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

4WhatIt'sWorth

February 12th, 2010
1:47 pm

It’s not a stretch to assume both the QB position and the defense could be stronger than last year.
If the QB does not turn the ball over, that position will be stronger, even with 60% of the passing production. If the defense gives up 5 – 7 fewer points per game, that side of the ball will be better also.
I think both scenarios become fact and the Dawgs will play in a bowl game for the opportunity to win 10 games in 2010.
GO DAWGS!

brokebackvol

February 12th, 2010
1:49 pm

Totally agree, if you have no defense, best QB in the world is gonna struggle to win games.

45-19?
35-14?
51-33?

Those numbers should be familiar.

how2fish

February 12th, 2010
1:50 pm

UGAgrad04 ..the sky is falling the sky is falling…CMR fired one of his best friends , will the players play for a coach with NFL experience …is that really a question ? UF and UT are both in the same boat as UGA new QB’s defensive coaches etc etc..keep your shirt on Nancy…its the SEC there are no free lunches.

Saban

February 12th, 2010
1:56 pm

Biggest problem will be how much jail time is needed.

gdawginkalamazoo

February 12th, 2010
2:08 pm

UGAgrad04, YES to all.

jellybeandawg

February 12th, 2010
2:10 pm

Nice synopsis UGAgrad04. Unfortunately as of the last 4 years Richt has been more concerned with practicing basketball trick shots, back flips off the 10 meter platform, soulja boy dance moves, and designing gimmicky “fake juice” uniforms to “motivate” the team against UF but at least the defense should be better.

Richts gimmicks have become old and tired so for his sake I hope he can turn things around.

4WhatIt'sWorth

February 12th, 2010
2:13 pm

Take that Anti-Richt Crap back to the GT blogs you traitors!

ga gator

February 12th, 2010
2:17 pm

I think Georgia should just abandon their football program all together. After reading all these comments from Tech, Vol, Bama fan and what I know to be true, it’s the only way.

jellybeandawg

February 12th, 2010
2:20 pm

4WhatIt’sWorth get your head out of the sand. I agree that Richt has made some great contributions to the program but the key word is HAS, as in HAS- BEEN. its all about what have you done for me lately and the truth is over the last 4 years Richt has underachieved.

UT: Lost 3 Won 1
2) UF: Lost 3 Won 1
3) UK: Lost 2 Won 2 (that’s losing in my book)

UGA is the 3rd or 4th best team in the SEC EAST! Again, if you are happy with this then continue to support Mark Richt!

EmptySkull

February 12th, 2010
2:23 pm

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

I’m not worried about either. I think we are in great shape to surprise a lot of folks.
QB position will have a very experienced OL , 2 great RB, a great TE group, and maybe the best WR set in CFB. I can’t think of a better situation for a inexperienced QB to have. The coaches need to drill into their minds not make any silly inexperience mistakes.

The defense has a great group of folks. All very skilled and smart. We have an aggressive DC coming in that knows how to coach. Give me “Don’t know where the rush is coming from” over “bend don’t break” any day”. That alone makes our defense better. It couldn’t get much worse.

dixiedawg

February 12th, 2010
2:27 pm

Both are concerns. However, with the experienced offensive line, running game, TE’s, & AJ Green, alot of pressure will be off the QB. The Defense has to get better. They must get better. That will be key in order for us to compete for championships.

4WhatIt'sWorth

February 12th, 2010
2:27 pm

jellybeandawg,

Get Real!!! UGA has had problems on defense, those problems have been solved, take my word for it! However, this poor mouthing of UGA on the blogs only serves to hurt recruiting, it will not accomplish anything else. Keep the Faith or Go to the GT site. We need no fair weather fans.
GO DAWGS! … SIC-EM!

H DAWG

February 12th, 2010
2:31 pm

Dawgs will be solid on both sides of the ball !!!
Just wait and see boys !!!!
Oh, and I am thirsty my friend!!

Fair and Balanced

February 12th, 2010
2:35 pm

Biggest concern is the coaching staff. If they are worth the money then GA wins 10 games. Anything less is underachieving because there is enough talent at UGA to win ball games. The fact that Richt fired 3 coaches speaks of his hunger for better, though it took 2 disappointing seasons to get him to do it.

jellybeandawg

February 12th, 2010
2:37 pm

I graduated UGA from Terry COB class of 96 so no fair weather fan here. People can keep drinking Richts Kool-aid and ra-ra him all they want but it still doesnt change the facts that he has lost it.I hope he can get it back but if the heavily penalized, very undisciplined, under-performing teams he has been fielding for the last 4 years are any indication then it does not look good.

Lost 3 outta 4 to the Vols
Lost 3 outta 4 to the Gators
Split 2 and 2 with the powerhouse Wildcats

Not exactly SEC EAST domination over the past 4 years is it?

Wanna get really near sighted and look at the last 2 years? I didn’t think so…

Calhoundawg

February 12th, 2010
2:37 pm

Actually, I’m going to go against the collective grain on this blog and say that the defense concerns me more than the QB. The change in schemes notwithstanding, we replace most, if not all, of the front line. Also, inexperience in the secondary, despite a boatload of talent, will be a big part of “fixing” what’s been wrong with our defense all along anyway. I must say, though, that with the talent level we have on that side of the ball, along with the new leadership, the prospects for success are downright intruiging. In the same vein, the talent and experience on offense will provide what should constitute almost a set of training wheels for the new QB (I believe all three very capable), particularly with what appears to be a rejuvenated running game.

With all of that said, we simply have not carried ourselves as a championship caliber team of late. The penalties and turnovers, both of which have reached embarrassing levels, are an indication of unfocused and undisciplined teams. Sloppy play on special teams and subsequent poor field position only serve to inflate bad statistics on both sides of the ball. We need a renewal of commitment to sound, basic football and a fundamentally sound work ethic to reclaim what was an all-too-brief standing among the SEC’s elite. Florida is starting over. Tennessee is starting over. Auburn is starting over. The time to break back out on to the top of the pack is now. Go Dawgs !!!!

4WhatIt'sWorth

February 12th, 2010
2:38 pm

BANK ON IT!

The biggest impact on the offensive side of the ball may be the return of Trinton S. and Bruce F.
One the defense, the surprice newcomer will be Richard S. – He is up to 230 lbs. and he will start in the middle by game 2.
Remember – You heard it here first!
GO DAWGS!

Magic Man

February 12th, 2010
2:41 pm

QB and DT/NG are the biggest question marks for this team. Safety could also be a concern, but we should be fine with Ogletree, Hamilton, Rambo, Banks, Pugh, and Shawn Williams. CB depth is a concern as well. So is WR depth, but those positions have enough talent at the top of the depth chart to not be a concern.

However, whoever starts at QB will have no game experience. The defense will be fine. While it may take some time to get full acclimated to the new schemes, the new schemes should create more havoc to make up for the mistakes. Other teams don’t see a 3-4 very often, and when they do it is a two-gap 3-4 not a one-gap like UGA’s. Plus, opposing teams won’t know where the rusher is coming from, which should create more turnovers. The turnovers should mask the big plays that we give up due to breakdowns.

We should surprise some people in my opinion. The beginning of the year will be about survive-and-advance, like March Madness. But, by the end of the year, we should be really dangerous. Our Qb will be more seasoned and our D will be much more comfortable.

4WhatIt'sWorth

February 12th, 2010
2:44 pm

jellybeandawg,

Richt has won 90 games in 9 years while playing on the toughest side (East) of the toughest Conference (SEC) in the country! That is not drinking Kool-Aid. If I were in the AD Ticket office, I would refuse to sell you tickets. There are too many fans more deserving!
GO DAWGS!

German Shepherd Dawg

February 12th, 2010
2:53 pm

Defense will not be a question mark, but an exclamation point!

How could they get any worse than last year? No where but up, and sky’s the limit!

QB will be fine. Dogs will be a big surprise this year, as long as QB doesn’t kill us.

ONLY Fair

February 12th, 2010
3:00 pm

Hobnail Boot

February 12th, 2010
3:02 pm

O will be fine. We will run the football and throw when we need to. The “D” however will need to learn how to tackle. Too much of that running into someone (Smash hitting.) They need to be tought to wrap up and knock the taste out of the RB’s mouth. We also need to focus on not jumping off sides on both sides of the ball. If we kick the ball into the end zone and make teams go 80 yards we will be fine. See you in ATL.

Dawgs 2010

February 12th, 2010
3:03 pm

I believe Aaron Murray is the next David Greene. Remember Greene redshirted too and had more wins as a starting quarterback than Peyton Manning. I think UGA will take a similar approach to Florida and that is to be run-heavy early in the season and when the qb gets better and more experienced start to air it out more. Kind of like what the Falcons did with Matt Ryan.

jellybeandawg

February 12th, 2010
3:04 pm

4WhatIt’sWorth ,
Hahahaha! refuse to sell me tickets… Thats a good one. 1st I don’t agree that the east is tougher and with the resurgence of Bama I think the west is now slightly tougher although for the most part they are pretty balanced.
2nd With the talent we have/ produce in the state of GA we should be be able to roll out of bed and win 8-9 games per year… easy!!! Because of this 9-10 win seasons should be considered the norm and isn’t some great achievement. We should take our yearly beating from the gators as usual and 1 maybe 2 more on occasion MAX…..

There is no reason we should not finish 10-2 or 9-3 at worst year in and year out so 90 games in 9 years isn’t anything special, however you blind loyalists still continue to use it as a battle cry to convince yourselves that Richt is still a relevant and good coach when in fact he is a “has been” and is “washed up”.

toph

February 12th, 2010
3:07 pm

Stafford came in as a true freshman I believe and struggled. Both Murray and Mett have been in the system for 1 year now. That should help.

Defensively, I think we’ll be just fine. We have a good group of solid defenders that, with some coaching, will be just fine.

Go Dawgs!

toph

February 12th, 2010
3:10 pm

I like it Hobnail Boot!!

jimmy

February 12th, 2010
3:10 pm

defensive transition do we have the athletes,both mentally physically to win look at saban’s first year at bama

ozzfest

February 12th, 2010
3:11 pm

10-2 at worst…..look at the super-weak schedule Arthur Johnson an Mark Richt orchestrated.
….I sure am looking forward to Boulder!

Bruce Mac

February 12th, 2010
3:15 pm

Duh, they are not Freshman quarterbacks in the true sence of the word. They have been thru two spring practices and two fall practices. The comparison to Stafford is inappropriate but I think you all know that, you just want to play dumb.

Dawgs 2010

February 12th, 2010
3:15 pm

I believe the 3 biggest problems for UGA were solved last season, and that was firing Jancek, Fabris, and Martinez. We have unbelievably talented linebackers, yet Curran was the only one that seemed to be able to tackle. (Now Jancek is replaced with a solid coach in Belin and Grantham coaches the other set of linebackers.). Fabris made our special teams a joke, almost never trying to block punts or kick for a touchback, and bad coverage on kickoffs. Martinez is replaced by a great secondary coach. I truly believe our biggest problems are no longer part of our team, and Aaron Murray or Zach should be MUCH better than Cox. Go Dawgs!

JB

February 12th, 2010
3:22 pm

Richt can sign a top QB just about anytime he wants to…..from anywhere in the country. With that being said, he should have played Murray some last year when he saw we were in a 7-8 win type year. He should have played in 5 or 6 games taking about a 1/3 of the snaps. I really don’t care for Saban, but I respect him and he won’t let that ” he’s a senior and he’s playing” stuff interfere with winning. If a Soph or Jr. is better, they will play.

4WhatIt'sWorth

February 12th, 2010
3:24 pm

jellybeandawg,

If you win 90 games in 9 years, 10 wins is the norm. Do the math you idiot!
If you are not happy with the Mark Richt Era at UGA, then I suggest you move to
Atlanta with the other nerds. You will be real happy there!
GO DAWGS!

4WhatIt'sWorth

February 12th, 2010
3:31 pm

jellybeandawg,

If you think Mark Richt is all washed up – You probably thought Herschel Walker was all washed up too, didn’t you. You probably believe Al Gore invented the internet and the snow today in Georgia was caused by Global Warming!
Just Remember this — You don’t forget to coach overnight. Coach Richt will retire averaging 10 wins a season and I bet his son would never stop so low as to coach at UF or TENN.
GO DAWGS!

Brandon Spikes

February 12th, 2010
3:32 pm

Glad you got on imposter. 4WhatIt’sWorth all gators are happy wit Richt.

Just sayin

February 12th, 2010
3:33 pm

QB and D will be equally problematic; even breaking in Stafford wasnt easy and learing a whole new D will take a few games.

Unknown

February 12th, 2010
3:34 pm

Hey its my turn to be quarterback!

Untalented

February 12th, 2010
3:35 pm

Hey I could defense as good as Willie Martinez.

Unforgiving

February 12th, 2010
3:36 pm

Hey as long as I have a “insignificant bowl” game, things should be OK.

4WhatIt'sWorth

February 12th, 2010
3:38 pm

Brandon Spikes,

I bet it was fun watching them dawgs dance in the endzone, uh?

Brandon Spikes

February 12th, 2010
3:39 pm

I wish I could come back for one more eye gouge.

jellybeandawg

February 12th, 2010
3:39 pm

Yea and it should be considered the norm Jackass. YOU were the one throwing it out there like it was some INCREDIBLE achievement when in fact it should be considered average. I also don’t need suggestions from an obvious a$$hat who probably didn’t even attend 1 semester at UGA, much less graduate. I graduated from there, go to games regularly, and can root for them however I choose so screw off inbred.

Just sayin

February 12th, 2010
3:40 pm

Endzone dance was lame; we payed for it for 2 years.

Unbelievable

February 12th, 2010
3:40 pm

It is my turn to be the DC at Florida

Unspoken

February 12th, 2010
3:41 pm

We run our mouths at FLA but have never had an undefeated season, ever!

Unseen

February 12th, 2010
3:42 pm

We like to cry alot and hug in Gainesville, it makes us feel all better at being second tier.

jellybeandawg

February 12th, 2010
3:48 pm

Hahahaha… the only way he will retire averaging 10 wins a season is if he retires tomorrow.. However I do have high hopes that Grantham will at least be a big improvement on defense. Also I do like the part about his son not stooping so low as to coach at UF or TENN. but it is a great opportunity for DD.

For what its worth I also believe Dooley stayed around far to long as coach and AD and wished he would have left UGA for Auburn in 1980.. We would have been a far better program for it and would have probably had a couple more NC’ s to go along with it.

bruce mac

February 12th, 2010
3:49 pm

Jelly, come off the ledge man, it will be allright. Dawgs always finish first or second in SEC East.

4WhatIt'sWorth

February 12th, 2010
3:56 pm

jellybeandawg,

Actually, Tony Barnhart and I are fraternity brothers. If your UGA pride is that weak, please do us all a favor and move to Atlanta.

jellybeandawg

February 12th, 2010
4:01 pm

Haha thanks bruce mac but I am not on the ledge. I just don’t get all this blind Richt worship but I also didnt understand the Jim Jones worshipers either. Richt is a good man, and a decent coach. But he’s not a great coach. Period.

kevin

February 12th, 2010
4:04 pm

It should be interesting to see how the D and the QB position come along. But, it’s worth mentioning that Aaron Murray was he #3 QB prospect in the country when UGA signed him and Zach Mettenburger was #11–not too shabby. With a year on the sidelines perhaps they’ll prove to be quick learners on the field.