Georgia Bulldogs: 2010 Brings a Breath of Fresh Air

Wes HoltzclawCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2010

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 21:  Washaun Ealey #24 of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After a somewhat disappointing 2009 season, the Georgia Bulldogs finished with an 8-5 record and an Independence Bowl victory over Texas A&M that secured a 13th straight season with at least eight wins. 

Going into the 2009, I, along with several others, predicted that Joe Cox would be a great game manager who is careful with the football. We were definitely wrong with that prediction.

Cox’s numbers were actually reasonable: 2,584 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. The problem with Cox was that at least eight of his interceptions were inside the Dawgs' own 40-yard line, giving the Bulldog defense a short field to defend.

Another four of his interceptions were made by him trying to throw the ball out of bounds and not getting the ball anywhere near the sidelines.

One thing Cox was able to do was continue to keep plugging along, not giving in, and leading the team to several shoot-out wins—most notably, the wins over South Carolina and Arkansas. Had Cox thrown in the towel, the Dawgs would have been 5-7 and would  not have made the postseason.

Led by Willie Martinez and his soft zone scheme, the defense was also disappointing in 2009, giving up over 20 points in 10 out of the 13 games played. The Dawgs ranked in the bottom half of the nation in almost every defensive category.

That being said, Coach Mark Richt did the right thing by letting go coaches Martinez, Jancek, and Fabris. 

Even though the new defensive coordinator has not been named to date, he will be named in the next week or two. Let us all hope and pray that he brings with him an attack style of defense that will bring back memories of the defenses that played for the Dawgs in the ’80s and early 2000s. 

In 2009, Georgia was able to show glimpses of what can be expected in 2010 with the emergence of several freshmen and sophomores.

Players such as freshman RB Washaun Ealey (125 carries, 717 yards, three touchdowns in only nine games), sophomore RB Caleb King (114 carries, 594 yards, seven touchdowns in 10 games), sophomore WR A.J. Green (53 receptions, 808 yards, six touchdowns in 10 games), and freshman TE Orson Charles (23 receptions, 374 yards, three touchdowns).

Georgia is returning 10 of 11 starters on offense, and, if two prominent juniors on defense return (LB Rennie Curran and SS Reshad Jones), eight of 11 starters on defense. That is a lot of experience returning to play a schedule that is somewhat softer than the previous two years.

Teams such as Louisiana-Lafayette, Colorado, Mississippi State, and Idaho State replace Oklahoma State, Arizona State, LSU, and Tennessee Tech on the 2010 schedule.

Georgia also returns Ray Guy Award winner P Drew Butler and Lou Groza Award finalist PK Blair Walsh to handle the kicking duties. Both players will be juniors next season and will look to repeat their success. Coach Richt just hopes he doesn’t have to turn to them as much as he did this season.

Even though the Dawgs lose return man Prince Miller, sophomore Branden Boykin emerged as one of the best return men in the nation (38 returns, 988 yards, three touchdowns).

One of the two freshman QBs (Aaron Murray or Zach Mettenberger) will meet Coach Richt’s criteria for the next signal-caller: “Whoever wins that job has to have a very good respect for the football. I think it’s going to be a very difficult thing for these young men because in one sense they want to do something great to win the job, but they also understand they need to respect the football and not be careless. That is a big part of the job description, and it might be the biggest thing they have to understand.”

The offense should be able to score points, whether it is led by Murray or Mettenberger, and, hopefully, the defense will be able to prevent opponents from even getting into the red zone.

It should be an exciting offseason, as we wait to see who will win the quarterback battle, if Curran and Jones stay, and who exactly will be leading our defense as its coordinator.