I was out of town last week and didn’t feel like writing up a summary of my feelings about the disaster from Columbia East this week. I just thought I would jump directly to a mid-season review since we’re halfway through, and the Dawgs are off this weekend hopefully preparing for Kentucky. Even before writing a mid-season review, I felt I had to let the full week go by before writing something too influenced by last weekend’s dumpster fire.
Offense – B. While the Debbie Downers will say this grade is too high because we have run up a lot of points and yards on teams that weren’t very good, Georgia had never scored 40+ in 5 straight games. The Disney Dawgs will say this grade is too low because it’s too highly skewed by the last game. I think it’s about right because we have scored a lot of points and particularly have been able to run the ball with some consistency but struggled against a good opponent. I said in my offensive unit preview that I was going to withhold judgment on the offensive line until the South Carolina game. This unit is good enough to push overmatched teams around but isn’t good strong enough to put a hat on a hat and move a good defensive line or a defense sold out to stop Gurshall. On offense, we are what we are, but we aren’t good enough up front to compete with Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, and, I’m afraid, Florida.
Defense – D. I admit this grade might be too influenced by the South Carolina game, but we knew what they were going to do and didn’t stop it. Maybe we’re struggling with returns from suspensions, or maybe guys are more concerned about making the big play rather than the play presented. This defense has severely underachieved even in our wins (including the Vandy game). The defensive front has been frankly soft and susceptible to the inside running game. We haven’t gotten pressure up front with what everyone thought would be an outstanding front 7. Our secondary has looked lost most of the season and has given up way too many big plays. Most importantly, in a game where we needed returning talent to stand up and help the offense, the unit didn’t get the job done.
Special Teams – C. They’re an improvement over last year. We have done a pretty good job of covering kick-offs, but we’re probably taking advantage of the new rules. Until Saturday night, we had done a fairly good job of covering punts until we lost lane discipline and let Ace Sanders get loose. Marshall Morgan has only missed one field goal this year and has kicked the daylights out of a couple, but extra points have been an adventure. We have blocked a couple of punts, and Richard Samuel made what will be one of the plays of the year with his play on the Missouri fake punt. Finally, Todd Gurley exploded with his 100-yard kick return in the Buffalo game, but we’ve had some challenges with fielding kicks in games as well. Some really great highlights and some bonehead plays = C.
Coaching – C. Once again, I’m trying not to allow last Saturday night to influence this grade too heavily. The bottom line is Ray Goff, Jim Donnan, and Johnny Griffith never lost 3 games in a row to South Carolina. Spurrier is a great coach and has a heck of a team this year, but we should have been preparing for this game since January 2, 2012. I know the staff can’t keep their eyes on the team 24 x 7 x 365, but the staff has to take some of the blame for the loss of 4 defensive starters before the season. Bobo went back to being scared into his shell by Clowney and Taylor, and Grantham seems to have lost his edge on defending the zone read. This group needs to get it together for the 2nd half, or someone may find himself back on a heated seat in the off-season.
Overall – C. We’re 5-1, which is where a lot of people thought we would be before the season but with the loss to Missouri early rather than USCe with a full complement of players. At this point, the only game that looks losable is the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. I see a couple of potential storm clouds on the horizon with a potential trap game at home against an improving Ole Miss squad and a game where the team may be playing for its coach on the Plains with the sociology majors at Auburn. For this season to end up the way we want it (11-1), the offensive line needs to grow up quickly to prepare for a talented front 4. The talent on the defense needs to come together and focus on execution. The coaching staff must maximize the talent that this team really has. If all of that happens, we could find ourselves in New Orleans for a BCS bowl game or, more likely, in Orlando for another bowl game against a Big 10 team.
MVP – Jarvis Jones (36 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 1 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles)
He has had a big first half even as he has battled a couple of injuries. He singlehandedly broke open the Missouri game and began talk of a potential Heisman campaign. While literally being held in check by offensive linemen, he is just a difference maker on the edge. We’re going to need him healthy and ready especially for Jacksonville.
Best Offensive Player – Todd Gurley (575 yards, 10 total TDs)
I went back and forth between Gurley and Aaron Murray. I went with Gurley because he has been the man since game 1 and has been a true difference maker at tailback. He has multiple long runs and has been a piledriver in short yardage and on the goal line. Even with the disaster of last week, he’s still averaging over 7 yards per touch.
Best Defensive Player – Shawn Williams (41 total tackles, 3.0 TFL)
Shawn Williams has been the one guy in the secondary who has been pretty consistent throughout the season thus far. He has made a lot of tackles from his strong safety position. It’s too bad that his running mates haven’t played to the same level.
Best Special Teams Player – Marshall Morgan/Jamie Lindley (18 touchbacks, 19.8 yards per kick-off return)
As discussed above, we have taken advantage of the new kick-off rules, but we have over 40% of kicks into the end zone. Even when they haven’t gotten touchbacks, they have kicked the ball well enough to pin teams inside the 25 consistently.
Best Newcomer – Offense: Keith Marshall (477 yards rushing, 5 TD’s), Defense: Jordan Jenkins (15 tackles, 5 TFLs, 3 sacks)
Marshall has been electric in the open field. When he breaks the first wave, no one catches him. He has a ways to go in pass protection. He has also been effective catching the ball out of the backfield. Jenkins is a future star in the making as an edge rusher. I look for him to play more in the second half of the season.
Biggest Surprise – Offense: Marlon Brown (18 receptions, 283 yds., 3 TD, 1 2-point conversion) and Defense: Damian Swann (28 tackles, 1 Int.)
Marlon Brown has had a great first half of the season as the leading active receiver after Michael Bennett’s knee injury. He has made some big catches and may be on his way to finding an opportunity to play on Sundays next season.
Swann has filled in admirably for the suspension of Sanders Commings early in the season. He is going to be a good player in the secondary in the years to come.
Those are my thoughts. I would love to hear what you think.