Sunday, November 29, 2015

How good was Pruitt...really...?

This post was originally going to be a feel good piece about why there's plenty of reason to look forward to next season.  I was going to heap heavy praise on Jeremy Pruitt for his work with the defense over the past two seasons, and I was going to talk about how 2015 would become another blip on the radar for Mark Richt's historical career.

That's all over now.  

And to be honest, maybe that's a good thing.  I'll admit I'm a bit lost today.  I'm not happy at all about what happened with Mark Richt, but I will support the next coach whomever he may be (even if he happens to be a former graduate assistant for whom I have no personal love).  

With pained eyes, I did a little research into Pruitt's 2015 season.  I'll admit I didn't dig deeply into 2014 or how the numbers stacked up against Grantham.  Maybe I would have done that if I were trying to glean excitement for next season.  But, since I don't know who the head coach is going to be (though I think 99% of Dawg fans have an idea), and since I don't know who that coach will select as DC (though I have little reason to believe it will be Pruitt, since he was pulled from the recruiting trail), I won't bring that kind of enthusiasm.  I'll just lay out the raw Data, and talk a little about what I found: 

In the sheet above, what you'll find is our opponents' average offensive performance for the season as well as how they performed against UGA.  The green that you see is where Pruitt's defense did a markedly better job at stopping the opposing offense.  Yellow is where you see a marginal difference (either positive or negative).  Red is where the UGA defense performed markedly worse than the field against our opponents.  

As you might expect, in our three losses, we surrendered more points than the field against our opponents.

I found it interesting, though, that there only three games in which our Defense performed drastically better than the field in all three categories.  By our raw statistics, we are a "top 10" defense... but the eyeball test didn't really give us that against the true competitors on our schedule, and this quick look doesn't give me that feeling either.  It's fair to think ULM would have done a little more damage to these stats if the game had gone the distance.  Vanderbilt and Tennessee both did a good job lighting up our passing defense.  I dare say Alabama didn't get more yardage...simply because they didn't have to.  

Part of me wants to believe that Pruitt really had our boys moving in the right direction - that we were coaching them up well, and that we were on the cusp of being where we needed to be in as much as a Championship Defense is concerned.  

But in our three losses, the eyeball and the statistical test gives me problems with that thinking.  Yes, I know that against AL and TN there were breakdowns on offense and ST that are included in the Score numbers - but they aren't included in the other numbers (rushing/passing).   Not only that, but if you're going to be Championship Defense, your defense shouldn't hope to be "doing what the field does" against opposing offenses.  Your Defense had better be stifling the opposing offense... because if your defense is "just as good as the average" you ain't gonna win a title.  

If Pruitt was truly just aided by a better schedule, then perhaps the writing was already on the wall for Richt.  Since the beginning of his career as an HC, Coordinator hires have been where he's caught the most flack.  Martinez, Grantham, Bobo (great OC, but maligned by the fanbase), Schotty... that's not a great track record - if Pruitt was simply gilded and not solid gold, then perhaps it's best we're starting anew - because we weren't headed where we wanted to go anyway. 


Or perhaps it was only the second season for Pruitt...and his (very young) boys were learning... and holding Kentucky, Auburn, GSU and Tech FAR below their season averages shows just where the D was headed.  

I guess the question shouldn't have been "How bad were the offenses we faced in November" but rather "How much WORSE did we make them look?"

Kentucky, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, on average, scored 3 TDs more against the field than they did against UGA.  Auburn, on average, scored 2 TDs more.  That's the kind of performance you expect out of a Championship Defense.  

Either way, it's this Dawgfan's belief that the point is moot.  Pruitt is likely gone.  If the last month of the season is any indication, though, the cupboard is stocked with guys who can shut offenses down.  The question will be - can the new guy coach 'em up?  Pruitt could.

Go Dawgs.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

It could get much, much worse before it gets better ...

I'm furiously refreshing my feed to see if Schotty has been fired.  I don't think it will happen.  I could be wrong.  I'm just a Georgia fan sitting in Los Angeles typing into a computer and have absolutely no barometer for what happens inside the walls of Butts-Mehre.  But, I don't want you to believe this is a post about our much-maligned Offensive Coordinator.  It is not.

Many UGA Faithful today are looking forward to January...not because our Beloved Dawgs will be playing in a major bowl, but because Jacob Eason will be enrolling at UGA.  Now, there are many detractors who would say it doesn't matter.  They would say that there is no way that Richt and Co would start a true freshman when there's a 5th-year senior who won 9 (possibly 10) games and protected the ball well on the roster.  They would say that Eason won't be able to learn the offense quickly enough to unseat him.

I disagree.  First, four weeks was apparently long enough for Lambert to learn the offense and surpass all existing UGA QBs on the roster.  Second, starting a true freshman phenom is something Richt loves to do.  Plus, he is beyond the "redshirt a kid just to redshirt him" phase of his career.  If Eason redshirts, it will likely be because he isn't good enough to beat out Lambert (or Bauta)... and if he isn't good enough to beat those guys out, then UGA is in serious trouble, as is Richt.

So, I fully expect Jacob Eason to start for UGA next season.

That could be trouble.

In 2006, the season after our last SEC title, we welcomed Matt Stafford to campus.  Our season was a 9-4 affair (including a bowl win), with early wins against garbage teams, and then a 3-win streak against ranked opponents to close the season.  It took Stafford a while to truly take hold of what Richt and Bobo were teaching him, and we didn't see him lock in on the starting job until later in the season (Joe Cox and Joe Tereshinski also started at QB that year).

In 2010, Aaron Murray burst onto the scene, and went 6-6 before dropping the bowl game to the UCF Golden Knights.  UCF.  Seriously.  Now, it happens that 2010 was an 11-3 season for UCF, seated between a couple of stinkers, but still...  2010 was a particularly troubling year in UGA history, as we went 0-5 against ranked teams.

The past two seasons, UGA hasn't had spectacular QB play.  Now, that's not to discount what Mason did in 2014.  He held a 4-1 mark against Top 25 teams, a high completion percentage, high efficiency, etc.  He did what he had to do to win in most cases ... just not in ENOUGH cases to get us to Atlanta.

This year, our QB play has been nothing outside of sad.  I'm not talking about completion percentages (which is actually in the mid-60's and serviceable).  I'm not talking about turnovers, as Lambert has only 2 INTs all season.  I'm talking about truly PLAYING the position of QB.  Too often, Lambert has proven to not be a clutch QB.  He consistently checks-down to underneath receivers when we need long gains.  He misses open receivers on deep balls, and sometimes doesn't see them altogether.  Now, perhaps that checking down has enabled us to scratch out some wins because he has protected the ball.  It's hard to say, because you can't play the "what if" game.  Still, there's a spark that Lambert is missing, and many are hoping that it rests in the body of Jacob Eason.

Still, hoping that Jacob Eason will solve all the ills of a UGA offense that can't get out of its own way is folly.  It is unlikely that Eason will come in and lead UGA to Atlanta.  I won't call it impossible, because I'm not an imbecile.  It is unlikely.  We will still have Chubb, Michel, Blazevich, Godwin, Mackenzie, Chigbu, etc.  We will still have a defense that has improved its numbers over those of the squad that went 4-1 against top 25 teams last season.  Of course, they've faced only 2 top-25 teams this season, and gave up over 50 points to them.

Eason will have the job of "Hey man, don't screw it up."  His first priority will be to protect the ball.  His second priority will be to distribute it to playmakers.  The offense will probably look very vanilla as he gets his feet under him.  The fans will call for Schotty's (or insert name of whatever OC follows, because you's definitely going to be HIS fault) head.  The defense will have to carry us.

It's quite possible that games against North Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech will be very scary.  Going 4-2 against those squads would be a blessing.  Going 3-3 is more likely, and going 1-5 is quite possible.

It could get worse, folks.  It could get much much worse.

But hope springs eternal, and I predict Eason leads the Dawgs to a 15-0 season and a National Title...because screw reality.  This is football, and conjecture is far more entertaining.

Go Dawgs.