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.
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.