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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Window is Open in 2010 (or The Case for QB Diversity Now)

If you didn't pick up your copy of the Athens Banner-Herald on Wednesday, you missed a nice column by David Ching on the contributions of Georgia's youngsters -- namely Carlton Thomas, Branden Smith and DeAngelo Tyson -- in getting the Bulldogs a win over South Carolina on Saturday.

Ching astutely points out that it wasn't about the big picture for those three. It was about three plays the trio made, each of which was essential in the win.

Of course, the case could be made that those three -- along with some of Georgia's other youngsters -- had a hand in keeping the game close, too. Thomas hasn't proven the most effective of inside runners. Tyson was part of a defensive front that routinely allowed Stephen Garcia to step up in the pocket and keep plays alive. Smith's fumble deep in Georgia territory set up a South Carolina field goal.

That's the thing with young player with that much talent: Sometimes they're so impressive you're ready to do cartwheels that they're on your team. Sometimes they make you want to throw your remote through your plasma TV.

One thing is for sure, however. There is a lot of talent. Here's how Michael Moore summed up this year's offense vs. last season's crew, led by Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno: "There’s a lot more playmakers than there was in years past. There had always been one or two guys – this guy or that guy. Now I think we’re able to spread the ball out a little bit more and get more people involved.”

From Smith's 61-yard touchdown run to Richard Samuel's impressive touchdown drive to Brandon Boykin's amazing athleticism to Orson Charles' two big catches, it's obvious Georgia's youngsters have a bright future. All that's missing is some experience, which makes the potential for the 2010 team pretty exciting.

In fact, let's take a quick look at how Georgia's lineup could look next season:

QB: Logan Gray or Aaron Murray
RB: Richard Samuel, Caleb King or Washaun Ealey
FB: Shaun Chapas
SE: Marlon Brown or Tavarres King
FLK: A.J. Green
SLOT: Rantavious Wooten
TE: Orson Charles, Aron White or Arthur Lynch
LT: Trinton Sturdivant
LG: Cordy Glenn
C: Ben Jones
RG: Justin Anderson
RT: Clint Boling
DEs: Demarcus Dobbs and Justin Houston
DTs: DeAngelo Tyson and Abry Jones
WLB: Rennie Curran* or Marcus Dowtin
MLB: Darryl Gamble
SLB: Nick Williams or Akeem Dent
SS: Baccari Rambo or Reshad Jones*
FS: Sanders Commings or Makiri Pugh
WC: Branden Smith
SC: Brandon Boykin

Other experienced returners: Chris Davis (G/C), Carlton Thomas (RB), Fred Munzenmaier (FB), Cornelius Washington (DE), Montez Robinson (DE), Kiante Tripp (DE), Brandon Wood (DT), Vance Cuff (CB), Mike Gilliard (LB)

Potential impact freshmen: Alec Ogletree (DB), T.J. Stripling (DE), Garrison Smith (DT), Da'Rick Rogers (WR), Dexter Morant (DE), Ken Malcome (RB)

Georgia will have returning starters at 10 of the 11 positions on offense and seven of 11 spots on defense, assuming both Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones return for their senior seasons (I'd say that's more likely for Curran than Jones, given his near departure a year ago).

Meanwhile, of the players stepping in to starting roles on defense, three have already seen significant action this season. Abry Jones, Tyson and Smith are all seeing extensive playing time and should be suitable replacements.

It's probably reasonable to be concerned about the secondary, particularly if Georgia has three first-year starters, as well as left tackle, depending on Trinton Sturdivant's recovery from a second ACL injury. But beyond that, things are shaping up well for a run in 2010, which just so happens to also be the first year Florida will be playing without Tim Tebow since 2005.

Not only will Georgia have an extraordinarily experienced offensive unit next year, there should be experienced depth at almost every skill position, with tight end and tailback offering more starter-quality players than playing time might allow. That's a good problem to have.

It was easy to question the offense this season. If you compared the starting lineup this year to the one Georgia had last year and asked who might reasonably be expected to improve their production, the only positions you could probably point to emphatically were along the offensive line and A.J. Green. Even the latter of those seemed questionable because, while Green was sure to improve, he also figured to get a lot more attention.

(NOTE: You could make an argument for tight end, too, but only because the tight ends did absolutely nothing last season.)

But look at the potential 2010 lineup, and it's reasonable to think that it might be better -- and in the cases of players like Brown, Charles, Lynch and Samuel, potentially a lot better -- at every position.

Except one.

I like Joe Cox, and I think he clearly gives Georgia its best chance to win this year. And allow me to underscore this: By no means should Georgia be giving up on this year.

But there's a window next year for a big season if this year's youngsters develop at the rate most of the scouts assumed they should, and the missing ingredient will clearly be an experienced quarterback.

Mark Richt should understand what that means. In 2002, he had a team that lost one game but the window wasn't open to play for a national title. In 2007, he lost two, but again, the window squeezed shut. In 2006, he had a strong offensive line and a rookie QB. In 2007 and 2008, he had the best tailback and second best quarterback in the SEC, but a weak offensive line. The stars never aligned, and even Richt has lamented the fact that he never got to see Stafford and Moreno play behind the line Georgia has this season (and likely will again next year).

As I look at it, however, the stars could easily line up in 2010, but there's that one missing piece.

It's impossible, if you're a college football coach, to look ahead. They don't look ahead by one week, let alone one season. But a pragmatic point of view that expands the scope of decision making beyond how to beat Arkansas on Saturday would take this into account: Giving Aaron Murray (if healthy) or Logan Gray a few plays at quarterbacks isn't likely to cost Georgia any games this season. Not doing it may cost the Bulldogs a bunch next year.


Silver Dawg said...

Wow! That roster for next year is, if all stay healthy, scarily formidable. Thanks for the forecast, Sir David. Made my day.

Have you slept any within the last week? If so, stop it.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Jakar Hamilton for next year's impact "freshman." JUCO...i know, but new to our team nevertheless. I think hes gonna have way more of an impact immediately than Ogletree.

Robert K. Burnham said...

What are you saying David, "Just wait til next year ?" I don't want to give up on this year yet . This could be the year we ruin Florida's chance at National Title (but lose four other games) like 2005

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your last paragraph. The back up qb's need game experience-this year. It would surprise me if the coaches really believed Logan Gray was the future. He's been in the program, he knows the system and he brings an additional element to the game with his mobility/speed. I think we both know, he's not the future. Mettenberger will eventually be an excellent back up to Murray and could become the starter should Murray's health become a problem. However, he's not the future either. Let's play the kids now.

Anonymous said...

"This could be the year we ruin Florida's chance at National Title (but lose four other games) like 2005"

Um. You're either remembering a 2005 different than the one of this universe, or you're flip-flopping the Georgia/Florida roles.

Irwin R. Flecther said...

"the missing ingredient will clearly be an experienced quarterback."

I think the premise of the article is great...but the problem is that there is zero supporting evidence that an 'experienced' quaterback is needed.

-Sam Bradford started as a Freshman.
-Tim Tebow threw 33 passes as a glorified FB the year before he won the Heisman.
-Matt Flynn started one season..his senior year..and guided LSU to an SEC and National Championship
-Todd Boekman took Ohio State to the National Championship game his first year as a starter
-Matt Leinart led USC to the AP championship his first year as a starter
-Jason White had started 4 games and torn two ACLs prior to wining the Heisman in 2003.
-Mauck had 6 starts prior to 2003..when LSU won the SEC and BCS Championship
-David Greene did pretty well as a first year starter and won the SEC his second season
-DJ Shockley had 0 career starts..we all know how that turned out
-Craig Krenzel took Ohio State to the BCS Championship his first year starting

I think the axiom that you need an experienced starting QB is worn out. There are exceptions like Chris Leak and Jason Campbell...and certainly some of the guys on that list above continued to win as they played more games...but if a QB has the talent and the right scheme is in place, there is no reason not to expect great things in the first or at the very worst 2nd year of a QB's career.

Anonymous said...

If we do not stop turning the ball over or do not fix some of the special teams problems or do not get turnovers, this year nor next year is going to be satisfactory. I hope the coaches fix these issues.

Tommy said...

Before 2005, Richt and Bobo really struggled at figuring out when and where to get DJ Shockley some reps.
Granted, DJ's pressing so hard and the inherent awkwardness of transitioning from a drop-back lefty to a mobile righty in a game situation added to the strain. But there are always going to be differences in QBs that can throw the offense off in potentially disastrous ways. For example, the pick-six to Gus Scott in Jacksonville in 2002 likely cost us more than that game.

Given that history and the fact that neither the defense nor the offense has yet proven it can protect a lead, I understand Richt/Bobo's reticence about getting Gray or Murray in there.

It needs to happen, but until this team can stabilize, getting reps for your backups is kind of a luxury.

HamDawg11 said...

"I think the axiom that you need an experienced starting QB is worn out."


I get your point, but would you rather have a QB with more experience or less? I think what David is trying to say here is meaningful playing time is invaluable. Ask any of the coaches of those QB's if they improved as the year progressed, and I would think almost every one of them would say "yes"!

We could go back and look at the respective seasons of each QB mentioned and break it down 'til we're blue in the face, but my money says give me a QB with some meaningful reps running the offense. Richt did a decent job of doing this with DJ and it paid off.

I think we've got to get Logan or Aaron some quality PT whenever possible, but not at the cost of losing. Unfortunately our schedule doesn't appear to have much margin for error, so the backup may not get the number of reps we'd all like to see.

As for the Gray/Murray/Mett argument, only the coaches know which of these 2 will be the starter in '10. Gray and Murray are pretty much cut from the same mold: undersized, good arm, mobile, etc. Mett appears to be more of a Mallet/Stafford type. Hopefully the staff can work it out to get them some game experience before the year's out.

Until then, Go Joe and Go Dawgs!!!

Irwin R. Flecther said...

Reggie Ball as a senior sucked as bad as Reggie Ball as a Freshman.

Game experience is a red herring. It isn't a trump card. It is only one piece of the puzzle.

That is why I think the logic of 'needing' to play one of the other QB's this year is flawed. It wouldn't hurt, but it also won't necessarily help.

However, articles like this only increase the paranoia that we NEED to get them some snaps.

If Exhibit A is Reggie Ball, Exhibit B is the ND-Michigan game and Exhibit C is the USC-OSU game. Tate Forcier and Matt Barkley outplayed Clausen and Pryor. With the right QB in the right scheme and the right mix of talent and you can win. That is why I think the premise of the article is flawed and why the axiom of needing to find some snaps for your backups is outdated.

ChicagoDawg said...

David -- If memory serves correctly, Vince Vance would be eligible for a 3rd season if he has made adequate progress towards graduation (or it may be actually graduating) by the end of his 2nd year at UGA. So, he may actually be back next season at the tackle position. Could you get clarification on this?

Anonymous said...

The most important aspects of a QB that come from experience are decision making, clock managment,and leadership on the field. How much of that can be learned while taking 10-15 snaps in a game? The only real benefit would be if the backup was in to lead a crucial drive. But, if the backup deserves to be in for that drive, he deserves to be the starter.

Ant123 said...

David, I would like to know your thoughts on this. But to me the coaches seem to not want to give Grey (Murray is not ready) a series or two because if he does better they will have a quarterback controversy to deal with. Which they don't want. And they want to reward loyalty. However, the loyalty of the other 21 guys on the field and the rest of the team should be considered also. Cox had one turnover each of the first two games that cost us a touchdown and could have had more points allowed if not for Carlton Thomas and the defense. I say tell Grey he is getting the second series in the secound and third quarters irregardless of the sitution and see what happens. That would avoid the Shockley type sitution and give a fair shot to Grey and Cox.

Anonymous said...

ChicagoDawg - this is Vance's third season now, he ain't coming back next year. He redshirted in Juco.

ChicagoDawg said...

Anon 7:43 -- Thanks, you are correct. I remember now that he came in the same year from GMC w/ Wynn and Irvin, who of course graduated last year. The years go by fast these days.