No expectations

Nothing like a touch of adversity to bring out the blog traffic, and judging from the spike in last night’s hits due to the Matthews news (a spike that’ll likely take GTP through today), we’re a consistent bunch.

But enough about the blog.

What’s pretty funny is that it’s not just us feeling it.  It’s getting to some of the beat writers, too.  Take Seth Emerson:

In the wake of Tray Matthews’ dismissal, if you’re looking for a deep analysis piece examining the Georgia football program … well, I already wrote that. Feel free to read it again. Nothing has changed, rinse, repeat, the cheese stands alone.

The only thing different about the latest news is that Mark Richt did little to hide his contempt this time. “We are trying to make room for guys who want to do this right,” was his official statement. Nothing about wishing him well, and quite a departure from what Richt told me less than a week before about Matthews. Clearly, something happened in the meantime; judging by what Richt said a week ago about needing to become a dependable player, and “it’s time,” it’s a good bet Matthews was on his last strike, and whiffed somehow.

Otherwise, it’s no longer news that Richt has a short trigger or that a talented ex-Georgia player will be suiting up elsewhere. It’s going to be a pretty good race to see whether more current or former Georgia players make the 2016 All-American team.

Then, there’s Gentry Estes.

Sigh.

If there is such a thing as attrition fatigue, Georgia’s secondary now has caused it. The list of departures of the past few months — we’re talking perceived quality and starters as much as sheer numbers — now includes Tray Matthews, a promising safety who started six games last season while dealing with a hamstring ailment.

By all accounts, Matthews is a good player. Georgia on paper surely isn’t any better for losing him. But one grows desensitized to all this after a while. There is only so much you can say that hasn’t already been said about a unit enduring such an obviously turbulent transition.

You had me at “Sigh”.

Estes goes on to make a déjà vu all over again observation that occurred to me as well last night.

The final point looms suspiciously like last season. The Bulldogs were desperate to have incoming defensive backs play in 2013 because they had no other choice. Attrition and recruiting misses made for dangerously low numbers. The result was a mess on the field — as we all saw at the time — and off the field, as we all see now.

And Emerson writes that, perhaps unlike last year, keeping things in context may help us better keep our mental health this season.

The best course for a Georgia fan this season, at least when it comes to this secondary, is low expectations. Don’t make the mistake of last year, where too many bought into the idea that pure talent would trump youth. It didn’t. And this season a change in coaching philosophy won’t necessarily overcome the talent drain back there. Maybe it will. Just don’t count on it.

There’s legitimate reason for optimism elsewhere on defense. The outside linebackers are future pros, and probably pretty high picks. The inside linebackers are solid SEC players. The line was pretty decent last year, and with only one key player gone, there’s no reason to believe it can’t be again, and perhaps better.

All that, plus a high-powered offense led by a Heisman-candidate tailback, should be enough to keep expectations fairly high. Then keep those expectations fairly low when it comes to the secondary. That may be the only way for a Georgia fan to retain any sanity on third down next year.

All true.  All good advice.  But another thought nagged at me last night – the role last season’s injuries played.  If everyone had stayed healthy in 2013, what kind of regular season record would we be looking back at?  I think the Clemson and Vanderbilt losses turn into wins, Missouri turns into a toss-up (the defense really had a tough time with the Tigers’ offense much of the day) and Auburn stays a toss-up (however much I wish otherwise, I can’t ignore that giant rabbit’s foot sticking out of Gus Malzahn’s back pocket).  So, that’s 10-2 at worst (against a regular season schedule with, what, five top ten teams?).  With that defense.  And those special teams.

If health isn’t much of an issue this season, then, how bad can things be?  That’s what I wonder.  Okay, until proven otherwise, there’s a drop off at quarterback.  But right now the offensive line doesn’t look any more iffy than it did in 2013 and Bobo showed he can do a pretty good job scheming around that with the right amount of skill position weapons.  As Seth noted, the front seven on defense look pretty formidable.  Can the secondary and special teams be any worse than they were last year?  Honestly, I can’t imagine it.  (Of course, it may be that I simply lack a certain type of imagination.)

I’m not drinking any Kool-Aid and I’m not making any predictions here.  Coaches gotta coach, players gotta play, and all that.  I’m just saying that there’s enough talent on this team to work around what looks like a severely weakened secondary.  Don’t pull out those razor blades yet.

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77 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

77 responses to “No expectations

  1. William

    Is it sad that I could just feel this coming?

    • Well, it’s not exactly grounds for optimism.

      • William

        When Richt came out and basically said Trigga needed to take more responsibility for his hamstring issues, that was a huge red flag. This just feels like it was the obvious next step. I don’t know any of these young men personally, so I can’t speak to their character. However, if Saint Mark calls you out in the media, $h!t has already hit the fan my friend. Better talk to the man in black and walk the damn line!

  2. I Wanna Red Cup

    What’s that saying? Addition by subtraction. Pruitt is gonna have to coach his ass off. I have much more confidence in his ability to coach em up than Grantham. When does fall practice start? Can’t get here fast enough

    • Irwin R Fletcher

      Not saying it’s a perfect parallel, but Pruitt did have to coach up a pretty green defensive backfield in 2012 at Alabama. That team lost Dre Kirkpatrick, Dequan Maze, and Mark Barron from the year prior and only returned Dee Millner and Robert Lester with guys that had heavy experience.

      The difference is obviously the depth in place ready to play (Sunseri and Clinton-Dix were obviously talented) but their secondary in 2012 included 6 guys in the 2 deep that were not on the 2 deep the year prior…these guys like Wiggins, JHC, Matthews…they have that swagger like going to Louisville will be a good move…but I hope it doesn’t prevent them from maximizing their potential under a proven teacher like Coach Pruitt.

  3. Timphd

    Sad to see so many talented kids be so immature and not show growth. From my perspective the season will play out and as a fan I’ll watch every game regardless of the secondary play.

  4. TNlogdawg

    I believe that Tray got up in a teachers face and told him to eff off in the past week and that was the final straw

  5. Bright Idea

    Gotta’ really wonder why the most consistent aspect of Georgia football is attrition.

    • Merk

      It’s called standards. Idiots come here thinking that they don’t have to live by those standards, then Richt lays down the law on it. I guess Right goes to recruiting visits telling the kids they can be entitled pricks, smoke weed, and do other stupid activities and no one will care.

      Either way, some other team will benefit from our suffering and we will be judged harsher for serving out more justice than the other 13 SEC schools combined.

      • DawgPhan

        At some point the coaches have a responsibility to keep these guys on the team. At some point it is no longer the tool that isnt working, its the carpenter.

          • DawgPhan

            I guess that depends on the viewer.

            • dawgtor

              For me, the point is where we are losing players over specific team rules that are significantly harsher than those of other schools. Especially regarding marijuana and (imho) silly things like post-spring-break drug testing. I have no idea whether or not this applies in this case, but I’d prefer that we standardize our policies. It’s not as though we get much, if any, credit for our moral high ground.

              • I could not disagree with Dawgphan more on this one. You know who took that “responsibility to keep the kids on the team” seriously? Corch Meyers. That worked out well. I like the fact that Richt holds the kids to a higher standard. Eventually–maybe it will take much longer than those of us outside the arena would like–it will pay dividends. I like the long view.

                The drug testing I am torn on. I do like that the kids are held accountable. I agree with Dawgtor on this point. I am conflicted on the coach’s/Athletic Department’s choice of timing of the drug tests. They could pick a different time to test and maybe miss a few of these positives. Then again–the players know it is coming; so how stupid are they to do it knowing the test is coming?

                Different issue–maybe the players and team would be better off if the kids went the way of Quincy and just used much harder, way more addictive drugs that are out of your system in a few days instead of taking the pot that lingers. Has anyone considered that as a side effect of our harsh marijuana policy?

                • DawgPhan

                  lulz…you should really re-read your post. You are against being a little more lenient, but in favor of being a little more lenient.

                  gotcha.

                  also I am not in favor of being lenient. I am in favor of being prepared for something that has happened every single summer for the last 12 years.

                  I know everyone loves to get their internet hard on when you get to bad talk college kids though.

                  • Negative Ghostrider. I am saying I am of two minds on the timing of the tests–Not leniency. I am not bad talking college kids either guy. They know its coming. I don’t know about you…but if I know a kick to the balls is coming, I am covering up.

                    …as to your other point, I don’t even have a semi. But thanks for thinking of my gear.

        • At some point they need to break down and compromise on discipline? Maybe play favorites depending on the talent level of a player? Sorry, thats for other SEC teams. Not Richts MO.

          • DawgPhan

            I doubt that the only solution is to compromise on discipline. But I dont get paid $3million a year to solve that problem.

            • Macallanlover

              I stated my position on your willingness to compromise/not set standards to your comments in yesterday’s post on this subject. But your last sentence here makes it clear you don’t get this at all: people with your approach are not ever going to make top salary pay if the position requires you to manage/coach/teach people. Not every soul responds to continual forgiveness; sometimes you have to fish, or cut bait. And something was smelling a lot like old bait with trigga and shaq. Compromise isn’t the answer to every problem.

              • DawgPhan

                We are going to start the season short handed.

                We have started every season under CMR short handed.

                CMR should figure out a way to not start a season short handed.

                I dont know what solution to that problem best fits his version of the “Georgia way” or creates the best “locker room”.

                Every manager/coach/leader has to solve that problem. CMR has yet to solve it in a meaningful and lasting way.

                He should try solving it.

                • Cojones

                  He has solved it. “Get on it or get out”.

                  The players are the ones to solve “it”, not Richt. He gives these kids chances and loves them up, but when they spit in his face because they are too immature to “get on it” and to respond with feelings for the better good of the team they then begin to rot the barrel.

                  I’ll bet good money that,if you were in Richt’s shoes and knew what he knew, you would do the same thing that he has done.

                  • DawgPhan

                    I am not arguing that CMR shouldnt have cut Matthews, rather that he should have known that it was going to happen and planned for it.

                    Is that such a difficult concept to understand?

                    • Debby Balcer

                      How by over signing? He has to be clairvoyant to know which bonehead is going to not learn. These kids put on their best faces during recruiting. So he sed to have extra kids at every position that are the sane rating to cover these clowns. It is not possible.

        • garageflowers

          What makes you think the coaches didn’t give Tray every opportunity to stay on the team? Why would Richt want to get rid of someone that clearly has a ton of talent? Sometimes tough love is the only way to get through to someone. I hope Tray grows up and has all the success in the world.

          • DawgPhan

            I know Richt did what he thought was right. I believe that it was likely the right thing to do.

            My point is that this throat slitting isn’t a new “feature” of Richt’s program and after 12 years he still hasnt figured out a way to work around it.

            We are going to start the season short handed. No way around it just like we have started every season of the Richt tenure. Short handed, forced to start walk-ons and freshmen because of self inflicted wounds.

            • Would you feel better if Richt resorted to having GAs shadow everything the 5 star recruits do like FSU does Crab Legs Winston? Is that teaching them responsibility? I’ll gladly give up 10 pts every season opener if it means a 19 year old kid doesn’t hold the whole program hostage with his shitty behavior.

            • garageflowers

              So you’re talking about numbers. I see you point, but also think Richt has started to address that. How many have we lost since signing day, 4 ( including the medical hardship ). I think we’re at 84 scholarships now. It is unfortunate the hits the secondary has taken now and three years ago. With the rest of the defense as it is, I think the secondary will be okay this year. The bar set last year is low.

              • DawgPhan

                ding ding ding.

                I owe you a beer.

              • BCDawg97

                I believe in February, with the class we signed, we were at 89-90. So we actually “oversigned”. They are addressing the numbers issue, better late than never I guess.

                • DawgPhan

                  The recruiting failures are well documented. One class isnt going to fix it. especially not 6 years after everyone else figured it out.

        • say what

          “At some point the coaches have a responsibility to keep these guys on the team. ”

          So how many chances should be given? If someone is going to be a knucklehead there is only so much CMR can put up with, I agree with the way he handles the team………..My dad did this to me in a similar fashion and you know what, I finally, got it, and turned into a responsible, productive human being and I thank him for that

  6. I Wanna Red Cup

    I predict we will have fewer missed tackles, DBs taking better angles to reduce the number of big plays, and better 3rd down play. That right there will be an improvement over 2013

  7. charlottedawg

    10-2 was a possibility had injuries not occurred, mostly because Aaron Murray carried the team. Gurley is a special player but this is not the same offense with the lynch pin removed even with all skill position players healthy. It would be good enough if we had a defense and special teams that were simply not liabilities but that’s not what we had in ’13 and it’s not what we have in ’14.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Grantham left our defense because he knew how structurally bad things were on that side of the ball. The fact that Tray Matthews and JHC (2 guys who couldn’t knock down a hail Mary) were still by far the most talented players in the secondary tells you all you need to know about how bad that position is/was. Pruitt is going to need at least a couple recruiting classes to repair the damage on the defensive side of the ball. This isn’t a turnaround situation it’s a rebuilding.

    • David K

      So Grantham left us because the defense was so structurally bad, then goes to Louisville and wants to bring the same players who promoted his decision to leave Georgia? Give me a break. Grantham left because he was getting abused by everyone that watched us play last year over how bad our defense was. Then Louisville came calling with a bunch of cash that UGA didn’t have any interest in matching.

    • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Grantham left our defense because he knew how structurally bad things were on that side of the ball.

      So why is he taking these same guys back at Louisville?

      I think you’re underestimating the attraction of a five-year, $5 million guaranteed contract.

      • Mayor

        Whatever the reason Grantham departed we are now finding out that the situation he left behind is a hot mess. I blame Grantham for the lack of discipline both on and off the field exhibited by the players who are now leaving either on their own or with a shove from CMR. These guys were not playing as a unit and also were the most entitled group of players probably in school history. God bless Pruitt for not kowtowing to them. You can’t have that. It will translate into shitty play on the field. It certainly did last year. Now Senator, admit that I was right when I posted after the UGA-Auburn game last year that the game was lost because “two Georgia players were battling each other for a meaningless interception in order to pad their personal stats.” I think history has shown that was the right conclusion. I, for one, am glad that both are off the team. They were/are bad apples. I can’t wait to see what happens to Louisville.

        • Dog in Fla

          “now finding out that the situation he left behind is a hot mess.”

          They said the same thing at Florida about Irwin after we, with an assist from Mack Brown’s recommendation as a ruse, had Boom inserted as an operative at Florida.

        • I blame Grantham for the lack of discipline both on and off the field exhibited by the players who are now leaving either on their own or with a shove from CMR. These guys were not playing as a unit and also were the most entitled group of players probably in school history. God bless Pruitt for not kowtowing to them. You can’t have that. It will translate into shitty play on the field. It certainly did last year.

          Well stated, IMO. Grantham had a chance to change the culture, and was no doubt encouraged by Richt. I suspect Richt had an understanding or sorts with Grantham when he was hired. Richt knew the culture needed a change, and was about to take steps, through attrition, to address it, to the extent he could as a Head Coach (without dictating to his coordinator).

          But Grantham declined, or at least decided to do it his own way. Richt has had a paradigm of what The Georgia Way should be all along, IMO. He just hasn’t had the total cooperation of his defensive staff.

          Now he does. We’ll see what the effect really is. My guess is everybody here is going to like it.
          ~~~

  8. Chuck

    ” Okay, until proven otherwise, there’s a drop off at quarterback.
    There’s good news there, too, though. The only reason that is likely a true statement is that you are talking about the best there was leaving. Anyone replacing AM is going to be a drop off. But it’s not a Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff drop.

  9. sniffer

    Do we know that Auburn will take Matthews? They might not want or need him. Louisville, I don’t care about. But watching another disciplinary castoff play in conference, is too much, IMO.

  10. Dog in Fla

    “Don’t pull out those razor blades yet.”

    Who moved my expectations to the point break of no return

  11. Debby Balcer

    I am glad Coach Richt is cutting out cancer. Matthews has had attitude since he got here. That is destructive to team. I hope he grows up but he had time here to do that and was not getting any better. I am glad to see most fans the same way.

    • +1.

      I was the one who coined the term “cancer”, back in early 2008. As you can tell from other comments here, Pruitt is finally doing the job that Richt has needed done for so long.

      I mean, he’s an offensive guy. It’s really awkward for him to dictate to his DC, whoever that might be. I suspect he thought he had the problem solved when he hired Grantham.

      Now with Pruitt, it’s been addressed forthrightly, and it’s really as much Pruitt being on board as it is Richt. I suspect Richt has always been on board.
      ~~~

  12. cube

    Why is it that we always have so many problem kids that have to be removed from the program? This is not a new issue.

    • Mayor

      Most teenage boys can go either way–for good or for bad. It is the responsibility of the adults who have custody/control/whatever over them to see to it that they get on the right path and stay there. It is painfully obvious that there has been a failure in that regard in Athens as to at least some of these players. Whose responsibility is it? We can’t know the particulars (although I suspect other team members do) but ultimately this lands at the feet of Mark Richt. For all his piousness about “helping young men” he has a terrible track record in that regard. Did he help Crowell? Or JHC? Or Matthews? Or Ealey? Or all the others who have had to leave the team over the years? When top players sign with Georgia and then leave on a regular basis, often on bad terms, there is something systemic wrong–and that gets back to the HC. Congrats to Nick Marshall. At least he landed on his feet. Most don’t.

      • Ugh. I am so tired of the blame laid at Richt’s feet. I screwed up at 20–I’ll bet many of us did.. I paid the price. I learned from it. I made the poor decision–I own that. Are you seriously saying that these kids should get a pass–escape repercussions because they wear the silver britches come Saturday? I applaud anyone that turns things around after a costly mistake–but to do that you have to take ownership of that mistake in order to move on and make it right. Some adult covering for them never allows that to happen.

        • Mayor

          Well then maybe CMR should quit spouting off all the time about how much he “loves them” and how he is working “to help them” become all that they can be, etc. The problem seems to be that these kids appear rudderless until bad shit happens–then he kicks them off the team or otherwise runs them off. Maybe he left the D players to Grantham and Grantham dropped to ball. I don’t know. But the problem with each of these kids should have been corrected way before things got so bad that the kids had to leave. That’s what I am saying. Adult supervision–ever heard of it?

          • Yes. Yes I have…and ‘way before’ is exactly right. You can’t give a talented athlete a pass from 6th grade through 12th because he is good at football and then expect a College Football coach to babysit them for 4 or 5 years. Do you honestly expect Richt to right a half a lifetime of wrongs during a time when they are supposed to be or learning to be adults?

            • BMan

              “Adult supervision-ever heard of it?”
              Actually, I have, though occasionally I’ve heard it referred to as parenthood (and I use that term in the many forms that it can take, parents, grandparents, etc.). I don’t expect Richt to take something that took 18 years of getting broken, then to magically fix it in one to two years. Kids come from all different situations, but when they land at UGA, they are all given the same opportunity. Some run with it, and some throw it away. We can feel bad about the lost opportunity, sad for the kid, wish him the best, or whatever, but sometimes a tiger (especially an Auburn Tiger) can’t change his stripes. When they can’t commit to the G, they lose their opportunity.

              • Mayor

                So much for “I love them” and “I want them to be productive citizens” then, eh? If the attitude espoused by your post and the post above by LS is the way it is really going to be (i.e. they come to Athens whatever they are already and we have no responsibility to help them straighten out if they come from a troubled background) let’s not continue to play the hypocrisy game about pretending to be “all about the athletes” then. Just use documented character as a basis for deciding whom to offer, not just athletic ability and don’t sign kids who are a risk. But if you say “I love them” and “I want to help them”–well DO IT, don’t just SAY IT! It’s the hypocrisy in all this that troubles me the most.

                • Cojones

                  Cheez, Mayor. He WAS giving him another chance, trying to help him mature, but you can’t pour love in or beat’em into submission. He was doing all the things he professes for these young people. He gave every person you named more than one chance. Where have you been? Your memory is shorter than mine with this situation. And there’s no one on this blog who gets the idea that mine goes past 30 secs.

                  I realize you are blowing off frustration steam, but you are absolutely wrong about the “not giving them love or another chance” as he advocates. He has been exactly the person toward these players that you claim he is not. Crowell in the Dome, JH-C caught several times with the “kronic”, Ealey and Matthews- come on man.

      • Ginny

        I could not disagree with your post more. First of all, these teenagers are adults. At some point, a sense of personal accountability has to be taken. It was very obvious that Mark Richt gave Matthews multiple opportunities to “see that he got on the right path” and yet, he chose not to. Is Richt helping young men? Absolutely. He is helping them by not coddling them and reinforcing that their actions have consequences, an extremely valuable lesson that many do not learn until it is too late. Is this issue “systemic”? Of course it is. That’s why it’s called the Georgia Way. Mark Richt doesn’t put up with nearly the bullshit that his peers do. It’s systemic and will continue to be as long as he is our coach because his standards are higher that most (read:all) of his peers. Whether or not you think his higher standards are right or wrong is your opinion.

      • garageflowers
        • ScoutDawg

          Maybe these players learned from the shame of being exited from the program and did right at their new school.

  13. Dank Jankins

    Richt put Tray and the fans on notice by his comments a week or so ago. It was a public challenge for Tray to step up and be the player, leader and teammate that he has the potential to be. Too bad Tray didn’t seize the opportunity and likewise Richt gave one of the most curt statements we have ever heard him make.

  14. Macallanlover

    Senator, your synopsis about the team going into fall practice above is spot on. There is much to be hopeful about but the glaring deficiencies prevent us from being too unrealistic about the 2014 season. Like last year when there was general acknowledgement about having to outscore a few of our opponents if we were to contend for the SEC title. We did so admirably in September, then came the carnage in Knoxville and that one salvation was ripped from our hands. The weakness in the secondary was just more than a limited offense could overcome. My early analysis is 9-3 would be a pretty good year, and 8-4 would be disappointing but not shocking. Too many things have to go perfectly for us to realistically expect 10-2 or better. The fan in me wants it to be so, but UGA looks overrated below a 15 ranking. Hope I am pleasantly surprised.

  15. AusDawg85

    TAMU dismissed 2 defensive starters yesterday for felony drug crimes….and no one is freaking-out over it. Richt and UGA run a tighter program than most, and kids able to avoid trouble (or being caught) in high school are free to be idiots in college.

    To re-use a recent quote: “It ain’t us, it’s them.”

  16. Dog in Fla

    What the last defensive back standing needs now is a little film study

  17. Cojones

    By the way, a lot of us come on here to kick tales when it appears a tale needs kicking. Does anyone know of other players/tales of this team who are on the edge or influenced to commit CFB suicide? If so, could we get an early warning of these players/events instead of stumbling forward with our fandom shock over phantom schlock that abounds in the locker room?

  18. Bob

    Not sure if just another internet rumor or not, but have heard from a couple folks that Matthews was extremely disruptive in a class last week or so and that the Prof had to threaten to call the police on him. And word is that he was this way all semester and that the Prof indicated that he was by far the most disruptive student he had ever had in class.

    Again, no clue if true, but it sure seems to be the kind of thing that would push CMR over the edge. I cannot recall Richt ever booting someone and not wishing them good luck.

  19. Rebar

    I wonder if all the attrition of this offseason has anything to do with the high school coordinator leaving earlier this week?

    • Cojones

      The on campus recruiting story seems mucked up, doesn’t it? You betcha it’s all tied together. All the way back to the Lincoln County wars in NM. The guy’s name was Mr Tunsil? You say they have a Freeze on the info? Okay.