Jeb Watkins

Smart Move

By: Jeb Watkins news services

University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is now the highest paid coach in college football.

Coach Smart’s new deal keeps him in Athens for the next 10 years and he is set to collect 130 million dollars along the way.

He becomes the first college coach ever to make 13 million per year. It’s safe to say Kirby has secured the bag.

So, what does this contract mean for the UGA faithful? Well.. it means no worries for the rest of your days.. ha.

But no, seriously, this deal means another decade of bragging rights, stability, and dominance.

It also means more of Kirby’s fiery half time speeches that will have you ready to run through a brick wall and who doesn’t want to see more of his signature sideline celebrations, am I right?

He is a proven leader and a master motivator. Dawg fans should be ecstatic about locking down the greatest coach in UGA history and the greatest active coach in college football right now.

There’s no doubt Kirby is at the top of his game and is showing no signs of slowing down. When Smart became the new head coach back in 2016, feelings were mixed about moving on from former head coach Mark Richt. Georgia was handing the reins to someone with no head coaching experience.

And to be fair, Smart did have some growing pains early on and got outcoached more than few times his first couple of seasons.

Eventually those mixed feelings would go away after trusting the process paid off. Fans watched as Smart turned the UGA football program into a perennial powerhouse, silencing all the doubters and exceeding all expectations.

Dawg fans let us count our blessings. To start, 6 sec east division crowns and undefeated in regular season conference play for the past three seasons. Talk about bragging rights against your rivals.

Smart has dominated the SEC east and even with the new Pod system in place I don’t see that changing.. Top 5 recruiting classes and numerous NFL draft picks every year. Two SEC championships and most importantly back-to-back National Titles, which ended the 40-year natty drought.

That’s all just within his first 10 years, given another decade smart could very well build a dynasty of his own to rival former boss Nick Saban.

Considering that Saban is the only coach to beat Smart in the past 3 seasons, who’s going to stop Kirby and the Dawgs now?

So, looking ahead what does this contract extension mean for the football program going forward? Simply put. More of the same. More 5-stars, more SEC blowout wins, more playoff games, and more National Titles.

Also, the new 12 team playoff format rolls out in the 2024 season with the Bulldogs returning 16 starters on top of all the talent buried in the depth chart.

I think Kirby and his Dawgs should be the favorites to win it all. But favorites or not, you can bet Coach Smart will have his dawgs prepared and hungry for a championship when the time comes.

With The 8th Pick The Atlanta Falcons Select…

By: Jeb Watkins news services

And with the 8th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons select.. Michael Penix Jr?

What in the world are the Atlanta falcons thinking?

In all honesty I had forgotten what time the draft was taking place Thursday night, with the falcons being my NFL team, I knew they would play it smart and either take Dallas Turner or trade down to stockpile more picks.

That’s what all the experts, analysts and mock drafts had told me to expect too.

I don’t believe I even saw a click bait post about the falcons taking a quarterback.

Which means even in the wildest dreams of the internet nobodies, no one thought the falcons could fumble the number 8 pick this badly.

They just signed Kirk Cousins to a 4-year deal and are paying him somewhere north of 40 million a year, so barring injury he’s the starter for at least the next two years.

I assume with such a high pick Penix was drafted to be Cousin’s successor and Captain Kirk is going to be 36 years old come August.

He also just had surgery to repair his achilles back in November but even so Penix Jr has been prone to injury since his freshman year of college and will be 28 in 4 years, which isn’t exactly young by NFL standards.

By then the Falcons will likely have to decide whether or not to pick up his 5th year option or let him go.

I wonder how much playing time Penix will get in those 4 years?

I feel a bit of sympathy for Penix. He’s a tough competitor and a hard worker. Let’s not forget he battled back from 2 ACL tears in his right knee in 2018 and 2019. Then 2 more injuries in 2020 and 21 to his non-throwing shoulder.

After all that he still led an underdog Washington Huskies team to a CFP playoff win and national title berth coming up short against a tough Michigan Wolverines team.

He deserves to be a high draft pick, but not by a team who just signed a veteran QB for the next four years and wants him to sit out during his most of his prime years in the league.

I feel like Penix doesn’t have much of a ceiling and that he likely won’t have time to improve much with the falcons before he starts to decline.

I think he needs to be on a team that wants him to start sooner rather than later so he can hopefully develop his game to have some success before father time kicks in and trust me after four injuries in four years it won’t be long.

Anyway, whether the falcons are blowing 28-3 Super Bowl leads, trying to trade for Deshawn Watson just to lose Matt Ryan, hiring an unproven Arthur smith, or drafting Desmond Ridder to be the starting QB, it is safe to say this pick shouldn’t have surprised fans.

It would make way too much sense for the falcons to get an edge rusher who can bolster their team sack numbers and lead their defense, which they desperately need. We are talking about a defense that ranked 21st in sacks and 27th in interceptions last year.

Quarterbacks have all day to throw against the falcons and the sad thing is Atlanta has the secondary personnel to produce more interceptions if they just had someone to consistently put pressure on the quarterback.

The only scenario I can envision where this pick ends up smelling like a rose for Atlanta, is if Cousins goes down in his first year or two and Penix Jr comes in and has success.

That’s not too far-fetched considering Kirk’s age and the talent the Falcons have on the offensive side of the ball.

However, this pick is probably a costly insurance policy and leads to a GM being on a hot seat.

Who Is On First?

By: Jeb Watkins news services

Who is Charlie Condon?

Maybe you’ve heard the name. He’s at the top of almost every MLB mock draft, and is currently leading the NCAA in batting average(.482) HR’s(26) and Slugging(1.109).

He is only two homers shy of breaking the University of Georgia’s single season and career home run record, which for the moment is held by former MLB player Gordon Beckham set back in 2006 and 2008.

Condon, a native of Atlanta, didn’t generate a lot of attention coming out of Walker high school in Marietta Georgia, due to his size at the time but he managed to land a preferred walk on spot with the Dawgs 2021 class.

A year and several pounds of muscle later, Charlie Condon began his redshirt freshman season. In that 2023 season he won his team’s triple crown with his .386 average 26 homers with 67 runs batted in.

He also racked up a ton of hardware last season being named National freshman hitter of the year, freshman all American, and SEC freshman of the year and even set a new SEC freshman home run record.

This guy is a natural hitter, a team leader, and versatile in the field.

Condon is listed as a 1st baseman but he can also play 3rd and in the outfield. I’m not sure if there is anything this guy can’t do.

I expect every bottom dwelling team in the MLB is just itching to draft this kid and why not?

He has powered himself and his team to success. The Diamond Dawgs are currently ranked 24th in the nation with a record of 27-9 and have about 15 games left in the regular season. They still have the SEC tournament starting on May 21st, which should be a great chance to catch Condon’s skill set in action.

Replacing The Ace

By: Jeb Watkins news services

The Atlanta Braves will be without their ace Spencer Strider for the remainder of the 2024 season.

The organization released information recently that the flame-throwing 25-year-old underwent UCL surgery on his right elbow.

An early 2025 season return seems to be the best braves fans like myself can hope for.

The show must go on however, and the Bravos need to fill his spot in the rotation.

Notice I said fill and not replace, and here is why. Strider is not just the braves ace, he’s a stud, a top 5 pitcher in the league and a Cy Young contender.

His 281 strikeouts last season were a franchise record, so to say any of the names on this list can replace him would be an insult.

Although, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has replaced an MVP caliber player before back in 2021 and it was good enough to win a championship. So, let’s go through and see who the Braves best options are for the open position.

For this article we will look at internal options only.

Alan Winans tried out against the Mets Thursday and flunked out. He posted 5 innings allowing 7 runs with 6 earned and only 1 strikeout. Atlanta sent him back to triple-A immediately. I expect he’ll get another chance but not anytime soon.

Darius Vines was subsequently called up. Vines pitched in 5 games last year and turned in a 3.98 ERA over 20 innings of work, so the sample size on him is just too small. I expect him to fare better than his teammate Winans did, since vines typically pitches to contact and the Braves have above average defensive play.

I don’t think he is the answer right now though and he will be going back to Gwinnett soon.

AJ Smith-Shawver is an interesting case in this situation. At 21 years old he probably has the rawest pitching talent on this list, I love watching this kid pitch and I believe he can be the answer long term this season to replace strider.

He’s struggled out of the gate this season in triple-A and will need a couple of good outings before the Braves call him up to fill in.

Last year as a 20-year-old he posted a 4.26 ERA with 20K’s and only 11 walks over 25 innings of work. He also got 2 innings of postseason experience.

Bryce Elder has the most likely odds to fill the spot early in the season mainly because he has the most experience out of all the Braves young options.

The big righty started 31 games last year and made the All-Star team in his rookie season.

He became more average in the second half of the season and eventually lost his spot in the rotation during Spring Training, losing out to Reynaldo Lopez.

Elder another pitch to contact guy can thrive with this Braves team though when the bats are humming he won 12 games with only 4 losses and a respectable 3.81 ERA.

I think you can expect to see this guy called up next after Vines is sent back down.

Dark Horses: The last three on this list are long shots but expect them to get some work in while number 99 is recovering.

Dylan Dodd the only lefty on this list, he pitched in 7 games in 2023, turning in a disappointing 7.60 ERA in 34 innings with 15K’s and 12 walks.

Dodd is likely working on his command and stamina in triple-A and will need more time for correction before he is ready to come back to the show.

Huascar Ynoa, we know this guy has the stuff to pitch at the big-league level. Ynoa had somewhat of a breakout year in 2021 starting 17 games and finishing with a 4.05 ERA 100K’s with 25 walks in 91innings.

The following 2022 season saw him struggle with command and arm soreness, which eventually led to him having his own Tommy John surgery and missing the 2023 season.

Ynoa only got 1 inning in the spring so I expect the team wants to see more from him in the minors for now.

Hurston Waldrep, the Cairo Georgia native and Thomasville High Graduate was taken 24th overall by the Braves in last year’s draft.

Waldrep is a real long shot. He had some nice outings in double A Mississippi last season and got 1 start at the triple A level and did well.

The Braves started him out in Mississippi this year though and he’s had a rough go of it in only two starts. I don’t think we will see this kid until September at the earliest.