Reporters’ notebook: Vanilla Ice to play before Georgia-Florida game

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Nate Landman reactss after the Falcons took position of the ball in the last seconds of Sunday's win over the Green Bay Packers, 25-24, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Miguel Martinz/

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Atlanta Falcons linebacker Nate Landman reactss after the Falcons took position of the ball in the last seconds of Sunday's win over the Green Bay Packers, 25-24, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Miguel Martinz/

Credit: Miguel Martinez

The following, a weekly feature of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, allows our reporters to open their notebooks and provide even more information from our local teams that we cover daily. We think you’ll find in informative, insightful and fun.

Vanilla Ice concert headlines Georgia-Florida baseball exhibition

How about a little Vanilla Ice with your Outdoor Cocktail?

That’s what Georgia and Florida fans are going to get the night before their annual football game in Jacksonville. Since 2019, the schools have sent their baseball teams to the minor-league park outside TIAA Bank Field to meet in an exhibition game. This year, they’ve added musical acts to the bill, which will include a postgame, 1990s-themed concert. Vanilla Ice, who goes by the real-life name of Robert Matthew Van Winkle, will headline the concert, which will include fellow Nineties’ artists Young MC, Montrell Jordan and Tone Loc. Tickets are $15 and are being sold through Ticketmaster at

The 10-inning exhibition game is set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27, to be followed immediately by the concert. The Bulldogs and Gators football teams will meet at TIAA Bank Field at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 28 in their annual nationally televised rivalry game on CBS.

As for the baseball, Georgia is under the direction of first-year coach Wes Johnson, who was the pitching coach for national-champion LSU last year. They play a fall exhibition game against Kennesaw State on Nov. 5.

The Gators have won two of three Jacksonville baseball exhibitions, including 8-4 last year. Georgia won in 2021 and the event was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeezy highlights Stegmania

Not only is Stegeman Coliseum going to be open and ready for some hoops this fall, but the extensively repaired 60-year-old arena is going to have some bass cranking in it in only three short weeks.

Jeezy, an Atlanta legend and Grammy-winning recording artist, will perform Oct. 6 at the coliseum as part of Stegmania. Stegmania is the annual basketball exhibition where the Bulldogs unveil both their men’s and women’s basketball teams. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and the teams will take the court for introductions and scrimmage play at 7 p.m. The evening will be highlighted with a slam-dunk contest for men’s players and a 3-point shooting contest for the women. There also will be promotional contests for UGA students in attendance.

Following the basketball, Jeezy will perform. Among the songs that have brought fame to Jeezy are “I’m So Hood” and “Hard” (with Rihanna).

“Stegmania was awesome last year,” men’s coach Mike White said. “You could really feel the energy and enthusiasm in the Steg throughout the entire night. I think everyone associated with the event really enjoyed it, and it was a great start to our season.”

Said women’s coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson: “The atmosphere was incredible, and we’re looking to build on that for an even better experience this year. This event is a great way to get our fans excited for basketball season.”

The Lady Bulldogs are coming off a 22-12 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They return nine letter-winners and welcome four newcomers to this year’s roster.

White’s Bulldogs went 16-16, which represented a 10-game improvement over the previous season. His second Georgia team features six returnees, five transfers and five freshmen. Georgia is one of three programs nationwide to have both its transfer class (No. 12) and freshman recruiting class (18) ranked among the nation’s top 20 by

Stegeman Coliseum was shut down in March because of flaking cement falling from the roof of the all-concrete facility. Millions of dollars of repairs have been done to the ceiling since then and additional improvements were made to have the arena ready for the 2023-24 basketball season.

Sir, this is not a YMCA

Georgia Tech coach Brent Key is not interested in putting players on the field just because they’re available. Any Yellow Jackets who play, he said this week, do so because they put themselves in position to do so, not because they simply wear the jersey.

Simply put, no one in the Tech program deserves minutes.

“Deserve? No, you earn. You don’t deserve crap. You earn,” he said. “You earn reps you get. You earn them in practice, then you earn more in the games, and that’s what we’re looking for, for guys to earn their positions and to earn reps.

“Nothing is deserved. This isn’t the YMCA. We’re not just gonna give somebody something because they deserve it. Our job is to put the best players out there and determine who the best players are. That’s why we played more guys. Is it to keep guys fresh? Yeah, to keep ‘em fresh, but those guys earned that opportunity in practice, they earned it in the previous game they were in to be able to go out on the field more and keep those guys fresher and hopefully find the best guys that can go out there and consistently be able to stay out there and make the plays.”

Key’s first team at Tech has featured plenty of new faces playing prominent roles, such as quarterback Haynes King, running back Trey Cooley, tight end Brett Seither, linebacker Paul Moala and offensive lineman Connor Scaglione, all of whom are first-year transfers. Freshman Ethan Mackenny and wide receiver Eric Singleton, both freshman, have worked their way up the depth chart to earn starting spots for the Jackets.

Landman jumped in traffic to get to airport

Falcons linebacker Nate Landman, after making his first start in the NFL, was not around in the locker room to discuss his showing.

He had to get a jump on the Atlanta traffic and help get his family back to the airport.

The former undrafted rookie free agent linebacker from Colorado, started for Troy Andersen, who was in the concussion protocol. Landman had four tackles in the 25-24 victory over the Packers.

“It was a dream come true,” Landman said Wednesday. “I had a blast. It was a great time. … A good team win. It was fun to get out there with some of the guys I’ve been practicing with and playing with since camp. It was just a great experience to get a great team win for my first start.”

Landman received a rave review for Falcons assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray.

“I thought he did a fantastic job,” Gray said. “When you look at the runs, our (defensive backs) watched the run plays and he was just hitting guys, and I was like, ‘Woah, that’s amazing.’ That’s what you want.”

Landman went undrafted after more than 400 tackles over his five-year career at Colorado.

“You want linebackers coming downhill hitting guys,” Gray said. “So you look at that. He had to step in for Troy, and he made the best for himself.”

Landman may have found himself some more playing time.

“So, all of sudden, we’re like, ‘Hey, do we need a three-linebacker package?’” Gray said. “We as coaches, we’re looking around like, ‘Hey, how can we get all three of them on the field at the same time?’ Because when you’ve got guys like that, and they’re willing to play, and that’s your 12th, 13th or 14th player, those guys are going to help you down the road.

“So, if one guy does go down and you need to put another package in, you can do that.”

Not paying attention to other playoff races

The Braves are clinging to the No. 1 seed, both in the National League and MLB. Does that mean catcher Sean Murphy is keeping tabs on the Orioles and Dodgers?

“I have no idea,” Murphy said Wednesday. “No (I’m not following them). I’m worried about the day-to-day stuff. The standings will be the standings at the end of it. So, I’m not going to worry about it.”

Asked if he ever scoreboard watches in general, Murphy – a man of few words during interviews – said: “Honestly no. Not really.”

Speaking of home-field advantage

Braves manager Brian Snitker has his take on the playoff home-field advantage conversation.

“We’re just going out and trying to win every game within the confines of – I do want to give a guy a day off here and there. But we’re trying to win every game we can,” Snitker said. “We’re in the playoffs. We have a bye. Whoever we play doesn’t. I don’t think we had home-field advantage in ‘21 and that was OK. You still have to win games regardless of where you’re at. I’d love to have it. It won’t be the end of the world if we don’t.”

The 2021 Braves didn’t have homefield advantage in the NL Division Series (Milwaukee) or World Series (Houston), but they did have it against the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series, which was a crucial factor of their championship run. They won only one of three games at Dodger Stadium but swept their home games. Those 88-win Braves had home-field over the 106-win Dodgers because the former won the NL East while the Dodgers finished a game behind the Giants in the NL West. The 2023 Braves and Dodgers are battling for home-field advantage now, and it seems it’s important: They own the two-best home records in the NL.

-Staff writers Chip Towers, D. Orlando Ledbetter, Gabriel Burns and Chad Bishop contributed to this report.

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