Nine days and counting, and from what I’m hearing and seeing the UGA fan base is alternating between sky-high optimism and nervous fretting.
Take my friend Dan, who I was chatting with earlier this week. “Do you realize,” he said, “that we were three or four plays from finishing 10-and-2 last season?”
Dan put the onus for the Dogs’ disappointing 2009 showing squarely on the defense, and more specifically Willie Martinez. Which is why he’s so high on Georgia’s prospects this season. “We were that close last year and yet our defense was terrible.”
He believes that even with the Dogs having to learn the new 3-4 defensive scheme installed by Todd Grantham, “there’s no way the defense won’t be better this year.” And that means a better record, he believes, because Grantham’s more aggressive style should produce more turnovers than Martinez’s read-and-react scheme did.
Of course, quarterback play was also a problem at times last year. (I still wince thinking about that Kentucky game.) And with Aaron Murray starting out with no experience, some fans are feeling kind of anxious.
Like my friend JP. I got an e-mail from him the other day. The subject line: “I’m worried.”
What he was worried about was Murray’s showing in the scrimmages up to that point (not including Wednesday’s). Said JP: “Aaron Murray has now played 3 ‘games’ at UGA. In the G-Day game he was the third-best QB on the field and threw a terrible interception. In the first scrimmage he was so bad that Bobo publicly criticized him, and in the second scrimmage he was 8 for 20 with no touchdowns, and the offense was totally inept. The best thing Richt could say about him was he didn’t throw any interceptions. I hate to sound like Munson, but I sure wish he would show some progress. I’m afraid he might be one of those players who looks great in practice but can’t produce when it counts.”
In my reply, I tried talking JP down off the ledge a bit by pointing out that in the recent scrimmages Murray has been working behind a patchwork offensive line because of injuries and illness.
That was still pretty much the case Wednesday, when Murray had another OK showing, going 9-for-17 for 127 yards and no interceptions but chalking up a demerit from Mark Richt for getting sacked on a play when he should have thrown the ball away.
“He’s still learning. He’s still a freshman,” Richt noted.
But legendary Dogs QB Buck Belue offers a perspective that fans fretting about Murray’s practice stats probably ought to keep in mind. In his blog, he writes: “Get ready to hear all about Aaron Murray’s stats this season. I can hear some of these knuckleheads already, ‘Murray only completed 7 of 16 passes.’ What does it matter, if two go for TDs and they win?”
The bottom line on the quarterback, according to Belue: “What’s important is making plays that help the offense score points, which in turn helps the team win games. No one should expect Murray — in his first season as the starter — to go out there and complete 65 percent of his throws for 3,000 yards. This isn’t [Eric] Zeier in his senior season. This young man is just getting started. Aaron needs to focus on managing the offense, making good decisions, and hitting on some big plays that help them score points and win.”
Thanks, Buck. We needed that.
Find me on Facebook.
Follow me on Twitter.