Wednesday, December 30, 2009

John Chavis, you say????

Folks are jumping on the John Chavis train right now as the most likely choice for UGA's new DC. He's certainly a step up from Willie Martinez, and he's a proven solid commodity in the SEC.

Now that I've gotten past that....

People were upset about the points total that Martinez's teams seem to give up, particularly in blowout losses to Tennessee and Florida. And I can certainly understand that. In one year, John Chavis was able to bring LSU's ppg surrendered down from 24.15 to 16. That's pretty good. The same kind of improvement for UGA next year would bring us down to around 18ppg. Anything below 20 is good....and I'd love to see us below 15 again.

That being said, there's another obstacle Georgia must overcome, and that is beating Florida. Richt is now 2-8 against the Gators. Chavis was the DC at Tennessee from 1995-2008. In that stretch, the Vols were 4-10 against the Gators. In comparison, the Dawgs were 3-11 under at least 5 different Defensive Coordinators in that span. In games against Florida at TN, Chavis's defenses surrendered an average of 30.2 ppg. This season, LSU under Chavis held FL to 13, only his fourth sub-20 point contest against the Gators.

From 1995-2008, UGA averaged giving up 29.7ppg to the Gators. This season, we surrendered 41.

What do these numbers tell me? Well, I dunno. Chavis can probably improve our defense. The improvement shown by LSU would suggest that. But, in our goal to once again be dominant in the east, I'm not sure he'll bring us that.

Against Spurrier at USC, Chavis' UT defense went 2-2, averaging 22.75 points surrendered from 2005-2008. LSU didn't play USC this season. UGA went 3-1 in that span, averaging 9.5 surrendered. Better players at UGA than TN? Possibly. Kentucky and Vandy aren't real players...so then the question becomes, can Chavis stop TN? He'll have to be better than Martinez, but is he the best possible candidate? That's not for me to decide.

All I'm saying is, if Chavis IS the hire, before we go trumpeting the new glory in Athens, let's go ahead and circle that date in Jacksonville. We will have played 8 games by then, and even if we're 8-0, we won't have a difinitive answer on Chavis until after that game. Our pass rush improved greatly this season, so I expect that to continue...and the young talent in the defensive backfield really came along as well. If Chavis is the guy, he'll have some high quality safeties (with or without Jones) and corners to work with. So then it comes down to playing a Florida team which will be rebuilding a bit...but 8 games in, they'll be potent. If we beat Florida and keep their points below 20, we'll have something to be happy about. If we don't, then we'll have plenty of reason to question the move.

We fired Martinez so that we could get a DC who will bring us back to being a Championship defense. Chavis's defenses are two-for-five in SEC Championship games, with both wins coming more than a decade ago (one led to TN being given the first ever BCS Championship). Many fans who speak against Richt say that he came into the league when the coaching talent was less than it was today. The same would then hold true for the championship years for TN. In three SEC Championship game appearances this decade, Chavis' defense has averaged 30ppg surrendered.

In Georgia's three SECCG appearances, we averaged 17ppg surrendered.

Different years, different teams, apples, oranges...I know all of this. My point is simply that in the same coaching atmosphere, in the same division of the conference, we can hardly say that Chavis has done remarkably better than our own defensive coaches did, in so much as creating a "Championship Program."

But hey, no contracts have been signed yet. Maybe we'll get Mike Tomlin to leave the Steelers. He's gotta want a bigger challenge.

Go Dawgs.


UPDATE:::::

After a comment by Paul Westerdawg (georgiasports.blogspot.com), I decided to look into CHAVIS v MEYER as opposed to CHAVIS v FL. Here's what I learned:

I certainly won't argue with Chavis' success in recent years against Meyers' offense....that's relative success, anyway. When you hold a team 13 points under its average, but still give up 30, that's nothing to be excited about.

Also - and I haven't gotten into deep analysis (looking into special teams scores, or scores by the defense), but am looking purely at scoreboard finals here -
in Chavis' five games against FL, he has a 1-4 record, the same as Martinez. In the first three years, TN was 1-2 against FL, giving up 32ppg. UGA was 1-2 against FL, giving up 21.7 ppg.

In the past two seasons, UGA gave up an avg of 45ppg, and Chavis' D (TN then LSU) avgd 21.5ppg surrendered.

I don't know if I just made the case for Chavis or not, but it looks like he's gotten ahead of the curve against Meyer. Definitely will make me feel better about the hire if it happens.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Something's rotten in Athens....

From 2002-2007, the Georgia Bulldogs gave up at least 30 points in 7 games. They've doubled that over the span over the last 10 games. What that amounts to, is a whole lot of awful. I have been slow to call for the head of Willie Martinez, as I believed that execution was a large part of our problem this season. But, after a 45-19 drubbing in Knoxville, I can no longer ignore the facts. Willie isn't getting it done.

Don't get me wrong...the defense isn't the sole reason for our loss today. 3 points from our offense is unforgivable.

9 years into his regime, Mark Richt is fielding one of the ugliest performing teams he's ever had. The talent level is far higher than many teams he's had over the years, but for some reason, they aren't performing. I refuse to believe they aren't performing simply because they're lazy (with the exception of Bryan Evans who is, by his own admission, lacksidasical in his coverage). Apparently, the coaches aren't getting it done - either in their technique coaching or in their motivation. Whatever it is, the Dawgs are just plain ugly.

Today, I saw a defense that was just plain bad. How many times does a quarterback rollout against you before you send a safety to take his head off? In the early 2000's, this doesn't happen. Now, it does. Jonathan Crompton is an average-at-best quarterback, who looked like a Heisman winner today. His biggest miscue was an interception to Bacarri Rambo, who, had he been covering the receiver better, never would have made the play. We never really got good pressure on Crompton all day, and he took advantage. No, our defense sat in huge zones that Crompton just ate alive.

On the other side of the ball, Monte Kiffin called as perfect of a game as you can call. When AJ Green was able to make catches, he couldn't do much more with the ball. Our offensive line couldn't protect Joe Cox. TN didn't sack him, but they forced him into bad decisions. He threw wildly, often looking lost and unsure of himself. Our runningbacks gave us very little spark, as they seemed hampered by a lack of holes. How many times did 4 or 5 TN players make a stop on a rb? Far too many.

It all added up to a huge victory for Tennessee, and a very telling loss for the Georgia Bulldogs.

"So what do we do, Dukes? Where's the silver lining?"

SILVER LINING? I'll take a copper lining at the moment. In the past three weeks, our offense has produced 36 points. That's less than in either of the previous two games. Cox has gone 54-99 with 2 TDs and 5 INTs.

If I try to find a silver lining, perhaps it's this: UGA is 3-3, we're 2-2 in the SEC East and are basically 4th in the East. Our team will NOT win the east. We could go 6-0 from here on in, and won't win the east. So, perhaps this is the moment when Richt makes the tough decision. Joe Cox has been his guy, but it's obvious that he's not "The Guy." Cox isn't the winner I had hoped he'd be. He's not the "Deadly accurate" quarterback we hear about. Cox is a guy who could have been a good distributer of the football if the pieces around him were more up to the task.

They aren't. For whatever reason, the line has decided to take a season off. The runningbacks haven't found any kind of production. The receiving corps is mostly young, and still learning. It's a very tough job that Richt has placed in front of Cox...and Cox hasn't been able to overcome the struggles of the team. So now, since Richt has delegated playcalling to Bobo and Martinez, he must take on the role that he's given himself - General Manager. It's here where he has to make the decision to prepare his team for success in the future - because their goals for the season are a bitter failure.

"But Dukes, if we win out, and FL loses another SEC game, we can still win the SEC EAST."

Nope. We're too far down the rankings now. If (by some miracle of God) that happens, and TN is able to win out as well, we'll be in a three-way tie, and the East title will go to the highest team in the BCS...which will be either TN or FL. But, that is moot...because at this stage in the game, even being the eternal optimist that I am, I know we ain't winning out. The way we performed today, we'll do well not to go 0-for-October.

No, the answer is simple: begin preparations for 2010. How do we accomplish that? Evans doesn't touch the field again. Cox might get a couple more starts, but by Auburn, Gray should be the guy. Our offense gains nothing by winning sloppily with Cox. He's had his shot. He hasn't delivered. He's 4-3 all-time, and lest we forget, he was pulled from his lone start in 2006 after doing very little.

Personally, I don't know if I keep Willie another week. I've been preaching that execution was been the problem, but today, he was obviously out-schemed. Open receivers happen occasionally, but not with the regularity and severity of this afternoon. In my mind, keeping him around only gives him a chance for "false redemption." Even if the defense plays lights-out for the rest of the season, it does nothing to overshadow the disasters that have plagued us for the past two seasons (and that have been evident in the progressive backslide beginnning in 2006). If Martinez is removed, at the very least, you can begin a search IN EARNEST for a new DC. The coaches at UGA know the scheme well enough to call games without Martinez, and it may develop a sense of urgency. But, this also is moot, as I don't believe Richt will fire ANYONE mid-season.

Here's a question: could the lack of RB production have anything to do with Tony Ball moving to the receivers? I didn't understand that. Bryan McClendon was a receiver at UGA, and our runninggame has been the backbone of our offense for 9 years. Why would you take the RB coach that has had such success and make him a receivers coach, then take a former receiver and have him coach RB's? I trusted the move in the preseason, acknowledging my offensive ignorance...but you can't argue with a lack of production.

So then, I have to turn the light also on Bobo. 3 points? 3 points? That's all the offense can muster? In 4 games this year, our offense has been absent. In two, I think our offensive success was as much a result of the lack of composure by the opponent as it was a result of our overpowering gameplan. Arkansas' defense is just plain bad. South Carolina got caught up in a shootout and didn't respond well. Either way, whatever we had in those games, is gone. Bobo's plan isn't working, and I can't pinpoint why he continues on the same path. Before the season, I thought back to Pre-Moreno days in hopes of getting an idea of what our offense would look like. Does anyone else remember putting Brown and Ware in the same backfield and running misdirections and swing passes and such? Does anyone else remember a ton of read plays that opened holes more by formation than by pure bull-headed blocking? Where is all of that? How do we have a group of skill players that is one of the fastest and most talented that UGA has ever had, and yet still have trouble spreading out the ball?

On 3rd and two today, we lined up in 4 wide and tried to throw for a first down. On 3rd and one, we lined up 3-wide and missed a pass to Orson Charles. Our running game is abysmal, and someone has to be held accountable.

Here's the sad fact: When Richt showed up in Athens, he was the class of the SEC. He brought a coaching staff that was better than Fulmer's and Tubberville's. He hasn't proven the same success over Saban. They're 3-1 against Miles, and 1-3 against Meyer. Bad luck prevented a title opportunity in 2002...but since then, UGA hasn't EARNED it. The coaching staff Rich has assembled was good enough to dominate in the early half of the decade, but the coaching and talent landscape in the SEC has changed.

Right now, UGA has great talent in its young players. If these players aren't developed correctly, it will be a complete waste. I think the fanbase can stomach a 7-5 season if the next 6 games are spent developing young players. I don't think it can handle going 7-5 or 6-6 without doing so.

Halfway through 2009, and I (the most homer-ific guy I know) want us to start preparing for 2010. Something truly IS rotten in Athens.

Go Dawgs.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Defining Moments...

October. SEC. The Bulldogs are staring down the barrel of a comeback loss by a major rival. A long touchdown run in the waning moments has put our opponent ahead, and after a short kickoff return, only 47 seconds remain for us to get the job done. #14 breaks the huddle and leads his team out. There are two possible outcomes. One, he drives his team down the field and proves himself to be a true leader, and winner of football games. Two, he fails to do so, and thus becomes known as less than. Georgia will be throwing, and John Chavis knows it. Unfortunately for his team, he is powerless to stop it. #14 leads his team down the field on one of the greatest final drives of a football game in Georgia Football history.

But, that was 2001. #14 was David Greene and John Chavis was DC at Tennessee.

The 2009 edition of that final minute would not measure up, and in the minds of the Bulldog Nation, neither did Joe Cox.

In my blog last week, I mentioned that this UGA team is not a great team, and I stick by that. Of course, I don't think I'll be getting much argument. Still, the team did things this week that it has failed to do previously. We broke even on turnovers. We kept our penalties under 10. We kept consistent pressure on the quarterback. And, as a result, we were still in that game in the 4th quarter. But, also unlike previous weeks, when the defense absolutely had to make a stop, they didn't. Charles Scott broke free of a Marcus Dowtin tackle (seemingly amidst a sea of red) and ran past everyone all the way to the endzone. It was one of only a few big runs all day....but it was the one that mattered.

Still, the game was not lost. Georgia has seen last-minute heroics by #14 in the past. Does anyone remember Mike Bobo against Georgia Tech in 1997? I mentioned David Greene against Tennessee in 2001. This contest was setting up as the moment that Joe Cox could really step into Georgia Football Lore as a great quarterback. He had fought back from a rough first-half where he completed only 3 out of 9 passes. On his two subsequent TD drives, he was 10-14 for 143 yards and two touchdowns. He's the leader, the fifth-year senior, the Quarterback Emeritus, if you will. Cox had the opportunity to quiet any around the country who didn't believe in him.

He Failed.

To be fair to Cox, he didn't get a world of help from last season's ALL-SEC FRESHMAN Center Ben Jones. Two low snaps cost Cox precious moments of decision-making ability on that final drive. When the game is on the line, you can't have that. Still, Cox's 2nd down pass was very interceptable, and his 3rd down pass was intercepted. What bothered me most wasn't that Cox didn't get it done...but that he looked bad in the attempt. He threw into heavy coverage on both throws, and that's not what I expect from a Senior Leader. He does only have 6 starts under his belt....but he was a starter for years in high-school, and I have to believe that fundamentals of game management are tought at that level. I know they were tought at LaGrange High School in Georgia....and we don't have the same track record as Independence, NC. For whatever reason, Joe didn't quite pull it off, and that was a defining moment.

I love the Joe Cox story. All he ever wanted, from the time he could hold a football, was to be the quarterback for UGA. He's done that. I'm sure he dreamed of leading his team to big victories and throwing huge multiple td games. He's done that. And, I'm very certain he dreamed of leading his team down the field in the final moments to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He's done that...only, it was against Colorado - in 2006.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming this loss on Joe Cox. If we had any semblance of a running game throughout those four quarters, we'd very likely be looking at a different outcome. If Blair Walsh had hit the ONLY field goal he's missed all season, LSU's play calling on their final drive would have been different. When Scott broke that run, LSU wasn't calling plays to score a TD. They were calling plays to run the clock down and set up a game-winning field goal. If we had 3 more points (actually, it woulda been 4, because there would have been no reason to go for two after our second td), they would have been forced to pursue the TD. That's a different mindset. I'm not saying the outcome would necessarily have been different, but the possibility is there. The mindset of the D would have been different. There are many things that would have been different. Still, if the defense wraps up on that run, it's 3rd and five at the 33. I like our chances on 3rd down, since LSU was 5-14 on the day.

The improvements made by the defense will be forgotten because of a late touchdown that broke our backs. The ineptitude of our running game was all too apparent. Our "Game Winner" quarterback failed to produce when he had to. There were a number of defining moments in the UGA-LSU game Saturday, and for Georgia, the definition was sub-par.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I love UGA...but we aren't GREAT right now.

I've been a bit absent from the blogosphere for the past few weeks, dawgfans...and I apologize. But, I've been trying to get a handle on the Dawgs. I've always said that you can't really tell what you've got until you're about 4 weeks in...and well, I don't have great news.

We don't have a great team.

Now, I am a believer that a team is equal to the sum of its parts...players+coaches=team. A great team isn't the result of pristine weather or the right playing surfaces. A great team isn't the result of its competition. A great team is a result of players having talent and attitude, and the coaches coming up with the gameplan to put them in position to win, and the players executing that gameplan.

Right now, Georgia is NOT a great team.

I don't think we'll find anyone who disagrees with that. There are a host of 1-loss teams ahead of Georgia. And, if you look at some of the resume's of these teams, they aren't incredibly impressive. But, they had something Georgia didn't.....a high pre-season ranking. Georgia has, thus far, performed up to the preseason expectations. We were picked to be a mid-10 team, and we've looked like such. Actually, I don't agree with that. I think that we've performed like a sub-top-25 team. BUT, we've had the results of a mid-10's team. With one exception, we have won our games. Still, we are forced to look at the problems this team is having and attempt to diagnose them.

There is absolutely no doubt that we have talent that will stack up with the best in college football at many positions. At wideout, we have the best receiver in college football. And, we are finding more and more targets every week. Everytime the defense attempts to take away a receiver, another steps up (Michael Moore, then Tevarres King, then Rontavius Wooten). We have two corners with speed that rivals the Roadrunner. Our new Tight-ends are becoming weapons who draw double and triple coverage. We have 4 NFL Defensive Tackles right now. Justin Houston is emerging as a solid DE. Our linebackers are a very strong group.

We lack in the offensive backfield, and somehow our OLine hasn't been dominant.

Also, our team is riddled with penalties and turnovers.

People scream at coaching. But, there is very little you can do to coach against fumbling the football. There is little you can do to coach against false-start penalties. At some point, we have to hold players responsible. Coaches identify talent and coach that talent, and put that talent in position to perform. It is then the players' responsibility to perform up to their talent. The O-Line is currently not doing that. The runningbacks aren't doing that. Joe Cox has days where he does, and days where he doesn't.

On defense, the problem doesn't lie entirely with the players...but it also doesn't lie entirely with the coaching.

PLAYER: Bryan Evans - consistently out of position, gets burned, says he is sometimes "lacksidasical about getting into position" and at other times "doesn't know what he's supposed to be doing."

COACH: WHY IS BRYAN EVANS PLAYING????

In the game against ASU, Bacarri Rambo got much more playing time, and made some big plays, including UGA's only turnover. Out of the three turnovers (pathetically low) UGA has made this year, 2 have come by younger players. These talented younger guys will be the foundation of a stronger defense in coming years, and playing them more NOW will pay huge dividends. Martinez himself has gone on record as saying Rambo should've been playing more all along. I fully expect we'll see less and less of Bryan Evans as the year goes along, and that's fantastic. He's been getting beat up in pass coverage for years.

PROBLEM - Big Play vulerability

COACH - we're dedicated to stopping the run. This leaves us vulnerable to play-action, as the safeties get a little lead-footed in coverage.

PLAYERS - Need to read-and-react better.

COACH - lack of tight coverage leads to qb being able to make reads and fire the ball faster

PLAYERS - Need to show better route recognition and ball-attacking skills so that we won't rely as much on loose zones.

COACH - lack of pressure allows qb time to find open receivers. Blitz might help.

PLAYERS - need to convert to pass rush faster. Need to shed blocks faster. Four-man rush is effective if players execute.


Here's the fact.....4 games in, we're 3-1. Everyone is pointing to the next four games as being the serious "gauntlet" for UGA. We have LSU, TN, Vandy and FL. I don't know why this is a gauntlet. LSU is suffering from many of the same maladies as UGA. TN has shown me absolutely nothing other than a respectable defense. They live and die by the run, and UGA is very good against the run. Vandy doesn't have it this season. FL is very good. We'll see how they do in the coming month, with Tebow recovering from a concussion, and the passing game rather unimpressive thus far. Some seem to think that 2-2 would be good for us in this stretch. I'll be disappointed if we don't go 4-0. And that's said with realism. Vandy and TN shouldn't have a chance against us. LSU is very beatable by UGA's game. FL is the toss-up for me. I haven't seen evidence of them being the bohemoth they were last season, and much of that is probably because they haven't had a big test. They'll have a few before they get to us, and then we'll REALLY know who these gators are.

Finally, I'm tired of hearing "if we cut out the penalites and the turnovers..." and I'm even guilty of SAYING it. Here's the fact....we don't seem CAPABLE of cutting out the penalties and turnovers. What we have to do, is be better at weathering them. Yes, we've done well at keeping teams out of the endzone when they have a long field....but I believe they're getting into the endzone about 50 percent of the time after a turnover....twice on the turnover themselves. That's not good. Our D has to force field goals in those situations. Also, our D has to force MORE turnovers in order to equalize the playing field in that respect. It's very simple...the more possessions we have, the more opportunities to put points on the board. The more times we give the ball away, the better our opponents' chances of staying in the game when they shouldn't.

I don't have any answers, I'm saying alot of what you're reading everywhere else....If we stop turning the ball over, we can't be beat. But, we're going to turn the ball over.

So, this team, which was known at the beginning of the season, as one with no stars, who didn't have a real shot at anything, is now becoming known as the strong-willed and resilient team who is finding ways to win. I'll take that. I'll take 8 more games where we find a way to win. You don't have to be great to win a championship....you don't have to be the best team in your conference...you just have to play a better game each saturday.

We don't have to be better than Florida. We have to be better than florida on one day. We don't have to be better than Tennessee. We have to be better than Tennessee on one day. We don't have to be better than LSU. We have to better than LSU Saturday.

If we can consistently do that, we won't have to be the #1 team in the country. We'll have to be better than the #1 team on one day in January...then we'll Be Champions.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Season Not Lost, but a LOOOONG way from over.

Calm down, dawgfans. Show a little poise. Our team lost a game by performing just about as poorly as they possibly could, and they lost by 14. I don't know any of you who believed this team was going to go 14-0, so I don't understand all of the ire at the loss. If we had to lose a game, wouldn't you rather it be THAT one? Wouldn't you rather the loss be to a team that has absolutely no impact on the SEC race? Let's assume for a moment that Georgia makes some huge turnaround and finishes off the rest of the season with 11 straight wins....won't we still win the SEC? Wouldn't a 12-1 SEC Champion still be damned attractive heading into the BCS? I think it would.

Now....I know what you're thinking...."Dukes! I watched the team Saturday, there is NO WAY we can win games like THAT!"

And you're right. We can't win games playing them like that on offense. We absolutely can not.

"Dukes, face it, we lost...the season is over!" I wonder if people in Norman are saying the same thing. Somehow I doubt it. Why? Because they know that a single loss doesn't remove you from contention. But, Georgia fans have become increasingly negative and pessimistic. People calling for the jobs of Mark Richt and Mike Bobo? Well....those people should visit their proctologists, because driving around with your head up your tukkus is quite dangerous.

Now, this is not to say that I'm at all excited about what I saw from Saturday's offense. I'm still trying to assess what happened. The opening drive was fantastic. 80 yards. Five minutes. Cox was 2/3. 7 points. BOOM. Then, the defense came out and shut down OSU's first drive....giving us the ball back, and the anticipation was high. But Bobo apparently picked up another week's gameplan or something, because the playcalling changed drastically. Instead of coming out and flexing our power, we tried to finesse our way against the Cowboys, and fell flat. The defense held strong again, but when we got the ball back, it was more of the same flat offense.

I didn't understand it at all.

I'm not going to sit here and praise the coaches. I won't. I'm not going to call for their jobs, but I can't explain why the offensive gameplan should have changed when the initial gameplan was successful. I don't know why Tony Ball decided to play only three of his six available wideouts. I don't know why Logan Gray only came in for two plays.

If you ask me, this game was supposed to be enormous for OSU, but it was Georgia's staff dealing with puckered butt cheeks. Samuel looked good at times, breaking 6-9 yard runs consistently...but never could pop the huge one. Cox couldn't get much going...every time they showed his stat line he seemed to be one or two completions over 50%....and his final stats had him directly at fifty. Ok, he had the flu...and that can explain a lot. BUT, I can't allow "the flu" to explain away the problems our offense faced. If Cox wasn't in his best playing shape to get the job done, coaches should have pulled him. I think if Cox leaves that game, and Gray or Murray doesn't get it done, the fans aren't nearly as upset.

HOWEVER

I also think people are missing something very important in Joe's performance. He didn't toss up passes that put us in bad situations. He did have the fumble. But, his lone interception was a three-time batted pass that was first DROPPED by a Georgia Receiver. Aron White inexplicably dropped a pass when he was wide open behind the coverage in the fourth quarter. Some will say Cox overthrew him..if he did, it was by an INCH. White could have made that play, and didn't. Orson Charles dropped what would have been a huge first down. There were many opportunities left on that field Saturday, and while it's not what we like to see, it will serve a better purpose.

Whatever blind confidence the coaches had about our offense going into Saturday is GONE. Tony Ball said he didn't realize he only played 3 receivers. Bobo said he doesn't know why he changed things up so much. Richt said "That offense sure looked good for a second, didn't it?" Well, they've all been smacked in the face by reality, and it's time to see how they react. Ball has said the freshmen receivers will be playing. So, it looks like one coach has learned from a mistake. Let's see what Bobo does. Will he stick with a gameplan and return his offense to the type of numbers he delivered last season? If not, there will be big problems in Athens.

FUNNY

The Dawgs lost, the Cowboys scored 24 points, and no one seems angry at Willie Martinez. That's because the defense we saw is more like what we want to see out of the Dawgs. Yes, the three touchdowns were not what we wanted to see. But, two were results of horrendous calls on the parts of the officials. I'm not saying anything like "the refs cost us the game." That's just plain stupid. But, it is rather unfortunate that the refs had "tricky vision" on a 4th down when the runner didn't make it to the line, and when Rashad Jones delivered a powerful and 100% LEGAL hit. Both of those plays gave life to the Cowboys when the Defense had stopped them. Awful.

Still, the Cowboys actually mustered less pass offense than the Bulldogs did, if you can possibly believe it.

We didn't have a strong enough pass rush, that's for sure....it will be interesting to see how that changes next week, when we face a team who DOESN'T spend the majority of the day in a 4 or 5 wide set.

The measure of a champion is often determined by how the face adversity. Well, adversity has struck in week one. It's time to see how we respond. Personally, I'm excited. I want to see what the coaches come up with. Cox himself said that he felt like he was timid, trying not to make a "Bad play" and that others on the team were doing the same.

I guess SMITH is the one guy who wasn't hampered by that. Should he have tried a return from 7 yards deep in the endzone or leapt up in an attempt to secure a punt, thus knocking it into the endzone? No. HE shouldn't. BUT, he was playing fearlessly...and I'll take that. When I was at Georgia, our coaches used to say, "If you're gonna make a mistake, make it going 100 mph."

So, how will the Dawgs handle the adversity? Only time will tell...but with Steve Spurrier comin' a knockin', they better get it figured out in a hurry. I can accept a week one loss to an out-of-conference top-10 team. A week two loss to South Carolina, though....unacceptable.

GO DAWGS.


btw...I hate, hate, hate, HATE day games.

Friday, September 4, 2009

UGA-OSU Preview....GAME TIME, KIDDIES!

Hey Dawgfans!

After many many long months of waiting, speculation and beer-hall arguments, FOOTBALL SEASON IS FINALLY BACK!

I just read something that's really stirring my butter. Apparently there is a consensus among SEC Head Coaches that Georgia's TALENT LEVEL has slipped.

WHAT?!?!?!

We've never had a better wideout than AJ Green. Our lines are the strongest they've been in years. Our quarterback was a very highly touted recruit, who has NEVER LOST A GAME IN HIS CAREER (31-0 in HS, 1-0 in College). Our linebacking corps is led by the SEC's top tackler. The speed on this team is ridiculous. Where is this talent drop off?

Apparently, whoever wrote that (Ivan Maisel) is either a) not a big fan of Georgia, b) not a big fan of the SEC coaches, or C) succombing to the media backlash against the Dawgs for making them look foolish last year when they picked Georgia to be all-everything. Well, I'm gonna go with C. Georgia has been very much forgotten about in the past 12 weeks or so, leading up to the season.

THAT ALL ENDS TOMORROW!

The Oklahoma State Cowboys - a sexy pick to be the "surprise team" in the National Title hunt this year. They boast a win over a Texas Tech...and that suddenly makes them amazing? The Cowboys were 1-4 against Ranked Teams last year. They had amazing scoring proficiency...against crap teams. Much is being made of the Cowboys' 40.8ppg average last season...but when you take a closer look at that, you'll find that the Cowboys averaged closer to 24 ppg against big-time foes with winning records and 55ppg+ against those with losing records. In case you didn't know...UGA is a team with a winning record. I simply don't envision the Pokes getting into the endzone all that often.

So many people have been downplaying the ability of Georgia to have a decent year this year...but after tomorrow's thorough pasting of Oklahoma State, that will change. Don't be surprised to wake up Sunday Morning and find the Dawgs in the top 10. Why? Because the question marks are as follows:

Can Georgia replace Knowshon Moreno?

Can Joe Cox lead the Dawgs' offense?

Can anyone cover Dez Bryant?

Will the Dawgs find a receiver to replace Mohamed Massaguoi?

Will the Dawgs' defense improve from its abysmal finish last season?


In short order,

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. AND OH MY GOD HELL TO THE YES.

This Georgia defense has something to prove, and how better to come out and deliver a statement, than to absolutely GROUND the high-flying cowboys offense? I'm not saying OSU has never seen athletes like they'll see tomorrow...they certainly have. They play DO play OU and TX. Still, the STYLE of defense played in the Big-12 is a bit different...not quite so smash-mouth as it is in the SEC. Texas is where they've seen the difference...where Wil Muschamp, an SEC boy, is the DC. To my recollection, OSU didn't fare too well against Texas. They pulled within 4 in the fourth quarter, but rarely saw the ball again, and had an extra score shoved down their throats for good measure.

Our defense was ravaged by injury last season, and as a result, fell apart as the season wore on. Tomorrow, a healthy, strong defense will trot out onto that field. There is a great deal of veteran leadership on this defense, a great deal of young talent as well. I expect to see some great things from them!

On the offensive side of the ball, there's really not much I can say that I haven't said in previous blogs.

Joe Cox is a winner. You'll see.

Richard Samuel - he excites me! A big, powerful back who wants to run over people? I like it!

AJ Green - Scary Good.

The O-Line- Deep, Experienced, Talented, HEALTHY.

TEs - The return of the Hybrid! I love it! We finally have some athletes out there akin to Ben Watson. I played with Ben...that guy was an absolute FREAK. Physically, Mentally, Motivationally...he just GOT it. Now we have some more guys in that vein. They're true pass-catching athletes. When a defense has to cover AJ Green, Mike Moore, Marlon Brown and THEN account for the likes of Aron White, Orson Charles or Arthur Lynch....where is the matchup?

You already know I'm going to say we're going to score more than OSU...but I dare say we're going to beat them in EVERY PHASE OF THE GAME.

I haven't seen anything in the OSU defense that makes me think they're going to be able to stop our offense. Nothing. And I've seen plenty out of our defense that makes me think they're not going to fare too well. Many fans have a memory of about 6 games. I have one that is SEASONS long. I remember what Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins did when they were together last. I remember what our running game looked like behind a solid line. I remember what Mark Richt and Mike Bobo can do with a 5th year senior at QB. The whole playbook is wide open, y'all! This is going to be a looser, more exciting bunch to watch than what Athens served up last year.

Get ready, ABC....the Athens Bulldogs are Comin!

Dawgs Roll - 42-10.
GO DAWGS!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The 2009 Dawgs...Who Do WeThink We Are?

Ahhhhh autumn...the kids go back to school, the weather starts to turn cool....and the JUNKYARD DAWGS tee it up to make another run at an SEC TITLE!!!!!

Hey there Dawgfans! It's that time of year again...to start talking about what I see coming up from the newest edition of Georgia Bulldog Football. So, without further delay, my preview of the season:

First off, I LOVE this team. Folks have been bemoaning the losses of Stafford, Massaquoi and Moreno...but I DON'T. Don't get me wrong, all three were great players. But, there are definite chinks in the armor for each.

People are making a big deal about losing "one of our leading receivers, MoMass. Come on. I mean, yeah, he was big-time receiver, for one season. His 920 yards in 2008 were more than he gained in his sophomore and junior years combined. Why? Was it because he was suddenly THAT MUCH better? No. It's because he had AJ Green on the field. Defenses had to prepare more for Green, and that openend Massaquoi up much more. I think you put ANYONE on the side opposite AJ Green, and their play will automatically increase. Mohamed was a very GOOD receiver. He made some amazing catches. I'll never forget some of the leaping acrobatics he pulled off in his debut season. But, for one reason or another, he didn't really take-over games. AJ Green Does.

Knowshon Moreno is a once-in-a-generation back. Or is he? Surely some of those moves were absolutely ridiculous. I mean, come on, he HURDLED people. He was fast, strong, and elusive...three great talents. I would have loved to have seen him behind this year's line. But, at the end of the day, our team's Rushing yardage has consistently hovered around the 1950 yard mark ever since Richt's first season in Athens (with some variation...ranging from about 1850-2050). The scheme is what wins at UGA, not the player. While Moreno will be missed, and the electrifying, dazzling moves will remain forever in our minds, the rushing game will not suffer greatly.

Matt Stafford. What more can be said about a guy who came in, won the starting job his freshman season, went on to lead the Dawgs to three bowl victories (no titles) and then get drafted #1? Plenty. The guy had a hell of a lot of talent...but there were intangibles I didn't see. I saw his overconfidence get him into trouble a few times...and I never really got the "Rallying Cry" feel from him. He just seemed to lack that fire in his belly, that spark, that many great leaders share. This is a guy who's always been "The Man"...from highschool, through college, and now apparently in the NFL. His talents have gotten him where he is, and his attitude leaves a bit to be desired. In about 17 years, we'll probably be watching ESPN with bated breath, to see which team he'll decide to unretire and go play for. (Yes, it's an overt comparison)

So, then, with these guys gone...what's left?

Let's start along the offensive line, where the Dawgs will be incredibly strong. Trinton Sturdivant comes back to bolster a line LOADED with experience. Three of the starting five led the team in 2007. The other two were absolute FREAK freshmen in 2008. As a unit, they have more starts between them than probably the entire rest of the team. They will be, without a doubt, UGA'S strongest unit. And THAT is a good thing.

Behind them, we'll have some unproven folk. Richard Samuel will start his first game at tailback on Saturday. He's been solid and impressive. I've heard him be compared to Maurice Clarrett...though his work ethic is much better. He's a strong, fast runner who likes to bowl over people....that's what we love to see! With a line that will be opening big holes, I anticipate a number of isolations against LBs and DBs. That bodes well for a big-bodied back.

Joe Cox will get the second start of his career against the Cowboys, and I for one can't wait to see it! Cox completed 73% of his passes last year. Now, while that was on just 15 attempts spread out over three games, it's still 73%. I know plenty of guys who won't hit 73% in practice - against air. Cox also tossed the only TD in last year's tilt against Florida. Many folks will say, "Yeah, the game was put away by then." Maybe so....but do you honestly believe Meyer told his boys NOT to stop the Dawgs? Come on, now. A good play is a good play, and that was a good play. We've seen flashes of what he can do, and they've generally been pretty sweet....he was just unfortunate enough to run up against a guy with all the eggs in his basket. Still, with five years in the system, you have to like the fact that there will be absolutely NOTHING in the playbook that he doesn't know. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Cox outperform Stafford statistically and in win percentage. Let's not forget, the only game Cox ever started was a victory. Right now, he's batting 1.000.

AJ Green. He's better than MoMass. Not a little bit better. WAAAAAY better. He's bigger, stronger, faster. Word is, his route running has improved...which is great. He was hurt last year, and still had better numbers than the Browns' newest receiver. Now, he'll have Marlon Browne (whose talent and upside is also greater than Massaquoi's) on the other side . The downfield possibilites for this offense are just scary.

Factor in the addition of big-time pass-catching Tight Ends, and you have some hard-core weaponry!

Bobo has a chance to have the best offense of his young career this season. Many fans are mourning the loss of the names...but I'm urging you to look at the TEAM. It's so much harder to prepare against an entire offense than it is to to prepare against two or three standouts. Tripp Chandler will no longer be on the field - that automatically helps bring down the number of dropped passes. Aron White, all this guy has done is make great catches. Add to that the new boys, Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch, and you have a nice new mid-field threat.

Seriously, look for the '09 Offense to top '08's lofty numbers. A healthier, more powerful line will improve running game and take pressure off the quarterback. Last season, Moreno had to make moves just to get back to the line of scrimmage...and then gain 3 yards. If the line keeps the DL out of the backfield, those three-yard runs are going to become 7 and 8 yarders. Count on it. With a solid running game, the play action will be DEADLY. I DARE a Safety to come up in run support and let Green or Brown or Moore or King past him. Oh, and like I said earlier...don't forget about those Tight Ends. They were the cornerstone of UGA's offense for years, and I think you'll see that kind of play returning this season. One thing's for sure...last year's film won't show much of a TE threat...so other teams may not be ready for it!

DEFENSE

Oh, man...am I excited about THIS?!?!?! You're damn right I am! Jeff Owens is back. That guy just plain gets AFTER it! The Atkins-Owens tandem is NASTY! As an offensive line, you have to choose a guy to double team...and that leaves the other guy in one-on-one. Both of these guys are good enough to whip folks in one-on-one protection. So, here's how it shakes down. You need three guys to block these two. If you don't do that, your qb gets sacked. So, now you only have two guys left to block our defensive ends. Well, I think you'll find that this year's DEs...without being marred by injury again, will be good enough to beat single blocks as well. So, again, better sack numbers. Then factor in a blitz or two....and you'll really start to see why an opposing offense is going to have trouble against this defense. If they go 5-wide, they're gonna have to throw fast...because the QB won't have a ton of time in the pocket. That eliminates the deep ball. So, what we have to protect against is quick-hitting slants and WR screens. The speed that our defense has in reacting to screens is amazing. They very rarely work against us. So, that leaves the slant. The best way to protect against a slant is to have seasoned linebackers who know how to jump routes. Did I mention that our linebacking corps is full of Juniors and Seniors?

Ok, let's assume they keep a rb in to aid in blocking for the QB...essentially, that gives the defense 4 pass catching options. That's 4 guys against our 7 in coverage. I like our chances.

A year ago, our defensive front was ravaged by injury. We couldn't get to the quarterback, and had to employ linebackers on blitzes too often. This weakened the pass defense, and at times, put LBs out of position against the run as well. The result was a defense that was horribly sub-par. Having a healthy line this year will do WONDERS for the defense as a whole. It all starts in the line. We have four legitimate starters at DT. They'll be subbing frequently, keeping fresh legs underneath them. This means, as the game wears on, they'll be even stronger against the OLine than they were in the 1st quarter. Look for opposing offenses to struggle in the fourth quarters of games.

So many publications are stressing our lack of a "proven" pass rusher. I think they'll find out just how wrong they are in the opening weeks. Rod Battle, back after surgery to repair his nagging shoulder injury from last year, is poised for a standout senior season. Opposite him is Demarcus Dobbs...a name not too many people were familiar with last season, as he was a backup in the majority of the games (playing in 9, starting 4). But, he did have 2 sacks and 9 quarterback pressures, coupled with 2 interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). He's a big, strong, athletic end...and I think folks are going to see just how good he is in this, his Junior year. A few weeks in, Georgia will welcome the return of Justin Houston, who is serving a suspension for breakin' some rules....and Dawgfans are gonna love him. He came on strong at the end of last season, and has been labeled as the big-time rush end we lacked last season. He has good speed of the perimeter, and good moves. Plus, the kid has MOTOR. I'm not saying he's a Pollack....but he'll be fun to watch.

Rennie Curran leads a solid group of LBs, who are further bolsetered by the return of Darrius Dewberry. The depth here is fantastic, and Curran just may be one of the most talented LBs in the country. He's an undersized stick of dynamite and the vocal leader of this defense. He walks with Swagger...and teams have a tendency to mimic their leadership. If Curran is any guide, expect to see this defense have some SERIOUS attitude.

The defensive backfield - the move of Bryan Evans to safety last year may have saved his career. He lacked some of the coverage skills necessary to be a solid corner, but his experience and speed give him some advantages at safety. Prince Miller is a solid CB, and he's the one that I noticed time and again was always going for THE BALL last year. He wanted to create turnovers, something UGA lacked last season. It's been the focus of Willie Martinez in the offseason...and let me say one thing about that. The last time Willie Martinez said he focused on doing better with turnovers, was in 2005. It was his first year as coordinator, and the team was coming off a year in which it had only 4 interceptions. The first game saw the Dawgs intercept 5 of Jared Zabransky's passes. So, if Willie says that's been the focus this year, I have to like what's coming.

Oh yeah, and our defense has a guy named Rambo in it. RAMBO. Honestly, if anyone scores points...he may kill them.

To sum it all up, I feel FAR AND AWAY better than I did last year. When a rash of injuries hit in preseason last year, I tried to keep my spirits up. I thought the team would be strong enough to weather that storm...but the injuries continued to mount throughout the first few weeks, and our season slipped away. I was never sold on Stafford as a LEADER. As a talent, yes...but hey, I even started Joe Cox on my Playstation NCAA football team. I've always liked Joe Cox...there's something in him that sceams WINNER. People like to make fun of Tebow for his tearful press conference after that loss to Ole Miss last year. It's definitely something you'd never see Stafford do. But that's because Tebow has a true PASSION for football...as does Cox. To me, it feels like Stafford does it because that's what he's good at. Cox does it because he loves it.

And maybe, at the end of the day, THAT is why I love this team. I wasn't the most talented player when I was at UGA. There were guys there who were far more talented, more naturally gifted. They looked at everything as work. Many of them would avoid workouts if possible, would take plays off during practice, would be there just because they had to be. I was there because I LOVED being there. I lived in the weightroom and on the training field because I wanted to do the best I could possibly do....even if it was only to prepare those other guys to go out and play. We were 8-4 every year when I was at UGA. Then, two years later, the guys I played with were 13-1. The talent level didn't change much...but the attitude did, and so did the results.

This year, the talent hasn't changed drastically...but the attitude has. I, for one, can't wait to see the results! I put $20 down on the Dawgs to win the BCS this year. Hey, it's paying out at 25:1 right now, so why not? I think they can do it. No one's looking for it. No one's expecting it.

Get Ready NCAA, here come the Dawgs! Who do we think we are? Champions!

Yeah, Come On!

No Handshake....Exactly what is Gundy Saying?

Ok, I'll admit it....when the Coaches' Association came up with the "brilliant" idea to have non-mandatory handshakes before the first week's games, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. I still do. If you had tried to tell the guys I played with that we'd have to go shake the Vols' hands before that historic whoopin' we put on them in 2000, I'd have told you where you could pucker up and place your lips. But, what's done is done...and I think Richt had the perfect response - "Whatever they say, is what we'll do." He put the decision firmly in Gundy's hands, as well he should. It's OSU's home game, their stadium...the pre-game "niceties" should be completely up to the OSU football team. So, what exactly is Gundy saying when "after much deliberation" he decides AGAINST having his team shake the hands of the Bulldogs? His public statement says that he worries it could cause some kind of altercation before the game.

So, this begs the question...Just which team does Gundy believe lacks the class to properly handle this situation?

I can't imagine that Gundy is saying he has such little control over his own football team, that they would act out against his instructions. I know he's not saying that his own players would start some kind of brawl before their highly-anticipated home opener. It can't be that he thinks HIS guys are going to be the ones "startin' stuff." Surely they wouldn't test the mettle of Mike Gundy. He's a Man. He's 40 (plus).

So, that leaves me with only one other option. Gundy must be saying that he doesn't trust the Dawgs to behave themselves. He must be saying the Dawgs are a bunch of hooligans, thugs, malcontents, guys who just plain "ain't right." He must be saying that Mark Richt's team lacks discipline and control - and that THEY would be the incendiary component in the powder keg of emotion at the opener. He's just GOTTA be saying that the Dawgs are a classless bunch who wouldn't hesitate to risk their own team's future in order to get in a few cheap shots on the opponent.

If I were a player on this Georgia team, I would be using this to pump the rest of the guys up. It might as well make the bulletin board. I'd have to stress the POUNDING we should all give these guys ON THE FIELD. Who wants to fight before the game? That's stupid. You can't really hurt somebody - they're all wearing tons of padding. But, earhole a quarterback on a blindside blitz...and I promise, he's gonna feel it. A big hit IN the game is so much more rewarding...not only from the feeling of doing it, and the oohs and aaahs it brings from the crowd....but also because you can see it again and again on Sportscenter. That's WAAAAAAAAY better than slapping a player in the face pre-game. It all boils down to this - All offseason, the focus of this Georgia team has been "doing things right." There haven't been arrests or really even many small disciplinary matters. They've all been working hard on the little things. Now Gundy has the GAUL to suggest that the Dawgs would come in and cause some kind of commotion?

HOLY CRAP I HOPE HE'S RIGHT.

I want the Dawgs to roll into Stillwater and absolutely DECIMATE the Oklahoma State team. I want to see Zac Robinson's head spinning faster than Colt Brennan's. I want to hear the moans from the DLine as Richard Samuel bolts past them - to hear the crack of a safety's pads on the turf as #22 bowls over him! I want Joe Cox to be the ridiculously accurate passer he's made out to be and connect for his first 22 passes in a row, with 4 tds (one to Munzenmaier, please) before stepping aside and letting Gray get some meaningful snaps....the first of which should be a 60-yard option keeper for a TD. At the end of the day, I want to see a Bulldog-Dominated scoreboard hanging high in Boone Pickens Stadium, reading Georgia 63, OSU 10.* Then, the world will have de facto proof of what Gundy is already suggesting....the Cowboys ain't quite ready for big-boy football.

Then, I want to see the post-game interview where Holly Rowe asks Mark Richt why he called a pass play on first down at the OSU 19 with 15 seconds to play, and scored that final touchdown. To which the response shall be..."You know, they could have just shaken our hands."

GO DAWGS!
-Dukes


* - This is NOT a score prediction...simply something I'd love to see.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Joe Cox Can't Win a Title??

All around DawgNation I'm hearing the same ol' thing....there's no way this Joe guy can lead the team to a title. I don't get it, I really don't. When Stafford left, I expected some folks to be a little down, but to outright give up on the team is something I never anticipated. People are calling for this year's squad to go 8-4. I'm sorry, I just don't see four losses on the schedule. I'll give you a possible loss at Florida, sure. However, I think that's a very winable game. So far, the Dawgs have had drastically fewer losses due to injury and misbehavior in the offseason, so that gives me a great deal of confidence going into the season. Ten offensive linemen have starts under their belts. That's pretty great. We won't have a patchwork o-line like last season.

The defense was ravaged by injury last season...but the guys who were out are back, and playing very well in camp. So, that will be a bonus add-on this season.

Moreno is gone, yes...but the stable that he left behind is beginning to show themselves as playmakers in their own right.

Also, the short-high-directional kickoff philosophy seems to fading in Athens as well. This new kicker from California may be just the answer we've been seeking there. Having opponents start around the 20 instead of the 40 will be the first step in improving on last year's problems.


But, back to the title of this blog....and I'll admit, I'm writing it more out of passion than study...but I don't get why people are so down on Joe Cox. I have one friend who says, if Joe Cox is so great, why didn't he play more during Stafford's reign? Why did he never push Stafford for the job after midway through 2006? Why didn't Rich use Stafford-Cox like Greene-Shockley?

Well, it's not an apples-apples comparison, for one. Greene-Shockley was a change-of-pace duo. Greene was a pocket passer, Shockley was a scrambler. Stafford and Cox are both pocket passers. So, to bring one out and put the other in doesn't really change the game in any way for the defense. All it changes, is the personnel in the huddle...and the center-quarterback exchange. That's not something you want to fool around with too much if the reward isn't drastic. Richt had two similar quarterbacks, and he picked Stafford as the better of the two. Time will tell whether or not he was right in that assessment, or if the two were just two close to demote Stafford, as that could very well be the case.

For me, I like the fact that Cox is a fifth year Senior. He knows the playbook inside and out. He will be ready to go, day one, play one...and I like that. He is a leader. He is a competitor. He has the FIRE that has been missing from the QB position for quite a while. Last year Moreno provided that spark....this year, it will be Joe.

Finally, I'm tired of the quarterback position being the one that people point to when they say we won't be winning a title. Matt Leinart wasn't a stellar quarterback, and he won one. Who was the QB at Ohio State, Krenzel? Yeah....he's a star. Oh, and Dawgfans may kill me for this one....but Buck Bellue? Are you kidding me? Name a program today who would have him starting. In the 1981 Sugar Bowl, the game that WON the Dawgs the title, Bellue was 1-10 for 9 yards or something like that. He didn't complete a pass until there were les than 4 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. And you're telling me that we can't win a title because of Joe Cox?

Please.


Go Dawgs.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Post Season State of the Dawgs - Defense

Well, Stafford and Moreno are gone...and with them goes Asher Allen. Reshad Jones has decided to remain in school, and Eason will no longer be an active coach, with Bryan Mclendon joining the ranks.

That's pretty much the news we've been privy to about the team as it stood at the end of the season. An ugly season, not one that we enjoyed, to be sure, but it's over now...and it's time to put it behind us. I'll be breaking down things as I see them over the next few weeks, leading up to Spring football, and I thought why not start with the thing that everyone sees as Georgia's most glaring weakness, its defense?

So, here's what I have to say about the defense coming out of the season:

Stop calling for a firing of Willie Martinez.

"But DUKES! You said yourself that he should go."

Well, I admit that I mentioned him as a possible target of layoff, yes...though I said that Fabris was the more necessary release. (I will ammend that in the Special Teams edition of this blog).

I did some research on ol' Willie Martinez, in comparison to Brian Van Gorder...as many fans have tried to say we should lure BVG back from the Falcons (soooo incredibly improbable). The way I see it, comparing the two is quite justified at this point, since BVG and WM both have 4 years of DC experience at UGA under their belts.

Here's what I learned: Over their 4 years, the statistics are fairly even. Willie's defenses have given up an average of 4 more rushing yards per game, at 121 to BVG's 117. Martinez's defenses have given up an average of 16 LESS passing yards, at 181 to BVG's 197. That brings the defense's total ypg to 302 under WM and 314 for BVG. Both coaches' defenses averaged 25 takeaways per season.

Fans this season were up in arms about the points given up, and rightfully so, as the 2008 PPG of 24.5 is far-and-away the highest since Richt came to UGA. Of greater alarm is the fact that Georgia's defense has given up more points than the previous year in each of Martinez's seasons as DC (with the exception of 2005, which was one-tenth of a point lower (16.4) than in BVG's 2004 (16.5).

But, I would be remiss if I didn't add that one thing this defense really lacked this season, was the ability to overcome adversity. Out of 46 attempts in the redzone, opposing offenses scored 29 touchdowns. That's 63%. They also had an overall redzone scoring percentage of 80%. That means that 8 times out of ten, if you could get to UGA's 20, you were getting points, and six of those times, it was paydirt. That ain't good. If you compare it to UGA's best defense of Richt's tenure, 2003, you wouldn't think you were talking about the same school.

2003 - Redzone scores 18/31 That's 58%. Only 9 were touchdowns. That's 29%. Opponent's points per game? 14.5. That team also had 29 takeaways, compared to 2008's Richt-low of 16. (beating the previous low of 17 by BVG's last defense in 2004). In 2003, UGA had 47 sacks. In 2008, 24. Also, many people have blamed this season's problems on D as a function of the offense putting them in bad situations. Well, as far as turnovers, there were 19 this season. There were 18 in 2003. The difference? That defense could turn around and get the other offense off the field.

This brings me to my next point......there are two differences between the 2003 and 2008 UGA defensive teams. First up is the defensive coordinator. But, statistically, BVG and WM aren't far enough apart for this to be a major causality of the awful season this year. The second difference is the personnel on the defensive side of the ball. That 2003 squad boasted some serious names - Sean Jones and Thomas Davis were controlling the deep center, Bruce Thornton and Tim Jennings were locking down receivers, Odell Thurman and Tony Taylor were adept at both blitzing and coverage from their linebacker spots....and David Pollack, Robert Geathers and Quentin Moses were terrorizing quarterbacks. Ken Veal and Gerald Anderson were solid in the middle, combining for 96 tackles while on rotation. Notice anything about those names? Most of them are currently in, or were in the NFL...and as standouts, not slouches.

Look at 2008's defense. The star power just isn't there. Rennie Curran is up there. Asher Allen was pretty good, though he had a fat goose-egg in the interception column this season. Reshad Jones actually led the team in picks, being the fortunate recipient of a number of "hail mary" tosses at the ends of halves and games. He had 5 total. The pairing of Atkins and Irvin brought only 68 tackles, a far cry from the primary duo in 2003 (losing Owens in preseason really hurt here).

So, this begs the question: what has happened to the players?

Well, last year the answer lay mostly in injuries. Losing Owens early really hurt, as he was a strong leader and has both the size and quickness that opposing teams have trouble with. The DE position was also hit hard with injuries. Because of that, UGA lacked an outside pass rush, and opposing teams could double the tackles more often. Lack of a pass-rush exposed an already less-than stellar defensive backfield. Hate on me all you want for saying it, but it was halfway through the season before Bryan Evans, a sub-par corner, was yanked from that spot. His replacement, Prince Miller, ended up being #5 in tackles for the season, and was constantly looking for turnover opportunities (though he came up dry).

This brings me to the outlook of next season.

The Defense is losing:

Asher Allen
Corvey Irvin
Remarcus Brown
CJ Byrd
Dannell Ellerbee
Jeremy Lomax
Jarius Wynn

The biggest losses there, in my humble opinion, are Asher Allen, CJ Byrd and Dannell Ellerbee. Losing half of the defensive backfield could be painful. CJ and Asher combined for 102 tackles, but zero interceptions. Dannell Ellerbee is a leader, and was definitely missed when he was injured. But, fortunately for the Dawgs, Marcus Washington will be returning from his injury, and will bolster leadership on that side of the ball. Lomax never really came on this season, as lingering injury problems prevented further development of the defensive end. Jarius Wynn was 11th on the team in tackles, but is probably better remembered as the guy with the personal foul penalty nullifying a turnover against Alabama. And Florida. And Kentucky.

Now, the positives:

Justin Houston. This kid was really coming on as a speed-rusher. He had 3 sacks on the year, for a total of 30 yards lost. That's ten yards per sack. That's what you want. Oh yeah, and he was a Freshman. We get Jeff Owens back, and that, coupled with added ability at defensive end as Houston comes along, Dobbs continues to develop, and Rod Battle gets healthy will free up Atkins a little bit more as well. Up front, look for UGA to be GREATLY IMPROVED in 2009.

Curran has at least one more season with the Bulldogs, and since he led the team both in tackles and sacks, we can be quite thankful for that. Not too bad for an "undersized" linebacker. Darius Dewberry and Marcus Washington will both be returning from injuries. Add Juniors #3 tackler Daryl Gamble (also decent in coverage) and #7 Akeem Dent, and you have a solid, veteran linebacking corps which should be among the better groups in the SEC.

The defensive backfield is once again where UGA looks to be a little soft at the moment. For the second straight season, our best defensive back is jumping ship early for the NFL. It worked out decently for Paul Oliver, who ended the season starting at Corner for the playoff-bound Chargers. Now we bid farewell to Asher Allen. Prince Miller was just 3 tackles shy of Allen, but also had zero picks (his only one being wiped out by penalty). There's only one "returning" strong corner next season, Chad Gloer, who played in all 13 games and recorded 10 tackles, though I'm unsure if that was on defense or special teams. Vance Cuff showed some promise in coverage last season, and he may be able to work himself into a starting role. Also, UGA has picked up some CB commits, and is looking for another, so these positions may not settle until Fall Camp is over. Reshad Jones elected to stay in school - a surprise for this blogger, not that he would stay, but rather that there would be a decision to make. I haven't found Jones to be the safety we were hoping he'd be. He WAS second on the team in tackles this year...but I never want to see a safety that high in the ranks in tackles -unless he plays alot on the line - like Thomas Davis. In any other situation, that means the other team is getting too deep into the defense. At any rate, Jones did lead the team in picks, so he was doing his job to some extent. Still, as a freshman he appeared to be on his way to Thomas Davis and Greg Blue type stardom - vicious hitter, decent in coverage. That has yet to materialize...perhaps he'll get it done as a junior. Also, if there's anyone who's pulling harder thank I am for Bacarri Rambo to come along, I want to meet him. I mean....RAMBO. I can already think of the black-shirt merchandise that'll hit the shelves if that kid is the baller he's said to be.

All in all, the personnel next year look to be better than they've been in a few seasons. 2007's defense was good, but it certainly wasn't littered with amazing names.

Martinez and staff must focus greatly next season on turnovers and redzone defense. Also, do you know what the one GOOD thing about a string of injuries is? It allowed more players to get more experience. That, in the long run, is a positive. Look for the defensive unit to really rebound this season. The majority of the players next year will be 4th and 5th year players. Some will be redshirt juniors, others medical-redshirt-seniors. Martinez's last veteran-dominated defense was back in 2005, arguably his best. What was the bane of 2008 could very well be the bullwark of 2009.

Fear not, Dawgfans...the Junkyard Dawgs are gettin' their BITE back.

Go Dawgs!
Dukes