Monday, November 15, 2010

The Defense is the defense.

In the days since our loss to Auburn, I have seen the ire of Georgia Fans once again climbing up. It's nowhere near the level following the loss to Colorado. Perhaps that's because a season including 6 losses has dulled the pain, I don't really know. One of my friends posed the question to me: "what is the argument for retaining Richt?"

My response:

I don't need to make an argument. He's not getting fired. You guys can whine and bellyache about it, but he ain't getting fired. If he has a crap season in 2011, possibly. I doubt it will happen given what I saw on the field (and no, the w-l record doesn't sway that opinion).

AL 2007: 7-6 (6-6 reg season)
AL 2008: 12-2 (12-0 reg season)

The 2007 AL squad did NOT get better as the season went along. In fact, they lost the final four games of their regular season, including a home loss to Louisiana Monroe. But they did suffer some close losses (including the OT home loss to UGA) which helped them mature and pull together. 2007 laid the foundation for what we saw out of Bama in 2008 and 2009.

You guys like to harp on Richt being at UGA for ten years. The kids who are on the team haven't been there for ten years, and each year the team is different. That's why a 6-6 team can become a 12-0 team. Sometimes it really is a play here or there which can define a season. The question is whether the work this team has put in, in enduring this painful season, will yield rewards in 2011. I believe it will. I know you don't, and that's fine - but I need not make an argument, for it is all moot.

Of course, there came a response, saying that the reference to AL "misses" because Saban's team improved and improved, and in the past two years, we have regressed even further. I was called "delusional" for supporting Richt. I disagree:

The argument doesn't miss. 2007, AL goes to a 3-4 defense. They don't have the personnel for it, and they're all learning. They go 6-6. The next year, with seasoned veterans running that defense, it was nearly impossible to score on them, and they went 12-0.

I'm not delusional, I'm rational.

The team this year has played better than the team last year. He's some real-time knowledge for you:

Last year's team was not good. We beat Carolina (last-second defensive play) and Arkansas in shootouts. We were run out of the stadium against Florida. We beat an average Auburn team on a last-second defensive play. We fell apart against Kentucky and let them beat us. We were HOUSED by Tennessee. Over the spring and summer, we did a complete overhaul of our defense. This season "could" have been a good one, if the guys on defense had been able to defy all logic and beat the 3-4 learning curve. They didn't. So, we had a bunch of close losses.

Still, the offense has performed better than the offense a year ago.

Aaron Murray has 11 games compared to Cox's 13. He has more completions, less attempts, trails in yards by a whopping FOUR, is 3 TDs shy of Cox (and 4 shy of sharing the all-time UGA record for a QB), and has nine fewer interceptions. Our rushing through 11 games trails last year's 13 game total by 475 yards (which means we actually have more than we had through 11 games last season, as our offense picked up over 550 yards on the ground in the final two games of 2009). Through 11 games, our offense has scored the same number of TDs through as we scored through 13 a year ago. 2010 is the first season in UGA history where we've logged six-straight 30+ point outputs.

Last year's PPG - 28.9 This year's - 33.5

Last year's DPPG - 25.9 This year's - 22.1

Through 13 games last year, we forced 11 turnovers.

Through 11 games this year, we've forced 13 turnovers.

Our team is a better team this year. Unfortunately for us, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Auburn are also better teams this year and we couldn't pull it out against them.

As for Alabama in 07 and 08...In 2006, AL went 6-6 and lost their bowl game. Enter Saban and the 3-4. Alabama goes 6-6 and wins their bowl game in 2007. The players learn the defense. Their DPPG that season? 22.0 The next season, the Defense improves by over a touchdown per game, surrendering only 14.3 ppg. The team goes 12-0. People love to remember the 2008 season for AL, and forget 2007.

A new scheme takes time to learn. This past Saturday, there were three plays that I can name where a Freshman Safety, who will be a STAR at UGA, made mistakes that ended up costing us the ballgame. In the second half, Ogletree had his eyes on Newton and moved with him as he rolled slightly to Newton's right. He didn't need to do that because Rambo was covering that side of the field and was in position to make a play on a ball thrown that direction. Still, Ogletree did it. That caused a seam to open between himself and MLB Dowtin. Newton hummed a TD over the reaching arm of Dowtin, and inside of Ogletree who would have been in position, if not for that mistake. In the fourth quarter, with the score only 4 points apart, AU had a third down. Ogletree was set as the spy against Newton. He aggressively stepped up into a hole, thinking he'd make a stop, but got caught in the wash of the O-Line and Newton went around the block for the first down. Soon after, Ogletree again got caught staring in the backfield. He bit on a play-fake, and the Tightend ran past him. Newton fired another TD to him.

Alec Ogletree is a good safety. But, on Saturday, he made some critical mistakes - and that has been the story of the season for our defense. These athletes are quality athletes. Boykin holds the all-time UGA record for kick returns, and he's returned what, 4, 5 for tds? 3 for 100 yards+. That's an athlete. Houston leads the SEC in sacks. Akeem Dent is second in the SEC in tackles, and 24th in the country. These guys can play football. They're still learning a complex defense, and at times that's gonna bite you.

You don't believe, and I do, and that's fine. But saying I can't make a case for Richt is ridiculous - can I make a case you will agree with? No. No one can. I could tell you that I talked to God on a mountain, he gave me a window into the future, let me watch the BCS title game of January 2012 and that I watched Richt be doused with Powerade before hoisting the Crystal Football alongside Aaron Murray, and that still wouldn't satisfy you. You do not like Richt as a coach, have villified him, and want him gone. There is absolutely no rationale which will change your mind.

Nor is there any which will change mine. He's my coach, and I'll stick by him until the UGA Brass decide he's not my coach any more. McGarity gets paid enough money to make those decisions. What I do is provide a perspective that is NOT based purely on emotion, but rather on observations from both sides of the hedges. Many fans see wins and losses, and that's all they see. They don't see the story behind those wins and losses, or what's going on with a team. They just see wins and losses. That's incredibly myopic.

Wins and Losses matter, don't get me wrong. I don't want to see UGA fight valiantly and go 6-6 for ten years. And I agree with you that the on-the-field performance did trend downward for a few seasons. Then Richt made changes, and the on-the-field performances have improved. What must happen next, is those improved performances have to translate to victories. If they don't, Richt won't live out his contract.

2011 could be Richt's final season at UGA if the W-L columns don't swing drastically back to the left. Here is why: a minimal increase isn't enough. Richt made an educated gamble in 2010 by switching to an entirely new defense. That gamble has to pay off in its second year, or it will be seen as an absolute failure. It doesn't take 2 years to install a system. In year 2, your veterans will know it, and your youth will have time to learn it. Only true freshmen will be at the bottom of the learning curve, and not many of them will be expected to contribute immediately. Defensive Seniors - Vance Cuff (role player, not a true starter), LB Akeem Hebron (never really came on), LB Daryl Gamble (starter), LB Akeem Dent (starter), DE Demarcus Dobb (Starter), DE Kiante Tripp (backup), DE Brandon Wood (backup). We lose 3 true starters on our defense, might lose 4 if Justin Houston leaves. At MLBs, we have Christian Robinson and Marcus Dowtin who are both very good, and get a ton of PT now. The majority of our contributing defensive linemen are Juniors and Sophomores. All of this bodes well for next year. Our defense has improved over last year in the FIRST year of this system. I'm excited about what they can do in the 2nd year!

An 8-4 or 9-3 season without a championship does not buy Richt another season. A 9-3 or 10-2 season in 2011 AND playing in Atlanta does. That kind of improvement will quiet the fanbase, and it will show that Richt hasn't lost anything, and that the moves made in 2010 have proven fruitful. I'm not saying Richt SHOULD lose his job if the Dawgs don't reach Atlanta in 2011, but I could see it. Either way, bickering about it is pointless.

Following that, I was given a list of coaches who are all "better" than Richt, because they wear BCS Championship Rings, earned since Richt's last SEC title. These coaches were Meyer (2), Miles (1), Saban (1..2 overall). Brown was also included, though his ring came during a Richt-coached SEC title year. I decided to toss in Pete Carroll because he is apparently still a standard for some people.

Urban - Charlie Strong
Brown - Will Muschamp
Saban - Kirby Smart (Saban)
Carroll - ???? (Carroll)
Miles - Bo Pelini

These guys did it on defense, something that is near and dear to my heart. When I was in highschool, I played on offense - because we put our best athletes on defense. In our 10-0 senior season, our defense surrendered 64 points. Our offense scored 346. That's a pretty big disparity, but it was because of stellar defensive play that we got to where we were. Saban's teams will always have great defense. Now that Miles has hired Chavis, you can bet his teams will have great defense.

At Florida, Charlie Strong is gone. Florida's defense has not been very good this season. USC has not had great defensive play in a few years. LSU picked up Chavis in the stead of Pelini, and is strong again. Muschamp is as good as they come.

When Richt was winning titles, he had a solid defense. When Martinez entered the fray, the defense suffered. Richt has corrected the mistake that was Martinez. The defense has improved. Look for further improvement in year 2. Urban had the benefit of Tebow. Brown had Young. Carroll had Bush. Dooley had Walker. Saban and Miles had no real superstars on their title teams, just great defense, and a "good enough" offense. That also was Tressel's method. Richt's offense is a good one. He has lacked a strong defense. We saw the growing pains of a defense this year. They will pay off in 2011.

So many people don't understand what happened in this season. People were expecting miracles, and I hoped for them. They didn't come. But, there was a great deal of great work done at UGA this fall. If you were watching more than the box score, you should have seen that.

Go Dawgs.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Mr. Dukes.

Go Dawgs!

chad said...

That was the absolute best blog about this season that I could have ever read. Thank you. If you take away 4 plays this year we could very well be 9-2 right now. A 3 fumbles and ill timed block in the back by Marlon brown.(may have been a hold)
This team is good. Damn good for year one of a new defense.

Unknown said...

Couldn't agree more! I wish every UGA fan (or so called UGA fan) would read this blog! We have the easiest schedule we could possibly have next year (Ole Miss and MSU from the west -- MSU is at home -- SC at home, Auburn at home, etc.). Next year could be special. But all these people who think getting rid of Richt is the answer have gone completely mad. If you think the learning curve was steep with a new D, imagine what year 1 would be with an entire new staff.

There's so much more to the argument for why Richt IS the right man for the job, but to your one would listen anyway.