Spring summaries of the college football landscape are popping up all over the place this week, and there’s been a good bit of head-scratching in the Bulldog Nation over Sports Illustrated snubbing the Dogs by not even including them in the also-considered category for its early Top 25.
On the other hand, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, who follows the UGA program a lot more closely than anyone at SI, has Georgia at No. 20 in his post-spring To 25.
Here’s what Schlabach has to say about Mark Richt’s team: “Georgia’s recipe for 2010: keep quarterback Aaron Murray healthy and play better defense. Georgia might go into the season without a proven backup quarterback if junior Logan Gray decides to transfer. Murray beat out Gray and freshman Zach Mettenberger for the starting job before Mettenberger was dismissed from the team after his arrest during spring break. Georgia figures to rely on its running game to take the pressure off Murray, and it needs to find a consistent receiver to complement A.J. Green. The defense will be more aggressive in new coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme, but the Dawgs have to find more defensive linemen. Cornerback Vance Cuff was a pleasant surprise during spring practice, easing Grantham’s concerns about the secondary. With the SEC’s best punter and kicker coming back, Georgia could be a surprise depending on how quickly Murray gets comfortable at quarterback.”
A pretty fair assessment, I’d say.
Elsewhere, in a chat with readers, Schlabach offered this view of the coming season for the Dogs: “I think as long as they get something out of Murray, they could win nine or 10 games. Experienced OL. Best WR in the SEC. Two great TEs. Best kicker and punter in the league. Big ? mark is defense. Can they get pressure on the QB? Vance Cuff gives them optimism in the secondary.”
As for the nonsensical but persistent “hot seat” talk about Richt among bloggers and columnists, Schlabach says: “I don’t think Richt is going to be fired anytime soon.”
Meanwhile, Chris Low, who covers the SEC for ESPN.com, has posted his spring summary of the Dogs. On the offensive side, he mirrors the excitement a lot of Dogs fans have about a couple of the returning stars: “The idea of running back Washaun Ealey and receiver A.J. Green on the field together (and healthy) at the same time is an enticing one for Georgia fans, not to mention Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. When Ealey started to get it going last November, Green was struggling with injuries. And when Green was tearing it up at the beginning of the season, Ealey wasn’t playing. They should be dynamite together in 2010 and keep defenses from ganging up on one or the other.”
I like the sound of that.
Key questions facing the Dogs besides lack of depth at quarterback, Low notes, include who besides Justin Houston is likely to make some noise at outside linebacker, and how the retooled secondary does against the pass. Says Low: “Georgia lost most of its defensive backfield from a year ago, but that might not necessarily be a bad thing when you look at how poorly the Bulldogs defended the pass at times. Sophomore cornerback Branden Smith should be better the second time around, and the addition of junior college safety Jakar Hamilton was huge. He was one of the stars of the spring. Junior cornerback Brandon Boykin is adamant that the Bulldogs will be just fine in the secondary next season. One thing’s for sure: They can’t give up 25 touchdown passes again and expect to be better on defense.”
Speaking of which, there’s been considerable attention paid online to a quote from a Palm Beach Post story on former Georgia safety Reshad Jones, newly signed to the Miami Dolphins.
Explaining why he moved from free safety to strong safety his junior season at Georgia, Jones says: “We had an older guy on the team who was kind of struggling at the corner, but they wanted to keep him on the field, so they moved him to free safety and me to strong safety.”
That older guy who was struggling was, of course, Bryan Evans, who continued to struggle even after the switch. The obsession with keeping Evans on the field will remain one of the unfortunate legacies (and mysteries) of the Willie Martinez era.