It’s a beautiful 70-degree day in Georgia and the perfect afternoon to start spring practice. By now you know all of the big questions and players and positions to watch over the next few weeks leading up to G-Day on April 11th. Just a few unrelated notes before we get going…
Underdog. David Hale has a little pre-spring chat with receiver Kris Durham. I don’t mean to read too much into what Durham has to say in an otherwise upbeat piece, but something he talked about touched a nerve with something I hear a lot from Georgia fans. I’ve never seen a fan base so willing to place high expectations on a program while at the same time wanting to remain "under the radar" or craving the status of underdog.
I get what Durham is saying. You draw your motivation from whatever source you can. If it creates the focus and drive that makes a difference this year, great. No one is going to list Georgia among the favorites this year, so we have to use that to our advantage.
But the underdog status will only carry you so far. Underdogs are underdogs for a reason: they usually lose to and finish behind the favorites. Not always of course, but upsets are exceptional because they are infrequent. Sooner or later, if you’re successful, you have to embrace that success and deal with being on top.
Put it another way: do you think the guys at Southern Cal, Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma are relishing the underdog role? Me neither. That’s where we are this year, so we have no choice. I just don’t want it to be Georgia’s permanent condition. You eventually have to learn to live with high expectations. It comes with the territory for that elite class of perennial title contenders, and I hope that’s where our fans and players and coaches want to see this program.
You can show me list after list with wins and Georgia’s performance relative to everyone else over the past ten years, but shedding this underdog mentality is part of taking that next step. We’ve read a lot this spring about a change in approach and a more focused team, and now it’s time to see that on the field.
Offensive line. With the focus on quarterback and tailback this year, the offensive line that got so much concern and attention over the past two seasons is almost an afterthought. It’s true that there’s finally some seasoned depth, and we all know the names of the major contributors. Now they’re expected to be one of the strengths and known entities as the new skill players fill in and get experience.
While I join everyone else who’s been blown away with the job done through two years by Coach Searels and his linemen, I’m also aware that Stafford and Moreno made the line look at times better than it was. Now that a couple of first-round picks are gone from the backfield, will some issues that previously seemed minor emerge along the line as something more serious?
Unfortunately we won’t get a good read on this question (and others) during the spring. Three key contributors – Sturdivant, Chris Davis, and Vance – are out recovering from injuries. All are expected to return in time for the season, but it will be some time before they are back at peak condition. Even though the line is a secondary story this spring (as it should be with several other higher-profile positions in play), I still think it’s as big of a concern as it was a year ago.