From Marc Weiszer’s mid-season stock taking piece:
1. Turnover margin
No area on the team has seen as dramatic rise than this key category. Georgia leads the nation after ranking 102nd last season. The Bulldogs are plus-13 now and have improved from 12th in the SEC in turnovers gained to second and from 11th in turnovers lost to first (with only four).
2. Kickoff returns/punt returns
From 108th in the nation last year on kickoff returns at 18.6 yards per return to 20th at 24.4. The Bulldogs now rank 34th in the nation in punt returns at 11.05 after a dismal 122nd last year at 2.9.
Bonus: Rush offense/rush defense
Take your pick. The Bulldogs went from 11th in the SEC last year in rushing to first (from 169.9 to 265.9). The Bulldogs improved from 148.2 yards per game in run defense to 105.1 (from 41st nationally to 16th).
Gee, it’s almost as if Richt sat down with his staff and noted the statistical areas that had to be shored up for Georgia to be competing for titles again. Better yet, everybody’s paid attention.
I’ve long maintained that 2003 was Richt’s coaching masterpiece. I know that year’s defense was great, but to take a team with the worst offensive line of his tenure (47 sacks!) and a no-name running back group to the SECCG was mighty impressive. Well, if you think about the areas he had to see fixed and the way they’ve managed the quarterback succession, he’s got a chance to better that effort in 2014.