Comparing the 1971 Georgia Bulldogs to the 2015 Arkansas Razorbacks

Below is the third part of a four-part series looking at how the best AP preseason No. 18 teams of all time compare to the Arkansas Razorbacks, which currently hold that spot. Based on one metric, the Simple Rating System, the ’71 Dawgs punch in at No. 2:

1971 Georgia

Coach: Vince Dooley

Weeks Ranked No. 1: 0

Date of First Loss: November 13

Final Record: 11-1

Final SRS rating: 22.22

While Georgia had won two SEC championships in the late 1960s, “Dooley’s Dawgs” had been a .500 team in 1969 and 1970 heading into the fall of 1971. That changed in a hurry with a top-five defense and dual-threat sophomore sensation Andy Johnson at the helm. In its first eight games, no team came within 10 points of beating Georgia.

While Georgia lost its next game on the road against No. 6 Auburn, it bounced back to beat archrival Georgia Tech. That set up a Gator Bowl showdown with North Carolina, led by Vince Dooley’s younger brother Bill Dooley. The resulting sibling slugfest produced 20 punts between the teams and a total of one touchdown. According to SB Nation’s T Kyle King, “the 7-3 Georgia victory prompted one sportswriter to observe, ‘Vince won the toss and ran the clock out.’”

Like Arkansas… these Bulldogs boasted a highly regarded offensive line with All-SEC selections in Tom Nash, Royce Smith and Kendall Keith. They also had an All-American All-Nickname first-teamers in Jimmy “The Greek Streak” Poulos and Buzy “Super Frog” Rosenberg. Leaping ahead 44 years, Arkansas counters with its own strong candidate here: Damon “Duwop” Mitchell.

Unlike Arkansas… Georgia’s starting quarterback eventually played running back the entirety of his 8-year NFL career. Andy Johnson helped New England finish 2nd in the AFC East in 1976 with a combined 1,042 yards running and receiving and was selected to the Patriots’ All-1970s team. While college quarterbacks still occasionally make the transition to NFL wide receiver (e.g. Matt Jones, Antwaan Randle-El) you no longer see them become running backs. Even those with the physical tools to pull it off, like Nick Marshall, are more likely to become pro cornerbacks.

It’s safe to say NFL receiver, cornerback or tailback gigs aren’t in Brandon Allen’s crystal ball.

Brandon Allen’s First Scrimmage Performance Worries Tyler Wilson

Airing out his views on Arkansas' current starting QB
Airing out his views on Arkansas’ current starting QB

During the Razorbacks’ first scrimmage last Saturday, Brandon Allen did not deliver his best performance of training camp. The senior starting quarterback completed only 10 of 23 passes and was picked off on his third attempt. Sure, the defensive line was stout all afternoon long, racking up eight sacks, but that pressure didn’t much faze the three backup quarterbacks. They completed 23 of a total 31 passes.

That disparity between the younger backups’ performance and the fifth-year senior is bad news, Razorback quarterback legend Tyler Wilson believes. “The completion percentage, ten of twenty-three, is a little bit worrisome,” he said on The Morning Rush with Derek Ruscin and Tommy Craft. He pointed to the 11-of-15 performance by Austin Allen, Brandon’s little brother, as more in line with what should be expected from the starter. “When you’re in the 40 percentile in completion percentage, something has got to be down. We got to increase that for us to be successful.”

Wilson’s primary concern: the scrimmage happened sufficiently late enough in training camp for Brandon Allen to be clicking. “By practice 10 it [usually] seems like the offense catches up a little bit and starts to find its footing… It didn’t seem like that was happening Saturday. The defense was still messing a lot of stuff up for the offense.”

“It is tough because the defense sees a lot of your looks. At this point in camp they kind of know what’s coming. It is agitating. It’s a little frustrating for the quarterback at times. You feel like, ‘OK, they know exactly what’s coming and I can’t do much about it.’”

Wilson, now a co-host on The Morning Rush (ESPN Arkansas 96.3 95.3 & 104.3 FM), had more interesting on-air insights. Here are a couple excerpts:

On difference between Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins:

When you watch the two guys run Jonathan Williams is more of an attack type running back… Alex Collins is a little more fleet of foot. He’s more of an outside guy. One is more south, one is a little more east-west. When Alex Collins is going to carry 70 percent of the carries this year and is going to carry a lot more of the workload, I have a little bit of a worry he’s maybe not able to do the things that together they would’ve been able to do… Obviously there have been some ball security issues [with Collins]. I think when you have those issues you think somewhat feeble, not as strong, not as big, not as maybe aggressive as a guy like Jonathan Williams – that’s just what’s in some people’s heads.

On similarity between Jonathan Williams’ season-ending injury and Knile Davis’ in 2011:

Very similar in terms of timing, in terms of expectations from a particular highly thought of, highly regarded running back that was going to get a lot of carries  but now he’s no longer there… Knile was the one guy that I believed everybody thought was going to be a key to our success throughout football season. We had some good wide receivers and some what unknown on how I was going to play quarterback that year, but Knile Davis was that instrumental piece. He was the guy that was on the cover of the media guides and went to SEC Media Day…

I think for a lot of fans, you hate that he’s gone but you got to find a way to patch it together. By the way, all that 2011 team did, when Knile Davis went down, was win 11 games and the Cotton Bowl that year… We still had Dennis Johnson that year. Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Ringo were on the team so the thing kept moving right along.


 

Want more of these kinds of detailed Arkansas sports interview excerpts? Check out BestOfArkansasSports.com’s near-daily roundup. 

How Much Do SEC Schools Pay to Educate Former Football Stars?

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Thanks to LSU’s “Project Graduation,” former Tiger QB Jordan Jefferson has even more to celebrate.

Every year, hundreds of collegiate athletes leave campus before graduation. Sometimes, as with other students, it’s because they simply didn’t complete the courses they needed for a degree before their four or five years was up. Other times, it’s because they leave school early to pursue a career in professional sports.

While in school, students on a full ride athletic scholarship typically face a pretty straight-forward scenario: They play sports, keep their nose out of trouble and in return they get reimbursed for housing, board and tuition.

But what happens when the same student leaves school, ending his athletic eligibility and then returns to campus years later in order to finish his degree? This, I found while reporting a story about Razorback football players struggling  after their playing days, is a bit of a grey area.

From talking to former Razorbacks like C.J. McClain and Fred Talley, who are currently in the process of returning to school, it appears there is no set protocol on how much a former football player can expect to be reimbursed. Talley, for instance, came back after 11 years and got his tuition paid for, but NOT his room and board. Furthermore, he was told he has to maintain a C average in order to keep that reimbursement.

I confirmed with Arkansas that indeed similar scenarios are handled on a case by case basis. I wondered if this happened elsewhere, so questions were sent to each of the other SEC West schools to find out

  • how much tuition/room & boards the school will play for if an athlete leaves early for the pros but later wants to finish his degree.
  • if the schools have a minimum grade requirement for the former athletes to retain their tuition compensation.

I found out the University of Alabama, for instance, “pays tuition and fees, books, and other costs on a case-by-case basis for former student athletes who left the University in good standing and are eligible to return to UA,” according to Deborah Lane, Associate Vice President for University Relations. “Former student athletes who return must maintain a 2.0 GPA for all classes taken during the semesters they are enrolled.” Other schools echoed similar stances, with an Aggies employee adding Texas A&M scholarships typically demand  a minimum 2.5-2.7 GPA.

The most detailed answer came from Brett Russell, Ole Miss’ assistant director of compliance. “Although NCAA rules permit former student-athletes* to return to their institution to finish their degree and receive financial aid, the decision to award financial aid is left up to the institution,” he wrote.

The institution is permitted to provide financial aid up to the institution’s published cost of room and board and can vary depending on the student’s residency/enrollment status [i.e., living on their own vs. living with parent(s)/legal guardian(s), full-time vs. part-time] .

Also, the NCAA does not have a minimum GPA requirement in order for a member institution to provide aid to a former student-athlete. In general, member institutions each have their own ‘degree completion’ program in which a student must apply for financial aid and be vetted through the appropriate departments before he/she will be awarded financial aid.

In fall, 2010 LSU launched such a degree completion program geared specifically toward its former athletes. “Project Graduation” director Kenneth Miles touts his program’s goal as “providing information and assistance to former student-athletes with the help of several university departments including the Athletics Administration, Admissions and Senior Colleges.”

“All of the related departments collaborate to provide former student-athletes with information regarding reapplying to the university, degree audits, health center requirements, financial aid assistance applications and contact information all while creating a positive environment consisting of full advisement and assistance services.” According to this press release, the program had helped 35 former student-athletes finish their degrees from inception through summer 2014. One of them was former star LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, for whom a long-time career in the NFL always seemed such a long shot. Not unlike the chances of his alma mater competing for a national title heading into the 2015 season, according to recent sportsbook online betting odds.

Many of the 10 former Razorbacks I interviewed believe a similar program is needed at the University of Arkansas.

 

 

*The NCAA’s super hardcore technical  definition for “former student-athlete” is a  “a student-athlete who has exhausted his or her five-year period of eligibility.” It can also mean a student-athlete “who is permanently ineligible to participate in intercollegiate competition due to a violation of NCAA amateurism and athletics eligibility regulations (e.g., signed an agreement with a professional organization, secured the services of an agent, exhausted eligibility due to delayed enrollment penalties) but is still within his or her five-year period of eligibility, who returns to the institution with no intent to participate in athletics shall be considered a former student-athlete for purposes of NCAA financial aid legislation.