That time of year we all know and love will soon be upon us. Leaves will be falling all around, so it's time to get this underway. There are five elements that will be crucial to Georgia Bulldog victory this year. Here they are, in no particular order:
The Kicking Game
Nothing sends a message like kicking Dexter Moody off the team and offering Bogotay a scholarship. Blair Walsh, ye be warned. The competition is healthy. Walsh hasn’t lived up to what one would expect given his tremendous high school stats and Bogotay is breathing down his neck. I think we’ll see our starting kicker do far better than 15-23. Keep in mind a field goal would’ve sent to game vs. Georgia Tech into overtime. More touch backs and deeper kickoffs would’ve given our defense more to work with. I’d say the kicking game could’ve given us an extra win last year had it been more consistent.
Improvement on Defense
I remember reading an interview with Rennie Curran. He stated that one of his goals for the season was “to be more violent in my tackling.” That’s a wonderful goal for a linebacker to have and had me smiling as I read it. Defenses that are out there for no other purpose except to lower the boom are defenses which are fun to watch.
Fun to watch would be a welcome change from last years defense which seemed to be rather anemic at times, allowing points more becoming of the Big 12 than the SEC. So besides the wrath of a healthy D-Line and Rennie Curran what other hope awaits?
Daryl Gamble, who provided dazzling performances whenever he stepped onto the field in 2008, will be back. During the summer practices he’s picked up right where he left off, intercepting passes and getting turnovers. Look for big things from him.
While Asher Allen (who played most of the season with a broken hand) was a bright spot in the secondary he has jumped to bigger and better things in the NFL. So who’s gonna fill his shoes? They’ll be brought to you by the letter B: Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith. Branden Smith is as of yet unproven, but I think we’ll see big things from him. He was the single best prospect in the state of Georgia and the No. 2 corner in the country.
Remember those guys? Knowshon and Stafford? They had it all: talent, charm, aerial acrobatic skills, beer keg lifting prowess…and they’re gone now. Know what they didn’t have? A healthy experienced offensive line.
Now think back to 2008’s Alabama team. Name a running back. He may have run for 1300 yards in 2008, but you’re having trouble naming him if you’re not a Bama fan. Knowshon for all his flash and flair only ran for 100 more. Their QB wasn’t the first NFL draft pick overall either. Yet they only lost two games, one of which was to the BCS champs. What’d they have? A good young receiver and an experienced healthy line. Sound familiar?
Games are not won on air alone. One must be able to run the ball. For Georgia, this is still up in the air. Caleb King seems to be the default choice, but it’s hard to see someone who runs straight at defenders and then goes down on first contact holding the number one spot for long. I think Richard Samuel and Washaun Ealey both have a good chance to usurp his throne, especially given the recent scrimmage results.
Cox will do fine. There was a time when the Bulldog nation drooled over him. Then he graduated high school and we forgot his name. He kept the faith, taking a back seat role to Stafford while always coming through in clutch situations as he did versus Colorado in 2006. As long as Bobo keeps calling plays the way he has we’ll see another year of fruitful offensive numbers. My only word of advice is to find out what works and do it, rather than doing something until it finally works.
Last year’s schedule resembled a meat grinder in more ways than one. It all started in the pre-season with Trinton Sturdivant. Next came Jeff Owens’ season ending injury against Georgia Southern. From there it just escalated with Dannel Ellerbe, Brannan Southerland, and Vince Vance. At times it seemed as if Stacy Searles was holding our offensive line together with bubblegum and duct tape. While injuries are to be expected, they hit the Dawgs especially hard in 2008. This year you’ve got arguably the best trenches in the country on both sides of the ball. Keep them healthy and you’ll have a team not unlike Alabama in 2008: A team that will pound the opposition relentlessly with no real superstars save for a young receiver.
Penalties murdered the Dawgs in 2008. You’ll see me reference Bama some more. In the 2008 game, we gave up four first downs from our penalties, with 10 overall for 81 yards. No penalties and it’s a different game. To say nothing of lost offense. Richt has been working with the players and encouraging them to be more disciplined, both on and off the field. One wonders what horrors await the poor fools who make mindless penalties this year. I can say one thing, while it won’t be pretty, I bet they’ll be in really good shape for the next game.