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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Return Engagements

I think everyone has come to terms with the fact that Georgia isn't returning a lot of experienced players at the offensive skill positions. But I started wondering where exactly the Bulldogs stacked up against the rest of the SEC, so I decided to do a little research into what each team was bringing back for 2009.

First, let's look at the starting quarterbacks around the SEC, something I already did a few weeks ago, but will post again here. (NOTE: I used the projected 2009 starter in each case, unless there was no clear leader, in which case I used the QB with the highest number of career attempts.)

Career Att.
Career TD
Florida T. Tebow
681 67
Ole Miss
J. Snead
376 28
Vanderbilt M. Adams
368 14
Kentucky M. Hartline
317 9
Miss. St.
T. Lee
260 7
Tennessee J. Crompton
245 9
Auburn K. Burns
205 4
Arkansas R. Mallett
141 7
S. Carolina
S. Garcia
122 6
LSU J. Jefferson 73 4
Georgia J. Cox
58 5
Alabama G. McElroy
20 2

Next, let's look at the rushing stats for each team...

Team 08 Rush Rank
08 Rush Yds
Return Rush Yds
% Return
Arkansas 97 1362 1362 100.0
Miss. St.
105 1207 1192 98.8
Ole Miss
28 2424 2331 96.2
LSU 43 2168 2011 92.8
Auburn 69 1650 1317 79.8
Florida 10 3235 2414 74.6
Kentucky 81 1651 1204 72.9
73 1737 940 54.1
Alabama 30 2585 1208 46.7
S. Carolina
112 1223 499 40.8
Tennessee 88 1475 500 33.9
Georgia 56 1928 479 24.8

And finally, the receivers...

08 Rec Rank
08 Rec Yds
Return Rec Yds
% Return
LSU 71 2617 2580 98.6
Arkansas 23 3115 2999 96.3
Alabama 97 2396 2098 87.6
Kentucky 96 2234 1880 84.2
Ole Miss
53 2875 2091 72.7
Miss. St.
94 2092 1354 64.7
Auburn 99 1985 1212 61.1
Tennessee 107 1750 1066 60.9
Florida 61 2995 1596 53.3
Georgia 16 3610 1775 49.2
S. Carolina
50 2892 1370 47.4
Vanderbilt 112 1587 725 45.7

Obviously these numbers have three distinct flaws when projecting out toward next year. For one, they don't take into account a team's offensive line, which obviously undervalues Georgia while overvaluing, say, Ole Miss. They don't account for defense and special teams either. Of course, those stats would only make Florida look better, so we might be better off not mentioning them. And finally, these numbers assume the players a team lost last year were better than the replacements those teams will have this year. In the case of Knowshon Moreno, that's probably true, but it's certainly not in every case.

So what do we learn from all this?

Well, first, we learn that I am incapable of making two tables in HTML that look alike. But there are plenty of other, more important findings...

-- Yes, Florida is going to be very, very good next year, but these stats tell me that the Gators are going to miss Percy Harvin more than people seem to be talking about. He is really the only major loss Florida has from last year's offense, but he was responsible for a pretty hefty chunk of both the Gators' running and passing attack.

-- My sleeper pick for this season was already Arkansas, but looking at these numbers, it's a safe wager that the Hogs could have a very dangerous offense in 2009. Now, that defense could be another story altogether.

-- Looking at the numbers for LSU -- which already had a decent offense last year -- I might argue that now one player in the SEC has a more critical job than Jordan Jefferson in 2009. If he's as good as he looked in the bowl game, that could be a really good team (maybe nat'l championship level good), but if he's not, there might be a lot of wasted talent.

-- The SEC West overall looks a lot better than the East in terms of returning offensive talent. On the ground, the top five teams in terms of returning rushing yards are all in the West and through the air, six of the top seven are out West. In all, the SEC West returns 82 percent of its receiving yards (compared to 50 percent for the East) and 83 percent of its rushing yards (compared to 54 percent in the East). And when it comes to that bevy of inexperienced QBs, don't you feel a lot better about Ryan Mallett, Jordan Jefferson and Greg McElroy than Mike Hartline, Stephen Garcia and Johnathan Crompton?

-- If you're looking at which of the new head coaches might have the most to work with in Year 1, it might well be Dan Mullen. I wouldn't hold my breath on an Ole Miss-like turnaround, but Mississippi State is probably in better shape (at least offensively) than Auburn or Tennessee.

-- Things don't look great for the Dawgs in terms of returning offensive talent, but at least they had something to work with. Look at South Carolina, on the other hand. The Gamecocks' offense stunk last year, and they return a questionable QB and less than 45 percent of their total offensive production from 2008.

-- Having said that, I'm not sure there's any great rival for second place in the East to Georgia this year unless one of those other teams (Tennessee, Vandy, Kentucky or South Carolina) takes a big (and unexpected) step forward. The question then becomes, can the Dawgs handle their business out of conference and against the West to a degree that the Florida game will actually matter in the standings.

OK, so that's a few of the things that jumped out at me. Anything you guys noticed? Are you concerned by Georgia's standings here?


Richard said...

Our defense should be solid and better than the defense of all of our opponents until at least the LSU game. The question is whether the offense can hit the ground running against Okie State. We'll likely need at least 25 points to win that one. If we can limit turnovers and Richard Samuel comes back healthy and confident, we should be ok. Our line should open up some good holes for the backs and give our QB time to find the right read.

Lee Munger said...

Personally i think its going to be a fun year because we will see if the new talent allows us to "reload" instead of "rebuild" The experienced OL if it stays healthy will be a huge help in that (like everybody has said). We have the talent we just have to come out ready to play, and the opener with OkSt. will help motivate us to be ready.

jay said...

It is right and good that we are focused on OK State, but let us recall that they face the challange of being ready to play their first game against a powerhouse team from the SEC, with a much better defense than they get in conference. My point is that they face a formidable task and they have the same limitations about "hitting the ground running" in their first game as we do.

To the larger article, I have some trouble believing that many of the "mid-level" teams in the west are really as improved as people suggest. I believe that Ole Miss (and to an extent, Arkansas) are being over-rated. I still believe that the west is a race between LSU and Alabama and that Georgia will be in the hunt if Florida falters (and expectations on them could not be higher, a bad place to be).

I dare to believe that this may be an outstanding year for the O-Line at Georgia and that will have a great impact on the performance of our "new" players at the skill positions. I also think coaching will matter a lot; finding plays where these inexperienced players can excel without asking too much of them. Also, I really like the talent we return at key positions of the defense, which was not an emphasis in the article.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the OL career starts vs. the other SEC schools. QBs,RBs and WRs are extremely importnat. However the OL is the one position that is in every play run or pass. I think experience on the OL trumps the others, maybe with the exception of QB.