So much noise has been made about the defection of Da'Rick Rogers, you'd think Trinton Sturdivant will be lining up in the slot. We have seven WRs on scholarship right now, and even though that's not a HUGE number...it's two more than you'll find on most NFL rosters. Chew on that one for a while. Also, there are 5 walk-on receivers currently on the roster. I'm not saying any of them is Jerry Rice (or even Damian Gary), but you never know what a brilliant winter and spring can do for a walk-on (read: Tra' Battle). This year, we say goodbye to two receivers, Michael Moore, and Vernon Spellman. Don't tell me you don't know who Vernon Spellman is. You know you remember his 4-yard catch against Tennessee Tech.
Unless you don't.
"But Dukes! Da'Rick can walk on WATER. He woulda been fantastic for us this year. Without him, we'll be wandering the desert of the SEC basement!" (Pause to recover from the backhand I just placed across your cheek)
We will have other receivers come in for 2011, the year when Rogers would have likely cracked the rotation. So, let's worry about 2011 later. For now, I want to talk about 2010. I ran across "Bernie's Dawg Blog" this morning, where he was discussing a serious lack of production from the WR spot, outside of AJ Green.
On the plus side, we lose very little at wideout this year. No disrespect to Mr. Moore, as I feel he was CLUTCH. But 25 catches for 249 yards is hardly a flying buttress of receiving support. The 5 TDs are nice, of course. In fact, of the WRs, only Wooten matches Moore's 1 TD for every 5 catches mark (Aron White beats them both with a TD on every third catch). At the end of the day, the 2010 WR corps will be very similar to the 2009 corps, with the notable exception that Marlon Brown will have had a year to work on his routes, downfield blocking, and attitude.
But, as for production, let's look at the numbers. Below are the receiving stats for each game, by AJ Green and others by position.
OSU = AJ: 4-52-0 WR: 4-13-1 TE: 3-58-0 RB: 4-39-0
USC = AJ: 6-86-1 WR: 5-50-1 TE: 2-38-0 RB: 4-27-0
ARK= AJ: 7-137-2 WR: 8-155-1 TE: 3-83-2 RB: 0-0-0
ASU= AJ: 8-153-1 WR: 6-62-0 TE: 2-16-0 RB: 1-11-0
LSU= AJ: 5-99-1 WR: 3-59-0 TE: 3-32-0 RB: 7-39-1
UT= AJ: 8-60-0 WR: 8-64-0 TE: 0-0-0 RB: 4-28-0
VU= AJ: 3-95-1 WR: 3-45-0 TE: 3-35-0 RB: 7-53-1
UF= AJ: 3-50-0 WR: 4-50-1 TE: 3-44-1 RB: 1-20-0
TTU= AJ: DNP WR: 5-43-1 TE: 7-112-1 RB: 2-10-0
AU = AJ: 3-19-0 WR: 3-109-1 TE: 1-34-0 RB: 2-11-0
KY = AJ: DNP WR: 7-205-2 TE: 4-73-1 RB: 1-13-0
GT = AJ:DNP WR: 4-49-1 TE: 3-30-0 RB: 1-3-0
TAM= AJ: 6-57-0 WR: 2-34-0 TE: 4-34-2 RB: 3-39-0
TOT= AJ:53-808-6 WR: 62-938-9 TE:38-589-7 RB: 33-293-2
If we take out Michael Moore, we find that the WR totals drop to
What does all this mean? I dunno...just thought I'd look into some numbers.
Actually, what I came up with was that AJ Green made up for 28% of the catches, 30% of the yardage and 25% of the TDs last season, and that seems about right to me. The #1 receiver should be skewing higher than everyone else, and the deviation isn't THAT large, especially considering the fact that AJ is going to be on the field on almost every play, and the others are going to be substituted around depending on offensive packages. Perhaps the problem isn't a lack of production by the receivers other than AJ, but rather a lack of production IN TOTAL by our passing offense. We had 875 fewer passing yards this season than in 2008 (and we didn't make it up in the running game where we rushed for just 165 more yards than in 2008).
Now, what else do we see?
Well, we see a strong up-tick in the receptions by TEs. This is due to two things. 1st, better talent at tight-end. I said it at the end of 2008 - the graduation of Tripp Chandler would usher in a new era for the tight-end at UGA...one in which the QB wouldn't fear throwing the ball to them. I was right. 2nd, a QB who couldn't trust his laser arm to deliver precision mid-range passes to WRs with good coverage men on them (a la Matt Stafford). Instead, he could hit athletic tight-ends who were often covered by linebackers with weaker coverage skill-sets. Cox had to play the mismatch game, because he wasn't going to out-talent many DBs. He could place deep-balls well, but the 20-yard out was never going to be his specialty. He just didn't have the arm strength.
Which, I might add, brings me to my next point. I have yet to uncover the statistics of "thrown-to" versus "caught" for our receivers. I would love to know what the statistics show about Cox's 56% accuracy. The 15 INTs don't help that stat, but more importantly, I'd like to know if the receivers other than AJ were doing a good job of catching the ball when it came to them. I remember fewer drops this season than earlier in the 2000s, surely...but I remember a few big drops as well. If we're going to truly analyze the production numbers, we have to know if they're low because people weren't catching the ball or because Joe wasn't getting it to them. We do know that 15 times, the answer seems to be the latter. (And yes, I know he had some tipped balls and such that led to picks...but there's no stats on that either).
Let me add this, though, since I don't have thrown-to verses caught numbers: I can't say who can compliment AJ with production in terms of catches...but often what's important is what a receiver DOES with the ball once he has it. Now, to THIS point, UGA has reason to be optimistic. Did you know that among returning wideouts, AJ actually has the LOWEST per catch average? Now, it's unfair to place him against Israel Troupe, who only caught 4 balls all year. His 22.5 YPC is hardly an accurate assessment of what he'll bring to the table - unless it is. But, against players with at least 13 catches, there's only ONE who has as low a YPC as Green, and that's Aron White. TKing picks up 20.9 ypc and Wooten grabs 19.7. We actually have big-play receivers...we just have to get them INVOLVED in the passing game. Mike Moore had the lowest YPC among active receivers, with 10. Of course, most of his catches seemed to be on clutch short-yardage plays when he had to slide between a safety and linebacker to make a big catch.
Long story short, 17 players caught balls for UGA last season. Fifteen of them are returning in 2010. Kris Durham also returns. Bruce Figgins also returns. If we're looking for a deep threat to compliment AJ Green and stretch the field, we have that in King and Wooten. If we're looking for a big-body possession guy to make clutch catches, we have Durham and I think Troupe will fit into that role as well. As for auxiliary, the jury's still out on Marlon Brown. Though, I do think it's funny that his only catches last season came against TN. Do we need more young talent? Of course - we can never have too many playmakers. But, I see Branden Smith stepping in and doing a thing or two on occasion.
Oh, and one more thing - we have a brand new hot-shot quarterback (no matter which freshman gets the job, it's true) and he'll have a gang of experienced targets to hit. He'll have an experienced line in front of him. And, he'll have a group of solid runningbacks (both RB and FB) to pick up blitzes, and occasionally for him to check down to.
Do I think that QB will come in and toss 25 TDs like Stafford or even 24 like Cox? Not necessarily, but I do believe he's going to have a much easier break-in than Stafford did in 2006. Can April get here fast enough?
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