So, with Georgia having won the first of what are likely to be its three or four most challenging games this season, what needs to happen for the Dawgs to live up to preseason expectations?
In other words, what needs fixing, improving or tweaking?
Several folks I’ve heard from this week have pointed fingers at quarterback Aaron Murray’s slow starts in the first two games, and that’s certainly an area that could be improved. But taking into account the patchwork, hobbled, inexperienced offensive line Murray is operating behind, his early jumpiness and tendency to overthrow receivers is understandable … and his smooth play as the game progresses has been impressive.
Murray threw some really fine passes against Missouri, including a couple of touchdowns and several of the passes that were dropped by open receivers. As Buck Belue put it, Murray “delivered a big-game performance. … He was under constant pressure, in the first half. The O-line and John Theus had some issues providing a clean pocket, but Aaron stood in there strong and threw some nice balls. I was impressed.”
Despite the continued false starts (which really need to be addressed), the offense seemed much more in sync in the second half after Mike Bobo started going much more to four- and five-receiver sets that allowed Murray to get rid of the ball quickly, making the offensive line less of a liability.
Still, the OL is where the greatest improvement is needed, especially if the running game is to become more consistent (which also would take more pressure off Murray). If Theus and company can get healthy and stay that way, we should see improvement in both pass protection (which would free up the tight ends to become part of the receiving equation again) and run blocking.
The latter is especially important, because the Bulldogs need opponents worrying about the run in order to keep them from locking down the passing game. Georgia has three talented tailbacks, but their production has been spotty so far. As Mark Richt said this week, “We have to get better. We missed some opportunities this last game maybe more than game one as far as hitting it in the right spot. We missed some good blocking a couple of times I thought, more than a couple of times actually. It wasn’t just one guy. I think all three of them really, there was probably a run or two that all of them had that could have gained some yards.”
As for the defense, I’ve heard from a couple of fans who’ve been alarmed by the number of yards the Dawgs have given up in the first two games, particularly in the air. But keep in mind that Georgia has been operating without four defensive starters, mostly in the secondary. Considering that fact, I think the defensive showing so far has been remarkable. (Thanks in large measure, of course, to Jarvis Jones.) Just think what it’s going to be like in a couple of weeks when Todd Grantham’s troops are full-strength.
As for special teams, generally there’s definitely been improvement so far (with the occasional hiccup like Malcolm Mitchell’s ill-considered attempt to field a bouncing punt against Mizzou), but the kicking game remains a little shaky. That’s to be expected, though, with two true freshmen. Placekicker Marshall Morgan has shown a strong leg, and I think consistency will come as he gets more game experience. Let’s hope he gets plenty of PAT opportunities to work on his timing the next three games!
What else do you see that needs to happen in order for the Dawgs to be operating at peak efficiency?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg