Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Hey Aaron Murray, see all those other guys in the huddle? Lean on them, they have been doing this a long time.
When I talk to other Dawg fans, I hear that their chief concern about this team is our untested redshirt freshman quarterback, Aaron Murray. This is a legitimate concern, but it should be mitigated to a large degree by the fact that he will be surrounded by 10 returning starters. And these aren't just a few guys with some experience. These are mostly grisled veterans with 25+ starts to their credit. This is especially true of the guys in the trenches. Consider the guys lining up from tackle to tackle:
LT - Clint Boling (Sr) - 36 career starts. He has played everywhere but center since starting as a true freshman in 2007. He is one of the most athletic linemen we have ever had and he is poised to pave the way for a great rushing attack in 2010. 2007 Freshman All American, 2008 and 2009 All SEC. All American in 2010?
LG - Cordy Glenn (Jr) - 23 starts. A road-grader in a football uniform. 2008 Freshman All American. 2009 2nd Team All SEC.
C - Ben Jones (Jr) - 23 starts. Cut his teeth by fighting man-to-man with Mount Cody as a true freshman in 2008. Probably the meanest player on offense - which is exactly what you want in a center. 2008 Freshman All American. 2009 2nd Team All SEC.
RG - Chris Davis (Sr) - 38 starts. Chris was a redshirt in 2006, so this is his 5th year in Athens and he has the most starts of any Bulldog. He doesn't have the post-season accolades of a few of his trenchmates, but his experience and consistency is a huge asset to this team.
RT - Josh Davis (Sr) - 26 appearances, 9 starts. Josh likely would have started every game in 2009 but missed the first half of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery. His return for the Vanderbilt game marked the birth of the UGA ground game in 2010.
Now consider the key backups:
Trinton Sturdivant at tackle. After starting as a true freshman in 2007 and earning Freshman All American honors, Sturdy has missed the past two seasons with injuries to his left knee. The coaching staff has said that having a healthy Sturdivant will be a "luxury" for this team. He is a great young man who has worked incredibly hard to rehab his knee two years in a row. Let's hope that fortune is kinder to him this season and that he has a "luxurious" season.
AJ Harmon (RSo), Dallas Lee (RFr), Chris Burnette (RFr), and Tanner Strickland (Jr) round out the two-deep and represent a collective 7 seasons of experience counting redshirt years.
At Tight End, we have 4 players in the rotation:
Orson Charles (So) - Probable starter. Played in 12 games (started 3) while earning Freshman All American honors with 23 receptions, 374 yards and 2 TDs. Not the most physical blocker, but is a deep threat at TE and was HS teammate of QB Aaron Murray, so they have a decent rapport.
Aron White (Jr) - The quote machine. Aron has appeared in 23 games with 13 starts. Redshirted in 2007, so this is his 4th season on campus. A true "tweener" as a TE because he has the speed to be an outside receiver and is another deep threat from the TE position. Career: 16 receptions, 286 yards and 6 TDs.
Bruce Figgins (Jr) - Appeared in 24 games in 2007 and 2008 making 5 catches for 56 yards and 1 TD. Bruce injured his shoulder in the middle of the 2008 season but played with pain the rest of the season before undergoing surgery in the off-season. Then he redshirted in 2009 while recovering from shoulder surgery and an off-season indiscretion. Having him back on the field adds a tremendous, physical blocker who can also catch the ball.
Arthur Lynch (So) - Artie is a big boy with soft hands. Appeared in 11 games as a freshman with 2 grabs for 17 yards. Arthur is a lot like Bruce Figgins in that he is a solid blocker with hands good enough to be a short yardage option.
Add Old Faithful at Fullback:
Shaun Chapas (Sr) - After redshirting in 2006, Chappy has appeared in 38 games and has been the #1 fullback for the past two seasons. A crushing blocker who is also a regular threat to catch a pass out of the backfield with 21 receptions for 192 yards and 2 TDs. That is almost a first down for every catch. Fred Munzenmeier backs him up and has been around the program since 2006 as well and has 34 appearances.
AJ Green (Jr) - the most talented receiver ever in the red and black? 23 appearances in two seasons - missed a few games with injured shoulder at the end of 2009 regular season but bounced back for the bowl game to catch 6 passes for 57 yards. Career stats: 109 receptions, 1772 yards and 14 TDs. The 16.2 yards per catch is impressive and with the level of talent surrounding him, this stat could even rise this season if Murray can get him the ball. Oh yeah... he also has a game-saving blocked field goal to his credit. Freshman All-American in 2008, All SEC 2008, 2009.
Kris Durham (Sr) - 33 appearances. Missed all last season after suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder, so like Chris Davis, Josh Davis and Shaun Chapas, he is a 5th year senior. Career Stats: 32 receptions, 450 yards, 1 TD and an average of 14.1 yards per catch.
Tavarres King (So) - 16 appearances in two seasons with 20 receptions, 443 yards, 1 TD and a whopping 22.2 yards per catch. Being the speedster on the opposite side from AJ Green gives him lots of one-on-one opportunities which has led to his high yards per catch total.
Rantavious Wooten (So) - "Wootentheballcarrier" played in 12 games as a true freshman recording 10 receptions, 197 yards and 2 TDs. Like Tavarres King, a speedster opposite AJ Green has lots of long ball chances and T King averaged 19.7 yards per catch.
Israel Troupe (Jr) - 23 appearances, 8 receptions, 129 yards, 1 TD and a 16.1 yards per catch. If he does nothing else in his career, Israel will be remembered for his 50 yard TD grab against Auburn in 2009. Hopefully, he can add some special memories to that one this season.
Marlon Brown (So) - At 6-5, Marlon presents a major coverage mismatch for small DBs. He arrived in Athens amid considerable hype but didn't see many opportunities in 2009. Many are hoping for a breakout year in 2010.
Logan Gray (Jr) - The long-time back up QB and designated punt fair-catcher, Logan made the switch to receiver in the off-season. He was having an impressive camp showing excellent route running and sure hands, but an ankle injury has slowed him the past two weeks. Not sure if he will be full speed for the opener, but he should find some playing time once his ankle heals.
Tailback - The Popular UGA Two-Headed Tailback is back. Recently it was Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno. This year it is Caleb King and Washaun Ealey. Carlton Thomas will also get some reps. Caleb and Washaun will make an impressive one-two punch at tailback and as long as they are healthy, this will be a major strength. If one or both misses some action due to injury, this position can quickly become a liability.
Caleb King (Jr) - 21 appearances. Red-shirted in 2007 so this is his 4th season in the program. Showed tremendous courage in 2009 returning from a broken jaw suffered against LSU to record several career games in the second half of the season (including 18 carries for 166 yards and 2 TDs against Ga Tech - the longest being a mind-numbing 75 yard TD blast.) Career: 175 carries, 841 yards, 8 TDs and a 4.8 yards per carry average. If he can start 2010 like he finished 2009, look out!
Washaun Ealey (So) - appeared in 9 games as a true freshman in 2009 recording 125 rushes for 717 yards and 3 TD's with a 5.7 yards per carry average. Will miss the opener due to nonsense, but will need to be ready to contribute in week two against South Carolina.
In sum, surrounding Aaron Murray there will be an average experience of 26 starts on the O-line and 25 appearances from the skill players assuming the current projected starting line-up. (Note: I am using the # of appearances for skill players because the # of starts can be misleading. For example, if the first play features no fullback, Chapas would not be credited with a start and that is why the stat book shows him as having only 13 starts in the past two seasons though he appeared in 25 games as the first team fullback.)
If there is any way for a freshman QB to have a 10+ win season, surrounding him with 10 guys with more than two seasons of experience per player is probably the best bet. Add to that the experience of 3rd year kicker Blair Walsh and scoring points any time we cross mid-field becomes a distinct possibility. Keeping Murray comfortable while he gains invaluable experience will be the responsibility of all these veterans and good game-planning by Coaches Bobo and Richt. With a little luck, Murray will post the best freshman QB season in UGA history - remember, 8 wins is the where the bar sits.
What do you think? How many wins do you expect?