As the first official holiday approaches, I find myself wishing, hoping, and wanting more for my beloved Dawgs next season.
The 2009 version of my great Georgia Bulldogs has left me concerned and disappointed as to what the future may hold. However, I am also optimistic that I am not the only one who sees a need for change.
You see that smile on the gentleman to the left? That fella looks like a man with a plan—a winner. I suspect that he is on vacation at the moment as his current embodiment is still trying to understand how his team lost to Kentucky—AT HOME!
Yet, I digress.
The point of this article is to say that 2009 may have been dismal, but 2010 offers something very hopeful.
So, as I sit down to my Thanksgiving table on Thursday, I shall let the memory of a broken 2009 fade away as I look forward to a 2010 that shall, hopefully, bring the following.
I've heard all the reasons for why the defense has been a disappointment this season:
"The talent level is not where it once was"
"The players just aren't disciplined enough"
"It's the same scheme that's always worked, it's just not working now"
Here's the bottom line: The Georgia Bulldog defense is a joke. It's been inconsistent, heartbreaking, and misguided all season.
Sure, there were flashes of what we could be if we actually were able to maintain focus for 60 minutes instead of 30, but the truth of the matter is the guys on this roster are talented enough to get the job done.
So, what's the problem?
It seems unfair to lay the blame squarely at the feet of defensive coordinator, Willie Martinez, but he's the guy with the headset and he's the one who, ultimately, has to shoulder the blame for a defense that has been less than stellar this season.
That said, it's time for some new blood on the sidelines; I've simply had enough of Willie.
It's not that I dislike Joe. I think he's a great kid with a good heart. He's done his best for the red and black and he deserves our respect for hanging tough.
However, his recent play hasn't won him many fans, and his most recent gaffe against Kentucky last week—throwing the interception on Georgia's last chance to make a game of it—may have pretty well killed his chances of redemption for a lot of fans.
2010 offers the possibility of a more mobile, stronger armed, quarterback in Aaron Murray.
We haven't seen him since the G-Day game, but when your starter has been inconsistent, you always feel his replacement is the savior.
Joe has one more shot to leave his legacy minus the vitriol—a win over Georgia Tech would boost his stock significantly.
I, for one, am still rooting for Joe to go out on a high note.
He deserves it.
It's hard to see what Branden Smith has done this season and not feel good about how much better he will be in next year's offense.
Smith is an exciting player with endless versatility and every time he gets on the field it feels like something electrifying can happen.
His speed, his talent, and his ability—all make you stop and say "whoa".
That said, we have to find better ways of putting him in the best position to succeed when he's on the field.
Either way, with one year under his belt, it's hard not to imagine him being twice as good in 2010. That alone is reason to stand up and let out a big "GO DAWGS".
The Mike Bobo you see to your left is the one that many fans used to cheer for on Saturday.
Talk about a reversal of fortune.
Mike Bobo, the coach, is not liked nearly as much as Mike Bobo the player once was and that is for good reason.
Ask any Dawg fan to describe the Georgia offense this season and you are likely to get a few of the following answers:
Now, that's not ALL Bobo's fault. The players do have to execute the plays that are called. However, you have to put said players in a position to be successful—don't bring in Logan Gray on second down, because everyone knows he's not gonna throw the ball.
Be bold. Take chances. Add some wrinkles to the playbook.
I've heard tales that Bobo is still basically calling the plays from the Mark Richt playbook of 2001.
I don't know if that's true but, if it is, it's time to do some updating.
If Bobo is going to stick around, he needs to start acting more like a coach—it's time for the training wheels to come off next season and with all the talent coming forth, I think they will.
Next season, Washaun is likely to ditch the No. 24 for his old high school No. 3. Let's hope that doesn't kill his mojo in 2010—although I doubt it will.
Washaun has been under fire this week for a fumbled snap that he caused by being out of position on a pitch play. He was apparently too close and not focused on the ball.
Call that a rookie mistake.
Washaun is the real deal and as next season draws nigh, I expect him to get stronger, better, and smarter on the football field.
He'll still have Caleb King to share carries with, but if he continues to run like he has been, I doubt that will be an issue.
Washaun is the kind of back that Georgia loves because he has all the tools. He's strong, he's fast, and he can take the hard hits without losing any momentum.
He's a between-the-tackles guy with no fear once he gets those legs churning.
Look for Washaun to do big things for our much maligned ground game next season.
One thing that is certain about Georgia's offense next season is they will have a ton of weapons on the field to catch the ball.
Rantavious Wooten strutted his stuff on Saturday and, in the absence of A.J. Green, Orson Charles continues to show why he was such a coveted tight end/wide receiver coming out of Plant High last season.
We may have questions as to who will get these guys the ball next year, but whoever it turns out to be should feel confident that his passes won't go for naught.
A talented Orson Charles, a healthy A.J. Green, and an emerging Rantavious Wooten—the future looks bright.
I have no idea what has happened to the Georgia offensive line this season, but I pray that Stacy Searles does a better job of righting the ship in 2010.
This year has seen a line that, yes, lost its anchor yet again, but this is also the same line that netted a 1,000 yard rusher and an All-American at quarterback last year.
What is the problem?
Well, that's neither here nor there. At this point we can only hope that with new blood like Dallas Austin and Chris Burnette coming to the table, we also find players who are more inspired to play some nasty football on the line of scrimmage.
This team is fully capable of dominating any defensive front in the SEC and it's time we stop playing like pussycats and start acting like big Dawgs.
I suspect that every guy on the line has heard enough about their inability to open holes and get the needed push to convert 3rd-and-shorts that they may actually be ready to prove how tough they can be.
If that is the case, then next season should not only show massive improvement, but a whole lot more heart as well.
Try and forget the complete collapse suffered by the defensive line in the second half of the Kentucky game. Try instead to remember the absolute dominance of the first half—Kentucky couldn't find daylight with a flashlight and a guide in the first 30 minutes of the game.
Georgia's defensive line is good. They are dominant and can compete with anyone when they are focused, disciplined, and on-point.
Justin Houston adds the pass rush/pressure element that we lacked in the first couple games this season and he has made his presence felt in every game he's played this season.
Next season will likely see two new defensive tackles, but we have recruited well and have guys who can fill-in for the departing Jeff Owens and, likely NFL bound, Geno Atkins.
That said, Houston will be a big part of just how much success we find in our front four next season—I say we find quite a bit more.
Did you happen to catch the mass exodus of fans Saturday? There was still 1:59 left on the clock and we had three timeouts. The Dawgs made a stop and still had a chance to win the game.
I actually heard fans booing. How can you boo your own team?
It's understandable to be frustrated and fed up with the home team. We have all felt that pang of utter disgust at some point this season, but this is the same team that has won two Sugar Bowls, two SEC Championships, three straight bowl games, and flaunted a No. 1 ranking just last season.
Mark Richt has done a darn good job at Georgia and he deserves a far better fate than to see his team booed on his own field—it's just not right.
Next season, with a renewed spirit and hope for what Georgia football can be, I hope to see less of the bandwagon jumpers and more of the die-hard faithful supporting the red helmet.
No matter what you may think, the guys on the field know when their fans are not supporting them and they feed off our energy—both positive and negative.
Here's to a 2010 with more cheers and less jeers.
Next season will likely see the beginning of a new chapter. Uga VII has been laid to rest and along with him goes the end of yet another season of Georgia football.
As Uga VIII gets fitted for his red "G" sweater, it's great to remember some of the good times this season has brought us:
A comeback win over Arkansas.
An inspired victory over the Gamecocks.
The beginning of the "Wild Dawg" era.
Some beautiful play by A.J. Green.
The always intense and money-in-the-bank play of Rennie Curran.
We have much to be thankful for—despite our 6-5 record.
Georgia Tech is next and I feel good about our chances if we can just come together for one game this season. We can beat Tech! We can do it guys!
As for 2010, well, it's just around the corner and I like what I see.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my Dawg loving friends—woof, woof.