Thursday, October 01, 2009
What's Going On?
As the great Marvin Gaye sang, "What's Going On?" This is an appropriate question to ask about our Dawgs as we anticipate Saturday's game against #4 LSU Between the Hedges. (You should be listening to Marvin while reading this... trust me, this is one great recording.)
This team is loaded with talent and has been all over the place in their on-field performance. No one can honestly predict what will happen from one week to the next. We could beat LSU by 21 or lose by 21 or go to overtime. Who knows? One thing is for sure, if we are going to come together for a complete game, this is the weekend to put it all together. For that to happen, here are the signs that I am seeing that give me hope...
Defensive Front Four
The best UGA defenses in the Richt era all had one thing in common... two pillars at tackle who can push anyone backwards and at least one fast-motor physical defensive end. Juding from his performance against ASU, Justin Houston is hitting his stride now at end. He is getting off blocks, playing fast and disrupting both pass plays and running plays. There is a symbiotic relationship between great end play and great tackle play. When an ends is disruptive and requires more attention, then our tackles have more chances to make plays. Did you notice the uptick in Atkins and Owens play with both making plays behind the line of scrimmage? Conversely, when the tackles are getting a great vertical push, it makes it easier for the ends to make plays. The other piece of the puzzle is that when the tackles and at least one end are commanding so much attention... the linebackers can make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage as well. It all breaks down if we are missing great tackle play or great end play. It takes both and both multiply the effectiveness of the other when they are disrupting things in the opponents backfield. Most of the pressure we got on the ASU QB was from 3 or 4 man rushes. That was huge in shutting down their passing game. (That and Sullivan having little accuracy.)
For this team to take a bold step into the spotlight this Saturday, we need intense disruptive penetration by Geno, Jeff and Kade coupled with fast, tackle-shedding consistent play by Justin and good solid fundamentals from the other end. If that happens, then our LBs can step up to make more plays and the pressure on our DBs and Safeties will be mitigated by pressuring their young QB. The key to controlling their running attack is for the front four to neutralize the 5 offensive lineman and allow our LBs to make tackles at the line of scrimmage. We must make sure tackles. The ASU got loose a few times and Scott ran all over us last year. Our LBs have to swarm and wrap up.
Growth and Experience of Young DBs
Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith have been on the field a lot and they have shown flashes of brilliance and their play is starting to smooth out as they have gotten more comfortable with the schemes and the speed of the game. Now, Bacari Rambo and Sanders Commings are getting some quality reps and they have both shown skills that seemingly surpass their predecessors. The more these young, talented players show their stuff, the more confident I become in their being ready to contribute right now.
Obviously AJ Green is the most talented offensive player in the SEC, but his supporting staff is shaping up nicely as well. Orson Charles has proven that he can create a mismatch when covered by a LB. Likewise, Aron White is another mismatch at tight end who has made a few big plays. Tavarres King and now Rantavious Wooten have begun contributing and offer serious jets to provide a deep threat at any time. Michael Moore is a steady solid possession receiver who will fearlessly go across the middle of the field. We haven't seen anything yet from Marlon Brown, but I believe he will make some plays in the near future. Lost in the shuffle has been Israel Troupe. With this many talented kids to throw the ball to, defenses cannot succeed by simply focusing on shutting down AJ - which has proven impossible thus far anyway. There may be more speed among this group than any group we have ever had. Big big things are possible if Joe can keep getting them the ball.
Walsh and Butler
This is a fantastic duo and they are only sophomores. These guys are already a strength on this team, imagine if they continue to progress.
For now... those are the areas on this team that have emerged or are emerging to give me optimism that this team can take a big step up and make this a special season for the Dawgs. What do you think?