Tempering the expectations

In his most recent Mailbag, Bruce Feldman answers a couple of questions about how much of a difference Jeremy Pruitt and Hutson Mason will make for Georgia this season.  There’s a lot of stuff in his response that will make the average Dawg fan happy, including his belief that Georgia enters this season as the favorite in the SEC East, but Feldman hedges his bet in a couple of significant ways.

First, while the defense should be improved, it’s hard to say how much.

Having Jenkins and eight other starters back, bodes well for Pruitt. The defense should be improved.. How much remains to be seen. Pruitt inherited a loaded D with a bunch of studs in the secondary at FSU. I don’t know if he has as many playmakers back there in Athens but this should still be one of the better defenses in the SEC.

It’s a good point.  Just go back and look at Emerson’s pre-spring depth chart and try to answer that question.

Second, if last year’s SEC was the year of the quarterback, this year is going to be which school best survives it not being the year of the quarterback.  And Georgia’s certainly part of that discussion.

As outstanding as the skill guys are in Athens — RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are superb and wideouts Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley are playmakers, I still expect Georgia to miss Aaron Murray’s presence in 2014.

Mason, a fifth-year senior, got some experience late in the season after Murray was injured. UGA was 1-1 against Ga. Tech and Nebraska in his two starts. Will he be able to deliver some clutch plays when this offense needs it on third downs? We’ll see…

The silver lining, as Feldman goes on to acknowledge, is that Georgia is far from the only school in the conference that has to address that issue.

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “Tempering the expectations

  1. TennesseeDawg

    My expectations have already been tempered. I think most reasonable fans are taking a wait and see approach to this season.

  2. I’m sure this is a gross over-simplification, but in my mind, the improvement of the defense as a whole will be totally contingent on the improvement of the safety play. Solid play at safety can cover or at least minimize the damage of mistakes at other positions. But when your safeties are constantly breaking down, there’s no other line of defense. And when I look at it from that standpoint, and just how much improvement is needed from our returning safeties, it definitely tempers my expectations at least for the D side of the ball. By no means do I expect Pruitt to turn us into a top 5 defense in one year. But I do think a top 20 defense is attainable, and I would be happy with that.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      There was weakness at CB last season, too. We don’t need great play at DB to be successful–just competent play.

      • Oh no doubt, not saying that safety was the only area of weakness. Just saying that safety HAS to see significant improvement.

        If the corners make a mistake, good safety play can cover it, or at least keep it from turning into a 99 yard touchdown pass.

        If the safeties make a mistake, there’s nobody there to cover it. And you end up with a 99 yard touchdown pass.

        Safety is definitely my biggest concern going into the fall on defense. But like you said, it would be nice to see competence in all areas.

    • the improvement of the defense as a whole will be totally contingent on the improvement of the safety play. Solid play at safety can cover or at least minimize the damage of mistakes at other positions. But when your safeties are constantly breaking down, there’s no other line of defense. And when I look at it from that standpoint, and just how much improvement is needed from our returning safeties, it definitely tempers my expectations at least for the D side of the ball.

      I certainly associate with your feelings about the safety position. I would pull up short of “totally contingent”, but the point is valid. And looking at who we had on the field last year inspires exactly nothing.

      And this is where Emerson’s depth chart collapses. Matthews, Mauger, Moore ..?? As a group, they were pathetic. Mauger seemed to give the most effort, but they didn’t know what they were doing half the time. And JHC, ability aside, was a liability as much as an asset on the field. Moore was in the defensive system 4 years, and he didn’t have any more clue that the others.

      Certainly there’s the possibility that, with good coaching and a fresh outlook, one of them might break through and see the light. But I’m not counting on that, what we saw last year was very dim. I looking to Tramel Terry to be one of the guys, FS, I would think. The SS may come from a new guy or a guy who hasn’t played. But by the end of spring we’ll know who Pruitt thinks the best guy on campus is, at that point.

      And there’s also great consolation in the fact that if we break down at safety, it won’t be because the player hasn’t been well-coached. If they can’t get it, it’ll be because they can’t handle it. And if they can’t execute it, it’ll be because they don’t have the ability.

      Pruitt needs to find 2 guys that ca do it. Three would be much better. With the numbers we have, that ordinarily shouldn’t be a problem. But as some of us have pointed out in the past, we’ve been less than ordinary in our evals for quite a long time, the safety position being foremost. So we’ll have to just hope, and wait and see.
      ~~~

      • I may be in the minority, but I have pretty high hopes for Mauger. He doesn’t need to be at free safety, but I think he has the makings of another Shawn Williams at strong safety. It wouldn’t shock me if eventually (either late 2014 or going into 2015) our starting safeties are Mauger (SS) and Terry (FS) with Matthews sliding down to linebacker. But yeah, between the youth, injuries, and suspensions, safety play was a dumpster fire last year.

        • Good observation. I can see Mauger at SS, too. His film leans that way, and he at least looks like he wants to play. He can’t help that he was a TF thrown into the fire, and had a lousy teacher. That’s what I had in mind when I singled him out, above.

          FWIW, to date, I haven’t seen anything out of Matthews that is the least bit impressive. So I have little hope for him, at any position, unless he’s become a different person this year.

          And for that matter, I haven’t seen Terry at all. Just have some idea of the kind of athlete he is, and I heard (somewhere) that he was really mentally into being a player. He just sounds like the kind of player we need at FS, and haven’t had, for a very long time now.

          between the youth, injuries, and suspensions, safety play was a dumpster fire last year.

          Safety has been a dumpster fire for the last 8 years, IMO. So when the news came that Terry was getting reps at FS, it was good news. When the defensive coaches left, and Pruitt was hired, that good news turned into great news.

          As we’ve hinted at already, few people really understand how much the safety position has hurt us the past 8 years. It’s as if we’ve forgotten what a solid FS and SS, working together, is like.
          ~~~

  3. I just go back to hearing about all the talent we have on Defense, but just needed experience because it was so young. I’m not saying we were loaded at every position, but any optimism I have is that supposedly we have emerging playmakers coming up, and Pruitt seems to have a much better focus on fundamentals and is bringing a scheme that isn’t nearly as complicated. Not saying that gets us to the SEC championship, but as Tenn Dawg said.. I’m cautiously optimistic we can have a good season. I’d love to be pleasantly surprised with more than that.

  4. Ditto on safety play – Rambo and Williams cleaned up a lot of mistakes (other than the deep ball in the Dome) made by the corners and linebackers. Matthews’ injury held him back. JHC’s off-field problems held him out. Mauger wasn’t ready to play. Moore struggled with consistency.

    Mason – I worry about his ability to stretch the field vertically like Murray could. We never really saw the threat to go down the field the last few games of the season with him. With JSW and Mitchell, we have guys who can go get it assuming they recover from their injuries. Conley, Bennett, and Rome (if healthy) can make life miserable for DBs and LBs covering the slot and between the hashes.

    • Hackerdog

      Assuming we can protect Mason long enough for the receivers to get down field.

    • charlottedawg

      we’re going to see a drop off in quarterback play which will affect the offense, the only question is how much. No offense to Mason but you don’t just have the best QB in the Mark Richt era leave and not miss a beat.

      If the defense just moves north of competent we can easily win 10 games.

      • I can absolutely see that – Mason doesn’t need to be D.J. Stokely, but he also isn’t going to be the Ginger Ninja.

      • David Greene (DGD) didn’t have the arm strength to make it in the pros spending 4 years there without playing in a single game. But Greene, not unlike Mason had a quick release and was accurate and solid when it came to anticipating and throwing to a spot. DJ followed a great qb and lead us to an SECC.While that may be apples and oranges as DJ enjoyed a lot more reps than Mason, I think Mason can manage a game with minimal mistakes and help us win. I looked to see what DJ was up to and he was with Omaha Nighthawks in 2011. Here’s a surprise, Coutu was with them in 2012 as was Clarett. Coutu was money. DGD!

      • Cojones

        Have we forgotten that DJ could run the ball and that helped keep opponent’s D honest? Mason can run it also, but not to the extent of DJ’s ability. We will see Mason run some this year to help his O overall.

  5. William

    Just be fundamentally sound on both sides. If all that comes out of this coming season is a return to fundamentals, I’d be happy. Don’t beat yourselves, and it makes the other team have to work that much more. That’s all I ask.

  6. uglydawg

    The drop-off may not even be real. AM had so many yards passing, last year at least, because the running game was literally lame…Aaron did not have the luxury that Hudson Mason will (hopefully) have. This is going to go a long, long way towards keeping defenses honest..So the drop-off that may be perceived in passing will be off-set by a better ground game. Murray was a great passer and it’s a good thing he was…HM may not have to be that good…(See Buck Belue, 1980…a long time ago, but maybe some fair comparisons).

  7. I’m as excited as anyone about the changes on defense. But I like a little realism with my kool-aid.

    Jenkins wasn’t worth a crap last year. And he’s no leader, at least not yet. He has yet to show he can do it. Yet Feldman and everybody else characterize them that way. I understand they are writers, I get that. And we’ll see a lot more of that hype.

    But if Jenkins is the ‘leader’ or the ‘best of the bunch’, or even one of them, then that brings that bunch under serious question, at this point. And well it should, IMO. Pruitt has his hands full, and a huge challenge dead ahead of him. This is no easy task. We’ve all gotten a little ahead of ourselves when it comes to the defense, to some extent. Me included.

    But part of my excitement is knowing that Pruitt will find the right people. At least the best we have. And part of that will be to what extent does the player want it, and how does he work at it. What will he do with his body the rest of the year? How much is he willing to study, and to engage the game mentally? We haven’t had those things in sufficient doses, not in years.

    Last year Jenkins chose not to do those things. To me, he hasn’t proven anything, and has everything to prove. And part of Pruitt’s task is to create that standard we’ve lacked for so long.
    ~~~

    • I think you overstate your case regarding Jenkins. He had a disappointing year, no doubt, but he still managed to lead the team in TFLs. That’s a little better than not worth a crap.

      And who called him a leader? Feldman certainly didn’t.

      • And who called him a leader? Feldman certainly didn’t.

        Jenkins is being touted by the media as the leading defensive player. Of course, they have to pick somebody, so I’m not knocking that. That Jenkins is the obvious choice, after a year in which he admittedly slacked off and didn’t buy into what the coaches were selling, speaks loudly about what we had last year, IMO.

        I think you overstate your case regarding Jenkins. He had a disappointing year, no doubt, but he still managed to lead the team in TFLs. That’s a little better than not worth a crap.

        IMO, Jenkins wasn’t worth a crap last year. That opinion is colored by what I know he should have been, admittedly. But that’s part of it. I don’t care what his stats were. What I saw on film wasn’t worth a crap.

        And no stats of the 2013 defense say a whole lot of anything positive, since the defense absolutely sucked. As always, the film speaks for itself.
        ~~~