Chain Reactions of Inexperience at UGA
Han Vance on Georgia football: It started with Greyson Lambert.
The experienced graduate transfer player’s tenure bridged the time between the end of the Mark Richt era, in which Richt was the winningest coach (74%) in school history at the nation’s oldest public university, and the Kirby Smart era, in which Kirby Smart has repeated the feat by winning the most on-percentage of any coach in school history, breaking the record.
My Blawg did, too. I went from Richt to Kirby. I also wrote a book chronicling the Shakespearean ups-and-downs and near ultimate glories that led to further heartbreaks in the whole decade-and-a-half tenure of our previous coach, called Richt Era: 15 Years in Athens. It’s about football, and that’s what this blog is about, too. I’m off basketball and baseball.
After being the first to coin the trademarked and copyrighted phrase as spelled correctly – later stolen by the AJC, who was owned by wife’s employer at the time and provided my health insurance, I was swayed from actually suing them for theft of intellectual property. The Blawg was my invention, and I saved the name brand for half a year while I wrote then-Big Hairy Blog at MySpace. I was one of the most prominent sports writers on the fledgling social media forum, which led to launching BIG HAIRY BLAWG – a Georgia Tech grad helped me get a real website up and running.
www.bighairyblawg.com was recognized as the #2 fastest-growing blog on the largest blog host in the world shortly thereafter, and I was able to pontificate to the masses. Pretty. Football. Writing.
I liked being under contract for Bulldawg Illustrated the past two football seasons and found some new audience. And I may go back to that, because I’m sort of a restricted free agent now awaiting a new offer for a 90-day window where I won’t be doing any competitor magazine writing. Their mission statement to unify all Georgia fans is not mine, here.
I’d rather deal in sheer seeing and saying, searing heat and unbridled cheering, veritas. The word “fan” stems from fanatical and fanatic, after all.
I am immersed. Dozen years in in pen. Before then, I was all in.
BIG HAIRY BLAWG is unshackled!
Off the chain. Regardless of my upcoming magazine situation – and a few good options are out there – I definitely will be doing more football magazine writing. And, the Blawg is going to be ongoing. I won’t be holding back, at all here or pulling any punches. I also won’t be engaging in comments and debates with fans. These are my thoughts on Georgia football, unfiltered.
If you disagree with something that’s okay. Trust me I love Ol’ Georgia.
Example: I thought the media reaction to the latest Georgia choke was not negative enough. Another championship was straight up blown by Kirby’s regime. That was one of the worst five losses in school history, and the only one of such I clearly blame solely on the head coach. More later.
This is National Signing Day – a joyous day – and we all want to see how Kirby encore’s his #1 nationally-ranked recruiting class from last season, which just lost its top player. It is more important, in my mind, to get into the top 10, the top five, because of the subjectivity and the number of busts or guys that do not pan out at the school.
Example, again, young Justin Fields is 100% out. He was last year’s number one player, overall for UGA, and in the nation according to ESPN. Although, several other more one-note focused and some feel more recruiting-savvy sources had the tall Clemson robot ahead of him, the one who is starting, undefeated, in the CFP, unseated a CFP conference champion passer, who bolted to Mizzou. We will see you in Athens, Kelly Bryant.
Would have loved to see football genius Jake Fromm and the inexperienced Trevor Lawrence battle it out in the Orange Bowl in sunny Miami, where I like to dance and shop. Would have loved to see Fromm whip ND again, in CANINES vs CATHOLICS II (get your T-shirts on BHB for 2019 Athens!) in the Cotton Bowl Classic at Jerry’s World in the Metroplex of Greater Dallas-Ft. Worth, where I’m from. Would have loved to see Fromminator for Governor get another shot to outplay an overhyped and inexperienced Tua and an inexperienced as a pocket passer Jalen Hurts, again, as he has plainly bested both once yet has been unable to beat either, after substitution. That matchup could have been a repeat, rematch of the SEC championship, played in NorCal. I have written a book about the state and so dug the Rose Bowl.
BACK TO IT: Greyson Lambert had two years of eligibility left when he graduated Virginia and joined the SEC, as the passer with the best hair in school history. He made virtually no major mistakes other than taking sacks, and went 11-2 as a starter. Tops over first 13 starts at (modern) UGA (tied by Jake Fromm in ’18 season opener win over Austin Peay. Another game manager, John Lastinger started 11-1-1 over ’82-’83).
Richt had an inexperienced offensive coordinator I’ve called Schitty-hire, and as a head coach inexperienced in that situation post-Bobo, he did not take the reigns from the bad, bad hire and call the plays, again, himself.
That would have saved his job! Instead, for the biggest game of the year, with the SEC East on the line at Florida in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, Richt tried to pull a rabbit out of a hat – try something new. A new experience, he inserted inexperienced Faton Bauta as starter.
Faton Bauta was a running quarterback. Third string. Richt announced publicly (WHY?) he would start Faton (why?), giving the hated Gators time to prepare for any QB runs. There was not much room to run, but the game plan by an inexperienced and straight-up foolish offensive coordinator was to stubbornly stick with what he schemed for Greyson Lambert and second-stringer Brice Ramsey, anyway. I’d have started Lambert.
Four interceptions later, Richt was all but assured of finally being head coach at the University of Miami. But life was good for all, praise Jesus.
Kirby came home. He kept the inexperienced-under-pressure from exurban Washington high school play Jacob Eason in the fold on the old national signing day. Early enrollees were hot (new) thing, then. Today, the early signing period is National Signing Day. Not then.
Oh by the way, Bama has the #1 recruiting class this time. They dipped to #7 last year, inexperienced in doing it without recruiter Kirby Smart. And, we may see Fields on a field in the future not in the red-and-black. He’ll be back. These things can come back to bite-ya like a fake punt.
Flowing-locked Eason competed with Lambert for best hair right away after he entered school early. He wasn’t ready to start, though, when he started game two of the Kirby era, after Greyson Lambert, a game manager, managed his 11th win as a starter in an Atlanta opener in which a rehabbed knee Nick Chubb came back too early and still gashed UNC – the second-oldest public state school – for 222. Chubb did that on sheer will and was not nearly healthy until midseason. Kirby should have sat him, played Herrien and Holyfield, and Sony when he came back from an ATV accident.
Lean on what you know, bro. Defense, loaded after being led by Jeremy Pruitt, the same scheme was in place that each had used at mighty Bama. Kirby had no experience as head coach and handled it poorly, I feel.
Let’s look at those numbers. Again, Lambert was 11-2 as a starter, nearly best in long school history. Kirby went 8-5 his first year, dropping a perennial 10-game winner into an unacceptable by most mediocrity. They lost to Vandy, in Athens, on Homecoming, which says it all.
They were way too talented for five losses. A team with human missile Roquan, Chubb rounding into form, the most-underused but best offensive player on the team, Sony Michel. They had a dominant defense, a (benched) solid quarterback who never threw picks. Holyfield showed this year, he was good enough to get it done, with Sony. Sure, Sony missed some games. But, the early Georgia schedule was not challenging that year.
Inexperience showed in choices that UGA’s new offensive coordinator made, too. Chubb and Sony had to have an intervention, in Chaney’s office, where he was educated on what Running Back U does, always did. Not a terrible end to the year, after the well-spoken Sony saved the season. Trust me: he did most of the talking. Chubb probably just nodded along.
The best offensive players, besides tiny Joystick, before that, for Chaney, were all inexperienced and immature freshmen: wide receiver Riley Ridley who would later get in trouble and end up deep in the doghouse; party buddies with bad attitude and visible ego issues that drank too much and had wild hairdos and questionable-at-best fashion sense, Eason and his road dog, tight end Issac Nauta. Grow up, then play.
The next season, once the staff gained some experience and got sick of the childish B.S., none of them did crap. One was a blocker and the other two were down the depth chart.
Fromm had to play, but that’s not the story. I think Fromm would have easily beaten Eason out by mid-year. A force of will belying his experience level, all God and country and football, y’all. The man! A man’s man.
Defensive-minded to a fault still for a head coach, Kirby later had no experience with running quarterbacks or using two guys with such differing skill sets playing in a rotation.
He alone messed that up. Bye, Justin.
Inexperienced at game management and special teams, Kirby is easily the worst coach I have ever seen at using trick plays timely. He has done one well, ever. The Brice Ramsey fake field goal in the Memphis Liberty Bowl was well-timed and actually worked, because inexperienced in big moments and super hungry to contribute, Ramsey made one play.
Alumni Ed said, “The fake field goal [at LSU] was the beginning of the end of the whole season for us,” on explaining why he was skipping the sUGAr.
But, hey, it is NATIONAL SIGNING DAY! Kirby is the most-experienced recruiter in the whole country, folks. Could even finish #2, to Bama.
~ Han Vance went to UGA from 1990-1993 and 1996-1998