Monday, January 31, 2011

A random thought about distractions...

Our team went 6-7 this season, and that is not good. Many people point to the off-field problems causing on-field distractions. I think that's a possibility. I can say that there were times in my days at practice when my mind would drift momentarily. Perhaps it doesn't help that the offseason workouts at UGA have lately been seen as "less-than" what is necessary. Without instilling mental toughness, it's hard to keep players disciplined and focused.

Now, let me share with you what has put me on this train of thought this morning. Last night, I watched a fifteen minute video about the new and improved Butts-Mehre Building. I'm going to go ahead and say that I had more than a few nostalgic moments while watching the video, but also a good bit of jealousy. When I was at UGA, I sometimes wished God had made me about 2 inches taller, 20 lbs heavier, and half-over as strong as I was....watching that video I wanted all of that, and about 13 fewer years of life under my belt. Man, what a different experience it would be to be on the team now than when I was there.

Of course, I imagine every former athlete has those moments.

Then, though, another thought started creeping in on me. I wonder if the renovation itself might not have been a bit of a distraction. It's been well documented that rainy days in Athens often result in a break from routine - that the team loads up on busses and heads over to Ramsey for practice. Having taken part in those practices I can tell you that they are definitely not on par with the normal practices...and how could they be? They are a distinct break from the routine. Routine is essential in the world of athletics. It's why a pitcher's windup and a quarterback's throwing motion are always the same. It's the order in which a player suits up - his wristband ritual, his kissing of his lucky pendant. It's why a month lay-off for a bowl game can often result in less-than stellar performances. I wonder if all the strange goings on, all the construction, different people coming and going, upsets in the routine, etc. had some kind of effect on the team.

I'm not saying that improving the facilities created a 6-7 record. That would be idiotic. However, I do recognize that some of the problems this team faced this year came straight from a lack of focus. Could it be that these added distractions did nothing to aid them in that?

Looking at the facilities we have now, and listening to reports coming out of the Tereshinski camp, I can't help but believe we will see a markedly different team in the fall.

Go Dawgs.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I'll take "Well, no $#*!" for $1,000 Alex

What's more surprising...that AJ declared for the draft, or that seemingly every local newsdesk and blogsite feels it necessary to report it? I mean....was there any doubt? Were there actually fans out there who thought just maybe AJ would be somehow compelled to remain in school either by Mama or by some feeling of "I owe you" regarding the early part of the season? The kid is a top-10 pick in the draft. You DO NOT stay. You just don't. What's the positive? Your lifelong goal is to make a living playing professional football. That goal is right in front of you. If you return for a senior year, maybe you achieve some of the temporary collegiate goals you haven't met yet...but you risk losing the primary goal of making a livivng playing ball. Is it worth the risk?

AJ doesn't think so. Neither did Knowshon. Neither did Stafford.

"But Dukes...Andrew Luck stayed at Stanford!!!" Andrew plays a position which is a lower-risk position, and another year of development will not hurt. Plus, he may not want to play for Carolina...who was sure to draft him. AJ's decision was a no-brainer.

Now....Justin Houston....

GO Dawgs

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A thought on Dowtin....

Marcus Dowtin has proven himself to be a pretty good linebacker. He's also proven himself to have some discipline and decision making issues. Many of us can be successfully charged with the same problem. Now, I'm not excusing knocking a man unconscious in a "bar brawl"...but I have to think there may have been some extenuating circumstances. I don't know too many judges who are lenient with violence of that nature, especially when there could be news to be made regarding an NCAA athlete. However, this case was basically "shelved" and will be expunged if Dowtin stays out of trouble.

So, I ask it POSSIBLE that the bloggers and fanbase are making too big a deal out of this?

For me, the fact that nothing has come of it shows that there may have been another side to the story. Perhaps the guy struck Dowtin first, and Dowtin clocked him out of self-defense. I don't know. But, I do know that the case was brushed away by THE LEGAL FORCES AT HAND which tells me that it's apparently, from a legal standpoint, not the biggest deal in the world.

Do I think Richt makes some kind of disciplinary gesture here? Yip.

Do I think he kicks Dowtin of the team? Nope.

Do I think he SHOULD? Nope.

Our fanbase wants a coach who is full of piss and vinegar, who will go after the throats of opponents, who will slay their wives and rape their babies....but they want players who will kiss the hand that punches them in the face. I don't get it.

Go Dawgs.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Why can't WE do that?

The subject line of this blog is a question I have asked myself about 30 times while watching the Capitol One Bowl. Alabama is a very very good football team- but their athletes aren't far and away better athletes than the ones at Georgia. Our receivers and quarterback are every bit as good as those at AL. Our LBs are on par. The DBs are geting there....but what I notice while watching this bowl is that the line play for UA is far above that of UGA. I hesitate to say their runningbacks are far far above ours. Ingram and Richardson are great talents, and I think they are a bit above Ealey, King and Thomas..however, I've been seeing GAPING holes throughout the whole game. I've been seeing a pocket that really doesn't collapse for Greg McElroy. After games when our coaches are asked why the runninggame didn't get going, they'll say that the blocking was basically there, but that we didn't do a good job of fitting in the holes.

Here's my problem with that:

Every man can block the man he's supposed to...but if he doesn't block him ENOUGH, there isn't going to be a very big hole. That seems to be the issue I see. When I watch NFL games, I see holes. I see big holes. When I watch AL play, I see holes. I see big holes. Usually, when I watch UGA play, I see small cracks of light. I don't know what that is.

People can talk about UGA crapping the bed against UCF because they weren't very excited about playing in the Liberty Bowl....well, let's look at Alabama. This is a team who was supposed to play for a second national title. Instead, they're facing a Big-10 co-champ in the Capitol One bowl...not even a top-tier game for the SEC. They are playing this game as if it IS the national title game.

Why can't we do that?

GO Dawgs.

Thank God we lost that game.

I don't know that I could have stomached us winning that game at the end. Don't get me wrong, I really wanted someone to come down with that ball. I was hoping that this time Marlon Brown might be able to snag a defelected ball, score the winning touchdown and bring us the most inconsequential bowl victory in ages. Still, I wouldn't have wanted to read all the punditry surrounding how UGA finally "pulled out the close one" and how this would "springboard" us into next year. Even if we had pulled that one out in the waning moments, it wouldn't have been an amazing story of overcoming adversity, it would have been a story of us finally getting out of our own way.

That's really all the Liberty Bowl was. Central Florida was giving the Dawgs their absolute best. You could see it on the face of their all-world DE Miller (who didn't garner a scholarship discussion at any SEC schools), and the dawgs were sleep-walking. When the dawgs were granted one final play, the camera was on Miller, and you could read his lips: "I think I've got one more in me." He was ready to collapse. The Dawgs didn't look so expended. Perhaps that's why Miller was able to fly through the line twice in the three plays near our own goalline, once disrupting a run, and the second time putting a huge hit and sack on Aaron Murray. Maybe our line was just "saving their energy" for something. Are the Georgia players better athletes? Yes. Yes they are. There's no other way to explain facing a 10-3 conference champion who gives you their absolute best shot, and still walking away with only a 6-10 defeat. Simply put, even half-assing a game, the Dawgs were in position to win that one.

Now, that shouldn't make me feel particularly good about the game in any way. Murray was just plain off. He was throwing passes he had absolutely no business throwing. He very nearly had a third on the drive where we settled for our second field goal of the day. He tried to hit Orson Charles over the middle, but failed to see the safety tracking the entire play. I don't know how he didn't see the safety....he didn't stray more than two yards from his pre-snap position, and was right in the middle of the field. On another play, he nearly threw it directly to a corner when trying to hit Charles (whose route carried him very close to Green - odd). Murray's first pick looked like a miscommunication with Logan Gray. The second pick was an obvious overthrow of Ealey. But how do you overthrow that ball? Then there was the one he threw into the dirt in front of Durham - and the wobbly duck on 4th down that Durham was able to pull down. Murray seemed very confused by whatever UCF was showing him, and was having trouble working through his progressions.

Our offensive line once again could not dominate an undersized defensive front.

AJ Green couldn't get open on a route longer than 15 yards.

I thought Ealey ran very hard - and was HOSED on that call where they called him "down by stopping forward progress" even though he was still running, and picked up 9 more yards. Carlton Thomas looked good - but it's obvious we aren't utilizing him like we should be.

The defense, by and large, looked very good. There was the minor issue of their big tailback Murray hitting big holes for decent gains...but there were also a number of plays when our DL penetrated and stopped him BTL. Their QB was slowed considerably after Cornelius Washington (NOT Abry Jones as mis-identified repeatedly by Bob Davie) put a big hit on him early in the game. Ogletree was making good reads, though he did get sucked in once on PlayAction but luckily the pass was overthrown. Rambo looked good, the linebackers looked pretty good...I mean hell, the Dawgs gave up 10 points. That's the kind of defense we want to see.

On offense, the production simply wasn't there. Murray's two interceptions killed first-half drives. He also took a huge sack on a Play-Action bootleg and Georgia couldn't recover on that drive. Now, I don't know what the blocking scheme is, but often on that kind of play (a Naked Bootleg), the QB is responsiblie for the last man on the line of scrimmage. If he comes, the QB has to make him miss. Murray didn't do that. As a result, we had 2nd and 23. I don't recall the playcalling on 2nd down - I do remember that it wasn't a medium-range pass to get us into a manageable third down. But, this isn't going to become a post about Bobo's playcalling. I've gone on record as saying I believe he's good at his job.

Then again, perhaps that's problem-at-large at UGA. It's completely possible to have people who are good at their jobs, and yet not be good ENOUGH. The level of competition in the SEC is the highest in college football. Coaches are CLAMORING to get into this conference. Charlie Weiss, a Superbowl Champion coach, is going to leave an NFL squad to be an OC at FL? That HAS to tell you something.

What it tells ME is that the level of coaching in the SEC in 2011 will be just as high if not higher than it was in 2010, and certainly higher than it was in 2002-2005 (the "glory days" of recent past for UGA). This is why I say THANK GOD we lost that game.

Without losing that game, our kids and our coaching staff might have gone into the offseason thinking they were on the right track again. They could have played the whole "we won 7 of our last 9 games" idea in the media and in the locker room. They would have clung to the whole "a play here or there and we're 10-3" nonsense. But, at 6-7, there's just no way to gild the lilly. In 2010, UGA just plain stunk. Richt made a move in Strength and Conditioning, and that's good...probably overdue. Apparently Thomas Brown will join the staff today. That's a good move - he definitely knows a thing or two about strength and about motivation.

Richt is now entering his "evaluation" time. This is where, as he's told us, he sits down and evaluates the team's performance, evaulates the coaches' performance, and decides what changes need to be made in the direction of the program. This is a very important time. I don't know that UGA has seen a more important January in over a decade. In the next month, UGA has to lock down a strong recruiting class, figure out where its problems lie in the X's and O's arena, and develop a strategy to completely reverse whatever it was that we saw on the field in 2010.

That bowl game was the ultimate statement about this season. In 2010, our beloved Dawgs were Losers. We'll have to live with that. They'll have to live with that. Coach Richt will have to live with that - and he'll have to find a way to change it. That bowl game left about as sour a taste in the mouths of those players and that coaching staff as it possibly could have. There is only one cure for that kind of sour taste - absolute obliteration of everyone on the schedule next fall. What comes between is the hard part. What comes between is the coaches and players taking hard looks at themselves and admitting that they weren't good enough - that they didn't work hard enough - that they didn't do the things they had to do....and that they WILL change that in 2011.

We lost the Liberty Bowl in 2010. We're undefeated in 2011.