Next week, I'll begin doing football previews on my radio show, so here's a heads up for local fans: high school - Aug. 13-16; college - Aug. 26-30; NFL - Sept. 2-6.
Well, doing research for the upcoming seasons got my juices flowing, and basically, I'm compelled to throw some thought out to someone.
First off, let's look at the college football scene. Fans can rejoice, because the campaign begins in two weeks, when Colorado State tangles with Virginia on Aug. 22.
Closer to home, Georgia, Clemson, Georgia Tech and South Carolina all kick off their seasons on Aug. 31.
Here's a brief overview of the college teams in our region.
Clemson: 2001 record - 7-5, 4-4 in the ACC; returning starters - 12 (six offense/six defense); recruiting class grade - B.
The Tigers did a good job late in the recruiting season, as they garnered four key commitments just before signing day. JUCO linebackers Kelvin Morris and Brandon Jamison, along with in-state wide receiver Kelvin Grant, could be the guys to watch.
Overview: This is an important year for Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, who is under pressure to produce at Death Valley. Now in his fourth season, he can make the 2002 Tigers more of his style team, now that do-everything quarterback Woody Dantzler has graduated.
Willie Simmons takes over as signal caller, and while he is a tremendous player, he doesn't have Dantzler's running ability. Simmons does have several talented receivers to go to, and if Bernard Rembert of Keith Kelly can produce at running back, the offense will be OK.
Defensively, Clemson will be better (they can't get any worse than 2001), and the special teams units are solid, especially return man Derrick Hamilton.
Prediction: Top 30 nationally, maybe even top 25, but fourth in the ACC - again!
South Carolina: 2001 record (9-3, 5-3 in the SEC East); returning starters - 9 (five offense/four defense); recruiting class grade - A.
Coach Lou Holtz used that silver tongue of his to land one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, and he managed to lure most of the Palmetto State's top players to Columbia.
Holtz also went out of Carolina to secure two quality running backs - Regis Edgerson (Ohio) and Kenny Irons (Georgia). Also keep an eye on defensive end Moe Thompson and wide receiver Troy Williamson of Silver Bluff High School.
Overview: The Gamecocks are counting on athletic Corey Jenkins to come through at quarterback. This former first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox is now 25 years old, so maturity shouldn't be an issue.
Andrew Pinnock should have a big year at running back, and Carolina should also have a much-improved group of receivers, so the offense has potential.
Still, defense is where Holtz-coached teams usually win games, but this year will be a test, as several young players will have to step up and perform.
Prediction: Ranked between 16-25 nationally, and fourth in the tough SEC East.
Georgia: 2001 record - 8-4, 5-3 in the SEC East; returning starters - 15 (eight offense, seven defense); recruiting class grade - A.
Coach Mark Richt came in and got busy putting together one of the premier recruiting classes in the nation. With Richt, and recruiting ace Rod Garner on board in Athens, the Bulldogs are guaranteed quality recruits.
Also, Mike Bobo is becoming one of the top young recruiters in the country.
Aside from the running back position, the Dogs don't need a ton of help early, but a few newcomers could be key reserves - watch out for Michael Cooper (running back), Marcus Jackson (defensive end) and Kedric Golston (defensive tackle).
Overview: UGA had more players selected in the NFL draft than any year in school history, and the squad still returns 15 starters; that says something about the Dogs' athleticism.
And, for having a first year coach and first year quarterback, eight wins wasn't a bad showing in 2001.
If Georgia can stay healthy, the team should win at least nine games this season. If the Dogs don't, UGA fans will be howling.
Prediction: Georgia should challenge Tennessee for the SEC East, and should the Bulldogs beat the Vols, 10 wins isn't out of the question.
Georgia Tech: 2001 record - 8-5, 4-4 in the ACC; returning starters - 14 (five offense, nine defense); recruiting class grade - C-minus.
The recruiting grade would have been worse, but I gave first-year coach Chan Gailey a break, because he was put into an impossible situation. The Yellow Jackets did help themselves in the secondary and the defensive front.
Overview: Even if ex-coach George O'Leary was back, Tech would be a little down this season, and with Gailey in his first year as a Division I college head coach, Tech fans are hoping their team isn't way down.
Keep an eye on Jonathan Smith (wide receiver). I think he will step in for the departed Kelly Campbell and post some big numbers. Transfer A.J. Suggs (Tennessee) should be solid at quarterback, but Tech will be hurting on the ground unless senior Sidney Ford, junior Jermaine Hatch and sophomore Jimmy Dixon all come on strong.
Defensively, the Jackets have immense talent, but that hasn't helped them stop teams in the past, which is baffling. Still, the linebacking crew, led by Greg Gathers, is formidable.
Prediction: Georgia Tech will finish fifth in the ACC, and will struggle to top the .500 mark.
Georgia Southern: 2001 record - 12-2, advanced to Division I-AA semifinals.
Overview: It says a lot about your football team when you can lose a two-year starter at quarterback (J.R. Revere), and the best player in team history (Adrian Peterson) and still be ranked No. 5 in the national pre-season polls.
That ranking could be a stretch, but with seven starters back on defense, including All-American Freddy Pesqueira, the Eagles will still be very good this fall.
First-year coach Tim Sewak is hoping someone can fill the void left by Peterson, but unless Superman shows up in Statesboro, that's doubtful.
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