All I want for Christmas…

… is a consistent, functioning offensive line.

Bernie projects what the state of the 2014 line may look like here, and concludes thusly:  “This is already the most interesting storyline heading into GDay. Unfortunately it’s also the most interesting storyline for several years running.”

He’s right.  For whatever reason, this regularly seems to be an open issue for a Richt offseason.  What makes it even tougher is that it also seems when there are years when the line appears to be a strength going into the season, it doesn’t live up to expectations.

2013 has been strange.  There have been times when the o-line looked flat-out dominant, and there have been times when it’s looked like it can’t get out of its own way – sometimes both in the same game.  If there was one recurring flaw, it was the inability to handle speed rushers from the tackle positions.  Which makes that Theus-Houston combo Bernie sets out there for next year a little nerve wracking.  Needless to say, some improvement is mandatory.


Filed under Georgia Football

42 responses to “All I want for Christmas…

  1. WF Dawg

    You’re exactly right about problems against the speed rush. The Clemson, Mizzou, Auburn, and GT games come to mind, although we seemed to make the right adjustments in the latter two. The USC game in 2012 falls into this same category, but without the adjustments. I’m inclined to give Gates some slack, since I consider him a guard playing out of position to help the team. But the other tackles…

  2. Red Dawn

    Not that recruiting is the end all be all, but the Dawgs have basically signed one 5 star and a bunch of 3 stars (or lower) over the past 5 years. I know lots of first round draft picks are 3 stars, but we have a hard time closing on the elite big uglies coming out of HS. Richt needs to figure out what it is about Athens that doesn’t appeal to the OLs.

    • RP

      We’ve heard from a lot of recruits how impressed they are with the food on their OV’s. You would think that would be especially helpful with OL. I can’t figure it out either. My only guess is we have lacked appealing position coaches for that group.

    • stoopnagle

      Hard to believe we can’t outspend Ole Miss for one measly OLman.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      Yep. Our OL recruiting strategies are questionable at best. IMO, it’s one of the most glaring and repeated weaknesses in our usually high recruiting standards.

    • I think the data proves the point that Georgia high schools just have not been traditionally very good at developing elite offensive line prospects.

      • adam

        Next year’s #1 OT is in Gwinnett County and he won’t be coming to Georgia. That’s all that needs to be said about our OL recruiting.

    • {“Not that recruiting is the end all be all, but the Dawgs have basically signed one 5 star and a bunch of 3 stars (or lower) over the past 5 years. I know lots of first round draft picks are 3 stars, but we have a hard time closing on the elite big uglies coming out of HS.”}

      Totally agree. And even 4-star guys can be overrated. It’s been a problem since Richt arrived. There was some bad luck at times, but almost all of it is self-inflicted. The best OL we’ve had, by far, was the 2002 line, which were all Donnan’s players.

      We just can’t seem to recruit the top guys, and what a difference that would make. And we compromise too much, IMO, take on too many projects. We also just plain miss too often.

      Friend has improved our eval and targeting, IMO. But we still aren’t there. Seems we should pull out all stops, even go national if we have to. The standard for OL recruiting has to go up, or the situation will never improve.

      Just as an to give an idea, change out our bottom 5 guys for elite guys, keep the other 10, and we’re there. Once there, just keep it there.

      Easier said than done, I guess. Others do it, but we can’t seem to.

  3. Scorpio Jones, III

    “There have been times when the o-line looked flat-out dominant, and there have been times when it’s looked like it can’t get out of its own way – sometimes both in the same game.”

    Sometimes on succeeding plays.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Specifically the problem’s on obvious passing downs. The tackles can’t handle first-rate rushers. However, on run-blocking they do well.

  4. My guy reaction is that the state of Georgia just doesn’t produce a lot of elite tackle prospects. Therefore, most of the time you’re going out of state against State U. The kid who is going to leave his state doesn’t necessarily grow up with one school in mind. Then, you have to spend more resources especially time to get the kid. Just my $.02.

    • Macallanlover

      I agree about the source of OL talent, I would love to see stats on the home areas of top CFB/NFL talent because my perception is the SEC isn’t tops in this category. Just my perception/opinion but this is the one area the mid-west seems to excel. From State Pen to Wisconsin, the OL performance of teams just looks to be smoother and more dominant.

      Our Offensive Line in the Clemson game was THE biggest issue and primary reason why we lost, more so than Gurley and Mitchell’s absences. After that we were just spotty on drives within games, never consistent in games as a whole. The most obvious errors were our tackles getting beaten on speed rushes but we had numerous problems with snap count violations, holding, and being unable to handle almost every team we faced with crisp run blocking. We were blessed with great QB play, very good play calling, and talented RBs throughout most of the season allowing us to be prolific in scoring. The closest game you could say the OL was the, or a, difference maker was SC and that was mostly because of the last drive. I am not minimizing how great that drive was at all but take that away and we would not be having the discussion about us dominating against SC. I do think an autopsy should be done on that specific drive to see what worked differently from the rest of the year.

    • I did the quick look using Rivals database for rankings (4 or more stars). In the last 5 years, Georgia has produced only 8 elite OL prospects (5 guards, 2 tackles, 1 center) and no 5-star talent. In 2011, the number was a big fat 0. UGA signed only 3 of those (Chris Burnette, Dallas Lee, Brandon Kublanow). It tells me that the state’s high schools don’t produce big-time OL talent. I think that’s because the HS coaches take the best talent and put them on the defensive line.

      • uglydawg

        Interesting discussion. There must be some reason for this (lack of Ga. highschools developing O linemen). It would be a great question to ask some high school coaches..some that have been around for a long time in the state. I always see huge guys in the bands at halftime and wonder why someoned didn’t prompt them to play. Maybe it’s because they learn in PeeWee football and Middle School ball that O linemen work their butts off and get no glory. So they quit. But why only in GA?

  5. RP

    There is still no logical or satifying explanation for the loss of Tunsil last year. That depth chart looks a helluva lot better with him in the LT slot. Also, remember losing Chester Brown to an immigration issue. Can we talk about something else?

  6. I don’t see ward in the rotation. I fear he may be our next Trinton Sturdivant with his knees. I am hoping DaBell’s stock rises this spring. His name has not come up much, but based on the limited film I have seen on him I believe he has the quickness to handle the speed rush.

  7. SAtowndawg

    If Theus and Houston are our starting OTs we will be in trouble…the one thing both of them proved this year is that they can’t handle the speed rush and I don’t see that getting better. seems as if both of them are better suited for guard. Beard will have to man one slot and hopefully another OT improves

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      +1. Theus maybe can play right tackle, but I agree–not left. We desperately need to parachute a legit first-rate left tackle in from somewhere. Make it a priority to look at film of all the best JC tackles in the country and sign the best one–or more if we can. We have scholarships that are not being used–use ’em!!

  8. E dawg

    Put McClendon in charge of recruiting them too!

  9. bubba king

    Kolton Houston, though a feel-good story, killed any gelling the online could have possibly mustered…theus, even with faults, was a far cry better than a guy who had not played a snap of organized football in 4 years…he was dismantled time after time and they refused to sit him…he was unprepared and slow…had no business on an island with anyone with any speed!

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Houston is really a guard although he could play center,too. He’d be OK anywhere but on the edge, IMHO.

  10. Will Trane

    Merry Christmas to the GTP and all the commentators and opiners. Special shout out to Dawgs Garrison Smith, lone senior on the D. Always a lot talk about Murray, but Smith is a very special Dawg. You can tell he cares for his team, coaches, UGA, and the fans. A great Dawg!

  11. Skint

    We continue to recruit non-athletic linemen from private schools. Theus, even though a “5”star was from private school. We have missed on so many in state guys that it is embarrassing. It all comes down to coaching and evaluating.

    • 3-star guys are a crap shoot. In state, that’s what Georgia produces on the offensive line. O-line evaluation is the hardest job in coaching regardless of level. If you want to talk about coaching and development, you have a point.

  12. W Cobb Dawg

    I’m skeptical about the state of Georgia not producing OTs. Even if its true, then we need to go out of state to recruit like most other cfb schools. And we need to do better coaching up the one’s we get.

  13. 69Dawg

    As football gets more problems in the head injury department, the OL will be the first to suffer. All the pain and none of the glory. The Oline guys are going the way of the prize fighter. One reason the new offenses are so good is that they can get away with lesser OL talent. Run a Pro style O and you need a Pro caliber line. Hello Alabama, not so much UGA.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      ^^This is the most cogent post on the subject of this thread today. My compliments, sir. If UGA is going to continue to run the O that it does, we will need O-linemen that can both run block and pass block. They are hard to find. Even the NFL has trouble finding guys like that.

      • With all the injuries and with the inconsistent o-line play, Georgia still managed to finish the regular season seventeenth in total offense and twelfth in yards per play. I think Bobo’s learned how to adapt.

  14. Skint

    John Atkins should be moved to OG. He is 3rd or 4th team NG. His high school coach said he was a better OL. Many HS DL make great OL.

  15. shane#1

    Man, great blog and comments. I am ready to talk some O line. I just finished watching a two hour Counting Crows concert. Take it from me, don’t do that when you are home alone and drinking beer on a rainy day. Anyway, I want to see linemen recruited in greater numbers and red shirt every damn one of them. My perfect line would be made up of three red shirt jrs and two red shirt srs.Get a line with four red shirt seniors and you have a good shot at a title. Later, I am going to make a phone call and buy a raincoat.

  16. Same old song every year – what would it take for Coach Friend to recruit like Coach Bobo and Coach McLendon? Weakest link consistently – sad…

  17. Debby Balcer

    I just saw that we have a 5 star OL commit for next year and another highly rated commit.