Georgia Blog

October 7, 2012

Dawgs Whipped In Every Phase of Game

By Tom Poisal

www.toptierfootball.com

 

As a friend of mine likes to say about her team: “Make a statement!”  The problem for Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs is that they did just that Saturday night, only it was the worst kind of statement to make. 

 

This week’s blog is going to be an off the cuff, rapid fire, random thoughts sort of entry – kind of like the Georgia game-plan in big games the past 6 years.

 

    • Carolina's defense is better than I thought.  I thought after losing Gilmore and Melvin Ingram that they couldn't possibly be better this year.  I was wrong.  There was a moment in the 1st quarter where Clowney swims past the tackle and leaps the RB within a split second and is smothering Murray.  I literally said, "Oh my God!" and didn't speak for a solid 2 minutes.  I was scared for Murray just sitting on my couch.  A lot of folks were going nuts a few weeks ago about Jarvis Jones and Jones is a very, very good player.  Clowney is special as in “Bruce Smith-special” or “Reggie White-special.” (pro Reggie) 

 

    • That said, the whole defensive front of SC is incredible.  It's not just Clowney or teams over-compensating for Clowney giving others easier chances.  Not at all.  SC had backup linemen pancaking our center, "stepping on his face with a hobnail boot" and I assume assaulting Murray.  (I turned away, I was screaming.)

 

    • A few time-tested football axioms were confirmed for me last night.  "A great defense always beats a great offense."  (we may be just very good on offense after seeing last night)  "The game is won and lost in the trenches."  "A great defensive front can make any secondary look good."  (Not saying SC's secondary is bad but it was supposed to be their weakness...we had several shots that were wide open but Murray missed)  "South Carolina doesn't lose when Gameday arrives."  "Mark Richt always has a game where his team doesn't show up."  (that one hurt, dude)

 

    • The whole atmosphere could've changed on the first play from scrimmage when Rambo intercepted the ball...but he had it taken away from him.  It foreshadowed what was yet to come.

 

    • After the onslaught of the first 21 points, I felt the defense settled in and was solid.  The punt return was nasty but, as a Georgia fan, I'm used to seeing this on an annual basis.  Quick, speedy opponents juking walk-ons out there.  The best was watching Kosta Kovlas dive for Ace Sanders and missing him by...10 yards.  It reminded me of a buddy that played on a softball team about 10 years ago.  He told me that he was going to get dirty that game.  He was out in right field (yes, he sucked) and a guy hit a shot to the fence and my friend dove and got dirty.  Only problem was that he was in shallow right and as he dove for it, the ball was about 50 feet above him and headed for a landing about 100 feet away.  Kosta Kovlas, folks. 

 

    • More SC thoughts... Conner Shaw is the PERFECT fit for Steve Spurrier.  Spurrier likes his toys and Shaw gives him a little of everything.  A heady, tough as nails, fast, accurate QB that will not beat his own team.  He's really blossomed this year.  I’ve been very impressed with him all year long now. 

 

Now on to thoughts about Georgia…

 

    • Let's start with Richt....  He always finds a game to get embarrassed each year.  Last year was Boise, 2010 was, well, the whole year, 2009 I don't remember much (Joe Cox era...I try to not think about that), 2008 was the Alabama debacle, 2007 was UT, 2006 was UT with the 2nd half avalanche.  There are probably a few others but these stick out.  I'm pretty sure we can't go undefeated with Richt at this point but undefeated is tough for anyone.  However, we have a couple of stinkers each year to where I don't think we're capable of winning that coveted national title with him, either.  He came close in 2002 and had Georgia ranked #5 in '07 when teams ranked #2, #3 and #4 lost ahead of us which you would think would've put us up to #2 but actually dropped us a spot.  This was stinker #1 for 2012.... I sure hope we don't have another one.

 

    • Aaron Murray:  He's simply not a guy that can put a team on his back.  He has to have very good blocking to succeed.  I realize a lot of QBs are like that but once Murray gets rattled, his passes are off for LONG stretches of the game.  If he plays like a 3-year starter Saturday night, that game is somewhat competitive.  He missed Marlon Brown for a TD down the seam, couldn't complete a WR screen if his life depended on it, over threw Mitchell a few times, etc., etc.  Yes, pressure changes a lot of QBs but Murray never had it Saturday night.  This is now a trend with him.  He was very underwhelming last year vs. Boise, LSU after the 1st quarter, and Michigan State - all losses.  If someone says Murray can't win the big one, there can be no argument.  Because he hasn't.  (unfortunately, I heard that the Murray family had some health issues Sunday morning so my prayers go out to the Murray family)

 

    • The Georgia offensive line was simply overmatched.  When your LT gets moved to the right side in the 2nd quarter, you may have some problems. They were simply dominated all night long. 

 

    • Georgia’s defense is middle of the pack this year and I don't understand why.  Maybe someone else can tell me but we sure look undisciplined, especially our safeties.  The offsides call when SC was at the 20?  Very symbolic of our problems.  We have the defensive line for the 3-4, have 2 great LBs, pretty good corners and supposedly great safeties.  The defense did settle in after it was 21-0 and held SC for the 2nd quarter and much of the 3rd but perhaps the offensive woes were too much. 

 

    • Georgia STILL can win the SEC East and it’s not that big of a stretch to believe they will do it thanks to an easier path than any other SEC East team this year.  Florida looms on the horizon as another big SEC matchup and it helps that only half the stadium will be making noise while Georgia is on offense.  I say that because it really looks like Georgia’s offense is a shell of itself in raucous atmospheres. 
    • Can South Carolina lose 2 in order to allow Georgia to back into the SEC championship?  South Carolina has also been prone to laying an egg each season.  The loss to Auburn last year cost them the SEC East title.  They lost to Kentucky in 2010.  Vandy beat them in 2008 and in 2007 when SC was ranked in the top 10.  SC has @LSU, @Florida and an improving Tennessee over the next three weeks.  I see this SC defense, however, as being good enough for SC to win at least 2 of those games.

 

 

Final note:

 

In perusing the blogs and message boards Saturday night and into Sunday, I’ve never seen the UGA fanbase so defeated.  The most ardent Richt-supporters are even jumping on the bandwagon to replace him. 

 

Here’s the deal.  Beat Florida, which is ALWAYS a coveted win for Georgia fans, and then sweep the remaining games on the ledger (Georgia should be favored in every game except Florida) and Richt is safe.  If SC loses to both LSU and Florida and Georgia backs into the SEC championship game, there’s no way he goes anywhere. 

 

The problem is that no matter what happens, however, a large faction of the Georgia “faithful” has lost faith in Mark Richt.  These are supporters that were behind him during the sub-par seasons of 2009 and 2010.  The collective complaint is not that Georgia is losing big games but that they are getting blown out in big games and not even competing.  That’s going to be a tough hurdle for Richt to overcome. 

 

 

 

 

September 26, 2012

Georgia Ready To Take The Next Step

By Tom Poisal

www.toptierfootball.com

Twitter:  @TopTierFB_Tom

 

I don’t know about you but I really feel that this 2012 football season in Athens has the look of something special.  I realize that Georgia hasn’t played any of the heavyweights yet but there are signs all over the place that give me reason to believe in something huge in The Classic City. 

 

Annual Suspensions

 

The Dawgs will now have a full arsenal of firepower with the defense welcoming  Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree back to the fold.   The defense hasn’t been quite as dominating as many thought but it’s been very good while Todd Grantham has plugged different parts into the machine while several players sat out. 

 

There is definitely a perception problem in Athens when it comes to the suspensions.  The perception regionally and nationally is that the players at Georgia are getting into more trouble than on any other college campus.  The reality is that Richt is one of the very few that suspends his players from games based on their transgressions.  Actually, it’s not always Richt but university policy that suspends these players.  It’s past time the PR department does more to educate the nation just how hardnosed the athletic department is on violators of policy at the University of Georgia. 

 

Balance

 

I’ve been following Georgia football since 1985 and this team might be the most balanced I’ve seen in that time.  I’m not just talking about the talent, either.  (Georgia actually has the least amount of recruited scholarship players in the SEC – 68 at last count)

 

Offense:

 

I’m convinced that Georgia can win any type of game they encounter at this point.  Load up in the secondary to stop Aaron Murray?  Fine.  The Dawgs will gash you with a running game averaging 242.5 yards on the ground.  Freshman phenom Toddy Gurley leads the attack with 44 carries, 406 yards, 9.2 ypc and 6 TDs.  When Gurley needs a break, in comes freshman phenom #2 in Keith Marshall.  Marshall has carried the ball 42 times for 264 yards, a 6.3 ypc and 2 TDs.  Sophomore Ken Malcome has toted the rock 26 times for 152 yards (5.8 ypc) and 1 TD. 

 

If you try to stack the box to stop the run game, Aaron Murray is going to pick you apart.  Murray is 69-104 (66.3%) with 10 TDs and 2 INTs for a QB rating of 182.4.  Missing so far this year in Murray’s game are the crippling turnovers that were evident last year in big moments.  Murray still must get that monkey off his back with bigger games looming on the horizon but he has taken another step as a passer in his junior year. 

 

Georgia’s receiving corps is deeper than it’s ever been during the Richt era and I believe it’s because of the coaching that Tony Ball has done with this group.  Georgia receivers were dropping far too many catch-able passes year after year before Ball but that is a distant memory.  The Dawgs regularly rotate 6 at the position (Bennett, Brown, King, Conley, Wooten and Malcolm Mitchell) so it’s impossible to bracket the coverage to stop any one guy.

 

The offensive line has probably been the key to the early success of the Georgia offense.  Murray has been given plenty of time in the pocket and running backs are seeing alleys of room in the run game. 

 

Finally, Mike Bobo continues to do a fine job.  If you read the message boards, no other coach catches as much grief as Bobo.  This amazes me because Georgia’s offense seems to get better each year.  Bobo isn’t calling the game any different than the past few years – we’re just seeing great O-line play and an excellent run game. 

 

Defense

 

The starting defense has not been on the field as a full group in 2012.  This will change come Saturday vs. Tennessee.  Georgia’s defense has been pretty good up to this point but there have been breakdowns that have allowed big plays for the opponent.  Now with the whole starting unit back together and backups that have much more experience thanks to playing in the first 4 games extensively, this unit should be deeper than it’s been under Grantham. 

 

Rambo’s return should immediately make a huge difference in the secondary which will allow Sanders Commings to go back to corner.  Because of Rambo’s absence, Damian Swann has garnered valuable snaps and played extremely well over the first third of the season. 

 

And the return of Alec Ogletree?  With defenses focusing on stopping Jarvis Jones, Ogletree should make an immediate impact this week vs. Tennessee.  It’s not very often that you can start a season 4-0 in the SEC and then “acquire” two NFL players for the stretch run. 

 

Attitude

 

You can just see a different Georgia team out there this year.  How many superstar players are as humble as Jarvis Jones?  (how many stars of his ilk would have even come back for a senior season???)  Cornelius Washington just about jacked Ramik Wilson up after the latter was late in joining the defense resulting in a Georgia timeout.  That’s an example of a senior leader stepping up and holding everyone accountable. 

 

The troika of Gurley, Marshall and Malcome could cause dissension in some locker rooms but not this one.  Gurley is leading the SEC in rushing but welcomes his teammates getting the ball.  You can genuinely see all of these guys pulling for each other.  Georgia has struggled with the attitudes of running backs in recent years but those times seem a distant memory.

 

This Team Is Special

 

I’ll go ahead and say it now.  I know we’ve only seen 4 games and Buffalo, Missouri, Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt isn’t exactly Murderer’s Row.  However, there’s a balance of greatness in Athens that I haven’t seen in my 25+ years as a fan (and later alum). 

 

This team has it all:  great passing game, great running game, excellent coaching, great schemes, tremendous ability to adjust at halftime, player leadership, star ability, great attitude… it’s all here. 

 

I really feel this team will go undefeated to reach Atlanta.  South Carolina will be the toughest battle but this team just has IT.  What happens in that SEC Championship game is left to be seen but it will be an all out war for 4 quarters.

November 15, 2011

Georgia In Line for Big Things
By Tom Poisal
Twitter: @tompoisal

In the legendary words of Larry Munson, “I gave up.  So did you.”

Through continued team play to better coaching to a dream schedule, the Georgia Bulldogs have turned the season around after an 0-2 debacle of a start. 

Let’s talk about what has saved Mark Richt’s job during this winning streak.

Aaron Murray with a record-breaking 27 TDs (and counting)?  Nice but not the reason.

A tremendous “Dream Team” recruiting class which featured the #1 high school running back in the nation in Isaiah Crowell?  An incredible start to 2011 but they are not the reason for this turnaround, either.

How about the assistant coaching hires made in the past two years?  Bingo.

This staff has changed the culture of Georgia football since they have been together.  It is truly ironic because the reason Georgia football was in the mess it was in for the past 3 years is because Mark Richt was too loyal to people that did not belong on the staff.  His greatest weakness (staff evaluation and retention) may end up being his greatest strength.

Todd Grantham

This single hire has probably saved Mark Richt’s job.  Not since the days of Brian Van Gorder have Georgia fans been so confident in their defense. 

Georgia is 7th nationally in overall team defense with 282.1 yards allowed per game.  The Dawgs stout run defense is #8 in the country with 821 yards allowed. 

Against Auburn, the Grantham-led defense gave up 51 yards rushing and 144 yards in the air. 

Florida was held to 226 total yards.

With a defense like this, Georgia goes into every game knowing they have a shot at winning.  Grantham’s fire on the sideline has also been a missing ingredient so sorely lacking in Athens for years.

Will Friend

This man’s work in his first year at UGA has been nothing short of phenomenal.  The holes that Georgia running backs were running through Saturday were bigger than I can ever remember a Georgia O-line creating. 

Carlton Thomas ran 15 times for 127 yards.  Carlton Thomas. 

The communication on pass protections and blitz pickup has been impressive as well.  Murray was sacked just 3 times against Auburn and seemed to have all the time in the world at times. 

Stacy Searels never had an offensive line at Georgia working so well together.

Keep in mind that the depth on the offensive line is shockingly thin and that Friend has had to mix and match all year. 

Scott Lakatos

Remember when Georgia DBs never seemed to make a play on the ball?  When safeties were constantly out of position?  (2005 Auburn, 4th and 17 anyone?)  When safeties simply went for the big stick instead of wrapping up and tackling?

Those days are long gone.  Corners are diving to knock passes down.  Safeties are form tackling on wide receiver screens like never before. 

Lakatos has been saying since Day 1 in Athens that he likes big corners and Georgia has been recruiting these types of corners and passing on smaller, faster, more highly rated CBs.  Now we see why with the way the 6’2”, 217 lbs. Sanders Commings is playing. 

Bacarri Rambo has played like a completely different player this year as evidenced by his 7 interceptions. 

Gone are the days of the 10 yard cushion for the John Chavis’s of the world to easily attack with short hitch patterns.  Every pass is now heavily disputed by a Georgia DB.  (good thing with Chavis possibly looming on the horizon in Atlanta)

Kirk Olivadotti

The work of Coach Olivadotti’s linebackers was quickly recognized early in the season after freshman Amarlo Herrera and junior Mike Gilliard filled in for missing starters and the Dawgs never missed a beat. 

What was thought to be a potential weak spot in preseason has turned into a strength with Jarvis Jones, Cornelious Washington, Alec Ogletree, Christian Robinson and even Chase Vasser playing valuable snaps throughout the season. 

Olivadotti’s NFL experience has been a match made in heaven combined with Todd Grantham’s NFL defensive schemes. 

Joe Tereshinski

I will have to defer to what Georgia insiders feel about “Joe T” and his strength and conditioning changes because there is no way I can determine his success as a fan.  Read the message boards and you’ll see constant kudos afforded to him but face it – Georgia looks strong in the 4th quarter because the team is executing.  The defense was tired in prior years because they did not get off the field.  When you are rock-bottom defensively on 3rd downs your team is going to look out of shape. 

The same goes for the never-ending criticism of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.  When players aren’t executing, he’s the blame for EVERYTHING.  When players do block and catch and accurately hit WRs in stride, “Bobo called a great game.”  Look at the numbers during the Bobo regime and you will see a solid offensive coordinator.

One last thing on Tereshinski - there’s no doubt that the old-school mentality and intensity of “Joe T” has resonated throughout the program. 

Tony Ball

He’s not a new hire from the last two seasons but his work needs special mention.  This guy might be getting the least amount of recognition of any assistant on the Georgia staff but his work with the wide receivers has been astounding.

Again, listen to Georgia fans and they will constantly brag about this new-found influx of talent at the WR position.

Tavarres King has had a solid season (31-363-6) but is not a gamebreaker.  He had a case of “hands of stone” early in the year but has since corrected that.

Michael Bennett is a guy that came to UGA as a 3-star recruit.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a WR at Georgia with better hands than Bennett not named AJ. 

Malcom Mitchell, though highly touted, was recruited as an “athlete” by most teams and came to Georgia initially with a career in the defensive backfield on his plate. 

Marlon Brown?  His career was quickly spiraling and he was about to become another example of a 5-star bust (some had him as a 4-star recruit) but has finally settled into a nice role in the Georgia offense.

Chris Conley is one that fans love to throw out there as being extremely talented but he came to Georgia as a 3-star recruit as well.  SEC offers for Conley coming out of high school?  Georgia…..and Tennessee.  That’s it.

I’m not saying that Georgia’s wide receiving corps is lacking in talent by any means.  However, this unit was seen as a definite weakness coming into the season and Coach Tony Ball has definite evidence of “coaching ‘em up.” 

 

The Future of Mark Richt

It’s pretty easy to see that Richt will get a contract extension after turning around this early-season debacle.  The Dawgs looked lost vs. Boise State and killed themselves with turnovers, poor special teams and trickery against the Gamecocks.  This winning streak has come at the most opportune time of Richt’s head coaching career.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however.  The schedule has provided the Dawgs with an absolute cake-walk to Atlanta provided SC slipped up a few times and they did. 

Don’t forget that over the summer everyone in the nation was saying that South Carolina had the best team but Georgia had the easiest schedule in the SEC East.  The common statement by the press was, “Once Georgia gets past game two, they won’t be an underdog the rest of the season.”  This has not only proven truthful but easier than what we thought back in August.

10-30.  That’s the cumulative conference record of the SEC teams that Georgia has beaten.  (Florida 3-5, Vandy 2-5, Tennessee 0-6, Auburn 4-3, MSU 1-5 and Ole Miss 0-6). 

16-3:  The record of the two teams that Georgia lost to. (South Carolina 8-2 and Boise State’s 8-1). 

This tells us that Georgia can beat the mediocre and bad teams but still hasn’t beaten a good team yet.  They will have Georgia Tech in a few weeks but will definitely be favored in that matchup.  The true barometer of this team and program will be the SEC Championship game.  Get blown out in that game and a lot of questions are raised again.  Compete the whole way through and perhaps Georgia has turned the corner.  Win the SEC Championship and Georgia is truly back.

The season has suddenly become very positive for Georgia fans but let’s temper that enthusiasm with reality, folks.  The Dawgs have made a good run with a great game vs. Auburn but the rest of the schedule has been perhaps the easiest in Georgia history. 

If I am AD Greg McGarity, I give Coach Richt an extension on his contract but reward the rest of the coaching staff with an impressive raise.  If this staff stays intact for the next several years, you have to like the future prospects of Georgia football, easy schedule or not. 

Next up:  Kentucky

Georgia fans will show up ready to celebrate and with good reason.  Keeping with the Georgia schedule this year – Kentucky is AWFUL. 

I’m looking for another first half demolition and then massive substituting in the 2nd half to keep guys fresh for the Tech game and the SECC. 

 

October 4, 2011

Leader of the (middle of the) Pack?
By Tom Poisal

We have definitely seen this before.  The Bulldogs disappoint vs. the big teams on the schedule and go on to defeat the average to below average teams.  With a record that is more appealing, fans all over begin to get their hopes up and pray that Georgia has righted the ship. 

Here we go again.  I feel like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day” at this point.

What’s Different This Time

There are a couple of key improvements this year where hope is legitimately understandable, however. 

Defense:

There is no doubt the Georgia defense is better this year than in many years.  Dare I say that this year’s unit gives you a sense of peace like the former units of Brian Van Gorder at the beginning of the Richt era? 

In SEC games so far in 2011, Georgia’s defense has given up 17 points to South Carolina, 7 points vs. Ole Miss and 3 points to Mississippi State.  That is an average of 9 points per game.  I know, I know.  Ole Miss is offensively-challenged, South Carolina is middling right now and MSU hasn’t exactly lit up the scoreboard.  But this defense has been DOMINANT at times.  Ole Miss is bad but the other two aren’t at their level.  This defense is legit with no more blatant missed assignments that we had become accustomed to seeing in the recent past.

Defensive Line

We all heard last year that the 3-4 must have a huge NT to make it work effectively.  I believe. 

Jonathan Jenkins and Kwame Geathers have basically shut down the inside running game of opponents.  Jenkins is starting to come on like so many hoped he would.  If Georgia continues to get this type of play, the future is bright defensively.

Safety Play

For me, this is the second biggest change (aside from the aforementioned great NT play) the Georgia defense has enjoyed this year.

Georgia safeties have taken pride over the years as being punishing tacklers, guys that will knock you out of the game with one shot.  In my opinion, their overall play has suffered because of this. 

Go through the list of Georgia safeties and you will find big-shot artists that often did not wrap up correctly.  Those same safeties lacked the pure safety instincts needed for playing the pass as well.

Not anymore.

Baccarri Rambo is playing the best ball of his life.  You don’t see the mental breakdowns anymore in the Georgia defensive backfield.  And Rambo is making plays on the ball.  You don’t see him selling all out for that big hit. 

To add to the improved safety play is the incredible play of cornerback Sanders Commings.  His instincts and size at the corner position have been a welcome relief to a beleaguered unit the past several years.  Georgia fans are now seeing why Coach Lakatos wants big corners.

Gamebreaker @ TB

I can’t wait to see what EA Sports rates Isaiah Crowell next year in NCAA ’12.  This kid is special.  Georgia has been missing this element since Knowshon Moreno toted the rock for the Dawgs. 

Caleb King once ran like this but that was as a high school junior before his broken leg.  He never regained that explosion and so his dismissal was more a blow to the RB depth than the loss of ability.

Washaun Ealey?  Solid back but would never be a game-breaker. 

Crowell is that kind of back.  His run this past week when he was inexplicably whistled for having gone out of bounds was a thing of beauty.  Actually, it was the type of run a “natural runner” breaks off. 

Fans need to stop complaining about his workload, however.  The kid is playing with sore ribs and you could clearly see him bending forward in the 2nd half Saturday grimacing from rib pain.  Georgia does not need to overload him like South Carolina did last year with Marcus Lattimore.  He does not have the build of Lattimore or Trent Richardson.  Georgia needs him fresh for the Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech games.  Besides, Lattimore wore down last year because of the workload and Richardson has been in a carry time-share the past two years to get where he is today.  Criticize Richt/Bobo for a lot of things but not for this. 

Run Blocking Has Improved

There were some HUGE some holes in the 1st half that Crowell blew through.  The 2nd half left a lot to be desired but this unit is improving in Will Friend’s new run-blocking scheme. 

On the flip side, Aaron Murray will not make it to Florida week if this squad does not figure out how to pass block.  He is getting pummeled even on 3-step drops.  A quality quarterback should always have enough time to go through a couple of his progressions.  Murray has barely enough time to hit a quick hitch. 

Next Up:  Tennessee

Georgia hardly ever plays well in Neyland.  Vol Nation has had this game circled for months and months as the game they feel they CAN win as an underdog.  Dooley is looking for his first “signature” victory and who better than Georgia? 

Tennessee has not been able to run the ball against quality teams this year.  It will not begin Saturday as the Dawgs run defense has been stout.

Mississippi State:  34 rushes for 56 yards.
Ole Miss:  26 rushes for 34 yards.

Though Marcus Lattimore put up big stats again this year vs. the Dawgs, the SC rushing stats were skewed a bit by the fake punt run of Melvin Ingram.  Besides, Georgia will not face another RB the likes of Lattimore again this regular season. 

Tennessee will probably put more quick hitches, screens and reverses in for this game as they will not be able to run the ball and Bray will also not be able to stand back in the pocket with tons of time. 

Look for the Dawgs to play bracket coverage on Da’Rick Rogers as he is their lone big play guy left after the Justin Hunter injury.  Bray should expect to get hit and hit a lot.  He does not move well in the pocket and that’s all Georgia has faced so far this year with their SEC opponents – mobile QBs.  (Relf, Mackey, Garcia)
Georgia will definitely need to be aware and ready for the trick play.  They have been very susceptible to the on-side kick, the fake punt and other trickery teams have tried. 

Finally, UT unveiled a new weapon in freshman punt returner Devrin Young.  Young is a local Knoxville star that fans have been waiting to see in Neyland since signing day in February.  He has very good speed but it’s his incredible quickness and agility that makes him so dangerous in addition to being incredibly tough to find (5’8”, 165 lbs.).

Key Stat To Keep An Eye On

3rd down efficiency. 

Georgia’s defense is #1 in the SEC in allowing teams to convert only 25% of the time. 

UT is #1 on offense in 3rd down efficiency as they have converted 62% of 3rd downs.  Something has to give here.  (stats are for all games, not just SEC as UT has only played Florida in the SEC)

Final Score:  Georgia 31, Tennessee 20

September 11, 2011

“Moral Victories” Now The Measuring Stick
By Tom Poisal

 

“They fought back so hard today.  I’m so proud of the team and the coaches.”

“The effort today was great!” 

“I can’t wait to watch this young team grow throughout the season.  If we play like we played today throughout the rest of the season, we’ll win a lot of games.”

Folks, this is what it has come to as a Georgia Bulldog fan.  Moral victories.  Fans now are very happy when the team plays hard.  Die-hards now are praising the fact that their team and their coaching staff did not quit.  The built-in excuse of being a young team is already making the rounds as an excuse for any failure.

A few quotes from Mark Richt:

On throwing his headset: “I guess I wanted to show people that I could get mad.  I threw them pretty far, too.  If I had a visor on I would have slammed it down.”

“I thought we kept fighting.  We took the lead a couple of times and never gave in.  The clock just ran out on us, basically.”

Whether Richt was being facetious or not, I do not want to hear that Richt is doing things to appease the crowd.  I do not want to hear that we fought throughout the contest.  I do not want to hear that the clock just ran out on us, basically.

Coach, it is your job to make fighting for 60 minutes a given.  This might be the most popular quote that Richt has made the past 4 years.  It concerns me.

The clock did not run out on you, Coach.  I am pretty sure everyone in the stadium knew we would be playing for 60 minutes unless the score was tied at the end. 

Your teams find ways to lose now.  There is no winning mentality at all in Athens anymore. 

Upon flipping the channel to watch a little bit of Florida, I saw an angry Will Muschamp being interviewed.  Muschamp was barking about two penalties that were unacceptable and needed to be immediately rectified.  The score was 25-0 with Florida in the lead.

It was refreshing to hear Tennessee coach Derek Dooley tell the media last year on several occasions that he is not there for moral victories. 

Dooley last year following the LSU loss: “Good teams handle it and we didn’t…We all have to look at ourselves and see what we could have done better to change the outcome of the game.” 

On more than one occasion over the past 4 years, Richt has repeatedly made clear that the coaches made the right calls and the players just did not execute.  I cannot remember a time when he said that the coaching staff needed to step up their game.  I am tired of “lack of execution” being the excuse. 

By comparison, look at LB Christian Robinson’s post-game quote:  “Our job is to get the job done and we didn’t do that today.  It’s not the coaches - it’s us.  We played our hearts out, but we just didn’t do what we needed to win.”  Mature quotes from a college kid.

The Spiral Is 4 years, Not 3

This goes back to 2008, not 2009.  People will just look at the 10 wins from 2008 and assume that the spiral began in 2009 but that would be false.

Remember 2008?  The year Georgia was everyone’s pre-season #1?  The year the Dawgs were led by Matthew Stafford at QB, Knowshon Moreno at RB and AJ Green at WR?  Can you name an SEC team in recent memory that had 3 more talented stars at those positions? 

So what did that team do that year?  They plodded out to a 4-0 record before facing Alabama and losing 41-30 in a game that was not that close.

They led an eventual 5-7 Tennessee team 20-14 going into the 4th before pulling out a 26-14 victory.

They led Vandy 21-14 going into the 4th before tacking on a field goal to win 24-14.

They were blasted by Florida 49-10. 

They were losing to Kentucky 31-28 in the 4th quarter before escaping with a 42-38 win.

They were losing to an eventual 5-7 Auburn team 13-10 deep into the 4th quarter until the Stafford to Green connection saved them at the end.

They lost 45-42 to Georgia Tech and then sleepwalked their way to a 24-12 bowl victory over Michigan State.  (down 6-3 at half)

For people that were paying attention, the spiral began in 2008.  You do not field that much talent only to squeak past mediocre/poor teams and get blasted by the good teams.

14-14 Over Last 28 Games

Let that marinate a little.  Georgia Bulldogs.  14-14 over the last 28 games.  This is not a run to start a regime, this is a run after a good bit of success.  In one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country.  With a higher balance in the athletics department than just about any team in the nation.  With a rabid fanbase that follows their team 365 days a year like fans of the Red Sox nation. 

That 14-14 record includes wins over Tennessee Tech, Lousiana-Lafayette and Idaho State.  The Dawgs are 7-10 over that time period in the SEC.  They have a 4-8 record in away/neutral site games. 

“We Can Now Run The Table”

Ahhhh, now there is a popular theme heard over and over on Saturday.  I would agree that perhaps the 2 toughest games of the year were the first two on the slate.  However, what makes you truly feel that Georgia can win the rest of their games?  Yes, their schedule is hands-down the easiest in the SEC East but have you been watching lately?

Coastal Carolina:  Easy win.

@ Ole Miss:  They lost to a VERY good BYU team by 1 (did you see how close BYU came to beating Texas???) and pummeled Southern Illinois.  Houston Nutt does his best work with teams that are supposed to do little.  I’m concerned.

Mississippi State:  Beat Memphis 59-14 and lost at the goal line to Auburn 41-34.  Big-time up and comer in the SEC West.  They play La.Tech the week before so they have time to prepare for Georgia.  I’m concerned.

@ Tennessee:  Derek Dooley is quietly molding a program that was in shambles.  The UT fanbase is waiting for that “signature win.”  Dooley got embarrassed last year in Athens.  Think he hasn’t circled this game?  When is the last time Georgia played well at Neyland????  Beat Montana 42-16 and Cincy 45-23.  They play Buffalo the week before this game so they should be ready.  I’m concerned.

@ Vandy:  The new coaching staff has Vandy fans as excited as they have ever been about Commodores football.  Recruiting has never been better and they are off to a 2-0 start.  They are still Vandy, though, right?  But wait.  Georgia will be coming off a trip to Knoxville with Florida up next.  Oh boy.  Small concern.

Florida:  Eternally concerned.

New Mexico St.:  Beat Minnesota by 7 in their stadium.  Alas, these are the teams Richt has feasted on lately.  Not concerned.

Auburn:  Sure, their defense sucks.  But Malzahn will find ways to put 40+ on the board.  Oh yeah…they know how to win.  I’m concerned.

Kentucky:  They’re struggling.  So are we.  At this point, will the season have gone so badly that the team has quit?  Will we see a Central Florida-like effort here?  Georgia fans ARE boasting about the effort last Saturday, after all.  I’m concerned that we’ll even care at this point.

@ Georgia Tech:  Paul Johnson has that offense running smoothly again.  Georgia defensive coordinators have struggled defending that Flex-bone.  Rivalry game.  Tech has been 1 play away the last couple years after beating Georgia in ’08.  I’m concerned.

Bowl Game:  I’m concerned.  Doesn’t matter about the opponent.  I’m both concerned about getting to one and effort once we land there. 

In all honesty, I see 4 probable victories on the schedule (Coastal, Vandy, New Mexico St., and Kentucky).  At this point, every other game should give Georgia fans pause for concern. 

This is what it has come to as a Georgia fan. 

 

November 10, 2010

Dawg Victory Not As Far-Fetched As Some May Say
By Tom Poisal

If you read the latest commentary of the Georgia-Auburn tilt to kickoff Saturday, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that actually gives Georgia a chance at winning this game.  This astounds me, honestly.  If you’ve watched enough college football over the years, you know that upsets happen.  Weekly.  We’ve seen FCS teams defeat FBS teams and 31 point underdogs defeat the “Big Boys.” 

So someone tell me why it’s such a long-shot that Georgia will defeat Auburn this Saturday? 

Has Georgia been a disappointment this year?  One of the biggest in the nation, in my opinion.

Has any team on the schedule proven that they were too good to be defeated by the Dawgs?  Nope.  (losses to SC by 11, Arkansas by 7, Miss.St. by 12, Colorado by 2 and Florida by 3….Dawgs were in EVERY game in the 4th quarter)

Let’s take a look at several reasons why Georgia can beat Auburn this Saturday in the South’s Oldest Rivalry. 

Recent history of series
Georgia has won 4 in a row vs. Auburn with scores of 37-15, 45-20, 17-13, and 31-24. 

I know, I know.  Cam Newton wasn’t on those teams.  But 4 in a row is 4 in a row.  Vegas sure is big on trends.

Auburn Letdown
Auburn has an undefeated season on the line with two games to go:  vs. rival Alabama and against a Georgia team just fighting to go to a bowl.  Georgia hasn’t been ranked for most of the season. 

It’s easy to for coaches to say that this team is dangerous but you’re talking about 18-22 year old kids here.  Try convincing them that this isn’t a lock before the Bama game.

2006
A 9-1 Auburn team was cruising into this game against a Georgia team that was 6-4 behind a freshman quarterback.  Fans were howling after Georgia had lost 4 of their last 5 games.  A 37-15 beat down by the Dawgs ensued.

Georgia’s Recent Surge
Say what you will about the season overall but the Dawgs have been playing really well.  5 straight games of scoring 31 or more.  I believe that’s a Georgia record.  As tough a loss as the Florida game was, it was a great game to sit back and watch (‘til the end).  This is a much better team than the one that opened the year 1-4.

Auburn’s Defense
24 points to Chattanooga, 31 to Ole Miss, 43 to Arkansas, 34 points to Kentucky, 27 to South Carolina and 26 points allowed against Arkansas State.  This defense does not look National Championship-worthy.  Georgia WILL score a ton in this game.

Auburn’s Close Victories
The Tigers beat Mississippi State 17-14, beat Clemson 27-24, beat South Carolina 35-27, beat Kentucky 37-34 and beat LSU 24-17.  Some might say this team simply knows how to win.  I’d say they’re overdue to lose a close one.

Richt’s 2nd Half Turnarounds
Once again, I believe this team has severely underachieved.  Richt HAS shown a tendency to rally the troops when everyone else had pretty much given up on them. 

2006:  As mentioned earlier, Georgia had lost 4 of 5 before the Auburn game.  The Dawgs won their final 3 over Auburn, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

2007:  A 4-1 Georgia squad got smoked by the Vols at Neyland Stadium.  That same team gets lucky to beat Vandy the next week.  Georgia then rolls off 6 straight victories to end the season ranked #2 nationally.

2009:  Georgia got their annual spanking in Jacksonville and proceeded to end the season winning 4 of their last 5 games.

2010:  After a 1-4 start, Georgia has turned it around again winning 4 of their last 5 with the OT loss coming to Florida.

Scrutiny on Cam Newton
Before all of the latest accusations came out, I was irritated how the media was not trumpeting the amazing success of Newton like they had the past several years of Tim Tebow.  Newton has been amazing this year and, in my opinion, better than Tebow.  (at least for this year)  Yet Newton was not getting 1/10 of the hype that Tebow received.

That said, the latest allegations, whether true or not, HAVE to be taking a toll on both Newton and Auburn.  These are serious allegations that nobody can ignore.  People are already jumping to guilty conclusions even though there are no facts at this moment.  This is both unfair and going to take a toll on Newton.  But they are coming out daily.  Chizik is having to respond to the questions.  The AD is responding each day.  The talk shows are lighting up over the topic. 

This definitely has to work in Georgia’s favor.

My Take
Auburn won’t stop the Georgia offense.  The Auburn defense has been giving up yards and points all year and I don’t see any reason for it to change now.

Can Georgia stop Auburn, though?  I don’t think they will but I do think they’ll slow them down enough to outscore Auburn and I believe Georgia will win the turnover war.

Georgia 38-35 in a thriller.

September 29, 2010

Defining Moment For Bulldogs Program (& Richt)
By Tom Poisal

I don’t know about everyone else but to say I was shocked by the performance at Mississippi State would be an understatement.  I, like many Bulldog supporters, am fired up from kickoff until the 60th minute….normally. 

But the last two weeks, especially last week, I sat there staring at the television in absolute shock, dismay, and disgust watching the Bulldogs.  From the start of both games, the team has been playing from behind and looking horrible in the process.

Where to begin? 

Defense

I understand that Todd Grantham doesn’t have the exact personnel to run this defense.  That comes with time and solid recruiting.  However, you have to coach differently to cover up those deficiencies.  I don’t know if Grantham has done that or not as I’m no expert on the 3-4 or his specific scheme.  But while the defense hasn’t been as disappointing as the offense, it hasn’t been shutdown, either.

The defense just isn’t as physical as other top SEC teams.  Everyone knew what was coming from Mississippi State but the Dawgs were helpless to stop the run.  We’re seeing too many opponents drag Bulldogs for extra yards.  We’re seeing too many Bulldogs look at each other after a completion between defenders.  The Dawg defense seems to be losing both the physical and mental battle. 

Offense

Here lies the biggest problem in Athens.  Richt’s comments after the game seemed to suggest that he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the playcalling, either. 
           

You have the most veteran offensive line in the country with capable backups as well.
           

You have a former 5 star running back in Caleb King and another good runner in Ealey.  Yet we continue to see the diminutive Carlton Thomas run between the tackles. 
           

You have what looks to be a fine college quarterback in Aaron Murray-an athletic QB with a good arm, great mobility and a feel for the position.
           

While the receiving corps is not deep, especially without AJ Green, there is still talent there in Tavarres King and Kris Durham. 
           

Does any team have a better collection of tight ends in the country?  You’d be hard pressed to find one.
           

Yet this team can’t score much.  There just isn’t any creativity or deception with the offense. 
           

Does anyone else see the I-formation and call play action every time?  I do.  To the casual observer I might look pretty bright.  But to any Bulldog fan I’m just stating the obvious. 
           

Another website seemed to shoot down the suggestion I think Georgia needs to try but I think it’s all we have left. 
           

The common suggestion has been to move Mike Bobo upstairs to the coaching box.  I’d like to tweak that suggestion and not only move Bobo upstairs but have Richt take the playcalling back over.  The play calling is stale.  Very stale.
           

A couple of writers have said moving a coordinator upstairs is ridiculous.  I’m pretty sure they’ve never been involved in any kind of coaching in their lives.
           

Quick-what does Peyton Manning study on the sideline after an offensive possession?  Photos of the defensive alignment.  Birds-eye view.  There is a SIGNIFICANTLY different view down on the field as opposed to being upstairs. 
           

Take one look at the difference in LSU’s defense this year and compare to when Chavis was on the field vs. when he was in the booth.

Where To Go From Here?

           

Georgia needs a run like the 2007 squad that ended the year ranked #2 in the nation.  That ranking isn’t possible at this point but that kind of winning streak is needed…BIG TIME. 
           

Ealey has been taken out of the starting lineup but should still see carries.  He’s the best pure runner Georgia has but there’s nothing wrong with sending a message to him.  Let him sit the 1st quarter and then see how he protects the ball in the 2nd quarter.  But please quit sending Carlton Thomas up the middle. 
           

A.J. Green has been nothing but class since being suspended.  Every comment I’ve read of his has shown tremendous maturity throughout this whole fiasco.  He’s NOT the reason Georgia is 0-3 in the SEC but he will be a huge part of correcting things in the future. 
           

Does anyone agree with me that the Florida game is more important for Richt than ever before?
           

I’m a huge Mark Richt fan.  But something is seriously amiss in his program.  The chance to turn things around is there for him and then hopefully he can continue to build on a very good recruiting class with some 5 star talents that are scrutinizing things in Athens.  (#1 target MUST be Isaiah Crowell)
           

I’m afraid I have a serious case of Larry Munson right now.  EVERY opponent worries me right now.
           

And with good reason. 

September 21, 2010

Dawgs Licking Their Wounds
By Tom Poisal

 

            So many questions, so few answers at the moment for the Bulldogs.  The talk shows have exploded and the blogs overrun with countless criticisms of players, assistant coaches and, of course, the man in charge.  Such is life for a Georgia Bulldog when you start the SEC season 0-2. 

            So this week I am going to change the format just a bit and throw out random suggestions, questions and points in rapid-fire style.

  • You may say Aaron Murray holds onto the ball a bit too long but if that is your only criticism of the first year starter, you have to be excited about what’s to come both this year and in the next three years.  Murray has been impressive in so many ways.  And I had no idea he had the arm to make that final Hail Mary pass last week.
  • What was going on with the 3rd and 4 call late in the 4th quarter where Murray was thrown under the bus by his line, RB protection and later his coordinator with his post-game comments?  From people watching at the stadium as well as on TV, everyone saw that he had no receiver to check down to on that play.  None. 
  • Kris Durham:  Great to see you have an excellent start to the 2010 season.  Durham HAS to be one of the brightest spots on offense so far this season.  His combination of great hands and great height will end up making a big difference overall for the Dawgs by year’s end. 
  • Offensive line/Stacy Searels:  Kirk Herbstreit lauded Searels as the top offensive line coach in the country when he was hired by the Bulldogs.  At times the line has been awesome during his tenure.  Other times it has been severely lacking.  We are in one of those “lacking spells” at the current moment.  I am personally shocked that both the pass protection and run blocking hasn’t been more effective with that many returning starters and depth.  To his credit, Searels found the right combination last year in the 2nd half of the season.  You have to hope he finds the right elixir for this group soon. 
  • What ever happened to the TE position at Georgia?  For years you could scan NFL rosters and come up with Georgia Bulldog tight ends all over the place.  Suddenly, however, the tight end is MIA in Athens.  With a new QB and your star offensive player suspended, wouldn’t this have been an ideal time to lean on what might be the deepest collection of talented tight ends in the country?  Aron White is a player and Orson Charles is a freak to matchup with yet there has been little use of either in the passing game so far in 2010. 
  • My solution to the above problem is to use Bruce Figgins extensively at TE at this point.  Figgins is like having another offensive lineman out there so if you are not going to pass to your athletic TEs, let Figgins help out the run game.  He has shown in the past that he is a dominant run-blocker and the Dawgs could certainly use some help there. 
  • Mike Bobo said that the Dawgs need to make plays and that you cannot keep relying on long, sustained drives.  Georgia is 2nd to last in the SEC in first downs so they are not doing either. 
  • IF the excuse of “we’re struggling ‘cause AJ Green” is legit, our whole playbook needs revising.  And what will we do next year when AJ is gone to the NFL?  I’m not buying that argument. 
  • 3rd downs:  Offensively we’re 9th in the SEC and defensively we are dead last on 3rd downs.  Both units are keeping the defense out there too long. 
  • Would anyone else like to see Bobo back in the booth upstairs?  It just seems that your birds-eye view up there would be a lot more useful with playcalling than the view on the sidelines.  
  • Thinking back to when Richt broke David Greene in as a freshman, I was constantly irritated that the Dawgs weren’t taking any shots down the field in the first part of the season.  I also looked at Matt Stafford’s first few games as a starter at Georgia and found passing lines of 8-19-171 yards, 10-17-107, 8-16-76 and 7-18-91.   My point is that Murray has done a fine job with the playbook he’s been given and the struggling production of the offensive line. 
  • Georgia just lost to the #12 team and #10 team in the nation.  They were driving for a touchdown to tie (or close the gap to 1) SC late in the 3rd and SHOULD have been able to set up Blair Walsh for a winning FG in the Arkansas game.  Neither side of the ball has played as well as it can.  The schedule gets much easier now with a slate of Mississippi State, Colorado, Tennessee, Vandy and Kentucky before the Florida game.  Of those games, Kentucky looks to be the toughest because it’s in Lexington and comes before the Florida game.  But Georgia should be favored to win every one of them.
  • Prediction:  Georgia sweeps the next 5 games before the game that will decide the fate of the 2010 Georgia Bulldogs – Florida.  I know a lot of fans are angry in the Bulldog Nation but the East will be decided on a tiebreaker.  South Carolina has both Florida and Alabama (along with Arkansas and Auburn) coming up.  Florida has Bama coming up in a week.  If Georgia can get through this 5 game stretch undefeated then it will come down to what most fans want to see happen regardless of Georgia’s record…BEAT FLORIDA.  Auburn would still be lurking but the Dawgs could sleepwalk the following week vs. Idaho State before the matchup with the Tigers.  There’s a lot of football left to be played.  

September 6, 2010

Game 1:  Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Georgia
“The Grantham/Murray Eras Begin”
By Tom Poisal

Offense

Running Game

  • Caleb King was solid as he started for the suspended Washaun Ealey.  King finished with a line of 10-47-1 including a long of 20 (for a touchdown).  Outside of that run, King was average.  Personally, I think Caleb dances around too much instead of hitting the hole hard with great burst.  He also appears to run too upright.
  • Carlton Thomas was the highlight for the ground attack has he ran 13 times for 61 yards.  The diminutive tailback showed a lot of wiggle in his first extensive time running the ball for the Dawgs.  He’ll go back to being the 3rd string tailback next week with situational appearances but you have to think he gained a lot of confidence Saturday.
  • Branden Smith received a carry and, as usual, showed that he is an electric athlete that needs to touch the ball on a game by game basis.  His one tote was good for 17 yards.
  • Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier probably received more carries than they will see all year, especially Munzenmaier.  Chapas is an all around weapon while Munz pretty much went down on first contact almost each carry. 
  • The offensive line did not exactly blow open huge holes which seemed to be a problem early last season.  Hopefully this unit will gel earlier in 2010 than it did in 2009.

Passing Game

  • Excellent debut for the highly touted Aaron Murray.  He showed excellent pocket presence, poise, escapability as well as great touch on most of his passes.  The rainbow he threw over the outside shoulder of Kris Durham was a thing of beauty. 
  • Murray finished 17-26-3-1 but the interception was Durham’s fault as he dropped an easy reception that resulted in Murray’s lone blemish.  Murray was very accurate and should have had another TD but Logan Gray misplayed a touchdown reception in his 1st start at wide receiver.
  • What you have to love about Murray, among many things, is his athleticism and his “feel for the game.”  He scrambled often and wound up with 4 carries for 42 yards, including a 21 yard touchdown scamper that ended the 1st half. 
  • What I loved most about Murray was his ability to look off the safety before going to his intended target.  The kid showed he knows how to play the position and only needs playing time to become the polished field general Georgia thinks he will be.  I fully expect Murray to fulfill the expectations I wrote about earlier in the summer.
  • What can you say about Hutson Mason’s debut?  His 1st collegiate pass goes for a touchdown (to Logan Gray for his 1st receiving touchdown).  The important thing with Mason is that he got into the game for some reps.  Murray is clearly entrenched as the starter but if anything happens to him, at least Mason has taken some collegiate snaps at QB. 
  • Ten different Bulldogs caught a pass Saturday with Durham leading the way (5-83-1).  Durham is poised for a very nice senior year and Georgia fans have to be excited about a potential 3-WR set of 6’5” Durham, 6’5” Marlon Brown and 6’4” A.J. Green. 

Defense

  • What a difference a coaching staff makes.  Todd Grantham’s new attacking 3-4 scheme was a breath of fresh air for Georgia fans.  The Dawgs defense held La-Lafayette to 128 total yards and 3-16 on 3rd downs.  Georgia picked off three passes which was a complete blessing to see. 
  • 14 yards rushing for La-Lafayette.  On 29 rush attempts.  Wow. 
  • Jakar Hamilton, Branden Boykin, and Sanders Commings all ended up with picks.  Hamilton took his to the house, Boykin made a great read on the QB and dove for his and Commings perhaps made the play of the day on his interception down the sideline.  Great to see DBs actually holding onto the ball.
  • The defensive line seemed to be in the backfield all day long.  And Justin Houston looks to be a natural fit (i.e. monster) as an OLB in this scheme.
  • Tackling was also better than it has been in recent years.  It was great to see guys wrapping up and form tackling on almost every play.
  • Perhaps the only blemish on the defensive performance was Bacarri Rambo biting on a double-move for a TD pass.  Aside from that, the defense was dominant.  Seeing Todd Grantham absolutely livid at Rambo on the sideline shows there is a brand new attitude on the Georgia defense this year.

This & That

  • Murray must improve his decision-making in SEC play.  The touchdown run to end the 1st half bailed him out of a poor decision.  Georgia had 8 seconds left and when Murray scrambled from the pocket, he needed to be thinking either run out of bounds or throw it out of bounds to set up a field goal.  His athleticism bailed him out but he will not be so lucky against the speed of SEC defenses.  You can not leave points on the field in the SEC (I know, he still scored….in THIS game).
  • Murray also stuck his head down when scrambling too often and needs to correct that in a hurry.  He will not last one-third of the SEC season if he does not learn to slide. 
  • Louisiana-Lafayette isn’t exactly a great team but it’s a great team to start a season.  Expect more of these types of games in the future so Georgia can completely plan for SEC play. 
  • Next week is what I determined Georgia’s most critical game of the year.  Beat what appears to be the best South Carolina team in many years and the team should be off and running.  That will be a huge task, however.  Carolina has had this game circled for quite some time.
  • Georgia SHOULD be at full strength next week with the return of Washaun Ealey, Tavarres King and perhaps A.J. Green.  (waiting on the NCAA)  Georgia will need each one of them in Columbia.
  • Murray’s arm strength appears to be solid but not great.  We should be able to see more of this in the coming weeks when Green and King go long.
  • One last caveat that pleased all Georgia fans:  at least so far for 1 game in 2010, my summer blog on “Florida’s Demise…” appeared to hold true.  The East is there for Georgia in 2010.

July 14, 2010

Recipe for a Championship
By Tom Poisal

            While there’s no one recipe for an SEC Championship, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some statistics from the 2002 and 2005 seasons, Mark Richt’s two SEC Championship teams.  We will look at both offense and defense from those years and discuss how/if the current team can match their success.

 OFFENSE

Year            Scoring  Rush Yds  Rush YPC  Pass Yds  Pass %  Sacks  TURN 
2002     32.1          140              3.6             245         57.8       31       +8         
2005     29.5          162              4.6             229         55.4       20       +11       

AVG     30.8          151              4.1             237         56.6       25.5    +9.5      

Additional Notes:  Georgia’s SEC scoring was 28.3 in ’02 & 26.1 ppg in ‘05….Also, passing % was strictly an average of the two final totals from each year.

Observations: 
            The ’02 team did their damage in the air more so vs. the run where the ’05 team was incredibly productive at 4.6 YPC. 
            Looking at the stats from both years, it’s obvious the impact that DJ Shockley had on the 2005 team.  The 4.6 ypc, fewer sacks, and more yards per pass all point to his impact. 
            What jumps out at you?  I would imagine every Georgia fan would point to the turnover differential from both years.  If the Dawgs can return to those ratios, as Loran Smith might say, “That might bode well for Jawja.”

Can the 2010 team mirror those statistics?
            For the sake of the 2010 team, I averaged the two SEC title years to get an idea of what a championship year looks like at Georgia and to see if the Dawgs can reach those numbers.  While both teams went about their business in slightly different ways, efficiency was the common denominator offensively. 
            Can the Dawgs average 151 yards rushing?  They averaged 161 yards rushing last year and 215.7 during their last 7 games.  A 151 yard rushing average sounds like a minimum expectation with the whole cast returning.
            Can the Dawgs average 237 passing yards per game with 56.6% completion?  The Dawgs averaged 201yds / 54.9% last year.  I think the completion % will definitely rise as Joe Cox really tended to gamble last year which resulted in big plays for both the offense AND the opposing defense.  Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will brainwash Aaron Murray into simply managing the game, taking what the defense gives, and letting the special teams bail them out of any problems.  The passing yards were down last year for several reasons:  Cox’s problems, AJ Green’s injury, and a renewed commitment to the run in the 2nd half.  237 yards passing per game is something that is reasonable to approach this season.
            Can the Dawgs limit their sacks this year and win the turnover war?  Let’s take a look at last year again and see what recent history tells us. 
            In 2009, the Dawgs only allowed 12 sacks while ending -16 in turnover differential.  While the 12 sacks allowed looks great for our returning offensive line, especially when Joe Cox sometimes held the ball in the pocket too long waiting for the big play to develop, it’s pretty tough to ask a redshirt freshman at QB to duplicate those low sack totals.  There will be times where he doesn’t throw the ball away, doesn’t check to the hot receiver and has no idea where the defense is blitzing from.  Understandable.  But with this O-line, I think our 2-year championship average of 25.5 sacks allowed is definitely attainable. 
            Turnovers?  That’s on Murray’s progression and the defense.  Which leads us to……….

Defense

Year            Scoring  Rush Yds  Rush YPC  Pass Yds  Pass %  Sacks 
2002       15.1          114            3.0              190        55.1      45       
2005       16.4          144            3.8              170        57.2      34       

AVG       15.8          129            3.4              180        56.2      39.5    

Additional Notes:  Georgia’s defensive scoring average in SEC play was 18.0 in 2002 and 16.8 in 2005.

Observations:  This side of the ball is the key to everything for Georgia this year with the turnover war being 2nd.  Georgia has not approached these defensive numbers in years.  While the 2002 team was very stout against the run, the 2005 team gave up less passing yardage.  Both defenses were obviously impressive and something that has been missing in Athens for quite awhile.

Can the 2010 team mirror those statistics?
            This is the mystery.  While we know that Todd Grantham will employ the 3-4 defense, we are not quite sure how much he will attack, how quickly the team will pick up the new scheme and if Georgia has the right players for the scheme.  Expecting numbers like the 2002 and 2005 production might be shooting a bit too high for the first year.
            The 2009 defense gave up a scoring average of 25.4 ppg which was the 4th consecutive year of defensive regression in Athens.  The 2009 edition gave up 126 rushing yds/game, 3.4 ypc, 213 passing yards and 56.2% completion.  The numbers here are skewed, however, when you take a look at SEC play.  For instance, the Dawg defense vs. SEC opponents looks like this:  135 rushing ypg, 3.7 rush ypc, 245 passing ypg, and a 61.4% completion.  That is just not getting it done.  Several QBs had career days vs. Georgia last year and Grantham was brought in to reverse the downward-defensive-spiral. 
            The early word on Grantham is that his defense will be aggressive.  Outside of that, we really have no idea what to expect specifically from the defense this year but I do believe it will be significantly better than the last few years Georgia fans have endured.

One Last Caveat
            If you check out Phil Steele’s page on "Georgia's Last 20 Years Results", you will see the special teams rankings for the 2002 and 2005 championship teams:  6th and 2nd respectively.  Georgia fans would welcome anything CLOSE to those rankings this year, without a doubt.  

July 7, 2010

Get the Ball, Part II
By Patrick Garbin of the About Them Dawgs! Blawg

The problem in yielding as many points as the Bulldogs' defense did the last two seasons wasn't necessarily that Georgia allowed the opposition to consistently move up and down the field, but rather being inefficient in other aspects of defensive play: penalties, the opposition's field position, and above all, forcing turnovers.

In 2008-2009 combined, Georgia's defense allowed only 325.7 yards per game (6th in SEC) but 25.2 points per game (10th in SEC). Listed is the SEC ranked by yards yielded per game (first parenthesis) followed by the ranking according to points allowed per contest (second parenthesis):

(1) Alabama (2)
(2) Florida (1)
(3) Tennessee (4)
(4) South Carolina (6)
(5) Ole Miss (3)
(6) Georgia (10)
(7) LSU (5)
(8) Vanderbilt (7)
(9) Kentucky (8)
(10) Miss. State (11)
(11) Auburn (9)
(12) Arkansas (12)

It would be expected that rankings for yards yielded and points allowed would nearly parallel one another since, for the most part, the two go hand in hand. And for 11 of the conference's 12 teams, the rankings are similar. The one exception is Georgia, and the primary reason for the discrepancy between rankings was the Bulldogs' inability to force turnovers.

A year ago, I posted that in order for Georgia to be successful in the 2009 season, it would have to force many more turnovers than the Bulldogs did in 2008 (16).  Last season, Georgia would actually gain less (12) and the Dawgs recorded their worst season in 13 years.

Some quick math reveals that Georgia has forced only 28 turnovers the last two seasons combined.  To give you an idea of how inconceivably low that total is, consider:

* From 2002 through 2007, Georgia averaged 27 turnovers gained per season.

* The 1.08 turnovers forced per game in 2008-2009 is by far the lowest two-season average in UGA history since official statistics began being kept 64 years ago.  Notably, four of the Bulldogs' five lowest two-year turnover averages since 1946 have transpired during the last six seasons:  

1.08 (2008-2009)
1.62 (2007-2008)
1.77 (2003-2004)
1.84 (2004-2005)
1.86 (1995-1996)

* The 1.08 turnovers forced by the Bulldogs ranked dead last (tied with Fresno State) of the 120 teams in the FBS.

Excluding Georgia, there were only 10 other FBS teams who forced only 35 turnovers or less in 2008-2009.  These teams combined for a record of just 74-171 (.302) while just one of the 10 (Fresno State) had a winning record.  The fact the Bulldogs registered an 18-8 (.692) mark during 2008-2009 while forcing just 28 turnovers reveals how proficient the Bulldogs were in other facets of the game aside from gaining turnovers.  

Georgia's lack of gaining turnovers could translate to a reversal of fortune in the near future.

I am one who believes in the law of averages.  If the Bulldogs forced an average of 27 turnovers per year over a six-season span, only to gain 16 and 12 respectively in consecutive seasons, a forthcoming increase in forced turnovers is due to occur and soon.

Of course, the law of averages isn't a certainty with everything related to Bulldog football.  Case in point: Georgia's results against Florida the last two decades.

Some in the media feel that a weakness for Georgia in 2010, along with a new defensive coordinator and scheme, will be the fact the Bulldogs were atrocious on defense last year.  The defense wasn't exactly "atrocious," as the Orlando Sentinel labels it.  As I've described, it primarily just had a really difficult time forcing turnovers.

I feel the new 3-4 scheme coached by an aggressive, fiery defensive coordinator in Todd Grantham should alone improve the Bulldogs on the defensive side of the ball compared to the previous two seasons.  Nevertheless, the Georgia defense will need to exhibit something we haven't seen from it since 2007 - getting the ball.

So, I'll try this again...

In order for Georgia to be successful in the 2010 campaign, it will need to force many more turnovers than it did in 2008 and 2009.

This time around, I believe the Bulldogs can finally reverse their recent and hindering lack of turnovers trend.

June 29, 2010

Florida’s Fall Will Aid Georgia’s Return to Prominence
By Tom Poisal

Georgia’s Ascension to the Top (Part II)

            With Florida inevitably falling back to the pack in the SEC chronicled in part I of this series, we now take a look at the team that will take advantage of the situation and begin their reign on the SEC East perch:  the Georgia Bulldogs.

            Let’s first peer at the two most prominently mentioned reasons for skepticism concerning Georgia:  (A) a new quarterback in Aaron Murray and (B) a new defensive coordinator in Todd Grantham.  (sorry but the nonsense that has gone around recently about Mark Richt being on the hot seat is purely asinine in nature)

The Murray Era Begins

            As most people have read by now, Aaron Murray was one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks in the nation two years ago.  Before he committed to the Dawgs, Florida fans saw him as the heir apparent to Tebow once they landed the home-state product.  Instead, Murray decided to travel north to Athens to make his mark.  Instead of quoting his high school statistics and a heroic return from a supposedly season-ending injury, let’s focus on what we know about Georgia and how Mark Richt quarterbacks have performed in their 2nd season at the collegiate level.

Exhibit A:  David Greene
            Greene redshirted his freshman year and took over in year 2 at Georgia.  With that extra time to develop his body and learn the nuances of the college game, Greene’s redshirt season ended up like this:

            59% completion, 3,077 passing yards, 18 TDs, 11 interceptions.

            Those are stats that most senior QBs would be happy with, much less a QB in his 2nd year on a college campus.

Exhibit B:  Matthew Stafford
            Stafford was not as fortunate as Greene and did not have the chance to redshirt during that first year.  He suffered through some growing pains that true freshman year as well.  But let’s take a look at Stafford’s 2nd year on Georgia’s campus:

            55.7% completion, 2,523 passing yards, 19 TDs, 10 interceptions.

            This was also the year that Georgia defeated Florida in Jacksonville and saw Stafford begin to show glimpses of a 1st round draft pick. 

            With Murray, this will be his redshirt freshman season at Georgia.  So far he has shown Georgia tremendous leadership at the QB position during the offseason but his production on the field in 2010 will be the barometer by which he is measured.  Expect statistics mirroring David Greene and Matthew Stafford’s 2nd year on the Georgia campus at minimum.  Murray has a much better arm than Greene but not as much as Stafford.  His mobility is better than both and his intangibles are said to be reminiscent of Greene. 

The 3-4 Debuts in The Classic City

            After several years of very sub par defensive performances in Athens, Mark Richt hired Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham as defensive coordinator.  Most detractors have said that the switch from the 4-3 to Grantham’s 3-4 might take awhile to implement and master.  That’s something we simply cannot predict at this juncture.  Perhaps the learning curve will be somewhat steep but we are talking about a defense that gave up more passing touchdowns than any other SEC team while also creating the fewest turnovers in league play.  There HAS to be improvement in those numbers this year given the athleticism Georgia possesses on the defensive side of the ball. 

            What we DO know about Grantham is impressive.  Last year Dallas was 2nd in the NFL in scoring defense, 4th in rush defense and 7th overall in sacks.  No, Grantham was not the coordinator last year but those are statistics you cannot have if you’re not winning the trenches.

            In 2008 Dallas was 8th in total defense.

            Player development?  Jay Ratliff, a 6th round draft choice, has made the last 2 Pro Bowls in Dallas.  Demarcus Ware tallied 20 sacks in 2008 under Grantham’s tutelage.

            Grantham has been a defensive coordinator in the past as he led the Cleveland Browns defense for 3 years. 

            His defensive philosophy has been shaped by many great minds in the business, having coached under and with Frank Beamer, Bud Foster, Nick Saban, Romeo Crennel, Dom Capers as well as Wade Phillips. 

            The additional staff members added to the defensive side of the ball have impressive resumes as well. 

            The Dawgs added DB coach Scott Lakatos from Connecticut, he of the secondary responsible for holding Stephen Garcia and South Carolina to 129 yards passing in last year’s PapaJohn’s.com Bowl.

            UCONN was 9th in pass efficiency in 2008, 10th in pass efficiency in 2007 while also 17th in total pass defense (all figures national rankings), 25th in pass defense in 2006, 4th in pass defense in 2005 and also in the top 20 in pass defense in 2004.  Lakatos’ last Rutgers squad in 2003 was 2nd in the Big East in passing defense. 

            The Dawgs defensive coaching turnover also includes adding LB coach Warren Belin from Vanderbilt.  Belin has also been the recruiting coordinator for Vandy as well as special teams coordinator.
           
            Belin’s player development skills have been quite impressive over the years at Vandy while not being given exactly top of the SEC-type talent.  Some of Belin’s successes are as follows:
           
            *  2008:  Coached Patrick Benoist to All SEC honors as well as Chris Marve to                                     the Freshman All SEC team.
            *  2006-2007:  Coached Jonathan Goff to the All SEC team and sent both Goff                                     and Marcus Buggs to the NFL.
            *  2004-2005:  Coached Moses Osemwegie to All SEC team.
            *  2002:  Coached Hunter Hillenmeyer to All SEC as well as leading the SEC in                                     tackles.

            All of these changes on defense are going to add to the mystery that Grantham’s new 3-4 will create for opposing teams in 2010.  Under Richt, the 4-3 scheme has remained relatively the same in concept under Brian Van Gorder and Willie Martinez with few changes over the years.  Teams have pretty much known what Georgia was going to do on defense from game to game, year to year.  However, with nobody really knowing what Grantham’s defense is going to look like from the start, this should soften the blow of any potential learning-curve that the Bulldogs may encounter, especially early in the year. 

Murray’s Security Blanket

            Murray may well be in his 1st year at the helm of the Georgia offense but he has what I like to call a massive “security blanket” to help him along the way.

Schedule

            This isn’t the 2008 schedule the Bulldogs had to navigate.  This schedule is one of the best in years for Georgia.  Aside from the annual “neutral site” for the Florida tilt, look at both the home and away ledger for the Dawgs:
           
            (H)  La.-Lafayette, Arkansas, Tennessee, Vandy, Idaho St., and Georgia Tech.
            (A)  South Carolina, Miss. St., Colorado, Kentucky and Auburn.

            While Arkansas looks to have a better team coming back this year than in the past several, they’re no LSU or Alabama.  Tennessee is down big-time, Vandy is Vandy, Idaho State will act as a semi-bye before the Auburn game and Georgia gets their official bye before the Tech game.  The home schedule looks like a great chance for a sweep.
           

The away schedule does have South Carolina but this is a team that Richt has handled with regularity over the years.  (not always pretty, however)  Mississippi State, Colorado and Kentucky are by no means a “Murderer’s Row” and Auburn is a tough game whether it is at home or on the road.  (remember, the road team mysteriously holds the edge in this series in recent years)

            Simply put, this schedule is tailor-made for a 1st year quarterback in the SEC.

Offensive Line

            Find an offensive line that has more collective starts returning than this one.  You can’t.  The starting combo that clicked in the 2nd half of the season of Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Chris Davis and Josh Davis returns everyone.  The kicker to all of this is the supposed return to health of Trinton Sturdivant at LT, a guy that NFL scouts were raving about 2 years ago before his knee injuries.  If Sturdivant returns to LT, that would probably move Chris Davis into a super-sub role on the line.  In baseball you can never have too much depth in pitching and in football you can never have too much depth on the O-line.  Murray should feel very safe behind this wall.

Running Backs

            Caleb King and Washaun Ealey both return to split carries in the backfield.  Ealey came on big time in the latter stages of 2009 and looks like a guy that will be very productive for several years to come.  King improved as the year wore on and proves invaluable in blitz-pickup.  These two backs combined with the offensive line to put up the following rushing numbers over the last 7 games of 2009:

            Tennessee Tech (304), Vanderbilt (173), Auburn (169), Kentucky (196), Georgia Tech (339), and Texas A&M (208).  The only game in the last 7 that didn’t compare was vs. Florida (121) where the recent lack of rushing success against the Gators can be partly attributed to playing from so far behind. 

            Throw in the contributions at fullback from seniors Shawn Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier as well as arguably the nation’s deepest TE corps in Aron White, Orson Charles and run-blocking beast Bruce Figgins and Murray will get plenty of help from the surrounding cast.

Special Teams

            If you ask any coach breaking in a 1st year quarterback what he wants to go along with the rookie and he will probably say a veteran offensive line, good running game and great special teams.  The former two are obviously in the cupboard  which brings us to the latter.

            In Blair Walsh, Georgia may have the best kicker in the nation.  If Murray’s initial task is to protect the ball and just not beat himself, what better weapon to have than a kicker that not only nails most field goals but a kicker whose range extends to at least 55+ yards?  Walsh was 20-22 on field goals and 4-5 from 50+ yards.  He also converted 42 straight extra points.  Walsh plans to win the Groza award this year in which last year he was a finalist.

            If Murray finds it difficult getting into Walsh’s range, he can always play the field position game and lean on Drew Butler, the nation’s best punter.  Butler averaged a nation-best 48.1 yards per punt last year including 19 inside the opponent’s 20.  Any time you KNOW you can flip the field at any time with your punter, you can cure a lot of ills.

Mark Richt

            Last year’s 8 win total was only the 3rd season during the Richt era that the Bulldogs have not won 10+ games.  In 2001, Richt won 8 but followed that with 13 victories and an SEC Championship.  In 2006, Richt won 9 games and followed that with 11 wins and a final national ranking of 2nd in the land.  With the changes that Richt made this offseason, look for the theme to continue with 10+ wins and an SEC East division crown as a minimum. 

            Richt has won 90 games in 9 years at Georgia, including a 48-19 SEC record.  His critics love to point out the fact that he hasn’t won a national championship but all that’s been missing so far is luck in that regard.  His 2002 team was ever so close to playing for the championship game and his 2007 team saw the teams ahead of the Dawgs lose their last games yet Georgia fell a spot back in the polls instead of naturally moving up in the rankings to #2 and a berth in the BCS championship game. 

            Richt has 2 SEC Championships, 4 SEC East titles and is a two time SEC Coach of the Year.

            When talking national championships, I like to look at the coaching careers of the following coaches:

Coach A:  255-49-3…..didn’t win a national championship until his 22nd year…12-13                                     bowl record.
Coach B:  377-129-4….didn’t win a national championship until his 26th year…21-10-1
                        bowl record.
Coach C:  201-77-10….didn’t win a national championship until his 17th year…8-10-2
                        bowl record.
Mark Richt:  90-27……no championship appearances as of yet………………...7-2
                        bowl record.

            Coach A is Tom Osborne, Coach B is Bobby Bowden and Coach C is Vince Dooley.  I would say Richt is in pretty darn good company at this point in his coaching career.  I would also say that he has it tougher than any of the above coaches in conference play. 

Conclusion
            Georgia is poised to re-take the throne in the SEC East from Florida.  The key game in the season is South Carolina.  If the Dawgs survive that test in the sauna that is Columbia in September, they will be off and running barring injuries.

            The team you see in the final third of the season will not resemble the team that began the year.  Murray will be entrenched as the QB of the present and future, the playbook will open, and all the pieces will fall into place giving Georgia an SEC East Championship and potentially more. 

June 15, 2010

Florida’s Fall Will Aid Georgia’s Return to Prominence
By Tom Poisal

The Fall (part I)

         If you read around this off-season, you will see that just about every college football prognosticator is taking the easy route in predicting the SEC East winner in 2010.  Urban Meyer has Florida seemingly running on cruise control as of late and the feeling by the masses is that he can just reload and win another East title.  But to say that is to minimize the greatness of the Gators’ two biggest losses this offseason:  Charlie Strong and Tim Tebow.

         The graduation of Tebow is getting all the ink this offseason but the loss of defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who took the Louisville head coaching position, is going to be felt in Gainesville. 

         Let’s take a look at what Strong has done as defensive coordinator over his career:

1999 – South Carolina:  His first squad as defensive coordinator ranked 20th nationally in total defense.

2000 – South Carolina:  Strong’s unit was ranked 16th nationally in total defense and 1st in the SEC in scoring defense. 

2001 – South Carolina:  Ranked 27th in total defense and 12th in scoring defense nationally. 

2002 – South Carolina:  In his final year at SC, the Gamecocks finished 28th nationally in pass defense.

2003 – Florida:  Ron Zook brought Strong in and Florida finished 28th in scoring defense nationwide while finishing 2nd in the SEC with 20 interceptions (7th most in Gator history).  Florida’s 30 takeaways led the SEC.

2004 – Florida:  Improved in the following categories from 2003-2004:  scoring defense, rushing yards/attempt, yards rushing/game, average yards/catch, average yards/completion, yards per play, yards per game and sacks.

2005 – Florida:  Improved in 14 statistical categories, finished 9th nationally in total defense.  31 forced turnovers led SEC.

2006 – Florida:  Led SEC in rushing defense (72.5 yards/game) which was 25 yards better than next best rush defense.  Total defense ranked 6th nationally.

2007 – Florida:  Led SEC in rushing defense for 2nd straight year.  (10th nationally) 

2008 – Florida:  Ranked in top-20 nationally in 10 statistical categories.  1st in SEC in scoring defense (4th nationally) and turnover margin (2nd nationally).

2009 – Florida:  Allowed only 16 offensive TDs (2nd best total since 1996).  4th nationally in total defense and scoring defense.

2010 – Florida:  Finished 4th nationally in total defense and scoring defense. 

         That’s an impressive run of defenses for anyone.  For all of the coverage of Florida’s offense over the years under Meyer, his defenses have been just as good or better.  Remember, Urban’s first national championship team at Florida struggled to score in the SEC with Chris Leak at quarterback.  Strong’s defenses consistently made plays and kept the Gators in games.

         And who can forget the job that Strong’s defense did on Oklahoma in the National Championship game in 2009, holding the highest scoring college football team EVER to just 14 points, 40 below their average?

         The loss of Charlie Strong will be HUGE for Florida.  Strong had a history of taking freshmen and plugging them in without missing a beat.  Not many coaches are successful in getting players ready to play immediately in the SEC like Strong has been. 

         Tebow’s loss will be just as significant to Florida on the offensive end.  You can’t call a player arguably one of the best players in the history of college football and not agree that his loss will be significant.  That, however, is the card that Florida fans, some experts, and Urban Meyer are playing right now. 

         There is no need to go over the litany of successes by Tebow during his Florida tenure.  His rushing stats, passing stats, win totals and intangibles are more than well documented over the past 3 years.  But since everyone seems to be fixated on how John Brantley will bring a different dimension to the Florida attack, a more vertical dimension, let’s take a look at Florida’s scoring the last time they had a more classic drop-back passer in Chris Leak.

         Florida’s point totals in 2006, Chris Leak’s senior year and Tebow’s freshman year, with SEC totals in bold:
         34, 42, 21, 26, 28, 23, 17, 21, 25, 17, 62, 21, 38 and 41. 

         Now compare the point totals for Florida in 2007, the first year Tim Tebow took over as starting quarterback for the Gators:
         49, 59, 59, 30, 17, 24, 45, 30, 49, 51, 59, 45 and 35.

         The difference in the two years is staggering, especially in SEC play (bold print).  To say that the loss of Tebow will not drastically affect Florida’s offense is bordering on absurd.  John Brantley may indeed become a great SEC starting quarterback but Urban Meyer’s offenses work best when the quarterback is a dual-threat in the Florida spread. 

         When you think of Florida’s offense in the Urban Meyer era, you think of Tim Tebow.
         When you think of Florida defense in the 2000s, you think of Charlie Strong.
         And when you think of 2010 in the SEC, it’ll be remembered as the year Florida’s dominance in the SEC East came to an end.

(part II coming up as to why Georgia will be the team ascending past Florida)

June 10, 2010

The Bulldogs’ Hogs
By Patrick Garbin of the About Them Dawgs! Blawg

If it's true that an offense is only as good as its offensive line and games are won and lost in the trenches, Georgia should be in very good shape when it begins its 2010 season in less than three months.

First, consider that the Bulldogs apparently had, statistically, one of the better offensive lines in the SEC a year ago.

I've blogged before about the Defensive Hog Index.  The guys at The Cold Hard Football Facts have also formulated an Offensive Hog Index, which is the same as the defensive index but calculated instead for a team's, well, offense.

I've tweaked their Offensive Hog Index calculation a bit, removing sacks from rushing statistics, adding the number of sacks to pass attempts for a total number of passing plays, and considering fourth-down conversions along with third-down conversions.  

Last season, Georgia averaged 5.03 yards per rush (7th in SEC), 8.1% of its passing plays resulted in a sack or interception (5th), and had a 40.88% success rate (5th) on third and fourth down combined.  The Bulldogs’ 5.7 average ranking was tied for fourth best in the conference:

  1. Florida (3.0)
  2. Alabama (3.3)
  3. Auburn (4.3)
  4. Georgia (5.7)
     Kentucky (5.7)
     Tennessee (5.7)
  7. Ole Miss (6.3)
  8. Arkansas (6.7)
  9. Miss. State (8.0)
10. Vanderbilt (9.0) 
11. South Carolina (9.7)
12. LSU (10.7) 

Tied for fourth out of 12 teams is rather respectable, especially considering Georgia’s running game, or lack thereof, and insufficient line play the first six to eight games of 2009.  There is a tremendous difference in the three aforementioned statistics that constitute the Offensive Hog Index when the Bulldogs’ first eight games of last season are compared to their final five: 

Games 1-8: 4.07 YPA 8.87 NPP% 39.13% 3&4down
Games 9-13: 6.14 YPA 6.36 NPP% 43.94% 3&4down

It is apparent the offensive line finally gelled by early November and the result was an efficient and potent Bulldog rushing attack. 

Secondly, consider Georgia returns seven offensive linemen in 2010, who have each made at least 10 starts in their careers, totaling an extraordinary 155 total starts:

37- Chris Davis, C/G
36- Clint Boling, RT/LT
23- Cordy Glenn, LG/LT
23- Ben Jones, C
14- Trinton Sturdivant, LT
12- *Justin Anderson, RG
10- Josh Davis, RT
*Anderson has been switched to defense for 2010.

In addition, the Bulldogs return four tight ends who’ve started at least one game, totaling 20 career starts; two of which – Orson Charles and Aron White – are considered among the SEC’s, if not the nation’s, best at their position.
 
The 155 starts along the offensive line easily ranks first in the conference:

 1. Georgia (155)
2.  Auburn (111)
 3. Florida (87)
 4. Miss. State (85)
 5. Arkansas (77)
 6. South Carolina (72)
 7. LSU (52)
 8. Alabama (46)
 9. Kentucky (31)
10. Ole Miss (22)
11. Vanderbilt (20)
12. Tennessee (13)

In fact, 155 ranks first among all 120 FBS teams, ahead of Florida State (146), Utah State (126), Minnesota (114), North Texas (113), and Auburn (111), rounding out the top six.  That many returning starts at offensive line, arguably, the most important unit in football, should bring assurance, if not certainty, regarding Georgia’s offense.

Or so it seems.

Last season, the Bulldogs returned 99 career starts along their offensive line, ranking first in the SEC and tied for 10th in the FBS.  However, and as mentioned, the line struggled the first half of the season as Georgia surprisingly averaged just 3.39 yards per rush and less than 100 rushing yards per the first six games of the year.

Nevertheless, the Bulldogs’ offensive line, as was the case with the entire team, was an improved and different group by the end of the 2009 campaign.  If Georgia can ride that momentum into the upcoming season and take advantage of perhaps the best offensive line and tight end units in college football, offensive and overall success will likely be certainties for 2010.

One thing is for sure: there can be no slow start offensively like a year ago.  The Bulldogs must run a gauntlet of formidable opposition – at South Carolina, Arkansas, and at Mississippi State – to close the month of September after opening with Louisiana Lafayette. 

An unfortunately slow start for Georgia’s offensive line and running game would probably translate to a disappointing 2-2 record heading into October.  

December 30, 2009

Independence Bowl Review: Bulldogs End Season
A Different Team
By: Patrick Garbin of the About Them Dawgs! Blawg

All season long, Georgia was a team plagued by errors and mistakes, namely turnovers and penalties, and some misfortune.  However, in their final game of the season against Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl, the Bulldogs, not their opponent, played nearly flawlessly and were the team to catch the breaks.

In what was forecasted as a high-scoring affair was instead a 0-0 tie late in the second quarter.  Georgia, who had not punted against Georgia Tech in its last game and only 12 times in its previous four contests, was forced by the Aggies to punt five times in its first six drives; the Bulldogs’ other possession was a Joe Cox interception.

Following the first score of the game—a touchdown pass from Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson to Jamie McCoy—Georgia’s Brandon Boykin took advantage of poor Aggie kickoff coverage and raced 81 yards for a touchdown.  On the next possession, Texas A&M had a punt blocked and, one play later, Georgia’s Caleb King rushed for a score.

At halftime, despite having a 14-to-4 disadvantage in first downs and being outgained 260 to 99, Georgia had a 14-7 lead.

Midway through the third quarter with the Bulldogs leading 17 to 14, the Aggies’ special teams unit had another breakdown—their fourth since early in the second quarter, joining a blocked field goal, Boykin’s return, and the blocked punt.  A bad Texas A&M snap over its punter’s head gave Georgia the ball on the Aggies’ 24-yard line.  Three plays later, the Bulldogs had a 10-point advantage.

From that point on, Georgia simply pulled away for a convincing victory.  Following their first six drives which ended in punts and Cox’s interception, the Bulldogs scored on six of their final seven offensive drives, excluding the game’s final possession that ran out the clock.

Personally, I thought for sure Georgia would have a relatively easy time running on the Aggies; I was correct in my assumption, that is, for the second half.  After rushing for only 27 yards on 14 carries before halftime, the Bulldogs rushed 26 times for 181 yards in the second half, gaining 146 yards in the fourth quarter alone.

Georgia fans had heard for weeks about Aggie quarterback Johnson and, among other things, his extraordinary performance in his last game against one of the best defenses in the nation in Texas.  Against the Bulldogs, Johnson passed for 362 yards and guided the Texas A&M offense to 26 first downs and 471 total yards.  Nevertheless, he completed only half of his throws (29 of 58) and the Aggies’ gaudy yardage total came in a whopping 92 plays; their 5.1 yards per play ranked only ninth best this season for their offense in 13 games.  More importantly, Johnson threw two costly interceptions inside Bulldog territory on consecutive possessions in the third quarter—costly mistakes Georgia was used to committing itself instead of gaining.

I’m a big supporter of the yards per play (YPP) statistic—a telling ratio indicating how efficiently a team and its opposition performed to score points.  If a team is allowing easy touchdowns unconventionally through poor special teams play, turnovers, penalties, etc., without yielding a lot of yardage, like Georgia had for most of the year, its opposition would have a favorable YPP. 

Georgia entered the Independence Bowl with a defensive YPP of a dismal 12.43—the 12th lowest in the nation and the absolute worst at Georgia since it began keeping official statistics in 1946.  The Bulldogs’ turnover margin of -1.42 ranked next to last in the FBS and, besides the team’s -1.90 margin in 1951, was the worst in school history.  In addition, the Bulldogs were averaging nearly 70 penalty yards per contest. 

Against Texas A&M, the Bulldogs gained two turnovers while losing only one and were penalized for just 39 yards—its second-lowest amount this season.  Above all, Georgia’s defense may have given up a substantial amount of yardage but allowed only three touchdowns, all hard-earned by A&M’s offense, in the Dogs’ 44-20 victory. 

For the game and seemingly for once all year, it was Georgia, and not its opponent, that played relatively error-free football and took advantage of the Aggies’ misfortune after a season full of miscues.    

Read more from Patrick at his BLOG and find out about his books and writings from his WEBSITE.

December 28, 2009

Independence Bowl: What to Expect from Georgia
By: Patrick Garbin of the About Them Dawgs! Blawg

In Shreveport’s Independence Bowl, Georgia and Texas A&M will meet for the fifth time in history.  The teams first faced off in the 1950 Presidential Cup and then during the regular seasons of 1953 and 1954—all three Aggie victories.  The last time they played in 1980, the Bulldogs, led by freshman Herschel Walker, pounded A&M, 42-0.

This is Georgia’s second Independence Bowl; the first was a 24-15 win over Arkansas in 1991.  Texas A&M is making its third postseason trip to Shreveport. In 1981, the Aggies defeated Oklahoma State 33-16 and, 19 years later in the acclaimed “Snow Bowl” of 2000, lost to Mississippi State 43-41 in overtime.

OFFENSE:
In the first half of the season, Georgia’s running game and offensive line were considerable disappointments while the offense relied too much on easily-rattled quarterback Joe Cox and superstar receiver A.J. Green.  After averaging only 97.2 rushing yards per its first six games, 3.4 yards per gain, and just four rushing touchdowns, Georgia averaged 217.0 per contest, 5.5 yards per carry, and rushed for 10 touchdowns the last half of the regular season.

The Bulldogs’ drastically improved offensive line allows only one sack per contest—tied for 12th best in the FBS of 120 teams.  This strength will be pitted against a Texas A&M pass rush that is recording nearly three sacks (2.92) per game—eighth best in the nation—and includes lineman Von Miller, who is leading the FBS with 17 sacks.

In its last game, Georgia rushed for 339 yards and threw only 14 pass attempts in an upset victory over Georgia Tech.  The Bulldogs will likely attempt to establish the same rushing attack against Texas A&M.  Since the Aggies have struggled to stop the run, allowing 4.5 yards per rush, expect Georgia to easily gain 169 yards or more for the sixth time in seven games. 

Green returns after missing three-and-a-half games with an injury.  In the Independence Bowl, he and quarterback Cox should only have to be components of the Bulldogs’ offense, instead of its entirety as was seemingly the case earlier in the year.

DEFENSE:
What grabs one’s attention regarding Georgia’s defense is it is only allowing 328.4 yards per game, ranking in the top one-fourth of the FBS, but the Bulldogs yield 26.4 points per game.  For the second straight season, Georgia’s yards per point (YPP) was one of the worst in the nation while its YPP for 2009 (12.43), is the lowest ever at the school since UGA began keeping official statistics in 1946.

In other words, Georgia, by losing turnovers while forcing very few, constantly committing penalties, and often giving its opponents good field position, is allowing the opposition to score points without it having to work very hard for them.  This was a major factor why the Bulldogs recently fired three assistants, including the defensive coordinator and the coach in charge of kickoff coverage.

Texas A&M’s offense, guided by recording-breaking quarterback Jerrod Johnson, seems fit to take advantage of the Bulldog defense’s shortcomings; however, the Aggies’ gaudy offensive figures are somewhat misleading.  Although A&M is averaging more than 465 yards per game, it also averages more than 80 plays per game—second most in the FBS only behind Houston. 

Georgia’s 12 opponents this season averaged less than 65 plays per game while just one, South Carolina, ran 80 or more plays against the Bulldogs.  Texas A&M’s up-tempo attack is averaging only 5.81 yards per play.  In comparison, Georgia’s offense, who ranks only 73rd in the FBS with 361.8 yards per game, is gaining 5.99 yards per play.      

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Georgia has one of the better special teams units in college football, ranking 10th in Phil Steele’s special teams ratings in the FBS.  If not for the 26.7 yards the Bulldogs allow per kickoff return, the next-to-worst average in the FBS, Georgia might have the best overall special teams in the nation.

Because of Blair Walsh, Georgia has Steele’s second-best rating for placekickers while punter Drew Butler and the team’s net punting have the top averages in the country.

Texas A&M’s special teams rank only 84th according to Steele.  If their place-kicking is included, the Aggies’ total special teams rating ranks 74th in the nation.

INTANGIBLES:
For the most part, Coach Richt teams have performed well in bowls, recording a 6-2 mark straight up and 5-3 ATS.  Texas A&M has lost 10 of 12 bowl games since 1991.

Texas A&M’s biggest advantage might be its crowd support.  The Bulldogs sold only approximately half of their 12,000 allotted tickets; the Aggies sold all of theirs and even started purchasing tickets from UGA.  The Bulldogs might be disappointed in only appearing in the Independence Bowl after playing in January bowls in six of the previous seven seasons. 

WHAT I EXPECT:
The Bulldogs rushing attack gained steam as the regular season was winding down.  Using the Georgia Tech game as the perfect example for the bowl game and even next season, I expect Georgia to continue its running ways against Texas A&M and into the 2010 campaign.  Next year, the Bulldogs lose just one starter on offense (Cox), returning their entire line and top two backs (Washaun Ealey and Caleb King) from this season.

I believe strongly Georgia will have one of its best rushing outputs of the season and, in doing so, will move the chains often and keep the Aggies’ offense and quarterback Johnson off the field.

Although Georgia’s defense has given up many easy scores, I look for them to hold strong and exhibit the discipline and intensity, which lacked this year, they have displayed in recent bowl games.

"Everybody thought Georgia Tech was going to run on us, and we were able to shut it down," said senior defensive lineman Geno Atkins.  “We take pride in that and we're going to try and keep [the Independence Bowl] a low scoring game."

The line on the game is currently Georgia -7 with a total of 66.  Expect the Bulldogs to win by at least 10 points and perhaps by as many as three touchdowns in a game not quite as high scoring as the “experts” think.

GEORGIA 38, TEXAS A&M 23

Read more from Patrick at his BLOG and find out about his books and writings from his WEBSITE.

September 25, 2009

Georgia Recap
BY: Jason Nafziger

After sputtering in a loss to Oklahoma State, Georgia regrouped and won shootouts against South Carolina and Arkansas.
Stats so far: Georgia is 77th with 3.76 yards per rush attempt and 12th with 9.2 yards per passing attempt. Overall, they have scored 34.3 points and gained 365 yards on offense per game. Defensively, they are 57th with 3.63 yards allowed per rush attempt and 88th with 7.5 yards allowed per pass attempt. Overall, they have allowed 34 points and 406.3 yards per game. Coming up: The Bulldogs welcome Arizona State before two big SEC games against LSU and Tennessee. They need to win at least two, but have the ability to take all three.

Jason Nafziger writes about Pro and College Football at
http://onfootball.wordpress.com

 

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