ATLANTA, Ga.—During the summer, a first look at the Georgia Bulldogs, and it looks like another re-load year for the Dawgs with a Top 10 finish.
Senior quarterback, offensive line all healed up, and playmakers all over the place. Just looking at the recruiting classes that make up this team, there should be no problems in 2009.
Recruiting classes for Georgia Bulldogs by Rivals:
The preseason All SEC-Team confirmed my belief in the rich talent pool in Athens, because nine Bulldogs were selected. Alabama had nine players, too.
The Dawgs had five defensive players on the All-SEC team. No doubt this Georgia team has great players, and they should be in the top-tier in the SEC.
After hearing coach Richt speak at SEC Media Days, I was optimistic about the Georgia Bulldog football season. But I had two questions.
I was concerned about the small size of the starting quarterback and about Willie Martinez sharing defensive responsibilities with another coach.
I was talking to ESPN analyst David Pollock and told him, “I like Georgia, but is quarterback Joe Cox big enough at 6’1” 198 pounds?" He assured me that coach Richt had total confidence in Cox.
I then asked how would defensive coordinator Willie Martinez do after his demotion. Pollock said, “He was not demoted; four eyes are better than two.” Not so fast.
Willie Martinez was the defensive coordinator from 2005-2008. In '08, the Bulldog defense had a bad season, and Martinez got a lot of negative attention from the fans; some thought he might get fired.
Starting in 2009, head coach Mark Richt decided to go with “defensive co-coordinators.”
In my opinion, being a co-coordinator after being head of the defense is a demotion. Demotions have a way of hurting confidence.
When you hurt a leader’s confidence, they tend to be more conservative and less likely to take calculated risks that could pay off. The very nature of a great defensive coordinator is a guy who will take risks to win the game.
When the defense is struggling, it puts a whole lot more pressure on the offense to succeed and score a lot of points. Therein lies the problem for this Georgia team.
My theory on Co-Leaders; they don't work.
Having two defensive leaders is difficult at best. Who is making the calls? Who is accountable for bad plays?
When the defense needs a speech, which defensive co-coordinator gives it? Nobody is really accountable because nobody is the leader. It’s a leadership void which is a big problem, especially for a team that is struggling.
My preseason concerns for the Bulldogs were right. Currently, we are through six games and the Bulldogs are 3-3. The Dawgs are off the Top-25 board and lost last week to a much less-skilled Tennessee team, 45-19.
Georgia’s defense is ranked dead last in the SEC, giving up 30.7 points per game. Granted, Georgia has played the toughest schedule to date in the SEC but still that’s a lot of points for the talent on this team.
The statistic that explains the losses is Georgia being ranked last in the SEC in turnover margin. The Bulldogs have given the ball away sixteen times to opponents.
Its hard to be a good defensive team when you are having to defend a short field all the time. But the defense has only picked up five turnovers (which is half of what most of the SEC defenses have to date.)
The other statistic that is glaring includes Georgia being the most penalized SEC team giving up 75 yards per game on 57 infractions.
Penalties have a way of killing drives for your team and helping your opponent at the worst times. Penalties are usually a direct reflection of team discipline.
I see the Bulldogs rushing offense is also No. 12 in the SEC which hurts the defense. It’s hard to understand with the offensive line averaging 311 pounds with experienced players.
It’s mid-October, and I realize there are a whole lot of problems in Athens on both sides of the ball. I believe Mark Richt is going to have to get a lot more involved in the offensive play calling or pregame strategizing.
I also believe coach Richt needs to name one defensive coordinator. It would be coach John Jancek. If handled right it could stop the bleeding on the defensive side of the ball.
This Georgia Bulldog team is too talented to be playing so poorly. Must be time to take a closer look at the coaches.
Until next time, I will see you on the ball field.
Jay Holgate is an SEC Sports Analyst, freelance writer, and life coach. He can be heard around the South on sports radio.