Georgia Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Bulldogs' Week 1 Game
The Georgia Bulldogs opened the season against the Buffalo Bulls, and there were some positives and negatives from Week 1 of the 2012 campaign.
The most important positive was the Dawgs chalked up a win. On the negative side, at times, they didn’t look so sharp in the process.
So let’s break down and grade the performance of all 22 starters from Week 1.
Offensive Line: C-
The offensive line has to work as a unit, and so, they’ll be graded as a unit. A C- may be a little generous but give them a little slack as this was the first game of the season, John Theus’ first game ever and David Andrews' first start at center.
The run blocking left something to be desired, especially in the first half. The bigger, more talented defensive lines of the SEC are going to give this unit fits unless there is some drastic improvement. Georgia should have dominated up front against the smaller Bulls defensive front.
Pass protection for the offensive line was mediocre. Murray was sacked three times, although only one of those should be put on the line.
On 3rd-and-7, midway through the second quarter, Murray went down on what was essentially a coverage sack. Nobody was open, Murray scrambled, and then, finally went down for a two-yard loss.
The second sack, however, was all on the line. At the end of the first half, Dallas Lee was just flat-out beat on a three-man rush, and Murray never had a chance.
Finally, the third sack can be placed squarely on the shoulders of freshman running back Todd Gurley. Early in the third quarter, Gurley completely whiffed on his block of Willie Mosley coming around the edge.
David Andrews also had a high shotgun snap which Murray bobbled and had to fall on for an eight-yard loss.
The offensive line definitely had some growing pains and will need to get better in a hurry. Hopefully, Saturday was a good wake-up call.
Fullback Merritt Hall: B
Hall is the feel-good story of this starting lineup. A walk-on, Hall earned a starting spot at fullback after outstanding spring and fall practices and scrimmages.
Hall did a good job lead blocking for the tailbacks and did have one carry for five yards versus the Bulls.
Tight End Arthur Lynch: B
Lynch blocked well but didn’t catch any balls on Saturday, though that’s really not his fault as he wasn’t targeted by Murray during the game.
Expect Georgia to utilize the tight end in some passing plays next week against Missouri, whether it be with Lynch or Jay Rome.
Wide Receiver Tavarres King: A
King had a solid game, leading the Bulldogs with six receptions for 117 yards and a score. He could have had a huge day if Murray hadn’t overthrown some passes where King had his man beat and a clear path to the end zone.
As it were, they did connect on the longest pass play of the afternoon when Murray hit King in stride for a 63-yard touchdown strike early in the second quarter.
Wide Receiver Michael Bennett: A+
Bennett was second in receiving for the Bulldogs Saturday with five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.
But, Bennett earned his A+ for what he did without the ball. Several of King’s wide receiver screens were broken open by great blocks by Bennett. Every time you looked up, Bennett was flying around the field looking for someone to hit.
If everyone came out as fired up to play as Bennett did, this might have been the route Vegas oddsmakers had predicted. The Bulldogs will need that kind of physical play from the entire team next week at Missouri.
Running Back Ken Malcome: B
Malcome had a solid game before a third-quarter injury sidelined him for the remainder of the game. Rushing for 32 yards in five attempts, Malcome was a serviceable back for the ‘Dawgs.
The real story at running back, despite not getting the start, was true freshman Todd Gurley, earning an easy A+.
Gurley gashed the Bulls defense for 100 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries. He showed power and speed and had a long run of 55 yards that resulted in a score.
Oh and throw in a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to boot.
It certainly appears that Gurley would be the guy to watch this season for UGA. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets the start next week at Missouri, even if Malcome is healthy.
Quarterback Aaron Murray: B-
Looking at the box score, you might think Murray had a better day than he really did. Murray apparently came out with a little too much adrenaline on Saturday as he overthrew some wide-open receivers in the first half who easily could have been touchdowns.
A 57.6 completion percentage when his receivers were consistently getting open is not a great sign for the veteran quarterback. Also, a fair amount of Murray’s 258 yards came on quick, easy throws and wide receiver screens.
Murray did connect on a couple of big touchdown throws—one, a 63-yard strike to Tavarres King and another 38-yard completion to Rantavious Wooten in the corner of the end zone.
Another positive for Murray was zero interceptions. Despite throwing for 35 touchdowns in 2011, Murray also had 14 interceptions and clearly needs to cut down on that number in 2012. He got off to a good start in that respect on Saturday.
Nose Tackle John Jenkins: B-
Big John Jenkins needs to be the anchor of this 3-4 defense and stuff up the middle.
Jenkins made his presence felt, getting into the backfield a few times, but wasn’t exactly the run stopper the Bulldogs need him to be. It’s only going to get tougher as the Dawgs move into SEC play.
Buffalo had way too many three- to four-yard runs that should have been stopped for little or no gain, and that responsibility starts with Jenkins, though he did split time with fellow nose tackle Kwame Geathers.
Defensive End Cornelius Washington: B
Washington had a good game with four tackles and a sack against the Bulls.
Still, like the rest of the defensive line, he needs to get a better push off the line of scrimmage to allow the linebackers to get in and make plays.
Defensive End Abry Jones: B-
Abry Jones had a very similar day to his counterpart Washington with four tackles minus the sack.
If the Bulldogs are going to beat Missouri next week, they’ll need to see more energy from Jones, but that really goes for nearly the entire defense.
Outside Linebacker Jarvis Jones: A
Jarvis Jones was one of the only Bulldogs to come into this game looking like he was ready to compete. As usual, Jones was all over the field making plays.
He ended the day with eight tackles, one and a half sacks and a pass breakup. In fact, perhaps, the only thing critical to say about Jones was that he maybe should have intercepted that pass breakup in the backfield. He was only a few yards from quarterback Alex Zordich when the ball was thrown, but it did hit him right between the numbers.
Overall, Jones was almost certainly the defensive MVP of the game, though that shouldn’t come as any surprise to the Bulldog Nation.
Inside Linebacker Michael Gilliard: B
Much like the entire Bulldog team, we saw some good and some bad out of Gilliard but more good than bad.
He did get called for offside early in the game, one of the few penalties against the Dawgs. And, he seemed a little slow when he was on the pass rush.
But, Gilliard did finish the day with seven tackles and also had a nice pass breakup in the first half. All in all, it was a solid game for the senior linebacker.
Inside Linebacker Amarlo Herrera: B-
Herrera had a solid day, but he seemed a little flat defending the pass over the middle. He looked a little hesitant and appeared to get caught on his heels a few times when he may have had a chance to break up some passes.
But, Herrera did finish the day with a respectable five tackles. Still—a recurring theme—Georgia just needs more energy and effort out of their defense coming into SEC play.
Nickle Cornerback Devin Bowman: C
With the suspensions of linebackers Chase Vasser and Alec Ogletree, freshman linebacker Devin Bowman was pressed into action against Buffalo at the nickle cornerback to start the game.
Bowman did tally two tackles against the Bulls, but the Bulldogs will need more production from Bowman against Missouri next week.
Cornerback Damian Swann: A
Swann looked very good filling in at corner for suspended Sanders Commings. He showed good coverage skills, nice work sticking with defenders and Zorich didn’t throw his way much. Still, Swann was all over the field for the Bulldogs and ended the day with eight tackles.
Swann’s speed also allowed him to track down running back Brandon Oliver from behind and turn what may well have been a touchdown into a 36-yard gain instead.
Combine his good play on defense with a 30-yard punt return and Swann turned in a very good day for the Dawgs.
Cornerback Branden Smith: B
Grade Smith a solid B on the strength of four tackles and a very good pass breakup in the Bulldogs’ win.
At times, it appeared Smith had his hands full with wide receiver Alex Neutz, but to be fair, Neutz looked very good, as did Zordich, who threw some very accurate balls into some tight windows.
Safety Connor Norman: C+
With All-American Bacarri Rambo out serving a suspension, sophomore Connor Norman got the start against the Bulls.
Norman did end the day with four tackles, but often times, seemed a little confused with his assignments and left some receivers open over the middle.
Norman needs to get more comfortable with the speed of the game and get better with his anticipation to come up and make some plays for the Dawgs until Rambo returns.
Safety Shawn Williams: B+
Once again, we saw some good and some bad with safety Shawn Williams but mostly good.
Williams got beat by Neutz, who was able to stay in bounds and tip toe into across the pylon for a touchdown early in the first quarter.
After that, however, Williams looked solid. During the Bulls’ second drive, he read the run and came up to the line and made a great solo tackle to hold Oliver to a one-yard gain when it looked like Oliver was about to hit a big hole with a head of steam.
Williams ended the day with five tackles to his credit.
Williams also had a critical pass breakup in the end zone on third down with time winding down in the first half. That forced a field goal, and Georgia went into the half up 24-16 instead of 24-20.