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!
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!
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Great job, buddy!
You pretty much nailed my thoughts here...
How did the Joe Cox led Playstation Dawgs do?
Hopefully at the end of the year you can write a Dennis Green type of blog and say "The 2009 Dawgs...They are who we thought they were!"
Joe's teams all went 14-0. Four seasons. And to add to the hilarity, Matt Stafford transferred after his first season because he didn't get enough PT. I thought it was hilarious.
Of course, I don't know if it had so much to do with Joe, or the fact that I have played waaaaaay too many games of NCAA football. In my current dynasty, I'm something like 172-0. (And I've played many dynasties before this one...all told, I've gotta be closing in on 1,000 games in dynasty mode alone).
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