Daily Archives: May 31, 2020

“We have a lot of experience there.”

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?

14 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

More than one way to skin the quarterback cat

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.

11 Comments

Filed under Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football

Got ’em coming and going

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.

8 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football