Monday, August 30, 2010

Done Bending Until We Break

"The offense's job is to stop us." UGA Defense 2010

I saw this quote in an interview a couple of weeks ago but I can't remember who said it. Clearly, however, it is the mindset being preached by new DC Todd Grantham. I am sure we are all pleased that the we have finally retired the old "Bend Until You Break" philosophy that yielded 6 games of 40+ points surrendered in the past two seasons.

Possibly the most intriguing storyline going into this season is the unveiling of Grantham's 3-4 attacking defensive scheme. Guys are being moved around to accommodate the needs of the scheme so we will see guys like Cornelius Washington and Justin Houston playing outside linebacker, DeAngelo Tyson at end and Bean Anderson at nose tackle. What has me most fired up about the defense is the aggressive personality. But what has me most excited about the scheme is getting more speed on the field every play. Consider this front seven: Justin Houston, Abry Jones, Christian Robinson, DeAngelo Tyson, Akeem Dent, Demarcus Dobbs, Darryl Gamble and sprinkle in any of these subs: Brandon Wood, Marcus Dowtin, Akeem Hebron, Mike Gilliard, Cornelius Washington and Bean Anderson or Kwame Geathers to plug the middle. Then consider the speed at corner among Brandon Boykin, Vance Cuff and Branden Smith. Cap it off with the hard hitting enforcers at safety - Baccari Rambo, Nick Williams, Jakar Hamilton and newcomer Alec Ogletree.

This defense is loaded with speed and talent and if deployed properly should show unprecedented improvement over the past two seasons. Add into the mix a commitment to go after the football and flip the turnover ratio back in our favor and we should pick up at least one extra win on that basis alone.

I believe this defense will be fun to watch and I expect that a fair amount of pressure will be placed on them early on against South Carolina and Arkansas as our offense gains experience under the new leadership of redshirt freshman Aaron Murray. Will these guys be up for the task? Starting the season 4-0 really depends on it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010



I am excited about many aspects of the Dawgs offense heading into the 2010 campaign but first let me address my biggest concern - QB. In Richt's tenure in Athens, we have had two seasons in which a freshman QB saw the majority of snaps. In 2006, true freshman Matthew Stafford became the starter several games into the season on the way to posting a record of 9-4 and finished the year with a flurry of wins over Auburn, Tech and Va. Tech and was ranked #23 in the final AP poll. In 2001, red-shirt freshman David Greene started from day one and led the team to and 8-4 record, an AP #22 ranking, and Greene was the consensus SEC Freshman of the Year. I suppose if we use these two seasons as a guide, we should expect to finish the season ranked about where we are now in the AP at #23 and would be looking at four losses. I am more optimistic than that.

I do not expect Aaron Murray to have as many career victories as Greene nor do I expect him to be the first pick overall in an NFL draft. However, barring injury, I am expecting him to win more games as a freshman starter than Greene or Stafford did. The top reasons for my optimism are - in no particular order: favorable schedule, veteran/talented offensive line, AJ Green, stable of NFL tight ends, improved and aggressive defense, brilliant kick returners, best duo of kickers in UGA history (arguably- apologies to Rex), no Tebow, two-headed tailback combo of King-Ealey, 3rd year starter at FB with Chapas, and an improved and aggressive defense (worth mentioning twice.)

Murray will have a solid core of offensive talent around him to ease the burden placed on him to carry the offense. The most important thing he will need to do is limit mistakes and learn learn learn every week. If our rushing attack gets off to a fast start he should find him self in favorable down and distance scenarios throughout the first several games and that should give him time to learn, adjust to the speed of the game and gain confidence. Without a doubt he will make freshman mistakes, but the timing of those mistakes will make all the difference. We could use some old lady luck in this regard.

Having AJ Green as a primary target will help any QB but we will really need the other receivers to create sufficient threat so that AJ can't be doubled on every snap. Having Kris Durham back will help and good seasons from Tavares King and Rantavious Wooten are critical. Marlon Brown, are you ready for some football? The tight ends are the deepest and most talented group probably ever assembled in NCAA history. Aron White and Orson Charles are consistent threats to go long and Figgins/Lynch make a formidable blocking and sure-handed combination. Lastly, Chapas coming out of the backfield on the FB screen or wheel route represents the best receiving threat at that position since Haynes. Hopefully Murray won't be put in too many positions where the game will come down to his arm, but if it does, he will have plenty of talent on the field to help him out.

One additional note on Aaron Murray that isn't insignificant is that he has enough athletic ability to elude the rush better than Cox could last year so he could, at times, make things happen with his feet. While that is not something we want him to do too often, the ability to move out of the pocket and tuck and run if necessary will save a few drives this season. Again, the timing of those saves will make all the difference.

Final note: Murray must stay healthy! I don't even want to consider the alternative right now. Dadgummit Zach Mettenberger!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Single Digits and Oh the Discipline

Single Digits and Oh the Discipline

Being that this is a blog about college football, and more specifically, the University of Georgia college football team, can you imagine the discipline it takes to write nothing at all for the interminable months between the bowl game and the season opener? Sure, some bloggers write about recruiting, spring ball, off-season scooter incidents, AD’s Gone Wild, etc. But not me. No sir. I have such mad discipline that I am not even sure that it is yet appropriate for me to awaken this blog from its hibernation. But as of today, we are within single digit days from kick-off – nine to be exact – and I am on vacation so I have enough time on my hands to break protocol and start talking football.

Actually, I am the kind of person that tries to not get too excited about things too far in advance. For example, Leslie and I are on a flight to Aspen where we will spend 4 days and then will go to Red Rocks to see David Gray and Ray LaMontagne on Monday night. This is basically a dream vacation and I cannot wait to get boots on the ground in Aspen. But until American Airlines took our checked luggage and charged us $50 for the privilege, I could not start relaxing and feeling like I am on vacation. Naturally, I did enough research to formulate some ideas about how to spend our days in Apsen and I splurged for second row/center tickets at Red Rocks and downloaded Ray’s newly released album “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise.” But I won’t really be fired up until I see the first Rocky Mountain and taste my first Colorado made craft brew. That’s just me. I think it is a Pisces thing.

Anyway… that’s how I am about football season as well. I watch and wait and bide my time and save the adrenaline until I can smell the freshly cut grass of Sanford Stadium on the morning of the opener. I think this mentality is compounded this pre-season because of all of the unknowns surrounding our football team, some of which are anticipated with great optimism (new defensive philosophy) and some of which cause more than enough anxiety (freshman QB with no depth.) I have followed the practice reports and the heavily trafficked blogs daily and the news is so bland and vanilla that it actually makes me happy. The absence of bad news has been good news. Also, the absence of irrational exuberance has been comforting. This is my kind of season. We will go in barely in the Top 25, with little or no national spotlight and pressure and being given only a slight chance to win the SEC East. Under the radar, as they say. I like this. I prefer to be underrated. As a former Naval Officer, I appreciate the tactical advantages of the element of surprise. I just hope the surprises are pleasant ones for us Dawg fans.

I think the over/under on wins this regular season is 10. I think that I think that every year. It might have something to do with the multiple 10 win season we have enjoyed under Mark Richt in the past decade. In my view, if we win less than 10 games, I will be disappointed. If we win more than 10 games, I will be elated and if we win exactly 10 games, can I pick the ones we win? If so, I could still end up elated! Based on the so-called experts, my expectations are inflated. But, I will stand by them and I will hold out much optimism for the following primary reasons (to be discussed in greater detail in subsequent posts):

AJ Green – if he remains healthy… Oh boy!

Veteran and beastly offensive line – Lord, please let Sturdivant remain healthy all year and let this line run block like they did against the nats in the season finale.

Tight End U – How do we utilize all of these guys enough?

Two-headed Tailback King/Ealey – Like the O-line, please start this season like you finished last season.

This quote: “Our defensive philosophy is that it is not our job to stop the offense, it is their job to stop us.” No more of the old bend until you break mentality.

Speed on the corners and Hammers at safety. B. Smith, Boykin, Cuff, Rambo, N. Williams, et al. This should be fun to watch.

Death from the Edge – This means you Justin Houston and Darryl Gamble.

Groza/Guy Winners? – Walsh and Butler

Indeed, I can find ample reasons to think that this team can win at least 10 regular season games. What do you think?