Monday, August 30, 2010

The Season: a Positional Preview

Like any team in August, the Dawgs have a ceiling and a floor in 2010. I personally think the ceiling is a one loss SEC Championship with a trip to New Orleans. I think the floor is a five loss season that sees more than its share of discourse. To illustrate the broad spectrum, let's look at four specific areas:

This offense is stocked with talent in all the right places. First and foremost, this is shaping up to be a banner year for our offensive line. We've recruited well there recently, it's a good mix of experienced talent and young guys ready to prove their worth. Plus, we have the best line coach in the country.

The skill players are deep too, especially at TE. Orson Charles and Aron White have all world talent while Bruce Figgins has to be hungry for action after sitting out last season. Artie Lynch I thinks redshirts given his position's depth. The receiving corps isn't necessarily stocked with experienced talent, but I expect a break out seasons for Marlon, Wooten and Durham. Along with Gray, they'll provide plenty of compliments to Mr. Green.

While the QB position is plenty talented, it's dangerously thin on experience. And to be quite honest, I really expected to be rather high on Murray at this point. While I think he has all the tools necessary to match David Greene's epic RS-Fr season, there are two things I'm not sold on yet: longevity and coolness. If Murray can stay healthy and lead his team to a road win on 9/11...then, the comparisons to Greene will be validated.

By season's end I think the reviews for Coach Grantham's defense will be extremely high. From what I've read and heard, my expectations are like a dream come true: aggressive play that attacks the ball, a depth chart based on competition not seniority and a philosophy that attempts to dictate play, not react to what the opposition has already done. Football was invented for tackling, not containing.

But pre-season expectations are a dime a dozen. This defense has made progress in the off season and in camp, but the learning curve is still awfully steep. It all really reminds me of Coach Richt's first season. We were hearing good things that made us all warm and fuzzy. But it wasn't until the hobnail boot fell on the cream sickle checkerboard that we were actually able to visualize it. Our team had just finished the drill.

Same thing here; Grantham's defense will face it's first SEC opponent on the road in a historically pesky environment and follow that up against a future NFL first round pick in Athens. There's gonna come a point early when practice is gonna have to make perfect. If the response is solid, the season could take a strong tilt in our favor.

Special Teams
These may be the least of my worries. Hard to complain when you have the 2009 Ray Guy winner in Drew Butler and a '09 Lou Groza Award finalist in Blair Walsh. But in truth, we all know that Jon Fabris damaged us deeply. Our special psyche is at best tattered.

But indications are that the special teams have not just become a point of competition for all abled bodies, but a point of pride as well for those who make the field under these circumstances. It's a great thing to be confident that you have a kicker that can grab you points once you cross the 50 a spell...and that you have a punter that can flip the field with one graceful swing of his leg. It's even greater when you can add speed, violence and mayhem to the mix.

When the first punt is blocked Saturday, you should practically see me smiling.

There are a number of things I could put here in this section. But with the new blood on staff I think the biggest intangible is team identity. I drew the parallel earlier to the 2001 season. Let me take that a bit further.

There's a lot riding on Aaron Murray's arm. It's one thing to win the starting job at the University of Georgia as a second year freshman. It has a much different taste to it when your chief competition was taken out of the equation by his own drunken decisions. To me this is a team that needs it's defense to lead the way and let the offense mature.

And I think eventually this team evolves into one that has a defense that defines the team's identity. It might be next season, it might be in time for Arkansas. I don't know when. But the sooner it happens will go a long way to determining whether this 2010 season is closer to the floor, or the ceiling.


Ollllddude said...

It is truly noble for you to be cautious and put forth the appearance of objectivity and remind us all that there are possible snags to a successful and joyous season.

But, dammit, right now we are undefeated, so I say let the Big Dawg Eat!

We'll worry about licking wounds later (if we have any).

Bernie said...

My joyous homerism got us diddly last season. But I sense from your comment I may have tweaked too far, over-corrected if you will.

Perhaps. I don't know. My month by month preview will be out tomorrow or Thursday. By then I may be so geek'd up and ready for Saturday I'll be convinced the Dawgs could beat the '78 Steelers.