Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 77 Days to Go

77: Ray Goff (1973-1976) QB #10/
Matt Robinson (1973-1976) QB #17

This list is very arbitrary and was very difficult to compile. One of the difficulties faced was the tandem of Ray Goff and Matt Robinson at quarterback in the mid '70s. Should we include them as a tandem? Should we include them separately? If included as a tandem, where should we list them? Ray Goff was the 1976 SEC player of the year, for goodness sakes, on the 1976 SEC Championship Team that would go on to play eventual National Champion Pitt in the Sugar Bowl.

So, I'd like to think we settled on Goff and Robinson as a tandem at #77 because the Dawgs would've liked to have had either at quarterback in 1977.

Once the Dawgs installed the veer offense, Goff became an excellent running quarterback. In 1973, he was one of a handful of freshmen that moved up to the varsity - Goff as the third string quarterback.

In 1975, as the starting quarterback, Goff is famously known for the "shoestring" play against Vanderbilt. Georgia coaches noticed on film the Commodores' defense would always huddle next to the ball and hold hands. So they had Goff run a sweep to the right, outside of the hash marks, without anyone blocking for him. After the tackle, the official placed the ball on the right hash mark, and sure enough, that's where Vanderbilt huddled. Goff alone walked over and knelt next to the ball. Asked what he was doing by a Commodore, Goff said "nothing," and quickly shoveled the ball over to Gene Washington, who ran untouched to the end zone.

Later in the 1975 season, Matt Robinson, who entered the game on passing downs, was in another trick play involving Gene Washington against Florida. Known for Munson's famous call of Appleby-to-Washington, the play began with Robinson handing off to Richard Appleby on an end-around, a play that Georgia had run consistently. This time, however, Appleby stopped and threw it to Washington, who "thinking of Montreal and the Olympics, ran outta his shoes down the middle" for a 10-7 Georgia victory.

Ray Goff scores the go-ahead touchdown vs. Florida in 1976's "Fourth and Dumb" game.
Courtesy: Getty Images

The 1976 season would prove to be Goff's and Robinson's most successful as a tandem and for the Georgia team. Robinson had a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in a 21-0 win over Alabama that jump kicked the Dawgs' run to the top of the conference - and set off tremendous celebrations up and down Milledge Avenue, and all over Athens. The 1976 SEC Champions finished 10-1 with a lone loss to Ole Miss, but defeated Florida in the infamous "Fourth and Dumb" game.

Ranked 4th in the country heading into the Sugar Bowl, the Dawgs faced #1 Pitt and Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett. But Pitt had their way with Georgia, who felt they might've had an outside shot at the national championship with a Sugar Bowl victory over the top ranked team.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 78 Days to Go

78: Leonard Pope, Tight End #81 (2003-2005)

It has been very exciting to write this countdown and today, I have the privilege of not only writing about one of the finest Tight End's UGA has featured, but I get write about one of my hometown hero's and old friends, Leonard Pope. Leonard, like myself, was a graduate of Americus High School, where he led the AHS Panthers to consecutive AA State Championships in 2000 and 2001 playing TE and Free Safety. It made a lot of people very happy and proud to see Leonard commit to the University of Georgia, as our little Southwest Georgia town had not seen one of our own go to Athens to play Football in quite sometime. This pride only grew as Leonard's accomplishments grew, eventually becoming a Damn Good Dawg.

Leonard arrived at UGA in 2003 after spending one year at Hargrave Military Academy. He earned playing time as a Freshman, only catching one pass but was a physical mis-match with his 6' 8" frame and excellend speed. As the starting TE in 2004, his season started slowly and his breakout came in Jacksonville, catching David Greene's first two touchdown passes in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail party. Leonard didn't slow down after that, earning 1st Team All-SEC honors in both 2004 and 2005 by catching 64 passes for 1023 yards and 10 TD's over those two seasons. He bypassed his senior year of college, becoming a 3rd round draft choice of the Arizona Cardinals.

I've known Leonard since elementary school and it has been a pleasure to see him grow both on and off the field. It was always great to see him around campus at UGA and share stories with people at football games about his former exploits on both the basketball court and Finklea-Robinson Field from back home. His hard work and determination got him to UGA when many others would have quit, eventually becoming a major cog for the 2005 SEC Champions.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 79 Days to Go

79: John Bond, Punter/Halfback #26 (1933 - 1935)

“There has been none who stood higher in character and sacrifice of self for his team and college." Atlanta Journal's Edwin Camp ("Ole Timer") on Bond.

John Bond, from Toccoa, GA, was both a kicker and a halfback for the Dawgs under Coach Mehre. He served as co-captain for the team in 1935 (the other captain was John McKnight, also from Toccoa) and led a class that went 21-9 from 1933-1935. One of his notable games as a kicker was a game against NC State where John kicked nine times for an average of 44 yards. During a game against Yale in 1934, The Red and Black declared that “especially effective was the punting of Bond, who was placing his kicks out of bounds with a great deal of skill and efficiency.” During his career he punted 113 times, with a 40.4 average during his Georgia career. In the halfback position, he totaled 1,097 yards on 257 carries.

In addition to being active on the in athletics (he also ran track), he was very involved in campus in organizations such as Sphinx and Gridiron. After he graduated, he went on to medical school and served as a surgeon in World War II.

Bond was selected as an All-American in 1935, and he was inducted into Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

*Today's entry on the countdown was written by Streit's wife, Melissa.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 80 Days to Go

80: Meat Cleaver #61, Nose Guard (1978-1981)

A good nickname goes a long way. A great one makes you a household name. A great player to go along with a great nickname makes you legendary. That's Eddie "Meat Cleaver" Weaver. One of Georgia's best interior defensive linemen of all time. And one of the best nicknames in college football history, if not the best...evah...

If you run across a Georgia football game on ESPN Classic from the early '80s, ABC announcer, and former Arkansas head coach, Frank Broyles will reference Meat Cleaver Weaver to Keith Jackson within your first 2 minutes of watching, guaranteed. Try it next time.

And who wouldn't reference Meat Cleaver every chance possible? I know I would.

Meat Cleaver was the Dawg who welcomed the #1 player on this list to the Georgia practice fields by burying him the first two times he carried the ball. He didn't like the "prima donna attitude" when Herschel hesitated before signing with Georgia.

"I just wanted to let him know what it meant to be a Bulldog," said Meat Cleaver. Was Herschel picturing Meat Cleaver's face on Bill Bates that fateful night in Knoxville?

1981 Sugar Bowl - Eddie "Meat Cleaver" Weaver (#61) drops Notre Dame's QB on the first play of this clip

The Haines City, Fla. native is listed on the state of Florida's top 100 high school football players for the first 100 years of the Florida High School Football association. He went on to a career in the USFL for the LA Express and the Orlando Renegades, and was a perfect fit for the colorful spring time professional football league, saying once to a St. Petersburg Times writer that football was a game of "paybacks."

"You kill my dog, I'll kill your dog and your puppy too," said Meat Cleaver, who was on the all-USFL first team in 1983.

He was all-SEC on Georgia's 1980 National Championship team, and again on Georgia's 1981 SEC Championship team.

Legend has it by the time Meat Cleaver left Georgia, he could bench over 600 pounds.

His younger brother, the late Mike Weaver, followed Eddie to Georgia and was an offensive lineman during the early '80s. In "What It Means to be a Bulldog," Meat Cleaver reflects that Florida heavily recruited the younger Weaver, showing Mike film of Florida's offensive guards grading out at only 30-35% against Meat Cleaver. They needed Mike to block his older brother. The Weavers' mother wouldn't allow it, telling Mike he could either go to Georgia or to a school that didn't play Georgia.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 81 Days to Go

81: Andy Johnson, QB (1971-1973)

Andy Johnson, a Damn Good Dawg, is one of the true local legends of UGA Athletics. A 1970 Graduate of Athens High School, Andy excelled in both Baseball and Football and led the 1969 Trojans to the AAA GHSA Football Co-Championship against Valdosta High School. He wasted no time after sitting out his Freshman season due to NCAA eligibility rules, establishing himself as the starting QB in a run heavy offense by leading the 1971 Bulldogs to an 11-1 record. Johnson was the leading rusher on that squad with 870 yards and 13 touchdowns on 170 carries. Unfortunately, the 1972 and 1973 seasons did not equal the same success of 1971, but Andy Johnson was always on the Bulldog highlight film, finishing his career with 1,799 rushing yards/21 touchdowns and 1,603 passing yards that included 10 passing touchdowns.

I will always remember watching Andy Johnson run around the left side for a touchdown against Tennessee in the 1973 game while watching Munson's Greatest calls with my father in one of Larry Munson's first iconic calls. Andy was very well known for his great athleticism and toughness, endearing himself to the UGA fan base before enjoying a 9 year career as a running back for the New England Patriots. Johnson's football career ended in 1981 after suffering through knee injuries in 1977 and 1979. He still makes a home for himself and family in Athens, GA working in the Insurance Industry.

Mustain: The Once and Future Starting QB?

Even though conference expansion/implosion is the topic du jour, USC’s sanctions any other week of the year would be the main focus of media and college football blogs alike. As has been widely reported elsewhere, USC Trojan underclassmen are beginning to resemble rats on a sinking ship, looking to flee a crippling 2 year bowl postseason ban handed down by the NCAA. While UGA is in the running to land former AJC Super 11 Jarvis Jones and Florida/Alabama are purportedly committing recruiting infractions in pursuit of USC RB Dillon Baxter, we have yet to hear any rumblings on transfers from any of the upperclassmen of Troy.

NCAA bylaws directly allow players who would otherwise be barred from postseason bowls for the rest of their collegiate career to transfer without sitting out a year. One particular Trojan who squarely falls in this group and is well-known by SEC fans happens to be Mitch Mustain, formerly of Springdale, Arkansas and the one-time Razorback starting quarterback.

Coming out of high school, Mustain was named the 2005 Parade All-American Player of the Year, 2005-06 Gatorade National Player of the Year and the 2005 USA Today National Player of the Year.After following his high school coach, Gus Malzahn, to Arkansas, he transferred to USC after being benched mid-season (with an 8-0 record) and followed out of Fayetteville high school teammate Damian Williams and Malzahn in pursuit of a more pass-oriented offense.

Mustain is currently buried on the USC depth chart, having made only 16 passing attempts in his 2 seasons as backup QB, is stuck behind returning sophomore Matt Barkley and could also potentially fall behind the newest incoming prep QB All-American, Jesse Scroggins. Mustain might mentally be planning on following USC alum Matt Cassel‘s roadmap from perennial benchwarmer to NFL starting QB, but that road is haphazard and much less attractive without Pete Carroll donning the headset in the Coliseum this fall.

While Mustain’s official position thus far in the sanctions upheaval is that he has no plans to leave, there are several teams who desperately could use a QB. For obvious reasons (see Nutt, Houston), Ole Miss has to immediately be dismissed as a candidate, as well as any Pac 1X members, given the inter-conference transfer restriction rules, sanctions or not.

UNC, Tennessee and a darkhorse Auburn are among several viable destinations should Mustain decide on pursuing a transfer for his final year of eligibility. UNC is projected in the top 25 in multiple preseason magazines but is held back mainly by their offense (Phil Steele even predicts that QB TJ Yates, a 3 year starter, could lose his starting roll to a redshirt freshman); up in Knoxville, beyond the joy that UT fans would get from the coup of stealing a player from the Kiffster, the cupboards are relatively bare, with recent JUCO transfer Matt Sims the only serious candidate for playing time at QB behind a patchwork O-Line. Auburn could be attractive for Mustain, given the familiarity of HS Coach Gus Malzahn’s offense, and Mustain could be only one stolen laptop away from serious playing time.

While USC is currently appealing the sanctions, it may be a bit of an uphill battle to get the sanctions overturned. It is possible that USC upperclassmen being in play to transfer this year could be a moot point, as the waters are still murky as to whether the NCAA will allow a USC upperclassman to transfer out during the ongoing appeals process. A comparable sanction/appeal timeline should approximate Alabama’s recent appeals process, which ran roughly 9 months. I would imagine that the NCAA would ultimately come down on the side of the student-athlete in this instance, allowing players to transfer during any ongoing appeals, given the institutional actions that led to this transfer window opening in the first place.

While the conference musical chair game will continue to garner the most press attention, expect to see a slow trickle of transfers and decommitments throughout the summer, as USC prepares to lose 10 scholarships a year for 3 years. Hopefully UGA will be able to bring Jarvis Jones back home to Georgia, as well as plucking a few extra recruits away from USC’s top 5 2011 recruiting class.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 82 Days to Go

82: Dan Edwards, End #55 (1945 – 1947)

During an era where running was still the dominant form of offense in college football, Dan Edwards became a force catching passes. Edwards played in one of the most loaded backfields in Georgia history for a team that would go undefeated in 1946. The backfield included Charley Trippi and John Rauch as well as Herb St.John on the line. The Dawgs would complete a perfect season with a 20-10 victory over North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl. Edwards made the play of the game, catching a 66 yard touchdown pass from Charley Trippi that gave the Dawgs the lead in third quarter.

Edwards senior season in 1947 was not as successful as the 1946 campaign (Georgia finished 7-4-1) but Edwards put up one of Georgia’s best receiving seasons in the first half of the 20th Century. As team captain, Edwards caught 44 passes for 565 yards and 4 touchdowns. He capped off his amazing career with a 67-yard touchdown catch in the 1947 Gator Bowl. This play still holds the record for the longest passing play in a bowl game for Georgia. He was named to the All-SEC and All-American teams following the season.

Dan Edwards was drafted ninth overall in the first round of the 1948 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He would play professionally for the next seven seasons in the NFL and the AAFC and was named first team All-Pro in 1950.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 83 Days to Go

83: Mike Castronis, Offensive Line #39 (1943 – 1945)

Mike Castronis grew up in Florida and wanted to play football for the Gators in Gainesville. But as fate would have it, Mike was deemed too small to play football at Florida and wound up playing football in Athens for Wally Butts. Despite his small size, Castronis earned a reputation of playing with heart and became a three year-starter for Georgia on the offensive line.
Mike was named to the First Team All-SEC in 1943 and 1944, but 1945 would be his finest year at Georgia. He became the first player in Georgia history to earn All-SEC honors for three consecutive seasons. Following the season in which Georgia went 9-2 (including a victory in the Oil Bowl), Castronis was named to the All-American team.

After his playing career ended, Mike Castronis continued to have a profound impact on The University of Georgia football program. He served as a graduate assistant during the 1946 season and then became a high school football coach. He returned to Georgia in 1961, where he served as line coach and later as the Freshman and JV coach under Vince Dooley. The University now presents an award honoring Castronis. The Mike Castonis Award is given “for the man who never, never gave up the fight.” Recent recipients include David Jacobs, David Pollack, and Will Thompson. He was inducted into the UGA Circle of Honor in 2003.
For more on Coach Mike, check out this story:

The Countdown 2010: 84 Days to Go

84: Tommy Thurson #60 (1980-83)

Consistency best describes linebacker Tommy Thurson's career at Georgia as he ended it as the Bulldogs' second all-time leading tackler with 448 total career tackles. Leading the team in tackles in 1981 and 1982, the Jacksonville native was a 3-year starter for Georgia during the greatest run in its football history.

The 1979 Jacksonville Journal High School Player of the Year played part of his collegiate career with a ruptured disc in his back but made first-team all-SEC in 1982 and 1983, helping the 1982 defense hold opponents to 12.1 points per game.

Thurson had 18 tackles in the 1982 defeat of Georgia Tech, while his fellow linebacker Knox Culpepper had 25, combining for 43 total tackles in the game.

Thurson's career stats include his 448 tackles plus 9 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 15 pass breakups and 5 forced fumbles.

Today, Thurson lives in Statesboro and works as a district supervisor for coastal area convenience stores in southwest Georgia.