January 9, 2012
Welcome to Will's World. Some of you have seen the segment on Gwinnett Prep Rally TV show with the same name, where I break down three local prep sports topics of note with my GPR co-host, Daily Post editor Todd Cline. Consider my new blog the online version of Will's World. Like the TV version, we'll tackle some local issues but also discuss some statewide, national or international sports news. In short, it's a place where we can talk sports. If you have a question for me, post it here. Want my opinion on something? Send me a message. Disagree with my opinion? Feel free to let me know. With that in mind, let's get into the first Will's World - my take on some happenings from this past weekend.
Saints, Saints, Saints
Anybody else tired of hearing about the New Orleans Saints? If I hear another announcer go on about the perfect marriage between Drew Brees and Sean Payton, it may be time to catch up on "Jersey Shore" on TiVo. OK, I admittedly don't care for Payton and his running up the score on the Falcons a few weeks ago to get Brees the NFL's season passing records only solidified that opinion. That said, how many other coaches could do the same with Brees at quarterback? He's one of the most accurate throwers any of us will ever see and he gets hit by a pass rusher almost often as I do sitting on my couch. That's the real secret to New Orleans' season - the guys up front. Three Pro Bowlers on the same offensive line mean Brees has all day to throw, which makes the Saints nearly unstoppable on offense. Tight end Jimmy Graham is an athletic freak, Brees could make stars out of any set of wide receivers in the NFL with that kind of protection. Anybody have any San Francisco 49ers gear I can wear this week? As a Falcons fan who grew up in the 1980s watching the Niners put beatings on my hometown team, I never thought I'd utter that statement. But at least a Niners win would save us from Saints overload.
Falcons front needs changes
Of all the problems that led to the Atlanta Falcons' embarrassing 24-2 loss to the Giants on Sunday, the one issue that most needs fixing is the offensive line. The inability to convert short-yardage situations plagued the team all season and the running game wasn't as effective as past seasons behind a hodgepodge line. After watching the Saints and their stout line, it's clear that the Falcons' front needs a major upgrade. It's nice to compliment Matt Ryan for taking hits and being a "tough Irishman," but I'm sure he'd enjoy a break from the repeated hits. Opponents complain about Atlanta's offensive line being dirty, and they're dirty because they have to be - they're not that talented as a group. I'm fine with Tyson Clabo at right tackle and maybe even Justin Blalock at guard. I love Todd McClure, but he's aging rapidly with 14 seasons in the league. Will Svitek is a serviceable backup, but not a starting tackle in the NFL - though he is apparently better than former first-round pick Sam Baker, who was dreadful this season. And Joe Hawley probably shouldn't be starting. This would be a great year to draft an offensive lineman in the first round - but the Falcons don't have a first-rounder thanks to last year's trade to draft Julio Jones. Let's hope Atlanta hits the line hard in free agency.
7-AAAAA girls hoops reigns
The Region 8-AAAAA vs. 7-AAAAA comparisons happen in all sports, with each region getting bragging rights here and there. But in most sports, the two regions are fairly evenly matched. Not this season in girls basketball. Unbeaten Parkview is deep and talented, but 8-AAAAA girls basketball as a whole is down. The young Peachtree Ridge girls I watched battle perennial power Mill Creek on Friday night must wish they were in 8-AAAAA, where they might be the second-best team behind Parkview. Instead the Lions find themselves fighting it out with some of the state's best teams in 7-AAAAA, which features two-time defending state champion Norcross and fellow state title hopeful North Gwinnett (11-1), winners of 10 straight. Mill Creek (11-3) also has a perennial powerhouse girls program, one that is coming off a Final Four appearance. That's just the current leaders of 7-AAAAA, which also has three other girls teams that are worthy of state playoff bids - Mountain View, Duluth and Peachtree Ridge.