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Post No regrets: the 2012 Georgia football preview

Friday August 31, 2012

We’re ready for another season. The Dawgs are ranked in the top 10, they’re favorites to return to the SEC Championship, but they have even bigger goals in their sights and have rallied around the motto “Our Team. Our Time. No Regrets.” Will this be the kind of year that sees Mark Richt finally reach the top? Here’s our 2012 season preview.

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When we last left them…

A Georgia team that entered 2011 with a lot of doubts from the top down got back on course with a 10-win season and an SEC East title. The 7-1 conference record was Georgia’s best SEC showing since 2002, and the team played in its first SEC Championship since 2005. Mark Richt brought the program and his career back from near-collapse, and he’s now in a position to approach the next season with confidence.

Pairs of losses to bookend the season temper the excitement about the 2011 season. Georgia rolled off 10 straight wins through the middle tier of the SEC, but they lost to the four best teams they played. They looked outclassed against superior LSU and Boise State teams, and they made fatal mistakes against South Carolina and Michigan State teams that could be considered peers. The running game fell apart as the season wore on, the defense showed no staying power against better competition, and the team couldn’t muster a win against a team that finished the season ranked.

That mix of mostly good and a healthy dose of sobering reality resulted in a final ranking of #19. Depending on your poll of choice, the 2012 Dawgs open as many as 13 places higher in the rankings? What’s happened since?

Georgia’s high ranking has mostly to do with the number of players that return, especially on defense. All but two starters return, and the group of veterans that decided to forego the NFL draft and return is a once-in-a-decade collection. Add in a third-year starter at quarterback, an intact group of receivers, and a favorable schedule, and Georgia’s prospects are that much better.

Roster numbers became one of the biggest offseason themes. We anticipate some attrition each offseason, and we saw plenty after the 2011 season. The Dawgs were already working with low numbers, and no one would use recent recruiting classes as examples of oversigning. So the attrition – whether for discipline, playing time, or academics – left Georgia with under 70 players who had signed out of high school. The 2012 recruiting class of 19 (with two who didn’t qualify) wasn’t huge, but it does meet needs in key areas. The team has increased its scholarship numbers by awarding scholarships to well-deserving walk-ons, but the situation means two things: Georgia needs a big recruiting class in 2013, and they’ll be thin at a couple of key positions. In addition, like last season, much of the incoming freshman class will have a chance to play.

Key Losses and Departures

DB/Ret/Everything Else Brandon Boykin: Coaching cliches require us to say that Boykin did everything but sell popcorn. By the end of the year, Boykin had lined up at tailback, caught passes, returned kicks, and held down the starting cornerback job. In the bowl game he put points on the board on offense, defense, and special teams. Even though the Dawgs lost, it was impossible to name anyone else as the game’s MVP. It will take as many as four players to replace the roles that Boykin filled during 2011, and it will be tough for any of them to play any single position as well as Boykin did.

OL Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones: Georgia lost three starting offensive linemen to graduation, and these two are playing in the NFL now. Centers don’t often get much attention, but Jones was a four-year starter whose attitude set the tone for the line. Glenn played at both tackle and guard, and his versatility was key for a line that faced serious depth issues during Glenn’s career.

TE Orson Charles and Aron White: Two of the best receiving tight ends Georgia has seen are no longer with the program. Charles was the team’s lone early entrant into the NFL draft. His absence will take away one of Murray’s favorite targets and will change the way Georgia uses the tight end.

RB Isaiah Crowell: Once again Georgia’s leading returning rusher is no longer with the program. In fact, with the early departure of Carlton Thomas, Georgia’s top two returning backs (with over 1,200 yards between them) are gone. Both frustrated fans and coaches, but Georgia again enters a season without much experience in the backfield.

P/K Drew Butler and Blair Walsh: Two of Georgia’s most successful specialists are gone. Though Walsh ended on a shaky note, we trade that for the uncertainty of true freshmen.

Impact Newcomers

RB Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall: Once again Georgia will turn to true freshmen for help at tailback. Though Malcome, and to some extent Samuel, will be there, the Dawgs are counting on big contributions from the two newcomers from North Carolina. Marshall is the speed guy – confident enough to spend the offseason racing Malcolm Mitchell. Gurley is a bit bigger – but not a slow, plodding power back by any means. Gurley’s additional size might give him a little edge in readiness at this point, but both will see action.

LB/S Josh Harvey-Clemons: You don’t see a 6’5″ safety every day, but that’s what we’ll get with Harvey-Clemons. This talented freshman started off at outside linebacker, but he’s a bit slight for the position at under 210 lbs. Todd Grantham envisions Harvey-Clemons in a hybrid role called “star” – one that makes you think of Alex Ogletree or Thomas Davis. He won’t start at safety with Rambo and Williams there, but he’ll be used situationally underneath to use his long range to cause problems in the middle.

LB Jordan Jenkins: If you had to pick someone to succeed Jarvis Jones after this season, it might be Jenkins. Arguably the state’s top prospect, he was the subject of a fierce recruiting battle with Alabama. Now that he’s at Georgia, he’ll earn immediate playing time behind some of the best linebackers in the nation while improving in areas like run defense.

OT John Theus: He was one of the top prospects in the nation in 2012, and he’s emerged just ahead of some more experienced guys to earn the starting job at right tackle. He may be raw, but in all areas he’ll be an upgrade at that position and will anchor the line for years to come.

FB Quayvon Hicks: Walk-on Merritt Hall is the starter, and Richard Samuel will also see time at fullback – his third position. But Hicks has the physique and skills that could develop into an NFL type of fullback. He’s not ready yet, and it might be too soon to call him an impact newcomer for 2012. Once he comes around, he’ll revive a position that’s slipped a little since a good run of fullbacks in the 2000s. More important in the short-term, Hicks has taken on a leadership role among the freshmen to help prepare the newcomers to contribute right away.

P/K Marshall Morgan and Collin Barber: You’ll get to know these two quickly as they step in right away for Walsh and Butler. There are some walk-ons waiting in the wings just in case, but the Dawgs will be much better off if these two can deliver.

Sherman Armstrong and John Thomas: The Georgia coaching staff remained intact, but the strength and conditioning program continued the turnover that started last season. John Kasay retired, and the program added Armstrong and Thomas. Armstrong is a speed coach – the kind of professional the players had been seeking out on their own dime. Thomas was the long-time strength coach at Penn State and brings decades of experience. From two seasons ago, Georgia’s strength and conditioning program has seen a complete and dramatic overhaul and upgrade.

Watch Out For…

RB Ken Malcome: We saw a little bit of Malcome at the end of the season as he slowly worked his way out of the coaches’ bad graces. Though plenty of attention will be on the freshmen, Malcome is – at least for now – your starting tailback. He’s earned it with a strong offseason, and the coaches will trust him more early on as the newcomers pick up blocking schemes and life in the SEC.

TE Arthur Lynch: Lynch is the man expected to step in for Charles and White. As a senior with game experience he’s no rookie, but he’ll have a big job as redshirt freshman Jay Rome comes along. Lynch is more of a traditional tight end, and he will be an upgrade in blocking.

DB Damian Swann: Swann is the leader of Georgia’s next group of young defensive backs. Though the secondary will get help from Malcolm Mitchell, Swann’s role will be important as he backs up the starters and moves over to nickel back for passing situations.

DE Abry Jones: I hesistate to put a senior NFL prospect in this section, but Jones does such an important job at a relatively anonymous position. In the 3-4, a lot more attention is paid to the nose tackle and the outside linebackers. Do yourself a favor and watch #93 for a few plays. I’m as excited that he returned as I am any other defensive starter.

WR Justin Scott-Wesley: Georgia returns all of its receivers from a year ago. There is one redshirt freshman added to the group. Justin Scott-Wesley arrived last year with more of a track reputation than a football reputation. The sprinter won the 2010 state 100-meter dash in 10.35 seconds, and he redshirted to improve his football skills. Now with a little more bulk, he’ll be a threat on deep passes and whenever he gets the ball in space. It will be tough for him to crack the lineup with everyone else returning, but his speed will earn him playing time.

The Schedule

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it too many times this offseason. Georgia has an “easy” schedule because they “avoid” Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU. As if Georgia had any say in it. SEC expansion added another divisional opponent, and an anticipated trip to Tuscaloosa has been replaced by a game with Missouri. The Dawgs will just have to make do playing the rest of the SEC East, Auburn, and Ole Miss.

The nonconference portion of the schedule *is* easier in 2012. Swap out Boise State for Buffalo and make Tech a home game, and Georgia should be expected to do well against its four nonconference opponents. All will be at home, none are ranked, and only Tech is from a major conference.

There is some degree of difficulty to the conference schedule. On paper, Georgia’s four toughest conference games are all away from home. Missouri will add the frenzy of hosting its first SEC game. The Dawgs must win at South Carolina to avoid a three-game losing streak to the Gamecocks. Georgia hasn’t won consecutive games in Jacksonville since the 1980s. The always-competitive trip to Auburn will match wits against the architect of Georgia’s dominant defenses of the early 2000s.

The home slate isn’t nearly as daunting. When Vanderbilt is among your better home opponents, it’s safe to say that Gameday isn’t coming to campus. That’s not to say Vandy isn’t worth watching – we saw the scare they put into the Dawgs last year, and they’re just as full of bravado/themselves this year. Tennessee also comes to Athens. Ordinarily this would be a game circled on the schedule, but the Vols are a bit of a question again this year. Tennessee’s passing game is enough to get anyone’s attention, and it took just one bad afternoon against the Vols in 2004 to derail a promising season.

The schedule might not be as brutal as it could be with a top-5 Bama or LSU on there, but by no means does that make it “easy.”


You can go down the list of departures and gather what Georgia’s top concerns are. It starts up front with the offensive line. There will be three new starters including a true freshman at right tackle and a new center. One of its likely starters, Kolton Houston, remains ineligible. If there’s a bright spot on the line, it’s depth. Will Friend will have at least 7 or 8 guys to rotate in with still more behind them. That’s not to say the team can afford many injuries to the starters. But if the starting unit can hold together reasonably well, it’s a pretty strong group that should improve throughout the season, and there will be sufficient depth for the occasional breather.

Tailback remains a concern until proven otherwise. The team is without its top two returning rushers. Malcome and Samuel provide the lion’s share of the experience. There will be a lot depending on the readiness of two true freshmen. Things aren’t as dire as the end of the 2011 season when the team had to dip into the walk-on pool for a tailback, but this group is also replacing 1,200 yards of production. Aaron Murray’s ceiling will depend on these backs pulling their weight.

Special teams also ranks up there as a concern. Walsh’s struggles aside, two very accomplished specialists are gone. Boykin’s threat as a kick returner is also gone. Those were the strong points of a unit that looked very shaky in other areas from kickoff coverage to punt defense. The scholarship freshmen will get the first opportunity to kick and punt. Branden Smith will get a chance as the return man. Malcolm Mitchell could also get a look, and that will scare the daylights out of fans. Freshmen defensive backs Sheldon Dawson and Damian Swann might also return kicks.

Those are broad-based positional concerns, but there are also a few situations to watch. Murray had costly second half turnovers in three of Georgia’s four losses. Can he avoid those killer mistakes? Can the team avoid the mistakes on special teams – the kickoff returns, the fake punts, and the missed field goals that hurt them in 2011? Georgia’s receivers all return, but can any rise above role player to become primary targets with Charles gone and Mitchell’s role diminished? Then of course there are the unknowns – injuries, suspensions, and the march of the season will all have their say.

Reasons for Hope

Georgia’s lofty ranking and high hopes start with its defense. With only two starters gone, you know the pieces. Some depth has been added by the redshirt freshmen and true freshmen. This is a veteran group with three years’ experience in a complicated and effective scheme. Todd Grantham will have no restrictions on what he can run, and he’ll have playmakers from front to back. There is still lots of room for improvement – second-half collapses to end the year against Michigan State and LSU were as much on the defense as anyone else. They can’t just be phenomenal for one half.

Murray’s comfort as a three-year starter will also be a positive. There are few situations and schemes he hasn’t seen. He’ll have a senior receiver in Tavarres King, and he has experience with the rest of the top five receivers. If the line holds together and the four tailbacks deliver, Murray should have what he needs to meet his goal of at least a 65% completion rate.

Is the schedule a legitimate reason for hope? In a small way, but, again, it’s dangerous to think that Georgia won’t face any challenges from their schedule. Whether its road conference games, toss-up rivalry games, or the pressures that build while chasing a title, there will be plenty keeping the team on their toes. Some opponents will turn out better than expected. Others will turn out to be over-hyped. Hopefully Georgia won’t be among them.

The team is confident, and they have their eyes on some ambitious goals. There isn’t the uncertainty or doubt that faced them this time last year and especially after the first two games. That desperation did serve as a bit of a kick in the pants to rally the team for its 10-game winning streak. The motivation is different this year, but the hunger and focus can’t be any less.

Post Mitchell to miss at least the season opener

Friday August 31, 2012

Georgia had big plans for Malcolm Mitchell – the team’s second-leading receiver moved over to defense and was expected to start while still catching a few balls on offense and possibly even doing some kick returning.

Those ambitious plans are on hold now as Mitchell injured an ankle in Thursday’s practice. He’s out for the season opener against Buffalo, and there’s no word yet whether he’ll be able to go for Missouri next week.

We’re fortunate in that this is the first serious injury to a projected starter, but it’s also an injury to one of Georgia’s biggest stars at one of its thinnest positions. We’ll see a lot of inexperienced cornerbacks Swann, Bowman, and Dawson tomorrow.

Post Des Williams raising the next generation right

Thursday August 30, 2012

A lot of what we’re about to celebrate Saturday is the renewal of traditions passed down from our families and passed on to our children. Former Bulldog linebacker and fullback Des Williams (remember reading about his yard?) proudly shows how his 2-year-old son Braylon will have no confusion about his loyalties.

Post Getting ready for game day: TV, tailgating, and stadium news

Thursday August 30, 2012


I’ve had a few people e-mail this question, so to answer the TV question: the game is on the SEC Network. It’s probably the same channel where you’ve found the 12:21 game in the past. For Atlanta, that’s Peachtree TV. For all other areas nationwide, check this link. The game will also be online at ESPN3, and it will be part of the ESPN Gameplan subscription.

Campus and Tailgating

For once, not much has changed. The schedule ensures that there won’t be many wild tailgates this year, but we’ll have our moments. You can find the current parking map here. Last season’s tailgating rules remain, including the 7 a.m. start time. Last season’s less-restrictive North Campus rules also still apply. There will be over 2,400 points across campus for trash disposal and recycling.

Inside the Stadium

Big news today with the announcements of some new concessions vendors, highlighted by Chick-fil-A at Gates 2 (NW corner) and 7 (SE corner). Vendor staffing has increased by over 20%, and credit/debit capacity at concession stands has also increased by 20%.

Post Habemus Canem! Russ promoted to Uga IX

Thursday August 30, 2012

About time.

Official release:

“Russ,” the half-brother of Uga VII who has served two terms as interim mascot for the Georgia Bulldogs, has received a “battlefield promotion” and will assume the title of “Uga IX,” according to an announcement by UGA Director of Athletics Greg McGarity.

Official ceremonies will be conducted prior to the Georgia-Florida Atlantic home football game in historic Sanford Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 15. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be carried live on CSS.

Post The rest of the Dream Team gets its turn

Tuesday August 28, 2012

It’s unusual for more than a handful of true freshmen to see playing time, but Georgia had no shortage of immediate needs in 2011. 15 of the 26 signees from the heralded 2011 “Dream Team” recruiting class saw action as newcomers. At least seven of those 15 saw what could be considered significant playing time. Several others became key members of special teams, and just a few were limited to mop-up duty.

The class had two players, defensive lineman Chris Mayes and linebacker Kent Turene, who did not qualify. Five others (Crowell, Harrow, Nick Marshall, Chris Sanders, and Sanford Seay) are no longer with the program.

Eleven players return who saw some degree of playing time as true freshmen. Some are already starters; others will emerge as important pieces of this year’s team.

  • OL David Andrews: After four years of Ben Jones, Georgia will have a new center. Andrews played in 10 games as a freshman, but the veteran Jones played almost all of the meaningful minutes. Andrews’ size coming out of high school was a concern, and as recently as spring there was talk about sliding Chris Burnette over to center if Andrews wasn’t ready. David made big strides during the offseason in both strength and technique, leading Mark Richt to declare that Andrews “has solidified that (starting) job.”
  • WR Chris Conley: A key third-down catch against Florida, a touchdown at Tech…Conley didn’t have a ton of receptions in 2011, but he made the most of them. The level-headed gym rat is well on his way to becoming a very reliable receiver.
  • OL Watts Dantzler: Dantzler has the frame you want in a tackle, and he saw limited reserve duty as a true freshman. He entered the offseason as a leading candidate to step in at right tackle after Kolton Houston’s status was put in question. Though it seems true freshman John Theus will earn the starting job by a very slim margin, Dantzler still looks to earn a lot of playing time as the first guy rotated in.
  • DE Ray Drew: Depending what position Mitchell plays, Drew might’ve been the top-rated defensive prospect in the 2011 class. He saw limited time as a true freshman, especially against Vanderbilt, and had a tough adjustment to the outside linebacker spot. Now he’s bulked up and moved down to defensive end where he’s more comfortable.
  • LB Amarlo Herrera: Herrera was called on early as injuries hit the defense. He played in all 14 games, started 8, and finished with 37 tackles. He’ll be fighting for a starting job at the deep ILB position.
  • DT Johnathan Jenkins: Georgia’s lone JUCO signee last year lived up to his billing anchoring the defensive line.
  • OL Hunter Long: Another true freshman who saw limited reserve time in 2011, Long was close to joining that primary seven or eight man rotation Will Friend wants on the line. A broken foot has sidelined Long until October at the earliest.
  • ATH Malcolm Mitchell: Scored in the season opener and never looked back. He was the team’s second-leading receiver despite missing time with a midseason injury. Now he’ll be looked to for a similar impact on defense – and he might even be a better cornerback than receiver.
  • S Corey Moore: Moore was primarily a special teams player as a freshman, but it’s hard to take playing time from Rambo and Williams. Moore is now the top reserve at safety, and he’s drawn praise for his offseason progress. He’ll be a likely starter in 2013, but he might not have to wait that long to start if Rambo is suspended.
  • DB Damian Swann: Swann, like Moore, was mostly used on special teams, but with Boykin’s graduation and the Commings suspension, he’ll be counted on early. He’ll likely be the starting nickel back and the first option to replace a starter at either cornerback spot. Swann’s progress could help determine how much time Mitchell spends on defense.
  • LB Ramik Wilson: Four tackles in eight games last season and a possible starter this year at OLB. After the year he’s had, we’re pulling for him.

So only eight players return to Georgia as redshirt freshmen. It’s a low total for a typical class, but this was anything but a typical class. Opportunities continue to open up, and several of these eight are expected to contribute as much this season as some of their classmates did a year ago.

  • DE Sterling Bailey: Bailey’s progress was slowed in 2011 with both shoulder and foot injuries. Now cleared to play, he’s added 30 pounds and moved, like Drew, from linebacker to defensive end. He’ll face a crowded depth chart there, but he’s already seen some second team work.
  • DB Devin Bowman: With brothers at Oklahoma St. and Alabama, Bowman’s lineage is well-known. Devin has had to put on weight, and he’s also had to focus on playing cornerback after spending much of his high school career on offense. Bowman, like Swann, will get a look early in the season with Commings out. If Swann moves over to the nickel back, Bowman would be the next option at corner after starters Smith and Mitchell and ahead of true freshman Sheldon Dawson.
  • OL Zach DeBell: A lot of guys struggle with the transition to college, and that seems to be the case with DeBell. When the position coach uses phrases like “He’s still got a ways to go” and “If he’s gonna be a college football player,” you know that DeBell faces a long climb up the depth chart. His 6’7″ frame earned him offers all across the South, and he was just 17 when he arrived at Georgia. There’s still plenty of time for DeBell to contribute.
  • QB Christian LeMay: The lone QB signee from 2011 was set to be the top backup to Aaron Murray this year as Hutson Mason redshirts. But concerns about LeMay’s development have made coaches more hesitant about putting Mason on the shelf for the year. Ideally LeMay will be allowed to work out the kinks in live action during a few blowouts. If the need for a backup arises in a close game, look for the redshirt to come off of Mason.
  • TE Jay Rome: The presumptive heir apparent at tight end will begin the year behind senior Arthur Lynch and on the field in two-tight-end sets. Rome’s potential has been obvious, and he’s athletic enough to play two sports at Georgia. But questions have come up about effort and blocking. There aren’t many options behind him other than true freshman Ty Flournoy-Smith, and that’s caused Richt to use the media to try to light a fire under Rome. Lynch will step in fine, but the Dawgs need Rome’s best effort to enjoy similar productivity at tight end to what we saw from the Charles-White combination.
  • WR Justin Scott-Wesley: Scott-Wesley arrived in 2011 as a high school track star. He spent his redshirt season adding strength and learning how to use that track speed. There’s a lot of depth ahead of him, but his speed should get him on the field especially if Mitchell spends most of his time on defense.
  • OL Nathan Theus: Also known as the big brother of incoming tackle John, Nathan signed as a long snap specialist. He might have to wait another year as Ty Frix enters his senior season as Georgia’s long snapper.
  • OL Xzavier Ward: Ward was a late-January addition to the class after attrition opened up room. He had prototypical tackle size at 6’7″, but his high school weight of 255 lb. made him a likely redshirt candidate. His progress was also slowed by recovery from high school knee surgery. Still, Ward has “really been a pleasant surprise” in fall camp according to Mike Bobo, and he’s giving the coaches a good problem to have when they try to nail down the rotation on the line.

Post How to make $100 million and still lose money

Tuesday August 28, 2012

An instructive story from Knoxville as the Tennessee athletic department announces a $4 million deficit for the most recent fiscal year. There are several unique circumstances that contributed to the loss including an oppressive tax situation. But the program still took in $106.5 in revenue while spending over $110 million. The program had to dip into its reserves, and it’s taking a look at all areas of the budget, including an annual contribution to the university.

(By contrast, Georgia’s budget for the upcoming year is around $92 million.)

If you wondered whether the turmoil around Tennessee’s big men’s programs contributed to the problem, you’re right: “Those expenses included hefty buyouts to former athletic director Mike Hamilton, football coach Phillip Fulmer, men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl and baseball coach Todd Raleigh.” This situation handcuffs Tennessee not only in terms of how they’ll evaluate Derek Dooley’s future but also in terms of what they might be able to offer a potential replacement.

While Tennessee’s mess is largely an in-house problem, don’t think that there aren’t also macro issues that could and do affect other SEC programs. Even Florida, facing “a near-stagnant increase of revenue,” has had to dip into its reserves to maintain its own $6 million gift to the school.

The “threat” of just staying home to watch games rather than pay higher ticket prices has been talked about for several years now. With more and more homes enjoying superior HDTV setups and the economy still suffering, even top teams are struggling to sell out games. The SEC, in a token nod to this reality, will allow stadiums to show more than just one replay of even controversial plays. That’s great for those of us in the stands, but it’s not going to do much to get fans off the couch where they already have unlimited replays.

Georgia’s situation remains healthy, at least as of the most recent numbers we have. But even Georgia’s margins will face pressure. The conference distribution now has two more mouths to feed. Sanford Stadium isn’t getting any larger, and season tickets can be had with only a minimum Hartman Fund donation. The lackluster 2012 home schedule has left several thousand tickets unsold. Worse, Georgia faces only six home football games in 2013, and that will mean the loss of several million dollars in ticket sales alone. It will take some planning and tough decisions just to maintain revenue levels at present levels.

Post Warm up the vocal cords

Saturday August 18, 2012

We’ll give the mic to the Redcoat Band (last seen moving back from the West endzone to the student section):

The University of Georgia Redcoat Band is asking Georgia students, alumni, and fans to help revive an old tradition. During the Pre-game show, the Redcoats will perform the grand old fight song “Hail to Georgia,” including a section where fans are asked to sing along. This is a recording from a recent Redcoat rehearsal including the lyrics to “Hail.” We would be honored if you would learn the words and be ready to sing with us every week at Pre-game.

Post Georgia’s other two-way player: getting the ball to Branden Smith

Wednesday August 15, 2012

Many of Chris Brown’s posts over at Smart Football are great jumping-off points because they introduce concepts that lead you to wonder how your team might use them. This post about a reverse to the wide (or slot) receiver is a good example. Back to that in a second.

There’s no question that Malcolm Mitchell will play a role on both sides of the ball this year. Those roles, the number of plays he’ll see, and the tug-of-war between coaches on offense and defense have been some of the most-covered stories of the offseason.

But Georgia has another player who’s seen more than a couple of snaps on both sides of the ball in his three seasons. Smith has developed into a likely senior starter at cornerback. He’s made plays on special teams. But if you had to identify Smith with a single play, it would still be this play on offense as a freshman against South Carolina:

It seems as if Smith has been chasing that play for the rest of his career. He arrived at Georgia with even more two-way hype than Mitchell. The Champ Bailey comparisons were out there even before the South Carolina game. His electrifying run off the reverse and startling acceleration set a high bar, and it’s been tough living up to the expectations that came from just one play – at least on offense.

As a freshman in 2009 Smith ran the ball 17 times for 208 yards. He scored twice. In the two years since, Smith has a total of only 19 carries and 146 yards. His lone touchdown since his freshman season came against New Mexico State last year. As a receiver, Smith has been less productive: through three seasons he has seven receptions for 63 yards and no scores. Nearly all of those receptions have come on some sort of flare or screen. Without establishing much of a downfield threat, Smith’s repertoire on offense has been limited to those screens or direct handoffs, and it’s no doubt limited his production as defenses learn what to expect from him.

That brings us back to Brown’s post. Smith obviously has something to offer the offense, but the selection of plays is limited. The play Brown illustrates is one that seems right down Smith’s (not to mention Mitchell’s) alley. It looks a bit like a reverse, but it’s not a trick play – it’s actually a pretty straightforward running play. The key difference is the faked inside run. On Smith’s reverse against the Gamecocks, the tailback makes the pitch and is more or less out of the play after drawing the defense to the wrong side of the field. By faking the inside handoff to the eventual side of the run, the tailback stays in the play to become the lead blocker. The motion away from the direction of the run helps to draw the defense just as a reverse does.

Could it work for Georgia? Murray is more than mobile enough to execute his part. The Dawgs have several tough tailbacks who could lead the run. And Smith and Mitchell are exactly the kind of big-play speed guys who could break a long run on this play. Of course this is just one wrinkle of many an offense could use. If Smith is going to get plays on offense again – and there’s no reason to think he won’t – it’s worth exploring some different ways to help him realize the potential he showed as a freshman.

Post No pressure – just set the all-time Georgia record

Wednesday August 15, 2012

Georgia coaches have set a benchmark for junior quarterback Aaron Murray’s improvement: become more accurate and complete 62% of pass attempts.* Murray so far during preseason camp seems up to the challenge, so quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is asking for even more. “I just want to set the standard a little bit higher than 62. I think we’re capable of reaching that,” Bobo explained.

How audacious is this goal? Consider that no starting quarterback under Mark Richt at Georgia has had a better completion percentage than Stafford in 2008 at 61.4%. In fact, starters in 8 of Richt’s 11 seasons have thrown for under 60%. Only two quarterbacks in Georgia history have had a better season than Bobo’s original 62% benchmark: Zeier in 1993 (63.29%) and Bobo in 1997 (65.03%). Bobo’s new target is the very peak of historical Georgia quarterback performance. So if Murray has the kind of season Bobo envisions, it will be one for the record books and will shatter the standard set for Richt/Bobo quarterbacks.

Starting quarterback completion percentage for Richt teams:

  • 2011: 59.1% (Murray)
  • 2010: 61.1% (Murray)
  • 2009: 55.9% (Cox)
  • 2008: 61.4% (Stafford)
  • 2007: 55.7% (Stafford)
  • 2006: 52.7% (Stafford)
  • 2005: 55.8% (Shockley)
  • 2004: 58.5% (Greene)
  • 2003: 60.3% (Greene)
  • 2002: 57.5% (Greene)
  • 2001: 59.3% (Greene)

But there’s another context. A completion rate of 65% or even 60% would be good by Georgia and Richt standards, but how about nationally? In that light, Georgia’s record books and expectations are a little less impressive. Last season 64 qualifying quarterbacks had a completion percentage over 60%. 26 were at 65% or better and would be at the top of Georgia’s all-time list. Murray clearly has his own part to play, but is there something about Georgia’s offense that doesn’t lend itself to particularly high completion rates? You can credit SEC defenses to a point, but there’s McCarron at 66.8% and Shaw at 65.4%. Does it say anything about Georgia’s offense that South Carolina’s backup can end up with a completion percentage that would rank as the best ever at Georgia?

* – True, completion percentage isn’t everything. It’s only one way to measure quarterback effectiveness, and there’s a lot more that goes into a good efficiency rating.