I honestly can’t remember if I do these or not but I’m ready for some football, so if you want to read, feel free.
Oh, and if you’re just downloading the pdf, the links don’t work, but they should down below, man I have to work on the formatting on this…
I figured the best way to get back in the groove of writing these things was to do one for us. A UGA scouting report for the season I guess. Haven’t done one of these on a while, so forgive the typos.
About last year…
Can we pretend that didn’t happen? A rough year all around hammered home with a resoundingly listless effort (including a loss) against a Conference USA opponent isn’t exactly confidence inspiring. So, in keeping with the format…
The Good: Aaron Murray was all we hoped he could be as a freshman, especially once we opened up the playbook a little for him. The defense wasn’t horrible in its transition to a 3-4. Special teams continued to be awesome.
The Bad: A lot. The offense was inconsistent. The defense struggled against the run and gave up too many points. Worst of all was the seemingly complete lack of interest the team closed the season with.
The Interesting: Despite the bad season, the UGA coaching staff went out and got one of the top 3 recruiting classes in the country. It was loaded at just about every position. Better yet, all of these guys came to campus ready to play. You see more freshmen slotted for PT this year than in recent memory and a lot of it has to do with how good this class is. They were dubbed the Dream Team. Let’s see if they live up to it.
- The UGA offense loses the top drafted WR in the country last year in AJ Green. Also gone are a couple of key offense linemen, an underrated WR in Durham and the top 2 RBs on the team. A new OL coach adds to the question marks. With a largely unproven WR corps, a revamped OL, and all-new RBs, what can we expect to see? A focus on the running game? An offense that focuses on Murray? We’re not far from finding out but right now the only real known is at QB, and it’s a really good known.
- At QB we have Aaron Murray, whose freshman season surpassed expectations despite the fact it was pretty obvious we were being overly cautious with him in early season games, particularly at SC. Murray was just what the doctor ordered, showing an appreciation for ball protection and, as the season went on, an understanding of how to use his mobility to extend plays and find guys downfield. He’s a heady QB and another year in the system should see an even better understanding of the offense. The best thing about Murray is that he really seemed to have a knack for showing up in big games, not getting bothered by big games on big stages. Backup Hutson Mason was solid in small glimpses as a true freshman and should be much better but hopefully we don’t have to see him much.
- The RB spot is weird. If you’d said Isaiah Crowell, the top RB recruit in the country last year, would be entering the opener as 2nd string I wouldn’t be all that surprised as neither Washaun Ealey or Caleb King had done anything to really grab the top spot for their own. The fact that Crowell is behind Richard Samuel, returning to RB after his year-long stint at LB, makes this whole thing interesting. The fact that BOTH Ealey and King are gone for non-football reasons is the odd part. Samuel was an explosive back in his first incarnation at the position, he just needed large holes to make the explosions work. His combination of size and speed are rare. He just never was overly instinctual. With the OL’s move to more of a drive blocking scheme and the addition of a 270-lb FB (former TE Bruce Figgins), Samuel will certainly add a considerably more physical presence than we’ve had in recent years. Crowell is the x-factor though. A natural athlete, with solid size, speed, vision, quickness and pretty much everything you want in a back, the only thing holding him back is likely how quickly he picks up the offense and blitz pickup in particular. A track star in HS, he’s got the potential to be a gamebreaker whenever he touches the ball.
- Gone is all-time great AJ Green. Gone is the solid and often spectacular (though overshadowed) Kris Durham. The clear top returner is Tavares King, who has been very, very good in his career; he just happened to be paired with the greatest WR to ever wear a UGA uniform and didn’t get many targets. Former top recruit Marlon Brown has been the talk of camp after apparently looking better and better. His size makes him an intriguing guy all over the field but particularly in the redzone. Wooten brings the wiggle to the table. Freshman Malcolm Mitchell is likely the fastest of the bunch and could see some PT but is a relative newcomer to the position after being primarily a DB for the bulk of his HS career. TE is a major strength for the Dawgs with Orson Charles being one of the best in the country. A superior athlete, don’t be surprised at all to see him flex out at WR. Same with Aron White who has always been solid. Arthur Lynch returns after a RS and is the more traditional in-line blocker type but can certainly get his 275 pounds down the field. Former TE Bruce Figgins (now the starting FB) allows for some interesting formational flexibility.
- The OL lost a ton of depth, and not just to the NFL. Sturdivant gone to an injury, Strickland gave up football, Harmon transferred, etc. The fact we still have a solid starting 5 is hard to believe. Depth here is a major, major issue. Starting LT Cordy Glenn will be one of the top OGs drafted next year. At RT Justin Anderson returns from his year-long experiment at DT to take back over at his original position. A physical freak, the new OL scheme is thought to be good for “Bean” as he struggled at times with the zone scheme of Searles. OC Ben Jones is as good as any in the country and a good bit meaner. Gates is solid at one OG spot after playing as a true frosh in a crowded line last year. The only question is the other OG spot where Burnette, a former Army All-American, will be seeing his first significant time.
- Bottom Line: I have no idea what to expect from this group. There’s serious talent everywhere, it’s just tough to stomach the fact that as of right now 2 of our starters on O were playing D at this time last year. Despite that I feel like we can expect the O to be better just because of Murray. He’s that good. QBs drive everything. Ask Manning or Brady’s foes. Murray has the mobility to be a threat when the play breaks down. Add in the special connection he has with Charles since their HS days and the outlook starts to brighten. Toss in the pure talent and speed of guys like Crowell and Mitchell and the positive vibes start flowing.
- Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball (this year): The key to the season on offense in my mind will be the play of the OL. We’ve got a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball but without the OL clicking it’s going to be hard to use any of it. The OL has lots of talent for sure but it’s seriously thin on the depth. Both of our OTs would probably be better suited for OG and one of our OGs is probably better suited for OC. That’s not to say that Glenn and Anderson can’t play OT, they’ve done it before, it’s just something we’ll have to watch. Against top shelf pass rushers, they’ll likely need help.
- The UGA defense was decent last year. While it certainly wasn’t a return to the dominance of the 2002 and 2003 units, it did show signs of life at times and largely kept us in games. Despite the losses of some good talent, especially in the LB corps, this year’s version is expected to be much better, if for no other reason than they should have a better feel for what the heck they’re doing in year 2 of Grantham’s 3-4.
- The UGA front 3 is solid. I mean like over 300 pounds a man solid. Abry Jones returns to lock down one DE spot and former NG DeAngelo Tyson kicks outside to take the other. Undersized at NG, Tyson looks to be an ideal 3-4 DE and should blossom this season. A year ago the thought of losing Tyson was a scary one but my how a season changes things as the 2-deep at NG looks to be a serious strength. The arrival of manchild Jonathan Jenkins from the JUCO ranks had many penciling him in to start right away and at 6-4, 350, and with serious athleticism for a guy that size (he played some RB at JUCO), it’s easy to see why. Someone forgot to tell Kwame Geathers that though. Kwame, who’s actually larger than Big Jon, responded by channeling his massive size and incredible football genes into an effort that resulted in him nailing down the starting spot, giving us depth and flexibility and making Todd Grantham a happy man.
- Gone are Justin Houston and his disruptive productivity. With his departure, physical freak Cornelius Washington slides over to man that side of the formation. His size and speed combo is certainly what you look for but the productivity hasn’t been there to date. Taking over Houston’s spot, he should see a few more opportunities to get after the QB, which is more his speed anyway. Taking over his old spot is USC transfer Jarvis Jones who redshirted last year after playing as a true freshman for the Trojans. That means the guy has some game. All accounts coming from practice point to this guy being a real playmaker and he certainly brings that serious, nasty disposition you look for in a LB. He’s a beast. Inside will be the always solid Christian Robinson, who seems to have really stepped into a leadership role for the D, and converted safety Alec Ogletree. ‘Tree’ looked great last year as a true freshman but you wondered if his size would force him into a LB spot as not many guys not named Thomas Davis can play safety in the SEC at 230+ pounds. At LB, he looked natural at G-Day where he could just run to the ball and make plays. Very excited about this guy. While Robinson and Washington are the only returning starters, this unit has an extremely high ceiling. Incoming frosh Ray Drew, Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera all look ready to contribute.
- The secondary was a bit of a concern early, especially when Brandon Boykin considered leaving early but he returns to anchor a unit that is loaded with athletes. The fact he might be the best athlete on the team doesn’t hurt and he was solid at CB last year to boot. Branden Smith apparently figured out how to turn his raw speed into productivity because his name has popped up a lot this camp, enough to lock down the other spot. With Smith stepping up, that made it easier for Grantham to slide Sanders Commings over to safety, where his size is probably more suited. While Commings played well as a CB last year, we need him more at safety with Ogletree dropping down to LB. Shawn Williams, who saw time last year, will need to step it up but the coaches must feel pretty good about his play if they’re willing to let him and Commings be the 1s because that means returning starter Baccari Rambo will sit. I love the message that sends in terms of earning jobs but I love the depth it provides more. Jordan Love appears to have won the nickel back spot although freshman Damian Swann has apparently earned PT as well.
- Bottom Line: Last year’s D showed glimpses of being solid but never really looked dominant. The vaunted 3-4 we heard so much about ended up being a lot of nickel against the spreads we play each week and at times we looked slow to adjust, like when SC ran that iso run up the middle and just had Lattimore read our NG to the tune of like 300 yards and a UGA loss. With everyone having a full year in the system, I fully expect to see marked improvement across the board. Hopefully the game will slow down for these guys and we can see that manifested into big plays. At times last year you felt like all the pressure was coming from Houston just being a dominant force and making things happen. The 3-4 was going to be all about pressure and flexibility. I’m hoping that as the players get more comfortable with understanding the concepts, we’ll open this thing up more.
- Key matchup to watch when we have the ball (this year): Man it’s going to be fun to watch Kwame and Jenkins in the middle. Last year Tyson struggled as he just didn’t have the mass to play that spot essentially every snap of every game. These two don’t have that problem but the thing is fellow players both rave about their athleticism so they should be fun to watch just wreak havoc up there. I can’t wait to see Jarvis Jones too. Once he was cleared by the NCAA, his Facebook quote was classic: “Stand up Bulldawg Nation, we have business to tend to.” I told you he was serious.
General Team Notes
- Key game: Week 2 at home against SC. The Boise opener is obviously big but if you’re just going to win 1, the conference game is certainly the bigger fish and this game sets the season tone.
- Freshman who will have the biggest impact: Crowell. It’s one of those talent meets opportunity deals. He has a ton of talent and we have backed ourselves into an opportunity. Him picking up that tiny little bulldog puppy back on Signing Day could be looked back on as a massive day for us. He looks a LOT like Garrison Hearst in terms of skillset. I could handle that. I think Swann plays a good bit based off of reading between the lines and Drew will to. This class is so loaded.
- Most Underrated Freshman: of the guys that will play, I’d have to go with Ramik Wilson, who didn’t get near the level of buzz that national guys like Drew, Crowell, Mitchell, Rome, Swann, etc. got. He’s come in and looks ready to see LB time both inside and outside. Wilson was one of those guys that kinda got lost in the shuffle of some of our bigger stars but he came ready to play.
- Breakout offensive player: Lots of choices here. I won’t go with Crowell. Charles is hard to call a breakout, same with King. I’ll go with Marlon Brown based on the fact he’ll have every opportunity to get some looks and his size should translate to redzone chances. Add in the fact that Bobo said he had the best camp of any player and I’m hooked.
- Breakout defensive player: Branden Smith. Another former 5 star, the light seems to have come on this offseason. His career arc reminds me some of Paul Oliver (although they couldn’t have more differing skillsets for the same position) in that his first two seasons were decent, nothing spectacular but you really started hearing about them both entering their junior years. Oliver blew up. Here’s your chance Mr. Smith.
- Best Mustache: Damian Swann. In the years since VanGorder left I don’t think we’ve had any real candidates aside from Mikey Henderson’s Prince look. Swann owns it.
- Highest drafted Bulldog next Fall: Cordy Glenn, 2nd round. His year at OT will only help although he’ll move back to OG at the next level. Dark horse would be, ugh, Orson Charles.
Around the SEC (in one sentence each)
- Alabama: The darling of the media, I think their QB spot might see them drop a game or two.
- Auburn: Coming off the MNC, they lose too many weapons to be a real threat in the West.
- Arkansas: Losing Knile Davis hurts but this team should be a real contender with an improved D.
- Florida: I’m betting the rumors (and dreams) of Meyer’s return start before the season ends.
- Kentucky: This would be a great year for them to make a run but it won’t happen.
- LSU: I’m not sold on their QB but man they’re loaded most everywhere else.
- Mississippi State: Caught a lot of people off guard last year but will find the loaded West tough.
- Ole Miss: Nutt doesn’t have nearly the same magic he did at Arkansas.
- South Carolina: Garcia’s play will determine how far they go and that will scare rational SC fans.
- Tennessee: I’m thinking this will be another long year in Knoxville but they’ll surprise some folks.
- Vanderbilt: Great school.
- Nickname of the year easily goes to Jonathan Jenkins, who will sport #6 across his considerable girth. I wish I could claim it, but “Motel 6” is awesome. “He’ll turn your lights out for you.”
- I’m a big fan of the new UGA ad that the Chapel Bell folks created. See it here. Much, much better than the ones from previous years, which looked, well, not nearly as good. Loved the inclusion of Athens as much as the school. Athens is a special place, let’s show it off.
- Now that Ohio State has gotten exposed as being completely crooked, can we cut their number of ESPN talking heads down a couple of notches? And if we do that can we drop Desmond Howard too since he was clearly only added to bring some Michigan balance?
- Yeah, we got spiffy uniforms. While I’m not a huge fan of the look and think Nike could’ve certainly come up with something better, I love the fact that our players, and better yet our recruits, seem to love them. They’re for 1 game. I can handle 1 game. They’re kinda growing on me. Especially after watching the promo video for them (here). I might wear those gloves to work.
- Major kudos to the team as a whole for getting their collective act together and not having the offseason issues that have plagued us in the past. Richt caught all kinds of grief for that in the past so hopefully he gets some of the praise for this.
- Kudos to the Braves again for making the summer interesting. This team has some interesting pieces. The Phillies are beyond loaded and the Brewers look a little dangerous but I like the team the Braves have. I love the addition of Bourne at the leadoff spot. Like the rug in the Big Lebowski, he’s really “tied the room together.” Except replace room with lineup. Now if Heyward would only start playing like he did last year we could be really dangerous. It’s unreal how much good, young pitching we have.
- I’m glad that AJ and Boling both got drafted as high as they did, but Cincinnati? Man they’re going to be bad for a while. And they drafted a QB this year which means they’ll resist the urge to take Andrew Luck with the #1 overall pick next year. Start the AJ free agent watch now.
- If the SEC insists on expanding, can we please cap it at 14? If we go to 16, the schedule is going to get blown up all kinda crazy and we’ll be going something like 10 years without playing LSU or Bama…wait, why am I against this again?
- Man, am I ready for the season to get started. One more weekend without football. NFL preseason doesn’t even come close to counting. I can only watch so many College Flash Classics. Did they just run 1 season of that? I’m thinking so because I think they only have like 3 games and I can quote them I think. Dave Rowe isn’t even that quotable.
Have a safe weekend,