For some reason, I find myself somewhat surprisingly blasé about the effect Caleb King’s departure will have on Georgia this season. It’s not because I’m overcome with a case of sunny optimism about Georgia’s 2011 chances. Nor is it because I’m numb with pessimism.
It’s just that, like Jeff Schultz, I’m feeling this “it’s Caleb King – how worked up should I get?” vibe. It’s not so much that King was a bad apple as it was that he was a poster boy for a program that acted as if talent would always trump effort. In a season when it appears that Richt has finally gotten the message that the old rules were no longer a recipe for success, King had woefully become a fish out of water.
And don’t think his coach didn’t know that. As Tyler Dawgden points out,
Anyone that thought King had more than a puncher’s chance at playing this fall after failing to get six credits in the fall while needing 18 for the year was crazy. Does it suck? Yes. We are desperately thin at running back now. Oh, and anyone that thinks Richt isn’t serious about getting rid of problems, remember: He knew King was in this predicament, yet he parted ways with Washaun.
(By the way, Richt was already making phone calls yesterday to “help King toward his next destination”. That sure didn’t take long.)
Georgia’s thin at tailback! Thin at offensive line! Where’s your sense of panic, man? Well, if I’m having trouble getting worked up about it, Barrett Sallee, a fairly level-headed bloke, isn’t.
… But with games against Boise State and South Carolina – two top 15 teams – to open the season, Georgia needed King to navigate that backfield through those early season battles before possibly giving way to Crowell.
What’s the biggest obstacle for most young running backs to overcome in the transition from high school to college football? Pass blocking. Georgia is a team with big offensive line problems, and that’s where King’s absence will make the most noticeable impact. Out of Georgia’s tailbacks, only Carlton Thomas has any playing experience, and he’s only 170 pounds. What does that mean? Boise State and South Carolina are going to bring the house – and maybe the whole neighborhood – on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Without A.J. Green to throw jump balls to, that presents a huge problem for the Bulldogs.
You hate to toss games away, but Georgia’s game vs. Boise State is almost an afterthought at this point. For Georgia’s season to be successful, the Bulldogs have to win the SEC East and make it to the Georgia Dome in December, not beat Boise State in it in September. That makes Georgia’s Week 2 game vs. defending SEC East champion South Carolina the biggest game of the season, and possibly Mark Richt’s entire Georgia coaching career.
Before King’s departure, I had Georgia winning that game and, thus, winning the SEC East via tiebreaker. King’s absence – particularly on passing downs – definitely changes that, especially considering the firepower the Gamecocks have on the defensive line.
Allow me to retort: ladies and gentlemen, presenting your SEC East-winning 2003 Georgia Bulldogs. No back on that team rushed for over 700 yards. None of the top three running backs averaged over five yards a carry (King’s career rushing average). David Greene’s TD/interception ratio was a mediocre 13/11. The line gave up 47 (!) sacks. No wide receiver had more than three touchdown receptions.
Nevertheless, they won 11 games and finished seventh in the final rankings behind a stellar defense and a very good kicker in Billy Bennett. The offense did just enough to stay out of their way. That’s a standard the 2011 offense should have little trouble meeting.
Looking at this year’s team before King’s departure, did anyone really expect Georgia to excel without the defense returning to the level of play it exhibited in the first five or six years of Richt’s tenure? I sure didn’t.
Yeah, Georgia can’t afford any injuries at tailback based on what we see now. But Caleb King was never going to be the one to lead this year’s team to glory. That’s been on Todd Grantham’s shoulders all along.