Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spring preview: top tories to watch

Plenty to choose from for sure. But here are my top two.

Top story to watch (as with any spring practice, as well as any August camp during the Mark Richt Era) is offensive line. To be clear, this is a position in pretty good shape in terms of depth and returning starters. However, the loss of Tunsil on signing day adds some more pressure to finding another lock down tackle to protect the edge opposite John Theus.

Can Mark Beard fill this role? He earned some playing time last season and has the size for either a guard or tackle spot. I would pencil him in as the leader.

Next storyline this spring will be Josh Harvey-Clemons. It appears he'll share duty between outside linebacker and safety. On the surface that puts up some red flags for me as I'd rather him key on one position. But he is a unique talent, and that along with his body size makes him a special player that Grantham can tailor to specific situations.

Let's face it, JHC can help us in either position and using him in both could provide the defensive coaches an edge in matchups. For instance, you can see Harvey-Clemons rushing the passer on some third and longs and falling into coverage on others. Then, suddenly he blitzes from the star position in the second half to give the opposing quarterback even more to think about. So yes, Josh Harvey-Clemons will be a key storyline this month for sure.

That's what I have, what are yours?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Around the tailgate - Gators, gators...bite my ass

I'd like to thank these guys for filling in the last week or so. Hope I can buy you all a beer real soon. To wrap this up, let's talk about how much Florida sucks. And it's Friday, so please don't hold back.

Lastly, in 3000 words or less, why does Florida suck? No seriously, do you think we've turned the tide in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party?

Joe Waterloo - I don’t know that we’ve turned the tide in the Florida series but we have certainly leveled the played field.  2 in a row and 3 of the last 6 is what a rivalry should look like (unless you’re GaTech and then 1 out of 10 sounds about right.) As for why does Florida sucks – because it ain’t in Athens.

AthensHomerDawg - Florida sucks. When we win this year we are close ..... 4 in a row is a start of trend. Of course we do need to beat uSC or this won't make sense. ;-)

Son of AHD - Florida is completely one dimensional. They were exposed as such in many of the games they played this year. They BARELY beat A&M, LSU, Mizzou, and LA-Lafayette. Then they got completely embarrassed against the Louisville Charlie Strongs. Muschamp is a hell of a D coordinator, but he just ain’t a head coach.

Smoke Wagon - Yes.  Do I think we will start dominating them?  No, but we have definitely turned the tide from the years that our players, coaches, and fans were intimidated by Florida.  While I am not a fan of show boating or acting like morons with no discipline, I still think the dancing in the end zone against Tebow and Urvin Meyers was the turning point.  I am not saying the dancing caused us to win.  However, as a fan, when I saw the dancing, I knew our players and coaches had brought a different mentality to that game.  For years, I had seen us coach scared in the cocktail party, but every since that game we have had a different mentality in Jax. I believe the real turning point came prior to the game, because the coaches and players looked different from the opening kickoff.  However, it was the dance that made me in the stands realize it was different.  Knowshon was pretty special that day as well.  I think the off week is a real factor, but most importantly, our coaching staff clearly approach that game with a different mentality and it is one that I like. 

Namaman - I think we have turned that mental corner.  As for the full tide, we shall see.  It is crazy how we always seemed to lose that game no matter how much more talent we had on the field.  It got in players heads as well as the fans.  We now know that we can win on a consistent basis in Jax, so I think things will continue to go well for the DAWGS at the WLOCP - that and keep @FiskPudge and @Cordeus coming to the games!!!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Around the tailgate - the schedule

So, while I'm away we take the pulse of the tailgate. Back on dry ground again, but many miles to go. The 2012 and 2013 schedules couldn't be more different, at least in terms of coming out of the gate. Which scheduling philosophy do you like best?

Do you prefer the 2012 schedule where we kind of eased into things, or the 2013 where we put rubber to the road right out of the gates?

Joe Waterloo - Despite all the preseason pub that goes with coming out of the gates firing I’d still prefer a light weight opponent to start the season off.  Give me a great game in week 2 for sure, but no one wants to start the season with a loss – even if it gives you the whole season to make up for it. Something about starting 0-1 that really sucks the life out of me.

AthensHomerDawg - I'm ready to GATA this year. Wonder what the OBC will fine to whine about?

Son of AHD -I'd definitely say I prefer when we ease into things. In the past few years the Dawgs have been more of a second half of the year kind of team. Hopefully we can change that tendency this season. 

Smoke Wagon - 2013 without hesitation.  I want to play the toughest schedule and the biggest games.  I am a fan that wants to see big and important football games.  I hate playing patsies any time during the season.  I could go on and on about this, but it is a simple as that.  Big games =  fun, ratings, respect, passion, memories. More Big Games = More fun, more ratings, more respect, more passion, more memories. 

Namaman - We might as well crank it up from the start.  I do think our offense should be able to put us in a great position to start fast as our defense has some time to come together.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Around the tailgate - state of the program

So, while I'm away we take the pulse of the tailgate. Happy Humpday! Freeport is in my rearview. And so is the 2012 season. Let's move forward and talk about where these guys see the Georgia program right now.

I can sense a shift in the foundational beliefs of Georgia fans. We once thought it impossible to beat mighty Bama. Coming so close proved that to be a falsehood. Or is it? Do you see Georgia as on par with the SEC elite, very close, or the SECCG as an aberration?

Joe Waterloo - While I was happy with how this season went and I was impressed with how we went toe-to-toe with Bama, I still don’t consider us in the SEC elite.  Bama is still on a whole other level than everyone else and that’s proven by what they did in a rebuilding year.  LSU is also a step aboveus .  The leaves the Dawgs with Florida, A&M and SC right behind them.  While we are certainly in striking distance it will take another strong year or 2 for me to think we deserve to be considered in Bama’s weight class.  But we are a lot closer than we were in 2010 and 2011.

AthensHomerDawg - Alabama is run like a semi-pro team. Everyone at the Bama is focused on winning and that includes their prez and on down the line. They press every available advantage they can. We just don't do business that way here at the University of Georgia. But yeah .... we can play with them. It's like the hockey match in the  Olympics USA vs. the Soviet Union. We will get ours.

Son of AHD - The great thing about college football is that it is completely unpredictable. I don’t really think anyone can hang with Saban on a weekly basis, but any team is beatable if you only have to play them once.

Smoke Wagon - Wow, there are a lot of different ways to look at this one.  My perception is that the SEC elite programs right now are ALA and LSU with UGA being very close behind and I would put FL and SC very close behind UGA.  TAM is obviously hot, but one year does not make them an elite program – although they are certainly poised to be in that company.  For the record, I never thought it impossible to beat the “mighty Bama”.  I give them credit for being the best team or more notably the most consistent team, but I think people get a little carried away by trying to act like they are untouchable.  They lost to A&M at home and they were fortunate (not lucky) to beat us in the dome.  They were clearly the best team, but I think it was only by a very slim margin (and I am not referring to the 5 yards).  I truly think they were only a little bit better than UGA.  Fortunately for them, a little bit better is all that was necessary to notch another NC under their belt.  I feel the same about Saban.  It is hard to argue that he is not the best coach in the land, but I don’t think he is in a league of his own like many would lead us to believe.  If UGA had completed the touchdown pass and won the SECCG, would that mean coach Richt was a better coach than Saban?  I don’t think so, but yet many will say that Saban is the reason Alabama wins.  I felt like Richt and staff outcoached Saban and staff in that game.  (Again this is not by a long shot, but I would give the coaching edge in that game to UGA).  However, I don’t think Saban would have taken much blame if they had lost.  I was already proud of our coaches and team, but I do think the SECCG made a difference to a lot of other fans’ mentality.  And really, I don’t see how it couldn’t.  Those people who believe that Alabama and Saban are head and shoulders better than us had to have realized how close we were to EARNING a hard fought win in and awesome football game.  The difference between UGA and ALA might be more than 5 yards, but it is not nearly what most would have you believe.  I am proud of where we are as a program.  I would like to have a championship under our belt, but I wouldn’t trade our situation for Auburn’s.  I really wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s.  I love it when college football can still have loyalty.  I am proud that we have one of the winning-est coaches in college football and in UGA history on our sideline.  I would like to see more loyalty in coaching (from the coaches and the universities) across college football.  We do need to improve on securing more of Georgia’s best HS players to wear the G so that we can get over the top. 

Namaman - I do think we are close.  I was surprised the our run defense did not do a better job in the SECCG, but I knew our offense could keep us close.  Hopefully we will get back to the basics on the defensive side and continue to improve on offense to get us back there!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Around the tailgate - 2012 revisited

So, while I'm away we take the pulse of the tailgate. Today we're going to reminisce a little. Hope it's not too painful. My buddies sure weren't afraid to tackle this one. Get after it boys!

Thinking back to last season's South Carolina game, how surprised are you we came so close to punching our own ticket to Miami?

Joe Waterloo -  I was very surprised we pulled it together after the SC game if for no other reason because Richt hasn’t seemed to be able to hold the team’s attention the last few years following big wins or bad loses.  I’m hoping it’s a sign that he finally has the team under control again.  If he does I think we have the ability to be a regular contender again. 

 AthensHomerDawg - I think everyone is on board the bus and believing that we have the tools. We just seem to shoot ourselves in the foot.  Snake bit!

Son of AHD - Being one of the Bulldog faithful who attended that horrendous game, I can say that I never believed we would have ended up where we did. After the game I had lost all faith in UGA ever being relevant again. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s the truth. The Florida game got things rolling, and we never looked back.

Smoke Wagon - After SC, looking ahead at our schedule, it was definitely not out of the question that we could win out the regular season.  I knew we had a good team despite what we saw in Columbia.  However, I wasn’t sure how we would respond.  While I was way more disappointed after the SC game, I was more concerned with ending the season after the Kentucky game.  SC was devastating, but I left there knowing we had a good team that had gone into a perfect storm and done everything wrong.  However, after the Kentucky game, I was just pissed that our team could play that poorly under those conditions. In the Kentucky game, we looked like a bad team.  So looking back to that game, I have to say I was pretty surprised that we could turn out to be team that we saw in the Georgia Dome.

Namaman - I was surprised especially after how out of that game we were.  I know who does not ever get to go to Columbia again!  I truly felt like we matched up well against everyone on our schedule, so winning the remainder of the games was never really out of the question.  Lattimore getting hurt again helped ensure that the cards all fell in to place as we needed help to make it to the Dome.  We did start to peak at the right time I believe to be ready for Alabama... 5 yards........

Monday, February 25, 2013

Around the tailgate - Spring Practice

So, while I'm away we take the pulse of the tailgate. Happy Monday everybody! Let's talk about spring practice....practice!

What's one thing you want to see come out of spring practice?

Joe Waterloo - The two things I want to see out of Spring practice is no major injuries and no police reports.  No one is winning or losing a starting job in the Spring, so just get as many reps as you can get in and keep the major players healthy (and off the police blotter.) 

AthensHomerDawg -  I want to see the D line control the line of scrimmage. I want to see another qb step up.

Son of AHD - I would like us to hire a Saban-style “analyst” to help out Marshall Morgan.

Smoke Wagon - At least one of the early enrollees at safety turning heads by impressing his teammates with his ability and impressing the coaches with his early command of the playbook.  Also would like to come out of spring practice with everyone raving about JHC dominating his new position, whatever that ends up being.

Namaman - No injuries... PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!! 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Around the tailgate - the 2013 offense

So, while I'm away we take the pulse of the tailgate. Today it's the offense.

And what about the offense? How key was Murray coming back for a final season? What is a reasonable goal to set in terms of offensive production in 2013?

Joe Waterloo - I think the offense won’t miss a beat and I think that would be the case with Murray or with Mason at QB.  I’m glad Murray is back but I don’t consider him an irreplaceable part that success hinged on.  He has the experience and can make all the throws but he still tends to disappear for long stretches or at critical times.  After 3 years as a starter I’ve given up hope that will change with one more year under his belt.  If the O-line can stay healthy I think we’ll be putting up mid 30+ on offense and that should be good enough.

AthensHomerDawg - The offense is loaded  with a lot of talent. Hope we find a way to get that talent on the field and utilize it. Murray is in his "prime". We will score some points . Hope we give the D time to catch it's breath.

Son of AHD - Murray is a general on the field. I just hope the offense doesn’t fall short of the expectations like the defense did. I really think Murray can put up 4,000 yds and 40 TD’s. He sure came close last year. The offensive line beat out my wildest expectations last year, and this year I expect them to get things done like Bamas line.

Smoke Wagon - The sky is the limit.  I am sure, by the time the season gets here, we will have crowned them as the best offense ever, but we all know that last year’s production and this year’s returning starters does not always equate to higher levels of success.  However, I do think the intangibles are there.  I think the O line will have gained a lot of maturity and the skill positions are loaded with talent and experience.  It seems like we have a lot of good kids on offense that are smart and seem to stay out of trouble.  That may not directly result in production, but I feel like there is a correlation to leadership, discipline, and focus that is necessary for an offense to operate on all cylinders.  I think we would have been pretty good even if Murray had not returned.  However, I am very glad that he did and think it will be a significant benefit in the tough September schedule.   I don’t think Murray is the best QB ever, but nothing pisses me off more than to hear people blaming him for any of Georgia’s shortcomings.  He has laid it on the line for the G since he has been here and he is a very very good and productive quarterback and leader.  If he were 2 or 3 inches taller, he could be a GREAT quarterback.  Either way, he will leave as the most productive QB in UGA history and for that I am very appreciative.

Namaman - I think the sky is the limit for Murray.  Hopefully the offensive line will do nothing but improve and keep Murray's jersey clean.  With Gurshall having more time in the weight room and off-season drills, I think they will be even better.  Especially now that Bobo should have some more options.