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The Disruptive Types

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Since 2013, at least one pass rusher has been drafted in the top five each year. However, that eight-year run will assuredly end this year. This year Rush End is loaded in terms of depth between picks 20-150.

There is tremendous talent available but many of the top prospects are young and not as proven as many of the prospects we have seen in the prior years like Myles Garrett, Chase Young, and the Bosa brothers.

Teams will be hesitant and cautious when looking at this area on the football field. Azeez Ojulari is my top defensive end available but there is currently no clear-cut number two.

1.Azeez Ojulari, 6-2, 241, Georgia: Ojulari was the best pass rusher in the SEC in 2020 while leading the conference in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles.

He is a dangerous edge rusher with elite quickness and puts good pressure on the quarterback.

Ojulari uses his burst and bend to attack the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle while establishing the corner and detaches from blockers with violent hands. Ojulari lacks elite size and length but that shouldn’t limit his NFL ceiling.

  1. Gregory Rousseau, 6-7, 265, Miami:Rousseau has been the consensus top defensive end prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft, but most of his college production came from rushing in the A Gap.

He is an intelligent player when it comes to breaking down pass rush execution. Rousseau is not a fast, explosive pass rusher and is not overly physical, but he is a faith-based prospect with the length, frame and athleticism that leave defensive coordinators drooling.

  1. Kwity Paye, 6-3, 271, Michigan: Paye has size, speed, athleticism and improving technique. He looks like a player with big upside for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Paye has rare lower body twitch and fluidity for his size and uses his physical hands to attack the point of attack.

Paye’s pass rushing toolbox isn’t very deep right now, but he is a compact, explosive athlete with menacing energy. He showed improving pass rushing moves and toughness versus the run in his final college season.

  1. Jaelan Phillips, 6-5, 265, Miami: Phillips has first round talent with his body type, twitchy athleticism and a nose for the football, but unfortunately the medical feedback will ultimately decide his NFL Draft grade.

He is very smooth in his upfield attack and redirects blockers naturally. He uses his hands as weapons and rushes with his curls on fire. Phillips has a good skill set with strength to shed blocks and hold the edge in run defense.

  1. Carlos Basham, 6-3, 281, Wake Forest:Basham is rarely controlled due to his active play style, power, and hustle, which directly leads to his production.

He has shown the skills to be able to rush from the edge and tackle in sub packages.

His hands have a lot of pop, but his stiff hips off the ball show when he’s trying to bend the corner.

Basham needs to improve his pass rush creativity; but his size, explosiveness and effort make him a safe pick to become a solid starter in the NFL.

  1. Jayson Oweh, 6-5, 255, Penn State: Oweh is super explosive with his first two steps, making him consistently disruptive and affecting the backfield’s action.

He was not productive in college, notching just four sacks over his last 18 games, but he has a projectable body and moves differently than most athletes his size, but his pro-level instincts are lacking.

The 6 foot 5, 255 pounder is a workout warrior with shocking speed. He is a high risk, high reward pass rush prospect. Don’t let activity outshine production.

  1. Joe Tryon, 6-4, 263, Washington; 8. Joseph Ossai, 6-3, 255, Texas; 9. Payton Turner, 6-5, 270, Houston; 10. Ronnie Perkins, 6-3, 248, Oklahoma.

This isn’t a great draft for high end, eye popping talent at the defensive line. There is talent, no doubt or disrespect to any of these athletes and their ability, but there’s not a Chase Young or Aaron Donald type that jumps off the page as top 10 future highlight-making picks.

This year, there are players with high ceilings, and low floors who are physically gifted.

Predictions

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

April is a pretty good sports month on the calendar. Opening day for MLB, final four in college basketball, Masters, NFL draft.

It is an action-packed month on the sports landscape.

Here are some of my predictions for the month of April, and notice that I put my predictions in writing, which is much different than some guy I do a Saturday morning radio show with.

1.The Atlanta Braves will win the NL East, but they will not be leading the division at the end of April.

It may take a few weeks for the Braves bats to heat up if Spring Training was any indication.

The pitching staff will keep this team in games until the bats come around.

Ronald Acuna Jr. will hit 10 home runs during the month of April. Acuna will be the one hot bat in the lineup until the others follow suit.

2.The Baylor Bears will win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship by beating Gonzaga in the championship game. This Baylor team is complete and will show that to the nation this weekend.

3.With the Roy Williams retirement look for North Carolina to lure a big-name coach from another program.

Mark Few of Gonzaga or Jay Wright of Villanova will be the next head basketball coach at UNC.

Carolina has struggled lately on the hardcourt. Tony Bennett of Virginia is a name to watch as well for this opening if the two above balk.

4.Jon Rahm will win The Masters. Rahm finished 4th in 2018, and has top 4 finishes in the US Open and PGA Championship since 2018.

Rahm is due to win a major and his game is just too good not to have a Green Jacket.

5.The Jacksonville Jaguars will select Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the first overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. This has been a lock since last Christmas.

6.The Atlanta Falcons trade the 4th overall selection to the Denver Broncos and get out of the QB sweepstakes and take Oregon OL Penei Sewell with the 9th selection in the first round and gain draft capital from Denver by trading down and take the best offensive lineman in the draft to protect Matt Ryan in the twilight of his career.

7.With 5 QB’s being taken in the first 8 selections possibly it means some terrific players slide down the first-round draft board.

8.The Jaguars, who also select at pick 2,5 have LB Azeez Ojulari of UGA fall right into their lap to pump some life into a pass rush that only registered 18 sacks in 2020.

This would be a dream scenario for Jacksonville.

9.By the end of April former Glynn Academy two sport star Randon Jernigan settles into a starting slot in UGA outfield in time to make an impact as Georgia improves down the stretch in the 2021 season.

Currently batting .261, Jernigan boosts his batting average to around .300 going into the SEC tournament and will lead the Bulldogs in stolen bases.

10.Mike Soroka finishes his rehab assignment and is activated by the Braves by the end of April. Soroka will go on and have a great year for Atlanta.

Bonus Pick: The Glynn Academy Red Terror baseball team will win Region 2-AAAAAA and will be the number one seed from this region in the State playoffs.

There you have it folks. If you have some extra cash floating around then I have given you sure bets to fatten your wallet.

The Truth

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It has been an interesting week in the crowded fish tank known as the local sports market in Coastal Georgia.

It is a crowded field indeed, where different outlets rush to be the first to claim journalistic “Gold”. I understand the marketing side of things, but is it really necessary in tiny Coastal Georgia?

Jeff Herron was recently named as the new head coach of Camden County. That story was broke by Jason Bishop live on K-Bay 106.3 FM in Kingsland on February 6th, 2021. Bishop also announced live last Saturday that an announcement was coming on Monday.

Another outlet claimed that they broke this story on Monday morning before the Camden school system made it official. That was just plain wrong.

Does it really matter who broke the story of Herron returning to Camden? Not really because it was the worst kept secret in Coastal Georgia since Christmas. I just wanted to set the record straight for those who think it matters.

I love local sports in Coastal Georgia, particularly my Brunswick High Pirates, especially BHS football.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to bring the call of Pirate football over the local airwaves for 151 Friday nights since 2007 with my broadcast partner Teddy Bishop, who has the Home Broadcast Booth in Glynn County Stadium named after him.

Many people have their hobbies. Many fish, hunt, ride bikes, etc. My hobby is Brunswick High football. Don’t believe me ask my wife Sandra, who files missing person reports on me during the fall football season.

This article I write every week for Southern Sports Edition is also a hobby for me to be able to give my opinions on a wide range of sports topics of interest to me in our area.

Nobody in Coastal Georgia is taking Stephen A. Smith’s spot on ESPN so let’s make it about the kids and the adults who make it their professional mission to help them develop.

Also, nobody in Coastal Georgia is going to be bringing us the SEC game of the week on CBS any time soon. Point being we take ourselves a little too serious at times in the tiny sports fish tank of Coastal Georgia.

And let me close with this once again. Jason Bishop broke the “Jeff Herron back to Camden” story live on K-Bay 106.3 FM in Kingsland on February 6th, 2021.

I heard it with my own ears. I can’t make this stuff up folks.

Farewell

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When I was in high school my Dad wrote a weekly column for our local paper titled “The Way I See It.”

Each column revolved around our family and the topics ranged from visiting my aunt in Japan to rating movies based on how many bathroom breaks my youngest brother took.

Beside the columns being really well written (I believe he won a few awards for them over the years) I remember thinking how great it must be to write about something you enjoy; all I was writing were 8-page reports on books I didn’t want to read in the first place.

When I got a call six years ago, gauging my interest in writing a weekly sports column, I jumped at the chance. I was addicted to sports growing up. If I wasn’t at practice or playing pickup games I was watching them on TV.

My room was covered in posters with pennants outlining the tops of my walls, and almost all my clothes had some team logo or athlete on them. Sports have always been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember, but like with most things, interests change over time.

Over the past few years those weeknights spent watching games and ESPN shows have been replaced by hanging out with my wife of over 18 years. (I’m not sure how she put up with me for the first 16 years, but bless her for doing so.)

And those weekends spent gorging myself on football and basketball games, they are now spent watching my 10-year-old son make regional and state cuts in all his swimming events, or seeing my daughter play the French Horn at an All-State conference.

I’ve upgraded from memories I’ll forget in two weeks to memories that will last me a lifetime.

So, as I write my final column for the Southern Sports Edition there are two people I need to thank.

The first is Jason Bishop, owner of SSE, for making that call 6 years ago and allowing the teenager’s dream in me to become a reality. What Jason has built in the Golden Isles is something special that I hope people will continue to support.

Jason, thanks for allowing me the opportunity to write what I wanted to write, when I wanted to write it.

And of course, I need to thank you, the reader. Thank you for logging on every week to read the words of someone who openly despises Georgia football, roots against the Falcons, and doesn’t even pay attention to the Braves, all while tolerating my obscure pop culture references. Sometimes it felt as if I was the leader of the band. (And there you have it folks, a Dan Fogelberg reference!)

My hope is you’ve enjoyed reading my articles half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

I wanted to end this with some poignant words of wisdom, but like many mediocre writers before me, I came up with nothing. Instead, here are the life lessons one of my longtime, closest friends bestowed upon me in my 7th grade yearbook:

“You learn everything you need to know in kindergarten- playtime is for suckers; nap time is better when there’s someone else on your mat; never cross the monkey bars with your teeth; and never, NEVER, eat meatloaf.”

And that’s the way I see it.

 

Hot Bed

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Glynn County Georgia has produced some phenomenal athletes in the past 40 years. Let’s take a look at a few that have put Glynn County in the spotlight:

Kwame Brown:  A graduate of Glynn Academy, Brown was the first overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft by the Washington Wizards, and was the first number one draft pick to be selected straight out of high school.

Over the course of his 12-year career, he played for the Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Golden State Warriors, and Philadelphia 76ers.

Not many counties in our country can say they had the first overall selection in any professional sports draft. Brown put Glynn Academy basketball on the map around the state, and carved out a nice NBA career.

Darius Slay: Big Play Slay of the Philadelphia Eagles is currently or was the highest paid cornerback in the NFL. Think about that for a second folks.

Darius Slay is the best athlete I have ever seen wear the blue and gold at Brunswick High.

Slay could do it all in high school. He returned kicks, played running back, game breaking wide receiver, and played defensive back when needed.

Slay got drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions and developed into a Pro-Bowl CB. Slay is in his prime and has a few more years left in the NFL.

Davis Love III: DL3 has won 21 events on the PGA Tour, including one major championship: the 1997 PGA Championship. He won the Players Championship in 1992 and 2003.

He was in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking for over 450 weeks, reaching a high ranking of 2nd. He captained the U.S. Ryder Cup teams in 2012 and 2016. Love was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017.

In the 1980’s Love did his part in establishing the Glynn Academy golf program as the premier golf school in the State of Georgia.

With a couple of breaks Love could have won the 1996 US Open, 2003 British Open, and the 1995 and 1999 Masters. I have sat at home on too many Sunday’s to count and lived and died on every shot DLIII hit.

Morgan Brian: Brian attended Frederica Academy and led the Knights to four consecutive soccer state titles.

Brian was also an All State Basketball player at Frederica. Brian ended her high school soccer career with 186 goals and 95 assists. She was a two-time Parade All-American and two-time Gatorade Georgia State Player of the Year.

In 2010, she was named an NSCAA High School and Youth All-American and was also the 2010 NSCAA Youth Player of the Year as well as the 2010 Parade National Player of the Year. In 2011, she was named Gatorade National Player of the Year. Brian was also the first soccer player to be honored as the Gatorade National Female Athlete of the Year in 2011.

Brian has competed for the US in the FIFA World Cup and in the Olympics. Her married name is now Gautrat, Morgan Brian Gautrat is the face of Glynn County soccer.

Adam Wainwright: As my buddy Scott Spence asks in sports discussions how many people in Glynn County history have gotten the last out in a World Series clinching game? Answer Adan Wainwright.

Wainwright was the Gatorade player of the year in Georgia in 2000 and drafted in first round by the Atlanta Braves then was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Waino has spent his entire career with the Cardinals.  Wainwright has won 167 games, has three All-Star selections, two Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and finished in the top three in the Cy Young Award balloting four times. Glynn Academy’s baseball field is named after him.

You still have Dee Jay Dallas, Justin Coleman, Tracy Walker, and potential other future professional athletes to discuss in the upcoming years. Glynn County is a hotbed for sports.

Tip It Off

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Well, after months of watching old games, listening to pundits regurgitate the same storylines, and reading enough Top Ten articles that even David Letterman would roll his eyes, the return of sports is now on the periphery…in a limited capacity…at the end of the summer…for only a select number of teams.

The first domino to fall was hockey, which came up with a creative approach to the remainder of their season, consisting of qualifying rounds and round robin seeding games, to determine the 16 playoff teams.

With an expected start date sometime in late July, I imagine Gary Bettman must have been optimistic- if you’re starving for fan attention being the only game in town has its’ advantages.

It’s like being stranded on a deserted island for six months before realizing there’s someone of the opposite sex on the island with you. That person may not be your ideal mate, but after a certain amount of time, you’re not going to be picky.

Then, of course, the NBA announced their plans to finish their season with qualifying games among a select group of teams to narrow the field down to their playoff participants.

One of the aspects included in each league’s proposal I can easily get behind is they are only including teams that were in playoff contention at the time their respective leagues shut down. If we’re truly trying to be safe, there’s no reason to put players at risk by making them play meaningless games.

The main difference between the hockey and basketball plans is hockey is scheduling their games in at least two different hub cities, while the NBA will hold all their games at Disney World, requiring everyone to stay in a designated area throughout their time there.

The current NBA schedule has them resuming games in late July also, and running through October.

Besides the encouraging signs the sports world may be starting to open back up, the timeline of when everything takes place means September and October have the potential to be two of the most exciting months in recent memory.

Even if college football and the NFL delay their starts by a few weeks, there’s a very realistic possibility you could have multiple weekends consisting of NHL and NBA playoff games, to go along with football.

As much as people are tired of being stuck at home now, with all those options to choose from, I bet many of those same people would be staying indoors, deciding they needed to “self-quarantine”.

As much as I think most of us are looking forward to watching again, we may want to temper our expectations.  We’re still weeks away before the first game will be played, and as positive Covid cases continue to rapidly increase in almost half the states across the country (many college programs are now announcing outbreaks among their players), it may be delayed even more.

Regardless of what you read into that, even the most skeptical critic would have a difficult time arguing an increase of positive test results would cause any league to speed up their return date.

If both leagues are able to resume their seasons in July it will have been a long four months in sports purgatory. And even though we won’t have technically been deserted on a desert island during that time, we’ll welcome the first puck drop, or opening tip, as if we had been.

The Right Thing

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NCAA has long been a punching bag for fans and member institutions alike and, for the most part, deservedly so.

The Indianapolis-based institution has all-encompassing power over its members, but it is often accused of being too strict in hamstringing the rights of student athletes, while also catching flack for doing too little in the face of major violations at marquee institutions.

That said, the NCAA received nearly universal applause for its quick action in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The organization cancelled all spring sports championships – including the immensely profitable March Madness men’s basketball tournament – on March 12, weeks before many local and state governments took similarly drastic shutdown measures in the name of public health.

Cancelations were preventative in nature and aimed at decreasing the impact of the virus, but the NCAA also acted quickly in announcing that seniors participating in spring sports will be afforded an additional year of eligibility should they choose to return to school and compete again next year.

That was undoubtedly the right call to make, but there is still a long way to go in achieving that goal.

The NCAA has cleared up the question of eligibility, but the national organization has no say in how each school finds the money to afford scholarships.

The NCAA has said that it will figure out an adjustment to the scholarship limits for spring sports, but it is up to each school to figure out a way to accommodate seniors wishing to return and play while also honoring scholarships that have already been awarded to incoming freshmen.

It will likely be months before the next year of collegiate athletics can set a firm schedule, but there’s no doubt that every school will face its own set of complications moving forward.

Things will eventually get back to normal, and that will be a great day. But normal is a relative term. For fans, it will be enough to have the opportunity to go see a game and cheer on their team.

For schools, there is the much more complicated matter of putting on those events, while financing an athletic department that could be at risk for shortened 2020-21 seasons and heavily decreased ticket sales due to ongoing public health fears and economic circumstances.

It’s still far too early to know how any schools will be able to deal with this unprecedented set of circumstances. There is no easy answer, but there is one thing that is perfectly clear and that might lead to a new way of doing sports, business and athletics at the collegiate level.

Players want to play and have earned the right through their work on both the athletic and academic side.

Academic institutions routinely rely on the millions upon millions of dollars raised on the backs of those athletes and their accomplishments in order to advance the school’s brand and build bigger and better opportunities for the athletes of tomorrow.

This pandemic has caused an impasse. Athletes most definitely deserve the right to return to get their part of the agreement they signed up for.

Athletic departments will likely have to take a hit in the wallet to make that happen.

Next spring will be all about making things right on a contractual level. Everything after could lead to bigger movements about what athletes bring to their respective schools and what more should be asked of those schools to make sure that both sides are getting as much as they give.

Appreciate

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Coronavirus is a serious public health issue that has caused loss of life around the world.

It has wreaked havoc on our economy, our freedom of mobility, and now with the cancellation of most major sporting events like the NBA, it has rocked us at our core.

This article is going to take a look at sports in our culture and how woven sports are in the fabric of our society.

No matter what sport you play, you are bound to have better health than those who do not partake at all. No other activity is as productive in strengthening of muscles and overall physical fitness as sports.

I come from the generation of playing outside before dinner, and the activity revolved around the three major sports seasons football, basketball, and baseball.

In the fall, growing up I was Joe Montana in my backyard, in the winter I was Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, and in the spring, I was Reggie Jackson growing up as a youngster in the Golden Isles. Whatever season it was it didn’t matter we stayed active.

When we are playing sports, we use our time doing something good and fun. I watched a T-Ball game my grandson participated in just yesterday, and watching the interaction with other kids is a social skill that goes unnoticed these days. It also plays a major role in the social development of youth today in our country.

Playing sports increases awareness of mind and mental strength. Sports teach you how to handle disappointments and also teaches you how to win with class and sportsmanship.

Sports prepares people for life in clutch situations, where stress can take over. Positive traits and a healthy mind can be gained from sports.

Sports teach you to be completely alert all the times. It also gives you the ability to make split second decisions when needed. Playing sports actually increases your thought processes.

Playing sports helps you become detailed oriented by keeping you highly attentive. Sports prepares you for those quick decisions in life that we all will face.

Sports is the best way to eliminate stress. Playing a sport you love relaxes you and gives a fresh outlook on life. A hard day at work can be really be stressful but a few minutes on the tennis, or basketball court at the end of a long day is just what the doctor ordered in stress relief.

Self-confidence is improved by participating and excelling in sports. Discipline then becomes a part of the process. Anyone who takes sports seriously knows the importance of discipline and the determination to succeed.

Our society is filled with success stories that started with team sports. Most of the popular sports are team structured. Playing team sports makes a person more comfortable with others. It improves the interpersonal skills and makes a person a team player.

How much money does your employer spend on improving critical thinking and team work skills? These are lessons taught by team sports at an early age in life.

It stings to see March Madness cancelled, the NBA season postponed, MLB suspending operations, and the list goes on and on.

We have a public health crisis on our hands and the right thing to do is to cancel these events until we get a handle as a society on the Covid-19 Coronavirus situation.

A temporary suspension sports activities that are woven in our core values may allow us to gain a fresh appreciation for the sports we love and take for granted at times.

I just know all this better get sorted out by the start of college football season or its going to be “Houston, we have a problem”. Get well soon Tom Hanks. We are praying for you and all affected by the Coronavirus. Netflix anyone?

Burning Questions

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It has been an interesting week for southern sports topics. Here are my takes on various subjects.

Hey KB, what do you think about Jake Fromm declaring for the NFL draft?

If you are an Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech or a Tennessee fan then you are dancing in the streets because Fromm was a combined 12-1 against the four schools mentioned above.

We all know Jake had an off year in 2019 statistically, but at the end of the day Jake will always be known as the gator killer in the Jacksonville area.

Good luck Jake and thank you for your contributions to Georgia football. Next man up is? I’ll let Kirby sort that out.

Hey KB, what do you think about Cade Mays leaving UGA and going to Tennessee? I’ll do my Powers Boothe imitation from Tombstone and say “well bye” to Mays and his family who filed a lawsuit against UGA because dad could not figure out how to operate a folding chair.

We all know this is an attempt to gain an immediate waiver to play next year at Tennessee without having to sit out a year. Mays looked like a Matador in the recent Sugar Bowl, while assigned to guard Jake Fromm’s backside. See you in Athens next November Cade. Nolan Smith can’t wait to see you.

Hey KB, will Florida win the SEC East in 2020? We’ll see but the Danny Kanell’s of the world are already anointing Florida as the beast of the east in 2020.

We will see how Florida performs as the favorite in 2020. The Gators lost a pretty good running back, four good wide receivers, two great pass rushers, and their best cornerback when the final seconds of the Orange Bowl ticked away.

Hey KB, what do you think about Mississippi State hiring Mike Leach? I think it is absolutely fabulous.

MSU will struggle in 2020 as Leach gets guys to run his system, but it is great for the conference. I can’t wait until SEC Media Day this summer. You have Saban, Coach O, The Pirate (Leach), and Joey Freshwater (Lane Kiffin) representing the SEC West.

And can you imagine Egg Bowl week in Mississippi next Thanksgiving? Big Splash hires by the Mississippi schools. Let’s all laugh at Arkansas now.

Hey KB, what do you think about Tua declaring early for NFL the draft? Coach Saban was almost in tears, which speaks volumes about Tua.

With the 5th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft the Miami Doiphins select _________. I’m pretty confident you can insert Tua’s name in the blank.

Hey KB, will the Braves resign Josh Donaldson? I think the Braves end up resigning Donaldson and I hope he continues to be productive in the middle of that lineup.

Right now, he seems to be the missing piece of a team that is ready to contend for the World Series.

Hey KB, who will win the National Championship game on Monday night? When the playoff matchups were revealed I picked Clemson to beat LSU in the title game.

I am now going to pick LSU. The game is in New Orleans and Joe Burrow has had the best season ever by a college QB. Clemson is very good, but it just feels like this is LSU’s year. I’m picking the LSU Tigers to win 38-31.

Hey KB, what do the Jacksonville Jaguars need to be contender? I have a 600 word maximum for this article. It would take a 500 page novel to figure out the Jaguars. They need everything.

The Rear View

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As we ring in the new year and a new decade, it dawned on me that I’ve been writing for The Southern Sports Edition for just over five years now- and I haven’t been fired yet.

Over that time frame, there have been a number of things I’ve either learned, or have had reinforced, about sports in our area.

For example, there are a few things you just assume to be true, like the SEC is the best football conference in the country, or that the ACC is usually the strongest in basketball.

And while I’d argue both of those are true, I didn’t realize how dominant both conferences were combined, when it came to the three major college sports.

In the six football championships that will have taken place by the end of this month, five of those champions will have come from either the ACC or SEC.

The two conferences can also stake claim to three of the past five championships in both basketball and baseball over that same period of time. (If you want to include Coastal Carolina in our “area” then it’s actually four of five in baseball.) That’s not quite “Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl” dominance, but it’s pretty close.

One important lesson I learned early on is nothing brings Florida and Georgia together like their hatred of Tom Brady.

I’ve written over 300 stories since I started in October of 2014, and I don’t know if I’ve received more comments on any single article than the one I did on Brady being the best NFL quarterback of all time.

One on hand, I get it. Even though I wrote it after the Patriots beat Seattle in the Super Bowl, it was during the height of Deflategate, so the timing was a bit off.

On the other hand, Brady did lead New England to three of the next four Super Bowls, winning two of them, so I do feel a little vindicated.

Also, if I was paid based on the number of “Joe Montana never cheated” responses I got from that story, I’d be making Stephen A. Smith money right now.

One of the evolutions that has been a bit surprising is the SEC’s transition from being a more defensive minded league to an offensive one. That’s not to say the defensive side of the ball isn’t still the calling card of the conference, but you’re more likely to see a 45-38 score than a 17-13.

I must admit, the two stories I enjoyed writing the most didn’t teach me anything, but rather reminded me of why sports can mean so much to so many.

The first is the Father’s Day story I wrote about my dad and I watching a Braves game for my 10th birthday.

The other was about the Pink Out game that took place in Athens a few months ago.

Neither were especially well written, it’s just there’s so much negativity around sports nowadays it was nice to remember how athletics can bring people together.

I’ve really enjoyed these past few years and I appreciate you taking the time to read, pop culture references and all.

Here’s to the next five years of learning, reminiscing, and if my track record is any indication, being wrong on 80% of my predictions.

Unless it has to with Tom Brady; I’m pretty spot on with those.