Those who discount Georgia’s chances to win the SEC East this season tend to focus on the inexperience of the offense, particularly its quarterback and coordinator aspects.
That’s only one part of the team, though, and the other part is anything but inexperienced.
Georgia led the nation in scoring defense last season, yielding just 12.57 points per game, and is overrun with defensive talent and experience entering Kirby Smart’s fifth season.
Talent and experience are always welcome traits on any college roster, but especially amid a COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think experience is probably magnified in this season and in this setting more so than ever before,” Smart said this past week. “Experience is so valuable when you don’t get to practice. We have obviously been shortened in terms of spring practice and in terms of meetings, and in terms of summer conditioning we are already being shortened, so a lot of those things have shortened us.
“We will have to be wise in the decisions we make. We have to be smart, and that is no different than any other year.”
Decisions by Smart and his staff will be aided by the return of LeCounte, who earned his first career start at Notre Dame in 2017, Rice, who had a team-leading 89 tackles last season, and Herring, who had five tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss during Georgia’s 26-14 thumping of Baylor in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s evening. DJ Daniel, Eric Stokes and Mark Webb are accompanying LeCounte as veteran defensive backs, while Jermaine Johnson, Azeez Ojulari and Nolan Smith are imposing edge-rushing threats back for more.
Ojulari tallied 39 quarterback hurries and 5.5 sacks on a unit that led the nation in fewest rushing yards per game (74.6) and fewest yards per carry (2.62) while ranking second to Ohio State in fewest passing yards per attempt (5.62). Georgia’s most impressive defensive stat was not allowing a rushing touchdown until the 40th quarter of the season, when Auburn quarterback Bo Nix ran into the end zone from 2 yards out in the fourth quarter of a 21-14 loss to the Bulldogs.
Georgia returns 80% of its defensive production from last year, according to metrics developed by ESPN…
Sure gives that inexperienced offense more margin for error in the early going, doesn’t it?
Just as a follow up to the last post, David Wunderlich makes a good point in comparing Smart’s approach to quarterbacks with that of Dan Mullen’s.
Smart has pursued a strategy of adding the best quarterbacks he can whenever he can. At first glance, that sounds utterly rational. Why would you not try to accumulate the best quarterbacks you can?
The reason, if you’re worried about such things, is it can disrupt the pipeline. Once you start down this path, it can be hard to return to stability…
Florida won’t be in that kind of situation because Mullen preaches development. Even as Emory Jones admits he expected to play more early, he also says he’s bought in on Mullen’s development plan. It’s too much to say that Mullen has resurrected the model from three decades ago when programs sought to sit quarterbacks for three years and only start redshirt juniors and seniors, but he’s been closer to that than what Georgia is doing now with the transfer portal giving and taking away.
So far things have gone fine for UGA. Fromm never missed time, Newman figures to be at least a decent stopgap if not more, and then it’ll go with either a 5-star junior, a guy Mullen wanted, or a 5-star freshman. It’s a higher-risk strategy, but it can work.
Mullen is going for the less risky traditional model where signees understand that they will sit and learn while their elders play. It’s hard to pull off as evidenced by the increasing number of quarterback transfers, but it means there is less drama about the future each year.
While I do think his “hard to return to stability” concern is a bit of a stretch — does anybody think Smart didn’t want Fields to stay in Athens so he would be the starter in 2020? — the rest is a good contrast. I wonder how much of Mullen’s approach is colored by nine years at Mississippi State, where he pursued a wise strategy of building roster experience to offset a talent disadvantage. Kirby has never been asked to operate under those conditions.
Remember the days when Georgia was known for quarterbacks who stuck around for their one opportunity to start?
That was then; this is now.
No program in today’s transfer-heavy quarterback era has taken more body blows than Georgia. Five-star Jacob Eason? Gone. Five-star Justin Fields. Gone. The future of the quarterback room following Jake Fromm’s NFL departure? In question.
Thursday afternoon the Bulldogs struck back.
USC transfer JT Daniels made the somewhat surprising announcement that he’d continue his career in Athens…
Daniels’ eligibility status is unclear – he’s expected to apply for a waiver – yet that is far from the point of this move. Even if Daniels can’t compete in 2020, Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman is positioned to ably guide the Bulldogs for a year, and he’s gotten plenty of buzz as a player who can drag Georgia’s offense into the 21st century. Daniels is a future assurance, a rare win-now piece played one year in advance.
Makes you wonder how Mark Richt would have handled the transfer portal back in the day.
Smart could’ve held pat and had Carson Beck and incoming 2021 five-star Brock Vandagriff compete for the job following Newman’s graduation. But why deal in uncertainties? Georgia will likely have a potential All-American redshirt junior under center leading a roster with more than enough talent to win a national title.
This is not to say this aggressive strategy lacks risk. Back-to-back transfer QBs will result in some sort of attrition. Smart knows that better than anyone.
That he does. It’s a different era and that means different roster strategies. At least Kirby’s got experience with it now.
Check out point number two in this tweet.
Look, I know Stetson Bennett garnered a lot of love last season, but face it, the coaches weren’t sold on him. One consequence of that, as we all saw on read option fakes, was that Fromm was severely restricted on when he could tuck the ball and run.
Daniels or no Daniels this season, there will be more than one scholarship quarterback on the roster besides the starter (whom I presume to be Newman). If Daniels or one of Bennett, Mathis or Beck convinces Monken and Smart he can perform at higher than a placeholder level, what do you think that will mean for the playcalling?
Let’s take a deeper dive to see why.
KYLE TRASK IS THE PRIME EXAMPLE OF WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER TRUST THE BOX SCORE
It’s pretty easy to fall in love with Florida quarterback Kyle Trask’s box score from his 2019 campaign — he was 13th in the FBS in completion percentage at 66.8%, 23rd in yards per attempt (8.3) and had a solid touchdown to interception ratio of 25 to seven. Yet he ranked 73rd of 103 qualifying FBS quarterbacks in PFF passing grade at 66.4 — this was also not even in the top half of the SEC. Trask posted a PFF grade above 70.0 in only two of his 10 starts this past year.
First off, I will say Trask displayed tremendous accuracy in his first real taste of collegiate action as a redshirt junior. As a matter of fact, he was up there as one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country. He finished the year tied for 11th in percentage of total passes being deemed accurate according to PFF’s ball-charting process and had one of the five lowest rates of passes that resulted in a quarterback-fault incompletion (i.e. overthrows, underthrows, ball behind receiver, etc.). Accuracy is king — it’s the most vital trait for a quarterback to lead a successful passing attack.
As good as Trask’s accuracy is, there is one thing that looms over his 2019 performance that doesn’t show up in the box score and gives us huge cause for concern for 2020. Trask was notably bad when it came to two important metrics PFF tracks: big-time throws (PFF’s highest-graded throws) and turnover-worthy plays (PFF’s lowest-graded throws and fumbles). Trask was one of only three quarterbacks to rank in the bottom 10 in both big-time throw and turnover-worthy play rate (along with Adrian Martinez of Nebraska and Quinten Dormady of Central Michigan).
The differential between his number of big-time throws and turnover-worthy plays is quite alarming…
Depends on your perspective, I guess. Personally, I’m not too alarmed.
Here’s a quick look from his freshman season at what JT Daniels brings to the table.
Nothing says taking responsibility like asking for a get out of jail free card.
Higher-education leaders seeking to open their campuses for in-person operations this fall are asking Congress for protections that would insulate colleges from lawsuits brought by students, faculty, or staff who contract the new coronavirus.
The American Council on Education sent a letter on Thursday to Senate and House leaders seeking “temporary and targeted” liability-exposure protections for institutions that open their campuses this fall. The letter, co-signed by more than 70 other higher-education associations, also seeks protections for faculty and staff members and institutional systems, including affiliated nonprofit organizations and health-care providers.
Maybe Father Jenkins can explain the moral value of “come play for us, athletes, and make us some money, or pay your tuition to attend, students, but if you get sick or make others sick, that’s on your own dime”.
And some of you question why I’m cynical about school administrators’ decision making.
Well, now… this is interesting.
After stalling all this time through the antitrust litigation and sitting back watching state legislatures react, now, suddenly, time is of the essence. Right. It’s not exactly a vote of confidence in the NCAA getting the job done. (And wouldn’t you love to hear the conversation when the P5 commissioners speak with Emmert about this?)
Here’s their shopping list:
Some of this is fairly anodyne. Some of this has the potential to be troubling — “prohibiting the use of NIL as an inducement to enroll or remain enrolled” sounds like a worthwhile goal, but prohibiting how, exactly? If we’re talking about criminalizing the NCAA rule book, that’s a cure that could be worse than the disease.
But the real wants are two: “Prohibit Pay-For-Play” is an attempt to make it illegal for schools to compensate college athletes directly, while “Provide Safe Harbor” is an antitrust exemption for doing so. All that in return for allowing less than what the emerging state laws would permit. Such a deal, in other words.
Based on their public comments, I can’t imagine there are too many members of Congress that are ready to jump on an offer like that. On the other hand, the chance to bypass Mark Emmert might be tempting. It’ll be interesting to see if this has any legs.
The deets were released today. (My, how 90 days fly… but I digress.)
I don’t really care what his salary is, just the buyout terms.
He gets a discount for a lateral move? Wow. I guess that tells me who had the leverage on this deal. Maybe it’s a tell as to how much autonomy he’ll have with the offense this season.