Thursday, September 20, 2007

Here is Jody's Thorough Preview of the Alabama Game

Thanks Jody!

FootballWeek 4

Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide

Kickoff: 7:45 PM


What exactly did you expect? Richt never really attacks these sisters of the poor and the efforts are always a little sloppy and unfocused. We had some particularly sloppy plays in the first half that made the game a little closer than it should’ve been for a little longer than it should’ve been, but the game was never really in doubt. We got the win, we had no major injuries, we move on.

About the WC game

I’m not even going to bother here…any attempts at reading into anything into that performance would be just wasted time and considering I’m on vacation right now, frankly I don’t want to. Let’s just say it wasn’t quite as polished as what we were looking for against such an overmatched opponent. Giving up 3 first half field goals wasn’t good although one came off a deep fumble.

Bama Offense

· This is a balanced Bama attack that has had success at various times this season on the ground and through the air. Against the best defense they’ve faced so far (Arkansas) they put up over 40 points, a week after managing only 24 against Vandy, with 7 of those coming from a punt return for TD. It’s still early, so it’s tough to say whether last week’s performance was more Bama being good on offense or Arkansas being bad on defense.

· At QB, Jr. John Parker Wilson has really established himself as a capable passer after going through an on-again off-again sophomore season where he replaced Sr. Brodie Croyle. Coming into this season, he had a respectable 19/10 TD/INT ratio, but he’s already thrown 3 INTs this season. His season completion percentage of 56% is pretty much right in line with his career numbers. He’s somewhat mobile, but at times can become too deliberate, getting sacked in each game this season despite playing behind a solid OL. Last season he was sacked 27 times. I think he’d prefer to play Arkansas every week, as his two starts against them have arguably been his two best. He’s not the kind of QB that’s going to wow you. He’s steady and does a good job of getting the ball to his playmakers.

· At RB, the Tide rolls out redshirt Freshman Terry Grant. At 5-10, 188, Grant isn’t huge, but he’s shown a knack for toting the rock early and often. He’s averaged over 20 carries per game for more than 130 ypg so far with a nice little 6.5 ypc average. He has 5 TDs through two games and has the speed to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. How explosive is he? He’s had a carry of 35 yards or more in each game this season. He’s just a good solid SEC RB…the kind that Bama seems to always have (Alexander, Darby, etc.). He caught 5 passes in his first two games but none last week. His backup Glen Coffee is a solid backup, averaging nearly 6 ypc with 2 TDs so far and on pace to gain over 600 yards rushing so they are in good hands when he’s on the field.

· At WR, Bama has some solid options although their go-to guy is banged up some. DJ Hall is having a tremendous season so far but got beat up some last week. The senior is a big-play threat, with 13 catches and nearly 300 yards through 3 games, including 172 yards and 2 TDs against Arkansas last week. He’s averaging over 22 ypc this year. Matt Caddell, Mike McCoy, and Earl Alexander all provide excellent depth. TE Nick Walker has 2 TDs on the year out of 8 grabs. He’s averaging under 7 ypc, but when you couple that with the fact that a quarter of your catches are going for TDs, you’re an obvious redzone threat.

· The Bama OL is the best we’ve seen this season. So. LT Andre Smith is living up to his billing as the #1 OL recruit in the country 2 years ago after starting every game at LT since he’s set foot on campus. At 6-4, 340, he’s a mountain that’s surprisingly agile. His backup is a senior with 25 career starts. That must be nice. The left side of the line is particularly steady, with Smith, Jr. Justin Britt (20 starts) and So. Antoine Caldwell (28 starts). RT Mike Johnson is the only newcomer, as RG Marlon Davis started several games to end the 2006 season. This is a solid, veteran OL that’s played well this season.

· Bottom Line: Bama brings the balance you want in an offense. They have a solid passing attack with a true downfield threat, a steady QB, explosive RB and best of all, a proven OL. Our defense has played pretty well this season, but I don’t think we know yet what we’ve been up against this year. Given the strength of their OL (and the success that SC had at times), I’d expect them to run it at us and try to wear us down. We’re pretty strong up the middle and we’re light at DE and have gotten some suspect OLB play this season, so I’d look for them to go there, taking a shot downfield regularly to keep our safeties back.

· Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: We need Ellerbe and Washington to have big days. If Bama gets Grant rolling early, that will open them up more for the play-action stuff up top to Hall. If we can put them in 3rd and long, I like our chances, as we’ve had some success there this year (it was the 1st two downs we struggled on against SC).

Bama Defense

· Normally here I’d tell you about Bama’s national rankings in pass defense, run defense, etc. but that won’t be the case this week for a couple of reasons. One, it’s too early in the season to get a good feel for how good a team is because of too varied a competition level. Two, Bama played Arkansas, a team that has the ability to make your run defense appear porous (McFadden has that effect on lots of folks), while making your pass defense appear incredibly strong. And three, this is their first year under Saban, so looking at last year’s stats won’t do much good either. Basically, Bama has a defense that I would say is comparable to ours. Solid, not spectacular. They play a nominal 3-4, which would be a bit of an oddity in the SEC, but apparently it’s by name only, as one of the “LBs” plays with his hand down, a lot like we did a few years back when Antonio Cochran was listed as a LB for us the whole year and I don’t think ever logged a down standing up.

· Again, Bama lists a 3-man front, but that’s not necessarily the case as a LB stays in a 3-point stance. What I don’t know is which DE plays interior, as both listed DEs are similarly sized (6-4 or so, 267 each). At DE are Sr Wallace Gilberry and Jr Bobby Greenwood, who lead the team at 3.5 and 4.0 TFLs respectively. Gilberry has had a nice career with 32 TFLs and 120 tackles, so he’s obviously experienced. Starting NG Lorenzo Washington is a GA native. At 6-4, 283, he’s not the hole-stuffing 320-pounder you look for in a 3-4 front (more proof this is a 3-4 in name only). Washington is a sophomore that started great this season but struggled against the physical Arkansas front. He’s quick, but lacks bulk. He’s backed by a freshman and they’ve struggled with depth.

· I’ll start the LB review with the guy who’s actually playing DE. They term the position the “Jack” LB, and it’s manned by Sr. Keith Saunders who is 6th on the team in tackles although none are for loss. At 6-4, 251, he’s got the size of a DE anyway. The 3 actual LBs are pretty large as well, with MLB Rolando McClain being the largest at 6-4, 255. He’s a freshman but leads the team in tackles and has 2 TFLs. He’s looked good this season but struggled some against Arkansas (pretty much their whole D did) last week. WLB Darren Mustin missed a chunk of the Arkansas game but is listed as the starter again although he’ll likely be limited some with his shoulder injury. If he hadn’t missed that time, he’d likely be the team leader in tackles. SLB Ezekial Knight doesn’t have a ton of experience but has played decently and is tied for 2nd on the team in tackles with 18.

· The best player in the defensive backfield is all-SEC CB Simeon Castille. At 6-1, 193, the senior has the size, speed and experience you want in a CB. He has 10 career INTs though none this year. Opposite Castille is another big CB in 6-2, 182 pound Lionel Mitchell. Not near the talent that Castille is, Mitchell’s size will nevertheless make for some tougher perimeter blocking situations for our WRs. FS Rashad Johnson is the stud at safety. He’s tied for 2nd on the team in tackles and played well against the formidable Arkansas running game. SS Marcus Carter is a senior with considerable experience but hasn’t really produced to his preseason billing (2nd team All-SEC according to some mags). Kareem Jackson, a freshman, has started two games as an extra DB.

· Bottom Line: Saban enjoys bringing pressure, especially against young, easily confused OLs (remember playing his LSU teams twice in 2003 when we had that young OL?). I would expect him to bring considerable heat early and often, but looking at the stats this year, they only have 4 sacks on the season, not the typical Saban performance. This Bama defense doesn’t have the same athletes playing on the field that Saban had at LSU so they can be burned if Stafford and his WRs can stay on the same page with checkdowns, reads, etc. Saban will of course be doing his best to switch things up and keep our O on its heels. We’ve done a decent job of keeping Stafford upright this year, in large part due to short, controlled passes on a seemingly never-ending array of screens, etc., but we have yet to face a defensive mind on the order of Saban and this will be our young OLs first road start (ugh). I don’t think we can run on Bama to the tune Arkansas did, but I fully expect to see us make them stop our run, as Velasco versus Washington is probably one of our better matchups along the line of scrimmage.

· Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: I’m tired of saying watch the OL. This week, I think the key will be if we can attack freshman MLB Rolando McClain. He started well this season but struggled some last week. Our offense struggled against SC in large part due to Jasper Brinkley stuffing our running game. If we can keep McClain at bay, their DL isn’t all-world and we could have some success running the ball. Given the likelihood that they’ll come after Stafford, establishing the run would be stupendous.

The Bama Game Overall

Road games in the SEC are never fun, but if you’re going into an opponent’s stadium, there’s no better coach to have at the helm than Mark Richt. He’s 22-3 in 7 years in those situations, with the 3 losses coming @LSU in 2003 (they went on to win a share of the MNC), @AU in 2004 (they went on to finish the season undefeated) and @UK last year (I can’t explain that one). That’s enough of a sample size to make the statement that the guy knows how to get his teams in the right mindset for going into hostile territory. A good example of this was the last time we came to Tuscaloosa.

Let’s think back to that game. It was 2002. Bama was coming off a win over Arkansas with a new coach that they were sure was going to take them to the top. Pat Dye was telling the media that UGA wasn’t “man enough” (thanks Pat) to win against a physical, veteran Bama team. Gameday was on campus and there was a good bit of talk about how Bama was once again ascending to the top of the SEC. Fast forward 5 years and, well, not much has changed. We’re two coaches removed from that coach, they are once again talking SEC titles in T-town and Gameday is on campus. All we need is Pat Dye to come up with something moderately ignorant (shouldn’t be too hard) and we’re there.

Mentally, you have to like the angle we’re coming in from. Bama is coming off an emotional, hard-fought win over a physical team that wore them down. They’re being told all week how they are back in their rightful spot atop the SEC-West. Meanwhile, in Athens, our boys have had a week to get over the tough loss to SC where everything seemed to go the wrong way. They aren’t being given much of a chance and I’m sure the coaches are reminding them of that.

Look for a close, lower scoring game. Sure Richt has an amazing record on the road, but it seems like the majority of those were hard-fought, close struggles that came down to the wire. That’s not actually the case, as many of those wins were blowouts, but it just seems like when we get together with an SEC team on the road, the games are nerve-wrecking, see-saw affairs that go down to the wire. Actually, in SEC West games on the road under Richt, we’ve averaged winning by 4 points, and that’s including the 22-point win over AU last season (as well as the 18 point loss there in 2004). I expect no different this week.

Positional Notes

· Kelin Johnson is expected to play, but I don’t know how healthy he’ll be after missing last week and the 2nd half of the SC game to a rib injury. In his place, Reshad Jones has played well. I was more than a little surprised to see that he was currently 2nd on the team in tackles.

· Look for Clint Boling to get more time on the OL this week at OG. Chris Davis continues to struggle and Haverkamp isn’t exactly lighting it up either. Listening to Cheese Adams, it doesn’t sound like he’ll move inside unless we have a few injuries. Boling has played really well in limited action this year, so look for more this week.

· Dent got the nod at SLB over Brandon Miller last week and is listed as the starter there again this week. He played well and Miller handled his demotion like a man, playing great on special teams. You have to wonder if it was a motivational tactic or not.

· Marcus Washington continued to play well backing up Ellerbe and has apparently earned the starting spot at MLB with Ellerbe moving over to WLB. The way we line up, those two are pretty much both MLBs and frankly, they’ve probably been our two best LBs this season, so getting them on the field at the same time makes sense.

· Bailey & Massaquoi continue to solidify themselves as our top two receiving threats. Henderson is shifty and dangerous, but his size limits him to catching the ball more situationally on screens, fly routes, etc (in other words, don’t look for him over the middle of the field). Massaquoi has looked good so far this season and I really think he’s due for a breakout game. Bailey has just been solid.

· Moreno is looking more and more like the player we hoped he’d be. Just wow.

· It was nice to see Demiko Goodman make a TD grab Saturday. Thomas Brown gets a lot of pub for coming back so quickly from his ACL ear, but Goodman is doing the same thing. He was really playing well last year before going down with that injury. If he can get back playing well, it would be nice to add that vertical threat he brings.

· OK, given Moreno’s surge towards more playing time, I think it’s important to note that Thomas Brown is climbing the UGA career rushing chart. He sits at 12th on the list currently with 2,006 yards. If he manages to gain more than 575 yards over the remainder of this season, he’ll climb to 5th on the list behind Walker, Hearst, Tate and Hampton (in order). More than 662 yards would move him ahead of Hampton for 4th. Impressive, although it’s important to remember he’s been the beneficiary of bowl games, SECCGs, 12th games, etc to get more attempts.

· Honestly, I’m shocked that we only have one takeaway through 3 games. You’d think at some point through sheer dumb luck that the ball would bounce our way at some point. Heck, Blake Mitchell fumbled twice two weeks ago but they ended up falling on both of them. Bama’s turned the ball over 4 times this year, while forcing 6 turnovers, let’s hope we can get back on the good side of the turnover ratio this week (we’re currently at -1 after Stafford’s sack and fumble last week).

Random Thoughts

· I had this long Munson thing written out and then my computer decided to hate me again and I lost it. To sum it up, not having Munson on air Saturday will be a little weird for all of us.

· So, does anyone else think LSU is going to absolutely murder SC this weekend? I’m not saying that because I think SC is a bad team, I’ve just been amazed at what LSU is doing so far. They are loaded…and deep too. Whoever is coaching there next season will be tickled with the talent he’s got. I say that because Carr’s basically out at Michigan unless he pulls a miracle off and Miles has made it clear that the only place he’d leave to take over was Michigan. Poor LSU…it’s possible that they could win two national titles in 4 years only to have both coaches leave.

· Not sure what to make of the whole SC spying thing, but if Richt’s closing practice this week, there’s obviously something there or enough suspicion to make Richt feel the need to make that call. I wouldn’t put it past Spurrier.

· Egads but Auburn looks bad. What exactly did Tra Battle do to Brandon Cox last year that turned him into a complete scaredy-cat (Eagle/Plainsman)? He looks like that kid in your neighborhood game that always wanted to play two-hand touch instead of tackle. With that being said, you can count on a ton of Auburn folks secretly wearing red & black this weekend given our opponent.

· I have no idea if UF is that good or UT is that bad. It’s probably a mixture of the two. That one shocked me. As much as it pains me to say it, Urban Meyer appears to be a pretty good coach. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

· OK, trick question, which SEC coach would you least like to be right now? Tubberville is obviously an option as he’s 1-2 and by all rights should be 0-3 with a team that was preseason top 15. I’m sure at this point he’s got someone keeping tabs on all of Lowder’s flight logs. Fulmer is another quality option, although both of his losses (albeit by a combined 53 points) were to teams currently in the top 10. I honestly think I’d have to go with Houston Nutt though, and not because he lost that game last week (although he did make some complete bonehead coaching decisions down the stretch last week). I’d choose Nutt because he’s stuck in the most bizarre soap opera of an Athletic Association-fanbase interaction that I’ve ever heard of, going back to last season. Those Arkansas fans are absolutely crazy. Frankly, given their level of insanity, I’m surprised they weren’t founding members of the SEC. I mean, look around. We have the most obsessive, self-absorbed fans of any conference in the country, pretty much of any sport. That’s what makes us the best.

· You know, Les Miles caught a lot of heat for saying what he said about USC’s wide open romp to the title game. Did he look at Oklahoma at all? They’ve got a great shot at playing for all the marbles and they won’t have played anyone worth a crap. I mean, yes, they tried some by scheduling Miami, but Miami and FSU apparently have reverted back to their pre-19800 selves. Basically, the only hurdles on OU’s schedule are a #7 Texas team that almost lost to UCF and Texas A&M. I suppose they’ll end up playing Nebraska in the title game, but they just got shellacked by USC. Do you remember when the Big XII was good? I’m starting to forget.

· I got a few different offers in terms of the direction to take the Random Thoughts now that Road House has run its course but frankly none of them were overly appealing. The only thing I could come up with was Nick Saban as Lumberg from Office Space. “Yeah, I’m gonna need you to blitz this weekend.” I did get several ideas offered up for the UF game though. That’s a fan base that’s just easy to target.

Have a safe weekend,


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