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Thursday, August 28, 2008

10 Questions For Week 1

I think I've made it clear how I feel about "Managing Expectations" stories, but I do sympathize with the folks still writing them. After all, there hasn't been much new information to write about. I'm almost impressed now by people like Nancy Grace who can cover the same kidnapping case for a year-and-a-half without any new information coming to light. It's a skill to create news when nothing is happening.

Luckily for us, things are about to start happening. Georgia takes the field for an actual game Saturday, and with a little luck, we'll have a fresh batch of storylines (hopefully not about injured players) to run with next week.

Given that, here are 10 questions we may get answers to in Week 1.

1.) Will Uga VII be the day's most impressive freshman?

Fans can't wait to meet Georgia's new mascot, but head coach Mark Richt has assured Uga won't be the only fresh face to see the field Saturday. A.J. Green, Tavarres King, Richard Samuel, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Baccari Rambo, Marcus Dowtin, Brandon Boykin and Blair Walsh are just a few of the true freshmen who could see action Saturday and perhaps earn a bit more playing time down the road.

2.) Who will return punts?

Neither Coach Fabris or Coach Richt are saying for sure, and the names that have been bantered about range from Logan Gray to Knowshon Moreno to Asher Allen. Richt has said it won't be Moreno -- at least not against Georgia Southern -- and it's unlikely Gray would be used in this game either. Freshman RB Carlton Thomas seems like he might be the best answer, but Richt said he would be unlikely to burn Thomas' redshirt just to have him return kicks. Wide receiver Tony Wilson might be the safe money to handle the job in Week 1, but it's also possible Allen, who set a team record for kick-return yardage last year, could take on punt-return duties in 2008 with Ramarcus Brown taking over his old job.

3.) Will it be Caleb or Richard racking up the garbage yards?

OK, so there's no guarantee thee game won't be close down the stretch, but chances are at least one backup running back will be a good number of carries Saturday. Whether that running back will be Caleb King or Richard Samuel, however, remains to be seen. King's preseason injuries helped Samuel rocket up the depth chart, and now the No. 2 job is up for grabs. Of course, there's also the real possibility both will see lots of second-half playing time, which would simply mean fans get a chance to see how impressive two much-hyped freshmen look in the same game.

4.) What's going to happen with the offensive line?

The starting lineup looks set with Kiante Tripp at LT, Vince Vance at LG, Chris Davis at C, Cordy Glenn at RG and Josh Davis at RT, but that lineup won't be on the field for every snap. Richt has assured that Ben Jones and Bean Anderson will see some playing time, and Tanner Strickland may as well. I'm in no place to question that decision, but it seems to me that shaking up a group that has barely had time to gel in the first place will complicate things. Still, getting that experience early on could be useful down the line. In Week 2, Clint Boling will return from a suspension and will likely take over for either Josh Davis or Glenn, depending on how well each plays. I do have some concerns, too, about Jones coming in mid-game at center. I don't doubt the kid's ability, but bringing in a true freshman for his first game to play center seems like a big risk for a fumbled snap.

5.) What type of show will A.J. Green put on?

The freshman wide receiver is likely the young player everyone is most excited to see. He should get a decent amount of playing time, as he is now listed as the No. 2 flanker behind Mo Massaquoi. Green has missed some practice with a hip-flexor injury, but he has still managed to impress coaches. It won't be long before the kid does something special, but the question is whether it happens Saturday.

6.) Will any of the freshman DBs make an impression?

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said flat out that none of the five Bulldogs DBs were ready to play. That doesn't mean they won't see the field in some fashion Saturday. While we may not see much of them at safety -- Andrew Williams and John Knox will probably handle the back-up jobs -- the freshmen used on special teams could lend us an idea of which ones Martinez thinks are most likely to have an impact down the road on defense.

7.) How's Blair Walsh's leg?

If Saturday's game comes down to a crucial field goal by Walsh, Georgia fans will have far bigger concerns than their kicker. But even if he doesn't get any game-winning kicks in, it will be interesting to see how the Dawgs' only scholarship kicker does in his debut. We've heard plenty about his leg -- he's apparently capable of booting 65-yarders in practice -- but Saturday will be our first chance to get a good idea of what's in his head. The game may not be on the line, but the experience of booting a football through the uprights with defenders bearing down on you and 90,000-plus fans cheering can be an unnerving one none the less.

8.) Which defensive ends will step up?

Georgia Southern's offensive line is nearly as inexperienced as Georgia's, so it could be a field day for the Bulldogs' defensive line. It's hard to say with much certainty, however, just who will be in line for those sacks at the defensive end position. Jarius Wynn is the only DE who made it through camp without an injury, and Rod Battle is the only one with starting experience. Jeremy Lomax, Demarcus Dobbs and Justin Houston should all see playing time, too. While getting to the QB shouldn't be especially difficult this week, that pressure will be imperative once the conference schedule gets going, so identifying the top pass-rushers this week would be a step in the right direction.

9.) Can the Bulldogs live up to the hype?

OK, so we won't know this for sure until the end of the season, but it will be interesting to see how Georgia plays in a game they are supposed to win handily. There aren't many gimmes on Georgia's schedule after this, so it's not out of the realm of possibility the Dawgs could come out a bit flat. And if they win by just a touchdown or two, it will no doubt be gasoline on the fire for critics who think Georgia never belonged at No. 1 to begin with. The Dawgs probably need to make a statement here -- and that means at least a four-TD spread.

10.) Will anyone without a ticket get to see the game?

The broadcast of the game will be limited to pay channels -- including ESPN's Game Plan, which is subscriber based -- and tickets are proving awfully hard to come by. Even students are having trouble landing seats. I've had a couple readers ask me about places they might be able to watch the game, but sadly, I've been working too hard on becoming a Bulldogs expert to have learned as much as I'd like about having fun downtown. Feel free to chip in with some suggestions though, as I'm sure they will be appreciated.

So, what do you think? Which question do you think is most significant? How much do you think Georgia needs to win by Saturday? What will you be doing for your game-day party? If you don't have tickets, where will you be watching the game?


Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you said, especially #8. I've really got my eye on D-End.

Quick question and I don't know if you'd even know about this. I heard a rumor that instead of Baba O'Reilly, the song they play during the pre-game highlights will be something by Nickelback. Can you PLEASE shoot this rumor down for me??? THanks!

David Hale said...

Oh dear lord, I hope not. I'll ask today though. I can only assume that is a bad side of things to come if true.

Anonymous said...

Gnat's Landing on Baxter Street in Athens will have the game on.