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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Two-A-Days: Georgia Bulldogs

Over the past few weeks, I've traded emails with beat writers for each SEC team, along with Georgia's three other BCS-conference opponents to get some insider insight into what fans can expect from UGA's competition in 2009.

To read the previous entries in the series, click HERE.

Each day, we've previewed two teams, and in our final post, we turn the tables a bit. Instead of asking the questions, I'll answer them. So, here are your questions about the Georgia Bulldogs, and the best answers I could come up with...

Lee: Any updates on the incoming freshmen for this summer? How are they preparing for the summer, and who will be the most likely to get early playing time, and who's headed for a readshirt now that we see how things have shaked out in the spring?

DH:
I had a post up a few weeks ago on the how the incoming freshmen prep for the summer that you can read HERE.

I haven't been talking too much with all the incoming freshmen, but if you believe Orson Charles, things are going very well. All but three of the freshmen were on hand for the G-Day game, and the excitement among them is high.

It's probably a little too early to tell on redshirts because -- other than Murray, Mettenberger and Lee -- none have played a single rep in college yet. But position needs will likely play a big role. My guess would be that, barring setbacks regarding injuries, all of the O linemen will redshirt (and we've learned that Austin Long will miss the year with a back injury already). At other positions, like wide receiver and defensive end, the needs might be immediate, which gives Rontavious Wooten or Montez Robinson a bit more of a leg up. I think we can safely guess that Branden Smith, Marlon Brown and probably Charles will get some playing time right off the bat. I think the most interesting name to watch in the fall, however, will be Washaun Ealey, who could redshirt or he could land the starting running back job. Anything seems possible for him.

Daren: Any word on when CSS will offer thier own version of the G Day coverage?

DH:
Sorry, I forgot to follow up on this, and we've already missed a couple of showings. But fear not, you still have time. It will air this Friday, May 1 at 8 p.m. everywhere, then again next week on May 8, but only in Atlanta, Athens and non-Braves TV markets.

Robert: Are they thinking about moving Richard Samuel? I'm told Samuel "doesn't get" the running back thing and would be better suited to defense.

DH:
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Samuel understands the position as well as -- if not better than -- anyone on the roster. His problem last year was that he was a little too anxious to find contact, which is one of the reasons people think he's so suited for defense. He also has a pretty vertical running style, which earns some gripes from his critics, but that's no different than the complaints people had about Adrian Peterson, and he seems to manage OK. Running backs coach Bryan McClendon says there are no plans to change positions for Samuel (not that he couldn't handle it, he says) and, given Samuel's combination of size, strength and enthusiasm, I'd actually consider him the favorite for the nominal starter's job. Although, more likely, I think at least four different backs will see significant playing time next year.

Kevin: I have a few questions about the team and 2009. What do you think about Dontavious Jackson and his potential to see the field? No one really seemed to step up in Spring, so it looks like it will be up to Richard Samuel or King to really put a stamp on it when fall camp starts. If #22 still has fumbly hands, and King doesn't show consistency, what can Jackson do to move up? He'll finally be healthy and I want to see what he can do.

DH:
Ah, right, the fumbly hands. That's another knock on Samuel, but it's also something that can be remedied. We shall see. As for Jackson, he's got as good a chance as anyone. As you said, Kevin, no one put their stamp on the job this spring, and while Carlton Thomas did impress, I think there's a lot of reluctance to rely on him because coaches aren't sure how he'll hold up as a blocker. Jackson has been the odd man out since he arrived at Georgia because there's not really anything that jumps off the page about him, but he also does a little of everything well. The biggest thing for him, however, is simply to stay healthy. If he can do that, he'll get his shot this fall.

More from Kevin: I stay curious about the DE position. What are we in for when fall camp starts, with all of these injuries? Who will be back full strength? Who will be limited? Who has the inside track to get on the field? I know the coaches love to have 3, 4 players at least that they are confident can put pressure on the offense. I don't see anyone other than Houston right now, and the potential prospects are awful young. I look forward to seeing how they separate themselves for one another when the pads are back on.

DH:
I agree. There's really not much that can be said about anyone (other than Houston, who really seems to have taken a step forward) because they were all hurt. But if you remember last season, when he was healthy, Rod Battle played pretty well. If he can stay healthy in 2009 -- a BIG "if" -- I think there's every reason to believe he can be an impact player in his senior season. I also would say that there's a good chance that Willie, Fabris, Garner and Co. might try a little more scheming this year than they did a year ago to get pressure from the edge. The use of Darryl Gamble so successfully as a stand-up rusher this spring opened some eyes.

Rob Sweet: I'd love to learn more about the coaches' and leaders' perspective on team chemistry. I think this is an underrated barometer of success. I know it's never simple to measure, but usually coaches who have been around a while (especially Van Halenger, with his contact with the players) have a good sense for a team early on.

DH:
All the talk so far has been great. It remains to be seen if Joe Cox can be a great QB, but there's no doubt he's a great leader. He says all the right things. Follow that with guys like Rennie Curran and Jeff Owens on defense, and there are some really strong, vocal guys leading the way. You mentioned Dave Van Halanger, and he said that through the spring (and the early part of the "summer") that things have been exceptional from a leadership and chemistry standpoint.

Having said that, I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about how important the next few months will be for the Bulldogs to put their money where their mouths are, so to speak. They need to stay out of trouble, stay involved in voluntary workouts, and be more vocal with the younger guys. There's going to be a huge influx of players (between the freshmen, walk-ons and the injured guys returning to action) in June, and the leaders need to make sure that the additions go smoothly.

Tracy: Israel Troupe has been around a few years now and should be ready to contribute at receiver. I saw him on the field quite a bit last year but he seemed to be there to block (which is a good trait to have at WR). Do the coaches have a feel that Israel is ready to have a larger role in the offense this year? With Durham going down he could be needed.

DH:
Troupe doesn't lack talent, that's for sure, but he's never really gotten his opportunity. That should change this year. I know everyone is excited about Marlon Brown, and he could be special, but to assume a repeat of A.J. Green's performance a year ago is setting the bar too high. For one, Brown won't have Mohamed Massaquoi to lean on (both on and off the field) and for another, players like Green simply don't come around every year. What that means is, someone else -- and maybe several someone elses -- need to step up, and Troupe is one of those players. He got some playing experience last year, but he needs to show he can do the little things. He needs to inspire confidence from his coaches, and he's still got some work to do on that front this fall. But he'll get his chance.

Johnathan: For my question, is it just me or is there concern that our running back position might slack a little this year. I know we lost Knowshon and you can't replace Knowshon but I wish that King would take the job and run with it. Should I just relax and realize that it is spring or is there concern? I hope Ealey puts some fire under the guys we have now.

DH:
Hmmm, lots of questions about running back. And for good reason. Short answer, Johnathan: Yes, you should be concerned. There is plenty of talent at the position, no doubt, but none of them have done it before, and it's been a long time since Georgia didn't have an experienced tailback to, at the very least, play the role of mentor. The fact that Caleb King didn't grab the job and make it his own this spring was disappointing, but it's still too early to write him off. Carlton Thomas proved he can be a weapon, but he's probably not ready to be an every-down back. As we discussed, Samuel has his issues, but he might prove to be the most reliable. It's a shame you can't take bits and pieces of each of the guys in that backfield to form a Super Back (like Voltron, for those of you who appreciate an '80s reference), but for now, there just aren't any definite answers.

ROK Dawg: A couple of questions. 1. What is the deal with Akeem Hebron? 2. How is Strickland progressing? 3. Is Washington (#44) going to play some at DE? 4. How is Banks coming along? 5. Is the Owens kid from Bama going to contribute?

DH:
I'll handle these one at a time:

1. He missed all of spring with an injury. He was close to coming back by G-Day, but couldn't make it happen. The kid has talent, but linebacker is a deep, deep position in 2009, and there are probably at least three or four players ahead of him on the depth chart.

2. Tanner Strickland had a nice spring, according to Clint Boling, but who knows what that means in the fall? As Boling said, it's one thing to play well when you're guaranteed playing time (as Tanner was this spring) but how will he react when the other injured Dawgs come back? Strickland has really been a mystery since he arrived at Georgia, but the talent is there.

3. As I mentioned earlier, I think there will definitely be some Brandon Miller-esque scheming going on with either Darryl Gamble or Marcus Washington this year. I wouldn't expect to see as much of it in a standard 4-3-4 formation, but against spread offenses or in third-and-longs when the Sam linebacker leaves the field, I think you'll see one of those two on the field as a stand-up rusher, and I could see it being a very productive scheme.

4. Banks progressed this spring, but he's still not 100 percent. He was one of those injuries that really flew under the radar last year, but the Dawgs' D really missed him. It's easy to blame Willie for Reshad Jones not tackling against Georgia Tech, but you also have to wonder if Jones would have even been on the field if Willie had a hard-hitting safety like Banks to turn to in a situation like that.

5. The only Owens you probably need to keep an eye out for in 2009 is Jeff Owens, but don't be surprised if he has a very big year.

Lee: Also is it just me or does this year seem like the most up in the air of any in Mark Richt's tenure. We have good players but injuries, inexperience and other factors kind of make predicting how this team will do very difficult, at least for me, what are your thoughts on this?

DH:
This seems like a good one to end on, because at this point in the year, I think it's the most appropriate synopsis of what to expect. Who knows, really? There are still so many unanswered questions, and because of all the injuries and the low number of positional early enrollees, there weren't too many answers available by G-Day. But I know this: Georgia did not handle the expectations well last year, so perhaps the underdog role will be a big asset. Because as you said, Lee, the talent is there. It's just a matter of having the coaches put all the puzzle pieces in the right place. And that isn't something I can say I'm any more certain about now than I was back in January.

OK, folks. Hope you enjoyed the Two-A-Days series and maybe learned a thing or two. Thanks so much to the writers who helped with this project. Their insight was exceptional.

If you have more UGA questions, feel free to keep sending them in via email to dhale@macon.com and I'll do my best to find answers for you.

3 comments:

Michael A said...

If Voltron lined up directly behind center, all he would have to do to get a first down is fall forward.

Lee said...

Interesting Voltron reference, Which makes me think what would happen if we put a DT like Geno or Jeff Owens at QB for 3rd and short or 4th and short situations, and ran the QB "sneak" with them. That would be fun to watch. Bama kind of did this using Mt. Cody as a FB on short yardage Goal line situations. Anyways it just got me thinking crazy.

I actually just wanted to say thanks to Dave for answering our questions and doing an awesome job.

David Hale said...

Remember when Volton got recalled cuz the red ones had lead paint on them? Those red ones were delicious.


And you're plenty welcome, Lee. I thought this was a fun series to do. I rarely get to get too much background on the other teams, so it was a good chance to get some firsthand insight from the writers.