B/R's Georgia Lead Writer Reveals How Dawgs Can Turn Defense Around in 2013
I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and raised a few miles away in Oak Ridge, but unlike most youngsters growing up in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains, I was raised to hate all things orange.
The aversion to orange started off simple enough: I hate the Tennessee Volunteers. But the disdain has diversified over the years to include a general distaste for Auburn, Florida and now even Clemson. So perhaps the University of Georgia was always the obvious choice for me.
I was part of the same recruiting class as Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. They were brought in to play football in front of 92,746 people. I was brought in to be in the honors college, but who’s splitting hairs?
My time in Athens molded me from a general SEC enthusiast to a Bulldog-obsessed fanatic who stops just short of being the guy who actually barks at opposing fans.
For the past three seasons I have covered Georgia football for my own website (DudeYouCrazy.net) and in various other locations. I’m ecstatic about the opportunity to cover the Dawgs for Bleacher Report.
Coach I’d like to interview:
Something tells me that a little quality time with Les Miles would induce every possible reaction, from laughter and awkward silence to eye-rolling and even a few tears.
There’s always something to be said for the crazy uncle or half-blooded distant relative in the family. Les Miles is that uncle.
Sure, Les Miles can talk football with the best of them if so inclined, but talking football with coaches eventually gets old. Their words rarely provide more substance than the game tape, and they are extremely media-savvy and politically correct.
The off-the-wall and potentially inappropriate responses from Miles would render the interview a success.
Best player covered:
In 2010, the Georgia Bulldogs struggled mightily. The team finished the season 6-7 following an embarrassing bowl loss to Central Florida.
You know it’s a bad season when the highlights of the year are provided by the scout team. That season was one of those seasons, and the glowing scout team reports all featured one player: Jarvis Jones.
In 2011, Jones made his on-field debut for the Bulldogs. He was one of the few bright spots in the loss to Boise State (he registered 11 total tackles). Several weeks later, he became a household name thanks to four sacks and a forced fumble against Florida. He finished the season with 70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
He was even more effective last season—both statistically and as a leader. I was on the ground when he came off of the field for the last time wearing the red and black at the Capital One Bowl in January. His only priority on the sideline: hugging every teammate. At the postgame press conference he was teary-eyed.
He played the game with a passion that reflected his love for the Georgia Bulldogs. It was a pleasure to witness.
Most memorable game covered:
Sadly, it’s hard to argue with the 2012 SEC Championship Game. I felt good about the Bulldogs heading into the game. I felt good about the Bulldogs during the game. I felt good about the Bulldogs when Aaron Murray got one last shot at things with 1:08 left to play.
Obviously, it would be inaccurate to say that I “feel good” about the game now. But the game was certainly memorable. In fact, I'm afraid that I'll never forget it.
Is Aaron Murray or Todd Gurley a better Heisman candidate in 2013?
From a statistical standpoint, I actually expect Todd Gurley to take a step back this season. I think he will be a better running back and a better blocker, but I think Keith Marshall will take a larger share of the carries than he did in 2012. Plus teams may key in on Gurley a bit more.
Todd Gurley may be just as good at playing his position as Aaron Murray is at playing quarterback, but Murray is Georgia’s only quarterback. He’s not just one of Georgia’s quarterbacks; he's not competing with another star in the passing game.
Combine that with the notion that Murray’s Heisman candidacy may be more of a “lifetime achievement” recognition, and Murray is Georgia’s best option to go to New York for the presentation.
What does Georgia have to do to break through against South Carolina in Week 2?
Georgia needs to establish the running game early.
The Dawgs should attack Jadeveon Clowney on the ground, where he is less effective. Hopefully a ground attack early will set up some play action and some quick drives. Additionally, look for Arthur Lynch to have some success across the middle as the Gamecocks try to replace their five best linebackers from a year ago.
Defensively, the Bulldogs need to keep Connor Shaw in the pocket and make him make plays with his arm. His passer rating was certainly respectable last season (158.1), but he’s only thrown for over 250 yards in three games over the past two seasons. His passing has not been the catalyst for the offense.
How can Todd Grantham adjust his scheme to help inexperienced defenders?
The biggest need for this young defense is discipline. Georgia needs to maintain lane integrity and strictly adhere to specific assignments. Last year’s star-studded defense was a disappointment; the loads of NFL talent consistently over-pursued opportunities and left teammates out to dry.
This young defense is going to make mistakes, but this year’s unit is physically faster and has more depth than last year’s squad.
If the young talent plays intelligently and aggressively, this defense will be better than the 2012 team.
Which new starters could surprise us in 2013?
Jordan Jenkins was just a part-time starter last year, but he’s already highly touted as the next Jarvis Jones, so I can’t call him a surprise.
Tray Matthews is a true freshman safety who has shown a lot of promise this offseason. Combine him with sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons (who is suspended for the Clemson game), and I feel confident in saying that at least one of the safeties will emerge as a star.
2013 season prediction:
Georgia is too young on defense to go through the entire season without a misstep, but the offense is too good to disappoint. Ultimately, Georgia wins the SEC East thanks to an 11-1 regular season.
If the offense remains sharp and the defense improves each week, I’d feel pretty good about the Dawgs in the SEC Championship Game.
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