Georgia Football: The Best and Worst Case Scenarios for 2010
No one seems to think that the Georgia Bulldogs have a chance to do much of anything in 2010 except be mediocre and finish as close to the bottom of the SEC East as is possible. They don't believe that Todd Grantham will be able to make any major strides with the defense.
They don't think the talent on the roster, either returning or coming onto it, will make a bit of difference.
In short, the cut and dry analysis of the Georgia Football program, from a "objective" standpoint is this: they are a sinking ship—get off while you darn well can.
Is that pretty clear?
So, I figured, why not join in the madness and lay forth some 'best' and 'worst' case scenarios for the Dawgs for 2010. Be forewarned, though, while this appears to take the extremist stance at every turn, it's also possible that some of these things could happen—no matter what some might say.
Best Case: Todd Grantham's 3-4 Breathes New Life Into The Defense
One of the biggest questions that seems to be perplexing the Georgia faithful and the mind-numbing amount of detractors that the team seems to be attracting this offseason—thank you AJC and ESPN—is "how will this 3-4 work?"
Well, enough has already been stated about some of the glaring holes in the defense last season—particularly in the secondary—so I won't rehash that now. What I will say is that the Dawgs have a wealth of talent at defensive end and are excited about the 3-4 and what it could mean for them next year.
Furthermore, guys like Cornelius Washington (pictured) and Justin Houston are chomping at the bit to get on the field and show what they can do in a defense that focuses on attacking the ball on every snap.
As for the endless tirades as to who can fill the nose tackle position, well, both Mike Thornton and Garrison Smith are lovely parting gifts if DeAngelo Tyson can't grab the bull by the horns.
Whoever said that the nose had to be in the style of Terrance Cody has apparently never considered that maybe Cody isn't the prototype for ALL 3-4's. All due respect to the teams that have a 'Cody', good for you, but he's a rarity that most teams will not have the good fortune of finding.
If Grantham's philosophy translates into more production and stability on the field next season, at the very least, Georgia will find itself back in the mix as one of the better defenses in the country.
Worst Case: The Defensive Line Collapses Minus It's Senior Leadership
Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens provided a veteran presence as well as the timely production that the Dawgs needed last season. Despite what the 8-5 record says to you about the Dawgs as a team, the defensive line was solid.
As a unit, they were third in the conference, behind Florida and Alabama, in rush yards allowed per game—getting better as the year progressed. Atkins and Owens had four sacks and 14 tackles for loss between them, not to mention the stability that their wealth of experience brought to the line.
Even more, the 3-4 may look good on paper but the right personnel may not be in place at Georgia. Sure, Dobbs looked good coming off the line when lined up beside one of the SEC's fiercest interior lineman, but will he look that good minus that shelter?
And what about that nose tackle spot? If DeAngelo plunges under the weight of his new responsibilities and neither Garrison Smith nor Mike Thornton are ready to step into a starting role, the second level of defense will collapse and there goes the neighborhood because opposing teams will have a field day.
Best Case: Aaron Murray Flourishes and So Goes the Offense
Read all the talk you want about Logan Gray having a shot at the starting job and Zach Mettenberger being every bit as close to getting the nod as Murray, but the truth is the job is Aaron Murray's to lose.
He's the guy that Mike Bobo wants to see win the battle for the job and all indications thus far point to that being the case.
If Murray steps on the field and becomes the world-beater that we all expect him to become, then the rest of the Georgia offense has nowhere to go but up.
2009 saw too much relying on one or two players for the offense's success—A.J. is a beast but he needs a capable No. 2 receiver in order for him to be more consistently effective.
Murray's mobility will bring more diversity to the play calling as it will allow him to make the time in the pocket that the exiting Joe Cox could not. If he does, then A.J. won't be the only target that gets a shot at making big-time plays.
Furthermore, the bigger threat in the passing game means more shots on the ground for the run. Caleb King and Washaun Ealey combined for more than 1,300 yards last season and could find their opportunities even more plentiful behind the strength of a better passing game.
Israel Troupe and Rantavious Wooten would also find room to thrive as Murray is an equal opportunity passer who looks to spread the ball around when and where possible.
Murray could take the Dawgs to the next level, offensively but...
Worst Case: Aaron Murray Could Also Bomb Completely
That would leave the door open for Zach Mettenberger. Notice, I did not mention Logan Gray. Gray's a great kid and he's got some nice athleticism but he's not going to start for Georgia—ever. He's the guy who's likely going to still get his reps but this spring flirtation with what is being touted as an "open" competition won't reveal anything about Gray that we don't already know.
With that said, if Mettenberger wins the job outright, the game plan for the Dawgs will be different. Unlike Murray, Mettenberger is the definition of a pocket-passer. He uses the pocket well and can see the play develop better down the field—in large part because of his height—but he's not going to be rolling out on a bootleg very often.
That would mean the Dawgs would have to do the opposite—use the run to set up the pass—as opposed to having a passing game that makes the run a bigger threat.
Of course, in the early going, neither quarterback would be saddled with passing too much because neither has the experience needed to be proficient as an SEC quarterback. Practice ain't playing.
Which leads to this...
The Even Worse Case: None of the Quarterback's Can Hack It
Let's face it, Georgia has four quarterbacks on it's roster....none of them have any real game experience—NONE.
If they get out there and start taking meaningful snaps, who's to say they won't regress significantly? Again, practice ain't playing. It's a lot different to play in the G-Day game and see a pass-rush coming yet know the player at the other end of it isn't going to try and flatten you with force—think Cliff Matthews (SC) is going to go easy?
Georgia is in a precarious position here because a) they need one of these quarterbacks to step in and take over, but b) there is every bit as good a chance that not one of them will be anything like advertised.
Best Case: Scott Lakatos Makes The Secondary Better
The underachieving tandem of Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones was something that is well-documented. Both were top-level prospects with tons of potential but neither lived up to their hype at Georgia—both are now gone.
Enter Scott Lakatos and dreams of sugar plums are dancing in our heads as his track record of producing "something from nothing" is just what the doctor ordered for a Georgia team that has a wealth of talent to be nurtured.
Bacarri Rambo, Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith, Sanders Commings, and Shawn Williams are all gifted with a wealth of talent that could bud considerably under the right tutelage.
If Lakatos ends up being the guy that Georgia hired him to be, the secondary will be solid in 2010.
Worst Case: Lakatos' Transition to the SEC Isn't Smooth Sailing
When people talk about Scott Lakatos' inexperience in the SEC, many Georgia fans counter with this point: "look what he did against South Carolina".
Well, that's all fine and good but, in all honesty, the defensive line of Connecticut was more a factor in that game than Lakatos' secondary.
Lakatos has done a fine job of coaching up great talent. No doubt about that. However, his competition in the Big East hasn't been the likes of Julio Jones (Bama), Aaron Hernandez (UF), Mario Fannin (AU), or Greg Childs (Ark).
He had one game against SEC level talent and his team bested them in a major way—play that game again and, well, who knows?
What if he can't do that on a weekly basis in the SEC? Again, no disrespect, but the Big East is not the SEC—any likeness or evidence to the contrary is purely coincidental.
Lakatos could find his skills lacking and that would spell more mediocrity for the Dawgs and another lot of wasted, under-developed, talent.
Best Case: We Finish the Season 10-2 and Win The East
It's not that much of a shot in the dark to think that Georgia could win the East and secure a spot for themselves in Atlanta in December. The prohibitive favorites should be the Gamecocks—they have the most talent returning next season.
However, just because it should be that way, doesn't mean it will be.
Georgia will have a 'manageable' schedule by their standards. Well, in other words, they haven't scheduled top-tier, non-conference, foes this time around. They get Arkansas at home and the annual 'cross your fingers' matchup between them and the Gamecocks is sure to be interesting but is always capable of going either way—no matter the talent disparity.
It's definitely a possibility and it would quell any rumors of Mark Richt being on the "hot seat". Oh and speaking of that...
Worst Case: Georgia Goes 7-5 and Mark Richt Gets Fired
If you ask many non-Georgia fans the state of Mark Richt's tenure in Athens, they will tell you that he is close to being fired. By that logic, another mediocre season in Athens would surely cost him his headset.
Mark Richt has done a nice job of putting together great teams every year but, for all that success, he's had his detractors because:
1. He hasn't won a national championship.
2. He's only beaten Florida twice in 10 seasons.
3. He's fielded at least two teams with championship ability yet neither reached the expected pinnacle.
4. He's too "nice" to win big like Saban or Meyer.
All criticisms are valid from an outsider's perspective and, in the south, where football is a religion it can get tough to continue supporting a guy who's only claim to fame will be 10-win seasons and the occasional SEC Championship—Athens wants the crystal trophy too.
Richt's time could be running out. However, what if....
Best Case: Georgia Wins The National Championship
Anything is possible. After all, who thought at the end of 2008 that New Orleans would WIN the Super Bowl?
Or that in 1997, the Florida Marlins would win the World Series?
Want something closer to home? Tell the truth, how many people thought the Buckeyes would beat Miami for the National Championship in 2002? Aside from Ohio State Fans of course.
The season can start off with all the preseason rankings it likes but if Georgia did go undefeated or 11-1 and make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship—history has shown that the winner gets the spoils.
It may seem like a shot in the dark but crazier things have been known to happen.
Think about it.