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Post Getting to know the Oklahoma State offense

Friday July 31, 2009

With a trio of weapons like Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant, and Kendall Hunter (not to mention probable All-American tackle Russell Okung clearing the way), you’re going to be hearing an awful lot about the Oklahoma State offense leading up to the season opener. Dismiss the buildup in “HAHA 35-14 2007 WE’VE HEARD THAT BEFORE” style if you like, but at the very least the experienced playmakers on the OSU offense are going to leave the much less experienced Georgia offense with very little room for error.

Put it this way: the Cowboy offense averaged 29 points in their losses last year and never scored fewer than 20 points. If the Georgia defense can’t hold them well below that average, the pressure will be on Joe Cox and the Georgia offense to be both efficient and productive out of the gate in Cox’s first start since 2006.

The Georgia Sports Blog started it off with a look at the matchups in the trenches when OSU has the ball. It’s a formidable line, especially at tackle, but he noted that Georgia should have the advantage in the interior. Chris Brown added to the discussion yesterday with a look at the Cowboy scheme and what plays are most effective. He observes that, despite the spread and the notoriety of a high-profile QB and WR, they are still very much a run-first team and led the Big 12 in rushing with over 3,000 yards in 2007 (and 2008).

Does pwd’s confidence in Georgia’s ability to stop the run hold up against a productive running game? If you put any stock in the 2007 game it does. Georgia held OSU to 70 rushing yards (99 yards total by the running backs). That’s not a shutdown on the Ron Dayne or Javon Ringer level, but it was a quality result against a team that would prove to be productive on the ground.

As pwd points out, that same job is easier said than done this time against a pair of senior offensive tackles, one of whom is a sure first-round NFL pick next year. The positive news is that a healthy Rod Battle has done it before against Oklahoma State. He and Marcus Howard were relentless in 2007 and helped lead the Georgia defense to record five sacks. Battle is back and healthy, but Howard of course is long gone, and Justin Houston won’t be available.

All of this leads me to think that the biggest challenge facing the Georgia defensive ends might be as much containment as it is pure pass rush. Even if Owens and Atkins are effective up the middle, Oklahoma State will test Georgia’s ends, linebackers, and secondary with the speed option and zone read. We’ll find out quickly whether Georgia’s tackling woes could be cured during the offseason.

Containment is just as important against the pass – with a mobile quarterback like Robinson, it’s going to be tough to affect him just from a push by the tackles. There are few things more demoralizing for a defense than watching a quarterback scramble out of a sure sack only to run for a first down or buy extra time to find his receiver.

Brown notes that “The Cowboys’ best pass play last year was often ‘Just throw it up to Dez'” and stresses the need for OSU to find a bit more diversity in the passing game. We saw this in action two years ago. Georgia did a fair job keeping Adarius Bowman from breaking out in 2007 (4 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD). OSU’s leading receiver that day was actually TE Brandon Pettigrew (7 catches, 85 yards). No other player caught more than one pass. This year, though, Pettigrew is gone, and expected TE replacement Jamal Mosely was arrested during the summer and might be suspended. For the Cowboys to find much diversity in the passing game, they’re going to have to turn to some receivers who put up fewer than 20 catches last season.

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