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College
OU fans — including one named Switzer — like the Sooners’ matchup against Georgia
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OU fans — including one named Switzer — like the Sooners’ matchup against Georgia

OU fans — including one named Switzer — like the Sooners’ matchup against Georgia

OU fans — including one named Switzer — like the Sooners’ matchup against Georgia

NORMAN, Okla. – You never know who you might see at Switzer Wine and Spirits here on West Lindsey Avenue. You might even run into the owner himself.

“I’m around all the time,” said Barry Switzer, whose name one might recognize for coaching the Oklahoma Sooners, or the Dallas Cowboys. “Everybody knows me here.”

You might bump into Barry Switzer anywhere around Norman, Okla. (Chip Towers/DawgNation)

Actually, most everybody everywhere knows who Switzer is, or at least those who have any knowledge or interest in sports. And he is around the OU program a lot, but not in a hands-on way, I’m told. He just remains a very interested fan who happens to live only a half-mile away from campus and, based on his past accomplishments at the school, tends to get unfettered access.

So, one is liable to run into him any time, like I did upon stepping into OU’s Memorial Stadium for the first time ever on Thursday. I was headed into the Red Room for a Rose Bowl news conference involving Oklahoma players. About 50 feet inside Gate 1, here comes Switzer in a blue plaid sports jacket,headed the other direction. He said he was simply trying to find another way around the practice fields.

“I usually just walk right across them, but the gate was locked today,” he said.

Shocked he didn’t have a key.

As for the small, nondescript package store bearing his name down the street, Switzer confirmed that it belonged to him.

“Yeah, I bought that a long time ago,” said Switzer, who coached the Sooners to three national championships between 1973 and ’88 and the Cowboys to a Super Bowl. “I bought it for reason. It’s the only commercial street corner in that area around the university. Everything else there is residential. I can do anything with that property. It’s two lots. I could build a convenience store, a neat little restaurant that would fit right there on campus. It’s right there around all the fraternities and sororities.”

Good money-maker, for sure. But does he ever actually go in?

“Well, yeah, if I want a bottle of pinot noir or something I do,” he said with a laugh.

Fitting for the son of a bootlegger.

The interest around here at the moment is not on the Sooners of Switzer, however. It’s on the Sooners of Lincoln Riley. He’s the first-year head coach and longtime offensive coordinator who was handed the keys to OU’s program after Bob Stoops suddenly stepped down this past summer.

You could say Riley has handled that ride quite well, seeing how OU won the Big 12 championship, is ranked No. 2 and is in the College Football Playoffs. The Sooners will meet No. 3 Georgia (12-1) in the Rose Bowl semifinal on New Year’s Day.

Amazingly, it’s the first time the two storied football programs have ever played. It will also be only the second time each school has played in the Rose Bowl. The Sooners played there in 2003 and defeated Washington State. The Bulldogs haven’t played there since Charley Trippi led them to a 9-0 win over UCLA on Jan. 1, 1943, to claim the national championship for the 1942 season.

Speaking with the Sooners’ players and coaches this week in Norman, there is no shortage of admiration and respect for Georgia, champions of the Southeastern Conference. To a man, everybody in the OU camp spoke glowingly of the Bulldogs and the challenge that will await them in the New Year’s Day matchup.

Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews led all tight ends this season with more than 900 yards receiving. (DawgNation/Chip Towers)

“Georgia’s a tremendous, tremendous football team,” said Riley, at 34 the youngest FBS head coach in the country. “Clearly when you get to this point everybody’s pretty good. They certainly are. … It ought to be a great challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it.”

Of the Bulldogs’ defense, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, winner of the Jim Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end, said: “They’re a fast, physical defense that going to fly around. Obviously, they’ve got some very good players on that side of the ball and they’re very well coached. We haven’t done too much game-planning in terms of schemes and what we’re going to do. But I’m sure we’ll get after it and get something good for them.”

Of the Bulldogs’ offense, senior defensive end Ogbonnia “Obo” Okoronkwo, one of four OU players named All-Americans this season, said: “Very physical. They’re going to try to out-will you and challenge you. The challenge is just not getting enough bodies on bodies in the run game. They seem to find a way to get an extra guy in there. They can pass the ball, too, so it’s a lot of things.”

OU’s fans aren’t quite as respectful.

Like Athens, Ga., Norman, Okla., is a small town built around the university. A little over 120,000 people live here, including a fall enrollment of 28,541 students. And all of them love their Sooners.

Friday featured fall semester graduation, and there was a big men’s basketball game scheduled for Saturday afternoon against Wichita State. So there were a lot of people milling around the city, particularly in the area known as Historic Campus Corner. There you can find several landmark food and beverage destinations like O’Connell’s Irish Pub on Asp Avenue and Othello’s Italian Restaurant on Buchanan, which Switzer liked to frequent before a fire earlier this year put it out of business until recently.

Oklahoma fans Sheppard McConnell (L) and Brendan Klein enjoy some football talk and a few cold ones Friday at Louie’s Grill & Bar in Historic Campus Corner. (Chip Towers/DawgNation)

There’s also Louie’s and Louie’s Too, sister grill-and-pubs sitting side-by-side on West Boyd right across from the famous Parrington Oval on North Campus. Bob Stoops is one of the owners of the joint, named after an uncle, and it’s a popular game-day hangout.

Inside, the confidence is running high for the Sooners.

“I think it’s a great matchup for us,” said Brendan Klein, an IT specialist and OU grad sitting at the bar in Louie’s Friday afternoon. “I think SEC teams have a hard time with spread offenses like we run. It will be interesting to see an offense of our caliber go against a respected SEC defense like Georgia has.”

Sheppard McConnell, Klein’s buddy, was in the OU marching band when the Sooners last traveled to the Rose Bowl in 2003. He, too, believes his team drew the easier of the semifinalists.

“They have a young quarterback, a freshman I think,” McConnell said of Georgia’s Jake Fromm. “I think we’re going to get after those running backs and make that kid throw the ball. Let’s see how he does 2,000 miles from home.”

That’s how Switzer sees it, too. Nobody appreciates a good run game more than he does. He stockpiled NFL-caliber backs like cordwood back when he had the Sooners running the triple option in the 1970s and ‘80s.

But Switzer has come to appreciate the way OU throws the ball around and scores points with Riley’s fast-moving spread offense and its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.

“Baker Mayfield is for real,” said Switzer, who’s 80 now but feeling “good as ever” and looking fit. “He’s a great player and a great competitor. Great arm, quick release, great velocity. His receivers are great speed guys, has a big tight end that’s a big target, scrambles well enough to be concerned about him. And we’ve got three or four backs, too.”

Switzer is a little less confident about the Sooners’ defense.

“Well, the Big 12 is different,” he said with a bit of a sigh. “You can score half a hundred on someone and still get your ass beat, as OSU can tell you. They score 52 on us and get beat. The worst coaching job in football is a defensive coordinator in the Big 12.”

Like a lot of other folks, Switzer is somewhat mystified that Oklahoma and Georgia have never played in football. He was sure they would run into each other back in the 1970s and ‘80s when both schools were heading to big bowls almost every year and he and his good friend Vince Dooley were winning conference championships.

Switzer said they never discussed playing in the regular season because the Sooners were playing Texas every year back then as a non-conference opponent, as well as Pitt and either UCLA or USC. But he wishes they could have.

“I know Vince well,” he said. “He and I retired the same year. We both left in ’88. I think a lot of Vince and Barbara. We’ve been to a lot of places through the years with the Nike family. They’re a wonderful couple and really have a lot of respect for them on and off the field.”

That said, Switzer has to call this one for his Sooners. He believes it is OU and not UGA that will advance to the national title tilt in Atlanta. The Bulldogs won’t be able to score with them, he predicts.

“Georgia’s defense is really good; I know that,” he said. “But a lot of those guys aren’t going to be able to play. They’re gonna have to put six and seven defensive backs and some hybrids out there. Their guys better be able to cover in space because Oklahoma’s going to spread ‘em out and get the ball out.”

If that proves true, Switzer might just have him some pinot. Word is he knows where to find some.

The post OU fans — including one named Switzer — like the Sooners’ matchup against Georgia appeared first on DawgNation.

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS — New Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean has finally pulled the trigger on naming a second assistant basketball coach. Joe Scott, most recently an assistant coach at Holy Cross, sports 16 seasons of head coaching experience at three Division I schools. He joins Chad Dollar on the Bulldogs’ staff. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said in a statement released by the school. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” Said Scott, also in a statement: “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family. The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott was tabbed one of the nation’s top-20 “Xs & Os” coaches in a survey of his peers by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman in 2013. He was head coach at Air Force for four seasons, Princeton for three campaigns and Denver for nine seasons. He also has served as an assistant coach at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross. All told, Scott sports 27 years of collegiate coaching experience. Before breaking into the head coaching ranks, Scott was an assistant coach at Monmouth during the 1991-92 season and at Princeton from 1992-2000. While at Princeton, Scott helped the Tigers to five consecutive postseason appearances, with trips to the 1996, 1997 and 1998 NCAA Tournaments and the 1999 and 2000 NITs. The Tigers won three Ivy League titles from 1996-98, including perfect 14-0 records in the final two seasons. Princeton upset defending national champion UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament and ranked as high as No. 7 nationally in 1998 en route to earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest ever for an Ivy League team. The post Georgia’s Tom Crean finally settles on a second assistant coach appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia basketball and Tom Crean have hired a second assisstant coach, this time in former Princeton head coach Joe Scott. The school released a statement on the hiring, with a statement from Crean. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” In addition to serving as the head coach at Air Force, Scott also has head coaching experience at Princeton and Denver. As an assistant Scott has worked at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross, where he spent the past two seasons. Scott is a Princeton alum. “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family,” Scott said. “The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott will join assistant Chad Dollar in helping Crean. Dollar’s hire was announced earlier in April. Crean replaced Mark Fox, who had been the coach at Georgia since the 2008-09 season. The post Georgia basketball announces hiring of assistant coach Joe Scott appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia held their final actual practice of the spring at the Woodruff Practice Complex on Thursday. Under clear skies and relatively cool temperatures, the Bulldogs were working out in shorts and helmets and were scheduled to for about two hours. The next time they get together and play as a team will be during G-Day Saturday at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m., ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Actually, it will as two teams. UGA on Thursday released its split rosters for the Red and Black squads for Saturday’s intrasquad game. This year, Georgia’s No. 1 offense, led by quarterback Jake Fromm, will be the Red team. The Black Squad will be led by the Bulldogs’ No. 1 defensive unit — and freshman quarterback Justin Fields, of course. Fromm’s Red squad will be protected by the first-string offensive line — which included both Solomon Kindley and Kendall Baker to play left guard. It will also feature juniors Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien at tailback and Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman at wideout and Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner at tight end. Fields’ No. 2 offensive unit will have walkons Prather Hudson and Ian Donald-McIntyre in the backfield and will feature a receiving corps of Ahkil Crumpton, J.J. Holloman, Kearis Jackson, Matt Landers and Tyler Simmons. Of course, the Black team will be hanging its hat on a defensive team led by Tyler Clark, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, Jonathan Ledbetter, Julian Rochester and Malik Herring and inside linebackers Juwan Taylor, Tae Crowder and Nate McBride. D’Andre Walker, Robert Beal and Walter Grant will man the outside linebacker positions. The secondary for the Black squad has Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee at the corners, William Poole at star and J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte III at the safeties. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs appeared to be going through normal drill work and play-polish in the early portions of practice on Thursday. Following are a few observations: Senior Terry Godwin was going through regular drill work with the receivers but appeared to be a bit gimpy in doing so. He had a reinforced brace on one knee and a regular sleeve on the other. Cornerback Mark Webb was not practicing after suffering a knee injury of undisclosed severity on Tuesday. Indications are it’s not a “major” injury. D’Andre Swift was going through bag drills with the running backs and did not exhibit noticeable limitations. He is dealing with a groin injury, according to coach Kirby Smart. Defensive tackle Michael Barnett (knee) was not at practice again, assuring that he’ll miss G-Day. Justin Young, who missed practices last week due to a minor knee sprain, has been able to practice and might be able to play. One area lacking depth that has not been much discussed is deep snapper for special teams. The Bulldogs technically have just one on the roster in redshirt freshman Oren Morgan of Toombs County. But senior fullback Nick Moore also snaps to the kickers. Former tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were watching Thursday’s practice from the sideline and having a good time commenting on what they say. Asked which tailback they expected to be the leading rusher for the G-Day Game on Saturday, they simultaneously said “Prather Hudson.” Hudson is a redshirt sophomore walkon from Columbus. Recently-matriculated receiver Javon Wims was also at practice watching his position group. All of them plan to attend on Saturday, with Chubb conducting an autograph-signing at the bookstore.   The post Practice report: Jake Fromm to lead Red against Justin Field’s Black squad on G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Don’t be surprised if you see players being shuffled around a lot and playing in somewhat unfamiliar positions Saturday, especially on defense. Spring practice is a highly experimental time as it is, but injuries have forced Georgia’s hand in some key areas on the football field. As a result, you’re likely to see some defensive ends playing tackle, some tackles playing nose guard and some safeties playing cornerback when the Bulldogs conduct their annual G-Day spring intrasquad game at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m. Saturday, ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Georgia has been hit with injuries along the defensive line and in the secondary this spring. Defensive end Justin Young and tackle Michael Barnett have been out for most of the spring with what coach Kirby Smart calls “minor” knee injuries. This Tuesday, cornerback Mark Webb suffered what’s characterized as a non-serious knee injury, but he won’t be available for game simulation on Saturday. He’ll be joined on the sideline by senior safety Jarvis Wilson, who has a sprained foot. As a result, Georgia will have to do some mixing and matching in order to keep a competitive 22 players on the field at all times. The Bulldogs have 111 players on their spring roster, but that includes six kicking specialists or holders and 36 walk-ons, including three quarterbacks not named Stetson Bennett. The point is, not all of those players are going to play and many won’t get significant amounts of time. Junior David Marshall, who played in 14 games at defensive end last season and started three, has been playing inside at tackle. Likewise, defensive tackle Julian Rochester has been cross-training at nose guard. Just a week ago, the Bulldogs moved redshirt sophomore Chris Barnes from offensive guard to the defensive line to shore up depth. “We’re just a little short,” said Marshall, who logged 52 tackles and 3 1/2 quarterback sacks last season. “But it’s next man up around here, so we’ve got to tough it out.” Smart hasn’t been thrilled with the end result. At different times this spring he has complained about the defense not being “stout enough” against the run. “We’ve certainly got to get better at defending [the run], especially against big, physical people like our offense,” Smart said. “But the way to do that is you’ve got to have big people to combat big people with, and we don’t have a lot of big guys. So, we’re looking to recruit. We’re trying to find 290-[pound]-plus guys that can help us become more stout. For us to play the way we want to play we’ve got to have physical guys in there.” In terms of interior defensive linemen that are on scholarship, Georgia has just eight. Freshman signees Jordan Davis and Tramel Walthour won’t join the team until this summer. Smart said he’d like to sign four in the Class of 2019. Georgia also is missing Deangelo Gibbs and is down to 10 scholarship players in the secondary for the scrimmage. By specialty, it breaks down to five corners and five safeties. As always, some from both groups work at the “star” or nickel back positions. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker also could pluck a linebacker to play in the back third. That has required proven veterans such as junior safety J.R. Reed and senior cornerback Deandre Baker to do a lot of on-field coaching when they’re facing off against Georgia’s high-octane offense. “It’s always good to see these young guys grow,” said Reed, who started all 15 games at strong safety last season. “My goal is to really mold these young guys and really get them up to almost be where I’m at and to get these guys that don’t know a lot to learn more.” While Georgia is expected to receive an infusion of talent when elite signees Tyson Campbell, Nadab Joseph and Otis Reese enroll in June, G-Day will be especially important for their predecessors. Sophomores Ameer Speed, Eric Stokes and William Poole and redshirt freshmen Tray Bishop and Latavious Brini have much to prove. “It’s their time,” Smart said, “and they have to step up or they’ll be replaced by the people coming in.” Low numbers overall are not unusual for spring games. After all, the majority of the incoming recruiting class hasn’t joined the team yet. In Georgia’s case, it has 17 more players on the way. In the meantime, the players that are present and accounted for aim to give the expected crowd of 78,000 a show of some sort. “We like to see all the fans come out and support us,” Marshall said. “We’re going to come out and show great effort hopefully we’ll see how the season will go this year.” The post Injuries have left Bulldogs a little light on defense heading into G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.