Hype sets the expectations, but it doesn’t necessarily mean results will come in short order. That’s a lesson Georgia fans have learned all too well when it comes to receiver Marlon Brown, who was one of the most coveted prospects at his position two years ago, but thus far his career with the Bulldogs has amounted to just two receptions.
“Marlon is a little bit raw and has to fine-tune his skills,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He’s getting close there, but he needs to practice.”
That’s been easier said than done for Brown since he first arrived in Athens last summer.
A hand injury set back his progress in fall camp last year, a series of nagging dings limited him at time during the season, and although he’s been practicing during conditioning drills, he’s donned a green non-contact jersey for the past week during spring practice.
That’s one of the frustrations, head coach Mark Richt said. This spring in particular, Brown seemed to be making steady progress. But the injury bug has made life a bit more complicated.
“I felt bad when he got hurt,” Richt said. “He looked so much quicker to me and a much smoother route runner this spring that he was in the fall. He’s made great, great improvement.”
Despite the setbacks, Bobo said Brown has kept a positive attitude. He’s as frustrated as anyone that he hasn’t earned more playing time, but that frustration hasn’t reduced Brown’s desire.
“All these guys tend to get a little bit frustrated if they come in and don’t play as well as a recruiting service or somebody ranks them,” Bobo said. “That’s just part of the process, and sometimes I think it’s good to go through that and learn how to have a little adversity and learn how to fight and push. Marlon’s a kid that has accepted that well and I haven’t seen anything that he’s a guy who is sulking or disappointed. He’s playing hard.”
So while Brown’s freshman campaign fell well short of fan expectations, he isn’t in his coach’s doghouse by any stretch. In fact, Richt may be the one person who might be the least surprised by the extended development time for Brown.
“I knew Marlon was going to take a little bit of time to get used to Southeastern Conference football,” Richt said. “But he really made great strides, and he’s a very physical football player, he’ll block, he’ll get after you, he’s got strong hands. He’s going to help us and I’m looking forward to seeing him blossom.”
THE WAITING GAME
Regardless of whether he wins the starting job, odds are Zach Mettenberger won’t be playing in Game 1 of the season for Georgia after an offseason arrest last month that will most likely result in a one-game suspension.
Mettenberger’s punishment has already begun, fellow quarterback Logan Gray said, and the redshirt freshman has already learned a valuable lesson.
“(Mettenberger) has finished up his discipline runnings in the mornings, so hopefully it’s letting him sleep more now instead of waking up early,” Gray said. “But it’s definitely helped him mature a lot. It’s got to be tough. He’s only 18, so he’s young just for a freshman, and especially with going through all the scrutiny he did. But I think he’ll keep on growing from it.”
Of course, there’s still the matter of the on-field dynamics of getting prepared for the season – something that would be complicated if Georgia needed to start either Gray or Aaron Murray in its first game, then make the switch to Mettenberger one week later.
That will be a problem, Bobo admits, but it’s an issue he’s hoping to avoid for as long as possible.
“Right now, we don’t want them looking ahead, and I want us trying to get better,” Bobo said. “We have a lot to get better at, and it’s too early to decide that. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it. In a perfect world, I don’t want to rep two or three quarterbacks before the first game because we’ve still got to get a guy ready. But all of that is the head coach’s decision, too, so we’ll see.”
MURRAY GETS COMFORTABLE
One of the biggest things Bobo is still looking for in his next quarterback is a commanding presence on the field.
“I think all three have to work on that just because of being young,” Bobo said. “They’re in that role now of being that guy, and that was one of our main objectives this spring is we’ve got to take command of the huddle. That’s a work in progress with all three.”
Bobo gets no argument from Murray, who has never taken a snap in a college game and admits he’s still getting used to the idea of being the leader in the huddle with 10 other returning starters.
But while the role of field general at Georgia is still a bit foreign, Murray said he’s getting more comfortable each day.
“I think I’m slowly coming into that,” Murray said. “Leadership comes with confidence, and the more confident I feel, that will start to come out more. So I just need to concentrate on making sure I know what to do before I can tell everyone else what they need to do.”
-- Be sure to check out my story in today's Telegraph on the battle at safety among a diverse collection of Bulldogs.
-- And check back here later this afternoon for complete stats from today's second spring scrimmage.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Hype sets the expectations, but it doesn’t necessarily mean results will come in short order. That’s a lesson Georgia fans have learned all too well when it comes to receiver Marlon Brown, who was one of the most coveted prospects at his position two years ago, but thus far his career with the Bulldogs has amounted to just two receptions.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
No, we still don't have a depth chart. And we probably won't for a while. (More on that in a minute.) But that doesn't mean each of the quarterbacks -- Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray -- hasn't made some strong impressions with their coaches.
I talked to Mike Bobo this week about what goes into deciding who the starter will be, and while the overall winner is yet to be decided, he offered some interesting insight into the more detailed analysis of the competition.
Here's what he had to say about which quarterback has excelled the most at each area of interest:
Release mechanics: "Murray." One word answer, short and sweet. Bobo didn't take more than a fraction of a second to think about this one.
Footwork: "I think Murray probably and Logan does a nice job in the pocket, but the other day in the scrimmage, Zach probably moved better in the pocket than any guy we had out there just by being fundamentally sound and getting up in the pocket and stepping under a blitz. He did an outstanding job the other day."
Presence in the huddle: "I think all three have to work on that just because of being young. They’re in that role now of being that guy, and that was one of our main objectives this spring is we’ve got to take command of the huddle. That’s a work in progress with all three."
Knowledge of the playbook: "I would say Logan is probably ahead of everybody in the meeting room. His is just that he’s got to do it on the field. And on the field, I’d say all three are probably, they’re all doing well and I’ve been really pleased with how they’re progressing. We’re looking for a guy who can go through a progression and his feet and his eyes, and I think all three are doing a pretty good job of that."
Reading defenses and making progressions: "All three considering they’re going against a new defense this spring and not really having a 100 percent of what they’re doing or what they’re trying to do, as opposed to the last few years when you’re going against the same defense all the time. But I think all three have done a nice job of taking what they give us and protecting the football."
Decision making: "(Tuesday) there wasn’t anybody very good. They’ve all had their moments, and I think a lot of decision making is just facing something new for the first time. But I wouldn’t say one’s better than the other right now. I’d say some are a little faster at picking it up a little bit, but that’s a lot to do with the look or the protection or some of that stuff you get up front."
That last one is particularly important because, for everyone who falsely blamed Joe Cox's noodle arm for the turnovers, the truth was that it was a series of bad decisions that were the cause of most of Cox's interceptions. (Just think about the Arizona State and Kentucky games for a minute.) So for me, I'd call decision making a top concern.
Bobo wasn't providing an answer on who's ahead overall, and neither was Mark Richt, but the head coach did provide a little insight.
“When you watch them play, you’ve got days where one guy may be a little hotter than the other, but I’ve been pleased with the accuracy of our quarterbacks," Richt said. "I’ve been in every single meeting, I’ve listened to Coach Bobo go through their assignments, the progressions of their reads, their understanding of the running game and protections, and these guys are on the ball. They really understand it. They’re good students of the game. They’re very diligent, and then when you watch practice, you see them putting what they’ve learned in the meeting room to practice."
And, of course, there's also the little issue of Zach Mettenberger's potential suspension to start the season. That's an issue Mike Bobo is hoping to avoid for the time being.
"Right now, what we’re trying to do is get better," Bobo said. "I know that’s not the answer you want, but right now, we don’t want them looking ahead, and I want us trying to get better. We have a lot to get better at, and it’s too early to decide that. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it. In a perfect world, I don’t want to rep two or three quarterbacks before the first game because we’ve still got to get a guy ready. But all of that is the head coach’s decision, too, so we’ll see.”
So, when might we actually get an answer on the depth chart? Sounds like it won't come until a few weeks after G-Day.
"We’ve got some good players, and when you rotate them like we have, you could grade every three days or something if you wanted to, but I’m more inclined to just take it all in and then when the spring is over, try to look at it again," Richt said. "I will take our practice film and we can click a button that will sort every play by No. 11, then every play by No. 6 and every play by No. 5, and you can watch them in succession and get a better overall feel of how they did in the spring. That’s probably the first time I’ll really sit there and go, Hey, let’s start trying to pack up a little bit of a pecking order.”
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The least surprising thing that's happened today has been the reaction of fans to Mark Richt's announcement that he's spending more time in the offensive meetings this year than he had in years past.
On one hand, you have the folks, like Senator Blutarsky, who see this as sort of a tacit endorsement of the work Todd Grantham is doing. Richt says one of the jobs he's no longer doing is sitting in on defensive meetings, so perhaps he's simply a bit more comfortable with what Grantham is doing than he had been in years past.
"The head coach has decided he can afford to spend less time being involved with the defense that’s being coached by three newcomers, including a new coordinator who’s installing a scheme that’s a fairly radical departure from what he’s had in place since coming to Athens than he did with a bunch that for the most part had been with him from the inception running a scheme that had been in place since 2001. Hmmm. Why do you think that’s the case?"
On the other hand, I've gotten a handful of comments like this one, from JRL:
"Maybe I'm reading too much into this but I see a subtle message directed at Bobo. Get better or...
I think as painful as it was to fire Willie Richt likes the results so far.
Part of the growing process of becoming a better head coach. The next firing will be much easier and won't take 2 or 3 years of hand wringing."
Sitting in the media workroom after talking with Richt yesterday, a few of us discussed what the fallout would be from these quotes. The two obvious answers were that fans would look at it as an endorsement of Grantham and/or a warning shot to Mike Bobo. Not surprisingly, that's been the response.
But how much truth is there to either of these sentiments?
On the defensive front, I think it's probably a bit overstated. I do think that Richt hired Grantham for a reason -- because he believes in Grantham and trusts his ability to handle his job without a ton of oversight. And when you figure that Georgia is paying Grantham $750k a year, you'd hope that's the case.
So it makes some sense that Richt would be taking a more hands-off approach. Richt has to know that Grantham understands the defense much better than he does, so why waste his time second-guessing the new guy? Richt is still meeting with defensive coaches after practices and scrimmages, but sitting in the meetings where Richt would likely be as lost -- or moreso -- than any of the players is probably not an effective use of his time.
On the offensive side, I can completely understand why this is seen as an indictment of Bobo. In fact, Richt has to know that, too. And part of me believes that he wouldn't have made this information public without being aware of some of the ramifications it would have for the perception of Bobo by fans.
But I'm also inclined to take what Richt says on the subject at face value: "I told Mike, I’m not in there to make him crazy at all, but I’m in there because I do miss it, number 1, but I want to be able to add as much value as I can as we go,” he said.
Richt said he has not missed a single offensive team meeting or individual quarterback meeting this spring, and that will continue into the season. From what he says, he's not running the meetings, but he's getting a firsthand feel for how the meetings are run and how the players respond. He's closer to the action now, and it really sounded to me more like that's what it was about for Richt. He missed being there.
If anything, I tend to like what this one anonymous commenter offered as an explanation:
"I think this move is a pre-emptive effort to help Bobo so he doesn't have to fire him like he did Willie."
That's a good point, because while Willie Martinez was a peer for Richt, Bobo is more of a protoge who learned his craft from Richt. That's a different type of relationship, and while Bobo has had his moments of exceptional play calling, he also might not be done learning.
So as a whole, while the comments regarding Bobo and Grantham may have some merit, I'm not sure they're the most important things to take from this story.
I think the most intriguing part of all this was how Richt -- without provocation from us in the media -- tied so much of it back to his days at Florida State.
I've said several times over the past few years that you could watch Richt at practice or around his players and almost envision a young Bobby Bowden. In many ways, that's a very good thing.
Of course, I covered Florida State a bit earlier in my career, and Bowden wasn't just playing the role of CEO of the team. He really was detached -- and to this day I'm convinced that was part of the problem the Noles have had over the past few years.
For Richt, that detachment was a good thing during his days at FSU. It allowed him to grow as a play caller and coach. But not everyone learns and thrives that way. And while Bowden had plenty of success during the 1990s, the best coaches today aren't the ones who let their assistants handle the day-to-day. They're the ones who are forced to take a medical leave because they're so stressed about football. They're the ones who value the process above all else.
On a personal level, I hope Richt never goes quite that far. But I do think this announcement from Richt says something important. It says that Richt has made a decision about what kind of coach he wants to be, and that doesn't mean simply following in the footsteps of his mentor.
This last offseason was the first time Richt had to step outside of his comfort zone in terms of dictating his legacy as a coach. It was painful for him, I have no doubt.
But I think he's learned a lot from the experience, and this is another step toward creating a different identity than the one he'd been working on for the first nine years of his career at Georgia.Whether it has any real impact, I don't know. But for a coach accused so many times of being too stubborn in his approach, fans should take a big sigh of relief to see Richt so interested in a new approach.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
One of the many lessons Mark Richt learned from his mentor, Bobby Bowden, is that giving his staff room to learn and grow is important for any coach.
One of the things Richt has learned from the past few seasons at Georgia, when he’s taken a step back from the day-to-day coaching, is that he needs to be a bit more involved than his mentor was.
Richt said he has sat in on every offensive team meeting and quarterback meeting this spring, and he’ll continue to do so throughout the season after taking a more reduced role during the past several years.
“A lot of times I would watch practice film separate from the staff and maybe make my notes and talk to the staff about things I saw, but what I decided to do was just be in there every day as we’re going over it and make sure we’re all on the same page,” Richt said. “It’s good medicine for me, really.”
Part of the decision, Richt said, was simply that he missed having a more hands-on role with the offense after giving up play-calling duties late in the 2006 season, then promoting Mike Bobo to offensive coordinator in 2007.
Another part of the decision was so that Richt could have a firsthand look at how the current crop of quarterbacks are handling the battle to become the starter in 2010.
“I want to know what those adjustments are and I want to see them react to coaching and see them answer the questions Mike is asking,” Richt said. “I want to get a taste of how they are handling the pressure.”
That’s a big departure from the past few years, Richt said, when he was spending increased time with the defense and working on secondary chores such as signing memorabilia or answering mail during some meetings.
The idea, Richt said, was to give his coaches enough autonomy to grow – a process he enjoyed during his days as offensive coordinator at Florida State.
“Sometimes when the head man’s in there, they may be worried too much about what I think,” Richt said. “I always respected Coach Bowden and what he thought, but he also backed away enough to kind of let us work our way through it. Because of that, I know I was able to grow as a coach and I appreciated that, so I was doing the same.”
Richt said he hopes that will still be the case and said he explained to Bobo that his presence in meetings was meant only to allow Richt to provide more insight and remain up-to-date on the daily changes being made rather than to undermine the autonomy of the offensive coaches.
“I’m not in there to make him crazy at all,” Richt said. “I’m in there because I do miss it, No. 1, but I want to be able to add as much value as I can as we go.”
A few more quotes from Richt on the subject:
On the progression of his involvement:
“I was actively coaching the quarterbacks in the very beginning. After some time, Mike was coaching them and I was basically an observer. It had been that way, and then I’d say the last maybe two or three years, I was not just sitting in every single meeting. I’d spend more time looking at defense or whatever. Now I’m just going to get in the offensive room where I feel I can add the most value from the knowledge I have of coaching over the years, and I’ll spend time with the defense after scrimmages and after games watching film with them as they grade and things of that nature. Same with the kicking game.”
On compartmentalizing responsibilities:
“I’m just making sure that I’m not scheduling any kind of outside meetings. I was starting to let some of those extra things roll into those meeting times. Now some of those extra things are just going to have to wait. It’s not like they aren’t going to get done. They’re just not going to get done as quickly as some people may want it.”
On why he's becoming more involved:
“I just want to do that period from here on in just because I miss it and this spring in particular we’re trying to make a decision on the starter, and I want to make sure I understand completely. I know our offense, I know the system, but day to day, things change. You might have a certain read or progression or adjustment on a blitz, and then a defense is doing something different and you have to adjust, I want to know what those adjustments are and I want to see them react to coaching and see them answer the questions Mike is asking. I want to get a taste of how they are handling the pressure. So I’ve been more involved in the offensive meeting room and the quarterback meeting room mostly by being at every one of them. A lot of times I would watch practice film separate from the staff and maybe make my notes and talk to the staff about things I saw, but what I decided to do was just be in there every day as we’re going over it and make sure we’re all on the same page.”
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
After missing all but about 40 minutes of the past two seasons, Trinton Sturdivant hasn’t been forgotten by Georgia’s coaches. But just the same, they’re not exactly counting on him either.
After an impressive freshman season at left tackle in 2007, Sturdivant tore multiple ligaments in his left knee in fall camp in 2008, then suffered a torn ACL in Georgia’s opening game last season.
“When we’re talking about our objectives as an offense and what we want to accomplish this spring, we want to establish depth at the offensive line with out counting on Trinton Sturdivant,” Bobo said. “He’s a luxury. We think he’s going to be back, he’s ahead of schedule, he’s doing great, but we have to establish depth besides him.”
In each of the past two seasons, Georgia shuffled replacements at left tackle after Sturdivant’s injuries, and in both cases, it took the offensive line a while to find its groove.
So this season, Bobo hopes to have a group ready to play with or without Sturdivant – which likely means opening with senior Clint Boling filling the left tackle job, where he worked at the ends of both the 2008 and 2009 season and performed well enough to earn All-SEC honors.
Of course, while that’s the plan for now, it’s certainly not etched in stone if that luxury becomes a reality, Bobo said.
“If we get ‘The Luxury,’ he’ll probably be at left tackle,” Bobo said of Sturdivant. “Whoever those best five are, we’re going to put them in the best position where we think they can be successful. If Trinton’s out there, and he’s one of our best five, my bet is he’d be at left tackle.”
QUIETING THE CONTROVERSY
After soon-to-be Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers spurned Georgia just days before signing day this year, Bulldogs safety Bacarri Rambo voiced some displeasure with the lack of commitment shown by players who were once committed to coming to Athens.
On his Facebook page, Rambo wrote he though it was “messed up” for players to renege on a commitment at the last minute and promised, “When I catch you on the field I’m going to knock fire from you.”
That started an ongoing war of words between Rambo and Rogers in which the receiver lambasted the safety via Facebook and Twitter and Rambo returned serve with a few quips of his own.
Now that the feud seems to have simmered down, Rambo said it was all a bit of a misunderstanding.
“I wasn’t really directly talking to him,” Rambo said. “I was just shocked that you would say you were going to one school and then change your mind at the last (minute). It wasn’t directed to him. It was directed to no one. I was just confused and curious as to why they would do things like that. But if he wanted to think it was him, I can’t stop him from thinking that, so it’s whatever.”
Regardless of any confusion, Rambo doesn’t think he has much to clear up. He said he has no plans to contact Rogers, but won’t continue the war of words either.
“I’m going to try to be the better man and just let that die down and not say anything to him,” Rambo said.
A GOOD MOVE
A large contingent of Georgia fans that drooled over Richard Samuel’s physical skills but scratched their heads at his inability to avoid contact as a tailback got their wish this offseason when the rising junior was moved to linebacker.
As it turns out, those fans weren’t alone in hoping for a change for the talented former tailback. Junior linebacker Marcus Dowtin said he has been lobbying Samuel to make the switch for two years.
“I spoke to Richard when we first got up here freshman year and told him you should make that switch and come over to linebacker with me,” Dowtin said. “So I always wanted him to do that, and now that he’s over there, he’s definitely going to do something great. He’s an athlete. He’s strong, he’s fast, and I think he’ll be a great complement to me, and I can be a great complement to him out there. He’s made our linebacker corps a lot more athletic and a lot faster.”
* Tailback Washaun Ealey said he still hopes to swap his uniform number from 24 to 3 – the number he and all of his family members wore during their high-school playing days – but he has yet to get a final OK from head coach Mark Richt.
* Cornerback Chad Gloer was moved to wide receiver this month to help fill in the gaps on a shallow depth chart.
* Despite some rumors that a move to the offensive line could be in store, Bobo said Kwame Geathers is staying put on defense.
* Cornerback Jordan Love is back at work after missing much of last season with a toe injury that has nagged him since high school. He underwent surgery to repair the injury, and fellow corner Branden Smith said the results are encouraging so far. “Right now, he’s feeling good,” Smith said. “He’s ready for the season to start right now. His recovery is coming along very well.”
* Spring practice officially begins Thursday, but Bobo said that is more of an opportunity to meet with the players and maximize their practice time. The team will then take 12 days off during Georgia’s spring break before reconvening – and essentially re-doing the Day 1 workouts – on March 14.
* Bobo was also sporting a black eye during interviews Thursday. The injury came courtesy of grad assistant Mitch Doolittle during Wednesday's pick-up basketball game.
I got lots more info, including plenty on the defensive changes, from today’s meetings with players, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that.
More notes coming in a bit, but here's a bunch of stuff from Mike Bobo about the race for the starting QB job this spring...
On whether he expected Logan Gray to play more last season...
“We did hope to play him more last year going into the season and it just didn’t work out that way. Not that we had this game plan going into each game that we were going to play him X number of snaps. Certain games did not dictate that, and sometimes performance in practice did not dictate playing in games. He had a lot of opportunities to prove that you’re ready to play. He knows what he has to work on, he’s been working on it hard, and he’s excited about this spring.”
On whether Aaron Murray's injury cost him a chance to play last year...
“I think it was a make-or-break thing. I can’t sit here and say if he wasn’t injured he would have played, but I think it definitely sealed the deal that he did not play when he misses 21 practice opportunities. It just hurt his progression of playing quarterback. It was not in his best interest or our best interest to play him based off of some potential we might have seen in the spring.”
On Zach Mettenberger's improvement with his footwork...
“He’s improved tremendously and a lot has to do with getting himself in good physical condition. He’s always going to be a big boy. He’s always going to weight around 240. But being in good physical shape where he doesn’t get tired and his legs get tired – he’s never going to be the fastest or the quickest guy, but if he’s in good shape and good condition, he’ll be able to improve his foot quickness.”
On what Mettenberger needs to work on with his footwork...
“People have told him all his life he’s slow and you’ve got to work on your feet. So a lot of times he overcompensates and tries to speed things up when he’s really in good timing and good balance, because in his mind, he’s thinking, I’m slow, I’m slow, I’m slow.”
On what he would like to do differently with this QB competition than he did in 2006...
“We probably should have weeded it down a little bit sooner. We went into two, two-and-a-half weeks of fall camp before we ranked them. It’s just tough to get that many guys reps and get them quality reps and get them ready for the season. I don’t see us going that far this year. Not to say it won’t go into the fall, but to wait until the second scrimmage, it’s a little bit difficult to get a guy ready to play for the first game. You’re trying to get them all an opportunity, but you’ve still got to get a guy ready for that first game.”
On how he views the QB competition this spring...
“The way we’re viewing it going into the spring is it’s wide open. There is not a clear-cut No. 1 going into the spring. Logan Gray will take the first reps with the No. 1 offense, but we’re planning on rotating all three, and giving all three equal amount of looks with the first group.”
On whether he could play two QBs extensively in 2010...
“I’d definitely be comfortable with that. Sometimes it takes that. You have to play it out sometimes if it’s close. You can’t overestimate playing in a game-like atmosphere and experience. I’m not saying yes or no, that’s what we’re going to do, but I would not be against it.”
On when he might begin to narrow down the options at QB...
“I can’t say it’s one week, two weeks, three weeks. It might be the end of spring, it might be into the fall. It depends on which guys step up, show an ability to lead the offense and execute the offense.”
On what the QBs need to do to impress this spring...
“The big thing for them is to worry about improving themselves and not worry about where they are on the depth chart, what their statistics were for the day or certain scrimmages. It’s about getting better every day and trying to put them in the best position to lead the offense. They need to worry about that, and we’ll figure out all that as we go.”
On the fact that each QB brings a different set of skills...
“You’ve got to put them into positions where they can be successful when you’re scripting plays and in practice. You know what they can do and what they can’t do. I want to do things they can be successful in.”
On how those skill sets could fit into the 2010 offense...
“A lot is going to depend on the personnel group around them, who steps up and who we think the playmakers are as to what direction we need to go at quarterback or what type of quarterback we might need to have. But the bottom line for the guy that plays quarterback for us, he’s got to make good decisions in the run and pass game, he’s got to be able to execute the offense and throw the ball accurately, and respect the football. Coming off last year, that’s going to be a big focus of ours is taking care of the football and not turning it over. Now if you add something to that with your legs or athletic ability, that’s a bonus.”
On what kind of physical shape the QBs are in...
“They’re all three doing a nice job in the winter workouts. The two young guys, Zach and Aaron, having come in last year and gone through mat drills definitely benefited them. They know what to expect. Logan going into his third or fourth mat is really doing a nice job of leading and competing. … All of them look great. Zach came in last year at about 245, 250. He’s down to about 234. He’s really changed his body. Murray’s at like 210, 211. He looks really good and does a good job in the weight room. His body looks great. Logan, when we signed that kid, he might have been 170, 175 pounds. Now he’s like 196, a really good athletic body. All three of them are in good shape physically, all of them are ready to go and excited about the opportunity they have this spring.”
Thursday, December 24, 2009
One of the biggest questions on Georgia’s offense entering the season surrounded the group of wide receivers hoping to establish themselves as a consistent second option after A.J. Green. While several players have shown flashes of potential, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said none have truly emerged.
While Green has missed nearly all of the final four games of the season, his 47 receptions still more than double anyone else on the roster. The No. 2 receiver in terms of catches is senior Michael Moore, who will play his final game next week.
That leaves a group of younger players still searching for consistency, Bobo said. Tight end Orson Charles’ 21 catches were the high-water mark among returning players other than Green, while Tavarres King finished second on the team in receiving yards with 377 on 18 receptions. The rest of the returning wide receivers – Rantavious Wooten, Israel Troupe and Marlon Brown – combined for just 16 receptions and 302 yards this year.
“I think all guys showed flashes of ability to make plays, but we didn’t have a consistent guy at those spots,” Bobo said. “But they showed flashes and a lot to build on going into the offseason. We have talent there, but it’s just a matter of them doing it on a consistent basis.”
MAKING A PREDICTION
Texas A&M is far from a familiar opponent for Georgia – the two teams haven’t played since 1980, when the Bulldogs won 42-0 – but they do have a bit of common ground. The Aggies and Bulldogs played two common opponents this season, and neither met with much success.
Georgia dropped its season opener against Oklahoma State 24-10 on Sept. 5. The Cowboys provided a similar fate to Texas A&M, dropping the Aggiest 36-31 on Oct. 10.
Both team have also played against Arkansas, with A&M falling 47-19 on Oct. 3 and Georgia pulling out a victory on Sept. 19, but still allowing 41 points.
So, what can Mark Richt and the Bulldogs take from those early season matchups? Not much, according to Georgia’s head coach.
“People want to compare like opponents, but I think football is a game where some teams match up better against a team, and they might have matched up better against Okie State than we did,” Richt said. “I’m not sure if you can look at those common games and figure out what’s going to happen. All I can tell you is they’re very talented and well coached and they’ll take everything we’ve got.”
December has been a hectic month for defensive line coach Rodney Garner – and not because of any last-minute Christmas shopping.
As the lone holdover from Georgia’s defensive staff after coordinator Willie Martinez and two other coaches were dismissed earlier this month, Garner has worked as the de facto defensive leader, taken on the responsibility of coaching the full defensive line as opposed to his previous role as tackles coach, worked on the film preparation and game-plan implementation as the Bulldogs prepare for Texas A&M and has spent much of the month out on the road recruiting.
“We spent a lot of time, and it was hard,” Garner said. “There were a lot of days I worked in the a.m. and then went out recruiting. Some days I didn’t go out recruiting at all, just so I could get a good feel for their offense. We’re just trying to get these kids the best game plan so they can go out and compete.”
While it has been a bit of a Herculean effort for Garner, he has had some help. Graduate assistants Mitch Doolittle and Todd Hartley are also helping to coach the defense, while injured senior Rod Battle has overseen much of the practice time for the defensive ends when Garner has been working on drills with the tackles.
It has been an adjustment, Garner said, but he doesn’t mind the challenge. And should Richt decide to keep him on as the coach of the full defensive line – something Richt speculated about when considering bringing on a full-time special teams coach – Garner said he’d be fine with the added responsibilities.
“I think Coach Richt has to decide what he feels is best for the staff,” Garner said. “Once he makes those decisions and fills out those assignments, you’re going to do what you’re asked to do. I don’t know which way he’s going to go, and he has not discussed anything with us other than that he’s looking.”
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
With five children between ages 2 and 5, Christmas is an exciting time of year in Mike Bobo’s house. But with Georgia set to depart for Shreveport, La. on Thursday, the normal holiday routine had to change a bit.
Since Bobo and his family will be in Shreveport on Christmas day with the Bulldogs preparing for their bowl date with Texas A&M, the schedule was moved up a bit. The Bobos held Christmas Eve festivities tonight and Christmas day comes Wednesday.
“My kids are jacked, and I’m jacked, too,” Bobo said.
While Bobo admits his wife did most of the shopping, he had the crucial job of ensuring that Santa was aware of the tweaked holiday schedule at his house. Luckily for him, Santa was happy to oblige.
“It just happens that we’re playing the 28th, so Santa’s coming early,” Bobo said. “We wrote him a letter, and he wrote back and said if they’re nice to mom, he’ll come early.”
GRADES ARE IN
Georgia head coach Mark Richt got some good news on the academic front as the Bulldogs wrapped up their final practice of the year in Athens. No players have been ruled academically ineligible for the bowl game on Dec. 28, and the overall efforts of the team in the classroom during the fall semester were exceptional, he said.
While results aren’t official yet, Richt said he was told 43 players earned a 3.0 GPA or better during the fall semester, and the overall team GPA was better than 2.7.
“No one has really any issues going into the spring as far as grade point average and all the number of hours needed is very manageable,” Richt said. “So it was really a very successful semester academically.”
TALKING IT OVER
While Georgia will bid farewell to a large group of seniors after the Independence Bowl, two juniors on defense could be departing, too.
Linebacker Rennie Curran and safety Reshad Jones are both considering leaving school a year early for the NFL draft, and Richt said he has spoken with both players about their decisions. While he said he’s offered advice to both Curran and Jones, he said neither has made up their mind and both are focused on ending the season – and possibly their careers – on a high note against Texas A&M.
“We’ve had some conversations, but more of the trying to make sure we’re getting good information and not putting this decision before finishing out their careers in a very positive way,” Richt said. “They’re definitely thinking about it. But neither one has definitely said I’m doing one thing or the other at this point.”
BOYKIN TO THE RESCUE
Georgia held its final practice in Athens this season on Tuesday with a morning workout that focused primarily on special teams. The practice ended, however, with the annual pre-Christmas conditioning in which Richt made the team run 10 half-gassers – across the width of the football field and back – unless a player stepped up to sing a Christmas carol in front of his teammates.
“Somebody had to stand up in front of the team and sing at least a verse or two of a song,” Richt said. “It was Chester Adams for years. He would sing ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,’ and he’d do a great job of that.”
This year, the volunteers were sparse, but finally cornerback Brandon Boykin stepped up to offer his voice to save some running – about 500 yards worth, according to Richt – for his teammates.
“He sang something about a mistletoe, I’m not quite sure,” Richt said. “But he sang it well. He cut those gassers in half, so that was a good deal.”
TUNING IN FOR BOWDEN
Bobby Bowden, will be coaching the final game of his career on Jan. 1, and his former protégé hasn’t ruled out a trip to watch.
Richt said he’ll definitely tune in for the game, but wouldn’t rule out a trip to Jacksonville to watch it in person. The truth is, he said, he hadn’t yet considered the fact that he would be off work on the first of the year.
“I haven’t thought about it,” Richt said. “I guess I’m so used to playing on the first you don’t think about being able to do something like that.”
With the Christmas holiday looming and Georgia’s bowl game less than a week away, Richt said his search for a new defensive coordinator is likely to take a backseat for a few days, at least.
“We’ll work on that more after the bowl games,” Richt said. “But we’ll get it done.”
-- Richt noted that things would look a quite different on Georgia's practice fields the next time the Bulldogs got together in Athens for a full practice. Construction is ongoing at the Butts-Mehre facility, with concrete being poured and steel being put into place for an expansion to the football facilities. In the meantime, team meeting rooms have been moved to trailers and the team set up a temporary weight room in Stegeman Coliseum that Richt dubbed, "the dungeon."
-- Richard Samuel said he's feeling back to normal after suffering a concussion during practice prior to the Georgia Tech game last month. “I remembered everything that happened, but at the beginning of it, I didn’t think it was that bad," Samuel said of the injury. "But the symptoms kept reoccurring.” That has since cleared up, and he said he'll be able to play in Georgia's bowl game, where he is expected to start on several special teams units as well as back up Caleb King and Washaun Ealey at tailback.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Georgia has faced plenty of fast-paced offenses this season, but Texas A&M will present a challenge unlike any the Bulldogs have battled before.
The Aggies run an up-tempo style that often yields 80 or more plays a game, keeping defenses on their toes and creating plenty of chaos on the field.
“It’s quicker than anyone we’ve seen,” Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran said. “If you watch the film, they catch a lot of teams off guard, a lot of defenses aren’t ready.”
Oklahoma State and Auburn both ran quick-paced offenses as well, with the Tigers’ attack being a similar style of no-huddle to Texas A&M, but Georgia head coach Mark Richt said that the Aggies take things to an even higher level.
“They want as many plays as they can possibly get,” Richt said. “They are fast. That’s their goal. More plays, more yards, more points. That’s the way they see it.”
The results have been positive for Texas A&M, which ranks first in the Big 12 in total offense and fifth nationally, totaling 465 yards per game on average.
What makes the Aggies even tougher to defend is that they rarely substitute players, which prevents the defense from adjusting personnel, too, but A&M still manages to run multiple formations on offense.
“They go fast without changing any personnel,” Richt said. “And what they do with the same personnel group is run multiple formations. Multiple formations and speed between plays is creating problems for everybody they’ve played.”
The battle plan defensively is the same as what Georgia used against Auburn – plenty of scout team work in practice against the hurry-up and close attention to film study to quickly recognize keys.
But more than the defensive adjustments, Richt said the best plan for stopping the Aggies’ high-flying attack is to keep it on the sideline.
“The longer we can hold the ball,” Richt said, “the better we’ll be.”
STAYING ON THE FIELD
With a makeshift defensive coaching staff for the bowl game, Richt said he wasn’t sure which of Georgia’s two graduate assistants – Todd Hartley or Mitch Doolittle – would coach from the field and which would head to the press box yet, but on the offensive side of the ball, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo remains comfortable on the sideline.
Bobo had coached from the press box virtually his entire career, but against Vanderbilt this season, he moved to the field and the result has been a dramatically improved offensive attack.
“We’ve improved in particular in the run game and possibly the overall intensity level of the team,” Richt said. “He’s got a lot of enthusiasm on the ground, and it hasn’t seemed to bother him to make the calls he likes to make, so I would think he’d keep doing it.”
TOUGH CALL ON ROBINSON
Georgia defensive end Montez Robinson will not travel with the Bulldogs to the bowl game in Shreveport, La. and remains on indefinite suspension, but Richt said he’s moving closer to a decision on the freshman’s future.
“We’re working on that decision is the best we can say,” Richt said.
Richt refused to put a definitive timetable on the decision, but he said the choice of whether to reinstate Robinson or dismiss him from the team has been a particularly difficult one.
Robinson spent much of his life in foster care and group homes and has shouldered a large portion of the responsibility for caring for his younger siblings. Richt said he remains torn in trying to balance the discipline necessary after Robinson was charged with assault earlier this month and the desire to keep him in a stable environment.
“It’ll be a tough decision, I can tell you,” Richt said.
Updating several key bumps and bruises as the Bulldogs prepare for the bowl game...
Reshad Jones has been in a green non-contact jersey for the past few practices. “He’s got more of a tendonitis issue in his knee, but nothing real serious," Richt said. He added that there may be some other nagging injuries but did not expect Jones to miss the bowl game.
A.J. Green has remained in Green but said he is completely healthy. Richt said the team remains cautious for now. “He’s doing everything, but we’re trying to minimize any contact right now," Richt said. "The day after Christmas, when we’re in pads that day, he probably won’t be in green and we’ll let him get some contact.”
Bacarri Rambo has made a full recovery since suffering a concussion after making a hit against Auburn. Richt said Sunday's practice was a particularly good one for Rambo, who shows no signs of hesitancy at the point of contact after the injury. “The speed at which he’s breaking on the ball, even when we’re asking our guys to thud runners and receivers, he’s doing a great job of making direct hits and he does it the way it needs to be done," Richt said. "Bacarri is really a fine football player.” “He’s sticking his face on those guys and wrapping up and running his feet with no hesitation right now.”
Wide receiver Marlon Brown has missed the past three practices after suffering a concussion last week during practice.
-- Asked about players for next year that have shown significant promise during the bowl practices, Richt offered defensive tackle Kwame Geathers and freshmen quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger.
-- Richt said that, while bowl practices are often a time for next year's players to get a start on impressing coaches, about 90 percent of the work done this month has been about preparing for the bowl game against Texas A&M.
-- Richt said it would have been understandable for some of the players to slack off a bit with the defensive coaching changes and the lower-tier bowl game this month, but he said for the most part the tempo has been high. "The second or third day of installation, it just wasn't good. I think the first couple days of install, Day 2 and 3, you could tell they were thinking too much. They were getting the calls but they weren't playing very fast. So we were pleased they were getting it, understanding it and communicating it well, but they really weren't playing fast enough and physical enough. Today, that was our big emphasis -- hey you know the plan now or at least you have it in your mind well enough to where you can start executing it with some speed and some physicalness. They did that today. It was a really good day. I guess you could have a problem with that, but I don't see that right now. I see a great attitude."
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Growing up, one of Bacarri Rambo’s idols was a local football player named Brandon Register, who went on to play safety at UAB. Register was ahead of Rambo at Seminole County and had a reputation as being one of the hardest hitters in the state. It was a style Rambo always hoped to emulate.
“When I was little, I used to always look up to the older guys, especially him,” Rambo said. “They used to be like, ‘That guy hits so hard, he knocks himself out out there.’ I was like, ‘Man, I want to try that one day.’”
Rambo did just that against Auburn last month, breaking up a reception late in the fourth quarter with a bone-crunching hit and knocking himself unconscious in the process.
The result – beyond the game-saving pass break-up – was a concussion that cost him the final two games of the regular season and the realization that perhaps knocking himself out making a tackle was a rather silly objective for a young football player.
“I didn’t know it was going to come against Auburn,” Rambo said. “I thought I’d do it in high school or something. And I don’t want that to happen anymore. That was a bad experience.”
Rambo remembers little of the play, but he said he’s watched replays on television several times since it happened.
“I watch it every time it comes on,” he said. “People will call me and say the Auburn game’s on. I turn to it and I’m like, ‘I still don’t remember that play. What happened?’ It’s just crazy, really.”
When Rambo checked out of the hospital the next day, he found 150 friend requests on his Facebook page, about 50 emails from well-wishers and more than 30 missed calls from friends and family. The support was incredible, he said.
But his recovery really wasn’t particularly painful. Rambo experienced headaches for about two weeks after the hit, which is what kept him sidelined against Kentucky and Georgia Tech. But it was the time away from football that really hurt.
“I wasn’t dizzy or sensitive to lights and noises, but I was having headaches,” he said. “After Georgia Tech week, my headaches went away and I was ready to play.”
Rambo said he has no lingering symptoms of the concussion and beginning Wednesday he was a full participant in practice – no green non-contact jerseys and no concerns about the injury. He’s simply happy to be back to work.
“It’s been a month since I played football and I’m anxious to get back out there and do my thing and play football with the fellas,” Rambo said. “I’m going to go out there and do all I can to support the seniors and this team.”
IN ROD WE TRUST
Georgia may be down three defensive coaches after Willie Martinez, Jon Fabris and John Jancek were dismissed earlier this month, but the defensive ends may have picked up a de facto assistant in the meantime.
Senior Rod Battle is out for the season with a knee injury and is scheduled to graduate Friday, but in the meantime he’s spending his final few weeks in Athens helping his teammates prepare for their bowl game against Texas A&M, picking up right where Fabris left off.
“Rod has always been a guy with great technique, so I think it’s real easy for him to teach us,” defensive end Justin Houston said.
NO RASH DECISIONS
Linebacker Darryl Gamble said his teammates haven’t spent much time discussing the potential replacements for Martinez at defensive coordinator, but he wouldn’t be surprised if he gets his chance to weigh in on the final decision before it’s made.
“Coach (Mark) Richt is pretty open, and I think he’ll bring in a couple older guys, a few other upperclassmen, to see what we think,” Gamble said. “He always says it’s the seniors’ team.”
Richt said Wednesday that he was in no rush to make a hire, but expected a decision would be made by the first week in January. That’s fine with Gamble – even if he doesn’t get to add his two cents on who the eventual hire is.
“If he makes his decision, we’re behind him 100 percent, but I think he’ll try to get a little feedback from us before he makes his decision,” Gamble said.
NOT FEELING THE PRESSURE
On paper, it looks like an ugly mismatch for the Bulldogs. Georgia’s defense is shorthanded, preparing for the bowl without three defensive coaches. Texas A&M’s offense is dangerous, ranked first in the Big 12 and fifth nationally in total offense.
That might be a sign of a shootout, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he’s not worrying about keeping pace with a potentially high-flying Aggies offense. After all, he said, expectations rarely match reality.
“Every time you think it’s going to be low-scoring, it ends up being a shootout, and every time you think it’s going to be a shootout, it ends up being low-scoring,” Bobo said. “We just have to prepare for what they do, get our guys ready to play and execute on the 28th when we play them.”
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Mark Richt isn't interested in looking ahead to next year, and probably for good reason. But his job dictates a steady focus on the task at hand. Ours doesn't. So the question on most people's minds, even as Georgia wraps up the 2009 season, is who might be playing quarterback in 2010.
Back in January, when Matthew Stafford announced he was leaving for the NFL, the job of starter was immediately passed along to Joe Cox. When Cox departs at year's end, things won't be so cut and dry.
"It'll be wide open," Richt said.
That means Logan Gray, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger will all get their shot in the spring, and the battle may not be over until fall camp breaks and the Dawgs begin preparations for next season's opener.
While we've gotten to see a bit of Gray this year, the majority of the curiosity focuses on the two freshmen. In fact, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has even ratcheted up the curiosity factor but making Murray and Mettenberger off limits to the media for the remainder of the season.
Perhaps that move is simply to ensure the duo is concentrating on getting ready for the challenge that awaits, but either way, it's pretty clear that both are making strides, even while riding the bench (and avoiding interviews).
Mettenberger had farther to go, but his upside is tremendous. His arm strength is off the charts, but his footwork and his physique were question marks early on. But as the fall has progressed, Bobo said he's seen marked improvement.
"Zach has matured a lot," Bobo said. "He’s changed his body. He came in, he was 250 pounds. (Now) he’s 231 or 232 and has really improved his footwork and throwing the ball."
As much the physical side of the game has improved, Mettenberger has made strides in his mental approach, too. While Murray took his team to a state title his senior year at Plant High School in Tampa and was roundly considered one of the top quarterback recruits in the country, Mettenberger's skills remained raw and his background less polished. The result was some issues with confidence.
"It’s just him getting more confidence of the system and playing in a system like this where he played for four different coordinators in high school," Bobo said. "Aaron had played in kind of a different system and threw the ball a little more. Zach’s still learning that part, but has a tremendous amount of potential.”
That potential offers plenty of intriguing possibilities, but at the moment, Murray is the clear leader among the freshmen in the race to replace Cox.
A shoulder injury has forced Cox to back off his throwing during the week this season, and as a result, Georgia's backups get plenty of work, particularly on Wednesdays when Cox doesn't throw at all. Gray and Murray have gotten the majority of that work, and Murray has been particularly impressive, despite an elbow injury that caused him to miss several weeks of practice time.
"Aaron Murray comes in every day like he’s the starter, looking at the game plan and takes notes and does a phenomenal job mentally of preparing like he’s going to play every week," Bobo said. "And he’s really been throwing the ball nice the last couple weeks. Really no effects of the injury and doing an outstanding job."
The extra work with Georgia's first- and second-team offenses have been particularly important for both Murray and Mettenberger in their development. Bobo said it's rare for redshirted quarterbacks to get that type of experience, which puts Murray and Mettenberger ahead of the curve for next season.
More than anything though, the work with the No. 1 unit gives the two freshmen a taste of what it's like to be the starting quarterback, which goes much deeper than simply knowing the playbook and putting the ball where it needs to be.
"It’s been big to get reps with what we’re doing and not necessarily just reading a card, but also of learning how to lead, having to step into the huddle and having to tell the play to guys that are on the travel squad and playing on Saturdays," Bobo said. "That’s a valuable experience that you’re not going to get if you’re redshirted and you’re just down on the scout team.”
Fans won't get to see the results until the spring, but Murray and Mettenberger's teammates are already talking about big things in their futures.
“I’ve actually worked with them a lot," receiver Mike Moore said. "When we run routes with the QBs, and when Joe’s not throwing, they’re the main two throwing to us. They’ve been looking better and better every week, every day. Those two guys work hard. They’re very blessed. Mettenberger has a cannon for an arm, and Aaron Murray, you can’t write him off with his arm strength either. He throws a good ball, too. I think we’ll be pretty good in the future with quarterbacks.”
(NOTE: Don't forget we're chatting live at macon.com/ugachat at noon. Get your Dawgs questions in now.)
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In his first year on the job at Tennessee, Lane Kiffin made a point to put a target on Georgia. He called the Bulldogs his team’s biggest rival, and for good reason. The Volunteers need to recruit in Georgia, and Kiffin wanted to get his regime off on the right foot. The result was a dominant win over the Bulldogs in Knoxville last month.
This week, Georgia faces another first-year coach of another SEC program that relies on the Peach State to fill a sizable portion of its roster when Auburn comes to Athens. And once again, the victor will earn bragging rights – not just among fans, but in the living rooms of recruits throughout the state.
“Winning helps recruiting,” Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said. “That’s the single most important factor is winning. Everybody loves a winner, and if you win, you’re hot, and you’re the most attractive person out there.”
For the past three years, Georgia’s had the edge over Auburn, but that hasn’t stopped the Tigers from competing for many of the same players the Bulldogs have recruited. Twenty players on Auburn’s current roster hail from Georgia, and a win for first-year coach Gene Chizik would help to boost that number in the future.
But the familiarity also breeds a bit of intensity, too, and head coach Mark Richt said his current players aren’t interested in letting Auburn become the latest to earn a win over the Bulldogs, on the field or on the recruiting trail.
“Auburn being so close to our border, just about every guy that we have on our team was more than likely recruited by Auburn and has been to Auburn and has seen what they are all about,” Richt said. “It’s a big deal for us as a staff, it’s a big deal for us as a team.”
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
A year ago, Clint Boling was pressed into action at left tackle thanks to a slew of injuries at the position, and he never quite felt at home.
This season, Boling has made the move once again, but now he’s a bit more comfortable playing the most demanding position on the offensive line.
“I got a lot of experience playing left tackle last year and I’ve been working on it the last few weeks of practice, so I feel a lot more comfortable there now,” Boling said. “It’s not a big deal at all.”
Boling has started the past two games at left tackle after opening the season as Georgia’s starter on the right side of the line. When Trinton Sturdivant went down with a season-ending knee injury, many fans clamored for Boling to return to the left side where he eared rave reviews a year ago, but the change was slow to come.
With the return of junior Josh Davis from injury, however, Georgia had more leeway to fill any void Boling might leave on the right side of the line, and Boling said one the pieces were in place, everyone was happy to make the move.
“I think Coach (Stacy) Searels was just trying to find the best lineup he wanted with a group of guys that could play hard and do what he wanted to do,” Boling said. “And if that was me at left tackle and Josh at right tackle, then both Josh and I will do whatever Coach Searels wants to do.”
NO HUDDLE, NO PROBLEM
Georgia opened last week’s game against Tennessee Tech with a new look on offense – a no-huddle attack that kept the Golden Eagles guessing.
“We did the first couple of series. It wasn’t no-huddle, hurry-up offense, but it was just something we had gone into the game planning on doing,” quarterback Joe Cox said. “We wanted to get some plays run, get the line up and down fast, and try to put points on the board quick those first couple of drives. We scored on both those drives.”
The fast-paced offense was something offensive coordinator Mike Bobo had been toying with but saw a prime opportunity to run it against Tennessee Tech, and it gave Georgia a chance to show a more dynamic side of an offensive unit that has failed to show much life at times this season.
“It was just a change of pace, something that a lot of people haven’t seen us do, and it definitely caught them off guard because they were looking to the sideline trying to figure out what they needed to get in, and we went right down the field,” Cox said.
Despite the success the offense had against Tennessee Tech, Bobo isn’t sure if he’ll continue to use the approach going forward, but he said he liked the results enough to keep it as a possibility.
“It’s something we mess around with from time to time, and a lot is depending on our depth at receiver and how much we can do,” Bobo said. “But it was one of those games that we did want to spread them out and get our guys in space, and that’s something we could use in any game.”
TIGHT ENDS ARE TOP DAWGS
With A.J. Green out of the lineup last week, Cox found his tight ends made for appealing targets downfield against Tennessee Tech. The Bulldogs’ tight ends caught seven passes and one touchdown in the game, and that’s a trend Cox said he thinks can continue as Aron White and Orson Charles continue to develop within the offense.
“We’ve got two tight ends that are really making a lot of plays right now,” Cox said. “They’re dedicated to run blocking and work hard on it every day, and they’re great in the passing game. Orson and Aron, they run great routes and have great hands. You don’t have too many of those, and we’re lucky enough to have to of them on the same team.”
LINEMEN ON THE MEND
Two of Georgia's injured offensive linemen are making strides toward recovery, but Richt isn't sure either will be practicing before the spring.
Freshman Austin Long underwent back surgery before the season and has yet to practice with the team. There was hope he might be ready to practice by December leading up to an anticipated bowl game, but Richt said that's unlikely.
"He's got another appointment with the doctor, and it's sometime in December, to try to gauge how well it's healing," Richt said. "There's a possibility it's healed, but there may have to be some things that are taken out."
Richt said Long has been relegated to minor workouts -- elliptical machines and exercise bikes -- but he has not been able to run or do any significant weight lifting.
Trinton Sturdivant tore his ACL for the second time in as many years in Georgia's opener against Oklahoma State, but Richt said the left tackle is already well ahead of where he was two months after his first surgery.
"He's very excited about the repair," Richt said. "This is so much different than the last one because there was so much less damage that was done. The recovery is faster or at least he feels better faster. He feels like it's a great repair, he's confident in it, and he's excited about the future."
Richt on A.J.: "A.J. looks like A.J. Green, which is a very good thing. You'd never know he had any issues, and he might be a little more fresh than he would have been because we really didn't let him exert hardly at all."
Richt on Justin Houston: "He was wearing green but he was practicing and we expect him to play."
Richt on Quintin Banks: "He had a dislocated finger and they just kind of put it back together again and taped it to the next finger and go."
For the second straight day, Georgia's coaches and players braved the elements to get in a day's worth of practice, and while the energy was high, Richt said the passing game has been challenged by a day of rain and a day of high winds.
"We really haven't had a chance to throw and catch extremely well with the horrible weather yesterday," Richt said. “I think the wind was blowing like 14 to 20 mile-an-hour gusts out there, so it wasn't ideal conditions. Hopefully tomorrow we can have a pretty day. But we got the work in we needed to get done these last two days, and I'm happy with that and think we've got a good, solid plan.”
FOX LANDS RECRUIT
In the first day of college basketball’s early national signing period, first-year Georgia coach Mark Fox landed another recruit from the state of Florida when Orlando-area prospect Cady Lalanne signed a national letter of intent to join the Bulldogs.
“Cady is a terrific young kid who has the ability to score inside and outside,” Fox said of the 6-foot-8, 215-pound Lalanne. “One of the things we were looking for was a good interior offensive player, and I think we were able to find him. But his versatility on offense is something I really like, too. He was also very well-coached in high school, so I expect that his transition to college will be a smooth one.”
Lalanne is Georgia’s first recruit for the 2010-11 season, but Fox also landed guard Vincent Williams from the state of Florida soon after being hired in April.
Lalanne is rated as the nation’s No. 37 forward prospect by ESPN and the No. 21 center prospect by Scout.com.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Joe Cox will start this week, but...
"We do think that we need to give Logan (Gray) an opportunity to play and see if he can become very productive," head coach Mark Richt said.
OK, where have we heard this before?
Yes, Georgia's coaching staff has been promising a larger dose of Logan Gray since August, but we haven't seen it. The No. 2 QB has been in for mop-up work against Vanderbilt (all handoffs) and put-an-end-to-the-misery duty against Tennessee and Florida (a total of 1-of-7 passing with a pick-six).
But this week will be different, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo promises.
"It'll probably be in the first half, but we haven't nailed down precisely what series it'll be," Bobo said. "But we'll get him in there and change up some things and get him some work."
Earlier in the season, this might have been accompanied by huge applause from fans. Now, some will call it too little, too late. Other will point to Gray's work thus far and say, "Eh, how about Aaron Murray instead?"
But Bobo and Richt both are quick to accept some blame for failing to give Gray a real shot at success and even quicker to write off his shortcomings thus far.
"I talked to him after the game (against Florida) and said, 'Look, we're not going to hold that against you,'" Bobo said. "'You were put in a bad situation backed up against a very good defense. It's something we can learn from and take advantage of your future opportunities because you might have some in the near future.'"
And while Gray's interception that Brandon Spikes returned for a score was ugly, to say the least, Richt said it was excusable, and it isn't likely to have any lasting effect on Gray's confidence.
"We don't look at it like,' Oh my gosh, he was awful,'" Richt said. "We ran a play-action pass at a time where they probably didn't care a whole lot about play-action, so a linebacker that would probably get close to the line of scrimmage wasn't too concerned about the run. Logan's got a vision the receiver that he's throwing to and he kind of buzzed in it. Does he need to expand his vision on that? Probably, yes. That play certainly was one that is much more effective on first-and-10 when the game is close rather than late in the game and we're trying to get something going in the passing game."
The better question might have been why Richt put Gray in at that time in the first place. For all the opportunities the staff has had to give Gray a taste of action this season, that seemed like one of the worst. Georgia wasn't likely to win the game, but it wasn't over by any means. Georgia was backed up deep, and the O line was struggling -- and without Clint Boling. Gray never stood a chance. Besides, for all the times they left Joe Cox in to win a close ballgame, it only seemed fair he stayed in to clean up a mess caused, at least in part, by his three interceptions in the second half.
But again, things will be different this week, Bobo said, and not just in terms of the personnel. Bobo promises we'll not only see Gray in action, but we'll get to see him work his magic with some play calling that doesn't fall in line with the same stuff Georgia has been running all season.
"We'll do things that we think he can be successful with, whatever we feel that may be," Bobo said. "It'll be stuff he can operate, and some of it's within our system and some of it we haven't done. Some of it will be a little bit of a change up and some of it will be the basis of our offense."
Even if you disagree with Bobo's handling of his quarterbacks so far, you have to at least admit, it's nice to see a coach willing to adjust what he does to fit his players and to change things up when the status quo hasn't been working.
Even if it does come a few weeks too late.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
For the past eight weeks, wide receiver A.J. Green has been the foundation of Georgia’s offense. This week, the Bulldogs will get their first taste of life without their superstar.
Green suffered a bruised lung after taking a hit in the third quarter against Florida last week and will miss Saturday’s game against Tennessee Tech. That opens the door for some of Georgia’s other receivers to step up, and head coach Mark Richt is hoping they’ll make the most of their opportunity.
“Those guys are going to have to make plays, and I'm hoping that they do make plays and gain confidence,” Richt said. “In the long run, it may end up being a blessing for us to get some guys with some more opportunities.”
Redshirt freshman Tavarres King and true freshman Rantavious Wooten will be Georgia’s starters at receiver on Saturday, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said, and fellow freshman Marlon Brown is expected to see an uptick in playing time, too, after seeing little action in Georgia’s first eight games.
None of the three have shown an ability to consistently make plays of late, and in the past five games, Green and senior Michael Moore are the only to receivers to have more than two catches in one game.
“You are obviously going to miss a guy like (Green), but I think we have guys like that that can step up and make plays,” quarterback Joe Cox said. “Wooten has been getting better every week in practice, making plays showing he should be in some plays in games. We’re looking forward to seeing who’s going to step up and who’s going to fill that spot.”
Brown may be the wild card Saturday. He has just two catches this season, both coming against Tennessee on Oct. 10. Brown suffered a hip pointer after that, however, and has been limited during practice for the past two weeks.
He’ll get his shot this week, Bobo said, and after a long season on the sideline, the injury to Green may be the opportunity he’s been waiting for.
“He has a lot of ability, too, and we definitely want to give him the opportunity to get on the field and make plays,” Cox said of Brown. “He’s already been on the field this year, but he hasn’t had a lot of balls thrown his way. This could be a good week to make a statement about his future.”
As for Green, Cox said the sophomore receiver said he felt good Sunday and reported no further problems so far this week. Richt said he expected Green to be ready to return to action next week when Georgia hosts Auburn.
“We're not 100-percent certain but the history of this type of an injury by the second week everybody has played to this point, so we don't have any reason to think that he won't,” Richt said.
NOT GONNA HAPPEN
After Cox’s three-interception performance against Florida, some fans were hoping one of Georgia’s two freshman quarterbacks might make his first appearance of the season this week, but Richt said that won’t be the case.
Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger will both redshirt this season, Richt said, but he admitted there was discussion about giving one of them playing time this week.
“It was discussion,” Richt said. “It wasn't just like, well their freshmen don't do it. We talked about it.”
In the end, several factors kept Richt from pulling the trigger.
For one, Murray had missed several weeks of practice earlier this season with elbow tendonitis. More importantly, Richt said, neither quarterback had proven he was ready to take over the job.
“We just didn't feel that this late in the season that it was time to do it, and they (hadn’t) earned the right to be the starter,” Richt said. “If you're going to put a freshman in there, you start him and you start him the rest of the way. But did anybody really earn that? They didn't. … We've got extremely high hopes for their careers, but to say one guy earned it over another, that didn't happen.”
KING FOR A DAY
Freshman tailback Washaun Ealey started for the second straight game last week and picked up a career-high 70 yards on 17 carries against Florida’s tough defense, but Richt said Tuesday that sophomore Caleb King would get the starting nod this week.
“We're not highly disappointed in Washaun at all,” Richt said. “Washaun will continue to play, but Caleb has proved to be the one guy … that is much stronger in his pass protection right now.”
The pass protection problems for Ealey were on display in the third quarter when Cox threw his second interception of the game. Ealey missed a block and Cox was forced out of the pocket, throwing a pass under duress toward the sideline. The turnover thwarted a key drive for the Bulldogs, and Florida solidified its lead from there.
King didn’t see nearly as much action as Ealey against the Gators, but Richt said he was pleased with the work that King did get. For the season, King has played in just five games, rushing 40 times for 154 yards and a touchdown. He also has four receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown and has looked sharp in pass protection.
With Georgia struggling and FCS opponent Tennessee Tech on the docket this week, Richt was asked Tuesday about the potential of a large number of no-shows for Saturday’s game. While he said he hopes that won’t be the case, he said it won’t be a concern for the team.
"I’m not going to try to control the things that I can't control,” Richt said. “I don't know what's going to happen. I wouldn't underestimate our fan base. Our fans do love the Dogs. You can tell by the passion. I'm sure they want to support the young men. We want the fans to handle adversity well too. I can understand their feelings of being upset or being curious, whatever it might be, there's different levels. But we're all still Bulldogs. We all still want to support these young men, so I think our fan base will do a good job."
Cox said winning Saturday’s game takes precedent over any off-field issues, regardless of how many fans make their way into Sanford Stadium.
“We want to finish up these last four games as strong as we can, and it starts Saturday whether there’s 10 people in the stands or 90,000,” he said.
NO HARD FEELINGS
Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes earned a half-game suspension from head coach Urban Meyer after TV cameras caught him attempting to gouge the eyes of Georgia tailback Washaun Ealey last week. But while the punishment has been far from adequate in the minds of many fans, the victim isn’t holding a grudge.
“I don’t think he should have gotten suspended at all,” Ealey said. “We were just out there playing football.”
Ealey said he was not injured on the play, noting that Spikes never came particularly close to doing any serious harm.
“I had my eyes closed, and he really didn’t gouge my eyes,” Ealey said. “My eyes are OK. He really didn’t get his hands close to my eyes. He was out there playing football and having fun.”
Ealey’s teammates aren’t taking the eye gouge personally either, noting that the physical nature of the game often results in players taking things a step too far.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Georgia linebacker Marcus Dowtin said. “Stuff like that, it happens. People try to play a little harder than another person. I’ve got no hard feelings toward (Spikes). He’s a great player, he works hard. What he did I don’t think was smart, but stuff happens in a game.”
Spikes’ teammates in Florida, however, have pinned the blame for the incident square on Georgia’s players, saying the eye gouge came in retaliation for actions the Bulldogs made earlier in the game.
That’s news to Richt, who said he reviewed the film from the game looking for any examples of poor sportsmanship from the Bulldogs and came up empty.
"The only thing I noticed that I could think of is there was a time in the game when, (Spikes’) helmet comes off quite often, and there was one time where his helmet came off in the middle of a play, and he actually got hit with his helmet off,” Richt said. “It was totally unintentional. Everybody was just playing ball. And that might have got him bent out of shape, but I don't know. I have no earthly idea about all that."
CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY
Georgia's running game met with increased success against a stout defense last week, and part of the return to form was a new look on the offensive line.
Clint Boling moved from right tackle to left tackle, while Cordy Glenn shifted inside to right guard and Josh Davis got the start at Boling's former position. It was the fifth different lineup the Bulldogs had used this season, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo hopes this one sticks.
"Hopefully we can stay with the same group," Bobo said. "Clint got banged up at the end of the game, but it looks like he'll be able to go. Hopefully we can get two weeks of continuity up front."
CAPTAINS FOR SATURDAY
Punter Drew Butler, linebacker Rennie Curran, kicker Blair Walsh and tight end Aron White will serve as captains for the Homecoming date. Walsh and White will be serving as captains for the first time in 2009, while Curran will be doing so for the sixth time and Butler for the third occasion.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The sideline might not be the most comfortable place for Mike Bobo to watch a game, but it’s hard to argue with success.
For the first time in his career as offensive coordinator, Bobo called plays from the sideline in Georgia’s last outing against Vanderbilt, and the result was the team’s easiest win of the year, highlighted by a season-high in rushing yards. While the view wasn’t quite as good as it was from the press box, Bobo said he liked the feel of being on the sideline and said he’ll be there again this week when the Bulldogs take on No. 1 Florida.
“In the box, it’s like you’re watching a TV screen except you can see the whole thing, so you can see if we executed, and you can see if we don’t,” Bobo said. “Down there, you can feel the passion and the excitement, the highs and lows of when things go well and when things don’t go well. That part I liked. It’s a little more intense down there for sure.”
While Bobo won’t have access to the bird’s-eye view the press box affords, he said the negative impact of watching from the sideline has been lessened by the efforts of receivers coach Tony Ball, who provides pictures and analysis from the box while Bobo is on the field.
“You’ve got to have guys up there that are capable of giving you a picture and Coach Ball does a good job of that,” Bobo said. “You’ve got to prepare well to where you can recognize their looks and make sure they’re playing the way we thought they were, and if they didn’t, we’ve got to be able to make adjustments.”
The upside to Bobo’s appearance on the sideline is mental, he said.
With so many first-year starters on offense, Bobo was concerned that the unit was lacking confidence. Players were talented enough to succeed, but he wanted to be on the field where he could remind them of that, even in the face of failure.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that haven’t made a lot of plays in some games,” Bobo said. “We have guys we feel we have some ability, but for whatever reason, they’re not making the play or they had their head down at certain times. (I wanted to) have the ability to say, ‘Hey you’ve got the ability, let’s go and get it done,’ or just to look them in the eye and say, ‘We can do it.’”
MYSTERY SURROUNDS O LINE
During Georgia’s off week, Clint Boling said he had spent some time working at left tackle, moving over from the right side where he has played all season.
Josh Davis got his first start of the season against Vanderbilt, too, giving the Bulldogs yet another look on the offensive line – their fourth different starting lineup of the season.
But Tuesday, head coach Mark Richt said he isn’t expecting a major shake-up for this week’s contest against Florida.
“We really don’t have a lot of choices, so I don’t see a lot of change there,” he said. “The guys that have been playing will continue to play. We may move them around a little bit, but I’m not even sure of that.”
Richt said Davis, Boling, Vince Vance, Ben Jones, Chris Davis and Justin Anderson will all see action, but he wouldn’t commit to the specific roles for any of them.
So while the head coach isn’t predicting change, he isn’t exactly promising the status quo either. That has Bobo convinced that this week’s lineup may have a look fans haven’t seen yet this year.
“I’d say probably, but you’ll just have to wait and see,” Bobo said. “But it’s been different every single week.”
Georgia’s depleted linebacker corps figures to get an infusion of healthy bodies this week with both Akeem Dent and Marcus Dowtin expected to return to action after extended absences due to injuries.
“(Dent) looks like he’s going to be able to make the trip, but we’ll see how he progresses here during the week as we run a little bit more,” linebackers coach John Jancek said. “Dowtin has been cleared and is ready to go.”
Dowtin missed the past two games after suffering a ligament tear in his finger that required surgery following Georgia’s loss to LSU. Dowtin had earned regular work as a reserve linebacker and was third on the team in tackles at the time of the injury.
“We really missed Marcus not having him for the last two ballgames,” defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. “Marcus has been one of our playmakers – a kid that can run, athletic, smart. He really was playing really well.”
Dent has missed nearly every practice since mid-August with a nagging hamstring injury, and his return brings a much needed veteran presence.
“I think he’s ready to go,” Martinez said. “We tried to get him to come back and maybe it was too soon. He re-aggravated that injury he had. … We haven’t had Akeem, his leadership and toughness. To get him back in the presence of the team is really huge.”
Temperatures in Jacksonville, Fla. for Saturday’s game are expected to be in the 80s with plenty of sunshine, which is a welcome change of pace for the Bulldogs.
Georgia hasn’t played a game in temperatures warmer than 80 degrees since its opener, and their last game against Vanderbilt began with temperatures in the mid-40s.
But while the warmer weather comes as a treat, it also means the Bulldogs might have to dig a bit deeper on their depth chart to rotate in fresh players as the heat takes its toll on the starters.
“I think we’re definitely going to have to have a lot of subs, especially in a warm game,” quarterback Joe Cox said. “But I’m just glad the weather is going to be good. We’ve had a lot of crazy weather situations this year. We might have to use some subs, but we’ll see how it goes.”
CHAPAS READY TO GO
Thanks to a stinger in his neck, fullback Shaun Chapas watched Georgia's last game against Vandy from the comfort of his own living room, but he hardly felt comfortable.
"It felt really weird," he said. "I'd never missed a game before, and right before kickoff I just had this overwhelming sense that I needed to be somewhere. That was kind of weird, but I really did enjoy watching the game from the sense that it looked like we got the running game going and we won, so that made it fun."
Chapas said the injury has healed fully already and he will be ready to play against Florida this week in a game that holds a bit of extra meaning for the Jacksonville native. While he hasn't gotten official word that he'll start over Fred Munzenmaier, he said he expects to.
"I would imagine," he said. "We haven't talked about it, but I would assume so."
-- Georgia had a 12-period indoor practice today due to significant rain in the area.
"It was a good day with good focus," Richt said. "We walked through things, which is important mental preparation and also helps get the sensation of what your body is supposed to do during the game. It really didn't hurt us in our physical preparation either because we had our typical Tuesday practice on Sunday and we'll get our regular Wednesday practice in tomorrow."
-- Bobo said he expected the team would still use a rotation at running back this week.
Usually most statistical research is done as a means of answering some core question. But I'm not sure there's an answer to Georgia's running game woes beyond a simple, sweeping statement: The Dawgs are just bad at running the ball.
So these numbers weren't meant to prove anything. Instead, I was wondering if they might create some new questions. In many respects, I think that may be the case. So while the bottom line may still be that Georgia stinks at running the ball, there is certainly more to the story.
As I pointed out in posts yesterday, there's some statistical evidence that shows that maybe Richard Samuel's lack of "instincts" isn't his problem and there's some evidence that shows that Clint Boling's potential move to left guard could be a boost for the Dawgs, too.
Here's some more of what I found in looking closer at the running game. (WARNING: If you haven't enjoyed the previous nuts-and-bolts, statistics-heavy posts we've done, you're going to hate this one.)
Breaking down the running game by quarter:
|Quarter||Carries||Yards||TB carries|| TB yards|
First, a note: TB carries and TB yards are runs by tailbacks only. My thought process was that Branden Smith's runs or Logan Gray's sneaks (can they be called a "sneak" when everyone in the stadium knows what's coming?) or the fullback runs aren't really a true indication of Georgia's running game since they're typically gadget plays or short-yardage situations. They all count in the stadings and contribute to the outcome, but they don't necessarily give us the best information about Georgia's actual success running the football. This also takes out the negative yardage from QB sacks.
In either case, there's a pretty obvious trend that develops here that is similar to what we noticed when we studied Willie Martinez's defense a few weeks ago: Georgia is much better in the second and fourth quarters than it is in the first and third quarters.
I don't know if that means that Georgia's game plan entering games is bad or that the adjustments made during the game are good. It could certainly be the case that most defenses enter a game geared to stop the run, and as the offense loosens things up throwing the ball, the running game finds more room to run.
Whatever the reason, the outcome is pretty obvious: In the first quarters of games this season, Georgia is averaging 2.8 yards per carry by its tailbacks. In the second quarter, that number jumps to 6.09 ypc. In the third quarter, the average falls again, all the way down to 3.58 ypc. But in the fourth quarter, the Dawgs' find success once again, running at a 5.21 ypc clip.
Even if we add in all the yardage on the ground along with QB sacks, the trend remains, albeit slightly less pronounced. In the first quarter, UGA averages 2.75 ypc, in the second, that jumps to 5.09 ypc. The third quarter takes another dip to 2.91 ypc, then jumps again in the fourth quarter to 3.73 ypc.
Again, it's hard to know for sure what conclusions we can draw from these numbers, but it does seem to support Mike Bobo's dedication to running the football, even when the early success isn't seen.
Of course, yards are one thing. Points are another. Does running the ball more actually lead to more points on the board for Georgia? After all, the score is really the bottom line.
From these aggregate numbers, it seems pretty clear that running the ball more or less doesn't really have much of an effect on denting the scoreboard at all. In fact, the only real glaring stat here is that Georgia downright stinks in the third quarter. Other than that, the offensive output is essentially unchanged at any other point in the game, regardless of whether the Dawgs run it 42 times or 63 times.
Those are aggregate numbers, however. What about more specific instances?
The truth is, there haven't been many quarters in which Georgia has been particularly successful running the football. That probably shouldn't come as a surprise, given that the Dawgs rank 103rd nationally in rushing yardage. But really, it's almost impressive how consistently bad Georgia has been.
In 28 quarters of football this season, Georgia has run for 20 or fewer yards 19 times (68 percent). In eight instances, Georgia has gone an entire quarter with 10 or fewer rushing yards.
Even if we eliminate all the gadget plays and sack yardage, etc., and stick just with the work of the tailbacks, those numbers still look awful. The tailbacks have failed to net 20 yards in a quarter 16 times and have been held to 10 or fewer on six occasions.
And for all the bad efforts, there are very few good ones to balance them out. Georgia's tailbacks have topped 40 yards in a quarter just four times all season, and one of those was buoyed by an 80-yard run by Richard Samuel. Add back in all the gadget plays, etc., and as a team the Bulldogs topped 40 yards in a quarter just six times (21 percent).
But forget about success for a second. Let's just look at commitment. Does running the ball more translate to more points?
Here are Georgia's most prolific quarters of the year in terms of running the ball:
|#carries||When||Points|| Points next Qtr|
|17|| 4Q vs Van||14||N/A|
|12|| 4Q vs Ark||10||N/A|
|11|| 1Q vs Ark||10||17|
|11|| 3Q vs OSU||3||0|
|10|| 3Q vs ASU||0||6|
|10|| 1Q vs OSU||7||0|
So Georgia's six most prolific running quarters (i.e. the top 21 percent of its total quarters) of the season have accounted for 26 percent of the Bulldogs' total offensive points. Essentially there is no appreciable difference in scoring success when the Dawgs run the ball more often and there's little evidence to show that running the ball a great deal in one quarter "loosens up" the defense for the next quarter.
Of course, there is one other thing that running the football often does: It keeps the opposition off the field. We've discussed on this blog several times about how Georgia's inability to sustain long drives has killed the Dawgs in time of possession and left the defense reeling far too often. On 58 of Georgia 88 offensive drives (or would-be drives in the cases of special teams fumbles) the Dawgs have run five or fewer plays this season. That's a whopping 66 percent of the time. It's not wonder the Dawgs' D ranks last in the SEC in scoring defense.
The way to combat that? Running the football.
Running the ball effectively generally leads to more offensive plays which leads to a greater time of possession which leads to fewer opportunities for the opposition to score.
So, has running the ball more helped Georgia's defense? Here, again, are Georgia's most prolific running quarters in terms of carries:
|#carries||When||T.O.P.|| Opp Pts|
|17||4Q vs Van||10:59||0|
|12|| 4Q vs Ark||8:50||3|
|11|| 1Q vs Ark||9:04||21|
|11|| 3Q vs OSU||6:59||7|
|10|| 3Q vs ASU||7:45||14|
|10|| 1Q vs OSU||8:34||0|
It's safe to call the first quarter against Arkansas and the third quarter against Arizona State anomolies in terms of scoring. Georgia struggled with turnovers in each, and of those 35 points, 28 followed turnovers.
So set that aside, and the numbers show what intuitively should be obvious: When Georgia runs the ball often, the offense wins the time of possession battle (in this case, five out of six times) and the defense looks better.
Now let's look at the six quarters in which Georgia ran the ball the least:
|3|| 4Q vs. OSU||7:31||7|
|3|| 2Q vs LSU||2:50||3|
|4|| 1Q vs Tenn||5:59||0|
|4|| 2Q vs Tenn||7:26||21|
|4|| 1Q vs SC||3:41||17|
|4|| 3Q vs Ark||4:46||17|
That first quarter vs. Tennessee is the clear outlier here, but remember, Georgia dinked and dunked the ball in the passing game enough that it effectively simulated a running game. While the Dawgs only allowed three points against LSU in that quarter, too, it's worth remembering that the defense essentially had to stand on its head to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.
Overall, the lack of a running game not only resulted in points for the opposition, but left Georgia absolutely crushed in the time of possession sweepstakes.
Does this mean Georgia needs to run the ball more? Or should we really consider that lack of production and say Georgia is already probably running the ball too much?
I'm not entirely sure what the answer is, but I do know this: Senator Blutarsky makes a compelling argument that Florida's best strategy against Georgia this week is to sit back and wait for the Bulldogs to beat themselves.
If you’re Urban Meyer, it’s not hard to draw up a basic strategy for this week. It boils down to three simple words: play it safe. Let Georgia beat itself; with the Dags’ turnover problems and inability to run the football consistently, that’s not exactly a monumental task for a team with the best defense in college football.
It's probably an effective strategy, considering the number of miscues Georgia has made this year.
But running the football -- regardless of how effective those runs are -- helps kill the clock and (assuming Richard Samuel isn't coughing up the ball) limits your opportunities to make mistakes.
So perhaps there's some real merit to simply waiting for the right moment to look for the big play and spending the rest of the time chipping away on the ground.