Daily Archives: January 1, 2015

“It’s a symbol of change for this program that we’re headed in the right direction.”

I know we’ve heard it all before, to the extent that we roll our eyes when we hear it again.  But here’s a New Year’s Day exercise for you – what if instead of taking this Damian Swann quote as routine happy talk…

“This program is different from where it was a year ago, and it’s going to continue to change to where it needs to be,” senior cornerback Damian Swann said. “It may take two years, it may take five. But eventually this program is going to get to where it needs to be to compete for national championships, to compete every year for an SEC championship. This program is on the rise and it’s only going to continue to get better.”

… we take it as a benchmark and require everyone associated with the program, coaches and Butts-Mehre administrators alike, to accept this as an accountable goal?  In other words, Championship or Bust, literally.

There’s a lot of talent on the field and coming in with the next class to mold.  The next step up comes from what surrounds that.

Georgia will begin offseason work this month under new director of strength and conditioning Mark Hocke, hired from Alabama. It has brought on a new director of football operations, Josh Lee, who held a similar position at UAB. He’s a former Georgia graduate assistant.

All part of competing in the high-pressure, rugged SEC.

“It’s not just on the field, it’s in recruiting, it’s in facilities, it’s in coaching staffs,” Richt said.

Richt’s got a defensive coordinator who looks like he’s improved the program. Strength and conditioning will be revamped.  We’ve seen Richt reinvent himself and the team successfully after the debacle of the 2009 season, so we know he’s got that ability.  B-M should call his bet, with the understanding that everyone’s head will be on the chopping block if Richt can’t get it done in the allotted time. Or make the hard call, if not convinced he’s capable of getting the program there.

Either way, it’s time for everyone to read from the same page.  Well past time, actually.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Separated at Birth of the day

This may not be fair, but it’s damned sure funny.

Well, I laughed, anyway.

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Filed under SEC Football

Why I’m excited about the defense. No, really.

This started out as a bullet point in my last “Observations” post for the season (it’s coming, it’s coming!), but I wound up fleshing it out so much it deserves to stand as a post on its own.

The Belk Bowl offered a contrast in defensive coordinators that we all watched closely.  But the lessons to take away from the game shouldn’t be the element of revenge or Todd Grantham’s personality (not that those weren’t entertaining as hell), but what we saw happen on the field.  And what I saw makes me think things are getting better for Georgia’s defense.

Both Grantham and Pruitt run similar base formations.  And both change those base formations when they’re faced with passing attacks that spread the field of play.  But their underlying philosophies are different.  Grantham told us from the day he walked in the door that his primary goal was to disrupt the line of scrimmage and pressure the quarterback.  That’s been no secret.  And if you watch his defenses play, that’s what he does.  It’s what he did in the bowl game.

It’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy.  When it works – think about times like the first half of the 2011 SECCG or the mad comeback in the fourth quarter of the 2013 Auburn game – it can be devastating on an offense. But when it doesn’t, things can turn spectacularly ugly.  It also puts a tremendous amount of pressure on whoever’s playing behind the front to cover for those times when the line of scrimmage isn’t disrupted.

That’s not what Pruitt’s about.  Oh sure, there’s certainly an element of pressure to what he does and he’s as creative with his blitz packages as Grantham, but that’s not where his focus starts.  Pruitt’s main goal is not giving up the big play.  That may leave a defense of his susceptible to giving up steady bites of yardage, but it’s rarely going to get creamed.  Maybe the explanation is as simple as one guy being a front-oriented coach and the other being a back-oriented coach.  But the difference is there.  And it played out that way in the bowl game.

Against Georgia, Louisville’s longest play from scrimmage went for 29 yards.  It came during a non-scoring drive.  Georgia had five plays longer than that – plays of 30, 31, 32, 44 and 82 yards.  All led to scores.

It was funny to see the insistence by folks on Louisville message boards and blog comment threads about the number of short running plays Georgia had and how that was evidence Grantham’s defense worked.  (Even Richt said something about all the short gains in the running game.)  But read Lilly’s comment in the Quote of the Day – Georgia knew exactly what it was doing by being patient against Grantham and the Louisville defense.  It paid off.

Pruitt’s base alignment may be different from, say, Brian VanGorder’s, but his philosophy comes straight out of the same Bend, But Don’t Break 101 course.  And I would argue it’s better aligned with the traditional strength of the Georgia program, which is focused on bringing in upper-tier high school talent in its recruiting.  There is a value to having someone who can scheme around green talent in the secondary when you’re likely to have that kind of talent routinely flowing through.  I know Georgia’s had to pull in a few JUCO kids (along with a UAB refugee) in Pruitt’s two recruiting class, but that’s to address some short-term roster deficiencies.  I expect over the next few years that Georgia will chase fewer and fewer JUCO players.  I expect Louisville will do the opposite – and that’s not meant as criticism.  Grantham’s approach puts a premium on defensive players who can walk in and play college ball without too much polishing.  (It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that’s another reason he switched schools.)

If you want a poster boy to illustrate my point here, look no further than Quincy Mauger.  I know Swann’s gotten most of the attention for how much his game improved with the coaching change, and it’s deserved.  But what Pruitt’s done to make Mauger not just functional, but a true contributor on defense, after a horrific 2013 season in which Mauger looked lost even for a true freshman, is remarkable.  It was Quincy Mauger in last season’s bowl game who didn’t maintain position as the deep safety and then failed to wrap up a tackle on that obscenity of a 99-yard TD completion.  The other night, it was Louisville’s safety who was out of position on a 44-yard TD pass to Chris Conley.  Mauger, in the meantime, was the kid making tackles and performing well in pass coverage.

They’ve got potential.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Some random Orange Bowl thoughts

Say what you will about Georgia Tech, but the Jackets finished 2014 on quite the roll.  The genius has every right to puff his chest out a little bit.  I’ve got three observations after last night’s impressive win.

  1. Way to go, Mississippi State.  You managed to become the first school that couldn’t defend the triple option in a bowl game after having three-plus weeks to prepare for it.  I know you lost your defensive coordinator mid-way, but still.  The way 2014 ended isn’t a feather for Dan Mullen to stick in his cap.  (He and Freeze didn’t exactly make strong cases for big raises yesterday.)  He’s a good coach, but a guy who can take a program to the promised land?  So far, I’m not seeing it.
  2. Justin Thomas confirms two theories I have about Paul Johnson’s teams. One, as legitimately critical as you can be about the limits on recruiting for the triple option puts on a program, the one plus is that there are kids out there who… well, if not fall through the cracks, have to accept being switched from the position they want to play to get a D-1 scholarship.  Thomas is a perfect example of that.  He was good enough coming out of high school to get an Alabama offer to play defensive back, but his first love was quarterbacking, which is how he wound up at Georgia Tech.  And two, while the triple option has proven itself to be no worse than a competent offensive scheme, it takes a special athlete to really elevate a Johnson team.  Thomas has it in him to be the best fit at quarterback for Tech since Joe Hamilton.  He’s good enough to make me understand why Vad Lee left.  And that means we may need to take this program a little more seriously over the next few seasons.
  3. And, sincere congratulations to the Georgia Tech fan base.  Your program scaled heights it’s rarely seen.  That’s good for some keyboard smack and water cooler bravado, but if you want to impress the outside world into cutting back on the Dragon*Con jokes, you need to start showing up.  Sell out your 50,000-seat stadium, not just when Georgia shows up, but every week.  Put some real asses in the seats when your team goes on the road.  Otherwise, you’ll keep looking like… Tech fans.

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Filed under Georgia Tech Football, SEC Football

A merry GTP New Year!

Hope it’s a great one for all of you.

Meanwhile, let me share a number with you:  5,310,507.  That’s the number of hits recorded at the blog in 2014.  It represents better than a 25% increase in traffic over 2013.  That kind of increase is great in the early years, when you’re in the process of establishing an audience, but to record that in the eighth year of a college football blog?  Don’t know about you, but I’m well and truly impressed.

And grateful, of course.  It’s wonderful to have the traffic, but I’m also most appreciative of what a stout commenting group GTP enjoys.  Agree with me, disagree with me – it’s all good, because it’s the give and take of intelligent discussion that makes this such a great place to stop at and keep up with Georgia football and its surrounding environment.

If I don’t say it enough, you guys are the best.  Long may you run.

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