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?