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Post Things in Georgia’s favor in 2008

Friday January 18, 2008

We started talking about the 2008 season by recognizing and embracing the high expectations awaiting the Dawgs next fall. What are the reasons for those lofty preseason rankings?

» Lots of returning key players. Returning starters are all over the place. Moreno. Ellerbe. Curran. Owens. Stafford. Georgia’s losses are few and occasionally significant, but the list of departing players for whom there doesn’t already seem to be a successor in place is limited to Velasco and Coutu. No one is jumping to the NFL.

Of course our glee over a low attrition forecast has to be tempered with the acceptance of the likely offseason suspension or two. Hopefully the Dawgs can at least avoid a catastrophic injury over the spring and summer, and it would be nice if no Paul Oliver-like academic screwup was an issue this year.

At first glance, it looks as if the roster will be stocked next year. Sure there are a couple of holes; there always are. But you look across the roster and don’t see any positions that really scare you, and several bring a big smile.

» Momentum / exposure / poll position. Georgia is hot. They finished among the top 3 in both final polls, and they will surely start out high in 2008. That’s a big advantage if Georgia can put together another nice season next year.

Once the Dawgs dispatch Georgia Southern in the season opener, the same schedule that presents such a challenge will put the Dawgs in the spotlight early and often. You have clashes against LSU and Florida with direct national significance. Georgia’s trip to Tempe won’t go unnoticed. Even Saban coming to Athens will create a stir. The Dawgs will be performing on the main stage for much of the season, and there won’t be a way to ignore them should they put up wins.

With the 2007 emergence of Knowshon Moreno alongside the established Matthew Stafford, the Dawgs also have a backfield rich in name recognition. Stafford fills the role of the BMOC quarterback, and Moreno is as charismatic a personality as David Pollack was. That kind of star power, not to mention others like Rennie Curran, will ensure that Georgia is a program that gets talked about. They’re interesting, fun to watch, and, above all, pretty damn good.

» Impact newcomers. The depth chart will be bolstered in 2008 by some very highly-regarded newcomers. Tailback Caleb King is at the top of the list. King was an option during 2007 as injuries took a toll on the position, but he was able to preserve his redshirt season. King and Moreno could give Georgia the most exciting tandem in the conference. Besides King, you also hear about QB Logan Gray, WR/TE Aron White, LB Charles White, and S John Knox.

I’m interested to see what role LB Akeem Hebron will play. He was slated as a possible starter in 2007 but spent the semester at Georgia Military College after alcohol violations at UGA. He’s back, but there’s a question how the linebackers might have to shuffle to fit him in next year. The unit had begun to click at the end of 2007.

Then there are the true freshmen. In a class rated among the best in the nation, you figure some will contribute right away. Receiver AJ Green comes to mind first. Kicker Blair Walsh will get a chance to start out of the gate. Preseason camp should be entertaining as these talented freshmen fight for positions against a roster that’s already potent.

» Stable coaching staff. As regional rivals such as Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, and Georgia Tech replace coordinators, several assistants, or even head coaches, the only change in the Georgia program – at the time I write this – looks to be the departure of TE coach David Johnson. While Georgia has turned over all but a handful of assistant coaching positions since Mark Richt arrived, we’ve been fortunate 1) not to have more than one or two in a given offseason and 2) the departures have almost always been career moves with the best wishes of the program.

The stability of the staff gave Richt the luxury of being less hands-on in 2007, and he used that freedom in part to step into more of a managerial role. With Mike Bobo promoted to offensive coordinator, Richt was able to get his head out of the details and look more frequently at the bigger picture. That change possibly afforded him the opportunity to recognize and correct problems during the 2007 season, and a changed team emerged. With confidence in a staff that continues to operate well, Richt can continue to grow in his new role and prepare the team to play at the level required of their ranking.

5 Responses to 'Things in Georgia’s favor in 2008'

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  • Great article, but what the hell does BMOC mean?

  • Ray – BMOC means ‘Big Man On Campus’

    Groo – Would you not place Bailey in the same category as Velasco and Coutu?

  • Big Man On Campus

  • Big Man on Campus

  • HB…Bailey with his senior season definitely approaches the level of Velasco and Coutu where an obvious successor isn’t in place. It’s a bit different with the WR position (most agree that MoMass will be the top target), but they technically do play different positions and it’s a bit, though not quite, like saying a guard will replace a center. I just think we have enough returning players at WR that the lineup will sort itself out (even before we consider the freshmen). But you do make a point that I might underrate Bailey’s importance to the 2007 team. The game-changing catch against Auburn alone merits a special place for him.