Observations from the couch, ’17 G-Day edition

Let’s not read too much into Saturday, okay?  It was a scrimmage in which Smart, by his own admission, limited what the offense and defense did, and had several key starters missing in action.  Add to that the likelihood that at least a few regular season contributors haven’t even shown up on campus yet, and it seems prudent to curb one’s enthusiasm or despair.

That being said — this is an Observations post, after all — it’s worth sharing a few bullet points from the day.

  • What I’m least worried about.  The first-team defense was missing a starter at every level (Thompson, Smith, Sanders) and still managed to shut down the running game and generate a ton of pressure on Eason.  The defense will be fine.
  • What I’m most worried about.  Holy crap, was the offensive line a major disappointment, or what?  No push and very inconsistent pass protection looked like a rerun of 2016.  (The stacked line they ran behind in the red zone that did zip was the most déjà vu moment of the day.)  What made it especially so was all the happy talk coming out of practice that the offensive line was dominating the defense.  Either there was a bad case of the flu that nobody mentioned or the defense was just taking it easy to boost confidence early on, but, jeez, that was not a good showing on Saturday.  The odds of a true freshman cracking the two-deep jumped enormously, based on what I watched.
  • Oh, yeah, he’s gonna play.  I was impressed with what I saw from Jeremiah “J.J.” Holloman.  Big and physical, ran routes well.  He’s still got some work to do, but there’s definitely enough of a skill set there that he’ll be a contributor this season.
  • Much ado about nothing?  As much love as I had for Tracy Rocker, I didn’t see a drop off in the performance of the defensive line under new coach Tray Scott.  Defensive line play was solid from both the first and second units.  As a matter of fact, the single best play of the day I saw was John Atkins running down Brian Herrien on a run to the outside.
  • Speed all over the place.  I’m probably guilty of saying it every year, so take it for what it’s worth, but there were quicks all over the field.  Terry Godwin, Tyler Simmons and Mecole Hardman all looked particularly good in that regard, which was part of the reason there was a lot of passing yardage on the day.  I can only hope that will pay off on special teams, too.
  • Inside linebacker looks stout.  Smith was out, but Carter and Patrick more than held their own on the day.  I still have to pinch myself every time I see an ILB make a play in pass coverage.
  • Oh, yeah, they’re gonna play.  Gibbs looked physically ready to play SEC ball and LeCounte was all over the field.  If Smart gets significant contributions this season from three of the six early enrollees, that’s a pretty decent batting average.
  • There is no quarterback controversy.  Forget about it, QBR lovers.  Eason was the quarterback who got stuck behind a subpar offensive line and faced the first-string secondary.  It was no coincidence that when the o-line finally got some traction in pass protection in the second half, Eason came alive.  (He’ll also look a helluva lot better when Chubb and Michel are on the field with him.)  It was also no coincidence that Fromm feasted on a secondary that featured only one player on scholarship; against a competent cornerback, that 70-yard touchdown pass would have been intercepted.
  • There is a lot to be excited about with the quarterback situation.  I came away from Saturday’s game thinking that if the coaches manage it properly, Georgia could emerge with a situation I haven’t seen in ages:  an organized quarterback succession involving highly regarded players.  (You know, the kind of thing that makes us envious of other programs.)  Eason’s physical tools are ridiculously impressive and I thought he made a noticeably improved effort going through his progressions.  Yes, he’s still got some ways to go not pressing (the interception was a poor decision, to say the least, and he’s still throwing too many balls in the dirt), but he appears headed in the right direction.  Fromm may have turned in the best performance I’ve seen from a true freshman quarterback at G-Day.  While he doesn’t have Eason’s arm strength (who does?), he’s got enough to get the job done.  He’s got a quick release and terrific pocket presence (better than Eason’s, IMO).  He’s got a little of that swagger you like to see from your quarterback, too.  The biggest limitation I saw from him was that he only worked half the field in his reads, but that’s something that time and experience should improve.  I hate making comparisons like this, but in their own way, Eason and Fromm look like Georgia’s best pairing at the position since Greene and Shockley.  Just get them a damned offensive line, please.

That’s about as far as I’ll go.  Let’s open the floor up for everyone else.  What did y’all see?

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Filed under Georgia Football

Get back

Amid all the Saban-Kiffin sniping that’s admittedly been amusing to follow, Alabama’s head coach had some interesting things to say about what he wants from his offense.

“I felt like we moved further and further away from what I wanted to do last year,” Saban told ESPN this week. “I think the first two years [under Lane Kiffin] we did what the quarterback could do. It was what we needed to do from a quarterback standpoint, but we still philosophically were doing the things I wanted to do in terms of balance and utilizing all of our skill players. And last year, and this is no criticism of Lane or anybody, but having a freshman quarterback [Hurts] and trying to accommodate his skill set, we got to where we weren’t very effective passing the ball.

“Some of it was him being a freshman and us protecting him probably too much, but I wanted to get back to where we could utilize the skill guys we have on offense and still do some of the things that are difficult to defend. The point is that we had Calvin Ridley and O.J. Howard, but they had very little impact on most games.”

I get his point about not wasting Ridley’s and Howard’s talents, but overall, the philosophy expressed there seems to go against the current grain of thinking regarding offensive scheming, which is using a dual threat quarterback to exploit defenses.  Say what you will about Kiffin, but I thought his greatest strength as an offensive coordinator was his ability to design the offense around his most dynamic players.  A couple of years ago, that was Amari Cooper; in 2016, it was Hurts.

But that doesn’t seem to be where Nick Saban’s head is at now.

“You’ve got guys blocking downfield when you throw a pass. How much better does it get for the offense?” Saban said. “You’ve got to do some of that stuff, but I also thought we needed to go back and make sure we were coaching the passing game like we needed to do it to be able to develop a quarterback so we could have more balance in what we were doing. We threw a lot of passes last year (an average of 27.8 per game), but they were the kind of passes Jalen could deal with, but really not the kind of passes that took advantage of the skill players that we had.”

“We want our quarterback to be able to make plays with his feet, but we also don’t want to have to count on a lot of quarterback runs to make our offense go,” Saban said.

That sure sounds to me like a man who wants to run a more traditional pro-style, run-based, play action passing game.  What I wonder after reading that is what’s on Kirby Smart’s mind in that regard.  After all, Smart spent years soaking up Saban’s wisdom.  Yet, Smart has indicated in his comments this offseason that he wants to get away (somewhat, at least) from that kind of offense, even as his recruiting has clearly favored beefing up the size of his offensive line and receiving corps.

I’ve always seen the value in contrarian thinking when it comes to offensive philosophy.  As defenses trend towards being structured to stop spread attacks, it sure seems like running a heavier pro-style attack would be an effective way to exploit the catch that comes with that.  When it comes to offensive schemes, does Saban know something that Smart doesn’t know, or is it more a case of the two of them meeting somewhere in the middle?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, Strategery And Mechanics

Surrender. But don’t give yourself away.

Looks like one of Greg Sankey’s noble stands is about to bite the proverbial dust.

Malik Zaire has been a popular topic for Gator Nation this offseason.

The former Notre Dame quarterback has interest in joining the Florida football program as a graduate transfer, but for now he is on standby.

An SEC rule instituted in Jan. 2016 prevents UF from taking Zaire because former grad trnasfer Mason Halter and Antony Harrell failed to meet academic requirements in 2015.

However, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in December that the league could alter the rule at its spring meetings in late May. Sankey reiterated those comments Friday on the Pat Dooley Show on ESPN Gainesville 98. 1 FM.

“It will come up,” Sankey said. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At this time, the SEC is the only conference with a grad transfer rule in place. Sankey said he’s disappointed that the NCAA has not taken a harder look at the issue.

“There’s this notion that they’ve graduated, so let them just have freedom,” Sankey said. “I don’t necessarily argue with that, but there’s nothing in the context of intercollegiate athletics that says, ‘Oh, just go play games.’ We never say that.”

“I look at it now and say that we’ve adjusted to realities, and we likely can pull back on some of those internal policies. … I don’t want us to just walk away. I do think it’s a good conversation to adjust because we are performing (better academically).”

Eh, what’s the big deal about graduation, anyway?  Besides, now that you’ve adjusted to realities (Translation:  the other conferences are taking the kids we’re having to turn away because of our rule), the spin becomes rather obvious.

There will be another hill to die on retreat from soon enough.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., SEC Football

When coachspeak makes you smile

This was by far my favorite G-Day quote from Kirby Smart:

Safety Richard Lecounte from Liberty County led all tacklers at Saturday’s G-Day game with nine for the losing black team.

“I’d say this, that’s not a good sign when you’re safety is your leading tackler,” coach Kirby Smart said, “but he’s done that all spring. He’s a see ball, hit ball guy. I love coaching him. …What he does on the field is he runs fast, he tries to hit you and he likes tackling. The guy likes playing football. Those kind of guys you can make good safeties.”  [Emphasis added.]

It don’t get much simpler than that.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Size matters.

You can quibble about the accuracy of the size of the announced crowd at G-Day, but, to his credit, Kirby Smart sounded happy about the turnout.

“I’m really excited about our fan base. We had 66,000 people. It makes me proud to be a Bulldog. I’m glad they came out. A lot of recruits made comments about the attendance, and I think any chance you get to have 66,000 people for a practice, that’s an exciting thing. The kids certainly appreciated it. I want to thank the fans for that. I thought we had a great atmosphere.”

If not as big as last year’s, it was still an impressive showing.  As long as the recruits and players appreciated it, that’s a good thing.  Plus, no condom controversy!

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Does D’Antne Demery get a second chance?

Before you get all Jonathan Taylor Rule on me, consider something Mark Schlabach wrote.

In May 2015, Georgia officials proposed a conference-wide rule that was eventually adopted by the SEC that banned its schools from accepting transfer athletes who were dismissed from their previous institution for serious misconduct, which includes sexual assault, domestic violence or other forms of sexual violence.

Georgia officials proposed the rule after it dismissed defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor in 2014, after he was arrested and charged with a felony for allegedly hitting his girlfriend with a closed fist and choking her during an argument in his dorm room.

Taylor spent the 2014 season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi and enrolled at Alabama in January 2015. The Crimson Tide dismissed him two months later after he was arrested again on domestic violence charges in Tuscaloosa. Taylor pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief in the Alabama incident, and he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor simple assault, battery and simple battery in the Georgia incident.

The SEC considered expanding the rule to include incoming freshmen last year, after Mississippi State allowed freshman defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons to enroll. He was caught on video delivering several punches to the upper body and head of a woman who was on the ground after she fought with his sister.

That sound you hear is Rodney Garner reaching for his cellphone.

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UPDATE:  That he said, she said stuff is complicated.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football, SEC Football

Today, in it just means more

I guess Florida hasn’t quite gotten over last years Hurricanegate with LSU.

Jesus, Gators.  Grow up.

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Filed under Gators, Gators..., SEC Football