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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From the Mailbag: FNL, Ginger Ninja, Bowl Picks and More

It's Wednesday. We're three days from Kentucky. Let's crack open the mailbag...

FreshmanDawg writes: Great blog, but I'm not sure you're giving Coach Searels enough credit. I think he's been planning the shakeup of the offensive line for the better part of the season, but if you remember it was Josh Davis returning from injury that allowed him to finally do it.

David:
The return of Davis was a key cog in the new-look line, but I'm not sure I owe Searels more credit for it. For one, Davis has provided a viable alternative to Clint Boling at right tackle, but the key move was putting Cordy Glenn back at guard. What Georgia so desperately missed when Glenn was moved to left tackle was that big body up the middle that could open up holes between the tackles. It was Searels' decision to move Glenn out to tackle in the first place, despite Boling having worked so successfully at left tackle at the tail end of last season.

Now, you can also make the argument that, had Searels moved Boling earlier in the season, that simply would have left a gap on the right side until Davis returned to action. That's a fair point, but I might ask, what happened to Justin Anderson and Vince Vance? Vance was good enough to start at left tackle for much of last season and played there routinely early this season, but he couldn't man right tackle so Georgia could move Boling? And Anderson was Georgia's starting right tackle for most of last season until suffering a foot injury late in the year. Why couldn't he handle right tackle until Davis got healthy?

Maybe both Vance and Anderson have regressed. Maybe they didn't deserve the job. Maybe they couldn't have handled it. But shouldn't Searels' shoulder some responsibility for that, too? We were told prior to the season that the biggest asset this line brought to the table was its depth. So what happened to that depth? Yes, Sturdivant went down. But Georgia still had six more experienced starters, but it took Davis' return before Boling was finally moved.

I credit Searels for making the decision eventually and getting the ball rolling in the right direction now. But I think it's also fair to wonder what might have happened against LSU and Tennessee if Georgia had been able to run the football the way they have for the past few weeks.

Anonymous writes: Love your work, but I suspect you haven't spent too much time in Dallas. Razorback alums are everywhere in DFW - Cotton Bowl officials would be fools to ever take UGA over ARK, LSU or even Ole Miss. They'll take Arkansas if they're there, assuming LSU isn't an option. SEC East teams won't travel to Dallas.

David:
This was a good point that I hadn't entirely considered. More importantly, perhaps, is that the Cotton Bowl will be played in the new Cowboys stadium this year, and Jerry Jones is an Arkansas alum. So assuming the Razorbacks can finish the season strong, there's probably a good chance they'll end up in Dallas, which would reshuffle the deck for the rest of the bowls and likely push Georgia to the Chick-fil-A or Music City. So if you're a Dawgs fan hoping for Tampa, start rooting against Arkansas.

Fuelk2 writes: I noticed Ealey was in the game in some clear passing situations. I take that to mean Richt/Bobo/McLendon are getting more comfortable with his blocking. Great news.

David:
You noticed correctly. Here's what Mark Richt had to say about Ealey's pass blocking…

“He’s improving. I’m really not trying to beat him down anyway, but when you ask the question how things are going, I want to obviously say that he is progressing in that area, but I also want to make a strong point how important that job is. Some young guys want to fancy themselves as a running specialist and the passing is not quite as important or the route-running is not quite as important, but it really is important. He’s gotten better no doubt about it. … He is coming right along. Every time we have blitz pickup on Tuesday and Wednesday we get our scout teamers to go as hard as they can go and we make sure Washaun is getting a good bit of that action. He’s definitely getting better.”

Blog Goliard writes: Sure is good to have a running game again. I've been wondering how much of the difference we're seeing is the result of which factors:

a) Players: Ealey and King maturing and improving; offensive linemen starting to finally execute
b) Coaches' personnel decisions: Finally hitting on an efficient rotation of tailbacks, and the right arrangement of linemen
c) Coaches' playcalling: Starting to call enough runs, and the right runs
d) Opposition: Playing teams with weaker run defenses than, say, LSU

As a fan of troglodyte football who believes that there can never be too many inside traps and off-tackle runs, I am inclined to focus on factor c), but of course that's only part of the picture. Any thoughts, from David or others, as to how important each of these factors have been?

David:
Well, the honest answer is that it's been a combination of all four factors, but that sounds like a cop out. So, I'll give it a whirl.

I think the most important factor has been B. The combination of moving Cordy Glenn back inside and getting Caleb King healthy enough, giving Washaun Ealey enough playing time and shuffling Richard Samuel and Carlton Thomas to the back of the pack has been crucial in finally developing some consistency. Mike Bobo and Co. simply couldn't keep rotating three or four backs and expect any of them to find a groove. This rotation seems to work really well. In fact, I wrote about it for today's Telegraph.

I think A. has been important, but it's probably been as much of a symptom of the personnel decisions as it has been something that happened organically.

The other two have played a role, too, but if you look at the overall stats (not including sacks) Georgia ran the ball pretty well against Florida, despite being behind big early and the Gators' tough defense. So yeah, the numbers have been fattened up by Tennessee Tech, but I don't think that's the overwhelming reason for the improvement. Plus, Georgia gets fairly cushy matchups the rest of the way, too.

And the playcalling has been better at times, but it hasn't always been perfect either. Witness the first two drives Georgia ran last week against Auburn. The play calling didn't set up the running game for success, and it struggled as a result. So good play calling works wonders, but it hasn't always been good.

Watcher16 writes: You noted in an earlier post how Rambo wanted to hear his name chanted after a big play. When he's available to the media again, can you ask him if he was conscious enough to know that was happening, and if so, what he thought? Also, can you ask the defensive players what was going through their minds the first play after that hit and if they felt extra motivation/energy/adrenaline to get to the QB in honor of their fallen teammate?

David:
We haven't had access to talk to Rambo since the injury, but reports are that he's doing fine. The sad part, however, is that he doesn't remember anything about the hit or the aftermath.

I talked to Nick Williams, one of Rambo's closest friends on the team, who said he talked to Rambo the next day in the hospital. Apparently Rambo didn't lack for visitors. He said the hospital room was packed. And while Rambo's visitors told him about everything that happened, he didn't remember any of the details himself.

“He didn’t actually remember what happened at the time but after he saw it, he kind of remembered stuff around the injury,” Bryan Evans said.

Even after Rambo regained consciousness, the details are fuzzy. In fact, he had no recollection of the fans chanting his name following the injury.

"That was crazy, everybody was yelling 'Rambo' like in the movies or something," Williams said. "And he told me he didn't remember, and he didn't even remember the stuff up to the event. I was like, 'You didn't hear 93,000 people saying Rambo?' But he said he didn't hear anything. He said it was like he couldn't see and he couldn't talk at the same time, so I was like, 'OK, he was going through some things.'"

As for how scary it was for the other players, there's no doubt it took it's toll. Virtually everyone I talked to discussed how tense it was while the players waited for official word on Rambo's status, but Williams probably put it best:

"It was like losing my brother. When you play with people so long -- and I've been to a lot of his games even in high school -- you think they're invincible. I didn't ever think Rambo could get hurt because he's never gotten hurt. But when I saw him not moving, it was like reality struck, like, man he could really be hurt. I was crying on the field. It would have been like that for anybody, but especially for me. We grew up together. It was like, is this real? I just couldn't believe. When he held his hand up -- I think about what could have been."

Anonymous writes: David -- I like your predictions but they are based upon logical circumstances and possible game results. In a tough economy some of the bowls won't choose based on order of finish no matter what the "rules" say. Money talks, PERIOD. How many times in the past 5 years or so have we seen Bowl Game reps pull some backroom discussions with teams who promise large fanbase turnout at their venues? A lot. Not saying all of your predictions are wrong ... just saying follow the money first.

David:
Yup, it's a fair point. But it's also why I think there's no reason to expect Georgia to fall below the Chick-fil-A. I mean, wouldn't a UGA-Clemson matchup in Atlanta draw big numbers? And who's likely to travel more fans to Tampa -- Ole Miss or Georgia?

But again, there are a lot of backroom deals that go into these bowl selections, and there is virtually no transparency to the process. Which really is one more reason why the bowl system doesn't work.

Universal Remonstrator writes: I was just talking with a friend about how the Tech game is going to be at 8pm on ABC and how many night games we've had... it made me kind of realize that Joe Cox has been much better in night games as opposed to day games. Maybe a QB rating comparison?

David:
Ask and you shall receive:

Time
CompAtt
Pct
YPG TD INTW-L
Day (6 gms)
89 162 55% 178 9 8 2-4
Night (4 gms)
61 98 62% 248 9 4 4-0


Now, I'm of the assumption that the better performances are a result of Cox's fair skin staying out of the sunlight. Besides, Ninjas work best under the cloak of darkness. But here's what Joe had to say about it:

“I like night games. I think it gives you a chance to get good sleep and to really just be able to relax on the way up to the game. It’s tough having early games because you wake up at like seven or eight, you eat and then it seems like you are on the way to the stadium and you’re ready to go. You don’t really have a chance to think about anything or calm down or be able to relax. You really just don’t have a chance. I think everybody really enjoys night games being able to kind of sit around all day and think about what we have to do and get relaxed about it.”

Anonymous writes: you may have posted before ,but how much better could we have been if we had a longer time of possession comparing to the opponents T.O.P. in all the games played ? I remember at one point in the game Auburn had the ball twice as long as us. Not sure how it ended up.

David:
It's hard to speculate too much, and really, time of possession is determined primarily by two factors: 1.) turnovers and 2.) the running game. Winning time of possession isn't so much the goal as it is a result of accomplishing your goals. If Georgia had a reasonable turnover margin and had run the ball all year as well as it has run it recently, those T.O.P. numbers would have looked much different, and my guess is, the win-loss record would have, too.

Macon writes: Need some education here. I have been reading and looking at this "directional kicking" thing for a while. I have made it a point to watch other games and even a few pro games to compare. I do not see anything different. The Sunday night Colts - Pats game, same thing. Ball lands inside the 5 near the sideline. This seems to be the norm with other major programs also. I just think we are not covering well and it is not (outside the out of bounds kicks) an issue with Blair. Hell Auburn just squibbed it most of the time.

David:
There is nothing wrong with the idea of directional kicking, but just like kicking deep, the decision on which philosophy you should employ comes down to the question of how effective you can be at executing it.

There is definitely a time and place for directional kicking, but there are three problems with this at Georgia right now.

1. Blair Walsh has not always been the best at executing the directional kick properly. His placement recently has been superb, but if you look back to last year and some occasions earlier this season, the ball simply didn't go where it was supposed to, meaning the play was flawed from the start.

2.) When you compare that against the fact that he leads the SEC in touchbacks, you have to ask if Walsh's skills are being used effectively.

3.) Georgia's kickoff coverage team has been dreadful (and perplexing). The use of players like Logan Gray simply doesn't make sense, and the execution of the coverage has been particularly poor. So what you get is situations like the Demond Washington return where Walsh's placement was perfect, but the wedge busters failed to do their job and all three safeties were out of position.

So, no, there's nothing wrong with directional kicking. Lots of people do it and do it well. So we're pointing fingers at the wrong enemy when we blame the idea of directional kicking.

But when you have a kicker who is inconsistent at ball placement, a kicker who is very good at kicking deep and a coverage team that has problems in both personnel and execution… well, you have to question the philosophy.

Anonymous writes: Friday Night Lights? Why is this show only available on Direct TV? That is pretty retarded to limit your self like that. I looked online but you cannot view it on NBC's website either. Got any insight Dave?

David:
Don't despair, Anonymous. While FNL is airing on DirecTV now (Wednesdays at 9 on channel 101) that is simply part of a partial financing deal NBC set up with the satellite provider to help defray the costs of production. It's essentially what has allowed FNL to stay on the air. But, after the full season airs on DirecTV (commercial free), NBC will also air each episode, beginning in the spring. So even if you don't have DirecTV, you won't have to miss any of the show. You'll just have to wait a little longer for it.

OK, that's it for now. But I'll be taking your questions tomorrow at noon in our regular weekly live chat at Macon.com/ugachat. You can go there now, click the 'Play' button, and submit your questions. Then check back and participate live or read the recap for your answers any time after we wrap it up Thursday afternoon.

8 comments:

Trent said...

I have Direct TV, and this season's FNL is the best to date. It seems to focus more on football and the football programs than the previous seasons which tended to dip into Gossip Girl territory. This is probably why my wife thinks this season is good but not better than season 1.

Anonymous said...

Blog Goliard I will answer your question for you.

Washaun Ealey and Caleb King were injured during most of fall practice which lead to the coaches having to make the terrible choice of Samuel "and the little guy I'm still confused why we recruited".

I have no doubt in my mind if Ealey doesnt injure that elbow and Caleb his hamstring, we have a pretty decent running game all year. Now, of course the coaches would have held Ealey out for the first few games because those are the kind of silly decisions they make, but this production would have come a lot earlier in the season if those 2 hadnt have been injured during camp.

RC said...

"Now, I'm of the assumption that the better performances are a result of Cox's fair skin staying out of the sunlight. Besides, Ninjas work best under the cloak of darkness. "

LMAO...

Universal Remonster said...

Just an FYI, David (BTW, I love my new blog name of Universal Remonstrator), I crunched the numbers you posted, and Cox has a 118.77 QB rating in day games, and a 169.42 rating in night games. We have two night games left. That's good news.

Also, I just got my tickets to the Groza awards, so let's hope they give a little hometown south FL love to Blair on December 8th.

Blog Goliard said...

Now that's a quality mailbag column. I got a lot out of it, especially from the answer to my question and the directional kicks discussion. Thanks, as always, for the excellent work.

Carter said...

Dave,

Would Sturdivant potentially have 6years of eligibility, with 2 medical red-shirts?

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Watching some videos from fall practice, it looked like Vince Vance was still recovering from his ACL repair when the season started. His mobility was very bad early on, at least based on my observation. That may be why he couldn't hold down a tackle spot.

don said...

What's characteristic of this coaching staff that makes one sit back and wonder, what in heck are they doing.

Case in point is the directional kicking game. If we can't do it properly and we've completed 10 games, why the persistence?

Remember this proverb: "I love to hit myself on the head with a hammer because it feels so good when it stops."

That MUST be the reason Fabris continues on this rock strewn path as rediculous as that is.

And remember, the CEO, what's his name, the Head Coach, has veto power. What is he doing by approving this disaster waiting to happen? It happened Saturday night on the 99 yard TD return.