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Not Another Offseason Monday: It’s All About Survival

Sure, Kirby might scream at you to weave the fishing net tighter. But it’s only because he wants all of y’all to eat.

It’s Monday, and you just survived another weekend with no college football in sight. Congratulations on your fortitude and wily knack for survival.

Obviously if this were college football season we’d be both recapping the prior weekend’s action and looking forward to the week ahead in this spot. Sadly, you’re a solid 26 weeks away from actual college football.

In the absence of gridiron competition I thought it would be worthwhile for us to flex our mental muscles in another way. Hence I’m pleased to bring you this, the first installment of Not Another Offseason Monday.

Each Monday (okay, most Mondays) I’ll be proposing a mental challenge/ problem/ scenario, perhaps college sports related, perhaps not. You’ll respond using a blend of smarts and cunning. It should be fun, and if it isn’t we’ll give you your Dawg Sports subscription money back. How can you beat that?

Our first question is a classic from Free Form Friday several years ago: If you had to be marooned on a desert island with an SEC football coach, who would you choose?

Each has their pros and cons, their skills and potential shortcomings. Nick Saban is small, and probably wouldn’t need as much food as say Will Muschamp. He’s also fiendishly organized, which could come in handy. He’s also a risk to “process” you in your sleep if he feels you aren’t pulling your weight.

Ed Orgeron should keep you well-supplied with protein as “surviving off meat stuffs killed with your bare hands” is the unofficial state sport of Louisiana. He also might kill one of you in an over-enthusiastic cliff-diving accident.

Derek Mason has spent most of his career at Vandy subsisting off disappointment and scant resources. But his penchant for wearing vests in even tropical climes seems like a risky survival practice.

And Jeremy Pruitt, absent some SPF 50 washing up on the shore, is probably going to be too sunburned to be of much help for the first few weeks.

So choose your companion wisely in ththe comments below, and...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!!

Hoop Hounds to host #19 LSU

One day the University of Georgia men’s basketball team will win another conference basketball game. If that days to be today, it will require a truly special effort. That’s because Georgia plays host this evening to one of the SEC’s hottest teams, the #19 ranked LSU Tigers.

The Bayou Bengals, fresh off a road win at #5 Kentucky, are averaging almost 83 points per game, under among the league’s highest percentage shooting squads. With four players averaging in double digits including sixth man Javontae Smart, the Tigers are precisely the type of team Georgia has struggled with this season. Actually, pretty much every team is the kind of team Georgia has struggled with this season, now that I think about it.

Nic Claxton remains a rare bright spot for the dogs, and currently is one of only for Division I players who lead his team in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, and assists.

Personally, I am hoping that travel and emotional letdown from their recent big victories will make the Tigers come out a little flat. If LSU is on its claim this one should not be very close. But they play the games for a reason, right?

Tipoff is at 6:00 Athens time, with television coverage on the SEC Network. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!

Natrez Patrick looks to translate college growth into NFL success

Natrez Patrick is energetic. Which makes sense. He’s got a lot to prove to NFL scouts and executives, and he knows it. Getting prepared to prove his doubters wrong is, from the sound of it, a full-time job.

I caught up with the former Bulldog linebacker recently as he got in from another day of pre-Combine workouts. “I got up there about 9:00 today, we had a little position work, then into combine training, then into the weight room. So it’s a pretty long day.”

He works with a position coach on linebacker-specific drills two to three times a week, which should tell you something about the rigor of preparing for the NFL Draft. Natrez Patrick is not a novice to the linebacker position. He came out of Mays High School as a four star prospect in the 2014 class, one of the more gifted pass rushers in a class deep with them. The 6’3, 242 pounder played in all 14 games for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2018, starting 8 of them. He rang up 44 tackles along the way. In the process he proved himself to teammates, demonstrated that he could be relied upon.

It wasn’t always like that. There was a time when it looked like Natrez Patrick’s college football career would be over before it could really get started. He was suspended twice for drug-related issues during his time in Athens, and at one point following a third marijuana-related incident (a traffic stop for which all charges were later dropped), he spent time in inpatient rehab to get a handle on his addiction. Natrez Patrick entered his senior season knowing he only had one more chance. It was the only one he needed.

“I’ve done a lot of growing up” he confides. I’ve had my ups and downs, and I felt like the biggest thing I gained at UGA was becoming a man. Growing up. That’s definitely helped me in this process.”

The result of Patrick’s maturation was that solid senior season, a campaign that saw him emerge as a steady force in the middle of the Red and Black defense. But despite putting up solid numbers in the SEC Patrick knows what he has to prove to hear his name called in April. “I’m just trying to become more explosive, to show that i can really run, have a good 40, come out of my breaks.”

“I’m one of the bigger linebackers in today’s game. I know that the game is changing” he concedes, “but I bring an element of physicality at the point of attack in terms of getting off blocks. But I can play in space. I feel like I can bring a different dimension at a different size.” Natrez came out of the season in the 242 pound range, but says as part of his effort to showcase his quickness he plans to run at the NFL Combine and hopes to do so at “no higher than 235 [pounds]”. He’s solidly on track to reach that objective, currently tipping the scales at 237 pounds.

“I’m making strides” he laughs. “A lot of it quite frankly is passing the ‘eye test’. You hear from coaches and GMs and guys in the league that they do want you to look a certain way.”

Patrick’s spoken with former teammates like Roquan Smith, Sony Michel, and Lorenzo Carter about their experience with the 2018 NFL draft and the timing of being in optimal shape for the draft. But he’s also talked to veteran NFL Bulldogs like Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd about what it takes to make it in the NFL. “Those guys went through this process, and they’re always willing to listen to you, to hear you out, to give you good advice on what to do and what not to do.”

The Combine, Pro Day, team interviews, all are part of a months long sales pitch to potential future employers, and Natrez Patrick like all good salesmen can boil his pitch down to a single sentence: “With me they’re getting leadership, someone who’s not afraid to confront physical adversity, and who’s willing to do anything to better the team.”

What advice does Natrez have for those freshmen currently working through their first few days of mat drills, dreaming about one day moving on to the pros? Well, it’s actually pretty good advice for everyone, even non-elite athletes.

“Stay hydrated” he chuckles. “My first couple of workouts were tough. It’s so different, the intensity level, from high school where you were the big man on campus and everything comes easy to you. When you get to the college level you find that everyone here is just as intense as you, just as good as you. It raises the intensity level of those workouts, the competition.”

“Usually the freshmen competing with those seniors don’t have the off-field aspect of it yet. I’ve got to hydrate and recover. I remember [last year] guys like Quay Walker and Channing Tindall just locking up. You got to hydrate before you go through those workouts.”

Speaking of those younger Bulldogs, Patrick has some ideas about who will help replace he, Juwan Taylor, D’Andre Walker, and Keyon Richardson, all seniors who take with them a lot of playing time. Asked to name a Bulldog linebacker he expects to take a step forward in 2019, Patrick names one who started to make waves in the latter part of the 2018 season.

“Tae Crowder” he says without hesitation. “He really turned it on this year. I feel like now he’s really hungry and he knows what he’s capable of, but he hasn’t reached his ceiling.”

“But also some of the younger guys. Nate McBride, Jaden Hunter, some guys who really have been contributing on special teams. Coach [Glenn Schumann] likes to have that four man rotation . . . and I feel like those are a couple of guys with their work ethic, and how much better they want to be, you’ll probably see way more of them this year.”

There’s no doubt in my mind Natrez Patrick has matured into a man who can handle all aspects of NFL football. When you talk to those around the Georgia football program you get that sense as well. He’s got the physical gifts that are the table stakes to make it into an NFL training camp. But during his time in Athens, and especially in the last year, you get the sense that Patrick has honed the work habits and the discipline that are essential to staying in the league. Until later . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Can Hoop Hounds Regroup Against Struggling Aggies?

The Georgia Bulldogs (10-13, 1-9 SEC) return to the court this evening following the most eventful week in recent program memory.

On Saturday Georgia dropped a lethargic 80-64 decision at home to Ole Miss that prompted Tom Crean to extemporate perhaps a bit too much on his players’ effort. Crean walked back and clarified his comments on his weekly call with writers, which may have helped smooth things (along with a reported hour long Sunday team meeting).

Crean also earned himself some brownie points by landing perhaps the nation’s top hoops recruit for the class of 2019, shooting guard Anthony Edwards out of Atlanta. While it won’t help him tonight in College Station, that pickup certainly made fans forget for at least a little while about his team’s continued struggles on the court.

Speaking of teams struggling, the Aggies have not had a great run in conference play themselves. The Aggies (9-13, 2-8 SEC) pulled out a win at Missouri over the weekend to claim their first conference victory in their last seven outings. Yay momentum!

The Aggies haven’t won back-to-back games since December, much like the Bulldogs. That’s not where the Texas A&M faithful hoped to be under eighth year head coach Billy Kennedy. So to say this is a matchup of teams hungry for a win would be an understatement.

I expect Coach Crean’s squad will come out with some added enthusiasm for this one, the question is whether it will be enough to deliver the W. We’ve reached the point at which it’s pretty clear the postseason is going to be a spectator sport for the ‘Dawgs. But it would be nice to get some wins down the stretch to build a little momentum for 2019-2020.

You can watch tonight’s game on the SEC Network with tip-off at 7:00 pm Athens time. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Georgia men seek elusive second conference win against Ole Miss

Hello again, friends. As Larry would have said, get the picture:

It’s been a rough few weeks for Georgia basketball. The ‘Dawgs now stand at 10-12 overall, and an abysmal 1-8 in SEC play. We’re not going anywhere for postseason play other than the Barnett Shoals Burger King (I hear they’ve got new monkey bars). Coach Crean sounds bewildered in his postgame remarks, and frankly I don’t blame him. While help may be on the way, we’re missing both the building blocks and the skilled labor to put our house in order.

There’s nothing to do at this point but get a little better every time out. There’s a corner up there somewhere, and we’re gonna turn that son-of-a-gun if it kills us. Today brings a showdown at the Stege with Ole Miss (15-7, 5-4 SEC). The Rebels are coming off a come-from-behind 75-71 win over Texas A&M which helped them snap a four game losing streak. The Rebs were led by Breein Tyree’s 22 points. At 18 points per game Tyree is Ole Miss’s leading scorer.

Ole Miss has struggled to shoot the ball consistently this season, which sounds right up our alley. But when the Rebels have gotten hot (as they did earlier this year in back-to-back wins over top 15 Auburn and Mississippi State squads) they’re as good as just about anyone.

Tipoff is at 1:00 p.m. Athens time on SEC Network. Until later . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

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