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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cold Water on the Hot Debates

I guess I knew this was going to happen, but hoped it wouldn't. Still, here we are.

People think I'm crazy for saying Aaron Murray is still the favorite to win the QB job. Others are talking about how Murray will eventually transfer because Zach Mettenberger will win the QB job. Others have floated even more ridiculous thoughts after Saturday's G-Day game.

Folks, I don't mean to sound condescending when I say this, but you're reading waaaaaay too much into one scrimmage.

First off, nothing we saw Saturday was real. The offense was kept under wraps so the defense could remain even more under wraps. Mark Richt didn't want to show anything from a defensive standpoint, and to ensure that could be the case, the offense was tailored to remain vanilla, too. So even if you want to call everything else equal -- which it wasn't -- all we saw was three quarterbacks tasked with managing the most basic concepts without seeing how they'd respond to anything more complex -- or any pressure from the defense.

You may not be the biggest Aaron Murray fans, and you may not want to believe anything you haven't seen with your own eyes, but every report I've had from a player or coach for the past year has said how well Murray does with picking up the more nuanced concepts of running an offense. Saturday did not play to his strengths.

Moreover, there's a lot more to evaluating the QBs -- or anyone on the team -- than the stat lines. No, Murray didn't look great. And yes, Mettenberger looked very good.

But look at the previous two scrimmages and their stat lines are virtually identical. Then remember Murray only got to throw three passes in the first half Saturday, and Mettenberger worked the entire game against the No. 2 defensive unit. Oh, and that No. 2 unit wasn't even a true second-team since a decent portion of the second-team actually played on the first team, too, so that two players in a relatively close position battle both got reps with the 1s.

But even all of that is nothing to worry too much about. Because the truth is, G-Day has virtually no relation to what happens in the fall. It's just something to talk about until August gets here.

Here's a little something from Marc Weiszer to shed some light on why you might not want to write off a QB who had a poor performance on G-Day:

"David Greene, who won more games in major college football than any quarterback not named Colt McCoy, didn’t exactly light it up in his first couple of G-Day showings.

Greene and Cory Phillips combined to complete 17 of 45 passes in 2001 and Greene completed 2 of 13 in the 2002 G-Day game."

But hey, that Greene character was a bum anyway, right? Oh, and that fellow who won more games than Greene, he thinks pretty highly of Aaron Murray.

I went back through the blog archives, and here are a few things I wrote after last year's G-Day game…

-- "The defense has played with a chip on its shoulder, a goal to be reached and a mission to put the memories of last season's failures far behind them. It showed during a dominant defensive performance Saturday that saw just 16 points scored in Georgia's annual G-Day game."

-- Carlton Thomas was the breakout offensive player of the game and we all thought he was in line for a lot of playing time.

-- I wrote about how deep the O line would be and how dominant a group it might be in the fall.

-- In a links column, I actually wrote these words: "Mark Bradley says there's a number of reasons to be optimistic about the Bulldogs following yesterday's final spring workout."

I can only assume that was the last time Bradley offered much optimism about 2009.

In fact, please please please go back and read the column Bradley wrote after last year's G-Day. It's stunning to see how little the stories of the spring corresponded to what happened in the fall.

(And that's no knock on Bradley... we all wrote essentially the same things.)

And if you're wondering, you can find the stat lines from last year's G-Day game HERE.

If you're looking for correlations between G-Day and the season, there really weren't any -- aside from Justin Houston's performance, perhaps. Then again, two weeks after that game, he was suspended.

So, while I know it's a long offseason and we all need things to talk about, let's please stop short of making grand pronouncements about the future based on one scrimmage. There's a lot more to what goes into these decisions than that.

27 comments:

Kathleen said...

Amen! The G-Day game was intentionally designed to NOT look much like what the team can actually do. And the coaches know who was put in a position to have an easier time of it.

This reminds me of the RB debates -- when sometimes the blocking is better, it's hard to tell who's actually doing more with what they've got from the O-Line, but the coaches have the tape to go back and study it...

Frank said...

Good article David. Mettenberger did make some good throws and looked good and had some good stats. He has a cannon. But watching Murray I saw a QB with good legs and a very strong arm. People should not under estimate his arm. I also love his quick release. People just don't realize how important a quick release is. sltimately it will come down to Summer and then game time but this kid looks to me like someone who can be a special quarterback.

Anonymous said...

Amen again! My first thought was 'Does the amount of actual playing time granted each QB tell us anything about what the coaches are thinking?' Murray and Gray got 3 qtrs each while Mett only got 2... with the 2's. What do you think?

Jan Locke said...

David, it's posts like these that give me the utmost respect for you as a journalist. It was just a scrimmage, and remember how awesome Carlton Thomas looked in the last G-Day?

ChicagoDawg said...

You mean two hand touch on the QB wasn't a representation of what things might be like in Columbia? Auburn isn't going to have their 2nd string defense on the field or use a base defensive package 95% of the time? Damn you David Hale, damn you!!

David Wilson said...

Thanks, David, for continuing to be a voice of reason. Your comments and reflections underscore the important job our coaches must do to help players translate raw talent into gameday production in the Fall. Just as we know in business or politics the real proof is in results, we know the DAWGS strengths and weaknesses will be apparent when they go up against SEC-East competitors. With the coaching staff and renewed focus Mark Richt has brought together this year, I am hopeful for success measured in wins. Other stats will take care of themselves.

Scott said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you...you saved me a post. Now I can just link to yours instead!

God forbid I ever post about anything other than Lost and Idol anymore...

Woolly Butts said...

I second that nomination for D-Hale as the UGA Football Voice of Reason. Also, just wondering why people must choose sides in the QB competition. I want the best guy to win the job and win games for UGA. I'm happy to see that all 3 contenders have competed well this spring and that we'll have someone under center next year who's beaten out impressive competitors. It's all about the Dawgs, and I'm feeling better about the QB position heading into summer and fall, based on strong showings in the spring.

Sid said...

The truth is you can read anything you want out of the spring. It's like one of those choose your own adventure books when I was a kid.

My favorite part of the spring is reading national writers trying to talk about position battles they have no idea about. College Football News (which really has some good features) talked about how Mettenburger had suddenly made himself a factor in what had been a two man race between Murray and Gray. It seems to me that Gray has seemed like the third man out this entire spring, not Mettenburger.

But then again, that's just me reading into others, reading into others, watching scrimmages. I don't think anybody knows anything at this point. The only thing that would surprise me is to see Quincy out there.

David Hale said...

Wooly -- Extremely good point, and very well said.

Sid -- I always used to end up getting eaten by a crocodile at the end of those Choose Your Own Adventure books. I was a bad decision maker even back then.

John F said...

Yeah it was just a scrimmage, but that doesn't mean we can't take things from it. For one, Mett was way more composed in front of a crowd. Mett threw a better long ball than Murray or Gray. There were several instances where Gray and Murray missed a wide open receiver downfield. In a controlled environment like that, we should expect the QB's to perform well because they have the advantage. Ya know, we heard about how smart Joe C was and accurate during spring ball, but that didn't translate to the fall. I'm not saying that will be the case with Murray. But going off the only eye test we've seen, Mett looked more poised, had good foot work, threw the ball away when there was nothing open, and had outstanding accuracy. Murray didn't do those things as well. I'm just saying the spring game is not useless is all.

Stuart said...

Murrays game seems like Drew Brees' move the pocket left to right to make up for a lack of height and make super accurate throws. Mettenberger gives off the Joe Flacco makes any deep throw but getting up and over the cover 2 linebacker is tricky because he throws with a flatter trajectory.

Andy Coleman said...

This article just exemplifies why you are THE BEST David!

BulldogBry said...

HOW DARE YOU, DAVID!!

How dare you bring a reason gun to a knife fight argument! How dare you not let me jump to my irrational, jump-the-start, worthless conclusions! How dare you not let me assassinate Aaron Murray in print for being a worthless bum who was a waste of a scholly (and then rip Mett a new one for making a distillery mountain out of a two-ounce shot mole hill mistake that everyone here made)!

HOW DARE YOU BE RATIONAL!!!!

(and thanks for writing this early on before the debate got out of control)

Anonymous said...

Mett had the best touch on the ball.

Murray overthrew targets and tossed a Stafford style brain fade pass to the defender. I should have known right then he was Bobo's boy for the job. I have heard enough about picking up nuances and quick releases, it does nothing if the ball isn't catchable.

Tebow had terrible mechanics if you listen to the NFL scouts but won a BCS title as a starter and played in a defacto playoff for a 2nd.

Anonymous said...

What's interesting to me is that a lot of people have resolved in their mind that Aaron Murray is the QB based on what he did in High School and last year in according to practice reports. I believe I was one of those people until I went to the G-Day game.

The fact is that Mett has made great strides and has performed equally well if not better in all of the scrimmages from a stat standpoint. This includes whether he went against 1st team or 2nd team defenses. Granted there is more to it than stats. However, it does give us some indication.

People tend to pick a horse and want to see that horse win..but these kids are all representatives of a team. A team that we want to see win.

I'm cool with Murray or Mett and know that they are loaded with talent. If our line is dominant and we can run the ball both of them could do some damage.

But I am no longer going to discount Mett because of where he started last year. He looked cool and calm from the time he stepped on the field for warm ups. And I don't care if he was throwing against a high school defense..he looked good.

If Murray is the starter that will be fine too. The great thing is that we have 2 highly talented kids at QB. No longer is there going to be a huge gap if someone gets hurt. Remember when Shockley's backup was Joe T :(

We've got 2 guys that can play. I trust Richt will handle the situation and I look forward to watching the Dawgs kick tail in the Fall.

Dog44 said...

Thanks for the perspective, David.

Here's my 2-cents on it...

Someone other than Mett is going to start the season at QB for the Bulldogs. That's a fact. If that QB does really well, there will be no reason to make a change and he'll likely be the QB for the foreseeable future. So that leaves two QBs as potential season-starters: Murray and Gray. It may not be a coincidence that those were the two guys who split reps with the ones on Saturday. So in essence, Mett is playing for the back-up role to begin the season. If the starter struggles, Mett will get his shot. So any debate right now over whether he should start over one of those other two guys is a bit pointless. He's not going to start the first game regardless, and might not ever start unless the other guy can't get the job done.

Based on everything we've heard about Murray and on Mett's suspension, the job is still Murray's to lose. If he struggles, I'm glad we'll have a very talented back-up in place.

Dawg19 said...

The G-Day game and the other two scrimmages are glorified flag-football games for the quarterbacks. When you know you won't get hit, it makes it easier to stand in the pocket and throw perfect passes. I believe Aaron Murray will be the starter but bot he and Mett will play significant time this year...guaranteed.

Cojones said...

Anon hit the nail on the head at 11:38. Many of you had "inside info" about Murray since last year and you are trying to make it stick even though Zach has improved through HARD work to the point where he is capable of leading this team for the season. One question: If Aaron had Zach's day Sat., what would these articles look like?-"the next great one at UGA!", "lives up to earlier promise at G-Day", etc.. My point has been and will continue to be; LEAVE IT UP TO THE COACHS. Don't take deserved attention away from Zach who could be the "Next Great One". We don't know, but denial of a hard-working athlete would just be wrong at this time. I have followed many of your posts and was asking for fair play when Spring Practice began because I could see the competition between writers as to who would be the next great prognosticator of players. No one could go wrong with Murray. I like Aaron, but that's no reason to shortchange another player who is trying hard to win our hearts and minds. "Cool it" indeed!. Also cool the innuendos that Murray will eventually triumph. We all hope that all these special athletes with their own special talents will pan out, but everyone should cease trying to force their opinion because that's all it is, opinion. We have made this a play between two QBs and given short shrift to Logan. He doesn't deserve this from us either. Because he sought to play and contribute last year instead of sitting on the bench, don't penalize him. Give him a chance and quit saying he's been around long enough to have missed his chance by not being in the middle of things QB. That's not fair and it is unworthy of us to diss his years of team loyalty to say he can't eventually win.You did it to Mett when he had his Spring Break drink. All of these excuses to favor Murray could blow up in your faces when you eventually find out he hasn't healed completely from those ailments that sat him down last year. If Zach or Logan wins this thing, then what? OH, Woe is us! We should be prepared to be lockstep behind the decision of the coachs. That player will be our QB and another one will be the second behind him awaiting his chance. Let's don't ding any of our hard-recruited players. They are all very valuable in the scope of this Fall's play. GO YOU HAIRY DAWGS!!

Kathleen said...

Cojones you are right about Logan Gray, thank you for saying that!

These kids have worked too hard and they work too hard to deserve to get dismissed so casually by all of us sitting on our tuckuses (tuckii?) and commenting offhand. For a lot of kids, what they're doing is the culumination of years and years of HARD work. They may not start at Georgia, but they've worked hard to get there and they work hard to contribute.

When I see kids graduate and I don't remember ever seeing them on the field, it's a little heartbreaking. I think about the fingernails their families must have chewed through wondering if they'd get their chance to play. It takes a special kind of kid who will work hard to be part of a Georgia team and maybe rarely take the field rather than opting for a AA team where they may have played every Saturday.

I'm saying this as someone with firsthand knowledge of what it's like to watch your kid go through the wait to see if he'll ever play. It is absolutely gut-wrenching at times, and I'm sure every fan would be a better fan if they had, at some point or another, a son or a brother or a nephew out there in a jersey.

Anonymous said...

11:15 Anonymous here. I have lurked on here for more than a yr and will tryo to register tonight.

Last year Logan went out and had a good spring game, many debated if he should start over Cox. I was a Cox fan and thought Logan maybe deserved it.

Murray has been subject to much hype since grabbing him out of Plant HS and many seem to want to justify him as that hyped player when none of these kids have proven anything at game speed including Logan.

IMO Mett fits Bobo's play calling the better than any QB he has had since becoming OC. If CMR was OC I could see Logan or Murray being better.

Woolly Butts said...

Weisner says: "Speaking of deep reserves, linebacker Akeem Hebron had four tackles, a tackle for loss and put pressure on Zach Mettenberger on a third down pass that he threw away. The senior had to feel good about how he finished his spring."

David, a day or two ago in one of the 50 columns you wrote that day you said that you haven't seen Akeem's name moving up any depth charts. I was happy to see him on the field and in action, and MW reports here that he racked up a few stats. If I'm pulling for one guy on the team to break through and into the rotation this year, it's Hebron. Akeem is a good guy whose career was set back by juvenile behavior (and who among us didn't relax with an open container at that age?) and then a horrific ankle break. He's one of our guys, and I'm hoping I'm not the only one out here hoping to see him in action during the SEC gauntlet.

The Watch Dawg said...

Logan Gray is not going to be the starter this year, that's the only thing I'm certain about. All the people whining about how people aren't giving him a chance are being unrealistic. He doesn't have the tools. It's as simple as that. Nobody questions his attitude or his work ethic, but he's not Tim Tebow, he's not so gifted athletically that he can overcome his shortcomings as a passer. I really like Logan Gray as a person and a dawg, but he's not starting QB material.

NCDawg said...

As David has pointed out repeatedly, Mett will be suspended for at least one game. Remember, it wasn't just underage drinking, there was a fakeID involved. And I cannot believe the coaches want to start a cold rookie against S. Carolina or Arkansas.

However, regardless of how the depth chart ends up, after Arkansas, we have Mississippi State, Colorado, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. I do not want to make light of any of these teams, but compared to recent years, this feels like a soft middle of the schedule.

If our #1 quarterback on week 1 has trouble performing as needed, I believe the coaches can afford to reset around week 4. Then again, if we get to week 4 with the wrong quarterback, this will likely be a year to forget.

Anonymous said...

David why is it that everytime i read something about the QBs you are always baised for AM? man crush maybe?
anyways a covered WR is a covered WR and ZM made some really good throws, so who are bring down here? Mett not good because of who he played or are you saying our 2nd teamers aren't any good?

Anonymous said...

Dog44 that pretty much sums it up. There's really nothing to debate and I'm over it already.

No matter what Mett does in practice, he ain't starting the first game. He's performed well this spring, but not so far above the others that he'll immediately be inserted as the starter after his suspension. He's basically guaranteed himself a backup role unless Murray falters.

Anonymous said...

I agree that scrimmage/G-day stats won't determine who will win the race. Last year, Murray hands down beat out all of the others (Cox, Gray, Met) in the scrimmages and Gday. Cox was the quarterback because he could do the little things.