Friday, August 26, 2016

Around the Tailgate - Who's your breakout player for 2016?

Originally posted at BullDawg Illustrated

Michael Barnett
Michael Barnett

So we've discussed the issue at quarterback, and then yesterday we talked about the game we'd most like to win. Today we're going to see who the guys think will be 2016's breakout player.
Give me one player you think we need to watch for that could be this year's very pleasant surprise. And his last name can't have two consecutive B's in it.
Namaman: I am hoping the player(s) to watch this year will be the entire TE corps.  Still the most under-utilized position in offenses - especially UGA offenses - in recent history. Let's get back to where we have proven, NFL caliber TE's like McMichael and Watson that can help Lambert, Eason and Chubb open up things for the WR's as well.  That is one of my fondest wishes... GO DAWGS!
Robert: I want to go with Jackson Harris, but you have to assume that a lot of the tight ends are going to see playing time.  How about Michael Chigbu? Then again, Kirby said the receivers would most likely be by committee.  I still like the Chigbu pick.  He should get significantly more targets, and I expect him to have a breakout year and be the pleasant surprise.
The Wrangler: I am going on the defensive side of the ball and picking #7 Lorenzo Carter.  The defensive intensity Coach Smart has brought to UGA will motivate Carter to be the best he can be.  After a great 2014 season, he was very quiet last year.  You know he has been waiting all summer to prove that he can be the man.  Since we are breaking in a new offense, the defense will have to be solid to take some pressure off the offense.  I predict 10 sacks for Carter this year.
Smokewagon: Wow….another tough question!  Mecole Hardman is a name that I haven’t heard much in pre-season coverage.  I hope I didn’t miss a story on him being injured or otherwise not available. I admit that I have not been clicking on the blogs all summer!  Perhaps the new stealthy coaching staff is holding his explosiveness under wraps and away from the media.  If not Mecole, I would go with Charlie Woerner.  I think Nauta and Holyfield will have serious impact, but I don’t think that will be a surprise.

I agree with the Wrangler and that it will be a defensive player, and we're going to need a big man to step up on the defensive front early. So I going with a guy that I think started to come on strong there last season in Michael Barnett. I have it on very good authority that 94, although he's a nice young man, has a real mean streak on the football field. Plus he's coachable. And we have one of the best d-line coaches around in Rocker.
Thanks for joining us for this preseason primer around the tailgate. Hope you've enjoyed it, and Go Dawgs y'all!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Around the Tailgate - Which game do you want the most?

Originally posted at BullDawg Illustrated

Sic'em Kirby Smart
Sic'em Kirby Smart

There’s a Coach Smart answer to this question to make sure the team is focused on the next Saturday, and then there’s being truthful with yourself and which team you want to beat more than the others. Much more.
Yesterday we talked about the signal callers. On today’s Around the Tailgate, let’s see who is channeling their inner-Kirby and who can’t wait to gator hate!
Kirby Smart just calls you out of the blue and says to give him the one game on the schedule to circle, the one you want more than any other. (If you choose Nicholls State I'm going to need your answer as a 50K word dissertation.)
Namaman:  I am pretty sure this is a trick question, because if Kirby calls me and asks that question, he is expecting me to say THE NEXT ONE.  So I will... UNC baby. A prime-time showdown with ACC vs. SEC with us having a lot to prove once again.  (Then it will be Nicholls St...#JustSayin)
Robert: For as long as I can remember, it seems like the Florida game either puts UGA in the driver seat, eliminates UGA, or places UGA back in the race for the SEC East and a trip to Atlanta. It will likely be that way in 2016, and for that reason I would circle the Florida game.
Joe Waterloo: As much as I hate that nasty orange in Knoxville Florida is the one I want the most.  When I made the trip from up north to become a Dawg it was was Ray Goff's 1st season as head coach.  Florida has owned every coach I've known at UGA and while winning year one under Kirby may not change that it at least gives me 365 days of knowing what it feels like to at the top of the totem pole.
The Wrangler: You know how bad I want to say FL since we have wet the bed against them the last few years, but I am going with North Carolina.  With a new coaching regime and possibly a new QB, this team needs to get a big time win early to build confidence for the rest of the season.  With road games at Mizzou, Ole Miss, and USCe in the first half of the season, it is critical that this team hits its stride early.  Ole Miss is ranked 11th  and UT 9th in the AP preseason polls, and we will have to tackle both of them before going to the Cocktail Party.  Confidence and execution will be key, and it needs to start on September 3rd in the GA Dome.
Smokewagon: That is always a tough question.  I start off thinking like a coach and say that the next game is the most important.    The UNC game will be important for many reasons.  Kicking off the new era of Georgia football for the staff, the team, and the fans will be key.  Losing that game will be a major setback for the outlook on the season.  If we are going to be in contention for anything, the Tennessee game is likely the most important game…… certainly don’t need vol fans getting used to a winning streak again.  Of course no win is sweeter than a win in Jacksonville and no loss hurts worse than a Tech loss.  If I have to pick one game that I want to win more than any other this season, it would be the SEC championship game….. but I am thinking you meant the regular season.  Tennessee is probably the correct answer, but I don’t want to start out 0-2 against McElwain.  Florida is my final answer!
For me the answer is always Florida, until the week of Thanksgiving. But I have to's gonna be sweet seeing Chubb run for 250 over those HillBillies and watching Butch's bricks turning to dust 'tween the hedges.
Then again, like Joe said I can't help but hope Smart starts his WLOCP series as a head coach with a win in Jacksonville. And to do that he's going to need some players to step up with a tight chinstrap. So to wrap up this series, tomorrow we talk about which relatively unknown player will be at the front of the DawgNation's collective brain come season's end. Come on back tomorrow and let us know who your break out player is.
Go Dawgs y'all!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Around the Tailgate - The issue at quarterback

Originally posted at BullDawg Illustrated

Jacob Eason(11) tossing the ball with Greyson Lambert(10)
Jacob Eason (10) tossing the ball with Greyson Lambert (11)
A big opener against the Tarheels looms. We have a new coaching staff. The program as a whole has that new car smell. Perhaps more so than any other August there are more questions than answers, so naturally, I turn to some folks I trust to get their opinion on a couple things. Let’s spend a few days going Around the Tailgate!
First let’s tackle the quarterback controversy question issue…
I'm not going to ask your opinion on the quarterback battle because we're all tired of discussing it from that angle. But try this one...First choice - Eason starts the season but it means we have a couple more losses due to his growing pains (think 7-5 with more wins toward the back of the season than the front). But it's clear he's developed very well by season's end and there's no question that next season is going to be special. Or, second choice - We deal with the question marks at quarterback into October and wait for Eason to earn his time in practice in order to get a couple more wins. What's your preference?

Namaman: As for Eason, I am all for working him in like we were doing with Stafford his freshman season.  Get him his series each half and let him get a feel for the speed of a real game before throwing him to the lions. Starting as a true freshman anywhere, much less the SEC is a tall order. I want to believe all of the hype and think he could come out like gangbusters and take the reins from the first snap in the Georgia Dome, but why not let him work his way into it and perhaps by the time we get back Between the Hedges to play Tennessee, Eason will be ready to start on the merits of his play (and not because of an injury to Lambert).
Robert: I do not ever want to sacrifice a win on the football field.  I am absolutely fine dealing with the question marks into October.  What do you tell the seniors on this team?  “You laid the foundation for the 2017 season, but we didn’t put you in the best possible position to win early on in 2016.”?  I also trust the coaches to make the decision here.  I know who the fans want to see, who the media wants to see, and even who the casual football fan wants to see.  What is important is who gives us the best opportunity to win.  In the UNC game, that may not be @skinnyqb10.  It doesn’t matter, because even if he doesn’t take snap one, he will play early and often.
Joe Waterloo: Unless Eason is the clear cut leader I would go with Lambert in game one.  I know a lot of people say Eason is the eventual starter so let him take his lumps in season 1 so next year can be special.  The problem with that is college and pro football are both full of examples of the can't miss prospect getting thrown into action too soon and never recovering from the psychological toll of not living up to expectations.  If Chubb is healthy game one against a UNC defense that was very porous against the run last year I go with Lambert.  Regardless of who the QB is this year we are going to be very dependent on the running game if we are going to have a good year.  Lambert certainly isn't anything  special, and he isn't going to win any games for you, but he's been there and knows how to hand the ball off.  Work in Eason a series or 2 and then wait for week 2 against Nichols St to get more reps.  The goal should be to have him ready by the 2nd half of the season.  That will be more than enough experience heading into next season without sacrificing any legitimate shot at a surprise in 2016.
The Wrangler: All we hear out of camp is that Chubb is healthy and has had good scrimmages and taken a few hits.  Knowing we have one of the best ground games in the conference, I would like to see Eason start.  We can take our lumps with him learning the speed of the game.  He is the most touted recruit for GA since Stafford, and although he never won anything, I would say that was because his defense was very weak.   I agree that Stafford had his freshman moments, but the same could be said of Lambert last year (and he is a “veteran”)   All indications are that our defense should be pretty strong this year.  Outside of Kimbrough, we haven’t lost a lot of players with starting experience, and we know Kirby has had these guys coached up.  Kirby’s job is to build for the future, and the future is Jacob Eason.  While we all want to play in the dome in December, most level headed GA fans just want to see a well-coached team that brings everything they have on every play.  Give me that, and I can live with 7-5 – check that, give me that, and we will compete for the East regardless of the starting QB.
Smokewagon: I would go with option 2, which sounds like 9-3 compared to 7-5.  I am not sure who those other 2 losses would be to, but I can only imagine the extra agony associated with losses 4 and 5.  Going 7-5 is pretty much like going .500 when the schedule has Nicholls State and UL Lafayette.  In both scenarios above, I would presume we feel good at quarterback going into the next season with Eason as a sophomore (and Ramsey as a senior).  Therefore, I prefer option 2 with wins 8 and 9, which may be Auburn and Tech.  I am looking forward to seeing Eason’s productive career and I hope it involves no losses to either those two teams.  As I type this, I am thinking how disappointed I will be with the 3 losses in a 9-3 season.  I am guessing the 3 losses would be Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Florida…… The more I think about this, I think both options stink.  Start Eason and win them all!
That does sound good Smokewagon! As much as it would be nice to have Coach Cheney's salary, I don't envy him trying to decide who to send out to the 2016 season's first huddle. Like Nama said, hopefully, the decision is based on merit and not due to injury. Or by shaking the Magic 8 Ball.
See y'all tomorrow when I ask the guys to circle one game on the schedule.