Sunday, March 26, 2017

For Mecole Hardman, Spring Practice is Key

Fans, especially those who keep a close eye on recruiting, always begin to shudder when one of their prized 5-star recruits switches positions.

It's easy to understand why. After all, no matter how good an athlete he is, getting his first reps at a foreign position in college puts him squarely behind the eight-ball. For Hardman, it's not as though the cornerbacks ahead of him are a bunch of Rudy Ruettigers, being 5 foot nothing, a hundred and nothing, with hardly a speck of athletic ability. Likewise for the receivers he'd be tasked with covering on Saturdays.

Many have said since he first signed that Hardman (5'11, 190lbs) could be a fascinating option on offense in the slot, or on some specially designed plays out of the backfield. So, while he does appear to be easing into that role this spring, the question Georgia coaches must answer heading into fall will be, "Is Mecole Hardman a cornerback, or not?"

To be completely fair and reasonable, this is not to suggest he needs to either earn a starting spot or be 100% migrated to offense. He is only heading into his sophomore year, after all. But, there does need to be a level of improvement and enough flashes of "it" as to warrant him staying put.

In my mind, there are basically two possibilities with respect to his starting to get some reps on offense this spring. Either he's beginning to grasp the concepts and techniques at CB to the point where he can afford to miss a few reps at the position, or he's coming along so slowly to the point where it's time to start seeing what he can potentially be on offense instead. Hopefully, it's the former.

There have been instances in the past where a highly rated prospect came to Georgia without a home (position). Richard Samuel and Brandon Miller stick out as guys who started one place, and then ultimately bounced around and never contributed to the level of what many expected. However, those were different cases, as they were both kind of "tweeners" in terms of size and speed. Not fast enough or perhaps quick enough for true speed/quickness positions, and not big enough for more size/strength positions.

With Hardman, he's definitely big enough, quick enough, and fast enough to play either CB or WR. So, the time between the end of spring practice and the beginning of fall is when Georgia coaches need to make a decision. To CB or not CB, that is the question.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Gary Danielson, and the dreaded "REBUILDING" year

Many fans dismiss Danielson's analyses because he also tends to fall in love with teams and players, typically not Georgia. He still secretly wishes Tim Tebow had 10 more years of  eligibility.

That aspect notwithstanding, if you listened carefully to what he was saying about Georgia, particularly offensively, you see that he knows what's going on.

After dissecting several plays, and I'm not saying this is all a big secret, he nailed our issues on offense.

In a nutshell, there was no protection, no run-blocking, no separation by receivers, etc. But, more to the point, all those things pointed to Florida being able to sit on anything short or intermediate, because the lack of worry of getting beat deep, coupled with the fact that they knew there would only be a clean pocket for maybe 2 seconds, turned a tough situation into an impossible one.

Georgia's o-line, time and again, had one or more o-linemen getting tossed aside or otherwise man-handled by a bigger, more athletic defensive front.

Even when Georgia was able to run a play that should have been successful x's and o's-wise, it resulted in either a dropped pass or an errant throw.

We as fans had hoped that Georgia was a team that never had to rebuild; just reload. We were wrong.

To recap:

Freshman QB, sub-par O-Line, mediocre receivers, Chubb at 75%-ish, rookie head coach, young defense, no pass rush by front 4, pitiful punting game/special teams, overall lack of senior leadership...probably leaving a few off.

The jury is still out on Cheney for me, but I did see him trying a number of different things to get the offense going. The real issue was that nothing was working. To me, this boils down to youth in some areas, but mainly just not having the horses to do what we want to do.

Thus, we are (HOPEFULLY) in a rebuilding phase. We had what looks like a solid '16 class, and if we can finish strong, should have an excellent '17 class (big 'if' if we don't win a few more games this year).

However, because it will take another year or two for these classes to bear fruit, we're stuck in this rebuilding, and not reloading phase. And it sucks.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What you don't want to hear, but have to deal with this season

First, to be clear, Georgia has not played well this season for the most part. We know that. Can't lose to Vandy at home.

But, while the coaching staff and players continue to try to improve, we as fans are either at, or fast-approaching a crossroads. The crossroads consists of two choices, so it's a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, for those who are old enough or young enough to get the referenced.

1) You decide that Kirby is in over his head, that Chaney is not a good OC, that Beamer cannot coach special teams, etc., and scrap this little "experiment" before it's too late.

2) You acknowledge that this is a transition year, rife with the characteristics brought by a whole confluence of events which include, but are not limited to:

- First year head coach
- New offensive system
- Undermanned/Under-talented offensive line
- True Freshman QB
- Departure of a (from what we know) beloved head coach causing some lack of 'buy in'
- Lack of senior leadership
- Significant minutes being played by underclassmen
- Lack of familiarity with personnel/Lack of personnel equipped to do what we're trying to do

Now, to be fair, let's all acknowledge that there is a fine line between a reason and an excuse. Those with closed minds who are fed up beyond reason will say these are nothing but excuses. Perhaps they are. I believe that they are legitimate reasons.

Many will go back to what I initially acknowledged, that "even with all this, you still shouldn't lose to Vandy." No, you shouldn't, but you did. So, what exactly does that mean?

The simple truth is that nobody knows. When you are dealing with a laundry list of problems related to newness and inexperience, there's no real bar set as far as how good you should be, or how bad you're "allowed" to be.

So, again, you're nearing a crossroads.

My preference, which is in line with what I believe, is that we're having to break down a lot of aspects of the program in order to build it back up better. That's not always a pretty thing (which is not to say there aren't exceptions). I know I wasn't alone in being weary of fruitless 9 and 10 win seasons. So, if we have to deal with a 6 or 7 win season to set up for better years in '17, '18, and beyond, then that's something I'm willing to deal with, and it doesn't matter to me that we suffer a few embarrassing losses this year.

Now, we lose to Vandy next year, and I'll start to see what the other pages of that Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book look like.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Blame the loss on coaching? No freakin' way

Read some ridiculous comments about how Rico McGraw running out on the field without his helmet, leading to a crucial 15 yd penalty, should be blamed on coaches. Likewise, Georgia's inability to knock down a hail Mary pass was due to poor coaching.

Wrong.

When you have one guy (I guess a second in street clothes made his way out there) out of nearly a hundred doing something like that, it's the fault of an individual player. Perhaps next time the coaches should put shock collars on everyone if it's their fault.

As for misplaying the Hail Mary, I can say with a high degree of certainty that that scenario is practiced (properly) many times before and during the season. The only potential change I could see would be having a few taller folks out there. Maybe put Javon Wims, the 6'4-6'5 WR planted on the goal line, but that's splitting hairs. The bottom line is that UT's WR got in just the right spot, and our players did not.

Hell, I can look at Georgia's touchdown prior to the heartbreaking Hail Mary and tell you that UT's DB was probably given explicit instructions: "Do NOT let them get behind you, whatever you do." But, their DB got lulled to sleep by Ridley, who then turned on a burst to catch a long TD.

All this is not to say that the coaches don't have their share of responsibility in these cases. It is, of course, up to them to make sure they're not only teaching their players what to do and what not to do, but that they get players to respond and execute.

Kirby cites a lack of discipline. It is ultimately up to the coaches to make sure the players are exhibiting said discipline, but no matter who you are as a coach, in the moment, sometimes players just don't do what they're supposed to or need to do.

This loss, while devastating to me as a fan, will be a better teacher than any coach or drill can be going forward.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Stop trying to come to a conclusion on Kirby after 4 games!

As a Georgia fan, I get that you were hoping to see some noticeable turnaround in the way we performed in big games under the new staff. I was hoping, too. But, that's all it was; hope. 

There's a lot of areas where people are laying blame for Saturday's debacle. Depending on who you are and what "camp" you're in, they primarily focus on talent (or lack thereof), poor recruiting which led to the lack of talent, the current staff to play the right players and call the right plays, etc. There are other areas of concern as well, but this post isn't about that.

The main point to concern yourselves with is that, if you felt the program under the previous regime was inherently flawed, as the administration and boosters did, then you have to allow for more than 4 games to untangle all the knots and start to rebuild. 

You may not want to, but you have to.

"Tom Herman was able to do it!!" That's the primary response to the aforementioned suggestion. 

He's done a phenomenal job to this point, but that situation is an exception, and there is also a lot more than just looking at the end results when going into a job. Also, if we're throwing out single examples, I submit to you Gus Malzahn. After making a huge splash going 12-2 and losing in the BCSNCG, the Tigers are a combined 17-13. So, an instant turnaround means as much as the opinion of you or me when it comes to predicting medium and long-term success (though, it seems Malzahn earned a stay of execution after narrowly beating LSU). 

People are making fun of "The Process" already. But, you have to let Kirby and staff do what they believe will be the best for Georgia in the medium and long term. While I in no way believe they're not trying to win now, I do believe they're trying to win in a way that will lay the foundation for the future. Altering your process now, in year 1, to win an extra game or two with smoke and mirrors would not be the right choice. 

Being that this is the case, there's no reason to try to draw a conclusion that Kirby Smart is somehow in over his head, too stubborn, too stupid, Chaney doesn't know how to call plays, Mel Tucker is lousy, etc. 

Hopefully, we'll see some incremental improvement this year, significant improvement next year, and true competition for an SECC or beyond in year three. And, who knows, if some things break our way, maybe we'll those things sooner.




Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nicholls game was awful, but it doesn't matter!

Most folks are ready to wash the bad taste of the Nicholls game out of their mouths. We'll obviously get to do that Saturday night, and it will either be replaced by a minty-fresh win over Missouri, or more of what we've had this week.

Having read all kinds of comments and opinions being offered up this week, though, it amazes me the number of people who have already decided that the Dawgs don't have any talent (or, very little), Kirby Smart is a stubborn fool, Jim Chaney has no idea what he's doing, etc.

Look, this is a young team with a new coaching staff. There are going to be ups and downs. What will ultimately decide how this season goes is two-fold: How quickly will the team and staff reach a level of consistency (preferably a "good" consistency), and until then, which weeks will the peaks and valleys occur, and how high and low will they be?

To the first point, that's anybody's guess. They may permanently gel (more or less) beginning this Saturday, it may take several more weeks, or they may not find any true cohesiveness until next year. It cannot be accurately predicted by anyone given the newness of player and staff personnel. Don't bother trying, lest you be an arrogant blowhard.

To the second point, since we don't exactly know which team will show up and what kind of improvement to expect, don't base your season outcome upon either of the first two games. As I've said before, if Nicholls was week one and UNC was week two, the talk would be all about how much Georgia improved. That didn't happen, but it doesn't change the fact that were relatively good against UNC and unequivocally bad against Nicholls. If anything, that inconsistency and apogee of good and bad is the quintessential earmark of a young team and new coaching staff. They've both got to get traction, and there's no way to predict when that will happen, or what they team may look like when things settle in and take hold.

There may be a talent issue, but I promise you, teams far less talented than Georgia will blow the doors off of Nicholls this year. There may be a coaching issue, but teams with far inferior coaches will blow the doors off of Nicholls this year.

It...is...too...early...to...tell.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Don't be one of the moron keyboard jockeys on the pay forum sites and calm down

There is no sugar-coating it. Georgia stunk on Saturday. There will be no excuses here. Realistically, Georgia should have been able to score 30 pts even if Nicholls knew what was coming.

Having said that, I'm going to give you a simple scenario and not-so-humbly suggest that you relax.

Suppose Georgia had opened with this game two weeks ago, and beat UNC yesterday?

I'm well aware of the "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts..." saying, but the point is all the comments of "we have no talent on O-line" and "Chaney is being too predictable" and all the other summarily dismissive opinions I've read over the last 18 hours are no more valid either way.

Before yesterday, "nobody in  the East was better than Georgia," and today, "Georgia will be lucky to win 3 SEC games."

There are a few things I feel pretty confident in saying.

First, yesterday's will prove to be the single worst game Georgia plays this year. (God, let's hope so)

Second, as bad as the O-line looked, it is and will be far better as the season goes on. I'm not saying there are 4 future NFL players of the starting 5, but I do believe they were just out of sync with each other, and unsure of what they were doing. This can happen when you institute an entirely new coaching philosophy from the ground up. Put another way, I have to believe we have more O-Line talent than most/all of the teams Nicholls will play this year (along with obviously better running backs), and I am pretty sure most of those other teams will have their way with Nicholls on the ground. You're going to see a much improved line next week and going forward.

Third, I did see Georgia start to wake up in the second half. Unfortunately, the energy and enthusiasm were derailed by two costly turnovers. This is not an excuse. Had Georgia been playing better, these turnovers wouldn't have happened, and/or they wouldn't have mattered all that much. The simple fact is that, on a day when the Dawgs were not playing well to begin with, the interception and the muffed punt were nearly killers.

Lastly, while I don't think Georgia was being "vanilla" as a strategical plan to keep other teams from seeing our full complement of plays, I do know that the Bulldogs will introduce more unique and complex plays going forward. How? They have to.

Bottom line is that yesterday was indicative of a team that has a new coaching staff and philosophy, a true freshman QB, and some depth and talent issues at a few positions (that may yet be overcome).

However, you're a moron keyboard jockey if you are making iron-clad declarations about any aspect of the team or staff based upon yesterday's game. It's far too early to tell. Again, these same moron keyboard jockeys would have made the same idiotic statements if Georgia started out against Nicholls in week 1 just like this. If they were right, we would have lost to UNC 52-10.