What pieces need to fall into place for the Dawgs?

Aaron Murray has gotten off to a slow start in games but has finished strong. (Associated Press)

Aaron Murray has gotten off to a slow start in games but has finished strong. (Associated Press)

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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157 comments Add your comment

Joey Hanie

September 13th, 2012
10:30 am

Frank Lane

September 13th, 2012
10:34 am

I think that the main thing is playing up with the motivation to win every play. Team still shows periods of complacency on both sides of ball.

Leroy

September 13th, 2012
10:34 am

DCJohn

September 13th, 2012
10:40 am

You said it – false starts moving a third and two or third and six back to sevens and elevens is going to keep the entire offense inconsistent, regardless of how healthy or better the offensive line gets.

edumacated

September 13th, 2012
10:42 am

Dawgs can’t go 0 for 8 on 3rd downs and expect to get out of Columbia, SC with a win. No way.

Bobby

September 13th, 2012
10:43 am

I think heavy criticisms against the defense are seriously misplaced. No excuse for Buffalo. However, against Mizzou, were missing 1/4 to 1/3 of our starters, depending on the defensive scheme we were running.

We still generated plenty of momentum-killing and game-changing plays. We eliminated the biggest threat they had. We held Franklin to 25 yrds on 20 carries. That was their team’s biggest strength and our defense’s biggest weakness. In other words, we schemed to win, even if it resulted in a couple of bigger plays in the secondary. Giving up 20 pts to Mizzou isn’t bad. It’s not ideal, but I’ll take it, especially when we’re showing marked improvement in our biggest problem areas the past 5 yrs. Mobile QBs have been giving us fits the past few years. Pat White at WVU. Relf and Miss State. Tebow. The list goes on. Solid improvement, guys.

DIT

September 13th, 2012
10:47 am

It’s all about the O-LINE right now. Murray needs to be protected and we need to rush the ball for close to 200 yards per game. Not worried about the defense. They are finding their way. Jones effort last week will have our defense pumped up and wanting more.

Dawg Haus

September 13th, 2012
10:48 am

Great post, Bill! I’m still a little worried about the line, but the Dawgs were able to run the ball consistently against Missouri, so maybe they’re turning a corner. Here’s to hoping they keep developing as the season goes on!

fan

September 13th, 2012
10:49 am

Mr. Murray will be in trouble any time he gets rushed. He panics. Missouri got tired , Murray got better. any team with a rush will have the dawgs in trouble.

Chris

September 13th, 2012
10:51 am

Bill, we definitely need to improve in the running game as you mentioned, and while we are having problems with the o-line and maybe the backs missing holes as mentioned in your article, a big problem that has always been there with Richt and Bobo is there blatant tendency to go away from the running game when it is working. There were a couple of instances in the Missouri game where we should have been running the ball, and all we did was pass, pass, pass. It was even more of a glaring problem against Buffalo in the first half.

While the coaches are putting the blame on blocking, the backs, and so forth, they also need to take a good look in the mirror. If you don’t run it, you’re not going to have success with it, and averaging over 5 yards per carry is actually a good thing. Gurley had 10 carries for 65 yards against Missouri. That is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He should have been running the ball more.

Donkey Balls

September 13th, 2012
10:53 am

Ill take overthrows over interceptions anyday.

JAWS

September 13th, 2012
10:54 am

I hate that running play where Murray fires it to the running back coming up the middle. I see a fumble in a close game against a good d. Scrap it for good.

Columbus Dawg

September 13th, 2012
11:00 am

Yes, the run game is crucial. The absence of a sustainable running game will cost games, and not just to take pressure off of Murray, or any of that. The run game is how championship teams in college football gain the most important yards in big games. Totally opposite of NFL. It does not matter where it comes from. Florida ran out of the spread with Harvin and Tebow, Auburn got theirs out of Newton, and did get some from it’s tailbacks, and Alabama got it from it’s tailbacks, but they all possessed unstoppable, sustainable run games. You simply can not wear down opposing defenses with long pass plays that do not eat clock. Tuberville tried to tell Richt early in his career about the importance of a dominant running game in the Southeastern Conference, but he will not use the run game in a traditional sense, because he does not know how. Richt is full of it about the running game against Mizzou. Go back and look at the first carries that Gurley got, Gurley, like all great backs was establishing his game with some tough yards early, and low and behold, he vanished from the game. Why won’t Vince Dooley tell Richt where he is going wrong? The problem I have with this in Bobo, is that he played at Georgia back when the running game was used as a true weapon, and should know the importance of this. One day, Keith Marshall will be ready to play SEC football, but he is not yet. The coaches should have never stopped feeding Gurley the ball, most especially just to keep Marshall happy in giving him carries he should’nt have got.

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
11:03 am

It’s fair to say Murray Overthrew some WR in the first half of the Buffalo game. But he also moved the team pretty well, and made some throws. But clearly he was over juiced. I’d rather have that , that simply playing poorly, or not giving it effort. I’d say we have had worse things that to say that the well-deserved complaint in that game was that only hald of his deep balls went for TDs.

Not sure I would pin the slow start against Mizzou on him, though. I think we were still playing pretty conservative, grinding it out (which ended up to be a good recipe) and just weren’t burning up the yards. Mizzou wilted, and we opened it up as it went along.

I admit not really remembering Murray’s first half in any detail, but I don’t recall thinking that he was really the “slow start” factor.

Dawg33

September 13th, 2012
11:04 am

I agree Chris I think Gurly should be getting the ball at least 20 times a game.

chazzo

September 13th, 2012
11:05 am

ti MING…. Ti ming… ti Ming…. ti ming…. Timing…

Dawg 33

September 13th, 2012
11:09 am

I also think we should run split backfield with Gurly and Marshall and throw swing passes like we did with Henderson and Worly.

chazzo

September 13th, 2012
11:13 am

Let’s see which back can against SoCa. I bet its Ken Malcome.

matt

September 13th, 2012
11:13 am

Why are we letting the ball hit the ground on every punt? If it’s short, call the fair catch! We are giving up 15-20 yds of field position each kick.

AltamahaDawg

September 13th, 2012
11:13 am

It’s ALL about the Oline, right now. Trying to see how much pounding just one of our freshman RBs can take in the first 2 games of his career is not even remotely important.

Marshall needs reps, Malcome needs reps. Somewhere along the line, halfway through the season that will be very obvious as to why.

Dirty Dawg

September 13th, 2012
11:30 am

Once again Bill you seem to relish the concept of ‘damned by feint praise’…particularly regarding Bobo and Murray. Do yourself a favor and replay the game and keep count of Murray’s throws…exactly one, one, pass was overthrown all night…one interception (damned good play by the Mizzou guy)…and a host of dropped balls. As for the play-calling, again give Missouri a little credit – OK, some false starts too. Point being young Mr Murray and Coach Bobo are doing just fine so far and maybe you should cut em some slack.

ATLNative

September 13th, 2012
11:31 am

Our full defense should be able to create a lot of 3 and outs. That makes running the ball and grinding clock more important since the offense will be seeing the field often. and if Junkyard Jones keeps creating takeaways, they may be creating 1 or 2 and outs instead of 3. GATA! Let’s average over 45 points a game after 5 games!

bill arp

September 13th, 2012
11:38 am

To get to the promised land, it all starts up front. On both sides of the ball. Obviously the bigger concern of the two would be the O-Line, mainly that true freshman. But as I watched the last two games, I’ve seen our R-Guard(Lee) miss quite a few blocks himself.

My other HUGE concern is the FG kicker…Man, that guy scares the crap out of me..

damngooddawg!

September 13th, 2012
11:39 am

Does anyone remember UGA having a good OL at any time in CMR’s tenure here? I’m just sayin”

damngooddawg!

September 13th, 2012
11:44 am

Does Billy Bennett still have a year of elligibility?

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 13th, 2012
11:46 am

I have heard constantly that Aaron Murray is no David Greene and for a long time I whole-heartedly agreed. However a few days ago I actually did some research and looked at their numbers and I was blown away. Through their first 29 starts (the # of starts made by Murray thus far) their numbers are nearly identical. Murray has slightly better passing yards and passer rating, while Greene has won 5 more games and 4 less interceptions. However one glaring thing jumps out at you. TDs: David Greene – 41 Aaron Murray – 65. WOW.

I’ve gotten to a point where I am done critiquing this man’s every move and I’m simply going to watch and appreciate what is quite frankly greatness at quarterback by Aaron Murray.

chilidawg

September 13th, 2012
11:46 am

IF the dawgs win out and win the SEC, this could be the year that the SEC gets jobbed again (see Auburn) if there are two other undefeated teams. The media and talking heads want the SEC dominance in the BCS to end. Let’s assume that the PAC12 champ will be undefeated. If no big shake-ups in the polls happen, that leaves OU and FSU. No way the paper clips go undefeated this year. So, I’m a fan of anyone who is playing FSU.

Dawg Haus

September 13th, 2012
11:47 am

They did back in his earlier days, damngooddawg! Remember guys like Jean-Gilles and Stinchcomb? There have been individual linemen since his early days that were very good, but the overall line quality has definitely gone down.

dawgfacedboy

September 13th, 2012
11:48 am

“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”

WHy don’t we try this from the onset? Why wait? If the OL is a liability (which it is and has been) then why not put together a gameplan accordingly. Quicker passes.

Personally I think the run blocking has been atrocious and for me that’s the “biggest piece that needs to fall in place”. The running game (OL). Just one arm chair coach’s opinion.

BMOC

September 13th, 2012
11:49 am

Donkey Balls

September 13th, 2012
10:53 am
Ill take overthrows over interceptions anyday.

The only difference between the two is the ‘overthrow’ happened not to be a defensive player behind it.

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 13th, 2012
11:53 am

Really breaking down what held the offense back in the first half.

First drive first play Gurley drops an easy pitch where he had a hole for at least 8 yards and puts us back at 2nd and 18. Thus ruining great field position and killing the chance to take the crowd out of the game early.

Michael Bennett (who, by the way is a great reciever) has 2 BAD drops that held back drives.

John Theus was playing some of the most awful offensive line that I have seen in a half. He got beat for a sack on a simple spin move for a sack, the first of 2 he allowed in the 1st half. That caused him to be antsy and therefore jump offsides, I counted 4 times. He picked up the pieces in the 2nd half and he will improve, but that stalled us.

Then factor in the interception, which might have been the worst decision for a throw Murray has made in career, just flat out did not see the linebacker playing zone.

DogGone

September 13th, 2012
11:54 am

DGD@11:39

Three members of last year’s less than good OL are playing in the NFL this year.

Maybe the problem has something to do with our concept of a “good” offensive line?

Committed DAWG Fan

September 13th, 2012
12:05 pm

Columbus Dawg, you are dead on point brother! Specifically with the Gurley issue. Through 2 games, he has proven to be the most talented of the 3 backs and has shown big play potential way more than Boo and Marshall, despite the fact that he continues to get less carries than Marshall. In my opinion, Gurley should be getting 75% of the carries with Boo & Marshall splitting the other 25%. If you look at any of the dominant backs in the SEC, they get 20 plus touches a game, which leads to more opportunities for big plays. If they give him 20 a game, you will see running dominance and big plays more frequently from our running game that has been missing for years!

I understand that Marshall was rated higher than Gurley coming out of high school and that’s great, but this isn’t high school anymore and Gurley is clearly shown that he’s more ready to play at the SEC level right now! I do think Marshall will eventually get more comfortable and be a beast at Georgia, but it’s clearly Gurley’s time to shine right now, he’s definitely earned it!

At some point, you’ve got to stop trying to make everyone (All 3 backs) happy and just do the right thing. There’s a famous quote by Bill Cosby “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure, is trying to make everyone happy.” It will NEVER happen.

Go DAWGS!!!

Bill King

September 13th, 2012
12:06 pm

Dirty Dawg: I’m still trying to figure out how you read today’s blog as critical of Murray and Bobo.

True Dawg

September 13th, 2012
12:13 pm

I agree with Chris completly, the coaches always seem to go away from whatever is working. If the opponents can’t stop a certain style or play, run it all day! It really is that simple. All we hear about is balance… and we do need that from a preparation and ability stand point. But again, if you can’t stop me, I’m going with it all day. Running or passing. Whatever. DON”T think too much guys. GATA!

BP

September 13th, 2012
12:18 pm

The offense is scoring 41 points per game, no complaints there, and special teams are holding their own.

My concerns are 100% with the defense.

1- We’ve given up 300 yards rushing in 2 games to lackluster unranked teams, the dline has 0 suspensions or injuries.
2- We’ve given up 700 yards of total offense in 2 games to bad teams
3- We’ve let 2 bad teams scored 20-23 points per game, this doesn’t bode well for teams like Tenn, SC, and GT.
4- Besides Jarvis Jones, no one else is forcing turnover son the defense.

Columbus Dawg

September 13th, 2012
12:21 pm

I guess being loved by the players and getting hugs is more important than championships to Richt. The only year that Richt had a real shot at the big game was 2002, and even then he felt it was more important to put Shockley in the game, (for NO good reason), to throw the losing interception against the Gators. This just to make Shockley and his Dad happy? I hope to see the Dawgs win one, but Richt and Bobo just flat will not do what it takes, it seems.

BP

September 13th, 2012
12:24 pm

UGA reminds me of Arkansas right now, when Wilson was 100%. Great offense, bad defense.

UGA is Arkansas East.

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 13th, 2012
12:26 pm

@BP I will agree the defense was awful against Buffalo, but I think they played Mizzou much better than you give them credit for. 1st of all, I do not get why you classify Mizzou as a “bad team”. I would go as far as to say Mizzou’s offense is better than Tennessee and Georgia Tech’s. 2nd, Mizzou had at least 3 fumbles that were not Jarvis’ doing (I believe 1 of those happened to fall back to a Missouri player). 3rd I think the D did more than it’s fare share to be close to the reason we won the game. Mizzou had zero inside running game. Literally all of Mizzou’s points came off of 2 blown coverages, at least one of which could have been prevented with Rambo’s presence, 1 field goal that was handed to them via field position because of a Murray interception that I mentioned earlier.

Bumble and Stumble

September 13th, 2012
12:27 pm

Our offense is still not fluid. Running game okay . Passing game seems like we are earning every tough yard out there. Dropped passes and YAC is not too impressive either. Defensive secondary has holes and other guys needs to step up on defense besides Mr. Jones. 0 – 8 0n third downs aint gonna cut when we play the big boys.

BP

September 13th, 2012
12:29 pm

The UGA defense in SEC right now is ranked:
10th in scoring
10th in total yards
last in rushing yards allowed
last in interceptions
last in sacks

Like I said, Arkansas East.

Big piece of the Puzzle

September 13th, 2012
12:30 pm

Get Rid of Bobo the clown.

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 13th, 2012
12:32 pm

@Big piece of the Puzzle

you mean the clown who has us at 41 points per game?

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 13th, 2012
12:33 pm

@BP another point on the defense is, what did Mizzou’s offense do after the TD to start the second half? please fill in that blank for me

Dawg Haus

September 13th, 2012
12:33 pm

BP, you also seem to be forgetting that Georgia is missing one of its more dominant pass rushers in Tree and its most consistent ballhawk in Rambo. For all we heard about Missouri’s dynamic offense all offseason, I’d say the boys did pretty well limiting them to 20 points.

Big piece of the Puzzle

September 13th, 2012
12:34 pm

Yeah the clown who should have us at 60 points a game with ease.

BP

September 13th, 2012
12:34 pm

Bobo is ranked #1 in SEC in scoring
Grantham is ranked 8th in SEC in scoring.

Bobo is ranked #13 in nation in scoring at 43 points per game.
Grantham is ranked #55 in nation in scoring.

Obviously, no debate, our defense is the weak link.

funny...

September 13th, 2012
12:37 pm

Good Lord people, WHO CARES ABOUT STATS!

The only stat that matters is 2-0. That’s it.

Just keep winning and I don’t care where the defense is ranked in rushing yards per game.

BP

September 13th, 2012
12:38 pm

I’ts all about points, scoring, Bobo is the best in the SEC right now–near the best in the nation, Grantham is almost the worse there, 10th in SEC of 14 teams, only teams like Auburn, Kentucky are worse than Grantham’s defensive scoring averages.

DawginSewer

September 13th, 2012
12:40 pm

Wejsss nesess moress doughnutessss yesss choaks