Friday, April 30, 2010

Christian LeMay, and the future of UGA QBs

The announcement has just been made, amid the familiar strains of Ray Charles' "Georgia." Christian LeMay is going to be a Georgia Bulldog. That is, unless Richt or Bobo are gone after 2010. I don't see Richt being gone...and unless Bobo's offense falls completely off the map, I don't see him being fired either. He's going into a season with a Freshman quarterback. Even minimal improvement will solidify his job for at least one season.

Still, what does the rest of the quarterback situation look like? Logan Gray is (at the moment) still on the team. LeMay's announcement shouldn't really do anything to affect Gray's decision. Christian wants to come in and redshirt, he has said so on multiple occasions. So, the earliest he'd see the field is the fall of 2012. By then, Gray will have moved on, one way or another. So, what we have is one redshirt freshman, one redshirt Junior and three true freshmen (1 SC, 2 WO) on the depth chart. That's five guys in line before LeMay hits the locker room in January of 2011.

So what will happen? Well, if Gray can actually contribute as a receiver, I'd say he should move over there and start getting some reps. He should be running routes this summer as a receiver if he decides to stay at UGA. If he decides to go, the one thing we truly lose is his years in the system. While many fans don't think he's a good option as a starting quarterback, he does have the most true knowledge of what's going on back there. Watching him at G-Day, I certainly didn't think he was as awful as his play last season made him out to be. It appeared that he could serve as a functional backup, should Murray go down. Still, having him as a full-time QB seems like a waste to me.

I don't like the idea of Gray doing mop-up duty. The reason I don't like it, is I'd love for whichever of the three true freshmen picks up the offense best in camp to get reps this fall. UGA has found itself in a low-experience situation at QB too many times in recent years. Part of that is due to the dwindling points scored, and increasing points surrendered by the team. In essence, we haven't been good enough to get the backups much experience. There's no reason for UGA to face that in the future.

As it stands, UGA enters 2010 with 5 quarterbacks, four of whom are freshmen.

Four quarterbacks who are the same year. Now, that's a very crowded backfield. But, as we've seen over the years, it's unlikely that all of these players will stay in the system. As a former walk-on, let me tell's very trying to go out and give all you can only to know that on Saturday, you're not likely to be getting into a game. What's more than that, is that after a while, you stop getting quality reps and are working all the opponent's plays. That doesn't help your development in the system.

Most likely, the two invited walk-ons who are coming in this fall will be gone before LeMay hits campus in 2011. Now, one may surprise, but it's doubtful that both will. It wouldn't shock me to see Richt hang a scholarship on one of those guys after fall camp. There's certainly one available. However, the decision to invite those boys to camp was likely to find two guys who could split scout-team reps while Murray, Gray and Mason work with the 1st team. The shocker could come when one of the walk-ons turns out to be a better fit than Mason, and Mason ends up running the scouts.

Still, when LeMay arrives in 2011, possibly alongside one of four other highly-touted recruits, two within the Georgia borders, the QB backfield will be quite crowded indeed. Whether Gray is still a QB at that point, there will be at least 5 and possibly six quarterbacks within a football-year of one another. YIKES! To give a quick little breakdown, it looks something like this:

2010 - 1 JR (bench), 4 Freshmen (1RS, 3 Tr)
2011 - 1 SR (bench), 1 RSSoph, 5 Fresh (3 RS, 2 True - Lemay+1)
2012 - 1 RSJR, 3 RSSoph, 2 RSFresh + I'd guess we still sign a QB to prevent holes.
2013 - 1 RSSR, 3 RSJR, 2 RSSoph, 2 Fresh (either RS or True or a combo)

That's a ton of QBs. If Gray moves to Wideout, we'll be loaded with Freshmen this year, but at least one of the incoming guys will get game experience, and no redshirt. The future would look more like this:

2010 - 4 Freshmen (1RS, 3 True)
2011 - 2 Soph (1RS, 1True), 4 Fresh (2 RS, 2 True - LeMay+1)
2012 - 2 Jun (1+1), 2 RSSoph, 3 Fresh (2 RS, 1 True)
2013 - 2 Sen (1+1), 2 RSJun, 2 RSSoph, 2 Fresh (1RS, 1 True)

Now, you see as well as I do that the only real difference other than Logan Gray is that by 2013, we have 2 of every class at QB. What I like about this variation is that it creates a measure of consistency. By 2014, LeMay will be a Redshirt Junior and would be fully ready to take the reigns, assuming he hadn't beaten out Murray along the way. Now, do I believe we'll be able to keep so many quarterbacks in the fold? No.

I think that along the way, at least one of this season's invited walk-ons will disappear. These guys will be pushing themselves, but as a walk-on, you arrive behind the eight ball. They are automatically 3rd-at-best on the depth chart, and will have to push hard to beat Hutson Mason for that spot. If one does, he will know that he holds it for a few months...until LeMay arrives in January of 2011 (he's said he's enrolling early).

If Gray moves to WR, then the better of the two walk-ons will have a roster spot through the 2011 season, as LeMay has also said he plans to Redshirt. That is, of course, unless another highly-touted QB comes in and pushes for the third-in-line spot. Then of course, there's always the possibility of a kid who believes he's the 2nd coming getting fed up with the competition, and moving on elsewhere. I don't think that will be the case with LeMay, but if another QB comes in with him, the 2nd one may bolt. Hutson Mason could vanish if he were to get beat-out by a walk-on this fall, or if he felt that he'd never take over for Murray due to LeMay's abilities.

There are so many possibilities for the future of the QB position at UGA, but it all starts with Murray staying healthy this season (assuming he stays ahead of Gray, assuming that Gray stays at QB, and at UGA).

But, it certainly doesn't appear that we'll be running into this "no QBs with experience" situation again anytime soon.


Did I write that same line a few years ago? God, I hope not.

Go Dawgs!

The Thing...

I'm going to go ahead and tell you - this one is lengthy. Grab a coke and have a read.

So, after a thoroughly exhausting combing through the statistics of each position on the offense and defense, I came up with no solid statistical evidence that any one position is the one that leads the Dawgs to championships. The Defensive Ends came the closest, and that makes sense in my mind (maybe because I WAS a DE) due to the need for pressure and containment, which is caused by the DEs in a 4-3 defense. Moving forward, that focus will shift more to the OLBs. Still, there HAS to be some common thread, right - some truly definable aspect of UGA's title teams that can show us how we got to where we were, and how to get back?

Considering that, I went through the NCAA statbook on offensive and defensive production by UGA over the entire Mark Richt era. That one was a bit of a pain in the tukkus (no seriously, Prep H, please!), but I did it. I was curious as to how UGA stacks up against the national competition. What I found was very surprising to me. The statistical results are as follows:


(Have I ever mentioned how much I hate creating tables? If not, I just did.)

Ok, so looking back over the years of Richt's offense at UGA I notice a few things. First off....going by the rankings, even in our best years, we haven't been great. The Dawgs haven't posted a top-ten offensive performance in ANY category in Richt's nine years. Now, surely we can attribute some of that to teams like Hawaii whose bread and butter is putting up HUGE numbers against ridiculously bad competition. Still, I have to think that if we look at the top ten offenses over those years, we're bound to find an Alabama, a Florida or an LSU in there somewhere. Well, In Total Offense, Florida made the top ten 01 and in 09. But, no other team in the SEC made the top ten in Total offense from 2001-2009. That makes me feel a bit better. But, I know what you're thinking....Total Offense is a measure of yardage, and what matters is the scoreboard! UGA's scoring rank has only been higher than 30 ONCE in Richt's nine years. How does THAT compare?

Well, it certainly doesn't compare favorably to Florida whose scoring average has only been ranked out of the top 20 four times in the nine years, and they've been in the top ten in four other years. Our 2002 ranking of 14 was good for best in the conference, and our 2005 title season brought us the second-best scoring in the SEC, our 42nd rank to AU's 30th. But then we look at the 2003 season, in which five SEC teams finished ahead of us in scoring, three in our own division, yet we were in the SEC title game.

The 2007 season, which people like to point to and say "UGA had as good of a shot as anyone that year" tells a different tale statistically. Our offensive scoring production was the same as Southern Cal's, ranked for 34th in the nation (still would have loved to have seen a UGA-USC Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl), but we were only fifth best in the conference in scoring.

To sum it up, looking at our offense compared to the rest of our conference, in the two years where we won titles, we were better than the rest of field, not just in wins/losses but on the scoreboard as well. In the other seven seasons, we've been very middle-of-the-road.

Still, as things have gone horribly for Georgia over the past few seasons, it has been the DEFENSE that has drawn the fire of the fanship as well as the blogosphere. Ultimately, we got rid of the defensive coaching staff. And WHY? Well...let me show you THOSE statistics.


So, there you see the tale of why the defense was the first to go. From 2002-2007, UGA finished in the top 20 nationally in a majority of its defensive statistical categories every year. Even in the 2006 season, what a rocky one that was, UGA was able to post 2 top tens and two more top 20's. But, a definite trend downward can be seen on the defense. The only area of defensive improvement from the 2007-2009 period came in 2008 when we saw a 23 yard/game improvement in pass yardage surrendered. However, it all came crashing down in 2009.

I don't think anyone will argue that in the earlier years of Richt's tenure, our defense was really keeping us in games, and making them winnable. The statistics certainly don't deny that fact. As of late, UGA has become a bit more of a shoot-out team, though all too often, we've been shooting blanks. You simply can't have a team whose offensive scoring production begins to suffer also have its wheels fall off on defense. Well, not if you want to win games, and championships.

So, to me at least, it's growing clearer and clearer that the old addage holds true - Defense wins championships. In the past nine years, the BCS title has gone to a team with lower than a top 10 scoring defense only once, the oddity season of 2007. This table breaks it down:


* - In 2004, Auburn had the nation's top scoring defense, went undefeated, and was held out of the BCS title game. The teams that played in that title game, USC and OU both had the best defenses in their conference and ranked #3 and #11 respectively.

In 2007, LSU beat the nation's best scoring defense in the BCS title game when the 17th ranked (scoring D) Tigers defeated the top-ranked (Scoring D) Ohio State Buckeyes.

Of course, now I guess it's only fair to go back and look at the same BCS title winners and see what their scoring average ranked nationally. Here ya go:


So, we see that the National Champ has come from the national top ten in scoring offense only four times in the past nine years. But, in all but one year, that champion has been from within the top 25. Even in 2004, all three teams who could lay any kind of claim on rights to be in the title game, USC (6), OU (14) and AU (18) were within that top 25. Still, the offensive side of the ball is obviously the area where elite performance is not as necessary to win a title.

Looking back in our first table, now, we see that in Richt's nine years at UGA, his teams have been inside that magical top-25 of scoring only once. Not surprisingly, that was his best team, the 13-1 2002 SEC Champions. If not for a late interception by a Florida CB, UGA may very well have been able to hoist the Crystal Football that season. Instead, we were on the outside looking in. We have not come close to being that good offensively again. Yes, we've had a higher average point total...but the game has changed in the last nine years. What was good enough for 22nd in 2002 wouldn't have made the top 35 in 2007.

We'll have to improve on offense - a lot. But, I don't see that being a huge problem. Our offensive line is the strongest it's been in three years. Our running back position is as strong as ever. Some would say that's impossible, given that Knowshon is no longer in the backfield...but 2009's backs did better than Knowshon did. The big fall-off for UGA last season was in the passing game, where Joe Cox was at times brilliant, but far more often middling-to-bad. I doubt Murray will put up numbers like Stafford did in 2008, but then again, Greene's arm was good enough for a 24 ranking nationally in his RSFreshman season. Who's to say Murray can't do that, too? He certainly has the receivers, if they stay healthy. Those who are looking for UGA to improve only marginally this year should definitely ready themselves for a surprise. We're gonna be much better.

For UGA since Richt started, the one consistent factor in all of its division titles and championship years has simply been Mark Richt. He was involved in the quarterback room early in his career, and we had success. He hired a firey, aggressive DC early in his career, and we had success. When he got away from those two things, we trended downward. Now, in 2010, his tenth season at UGA, Coach Richt is returning to the form he had in 2001. He has become much more no-nonsense, as shown by his recent removal of trouble-making players. He has become non-placating, as shown by his placement of Murray at the top of the depth chart. He is back in the meeting rooms, and he has brought in a top-shelf, aggressive defensive coordinator.

Expect UGA to be much improved, as Mark Richt is back...and Mark Richt is the thing.

Go Dawgs.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Bad Rule, and the Case For Cox....

For some reason, my last two posts did not show up on some of the blog trackers out there, so I'm posting this one to alert readers to their existence. Click here to head to the main blog page and check them out!

Go Dawgs.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Case For Joe Cox...

So, in the midst of all this amazing QB debate garbage, I thought I'd write a piece that will likely sound pretty strange to those who have been followers of my blog, or know me personally. I'm here to tell you why Georgia fans should be happy that Joe Cox was our quarterback in 2009.

Still reading? I'm actually a bit surprised, but glad to have your eyes. Let's get to it.

Now, if you aren't a David Hale reader...first off, shame on you. Secondly, you should check out this blog about this year's QB Battle. In it, you will find stats from last year's spring practices as well. These numbers had many people calling for Aaron Murray to be the starter from day one last year, and some others saying at the very least, Gray should be sharing equal reps with Joe Cox. Statistically, Cox was pretty weak in the spring.

As it turned out during the season, Cox's yards-per-attempt (7.8) was much better than in spring (5.3), his completion percentage was 4.9% higher (59.9 v 55), but his TD:INT ratio was terrible - 8:5 vs 3:1. THAT my friend, is the big knock on Cox. That's why people say he was so awful. That is why he will not be remembered with great fondness by a large percentage of the fanbase. However, I think those who are quick to paint Cox in a bad light should take a couple of things into consideration.

First - What were the options for Bobo and Richt? They could go with their fifth-year senior, the strong leader who the team trusted and would rally behind. Or, they could go with a sophomore option-style quarterback who had never gotten his feet wet in a game, and whose numbers were better in spring, but would ultimately prove to be a falsehood in the fall. Or, they could go with the true freshman who had all the fans going bananas during spring practice, but who obviously needed more time to learn the playbook and the system.

Still, today, many fans wish they'd seen Murray get the nod. Nevermind the fact that the kid was hurt for much of the season, and wouldn't have been at 100%. Nevermind the fact that he wouldn't be likely to check in and out of plays at the line (often checking OUT of a bad play is the best call a QB makes). No, the statline is the lone deciding factor for many of these fans.

These fans are nuts.

Look at Buck Bellue's stat line in the 1980 Sugar Bowl and tell me that's a performance you'd ever want to see. It was only good enough for a National Championship.

But, forget about 30 years ago. Let's look back to less than 12 months ago.

GM 1 - Joe Cox wasn't at 100% ... we all know that. I submit to you that if not for a phantom personal-foul against Reshad Jones on a perfectly legal hit, we win that game. Do you think the freshman with tendonitis would have fared well in that hostile environment? What about Logan? Would taking his first real snap in Stillwater have been the way to go? No. The answer is obvious. You go with Joe, if at all possible. You're not going to convince me that having Logan OR Aaron in that game would have given us a "W". 0 - 1

GM 2 - South Carolina rolls into town, bringing a stingy, blitzing defense. Cox was serviceable in this game. He even overcame the late pick to lead the team down and get the winning field goal. If Gray or Murray is in the game, the best we do is still win it. 1 - 1

GM 3 - Arkansas - without Cox, we don't win this one. That game became a shoot-out in the second quarter, and neither Gray nor Murray would have held their own against Mallet in that game. Neither defense played particularly well, but once again, this one was a big road game, this time IN the SEC. Cox's field knowledge gave him the leg-up up. Without Joe, we lose that one. 1 - 2

GM 4 - ASU - Cox wasn't brilliant, but didn't need to be. ASU really didn't have a shot in that one. In fact, Cox's less than stellar performance was the entire reason ASU was in that game. I think Murray or Gray would have been fine. 2 - 2

GM 5 - LSU - it pains me to even remember this game. This is the one game where I think having a running-type qb in the game may have helped us out. Joe had a great 4th quarter, and our defense had kept us in the game...but Cox was bad on 3rd down for much of that game. Our running game had yet to appear, so on 3rd and 4, we were forced to call pass plays. I'd like to think that a run-pass QB option would have been effective. I just don't know. I doubt that either Gray or Murray would have had the 4th that Cox had, but they may have played the other 3 quarters better, making the comeback run in the 4th unnecessary. Then again, against John Chavis? I doubt it. 2 - 3

GM 6 - TN - No way, no how. The defense had absolutely no answer for the play action pass (seriously?), and Monte Kiffin had his defense on search and destroy. Sorry, neither Gray nor Murray wins it. 2 - 4

GM 7 - Vandy - Vandy was just plain overmatched. Our QB wouldn't likely have made much a difference. This is one of the games where I wanted to see somebody getting some reps. 3 - 4

GM 8 - Florida - Come on. - 3 - 5

GM 9 - Tennessee Tech - Come on. (of course, UGA didn't score after Cox left) 4 - 5

GM 10 - Auburn - We don't win this without Joe. The way Auburn jumped on us early, the way we couldn't get the running game going. Who's gonna get the guys on the comeback trail? Is it Murray, who at this point in the season was rehabbing injury, or is it Gray, who had proven in his few minutes against FL that he wasn't ready for prime time? Sorry folks, no Joe, no W. 4 - 6

GM 11 - UK - Many people blame the UK loss on Joe Cox, and I think he definitely deserves a good bit of it. Those 2nd half interceptions were unbelievable. I actually watched that game on Tivo, knowing that we were going to lose, and at halftime, I couldn't figure out how it was going to happen. Still, don't forget all three of UGA's TDs in the game came from the arm of Joe Cox. I say we still lose to KY. 4 - 7

GM 12 - Georgia Tech - This one's not too difficult to call. We still win. Joe was pretty nonexistent in this one. At least he didn't throw a pick. This was the gameplan we'd liked to have seen for UGA all year, run, run, toss one to keep them honest, blow them out. 5 - 7

Bowl? Nope.

What else? Well, at 5 - 7, Damon Evans might have been persuaded to listen to the yahoos calling for Mark Richt's head. So, he could very well be gone right now. That'd be a tragedy.

Instead, we're coming off a down year, yes, but one that the team can build on. I've said in my blog before that Richt has now had two long-term UGA quarterbacks who've done things two ways, redshirted (Greene) and thrown into the fire (Stafford). Who here remembers which one was the more successful college quarterback? Who remembers which one was the more naturally gifted? Ok, now, look at a kid like Aaron Murray. He's Naturally Gifted, AND because of Joe Cox, he's had a year to learn the system before he ever has to take a meaningful snap in a game.

ALSO because of Joe Cox, Zach Mettenburger has benefited from a true quarterback competition. He has grown by leaps and bounds. Had either Gray or Murray been annointed the starter in 2009, that would put Metts YEARS behind in his own mind. He'd be playing "catch-up". Instead, he's been pushing himself to be the starter.

ALSO because of Joe Cox, Mark Richt is back in the film room and will be a bigger part of QB development. Perhaps this is EXACTLY why Stafford and Cox didn't develop as well as we'd have liked. I don't know, but it would make sense. Richt had a pretty good history of developing QBs at FSU, and David Greene and Shockley both succeeded under his watch. As he stepped back though, it appears that the progress diminished. Looks like he doesn't want that happening any more.

Long story short, Joe Cox starting in 2009 was best for Georgia then, and it's best for Georgia's future. Whoever wins this quarterback battle in the fall will go into the season having prepared his best simply to win the job. He will have good knowledge of the offense, and will have faced scrutiny from the coach most qualified to offer it. And, he will continue to work to be the best, because he will have others pushing for his position. Without Joe Cox, we lose much of that.

Way to go, Joe.

Go Dawgs.

Sorry sir, that dive is gonna cost you six.

Well, the NCAA actually approved a heinous change to the taunting penalty rules that will result in lower scores in ballgames at the whim of an overweight zebra. If you didn't already read my initial reaction to the possibility of this change happening, do so here.

Here's the breakdown: If a player commits a "taunting" penalty IN THE FIELD OF PLAY, it will no longer be considered a dead-ball foul. Under the new rule if a player were to, let's say, point the ball at a defender at the five-yard-line before scoring a touchdown, the touchdown would be denied, and the ball would be spotted at the twenty.


There are a number of scenarios I could run through in showing just WHY this is a terrible rule, but I think the NCAA already KNOWS it's a terrible rule. And that, my friends, is exactly why it shouldn't have been enacted in the first place. Dave Parry, the NCAA's national coordinator of college football officiating (Or, NCCFO as he's probably never called), had this to say about the rule:

"If it's close to diving into the end zone, most likely it would be ruled that the act ended while in the end zone. We'll be lenient. It's really if it's really bad, for example, if a guy flips the bird at the 10 or high-steps backwards into the end zone or starts a forward roll at the 3-yard line."

Well here's my question to Mr. Parry - is that language anywhere in the rule? Is there mention of flipping the bird or doing a forward roll at the 3-yard line? Somehow I doubt it. I'm sorry, perhaps I've just been a fan of football too long and I've watched it slide from a game that is played on the field to one that is played in the minds of referees who can offer up subjective judgment at any time. What you're telling us, basically, is that you're now going to entrust the actual outcomes of games to the officials who can refer to whatever bias they want. I'm fairly certain that "taunting" is not going to be reviewable.

So, as opposed to a receiver catching or not catching a ball for a score, which could be reviewed 1000 times to be sure the right call was made. If a kid has a breakaway 60-yard run for a game-winning score as time runs out, but the official decides that the step he took at the 15 was a little too "high," then the score is negated and his team loses.

That's awful.

I'm fed up with subjective penalties. There's absolutely no room for them. There's no room for subjective law. It's either legal, or illegal, no frikkin gray areas! I want to see the NCAA rules committee strictly outline everything that is ok, and everything that isn't.

Parry himself says that if the flip ends in the endzone, they'll consider it a dead-ball foul because they'll be lenient. But then, he says if you start you forward roll at the three, it'll be punishable. So what are we to take from that? Is it now ok to flip into the endzone provided that you aren't talented enough to do it from nine feet away? Oh, and let's think about three yards. Does Parry realize how fast some of these guys cover three yards? We're talking about tenths of a second here. So, if you're a few tenths of a second early, it's costing you 15 yards, and six points.


Parry also predicted that the call will be made "very rarely." What does this mean? Is the committee going to tell referees, "Hey, there's this new rule that we're very serious about enforcing because we want to be sure these kids aren't hurting each others' feelings. Oh, but don't call it often. Seriously. Call it as rarely as you can."

That's PREPOSTEROUS! Sportsmanship is an area of emphasis. That means this penalty will be called as often as they can possibly call it. It wouldn't surprise me if they call it on a player for taking a knee and pointing to the sky, or if they call it when a kid points to the student's section as he's going in for a score. When the refs are told something is a point of emphasis, they go flag-crazy. If the point of this rule change isn't to call the penalty, but instead to do it only in "extreme cases," then the committee should outline exactly what those extreme cases are IN the rule. Do they do that? No.


Rules of the game should be equal for all players in all situations. There is no room for bias, which can be RAMPANT given this new set of circumstances. You can't possibly expect me to believe that in a big game, if a referee has ANY bias, that he couldn't just call that penalty for the hell of it. He could. Why? There's no review. He gets away with it. Then, in the aftermath, he issues an "apology" and it's all ok. Nevermind the fact that the outcome of the game was changed, that an entire team's season and possibly championship hopes could be gone. It's a bad rule, and shouldn't exist. But, none of us have any power to change it. Instead, we can simply bark and holler and whine about it, and when our team suffers as a result of a bad call of this bad rule, we can say "See, I knew that was a terrible rule from the beginning."

I have a theory that this watering down of football is happening because the people who are running these NCAA committees are the guys who got their heads flushed in toilets by football players in high school. I can't be certain of it, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Go Dawgs.

**** I've read Tony Barnhardt's ideas about the rule, and I agree and disagree with him in part. I do believe that if a rule is going to exist, it should be called consistently. However, I do not agree that this rule should exist at all. This rule and the "exessive celebration" rule are both ridiculous. It's football. This is a violent, barbarian sport. It is often compared (quite foolishly) to war. The men who play this game have to be tough physically AND mentally. If they aren't, they won't often succeed. The way I see it, you can't intentionally hurt someone physically, but if you can put a chink in their psychological armor, that's an advantage for you. When I was playing, that was part of the game - getting in the head of someone you had to play against. It was just part of the game. The other fella had to deal with it. Football is backsliding into civility, and I can't take it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The DT's the thing...

And so we've come... to the end... of... the road. Still I can't... let... go...

Tell me your head isn't filled with the glorious harmonies of Boys II Men, and I'll tell you that you're a big fat liar! I was almost snapping with the rhythm when I wrote that.

Here we are, folks - the final statistically tracked personnel grouping (outside of kickers). So far, we've found that only one group had a statistical relevance to championships under the Richt era...and that group was the defensive ends. Of course, the defensive ends are only 1/2 of the defensive line (2/3 moving forward). So, I think it only fitting to see if we find similar statistical relevance INSIDE the defensive line. That means, it's time to take a look at Georgia's line of defensive tackles.

Tyson125 let's go mining for gold here. Well, right off the bat I see six DTs who made an impact on that 2002 Championship squad. Then, Sully left before 2003 and the number dropped to five, and the success dropped to an SEC Title-game loss. In 2004 we lost Veal to graduation and Gant to injury, and the team's success dipped further. But, in 2005, with the return of Gant and the arrival of Jeff Owens, the DTs were strong again, and we won another SEC title.

But, let's not get carried away with looking at the number of productive tackles, because we'll quickly find that to be irrelevant. Both the 2008 and 2009 campaigns boasted five productive defensive tackles, and no UGA fan would call either of those seasons a success. In fact, 2007 is widely accepted as the most successful year since our last title season, and we only had four producers at DT. So, the number of productive interior linemen is obviously not a factor. But, what about the quality that the group provides to the team?


Well, clearly I can see no relevance to the percentage of stops made by the DTs being a factor in UGA's success. While it's true that 2002, our best year, had the most production of any of the eight seasons tracked, the 2005 season was just two spots from the bottom. The third-highest season? 2009. So, maybe it's not simply stops, but impactful stops such as tackles for loss and sacks. Well, looking back to the first table, I see that in 2002, those were abundant. DTs had 29.5 TFL and 9 sacks in 2002. In 2005, 11.5 TFL and 7 Sacks. Hmmmm...that's a pretty big difference. And of course, in 2009, 19.5 TFL and 6 sacks. So, I have to render a verdict of NOT the thing to the position group of defensive tackle.

But, looking forward, here's something to think about. Grantham's 3-4 defense will generally employ only ONE of this position group. Most of the time, we're going to have a single defensive tackle (known as NOSE) in the game. Why is that important to remember? Think about what I said in the last blog. Of the top 3 returning producers at DE, a position which DID correlate with success, only one lines up at DE this year. The other two are at outside linebacker. That means that while last year we could only have two of those productive players on the field at once, we'll now have all three. AND, we'll be adding ANOTHER DE to the mix as well. Basically, in the 3-4, we're going to have four big, athletic, pass-rushing types in the game for much of the time. Even in Nickel situations, I'm willing to bet you'll see one of the OLBs put his hand in the dirt as opposed to sending in another DT.

"But DUKES! What in the world does all this mean? Are the defensive tackles not an important position group? I thought they were HUGELY important in stopping the run game and collapsing the passing pocket!"

Wow, ok first...don't throw so much at me at once. Secondly, of course the defensive tackles are an important position group. If your team is too soft in the middle, you're going to get beat up on the ground all day. You can have the best pass-rush in the world, but if opposing teams can run slap over your interior for 4 and 5 yards at a clip, you're screwed. Still, many times a defensive tackle's success isn't measured in the tackles he makes, but in the impact he has. Albert Haynsworth doesn't generally lead his team in tackles, but the fact that he most often requires a double-team frees up someone else to make stops.

What these tackling stats don't track is the impact that each stop makes. You see, a one-yard tackle for loss is the same as an 8-yard tackle for loss in the stat book. There's no accounting for what the impact was. UGA had one of the best Tackle-for-loss statistics in all of college football last season...but we weren't very good. If your DT stops a running back for a one-yard run, then a corner gives up a twenty-five yard pass on the next play, that doesn't bode well for success.

So, that gets me thinking...perhaps there is NO single position group that is truly going to be the THING that brings titles to UGA. I know, the statistical data for DEs was the nearest to a true correlation. But, I think there must be something bigger. If I HAD to pick a position group, I'd have no choice but to choose Defensive End at this point. Then again, moving forward with Grantham's 3-4, I'm willing to bet we'll see a shift in the distribution of effectiveness by position. THAT being said, we can't put too much stock into any position group at all.

Maybe this game is truly a TEAM game after all. My work is never done...back to the statbooks to do some more research. This series will return!

Go Dawgs.

Monday, April 12, 2010

More info on NFL Draft Tickets...WIN BIG!

Hey y'all...

Just wanted to add a bit of info to what I said before. I've just been made aware of contests we're going to be running during the draft. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to win some great prizes!

Have a chance to win:

Tickets to the 2011 Pro Bowl (4/24)

Tickets to your favorite home team game (subject to availability) (4/24)

VIP passes to this year’s NFL Kick Off in New Orleans (4/24)

VIP passes to the 2011 NFL Draft (4/24)

Exclusive meet and greet sessions with your favorite Jets and Giants players (4/24)

Announce a draft pick live from the stage (4/24)

Autographed football memorabilia (4/24)

Free Jerseys, T-shirts, hats and more (4/23-4/24)

Get ready for an experience of a life time! If you are a sports fan, this is the event for you!

For the first time in history, the NFL Draft goes primetime with Round 1 slated for 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 22. Rounds 2 and 3 will be held on Friday, April 23 beginning at 6 p.m. Rounds 4-7 will be held on Saturday, April 24 beginning at 10 a.m.

Night 2 of the Draft will feature members of the Top 10 Most Valuable Picks as well as the 2010 NFL Hall of Fame Class. The order of the Top 10 MVP's will also be announced at the conclusion of Round 2.

Day 3 will feature player autograph signings as well as cheerleader and other celebrity appearances throughout the day. It will also be the last opportunity to see the Lombardi Trophy and a collection of Super Bowl rings on display. In addition, fans in attendance will be a part of the NFL Network and ESPN live TV audiences.

A collectable pin set will be given to fans attending the Draft, with a unique pin handed out each of the three days. Held in New York City since 1965, the NFL Draft will be televised nationally by NFL Network and ESPN. This is the fifth consecutive year that the Draft will be held at Radio City Music Hall.

Free tickets for NFL Draft now available!

Hey everyone;

So, as I've mentioned before, I don't make any money off this blog. To make money, I work for a company called "1iota" whose goal is to provide free tickets for fans to numerous events throughout the year. We do television shows, concerts, and over the past few years, we've partnered with the NFL to get fans to various activities. Last year, we brought thousands out for the EA Sports Madden 2010 Launch, which featured a Flag Football Pro-Am with hall-of-famers Joe Montana, John Elway, Jerry Rice, Emmit Smith, Deion Sanders, and many others.

This year, we've again partnered with the NFL to score free tickets to the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. So, if you're an NFL fan as well as a college football fan, and you'd like to check out the draft in a couple weeks, be sure to head on over to where you can sign up for an account (Free) and request tickets for the Draft (also free).

Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on G-Day, the final position grouping in my "The Thing..." series, and a blog on why the bulldawg nation should be thankful for Joe Cox - all coming this week!

Go Dawgs!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The DEs the thing...

So, we've come down to it. Coming into the 2009 season, many fans were barking about the lack of an outside pass-rush in 2008. They said that if we had defensive ends who could collapse the pocket and threaten the quarterback, we'd have a better, more effective defense. When we think back on the years of Brian Van Gorder, names of powerful defensive ends seem to pop right into our minds. David Pollack. Quentin Moses. Charles Johnson. But as we move into the Martinez years, the "impact" defensive ends don't seem to come as easily. Marcus Howard...he was a good one. Any other names? And yes, I realize that Moses and Johnson had their best years under the first two years of Martinez...but they were BVG recruits...As was Marcus Howard, technically. Still, the logic makes sense. If we have a strong presence at defensive end, it's going to be hard to get beat to the outside on runs, we're going to get more QB pressure, we're going to have more success as a defense. And that means championships, right? Let's take a look at the data...


So, let's both 2002 and 2005, UGA had 4 "productive" defensive ends and in all other years with the exception of 2008, we had 3. In 2008, we had decent production out of 5 defensive ends, but no real dominance. Now, in MY humble opinion, it makes sense that having 4 productive defensive ends would be a bit of a magic number. That's two starters, and two solid backups. Remember, this data tracks only DEs who made at least 10 tackles over the course of the season. There are other DEs who spent time "spelling" the starters, but simply didn't make a huge impact. Also remember that part of the defensive end's productivity is dictated by the playcalling of the offense. DEs aren't going to make many tackles when we're facing pass-heavy offenses (unless they're racking up sacks). Conversely, if we're facing triple-option offenses, they'll likely need to make MANY tackles for our D to be successful.

Earlier in this series, I made the assumption that over the years, the teams UGA has faced have shifted more towards spread and pass-happy offenses. Is that assumption reflected in the tackling stats of defensive ends? Perhaps.


Again, we know that the statistical method of tracking tackles changed after 2003. So, that explains the sharp drop in pure number of tackles in 2004. But, I see something that is a bit more telling. Look at 2002 and those years, the Defensive Ends had the highest percentage of stops compared to all other years. Not surprisingly, the best performance by defensive ends came in 2002, UGA's best season under Richt. The second best was in 2005, Richt's other SEC title. But look at the 2003's the third best season, a divisional title, and also the third best performance by defensive ends. Very interesting. Then, take a look at the seasons where UGA has struggled. In 2004 and 2006, the Ends didn't make it to 14%. In 2008 and 2009, our DEs were less than 13%. The statistics clearly show why UGA fans have been clamoring for better ends. Even the 11-2 2007 season had lackluster performance by this group. Marcus Howard was fairly electric, but he didn't have much support. And of course, despite our 11-2 record, there was no division title, no SEC title, no chance at a national title.

Now, I understand that you're not going to find a David Pollack in the recruiting pool every year, or even every 4. In fact, some coaches would say if you find ONE player of that caliber in you're CAREER, you're fortunate. I'll admit, watching him play was inspirational. But that gets me thinking...Justin Houston was playing junior-high and freshman ball when Pollack was becoming a legend. Did he take notes? Houston's sophomore season was comparable to Pollack's junior year in behind-the-line action. His raw-tackle number is much lower...but again, tackles are calculated differently now. And yes, I know it was Pollack's sophomore season that was his most incredible... but I'm looking for similarities, not a duplication. Justin Houston is definitely a player to watch, as he should be giving opposing quarterbacks some serious headaches in the near future. Cornelius Washington, similarly, made some splashes as a Freshman last season. Also, though the raw numbers by the GROUP went down from 2008 to 2009, both Houston and Dobbs improved greatly on their totals from the year before.

At the very least we see a definite correlation between how well our defensive ends play, and the championships we win at UGA. It would seem that 14.5 is the magic number as far as percentage of total tackles by DEs. Also, in both title seasons, the DEs had 22 sacks. Of course, in 2009, the DEs had 16 compared to the 13 in the SECE divisional title year of 2003. So, winning isn't necessarily in the sack column. Those 16 sacks were the highest total by a DE group since 2005. That tells me again, that the future may look very nice for these players.

But, let's not forget one little detail about the future of UGA's defense - only one of the three productive DEs will be playing DE this season, Demarcus Dobbs, the senior. Washington and Houston are now playing outside linebacker. So, the face of the defense is changing. Where will our new defensive ends come from? Well, we'll certainly be recruiting them...but for now, they'll come from the other defensive line group: The big boys - the meat eaters - the guys who are the "rock" of the defense; the Defensive Tackles. How they play will be extremely important to the success of the defense in this season, and in coming seasons.

Has it been a big part of our success in the past? There's only one way to find out if possibly the Defensive Tackle is the thing...

Stick with me.

Go Dawgs!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who wants to go to the NFL Draft?

Hey Dawgfans...if you've been itching for a reason to travel to NYC, here's one:

The NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. UGA has a number of players heading to the NFL this season, and a few of them figure to be drafted on days 2 and 3. Well, it just so happens that yours truly has a line on how to get tickets to the draft....FOR FREE.

Can't tell you too much...this is just a teaser. BUT, I'll have more soon!

Go Dawgs!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The LB's the Thing...

Hey Dawgfans! It's been a couple of weeks since my last post, and I know there are those of you out there who’ve been wondering just exactly why in the world it’s taken me so long to continue this series, and to you I say…BACK OFF! Actually, it’s a simple combination of me being busy with a job, and a career…two very different things, neither of which involve blogging about the Dawgs. **Sidenote: if anyone out there would like to give me a job blogging about the Dawgs, we can talk** Anyway, no pithy comments, no lead in…let’s just find out if the play of UGA’s LBs has a major role in the championship hopes and dreams of our team.

Arguably, the LB is the most important position on the defensive side of the ball. These guys are most often the quarterbacks of the defense. They make the pre-snap reads and adjustments. They communicate with the DL and the DBs in order to change assignments. They also generally carry the best size/speed ratio making them freakish athletes who can dole out punishment. Many defensive schemes rely on the LBs to make plays all over the field. Because of all these factors, we can deduce that without strong LB play, a defense is in serious trouble. Are we correct?


Again, because of the change in the statistician's method of recording tackles, it's hard to compare raw numbers. So, the percentage is what I think is important here. It's not hard to see that the LBs were responsible for a smaller percentage of tackles under Van Gorder than they were under Martinez. Under BVG, our defense was heralded. Under Martinez, it was maligned. However, I think there's something counter-intuitive here. See, people seem to think that the LB play was WORSE under Martinez, but looking at the team numbers, it seems that they were more productive. The LBs were responsible for a higher percentage of stops under Martinez. Now, I suppose it's possible that there are more LBs on special teams, resulting in higher tackling numbers, but that's hard for me to quantify looking only at stat sheets. Then again, I suppose the biggest complaint against the Linebackers over the past five seasons is that there weren't DOMINANT GROUPS of LBs. No one will say that Rennie Curran wasn't a dominant LB, but ESPN hasn't listed UGA's LBs as a power group in some time. So then, is it the individual personnel where we've been lacking? Let's take a look:


The complaint has been that our LBs of late haven't had the talent that the LBs in the first 4 years of Richt tenure had. Well, let's look back...the 2002 crop boasts 6 "productive" LBs, five of which made NFL rosters. In 2003, two new names hit the list, and one of them was a 1st round draft pick. 2004 saw the addition of Verdun-Wheeler, an eventual NFL draftee. With the exception of Marcus Washington (entering 2010 draft), all of 2005 and 2006's LBs are NFL LBs. The 2007 crop are as yet unproven at the highest level. Curran will be drafted. Dewberry is doubtful.

But, what I notice is this: between Odell Thurman and Rennie Curran, we really didn't have a dominant LB. We had groups of linebackers who played well. So, this goes against the common argument. The 2005 team (SEC) had four LBs register more than 40 tackles. NO other unit has matched that. 2002 and 2003 were close (SEC and SEC E, respectively) In 2007, the LBs were 4 tackles by Dent, and 5 by Miller away from having 5 LBs cross the 40 tackle mark. We were 11-2. It seems, though, that when tackling machine Rennie Curran took over, the rest of the LBs didn't live up to his ability. Actually, that's an unfair assessment. In 2008, Ellerbee was hurt, so his production suffered. Gamble quadrupled his production. Dent when up by about 30% and Curran made plays all over the field, leading the team with 115 tackles as a sophomore.

So, we fast-forward to the nightmare of a season that was 2009. Curran takes it up another 10%, stealing potential tackles from other LBs. Dowtin triples his production. Gamble and Dent suffer a bit. Dewberry returns to his 2007 level of production. But, Curran has more than twice the production of the #2 tackling LB on the team. In 2008, it was similar. At no other point has the leading LB come close to DOUBLING the output of the second-best LB. Yet, in each of the past few seasons, we see some LBs stepping up, and others faltering. So what in the world is going on?

Preferably, what you will see is a player crack the list near the bottom in his first year, move up in the second and be one of the top in his junior and senior (if he stays) years. It doesn't seem to have been working that way as of late at UGA. Players seem to be bouncing all around in the productivity category. Look at Gamble - bottom of the list in 2007, 2nd in 2008, then 3rd behind Curran and Dowtin (2008's bottom) in 2009. Could it be that Dowtin just REALLY stepped up? It could be. Maybe that's why Gamble and Dent remained back-to-back, but simply slipped down in the rankings.

I find it hard to agree with those who say we haven't had quality linebackers over the past few seasons. True, we haven't had a plethora of "marquee" LBs, but then again, we didn't have that in the BVG days either. Kendrell Bell was gone before Richt came in. Witherspoon (2001) was a high-quality guy, as were Boss Bailey and Tony Gilbert...but I can't say that Tony Gilbert was grossly more talented than Dannel Ellerbee, or that Witherspoon was far and away better than Tony Taylor or Marcus Dowtin (and I love Spoon..he's one of the nicest men I ever played with). It just seems that these guys haven't made the SPLASH that they did years ago. Ellerbee was the best in recent years at stopping guys behind the line. In fact, his 22 TBL in 2008 are tops for any LB since 2002...and let's not forget, he got hurt against AL and missed a good bit of that season. If only, if only, if only. Damn, 2008 coulda been good.

Any way I slice it, I can't say that UGA's LB corps is to blame for our lack of success as of late. The LBs have increased their tackling production, they've been marginal on turnovers...but in 2002 and 2005, they really didn't get many takeaways (0 and 3, resprectively) anyway, so I can't say that's been a problem. And hey, in 2006 (another awful year), they had 11. I guess the LB ain't the thing.

But, I am VERY interested in seeing what these guys do under the new 3-4 of Todd Grantham. At the moment, it seems that Dowtin and Gamble are the leading candidates for the two ILB jobs, and I can't argue with that. They were 2nd and 3rd in LB tackles last season, with Dowtin making a HUGE jump from 2008. The question now becomes, with only two ILB positions, and most of the LBs from the old 4-3 scheme fitting more into the ILB than OLB style of player, how will the development of players like Michael Gilliard, Christian Robinson and Richard Samuel come along?

And what can we expect from the new OLBs? Well, I guess we should look at them next...Fabris was fired, and perhaps for good reason. We've been complaining since 2007 about a lack of a pass-rush from UGA DEs. Could it be that THIS has been where our defense has been failing. Could it be that the DE is the thing that brings a title? We'll see!

Go Dawgs.