Ask most Dogs fans which nonconference game on this year’s schedule will be the most important, and the knee-jerk answer is, of course, Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will be out to avenge this past season’s surprise loss at Grant Field while the Dogs will want to turn that win into a new winning streak against Tech and protect the hedges.
But in what CollegeFootballNews.com calls its “Ridiculously Early SEC Picks” by the site’s bloggers, Brian Harbach makes the case that Georgia’s trip out West to play Colorado at Folsom Field will be the SEC out-of-conference game of the year.
Here’s why he thinks that: “There are a number of great SEC out-of-conference games this year, but none may come at a more important time than Georgia’s trip to Boulder the first week of October. This game will be UGA’s third road trip in five weeks; and it will be following games at South Carolina, Arkansas and at Mississippi State. It is a must win for the Bulldogs, and Colorado coach Dan Hawkins needs a win against UGA to save his job. With two weeks to prepare for UGA, the Buffaloes will be ready. This is a huge game for [Mark] Richt and should be exciting to watch.”
I’m not sure how stiff a challenge the Buffs will be, but I do think it’s not an exaggeration to call it a “must” win if Richt is going to get his program back on track. As tough as SEC play is, there’s not much margin for error with the nonconference games if you want to reach that psychologically important 10-win mark.
I still think Tech’s a more important game, though. Your thoughts?
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that in that same blogger roundup on the SEC, the trendy pick for SEC offensive player of the year is Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, but Billy Gomila opts for Georgia’s A.J. Green. His reasoning: “Mark Ingram or Ryan Mallett are the chalk picks, but after a season where the chalk picks didn’t exactly work out, call this an off-the-grid selection. Green was dominating SEC secondaries despite an inconsistent (and that’s a generous assessment) quarterback and negligible running game. Mark Richt’s done enough to make me think the Bulldogs have a rebound season in them, and Green will lead that with a huge season (likely his last before departing to the NFL).”
I can’t argue with any of that.
Oh, and in the picks for SEC coach on the hot seat, the favorite was LSU’s Les Miles and no one picked Richt.
SHOULD SAMUEL REDSHIRT?
In an interesting Athens Banner-Herald piece on Richard Samuel’s switch from running back to linebacker, it’s noted that while Samuel is a rising junior, he just turned 19 on Feb. 3, which makes him younger than two of the Dogs’ incoming freshmen and born in the same year as 11 other members of Georgia’s 2010 recruiting class.
So considering how young he is and that he’s switching back to defense, which he hasn’t played since high school, his former coach at Cass High in Cartersville raises the question of whether Samuel might not end up redshirting this season.
“I wouldn’t put out of the question that he could redshirt for a year,” coach Rick Casko said. “I think that’s beneficial just for his physical maturity. Coach Richt and I talked about this, too. I could have had Richard for two more years of high school based on age.” (When Samuel moved to Georgia from the Virgin Islands at age 8, he was placed in a grade with older students.)
While I think the Dogs might miss his speed if he didn’t play this season, a year to get reoriented to playing linebacker might pay big dividends down the road. I’m sure the decision will depend on how quickly Samuel adapts to Todd Grantham’s defense and the showing he makes during the spring. But giving Samuel another year to mature sounds like a good idea.
NEW ‘PRESENCE’ ON DEFENSE
Coach Richt spent his 50th birthday in Albany, speaking to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet, and the Albany Herald reports he provided an update on the pre-spring preparations in Athens.
“It’s going good,” Richt said. “We’re installing the defense, mostly, with the coaches and our coordinator is making sure the coaches understand, and we’re feeding it little by little to the players.”
Richt said recently arrived defensive coordinator Grantham appears to bring a new level of intensity to that side of the ball. “We like a lot of things about [Grantham],” Richt said. “He’s a great communicator and has got some presence about him that I think the guys will respect and enjoy.”
Maybe the Dogs have finally found a true replacement for Brian VanGorder in more than just job title.