Thursday, October 15, 2009

Excogitations on Where Georgia is, Where it's Going

Georgia is just not very good right now. There are certainly plenty of worse teams out there, but I don't think anybody would suggest that the 2009 version of the Bulldogs measures up to what we as fans are used to thus far, nor what we expect.

To quickly hash out some basic, yet telling statistics, the Dawgs are just 9-6 going back to the 2008 Alabama game (a somewhat random place to begin, but nonetheless indicative). Out of those 15 games, Georgia has given up 37 or more points 8 times. The offense has been a bit better, but has still failed to score more than 20 points 5 times during that stretch.

These numbers represent what can only be described as an overall lack of preparedness on the part of the offense and/or defense in a given game, but it goes deeper than that.

Offensively, Joe Cox has had his problems, but right now, way too much is being put on his (weakened) shoulder. Primarily, the complete lack of a running game, where the Bulldogs rank 104th in the nation (ahead of only some downright terrible teams, and some pass-happy offenses like Bowling Green, Hawaii, and Texas Tech), has led to numerous 3rd and long situations. In the passing game itself, outside of AJ Green, there is only one WR/TE with any meaningful playing experience whatsoever.

On defense, well, what more can be said? I've often maintained that the unit coached by Willie Martinez has been put in far too many bad spots by the offense and special teams. Regardless, Georgia's best defensive efforts have come against only the most offensively inept teams around. For example, what looked to be a nice job against LSU was thrown into sharp relief when the Tigers managed just 3 points at home against Florida, where they managed just 162 yards of offense. The run defense has been OK for the most part, but the lack of a consistent pass rush and a secondary reminiscent of the old vibrating electronic football games has been cause for concern for quite some time.

Running to Stand Still

Beyond coaching, there seem to be precious few "difference makers" on either side of the ball, and some downright poor play as well. Obviously, AJ Green is one of the best WRs in the country. Beyond him, there's not a single player with any experience that would seem to have that "it" factor. Some true freshmen and redshirt freshment may yet become stars, but by and large, injuries and simply "missing" on some recruits has left Georgia in a hole.

Likewise on defense. Where there's experience, there's little talent/playmaking ability, and where there is talent, there is little experience. Georgia's best CBs would seem to be a true sophomore and a true freshmen at these point as far as talent goes. Then there's the Bryan Evans/Baccari Rambo situation at safety. Rambo has already shown a penchant for making plays (2 int's in limited time thus far), but is a reshirt freshman. Senior Bryan Evans, supposedly one of the fastest players on the team, has just never figured it out, either as a corner or a safety.

As far as personnel goes, there's some reason for optimism. As I mentioned, many of Georgia's best players on both sides of the ball are freshmen and sophomores, and others, such as WRs Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wootentheballcarrier may be good ones.

So, what happens going forward?

First, it would make little sense to start handing various coaches their walking papers in the middle of the season. Georgia is not as bad as its performance against Tennessee might indicate. While there's likely no SEC East crown in store for the Dawgs this season, a 9-4 or 8-5 year is still well within the realm of possibility (which is not to say that that's what I'm predicting). At year's end, though, Richt is going to have some tough decisions to make.

There are some questions that need asking.

"Which coaches have done as well as anyone could expect given what they had to work with?"

"Which areas of our team have either declined or been mired in mediocrity over the past few years?"

Lastly, and this is a dangerous question, because you never want to settle for being average, but "Is this just one of those years?"

The bottom line is, nothing lasts forever. Perhaps the various coaching techniques and types of players recruited just don't work as well as they used to. Perhaps the Dawgs just need some new voices and attitudes around the practice field, in the gym, etc.

Whatever the case, I implore you to remember the success Georgia has enjoyed up until this season under Mark Richt. High expectations usually come as a result of great success in previous years.

In the short term, I believe the Dawgs will work their tails off to win as many games as possible this year, but the coaches will need to take a good look at which younger players they can build next year's team around.

At season's end, Richt may be forced to come to grips with the fact that friendships, loyalties, and trust are not always in the best interests of a major college football program.

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