Saturday, July 11, 2015

Tailgate Roundtable - let's look at the schedule

Day six of seven. Today we take a look at the schedule and discuss what might be the biggest road bump.

Which game on the schedule worries you most and why? 

AHD - UT. They are next after Alabama. It is at their house. They will come out and smack us in the mouth from the  opening whistle. We are the better team. That won't matter. We will need to play some "old man football". 

Robert - Just like the yearly predictions of who is going to represent the east and the west in the SEC Championship game, the answer to this question never seems to play out as we suspect either.  In the SEC, all games are big.  When I look at the schedule, I just do do not see how UGA can make it to Atlanta if we do not win in Tennessee.  If UGA goes into Knoxville without a blemish on the schedule, it means that UGA defeated a top ranked Alabama team 7 days prior.  That is a prime let down spot.  If UGA were to lose to Alabama, a loss in Knoxville would most likely end all hopes of playing the first weekend of December.  Tennessee is the biggest game on the schedule, and therefore the one I am most worried about.

BDB - I usually point to Jacksonville. There's never a bigger game in my mind than the next time the Dawgs are on the banks of the St. Johns. But...that's voting with my heart. You've both convinced me on Tennessee. A lot of "new talk" coming out of Athens of a revived and renewed purpose towards winning. If that holds true, this revamped coaching staff is going to find a way to avoid the annual "let down" game(s). I think we match up well against Bama. That's doesn't mean I'm sure we win. But I agree with AHD and Robert that regardless of what happens on October 3rd, the following week on Rocky Top will be huge.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tailgate Roundtable - Pruitt in year two

Staying on the defensive side of the ball, today we talk about what Pruitt's defense might be able to build upon in his second year in Athens.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is quite popular among both fans, players, and recruits. Does the defense's struggles against the run last season concern you? Do you anticipate improvement in that area in 2015? 

AHD - Pruitt had his hands full straightening out a young and thin secondary. We were middle of the pack performance wise in the SEC against the run. We've added some talent and it will show on the field. We had our moments in 2014. Held the Barners to 7 points, shut the Zoo out and Arky couldn't push us around on that front line. We will be better. 

Robert - Not being able to stop the run against Florida and Georgia Tech was especially troubling, but I do see improvement.  I would be surprised if we didn’t see Pruitt’s defense improve across the board.  Grantham wasn’t the best recruiter or evaluator of talent.  Pruitt is starting to get some of “his guys”.  I am particularly interested to see Trenton Thompson and how quickly he makes an impact.  All reports are he is a beast, and him clogging holes along the defensive line should aid the rush defense.

BDB - I see nothing but improvement too. Given his propensity to connect with recruits, and his knack for downright coaching, I think we've only just begun to see what Coach Jeremy Pruitt can do. In fact, we may be a year away from truly seeing the results of all his efforts. But if a couple things click, look out in 2015!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Tailgate Roundtable - filling the gap on the defensive side of the ball

Day four also tackles some shoes that need to be filled. This time from the other side...

Similarly, on the defensive side of the ball a lot of tackles need to be replaced now that Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera are gone. Who do you see stepping up to drag opposing ball carriers down? 

AHD - Thompson,Floyd,Carter, Jenkins, plenty of talent!

Robert - Jordan Jenkins, Lorenzo Carter, and Leonard Floyd are all studs.  They can all throw opposing ball carriers around like rag dolls.

BDB - Hearing great things about Thompson already. Don't think he stacks up a bunch of tackles in the stat line, but if he can plug the middle the way we need then those guys behind and around him stand to gain from the fruits of his labor.

2015 SEC Heisman candidates

Yes, this award has been irrelevant since 1980 when Herschel should've won the first of three Heisman Trophys that he outright earned. But, it's July and we have to talk about something. Right?

Chances are at places like Betfair sports site, outside of Dak Prescott, the 2015 Heisman hopefuls will reside somewhere other than in the SEC. He's the only established quarterback in the conference and the Heisman inner circle has only awarded the trophy to one non-QB since Y2K was considered a serious cyber threat. But for our purposes here we're obligated to look at more possibilities than one, so here's my way too early ranking.

1. Dak Prescott. The Mississippi State quarterback was on many lists last season, mainly due to almost becoming a 3000 yard passer and 1000 yard rusher. This season he'll be a senior and will face a schedule that may favor him. Early game against LSU at home could vault him into early discussion while national television audiences in early November (definitely on a Thursday night matchup in Columbia MO, and potentially at home the following week against Alabama) could sustain his drive towards New York in early December.

As I said at the outset, the main thing going for Prescott is that he's a quarterback. But add in a vested interest in an SEC West run and performing in front of more and more NFL scouts and this could mean a big season for the slinger from Starkville.

2014 - 13 games, 244/396 for 3449 yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 interceptions. And 210 carries for 986 yards and 14 touchdowns.

2. Jeremy Johnson. The presumed starting quarterback at Auburn allegedly out-performed Nick Marshall in practices last season. If that is actually true then Malzahn will give Johnson plenty of chances to shine bright enough this fall in a system that will emphasize quick passes to gain large chunks of yards after the catch as well as fleet feet to gain tough yards when the defense is of balance. That puts a lot on pressure on Johnson's shoulders, but he's no kid after spot duty here and there for two seasons in Marshall's shadow.

Auburn will be one of the main contenders in the West. Johnson will have plenty of chances to grab some Heisman national spotlight with an opener in the Georgia Dome against Louisville, a tough early test in Baton Rouge in week three, then late in the season in Athens and at home against Bama.

2014 - 7 games, 28/37 for 436 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions 

3. Nick Chubb. We've all been thinking it, so we might as well say it out loud, "As Chubb goes, so does Georgia's season." An offense that is still trying to find a quarterback and is under the leadership of a new headset will rely heavily on the sophomore's legs. That will especially be true early on while the new quarterback gets some experience and throws under his belt. And the schedule sets up to allow for that, at least until South  Carolina comes to town. A big showing against the Gamecocks and a couple weeks later in front of another (presumed) national tv audience against Alabama could put Chubb in early Heisman discussion. But it will be late tests in Jacksonville and against Auburn that decide whether the team has done well enough to keep its star tailback in it.

2014 - 13 games, 219 attempts, 1547 yards, 14 touchdowns

4. Leonard Fournette. Despite serving as part of a committee Fournette eclipsed 1000 yards last season as a freshman. Which is why many think he could be on the verge of a breakout season in 2015. He's a big back that can carry the load, but like Nick Chubb, his Heisman campaign will rely heavily on a quarterback to keep the safeties honest and a team that helps put together a good season.

2014 - 187 attempts for 1034 yards, 10 touchdowns

5. Josh Robinson. For this last spot you'd probably prefer a quarterback given recent voting history. But there's isn't another that you could even list as a very darkhorse. And many others would probably put a Crimson Tide tailback like Derrick Henry here. But I'm going with Robinson based on experience and numbers. If that MSU offense can churn out yards then their star tailback is going to be a large part of that. The question is if Robinson can steal enough of the spotlight from his quarterback to steal enough votes.

2014 - 13 games, 190 carries for 1203 yards and 11 touchdowns

It's going to take a special season for a running back to win the Heisman, something that last happened in 2009 when Mark Ingram became the first Alabama player to ever take home the trophy. It's just an era when quarterbacks are the hot commodity. Can Prescott bring the trophy back to the SEC? Can someone like Chubb or Fournette break the "QB streak"?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tailgate Roundtable - the receivers

Day three. Here's Monday's discussion on the quarterbacks and yesterday's on the center.

After losing some dependable hands in Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, who do you see leading the team in receiving this year?

AHD - Wesley was scoped yesterday. IS Mitchell ready for prime time? I hope so.  McKenzie is a year older. And maybe Godwin can live up to some  of that hype. Our new OC likes to throw to the TE and we have two good ones.

Robert - Malcolm Mitchell, if he stays healthy.  I just feel like he has so much potential, but he has really struggled with the injuries.  We are blessed with a lot of playmakers at this position.  Mitchell, Davis, Scott-Wesley, and McKenzie have all had big moments.

BDB - I should point out that Robert emailed his responses before the JSW news. Hopefully it's true that he'll be ready by August. I'm big on the tight ends too. The more we run our backs the more versatile the tight end position can be.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tailgate Roundtable - the center situation

Day two. Here's yesterday discussion on the quarterbacks.

Perhaps more importantly, who snaps the ball to the eventual starting quarterback?

AHD - I think Wynn gets the nod. He's a soph and had two great guards in Kublanow and Pyke to help him when he needs it. Long will provide valuable back up. 

Robert - When I look at starters returning on the offensive line for any team, I look at the center position.  This IS an important question.  I guess they are looking at Kublanow, Wynn, and Long in that order.  We have been lucky recently with injuries along the offensive line.  They do have the luxury of Wynn and Kublanow playing at guard, so that will play a role in the decision of starting center once they see which unit works best together.  If they stay injury free along the offensive line, it will probably be Kublanow with Wynn at guard.  It seems like there is a lack of depth along the line, with only 6-7 guys that can really contribute.  An injury to any position would really shake things up.

BDB - I think Wynn gets the nod too. But I'm satisfied either way. Hearing great things about Coach Sale. Hopefully whoever he goes with has the same fire in his belly that Ben Jones and David Andrews had.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Your 2015 SEC Helmet Schedule - the jorted edition

If you prefer this edition of the helmet schedule, make sure you follow @ugakerri. Damn Goood Dawg doing work in the Big Apple.

Other than that, click, embiggen, save, share, and what have you. Go Dawgs!

Tailgate Roundtable - the quarterback situation

I asked Robert and AthensHomerDawg some questions. We'll feature one a day and today we start under center.

Let's start this series off with the million dollar question(s) - Who starts at quarterback against Louisiana-Monroe, why, and will he (barring injury) be the starter the whole season?

AHD - Ramsey seems to get the most love. He certainly has gotten more game reps. I thought Bauta had the better spring game (for what that is worth). He went through his progressions well and looked pretty smooth all in all. Park is gone. Was surprised he didn't get more reps in the spring. He was a great scout team qb from what I heard. He's gone now. I don't expect to see the new qb playing.............I believe his transfer was more about depth than any perceived lack of talent already here. 

Robert - You asked me this question a few months ago, and I said Jacob Park.  I guess I will take another shot at it.  First of all, I am not buying for one second that we were just looking at other quarterbacks because of numbers.  They didn’t consider Everett Golson and bring in Greyson Lambert just to get numbers.  They brought them in because they aren’t satisfied with what they have seen from the candidates that were already on campus.  It may be lack of preparation, lack of work ethic, lack of size, or lack of arm strength, but for one reason or another the coaches aren’t feeling comfortable about this position going into fall camp.  I do not think it will be Faton Bauta, despite his knowledge of the offense.  I do not think it will be Greyson Lambert early, because he hasn’t been here learning the system.  By default, I have to say Brice Ramsey against Louisiana-Monroe.  All three quarterbacks will probably see the field in that game.

        I do not see this being a typical Richt team, where the back-up quarterback only gets in once the game is out of hand.  I think Ramsey and Lambert will battle for this position in the early going before they settle in on a starter.  It will be decided early though.  Whomever plays the most against the Gamecocks will be the starter.
        This is the million dollar question though.  As much as we would love to see Chubb get the ball for 60 carries per game, it will not be successful.  They will have to have balance on offense and keep the defense guessing.  If we do not have a capable quarterback to do that, it will be a long year.

BDB - Okay, good stuff guys. As far as the Lambert transfer, I'll split the difference. It's going to be nice to have the extra arm in practice, especially after Park shied away from the competition. But I do think Schotty wanted more options to look at in August. I agree that Lambert won't likely start the first game. However, I could see him being the eventual starter though if Bauta isn't able to stay ahead of Ramsey and Ramsey starts to force some throws.

In the end, I'm still in favor of Bauta because I think he adds some versatility to the huddle and some unique athleticism to the backfield. But I wouldn't be disappointed at all if Ramsey showed up at camp and pulled ahead and started 2015 where he ended 2014...under center.