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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pressure Will Be on the 'D' in '09

In a blog post last week, ESPN's Chris Low touched on a subject I mentioned at the end of last season. Low looked at the projected starting quarterbacks (or those in consideration for a starting job) for each SEC team. Here they are, with career records as starters. See if you notice anything they have in common...
Joe Cox, Georgia: 1-0 (1.000)
Larry Smith, Vanderbilt 1-0 (1.000)
Tim Tebow, Florida: 22-5 (.814)
Jevan Snead, Ole Miss: 9-4 (.692)
Mike Hartline, Kentucky: 6-3 (.666)
Chris Todd, Auburn: 3-2 (.600)
Jarrett Lee, LSU: 4-4 (.500)
Jordan Jefferson, LSU: 1-1 (.500)
Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee: 3-4 (.428)
Kodi Burns, Auburn: 3-5 (.375)
Tyson Lee, Mississippi State 3-5 (.375)
Stephen Garcia, South Carolina 1-2 (.333)
Nick Stephens, Tennessee: 2-4 (.333)
Randall Cobb, Kentucky: 1-3 (.250)
Mackenzi Adams, Vanderbilt: 2-7 (.222)
Ryan Mallett*, Arkansas: 3-0 (1.000)
Greg McElroy, Alabama: 0-0 (.000)

*All of Mallett's starts came with Michigan. He has never started against an SEC opponent.
It shouldn't be too tough to see the obvious trend here: Only Tebow (27) and Snead (13) have started more than nine games in their careers. Six of the names on that list, however, have three or fewer starts.

Now, here's a quick run down of where each SEC team finished in total offense nationally a year ago...
Florida, 445.07 (15)
Georgia, 426.00 (22)
Mississippi, 407.62 (29)
Arkansas, 373.08 (49)
LSU, 368.08 (55)
Alabama, 355.79 (63)
South Carolina, 316.54 (97)
Auburn, 302.92 (104)
Kentucky, 299.3 (106)
Mississippi St., 274.92 (113)
Tennessee, 268.75 (115)
Vanderbilt, 256.23 (117)
Look at that again. Half the league -- HALF! -- finished 97th or worse in the country in total offense. Oh, and I know all about the exceptional defenses in the SEC, but that's only a part of the reason -- and probably a pretty small part.

The fact is, the SEC was a bad offensive conference a year ago, and given that Georgia and Alabama each lost their QBs (along with other crucial offensive weapons) and Ole Miss lost its starting left tackle, its reasonable to assume that some of those respectable offenses will be a bit less so in 2009.

Of course, other teams should take a step forward -- if for no other reason than there isn't much room for them to get worse. But looking at that breakdown of QB experience, isn't it reasonable to assume that the SEC won't exactly be lighting up scoreboards this season?

So, what does all this mean? Well, it leads me to ask a handful of questions.

For one, how in the heck did Kentucky score 38 points against Georgia last year?

Second, how is anyone going to stop Florida this year?

And third, how bad will the "Fire Willie!" chats be if Georgia's defense doesn't step up in 2009?

Look one more time at the QBs. Look again at last year's offensive numbers. Georgia is going to face a lot of inexperienced quarterbacks and a lot of struggling offenses in '09 (and that's not even including Arizona State, which will feature a first-year starter and an offense that ranked 100th in the country last year).

There won't be excuses if the defense can't hold its ground this season, and given that (ironically) A.J. Green will be the only member of Georgia's offense who isn't very green this season, how well the D rebounds from last year's disappointments will likely be the difference between 11-2 and 7-6.


Anonymous said...

This a compliacted issue. The defense has to be better this year. We were 22nd in total defense and 58th in scoring defense according to College Football stats. If we do not turn the ball over like we did last year, then we should give up fewer points. However, if we play the same defense with no pass rush, if our defensive linemen get set early so the other team can adjust, if we bump tackle and if we play cover like we had a pass rush so soemone is always open, and if the offense does not score alot, it could get ugly.

David Hale said...

Agreed on all points, but considering UGA won't have Knowshon and will have an unproven (although veteran) QB, it's hard to assume there will be fewer turnovers by the offense. And while the D did finish 22nd in the nation, it was sixth in the conference, and 11 of the 12 SEC teams finished in the top 40 in the country, so those numbers are a bit skewed. But you're entirely right about the pass rush -- it has to start there, or there simply won't be a dramatic improvement.