Coming down to the wire

We’re less than two weeks away from the opening kickoff, and there’s still plenty up in the air with regard to Georgia’s two-deep.  I thought I’d take a moment and try to stumble through where things stand, by position group.

OFFENSE

  • Quarterback.  We’ve known who the starter is, but as far as Mason’s back up goes, it’s still too close to call.  It wouldn’t surprise me if that battle carries into the regular season.  (As long as Mason stays healthy, that’s not too big a deal.)
  • Tailback.  There was never any doubt about Gurley being number one.  And it looks like Marshall has recovered from last season’s injury, which makes him the obvious number two.  The rotation behind them will be fun to watch.
  • Fullback.  It wasn’t a mess when fall practice started, but because of Hall’s forced retirement, it’s one now.  I know the coaches are saying otherwise, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hicks line up some there in addition to H-back.
  • Wide Receiver.  Another area where injuries have made a hash of the rotation.  What we know right now is that Bennett and Conley are starters; what we don’t know is when Mitchell and Scott-Wesley will see the field again.  That means there is plenty of opportunity for others to jump into the rotation.
  • Tight End/H-back.  Jay Rome seems to be returning to health.  He’ll start if he can.  Hicks will start at H-back.  Jordan Davis has had health issues of his own, but seems likely to play.  Blazevich seems to be making something of an impression, but it’s unlikely he’ll do more as a true freshman than back up.
  • Offensive Line.  If we’re to believe the coaches, depth is not an issue, with eight or nine ready to play in a rotation.  That being said, we still have no idea (1) where John Theus will line up; (2) who will play left guard; and (3) who will play opposite Theus.  I would think it would be nice to settle on the five starters soon, to build cohesiveness, but, then again, I’m not Will Friend.

DEFENSE

  • Defensive Line.  They’ve got eight guys who can play and there’s been stability in the scrimmages with the first-string line.  Between the depth and Rocker, I’m not worried about the defensive front.
  • Linebackers.  Starting-wise, it’s the most stable position on the team.  But Lorenzo Carter sounds like he’s certain to crack the rotation at outside linebacker.  (The idea of having Carter, Floyd and Jenkins on the field together in obvious passing situations makes me drool a little.)  Stability aside, there’s no way I expect Pruitt running these guys into the ground the way Grantham did.  We’ll see more subbing in the opener than we did for the entirety of 2013, I suspect.
  • Secondary.  It’s Damian Swann and a cast of thousands right now.  As J.J. Green put it about the Star position, “Pruitt don’t even know who it’s going to be…”  The question is when’s he going to settle on the other starters.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Placekicker.  Marshall Morgan, bitchez.
  • Punter.  Collin Barber seems to have won the starting job back.  Richt indicated that Erickson may still be called upon to pooch punt.  So that looks like last season.
  • Coverage Teams.  Very little talk about who will man the coverage teams.  And there are some stalwart special teamers who will have to be replaced this year.
  • Returner.  It’s obvious that they would like for McKenzie to grab the start.  But it’s also obvious that Richt is nervous about handing the starting role to a true freshman.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s a decision that goes down very late in camp.  What’s interesting beyond that is that we’ve heard very little about the mix of players who will make up the rest of the return teams.

So, to sum up, I feel good about the defensive front seven and Morgan.  I’m optimistic about the offensive skill position slots, even with the injuries.  I’m nervous about Mason’s health.  I’m really nervous about the secondary.  And the rest?  Wait and see mode.

What do you guys see at this point in the preseason?

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56 Comments

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56 responses to “Coming down to the wire

  1. Spence

    Richt needs to give Mckenzie the job, tell him it’s his and that even a fumble or two isn’t going to make him lose the job, and start building the kids confidence. There’s a difference between emphasizing ball control and leaking terror into the soul of another.

    Itd be nice not to be last in punt returns again this year. Something tells me without Aaron Murray we will be a few extra yards.

    • “There’s a difference between emphasizing ball control and leaking terror into the soul of another.”

      Yeah I agree. And the thing is, we all know he’s gonna have that fumble or two, and it will probably happen within his first few returns. Would not shock me AT ALL for him to fumble one in the Clemson game. Seems to happen anytime a young kid handles kicks. Shoot, even Beckham Jr. at LSU still occasionally had the dropsies last year when he was considered among the best return guys in the country. The question will be if Richt immediately reverts back into safe mode, or like you said, if he’ll stick with the kid and build up his confidence.

      Along those line though, again, we all know that early fumble is going to happen. So I’m ok if the coaches exercise some prudence on when they send him out there. In other words, if Clemson is punting from around midfield, where a muffed catch would likely give them the ball inside our 10 yard line, I’m ok with not putting him out there for those situations.

      • uglydawg

        Coaches are so different about this philosophy… Spurrier will change quarterbacks left and right until he gets one doing it the way he thinks is right. Muschamp will bite a players head off when he gets to the sidelines after a mistake. I had a team mate in high school that fumbled a punt away to the other team. He got up and went to the other sideline where he stood until the defense prevailed and the offense came back on…then he came to the correct sideline to face a coach who was an ogre, but was having a hard time not laughing about it.

    • Richt needs to do what he thinks is best. We don’t watch practice. We only get snippets from a quote here or there. Fans need to temper expectations out of fall camp, especially in regards to freshman. The happy talk is always intoxicating, but let’s wait until we see McKenzie taking live bullets before we say things like, “Richt needs to give [him] the job.”

      • Fair point. But someone needs to be back there returning kicks and not just fair catching every punt.

        • Beer Money

          Fair point. But someone (usually) needs to be back there returning kicks (unless they are just going to drop it anyway) and not just (hopefully) fair catching every punt.

          i fixed this for you Spence.

  2. Anon

    Why does it matter if Joystick Izzy is a freshman? We had experienced upperclassmen out there last year.

  3. Lrgk9

    Hoping that Mason and the lower body transfer on his throws over 20 yards is for real. A few 10ths of a second is a couple of feet earlier for the WRs to catch the ball w/o a defenders hands being involved . Windows close quickly in the SEC. Would also be nice if Mason could take some arc off those longer throws. Don’t think we will see the skinny post much this year boys. But, we’ll see some screens and wheel routes thrown with better touch.

    • Are you talking about Cox or Murray?

    • The skinny post, seam and the back-shoulder fade are routes I expect to be few and far between this year. Mason is going to have to be deadly accurate with his crossing routes and bubble/tunnel screens. Most fans don’t understand how difficult it is to stick a ball into a tight window on 3rd and 8, but Murray could do it. Mason hasn’t proven he can, though he also hasn’t had to very often, so time will tell.

      • Brian

        In the final 5 minutes of the Nebraska game Mason threw two balls on the money in the final two drives that both were in the air for over 25 yards. One Bennett caught down the sideline. Mason immediately saw the defender try to bump Bennett and fall down on the wet field. He put it on the money before the safety could arrive. Then of course later in that drive Lynch dropped a first down and then on fourth Wooten dropped a first down. Both passes in the hands.

        Next drive with less than 3 minutes to come from behind again Mason hit Conley across the middle to get us down close again. Then another Wooten drop followed by another Lynch drop.

        2 drives in the last 5 minutes of the game to give us the win and drops by outstanding 5th year senior receivers are the reason we lost that game. The come back drives were Murray like. So Mason is not as weak an arm as the media leads one to believe. If he has speed receivers down field he can hit them. Just gotta have somebody getting open.

        • AusDawg85

          Oh stop it. Facts have never changed a bad meme before, so why try now?

        • Cojones

          Thanks, Brian. Facts are great in this conversation.

          Has anyone gtone to the Archives to see what was being said as D. J. took over? I heard and read some of the same negative comments, except worse. “He was in all our games for a hike or two, but was only experienced for three sets of downs in game…..” Yada, yada,yada.

          Hutson wasn’t just playing with himself for 4 years, is an excellent athlete and has experience up the ying-yang with Georgia teams through the years. He has the confidence of his teammates who view him as competitive as all getout. He stayed because Richt asked him to, not out of pity, but for this moment. Richt needs him, we need him, but most of all, this team needs him. I haven’t heard that he has any “quit” in him.

          I view him as a continuation of Murray, but with extra coaching this summer to make him even better.

  4. 202dawg

    A little off topic, but how about that TD Murray threw last night? Brought back a flood of memories…

    • Cosmic Dawg

      I was awful happy, then the INT. But reminded how much I dislike pro ball, television commercials, announcers, sideline reporting, Cam Newton….

  5. My Gawd a Freshman

    Special teams still terrifies me. Even more than our secondary. It still blows my mind that we cannot find a guy who can consistently field a punt.

    (btw, long-time listener, first-time caller) love this blog.

    • Special teams doesn’t worry me half as much as it has in the past because Richt has made a conscious effort in improving it. Ekler has a great ST background and having a ST-specific scrimmage is something I don’t ever recall seeing him do. Plus Morgan is money, so that helps.

      Now about that secondary…

      • My Gawd a Freshman

        I agree, Richt has addressed the special teams problems from a coaching perspective; however, execution is whole different bird. Another reason I’m more concerned about ST over our secondary is IMO the momentum shifts that occur on a blocked kick/botched punt/etc. are superior than those that can occur on defense. It’s devastating when it happens to you, especially on the road- as we saw last year in Knoxvegas.

    • uglydawg

      They terrify everyone. Rest assured, when Clemson is fielding a punt, they will be nervous too.
      I hope we don’t get something important blocked.

  6. paul

    Pretty much right about this point every year, two weeks out that is, I am so stoked I can’t even begin to think logically or rationally. I just want the season to start so we can see some football. If history is any indication I’ll have one or two manic depressive episodes between now and opening day. I’ll be convinced we’re going to have an miracle season one day and equally convinced we’ll be lucky to win four or five games the next. I try not to comment too much right before the season starts because I’ll inevitably write things that are patently absurd. But I’ll believe them passionately at that moment.

  7. Cojones

    Your take is pretty much mine, Bluto. Not that worried about Mason going down any more than Murray. We have (and had) sufficient backup at that position waitin’ to shine.

    I missed something somewhere, beginning Thurs. After Friday’s scrimmage I read that a ST’s scrimmage was going to be held Sat. I know it was Picture Day, but what happened to the scrimmage?

  8. It’s going to be weird not seeing Sailors blazing down the field on special teams… A Sailor, good man!

    Did anyone see where SDS rated our D-line as 11th out of 14 SEC teams…That is really hard to believe and makes me think this guy is full of crap – http://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/sec-football/2014-position-groups-defensive-line/

    I dont think that will be the case this year…

    Senator, thoughts?

  9. RaleighDawg31

    I’m with you – let’s get those starters named on the o-line. A little cohesion would certainly not be a bad thing with that Clemson d-line coming to town.

  10. JasonC

    I know we were thin at TE in the spring, but now I’m a little surprised that they didn’t have a plan B for FB.

  11. I’m starting my theme now
    The defense is not very good BUT against Clemson what have they got to worry about.. Clemson is going to score 20 points and 10-14 of those will be off turnovers. They do not present many threats on O, Their 3 stars are gone.. We don’t have to beat Alabama or FSU we just have to beat Clem’s son. This a game we win if we don’t give it away with turnovers..
    Channeling Paul above I get a little Manic this time of year and will take leaps of faith but I like the way everything stacks up if we get Mitchell and Scott-Wesley back on the field, My kid says Justin is still limping ..sux.
    As long as Hudson avoids a Joe Cox /Okla State start we’ll do just fine this year. Vegas likes us everywhere but USC and I think they are wrong there. I really believe that USC will have to reveal much more of their playbook in the first two games ,get beat up alot more then anyone seems to think they will and will be ripe for the picking in Columbia.

    • Moe Pritchett

      your grammar gets a C-, but the content is well thought out and produces a fine quality of Kool Aid that garners at least an A-.

      • uglydawg

        The thing about Soutcareliner is the way the crowd goes crazy with blood lust over Georgia. You have to survive the first ten minutes and find a way to take the screeming meemies out of it..I don’t think you kick off first if you can help it…because SOS will be looking to test the DBs and get a quick score to up the intensity of the crazies. Georgia needs to bury their asses quickly and steadily to put down their biggest adavantage. CMR needs to prepare the team and himself and his coaches for the dillusional idiots that pack that tin can they call a stadium.
        But we’re going to draw the ire of Skeptic Dawg and Scorpio if we don’t stop this looking ahead…we’ve gotta worry about Clemson and they are NOT a team to be overlooked. They are a major, big-time program that will be very determined Saturday after next.

  12. CannonDawg

    I can’t help but feel that this Georgia team will get better–far better–as the season progresses. As the O- and D-line rotations get set, the corners and safeties gain experience, and Mason takes control of “his” team, then we can be a force before all is said and done. Couple of big IFs (well, more than a couple but I’ll note two): 1) If we can beat Clemson and then somehow get by the ‘Cocks in the early going, and 2) If we can stay reasonably healthy over the long haul, then we could very well be unbeaten by the time we get to Jacksonville. Lots of things have to go our way for that to happen, to include a few well-deserved smiles from Ole Lady Luck, but as long as our team plays hard and smart for four quarters, in all phases, then I like our chances as well as anyone’s.

  13. dawg

    I think we should put Douglas at fullback. He is tough and a good blocker. He had two costly fumbles last year in games we lost.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      He had some damn fine runs against uSC, uT, and the Gators toting the rock too!!!!! And those were important runs!!!!!

      • uglydawg

        I’m betting we won’t see many more fumbles out of Douglas. He’s a determined, tough kid who wants to hurt the other team and he’s learned he can hurt his own team if he doesn’t take care of the ball.
        I look forward to seeing him pound people late in the game when they’re a little worn down..

      • dawg

        That is true but I would be willing to trade those few good runs in for ball security on those 2 fumbles against Vandy and Missouri and take my chances.

        • AthensHomerDawg

          I’ll trade uSC and Florida for Vandy and Missouri any day! Seriously? …. Vandy ? …you lay Vandy at his feet?

          • Macallanlover

            I don’t think he meant the main reason for the loss, just that the fumble was a contributing factor that changed momentum and gave life to Vandy and their crowd. Shame about those two plays because the young man did inspire our team and crowd on several other plays. Fans tend to remember the mistakes more, and both of those fumbles came at memorable times. I still recall Southerland’s fumble against Tech as a turning point in that 2nd half collapse., but he was also a DGD.

            • Thanks Mac, thats exactly what I meant. And I wouldn’t even be suggesting he move to fullback if we didn’t have the depth issues now at FB and TE.

  14. You’ve nailed it pretty good, I wouldn’t quibble with any of it. Several points:

    1. I don’t think there is anything to gain by waiting to set the OL. If Friend doesn’t know by now, he’s not going to know this time next week, and the ability to polish will be lost, since we’ll be into the Game Week routine. This is something to watch, IMO. Heck, I’d bet a steak dinner I KNOW what the OL set will be, along with the top 3 backups. And I haven’t seen a live snap.

    One of the biggest problems we’ve had with tough openers, maybe THE biggest, is an unsettled OL. Settle the dad-gum thing now.

    1. The Safety position is most interesting to me, because Pruitt has said the best players will play, regardless of age or experience. If he sticks to that (and it’ll be a heavy, MAJOR gut thing if he does) it’ll be Aaron Davis and Dominick Sanders. And at corner it’ll be Swann and either Rico Johnson or Shattle Fenteng (I’d guess Shattle because of experience, but Rico plays, IMO).

    JJ Green could start at one Safety, and that wouldn’t be a surprise. After all, starting two freshman Safeties is very scary thing (that’s why I wonder if Pruitt has the guts to do it). But if JJ’s at Safety, then Malkom Parrish is the Star when we’re in Nickel. So you still have at least 2 freshmen in the secondary.

    And if you go all the way and start the best playmakers, there’ll be 3 freshmen in our starting defensive backfield. That’s hard to imagine. But I’m thinking they’ll all play. And they should. These freshmen are much better prepared than the ones we had last year. And we need them to play.

    But I’ve no idea who starts the game. Whatever, it’ll be some process to watch. The only way I would be disappointed would be if Pruitt pulled a Grantham and started Moore and Mauger because of experience. But that seems out of character for him. We’ll see.
    ~~~