Which is Dogs’ bigger concern, QB or defense?

Washaun Ealey and the running game should take the pressure off Georgia's inexperienced quarterback. (Georgiadogs.com)

Washaun Ealey and the running game should take the pressure off Georgia's inexperienced quarterback. (Georgiadogs.com)

So the Dogs are not getting a lot of love in national media previews of the 2010 football season, aside from ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach putting them at No. 19 in his Way-Too-Early Top 25. Fellow ESPN.com writer Chris Low went so far as to put UGA in the second tier of his SEC power rankings, behind Auburn and South Carolina.

But this early lack of respect isn’t really a big surprise considering that Mark Richt’s program is coming off a mediocre (for Georgia) season and is facing the prospect of an inexperienced quarterback and the complete rehauling of a troubled defense.

Otherwise, the picture is pretty positive. Aside from QB, the Dogs return the rest of their offensive starters. The kickers are among the nation’s best. With Jon Fabris gone, special teams — particularly kickoff coverage — ought to improve (it certainly couldn’t get any worse). And the schedule isn’t as tough as in 2009.

But how the Dogs answer those two big question marks probably will define what sort of season they have.

We’ve seen before how inexperience at QB can hurt. It took Matthew Stafford most of his first season to figure out when to throw the ball and when not to. And even though Joe Cox was a fifth-year senior, you have to figure his lack of playing time before becoming the starter was at least partly responsible for the poor decisions he made on most of the many picks he threw last year.

And the past two seasons have shown all too clearly what havoc defensive problems can wreak on a program. Todd Grantham definitely looks like a major upgrade over Willie Martinez, but there are sure to be glitches in the transition to a different defensive alignment and philosophy. Plus he’ll be doing it minus players like Geno Atkins and Rennie Curran. By season’s end, Grantham likely will have the Dogs once again deserving the “Junkyard” sobriquet. But getting there could be painful.

As Cornelius Washington said this week, “I don’t feel like this season there is such a thing as a freshman player because everybody has an audition and I guess in a sense everybody is a freshman.”

Of course, what he was talking about was the defensive coaches having to figure out who will play where and the players battling for a position and playing time. But with new schemes, they’ll all be freshmen in a sense come game time, too, which makes me think the D might be the bigger question mark for the Dogs.

Yes, inexperience will be a big obstacle for the Dogs’ QB, whoever that is. But Aaron Murray made a salient point talking to reporters on Wednesday when he said, “I really don’t feel that whoever wins the job is going to have that much pressure on them. It’s not going to be like we’re going to go out there and throw the ball 40 times a game. We’re going to be able to hand the ball to our running backs most of the game and let them do the work.”

Assuming a rash of injuries doesn’t suddenly throw the offensive line or running back corps into disarray, he should be correct.

Which worries you more, starting a green QB or rebuilding the defense?

185 comments Add your comment

GeoffDawg

February 12th, 2010
10:45 am

Definitely at QB as we’ve seen with Joe Cox last year and with Stafford’s freshman season how far back inexperience and lack of playing time in actual game conditions can set you.

Even taking the scheme change into account on defense, if we can at the very least play more fundamentally sound, then we’re automatically going to be significantly better.

Gatorbait 17-3

February 12th, 2010
10:46 am

Who ever is the QB, he will be primarily asked to not lose the game. Hand off and get out of the way and then occasionally thrown a quick pass in the flat or bubble screen. It’s really a shame they weren’t allowed to play last year, they couldn’t have been any worse than Cox.

murfdawg

February 12th, 2010
10:50 am

QB worries me the most. Especially with USC coming up in the second week. If we can survive that one, the defense will carry us until we meet UT and Vandy. Then everybody has to grow up for the last four games. This will be another interesting year!!!

Bremen Dawg

February 12th, 2010
10:51 am

QB is the biggest concern. Grantham has had immediate success everywhere he has been. The D will be improved this year.

jrmdvm1

February 12th, 2010
10:51 am

I think that Coach Grantham is very capable of quickly evaluating talent, since the pros can have significant changes from season to season because of trades and moves, as well as during the season due to injuries. From what I have heard, he is a “teacher” and if our guys will remain “teachable”, I think the defense will “gel” more quickly than some may think. And perhaps Joe Cox’s total time off ( with lack of playing time ) of about 4 years may have been part of the problem. The current QB’s have had less time away from game conditions.

My concerns have to do with conditioning ( not strength ), since injuries increase with “tired” players. We have talent, but when injuries occur, it hampers our ability to rotate fresh players into the game. I want to see us “own” the 4th quarter again.

bank walker

February 12th, 2010
10:52 am

Gator, I totally agree. Wait did I just say that?

GeoffDawg

February 12th, 2010
10:53 am

I understand not wanting to burn a redshirt on one of the young guys. But when it became very apparent that the coaching staff didn’t trust Gray to do much more than hand off or run a draw, we should’ve gotten somebody some decent reps for next year.

SSIgator

February 12th, 2010
10:54 am

Should have problems in both areas. Basically two freshman QB’s and a new defensive scheme coming in. Teams don’t get in the groove with just a spring and fall practice with that much to learn.

DSGB

February 12th, 2010
10:54 am

I believe it will be the QB position as well. Inexperience is a big factor, as we have seen in the past couple of years. However, I do believe if they can make it through the first 2-3 games,can get used to the speed of the game, and can rely on the running game, then they will be fine.

The defense should be better due to addition by subtraction. Half of the time the secondary had no idea where to be on the field while Slick Willy was there. If Lakatos can come in and coach just a little bit, we should see alot of improvement. As long as we get the right people in the right position I believe we can get some of the swagger from the Erk Russell years back.

Paul H

February 12th, 2010
10:57 am

Can’t wait to prove the naysayers wrong. Especially the naysayers who work for this newspaper.

Here's hoping

February 12th, 2010
10:59 am

Both are concerns and both will be better than what we went through last year!

Bremen Dawg

February 12th, 2010
11:01 am

If the D is good enough to keep teams under 20 then the new QB will be able to hand the ball off for the first few games to get some experience. The last 2 years, we have always been coming from behind because the D was so terrible and that put to much pressure on the offense.

Dawg In Florida

February 12th, 2010
11:03 am

You never know. One of these QBs (Zach or Aaron) could turn out to be another David Greene in their ability to hit the ground running. These guys are a lot fresher and younger than Joe Cox was. The G-Day game will tell alot.

Defense I’m not as worried about. The scheme isn’t all that different. Our biggest issue last year was people playing their positions fundamentally sound and that should (hopefully) be corrected by having some fresh eyes on the teams technique, not to mention a more agressive coaching style. Another issue was that we weren’t always playing the “best” player for their position. Best example was Bryan Evans. EVERY and I mean EVERY time I saw an opposing QBs eyes get big and he would launch a 25+ yarder, I knew it was becuase Brian Evans bit on some play action and let the reciever go.

Every dawg who faithfully watches had the exact same feeling I’m sure. I wish I had a dollar for every time I saw B. Evans 5 yards behind a reciever trying to chase him down. He wasn’t the only one either. I say we will definitely be better on defense all together. The new scheme and the new mentality of who gets to play and why will envigorate and renew the UGA defense and the Dawg Nation.

The UGA Defense will have more sacks, more interceptions and forced 3 and outs this year than we’ve had in the passed two years. Bet on it!

The offense will have LESS interceptions, less over all turnovers and more points than last year for sure!

Go Dawgs!

DawgBuzz

February 12th, 2010
11:04 am

No matter who becomes the (QB )starter make sure you play the other two in lesser games. They all need the reps. Murray has had injury issues even last year. Looks like Logan will be in th mix at QB, but even he has little exposure at QB. I’d like to see Zach Mettenberger get a real shot. His size, his arm strength in a pro style offense would be hugh. Heard his mechanics are much better now.

Bremen Dawg

February 12th, 2010
11:04 am

I hope Washaun Ealey has a break out year and shows the nation just how good he can be. The O line should be able to open up some big holes this year. UGA vs Alabama in the Dome.

Natureboy809

February 12th, 2010
11:04 am

Nothing will get a coach fired quicker (besides sexy coeds of course) than bad QB play. On the other hand, giving up 40+ points in the big games has GOT to stop. UGA is not playing in the WAC.

1eyedJack

February 12th, 2010
11:05 am

We will have a veteran and experienced offense except at QB. We should have a strong running game to lean on so that Murray/Mettenberger can manage the game similar to what Matt Ryan did two years ago for the Falcons. Don’t see the offense being a “major issue” next year though QB inexperience could cost a game or two.

No doubt the talent is there on defense. It’s just a matter of Grantham getting everybody lined up right and comfortable. Gimmee game to start to get the confidence up. Tough SEC opener in Columbia could be a problem, but if we can get past that and stay free of major injuries we have a shot at a really good season.

Another Dawg

February 12th, 2010
11:07 am

Defense… I think they have the potential to make a far greater impact this year than our QB will, but I also think they’re looking at new positions and a new playbook. Personally, I’m not expecting huge improvements over Willie’s D this year, especially early in the season against South Carolina.

TommyP

February 12th, 2010
11:09 am

Without a doubt QB is THE concern….

Defense? Give me a break. How could it be worse than Willie? Honestly.

Bremen Dawg

February 12th, 2010
11:12 am

I’m hearing that Grantham is impressed with just how much talent/speed that UGA has on defensive after he seen the films. Think about it, you have two corners that run track speed. 4.3 – 4.2. You just got a 5 star recruit for linebacker (Richard Samuel) 3 or 4 big bodies to put in the middle as a 1-gap d lineman. Plenty on DE/linbacker combos. All are extremely fast just need some good coaching. Rambo is great saftey and you just got that hard hitting Hamilton that is ready to play.

Shreveport Champions of 2009

February 12th, 2010
11:33 am

My main concern is what color helmets, jerseys, pants and socks we will wear this year. Everything else ain’t important!

sick em meow mewo

Georgia Tech For Life

February 12th, 2010
11:41 am

PAPA JOHNS FOR LIFE!!!!

OEJ

February 12th, 2010
11:44 am

Its obvious that QB is the bigger concern. I think I’m not the only one who thought Richt played the senior card and thats why Cox played. The way he played last year, you might as well have played a freshman so he would be ready this season. Not knowing who will be the potential leader of the offense is a problem. If we can be a run first team and whenever we do pass because we will, can the QB make the right decisions and protect the football, and don’t force anything. The defense will be better, it wont be great til next year. especially if we can get pressure on the quarterback, which we really didn’t do last year the D will be fine.

K-Town Dawg

February 12th, 2010
11:56 am

This team will be better than expected.

The D will be improved through having the players in position to make plays
and the offense will run the ball.

I look for Ealy and King to have big years as well as Samuel on D.

Play action to Green keeps other teams honest.

Fear Rambo and the Hitman.

Just win baby!

crazy dawg

February 12th, 2010
11:56 am

I think the QB play will be the most improved position for the 2010 season. The main reason for this improvement can be put in one word talent. Both Murray and Metenberger has more talent than Joe Coxs had.I belive both of the young QB’s will play a lot in 2010 and do a good job each have a different skill set that will allow Bobo to mix things up a bit more and go with the guy that has a hot hand at the time. Look for the Dawgs on defense to be much more aggresive and fly to the ball. The D coaches will teach this new system to the young fast pups and watch out SEC once they catch on. Not only will the Dawgs be the surprise team in the SEC but also in the Nation breaking into the top 10 in the Nation.Go Dawgs

NC Dawg

February 12th, 2010
11:56 am

Will the new LB coach handle any or all of the special teams? He did so at Vandy.

how2fish

February 12th, 2010
12:04 pm

Defense wins championships and if I remember correctly Bear Byrant always put his 11 best players on the D side of the ball…and well it worked out for him…if we can run the 1st couple of games I think we will be just fine.that being said I look for us to be somewhat improved overall this year and much better in 2011 !

Vote For Pedro

February 12th, 2010
12:06 pm

Fire Willy!!

William

February 12th, 2010
12:16 pm

DEFENSE wins championships! Nuff said! Reminder! What was the score when Hershel Walker and the dawgs won the NC in the ’80’s?

Mark Schlabach says Dawgs 19th

February 12th, 2010
12:18 pm

Don’t worry Aaron, no one will put 8 in the box to make you prove yourself.

Mark Schlabach

February 12th, 2010
12:22 pm

William, does the Dawg Nation remember anything since 1980?

SEC East Headlines – 2/12/10 « MrSEC.com

February 12th, 2010
12:29 pm

[...] his eyeblack tape if a new NCAA rule passes.5.  What’s the bigger worry for the 2010 Dawgs: defense or quarterback?6.  Logan Gray says he’s not going anywhere and that he’s focused on winning [...]

jack bull

February 12th, 2010
12:33 pm

the concern with the defense will be giving up 7/8 yds a pop up the middle on the run. sure, we’ll get more sacks and be more aggressive, but don’t forget, folks still run the ball in the SEC. and with the 3-4, if the nose guard hits the wrong gap on a run up the middle, it could go for quite a few yards. BUT, with that said, it’s obvious the biggest concern should be QB. lack of experience at the most important position on the field is always a concern.

the new defense could potentially lose us a game or two….a new QB, that number goes up.

oak island dawg

February 12th, 2010
12:35 pm

We still have AJ and Orson to throw to. Have to get the ball to them. I believe Bobo will mix it up with runs and going down the field with the best receiver in college. Cox was inadequate at best and I think whoever is the QB will be much better.

Mark Schlabach says Dawgs 19th

February 12th, 2010
12:35 pm

Murray not as tall and arm not as strong as Stafford. Stafford struggled first year=Murray really stuggles.

Not Disappointed

February 12th, 2010
12:36 pm

Where’s Willie Martinez? He’s always comical. Good weekend dawgs to you and your valentines.

Ramblin Wreck out!

kauai dawg

February 12th, 2010
12:39 pm

Most assuredly the QB. The D is in good hands with the new coaches and coach Garner staying. Very comfortable with it in their hands. I am thinking that Metz wins the QB job. I like the idea of letting both of them play kind of like Shock and Green.

Go DAWGS! 30-24

Mark Schlabach says Dawgs 19th

February 12th, 2010
12:41 pm

Not QB, not Defense, I would say HC.

Mark Schlabach says Dawgs 19th

February 12th, 2010
12:48 pm

Kauai you are correct; it is good that Garner is staying because you had a tremendous pass rush last year.

Bill Stanfill

February 12th, 2010
12:49 pm

UGA had an awful turn-over ratio last year. Part of that was due to Cox, part to other slippery hands, part to a secondary that at times simply looked lost, part to an incredible number of bad (for the
Dawgs) bounces. Georgia needs an improved running game (which we finally got during the last 2 games), better reads by the QB, a more disciplined and coordinated secondary. And our share of good bounces.
The turn-over ratio will surely improve. That alone could make a big difference next season.

how2fish

February 12th, 2010
12:54 pm

Mark Schlabach yes we remember something since 1980…8-1 30-24 for a couple..on and THWGT

Vick=Dog killing thug

February 12th, 2010
12:54 pm

To blindly say we won’t throw very much cannot be valid. With our receivers they will be plenty of opportunity to advance the chains via the pass, especially AJ. Each game and each defense will determine the pass/run ratio.

Modern football strategies often use the pass to setup the run and vice-versa. Pretty much the basics of football.

Stay thirsty my friends…..

Logan Gray

February 12th, 2010
12:59 pm

Hello, I can read what you are writing. I am still in the program and still the #1 QB going into the spring. I am a damn good dawg and will do my best to win the game.

Brandon Spikes

February 12th, 2010
1:00 pm

Thanks for winking at me before throwin the pic in Jax.

Rural Myers

February 12th, 2010
1:02 pm

yeah,Stanfill. Turn-overs can be spirit-killers. No way we match last season’s debacle.

gdawginkalamazoo

February 12th, 2010
1:06 pm

QB will be he biggest question mark. To start in the SEC is tough tough tough. Even Tebow and Stafford had tough rookie seasons. I wouldn’t expect any one of our guys to do too much better. Maybe Gray if he gets the nod since he has at least been on the field. If he starts I wonder who will call for the fair catches on the punt team.

Highlands Dog

February 12th, 2010
1:15 pm

Just think how good D.J. Shockley would have been for the Dawgs if had 2 or more years as a starter.

Eaassyy

February 12th, 2010
1:26 pm

QB play hands down. Defense will make adjustments and be just fine. Well, just hoping it can’t get any worse to be honest.

jellybeandawg

February 12th, 2010
1:31 pm

I feel the defense will be much improved over Grantham so the biggest worry/ concern will be at QB and the offensive side of the ball. Even with experienced future NFL 1st rounders at QB,Running Back, & Receiver Richt and his sidekick Bobo always seem to squander more talent and opportunities then any coach in recent memory so there is no reason to think it will be any different in 2010.

UGAgrad04

February 12th, 2010
1:35 pm

The biggest concern? Mark Richt and the direction of the program. And here are the REAL questions to ask:

1. Is Richt still hungry enough?
2. Is Richt going to be more involved in the play calling?
3. Are players still buying into Richt’s Family Values/ Finish the Drill system?
4. Can Richt and Bobo still develop a QB or might the other guys be WORSE than Joe Cox.
5. Will the players on defense play hard for a coach with NFL experience?
6. Can Richt beat Florida and Tennessee in perceived down years for both programs( something that hasn’t happened since 1988!!!)

If the answer is NO or MAYBE to any/all of these questions, than Richt’s program is in serious trouble.