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Coach Willis
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The Marks Vs The Pauls

The Marks vs. The Pauls

Here's the deal, University of Georgia's football coach & basketball coach are bothnamed Mark, and Georgia Tech's football coach & basketball coach are both named Paul. You follow?

Anyway, today, we're gonna compare all of them and then you have to decide. Mark & Mark vs. Paul & Paul. They come as a set and cannot be split up. There's a poll set up to see who wins, because what's the point of pitting Georgia Tech & the University of Georgia against each other if somebody doesn't win.

The Marks

Richt

Following a little more than a decades worth of disappointment at the hands of Ray Goff & Jim Donnan, Mark Richt came to Athens having coached two Heisman winners & been part of two National Championships. Quite the resume for a young coach. Vince Dooley and Michael Adams loved him, and soon the Georgia faithful would as well. Richt quickly made a name in Athens by beating the hated Volunteers in Knoxville on a play that can now be referred to as either a “Hobnail Boot,” or its original name, the “P-44 Haynes.” When a play has two nicknames, that mean's you’ve done something in Athens.

In his second season, Richt brought the SEC Title back to Athens with a crushing of Arkansas at the Georgia Dome in 2002, the programs first since 1982. He followed this with a 26-13 victory over his previous employer Florida State in the Sugar Bowl to end the season 13-1 and ranked 3rd in both polls. His stock blew up like Kelly Clarkson at a buffet.

In 2003 Richt's team again played for the SEC title, but lost to LSU 34-13. The team still finished 11-3, including a win over Purdue in the Capital One Bowl and another Top 10 finish. The Dawgs entered 2004 ranked #4 in the country. That season, Georgia posted a 10-2 record, including its first win over Florida since 1997.

The next year was a first for Richt, his first without David Greene (who had become college's most winningest quarterback ever, surpassing Peyton Manning). But Bulldawg Nation was excited nonetheless, because D.J. Shockley was set to come in and not skip a beat. Consecutive losses to Florida & Auburn ruined a dream season. The Dawgs wound up beating LSU for the SEC Championship, but were overcome by the play of Steve Slayton & Pat White in the Sugar Bowl.

Following a rebuilding year in 2006, Matthew Stafford & Knowshown Moreno led Georgia to an 11-2 season in 2007 and a #2 final ranking in the AP Poll. Catapulting UGA to a #1 ranking to start the 2008 season.

The 2008 season began with pictures of UGA stars Moreno & Stafford everywhere. Both were projected to go high in the draft and Dawg fans were licking their lips for that elusive National Championship, worst case scenario, the East was theirs. As the saying goes, that's why they play the games. 2008 was the biggest disappointment since the series finale of Growing Pains.

2009 began the mutterings of firing Richt. After the disappointing 2008 season, Georgia fans expected Joe Cox to live up to expectations (mostly proffered by Richt & Bobo) and that they could just reload at running back, at worst they'd finish at the low end of the Top 25. Obviously, this didn't happen.

The Dawgs finished 8-5, but ended the season over in-state rival Tech, a team ranked in the top 10. The defensive struggles over the season cost Willie Martinez, UGA's DC & Richt's friend, his job.  The win over Tech was followed by an impressive bowl victory over Texas A&M, especially considering the D was coached by a Recruiter and two Graduate Assistants.

If not for a late loss to Kentucky, Georgia goes 9-4 and ends the season on a five game winning streak. Just enough to keep Georgia fans—and talks of regime change– at bay.

However, the downright embarrassing losses to Florida have also really begun to tear away at the fans' loyalty to Richt. Losing to one of your biggest rivals a combined 90-27(which is, oddly enough, Richt's total record at UGA) in two years will do that. Seriously though, that stats a little spooky.

Enter: Todd Grantham & his 3-4 defense. Grantham plans to confuse defenses with a seemingly endless variety of blitzes & fakes; Georgia fans are just glad his name's not Willie Martinez Jr. and hoping he's somehow distantly related Brian Van Gorder.

The folks in Athens aren't exactly too excited about the performance of Mike Bobo, but Richt made his choice and fired Martinez. If the offensive play calling doesn't improve this season, Bobo's the last log Richt can throw on the fire before he's next.

Despite speculation that Murray is the understood starter, I believe it's a legitimate battle between he & Mettenberger. Murray will have a slight lead throughout and win in the end, but it will be a good battle and Mettenberger may transfer at the end of the season (unless he wants to coach more than play one day).

Kiffin ruffled up the order of things in the SEC East last year, and his leaving may have saved Richt's job by keeping UGA in the upper level of the second tier of their division .(Florida being the lone, and distant, first tier team).

Richt needs to show fans that his success didn't depend completely on the Davids (Greene & Pollack) and Van Gorder by putting on a show this year. That means winning the games you're supposed to win & upsetting a few people along the way, especially if they are rivals.

Fox

For the first time since taking over for Vince Dooley, AD Damon Evans had to make a significant coaching hire. After firing Dennis Felton, Evans went far out to left field & hired Mark Fox from Nevada. Dawg fans everywhere were complacent? It didn't make anyone happy nor anyone mad, so everyone just kinda took it in stride. A few months into the job & Georgia basketball now merits some attention.

The team started off its non-conference schedule about average, then again the Dawgs have a tendency to start off the season against some soft competition (a complete juxtaposition to the football team). Then came conference play, the part that eluded Felton.

Who hires a coach from Nevada for anything? Seriously, why did Damon Evans even think Reno when looking for a basketball coach? I’d go there for water and a good Christian woman before I went there for a basketball coach. Go to Tobacco Alley & find an assistant before you go to the desert for a head coach.

Due to the obvious lack of ability of the Georgia basketball program to win anything lately, the recruits who agreed to attend UGA were sub-par. Fox has taken these sub-par performers and turned then into a competitive basketball team. His Georgia team played #3 Kentucky to the wire (at Rupp Arena no less) and has since beaten #8 Tennessee at home.

Not only has the team shown some life in the win column, but they've been putting UGA basketball on the national map. Travis Leslie had a dunk in both the Kentucky & Tennessee game that made ESPN's Top 10 plays. Not to mention the play of Trey Thompkins & Dustin Ware.

Fox has coached this team into some close games against some very good teams. What he needs to do now is turn those close games into some more victories before this season is out.

Dawg fans kinda see it as dating a hunchback with a nice body and a pretty face, you just gotta get over that hump. If he can do that, it's time to turn those wins into better recruits, then, wash, rinse, repeat. Of course, if it was that simple, there wouldn't be several groups trying to get rid of Hewitt right now.

Sure there's a buzz & excitement around Stegeman right now, but what has he really done? He's played some great teams close & won big home games against Tech & Tennessee. But, that and $100 will get you a seat in the upper levels at the first round of the tournament.

He almost beat some good teams? A few weeks ago my idiot uncle almost got his DeLorean up to 88 mphs. He didn't, hence he’s not now known as the inventor of the Pet Rock and the Pet Shoe just isn’t catching on.

Point being, close is close is CLOSE. And close means you did not achieve. He had three good years at Nevada, his first three years. All this excitement may be for naught in a conference as tough as the SEC, especially in the Eastern Division (where Kentucky, Tennessee, & Florida all have an advantage). Then again, winning at Georgia is definitely possible (just ask Tubby Smith & Jim Harrick) then again, losing is just as easy, if not easier (i.e. Ron Jirsa & Dennis Felton). Fox just has to maximize off of his early successes, and sooner than rather than later.

The Pauls

Johnson

Paul Johnson wasted no time making his mark in Atlanta. And his mark left a mark on Mark (get it?). Following a disappointing 7-6 season under former head coach Chan Gailey, Tech fans had plenty to be excited about when Johnson left the Navy to come to Atlanta. His triple option offense had served him well in Statesboro & Annapolis, and it was safely assumed the same success would follow him to Atlanta.

He got off to a fiery start his first year by going 9-4 with an impressive victory to end the season over UGA in Athens, in essence completely ruining an already disappointing season for the Dawgs while firing up the Tech fan base for 2009. The season included a 6-1 record at home, and a 4-2 record against ranked teams (three of those in November). Not to mention a share of the Coastal Division Title (though not enough to get them into the ACC Title game).  Aside from a beating from LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, it was obvious “Paul Ball” was catching on on Peachtree Street.

Of course, expectations were high for 2009. The Jackets entered the season as the AP's Preseason #15. The Ramblin' Wreck eventually climbed as high as number seven in the AP poll. If not for a loss in the third game to a very hot Miami team, Tech enters the game against the Dawgs undefeated and ranked in the top five, definitely within shouting distance of the National Title game.

But, that's not what happened. Tech lost to Washaun Ealey & Caleb King before taking care of Clemson in Tampa for their first ACC Championship in the divisional era and their first appearance in a BCS bowl game. However, they lost to the Hawkeyes 24-14, but still closed out the season ranking in the top 15. In his only two seasons at Georgia Tech, Johnson has won two ACC Coach of the Year honors and has since added Al Groh as defensive coordinator to shore up a very suspect D.

On the other hand, how does the #7 team in the nation lose to an unranked opponent at home? How do you let two running backs control an entire game like that? Georgia only threw the ball 14 times and gained a total of 339 yards on the ground. On the plus side, Johnson wasted little time getting rid of Dave Wommack to fix the problem (unlike his counterpart in Athens who held onto “Big Willie Style” like it was “Parents Just Don't Understand”). So obviously, he's here to do what it takes.

The main question hanging around Tech right now, as it is with every other team running such a unique style of offense, is when will DCs figure out this triple option. It's almost inevitable, scheme offenses come-and-go, but the great ones learn to adapt. He’s got a few more years before the rest of the ACC gets the recruits in place to stop the triple option.

That leaves the question of will he be able to adapt when other teams adapt their defensive scheme to their offense. And no one can accurately predict that. But we’ve also got to keep in mind that what he’s been doing, he’s been doing with Chan Gailey’s recruits. This thing could completely blow out of the water once his kids come to town.

His players & assistant follow him without looking up to ask why. Apparently you just follow this guy, he says you're gonna win & then he makes it happen. At least, that's the impression I get from players & coaches.

Finally, does the relative weakness of the ACC this year take anything away from the year Tech had? Was winning the ACC this year like being the hottest cheerleader at Duke? A loss at Miami, a loss to your biggest rival (even though it was at home), & a loss to the Big Ten Champion are all quality losses, but those last two really hurt & you never want to end a season on a losing streak. You need wins at the end of the year to get the recruits (especially against your in-state rival) & it gives you something to build off of the next year.

The recruiting class is sub-par at this point, but just ask Charlie Weis how far recruiting gets you. For now, Yellow Jacket fans just need to hope the coaching staff can overcome ending the season on a 1-2 run, if they can do that, Tech football's got a lot of good coming its way.

Hewitt

Hewitt came to Tech(via Siena) in 2000, following the 20 year career of Bobby Cremins. His first year as head coach, Hewitt led Tech to the NCAA Tournament with a 17-13 record (8-8 conference), but couldn't get out of the first round. Tech opted out of the tournament the next two years, going 15-16 one year & 16-15 the next before making some noise in 2004s March Madness.

Will Bynum's late layup sealed the game against Oklahoma State & put them in the title game against UConn (a game they lost 82-73). The next season, the team went 20-12 (8-8) and got kicked out the second round of the tournament.

Two appearances in a row in the Dance had Tech fans hopeful, and for good reason. After that, Hewitt's Jackets seemed more like the teams of his first two seasons than between 2003-2005. His record over the next four years was 57-63 (23-43), compared to 96-66 (37-43) over the previous 5 years. As of this writing, Hewitt has the Jackets at 14-5 (3-3) and ranked 22nd in the polls. Not bad for a team that went 11-17 last year and only won two conference games.

Hewitt has had his ups & downs, but one thing that stands out as the most embarrassing Atlanta Sports statistic at the moment (now that the Falcons have back to back winning seasons) is the fact that the Wreck hasn't won in Athens since the first year of the Carter administration. Since Ole Goober, the Dawgs have fielded some horrible, easily beatable teams, but Tech still hasn't done been able to topple the Dawgs in Athens. Statistics like this lead to websites such as FirePaulHewitt.wordpress.com.

And Paul Hewitt hasn't helped. His record against Georgia is respectable thanks to victories at home, but seriously, Georgia has been beyond lousy since Harrick left and he can't beat the Dawgs at home. I know it's a rivalry, but come on man.

Hewitt's teams have been good at best, never finishing higher than third in the conference. However, he did get his guys to man up in 2003-2004, and man up they did. Still, how much good publicity can you get out of one great run. For Dennis Felton it was half a season. Right now Hewitt's on year five of good will. George Bush will tell you you can only spend as much “political capital” as you've gained before everybody turns on you.

With that said, it's past time for Hewitt to build up a little more credibility. With the Dawgs program creeping up under Fox, and the record over the last few years, Hewitt had better perform this season before the recruits he's been getting from the area leave for greener pastures in Athens. A winning record in the ACC this year means he gets to at least finish out his contract, but if things keep getting better in Athens while getting worse in Atlanta, he better keep his resume updated.

_________________________________________________________________________

Now go here & cast your vote: http://atlantasportssoup.com/marksvpauls/

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Linebackers practice with Coach Willis Aug. 6.

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What do you see in the 2008 49ers?

Question:

I see an offense shackled last year by the worst OC in the history of the game. But I also see Mike Martz and a lot of confidence coming out of the coaches.

And I see an agile new DE to take pressure off Willis. That means bad things for opposing teams.

Still cautiously optimistic. I'm thinking 8-8 maybe (gasp) 9-7.

What do you see?


Answer:

Looking at their schedule, I'd say you shouldn't be too optimistic. 6 of their games are against playoff teams from last season... all of which are poised to do it again! These are BOTH Super Bowl teams (Pats-Home / Giants-Away), NFC-West Champs Seahawks (Home and Away) of course. Finally the Redskins (Home) and Cowboys (Away). The NFC East teams drafted well and expect to be competitive next year.

On the flip side you have what should be gimmies in the Miami, St. Louis, NY Jets, Detroit and Arizona (twice). So being 50/50 with upsets going either way, I can see the 9-ers going 6-6-0 with these 12 games. The others are also a coin toss.

It's hard to say exactly in today's NFL. But going 8-8-0 will surprise me. I do believe the 9-ers will lose steam towards the end of the season. I think they can build on what they did last year (5-11-0). If I had to predict right now, I'd call the 9-ers a 6 to 7 win team this year (optimistically speaking of course). However, I won't be surprised if they go 4-11-1 this year. (the 4 wins come from Miami, both Rams games, 1-0-1 against the Cards)

Ultimately, I think the NFC West and South will be the divisions picked on this year... again, where there's no hope for their #2's to get a wild card spot and contend. The NFC East is the toughest NFC division right now. All teams ended with .500+ records, 3 of the 4 teams went to the playoffs and the Super Bowl champs are in this division... and the 9-ers play them all. I honestly belive that the 9-ers will lose all 4 of these games.

In short... NO HOPE this year. I do like the 9-ers as a franchise and I think there's hope for the future with what they're doing now. Maybe in 2 or 3 more season they'll start to be real contenders and no hope for wild card spots, but rather be picking on the other 3 teams in their division.

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