Observations from the end zone, Cocktail Party edition

The weather was magnificent.  The company was great.  The beach was beautiful.  The food was delicious.  The beer was cold.

Oh, wait… there was a football game this weekend?  Damn, why’d you have to harsh my mellow, man?  Just for that, here are your bullet points:

  • First and foremost, this game was about field position.  That was almost entirely driven by poor blocking on offense, unimaginative playcalling and a horrendous day punting.
  • The other factor that played a part was a defense that played mostly well, except on third down and in the red zone.
  • The end result was that Florida controlled the clock and limited the amount of time Georgia’s offense saw the field, although one could argue that was an act of kindness, given the ineptitude on display most of the game.
  • I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the notion that a team with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel on the roster could be held to less than 20 yards rushing in a game that wasn’t a blow out.  (Then, again, I’m still trying to figure out how South Carolina held Georgia t0 less than 30 passing yards.)
  • Yes, the offensive line play was abominable.  Yes, it hasn’t improved in the slightest over the course of the season.  What isn’t getting much attention, though, is how much Christian Payne has regressed over that time.  He was a  non-entity against the Gators.  One of the two moments from the game that stuck with me was Chubb pounding the ground in frustration after being tackled by a defender who Payne couldn’t be bothered to block.  Really, if he’s not going to get his primary job done, it’s another strong reason to abandon the power running sets that aren’t fooling anyone.
  • The other moment?  The second Reggie Davis fly sweep that was stoned because the play was designed to run in to the defensive lineman that Blazevich momentarily blocked and then released.  I guess if you look at it that way, it was perfectly executed.
  • Speaking of Blazevich, given the results we’ve seen the last two seasons, the next time Georgia is in the market for an offensive coordinator, I hope it’s somebody who cheerfully admits he has no idea how to use tight ends.
  • It’s hard to criticize Eason’s game, considering he had zero support from his surrounding cast, so I’m not going to waste my time doing that.  I will say that the touchdown pass was one of those rare moments where it was fun to watch a play when things clicked perfectly:  the line did its job well enough that when Eason rolled out he wound up in what amounted to a RPO situation that left the Gator defensive backs on that side in no man’s land and an easy throw resulted.
  • I don’t want to be unduly harsh about the defense.  Given how poorly the offense and special teams played, it was left in a rough situation most of the day and held up pretty well despite the hand it was dealt.  Unfortunately, it seemed like almost every time it was in position to make a key stop to shut down a drive or prevent a score, there were just enough missed tackles, misalignments or freak plays (like the one when Del Rio somehow managed to get off an awkward pass completion while being dragged down by a Georgia player) for things to go wrong.
  • That being said, it’s clear the defense has improved from the Ole Miss game — a low bar, I know.  There’s reason to be excited about the defensive line’s future.  Baker is an improvement at one of the corner spots.  And I continue to like what I see from the inside linebackers.  There’s enough going on that if the other areas of the team were merely competent, it would probably be enough.  Unfortunately…
  • I am not going to waste my time discussing the special teams play, other than to say it’s criminal to watch McKenzie’s talent as a punt returner go to waste.  I have yet to see a single punt return properly blocked this season.  The yardage he managed to gain on his two returns was entirely of his own making.

There’s really no point to breaking things down further than that.  It was a joyless four quarters for the most part that reflected what’s gone on all season.

Perhaps the saddest thing of all is the realization as I was watching that Kirby wants what Jim McElwain already has, a competent team that is coached well enough to stay out of the way of the defense when it’s winning the day.  I can only imagine what the future holds for the Cocktail Party when Smart gets there.

I said to my friends afterwards that for all his talk about wanting to establish an identity, Kirby has a team with less of one than any Georgia squad I’ve seen in a while.  Upon further reflection, I don’t think that’s right.  The Process is the identity.  The identity is the Process.

Enjoy the rest of the season, folks.

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60 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

60 responses to “Observations from the end zone, Cocktail Party edition

  1. DugLite

    That game was a slow painful death, not unlike watching a constrictor kill and eat a rabbit.
    I don’t have anything else to add except I am kind of numb to this whole process.

    Like

  2. Timphd

    Before the season began I said I wouldn’t care about the record so much as long as the team showed up for every game, showed improvement over the season and competed hard on all sides of the ball. I will have to say now that none of those goals have been met. Didn’t show for Nicholls, Ole Miss or Vandy. Have shown regression, not improvement since the UNC game, and didn’t compete on the o line or in special teams returns all season long. How can a team with the stable of backs we have not run the ball by accident?

    I am still a fan, and want this to work out to be great but man is it hard to keep the faith right now. I am not sure there aren’t three more losses on the schedule with the way Kentucky, Auburn and GT are playing.

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    • paul

      I’m with you. I was hoping to see a new attitude, good hustle on every play and a team that looks prepared and confident. If we could just get that much we’d be headed in the right direction. I’ve seen none of that. Zero. On this blog there’s been much debate about whether our primary problem is talent or coaching. I think that Saturday made us realize it’s both. We’ve got some talent but it’s mostly wasted. I’ve also come to accept that this is going to be a multi-year “process.” It won’t get much better next year because we’ll be playing a bunch of true freshmen who just got to town. And everybody that likes to point out what a disaster Saban’s first year at Alabama was can just shut the hell up. Saban had eighteen years of head coaching experience and a national championship under his belt at the time. Kirby ain’t that guy. It’s clear the learning curve for him is steep. This will take a few years. I’m stocking up on bourbon and feeling very good about letting the season tickets go a couple of years ago.

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    • Macallanlover

      I would say you can take “didn’t show for Vandy” off your list. We generated 400 yards of offense, and held them to 170 yards (80 of which came on one drive, with 50 of that coming on one play). We showed up on offense, and defense, didn’t commit one turnover, and was 3-3 on FGs. It wasn’t effort, we weren’t perfect by any means, but it is still difficult to see how we didn’t win that game. Trading TDs for FGs is certainly one issue, a kickoff return is another, but really not enough to nake it clear to me. But the team showed up for that game.

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  3. MLB2

    I know that everyone is frustrated and upset but just remember that there are going to be a lot of recruits at the remaining home games so please don’t behave in a way that will discourage them from wanting to play for us. We need them badly.

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    • Ben

      We haven’t coached up the guys we’ve got. What makes you think that they’ll get production out of the 4 and 5 * guys who are coming in?

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      • MLB2

        If the staff gets great players, our chances of improvement increase. If they don’t, the chances of improvement are zero. Pretty simple.

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    • Russ

      If I’m a 5* recruit, I’d have to be wondering about the “coaching” I’d be getting here. No need to worry about the crowds.

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  4. Russ

    About the tight ends, we throw to them just enough to know that Nauta and Blazevich are being wasted just as badly as Chubb and Michel are.

    Oh, and the defense has almost improved to where we were last year. Yay!

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    • Russ, You got that correct. With the RBs & TEs the Dawgs have
      they should be able to run the ball & complete some passes.
      Meanwhile the Offense is predictable & not much fun to watch.

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  5. Bob

    I know Kirby is a great recruiter. But that has been as an assistant for the best team in the country. I hope that all these kids we are counting on aren’t watching the coaching of this staff too closely because right now I can imagine a lot of them are wondering if the coaches have a clue.

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    • Macallanlover

      Recruiting is definitely Kirby’s best asset from what I see, and he has some terrific talent on the hook at this point. But that is my biggest concern about this abortion of a season, can we maintain it? Being honest, if the running backs see what proven backs like Chubb and Michel are going through, doin’t they have to reevaluate what is going on at RB U? And doesn’t the recruit, I think, that is the “must get guy”, Jake Fromm, have to question his current position given the obvious problem at OC? Not sure if I were those guys, who have dozens of really good options, it might depend on a change being made at OC.

      I don’t know how to even evaluate what an OL would think given what they have seen. I know Pittman has a great reputation, but this line is worse than any we have seen. Is it Pittman, or is it Chaney? One of both is responsible for a major league falloff. There was rarely a play where someone on Florida’s defense was barely touched by our blockers, complete whiffs. Someone was near the point of the hand off on every running play, and flushing Eason on most pass plays. Something is wrong, much more wrong than anyone crying talent can justify.

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      • CPark58

        Good points but if I was Fromm and had faith in the staff/process(which he seems to), I’d be excited about my prospects at UGA. If you believe the whole plan is to bang your head against the wall until you get the players capable of doing what your want, which it obviously is, there will be blood for the next couple of years. Sadly, Eason will be the next in a long line of great talent we have squandered. Playing behind a shitty experienced line and a talented but young line throwing to receivers who can’t receive and have to jump to see into the huddle is not a recipe for success to pro-style QBs. The bright side is that it won’t be for naught because by the time a redshirt sophomore Fromm is ready to start he will step into a supporting cast molded by The Process™.

        I know its blindly optimistic considering what we have witnessed, but blind optimism is all I have to hang onto now and it is a UGA tradition that dates back at least as far back as the Dawg walk.

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    • Ben

      You know who else was a great recruiter for a legendary coach who ended up not not being able to run a program?

      Goff.

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      • CPark58

        I was going to guess you were talking about Mark Richt but I forgot how Jim Donnan left him with a roster that included two redshirt freshmen that would graduate as the winningest QB in college football history at the time and the most decorated UGA player since Herschel Walker, not to mention Damien Gary, Terrence Edwards, Ben Watson, Randy Mcmichael, Stinchcomb, Kevin Breedlove, Boss Bailey, Bruce Thorton, Tony Gilbert, Jermain Phillips, Johnathan Sullivan, Billy Bennett, plus a few more. So 4 losses in Richt’s first year including a 24-10 loss to Florida didn’t look as bad. And then I remembered that time he won the SEC with the players mentioned above, the SEC championship in 2005 with the momentum and support afforded by the aforementioned players, that time we almost backed into the national championship in 2007, and the time we almost beat Alabama in 2012.

        Kirby inherited Chubb, Sony, Kublanow, R Davis, Rodrigo Blankenship and secured the recruitment of Tyler Catalina from the Patriot League so a true freshman didn’t have to start at left tackle? UGA couldn’t move the ball last year with the unit that’s on the field now, why think that UGA can this year? Did we really think that a talented true freshman qb would equate to that much better game results than a mediocre graduate transfer junior qb with game experience?

        I’m not knocking Richt, he is the best coach we ever had and I openly admit that I thought Kirby was the right guy then and I still do now. However, if you look at it objectively, Kirby got dealt a 7/2 off-suit and was expected to bluff his way to a 10 win season like last year.

        Yall rememeber Mark Richt and Jim Donnan, right? Mark Richt, the beloved career coordinator under a legendary Bobby Bowden whose perennial gameplan at FSU was win by recruiting better players than everyone else and Jim Donnan, the super successful mid major head coach, who could recruit but not coach em up. Every coaching change is a crapshoot and to believe otherwise just not paying attention.

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  6. Godawg

    The play calling is atrocious. Chaney’s pig-headed adherence to the I formation and putting the QB under center is going to get Eason hurt. He took a pounding Saturday. How does putting him in situation where is constantly hurried, harassed and put on his ass prepare him for the future? Oh crap, I think I just answered my own question…

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  7. Will Trane

    Thought you dawg folks loved the I formation. Brought back the glory days of Walker.
    Dawgs have some quality skilled players. According to all the recruit blogging and polls this is a solid roster.
    The past 7 games have proved that Smart, Chaney,& Tucker cannot cut it in the SEC.
    Chaney never had a histouy as a good OC.
    It is almost December again. Last year Smart allowedhimself to be tied to Saban.
    Lilly was thebest OC dawgs had past 2 seasons.
    If Smart wants to be a head coach he had betterget to thinking for a change about his offense.
    Always said offense wins and wins championships.
    They keep wasting time, money, and assets. Like Democrats. Dumb.

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  8. aladawg

    I guess we can now say we have graduated from an annual face plant to annual face PLANTS and from an annual bed-wetting to bed crapping and wetting. Oh well. We will clean the sheets in 4 or 5 years, repair the nose in 2 or 3 more coaches and AD’s and when I am in the nursing home we will get to an SEC championship……………….

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  9. Just Chuck (The Other One)

    I remember times during the Ray Goff era that I was just happy to be back in Athens on a warm, pleasant Saturday afternoon. No particular expectations for the game. It may be time to return to that mindset just to preserve my sanity.

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  10. I agree about the O line, but Chubb is partly to blame for his lack of production. He is just not the same as he was pre injury. I saw him brought down by an arm tackle, that pre injury wouldn’t have even slowed him down. Not hatin on Chubb, he has done a great job during his comeback, but he’s just not the same.

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    • Russ

      222 yards against UNC begs to differ.

      What’s your reason for Michel?

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      • They don’t run Sony enough. I have no idea why not.

        It looks to me like Chubb is about 10 or so pounds too heavy. He just seems a step or a step and a half slower.

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        • hassan

          We are running Chubb between the tackles a lot. Not sure if the lack of production is because he is still not 100% or if the O-Line sucks (or a combination thereof).

          Our success in the running game this year has come from a lot of runs to the outside which Sony seems better suited for. Not saying that we abandon the up the gut run, but that can’t be the only 2 running plays we run before we try to pass on 3rd and long.

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      • dawgman3000

        A pathetic o line is the problem. Cheney’s play calling is highly questionable, but at the same time, what can he call when his o line can’t pass or run block and his qb can’t read defenses yet and when his receivers somehow manage to get open, they drop the ball. I’m as frustrated as everyone else, but I’ve felt like this for a while now. Kirby and staff isn’t perfect, but I’m at least willing to let him get some guys in that want to play smash mouth football and not this patty cake stuff we’ve grown accustomed to.

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        • 2012-14 wasn’t patty cake offensive football by any stretch. Having Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel run at you for 60 minutes isn’t patty cake. Even in ’15, Michel and Chubb combined for 1,800 yards on the ground.

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          • dawgman3000

            That worked fine until they faced a decent front 7. Since Donnans guys left, we have never had a line that could line up and impose its will on a good front 7. You know why we were 5 yards short in 2012, because Bama came out in the second half and decided to impose its will on us after we were up 28-10 on them.

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            • OrlandoDawg

              We were never up 28-10.

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              • dawgman3000

                OK so it was 21-10 in the 3rd quarter. My point is still valid.

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              • Macallanlover

                And it was their OL that imposed their will, not their defense…Unrelated. We didn’t have a dominant OL in 2012, and haven’t for over a decade, but our OC found a way to find a crease. Chaney is not just the playcaller, he is the OC so the offensive line and blocking scheme are under his watch. Everyone should please stop blaming this on OL talent, that may be why we are excellent, or very good, but others do more with less…and they don’t have Nick or Sony.

                We have had under 95 yard total yards rushing in eight quarters, with 56 attempts. That is epic fail and it is on Chaney…period. He has seen practice since March, these guys are similar to what we were gaining 1500-2000 yards with. Fail, capital F. No excuse.

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                • dawgman3000

                  You actually just made my point. Bama’s o_line took over the game and ours couldn’t even with Gurley and Marshall in the back field. You’re not gonna scheme your way to a national championship unless you have elite players, particularly in the trenches. Kirby is trying to get these guys to play tough hard nosed football because that’s what he believes in, which is just as much mental as it is physical. I’m not completely sold on Cheney yet, but I would like to see how he does with a competent line, a seasoned qb, and some receivers that can catch the freaking ball. The old saying holds true, it’s the Jimmy’s and Joe’s, not the x’s and o’s.

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  11. UGA85

    I think there is something going on besides just winning and losing this season. To be optimistic, I think CKS is basically establishing his principles and style of play, regardless of outcomes. He is not about winning 9 games and finishing second or third in the East. He is about building the foundation, long term, for a team that wins championships. And to him, I think that means controlling the line of scrimmage. I have to trust Pittman, given his reputation, and Rocker. This season, I hope, is just the maximum amount of pain we must endure to obtain lasting and fundamental change, especially on the O line. I can’t explain all the badness. I can just pray it’s an investment in the future.

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    • Macallanlover

      I can agree with most all of this, just have a problem with this being a total reclamation project than something that needed tweaking. May be the overkill, or sudden course correction of a battleship, that is causing the shock. And good point about Rocker, he is the one coach whose position group isn’t worse this season. Need to build from there, although defense isn’t our biggest problem.

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    • Timphd

      I so badly want you to be right. I just am in the doubting stage at this point.

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    • dawgman3000

      Yep

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    • W Cobb Dawg

      “I have to trust Pittman, given his reputation, and Rocker.”

      Sorry, but don’t mention Pittman and Rocker in the same sentence. Pittman is a huge disappointment, and I don’t see any indication whatsoever he can coach. I don’t see one OL, just one, who’s improved under Pittman. Every damn one of them has regressed. And next year, with 2 freshman OT’s, will be just as bad, if not worse,

      Rocker on the other hand, has been a terrific position coach. He gets the job done with freshman, or backups, or whatever he’s got to work with.

      If we were to switch Pittman to DL coach and Rocker to OL coach, I have little doubt we’d see immediate improvement on the OL and immediate problems with the DL.

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  12. OrlandoDawg

    Great list. I thought the play where 8 got behind everyone might get a mention. Shades of ’02 and instead of a big play or even a td, we end up with an incompletion and a sprained ankle. Years past I would have thrown something; Saturday I just shook my head and decided it was time to rake the yard.

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  13. I just heard “Baba O’Riley” start on the radio. During football season, I turn it up because it makes me think of Athens. This morning I changed the station almost immediately. I didn’t want to think about it.

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  14. ApalachDawg

    If this is what it takes to flush out the Richt era country club, soft mentality – so be it.
    To quote the great philosophizer Ricky Bobby – “if you ain’t first then you are last”. If we couldn’t beat Ole Miss, correction if we couldn’t beat Vandy at home, how in the hell would we be able to beat Alabama (or even Auburn at this point)?
    I keep saying this but the day that we took an OL grad transfer from RHODE ISLAND was the day everyone should have known that this was going to be a monumental cluster of a season.
    I rode through the Goff years as a student so I know pain and suffering and I’m not ready to abandon ship after 8 games. I’d like to evaluate this program after at least a full year of recruiting and coaching.
    If you want to cry like a baby, go cheer for the North Ave Trade School and get the hell out of my foxhole.

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  15. tonyqbr

    I think your unique mix of offense, defense, and special teams is your identity, and THE PROCESS is the method of how to get there.

    For example, in 2016, Bama’s mix (Identity) is:
    #1 Defense, top 20 offense, #56 special teams

    You can pretty much see by the ranking where a coach puts emphasis, for Saban it’s:
    #1 Defense
    #2 Offense
    #3 Special Teams

    In 2007, Saban’s 1st year at Bama, looked like a team without an identity, his mix was:
    #1 Special teams #24 ranked, #2 defense #46 ranked, #3 offense #48

    By 2008, Saban in one year improved that to become his identity:
    #1 defense #4 ranking #2 offense #17 ranking #3 special teams #23

    I think this is the pattern or identity you will see at Georgia.

    The Process is what pushes at least 2 categories towards a top 10 ranking in their category like 2012
    where the defense finished #1, and the offense #2.

    This is what I think Kirby is looking for long term, defense 1st, off 2nd, sp teams 3rd. first 2 in top 10.

    in the short term, I agree, 2015 UF is a pattern with their top 10 defense, average offense @ #70, and average special teams @ #100.

    Or Mich St 2012 with a top 10 defense, and @ #91 off and #81 spe teams.

    Def was ranked #50 in Dantonio’s 1st year at mich St. It took him 5 years to crack the top 10 in defense, 2016 is the first time since 2012
    Dantonio’s defense is not a top 20 ranked unit, and they have no identity.

    Like

    • The Truth

      Narduzzi is coaching at Pitt is Mich St’s D problem.

      Like

    • paul

      Again, when Saban came to Alabama he had eighteen years as a head coach and a national championship on his resume. Kirby has none of that. He does have a lot of years hanging around Saban and half a season as head coach. Kirby has to learn his job. So far, the results aren’t encouraging. Clearly, few on our current roster will be on the field next year. Which means we’ll be waiting another year or two for the new guys to learn their jobs. So, three years out we may be back to where we were the last five years or so. Then we can actually start to get better.

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  16. AusDawg85

    Geez, Senator. That list had to be hard to do…way to soldier on. You could mention our dead last in the SEC rating for Red Zone D, or how much better (maybe even comfortable?) Eason looked when rolling out from the shotgun like his old HS days, or…ah, F it.

    This is not a “Process” of flushing whatever it was some hated about Richt . There is not one…not one!…single area of improvement in this program. There is not a single sign of any foundation being laid. We’re not “physical” despite all the pre-season happy talk, we’re not “smarter” with coaching decisions, we don’t have a “Georgia identity”. This is a first time HC given way too much credit, responsibility, high expectations, problems to solve, etc. He’s in over his head, but may or may not know it. And I don’t see the support from the Administration that’s needed either, so this is not a FIREKIRBY!!!111!! statement, just a clear-eyed observation that we’ve downgraded significantly and now have a very tough hill to climb to even get back to being “close, but not quite close enough” where we were before. Recruiting alone doesn’t solve this. An IPF won’t make this better. We’ve seen this movie before…it doesn’t end well.

    The only thing I’m interested in for the off season that can’t get here quickly enough is to see personnel changes made by our HC. Hope he is bold and makes the big decisions where they’re needed the most and not thinking a new batch of 18 & 19 year old kids can fix the mess that’s been made.

    Hunker down Dawgs…It’s going to be a long winter in the desert.

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    • @Aus: I look for a number of changes during the winter in both players and coaching staff. If he learned one thing at Bama, it should be produce or move on. I do think a new batch of players will help fit his style. Also, I think if someone is smart, they will get some advice and help over the winter. One has to look in a mirror every now and then and see changes need to be made on my behalf.

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  17. Anidiot

    Will someone please explain to me why working for someone considered great at their job for several years makes you great at your job. I’ve worked around some real talented people, I’ve learned a few things but I’ve always done things my way. I haven’t bought this Kirby stuff since day one. Im a dawg fan, I hope he works out but it sure don’t look good. It also seems the team doesn’t respect him. All of our offensive backs, Eason included seem very unsure of their marching orders.

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    • tonyqbr

      The defense looks good, Kirby is the real deal on defense.

      Can he get the offense going, that’s another question.

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      • dawgman2000

        This +10000

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      • Chi-town Dawg

        The defense looked real good before Kirby arrived when Pruitt was running it and the freshman DL studs were largely CMR committments that Rocker held on to after the coaching changes.

        And am I the only person who’s already sick n fucking tired of hearing about all this “The Process” bullshit like it’s some type of cure for cancer and everyone else that ails the world! It reminds me of my days as a management consultant when “Y2k” or “Straight Through Processing” were all the buzzwords.

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  18. 69Dawg

    My fear the about the whole Kirby Smart as Head Coach thing was we didn’t even know if he was a great defensive coordinator. He is without a doubt a great recruiter for a National Champion team but was Bama great because of his recruiting or was his recruiting great because he was recruiting for Bama. Was he a great defensive coordinator for a National Champion with the best players in the country or was he was he great because of his players.
    Just remember the kids Kirby is recruiting now are the ones that are good enough to go to Alabama but he has to convince them that at some point in their 4 years UGA will be as good as Alabama. Given the start he has had it’s going to be hard. So we are likely to get the Alabama overflow guys. They like the Process but they can’t go to Bama. Under Mark we were getting guys that either Bama didn’t want or who didn’t want to go through the Process. I guess what I’m really saying is until Saban is gone all the teams in the SEC are just tune up games for the Tides National Championship run.

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