Kirby really, really loves them.
Or needs them.
If you want to do a little pondering about Georgia’s opener, Ian Boyd has a nice piece up you might want to read about two key matchups. In his mind, they are:
On point one, it’s hard to judge. By most accounts I’ve read, Trubisky has an excellent arm and good grasp of Fedora’s offense, but isn’t a runner. So I can’t say how much he’ll be able to sell being a true run threat. The video clips Boyd includes show Trubisky operating in blow out situations against second-string defenses — hey, that’s the life of the backup quarterback, right? — so it’s difficult to translate those performances over to what we might expect against a defense that Boyd characterizes as one that “will be more talented than any non-Clemson unit the Tar Heels faced last year, and it’ll also be harder to read and attack…”
But if I’m Fedora, knowing what I know from watching Smart’s defenses struggling to cope with handling Auburn’s running QBs and Deshaun Watson, I’ve gotta try at least.
On the flip side, if I’m Kirby Smart, I’m gonna try to mask the state of Chubb’s health as long as I can, and if he’s healthy, let the big dog eat on a run defense that left a lot to be desired last season.
In the former Auburn coach’s first year as the defensive coordinator, North Carolina didn’t do well. The Heels finished 67th in the nation in Defensive S&P+ and concluded the year with an embarrassing performance against Baylor in a bowl game, when they yielded 645 rushing yards.
If reading between the lines you assume that the play of both of Georgia’s fronts will have a big impact on the game’s outcome, you and I are on the same page… not that that’s a really deep insight. But the funny thing is that you read Boyd’s post and realize afterwards that he only mentions Georgia’s quarterback situation in passing.
As we’ve all heard, Kirby’s let Jacob Eason run with the ones this week. And for all the hyperventilating about whether that means Eason’s been anointed as the starter, and the speculation about how Smart’s trying to be coy to keep the upperclassmen from transferring, I think there’s a larger point that’s been overlooked.
Freshman Jacob Eason got more first team work this week (while also spending more time with the second team and less with the third). Smart said that was to get more practice reps with the starters since he didn’t go with the No. 1 unit at all in the spring.
“It was a situation where we wanted to try catch him up and evaluate him and get him more reps so we could continue to evaluate the other two and the other two would continue to go but they would also be with the threes some,” Smart said.
The five-star recruit from Lake Stevens, Wash., showed that “he’s growing as a player,” Smart said. “Just the cumulative effect of the reps, it doesn’t matter what offense you’re in, the fact that the other two have been in a college system for three and four years, it puts them in an advantage from the standpoint of dropping back and making decisions, seeing coverages. We’re trying to catch him up to speed and get him some reps and find out what he can do. How he’s responded, I think he’s done a good job of responding to it. He’s had an opportunity to make more plays and also an opportunity to make more mistakes. He’s done both. He’s got to continue to improve there.”
Quite simply, the coaches know that reps matter. And in and of itself, that attitude is a vast improvement over what the quarterbacks were saddled with all of last season.
“We’ll continue to go down this quarterback road until we figure it out,” Smart said. “I can’t tell you anything, update you right now because I want to reserve judgment until I watch the tape like last time.”
I don’t profess to know who gets the final nod, or even who gets weeded out soon, but I feel pretty good about where the coaches appear to be headed. If nothing else, that’s a reason to feel more optimistic about where 2016 is starting over where 2015 finished.
Just a few odds and ends to pick at:
About this year’s recruiting class, Chip Towers believes at this point in preseason practice that “at least 80 percent will play and possibly more”. Here’s how he breaks down their individual chances:
Georgia’s 2016 signees listed with their chances of playing this season.
(He left Nauta off his list, but mentions in his post that the tight end is likely to play.)
Some of that reflects the quality of the class — Smart signed three five-star players in that bunch — but some of that clearly reflects need. For example, there isn’t a single defensive lineman on that list who’s already being counted out.
About those linemen,
“Julian Rochester, Michail Carter, those guys are big-time athletes, elite players. Those are big dudes. David Marshall, very put-together,” said Rusty Mansell, a recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “You’re probably not going to hear as much about them week one, two or three. But when games five, six or seven roll around. Those guys are going to be playing meaningful minutes.”
In that aspect, at least, it’s a shame that Georgia’s 2016 schedule is front-loaded. I can see why it’s logical to expect some struggling in the first five games, as the coaches deal with depth and inexperience issues, but it’s exciting to think where this team may be in the last month of the season, once they progress up the learning curve. If they can get through the first five games still in the division hunt, November could prove to be a really fun month.
In this case, I mean it as something of a compliment, albeit a back-handed one. Check out this chart Ian Boyd compiled, ranking last season’s SEC starting quarterbacks by yards per attempt:
You have to admit Lambert fits right in. I will grant you those stats say a lot more about the state of quarterbacking in the SEC than about Lambert, but still, it’s hard to look at that and insist he was awful, or the worst quarterback Richt ever started, or some of the other astute analysis I’ve seen from some of you here.
And maybe that explains a little about why he’s still in the mix for 2016.
Well, except for that whole scrimmage thingy…
Well, yeah. Jacob Eason has been given a main audition for the role this week, and could get most of the snaps in Saturday’s scrimmage. The team then has Sunday and Monday off, and returns to practice on Tuesday, at which point there may be more clarity.
At minimum, the competition will likely be pared down to two, and it would be a shock if Eason isn’t one of the two. If he did well this week and on Saturday he could even be given the job.
But if not, Greyson Lambert (or maybe Brice Ramsey) will be given a chance to keep competing to start. (In a practice hype video posted by the team Thursday, Ramsey is seen throwing a pass that was picked off by sophomore cornerback Deandre Baker. Eason isn’t shown passing, while Lambert is seen completing a pass to Javon Wims.)
It could go all the way until kickoff on Sept. 3 before the world finds out who’s starting. Or the coaching staff may see enough to make a decision this weekend. That’s why Saturday will be huge.
If the coaches still find themselves unable to narrow the field to two by next week, I’m gonna start twitching nervously. Just so you know.