Monday, January 4, 2010

What do we need?

People have been asking what I think our team needs in order to start climbing back to the top of the SEC. First off, I don't think we need to CLIMB anywhere. We have the talent to be at the top of the SEC. A few changes on the field and in the spirit of the team, and we'll be there.

I believe there needs to be an increase in discipline. I don't understand pre-play penalties, I really don't. In my years as a player, I had one pre-play penalty. As a Center in HS, I somehow had a false-start called against me. I was the guy who snaps the ball, and I moved before the ball was snapped. Amazing. I don't understand how Clint Boling frequently jumps out of his stance. I don't understand how defensive players line up offsides. I don't understand how ends jump across before the ball moves. I really don't get ANY of that. We have to become a more DISCIPLINED football team.

Our Defense needs improvement in all areas, and in one personnel group in particular, the LBs.

It's been a while (before Rennie) since I recall having a truly GREAT linebacker. The draft classes from about 05-09 were pretty dry for our LBs...not coincidentally, years under Martinez. Brandon Miller and Tony Taylor both made NFL rosters, and were good players, but they weren't Brandon Spikes-style LBs. Marcus Dowtin looks like he's probably our next good one. The kid is young (soph) and makes some mistakes (sloppy tackling resulted in the Charles Scott run to beat us against LSU), but he looks like he'll be pretty solid. There were 16 LBs on the Roster this year, and you probably only know of a handful of them. What will be good with a new coach coming in, is that they'll all have a blank-slate. Whoever performs will play...politics will take a back seat, because he won't come in with preconceived notions (other than the fact that Rennie should be kept if at all possible). We're bringing in the #5, 14, and 18 LBs in the country with this recruiting class, so that's good. And, we're getting a guy from Newnan who is ranked #104 who is 5'9 and nearly 200 pounds. I'm wondering if he's Rennie Redeux.

The question - are we simply poor at evaluating recruits (doubtful given the recent success of freshmen and sophomores on this team) or are we bad at coaching them up? That's what I'd go with. Massaqoui was an amazing talent from day one (so amazing that he even earned a scholarship for Joe Cox) and he underachieved for two years before being joined by AJ. Rashad Jones and Bryan Evans have never amounted to much beyond being physically gifted. Stafford himself, our big #1, never blossomed in the way that we as fans would have liked to see. This all speaks to the day-to-day processes of coaching. Defensive coaching issues are being addressed, and I have to believe that Richt is going to be very aggressive in the marching orders he gives to the incoming DC. As for the offense, well, I think the past two seasons haven't been complete busts. 2008 was, offensively, one of the better seasons Georgia has ever had. Stafford set the all-time record for TDs in a season, and Cox fell one short of tying him. 49 TDs passing in the past two seasons. Find two other back-to-back years when UGA has that many. I know it hasn't happened in the Richt era. Did Cox make mistakes? Yes, but his development as a quarterback was pretty decent. He tried to do too much at times, and I think that's as much a product of the position he was put in as it is a flaw in his football education. I'm eager to see Murray and Mettenburger. I'd like to know just how much they've improved in the year they've had.

I can't say we bring in bad recruits...unless even the national recruiting services are terrible at evaluation - because we're consistently in the top ten. So, what I have to say is that group of coaches simply didn't have "it."

Some are too quick to point fingers at DE. We were hampered by injury last season, and the younger guys last year are the producers this year. As for the 09 class, there are four DEs in that class. Two have played (Robinson and Longo) and I believe Longo got hurt. Robinson looks like he'll wash out at UGA. Hopefully we'll get his discipline in order...but sometimes you just can't take the troublemaker out of the kid. As for the other two, hey, redshirts happen, and can result in solid play. Will Thompson redshirted my senior year at Georgia. He developed into a solid DE. To be honest, finding a true freshman DE that will come in and be a great player immediately is rare.

As for our OL, it's hard for me to understand the amount of injury our OL has sustained in the past few years. When Richt showed up, Van Hallanger was known as a world-class strength and conditioning guy. What is it that has our linemen going down with so many injuries? Also, how in the world does a coach know that Vince Vance is gonna be a bust? The past three years on the OL, we have had problems that have necessitated moving guys around at an alarming rate. It's no surprise that players aren't developing as well as they should since they're switching positions as often as a ten-cent hooker. The calls and adjustments that a lineman has to know are
extensive. Multiply that by three positions, and then realize that we run a weak-strong offense and that there are additional adjustments, and you'll start to see how it can be tough to develop. Searels is a hell of a coach, IMO, and I don't know how much more Richt can expect from him. The adjustments he made in the bowl game changed our offense from sluggish and plodding to downright unstoppable.

QBs....Richt came in as a great "developer" of Quarterbacks. In 9 years, Richt has had five guys start at quarterback, only two of them for multiple years. The question has been raised about his recruitment of quarterbacks and how he's handled them year in and year out. I don't know if I recall every signing, but here's a rundown of Richt's Qbs.

00 David Greene (Donnan)
01 DJ Shockley
02 Joe Tereshinski
04 AJ Bryant, Blake Barnes
05 Joe Cox
06 Matt Stafford
07 Logan Gray
09 Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenburger
10 Hutson Mason

We didn't take a QB in 03 or 08. I don't understand EVER not taking a QB. I just don't get that. I think you scholarship a Qb every single year...especially if your goal is to DEVELOP QBs. The problem with that is, big-time recruits want to compete for a job. So, you're likely not going to get one of the top QBs every year. In 02 and 03, there's no way a top-flight QB was going to come to UGA and try to beat out Greene or Shockley. It wasn't going to happen. Joe T is the son of the walk-on coordinator/film guy at UGA. That's why he came. AJ Bryant and Blake Barnes were supposed to be the next Greene and Shockley. Both had great superlatives coming in. However, Bryant made a move to receiver where he contributed, and Barnes saw the writing on the wall and got out of dodge when Stafford came in. Cox was a VHT recruit, but in my opinion was a hoax. He was a winner at the highschool level, but as I've said before, I believe his success was more a product of his incredible receiver (Mohamed Massaqoui) than his own abilities. Plus, success on the highschool level is certainly no indicator of what you can do in college. Now to Logan Gray....he looks terrible as a college qb. He's very athletic, but his mental capacity seems low. When he's played, and been given the opportunity to do more than mop-up, he's looked sloppy and ineffective. I wasn't impressed by him at the GDay game, and have been less impressed in his action in-season. If he moves to receiver, he may help the team tremendously...if for no other reason, by removing the question of whether or not he'll be the qb (FYI - He won't be the qb). Be honest, though, in the years that Richt has been there, he's really only had an awful QB situation twice - 2006 and 2009. I saw Hutson Mason play in a highschool all-star game the other day. I have no idea what to think after watching that. He only had a couple of days' practice with his team, and threw decent. He did a good job of extending plays, but again, I have no idea how it will translate.

"Ok, Dukes. You've rambled on plenty now. Tell me, what in the world do we need? If we could address the biggest problem first, what would it be? How would we do it?! TELL ME, MAN!"

Fine, I will. I think we need a DC who comes in and has real attitude. We need a DC whose goal is to punish opposing offenses. Our defense hasn't had real swagger since 2005. In 2007, they tried to find some, but it always felt manufactured to didn't feel like the IDENTITY of the defense. Do you know what a rock-solid PUNISHING defense does for an offense? It gives the offense a bit of swagger as well. You become much more aggressive when you can trust your defense to not give up points. Your playbook is a great deal more wide-open when you can count on your D to back you up. We haven't had that in a while. That will also cure the ills as far as Leadership. You say the leadership is a joke. I challenge that. I think Cox was the defacto leader of the offense, and I think he carried that badge well. He was called on to do more than he should have on a number of occasions, but they seemed to listen to and rally around him as well. He's gone now, of course, and it's gonna fall to other players like AJ Green to elevate the offense. The Defense, well, I'm not sure who the leaders will be. But, leadership trickles down from the top. If we get some violent, roughneck, BULLDOG of a DC, I think you'll see the leadership come out quickly. If Rennie and/or Rashad are there, that will be a big help.

The LBs haven't been amazing over the past few years, and we've seen decreasing production from our DBs as well. Fabris was a pretty good DEs coach, but there are better ones out there...and a high-profile DC will probably be able to assemble a staff that will be solid. I especially like it if we get a guy with NFL ties who can bring in some other NFL-caliber coaches. That will also aid in recruiting, because they will have inside contacts that kids will like.

Other than that, I can't really say much on day-to-day changes. I'm not around the program much anymore (living in CA) so I don't know a hell of a lot about how they're handled over there. I only pick up bits and pieces when I'm back for visits. But, the teaching NEVER stops. Even the GAs in the weight room get on to the kids about having the right attitude, pushing themselves, etc. So, that part is pretty solid at least.

The thing we ALL need to remember is, we're not insiders. There's a reason Mark Richt makes 2million bucks a year to make these decisions. He knows more about every aspect of the program than any of us do. He's won 90 games in 9 years, that's not bad...puts him in company with 3 other coaches, I believe...and they've all won national titles.

This thing has dragged on for far longer than I anticipated, so I'm gonna shut up now. Hopefully I made a decent point or two in there. My point: Fix the defense. The rest will fix itself.

I'm eagerly awaiting the news of the hire, just as you are.

Go Dawgs!

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