Presumably you’re read David Hale’s post grading the team as the preseason wraps up. Two areas stood out for me.
First, there’s the bi-polar nature of the defensive line. If anything, the situation at the tackle position sounds even better that I had hoped. With Jeff Owens’ return and the emergence of Abry Jones, Georgia runs a true six-deep at the position, with the two starters being legitimate all-SEC candidates. That’s some sick depth. I don’t like making hyperbolic statements, but I truly doubt any team in the country is as loaded at the position as the Dawgs are.
As deep as things run at tackle, that’s how shallow they are at end, unfortunately. With Tripp’s stinger and Houston’s two-game suspension, there’s Dobbs and Battle… and, well, let David tell you:
… With Justin Houston suspended for the first two games, however, there is a clear lack of depth behind Dobbs and Battle, and that is a major concern. With temperatures likely to be taxing in Stillwater, Georgia still hasn’t identified a single back-up defensive end who will be a clear contributor when Dobbs and Battle need a breather. Marcus Washington was moved to the position from linebacker at the start of preseason, but he has had a minimal impact thus far, and his progress hasn’t been much different from that of a freshman. Cornelius Washington has shown flashes, but a myriad of injuries last season has hindered his growth, and he’s still behind where the coaches would like him to be. Kiante Tripp is still adjusting to D-end as well after moving from the offensive line in January, but he has slimmed down considerably and should see action. A shoulder injury cost him a week of practice, however. Freshman Montez Robinson has shown flashes of potential, but coaches have been cautious about saying he’ll play early.
Gulp. That’s a trifle scary.
But at least at end we know what they’re dealing with there. You can game plan and scheme to offset that to some extent (unless one of the starters gets hurt). It’s David’s summary of the situation on the special teams that’s disconcerting.
SPECIAL TEAMS: What’s to say? Mark Richt promised more scholarship freshmen would play on coverage teams, but Jon Fabris didn’t seem as enthusiastic. The additions of speedsters like Thomas and Smith seemed to provide some new blood to the return game, but Fabris and Tony Ball have indicated that Richard Samuel and Prince Miller are likely to reprise their roles from last season. Brandon Bogotay was brought in to handle kickoff duties, but Richt has at least tacitly endorsed Blair Walsh again and won’t name a “starter” for the job before game day.
So what have we learned about Georgia’s special teams this preseason? Not a whole heck of a lot.
Now, I will say that if all the signing of Brandon Bogotay accomplishes is to push Blair Walsh to be a more consistent kicker, that’s still a scholarship well spent, but as to the rest of that – good grief, at least with regard to kickoff coverage. It’s one thing to stick to your guns because you think you have things figured out, but if this is little more than irrational stubborness, well, Mark Richt knows what the definition of insanity is.
I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom here. The one other thing I’ve found striking at this point is Joe Cox’ level of confidence. He’s never questioned anything about his Georgia career, which I find remarkable.
“It was tough in 2006 when everything first started sorting itself out,” Cox said. “But nobody made any promises. I knew I was going to have to compete against good players here. You know, you have to make the best of every situation. I just tried put myself in a position where I could still help the team win. And I tried to do that.”
Yes, the kid who patiently waits his turn has become a recurring theme for Georgia quarterbacks under Richt, but this go around feels differently than it did with Cox’ two senior predecessors. Granted, there are certain distinctions between their situations that explain some of that. For one thing, Cox doesn’t have someone like Stafford breathing down his neck.
“You can never tell what’s going to happen,” Tereshinski said. “I’ve never been in a competition with three other guys. You’ve got to go out there every day to compete. You can’t take a day off. Someone you’re competing against might have an off day, but two other guys are out there, too.”
Nor does he have a Svengali of a dad (or other crazy people) telling him what his patience was costing him. But I can’t imagine Shockley, as much of a DGD as he was, saying something like this, either.
“Of course, when you dream everything up, you dream of coming in and playing early,” he said. Then he broke into a grin and added: “Things change. No. 1 draft picks come in and play in front of you.”
That’s the sound of someone who’s comfortable in his own skin.
It’s not enough that he’s a feel good story. JT III was, too, but didn’t have the physical ability to pull it off. Shockley, did, of course. Cox’ skill set strikes me as falling somewhere between the two (duh!), but there’s a sense that he knows his role, knows what he has to do to keep the team directed, in a way that surpasses the other two. I mean that in a different sense than what the team counted on from Shockley’s and Stafford’s physical abilities.
Maybe I’m reading way too much into this. Talk is cheap, after all. But right now, a couple of days out from the opener, I’ve got this feeling that these intangibles are going to matter in a good way.