Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Possibility of Dawgs being overconfident? Good.

Sure, a 5-2 record and being ranked in the 20's in the polls is not the end game of Georgia's aspirations, either this season or any other. Even though it marks a return of sorts to normalcy compared to the past couple of years, most will acknowledge that there's still a long way to go before being considered among the elite in the SEC or college football as a whole.

So, it may sound strange to consider that the Bulldogs should be feeling supremely confident heading into the WLOCP this Saturday against a team that has dominated the Dawgs for the better part of the last two decades. By the way, I've taken to saying the word "decade" like Kennedy did when he said "we choose to go to the moon in this d'cade..." I just like the way it sounds.

Anyway, this confidence could stem from the fact that the Bulldogs have reeled off 5 straight victories, albeit against lesser competition, while the Gators are scuffling, and have lost 3 straight. Add to that the fact that the only viable QB for the Gators should be hobbled and rusty, if indeed he does take the majority of the snaps.

It's needed, this confidence. The Bulldogs need a real sense of superiority for a change, and not one that's conjured by some nifty motivation, new uniforms, or celebrations. Those ugly uniforms and goofy gator head on those helmets seem to bring out ineptitude, and even fear in the Bulldogs almost every year.

Let's face it. Georgia has a better team than Florida. Despite several missteps, the Dawgs are finding ways to win the close games instead of finding ways to lose them. The only thing that can stand in their way of beating the hated Gators this time around, barring injuries and such, is that deer in headlights look that seems to grip the team 'round Halloween each season.

If Georgia is carrying around a feeling of confidence, even arrogance this time around, then that is a welcome change, and it could help keep the Dawgs riding high.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Actually like Georgia Football? Enjoy this week.

Nobody with any objectivity in his makeup is suggesting that beating Coastal Carolina, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State means that the Dawgs are "back." They may not be back to being an SEC title contender, or even a candidate to win 9 games this year. However, they are back in the SEC East race for now.

Losses by Florida and South Carolina mean that the Dawgs have no more SEC losses than any other team in the East after 3 games. No matter what happens, this week the Bulldogs are in the thick of things. This week, the game has division title implications for both teams. This week, Georgia can make a statement that they're in this thing to the end, or they can meekly bow out, leaving only the faintest of hopes for a good season.

The point is, this week, Georgia's game at Tennessee means more to the standings and SEC East title aspirations than any game in quite some time. The Dawgs can move to 3-1 in the conference for the first time since 2008, and only their second time since 2005 (when they started 5-0 in the conference).

I have no idea what will happen Saturday. I hope that the defense has truly rounded into form, that Crowell will continue to impress, and that Murray is ready to get over the turnover bug. But, I don't know, and neither do you.

I can tell you this: It's been a rough couple of years, and I am excited to have a meaningful game in October again.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Richt is 100% dead on about Crowell, but...

As we watched Georgia jump out to a 21-3 halftime lead, only to see the offense sputter to 3 lousy points in the second half, many noticed the absence of Isaiah Crowell in the backfield for much of the second half.

Head coach Mark Richt was forced to address this afterward, given the fact that, without the dynamic freshman in the game, the Bulldogs lacked rhythm and cohesiveness for much of the time. In doing so, Richt makes perfect sense. He's "not interested" in getting Crowell 30+ carries a game. This is completely understandable. It's a long season, and Crowell is still getting into SEC condition. The tolls of running the ball that many times takes on the body, particularly a freshman, cannot be overstated, and despite limping across the finish line, the Dawgs were never really in any danger of losing the game.

Having said all that, I wonder if it might be a bit more advantageous to the Georgia offense if Crowell's carries and general workload was spread out a bit more. If you're going to put a general limit, almost like a pitch count, on his carries/touches, then why not pull him out for a play or two during multiple series rather than "use up" half his touches on one drive? Hell, if he's capped at, say, 35 total snaps for the game, and you have him in on 12 snaps of a 15 play drive to start the game, then he's already 1/3 done for the day. (that's obviously a bit simplistic, but the point remains)

This much is clear: The offense just "goes" when he's in the game, and it has a tendency to sputter when he's not. I understand the idea of getting running backs into the proverbial rhythm, but I think the Dawgs might be better off in the second half if he's not sitting on the shelf for 15 minutes at a time, having reached 20 carries halfway through the 3rd quarter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bulldogs dominating, yet, not...

Most coaches, players, and fans alike will tell you that statistics can be a good indicator of trends, but are by no means gospel.

This proved to be no truer than after looking at the box score of Georgia's 14-point win over Ole Miss. With a few missed field goals (and having to settle for field goals in general), what looked like a would-be blowout was really just a TD (and 2-pt conversion) and field goal lead until the final few minutes.

The Dawgs outgained Ole Miss by nearly 300 yards, and held the ball for nearly twice as long. Yet, for one reason or another, Georgia was unable to truly put Ole Miss away.

That's not to say the game was really ever in doubt, but again, with those kinds of numbers, you would have expected the game to be over, for all intents and purposes, by the time the 4th quarter rolled around.

What's interesting is that, if you look at Georgia's other "real" games, the trends don't necessarily equate. Georgia outgained South Carolina by 40 yards in a loss (that one is kinda hit or miss, granted). And, the Dawgs were outgained by a mere 17 yards in what was essentially a blowout 21 point loss to Boise St.

Somewhere along the line, the Dawgs are having trouble turning solid statistical play into real-life victories/easy victories.

Without getting too in-depth, the Bulldogs aren't having trouble scoring TDs in the Red Zone. In fact, their 67% TD rate in the Red Zone is better than Florida and Alabama, for example, who are converting at around the 50-55% range. And, while Georgia's 15 trips inside the Red Zone is certainly not among the best in the nation, it's certainly not at the bottom.

Missed field goals and other poor special teams play has accounted for some issues, to be sure. However, you'll find about as many undefeated teams in the bottom half of the rankings of those categories as you will the top.

In fact, when looking at statistics and box scores, it's hard to grasp just where Georgia is coming up short right now.

All that is a convoluted way of saying that, to me, it still is coming down to Georgia being unfamiliar with how to win the close ones, and how to put away the ones that shouldn't be close.

If Saturday's game against Mississippi State is anything like last year's, the Dawgs will have yet another chance to learn.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Determining whether to keep Richt or fire him

By and large, when you talk about firing someone, regardless of his profession, it is done because of one of two things, or a combination of the two.

First, you can fire someone because of past failings. A salesman may be fired because he has failed to achieve a particular quota set forth. Donnan was fired for his inability to beat any of Georgia's rivals with any real consistency. Damon Evans was fired for basically disgracing himself and the university.

Second, you can fire someone due to a lack of confidence in future success. While this obviously feeds off of the past failings idea, it is still a choice made independently of that in many cases. You may choose to keep a salesman who's come up short of his sales goals, because you know that he has talent and ability, his numbers have improved, and you know that this is a struggling economy. Or, you may fire him because you have not seen any noticeable improvement, and you simply have no confidence in his ability to get on track.

When you hear Athletic Director Greg McGarrity talk about evaluating everything on a week-to-week basis, he's taking both scenarios into account. It's a balancing act, and one to which a great deal of thought must be given. Certainly, the fact that Georgia has had great success under Richt shows that great seasons are a possibility. Yet, the last 2+ years show that continuing to lose is also a conceivable eventuality.

Many fans want to see a number of victories or an SEC East/SEC Championship labeled as the low-end threshold for keeping Richt. Putting aside the ridiculous amount of scenarios that would create a problem with this, it's still more about the confidence McGarrity ends up having in future performance.

Everybody is past having to accept that we saw some "good signs" in a loss. What must be decided is this: Are those good signs going to lead to actual wins, or is Georgia destined to continue to show good signs while mired in ~.500 seasons under Richt?

It would take a complete debacle by Georgia for this decision to be made mid-season. So, barring that, fans are just going to have to play along. While you may have made your choice already, McGarrity has not.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Keys to beating South Carolina

In revisiting my 3 keys to beating Boise St, I see that we failed miserably on two of them, and third (size advantage) never really came about because of the putrid offense (3 and outs).

See, if the Dawgs would've just read my blog, they would've known how to win.

Moving on to South Carolina, there are some key things that Georgia must do.

1) Get into 2nd and short/medium, and 3rd and short situations. This should be Bobo and Richt's primary offensive concern. I'm not saying never go downfield or look for a big play on 1st down, but by and large, they need to be looking for their best chances to get 4 or 5 yds on first down, even if the possibility for more than that is minimal. When you're looking at 2nd and a long 5, the world is your oyster, so to speak. You can pretty much call any play you want.

2) Don't let Lattimore build momentum. He's one of those backs that tends to get better as the game moves along (as many bigger backs do). One "easy" way to do that would be to get up big by halftime, but obviously that's nothing more than wishful thinking. So, the key is to gang-tackle early and often. Don't worry about making a highlight reel with a big hit on him. Wrap him up and wait for your buddies to arrive.

3) Win Time of Possession. This is a very hit-or-miss statistic. Last year, in Georgia's 7 losses, the Dawgs won ToP 3 times and lost 4 (and one of those was by a mere 30 seconds or so). However, last year's contest against the Cocks saw a 10 minute ToP advantage for South Carolina. Georgia's defense is not going to have the depth to contain the Gamecocks if the offense doesn't help them out.

As was the case before, I'm not bothering in touching on things like turnovers and penalties, as those are fairly obvious.

Georgia is going to have to get some early small victories in this game. It is a team whose confidence is hanging by a string right now, no matter what they might say. But, it can be quickly restored if some folks can step up and play their best football.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Above all, Georgia has forgotten how to win

Right now, there are a million and a half reasons, suppositions, and theories as to why Georgia got more or less blown out by Boise St., and why they've had a mediocre (and now tending toward downright bad) run over the past few years. They typically have two things in common:

1) They are rooted in truth, to one degree or another

2) Their importance is overstated

To me, though, it comes down to an inability to stem the bleeding.

If you were to take every single problem that has been cited over the past few years by analysts, bloggers, fans, experts, etc. and related them to what you saw Saturday night, you'd have a litany of issues so long that the Dawgs should have theoretically lost 63-3.

Obviously, while it may have felt that way, that was clearly not the case.

What was the case was that, as things began to go south, the Bulldogs simply didn't have the ability to stop the slide, much less turn it back around.

People love the word "adjustments." They made adjustments, and we didn't. I don't want to dismiss this by any means whatsoever. That being said, I consider it a bigger issue that a team of 20 year olds has nobody left to look to, and no experiences to draw upon to right the ship.

It is a trademark of good or great teams, that even when things are going about as badly as they can, they settle back down, make a few big plays, and get back to doing what they're good at. This used to be the biggest trademark of all for Richt's teams, even playing in some of the most hostile road games in all of college football.

Alas, it's not there right now. A turnarond, if it is to happen, is not going to come from a single game where everything goes the Dawgs' way. It's going to come from a hard-fought game where the players come together when things are at their darkest, put all their faith in each other, and demand a victory.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

3 Keys to beating Boise St.

Aside from the usual items, such as winning the turnover battle, as well as the super smart-assed "score more points than them," let's take a look at three things that would go a long way toward "upsetting" the #5 Boise St. Broncos on Saturday night.

Hit QB Kellen Moore early

Moore was sacked just five times last year. That's just over a third of a sack per game. 2 of those sacks came in the game against VA Tech, not surprisingly. Equally unsurprising was the fact that Moore had one of his poorer games that day. The Dawgs will need to do all they can to rattle the Heisman candidate early. Sacks could be tough to come by, given Moore's quick release, but Georgia can still do well by (legally) hitting Moore and taking him to the ground as often as possible.

Keep Boise State's defense on the field

I'm not always the biggest proponent of the importance of time of possession, but the Bulldogs could set themselves up for a strong finish here by at least having some sustained drives. Even if they only end up in 3 points, or even no points, putting together some nice 4 and 5 minute drives will pay huge dividends as the game goes on. Boise State matches up ok with their first-stringers, but if the Dawgs can wear them down, the Broncos simply won't have the athletes at backup spots to compete.

Take advantage of size mismatches

This goes for the running game, primarily. Boise State has a solid and experienced center in senior Thomas Byrd. Be that as it may, he is 5'11" and 288lbs. Georgia will be rotating in a pair of 350 pounders at nose, so there will be virtually no chance for Byrd to block either one on one. Boise's starting right tackle is 278 pounds, so you would figure on him getting the majority of help with DeAngelo Tyson or Abry Jones, while leaving their NFL caliber LT, Nate Potter, to fend for himself. The Dawgs shouldn't have to worry too much up front, if they'll concentrate on getting a solid, straight-ahead bull rush and crash down on running plays.

On the flip side, Boise State's 4 down-linemen are definitely not small. But, again, Georgia has a huge size advantage. Georgia's smallest O-Lineman, Chris Burnette (6'2", 313) still outweighs BSU's biggest starting D-Lineman by 17 pounds. On average, Georgia's O-Line weighs 327.4 pounds, versus the Broncos front four averaging 281 pounds. It's never as simple as that, but frankly, a 46 pounds-per-man advantage is pretty ridiculous. Then, you throw in a 272 lb. fullback who outweighs BSU's biggest LB by over 30 pounds, and you've really got something.

So, don't worry about getting too cute, at least early on. Push on forward, and wear them down on the LOS, and then take your shots later when some of their quickness has been taken away.

Of course, there's so much more to winning than just these three elements. However, if the Dawgs can start off being successful with these, and avoid the big mistakes, will hopefully work out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Boise St got plenty of help in beating VA Tech

Because I know how some people can get out there in the innerweblogosphere, I will preface this by saying two things: First, the following is not meant to suggest that Boise State wouldn't have beaten VA Tech otherwise. Second, the following is not a reason why Georgia will or will not win on Saturday. It's just a little food for thought...

Being that just about everything else has been discussed ad nauseum in leading up to the 2011 season, I figured I might as well revisit the crowning achievement of Boise State's 2010 season; the victory over future James Madison victim, Virginia Tech.

Boise St. was able to build up a 17-0 lead over the Hokies out of the gate. This was accomplished via 3 key plays. First, the mishandled snap to Tyrod Taylor which BSU recovered. Second, a blocked punt by Boise St. Third, a roughing the kicker by VA Tech resulting in a first down. I'll give BSU some credit for blocking a punt, even though there is a reason that this happens so infrequently (because it shouldn't be allowed to happen). The other two are just blind luck.

After the dust had settled and the Hokies gathered themselves, they outscored the Broncos 30-9, until a late, albeit poised and impressive TD drive by Kellen Moore and BSU pulled out the game in the waning seconds.

Again, this is not to suggest that Boise somehow didn't deserve to win. Besides, that was last year, and this is this year. I do, however, think it's worth noting that the Hokies had a nightmarish first quarter, and were still able to more or less dominate for the next 40+ minutes, before finally wearing down.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Richt is nothing if not unpredictable

What do a couple of years falling short of expectations lead to? Some changes in the coaching staff? Sure. A new style and attitude in strength and conditioning? Check. But, these days, you're seeing a bit more of a rogue attitude, with apologies to Sarah Palin.

Take this latest issue/non-issue with CB Branden Smith. He was seen in a walking boot and crutches the other day. That much has been deemed certain. Beyond that, though, there has been no addressing of it by Claude Felton or the coaching staff. Not even so much as an acknowledgement that he was in a walking boot, thereby suggesting he hurt his ankle or foot, at least in some capacity.

We add to that the whole "Who's #1?" issue/non-issue with him and Isaiah Crowell. It has been assumed, given Smith's role in past years and during G-Day that he will continue to see limited action on offense. Obviously, he and Crowell couldn't be on the field at the same time if they're both wearing #1. Yet, the players and staff elegantly dance around it with Baryshnikovian skill.

That's not to suggest that jersey numbers are the most important thing in the world, but you'd think there'd have been a decision made known unless there was something behind it.

There are also rumors swirling about former starting safety Baccari Rambo. After being penciled in (at least by everyone outside the program) as the starter up until fall camp, he's slowly being mentioned less and less, and coaches are reticent to even mention his name now during post-practice pressers. He's like a gridiron Beetlejuice.

Some think he may have gotten himself into some hot sauce and will be suspended for a game or two, or more. Others have either heard, or just flat-out made baseless claims that he's being integrated into a "wild-dawg" package. I know, I know. The Internets have never been a place for rumors, and shame on me for suggesting such a thing.

Ultimately, it could be as simple for Branden Smith as he did hurt his foot a bit, and there is not enough to go on to make any proclamations as to its severity. And, it could be that there are no real plans to integrate him into the offense any more than once or twice a game, and they'll just do that with Richard Samuel in the backfield (or nobody else in the backfield) to avoid any number conflicts.

Further, it could just be the case that Rambo has been outplayed by Sanders Commings and/or Shawn Williams (Commings has been playing just about every DB position under the sun).

Whatever the case may be, Richt seems perfectly happy to let the rumors swirl. After all, the more Boise State, South Carolina, and everybody else has to consider, the better off Georgia will be.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kellen Moore is SuperPoised, Crazy Leslie, and other things

We're officially one week away from the beginning of the 2011 college football season (FBS, Div I-A, Etc). There are some real titanic match-ups slated for next Thursday, too. Villanova at Temple in a battle for the Keystone State is particularly intriguing, as New Hampshire at Toledo. Or, maybe Mississippi State will be upset, traveling to a team that won one game last year. Seriously, though, I am ready to see some football that counts.

Was doing some thinking, and while I hope Georgia stomps a hole in the all-time-win-leader-to-be Kellen Moore's hiney, I am looking forward to seeing his biography hit the silver screen.

"6 Feet of Grit: The Kellen Moore Story" had a nice ring to it, with Jake Busey, progeny of the legendary Gary Busey, playing the title role.

The physical similarities are striking, and Busey proved he could "tackle" an action role with his turn in "Starship Troopers."

Alas, I'm not sure the Hollywood suits will go for it. So, Moore will have to make due pursuing his NFL dreams. Though listed at 6', most suspect he's closer to the 5'10.5" range. Good luck to him, but if he does make it in the NFL, it will likely be as a clipboard holder on the sidelines.

Of course, I don't mean to disparage him. He's put up some amazing stats during his time, as he moves up the list in various categories. He's still got a ways to go before catching the likes of Colt Brennan, who faced the Dawgs in '08 and...Moore's put up some ridiculous numbers. Also, Moore is majoring in communications, as evidenced by his skills in this interview clip.

Moving on, LSU coach Les Miles has certainly got his hands full of late. A drunken brawl outside a bar has left the status of his would-be starting QB, Jordan Jefferson, in doubt. He's also compiling quite a list of "Lesisms" during his time in Red Stick. Regarding the fact that players were out past curfew, Leslie stated that "first of all, they should not have been there. So first and foremost, I take discredit for that." Either way, it's enough to drive a coach mad.

At any rate, again, we're just a week away. Boy, it's funny how perspective affects time. This next 7 days will likely seem like an eternity. However, I'm sure if I had a spinal tap or full body cavity search scheduled for next Thursday, it would be here in no time. Yay.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Worried" about Johnathan Jenkins?

It's a safe bet that coaches and fans alike expected Johnathan Jenkins to take over the starting nose tackle job when he transferred from junior college earlier this year. After all, he had the type of size (currently listed at over 6'3" and about 350 lbs.) and athleticism that you look for when running the 3-4 defense. Further, the only other viable option was Kwame Geathers, who'd looked a bit out of shape and lost during his first couple of seasons with the Bulldogs.

Now, though, after both great improvement by Geathers and some minor injuries/setbacks for Jenkins, it appears that Kwame is set to open the season as the starter. But, does this mean fans should worry that Jenkins is not going to live up to the hype? Hardly.

We need to remember that Kwame Geathers is, himself, still just coming into his redshirt sophomore season. It's not as though he was just lazing around, and is now the starter by default. He was still in a learning process, and had seemed to break through during the spring, even before Jenkins arrived on campus.

As you break it down even further, you realize that this is the perfect scenario for the Dawgs at NT. First, you allow Jenkins to ease into the role, gaining valuable experience one piece at a time. Second, and more importantly, though, you've got two gargantuan players who can substitute in and out and remain fresh. Imagine offensive centers and guards who've been battling a 350 pounder all day, and yet he never gets tired, because there are two of him. That's just a lot of weight to carry around, so the fresher you can keep both Geathers and Jenkins, the better off the defense will be.

Assuming the minor hamstring pull doesn't keep him out too much longer, you can expect to see Jenkins playing some significant minutes against Boise St. next Saturday night. I think coaches and teammates still expect great things from him. So, don't worry that he's not starting right now. Be excited that Kwame Geathers was able to beat him out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No news is good news on the Offensive Line

Let's face it. The big hogs up front on the offensive line are typically not the center of attention when it comes to the football news of the day, especially in the preseason. Sure, if you've got a 3-time All-American Left Tackle, or a unit that is recognized the country over as one of the most dominating in history, then you might get a few blurbs on "The Worldwide Leader." Beyond that, though, you're not likely to hear too many glowing points.

So, with Georgia's depth on the O-Line hanging by a thread, it has been a welcome thing that the starting 5 have not been in the headlines due to injuries, missteps, or any other such negatives.

New O-Line coach Will Friend, whose now-famous switch from a zone-blocking scheme to a more straight ahead drive blocking practice, is not given to hyperbole. He has, however, made some comments that lead you to believe he's not, at the very least, disappointed with what he's seen so far.

“Those guys have done nothing to lose their spot and have performed pretty good,” he said recently.

Despite the slight grammar faux pas, that's not the worst thing in the world to hear. With the exception of maybe opening a few larger-than-normal holes (wait, what?), the offensive line is, by nature, a unit whose goal is to not be noticed.

Don't get noticed by committing false starts, holds, etc.

Don't get noticed by getting burned off the edge and getting your QB killed.

Don't get noticed by getting completely blown up through the middle.

So, with just over a week left before the season opener, I am quite content to not hear much of anything about any of the offensive linemen from here on out.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Terrelle Pryor ruling is right on

With the news coming down this week that former Ohio State QB and tattoo connoisseur Terrelle Pryor would be required to serve a five game suspension after (presumably) being taken in the NFL's supplemental draft, many have spoken out both in favor of and against it. The truth, as I see it, is that he absolutely deserves this suspension, even though his transgressions occurred during college.

The primary concerns voiced by those opposed to the ruling are as follows. First, that a player's wrongdoings in college should not affect him after college (those being NCAA violations). And, secondly, that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been wielding too much power lately, and this is the latest example of him doling out punishments in situations where precedents don't exist.

While the second point might be a bit more reasonable from a general practice standpoint, the first is completely out of order.

Face it. College football is the lifeblood of the NFL. That is where players are groomed, both mentally and physically, for what is the single largest grossing professional sport on the planet. The two are inextricably linked, and what affects one will, in one way or another, affect the other.

Think of how many underclassmen jumped ship on the NCAA last year when it was learned that rookie salaries would likely be lowered (to a reasonable level, by the way) in 2011. Also, consider the rules in place for how long a player must wait after graduating high school before he is allowed to apply for the NFL draft (3 years). Just two examples of how the NFL has already been involved with college football on a fairly direct level.

This latest ruling may, in fact, set a precedent, but think of the precedent that would be set if no action was taken by Goodell, and accepted by the NFLPA. Any player who was projected as a future draft pick would have little other than his own conscience (and we've seen how well that works for some players) to keep him from breaking every NCAA rule under the sun. He would know that, if he did get caught, he could simply just jump ship and be picked up by any team looking for a man of his talents.

Quite honestly, Pryor should have been made to sit out a year. I'm not particularly worried about Ohio State's immediate future, as the program has gotten itself into a plethora (what is a plethora?) of other messes; I certainly don't feel bad for them. But, in general, you have a starting QB who broke some rules, and then gave his word that he would accept punishment and return for his senior season. Then, when more issues arose, he thought he'd just say, "To hell with this," and bolt for the NFL. He, in essence, gets of scot-free, while leaving his former team in a lurch.

If Goodell's suspension of Pryor is opening a can of worms, then not suspending him is opening Pandora's Box.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tavarres King, where are you?

Worried about the lack of supposed catches by Tavarres King o'er the first two scrimmages? Don't be.

I don't profess to know what exactly is going on at Georgia's scrimmages. I only know what I read and hear like 99.9% of the rest of the Bulldog Nation. What I'm hearing is that "TK" hasn't caught more than a ball or two over the course of the two scrimmages.

I've also heard that Bacarri Rambo has not been practicing with the first team defense, among other things.

Want to know how to tell how much of this is just the coaching staff trying to get a look at some unknown commodities? Just look at the starting lineups come the season opener.

There was a running joke that former Georgia RB Ronnie Powell was an All-American on G-Day and fall scrimmages, yet, he rarely saw significant action during the regular season. This is not meant to dump on Ronnie at all. He busted his hump and made it farther up the football ladder than most who play the game. I'm just making the point that you can't go by simple stats and recaps of a fake "game" with made up scenarios played behind closed doors (or gates, as the case may be).

So, I'll go on record as saying that, barring injury, I'll be absolutely stunned if #12 isn't lined up at wide out for the Dawgs on opening night, even if he's been the invisible man during the all important scrimmages.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

South Carolina is going to win the SEC East because of returning starters

That would be the conventional wisdom speaking.

Sounds, well, sound. After all, if you have a decent year in 2010, and you get a lot of those guys back, particularly the more impactful (which is actually not a word) players, it might stand to reason that you'll be better in 2011.

But, let's think about this for a second, and use South Carolina as an example. Who's returning? Let's take some key players and look at their situations, starting from the top.

QB Stephen Garcia returns for his senior season. He definitely took a step forward in 2010, with a solid QB rating, though he still was prone to throwing the ball to the other team. We're told we're getting a Stephen Garcia who's turned his life around, but dollars to donuts something else will arise. Even if it doesn't, is he really expected to be better than last year? Not really.

Then we look at WR Alshon Jeffrey. With over 1,500 yds and 9 TDs last year, he had about as good a season as a WR can have in college. He's an absolutely known quantity (a damn good one) that teams will scheme against. He'll get his yards and TDs, but honestly, is he going to have a better year than 2010? It's almost a statistical impossibility. Oh, and it becomes even more of an improbability when you look at his current physical conditioning...

Moving on to RB Marcus Lattimore. Tallying over 1,600 yds of total offense and 19 total TDs, he was who many consider to be responsible for uSC's surge offensively last year. He may actually do even better this year, but that will be more in the pass-blocking category. Still, moving from your freshman to sophomore year could yield some benefits, even after such a great rookie campaign.

On defense, the Gamecocks were very average last year, and they may actually improve under DC Ellis Johnson this season, especially with the addition of all-everything freshman DE Jadaveon Clowney. The Cocks return ~7 starters (always a wishy-washy number anyway, considering some guys don't start every game for various reasons).

Without getting into too much more detail, though, let me make my point. The Gamecocks lost 5 games in 2010, and they showed little to no improvement as the season went on. Each good thing was followed by a bad. They failed to handle any amount of success with more success.

You can talk about Georgia losing to UCF all you want, but getting outscored 82-34 over the last two games is hardly reason to be excited about the next year.

So, what is really so exciting and alluring about South Carolina returning a bunch of guys that, quite frankly, weren't all that spectacular as a whole in 2010?

Good teams can definitely take a step back if they lose a bunch of key starters (even though those key starters were not always key starters, either). However, returning a bunch of starters from a slightly above average team does not a championship season make. Just ask the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Georgia Bulldogs, and those teams were far better than the 2010 Gamecocks could ever dream of being.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writing off Marlon Brown, others?

Any time a highly touted freshman arrives on campus, he of the 4 or 5 star ranking, he's almost always expected to be an all-conference performer right out of the gate. I won't broach the topic of the importance of star rankings here, as that topic has become as heated as abortion or the ending of The Sopranos.

Fairly or unfairly, many fans expect that, because the AJ Green's, Eric Berry's, and Marcus Lattimore's of the world exist, that all such high school phenoms should be able to waltz right in and put up similar freshman performances.

The fact is, these types of situations are the exception, not the norm. Not everyone is on the same timeline, and not every situation is the same.

Take Marlon Brown. After a dominating senior year in high school, he turned in a brilliant performance which included a 71 yd TD reception in the 2009 Under Armour All America game, sending his already high stock skyrocketing.

After he committed to Georgia, many believed he would be a mirror image of AJ Green, given his size, speed, and athleticism. But, things didn't turn out that way.

In the fall of 2009, Brown failed to make any significant move up the depth chart, catching just 2 balls (which came in a blowout at Tennessee, and were seemingly force fed to him just to let him catch a couple in his home state).

Then, last year, Brown slowly began to emerge from the shadows, notching his first TD reception in Colorado, though he still was largely unable to earn significant playing time. Of course, settling in behind Green, Durham, and Tavarres King can do that to a player.

Now, in 2011, Brown has worked his way atop the depth chart. While tenuous, it speaks volumes of a player who really does have the skills and attitude to be successful in the SEC, even though the road to the top of this hill (again, for the time being) may have been traveled by rickshaw, not rocket ship.

I'm certainly not saying Brown has "arrived." After all, he still has yet to make consistent positive contributions offensively. The point, though, is that many had written him off as a bust, saying he only appeared to be a special player because of the talent, or lack thereof, he played against in high school.

I personally am looking forward to seeing how he fares this season, and hoping for the best for him, and all others who've kept their noses clean, showed up every day, and practiced hard. It's not his fault that a couple of recruiting services saw some game film and a 71 yd catch in an all star game, and decided that he should be the next Randy Moss.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bulldogs "Man Up"

One of the hot topics in the blogosphere during fall camp was the issue of practicing 1's vs. 1's; the idea that pitting your first-string offense against your first-string defense created better competition and preparedness for both.

It's a simple enough concept to grasp. After all, it makes sense that if you're a receiver going up against a top cornerback, you're going to better know where you stand, and what your strengths and weakness might be.

So, when Richt clarified the Bulldogs will typically go 1's vs. 2's on both offense and defense, many, particularly those that love to question the coaching staff's methods, got a little antsy. After all, how could we possibly be prepared for Boise St. and South Carolina 1st stringers if we're not practicing against our own?

What those people may fail to grasp is that both offense and defense are predominately working on technique, communication, execution, and specific plays. In order to that, the coaches need to set up various scenarios. Hence, you're not getting the most out of each practice because either the offense or defense is constantly running "bogus" plays. Or, you're not getting the most out of practice because you're not concentrating on specific goals and improving where you're weakest. Either way, going 1's vs. 2's is a necessity.

But, fear not, armchair QBs and coaches. The Dawgs held what Richt deemed a "competition day" on Friday, in which several scenarios (down and distance) were set up, and the #1 offense and the #1 defense went at it (The offense won the day 3-2). The coaching staff, much more often than not, knows what you know (and plenty more). They do see the value in each side of the ball getting the others' best shot, at least every once in a while.

The point is, the ol' coach sees a far greater value in getting down plays, signals, techniques, reps, and every other what-have-you more. Besides, it's not as if the second team is composed of the little angels in Sister Mary Catherine's Little Fireflies Dance Troupe.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Jenkins' attitude contagious

Aside from maybe Isaiah Crowell, the first-year man most expected to contribute this year (at least by the Georgia fan base) would have to be Johnathan Jenkins. Even though Kwame Geathers turned some heads as the big anchor of Georgia's 3-4 defense at nose tackle in the spring, Jenkins was still thought to be the missing piece.

After arriving on campus at nearly 360 lbs, Jenkins has already shed some weight in the Georgia heat, dropping down to a reported 342. Almost as important as the weight he's dropped, though, have been the quips and slogans he's dropped.

The mantra of fall practice, especially from a die-hard fan's perspective, is to not read too much into what you're hearing from coaches and players. 98% of the questions (that's a documented stat, by the way) are loaded, and so we often get canned answers and coach-speak.

Example: How have fall practices been going?

Answer: They've been going great. Everybody has been working hard, and you can tell guys are really dedicated.


But, with Jenkins, you can definitely tell he's answering from a more personal experience.

When he was recruited, you can bet Georgia coaches pitched the absolute need for a gargantuan nose tackle with Jenkins' athleticism. In fact, while they certainly wouldn't have actually promised him the starting job, they most likely came as close to doing so as they ever have with a recruit. Nonetheless, John Jenkins truly understands that he has to prove himself. He doesn't seem to be moping around wondering why he's currently with the second-team defense.

Beyond that, though, is something Dawg fans have to truly love above almost anything else. Jenkins has effused pride in the Georgia "G." He genuinely understands how much the University of Georgia means to hundreds of thousands of people, and he appreciates the history of Georgia football. It's as if he considers it not only an honor to represent Georgia, but also a responsibility.

Remember the old knight in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?" Of course you do. He spoke of how the honor was his to guard the Grail. Well, hopefully Georgia football is a little more fun and exciting than sitting in a dusky room penitently kneeling for a thousand years, but it's as if that's how Jenkins views his "job." I may have derailed a bit there.

At any rate, I say again that talk is talk, so we'll just have to wait and see what kind of impact Jenkins has on the field. But, if his talent in any way equals his attitude, enthusiasm, and outlook, I think it will be a lot of fun watching him play this fall.

Now, enjoy viewing the proper way to address a stare-down...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jarvis Jones a perfect leader for the defense

As is the case with many players at UGA, Jarvis Jones came out of high school with all the accolades and accomplishments you'd expect. So many, in fact, that then-powerhouse USC came calling from 3,000 miles away and convinced Jones to be a Trojan.

Then, just as the freshman linebacker was beginning to make his mark on the field, disaster struck. A freak neck injury left him wondering if he'd ever play football again. It left the USC medical staff wondering as well, and they refused to clear Jones to play.

Fortunately, other medical opinions were formed to the contrary. Jarvis Jones was granted a second chance to pursue his dreams at the University of Georgia. NCAA rules dictated that the now red shirt sophomore had to sit out a year, which was probably for the best anyway, as it gave him time to continue to heal and regain confidence in his spine.

Now, the former top-5 ranked linebacker/defensive end out of Columbus sits atop the Dawgs' depth chart at "Sam" linebacker, ready to announce his return in front of 70,000+ at the Georgia Dome on September 3rd. But, for a Georgia defense that struggled to find its identity in 2010, Jones represents more than just the position he plays.

There's something about getting a second chance. Football has generally come easy for every player on Georgia's squad until this point. Often times, these 18-22 year olds don't really know what it would be like to not have football. Jones does. He knows from 1st hand experience that nothing is given, and in fact, it can easily be taken away. He knows that it's nothing to be squandered.

Even after his return to the field was eminent, there was a new situation that threatened his playing time, as the NCAA began to look into potential improprieties stemming from a slush fund tied to his AAU team. There again, Jarvis Jones was in danger of having football taken away from him, if even for just a few more games.

So, you can bet that when Jones is calling for his teammates to push a little harder, or to work a little more, his words carry weight. Someone who has been through what he's been through, and has unquestioned talent and ability, has the potential to lead like few others.

Hopefully, it's a success story that's only truly beginning to play itself out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Relax, it's just a scrimmage

You've likely heard/seen the initial stats from Georgia's first scrimmage today. If not, I bet you can find them. You seem like a pretty resourceful person.

The key takeaways, for those of you used to business meeting jargon, are that there were a lot of sacks, Crowell and Samuel were effective on the ground, Murray was efficient through the air, and Samuel fumbled once.

In reality, though, these are not important at all. They are interesting to see from the standpoint of finding out what guys were out there running around and making some plays, but for the love of all that is good and holy, I implore you to not read into these numbers any more than to say, "Neat."

We don't know the circumstances of any of the plays, we don't know how or why a play ended up the way it did, and beyond all that, it's a week into fall camp. If Georgia's starting O-Line gives up 10 sacks against BSU, then we might be in some trouble. I'm as interested as the next fellow regarding the stats from a general curiosity standpoint, but before any stats are officially entered for the 2011 season, consider them next to worthless.

Bulldog WRs' stock rising

Obviously, the 2011 season has yet to begin, so we're not going to act like anything has been accomplished yet. Further, we don't want to pretend that talk and glowing comments about Georgia's WR corps are anything more than that. However, it's encouraging to know that a couple of guys have been singled out for their performances and effort thus far.

At SEC Media Days, the talk was about Malcolm Mitchell, the highly touted (how many times have you heard that phrase lately?) incoming freshman who not only possesses elite quickness and speed, but also an incredible work ethic.

Now, over the past day or two, QB Aaron Murray has been singing the praises of junior WR Marlon Brown, who was likewise highly regarded coming out of high school, and whose 6'5", 220lb. frame and sheer athleticism suggest he has the tools to be great.

And, of course, there's the "old man" of the group, Tavarres King. Don't look now, but TK has put together a very solid first couple of years, and could easily end up eclipsing the 2,000 yd receiving mark by the time he's done.

Nobody is suggesting that losing AJ Green is going to be easy to weather. He was probably the most dynamic and game-changing WR to ever play at Georgia. However, a lot of these younger guys are no slouches in the athletic department, and appear ready and willing to make their own mark.

Bringing up the name Herschel can lead to a lot of emotions for Dawg fans, but just to point out that losing an elite player does not a season ruin...

In Herschel's Heisman campaign of '82, he rushed 355 times for 1,752 yds and 16 TDs, an amazing season to be sure. The year following, though, the Dawgs went 10-1-1, and had their top 3 rushers (the dreaded running back by committee) rush 327 times for 1,383 yds and 16 TDs. Granted, there's a whole lot of other factors and effects to consider with a guy like #34 in the backfield, but from a sheer production standpoint, the dropoff was limited.

So, again, we'll have to wait and see what actually happens on the field throughout the season, but there's at least hope that AJ's departure simply means an open door for others to step through.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is Boise State's defense really dominant?

Normally, this would be the type of subject I would not broach until game-week, or there about, but it was something I looked into and had been thinking about.

While the Broncos' offense gets the most notoriety, you've doubtless read by now that their defense is also an immense strength, having ranked #2 in the nation in both scoring defense and total defense in 2010. That alone means that, any way you slice it, they are talented and well coached.

Having said that, it must be stressed that many of their gaudy (or in the case of defense, miniscule) stats are the product not only of Boise St. being very good, but their competition being very bad.

In the 2010 regular season, the Broncos basically played 3 games that an objective football fan would consider to have been against decent competition: Virginia Tech, Oregon State, and Nevada. Against those three teams, BSU gave up an average of 29.3 points per game. Hardly dominating.

As you sift and search through the various scores of the rest of their cupcake schedule, you'll find that the same teams the Broncos were beating up on, other BCS conference teams whipped as well. Cases in point...BSU beat LA Tech 49-20, Texas A&M beat LA Tech 48-16. BSU beat Toledo 57-14, Arizona beat Toledo 41-2.

Look, I'm not trying to get into the "Team A beat team B, and team C beat team B, so this and that would happen" type of scenario. I'm simply supporting the idea that Boise St is a good team that padded its national rankings via the sisters of the poor, and was completely lack-luster from the defensive side of the ball any time they went up against solid (not even top-rate) competition. You'll find it's a trend. Virtually every team in the WAC last year that BSU pummeled was similarly beaten by pretty much every out of conference team they played.

It's pointless to sit here and say that Georgia (or any other team) "would have" run through BSU's schedule, so I won't do that. I will, however, point to what actually did happen last year, and recommend that everyone just pump the brakes a bit with regards to the suffocating, dominating, punishing, stingy, or otherwise dominating defense of the Boise State Broncos.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Freshmen nearing tipping point for significant playing time

Although the Dawgs are just 4 practices into the fall schedule, you can bet coaches and players are already forming opinions on who will play a significant amount, who might get some special teams and mop-up duty, and who is looking like a redshirt candidate.

Mark Richt and Mike Bobo have become especially enamored with the phrase "their heads are swimming (or spinning, depending on the day)." Makes sense, because the college game is simply so much more involved with regard to responsibilities and reads on dozens upon dozens of plays. Then, there's the fact that they're adjusting to being away from home, not being the big man on campus, the speed and toughness of the college game, and numerous other factors. It's tough.

That being said, teams can't afford to slow up the pace of getting ready for both the season and the first opponent for the sake of bringing certain freshmen along slowly. It's a "throw 'em in the water and see if they can swim" mentality. Although, necessity and lack of depth can sometimes dictate whether a few select guys get a little more attention.

Ultimately, a guy like Isaiah Crowell is not going to redshirt unless he is just completely lost out there (which all reports indicate is coming along nicely). The need is just too great, and the upside is too appealing. But, for others who are waiting in line behind several veterans, they are nearing a point where coaches are looking at them and saying, "he's just not ready."

Taking all that into account, though, it's interesting to note that the Dawgs have precious few positions where depth is a non-issue right now. Cornerback (and nickel) are looking pretty full, and there will be one or two candidates for a redshirt at WR (though most expect Malcolm Mitchell to play early and often).

Put simply (too late, right?), the Bulldogs may be forced to play a few guys who, in another year, would be redshirted.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What do we want to hear (or not hear) out of fall practice

After a test day and general acclimation period today, the Bulldogs begin preparations for the 2011 season in earnest on Thursday. While there will doubtless be reports of which incoming freshmen are standing out (which will lead to speculation that anyone not mentioned is struggling), who's improved the most, and who has stepped up as a leader, there are a few other things to look for. Bear in mind, you can't always believe what you read, and more than that, there are simply going to be a lot of things that fans and reporters simply aren't privy to.

1) No injuries, particularly on the offensive line. This goes without saying about as much as you don't want to hear about an injury to your starting QB. Dawgs simply can't afford it.

2) Richard Samuel hasn't missed a beat, and has improved, since he last played running back in 2009.

3) Crowell is challenging Samuel for the top spot. If Samuel is actually competing and looking good at running back, then this will be a welcome sign.

4) Nobody can block Johnathan Jenkins. As good as Kwame Geathers looked in the spring, if the Dawgs O-Line (particular Ben Jones, one of the best centers in football) can't take JJ one on one, then that will bode well for the Bulldogs defense.

5) Alec Ogletree is tackling everybody. It's funny, but Ogletree's move has been a two-sided coin during the off-season. It seems as though nobody's particularly worried about the move, and yet there's only been minimal talk that he's going to shine (which I think he will). He's currently listed at 236lbs, and presumably can still motor. Dawgs are hoping he's a bit taller version of Patrick Willis (I realize this is still wildly premature).

Of course, there are several other thing we hope to hear, but they tend to be part of a zero-sum game. For instance, you don't want to hear that Aaron Murray is throwing any picks, but yet you don't want to hear that the defense isn't making any interceptions. You don't want to hear the the D-line is getting blown up up front, but you don't want to hear that the O-line can't open any holes, either.

Aaah, the fun of fall practice. In the end, I guess you just want to hear that everybody's working their butts off, and nobody's getting hurt.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Can Orson Charles really be a premier weapon?

During his recruitment, Orson Charles had as much fanfare surrounding him as any tight end you're likely to find. Part of that was that he had all the quickness and ball skills of a wide receiver, built into a tight-end's body and mind. It also didn't hurt, especially in the eyes of Georgia fans, that he accidentally busted Florida's BCS National Championship trophy (Still holding out hope that maybe, about 20 years down the road, he'll tell us he did it on purpose).

Make no mistake. Charles has made an impact. In just two years, he's amassed about 50 catches and 800 yds, including 5 TDs. He's also averaged over 16 yds per catch, a lofty number for a tight end.

But, despite the accolades, achievements, and numbers, I'm still left wondering just how much impact a tight end can really have, particularly in the passing game. After all, he's not even running a pattern on all passing plays, and it's just not something you see all that often (it does happen, though. Antonio Gates has basically been San Diego's leading receiver for the past 5 years).

That is why it's heartening to hear that the Dawgs may try to move Charles around a bit. He was described by Richt as being the best receiver the Bulldogs have right now, bar none. He's also seemingly taking on much more of a leadership role, and he'll need to have some numbers and big plays to back that up.

So, what do you think? Can Orson Charles really be a big-time weapon overall, or will he just be a big weapon for a tight end?

Friday, July 29, 2011

5 reasons Dawgs could be better, and 5 reasons they could be no better

With the beginning of fall camp now less than a week away, most of the preseason prognostications and predictions have been strewn about the innerwebs like dirty socks and beer cans in dorm room. Most of these proverbial palm readings include actual predictions on a final record, place in the polls, and so on.

Instead of pulling a number out of my buttocks, I thought I might list a few reasons why Georgia could end up being better (or having a better season), and a few that could lead to the Bulldogs being no better than they were in the dreadful and forgettable '10 season.

First, let's get the bad out of the way.

1) The Bulldogs lost their best playmaker - The difference between Georgia's offense from missing WR AJ Green for four games and his return was night and day. In fact, against BCS conference opponents, the Dawgs averaged 16 pts per game without him, and nearly 31 pts per game with him, excluding the phone-it-in bowl game.

2) The offensive line has zero depth - As it stands right now, there's not a whole lot wrong with the O-Line, from a starter perspective. Lose just one of those guys, though, and Georgia will be relying on players who've never played a down, or only seen mop-up duty.

3) Inexperience at running back - This one has gotten more airplay than any other for the Dawgs of late, but it rings true. Of the four running backs on scholarship, 2 have never played a college down, one is suspended for at least the first game and was relatively ineffective when he did play, and the fourth (listed atop the depth chart for now) was set to play linebacker just a couple of weeks ago.

4) Possibly no Jarvis Jones - OK, this one's still up in the air, but the Dawgs' defense was set to rely heavily on the USC transfer's speed and strength coming off the edge, as well as his leadership qualities and tenacity. We'll have to wait on the final word, but these things rarely turn out well...unless you're Auburn.

5) Tough beginning to the schedule - There are always varying thoughts to starting out the season with a tough opponent. On the one hand, it's the other team's first game, too, so everybody might be a little rusty. But, for the Dawgs, coming off a bad year, losing two games to start out the season could be a mental blow from which there is no recovering. Starting out with a team that was a missed chip shot field goal away from going undefeated, and following up with the SEC East champion will be a challenge.

Those are the biggest obstacles as I see them, though there are obviously more uncertainties. But, what about the reasons Georgia could be a better team and/or end up with a better record.

1) QB Aaron Murray has a year under his belt - The magnitude of this cannot truly be grasped, given his splendid freshman campaign. He should be better himself, this being his 3rd year in the system, knowing the game better, and being far more accustomed to the SEC. Then, there's the fact that Bobo will not feel nearly as hamstrung in play designs and calls. Further, the QB really needs to be the leader of the offense, and Murray should feel more comfortable leading, while the surrounding players should feel more comfortable looking to him to lead.

2) It's the 2nd year in the 3-4 - Revamping the majority of the defensive coaching staff is change enough, but the Dawgs also switched to an entirely different defensive scheme. While Georgia was statistically better in '10 than in '09 anyway, it was evident that guys were still kind of feeling their way, and either blowing assignments altogether, or playing a step slower because of some uncertainty. That should be gone this year.

3) Better pieces in place to support the 3-4 scheme - A huge key for the 3-4 defense up front is having a big, yet still athletic nose tackle. Last year, Deangelo Tyson played admirably, but at 300lbs, he was just not big enough to demand a double team (it will always sound strange to me that a 300lb. man is not big enough). Now, with "Big Daddy Jenks" John Jenkins coming in from junior college, and Kwame Geathers emerging during spring, it seems the Bulldogs will have that big push up the middle, allowing defensive ends and linebackers to come around the outside a bit more easily.

4) A much easier schedule - Despite the aforementioned tough start, the Bulldogs have what should be one of the easiest schedules in the SEC. Boise St. might as well be a home game, and the Dawgs get what should be the rest of the toughest opponents at home as well, with South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Auburn coming to Athens. The road games are generally against the weaker teams (Tennessee could be improved, but the Dawgs absolutely slaughtered them last year). And, as for the Cocktail Party, both Georgia and Florida get a bye the week before, but the Gators have to play Alabama, LSU, and Auburn leading up to the game in Jacksonville, while Georgia gets MSU, Tennessee, and Vandy.

5)Positive attitude - I don't want to put too much emphasis on this, because there is always plenty of positive talk and thinking going into a season. We're always hearing how this has changed, and that is better, especially after a disappointing season. More to the point here, though, is that players and coaches genuinely feel that certain bad elements have been cast out. Moreover, it seems the players are feeling better about themselves, having been through a grueling new strength and conditioning regimen (not a "regiment," which is a military unit). There seems to be more of a sense of urgency, cohesiveness, and purpose.

So, there you have it. I'll take the baseball approach here and consider myself having done extremely well if I've 'hit' on 30% of these and bat .300. As with many teams, the key is to win a few close ones early, and get some confidence going. If Georgia can get those wins to begin the season, then look out, because there's plenty of reasons to be excited about this team. If they come up short, though, there are reasons to believe it could be another long year.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Running Backs from Georgia failing to make a splash

Seems like it used to be, if you were a college program looking for a running back, you could just cherry pick from the state of Georgia. That hasn't been the case of late, though, regardless of a player's college choice.

Washaun Ealey, Dontavious Jackson, Caleb King, Jonathan Dwyer, Carlos Brown, Cameron Smith, James Davis, and DJ Adams were basically rated the top running backs over the past several years (prior to 2009; still reserving judgement before writing off the likes of Storm Johnson, Ken Malcome, and Mack Brown).

Of the aforementioned backs, James Davis had a terrific freshman year, but his production and overall playmaking ability dwindled after CJ Spiller arrived. Jonathan Dwyer was extremely prolific, but it could be argued, and rightfully so, that he was a product of Paul Johnson's triple option (that's the perfect option, for those of you who don't know). Any back they stick in there at the "A" is going to run for a ton of yards. Both were taken in the 6th round of the NFL draft, hardly hot property.

It should be noted that "Hot Property" was a faux kid's dance troop on Star Search, as created by Norm McDonald.

Interestingly, UGA has not been without highly productive backs. They've just come from other states. Knowshon Moreno and Musa Smith have been the only backs to eclipse the thousand-yard mark in a season over the past decade and be "1st Day" NFL draft picks. That's not to diminish the contributions of backs like Thomas Brown and Danny Ware, who are great people and bled Red and Black.

Which brings us to Isaiah Crowell. Of all the running backs mentioned, Crowell would seem to be the can't-missest of the bunch (you may recall Caleb King was as highly touted before transferring to GAC and injuring his leg his senior year). The team and coaching staff are doing their best not to put the weight of the Georgia program on the freshman's shoulders, and that's how it should be. Hopefully, he can live up to expectations and put running backs from the state of Georgia back on the map.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Will Ray Drew be a vocal leader as a freshman?

He's known as the Pastor of the Pass Rush. The Bishop of the Blitz. The Deacon of Defense. The Abbot Assassin. He's Ray Drew. (OK, he's not known by any of those things, but feel free to start a grassroots campaign to get one or all of those rolling)

His chipper, happy-go-lucky attitude off the field is matched only by his intensity and effort on it, according to most. And, early scuttlebutt is that he's not letting his status as a true freshman who's never played a down in college stand in the way of being who he is.

Despite being a 5-star defensive end coming out of high school, Drew is not expected to be an every-down outside linebacker (where he'll likely play for Georgia) this season. Though most expect him to contribute in 2011, it will probably be more on special teams and as a third-down pass rush specialist later in games and as the season wears on.

So, the question becomes, can a true Freshman, albeit one of such character and charisma and future greatness, be a vocal leader for the Georgia defense?

It seems that lately, the few real leaders the Dawgs have had on the defensive side of the ball have been more of the 'walk softly and carry a big stick' variety. Don't get me wrong, those types are great in their own right, but of the many little things that Georgia's been missing of late, a real vocal motivator in the ranks is certainly on the list.

We'll see if the "Saint of the Slobberknocker" is ready to lead, and if the rest of the defense is willing to follow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Crowell protected from up on high?

By now, most of you have heard the varying quotes, tidbits, reports, and anecdotes from Georgia players and the coach at SEC media days.

While most of this tends to be coachspeak, with the odd factoid and interesting revelation thrown in, I did think it was interesting how QB Aaron Murray mentioned that he, center Ben Jones, and linebacker Christian Robinson visited Isaiah Crowell the day he got on campus to talk with him and even work out a bit.

It wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary to hear that Murray and Jones were getting acquainted with the young running back. After all those will be the two guys he works most closely with out on the field, save maybe the fullback. The interesting thing to me is that Robinson was mentioned as part of the group, being on the other side of the ball, and about to be laying out hits on the new guy in a matter of days.

Looking at it that way, and knowing in what high regard all three of those 'veterans' are held by the coaching staff and Mark Richt in particular (possibly more so than any other player, save Orson Charles), one has to wonder if they were directed by the head coach to see to it Crowell feels as comfortable and looked after as possible; that he's shown right off the bat what it is to be an ideal student athlete.

It could be that, after seeing the last two prized running back recruits go by the wayside for off the field issues, Richt has sent his captain and lieutenants out to keep it from happening again.

Or, it could be that these players simply realized that things have to be different, and that if Crowell follows the straight and narrow, then he's got the ability to help the whole team get back on top.

Whatever the case, it's nice to hear that the leadership of this team is taking a proactive approach to, well, lead.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Georgia could be better because they could've been better

Make no mistake, I'm not going to sit here and tell you the Dawgs "could" have been 10-3 last year. They won some close games and lost some close games, and that's often what makes the difference in having a good season and a lousy one.

What I will point to is that Georgia rarely seemed outmatched in any game last season. Granted, Auburn did end up running away against the Dawgs, but you've got to keep in mind they got an easy score late when Georgia was forced to go for it on 4th down.

I will also acknowledge that there were some games that Georgia should not even have to worry about coming down to the wire, such as Colorado or Central Florida. The Bulldogs should really just be flat-out better.

So, what's the point (as if I have ever one)?

The point is that the Dawgs really never just came out looking completely clueless.

Believe me, Georgia should not be at a point where fans are hanging their hats on such a statement, but 2010 is in the past. Everybody, from the most pessimistic doomsday nay-sayers to the most upbeat, kool-aid drinkin' superfans can rationalize why the Bulldogs will be good, bad, or anywhere in between. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what people think. Otherwise, we wouldn't even bother to have a season.

Having said all that, there is at least a baseline that the team is not so completely discombobulated and confused that entire football methodologies and ideologies have to be scrapped. This hasn't turned into a reclamation project. Georgia is still at a point where some tweaks, toggles, and improvements can still put the Dawgs back atop the SEC East.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Are these Dawgs ready to turn things around?

Time flies when you're having fun. Not so much when you're not.

When the Bulldogs won 74 games from 2002 to 2008, with really just the one 2006 season being a "bad" year, it didn't really seem like there'd ever be a stretch where Georgia would struggle. It certainly didn't seem like head coach Mark Richt would possibly leave Georgia on anything other than his own terms.

Sure, there were signs here and there. Georgia's defense showing up clueless in games against Tennessee and Alabama. Needing a late fumble recovery in 2007 to beat lowly Vanderbilt before ultimately finishing #2 in the nation. Still losing to Florida more often than not, even when it seemed Georgia had the superior team.

But, after a string of some bad luck, perhaps some bad decisions, and a sort of malaise that slowly seemed to descend upon the program, Georgia finds itself having won just 2 more games than it's lost over the past two seasons, going 14-12. Georgia finds itself coming off its first losing season since 1996. Georgia finds itself having to prove that it's not falling into the pigskin purgatory that teams like Michigan and Miami, two proud and winning programs themselves, have fallen into.

There's plenty to be concerned about going into the 2011 campaign, and while it's the job of the coaches and players to downplay those concerns in the pre-season interviews, nobody else is denying that.

The offensive line is a torn ACL away from becoming a patchwork quilt of freshmen and walk-ons. The most experienced running back redshirted last year so he could learn how to play linebacker. The best receiver in school history left for the NFL, and the Dawgs failed to beat a BCS-conference opponent last year without him.

Yet, despite all the negatives coming into 2011, there's still a sense that this season has possibilities.

Perhaps it was the assembling of the "Dream Team" recruiting class in February that seemed to remind folks that this is still Georgia, and we can still be great.

Or, perhaps it's the new old-school attitude coming from the strength and conditioning program, announcing that the Bulldogs will once again play with the tenacity and ferociousness of their namesake.

Then again, it could just be that football fans are football fans, and everybody's undefeated until September 3rd.

And, while many choose to concentrate on the negatives and soak in the tepid bathtub of pessimism and low expectations, it's important to point out that it was just a couple of years ago when the Dawgs were finishing up a 7 year run that saw them average 10.5 wins per year, win 3 SEC East crowns, and 2 SEC Championships.

Funny, though. Those 7 years sure seemed to pass by a lot quicker than the last 2. Here's hoping Richt and the Dawgs can speed up time once again.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Are these Dawgs ready to turn things around?

Time flies when you're having fun. Not so much when you're not.

When the Bulldogs won 74 games from 2002 to 2008, with really just the one 2006 season being a "bad" year, it didn't really seem like there'd ever be a stretch where Georgia would struggle. It certainly didn't seem like head coach Mark Richt would possibly leave Georgia on anything other than his own terms.

Sure, there were signs here and there. Georgia's defense showing up clueless in games against Tennessee and Alabama. Needing a late fumble recovery in 2007 to beat lowly Vanderbilt before ultimately finishing #2 in the nation. Still losing to Florida more often than not, even when it seemed Georgia had the superior team.

But, after a string of some bad luck, perhaps some bad decisions, and a sort of malaise that slowly seemed to descend upon the program, Georgia finds itself having won just 2 more games than it's lost over the past two seasons, going 14-12. Georgia finds itself coming off its first losing season since 1996. Georgia finds itself having to prove that it's not falling into the pigskin purgatory that teams like Michigan and Miami, two proud and winning programs themselves, have fallen into.

There's plenty to be concerned about going into the 2011 campaign, and while it's the job of the coaches and players to downplay those concerns in the pre-season interviews, nobody else is denying that.

The offensive line is a torn ACL away from becoming a patchwork quilt of freshmen and walk-ons. The most experienced running back redshirted last year so he could learn how to play linebacker. The best receiver in school history left for the NFL, and the Dawgs failed to beat a BCS-conference opponent last year without him.

Yet, despite all the negatives coming into 2011, there's still a sense that this season has possibilities.

Perhaps it was the assembling of the "Dream Team" recruiting class in February that seemed to remind folks that this is still Georgia, and we can still be great.

Or, perhaps it's the new old-school attitude coming from the strength and conditioning program, announcing that the Bulldogs will once again play with the tenacity and ferociousness of their namesake.

Then again, it could just be that football fans are football fans, and everybody's undefeated until September 3rd.

And, while many choose to concentrate on the negatives and soak in the tepid bathtub of pessimism and low expectations, it's important to point out that it was just a couple of years ago when the Dawgs were finishing up a 7 year run that saw them average 10.5 wins per year, win 3 SEC East crowns, and 2 SEC Championships.

Funny, though. Those 7 years sure seemed to pass by a lot quicker than the last 2. Here's hoping Richt and the Dawgs can speed up time once again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Who do Dawgs NEED to step up?

Everybody loves the new guy, at least in college football. We all get super excited about how well the new 5-star running back is going to do, or how big the new nose tackle is. However, a huge deciding factor in how well a team is going to do rests on the extent to which the redshirt freshmen and former 2nd stringers end up contributing, or hopefully starring.

With that in mind, here are some of the players who were on campus last year that Georgia needs desperately to step up.

1) WR Marlon Brown - The former 4 or 5-star WR (depending on what site you look at) came to Georgia with an NFL-ready body; a lethal combination of size and speed. There is no shame in having been an understudy to guys like AJ Green and Kris Durham, who are now both in the NFL, but if Georgia is to be successful, he's going to have to take a step forward and, at the very least, take some pressure off of Tavarres King and Orson Charles.

2) S Shawn Williams - It's become a pretty standard idea of late that Georgia has lacked that heavy hitter in the secondary; a guy who can be an asset in run support, not be a detriment in pass coverage, and scare the bejeezus out of any WRs coming across the middle. While Bacarri Rambo has become a ball hawk of sorts (5 INTs in his first two season), Williams will need to be the enforcer at strong safety, especially with the move of Alec Ogletree to LB. You've got to assume that the coaching staff thought enough of Williams' abilities to make that move, so he'll have to be ready to prove them right.

3) OLB Cornelius Washington - I expected him to have a breakout sophomore year in 2010, not just because I figured teams to concentrate more on Justin Houston, but also because I view him has having that kind of potential. But, after amassing only 3 tackles for loss and 1 sack in 2010 (he had 4 in 2009 in limited playing time), Washington must step it up this year. Opposite him will be Jarvis Jones, who, while much is expected of him, remains an unknown commodity who may be forced to sit out a game or two, or three, or four. At 6'4, 270lbs, Washington is still fleet afoot, and has freakish athletic ability. He'll have to turn the corner this year if the Georgia defense is going to make strides.

So, those are three guys that have been around for a little while, and whose time it is to shine. Don't forget, they were big-time recruits (possible exception being Williams) at one point, too.

Who are some other "veterans" that are just now going to really get their shot, and who the Dawgs truly need to become key players?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jarvis Jones' "eligibility" another NCAA stupid-go-round

The latest on the "is he going to be suspended or isn't he" saga regarding starting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is that he is going to be eligible...until he isn't eligible.

While not on as grand a scale, it's similar to what's going on at Auburn, when a week ago, head coach Gene Cizik was told by the NCAA that the investigation of recruiting improprieties regarding Cam Newton was ongoing.

Another situation it can be likened to that hits closer to home is the AJ Green issue last year. For weeks leading up to the Dawgs' season opener, the implications of Green selling a jersey to an agent of an agent were seemingly going nowhere. Georgia was mum, except to say they were practicing as if Green would start. Then, even as the season got underway, the Bulldogs (who did the smart thing) held Green out, still waiting for the NCAA to levy a decision. It eventually came a couple of weeks in, and Green still had to sit out two additional games.

So, we wait while the NCAA continues to drag its collective feet on the Jarvis Jones situation. The difference here is that, if you believe everything that's been printed thus far, we already know exactly what he did (basically, he took a flight with an AAU team out west, and the flight was paid for using "inappropriate" funds by the director). All we need is for the NCAA to determine if it's an offense worthy of suspension, and if so, how long of a suspension.

There are still about 45 days until kickoff. This story has been circulating for about a month. It didn't take 75 days to put a case together and convict Al Capone. But, something tells me the NCAA will just leave this hanging over Georgia's head, as they neither absolve Jarvis Jones, nor "indict" him.

It'll just be "out there."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Richard Samuel and musical chairs

Good morning, and a very happy Friday to you, unless, of course, you have to work on Saturday, in which case you probably don't give a crap that it's Friday.

By now, it's day-old news to most that the Georgia coaching staff asked Richard Samuel to move back to running back, and "Dicky Sams" (it would seem) enthusiastically accepted.

Georgia fans are no strangers to seeing a highly-touted recruit get shuffled around between various positions throughout his college career. Brandon Miller moved from various LB spots before ending up at defensive end, and never really making his mark. Kiante Tripp came in as an offensive tackle, and was moved to TE and DE, also failing to truly make a name for himself at the college level.

Now, many are wondering if the same fate, that of an ineffectual journeyman, will befall Sir Richard (he's not really a knight).

Who can say for sure, but it should be noted that he's moving back to running back due to a dire need by the team, and the fact that the coaching staff seems to think he can be productive there. In the other cases, I think it was more a situation of "well, you're not helping us here, so maybe you'll have better luck at another position."

Samuel's physical tools can't be denied. Though he'll likely need to shed at least 10 lbs., his 6'2 240lb. frame and blazing speed should allow him to, at the very least, be an adequate solution to go along with Crowell, Malcome, and Frostproof Thomas. In addition, folks maintain he's as smart, selfless, and hard-working as they come.

The bottom line is, Richt and the rest of the coaching staff must have come to the conclusion that the team was far better off with him at running back vs. battling for back-up snaps at linebacker, which is where he was situated heading into fall practice. It appeared he was in line for spot duty behind Alec Ogletree, who defensive coordinator Todd Grantham basically seems the highest on of any defensive player.

So, event though for his own sake, I had hoped Samuel was left alone to learn and improve at one position, I can't fault the move as a whole. If he is really expected to be in a position to help Georgia win games, then perhaps things will work out for his own career as well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Leave Samuel alone, people!

He's 6'2", 240lbs, and runs a sub 4.5 forty, and he's played running back before. So, given the ridiculous inexperience and lack of depth at running back, it might make sense to at least entertain the idea of moving Richard Samuel back to running back. If you missed it, he apparently tweeted earlier that he "has a tough life changing decision to make," and that has most wondering if the coaching staff has asked him to move back to his original position (original meaning the position he first played at UGA).

Best to just leave him be.

First, although he showed a couple of glimpses of what could be (a long TD run against Arkansas in 2009 was something to watch), it never seemed like he really had the vision nor the balance to play running back in the SEC. He was moved from RB to LB due, in part, to this fact, although he was also likely to be behind Washaun Ealey and Caleb King anyway.

Second, while I'm usually in the camp of having players do what's best for the team, I think doing what's best for Richard Samuel is OK in this case. He's got a chance to really settle in (remember, he's just a junior) and put his incredible size and speed to use at linebacker. He would seem to be just too talented to be a guy you move around in order to create a little depth.

It's a tough situation, and if the coaching staff did indeed ask him to make the switch, it couldn't have been easy for them. I imagine it was sort of a hat-in-hand approach.

"Ummm, yeah, remember that thing a couple of years ago, where we said your future was on defense? Soooo, we need you to forget that ever happened and move back to running back."

I suppose the bottom line is, if the staff feels that there's no way the Dawgs can have an effective offense with Samuel at RB, then I suppose you've got to move him. However, if they're main impetus is to move him in order to feel just a little better about things, then leave poor Richard alone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When you get that notion, put your backfield in motion

A little "Da Butt" for your Wednesday morning, but apropos for Georgia's offense this fall, given a potential problem at O-Line and inexperience at RB.

Under Richt and Bobo, Georgia has been one of the few schools to really make use of the fullback position over the past several years. In an era of spread offenses and wide open passing games, the fullback has become sort of a forgotten position for many teams, where the need for a bruising lead blocker is not needed. In addition, the Dawgs have gotten many a first down by calling the fullback's number out of the backfield on a quick screen or swing pass.

The switch of Bruce Figgins from the ridiculously deep tight end position to fullback presents some interesting possibilities, as well as some solutions for the aforementioned (potential) issue at O-Line and RB.

Figgins could be a huge asset in 3rd and long situations, as the former tight end was known for his blocking. And, at 6'4, 272 (we'll see if that sticks by the time kickoff rolls around), he'd be nearly impossible to simply run over en route to the QB. Further, as a 5th year senior whose primary responsibility has been blocking, Figgins ought to have various blocking techniques down pat. He also has plenty of experience catching the ball. For, despite having only 9 career receptions, he's spent a significant portion of practice time in pass-catching drills.

That's not to discount Zander Ogletree. The sophomore played sparingly last season, but coaches really like his effort and enthusiasm. At 5'9, 224lbs, he's not exactly the prototypical size for a FB. However, generally speaking as a lead blocker, the FB only need hit the hole, pick out his assignment, and engage him in a stalemate long enough for the ball carrier to speed by.

Whoever the personnel, expect Georgia to continue to utilize the fullback, and possibly to expand his role.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where does Georgia's O-Line (lack of) depth come from?

It's no secret that Georgia's offensive line depth chart is about as barren as the Best Buy in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

I was curious what our luck has been like regarding the OL recruits going back to 2007 (that would be the year that Justin Anderson, who's penciled to start at RT, signed, among others).

Here's a list of O-Linemen we signed from 2007-2010 that are no longer with the team. I've ruled out those that have either graduated or left early for the NFL, and focused solely on those who didn't make it to the end of their college careers in a 'normal' way.

Ben Harden
Chris Little (was thought to be the stud of the OL class)
Tanner Strickland
Trinton Sturdivant (would have been starting LT)
AJ Harmon
Jonathan Owens
Kwame Geathers (moved over to DL pretty quickly, so a bit different situation)
Brent Benedict

So, basically, if the Dawgs even had 1/2 of those guys, the O-Line depth wouldn't be a non-issue.

Everybody has attrition, bad injuries, and so forth, but this is borderline ridiculous. At any rate, that's where we are.

If Richt manages to survive this season and beyond, the staff is going to be forced to up the ante on O-Line signees. Simply put, until their luck starts turning around, they're just going to have to offer more linemen, and probably even offer some linemen that would, in an ordinary situation, be considered "borderline" talent-wise, which could work out anyway. After all, there are a LOT of linemen in the NFL that played at places like Nevada-Reno, Fresno St, and Wake Forest.

Monday, July 11, 2011

If losing CK4 is a big problem, it's only because there are bigger problems

Apologies for the somewhat cryptic title. Allow me to hash this out a bit.

I certainly don't mean to trivialize the role of a running back, be it running the ball (duh), catching the ball out of the backfield, or in pass protection. A back who can do all three effectively can have a significant impact in improving the fortunes of his team in a game or season.

The problem is that Caleb King never consistently proved that he could do any of those things well, and that's what you look for out of your veterans. Consistency. It's the reason why you often see a less talented senior starting over an extremely talented freshman or sophomore.

But, if your would-be senior has never demonstrated that he can stay healthy, stay out of trouble, and play at a high level on a regular basis, well then he's just not much more valuable than a few underclassmen, is he?

The point of this is not to dump on Caleb, though. It's really not. It's simply to point out that I don't believe his presence or lack thereof was ever going to determine the way this season goes for the Dawgs. It's going to come down to Aaron Murray, the performance of the Offensive Line, and the degree to which the defense has progressed.

Friday, July 8, 2011

We'll see shortly what Crowell wants out of his college career

It has become seemingly more certain by the hour that Caleb King has been ruled academically ineligible for the 2011 football season (we'll wait until we see official word from the University). If so, then Isaiah Crowell has a couple of distinct routes he can choose.

First, he can take the approach that there is basically nobody standing in his way of being the starting tailback. With apologies to Carlton Thomas, Ken Malcome, and Brandon Harton, if Crowell's abilities were gauged even remotely accurately, he should be able to win at list a co-starting job if he simply puts in an adequate amount of work.

Or, he can take the approach that this can really be his chance to shine from the get-go. Take a cue from Aaron Murray, Orson Charles, and others that have been singled out as having a phenomenal work ethic, never being satisfied, and always trying to improve.

Without King and Ealey ahead of him, Crowell has a chance to truly be the type of #1 back that many Georgia fans have been clamoring for. A running back who doesn't leave the offensive backfield until the game has been put away.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Is Boise St. still a no-win situation for Dawgs?

When the Broncos visited Athens in 2005, they were considered a very good mid-major conference opponent, and a few prognosticators even went so far as to predict their upset of Georgia that year. After all, they'd gone 11-1 the year before. The result was a 48-13 thrashing by Georgia. Nonetheless, Boise St. went on to go 13-0 in 2006, and have generally continued the pace year in, year out since that fateful day.

Last year, more writers, coaches, etc. were seemingly ready to give them their shot at the BCS title, until the Broncos were derailed by a solid Nevada team late in the year.

But, despite a couple of undefeated seasons and victories over perennial Top-25 teams like Oklahoma and Virginia Tech, there is still the issue of Boise St. having what amounts to a cupcake schedule year in, year out.

Nonetheless, BSU is, at last view, bouncing around between a 3 and 6 point favorite against Georgia on a technically neutral field, but one that should amount to a home field for the Dawgs.

I pose the question: Is this still a "no-win" situation for Georgia? That is, if the Dawgs beat up on the Broncos, will the majority of the college football world simply shrug and say, "that's what they should have done?" Likewise, will it be a total embarrassment for UGA if they lose to the Broncos, regardless of the score?

Or, do you think that the Dawgs will get some props for beating a team that's been in or around the top 10 for the better part of 5 years?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Many weary and wary of talk during Dawgs summer workouts

"Last year, I think we kinda just went through the motions."

"We didn't push ourselves as hard as we could have."

These are but a couple of examples of what we tend to hear from players following a relatively disappointing season. It can get old, and most fans, particularly the more disgruntled ones, don't want to hear it.

The most obvious and instantaneous response to the aforementioned statements is, "Well, why the hell weren't you pushing harder last year?"

True enough, as it seems coaches and players alike would realize by now that champions are not made by just "getting by" in the seemingly endless number of drills and workouts.

At the risk of sounding like an apologist, though, I'll point out a little thing called perspective.

The workouts and regimens put forth by any football program out there is bound to be grueling and a test of the will. While you're in the moment, with coaches and teammates yelling at you to do better, go faster, etc., you could easily feel like your giving every last bit of effort you can. It's only after a loss or a disappointing season that you might look back and say, "You know what? I think I really could have given more."

There's also the problem of a lack of a better response when asked what is different about this year's practices and workouts. Certainly, after a 6-7 season, nobody's going to say, "We're just doing what we've been doing." For, as football legend Albert Einstein once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.

So, try not to blame the players for saying they're doing things better, working harder, staying more focused, holding each other accountable, having higher attendance at voluntary workouts, or otherwise changing things around. They probably are, and they've got to believe that they are.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Best to cut bait now

Make no mistake, with all else being equal, the Dawgs would be better off entering the '11 season with last year's leading rusher, and the guy penciled in to either start or provide significant back-up playing time on an already thin O-Line. But, all else isn't equal, and each player had shown signs of unreliability in the past.

I am big on second chances. We all make mistakes. However, both Washaun Ealey and AJ Harmon ran afoul of team rules, academic obligations, etc. last year, and indications were they were heading down similar paths this year. This is too important a year for Richt to let these guys find their way through life like my Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner finds its way through my living room.

In the end, the Bulldogs are better off knowing what cards they hold going into summer, fall practice, and the season, rather than hoping a couple of guys get their heads on straight and pan out.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bulldogs defense coming along

While hardly giddy, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham sounds noticeably more optimistic and assured about his work-in-progress 3-4 defense this spring than he did at any time last year.

To hear your average Bulldog fan tell it, last year's defense was a broken levee. Although it was far from dominant, it wasn't nearly as bad as some would lead you to believe, especially given where it was the year before, and factoring in an entirely new scheme and new terminology.

The Dawgs finished in the middle of the pack in ppg allowed, and 4th in total defense. Improvement is most certainly needed, but that's not a bad jumping off point.

One thing lost in the shuffle of a new staff and scheme, though, is how much better all the defensive coaches (remember, except for Garner, the rest of the staff was new as well) will be at identifying the various strengths and shortcomings of their personnel. As a coach, there is a fine line between teaching a guy to do everything he needs to do (and do it well), and getting to a point where you say, "That's just not a strength of our team, so we need to find other ways to be successful."

Grantham has begun to echo a prevalent idea last year, which was that there definitely is a learning curve in switching to a new defensive philosophy, but the players are starting to play faster and with more confidence.

When you know what you're doing and how to do it, you can really let your ability come to the forefront. Hopefully, the Dawg "D" will begin to reflect the talent that has supposedly been assembled in Athens over the past few years.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Talk is cheap, but lack of talk is refreshing

Now that spring practice is in full swing for the Bulldogs, this is usually about the point where we start hearing how such-and-such is looking phenomenal, how nobody can block what's-his-name, and how nobody can cover Whositz (though, in AJ Green's case, that was actually true).

To be certain, there are far fewer known commodities on this year's squad than in years past, but in general, we've seen far less in the glowing comments department so far this spring. In fact, the best comments from coaches have basically peaked at lukewarm.

I suppose going 6-7 the previous year will have that effect. After all, it would be kind of silly to start talking about how great everyone looks, especially when your best offensive and best defensive players have left for the NFL.

It could also be the case that nobody really has looked particularly impressive thus far, though I hope that's not it.

I just can remember far too many seasons where this guy or that was tearing it up, only to flame out when the season came along. Remember Cedric Heyward? Heck, even Richard Samuel, who I hope gets a chance to reinvent himself as a linebacker, was the talk of the town two springs ago, when every day he was 'taking it to the house.'

In an off-season of changes across the board, it's my personal feeling that the coaching staff is (and should be) taking the approach that nobody deserves praise in the spring. Even if an individual is doing exactly what should be 96% of the time, there's still no reason to not get him up to 98%, to throw out some random stats that have absolutely no meaning in the real world.

Georgia was a model of inconsistency last season. The second you heap praise on someone, particularly a 20 year-old star athlete, he can easily begin to rest on his laurels and think that he's arrived.

So, maybe it's best that, in the season of renewal, the attitude, and maybe even the staff's mantra, be "Not Good Enough." Because, let's face it, "good enough" simply wasn't last year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Georgia could find itself in Hewitt/Longoria spot with Mark Fox

Despite a couple of questionable late-game strategies, or lack thereof, Mark Fox's first two years have gone according to script. He's taken a team that was generally a bottom dweller in the SEC East under Dennis Felton, and promptly turned it into a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, it's been a team that has proven it can take virtually any team in the country right down to the wire (you'll recall a heart-breaking double OT loss to 2-seed Notre Dame earlier in the year).

As is the case with all successful coaches at schools not rich in tradition (at a particular sport) "big-time" schools and schools that consider themselves bigger-time than UGA are bound to come a-callin'. It's already rumored that NC State could be looking into making a play for Fox, though I don't know too many folks that consider NC State to be some giant leap up from Georgia basketball.

Whatever the case, UGA basketball doesn't have the same cache as UGA football (yet). So, Greg McGarrity and the Georgia athletic department could have some decisions to make.

Although for more monetary reasons than anything else, Georgia Tech was more or less forced to give Paul Hewitt a ridiculous contract based upon his early successes at the school. After all, he was recruiting well, and took the school to its first Final Four appearance in 15 years. As it turned out, he and his teams gradually slipped into mediocrity, even in a less powerful ACC. Basically, they felt they needed to do everything they could to ensure Hewitt would stay, rather than lose him to a school like Texas, Kentucky, etc. It bit them in the ass.

Conversely, much was made of the long-term, big-money contract given to Tampa Bay 3rd Baseman Evan Longoria when he'd accomplished little more than being named the organization's top prospect. Being a smaller market team, though, they knew they'd lose him to free agency as soon as he was eligible if they didn't. In their case, it worked out splendidly, as they're now paying him well below market value.

Sure, two different situations, and different to Georgia's, but the underlying concept is the same. Georgia will have a tough time convincing its head basketball coach to stay if he's courted by a traditional power. We saw it happen when Kentucky came for Tubby Smith, and don't forget that the Duke job will likely be opening in a few years.

So, Georgia may be forced to give Fox a big, long-term contract based upon a relatively small, albeit impressive body of work.