This is the first in a series of post where I will highlight the reasons for concern and Kensingtondawg will focus on the reasons for optimism. We will review offense, defense, special teams, coaching and the schedule. You can read each and form your own opinion.
Despite the emergence of Aaron Murray as one of the Conference’s best quarterbacks, the offense still has plenty of question marks. To start right out of the gate, Chris Low broke down who has the most offense coming back next season, and UGA is 11th in the SEC in returning touchdowns:
Last year, A.J. Green had career best in total reception and touchdowns…and that was missing 1/3 of the season! So yeah, needless to say his impact was tremendous. Look no further in 4 games where he didn’t play. Taking out the warm up game vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia mustered 42 points TOTAL in the 3 SEC games without Green. Once A.J. Green returned, UGA scored 30 + points in 6/8 next games (removing Idaho State). So, in an understatement of the young century, the 2011 Georgia Bulldogs are really going to miss A.J. Green. And don’t forget about Kris Durham.
Georgia has the best Tight End group in the country, but the receiving corps…is little to be desired. Tavarres King should have a break out year, but is no A.J. Green, and what about everyone else? Marlon Brown couldn’t catch a cold in Alaska wearing a bathing suit. Israel Troupe? We better hope that Malcolm Mitchell comes in and makes a huge impact. There are a gaggle of other freshmen coming in that could provide a spark, but there are A LOT of question marks. We know Aaron Murray is good, but how good can he be if he is throwing it to a bunch of scrubs?
The situation at running back is not much better. The blessing in disguise is that Georgia losses Washaun Ealey. That should go in Kensington’s positives column.
But the bad news is that losing Ealey leaves Caleb King the top returning running back. One, King is not a reliable back. He has missed 8/24 games the last two seasons. I am sorry, but a reliable back does not miss a third of your games over the course of two seasons. Some the factors have been beyond his control, like injuries. But he can control some of his off the field shenanigans. Two, King has not been very productive. You can blame some of that on the running back by committee approach, but I contend that if he was as really good, he would be the featured back. King had a meager 430 yards rushing and 8 yards receiving for 2 total touchdowns in 2010. I will take out 2008 since Knowshon was the featured back, but in 2009 and 2010 King had a combined 1,024 yards and 9 rushing TDs. That is not very impressive over the course of two seasons.
You have King, who has proved to be not very spectacular, and Carlton Thomas, who the coaches don’t have clue on how to use him. That leaves Ken Malcome and Isaiah Crowell. I think Malcome can be good, but the star and difference maker is going to be Crowell. Can he make an impact right away? Folks point to Michael Dwyer and Marcus Lattimore as freshmen that have come in and made an immediate impact in the SEC. Isaiah seems to have the ability to make a similar impact, but what helped the great backs like Lattimore and Dwyer along is they were running behind really good offensive lines…you like that transition?
I have said often times that this Georgia offense reminds me of the 2005 team. A very talented, mobile quarterback. Suspect wide receivers that could get a boost from an incoming freshmen to be complimented by great tight ends. Wait, dagumit, that is my positive side coming out. Let’s ignore the concerns that I have listed above and look at something the 2005 team had that this team doesn’t have: a deep, experienced offensive line.
UGA struggled in 2003 and it was a miracle that Georgia made a return trip back to the Georgia Dome. Georgia had a young offensive line and no real running game. Those youngsters on the line in 2003 anchored a great line in 2005. Ben Jones, Kenarious Gates, Cordy Glenn, Justin Anderson and company are all pretty good….but there is no real good depth behind them except a group of VHT freshmen coming in. So Georgia cannot have any more injuries! The 2004 line had standouts Nick Jones, Chester Adams, Fernando Velasco. I see drop off there. Maybe the departure of Stacy Searles will help this group, or maybe the linemen that we have just aren’t as good as we thought (and maybe the Georgia Tech defensive line in 2009 made us think we were better than we are). One bright side is that, before Sturdivant’s unfortunate injury and Harmon’s departure, that Coach Friend spent a lot of time cross training the guys at different positions. Very wise. But still…
Maybe UGA can again overcome the offensive line woes like they did in 2003. In 2007, there were several freshmen on the line, and the Bulldogs managed a #2 finish. Can UGA get lucky for a third time and have a good season despite offensive line woes? Can you expect lightning to strike for a 3rd time?