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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Window is Open in 2010 (or The Case for QB Diversity Now)

If you didn't pick up your copy of the Athens Banner-Herald on Wednesday, you missed a nice column by David Ching on the contributions of Georgia's youngsters -- namely Carlton Thomas, Branden Smith and DeAngelo Tyson -- in getting the Bulldogs a win over South Carolina on Saturday.

Ching astutely points out that it wasn't about the big picture for those three. It was about three plays the trio made, each of which was essential in the win.

Of course, the case could be made that those three -- along with some of Georgia's other youngsters -- had a hand in keeping the game close, too. Thomas hasn't proven the most effective of inside runners. Tyson was part of a defensive front that routinely allowed Stephen Garcia to step up in the pocket and keep plays alive. Smith's fumble deep in Georgia territory set up a South Carolina field goal.

That's the thing with young player with that much talent: Sometimes they're so impressive you're ready to do cartwheels that they're on your team. Sometimes they make you want to throw your remote through your plasma TV.

One thing is for sure, however. There is a lot of talent. Here's how Michael Moore summed up this year's offense vs. last season's crew, led by Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno: "There’s a lot more playmakers than there was in years past. There had always been one or two guys – this guy or that guy. Now I think we’re able to spread the ball out a little bit more and get more people involved.”

From Smith's 61-yard touchdown run to Richard Samuel's impressive touchdown drive to Brandon Boykin's amazing athleticism to Orson Charles' two big catches, it's obvious Georgia's youngsters have a bright future. All that's missing is some experience, which makes the potential for the 2010 team pretty exciting.

In fact, let's take a quick look at how Georgia's lineup could look next season:

QB: Logan Gray or Aaron Murray
RB: Richard Samuel, Caleb King or Washaun Ealey
FB: Shaun Chapas
SE: Marlon Brown or Tavarres King
FLK: A.J. Green
SLOT: Rantavious Wooten
TE: Orson Charles, Aron White or Arthur Lynch
LT: Trinton Sturdivant
LG: Cordy Glenn
C: Ben Jones
RG: Justin Anderson
RT: Clint Boling
DEs: Demarcus Dobbs and Justin Houston
DTs: DeAngelo Tyson and Abry Jones
WLB: Rennie Curran* or Marcus Dowtin
MLB: Darryl Gamble
SLB: Nick Williams or Akeem Dent
SS: Baccari Rambo or Reshad Jones*
FS: Sanders Commings or Makiri Pugh
WC: Branden Smith
SC: Brandon Boykin

Other experienced returners: Chris Davis (G/C), Carlton Thomas (RB), Fred Munzenmaier (FB), Cornelius Washington (DE), Montez Robinson (DE), Kiante Tripp (DE), Brandon Wood (DT), Vance Cuff (CB), Mike Gilliard (LB)

Potential impact freshmen: Alec Ogletree (DB), T.J. Stripling (DE), Garrison Smith (DT), Da'Rick Rogers (WR), Dexter Morant (DE), Ken Malcome (RB)

Georgia will have returning starters at 10 of the 11 positions on offense and seven of 11 spots on defense, assuming both Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones return for their senior seasons (I'd say that's more likely for Curran than Jones, given his near departure a year ago).

Meanwhile, of the players stepping in to starting roles on defense, three have already seen significant action this season. Abry Jones, Tyson and Smith are all seeing extensive playing time and should be suitable replacements.

It's probably reasonable to be concerned about the secondary, particularly if Georgia has three first-year starters, as well as left tackle, depending on Trinton Sturdivant's recovery from a second ACL injury. But beyond that, things are shaping up well for a run in 2010, which just so happens to also be the first year Florida will be playing without Tim Tebow since 2005.

Not only will Georgia have an extraordinarily experienced offensive unit next year, there should be experienced depth at almost every skill position, with tight end and tailback offering more starter-quality players than playing time might allow. That's a good problem to have.

It was easy to question the offense this season. If you compared the starting lineup this year to the one Georgia had last year and asked who might reasonably be expected to improve their production, the only positions you could probably point to emphatically were along the offensive line and A.J. Green. Even the latter of those seemed questionable because, while Green was sure to improve, he also figured to get a lot more attention.

(NOTE: You could make an argument for tight end, too, but only because the tight ends did absolutely nothing last season.)

But look at the potential 2010 lineup, and it's reasonable to think that it might be better -- and in the cases of players like Brown, Charles, Lynch and Samuel, potentially a lot better -- at every position.

Except one.

I like Joe Cox, and I think he clearly gives Georgia its best chance to win this year. And allow me to underscore this: By no means should Georgia be giving up on this year.

But there's a window next year for a big season if this year's youngsters develop at the rate most of the scouts assumed they should, and the missing ingredient will clearly be an experienced quarterback.

Mark Richt should understand what that means. In 2002, he had a team that lost one game but the window wasn't open to play for a national title. In 2007, he lost two, but again, the window squeezed shut. In 2006, he had a strong offensive line and a rookie QB. In 2007 and 2008, he had the best tailback and second best quarterback in the SEC, but a weak offensive line. The stars never aligned, and even Richt has lamented the fact that he never got to see Stafford and Moreno play behind the line Georgia has this season (and likely will again next year).

As I look at it, however, the stars could easily line up in 2010, but there's that one missing piece.

It's impossible, if you're a college football coach, to look ahead. They don't look ahead by one week, let alone one season. But a pragmatic point of view that expands the scope of decision making beyond how to beat Arkansas on Saturday would take this into account: Giving Aaron Murray (if healthy) or Logan Gray a few plays at quarterbacks isn't likely to cost Georgia any games this season. Not doing it may cost the Bulldogs a bunch next year.


jferg said...

the youth-heaviness of this team should excite all dawg fans. if we have a satefy (or really/hopefully two) who get significant playing time this year to replace Jones/Evans--we really do look good for next year.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think Richt has been thinking about this all summer? He's been saying for months that we will play a lot of freshmen this year. That's a far cry from the days when he red shirted KM. I've been thinking he's thinking this freshman class is special and he thinks he can make some noise with them before they leave the classic city.

jm from louisville said...

Any chance Jones almost bolted because he didn't see us having a winning team with the losses of Stafford/Moreno and such...

Maybe with all this promise he decides to stay another year for a run at a championship...?

NYCDawg said...

ding ding ding!

BCDwag97 said...

Great work as usual. Can you just go ahead and as Coach Richt that - "Why don't we just put Logan in for a series the way we did Shockley?" And then when he says, "Well, we want to make sure that we are putting guys in situations that they can succeed", please press him and ask him if only being successful in practice is worth more than learning from real game experience. Shockley came in every 3rd series of each half of each game (and gasp! played a whole series, even if it went 3 and out). Everyone knew it was going to happen. And everyone complained about disrupting Greene's rhythm, but Richt always defended it as getting DJ the experience. So I don't see the difference here.

His stubborness/loyalty with seniors is going to cost us again a la the first half of 06.

ClintThomason said...

Are we already in "we'll get em next year" mode?

Anonymous said...

What about a veteran Kris Durham coming back next year?

ArchDawg said...

You're absolutely right, man. We need to get our younger QB's some gametime experience. Maybe not an automatic third series-of-the-half type of deal, but at least put them in sometime in the second quarter. That way they are still getting meaningful snaps without really having too much pressure (b/c it'll still be the first half).

David Hale said...

JM from L'Ville.... I think Reshad's decision will come down to where the NFL evaluates him. If he's a round 1-3 guy, I think he goes regardless.

David Hale said...

Anon -- good point about Durham. I should have included him. A.J. Harmon and a few others I left out, too.

John From Texas said...

I've been saying the same thing for a while now regarding the QB position. Instead of redshirting Aaron Murray, Richt needs to play Murray a little bit this season, perhaps later in the year.

Let's be honest with ourselves for a minute: As athletic as Gray appears to be, I have a hard time believing he has the throwing attributes to be an effective SEC quarterback. To me, Murray is the future, and I hope a lesson was learned in 2006 when Mr. Moreno was redshirted. I'm not proclaiming that Murray might be a top 15 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but who knows?

Anonymous said...

actually our TE's did do something last year......they stayed home to block. B/c of the OL.

The Cuatro said...

I have a strong feeling that Jakar Hamilton will be a starting safety next year... maybe not the first couple games, but he'll be there

MikeInValdosta said...

I do not think that we are, or should be, in "next year" mode.

The reality is, the groundwork for championships is laid year's in advance.

Dale is spot on with regard to needing experience at QB.

Richt has to know this. There has got to be a reason for not giving another QB modest playing time. He either does not want to give rise to a QB controversy, does not think Joe will respond well to it mentally, or both.

I like our chances this year, and I would absolutely love them next year if we had a QB with a little experience.

David Hale said...

Mike, I'm not sure we should be so quick to assume Richt isn't thinking about it. Georgia has been in two close games so far and has had the added burden of trying to figure out what they have on offense beyond the QB. I think keeping Cox in for most of the snaps is the smart move now, but in the latter half of the season, I think it makes a lot of sense to give Gray (or maybe Murray) some spot duty when the situation dictates.