Georgia Football: Midseason Grades for Players and Coaches
We have officially reached the halfway point of the season for the Georgia Bulldogs, and so far, it has been a solid season.
With a 4-2 overall record and 3-1 record in the SEC, the Bulldogs are likely out of the national title race. However, they are one game behind Missouri for the SEC East lead, so there is still a lot to play for.
Considering the first half of the schedule was not an easy one for the Bulldogs, they held their own, and a lot of new players stepped up in a big way. But there were some players who struggled and will have to play better in the second half if the Bulldogs want to three-peat as SEC East champs.
Here are midseason grades for the Bulldogs players and coaches.
The coaching staff as a whole did a good job getting the Bulldogs ready for the first half of the schedule and getting the young players ready for action they weren’t expecting to see.
After the loss to Clemson, Mark Richt has stayed the course and kept the ship upright. They did suffer a disappointing loss to Missouri in the last game they played, but the Bulldogs were limping into the game and Richt was able to keep his players fighting despite being down by 18 in the first half.
Mike Bobo has done a great job getting the right offensive plays called and putting Aaron Murray in position to carry the team this season. Bobo will be more effective once Todd Gurley returns to the lineup.
Todd Grantham has struggled the first half of the season. His players for the most part have not improved and keep giving up a lot of points on defense.
Aaron Murray is a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy despite having two losses under his belt.
Murray has thrown for 304 passing yards per game (second in the SEC), 17 touchdowns (first in the SEC) and has completed 62 percent of his passes.
He led the Bulldogs to wins against two Top 10 teams (South Carolina and LSU) and orchestrated a game-tying drive against Tennessee with less than two minutes left in the game.
Murray is the team’s most valuable player, and in order for the Bulldogs to win the rest of their games, he will have to be on top of his game from here on out.
The Bulldogs average over 200 rushing yards per game. That only puts them eighth in the SEC, but they also pass the ball well, so they don’t have as many rushing yards per game as they could.
Todd Gurley was probably the best running back in the country before he was injured in the LSU game. His 112 yards per game would put him third in the SEC if he was eligible. Gurley could be back for the Vanderbilt game but will definitely be ready for Florida on November 2.
One of the great stories for the Bulldogs this season is the emergence of two true freshmen, J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas. Both players have had to see a lot of action at running back because of the injuries to Gurley as well as Keith Marshall.
Green, who is a speedster, is averaging 8.3 yards per carry. Douglas, who is known for his power, is averaging nearly four yards per carry.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
This position has been decimated by injuries as two players, Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell, will miss the rest of the season and one player, Michael Bennett, will miss two to three weeks.
Chris Conley has played well the first half of the season. He leads the team with 25 catches for 378 yards and four touchdowns. He, Rantavious Wooten and Rhett McGowan have been holding their own and been able to help Murray make plays.
Arthur Lynch has proved why he’s one of the better tight ends in the country. He has 205 receiving yards on 13 catches and two touchdowns. Expect to see a lot more of Lynch the second half of the season, especially with the injuries to the receiving corps.
The offensive line has been solid for the most part, but they have struggled from time to time. That is not a good thing, especially with all the starters returning from last season.
Kolton Houston may be the best of the bunch, but this is his first year of playing for the Bulldogs, and he is taking his lumps. John Theus was expected to be the next great offensive lineman, but it just has not panned out that way.
Overall, the offensive line is the reason Murray has been effective this season. But they are also one of the reasons the Bulldogs lost to Clemson and Missouri.
One of the strongest positions for the Bulldogs has been the defensive line. In fact, the Bulldogs are the fourth best rush defense in the conference because the defensive line is not getting beat off the line of scrimmage.
One of the best players on defense has been Ray Drew. The junior defensive end has five sacks through the first six games, which puts him third in the SEC.
Garrison Smith moved from defensive end to nose tackle and has thrived with 28 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Sterling Bailey is the other starting defensive end and is right behind Smith with 26 tackles and one tackle for loss.
The defensive line has been the least of the problems on defense. But in order for the defense to improve, Smith, Drew and Bailey need to continue to play at a high level.
In pass coverage, the linebackers have been suspect. But the group is flying around to the football and, while they are not as strong as they were last year, is still making plays when they need to.
Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera have been a dangerous duo at inside linebacker. Wilson leads the team with 61 tackles while Herrera has 55. They are ranked second and third in the SEC in tackles. Herrera also has five passes defended and one forced fumble.
Leonard Floyd has been a nice surprise for the Bulldogs. The outside linebacker has four sacks to go along with his 22 tackles.
Jordan Jenkins is not having the season he hoped for. The sophomore has 20 tackles, one sack and five tackles for loss. Last year, he was second on the team in sacks with five.
This has been the weak spot for the Bulldogs, which is not a surprise because they are really young at the position.
The veteran Damian Swann has struggled. He has no interceptions so far this season and has gotten beat by wide receivers week in and week out.
Tray Matthews, Brendan Langley, Quincy Mauger and Shaq Wiggins are the four true freshmen who have either started or seen significant amount of playing time in the secondary. They have all showed promise but are making freshmen mistakes, which is the reason the Bulldogs have given up 33 points per game.
The best secondary player for the Bulldogs has been Josh Harvey-Clemons. He is third on the team with 35 tackles and also has four pass breakups and one fumble recovery.
Marshall Morgan looks much improved as he has hit eight of his 10 field goal tries and has also made all 17 extra-point attempts.
Colin Barber is also having a strong season punting as he has an average of 41 yards per punt, which puts him fifth in the conference.
The problem with the special teams is the coverage and return team. The Bulldogs only have four yards per punt return and 18.3 yards per kick return.
The Bulldogs are also ranked last in the SEC in kickoff coverage with 38 yards per game.
This has been an ongoing issue with the Bulldogs. The special teams are the reason a few of the Bulldogs wins have been closer than they should have been. It’s also another reason the Bulldogs have lost two games the first half of the year.