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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cold Water on the Hot Debates

I guess I knew this was going to happen, but hoped it wouldn't. Still, here we are.

People think I'm crazy for saying Aaron Murray is still the favorite to win the QB job. Others are talking about how Murray will eventually transfer because Zach Mettenberger will win the QB job. Others have floated even more ridiculous thoughts after Saturday's G-Day game.

Folks, I don't mean to sound condescending when I say this, but you're reading waaaaaay too much into one scrimmage.

First off, nothing we saw Saturday was real. The offense was kept under wraps so the defense could remain even more under wraps. Mark Richt didn't want to show anything from a defensive standpoint, and to ensure that could be the case, the offense was tailored to remain vanilla, too. So even if you want to call everything else equal -- which it wasn't -- all we saw was three quarterbacks tasked with managing the most basic concepts without seeing how they'd respond to anything more complex -- or any pressure from the defense.

You may not be the biggest Aaron Murray fans, and you may not want to believe anything you haven't seen with your own eyes, but every report I've had from a player or coach for the past year has said how well Murray does with picking up the more nuanced concepts of running an offense. Saturday did not play to his strengths.

Moreover, there's a lot more to evaluating the QBs -- or anyone on the team -- than the stat lines. No, Murray didn't look great. And yes, Mettenberger looked very good.

But look at the previous two scrimmages and their stat lines are virtually identical. Then remember Murray only got to throw three passes in the first half Saturday, and Mettenberger worked the entire game against the No. 2 defensive unit. Oh, and that No. 2 unit wasn't even a true second-team since a decent portion of the second-team actually played on the first team, too, so that two players in a relatively close position battle both got reps with the 1s.

But even all of that is nothing to worry too much about. Because the truth is, G-Day has virtually no relation to what happens in the fall. It's just something to talk about until August gets here.

Here's a little something from Marc Weiszer to shed some light on why you might not want to write off a QB who had a poor performance on G-Day:

"David Greene, who won more games in major college football than any quarterback not named Colt McCoy, didn’t exactly light it up in his first couple of G-Day showings.

Greene and Cory Phillips combined to complete 17 of 45 passes in 2001 and Greene completed 2 of 13 in the 2002 G-Day game."

But hey, that Greene character was a bum anyway, right? Oh, and that fellow who won more games than Greene, he thinks pretty highly of Aaron Murray.

I went back through the blog archives, and here are a few things I wrote after last year's G-Day game…

-- "The defense has played with a chip on its shoulder, a goal to be reached and a mission to put the memories of last season's failures far behind them. It showed during a dominant defensive performance Saturday that saw just 16 points scored in Georgia's annual G-Day game."

-- Carlton Thomas was the breakout offensive player of the game and we all thought he was in line for a lot of playing time.

-- I wrote about how deep the O line would be and how dominant a group it might be in the fall.

-- In a links column, I actually wrote these words: "Mark Bradley says there's a number of reasons to be optimistic about the Bulldogs following yesterday's final spring workout."

I can only assume that was the last time Bradley offered much optimism about 2009.

In fact, please please please go back and read the column Bradley wrote after last year's G-Day. It's stunning to see how little the stories of the spring corresponded to what happened in the fall.

(And that's no knock on Bradley... we all wrote essentially the same things.)

And if you're wondering, you can find the stat lines from last year's G-Day game HERE.

If you're looking for correlations between G-Day and the season, there really weren't any -- aside from Justin Houston's performance, perhaps. Then again, two weeks after that game, he was suspended.

So, while I know it's a long offseason and we all need things to talk about, let's please stop short of making grand pronouncements about the future based on one scrimmage. There's a lot more to what goes into these decisions than that.


Anonymous said...

Nice post Mr. Hale. I strongly believe anf agree with you that Aaron will be the starting QB at UGA. If memory serves me hasn't Logan had some pretty good GDay games in the past and we all know how he has looked in REAL games. GDay is nothing more than a practice game and means very little. First game Aaron will be the starter.

Anonymous said...

I agree that G-Day isn't that big of deal. The real competition has yet to even begin.

That being said, I still think Carlton Thomas deserves more playing time. The guy makes plays. Yes, he also fumbles in game action. But he reminds me alot of Knowshown. Of course, Caleb & Ealey look pretty good too. So it's a tough call. If I were Bobo - I'd figure out a way to get Thomas on the field.

P.S. Ramarcus Brown was a two-time defensive G-Day MVP. For whatever that's worth...

Anonymous said...

I know that G-Day does not matter, as I once saw Brett Millican run for about 150 yards.

However, as well as Murray may have picked up the "nuanced" parts of the offense and however well he may have played throughout camp, that one interception he threw made me throw my hat, at a scrimmage.

What is part of G-Day that is not part of the other practices is the 40,000 fans who were in attendance. If Murray is compelled to make that bonehead, loser throw on a meaningless Saturday in April, it scares me to think about what we may see from him in October in front of 90,000 hostiles.

All this team needs this season is a QB who does not throw the ball to the other team. We are going to have to win with special teams, defense and the kicking game. The QB needs to be a manager. He needs to know not to take any risks, for we have the best punter in the country. Unfortunately, Stafford nor Cox could ever wrap their heads around that idea, and frankly, neither had a great defense backing them.

As bad as David Greene ever looked in a practice, scrimmage or game, he NEVER made as boneheaded, ill-conceived or ridiculous a throw as the one that Murray made on Saturday. That throw loses games. That throw gets coaches fired, and that throw says to me that Aaron Murray is not quite ready to lead UGA football.

Anonymous said...

One throw? Really?

Greene probably made that throw in his first or second G-Day game. I seem to remember him having a forgettable game against Clemson in 2002 as well. I know Shockley and Stafford have made those throws. Cox ... well, yea.

None of the Qbs are ready. that's what fall camp is for. It's a coachable moment and I'm sure it's already been pointed out, and probably corrected. Who knows if the scrimmage rules didn't play a hand -- it looked like they were going to stop the play, and I'm sure it crossed Murray's mind.

I came away impressed the with progress of the QBs, and that's about all I'm taking away from it.

-- Richt-Flair

Anonymous said...

Once again David you hit the nail on the head, it is nice to have a little something to talk about, but to put a lot of stock into this game is foolish.

I am also on the Aaron Murray bandwagon and hope the coaches tell him this is your job to lose so he feels a little more security and can focus on the plays and the team rather than looking over his shoulder to see when logan or mett will take his spot.

I understand that competition breeds players pushing one another, but for a young quarterback in the SEC he has a lot of other things to worry about without the "If I screw up once these guys are taking my spot" thought process.

MikeInValdosta said...

David, have you any reason, you can share with us, as to why Logan Gray received all of the 1st team reps in the first half?

What happened to the rotation we were made to expect?

David Hale said...

I don't have a reason, Mike, and Bobo wouldn't speak to media after the scrimmage. No idea why that is either. The only thing I can tell you is that Aaron Murray told me that that was the rotation the coaches had planned. No idea what to make of that.

MaconDawg said...

David I understand that the order was determined during a heated Friday night game of rock, paper,scissors, lizard, Spock.

And anon @9:34 clearly wasn't in the house in Columbia for the 2004 South Carolina game, in which David Greene threw a pick-6 to Ko Simpson that Joe Cox would have been embarrassed about.

The fact is whichever of these guys gets the ball on September 4, he's going to do something breathtakingly stupid with it. Several somethings, most likely. That's the life of a 1st year starter in the SEC. Coaches Richt and Bobo are engaged in the longterm evaluation, day in and day out, of which of them is likely to do the smallest number of stupid things with said ball.

If anything, let's all pray to whatever Gods may be for the health of Josh Davis's shoulder and Chris Davis's hip so that when we need to take the ball out of the young Jedi's hands we have a cohesive line to run it behind.

And yeah, my money's still on Aaron Murray.

Dawgaholic said...

I have to disagree about the QBs.
(1) Their is an argument that Mett did better because he played with against the twos. They easily discount that both Murray and Gray played with the twos for a quarter each. If it was so much easier going with the twos, they would have combined for more than 30 yards passing in their combined two quarters. It even seemed to me that the 1st string 0-line matched up much better against the 1st string D-line than the 2nd string O-line did against the 2nd string D-line. Note that both Murray and Gray played better with the 1st team.
(2) G-day is misleading. This is absolutely true in some situations. When looking at stats this is very likely the case. When looking at throws made by a QB when he knew this was a major point of emphasis in a QB competition, it is not so misleading. Mett made very good throws that would translate well anywhere.
(3) G-day was vanilla. True. The other scrimmages were not. Subtracting Mett's G-day numbers, he was still more effective than Murray or Gray. He also had significant time with the ones in those scrimmages.

I, like most, expected to see a coronation of Murray at G-day. It did not happen. I hope the best guy wins. I think the spring is essentially the half-way point in the competition. It takes a lot of logic twisting to convince anyone Mett is trailing at this point.

I'm not sure why so many want to anoint Murray instead of just watching the competition and pulling for the best player to win.

MikeInValdosta said...

I agree with Dawgaholic.

To add to his list, Murray appeared to wilt a bit in response to Mett's strong showing. I don't think anyone can say Murray rose to the challenge Mett presented.

Regardless of the outcome, I am very glad to know it is a two horse race at this point.