Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For those concerned about Murray's lack of experience...

I was thinking this morning...before last season, how many of us knew much about Alabama Quarterback Greg McElroy? I decided to look into the National Champion's stat card and found that going into last season, McElroy had attempted a whopping 20 passes over two seasons (after redshirting his freshman year). He'd played mostly in the final minute or final drive of games, and he'd primarily been handing the ball off.

In short, he'd been mopping-up victories.

So...surely no one had much of a plan for him in 2009. I mean, I'm sure folks thought he might "Grow into" the role of a starting quarterback, but no one could have thought he would be a lock-down starter. All he did in 2009 was go out and lead the Tide to a national title.

Aaron Murray is a very talented quarterback. He has the skill-set to win in the SEC, and he has had a year and a half to settle into the system at UGA. I'm not saying he's going to come in as a barn-burner, but the kid certainly has the credentials to receive a bit of respect from a timid and shell-shocked fanbase still reeling from a season where the seasoned 5th-year quarterback was anything but a strength for the team.

It's been said 1,000 (or more) times - all the kid has to do, is minimize his mistakes. His job is to distribute the football carefully and take the game as it comes. If he does that, he can win. And after the first half in Columbia, he'll probably have the same number of pass attempts as McElroy had going into last season (I don't know that he'll throw 20 times in the opener).

Do I think he'll lead the Bulldawgs to a National Title in 2010? I'm not so sure. But, did I throw down 20 bucks on that at 45:1 while I was in Vegas this weekend? Yup.

Go Dawgs!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Heather Dinich gets paid and I don't.

First, allow me to say Farewell to David Hale. Hale has proven himself to be absolute TOPS when it comes to covering the Georgia Bulldogs, and he will be sorely missed. I hope someone out there will be able to fill the void - but don't expect me to be the one to do it. I write about the Dawgs and about college football because I enjoy it, but I certainly do not get a paycheck. If I did, I would be far more prolific in my posts. I too would be able to write daily, insightful blogs about the team I love so much.

Instead, I write occasionally (with greater frequency when there's actual news going on) and my blogs are a combination of venting and opinionated informing. I hope y'all enjoy that.

Anyway, David, you will be missed. You were good to me in the short months that we've had a blog-on-blog relationship, and I wish you well in your future endeavors.

:: Now ::

On to the reason for this blog - Chris Low has taken a little vacation and left Heather Dinich to cover the SEC in his stead. Dinich is ESPN's ACC blogger, so it was no surprise today to see her do an ACC vs SEC blog.


She apparently believes the ACC will hold a winning record over the SEC this year. The conferences have seven matchups:


Looking at that slate, I don't see 4 likely wins. Truth be told, I don't see 4 maybe wins.

Dinich points to victories by Tech AT Georgia, Clemson AT South Carolina, Wake over Vandy and UNC over LSU.

I'm sorry, the ACC may pick up two of those, but I'm damned sure that the first one won't be UGA v GT. Dinich points to the quarterback being the factor in that game.

So, she likes a barely 50% passer, who MARTINEZ shut down against a blitzing, aggressive defense? That's interesting. Maybe she likes him because he's a runner...how'd that work out last season? Oh, and she says UGA will be "breaking in a new quarterback." Murray will be starting his 12th game (injuries willing) by then, and he will have been in the system for nearly 2 solid years.

And she gets paid?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

34 back in the UGA backfield.

So, this morning "Stuff of Legend" posted a video of Washaun and Caleb running all over the GT defense. If you're feeling nostalgic, check it out here.

Well, watching Washaun run in that 24 Jersey, I couldn't help but think of Knowshon...then I remembered that Washaun has ditched that jersey, and will reclaim his family's number, "3" (and perhaps erase the recent stigma of that number from the minds of the bulldawg faithful).

Anyway, this runningback tandem has me thinking about the days not so long ago when UGA would run split-tailback formations with regularity. Do you guys remember the counter play that was so successful with Brown/Lumpkin and Ware/Lumpkin and Brown/Ware?

There's two reasons I'd love to see that set used early and often against our opponents in 2010.

1st - It works. You put two of your best playmakers in the same backfield, and the defense doesn't know who to key on. The key to a good offense is balance, and that even includes balance by formation. If the defense sees two guys in the backfield who have an equal probability of carrying the ball (as opposed to a HB-FB combo), it's going to be tougher to guess where the ball is going.

2nd....Ealy is #3. King is #4. Put them in a split backfield, and you get 3 4. With a young quarterback, we're going to need a Walker-esque performance from the running game. Why not start with his number, and go from there?


Go Dawgs!

Friday, June 11, 2010

How Kiffin could resurrect the Trojans.

2010 - The sanctions come down. No post-season play. A reduction of 30 scholarships over three years. Juniors and Seniors can transfer without eligibility penalties.

That seems pretty tough.

So now, I'm Lane Kiffin. I'm looking at my program, and thinking about the future, not the present. Forget the present. It doesn't exist. Even if USC wins every game, our Trojan helmets are tucked safely away in the managers' stockroom by December. What do I do?

I'm forthright with my Juniors and Seniors. I tell them: "Guys, you got screwed, and I'm sorry. You're not at fault for what's happened, but I'm not going to suffer. If I were you, I'd look for another school to play for."

Why should Lane do that? First off, he's under no pressure to succeed immediately, because that just isn't possible. The post-season is off the table. So, he can go through a couple of very tough "rebuilding" seasons. If he does it correctly, he can position his team for a title run in their first season off suspension.

Think about it: USC has an incoming freshman class that is arguably the best in the nation. The Trojans were fairly young last season, getting many freshman and sophomores playing time. So, you still have a youthful team there. By adopting a philosophy of playing the youngest kids first, you'll give them valuable playing time. Sure, the Trojans may lose games, but the kids will be learning much faster than they would on the practice squad.

Then, as Team Kiffin goes into homes for recruiting visits this year and next, he can tell the players about how he's preparing USC for a return to glory. And, he can tell them that they had better be ready to strap on a chinstrap when they get to LA, because they're going to be playing. He doesn't have the luxury of finding "diamonds in the rough" in his recruiting over the next few years. He has to find top-flight talent that could be All-Conference in their freshman year. There's no margin for error when you can only sign 15 kids.

Over the 2010 and 2011 campaigns, Kiffin's Trojans are middling at best. He goes 7-6 in 2010, and then improves to 9-4 in 2011.

Fast forward - 2012.

Matt Barkley is a senior, and has been leading the team for three years. Alongside all of those other freshmen who arrived in 2009 and suffered a disappointing 9-4 season, followed by the sanctions, he has a serious chip on his shoulder. Two seasons of playing from "bottom-up" has created deep experience at all positions. Kids who are sophomores and juniors on this team have been getting game-day experience since day 1. The incoming freshman class of 2012 will be one of the more highly-talented, as they've been sold on the idea of coming out of the gates with a title. So, you'll see some quality young players getting their own experience in the tail-end of blowouts.

Unfortunately for Kiffin, in the BCS title game, he faces an SEC team with a full allotment of scholarships for its own 4 and 5 star players. The SEC schedule has made grizzled veterans out of even its first-year-starters. In short, the depth of the roster and the SEC schedule has created a behemoth that even his careful planning and strategic depth-charting can not overcome.

But hey, at least they won the Pac-1X again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Premium Athletes at discount prices, but you must ACT NOW!

The NCAA has handed down the sanctions to the USC Trojans and folks, it ain't pretty. Lane Kiffin's program will lose twenty scholarships. That's a heck of a lot of premium athletes that he won't get to sign. My guess is, with conference re-alignment about happen, USC is headed to the bottom of the new BigPac-Whatever.

Now, perhaps of greater importance to the 2010 Trojans is the fact that the NCAA has imposed a 2-year ban on postseason play for the team. In the NCAA rules, players in a program that receives a ban covering their remaining eligibilty are free to leave the program and accept a scholarship anywhere, and NOT have to sit out a year.

That means that USC's Juniors and Seniors are essentially Free Agents. Let the cherry picking begin!

"But Dukes!" you say, "USC wasn't very good last year...are there any players WORTH poaching?"

Let's have a look, shall we?

Right off the bat, Allen Bradford jumps out at me. The Senior RB was a BEAST last season, running over people and bulling his way to first downs and TDs. He was 2nd on the team in rushing, and was recruited to USC to win championships - no chance at that now. I'm sure there are a number of schools looking to fill a slot at RB who could use someone like this. Houston Nutt may already have him on speed dial.

Then, of course, there's journeyman Mitch Mustain. Mitch has already proven that school allegiance is of no matter to him, after ditching the Razorbacks for the Trojans in hopes of leading a team to the promised land. Well, it's no secret that he feels a bit jilted by his chosen bedfellow. Mustain was a winner in all 8 of his collegiate starts....surely SOMEONE would like to have that kind of a signal caller - even as a backup. If he were to hold out for a "Start Right Now" opportunity, I don't know that he'd get it at a major institution. Not many coaches are apt to bring a kid in and hand over the keys after one summer, unless they REALLY think he can deliver a title. Even Favre couldn't do that...and he's been doing this for a looooong time.

Junior Ronald Johnson caught 34 passes and 3 touchdowns last season as the team's #2 receiver. What's more important is that he's set to be the #1 guy this year with the exit of Top Man Williams. If only there were a team out there who might be looking to add depth in its receiving corps...

Junior linebackers Malcolm Smith and Chris Gallipo are the team's top returning tacklers, and Gallipo was second in interceptions last season. Both are Los Angeles guys. With the way UCLA played defense last year, you can't tell me they couldn't use some more talent.

The interior defensive line could be particularly hard-hit, as four out of the five defensive tackles currently on the roster are in the "takeable" group. USC does benefit from having young defensive ends...but if they wanted to leave, they could still be part of a title team somewhere else long before they'll get that chance at USC.

All-told, there are 52 Juniors and Seniors on the USC Trojans football team. This isn't a team where these kids should hold a heck of a lot of loyalty to their coaching staff, either...as this staff is brand new. None of these Juniors and Seniors owe anything to Lane Kiffin and his gang. If other programs come calling, I suspect many will entertain the thought of leaving. Now, that's not to say there will be a mass-exodous. There are plenty of reasons why players wouldn't leave - the most major of which would be assimilating into a new school after spending so many years in LA. That kid is going to have to look at credits transferring; will he be set back in his major; will he want to leave his friends (possibly family).

I have to think that the grand majority will stay right where they are. But, with the right coaxing, I think some star-level players could be pulled away with the promise of New-Years bowls and championships, which are always good for getting the eyes of pro scouts and awards voters.

What the decision will most likely affect is the future of Trojan football. How badly do you want to go to USC when you know you don't get a shot at post-season play? Also, as players leave USC, and as new recruits opt to sign with schools who have championship possibilities, USC's swagger and win totals will diminish. How then will the USC powers-that-be get kids to come to the "once-great" (read: great when we were breaking rules) institution? It will certainly be interesting to see just how good of a salesman Lane Kiffin is, when he's not able to use the "We're in the BCS EVERY YEAR" ploy.

Can you see the living room pitch - Yes ma'am, I think your son has a chance to come in and really help us win all of our games - and he'll even be home for Christmas!


Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"He makes other fast people look...Not Fast."

Friday, June 4, 2010 - David Hale posted the numbers from the Post-Spring Combine at UGA.

Approximately two minutes later, the blogosphere imploded under the weight of fan scrutiny.

Luckily, there was a self-redundant system in place to restore the world's internets and we were soon up and running. Now we can all chew this numbers up, see how they taste, then decide to finish the meal or simply spew them out onto the ground. Many folks are spewin'.

I have to ask, though....why? The only numbers people are having trouble with are the 40 times. I have yet to see anyone ask how Orson Charles can throw 225 up 26 times on the Bench Press, while Kiante Tripp only gets 25 reps, and Deangelo Tyson 24. Perhaps we should have Charles at DT, he's obviously stronger.

No one has mentioned yet that 290 lb Abry Jones can apparently outjump 170 lb Rontavious Wooten for distance.

No, the thing everyone seems to be so undone about is Cornelius Washington's 4.29 40 time. Man, that thing has people bent all out of shape. When it's a corner or a wideout running an insane 40 like that, people just saw "Wow! He's fast." But, since it's a linebacker, people are immediately blaming the coaches for falsifying numbers, for fudging, for embellishing.

While the 40 is a decent measure of overall speed, in the method of timing UGA uses, the advantage goes to a player who can get off the ball. This may be what you're seeing in Washington's time. Many players have their numbers decreased by as much as a few tenths of a second because their "firing" motion is poor. If you have your back hand up above your head, and drop it before you move, the clock starts. By the time you swing it through, and fire off the line, you're already being timed, and have made no progress toward the endline.

It's quite possible that Washington, who we know to be a strong pass-rusher, has a very good start to his 40. If his initial movement is propelling him FORWARD, instead of DOWNWARD, he is going to gain a bit of an advantage over the clock. Then, it's up to his athleticism to hit a great time. Washington is 6'5 and a specimen of an athlete. Many believe that height will hurt him in running, but with the success of Usain Bolt, sports science has seen new advantages to big-bodied runners. It's all about STRIDE - movement along the plane. Some people bounce up and down too much when they run, some hang in the air just a bit too long. Perhaps Washington's stride keeps him more grounded, enabling each step to drive him closer to the end-line instead of the skyline.

Or, perhaps he simply got the best of the timer on that particular run.

Whatever it was that resulted in Washington's unbelievable time, you should take it with a grain of salt. Looking at the report from the coaches, we see that nearly half the team beat the AVERAGE for their group at the NFL combine. That's great. Some people say that's ridiculous, that there's no way we could have that many athletes of that caliber. I say we damn well BETTER have that many athletes of that caliber. Don't forget, these NFL Combine numbers aren't numbers for all the players currently IN the NFL...they're numbers for the college players hoping to make it INTO the NFL. That means you have your elite 1st round pick guys...and you have guys who may ultimately get signed to a practice squad, and wash out after a couple of years. Hell, I could have gone to the combine. There's a wide range of athleticism there. So, to have guys on our team beat the AVERAGE isn't only understandable, it's expected.

Look, what we should take from this is that we have a number of very good athletes on the team this year. When they take the field, they are going to be capable of performing at a level we as fans haven't seen in a while. That should excite us. They're not going to get out on the field and push weight. They aren't going to long-jump. But, they're going to be able to use their superior athleticism to play the greatest sport ever conceived - football.

A 40-yard dash will rarely come into play on a saturday...and one by an OLB is even less likely. If an OLB is running a 40-yard dash on gameday, something has gone horribly wrong (Or, he's chasing a scrambling QB from sideline to sideline). Still, how nice will it be to see an OLB who can run down a backside play for a loss? Oh man, that'll be sweet.

Go Dawgs.