2009 Georgia Bulldogs: On Second Thought, Maybe We Just Aren't There Yet
After Saturday's loss to LSU, the Georgia Bulldog nation seems to be split as to what needs to be done to make this team better. Depending on which side you fall on, you either believe we need to make major changes or you think we need to be patient and exercise caution before we consider placing coaches and players into the firing line.
Whatever side of the fence you fall on, though, it's clear that this 2009 Georgia Bulldog team has made an impression.
Saturday's debacle won't be recapped here, there are plenty of places to start if you truly want to relive the nightmare that was Georgia versus LSU—try here, here, and here if your constitution isn't too weak.
Or if you are a true glutton for punishment, the game will re-air tonight at 9:30 on CBS College Sports.
Honestly, though, it's time for all the Georgia fans to get a serious gut check about this team, our beloved red and black, because some of us have taken the resilient wins against South Carolina, Arkansas, and Arizona State to mean more than they should.
All of those games told us something about this team. Something that has nothing to do with their resiliency. Things that, when added together, should have prepared us for the LSU loss. Things like:
- We have no rushing attack (ranked 105th in the nation)
- Special teams coverage is poor (ranked 112th in the nation)
- We aren't controlling the clock (ranked 96th in the nation for time of possession)
- We give up too many big plays (teams are converting 62 percent of plays on fourth down)
The three wins Georgia collected are not to be pushed aside. They were tough wins and those are the ones you have to have if you are going to remain competitive in the SEC.
That said, it's time to address some of the issues that we, as fans, have placed to the side all season. Time to "face the music" and start looking between the lines—separate what you feel from what is real:
Joe Cox is not Matthew Stafford, DJ Shockley, or David Greene
This seems obvious enough, right? Well, one of the biggest problems for many of us, this author included, is we seem to want to throw Joe Cox under the bus for a bad performance and sing his praises for a good one.
Some might say that is the case with any quarterback on any team in the SEC, Pac-10, ACC, etc. It's what fans do. Is it? Really?
While Matthew Stafford was here, can you ever recall a Dawg fan calling for his ouster after a poor outing? How about Jacory Harris at Miami, when he went up to Virginia Tech and stunk up the joint, did the fans ask for his helmet? Don't think so.
Joe Cox isn't sexy enough for Dawg fans. He doesn't have the speed of Shockley, the allure or the arm of Stafford, and he doesn't have the winning way of David Greene.
That said, how much of Georgia's woes can be placed on the play of Joe Cox?
Is it just a little bit possible that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has seriously adjusted the playbook for Cox now that Stafford's NFL-caliber gun is gone? Cox may be accurate, but anyone who believes his arm is anything close to what Stafford's was is delusional.
It seems as if coach Bobo has cliff noted the playbook, and by doing so, has handicapped the Georgia offense to being more predictable and less dynamic than it was last season. There are no surprises, no wrinkles, and zero oomph.
The obvious remedy to that would be to replace Cox with either Logan Gray or Aaron Murray, right? Wrong.
If Aaron Murray was ready, he would be out there taking snaps. Aaron Murray is not ready yet and he's not the guy you want in the game until he is familiar with the playbook and how to manage the game. Period.
Logan Gray is in the same boat. He may know the playbook a bit better than Aaron, but he's still not as proficient at executing the proper play calls as Joe Cox will be. It's naive of anyone to think that either of those guys are the answer because they simply aren't.
The Offensive Line Is Not Getting the Job Done
The offensive line for the Dawgs is under fire for not winning the battle up front and supplying the holes our tailbacks need to get the yardage we covet on first and second downs.
What we need to do is turn the spotlight around and shine it on the guys wearing the Nos. 22 and 8. Neither Richard Samuel nor Caleb King are getting the hard yards. They aren't churning it out between the tackles. They aren't keeping those legs moving long after the first hit.
The offensive line may need to get nastier, but Samuel and King need to take a seat in the class with them because neither guy has shown he is man enough to play in the SEC.
The thing that made guys like Thomas Brown, Musa Smith, Rodney Hampton, and Robert Edwards so good was that they got the hard yards. We haven't seen one player yet this season who can get us those yards.
If we can't convert on 3rd-and-2 or 4th-and-1, that's a momentum killer. Even more to the point, it puts the onus on our quarterback to make it happen every time. That's a ridiculous proposition to make to a guy who is only making his eighth start come Saturday.
Georgia needs to get back to running the football with authority on first downs. We pass way too much and we are often unsuccessful in gaining any significant yardage. That sets up a lot of 3rd-and-long plays for us to convert, which we often do not.
Joe Cox can't be anyone except Joe Cox. The coaches need to start doing a better job of balancing out the offense so that Cox is not expected to do it all alone.
We Have A Lot of Talent, But the Youth of Our Players Is Obvious
Our guys are young. Brandon Boykin (CB), Branden Smith (ATH/CB), Orson Charles (TE), Richard Samuel (RB), etc.
We are playing a lot of young guys at key skill positions this season and it has proven to be a detriment or a near detriment on several occasions this year:
- Branden Smith ran out of the end zone twice versus Okie State. Both times he should have just downed the ball altogether.
- Brandon Boykin chose to run out of the end zone versus LSU after an INT.
- Richard Samuel fumbled the ball in two key situations against the Razorbacks.
- Orson Charles' celebration after his big catch against LSU caused a nasty penalty that put a dagger into what was looking like a big possession.
Every one of the situations listed above led to a momentum shift in the opposition's favor.
It's nice to see coach Richt using his young talent, but the lack of leadership on this team is noticeable and hasn't proven advantageous.
A lack of discipline and focus on special teams has been a thorn in Georgia's side all season as guys have poorly executed tackles on kickoff coverage—this very thing led to the big gain by Trindon Holliday on Saturday afternoon.
This Georgia Bulldog team is good. Not great...but good. We have deficiencies in the secondary and question marks in the coaching booths.
Realistically, it may have been optimistic to believe that we could lose Asher Allen, Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, Mohammed Massaquoi, Brannan Southerland, and C.J. Byrd to graduation and the NFL and still be world-beaters in the SEC.
We have yet to find replacements for any of those guys and that may not happen this season.
We may have reloaded at Georgia, but it's still gonna take time for us to take aim at the rest of the league.
Is it time to give up on this season and accept that we won't get better? No. Absolutely not. However, it may be time to realize that the 2009 Georgia Bulldogs are young, inexperienced, and getting by more on raw talent than on focused skill.
Good, but not great.
Getting better, but still flawed.
The Dawgs are just beginning to find their bark...just give 'em time to mature from young puppies into Bulldogs. They will find their groove.
Until then, I'm still Georgia...how 'bout you?
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