I, along with the rest of the Bulldog Nation, said a collective “Oh crap” when I heard that the NCAA was wanting to investigate. Now it seems that it is much ado about nothing, but for half an hour I was legitimately piss my pants scared.
So, for now, our star player seems poised to light up defending secondaries until he gets hurt halfway through the season (a zinger).
I got to thinking last night: if any player went down, or was suspended, what kind of detrimental effect would it have?
I am going to rank the Top 5 players that may not be the best on the team, or may not be the most used, but are the ones that if the Dawgs lose for any extended period of time we can start to look up to see falling sky.
5. Blair Walsh, K: Walsh is kicker who was given a scholarship. His YouTube Videos of him crushing field goals from 60 yards made you excited. He struggled some in 2008, but in 2009 he had a stellar year hitting 20/22 FG and 42/42 for PAT. Though we have others who may could kick the ball from 3 yards away through the uprights, one cannot underestimate the value of a kicker. Kicker’s aren’t noticed until they screw up. In 2008, Walsh missed twice against Florida. How different would the team feel going into the locker room down 14-9 instead of 14-3? In 2006, we lost the Vanderbilt game and most certainly the Kentucky game because Andy Bailey missed field goals that were automatic for Brandon Coutu. If Brandon Coutu was healthy, the 2006 squad is 11-2 instead of 9-4. Hopefully we won’t have to try and outscore opponents like we had to do in the last two years of the Willie Martinez reign of terror. In the close, physical battles of the SEC, a good kicker can make or break you.
4. Drew Butler, P: I’ll admit, I was one who thought “Why are we wasting a scholarship on a punter? It is just because of his daddy.” The reigning Ray Guy Award winner, Butler is by far the best punter in the country, and unfortunately, had several opportunities to showcase his tremendous skill in 2009. Butler will help out the defense by placing the other team deep in their own territory. Under Mark Richt, special teams have usually been solid, and there always seems to be a solid punter as well as kicker. Jonathan Kilgo, Gordon Ely-Kelso, Brian Mimbs and Butler have all been solid, but of all these, Butler has that extra something special. There is a difference between a good punter and an elite one. You can replace Ely-Kelso or Mimbs, but there is not another Drew Butler. The early games against South Carolina and Arkansas where our new defense will be put to the test, Butler will be a key to victory in those contests.
3. A.J. Green, WR: He is the best wide receiver in the country. But as UGA proved last year versus Georgia Tech, Auburn and Kentucky, the offense is capable of moving the ball without him. Last year we lost 4 times with him playing, and lost once without him. His presence on the field makes T. King, Kris Durham and Wooten better. The addition of Orson Charles, White and Figgins gives the receiving corps some depth. It wouldn’t be pleasant if the Dawgs didn’t have A.J. Green, but I don’t think it would be a complete train wreck either.
2. Brandon Boykin, CB: Boykin improved tremendously last year as a cover corner. The cornerback position-the whole secondary as a matter of fact-is one that chopped full of talent but not a lot of experience. Branden Smith played some last year, and Vance Cuff is an upperclassmen, but neither have seen the field very much. Boykin got burned some last year, but all corners get burned some early in their career. Look for Boykin to have a big season, because the depth at corner back doesn’t have much PT after him. We must not discredit his role on special teams. 3 KO return TDs last year was impressive, and it was the difference in some ballgames. Getting good field position from the return game will help ease the young quarterback.
1. Justin Houston, OLB: The increased play of our defense is going to the #1 key of Georgia’s success in 2010. The offense, with a proven ground game, steady offensive line and a total of 10 returning starters is going to flourish. However, the misplacement of certain players on defense combining with learning a new scheme will be a challenge. Justin Houston could be playing his final season in Athens next year. He seems perfectly suited to play a pass rushing outside linebacker. I am not as well versed in the intricacies a 3-4 scheme as I should be, but I do know Justin Houston is one helluva football player. Putting pressure on the Quarterback is fuel behind the Todd Grantham scheme’s fire, and making the QB scared to death is going to be Justin Houston’s number one job. There are few in the conference that are better at that than him. In order to make our new, aggressive defense work, there must be an effective pass rush. Therefore, there must be an effective Justin Houston.
Rebuttal from Granite:
I can’t argue with the players Corbin listed but one of the most important and overlooked units on the team may be the Offensive Line. Sadly no one notices or thinks of the line until they get hurt or miss a block. And in my opinion the most important lineman is the man in the middle, Ben Jones. Phil Steele list him as the 2nd team All SEC center and the health of our o-line will determine how good of a season we can have.
Two examples of this are the 2007 & 2008 seasons and our last two games last season. In 2008, even with Stafford & Moreno, there were a few too many close games and loses than anyone was happy with. While we can point blame on different coaches and players all day, not having a healthy line and playing musical chairs with your starters never helps. They couldn’t gel and feel comfortable in their position week to week.
This year’s line lived through those two rough years and for the first time in their career, everyone is healthy. If the line stays consistent it can can be one of the best in the country and will allow Murray time to shake those freshman jitters. They proved at Tech last year that when they play as a strong unit a quarterback doesn’t have to win the games for you. Granted that was only against an ACC team and not against a real defense.
But back to my point, while we can’t afford for any of them to get hurt, Ben Jones is the linchpin of the group.