen Dalton. This group will be attacked frequently by the Dawgs and rightfully so. If the offensive line for UGA gels early, it could be a long night on the ground for this unit. The prolific offense doesn’t help a unit like this without depth as well and UNC doesn’t have much.

Summary and Prediction

This is a lot to take in and we don’t have much time left to do it. If Georgia wants to come away with a W in week 1 of 2016, there seems to be a specific formula that plays out in the above analysis. Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball! This accomplishes several things. It keeps UNC’s high scoring offense off the field, it helps break in a freshman quarterback and it attacks UNC’s defensive weakness. On defense, the Bulldogs are going to have to play fast and be very active in the run pass option. You have to believe that Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker will have them as prepared as possible through the summer work. UNC players are on record as calling this the most important game of the year for them. They lost the season opener last year to another SEC opponent, USC(e). They just didn’t realize how embarrassing of a loss that would turn out to be. They will come in to Atlanta with a chip on their shoulder. They are in the little brother ACC conference, they haven’t fared well against SEC competition and they are on a big stage. The lights of national TV and the Georgia Dome are bright.

Even though UGA comes in with a higher national ranking, I would venture to say that the expectations are higher for UNC this year. They are coming off of an 11-3 season and a close conference title game. UGA has a new coach, new scheme and freshman QB. We want to win now but we also understand that there may be growing pains. With that being the case, I will give the pressure edge to UGA. The offensive edge leans to UNC and the defensive edge goes to UGA. There is also a lot of momentum in Athens with the new coach, great recruiting class and they are coming off a bowl win against Penn State in their last official football game. In UNC’s last game, they lost to Baylor in the bowl, while having their best offensive weapon suspended and giving up over 600 yards on the ground. So give the Dawgs the old MO advantage too. But, advantages are all pre game and we will find out just what we have when the kickoff is in the rear view. I can’t wait and I know you can’t either.

My prediction is Bulldogs 27-24. It will be close but I’m going with the red and black. What say you?


Living A Fantasy

It’s late August.  The temp will soon begin to cool. Not much in my neck of the woods but it will cool some so I look forward to it.  With the cooler weather comes other niceties such as the sky getting dark quicker, Halloween, Scary Movies, Thanksgiving and the ultimate holiday, Christmas.  But most importantly, this time of year brings peace to my soul in the form of a pigskin.  Weekends are jam packed with it.  It gets kicked off on Thursday Nights.  Then, Friday Night Lights fuel the flame and are followed by Saturday afternoons ‘Tween the Hedges.  Finally, Sunday and Monday Nights are reserved for the big boys.  Yes, football is back!  And that also means Fantasy Football is back!For those readers of the blog that aren’t familiar, Fantasy Football (FF) is an adults way of acting like a total adolescent for 4-5 months and it be totally understood.  You become a general manager for a football team drafted in your own keen assessments and football knowledge.  As general manager, you set lineups, drop under performing players, pick up diamonds in the rough, navigate waiver wires and block your friends from the happiness that they so desperately seek in their lives.  There are hundreds of ways to play the game but generally, a team consists of a QB, a couple of running backs, couple of wide receivers, a tight end (the subject of countless childish jokes on draft day) and a team defense.  Throw in some bench players and occasional defensive guys and you have your roster.  You take that roster and manage it each week of the season, while playing another GM’a team each weekend.  Whichever team performs the best collectively wins.  The record is tallied at the end of the season and you then go through the playoffs, crowning an ultimate champion.  There are many many variations but that is the quick and dirty tutorial I am going with.FF means that my management of J-Dub’s Ballers, across multiple leagues, becomes one of my top priorities behind family and work, or something like that.  You see, FF has been a part of my life for about 15 years and there are certain standards and demands that have to be met to maintain peak performance.  I have participated in such esteemed leagues as Ballerville (as commissioner), The Big Nut, Toejam, Coke Zero (as co-owner with DJ Shockley), and now more recent leagues such as Devy and Empire.  My newest league, The Dirty Dozen, drafts for its inaugural season this week.  Don’t let anybody tell you that this is easy.  Don’t let anybody tell you that this mistress isn’t worth the time.  Don’t let anybody tell you that she can’t be brutal either.  FF can help strangers become friends and make friends mortal enemies at the same time.  I have friends I would have never met without it.  And I have never tried to embarrass or humiliate anyone more than these friends.  I have my enemies in FF.  Perhaps one of my oldest is Electric Boogaloos.  Alex couldn’t be nicer and is a pleasure to chat with.  But the Boogaloos have put a dagger in my heart on more than one occasion, those bastards.  DeMeco Ryans and his 22 tackles single-handedly eliminated me from playoff contention in 2006, as I entered said playoffs as a #2 seed.  I went on to win a league high (tied with Byron Johnson) 3 championships in that league but I still cringe when I hear the name Demeco Ryans.  We had the pleasure of being in the same league for the better part of 10 years, meaning we squared off annually, sometimes twice a year.  Motivation was never an issue when we would meet.  Although that league came to a close this year, we are entering our 11th season together in a separate league this year.  And I can’t wait.Then there is the Brookwood Brawlers.  Saint is one of my oldest softball buddies and a legit good dude.  But his penchant for taking a dumpster fire of a draft and parlaying it into a championship defeat over the Ballers really steams my scallops.  It has happened twice in the last 4 years alone.  No matter how much I belittle him on draft day, that jack leg winds up in the championship.  Old Petey Guerra and The Iguanas are close behind.  Not so much for the recent history in Ballerville but for the shenanigans from The Big Nut in the mid 2000’s.  Old downward dog himself pulled some rabbits out of the hats in that league.  He’s got a Ballerville championship too but we have remained civil in that league.  My other complaints about his team revolve around draft day, which I will touch on more later.There have been others along the way, Shaq Straw from Wichita, Gotham Batvols, Memphis Mules and Ruudboys to name a few.  But at the top of the list of football rivals may be the closest friend of all, The Tecmo Superstars, Byron “Willie” Johnson.  First off, the nickname Willie.  This “friend” traded me Willis McGahee for Edgerrin James many years ago and it turned out to be one of the worst deals in history.  Thanks in no small part to McGahee’s bum legs.  I began to refer to Byron almost exclusively as Willis McGahee after that, which shortened to just Willis and now has stuck with Willie.  There have been trades since then that have evened out things but that bum deal in 2007 has always stuck in my soul.  It spawned a lifelong nickname for goodness sakes.  In Toejam, our most competitive league (16 teams), he amassed a career record of 85-39 with 21044 points scored. During that same span, I put together a 77-47 record with 20715 pts.  In 120+ career games we were seperated by 7 wins and about 300 total points.  I had 15 playoff wins and he had 14.  We both had 3 championships.  We faced each other 1 time in the championship and I took that matchup.  But even that year, he beat me in the championship in Ballerville.  Of the other major milestones tracked in Jam, he and I split all 5.It all starts with draft weekend, which we just celebrated.  We have a live draft for Ballerville at a rotating location where all owners get together from Chattanooga to Auburn to Americus to Albany.  Willie travels each year from the TN line to spend a weekend at my house, Hustle Headquarters, being wined and dined in an effort to ward off any future McGahee/James deals.  I believe in karma.  We usually spend the weekend playing golf, playing Tecmo Bowl, watching full seasons of “The League” and binge eating junk food.  It’s as close to returning to my childhood as it gets.  Draft weekend typically kicks off the first of multiple drafts over a week span.  We will not have Jam this year thanks to Benedict Shafer Arnold but there are plenty more to go around.  I’m currently in email draft on Empire, Machi League is Tuesday and Dirty Dozen is Wednesday.  That’s a lot of studying, projecting, reading and tweeting over a week.  Injuries need to be assessed, depth charts analyzed and free agent moves recounted.  Keepers are selected, rookie drafts completed and sleepers fawned over.  I told you this isn’t easy.The draft is the most important time of the year as it is when you build your team.  And even though that team will change over the course of the season, your core is decided at the draft.  The draft is also the most mentally consuming event of the season.  Even casual football fans know that Adrian Peterson is a fine running back.  And Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.  But how much does that casual fan know about the expected split of touches between Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris.  Who fills the void in Cincy while Tyler Eifert recovers from injury.  What are the Steelers going to do while LeVeon Bell is suspended?  Which rookies have looked good in camp?  Which veterans have lost a step.  Who will be the slot receiver in Indy?  A fan of a particular team can answer those questions about their own team.  But a fantasy owner has to know it all.  We have to be prepared for anything and everything.  Because believe me it will happen.  The season is not won on draft day but it can certainly be lost.  I can think of no other reason that I would need to know who the #4 receiver in Arizona is going to be.While the draft is a proverbial numbnut think tank where minds haven’t worked harder over the past 12 months of actual career employment and day to day living, it is also the home of classic aggravations and buffoonery.  Petey is the king of not knowing when his pick is.  Add to that his penchant for drafting guys that are already taken and getting lost in his color coded folder and you have the draft day nightmare stereotype.  Then you have the guys who moan everytime a player is taken, as if they were the next person on their board but just got beat to it.  Then there’s the guy that hasn’t kept up with offeason moves.  He usually drafts a player way too early that no longer has a starting position with their new team.  He also doesn’t know who’s retired or injured either.  There’s always the fellow that besmirches each pick made as if he is the oracle.  Magazine guy is never prepared for recent news that changes the information in his 2 month periodical.  Then there is over prepared guy with laptops, apps, stat sheets and tendency reports.  I think I have been each of these guys at some point in my career and I’m not proud of any of it.In the end, you have your make believe team and you begin to celebrate each time they perform well and loathe them every time they may do something to help their real team win, but not enough to get you that W. I’m looking at you LeSean McCoy.  It’s really quite strange when you break it down.  I will never own CJ Anderson again because of his 2015 season.  Alshon Jeffery gets hurt too much.  Khalil Mack is enemy number 1 thanks to 5 sacks that took me out of the playoffs last year.  It goes without saying that I’ll never be able to look Willis McGahee in the eye if I ever meet him.  It’s difficult to imagine that these human beings are going through their own personal ups and downs.    For us, they perform or they are out.  It’s a cruel world in fantasy.  But it’s big business these days and it makes me pay attention to so many details I would otherwise miss.  I can’t watch football the same without fantasy.  Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s bad.  It’s rather embarrassing to leap from the Thanksgiving dinner table to celebrate a Brandon Pettigrew 2nd quarter touchdown.  But I’d rather have some meaning to all my games rather than depending each week on my home team to provide the fireworks.  It’s the Falcons afterall.  The last piece of fantasy football, and probably the most important, is luck.  Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t.  But regardless of draft day dominance or week to week strategy, you’ve got to have some luck to finish the drill.  A referee call, a timely fumble, an otherwise unfortunate injury, a lapse in judgment from your opponent.  The hardest part about being a good fantasy player is appeasing the fantasy spirits.  So much of fantasy is trash talk and shaming, as evidenced by my current GroupMe chat in Devy League.  But, as a part of my belief in karma, I believe that can sometimes bite you in the ass.  I know it has me.  It’s the only explanation I have for some of the harsh ways I’ve lost certain games in the past.  So I’m constantly trying to balance the timing of a sweet zinger to a downtrodden owner with the need for apathy.  Like I said, don’t ever let someone tell you this is easy.  This is one of the only sectors of humanity where you have to be, and it’s acceptable, equal parts confidant, con man, poker player, shrewd negotiator, cool under pressure, trash talker and silent assassin.    The drafts are under way and the season is less than 2 weeks from opening.  I may be hard to reach over the next few months.  I may not make it to your wedding or kids birthday.  I may not answer the door when I see your car in the drive.  But none of it is personal.  I do care.  I just have a fantasy football team to run right now.  And it’s not easy.


Being Daddy

I am privileged.  I have something that not everyone has.  I acknowledge and appreciate that.  It doesn’t make me better than anyone and it’s not really all that rare.  But even though it’s not rare, I am “it” to only two people on this planet.  Just like anything in our lives, it has it’s ups and downs, it’s good and bad.  But the good so outweighs the bad, it’s no doubt one of the top two roles in my life.  It’s something I cherish and it’s something that can bring me to my knees at the same time.  And in a world where we work more than we play and we pay bills and buy groceries and have so much responsibility, it is the single most important thing I do everyday.  You probably know where I’m going just by reading the title but “it” is being a father.

To set the record straight right off the bat, I understand that a mother has her role as well.  Sometimes there is just mom and sometimes there is just dad.  To all of those people, you have my respect for doing it alone.  It’s not easy and I’m thankful and fortunate that I don’t have to do it alone.  I’ve also only been through 9 years of it so far but it’s been a whirlwind learning experience.

I like to think that I’ve always been good with kids.  I’ve had little cousins and kids of friends but being good with kids for a couple of hours is not the same as being a parent 24/7.  That’s a hard reality that hits you on night number 1.  And if you’re like me, that first night is one of the toughest nights of your life.  You’re already tired and wired at the same time because of the major event that has taken place.  Then you realize that your wife’s tank is totally empty.  I placed the crib on my side of the bed to try and let Alicia get as much rest as possible but to also be able to constantly check on Bailey as she slept.  When I say constantly, I mean every 5 minutes or so.  I didn’t sleep a wink that first night we were home.That’s when it starts to sink in.  There is a living, breathing tiny human being that is your responsibility now.  I mean total responsibility.  The pressure that came with that realization was heavy.  I would sit and watch Bailey sleep and just think of what I needed to do and change to be successful at this Daddy thing.  Nine years later, I’m laying beside her as I type this, just as I have done almost every night of her life, to help her go to sleep.  Unlike Georgia, who has mercifully been a good sleeper since birth, Bailey has always needed stuffed animals and coddling and any other thing that makes her comfortable.  I keep thinking any day that she’ll grow out of it but I don’t mind it so much because I think I need it sometimes too.Children get sick.  It’s what they do.  They run fevers, they have coughs and runny noses, they get strange rashes and bumps and bruises come out of nowhere.  That has been the toughest part of being a daddy so far.  I’m sure things shift when they start driving and dating and things like that.  But so far, my online PHD has been the source of many sleepless nights.  But much of that has to do with the protective responsibility you feel as a parent. You always want your kids to feel well and live an overall healthy life.  You do whatever you can to ensure that.  Sunscreens, bug spray, coats, hats, baby gates, grocery cart covers, reminding them 1,000 times to stay out of the road, you name it.  I am overboard at that.  We have talked about the hypochondriac in me before.  I have created so many nightmare scenarios in my mind over the last 9 years.  I put their everything on my shoulders.  

Each day has some fun twist that reminds me of how my responsibilities have changed.  What happens if I lose my job?  What if I can’t pay the bills?  What if I get in an accident with them in the truck?  What if I take my eye off of them in the grocery store for too long?  What if I leave something laying around the house that G puts in her mouth?  What if I don’t check on Bailey enough when she’s playing outside?  The common theme in that is me dropping the ball somehow.  I can’t screw up.  There’s a lot of pressure being a dad.

There are positives though, remember?  Bailey and I have always been close.  She’ll tell you immediately that she’s a daddy’s girl.  She likes watching scary movies with me.  She has developed my affinity for sports cards.  She rides the scary stuff at the amusement park that mommy won’t ride with me.  She loves Deftones and Thrice.  She drinks Diet Dr. Pepper.  She truly likes being with me, at least right now.  I know that will change one day and while I’ve really been thankful for her growing independence, I am not prepared for the day she may not need me.  I guess it means you’ve done your job when that day comes but it’s not much of a reward.

I’ve started getting that attention from G lately too.  She is still a mama’s girl but I keep reminding Alicia that it’s slowly changing.  There are certain things that she only wants daddy to do.  She wants me to put her in bed at night.  She likes “daddy’s truck”.  She likes sitting on the couch with me after work while I unwind.  She likes to climb and play games but it’s us together.  I think she likes our little one on one meals too.  We get those from time to time and she is usually very well behaved and content.  She really got a kick out of swimming last weekend at PCB.  She wanted me to play with her all weekend.  We jumped, she rode my back, I threw her in the air and she loved it all.  She kept saying “Pool Pool”.  It’s those memories that offset the sleepless nights wrought with worry.  

We have recently started going fishing as a family.  It started pretty hectic and tense.  Bailey wants everything her way.  Georgia is exploring the boat.  Alicia and Bailey fish in the trees a little too much.  But this past Saturday I had a moment where G was sitting by me drinking her juice and Bailey was celebrating taking off her own fish and putting her own cricket on the hook and again, it made it all worth it.  I want to give my girls every opportunity to enjoy the things that I enjoyed growing up.  My dad took me fishing and I thumbed through baseball cards and I watched scary movies.  I loved my childhood and have written about it many times.  I want them to love theirs one day.    I want them to remember me as the dad that got in the floor with them, that took them to some memorable places, that taught them to fish, that held their hand walking around a store, that introduced them to Gremlins and King of the Hill.  Most of all, I want them to know that they were taken care of.

There is so much crap that is at their fingertips these days, I want to just focus on the simple, fun memories.  They may never get to do everything that other kids do.  But they will never question my love for them or their mother.  They will not know what it’s like to wonder if daddy will show up for the school program or field day.  It breaks my heart to see grown men throw away such opportunities.  It breaks my heart more to see little girls (and boys) that don’t feel that love.  It’s not fair to them and I don’t want my girls to ever feel that.  I wish I could get others to see what I see when I look at my girls when they smile.  Sometimes it never clicks with a mom or dad.  I don’t understand how that can happen but I’ve seen it time and time again.  

Our kids are not burdens.  Can they be?  Sure, I want a quiet afternoon nap sometimes.  I want the TV all to myself.  I want to be able to decide what I want to eat and when sometimes.  But I made the decision that I was ready to have children.  Part of that decision was understanding that it wasn’t going to be about me anymore.  We have been over blessed with grandparents that help us out at a moments notice.  It’s wonderful for all of us.  Alicia and I get to spend time together and our kids get to know their grandparents like we knew ours.  I spent as much time as I could at my granddaddy’s and I miss him all the time.  I needed that relationship growing up.  So do Bug and G.  So I can understand that parents that don’t have much help can get overburdened and can feel that it’s just too much.  But that doesn’t change what they need from us.  They need us to guide them and to show them what love is.  Society is not going to teach them what love is or what sacrifice is or what dedication is.  That’s for us to do.  It’s what we signed up for.

I’m going to do my best to do that. It’s a lot of pressure.  Two little people are dependent on me (and Alicia) to understand the world around them.  The way they function in and contribute to our world rests on my shoulders for now.  Of course, they can go in whatever direction they choose but I will do everything in my power to give them a compass.  I admire and respect each and every one out there that does the same.  There are some awesome parents that I am friends with and that have helped me through some of the confusing or stressful times.  Then there are my parents and in-laws.  I don’t have any more answers than the next guy.  But I have the heart and I have a tremendous support group around me that helps me have the answers.  All of that has given me faith and confidence that I’m doing the right thing.  It’s made a daunting task a little easier to live with.  And then the little smiles gives me the strength to do it another day.


Who Am I?

As we age, we start to try and figure out some things. Some are important, meaning of life type things. Others are simple, like how to put on a toilet paper roll correctly, up and over of course. But what’s more difficult is trying to figure out things about ourselves. We usually have an idea of how other people see us based on how we see ourselves. Never mind the fact that we can be bias and are almost always wrong. We also usually have an idea of how we want to portray ourselves. Again, the person we portray is not always who we are. So, the question becomes, “who are we?” Or more specifically, “Who Am I?”

 It is one of the troubling questions you begin to ask yourself when you have reached mid life. And no, I’m not talking about a mid life crisis. I am talking about understanding what we have been, what we can become and what we might always be. Some of it is hard to accept so we don’t like those answers and keep looking. We think “that can’t possibly be one of my traits”, and we blindly look for a more suitable answer. On the other hand, we run across something that we are proud of and we embrace that trait and pat ourselves on the back. I think that’s ok though. If we are going to really be honest with ourselves, we are going to need some good to go with the bad. We really just need to hope there is enough to even it out. I am trying to be honest with myself, though difficult at times. So I am going to try and be honest with you as I try and answer the question with the information I currently have as I near 40.

 I Am An Introvert – Yeah, believe it or not, I am. I can open up with my closest friends and family and let my guard down. In that regard, I may not be a full blown introvert. It is not debilitating but it is very much there. When I play softball with a new team, I may not say 10 words the whole day of a tournament. When I go to a meeting with new co-workers, I find my seat and keep to myself unless someone comes up to me. I’d rather hang out at my house than go out and do something. I’d rather watch a football game in my recliner than at a sports bar or even in person, unless it’s a huge game. I haven’t always been this way either. I used to have to be the center of attention. I used to be the comedian of the group. Now, only certain people get to see that side of me, God help them!

 I Am A Hypochondriac – I know this one is a shocker for some of you. It’s bad though. I am pretty sure I have emotionally had every major disease you can have. It’s even worse with my kids. Brain Amoebas, Flesh Eating Virus, Meningitis, all of the really bad ones. I take some of the craziest leaps when it comes to health concerns. I totally understand that these are legitimate concerns to parents and no one wants to go through these things. I just don’t have a rational way of dealing with the thoughts about them. I can reach a point of incapacitation. I can’t think, I can’t function, I can only see one thing. I have improved some in this area but not much. I do have to stay away from the internet when it comes to medical questions though.

 I Am Kind Hearted – I usually don’t like the thought of anyone not liking me. Please don’t tell me that there really is someone out there that doesn’t. I try to go out of my way sometimes to make sure I haven’t hurt someone’s feelings. I am that guy that takes a dime back into the store because I got too much change. I am the guy that tries to remember every detail of conversations to pick up on things that you like so I can try to brighten your day in the future. I remember birthdays and anniversaries and other important dates. It makes me feel good when others feel good. I truly would rather give than receive. That is one that I am proud of.

 I Am Trustworthy – Of course, I have been dishonest or a letdown just like anyone else. I am no saint. But I believe in trust and honesty. I think that is one of the tenets of our society, which is not one of our strong points. In my honesty, I believe what everybody’s grandma use to say, that if you don’t have something nice to say, sometimes you should say nothing at all. I have put my foot in my mouth before but I have generally been able to hold my tongue when I had to. Being trustworthy and honest is one of the things that has advanced me in my career and I know that. It is why I have been married to the same lovely woman for 15 years. It’s given me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise been afforded.

 I Am Irreverent – I have a sick sense of humor. Nothing really offends me and nothing is out of bounds. It can sometimes get the best of me and it definitely battles with my kind hearted side. Think about the paradox of never being offended and always thinking I have offended someone. While there is no out of bounds, I sometimes forget where other’s boundaries are. I like hard core comedians. I don’t mind foul language. I can laugh at myself as much as laughing at something else. I think I have a great sense of humor. It’s just not for everyone. So next time I share that questionable meme on FaceBook, just roll your eyes and move along.

 I Am Jaded – This one is tough. I know that I am though. I have seen too much of certain things and not enough of others. I have seen both sides of the philanthropic figure head. I have seen both sides of the religious FaceBook poster. I have seen both sides of the wealthy and the poor. You know the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”? Yeah, that’s what I think about a lot of people. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong. Again, I am not perfect. But usually, I have to see some true colors before I am all in. Or either, I see your true colors and I am out and there is no bringing me back in. Like I said, it’s a tough one to live with but it’s deep rooted at this point.  

I Am Loyal – To go along with some of the comments of being jaded, on the flip side, if you show me that I can believe in you, I’ll be as loyal a friend as you’ll ever have.  I reserve my best for family and close friends.  If you’re in the circle, it’s a tight circle and I’ve got your back.  There aren’t many people that can fit in the circle so it does mean you are special to me.  I’m polite and kind to everyone I meet if they are the same to me.  But it’s “ride or die” for my closest.

I Am A Husband – I get a lot wrong at home.  I don’t do things exactly like Alicia wants them done.  Sometimes I’m mentally checked out from these other things that “I Am”.  But I know what my priorities are in life.  I enjoy playing sports and Alicia picks up my slack when I do but I’m home every night, our bills are paid, I pull my weight with house duties and I’m a one woman man.  She knows what she means to me and I try to remind her more often than I make her forget.  All of the positive things I am above, I try to be to her the most.  I have so much to improve on but I work on it all the time.

I Am A Father – Anybody who knows me well, knows what my girls mean to me.  My life changed forever in 2007.  It wasn’t about me anymore.  It took me a while to realize it but I get it now.  My life revolves around their well being, their safety, their happiness and their growth.  I’ve done a lot of things that I would’ve never done 10 years ago just to make them happy.  And they are stuck to me like glue so they must like me a little bit too.  I spend a lot of time worrying about them and life is harder and more pressure packed but that’s the trade off for the smiles, laughter and hugs.  Just like being a husband, I am a work in progress but I’m further along than I was when Bailey was born.

I guess I’m really a lot of other things too.  I’m a Bulldog, I’m a marginal athlete, I’m a hard worker (mentally), I’m a sports junkie, I’m a dreamer, I’m a half brained philosopher, and I’m a middling wordsmith.  I’m also selfish, I’m a procrastinator, I’m a junk food addict, I’m lazy and I’m uninspiring sometimes.  A lot of good and a lot of bad so I guess you have to decide whether I’m your cup of tea or not.  I’ll probably stop being some of these things at some point and start being other things eventually.  I’ll probably trade in the marginal athlete for the part time hammock sleeper or something along those lines.  Maybe the last thing I am is a realist.  So I am learning to embrace the good and bad and trying to accept what they both bring to my makeup.  I’d love to add millionaire and statuesque heart throb to the list but I am what I am.  I am.


Nostalgia – Perception vs Reality

Nostalgia can take many forms and can manifest itself on many different levels. Sometimes we experience nostalgia singularly. Sometimes we experience it on a group level. Sometimes it can be a fond memory of someone we once knew, events we lived through or places we visited. By definition, it is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically a period or place with happy personal associations. But, that is too simple. It’s more complex and can be something different to each of us. It can also be deceiving. We tend to block out the monotonous events involved in our nostalgic thinking. We forget the results and repercussions of some of the events. We turn a blind eye to the negative. If you really stop and process your history, it’s quite fascinating.

Rather than get into some deep philosophical ramblings, which would be easy on this topic, I think I’ll convey my point through a personal trip through some of my more vivid memories. It’s not meant to rain on the parade of nostalgia because anyone familiar with this blog understands that I look favorably on the past. We all think “our time” was the greatest. Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials. They all have upsides and downsides but you typically find more upsides with your generation than outsiders do. I was born in 1977 so I am Gen X. I grew up in the 80’s/early 90’s, which according to multiple TV shows on VH1 Classic, was the greatest time to be alive. Granted, there were some major positives from the time but I imagine the Baby Boomers think the same about their time. I think we can all agree that millennials are pretty weak when they try to compare their generation to ours. 

To simply list cultural references of the 80’s and 90’s would be too easy. It’s more about what the cultural references meant to us individually. While I was watching Transformers, another person may have been watching Jem. My He-Man was another man’s G-I Joe. But regardless, we are generally very protective of our childhood. This was most recently brought to the surface with the release of the Ghostbusters remake. There were people my age that simply refused to go see it because it could not possibly be as good as the original. No Bill Murray, No Dan Akroyd, No Sigourney Weaver? Worthless. Yet, a 19 year old can watch our Ghostbusters from the 80’s and think it’s the dumbest thing ever written. To wit, I say bologna!

 Which brings us to the first topic: 

• In general, are the remakes really worse than the originals? My answer has to be yes. I’ll take the original Halloween, Friday the 13th, RoboCop, Transformers, Ghostbusters and Texas Chainsaw Massacre any day. First and foremost, a remake just seems lazy. Sure, there are new special effects and the story can advance sometimes but your over arching script has already been written. Did the Dukes of Hazzard really need a redux? I believe that some of the most groundbreaking films came from the late 70’s through the end of the 80’s. Think about some of the prominent films from that time; Star Wars, ET, Aliens, Indiana Jones, Terminator, Caddyshack, Vacation. Those are some really good movies. Some of them hold up and some of them don’t but they were original films in their day and have been the basis for multiple spinoffs and copycats. Everything today seems like a spin off of one of the great 80’s movies. There are some great filmmakers today but a lot of them are also from the 80’s and are using some of those films as references. Think Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, John Singleton and Spike Jonze.

• Was 80’s music really good or just memorable? This one is tougher. Music has been around a lot longer than movies so each decade has had its own unique sound. I will submit that 70’s Disco was the worst until 2010’s Country/Pop/Rap came along. My personal favorite was 90’s alternative rock. This view is not shared by Alicia. I love Smashing Pumpkins, Sublime, Everclear, The Cranberries, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains…..really all of it. I can still listen to Lithium on XM and enjoy the music and sing along. So, I think 90’s alternative music was really good and is more than nostalgia. However, the music from the 80’s, while toe-tapping and classic in one sense, was not really that good. Unless of course you are talking Hair Metal or Rock.  Don’t get me wrong, I really love 80’s music but I can understand when someone says that 80’s music stinks. The synthesizers, the electric drums, the weird dancing, all bad. When it comes on, I will sing my heart out to Safety Dance but think about it – this was a group of guys with planter pots on their heads wearing matching outfits doing a very poor rendition of the robot. “I come from a land down under? Vegamite sandwich?” Not the best from a talent perspective. There are some absolute icons that were playing music in the 80’s but they continued to refine their sound and survived the 80’s. Again, I am a fan but a lot of it is bad. I think we all enjoy it because it takes us back to those days. Der Kommisar is an abysmal song but when I hear it, I think about the Pelham Skating Rink so it has very positive feelings associated with it. It is also when music videos were popular so we all saw something cool visually with it. So, in this case, the nostalgia places the true opinion of the music somewhere between perception and reality.  

 • How about some TV? This one sort of goes back to the movie section for my generation. Originality drives a lot of the popularity of these shows. Because once again, and just being brutally honest, the product is not good anymore. I have watched Full House and Saved By The Bell very recently and the jokes are just simple and poor. But America almost flipped her lid when Full House was announced as coming back less than a year ago. Today’s desire to watch the comeback was based purely on our nostalgic view. Back then, we just didn’t know any better. Everybody wanted to be Zack Morris and wanted to date Kelly Kapowski, or vice versa. In today’s world, Screech would be the popular hipster and Zack would be the mean pretty boy. One of the key issues with TV then and TV now is/was our expectations. When “Saved by the Bell” or “90210” or “A Different World” came on, they were dealing with hard hitting issues like drugs and alcohol and teen pregnancy. For the time, those were taboo issues. Now look at this comparison. In one episode of SBTB, Jessie struggled with speed pills because she wanted to stay awake and study and meet all of the demands of being a top student. That was a deep, dramatic episode. You should remember, “I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it” followed by the second worst fake cry in acting history (only second to her attempts in Showgirls). Now, one of the most popular shows of the last few years is about a science teacher who finds out he has cancer so he decides to start manufacturing meth and slowly becomes a drug lord that murders people that get in his way, young and old. All in order to raise money for his family when he’s gone. Can you imagine an episode of Full House where Danny Tanner decides to start slangin cane? I actually may have just come up with the perfect reunion show for Growing Pains. You get the point, the line has gone further and further. That’s what makes sitting down and watching Luke Perry bellyache about being good looking weak. But the 80’s and early 90’s had a feel that can’t really be found today, unless you try really hard. One of the best television shows of 2016 is Stranger Things, which is modeled after 80’s Stephen King and Steven Spielberg. But you know why it’s soooo good? It feels like an 80’s show AND has all of the grown up horror of today’s films. The perfect combination!

 This is going to get way bigger than I thought so I am going to go with some quick hitters now.

 • Baseball – We have now discovered that our baseball players from Gen X were all juicers but weren’t they more fun to watch? I loved the McGwire/Sosa home run chase. Jose Canseco was always entertaining. Roger Clemens was a fireballer. Doc Gooden and Daryl Strawberry were almost super human but turns out they were on amphetamines, at least according to Lenny Dykstra. Now, we may have stricter guidelines and they may be more kid friendly but it’s not as fun to watch. I enjoy looking at 80’s baseball cards, not because they are valuable, because they aren’t, but because it takes me back to when it was more fun to watch. I don’t necessarily condone cheating but if the percentage using was what they claim, was anybody really at a competitive advantage. Of course, a lot of this is tongue and cheek but the point remains it was more fun to watch!

Football – Again, it was a blast to watch because of some of the things that have changed since then that have cleaned up the game. No more celebrating after touchdowns, no more crushing hits without a penalty, a big reduction in trash talk. From a strictly entertainment perspective, it has become way more technical than “back in the day”. Now, you get beat with film study and statistical overload. Then, you got pushed around a football field and you ran someone over or you got ran over. Now, we can’t even agree on what a catch is. I still love football but it has become way too over officiated. Again, to be fair, I am not a big showboat fan but I did like when the players had some freedom to express themselves. If you didn’t like it, you were allowed not to like it. Now, that is all behind us.  But I can’t honestly say that the times were better.  The game has just changed and I miss some of the old stuff.

Basketball – This one is a hand’s down for me. I remain a huge NBA fan but you will never prove to me that the players from my generation aren’t better than they are now. The current players may be able to jump higher or may be stronger but there aren’t many people that play defense like Scottie Pippen, pass like Gary Payton or Magic, rebound like Barkley, defend the paint like Ewing and Olajuwan, talk trash like Reggie Miller or John Starks, destroy defenders like MJ or AI, or shoot with such cold blood as Larry Bird. There are some great players today that can do those things well but I’ll take my guys all day. There is nothing you can say so don’t try. Just move along.

Toys – I’ll try to close with this one. The toys of Gen X were awesome when we were young but they really hold just nostalgic value now as opposed to being something that can be replayed today. Transformers were cutting edge, GI Joe was supped up Army Men and Atari was our first shot at video games. You can’t bring those out today and expect to be mesmerized. Pong and Frogger would be quite annoying today. But would I like to play it? Hell Yeah! Super Mario and Duck Hunt brought us hours and hours of joy. Super Tecmo Bowl has received it’s own blog here. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out is a cult classic. BUT, you can only play those games for so long today and the nostalgia begins to wear off. I bought a box of 1989 Donruss for $10 a couple of weeks ago. It started out as the greatest thing ever because I took myself back to opening cards in my bedroom at my mom and dads house and remembered all of the players. About halfway through the box, I started wishing they inserted autographs and jersey cards. It lost it’s luster, until I pulled a Ken Griffey Jr. That card, currently valued at about $10 if in good condition, was the highlight, and the fun was over.

 That’s nostalgia sometimes. It can be a great idea in your head and seem really fun to begin with. But, then you start to compare it to how far technology or collectibles or our standard of living has advanced and it wears off. If I could figure out a way to bottle up that initial nostalgic feeling when I see an old movie or ride by the old Video Superstore or pull that Gary Sheffield Rated Rookie, I would be a millionaire. But that’s a part of it I guess. Nostalgia is almost a high for some people, me included. We can spend a lot of time chasing it and once we find it, it doesn’t last long enough and we are looking for it again. It’s really kind of cruel in that way. Your mind takes what were fun but rather normal experiences and gives them new life as you get older. You want to go back and get those experiences and relive them but it’s never as good as the first time around. Then, there is disappointment. But, the high is worth the low on this one. If Doc Brown would go ahead and invent that Delorian, I would have some dates picked out to go back to and experience things “the first time” again. Until then, I have my memories.


In Kirby, We Trust!

We are less than 25 days from the dawning of a new era in Athens, Ga.  I started going to Athens annually over 20 years ago.  For the last 15, Mark Richt has been the leader of the Red and Black.  He performed admirably and I will remain a supporter of the man because of what he did for us and what he stands for.  Any true Bulldog fan knows and appreciates his contributions.  His successor has huge shoes to fill.  It should be applauded that he brought us two SEC titles, won 145 games, was conference coach of the year twice and came painfully close on a couple of occasions to taking us to the national title.  Yet, there is the need for change.  There is the ultimate prize that has eluded the Bulldogs.  That change was inevitable and painful but the result has been met with resounding approval.  That change is Kirby Smart.

Kirby is no stranger to Athens.  I saw him play the first time I went to a game there.  He was a member of the Bulldogs as a defensive back from 1995-1998 and has coached twice for them, once as a grad assistant and once as a member of the 2005 SEC Champs.  He then went on to many successful years as a defensive coach and ultimately the defensive coordinator for Alabama.  The last two times he has come to Athens have been embarrassing for the home team so I’m glad he’s on our sideline now.  He’s also brought a renewed hope with him.  Things had gotten stale, so to speak.  The Dawgs seem to have been stuck with a 9-10 win cap over the last 10 years.  And while that is nothing to be ashamed of, we have watched Alabama, LSU, Florida and even Auburn win the big game during that span.  We have long thought we had enough talent.  Now, we find out.

2016 opens with a tough test against the defending ACC Coastal champs in The Georgia Dome in Atlanta.  Defensively, UNC will provide a challenge for the young offense that the Dawgs will suit up.  The Dawgs will return 3 starting  lineman (Brandon Kublanow, Isaiah Wynn and Greg Pyke), WR Terry Godwin, RBSony Michel and, potentially, Heisman candidate RB Nick Chubb in week 1.  Other than those players, there will be several new faces.  The anticipated game changer on offense is Jacob Eason.  The question remains if he will start game 1, but even so, it will be his first collegiate football game.  Two new linemen will be expected to make an impact early on as well.  One of those should be graduate transfer Tyler Catalina, who started 33 games with Rhode Island.  The other could be Ben Cleveland, Aulden Bynum or Pat Allen.  Or someone else, who knows yet.  

Back to Eason.  He is one of the most highly coveted recruits in recent Bulldog history and will have the entire weight of Bulldog Nation on his broad shoulders over the next 4 years.  He brings all the tools with his 6’5″, and now 245 pound, frame.  Matthew Stafford, with discipline, is the comparison.  I believe he starts week 1 if Nick Chubb is healthy.  He will have some weapons to throw to in Godwin, Isaiah McKenzie, Jeb Blazevich and freshmen WR Riley Ridley and TE Isaac Nauta.  The sky is the limit for this freshman but the games still have to be played.  He showed his arm off in the spring game throwing for almost 300 yards and a couple of scores.  While Grayson Lambert should be able to provide a steady hand at QB, he is not going to win any games by himself.  Eason has that capability.  

Nick Chubb is a Bulldog favorite and provided the running back stable with zero drop off after the loss of Todd Gurley, a feat almost impossible.  By all accounts, his physical health has returned.  There are still emotional hurdles to jump after a severe knee injury.  However, he has shown superhuman strength and resolve in his short time at UGA.  Not many 19 year olds skip spring break so they can work out every day.  Along with Chubb, Sony Michel is returning from an arm injury but provided the Dawgs with more than sufficient coverage during Chubb’s 2015 injury.  Brendan Douglas will once again be the bruiser when Chubb needs a break.  Freshmen Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien figure to see the field early as well.  Holyfield is an unbelievable specimen.  His father, Evander, taught him the benefits of dedication in the gym.  He is rumored to have won a push up competition during the summer, completing 100 push-ups in one minute.  I know, right?  But no matter what, when he’s healthy, this is Nick Chubb’s offense!

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs return several playmakers from an improving defensive unit.  While losing Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins and Jake Ganus from the linebacker corps is not ideal, there are some studs that have been waiting their turn.  Lorenzo Carter, Natrez Patrick and Davin Bellamy headline that group.  These three linebackers may be the most athletic trio in the country.  Whether or not it results in pressures, sacks and wins, remains to be seen but these guys are strong, fast and scary.  The most freakish of the group is Carter at 6’6, 242 LB’s.  He spent some time in the doghouse, no pun intended, last year but all accounts are that he is working his tail off this summer.  The linebackers should be very exciting and a continuous source of highlights.  Also in the mix will be Reggie Carter, Roquan Smith, Jaleel Laguins and Twitter Sensation, Ryne Rankins.

The defensive line is one of the biggest question marks heading into 2016.  Even with the return of the #1 recruit in the state of Georgia, Trenton Thompson, the unit is inexperienced.  Thompson is just a sophomore.  Retuning players John Atkins is dealing with a knee injury and Jonathon Ledbetter has been limited with the team following multiple off the field issues.  Freshmen Julian Rochester, Mikhail Carter and Tyler Clark expect to play early and often.  Rochester himself has a legal hurdle to jump before taking the field thanks to a BB gun incident but he should see the field soon.  If Atkins can recover from injury and the freshmen learn quickly, the unit has the athleticism and strength to make an impact.  The previously mentioned linebackers will be even better if the line can gel, fill gaps and create pressure.

The unit on the defensive side of the ball that returns the most experience is the secondary.  Safety Quincy Mauger has the most game experience of anyone on defense and is one of my favorite Dawgs.  I will miss him after this year.  Dominick Sanders is a very athletic safety that got his start playing corner.  The corners, Malkom Parrish and Juwaun Briscoe are both talented, hard hitting, in your face corners.  In addition, 5-Star Mecole Hardman joins the group.  He may prove to be too good to keep off the field.  Adding to the experience of the secondary will be Kirby Smart’s expertise from his tenure as DB coach and current DC Mel Tucker’s leadership.  The Junkyard Dawg defense made popular by Erk Russell may be making a resurgence.  It has been missing over the last several years.

The recruiting class was a big worry when the decision was made to move on from Richt.  Coaching fluctuations make hanging on to prize recruits very difficult.  To their credit, the two remaining coaches from last year, Kevin Sherrer and Tracy Rocker did a magnificent job working the trail and hanging on to the class during the change.  With Eason being the perceived (and real) prize as a QB, of equal importance, we were able to land Big Ben Cleveland, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta, Elijah Holyfield, Julian Rochester, Riley Ridley and several others to finish solidly in the top 10.  The momentum has continued as we are currently sitting on a top 3 class for 2017.  Championships are not won on signing day mind you, but having a top 5 class enhances the odds.  Several freshmen will be counted on as new coaches are installed across the board, with the exceptions of Sherrer and Rocker.  Jim Chaney takes over as OC with Sam Pittman joining as OL coach, Dell McGee as RB coach and James Coley as WR coach.  Mel Tucker takes over as DC (and DB’s) with Sherrer and Glenn Schumann coaching linebackers and Rocker coaching the D line.  A very underrated hire has been Shane Beamer, son of Frank Beamer, as special teams coach.  You read right Georgia fans, we have a special teams coach.

In my unprofessional opinion, we finish 10-3.  I’d love to see 11-2 but I just don’t know.  It’s year one for Kirby.  I think the 2-3 losses on the schedule are among Tennessee, Ole Miss and Florida.  Don’t mistake my prediction for my desire.  14-0 is the desire.  There is a lot of excitement in Bulldog Nation this August.  More so than ever before.  We welcome home a son that now becomes the father.  We welcome back a heisman candidate that rushed his way into our hearts.  We welcome a golden arm from the West Coast.  We welcome a son of a boxing legend who can out push-up all of us.  We welcome in the new era.  The Kirby Smart era.  I can’t wait to get it started!

As my man, Quincy Mauger, said to this nerd from Atlanta…..Goooooo Dawgs!  Sic ‘Em!!!!!!


Pet Peeves – Summer Roadtrip Edition

It’s time for another edition of Pet Peeves.  I’ve noticed that the curmudgeon in me really comes out on road trips.  I love a good road trip whether it be several days or just a short weekend.  I enjoy getting out and taking in what the south has to offer, from local foods to local hangouts to local card shops.  But the road trip puts me in direct contact with that which I still can’t quite figure out…..people.  Some mean well and some are just plain mean.  I’ve written about the nice side of vacations before so let’s take a walk on the annoying side of things.  As with before, there isn’t anything personal about these things that any of you should try to correlate to our relationship.  Rather, just observations of a fellow with a certain disdain for annoyances and general mainstream behaviors.  Enough of an intro, let’s dive right in.

  • Stick Families – Why not just start this whole thing off by offending half of America.  Stick family stickers on the back of cars stink.  Doesn’t matter if it’s stick people, little animals, zombies, baseball players, whatever.  I don’t know why this bothers me but it does.  On an elementary level I find it ironic that in a world where everyone is so protective of their privacy, they find it necessary to point out just how many people, and usually their age range, and even sometimes how many pets they have.  First, I don’t care.  Second, what is it really saying?  You’re a family man?  You can reproduce?  You found someone that would settle down with you?  What exactly?  Sorry, I just don’t get it.
  • “_____ Life” – So while we are on car stickers, lets touch on this gem.  Alicia even had one of these and they started out kind of catchy.  But now, they have totally spawned into their own little life form.  Salt Life, Nurse Life, Camo Life, Assault Life, Low Life, Boxer Life, Ruff Life, Softball Life, Mountain Life, Lake Life…..WE GET IT!  One of your hobbies or jobs consumes you.  And how many “Salt Life” people can there really be in Albany/Leesburg??  The nearest salt water is 2-3 hours away.  So unless you have a salt water pool at home, it ain’t your life.  And even then, it’s questionable.
  •  I-75 – Ok, so this one is easy. Doesn’t everyone hate this?  Sure, when it’s open and light in traffic, it’s awesome.  You can stretch out the ride, put the cruise control on and cover some ground.  But, those two things together are rare.  There is ALWAYS some portion between Albany and Atlanta or Albany and Ocala that is under construction.  And work zones breed accidents.  And accidents breed Looky Lou’s that slow the entire pace of the day.  Add in your usual pet peeves of slow drivers in fast lanes and lane changers in traffic jams and you’ve gut yourself a pet peeve trifecta.
  • Bathroom Breaks – Ok, I’m behind the eight ball a little on this one.  I’m in a family of all girls.  One of which, a nine year old, doesn’t realize she has to use the bathroom until she REALLY has to use it.  Like, “pull over now or get me a diaper” has to use it.  And, we also have the “I didn’t use it before we left because I didn’t have to” routine.  Times that by 3 and a 3 hour ride suddenly becomes a 5 hour journey.  Sometimes the bathroom breaks can turn into 20 minute stops where $30 worth of junk food and drinks are bought, which lead to more bathroom breaks.  It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Stop N Shop (Not the awesome Camilla C-Store from the 90’s) – My wife likes to shop.  She also likes to walk around entire stores picking things up only to put them all back at the end.  She’ll sometimes even buy the stuff and return it in the next town.  That might be extreme but I won’t say it’s never happened or never will.  Nothing can throw a man off track when he is dialed in on travel plans, destination times or meal plans like a TJ Maxx along the way.  It takes the wind right out of your sails.  Let me say that I Love My Wife.  She knows this is something we battle over.  I know it is a condition that she has.  We live with it.
  • Hotel Towels – I have yet to meet a hotel towel that could match those we have at home.  Could these things be any thinner?  And on top of that, all hotels are “going green” aka saving money and asking you to hang these bad boys up and reuse them.  That’s like asking me to reuse a napkin at a rib shack.  It ain’t happening.  You can see through most hotel towels.  It sometimes takes two for one shower.  And you want me to reuse these?  No thanks, it’s going on the floor.
  • Housekeeping Wake Ups – Ok, I’ll admit that this is sometimes my fault for not sticking the privacy sign out.  But sometimes, there isn’t one in the room.  Can’t they coordinate the check out system and housekeeping schedule to know whether I’m gone or not before they come a knockin?  On some rare occasions, they just come on in because their knock did not awake me from my peaceful slumber.  And even worse, they sometimes come around a second time, as if I’ve gotten up, showered and packed in the last 20 minutes.  The only good thing about them stopping by is having the opportunity to get another towel.
  • New AC’s in Hotels – I’m all for modernizing hotel rooms. I like the new pillows and comforters and flat screen TV’s.  But one of my favorite parts of an old school hotel room was the AC that you could set on high cool and it ran all night.  It didn’t know or care what temperature it was.  It didn’t kick off and on during the night.  No, it ran constantly and would freeze you out if you weren’t properly covered.  I can’t do that at home because I have to pay the bill so if I’m going to pay $125 to stay at your hotel for a night, let me get my money’s worth on the AC.
  • The Missing Luggage Cart – This is the worst at the beach.  There are like 3 of these for a 400 room condo facility?  And at the beach, 95% of visitors during the summer are leaving on Sunday morning.  That stat is my own based on personal experience and may not be valid but I’m going with it.  So, 3 carts for 380 units that are being vacated.  That’s one reason I’m in no hurry to get out early, despite the housekeepers insistence on waking me.
  • “Are We There Yet?” – This is a classic.  I didn’t know what that meant until I had kids of my own.  It has many variances.  When are we going to eat?  When are we going to stop?  How long before we get to swim?  What are we doing today?  When can we get a snack?  Believe me, it’s never when it’s convenient.  Again, there is something to be said for picking up travel momentum.  It’s not always fun driving 300 miles.  It’s way less fun when you play 20 questions.
  • Fast Food – This one is pretty simple but one we are still struggling with when Bailey goes with us.  I don’t drive 300 miles to eat at McDonalds.  I don’t even like driving 5 for it.  We have Wendy’s, Sonic, Burger King and Arby’s right where we live.  It’s going to taste the same in Orlando, Panama City and Atlanta.  I’m well fed, no doubt.  So when I travel, food is one of the highlights.  I don’t plan on eating somewhere I can drive in my pajama pants to on a Tuesday night.  You have your bathroom breaks, let me have my Mojo’s.
  • Most Kids at Amusement or Water Parks – I love taking my kids to these.  It’s total fun because Bailey rides everything with me.  She will jump off of the high jumps and fly off the rope swings with me.  We love it.  That’s why I said “most kids”.  I’m well versed in the amusement scene.  I’m very fortunate to have grown up going to Disney, Six Flags and Crystal Lake.  So, I want my girls to have those experiences.  But, most kids at these places are out of their minds.  I usually go on all the rides or jumps with Bailey.  But some kids get to go it alone.  And for some reason, these kids have never been taught proper line etiquette.  Just because you are 3’8″, that doesn’t mean you get in front of me and Bailey.  We paid just like your mom and dad did.  I’m not sure where they are right now but you don’t have fast pass so back it down.  If we can’t function in a civilized manner on the Scream Machine, how can we do so in our daily lives?
  • The Post Activity Grumps – This one is a biggie.  When you take a trip, you wake up energized and excited about the activities of the day.  Then, while enjoying the activities, you couldn’t be happier.  But as soon as the activity is over, you morph into a 90 year old living next to a night club.  Everything sets you off.  Air’s not cold enough, how long before we get back to the hotel, what are we doing tomorrow (because I’ve already moved on from the sacrifices you made for me today), can we stop at Wendy’s?  If you have a kid, you know exactly what I mean.  Nothing flips a switch in that personality like the gates closing at the Carnival of Fun.  And the grumpiness is contagious….
  • An Empty Bank Account – I am not a fan of this during any season but it’s relative right now.  At the end of a trip, I spend most of the 300 miles back calculating in my head where my life savings went.  I add and multiply and divide and try to come up with a rational reason I’ll be eating chef boyardee for the next week but it never adds up.  Perhaps if we ate at a couple more McDonald’s or Wendy’s on the trip?  Ehh, Nevermind.  I guess it’s worth it.
  • Things We Accumulate – Again, maybe this has something to do with the male/female ratio but our vehicle looks very much like what I imagine Chernobyl looking like.  There are clothes in the floorboard I don’t remember bringing.  There are some TJ Maxx bags. There are brochures and business cards from the places we visited.  Cans, candy, honey buns, chips, you name it.  We usually come home with close to double what we left with.  I do not know how!
  • Not Being Home – Finally, the biggest pet peeve is not being home when you want to be.  There is so much involved in that last day.  It’s over, we have to go back to work and school, we’re broke, we have a ton of laundry to do, we’re all tired and snappy.  What you really want on that last day is to just be home and drying off with your own towel and laying in your own bed.  The trip is usually great but when it’s over, you want to snap your finger and be home.  

None of these pet peeves outweigh the trip itself.  In fact, trips wouldn’t really be the same without most of these.  With all the good, you must take some bad and in the case of a road trip, it’s really about a 90/10 split so I’m really not complaining as much as I’m having a good time with it.  We are very fortunate to make some wonderful memories as a family.  Bailey is getting to do things that a lot of kids don’t get to do.  And me and Alicia are spending time with each other and them.  But the movie “Vacation” is a classic for a reason.  Besides being hilarious, it hits home with a lot of us that go on family trips.  It’s just part of the gig.  And the best thing to do is enjoy it when you get the chance.  Happy travels!