Sunday, December 6, 2009

Florida Remains "Un-Perfect"

Sure, the Gators of the past five years have been the best of the best in college football. This is especially impressive, given the landscape of college football, where more teams than ever have the funds, facilities, and fan base to compete on a very high level. They've also had one of the greatest players of all time at QB for the past four years (starting for three). The two National Championships, two SEC Championships, and three SEC East Championships since 2006 are simply remarkable. Having said all that, and given credit where credit is due, Gator-haters will be able to take comfort in the fact that Florida has still never had a perfect season. Obviously, a small bit of comfort in an otherwise tough pill to swallow for Dawg fans.

Searels Proves His Worth

For much of the season, Georgia's offensive line struggled to open up holes for Georgia's young running backs. When starting offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant was lost for the year, Searels was forced to play musical chairs in an attempt to find a lineup that would function as a cohesive unit. The line's ineffectiveness had some instant-analysis Georgia fans wondering if Searels was all he was cracked up to be. In its last four games, however, Georgia averaged 252 yds on the ground. Granted, that included a game against lowly Tennessee Tech, but clearly there was a marked improvement from Georgia's first 8 games, during which Georgia topped the 125 yard mark only once.

Timing Of Martinez Firing Good From Personnel Standpoint

Putting all the specific reasons why defensive coordinator Willie Martinez was let go, the timing of it could work out nicely from the viewpoint that Georgia's defense is going to lose several starters after this year. If you assume that both Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones will leave for the NFL, the Dawgs will lose 6 starters on defense. A good time for a new coordinator and new position coaches to not have to break the colts, so to speak.

Every Program Has Its Down Years

Just take a look at USC. The mighty Trojans, with their consistently ridiculous recruiting classes, and playing in a traditionally weak conference, finished 5th in the Pac-10 this year, and showed no improvement over the course of the season, losing three out of their last five games. You never want to "accept" a down cycle, and coaches/athletic departments need to be mindful of any trends and changes that may need to be made, but the bottom line is that it happens. The really good programs can get it turned around. Florida was average under Zook, and Bama was below average during the coaching merry-go-round of the late 90's/early 00's. With the Dawgs bringing in a new defensive coordinator, starting a reshirt freshman QB next year, and boasting a solid base of young talent at other skill positions, there is reason for optimism. Changes are a'coming, and hopefully they'll turn out for the better.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Looking Back, With Fabris and Willie and the Boys

Sorry for the poor country music reference.

To the delight of many Bulldog fans around the globe, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez exited stage left earlier this week, taking with him several years of a defense in decline.

What was so astounding about Georgia's defense was the general feeling it gave the fans and, presumably, the opposing offense on a given day. Where it used to be nothing short of surprising when an opponent put together a 12 play, 85 yd TD drive against the Dawgs' D, it had now become surprising for Georgia to get a 3-and-out, never mind a turnover.

To channel my inner Christopher Walken (no, not another stinkin' cowbell joke), do you know why the New York Yankees always win? It's because of those damn pinstripes.

Clearly, they've got great players, coaches, etc, but there's just something so key about the intimidation factor. Where teams used to fear the Bulldog defense, and knew they would be lucky to score 20 pts, they could now be confident that they would have a field day.

That is a big reason a change was necessary. Ostensibly, a new DC equals a new defense. Even if Willie was on the right track toward improving the D, it would still be difficult to get that fear factor back.

I'll also go on record as saying that I don't believe Willie was an idiot, a fool, a moron, a clown, or any other expletive-laden disparaging word he may have been called. That's not to say he wasn't out-coached on occasion, but the main problem was not that he didn't know how to stop opposing offenses. The main problem was that he wasn't able to convey his knowledge and ideas down the line to where they would translate to on-the-field success.

I think that, beyond loyalty and not wanting to fire people that he's worked tens of thousands of hours beside, that's why it took Richt so long to let Martinez go. I just get the feeling that Martinez would sit down and do a heck of a job explaining why a game plan will work, and in too many cases, why it should have worked.

In the end (which is where Georgia's defense took it too many times), there just needed to be some new voices shouting on the practice field and from the sideline. Talent is important, and maybe Georgia did not have the talent to be a top 10 defense this year, but they'll always have enough talent to finish better than 10th in the SEC in scoring defense.