Enjoy a summer’s worth of reading with our Season Preview Issue, highlighting the continuance of Georgia’s dynamic momentum
It’s great to be behind the computer again because, with this Season Preview issue of Bulldawg Illustrated, only the summer separates the Bulldog Nation from seeing their beloved team play an opponent again. However, the last few months in Athens have been filled with plenty of excitement with spring practice/G-Day in the books, the hiring of Tom Crean as the men’s basketball coach and some awesome playing on the diamond by Georgia’s baseball and softball teams (good luck in the postseason).
For this issue, I always like to key in on Kirby Smart’s opening presser of spring drills. While the Georgia headman keeps things close to the vest, he is forthright in laying out the expectations he seeks from his team during the vital off-season practices.
As you could glean from our cover headline, Kirby’s main message this spring was that “change is inevitable, but growth is optional.” Simply put, while 2017 was an epic season including playing for the National Championship, it means nothing towards the 2018 campaign.
Not surprisingly, when BI’s Murray Poole covered spring practice, he found that the Georgia players were definitely heeding the message of their coach. On page 13, Murray zeroes in on the running and defensive back units because those are the spots where the motto “next man up” has to occur in order for the 2018 season to progress in a similar manner to 2017.
Also, in our sports pages, I encourage you to enjoy Murray’s other story about the progress of Kirby’s ultimate goal of superior depth in the trenches (page 16). Offensive line coach, Sam Pittman certainly has his unit well on the way to being one of the best in the nation. However, on the defensive front things are a little tenuous, so Georgia fans must exercise patience. But rest assured, Kirby and Co. are never sitting around waiting on the next signing class, which was displayed by the arrival of defensive lineman, Jay Hayes, a Notre Dame graduate transfer.
By now, most folks probably know about Kirby’s new lucrative contract, but his offseason moves like an NFL general manager are exactly what you want from your highly compensated coach. It’s pretty simple, if you see some holes, go fill them and Kirby has definitely proven his ability to do so.
There are tons of other sports nuggets in this issue (including Jeff Dantzler’s position by position and game by game previews in the back), so I encourage you to take in every one of them.
On the social front in this issue, beginning on page 27, you’ll find a photo of new basketball coach Tom Crean addressing the packed G-Day crowd. Crean’s enthusiasm is absolutely contagious and he’s spent his first few months in Athens promoting his program through gorilla marketing.
While his skills in promotion are certainly fun to see, he has the resume to back his prowess on the court too. In a media session in April, I loved his answer to my question about how to teach better ball handling. Toughness was at the forefront and then he explained how his Georgia players are going through drills where they are being roughed up by dummies (similar to what you see on the gridiron). Good stuff!
Sticking to our core beliefs of being different at Bulldawg Illustrated, we decided to see if Crean’s wife, Joani, was up to answering a few questions. Despite being in the middle of searching for a home in Athens, she jumped on a phone call with Cheri and made our tight deadline (page 34). You’ll definitely enjoy her answers and love seeing the Crean’s love of basketball and nurturing student-athletes. Also, Joani’s brothers know a thing or two about coaching (and football) … John and Jim Harbaugh. We certainly welcome the Creans to Georgia and look forward to helping them rally even more interest in the men’s basketball program.
Our social section is also loaded with many more excellent features, including a new one called “What’s Cooking” on page 40. Enjoy getting to know Athens residents and UGA alums Natalie and Drew French, whose Your Pie Franchising continues to blossom throughout the country.
Of course, we have a great selection of picture pages in the social section including our own Jeff Dantzler’s engagement party (pages 50, 52). JD will tie the knot in July to Emily Edwards and they certainly had an all-star line up join them to celebrate their upcoming nuptials. Also, check out the photos from NFL first-rounders, Roquan Smith, Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn headlining a cool event at Athens BMW (page 36) and a gathering of the founders for the Kirby Smart Family Foundation on page 34.
Finally, while I hate to end on a somber note, the off-season has been tough on Bulldog Nation with the passing of many great Bulldogs. In JD’s column (page 10), he touches on four stalwarts who called Athens home, Bob Rushton, Mike Williams, Billy Henderson and Andy Johnson. Each man loved and contributed to Georgia and will be greatly missed. We look forward to sharing a neat tribute on Andy Johnson in our next issue the week of the first football game versus Austin Peay.
Also, Cheri and I lost a great friend and mentor with the passing of Ewell Gay. Many of you may be familiar with Ewell because of his women’s apparel shop, Maggie’s Boutique, on St. Simons Island. He coined it the Lady Dawg’s headquarters as it is a must stop for Georgia fans, particularly the week of Georgia-Florida. Ewell was Cheri’s first boss and like a second father to her. He loved Georgia like none other, which Vince Dooley could attest to because every year he received a letter on the state of the Georgia program from Ewell. On a picture perfect Sunday, a host of Ewell’s friends gathered at Brogen’s for a grand time celebrating a grand Bulldog. Enjoy the photos from the memorial on page 38.
I’m definitely out of space (thanks Hannah for making me fit), so now I must say goodbye. I wish everyone the best of summers and encourage you to get ready for the 2018 Georgia Bulldogs season … tick, tock … Go Dawgs!!