Daily Archives: September 3, 2017

Drug policy is undefeated.

See you back this week, Messrs. Holyfield and Ridley.

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Death of a formation

I’ll have to watch the replay to get a final count, but the number of times Georgia ran out of the I-formation last night had to be less than a handful.

Hell, I noticed one play on which Payne was in that he lined up as an offset back.

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Brice Ramsey’s sad story

I know that it is extremely tempting to dump all over Ramsey today.  Minus-200 passer ratings will tend to bring that kind of response out of people.

I can’t bring myself to go there, for several reasons.  First of all, he’s a damned good Dawg who chose to stay with the program even though his options for 2017 were extremely limited.  I’m not gonna crap on a loyal kid.

Second, reflect on that a moment and ask yourself how much prep time Brice got in preseason camp.  My guess is that between getting Eason ready and trying to bring Fromm up to speed, the amount was minuscule at best.  The first interception last night came because Ramsey and Chigbu weren’t on the same page on the pattern.  That seems hardly a surprise to me.  If Eason’s out for a little while because of the knee sprain, I’d expect Ramsey to get more reps, which he clearly needs.

Third is the real tragedy.  Ramsey throws a beautiful ball.  He always has.  After watching Eason and Fromm last night, Ramsey’s first pick was almost startling.  He’s got better touch than Eason and throws with an ease and velocity that Fromm can’t match.  I watched those two throws and was reminded why almost every offensive coordinator in the South wanted to sign Brice out of high school, even though he was a project.

If he had a head to match his arm, Brice Ramsey would be an all-SEC quarterback.  Would Bobo staying at Georgia after the 2014 season have made a difference?  Maybe not, but we’ll never know for sure.  And, yeah, that’s a little sad for me.

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Gator trouble?

Because of the suspensions — losing your two best players on offense generally isn’t going to help — I didn’t expect Florida to beat Michigan yesterday.  It’s also why I’m hesitant to draw any big conclusions from how poorly the Gators played on offense.  But, damn, this isn’t pretty.

Florida got away with this over the past couple of seasons because of its stellar defense. What you have to wonder is how well things go if this year’s defense isn’t quite up to that standard.

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Kirby Smart has a road map he’s following, so get in the back seat and shaddup.

I didn’t really want to limit my comment about Smart’s work last night to a bullet point in an Observations post, because I think he deserves some bigger picture consideration from me.  (Although maybe I should have mentioned that epic ass-chewing he gave LeCounte that had the ref looking his way as Sinclair pulled him back to the sideline.)

First off, I’ve mentioned before that roster management has been the biggest plus of Smart’s head coaching career and it certainly paid off last night, not just in the way that the overall talent level is clearly on a rapid rise, but also with the contributions he got from some of the transfers like Reed and Nizialek, who have clearly come in and filled areas of need.  That’s good work on Smart’s part.  Something that was a major weakness for the program during the first half of this decade is being turned into the kind of strength that a program with Georgia’s resources should consistently enjoy.

Second, I saw a lot of buying in on the field in the opener.  It was particularly apparent on the defensive side of the ball, where the starters looked comfortable in Tucker’s scheme and played fast.  But it was also there in smaller ways.  There was less emotional showboating after plays than I’ve been accustomed to seeing over the years.  And when things appeared to get a little chippy on ASU’s part, the Dawgs kept their emotions under control.  (If I’m not mistaken, Georgia didn’t get called for a single personal foul last night.)

Third, and perhaps more promising of all, there was a certain confidence in the gameplan that seemed just like what you’d expect from a coach in his second year who has a stronger grasp of his personnel and staff.  This quote is an example of that:

To Georgia coach Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs did exactly what they should have done defensively in a 31-10 win over visiting Appalachian State Saturday.

“Appalachian State’s (offensive line) was overmatched. We had bigger players than they did up front. That’s not the best thing they do,” Smart said. “We’ll play a lot better offensive lines than that one, but I give App State credit. They’ve got a great quarterback, a great system and they’ve got a really good defensive unit but our defense should dominate those guys.”

That’s the kind of thing you say when you’ve scouted the other guys, know what you have on your side for the game and are thoroughly prepared for the meeting.  Georgia was going to be conservative on offense and in the return game because Smart knew he had enough on defense and in the kicking game to handle any threat ASU could throw at Georgia.  (If you want to know where Smart’s trying to head, just check out what ‘Bama did to FSU, despite no offense and a poor game from Hurts.)

Add to that he had his team in the right mindset — there would be no overlooking an inferior opponent — and that’s how you wind up coaching a game that was more dominant than the final score indicated.

The man’s passed his first test of 2017 with flying colors.  Notre Dame presents a very different challenge, especially if Georgia goes to South Bend starting a true freshman quarterback, but I don’t think Smart’s going to be overmatched.  It’s starting to get interesting around here.

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Observations from the 35, opening night edition

So, as I sat there waiting for the fourth quarter to get underway, with Georgia on the good side of a 31-0 lead, Matt Hinton’s words came to mind:

The first step in answering those questions would be laying a solid, routine-looking whooping on the Mountaineers this weekend, where Georgia is a two-touchdown favorite. It’s still a long way from there to Atlanta in early December, but if the long-term goal is going to become a reality then serving notice that at least the 2017 edition won’t make a habit of playing down to the competition would be a very good start.

I would say that when you start speculating early in the fourth quarter as to whether Smart’s ready to let the backups get some serious playing time, by definition, you’ve been watching exactly that — a very good start.

But a start is all it was.  While there was much that was very good, starting with the fact that what we saw was light years away from last season’s Nicholls debacle, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

And with that, here come the bullet points.

  • The offensive line had its moments.  After all, there was only one sack and the Dawgs managed 221 yards on the ground.  But the line, particularly the middle of the line, continued to struggle with eight- and the occasionally nine-man fronts and often gave Chubb and Michel little space to work with.  Let’s just say that I can understand why Pittman will continue to mix and match at the guard positions.  Also, two snap infractions are inexcusable, but that’s something you hope can be quickly cleaned up.
  • I ain’t got nothin’ bad to say about the running backs.  Chubb and Michel ran as hard as you’d expect and Chubb does seem a little quicker with his cuts than he was last year.  D’Andre Swift is going to be a worthy successor to the two and showed he’s no slouch out of the slot, either, with a remarkable side line catch to bail Fromm out on a questionable throw (more on that later).
  • I’m not really sure how excited I should be about the receivers.  Wims was a revelation, of course, on his spectacular touchdown catch, but the rest of the wideouts were pretty quiet as a group.  Hardman had one catch and Godwin, who was supposed to be the one to step up, had none.  (He did have a nice block on one of the big downfield runs on the night, though.) How much of that was by design I can’t say, but I’d say the group remains an area of some concern.
  • Tight ends were pretty solid blocking, but only had three or four catches as I recall.  Given that on the night Georgia ran the ball two-thirds of the time, that’s not a big deal.
  • And then there were the quarterbacks.  I’m sure it’s tempting for many to declare that we’ve got ourselves a full-blown controversy, if not ready to change starters for good, but I’m not there yet.  For one thing, between the extremely conservative playcalling and the weak line play that marked the first two series of the game, Eason wasn’t exactly dealt any favors.  He also looked a little tight, overpowering an open Nauta on an intermediate throw that had way too much juice on it.  There’s no way to know if Eason would have settled in as the game progressed.
  • That being said, how can you not be impressed with the way Fromm handled himself?  For a kid pressed into service prematurely, he sure didn’t look rattled.  If anything, he played a little too fearlessly at times.  He had a couple of those “no, no, no, no… yesss” completions where he was bailed out by his receivers.  (A different story against an SEC secondary, perhaps.) But on that toss to Wims that made my throat clutch, the pocket was collapsing and he had three rushers on top of him as he let the ball go, threw it into coverage, but had enough awareness to put the throw up high where his guy had the only shot of getting it.  He doesn’t have Eason’s arm – there aren’t many who do, of course — and kind of lollipopped some of his longer throws, but his last completion of the game, a 20-yard strike to Wims, was his best throw all night.  If he can make that play consistently, he can make a living at quarterback.  There’s little doubt his teammates responded to him, which is half the battle.  The biggest concern about his game right now is that his command of the playbook and his ability to go through progressions are obviously limited.
  • The first thing that jumps out watching the defense is that it plays noticeably faster than it did last season.
  • The second thing that jumps out at you is that Trent Thompson is a monster.  What a game he had!
  • The thing that grew on me as the game progressed is how much more mechanically sound the defense has become.  There were few missed tackles, so few that when someone blew a play — next time, don’t leave your feet like that, Richard LeCounte –it really stood out.
  • My favorite counter-punch of the night came after Lamb caught the defense napping in the first quarter and ran for 32 yards, only to be sacked by Reed on a nasty blitz, fumble the ball on the next play and lose 22 yards.  Speaking of Reed, for somebody who was supposedly brought in as recruiting incentive for Gibbs, he sure was a pleasant surprise last night.
  • Gibbs, by the way, is huge.  Speed, who played on the other side, is tall.  You can see where Smart and Tucker are headed with the secondary in time.
  • Roquan Smith had one of those quietly excellent games you expect from a quietly excellent inside linebacker.
  • The outside linebackers showed up.  Bellamy played great.  Walker was his usual disruptive self.  And keep an eye on true freshman Walter Grant, who wears Floyd’s number 84, bears a certain physical resemblance to Floyd and flashed some speed and tenacity when he was on the field.
  • Sanders was solid and is clearly the anchor of the secondary, which, considering how much youth was served last night, is both good and necessary.
  • Overall, it’s hard to say the secondary looked spectacular, even though ASU’s passing game got little traction, because it was rarely challenged.
  • The kicking game was routine and boring.  I can’t begin to tell you how ecstatic I am about that.  Blankenship was a machine on kickoffs, getting touchbacks on five of six.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I watched a Georgia kicker perform on that kind of level.  As good as he was, Nizialek topped him, as App State did not attempt a return on any of his punts.  His secret?  Excellent hang time combined with a really fast coverage team.  Who said special teams can’t be easy?
  • As far as the coordinators go, Tucker had his defense ready to play and they looked the part.  It’s Chaney that deserves some extra kudos, though, as he was thrown a curve ball by Eason’s injury and responded by making adjustments in his playcalling that allowed Fromm to flourish.  (And doesn’t he deserve a little credit as a position coach for having Fromm ready to play in that situation?)
  • Smart promised 15-20 true freshmen would see the field, and he was a man of his word about that.  On offense, at right tackle, Thomas is an impressive physical specimen who looked good in run blocking (based on what I saw, he clearly deserved the starting nod over Cleveland), and Swift, as I mentioned, has a bright future at running back.  On the other side of the ball, LeCounte and Gibbs got a lot of playing time and Grant looks like someone who’s going to grow into a major contributor.  And, of course, there was freshmen sprinkled through out the coverage and return teams.

All told, it adds up to a very good start.  The question now is whether they build on it or not.  After all, things looked promising after last year’s opening win against North Carolina and that came to crashing halt the following week against Nicholls.  Hopefully, history isn’t about to repeat itself.

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