Archive for May, 2011

A great tailback matters less than a great defense

Georgia's defense may well be a bigger key to 2011 success than Isaiah Crowell. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Georgia's defense may well be a bigger key to 2011 success than Isaiah Crowell. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Let’s face it, your average longtime Georgia Bulldog fan is probably someone who’s been known to utter the words, “run the damn ball” in frustration at times during the Mark Richt era.

UGA fans have a storied love affair with the running game dating from the Vince Dooley years when three yards and a cloud of dust got the job done, more often than not. And then there was Herschel Walker, of course, and a stellar group of backs that followed him in the 1980s.

Richt, of course, had Musa Smith and for a couple of years the nation’s premier running back in Knowshon Moreno. But generally speaking Richt has been more apt to rely on a running-back-by-committee approach. And despite the fact he’s an ardent proponent of a balanced offense, there has long been a suspicion among many in the Bulldog Nation that Richt really would prefer to chunk the seed all day if he got the …

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It’s now or never, Caleb King

Caleb King's game experience will be a valuable commodity for the Dogs. (Associated Press)

Caleb King's game experience will be a valuable commodity for the Dogs. (Associated Press)

Thanks to Mark Richt’s uncharacteristically blunt assessments of Washaun Ealey in recent months, Monday’s announcement that the tailback and UGA had decided to part company had a certain feeling of inevitability about it.A coach generally doesn’t hang a young man out to dry publicly like that unless their relationship has reached the breaking point.

Taking Richt at his word that this was a mutual decision, Ealey obviously tired of being in his head coach’s dog house and/or saw the writing writ large on the wall that incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell is going to get a chance to play a big role at Georgia from the get-go.

As inevitable as this story felt, though, I was keeping my fingers crossed it wouldn’t come to this. As I’ve said before, I’m as excited as any UGA fan about the impending arrival of Crowell. He has the potential to be a game-changing back early on. But while Marcus …

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What’s your biggest concern about the 2011 Dogs?

Aaron Murray gives the Dogs hope in 2011, but what is the biggest concern? (AJC file)

Aaron Murray gives the Dogs hope in 2011, but what is the biggest concern? (AJC file)

Over at ESPN.com, Edward Aschoff took a look at the biggest reasons for hope and concern for the Georgia Bulldogs this season. As you’d expect, the return of quarterback Aaron Murray was one of the reasons for hope, along with a talented linebacker unit, which he said “could be the most athletic in the league.”

Biggest reason for concern, Aschoff says, is Georgia’s unproven offensive skill players: “The Bulldogs have a ton of offensive talent, but only Murray, wide receiver Tavarres King and tight end Orson Charles have really made any sort of impact. Those three are reliable, but the rest of the group has yet to prove themselves. The Bulldogs haven’t found that elite running back. Washaun Ealey’s future is unknown and senior Caleb King was solid this spring, but has yet to really break out. Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas struggled with injuries this spring. Incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell

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Should Georgia skip signing a quarterback in 2012?

An interesting question has been raised by Gentry Estes over at Dawgs 247, which has reported that Georgia does not plan on signing a quarterback in its 2012 recruiting class.

If that’s the case, it would be a little unusual, as most schools feel it’s prudent to sign a quarterback every year. After all, more than one QB can get hurt in one season (just ask Ray Goff).

Estes, who thinks the decision not to sign a QB in 2012 makes sense, points out Georgia has a talented young quarterbacking corps led by redshirt-sophomore Aaron Murray backed by true soph Hutson Mason and true freshman Christian LeMay, that there will be plenty of QBs to choose from in the 2013 class, and that space is limited in UGA’s 2012 class.

And, of course, there’s also incoming signee Nick Marshall, who was a quarterback in high school, though he plans to play defense at UGA. An emergency spare, you might say.

So Georgia looks stocked for the next three or four years, especially when you consider that one …

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Should Dogs be ranked as a Top 20 team?

We won’t know until August whether Mark Richt’s 2011 Dogs will crack the AP and coaches preseason rankings, but Georgia moved up in the post-spring practice edition of the Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 poll from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.

Schlabach, who used to cover Georgia for the AJC and knows the SEC well, had seven conference teams ranked (more than any other conference), with Alabama at No. 2, LSU at 5, Arkansas at 11, UGA at 17, South Carolina at 19, Florida at 24 and Mississippi State at 25. South Carolina slipped from 15th place in Schlabach’s post-signing day ranking and Florida fell from 20th. Auburn had been ranked in the earlier listing but didn’t make the cut this time. Boise State, UGA’s opening opponent, ranked 7th.

Georgia’s placement was up one notch from 18th in the earlier ranking. Said Schlabach: “Bulldogs coach Mark Richt probably isn’t on the hot seat, but his program definitely needs to regain momentum in 2011. Georgia lost star receiver A.J. Green to the …

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Are there any ‘trap’ games lurking for Dawgs?

The Dogs' last visit to Knoxville didn't turn out so well. Could Tennessee be this year's trap game? (Associated Press)

The Dogs' last visit to Knoxville didn't turn out so well. Could Tennessee be this year's trap game? (Associated Press)

Looking ahead at the 2011 season, most college football observers agree Mark Richt’s Dogs have one of the most formidable challenges in opening with Boise State and South Carolina. But you also hear a lot that after those first two games Georgia’s schedule looks pretty manageable, barring some unforeseen development like last year’s loss of A.J. Green for four games.

The toughest games are easy to identify once you get past those first two. Mississippi State still isn’t one of the SEC’s glamour programs and the game is in Athens, but the other Bulldogs were too much for our Dogs last season and so everyone should be expecting another tough game this year. Florida in Jacksonville is big every year. And even a depleted defending national champion Auburn team will have the Dogs’ full attention when they come to Athens.

So what looks like a potential “trap” game, …

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