Is 2013 the Year of the Dawgs?

Mark Richt enters his 13th season at the helm of the Georgia Bulldogs with nothing to prove other than to bring a national championship to Athens.  After coming within 5 yards of playing for (and, likely, winning) the BcS trophy, Richt has a team with unanswered questions on defense and an offense that could surpass the success of 2012.  With that, here are five questions as the Dawgs start fall camp next week:

Star in the making

Star in the making

1)      Can the defense return to its Junkyard Dawg roots in 2013?

The Georgia defense suffered heavy losses to graduation and the NFL draft in all 3 layers of the defense.  Todd Grantham has his work cut out for him entering fall camp to find the right mix of returning and incoming players to bring back the nastiness of his NFL-style 3-4 defense.  Damian Swann enters the season as the player on the defense most likely to be an all-SEC performer at corner.  Jordan Jenkins steps in for consensus two-year All-American, Jarvis Jones, and looks to continue the double-digit sack streak established at outside linebacker.  While Tray Matthews appears to be the defensive newcomer of the year, I think the success of this defense depends on the ability of Chris Wilson to find the right combination of new faces on the defensive line.  Finally, I think Amarlo Herrera will end up as the defensive team captain at the end of the year.

Record-setting performance by #11

Record-setting performance by #11

2)      Will the offense be as explosive as everyone believes in 2013?

Aaron Murray returns as a 4-year starter with a stellar resume and the opportunity to rewrite the school and conference record books, but he came back for his final season to win a championship.  He may have the best set of weapons at the skill positions of any team in the country with the best 1-2 combination at running back in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.  He has a deep set of wide receivers led by Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett and the conference’s best tight end tandem in Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome.  The offensive line has the potential to be the best since 2002 with five returning starters and quality depth at every position.  With all of the talent and experience across the board on offense, this group could shatter every single season offensive records including averaging over 40 points per game.

3)      Can the special teams become a team strength in 2013?

Last season, special teams were a mixed bag with a kick-off return for a touchdown, blocked punts to change momentum, excellent kick-off coverage, and long field goals that came at the right time with missed and botched extra points, a back-breaking punt return for a touchdown, and poor decisions in the return game.  Given the quality of the schedule, the Georgia special teams must return to a state of consistency befitting the kicking game tradition of Kevin and Drew Butler, Scott Woerner, and Boss Bailey.  The special teams will be challenged right out of the gate with the likely suspension of Marshall Morgan for his poor decision this summer and a Clemson return game that will likely test our coverage units.

Could this be a crystal football or a Sugar Bowl trophy in 2013?

Could this be a crystal football or a Sugar Bowl trophy in 2013?

4)      Is the schedule too daunting to expect a run to Atlanta and beyond?

Bulldog Nation will find out right out of the gate whether we should expect a third consecutive trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game and a likely trip to Pasadena to play for the crystal with a great opener at long-time rival Clemson, a conference and home opener with South Carolina, and a late September visit from LSU.  If the Dawgs close September 4-0, I have no doubt that another division title will come to Athens.  While the Clemson opener is sexy and appealing, the South Carolina game seven days later is the most important game on the schedule in my opinion because a fourth consecutive loss to the Gamecocks probably ends any hope of a national championship.  Trips to Nashville and Knoxville and the Big 3 away from Athens make the schedule formidable.  Another return to Atlanta after this schedule would be a great season.

5)      Will the Dawgs be in mid-season form for the trip to Clemson?

The opener at Clemson will be a big challenge with an offense led by Georgia native, Tajh Boyd, and a team fueled by a crowd that hasn’t seen a Clemson victory over Georgia in 23 years (1990).  This game may be the most anticipated in the rivalry since the 1982 debut of the lights in Sanford Stadium on Labor Day as the prior two national champions squared off in a defensive battle won by Georgia 13-6.  This game may be a 7-point margin, but the score will likely go into the 30s on both sides of the scoreboard.  The last few years, Georgia has started slowly due to challenges in the offensive line and defensive suspensions.  The Georgia defense will need to be ready to play to control the Tiger offense, and the Georgia offense must be ready to score on every possession if the game gets into the anticipated track meet.  If they don’t, this season could start poorly and may result in a week 2 hangover loss to South Carolina.

The Ceiling

The defense finds its legs from day 1, and the young talent makes enough plays to allow the offense to grind teams down with its skill.  Georgia ends September 4-0 and cruises to the the SEC Championship Game undefeated in a national semifinal against the undefeated winner of the Alabama-Texas A&M game.  Georgia wins the SEC and handles either Nike U (Oregon) or Tattoo U (Ohio St.) in Pasadena to finish 14-0 and join the other 7 national champions from the SEC in the final year of the BcS with a win in the Rose Bowl similar to the 1942 national champions.

The Floor

The defense and special teams have early season trouble especially with Clemson and South Carolina, and the team leaves September with 3 losses.  Muschamp gets his first win in Jacksonville, and the Dawgs end up 3rd in the East with a late December game in Atlanta or Nashville against an ACC opponent.

What’s Likely

Georgia splits the South Carolina games and the LSU-Florida games to end the regular season 10-2 and possibly not the East representative in Atlanta.  The Dawgs return to the I-4 corridor and win a B1G bowl game in Orlando or Tampa to finish the season either 11-3 or 11-2.

That’s my thought.  Sound off in the comments below.

Posted in Georgia Sports | 2 Comments

G-Day Preview – Man in the Mirror

Field General

Field General

Tomorrow afternoon we get our first look at the 2013 Georgia Bulldogs in the annual G-Day game in Athens.  I’m looking forward to seeing all of the new faces on the defensive side of the ball and the deep offensive line it looks like we’ll have entering pre-season practice in August.

When the Red Team Has the Ball

If 3 doesn't get you, 4 will

If 3 doesn’t get you, 4 will

The Red Team is the first team offense, and the Black has the first team defense.  Of course, this match-up will be the most interesting of the day as all of the returning starters from the best offense in the modern era of Georgia football will face what hopefully is a reloaded athletic defense.  I don’t think we’ll see Aaron Murray beyond the 1st quarter, and the coaches and officials will keep a close eye on him for the time he is in the game.  I also wonder how much Gurshall will be in the game as we are dangerously thin at tailback.  With Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett on the shelf with knee injuries, Jonathan Rumph will get a hard look running with the first team offense.  On the Black defense, everyone is excited about Tray Matthews and the immediate impact he has made this spring.  I’m looking forward to seeing the progress of Ramik Wilson at inside linebacker especially with his play late in the season and Mike Thornton at the nose as he replaces Jenkins and Geathers.

When the Black Team Has the Ball

#87 - the next great TE

#87 – the next great TE

While the Black Team on offense will be the guys who are the 2nd team on the depth chart, there are a number of players who were heavy contributors last year.  After his coming out party late in the season, Jay Rome is likely to be a mismatch for the younger defensive players on the field tomorrow.  Hutson Mason will likely be looking for Rome early and often in the middle of the field.  I’m also looking forward to seeing the young offensive linemen who will be looked upon to provide depth this fall.  On the Red defense, I’m looking to see how well the young, talented defensive linemen especially Ray Drew, Chris Mayes, John Taylor, and John Atkins stack up against what could be a pretty good 2nd unit offensive line because these four will play a lot next year especially in the early season heat against Clemson and South Carolina.

What Will Happen

Spring games are generally vanilla on defense with a couple of early offensive wrinkles for the benefit of the crowd.  Eventually, the defenses take over as players who aren’t used to playing together have to get the timing down on offense.  The 1st quarter means everything in this game as the rebuilding Georgia defense may face the best offense they will see the entire season when the offensive starters are across the line from them.  Due to all of the returning offensive talent, I have to like the Red to win the game, but the best thing to happen will be no one gets injured to affect either summer conditioning or the early season.

Final Score:  Red 17, Black 14

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Signing Day 2013 Recap


Signing Day 2013 finished with no surprises, and Georgia filled most of its needs between the baker’s dozen of early entries and today’s signees.  The news across the board appears to be about the Signing Day decisions that didn’t go our way with some elite talent rather than the young men who did decide to join the Bulldog Nation.  As I did last year, here are my thoughts on where and when we’ll see the members of this class on the field.

John Atkins, DT, Thomson

Rivals had Atkins as a 3-star prospect at defensive tackle from Thomson via Hargrave Military after resigning after failing to qualify for the fall.  He got his academics in order and cam to Athens in January as an early entry.  With the departure of Geathers and Jenkins, Atkins will get a hard look in spring practice and be expected to contribute depth on the defensive line.  With his size, he could have a large upside with the right development, and many think he may be as good as a talent as a defensive tackle that decided to go elsewhere today.  Given the current state of the depth chart, I expect Atkins will play as early as the Clemson game in September.

Davin Bellamy, OLB, Chamblee

In the one big Signing Day decision that went our way, Bellamy flips from FSU to Georgia after his mother supposedly receives assurance that Coach Grantham will be in Athens as opposed to jumping to the NFL.  At 6-5, 235, he definitely has upside potential with a frame that should be able to put on weight and become an edge rusher.  As a consensus top 50 prospect, Bellamy will probably be given an opportunity to contribute depth at linebacker and play special teams.

Paris Bostick, S, Tampa (Plant), FL

Bostick is a consensus 3-star prospect from one of Tampa’s powerhouse programs and Aaron Murray’s high school alma mater.  A top 20 player out of the Tampa Bay area and a top 100 prospect in Florida, Bostick has been committed to Georgia for a long time and is one of the players we were excited about when he committed and now people has forgotten about.  At 217 pounds, I could easily see him as a redshirt candidate with the potential to add weight to move down to play closer to the line of scrimmage or contribute on special teams as a freshman.

Aulden Bynum, OT, Valdosta (Valwood)

Bynum is a consistent 3-star prospect and an early enrollee in January.  At 6-5, 270, he appears to have the frame to grow into an offensive tackle.  Coming from a small, private school, I have to assume that he hasn’t had an opportunity to focus on strength and conditioning.  He appears to be the kind of player that those who think we need to sign with a passion to play at Georgia.  Bynum is a definite redshirt candidate with the existing depth at the tackle position.  I doubt we will see much of him until a couple of years of development.

Josh Cardiello, C, Buford

Cardiello is a consensus 3-star prospect.  Fox Sports has him rated as highly as one of the top 5 centers in the country.  He is another early enrollee that will have an opportunity to develop in the weight room and on the practice field.  As a first-team all-state player for a school with a deep winning tradition, he will know what it takes to be successful at the next level.  While he could develop into a back-up to David Andrews, I definitely think it would be beneficial for him to sit a year as the potential center of the future.

Reggie Carter, LB, Snellville (South Gwinnett)

Another early enrollee, Carter is 4-star prospect out of the high school that gave Georgia our winningest quarterback, David Greene.  He is consistently rated as a top 25 linebacker and top 20 prospect in Georgia.  Grantham and Olivadotti have not hesitated to play young guys at inside linebacker, and Carter is going to get a hard look in the spring.  With the departure of multiple inside linebackers, I expect he will contribute on special teams and will break into the rotation this fall.

Jordan Davis, TE, Thomson

Davis is a 3-star prospect coming out of one of the tradition-rich programs that send players who have been successful at Georgia.  A consistent top 20 tight end nationally, he comes to a situation where it’s likely that he will not have to come in and play immediately with the current state of the depth chart  At 6-4 and 225, he likely is a redshirt candidate with Artie Lynch, Jay Rome, and Ty Smith in front of him.  He appears to be the tight end of the future after having an opportunity to bulk up and learn the playbook.

Reggie Davis, WR, Tallahassee (Lincoln), FL

The other Davis in this class is a 3+-star prospect coming out of one of the traditional north Florida powers that has not sent players north to Georgia.  He is undersized at 159 pounds and is another player that does not need to come in and immediately contribute.  He must be really fast as his 4×100 team won the 7A state championship as a junior.  With the current depth chart at receiver and the addition of Jonathon Rumph, he is likely headed for redshirt to develop his body into one that can take the pounding in the SEC.

Brendan Douglas, FB, Augusta (Aquinas)

Douglas was recognized as a consistent top 10 fullback and a consensus A All-State selection.  He rushed for close to 3,000 yards over the last two seasons and was a late switch from the Trade School in Atlanta.  His last minute offer appeared to be the first sign to many that Signing Day wasn’t going to go the Dawgs’ way.  If we had a scholarship available and could take away talent from Paul Johnson, I’m glad Richt did it.  I hope he becomes a special teams contributor and can bulk up to be a fullback in the mold of Brannan Southerland.

Leonard Floyd, LB, Eastman (Dodge County)

Floyd is a consensus 4-star player that also took a season at Hargrave after failing to gain admission to Georgia after signing last year.  After a year at prep school, I expect that he is going to get a hard look in the summer on special teams and as a contributor at outside linebacker in the fall.  He was a top 15 talent in state last year coming out of high school and is another player who excited the Dawg Nation last year.

Shaquille Fluker, S, Meridian (East Mississippi CC), MS

Fluker is a 4-star top 30 national JUCO prospect coming out of eastern Mississippi, which is a part of the country where we haven’t traditionally done a lot of recruiting.  His size and statistics at the junior college level would indicate that he has a lot of the same traits as Bacarri Rambo as a free safety.  Fluker seems to have improved his stock after his two years at the junior college level, and I expect he will get a look to contribute immediately in the fall if he can pick up the 3-4 and Scott Lakatos’ coaching.

J.J. Green, ATH, Kingsland (Camden County)

Another of the baker’s dozen of early enrollees, Green is a consistent 3-star prospect coming out of one of south Georgia’s powerhouse programs.  A classmate of quarterback Brice Ramsey, he is a member of the AJC’s Super 11 and was a consensus AAAAAA All-State selection.  He seems to be a candidate for a redshirt as a corner, but don’t be surprised to see him get a look as a two-way player in the mold of Branden Smith.

DeAndre Johnson, DT, Newnan (Northgate)

Johnson is a consensus 3-star prospect and top 50 prospect in Georgia.  At 6-3 and 311 pounds, he seems to have the build to become a nose tackle in the 3-4 defense.  Given the current depth chart, he could redshirt with the potential to grow into a nose tackle or could move to the end position similar to Abry Jones.  Regardless, I don’t think that we’ll see him as a contributor this fall unless we have serious injury issues or he becomes the diamond in the rough for this recruiting cycle.

Kennar Johnson, CB, Perkinston (Gulf Coast CC), MS

Johnson is a 3-star corner out of the JUCO ranks and 247 ranked him as a top 10 JUCO corner in this year’s class.  At 6-2, he appears to be the big corner that Lakatos has tended to pursue rather than the smaller and quicker player of the Willie Martinez era.  If he can come in and learn the system, I expect he will be given an opportunity to play early given the current depth chart at corner opposite Damian Swann.  At a minimum, he will play special teams probably from the day he steps on campus.

Rico Johnson, WR, Swainsboro

Johnson is a consistent 3-star prospect from southeast Georgia and was a state 100-meter champion as a junior.  I would like to see he and Justin Scott-Wesley in a race early in the fall camp.  At 5-11, 172, he’s probably a redshirt candidate given the quality of the depth chart at receiver unless he can break into the line-up as kick returner.

Tim Kimbrough, LB, Indianapolis (Warren Central), IN

Kimbrough is a consensus 4-star prospect, top 10 inside linebacker prospect nationally, and top 5 prospect from the Hoosier State.  At 228 pounds and with excellent speed, he seems to be ready made to play inside as a 3-4 linebacker.  I’m sure Olivadotti showed him the depth chart and how Amarlo Herrera was used as a true freshman.  He is definitely one of the members of this class that will see the field early and probably as soon as our visit to Death Valley.

Brandon Kublanow, C/G, Marietta (Walton)

Kublanow is a consensus 4-star recruit and is one of the top inside offensive line prospects in the nation.  At 6-3 and 290, he has good size and from what many have said a nasty streak about him, which is definitely a great trait especially for a pulling or trapping guard.  With the current depth chart, it may be difficult for him to break into significant playing time especially if Gates moves inside for Beard to start at left tackle.  He will be one of the freshman lineman who will get a hard look this summer to determine if he will redshirt or play.  I hope he sits a year and learns the system, but I think it may be hard to keep him off the field especially at center.

Brendan Langley, CB, Marietta (Kell)

As a consensus 4-star recruit, Langley was recognized as a top 20 corner in the country.  Lakatos has to look at him as a rangy corner who can probably put on some additional size without losing a step.  He committed to South Carolina earlier in the fall, began to look around late in the fall, and decided to become a Bulldog.  I have to assume he is going to get a hard look in the fall and will probably play a lot this fall in nickel and on special teams.

Uriah LeMay, WR, Matthews (Butler), NC

Back-up quarterback Christian LeMay’s younger brother is a 3+ star recruit out of North Carolina’s powerhouse high school program.  He committed to follow his brother to Athens early and really never appeared to waver in his commitment.  The big question is what happens if Christian decides the QB depth chart is too crowded and moves on.  At 6-2 and 197, he appears to have the body style of a young Tavarres King but without the top speed as a deep threat.  LeMay is probably headed for a redshirt unless we end up with injury issues at the receiver position.

Tray Matthews, S, Newnan

Matthews is a solid 4-star recruit and may end up as the top player in this class.  As an early enrollee, he will compete for a starting role at safety.  Along with Shaq Wiggins, Matthews became one of the commitments that recruited others to join him in Athens, but he missed on one of his best friends, Reuben Foster.  I’m not going to pencil him in as a starter yet, but he will probably see more and more of the field as the season goes on and will likely start by the end of the year.

Quincy Mauger, S, Marietta (Kell)

Mauger is a 3-start prospect at safety.  In high school, he also played some wide receiver, so I wonder if he is going to be a classic “athlete” where the coaching staff determines where he fits into our scheme.  He will have spring practice to get into the playbook and begin to develop into a safety of the future.  He seems to be the kind of player that could be overlooked and become a solid contributor.  I think he will redshirt with the idea of breaking into the rotation in 2014.

Chris Mayes, DT, Griffin

Mayes returns to Georgia after a short stint at Mississippi Gulf Coast CC to get his academic house in order.  He is an early enrollee who will be given an opportunity to show what he can do in spring practice.  He was one of the members of the “Dream Team” 2011 signing class.  It speaks volumes for the staff’s opinion of him that they re-recruited him.  He was a consensus 4-star prospect coming out of one of Georgia’s traditional middle Georgia power programs.  He could slim down to become a 3-4 defensive end or could provide depth at the nose with his 6-4, 315 pound frame.

Shaun McGee, LB, Snellville (Brookwood)

McGee is a 3-star prospect at linebacker but appears to have the frame to be a good inside linebacker in the 3-4.  Given our needs at inside linebacker and especially our troubles late in the season between the tackles, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was told he’ll get a hard look in the fall for playing time.  While I think he probably should redshirt, the depth chart would probably indicate he’s going to play because we need size in the middle.

Johnny O’Neal, LB, Dublin (West Laurens)

O’Neal is a consensus top 20 player in Georgia and rated as a 4-star prospect by the recruiting services.  ESPN rated him as a top 5 inside linebacker in the country, so it’s clear he has talent.  Grantham and Olivadotti have probably told O’Neal to come in and be ready to play.  He will play early on defense and special teams, and I think he becomes the heir apparent to Amarlo Herrera.

Brice Ramsey, QB, Kingsland (Camden County)

Ramsey was a consensus 4-star prospect, top 10 quarterback in the country, and top senior quarterback in Georgia.  An early enrollee, he knows he will redshirt unless something absolutely bizarre happens between now and the season.  If he plays as a true freshman, it means we’re in deep trouble.  While playing in a running offense, he demonstrated that he has the physical tools to be a really good quarterback down the road.  This class has a number of players who will redshirt, but Ramsey is the one who better redshirt.

Ryne Rankin, LB, Orlando (East River), FL

Rankin is another early enrollee as a 3+-star prospect out of central Florida.  He skipped the high school all-star games and came to campus in December to work out with the team and participate in bowl practices.  He received some praise during the bowl preparation as a guy who wasn’t afraid to be physical.  At 6-1, 230, he appears to have the body to be a solid inside linebacker.  He’s probably another guy who will get a hard look in spring practice to determine if he’ll be ready for the SEC wars in the fall.

Jonathan Rumph, WR, Cayce, SC (Holmes CC)

Rumph is a big, physical wide receiver, a 4-star prospect, and is one of the top 10 junior college prospects in the country.  At 6-5 and 215 pounds, he looks like he has a chance to be a Marlon Brown type of receiver, too tall for a corner and too fast for a safety.  Since he was also able to enroll early, I think he will play immediately and may be able play outside to allow “White Lightning” Bennett to continue to do his damage as a dangerous slot receiver.

DeVondre Seymour, T, Suwanee (North Gwinnett)

Seymour certainly has the genes as the son of Georgia All-American and All-Pro defensive tackle, Richard Seymour.  He was a 3-star prospect and a top 30 player in Georgia.  He has the body type for a potentially dominant offensive tackle at 6-5 and 295.  The big lingering question is whether he will be able to qualify and be in Athens this summer or if he will have to take a detour to prep school or junior college.  Regardless of whether he qualifies, we probably won’t see him in meaningful action for a couple of years down the road.

Tramel Terry, ATH, Goose Creek, SC

Terry is a consensus 4-star athlete who is another early enrollee, a consensus All-American, and South Carolina’s Mr. Football.  In the practices leading up to the Shrine Bowl, many were saying he was the best player on the field for either side and then tore his ACL in the game.  If he had ended up playing, I could have seen the recruiting services giving him a coveted 5th star.  He’s a threat running or catching the ball and may be the best pure athlete in this class.  If his knee heals, he will play against his home state schools the first 2 weeks of the season.  If his rehabilitation is slow, I don’t think Richt will risk his redshirt, and he’ll likely be a starter in 2014 especially if Malcolm Mitchell decides to take his skills to the NFL.

A.J. Turman, TB, Orlando (Boone), FL

Turman is a solid 4-star prospect and top 40 player in Florida.  He appears to be a tough between the tackles runner.  At 200 pounds, he probably could put on an additional 10 pounds of muscle without losing any speed.  With Boo Malcome’s transfer, Turman likely is the number 3 running back on the depth chart behind Gurshall.  As with any Georgia freshman running back, the main thing that will keep him off the field will be his ability to pick up pass protection.  If he can do that, I don’t doubt he will play immediately.

Shaquille Wiggins, CB, Tyrone (Sandy Creek)

Wiggins is a consensus 4-star recruit and the #1 corner in the state.  He was an early commitment, and, while he flirted with other schools, he never backed away from his decision to “commit to the G.”  He helped recruit others to Georgia and will likely get a chance to play immediately when he steps on campus.

Reggie Wilkerson, CB, Ocala (North Marion), FL

Wilkerson is a 4-star prospect taken from the heart of Gator country.  Given his statistics, he appears to be a cover corner that teams consistently threw away from.  He’s another early enrollee who will be given a look in the spring and will probably have a chance to contribute on special teams.  A bit undersized, he may also redshirt given the number of defensive backs in this class.

My Opinion

This class is long on numbers and depth at the right positions.  Yes, we didn’t have the signing day decisions go our way, but I like this class for what it is.  We have 13 players who decided it was more important to throw up in trash cans, participate in spring practice, and get started in the books than to be a big man on campus in high school.  I can safely say that while we didn’t “win” Signing Day in the eyes of the media, we won the recruiting battles the other 364 days this year.

As I have done the last couple of years, I looked at a broad analysis of where the 4+ star in-state talent ends up.  The state produced 24 blue-chip prospects this year compared to last year’s 25.  We signed 7 of them representing 29% of the total and the remaining players fanned out among 12 other schools and not one ended up at Georgia Tech.  We didn’t win the 5-star players, but three of them (Nkdemiche, Lawson, and Bell) never considered us.  We lost Adams when Garner left for Auburn.  I think 30% is a good watermark for the blue chips, and we finished just under the mark.

That’s my take.  I would like to read yours in the comments below.

Posted in Georgia Sports | 11 Comments

Look Back to Nebraska and Look Ahead to 2013

Record-setting performance by #11

Record-setting performance by #11

After a 45-31 win on Tuesday in the Capital One Bowl, the 2012 Georgia Bulldogs entered the history books as the 3rd team in school history to win 12 games in a season and will likely finish the season in the top 5 of both major polls.  Many including myself wondered whether the Dawgs would show up with their best game in Orlando after the heart-breaking loss in the Georgia Dome.  While the defense struggled and the offense gave up a pick 6 in the 1st half, the team showed a resolve especially after going down by 8 early in the 2nd half to pull away from the Cornhuskers.  Let’s get to the rundown.

What Went Well

Offensive explosion!

Offensive explosion!

The Dawgs scored early and often, and the defense took over the game in the 2nd half.  We saw a game where the Dawgs came in with a businesslike mindset and never wavered from the mission at hand.

Offensive Balance – The Georgia offense exploded for almost 590 yards of total offense and 43 points against the nation’s top-rated passing defense.  I’ll admit I was surprised that our receivers could get behind the Nebraska secondary any time they wanted to.  Pelini decided to keep the Dawgs from running the ball at will, and Aaron Murray absolutely lit up the Nebraska defense.  The offensive line kept Murray up right consistently and opened enough holes for Gurshall that the Huskers really had no answer for what we were trying to do.

Pass Rush – Jarvis Jones breaks David Pollack’s single-season sack record with 2 of the Dawgs’ 5 sacks.  Alec Ogletree finished his Bulldog career with a big hit on Taylor Martinez on Nebraska’s last possession.  Most importantly, the Dawgs’ defense did a solid job of containing Martinez when he tried to scramble for yardage.  I worried that Martinez was going to do some of the same things Connor Shaw did in Columbia, but the defense prevented it.

Punt Block – The punt block on the Huskers’ first possession changed the momentum after we turned the ball over on our 1st possession while threatening.  The team disguised and executed the block perfectly as it definitely looked like we were going to set up a return and then rushed two of the guys covering the gunners.  The only negative was that Justin Scott-Wesley didn’t realize he only had to fall on the ball rather than attempting to corral after running full speed.

What Didn’t

While we won and covered the spread, Nebraska stayed in the game much longer than I felt comfortable mainly based on our mistakes.

Interceptions – Murray’s two interceptions in the 1st half were both the result of bad plays by the junior quarterback.  The first was a badly underthrown ball that hung up in the wind and killed a promising opening possession.  The second was a throw that just didn’t need to be made because the defense diagnosed and blew up the screen.

Interior Defense – We clearly missed John Jenkins in the interior to provide the ability to rotate Jenkins and Geathers against the Huskers’ offensive line.  I hope Tuesday showed Kwame that he’s not quite ready for Sunday wars between the tackles and needs a year as an every down player to improve his draft standing.  Tuesday clearly demonstrated to me that the defensive line will be our biggest question entering the off-season.

Kicking – For as solid as Morgan and Barber became later in the season, they both had miscues yesterday as Morgan missed his one field goal attempt fairly badly with the wind and Barber had a shank once again with the wind.  We’re going to be happy with these guys by the time they are done at Georgia.

Overall Assessment

A solid win that closes a really good season for 2012.

Offense – A Without the 2 turnovers especially the pick 6, this grade is an A+.  Just like in most games this season, we hit big play after big play, and it eventually demoralized the Nebraska defense.  The final possession was backbreaking as Nebraska sold out to stop the run, Murray hits two big 3rd down conversions including a beautiful back shoulder throw and catch to Tavarres King.

Defense – C+ Take away the pick 6, and the game was not as close as the score indicated.  We had troubles on defense especially handling the running game between the tackles.  Late this season, we definitely showed some of the same issues we had in 2010 of defending the interior running game.  With the exception of a couple of plays in the passing game, the secondary was solid for the day.

Coaching – A-.  This grade may be a little generous, but Richt said the team was as ready as he expected them to be in the days leading up to the game.  Bobo called a beautiful game and deserves a raise correlating to his value to the program as coordinator, QB coach, and recruiter.  Grantham once again made good adjustments after the 1st possession of the 2nd half.  Finally, I want to call out Tony Ball for the job he has done with the wide receivers this year.  He dealt with a couple of significant injuries and plugged more guys in and got the most out of the talent.  In particular, he turned Tavarres King from a wiry, talented kid as a freshman into a big play threat who will probably be one of the most underrated players to come through this program.

Look Ahead to 2013

Could this be a crystal football or a Sugar Bowl trophy in 2013?

Could this be a crystal football or a Sugar Bowl trophy in 2013?

I’m hesitant to get into any preview of 2013 given the current state of the cycle of early entries, attrition, and recruiting, but I think the 2013 team could be just as good as 2012 and appear to step back because of the record.  The schedule will be difficult with an opening trip to Clemson, a home opener with the Gamecocks back in their traditional spot, an Athens date with LSU, and the traditional Big 3 (all away from Athens).  If Aaron Murray comes back to rewrite the SEC passing record book and make a senior push for the Heisman Trophy, the Dawgs will be extremely tough on offense with a complete offensive line, Gurshall, and a bevy of talented pass catchers.  Grantham and the defensive staff have a big job in front of them as they will have to rebuild a defense with only 4 returning starters [Garrison Smith, Amarlo Herrera (I’m counting him), Jordan Jenkins, and Damian Swann] if Jarvis Jones and Kwame Geathers decide to follow Alec Ogletree to NFL paydays.  Right now, I expect that we’re going get into some track meets that look like Big 12 games.  My heart says 11-1 with a likely loss to either South Carolina or LSU, but my head says 9-3 with losses to both USCe and LSU and either Clemson or Florida.

Those are my thoughts.  I would like to read yours in the comments.

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Nebraska Preview – Children of the Corn

Living in Nebraska may drive you to this

Living in Nebraska may drive you to this

Later this afternoon, the Georgia Bulldogs will close our 2012 campaign in the Capital One Bowl against the B1G runners-up, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  The Huskers are a college football blue blood with one of the deepest traditions of excellence especially on defense with the Black Shirts.  Our Dawgs have a lot of play for even though this game has to be a letdown for a team so close to playing for all of the marbles.  With that, let’s get to the preview.

When Nebraska Has the Ball

JJ Boys make a Driskel sandwich

Let’s show these guys SEC defense!

Although the Huskers don’t run the I-option that shredded SEC teams in the 90’s under Tom Osborne, Nebraska still relies on a power running game led by dual threat quarterback, Taylor Martinez.  Frankly, these guys remind me somewhat of Florida’s offense with a quarterback who can really run it but can throw if you sell out to stop the run.  They have two talented running backs and will run the ball at us until we prove we can consistently stop it.  I have a feeling we’re going to put our defensive backs in man coverage and force them to run against 7 and 8-man fronts.  I hope this defense shows up with the same attitude they did in Jacksonville to play physical football and force Martinez to beat us with his arm.

The key on defense is whether we can go man on man against the Huskers’ offensive line and get a push.  We must make Nebraska play behind the chains on early downs and force Martinez to throw the ball.  Our inside linebackers must play better than they did against Alabama.  I worry about the absence of John Jenkins and its impact on our depth up front.

When Georgia Has the Ball

He runs like a Gurl-ey

He runs like a Gurl-ey

Everyone is aware of the struggles of the Nebraska defense as they gave up yards and points by the bunches to Wisconsin in the B1G championship game and to Ohio State in the regular season.  I look for Bobo and Murray to attempt to exploit Big Red’s front 7 with Gurshall and a fast-improving offensive line.  I also expect that Bo Pelini is going to have his guys sell out to stop the Georgia running game as film has shown that teams who have had success against us were able to neutralize #3 and #4.  With the nation’s top pass defense in terms of yards allowed per game, Pelini probably is going to pick his poison with the idea that he has a fighting chance if he makes Aaron Murray beat him rather than being gashed by Gurshall.

The key to a Georgia win is the play of Aaron Murray.  He doesn’t have to throw for 300+ yards for the Dawgs to win.  He does have to read the defense, get us into the right play, and get the ball to his playmakers.  If Murray can manage the game properly, we will have the chance to generate yards and produce a lot of points.

What Will Happen

In terms of talent, Georgia clearly has the edge in Jimmys and Joes with better talent across the board.  In terms of motivation, I have to give the edge to Nebraska as they looked absolutely terrible in their last game and want to show the nation it was a fluke.  If Georgia wins the turnover margin by +2 or more, Georgia covers the spread easily.  If the turnover margin is between -1 and +1, Georgia wins but may struggle to cover.  If Georgia loses the turnover margin -2 or worse, we may win but will likely get upset.  I look for the Georgia seniors along with Jarvis Jones and Aaron Murray to make sure this team doesn’t go through the motions tomorrow.

A win pretty much assures the Dawgs of a top 5 finish and puts this team alone with the 1980 national champions and the 2002 SEC champions as the only teams to win 12+ games in a season.  While I think the Dawgs will struggle to get started, they eventually take over the game with the talent edge and team chemistry get it done.

Final Score:  Georgia 41, Nebraska 24

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Bowl Game Predictions 2012

As we enter the most wonderful time of the year for college football fans, I thought I would give some thoughts and predictions on the bowl games that interest me between now and the BcS championship game in Miami.  Generally, I think the bowl matchups seem to be gettting worse rather than better.  I guess we need to get used to that when college football’s brave new world starts in 2014.

December 27

Belk Bowl, Cincinnati (-11) vs. Duke, 12/27

Should the Head Blue Devil be the National Coach of the Year?

Should the Head Blue Devil be the National Coach of the Year?

Who would have thought in September that Duke would be in a bowl game and Auburn and Arkansas wouldn’t?  I doubt very many hands including mine are up right now, but David Cutcliffe has done a fine job up the road in Durham.  The Blue Devils are heading down I-85 to Charlotte to play a Cincinnati team that has lost its head coach to Tennessee.  Duke has improved and probably has hit their ceiling, but I like the Bearcats to win but likely not to cover.

Final Score:  Cincinnati 35, Duke 27

Holiday Bowl, Baylor (-1) vs. UCLA

Thank you for exposing Kansas State!

Thank you for exposing Kansas State!

Baylor and its high-powered offense travel out to sunny San Diego to take on the Pac-12 South champion, UCLA Bruins.  Many people thought Baylor would go back to being Baylor after RG3 left for NFL riches and a likely Rookie of the Year award.  The Bruins will have to match Baylor score for score to have any chance to win.  Baylor’s win over Kansas State was beautiful to watch as they derailed a Heisman campaign and a national championship game appearance.  UCLA seems to be getting its act together, but I just don’t think they have the talent on offense to keep up.  Baylor wins a game that is likely not as close as the final score indicates.

Final Score:  Baylor 41, UCLA 30

Russell Athletic Bowl, Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech (-1)

How many years does the Head Hokie have left?

Virginia Tech entered this season as a ACC championship favorite and national championship dark horse and had an epic face plant this season limping into a bowl game.  Rutgers was close to winning the Big East this season and now begins to look to their upcoming move to the Big Ten.  Tech has gotten inconsistent quarterback play, and Hokie fans certainly will wonder if their team will show up in Orlando.  Rutgers beat up Arkansas this year, but a lot of teams did that as well.  That win gives them the edge with me in a mild upset.  I just don’t want the teams to chew up the sod for the track meet that I hope happens a few days later when the Dawgs show up.

Final Score:  Rutgers 24, Virginia Tech 20

December 29

Pinstripe Bowl, West Virginia (-3.5) vs. Syracuse

Mad Genius or coming off a bender?

Mad Genius or coming off a bender?

West Virginia made the leap from the Big East to big boy football in the Big 12 and had early success rising high into the top 10 at one point this season with Geno Smith mentioned as a Heisman candidate.  As the season wore on, the Mountaineers suffered the same fate of Missouri in the SEC as injuries and depth issues wore them down.  Syracuse won some games this year including a win over Louisville that knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten.  The game is being played in New York, but that’s the only hope the Orangemen have against a very athletic West Virginia team.  I like West Virginia to win, cover, and run the Orangemen all the way back to upstate New York.

Final Score:  West Virginia 51, Syracuse 20

Alamo Bowl, Oregon State (-1) vs. Texas

Woodshed again?

Woodshed again?

Texas is an underdog in a bowl game in their own state.  My, how far the Longhorns have fallen since the national championship game against Alabama.  Mack Brown has tinkered with the offense but hasn’t had a quarterback since Colt McCoy broke David Greene’s record for most career wins as a starter.  After turning the tide against Bob Stoops, Texas has gone back to being cannon fodder in the Red River Shootout.  I don’t know much about Oregon State, but I think they’re better than Texas regardless.

Final Score:  Oregon State 28, Texas 20

December 31

Music City Bowl, NC State vs. Vanderbilt (-5)

Coach G's not coming after me, is he?

Coach G’s not coming after me, is he?

Vanderbilt is a 5-point favorite in a bowl game?  Surely, the Mayans didn’t get the end of the world wrong.  Seriously, James Franklin has done a heck of a job turning around a program that was close to dead.  The only game they looked like Vandy in was the 48-3 rout in Athens where the Dawgs came out and just demolished the Commodores.  NC State fired Tom O’Brien and hired Northern Illinois’ coach who is going to the BCS.  I question how much the Pack Nation cares about a meaningless game in Nashville, the home of the Commodores.  As a result, this game will the first of many this bowl season where everyone will hear the “S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!” chant at the end.

Final Score:  Vanderbilt 27, NC State 20

Sun Bowl, Georgia Tech vs. USC (-10)

The Tech bodyguard unit in El Paso

The Tech bodyguard unit in El Paso

The North Avenue Trade School returns to the Sun Bowl this time for a date with the USC Trojans.  Tech had to get a special allowance by the NCAA to play in a bowl game as a result of their 6-7 regular season including the glorious 42-10 beatdown they received in Clean Old Fashioned Hate in Athens.  USC opened the season as the consensus #1 team in the country with Matt Barkley as the pre-season Heisman favorite.  I’m convinced that Notre Dame isn’t playing for the national title if Barkley had been available.  I can’t believe I have to pull for Lane Kiffin two games in a row.  If the Trojans are interested, they win big.  If not, the Jackets could win and make Kiffin’s life in southern California miserable for the next 9 months.  Either way, I’m happy.

Final Score:  USC 31, Georgia Tech 26

Chick-fil-a Bowl, Clemson vs. LSU (-3)

Senator Blutarsky, this picture is begging for a "Caption This" feature

Senator Blutarsky, this picture is begging for a “Caption This” feature

The Chick-fil-a Bowl is probably one of the most compelling match-ups of the bowl season including the BCS games as two of Georgia’s 2013 opponents end the season in the Georgia Dome.  I’ll watch for that reason alone.  These two teams are a clash of styles with the spread offense and no defense of Clemson and the pedestrian offense and monster defense of LSU.  If LSU decides this game is important to jumpstart 2013, the Bayou Bengals will win.  If LSU decides to play to their level of competition, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins will make life miserable for Corn Dog Nation.  It’s hard to bet against Les Miles when he has this much time to prepare, and Dabo Swinney is on the other sideline.

Final Score:  LSU 28, Clemson 20

January 1 (Pre-BCS)

Gator Bowl, Northwestern vs. Mississippi State (-2)

I told you we were overrated

I told you we were overrated

Mississippi State plays in another bowl game but really didn’t beat anybody all season long, so I’m still not sold on the Bizarro Dogs.  Northwestern is the Vandy of the Big 10 with a lot more success over the last 15 years.  It’s really hard to be successful at State when you’re the little guy in the neighborhood with Alabama, LSU, and now, Texas A&M.  Hugh Freeze is turning things around in Oxford quickly, so Mullen might be starting to think about his next gig before it’s too late.  The Bizarro Dogs have too much talent for Northwestern to handle especially if it’s warm and humid in Florida on New Year’s Day.

Final Score:  Mississippi St. 27, Northwestern 24

Outback Bowl, Michigan vs. South Carolina (-4)

Go suck on a lemon, Steve

Go suck on a lemon, Steve

Darth Visor leads South Carolina to another New Year’s Day bowl game against a college football blue-blood in Michigan.  Entering the season, Michigan was a trendy Rose Bowl pick with a Heisman candidate in Dennard Robinson.  Alabama shattered all of that in one quarter in Dallas.  The reason I mention that is that Alabama did that without a dominant SEC pass rusher.  If you didn’t know, South Carolina has two of those in Super-Freak, Jadeveon Clowney, and his running mate, Devin Taylor.  If Connor Shaw can take care of the ball, it will be a long afternoon in Tampa for the Wolverines.  Although it pains me to say it, I like South Carolina to win and cover.

Final Score:  South Carolina 30, Michigan 17

Capital One Bowl, Nebraska vs. Georgia (-8)

Evil Richt, you are needed in Orlando

Evil Richt, you are needed in Orlando

Of course, I’ll put up a preview from Orlando before the game but wanted to get my initial thoughts out there.  I believe this game completely hinges on whether Georgia decides to show up with a bad attitude.  If so, Georgia wins easily based on a high-octane offense that can score points and generate yards by the bunches.  If the Dawgs show up in Orlando with the attitude that they were five yards short of playing for the national championship, Nebraska will give us all we want with a power running attack led by a running quarterback and may send the Bulldog Nation into depression with an upset.  Right now, I think something happens between those two extremes as the Dawgs win and cover but don’t look impressive in doing it.

Final Score:  Georgia 38, Nebraska 27

January 4

Cotton Bowl, Texas A&M (-3) vs. Oklahoma

Good debut in the SEC

Good debut in the SEC

Texas A&M showed this year they belong in the SEC.  I’m not sure over time if the Air Raid offense will continue to put up big numbers as SEC defensive coordinators adjust, but Kevin Sumlin has shown he can flat out coach.  While I would have loved to have seen the Aggies and the Longhorns in Jerry’s World, this match-up with “Big Game” Bob Stoops has the makings to be a great game.  Between Johnny Manziel and Landry Jones, there is going to be a lot of offense and points galore.  At the end of the day, I like the SEC to continue its unbeaten run as the Aggie faithful get their first chance to engage in the “SEC! SEC!” chanting.

Final Score:  Texas A&M 41, Oklahoma 35

January 5

Compass Bowl, Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss (-1.5)

Great young coach in Oxford

Great young coach in Oxford

While Kevin Sumlin may have made the biggest splash, Hugh Freeze may have done the best job in the SEC this year by taking a team picked to finish dead last in the West and making them bowl-eligible.  Yes, it probably helped that Auburn was beyond pitiful and that Bobby Petrino had his little motorcycle accident, but the Rebel Black Bears played most of the season like they belonged in the SEC.  Pitt had their chance to knock Notre Dame out of national title contention and couldn’t make a field goal in overtime.  I doubt they’re going to be interested in a meaningless game in Birmingham as they prepare to enter the ACC.

Final Score:  Ole Miss 27, Pitt 18

BCS Bowl Games

Rose Bowl, Wisconsin vs. Stanford (-6), 1/1

Congrats to the Cardinal

Congrats to the Cardinal

I certainly didn’t think Stanford was going to be able to keep it up after Jim Harbaugh moved across the Bay to take the 49ers job and Andrew Luck took his skills to become the #1 overall selection as Peyton Manning’s successor in Indianapolis, but David Shaw is a great football coach.  They have continued to play hard-nosed running football in a league that is built on passing and finesse.  Wisconsin fire-bombed Nebraska in the Big 10 championship game with 70 points to return to the Rose Bowl without their head coach, Bret Bielema, who decided to take the Arkansas job.  I like Stanford to win but probably closer than the experts think.

Final Score:  Stanford 27, Wisconsin 21

Orange Bowl, Northern Illinois vs. Florida State (-13.5), 1/1

Will he break through?

Will he break through?

In what appears to be the biggest mismatch of the bowl season, the ACC champions, Florida State, take on the BCS-busting, MAC champion, Northern Illinois.  The Noles may have gotten a title shot if they had beaten Florida at home combined with a Notre Dame loss in Los Angeles, but FSU frankly laid an egg against the Gators.  If Florida State decides to come to Miami to make a point, this game will get ugly and get ugly quickly.  I can’t help but look at FSU’s last 2 games as an indicator of what’s going to happen in Miami.  The loss to Florida where they couldn’t move the ball and couldn’t stop the Gator running game and a sloppy performance in the ACC championship against a Georgia Tech team that didn’t score a touchdown against Georgia until after the starters were out indicate to me that the Noles will be more interested in South Beach than the game.  FSU wins but doesn’t cover.

Final Score:  Florida State 27, Northern Illinois 17

Sugar Bowl, Louisville vs. Florida (-14.5), 1/2

0 for 2 in the Cocktail Party

0 for 2 in the Cocktail Party

The SEC East runners-up end up in a BCS game against the champion from the weakest BCS conference.  This game is exactly what is wrong with the current system that penalizes a team that loses its conference championship game and rewards a champion from a league that should be a mid-major.  Regarding the game itself, Florida should be able to out-athlete Louisville on both sides of the ball.  If the Gator team that struggled mightily in multiple wins this year, Louisville has a good chance to pull off the upset of the bowl season in the Big Easy.  This game is the only one where I will not pull for the SEC team to win, but the Gators take care of business.  ESPN starts pushing Florida as pre-season #1 as soon as the game is over.

Final Score:  Florida 38, Louisville 20

Fiesta Bowl, Kansas State vs. Oregon (-8), 1/3

Should I stay or should I go? Depends on whether NCAA shows up or not

Should I stay or should I go? Depends on whether NCAA shows up or not

Rumors are flying that an NFL team is going to make a run at Chip Kelly, and at the same time, the NCAA may be getting ready to drop a bomb on the Oregon football program.  Whether or not any of it is true has to be a distraction as the Ducks go to the desert to face the most over-rated of the conference champions in Kansas State.  If K-State thought Baylor had a lot of speed, they haven’t seen anything like Kenjon Barner and the Black Mamba, DeAnthony Thomas.  Kansas State had a great season behind Collin Klein this year, but I don’t think they can keep up with all of the athletes that Phil Knight and Nike will throw at them.  Oregon wins a game not as close as the score may indicate.

Final Score:  Oregon 51, Kansas State 34

BcS Championship Game, Alabama (-10) vs. Notre Dame

The real 2 best teams in college football

The real 2 best teams in college football

ESPN gets its classic match-up between the Tide and the Irish in Miami for the national championship.  Alabama has been the standard of excellence over the last 4 years in the nation’s best conference, and Notre Dame is waking up the echoes.  The only statistic that matters is 41-14 and 13-6, the scores when both teams played Michigan early in the season.  Alabama made Michigan look like a mid-major, and Notre Dame struggled mightily to beat the Maize and Blue.  Nick Saban will have every situation scouted and will know Notre Dame better than Brian Kelly knows his team.  Notre Dame is very good on defense, but they haven’t seen an offensive line like Alabama’s with five players that could be 1st round selections and 2 backs who are feature backs.  Notre Dame doesn’t have the skilled people on offense to challenge the Alabama defense the way Texas A&M & Georgia were able to match up against the Tide.  While this game will be won on the field, this game has the potential to be a huge mismatch.  Alabama wins and covers easily.

Final Score:  Alabama 38, Notre Dame 14

I would like to read and respond to your comments.

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My Post-Season Awards

Dawgnation salutes you!

Dawgnation salutes you!

In the aftermath of a successful 11-2 regular season campaign and Saturday’s awards gala, I wanted to give my perspective on the best performances of the season.  The season saw a lot of great individual and team performances throughout the year, but here’s my thoughts on the best of the best:

Team Performances

38-0 - Absolute domination on the Plains

38-0 – Absolute domination on the Plains

Best Overall Performance:  11/10/12 – Georgia 38, Auburn 0

I’m sure others would say the Florida or Tech games, but for my money, the best overall team performance was the manhandling of Auburn.  Yes, I know Auburn was beyond pitiful this year, but I have followed Georgia football for 40 years and have never seen a beatdown in the South’s Oldest Rivalry like this year.  Coach Richt could have named the score if he had really decided he wanted to make a point and decided to call off the offense in the 3rd quarter.  Coach Grantham decided he wanted to make a point and get a shutout to clinch the East.  This team had other great unit performances, but this game was where we put all three facets of the game together.

If 3 doesn't get you, 4 will

If 3 doesn’t get you, 4 will

Best Offensive Performance:  9/29/12 – Georgia 51, Tennessee 44

While I considered some other games for this award, I kept coming back to how we marched up and down the field against the Vols.  It’s hard to break 50 with 3 turnovers.  Otherwise, we likely would have shattered the 60-point barrier.  Gurshall went crazy with almost 300 yards rushing and 5 TDs between them.  Aaron Murray was brutally efficient with 286 passing on only 26 attempts and 2 TDs.  This offense put up yards and points most of the season, but this game was the closest we got to video game statistics.

Shawn, thanks for calling us soft

Shawn, thanks for calling us soft

Best Defensive Performance:  10/27/12 – Georgia 17, Florida 9

We had been left for dead going to Jacksonville with a defense that had just been shredded on consecutive weeks by South Carolina and Kentucky.  Shawn Williams turned the season around with his comments after the Kentucky game labeling the defense as “too soft.”  This defense of future NFL prospects went to Jacksonville and locked down the #2 Florida offense with 6 turnovers, 5 sacks, and no TDs.  They defended the end zone in the 1st half when Aaron Murray threw 3 picks including 2 deep in Georgia territory and in the 2nd half when Jarvis Jones stripped Jordan Reed just short of the goal line.

Individual Awards

GATA, #36

GATA, #36

Permanent Captain – Shawn Williams

While other players’ on-field performances probably warrant designation of the permanent team captain, Shawn Williams lit a fire under the team before the Florida game and probably saved the season.  He was the most consistent player on a secondary that struggled early.  The play on the 4th and 1 to stop the Gators in the 1st half absolutely set the tone for the remainder of the Cocktail Party.  I’m not sure anyone else on the defense could have said the things he said without becoming a cancer in the locker room.

Field General

Field General

Offensive Captain – Aaron Murray

I don’t think anyone could really argue with Murray as the offensive captain given everything he contributes to the program.  He is the face of the program and has handled the highs and lows that come with being the quarterback at Georgia with class.  He has stepped up as a true leader on the team with his work ethic, his academic success, and his on-field success.  If C.J. Moseley doesn’t get a hand on the last pass of the regular season, would he have been in New York on Saturday night to pick up a piece of hardware?

The Sackmaster

The Sackmaster

Defensive Captain – Jarvis Jones

Sorry, T’eo, but the best linebacker in the college game currently lives in Athens.  Jarvis Jones and Jadeveon Clowney are the two defensive players that require teams to game plan around.  Jones fought through nagging injuries to be named 1st team All-America and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.  More importantly, he demonstrated his willingness to step into a vocal leadership role.  His performances in Missouri and Florida were Heisman-esque.  We truly missed him in Lexington and almost paid the price for it.

Hard-nosed running

Hard-nosed running

Best Performance (Offense) – Todd Gurley (Alabama) – 23 carries, 122 yards, 2 TDs

Gurley was a beast against Alabama with over 120 yards and 2 scores, but the eye-popping statistic was that he had no negative yardage plays in 23 attempts.  He was every bit as good as Lacy and Yeldon for 6o minutes as the work horse.  While his performance may go down as one of the best in a losing performance in an SEC championship game, Gurley has been everything as advertised and more since Shawn Williams compared him to Trent Richardson during pre-season practice.

Ball hawking safety

Ball hawking safety

Best Performance (Defense) – Bacarri Rambo (Florida) – 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception

Other players this season had big games this season, but Rambo made what could have been two of the biggest defensive plays of the season with the interception at the half and the huge sack off the safety blitz.  The Florida game was where the All-American finally knocked off the rust and was big difference maker throughout.

#22 - DGD

#22 – DGD

Special Teams Play of the Year – Richard Samuel IV (Missouri)

While there were a number of plays that could have qualified for this honor, Richard Samuel’s tackle of the punter on the Missouri fake punt set the tone for special teams play for most of the season.  The main reason I picked this play was more of a “lifetime achievement award” for a man who put the team’s needs above his own for the last 5 years.  This play will probably be the play that everyone will remember from a kid who came out as a 5-star recruit, was forced to play early when he probably should have redshirted, and then struggled to find the field for reasons outside of his control.

Huge year from TK

Huge year from TK

Best Wide Receiver – Tavarres King (39 catches, 21.7 average per catch, 8 TDs)

TK was the consistent deep threat throughout this season as he burned secondary for big plays.  He probably gave himself a chance make an NFL squad next year with the sustained performance over the last couple of years stepping into the big shoes left by A.J. Green.

Future huge star

Future huge star

Best Offensive Lineman – Chris Burnette

I don’t profess to be an expert in offensive line play, but the Georgia offense seemed to move the ball more consistently with Burnette in the game at right guard.  He was called on to help a true freshman at right tackle in John Theus.  I think Burnette will become the lynchpin of the Georgia offensive line in 2013.

Motel 6 will leave the light on for you

Motel 6 will leave the light on for you

Best Defensive Lineman – John Jenkins

Jenkins is just a mountain of a man and probably could have left last year to make late first round money as a space eating nose tackle.  His draft stock likely rose this year as he demonstrated his ability to play over center and to slide outside as a 3-4 defensive end.  He is another guy who has been everything we thought he would be when he came to Georgia from Connecticut and junior college.



Best Linebacker – Alec Ogletree

Ogletree was the team’s leading tackler while missing 4 games due to suspension.  Late in the season, he played like a man possessed and probably will be a top 10-15 pick if he decides to come out after the bowl game.  Jarvis Jones is the defense’s best player, but Ogletree could be the best pro prospect on the defense because of his ability to play inside and outside.  Alec has the size of an inside linebacker with the nastiness of an outside linebacker wrapped up in the athleticism of a strong safety.

Star in the making

Star in the making

Best Defensive Back – Damian Swann

Entering the season, everyone thought Swann would be the 3rd corner in the nickel package, but he beat out a senior in Branden Smith for a starting role after Sanders Commings return from suspension.  His speed and athleticism are a perfect fit for the field corner position, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move to the boundary corner similar to Brandon Boykin.

Big Red

Big Red

JJ Boys make a Driskel sandwich

JJ Boys make a Driskel sandwich

Best Freshmen – John Theus & Jordan Jenkins

I’ll admit it’s hard to leave Keith Marshall out (so I’ll give him an honorable mention), but John Theus had to grow up immediately when he stepped on campus.  He had issues early in the season and became a solid lineman by the end of the season and will be a stud for the next 2-3 years.  Jordan Jenkins made his presence known early and often on the Georgia defense and appears to be the heir apparent for Jarvis Jones.  The future is bright for these two young men.

Those are my thoughts.  Feel free to share yours in the comments below.

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Look Back to Alabama and Season Review

Great game, coaches

Great game, coaches

As a college football fan, this SEC Championship game has to go down as one of the best games in SEC history.  Saban said before the game it was going to be a 15-round heavyweight fight, and that’s exactly what we got, a true classic in every sense of the word.  While the outcome still hurts, I have never been a prouder Bulldog in defeat than after last night.  I said in my preview that I thought Alabama would make one more play that would end up as the difference, and that’s exactly what happened.  I tip my cap to Alabama, but still it’s still great to be a Georgia Bulldog.  Let’s get to the rundown.

What Went Well

Off to the races

Off to the races

The Dawgs went toe-to-toe with the best team in the country and had a chance to pull off a huge win.  I believe there are a lot of things to build on entering bowl game preparation and next year from Saturday night.

Todd Gurley – #3 of Gurshall was a warrior last night against the nation’s best defense against the run.  He rushed for over 120 yards with 2 TDs and ran with the same toughness we have become accustomed to over the past 12 games.  While running backs seem to be out of favor for Heisman consideration now, I believe we are going to see young Mr. Gurley in New York at least once before his college career is over.

Alec Ogletree – #9 has been our best defensive player for the 2nd half of the season, and he seemed to be the only guy making plays close to the line of scrimmage last night.  For a defense that didn’t have a lot to brag about last night, Ogletree probably continued to improve his draft stock assuming he decides to come out as expected.

Special Teams – With the exception of the long missed field goal which ended up as a game changer, the Dawgs won the special teams battle last night.  Excellent kick coverage at least forced Alabama to drive the length of the field rather than giving up short fields.  Lynch and Commings beautifully executed the fake punt leading to Rome’s touchdown.  I really thought we were going to take control of the game after the field goal block, scoop, and score.

What Didn’t

I really thought that the yards given up in the running game the last couple of weeks were a function of the offenses we faced.  We found out that we weren’t strong enough up front to hold off the Alabama running game onslaught.

Inability to Kill the Clock – With about 7 minutes to go, we had an opportunity to get some first downs, run the clock and change field position.  Instead, we went three and out, punted, and set up the Tide for the winning drive.  We got into 3rd and 1, tried to pound Gurley between the tackles, and failed to get the 1st down.  I would have liked to have seen Murray have an option there to give to Gurley, run the bootleg run-pass option, or a short pass to get the 1st down.  This series was the only series of the game where I thought we played not to lose rather than playing to win.

Rushing Defense – I know this is just too easy, but after the 1st quarter, we generally got gashed the rest of the night.  Alabama’s offensive line dominated the game, but we missed a lot of opportunities to limit Lacy and Yeldon.  After the 2nd half of the LSU game last year, I thought we would play better up front against a team bent on running the ball.

Clock Management – We wasted one of our timeouts in the 2nd half with what appeared to be a defensive personnel grouping issue.  We could have used that timeout either to stop the clock on Alabama’s last possession or on the goal line.  I don’t know if spiking or not was the right call on the goal line, but it would have been great to have the extra 30-40 seconds to find out if we could have finished the drill.

Overall Assessment

Five yards away from a chance to win an SEC championship and play for a national championship – It was so close but yet so far.

Offense – A- If someone told me we would put up 28 points against Alabama, I would have been packing the bags for Miami.  Yes, I know we scored 7 off special teams, but the offense played well enough to win the game.  We have been a quick strike offense all year long, and Saturday was no different.  The problem was we really did need to be able to sustain some drives to keep our defense fresh and didn’t do it.

Defense – C We couldn’t keep the pressure on for 60 minutes.  I give a lot of the credit for that to the Alabama offensive line, but a proud defense should never be gashed like we were on Saturday night.  With the exception of the two long passes to Cooper, we did a solid job against the Alabama passing game.  I said before the game that our linebackers needed to be ready to fill holes and make sure tackles when the Tide’s offensive line got a hat on a hat.  We didn’t do it effectively enough times to put the Tide’s offense behind the chains.

Coaching – B+ Coach Richt absolutely had the team ready to play and came out with an attitude of “we may not win but we’ll go down swinging.”  Anyone who doesn’t think Richt can coach in a big game can jump on the bandwagon of other fan bases in the SEC.  Bobo designed a game plan that was generally successful.  Grantham appeared to have a day to forget last night with the beating that the defense took for the last 40 minutes of the game.  I probably would have liked to have seen some run blitzing on early downs when it became apparent we weren’t going to hold up against Alabama’s professional offensive line.

Season in Review

Great season, guys!

Great season, guys!

11 wins and a division championship with a near miss to play for a crystal football has to be a really good season.  This senior class leaves Athens with two division championships and wins over the Big 3 and Tennessee for two years running.  After the thrashing in Columbia and the terrible defensive performance in Lexington, this team was left for dead going to Jacksonville.  By the end of the season, this team validated itself as one of the best five in the country.  I wrote last year after the LSU game that I believed the best was yet to come, and I still believe that to be true.

Offense – A

With the exception of one game and part of the 2nd quarter in Jacksonville, this offense shredded defenses, produced big play after big play, and will set season records that will be difficult to break.  Aaron Murray played big all year long and became the leader everyone expected him to be.  He is the glue that has held this team together.  Many times, high profile running back recruits flame out under the pressure at Tailback U, but Gurshall has been everything we thought they would be and more.  These guys are going to be fun to watch the next 2-3 years.  The receivers and tight ends provided Murray with multiple targets even in the face of injuries to 2 DGDs, Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown.  Most importantly, the offensive line grew up before our eyes after the South Carolina game.  This unit goes from a weakness to strength in 2013 assuming no injuries and a good recruiting class this February.

Defense – B-

Poor performances until the Florida game bring this grade down dramatically.  I understand we had to deal with multiple suspensions and nagging injuries to Jarvis Jones, but this unit had enough returning talent to excel with a weak early schedule and didn’t get it done.  We played extremely well late in the season until Saturday night.  With the number of players that will be selected in April’s draft, I would have to say that this unit underperformed for the season.

Special Teams – B

Special teams progressed from liability last year to neutral this year.  The freshman kickers became strong performers by the end of the year.  Collin Barber punted extremely well down the stretch and really limited the amount of punt return yards.  Marshall Morgan became solid as the season progressed as performed as one would expect a freshman would in a high pressure, high profile position.  He will be an asset for us the next 3 years.  Overall, we appear to be correcting some of the issues, but I still think we need a member of the coaching staff to be responsible for coordinating our special teams effort.

Coaching – A-

Coach Richt appears to have righted the ship over the last two years and put the program back on solid footing.  He deserves a raise and a contract extension to assure the stability of the program.  His coordinators should be on people’s short list of candidates for head coaching jobs soon, but the question is will they give up a great working environment for the opportunity to lead a program.  This group of working assistants is a great mix of X-and-O guys and recruiters.  Richt’s key issue going forward is now how to go from “good to great” and maximizing the talent he is blessed with at a program like Georgia.

Overall – A-

It’s hard not to give this team anything but a grade starting with an A with 11 wins and an eyelash from playing for the national title.  Debby Downers will think this grade is generous given the early season performance, the suspensions, and the South Carolina disaster.  Disneys will think this is harsh given the record and how close we were.  I believe it’s about right because we were the most talented team in the division, and I believe one of the five most talented teams in the country.  It’s time to raise our game to meet Alabama, Florida, and LSU as the elite Big 4 in the SEC.

We should be pleasantly surprised to be in Orlando for New Year’s Day with a bowl game against a traditional blue blood in Nebraska.  The Bulldog Nation needs to dust itself off and finish what would be an excellent season with a top 5 ranking and a renewed respect in the college football universe.

Those are my thoughts.  I would like to read yours in the comments.

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Alabama Preview – We Are the Champions

The main event

If anyone outside the Georgia locker room in Williams-Brice on October 6 thought we would be in a national semifinal, I would have said at the time they were crazy, but that’s exactly where find ourselves.  A win on the floor of the Georgia Dome will send the Bulldog Nation to heights we haven’t seen since the day sugar fell from the sky in Auburn.  This game has all of the ingredients of a classic with athletes all over the field on both sides and two coaches who have similar styles and very dissimilar personalities.  Let’s get to the preview.

When Alabama Has the Ball

The Freak

Alabama is who they are.  They are an offense that likes to run downhill with skilled running backs behind a dominant offensive line to set up a passing game that can be deadly efficient.  They have balance in that they can run most any play in most down and distance with the confidence they can keep the sticks moving.  While the Alabama defense gets most of the media’s accolades, the Tide’s offense won the LSU game with a late drive and almost bailed out the Bama defense against Texas A&M.

I do believe the key to a Georgia win is whether or not we can control the Alabama running game.  If we can, we may be able to put enough pressure on A.J. McCarron to force mistakes and turnovers.  If we can’t, I see this game going the way of many of the games we played against Tennessee in the 90’s where they play keep away, grind out points and the clock, and keep their defense fresh.  We must win on 1st down consistently and keep Alabama from being able to use their play-action passing game to hit potentially big plays against the Georgia defense.  Finally, we have to tackle well because Lacy and Yeldon are hard to bring down especially in one-on-one situations where the hole opens and it will be the Alabama tailback against a Georgia inside linebacker.

When Georgia Has the Ball

Field General

The Alabama defense statistically is the nation’s best allowing only 230 yards and fewer than 10 points per game.  While the front 7 is talented, they don’t have the dominant pass rusher that we have seen from the Tide the last few years.  Their linebackers run to the ball, make a lot of tackles, and rarely get caught out of position.  The secondary is skilled but has clearly had issues following the loss of multiple 1st rounders in the NFL draft last year.  Anyone who thinks we’re going to be able to ring up yards and points by the bunches against this group probably drank a big glass of red Kool-Aid before the game.

The key to a Georgia win is the play of the offensive line.  I wrote before the season that I would reserve judgment on the line until after the South Carolina game.  We know how that game turned out, but this line has gotten steadily better since that night in Columbia.  This line finds itself against another talented and well coached defensive line in a high stakes game.  If the front 5 can protect Aaron Murray, we will get opportunities to make plays on offense both running and passing.  No disrespect to Johnny Football, but Alabama will see the best total quarterback they will see all season in Aaron Murray with his ability to run the Georgia offense, manage the game, and get the ball to his playmakers.

What Will Happen

I think these two teams are evenly matched with similar styles and level of talent across the board.  Without a rash of turnovers by one side, I don’t see either team winning by more than 12 points in a hard-fought game.  I think this game comes down to a turnover or a big special teams play by either side.  While I believe that we can win, I just think Alabama makes one more play at the end of the day.  I hope someone can send me a really good recipe for crow on Saturday night with a trip to Miami thrown in for good measure.

Final Score:  Alabama 24, Georgia 17

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Look Back to Tech and Ahead to Alabama

While it wasn’t a 6:09 type of score at the end of the day, the outcome of the 2012 edition of Clean Old-Fashioned Hate was no less dominant than that glorious day in 2002.  The Georgia offense ran roughshod over the Tech defense and carved it up like a turkey at Thanksgiving dinner.  The Georgia defense did its best Junkyard Dawg, bend-but-don’t-break impression and won pretty much every big down against the Tech offense.  Let’s get to the rundown.

What Went Well

Offensive Balance – The Georgia offense pretty much did whatever it wanted whenever it wanted while the 1st team was in the game.  Aaron Murray, the nation’s most efficient passer, had 215 yards on only 17 attempts with 2 TDs.  Why he isn’t in the Heisman conversation eludes me at this point.  Gurshall ran over and through the Tech defense for 160+ yards and 4 TDs.  The offensive line played beautifully pretty much the entire day in both run blocking and pass protection.  While I’m not a huge fan of statistics, a 9.02 yards per point is a ridiculous figure of offensive efficiency.

Defensive Aggressiveness – While the big hits and the turnovers will get all of the headlines, I loved how we played against the option.  The only big plays came off the cut blocking version of the toss sweep where they got to the edge quickly before our outside guys could react.  For the most part, we appeared to eat up the triple option with fundamentally sound defense.  We gave up yards but few points.

Penalties – Only 1 unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  We played on the edge but clearly played under control.  Jarvis Jones had a roughing the passer penalty, but it was aggressive rather than a cheap shot.  Also, it should have been negated by an offensive pass interference penalty on Tech for that play.

What Didn’t

Not a whole lot to say about the performance on the field, so I have something that has nothing to do with the team.

Late Coming Crowd (including the students) – Yes, I know it was an early game, and it’s Thanksgiving weekend.  That’s no excuse for the crowd especially students being in your seats for a game with arguably our biggest rival on Senior Day.  That would be like the Cameron Crazies showing up for the UNC game at Duke with 10 minutes to go in the 1st half.  Since McGarity isn’t going to insist that we hire a special teams coordinator, this may be the one area of the football program where he and the administration need to figure out how to get people in their seats before the game starts.

Overall Assessment

Offense A.  When this offense operates as it did on Saturday, there aren’t many college defenses out there who can handle it.  When we go into a spread look with Murray, Gurshall, an athletic tight end, and 3 wide, it’s very difficult to stop unless you can really disguise coverage and get pressure without blitzing.  While Texas A&M may be more flashy with “Johnny Football,” I’ll take this offense when it’s executing crisply any day of the week.

Defense – A While we gave up some yards, the 1st team defense protected the end zone.  While time of possession is an important statistic, this game showed really how useless it is at the end of the day when you have a defense playing on the edge in good condition.  Tech never could hit the big play against our defense.  I think we can say Grantham has figured out how to defend the service academy offense.

Coaching – A.  Coach Richt made it clear that he and the team were only thinking about Tech.  He and the staff kept the players focused exclusively on winning the state championship, and they got the job done.  Excellent game planning and execution will earn an A every time.

OverallA+.  The whole is greater than the sum of the parts in this case.  I never thought we would be able to dismantle a Tech team coached by Paul Johnson, not because he’s a genius but because we wouldn’t have an opportunity to demonstrate how much more talented and prepared we would be.  If you have visited the Tech message boards, you will see Saturday’s win has absolutely demoralized the Tech fan base.

Look Ahead to Alabama

While I didn’t get the outcome in Los Angeles that I wanted (I can’t stand Notre Dame), it’s now clear that the winner of the SEC championship will play for the national championship in Miami.  This game has all of the makings of a classic between Georgia and Alabama.  While the talking heads are already downplaying our chances to win, I believe that we match up well with the Tide primarily because I don’t think they have the pure pass rusher in the Clowney mold that can cause havoc.  I do believe that both defenses are likely to control the game, and one big play on offense or special teams could make the difference.  Right now, I have to give the Tide a slight edge to win next Saturday, but I won’t be surprised if we’re celebrating an SEC championship on Saturday night.

Those are my thoughts.  I would like to read yours in the comments.

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