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Post Are you hurt or are you injured?

Sunday August 29, 2021

It’s trite and obvious to point out that injuries will affect a team. Most of us remember the horror of October 2013 as a slew of injuries derailed a team flying high after wins over South Carolina and LSU. Most often, though, we think about those injuries in binary terms: is a player available or out? After 2-3 (or 4-6) weeks, they’ll be back. In worse cases, they’re out for the year.

Georgia’s a little banged up right now, and that makes them just like most any other program during preseason camp. Tykee Smith and Darnell Washington have joined a list that includes several receivers and starting center Warren Ericson. Many of these players will return in time for the opener; game week has strong healing powers. Others, like Smith, Washington, or even Pickens, will have recovery periods that will linger on into the season.

Returning to the practice field though doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no longer an issue. Certainly Georgia’s outstanding medical staff wouldn’t clear anyone in obvious risk of serious injury, but there’s a lot of gray area between being unable to participate and a clean bill of health. Most injuries aren’t as cut-and-dried as an incapacitating ACL tear, and there are many varying degrees of “OK.” Few players are going to feel fresh as a daisy during the physical grind of camp and the season. For these players then the season becomes a struggle of managing their condition(s) while remaining available to play. It’s a constant reassessment of the famous “hurt vs. injured” standard.

You often don’t hear about it until well after the fact. Just about every offseason has a story (or several!) like this one:

Georgia inside linebacker Nakobe Dean underwent surgery to repair his torn labrum this spring….Dean revealed he actually played through the labrum issue for the majority of the 2020 season.

Dean probably looked just fine to you and me as he continued to develop into one of the best inside linebackers in the nation. But clearly he wasn’t in top form, and he probably wasn’t the only one. How players cope with these minor injuries affects not only their ability to perform; it also affects how coaches manage lineups and situations. Ericson might return in time for the season, but the true extent of his recovery will have a ripple effect up and down the line. Blaylock might be cleared to practice or even play, but can he ever perform at his pre-injury level? Turf toe is one of those injuries that seems minor but can linger for weeks, and it could hamper Arian Smith’s top-level speed.

Georgia’s situation isn’t unique – the rare exceptions are those teams and players not dealing with a spectrum of injuries. Limited playing time or even absences might not make much sense in the moment, and coaches aren’t always forthcoming with their reasons. It’s worth keeping in mind that 1) an injury isn’t gone when a player returns to the team and 2) many injuries we’ll never know about until well after the fact, if at all.

Post Georgia’s 85 for 2021

Friday August 6, 2021

As Georgia begins preseason camp today, I like to get my head around the composition of the team, and this format helps. The impact of the transfer portal and the exceptions made for the pandemic have made it tough at times to keep up with who’s coming and going, but things have settled down now. Georgia welcomes 20 true freshmen and three transfers to complete its 85-man roster.

Georgia’s personnel issues (if you can call it that) stand out in a format like this. At defensive back, there are as many newcomers as upperclassmen. You can see why the transfers of Tykee Smith and Derion Kendrick were so important. Brini, Speed, and Poole had all seen playing time but had yet to claim a starting job heading into their final season. The other options at cornerback were all largely unproven freshmen. We’ve penciled in Kendrick as one starter, and Smith would be considered a starter at star in a nickel defense. That still leaves one spot up for grabs (not to mention the rest of the depth chart), but you’re not as terrified about playing someone like Ringo or Kimber as you’d be if they were paired with someone much less experienced.

It’s a similar story on the offensive line. The return of Salyer and Shaffer for their senior season saves Matt Luke from dipping deeper into a 10-man pool of true and redshirt freshmen. Truss could still figure in the left tackle picture, and it would be encouraging to see the 5 starters come from among the 7 linemen with at least two years’ development in the program. Still, the offensive line tilts very young with 10 of 17 players as true or redshirt freshmen. The depth of the line and the flexibility of coaches to deal with injuries depends on this talented but raw group.

The hopes for a high-performing offense will lie with a young fleet of receivers and tight ends. There are no seniors among the group. With Pickens out indefinitely, Jackson and FitzPatrick are the only upperclassmen among the tight ends and receivers. This roster shows how Georgia is set up for a couple of exciting seasons with Gilbert, Burton, Arian Smith, Adonai Mitchell, and others having several years’ of eligibility remaining.

We also see how the team’s recruiting needs align with what’s going on out on the recruiting trail. The anticipated early exit of Daniels creates the need for depth at quarterback, and Georgia has a commitment from Gunner Stockton. Lovasea Carroll’s move to defensive back created a gap at tailback, and Branson Robinson will help there. Davis and Wyatt returning on the defensive front is huge for 2021, but they’ll leave a big hole next season especially if Travon Walker exits. Georgia has two defensive line commitments for 2022 and is on the hunt for more. Kirby Smart won’t be caught again without talent in the defensive back pipeline, and there’s a big group of seniors due to leave after this season. The same is true at linebacker where four seniors will depart and both juniors could be early exit candidates.

It almost goes without saying these days that the bulk of the roster (54 of 85) is freshmen and sophomores. Smaller senior classes are the norm with transfers and early draft entrants taking their toll on the roster. The team isn’t as young as it looks, though. 24 of the 54 freshmen and sophomores have redshirted, giving them at least one year of development in the system. All but four of the incoming true freshmen enrolled for spring semester. There’s no substitute for game experience, but coaches won’t have to worry about acclimating a large group of newcomers when preseason camp opens.

(Players are listed alphabetically by class. Possible Day-One starters in a base formation are in bold – just a best guess. [R] indicates a player who has redshirted. A star(*) indicates an early enrollee.)


4 Years

3 Years

2 Years

1 Year

QB (4)

Brock Vandagriff *

Carson Beck [R]

J.T. Daniels

Stetson Bennett

RB (5)

Daijun Edwards

Kendall Milton

Kenny McIntosh

Zamir White

James Cook

TE (5)

Brock Bowers *

Darnell Washington

Ryland Goede [R]

Brett Seither [R]

John FitzPatrick

WR (11)

Jackson Meeks *

Adonai Mitchell *

Ladd McConkey [R]

Justin Robinson [R]

Arian Smith [R]

Jermaine Burton

Arik Gilbert

Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint

Dominick Blaylock [R]

Kearis Jackson

George Pickens

OL (17)

Dylan Fairchild

Amarius Mims *

Micah Morris *

Jared Wilson

Austin Blaske [R]

Broderick Jones [R]

Cameron Kinnie [R]

Chad Lindberg [R]

Tate Ratledge [R]

Sedrick Van Pran [R]

Warren McClendon [R]

Xavier Truss [R]

Clay Webb [R]

Owen Condon

Warren Ericson

Jamaree Salyer

Justin Shaffer

DL (14)

Marlin Dean *

Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins *

Jonathan Jefferson *

Warren Brinson

Jalen Carter

Nazir Stackhouse

Zion Logue [R]

Tymon Mitchell [R]

Bill Norton [R]

Travon Walker

Tramel Walthour

Jordan Davis

Devonte Wyatt

Julian Rochester

LB (13)

Chaz Chambliss *

Jamon Dumas-Johnson

Smael Mondon *

Xavian Sorey *

MJ Sherman

Rian Davis [R]

Trezman Marshall [R]

Nakobe Dean

Nolan Smith

Adam Anderson

Robert Beal

Channing Tindall

Quay Walker

DB (14)

Javon Bullard *

Lovasea Carroll *

David Daniel *

Nyland Green *

Kamari Lassiter

Jalen Kimber [R]

Kelee Ringo [R]

Lewis Cine

Tykee Smith

Latavious Brini

Derion Kendrick

William Poole

Christopher Smith

Ameer Speed

Spec (2)

Jared Zirkel [R]

Jake Camarda





Post Not asking too much

Thursday August 5, 2021

When we tried to have a realistic look at J.T. Daniels’ Heisman chances, it boiled down to this conclusion: “Daniels would have to obliterate the Georgia record book and do things never before seen in Athens.” The high water mark for a Georgia quarterback remains Aaron Murray’s 2012 season: nearly 3,900 passing yards, 10.1 yards per attempt, and 36 passing TD. The stats of recent Heisman winners suggest that Daniels would either have to become a dual-threat quarterback capable of rushing for 1,000 yards, or he’d have to leave Murray’s 2012 passing stats in the dust. That doesn’t just mean break the records: Joe Burrow threw for nearly 5,700 yards and 60 TD in 2019. Mac Jones threw for 4,500 yards in 2020 in a shortened season – and didn’t win the Heisman.

Along the same lines, Blutarsky looks at the imperative to raise Georgia’s net yards per play (YPP). He clearly sets out the target for a team with playoff aspirations: “you’d better create a net YPP of 2+ if you want a realistic shot at the CFP (the four-team version, that is). And if you want to win, you’d better wind up north of 2.5.” What does that mean in practical terms? “Georgia probably has to bump its offensive YPP up a full yard over the 2020 number to make the CFP field this season, assuming it can maintain its defensive excellence.” Maybe a bit more context will help: “A 7.21 ypp would be the best in the program’s history.”

So there’s the simple challenge for Tood Monken and J.T. Daniels: perform at a level never before seen at Georgia. That sets the expectations fairly high, and it raises some interesting questions. What if Daniels matches or just barely surpasses Murray’s 2012 numbers? It would be a superlative season for a Georgia quarterback, but would it be seen as a disappointment? What if Georgia’s defense, and its secondary in particular, slips a little and yields, say, another half yard or so per play? Would we notice an appreciable gain on the offensive side? Would the pressure instead be on Monken to offset the difference and still come out with a net increase?

It’s good to put some concrete numbers behind our expectations beyond straight wins and losses. We recognize the need to modernize and increase the output of the offense to compete at the highest level; it’s why Todd Monken is here. Metrics like YPP, EPA, success rate, and explosiveness are important benchmarks to follow that let us know how things are going. We know, based on those metrics, what a successful team and offense looks like. If we want and expect Georgia to contend at that level, watching those metrics will be the equivalent of the world record line superimposed over an Olympic swimming or track event – is Georgia on pace, out ahead, or falling behind where they need to be?

The encouraging news is that while these numbers might be unprecedented at Georgia, several other teams have found multiple ways to get there. Georgia’s program bests, unless you’re talking about something like Herschel Walker’s output, represent good seasons but aren’t untouchable and should be surpassed if the talent and offensive system are what we claim they are.

Post SEC vs. the field

Sunday August 1, 2021

Blutarsky has often identified college football’s regional passion as one of its unique characteristics worth preserving. That point has always resonated with me, and it’s not hard to see the downside of an enjoyable fall distilled down and repackaged into a nationwide “who’s in?” made-for-television event.

The conference expansion dominoes that fell across the nation a decade ago established conferences less as regional blocs and more as convenient revenue-sharing arrangements. The Big 12 stretched from west Texas to West Virginia. The SEC added a midwestern school to its East division, and Colorado found a home with the Pacific coast teams. Air travel meant that the rough geographic borders that used to constrain conferences were anachronisms, and conferences could be structured more around markets, eyeballs, and media rights. And as Blutarsky also points out, this train left the station long before 2012: the addition of South Carolina and Arkansas to the SEC in 1992 that facilitated a lucrative conference championship football game showed the way.

Texas and Oklahoma are coming to the SEC, and this pretty much says why:

That’s a ton of cash. (Though, for context, it’s still around 15% of the new NFL media rights deal. Why stop now?) What’s more important is that it creates an entity on par with the NCAA itself. That doesn’t mean the SEC’s revenues will equal the revenue of all other conferences combined. The NCAA is a distinct organization and gets its revenue from things like media rights for the NCAA basketball tournament. It does mean that the SEC, along with its media partner, will have sufficient clout to influence not only the competition on the field but also how college football is presented, marketed, and discussed.

Those focused on football have wondered how the addition of Texas and Oklahoma will shift the competitive balance of the SEC. How will the conference be organized? Georgia has played Clemson more often than A&M since the Aggies joined the SEC. Adding teams under the current model would be ridiculous. I do like the pod system many have outlined for football. (I can’t imagine a good system for sports like baseball though that would rotate through the conference often enough.) We can expect changes to scheduling, and it’s not as if Georgia will be playing Texas and Oklahoma every year.

The bigger impact will come nationally as the rest of the college sports landscape will have to deal with an expanded SEC as a bloc. The Pac-12 is already rattling swords about the SEC’s effect on the playoff expansion to 12 teams. The Pac-12 itself might not have much to say about it, but we can expect coalitions to form that will attempt to check the SEC. Those coalitions might be formalized through the expansion and realignment of other conferences, or they might remain informal and shifting alliances depending on the moment. No one wants to answer to the SEC, and there are several schools and conferences that might – might – be effective opposition if they can find common ground.

Those who appreciate the regional roots of college football might be amused that one effect of SEC expansion will be an even greater focus on southern football. Even as the playoff and media coverage package the sport for a national audience, the product will have a decidedly southern bent. It’s a big geographic footprint, but much of what happens in college football will be defined by what happens from Oklahoma to Florida. Certainly there’s enough good football outside of the conference to remain relevant and competitive, but it’s not hard to see that the narrative each season will begin as which outsider can take down the SEC’s best. Expansion might even lead us to rethink what it means to be a conference champion. Surviving and emerging as the SEC champion would, to many, be as impressive and more important than winning a national title against the best of the rest.

Whether it’s previewing each season’s football national title race or pondering the future of college sports, the addition of Oklahoma and Texas will raise the same question: “the SEC or the field?”

One more small thing…another effect I expect from this expansion will be to shift the SEC’s center of gravity westward. By that I mean six of 16 schools will lie on or west of the Mississippi. Oklahoma and Texas have just a bit more presence and clout than Missouri or even Arkansas. The SEC’s Nashville-Atlanta-Birmingham center can’t help but feel that tug. One consequence I expect will be the rotation of the SEC football championship game. Even a more permanent event like the SEC baseball tournament could be forced to rotate. There are at least four major domed stadiums in the west (New Orleans, Dallas/Arlington, Houston, and St. Louis) capable of hosting major events, and Dallas seems the most obvious choice to host the occasional SEC championship. You can be sure they’ll try.