So far the preseason estimations of Mark Richt’s team have varied wildly, though most predictions have Georgia improving modestly over last season but still behind Florida in the SEC East.
And then there’s Tom Poisal of the highly respected philsteele.com, who says “Georgia is poised to re-take the throne in the SEC East from Florida” this year. Poisal says the key game is South Carolina. “If the Dawgs survive that test in the sauna that is Columbia in September, they will be off and running barring injuries.”
Poisal’s appraisal of the Dawgs addresses the concerns of an inexperienced quarterback in Aaron Murray and the transition to a new defense.
He thinks this being Murray’s second year in the program will help. “Expect statistics mirroring David Greene [in his redshirt freshman year] and Matthew Stafford’s 2nd year on the Georgia campus at minimum. Murray has a much better arm than Greene but not as much as Stafford. His mobility is better than both and his intangibles are said to be reminiscent of Greene.”
As for the defense, Poisal says “we are talking about a defense that gave up more passing touchdowns than any other SEC team while also creating the fewest turnovers in league play. There HAS to be improvement in those numbers this year given the athleticism Georgia possesses on the defensive side of the ball.” And the fact that opponents won’t know what to expect from Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme “should soften the blow of any potential learning-curve that the Bulldogs may encounter, especially early in the year.”
Plus, Poisal says, “ask any coach breaking in a 1st year quarterback what he wants to go along with the rookie and he will probably say a veteran offensive line, good running game and great special teams.” And Georgia has all that. Plus, he says, a schedule “tailor-made for a 1st year quarterback in the SEC.”
To sum it all up, he says, “The team you see in the final third of the season will not resemble the team that began the year. Murray will be entrenched as the QB of the present and future, the playbook will open, and all the pieces will fall into place giving Georgia an SEC East Championship and potentially more.”
Not bad for a team picked by the Orlando Sentinel to be only the 64th best in the country.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THAT LEARNING CURVE?
Talking about the defense with the Macon Telegraph, Richt conceded there’s going to be “a learning curve” but noted that “the 3-4 is a good aggressive, attacking style and it’s one where we have enough personnel to run it effectively. The question is, how well will we do it, how many mistakes will we make along the way, and when we make the mistakes, what’s it going to cost us? On the other end, hopefully we’re going to pressure people enough to get them to turn the ball over more than we did a year ago.”
That’s the key: how much Georgia can flip its turnover ratio from last year’s abysmal numbers.
A HEISMAN DARK HORSE?
Alabama’s Mark Ingram is the preseason pick to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner, but as last year showed the favorite frequently doesn’t win. So what dark horse Heisman contenders could emerge?
Collegefootballnews.com says: “Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green is the first name that comes to mind. Green hauled in 53 passes for 808 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2009, doing so in a rather average offense. In 2010, the only question mark in the Bulldog offensive puzzle is the quarterback. Granted, that’s a pretty big question mark, but Aaron Murray should be able to work off of his running game to get Green the ball in key spots. Green has the talent, it’s just a matter of him getting enough touches.”
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