Let’s get straight to some Junkyard Mail and open up with some letters concerning Georgia’s passing attack. …
A Horrible Dawg in Savannah writes: Bill, No one could be happy to lose [Michael] Bennett. He has the surest hands of all the receivers and plays with a chip on his shoulder that produces in the run game with blocks that may go unnoticed. However, if there is a silver lining, it may be that Murray will not have the safety net of Bennett and will have to throw the ball where the coverage dictates. It seemed to me that Murray was absolutely forcing the ball to Bennett at the end of the Tennessee game that (along with the predictable run calls) resulted in a couple of stalled drives.
When you’ve got a receiver as sure-handed and tough as Bennett, who can blame a quarterback for looking his way a little too often? But overall Murray has done a fine job this season spreading the wealth among his receiver corps. Against Mizzou, he completed passes to seven different receivers. In the Vandy game, Murray thew to nine different Bulldogs. And this past week against the Vols he completed passes to eight different players, including the two tailbacks. Also, in addition to Bennett having a 100-yard receiving game, Tavarres King has done the same and Marlon Brown has broken the century mark twice. So Murray is making full use of his options.
Paula B. writes: Love your column, Bill! What a game last Saturday night. I had a great time whopping it up with my Dad and our friends in section 133. Someone said that Aaron Murray is close to breaking David Greene’s record for UGA career touchdown passes (72). How close is Aaron to 72, and will there be any recognition of him breaking the record when/if that happens?
Murray has 71 touchdown passes, so he needs one more to tie Greenie and two to pass him. Hopefully, that’ll happen in Columbia and, no, I doubt they’ll stop the game to make note of the achievement. (Just kidding.) As for the SEC touchdown record, Greene’s 72 has him tied with Tennessee’s Erik Ainge for 12th place. The conference record is held by Danny Wuerffel of Florida with 114.
JimDog85 writes: Love your blog Bill. My concern about the Tennessee game was that except for the 2-point conversion on Saturday, Aaron Murray never looked in Marlon Brown’s direction the entire game. There were several plays where he appeared to be open. Sometimes it seems that he gets so focused on Bennett that he doesn’t look for his other receivers. Right now, Bennett has 50 percent more receptions than King or Brown. My guess is that when Murray gets in the film room this week, he will see Brown open a lot more than he saw him on Saturday.
Thanks. You’re right, it was strange that Brown didn’t get more attention last week, considering how strong he’s been playing this season, but Bennett didn’t completely dominate the receptions. While he had five, Artie Lynch had three and Jay Rome had one, which is a change from previous games where sometimes the tight ends didn’t get thrown to at all. Brown did get to run the ball once, making eight yards. With the loss of Bennett, I’m betting Marlon gets the ball a lot more from here on.
Ken Park writes: Howdy Bill, I know the kicking game is young, to say the least, but is there reason for concern? Don’t get me wrong: the 50+ yarders are great, but over the years I can’t recall PATs looking so shaky this far into the season. Any thoughts? Really enjoy the Blawg!
Thanks, Ken. Yeah, like most fans (and, I believe, the coaching staff) I have plenty of concerns about Georgia’s problems with PATs, which should be almost automatic. So far it hasn’t cost the Dawgs a game, but against a South Carolina or Florida it could come down to a point here and there. I’ve heard two suggestions about what should be done. The lighthearted one is that the Dawgs should jump offsides several times on PATs to push the ball back so Marshall Morgan feels like he’s kicking a field goal (which he hasn’t really had a problem with so far). The more serious observation was by kicking legend Kevin Butler, who noted that Morgan needs to make a slight adjustment in that he’s letting his head get in front of the ball on PATs, which is bad form. Butler also suggested that Morgan relax and quit overthinking the kicking of extra points.
Travis Hill from Section 325 in Sanford writes: Hey Bill, I enjoy your blog as always. In both the Vandy and the Tennessee games Bobo has chose to use Keith Marshall twice when we had the ball behind our own 10 yard line. In my mind Marshall is more of an open field type runner and not a bruiser you want to use that can push the pile ahead of him. Would our offense not be better served with using Ken “Boo” Malcome in this type of yardage situation?
And Daniel Smith writes: Hey Bill, always enjoy your commonsensical/pragmatic input and I have a question regarding last Saturday’s game. What’s the deal with Boo Malcome? Did he get a carry vs. UT? Was he given a disciplinary suspension that no one knew about? I know both Gurley and Marshall were running phenomenally but in the final minutes of the 4th when we could not pick up a first down we still had Gurley in there and you could tell he was exhausted. Maybe Malcome’s fresh legs could have provided a better chance for a first and essentially make that game’s final minutes not as dramatic as they were.
As far as I can tell, Malcome could have played, but he had no carries in the Tennessee game. Still, when you’ve got Gurshall ahead of you on the depth chart and those guys are both having a 100-plus-yards game, that’s not really surprising. While Malcome might well have pushed the pile on some of those fourth-quarter running plays that ended up going nowhere, there’s no guarantee. Tennessee had the box loaded because they knew what was coming. If there’s any criticism warranted in those instances, it’s the play selection. Perhaps a toss sweep or unexpectedly giving it to the fullback would have been more effective.
Keith McCants writes: With the UGA-South Carolina Game being in prime time, I think we will finally see the REAL Georgia defense show up? I expect the run defense to be more stout against the run and the offense to continue to move the ball with ease. What do you think?
I certainly hope you’re right, Keith. Georgia’s run defense wasn’t at its best against Tennessee, but part of that may have been due to shifting the linebackers around to accommodate the return of Alec Ogletree. Defending the run will certainly be a top priority against the Gamecocks, what with Marcus Lattimore and Connor Shaw, but Tree is the Dawgs’ best defender against the rush, so that’s a plus. As for the offense, if the OL can keep South Carolina’s terrific pass rush from getting to Murray too often, Georgia’s mix of run and pass should be effective.
Glenn Goldstein writes: Bill, Don’t you think three downs and score is the same as three downs and punt? Either way, the defense doesn’t get much time to rest, and a tired defense will open the door for your opponent, especially a worthy one like Tennessee. In the first quarter of the Tennessee game we scored quickly, and in the second quarter the Dogs suffered a lot of quick turnovers. By the fourth quarter our defense really looked gassed. So, it seems to me, with our quick-score offense, we need a better sense of game pace in our play-calling, and, maybe, if we get a big early lead like the Tennessee game, slow down the pace with Malcome and Samuel grinding out some yardage, as crazy as that may sound.
And on a similar theme, Bigddawg writes: Hi Bill, I’m impressed with the Dawgs offense this season … kudos to Bobo and the rest of the O staff and of course our young players. One thing still concerns me though. It seems that when the Dawgs have fought hard to have the lead late in the 4th and we need a first down or two run out the clock and seal the win, we get ultra conservative. Run it up the middle for no gain 3 times then punt. It seems that the plan is to make the opponent use up their remaining time outs then give the ball back and let our defense hold them. We give the ball back with enough time for a miracle drive, see Michigan State in last year’s bowl game, and risk losing at the last second. Saturday I do give Bobo credit for trying a pass on 3rd down which should have been completed for a first down. And thankfully our defense came up with another turnover to end it.
Having grown up in the Dooley years, I love a ball-control offense, but I’m never going to complain about a quick score. Still, I get Glenn’s point. Steve Spurrier even noted this week that the Georgia defense’s performance might have been impacted by the fact that “they’re scoring so fast. You score fast, your defense has to play a lot more than what we do. It usually takes us a while to get it down the field and score. Our defense is hopefully only out there 58 to 62 players something like that. I think Georgia’s been scoring so fast and there’s been so many turnovers maybe in their games that their defense is just playing a lot more plays than a lot of others.” I’m not sure going to your third- and fourth-string tailbacks in a big game is really the answer, but I would like to see Mike Bobo figure out a better way of grinding out some first downs when the Dawgs need to eat some clock. There must be some happy medium between airing it out and one yard and a cloud of dust in those situations.
1999 Grad writes: I know you get this all the time, but seriously, when is Richt going to get his stubborn head out of his backside and realize the special teams are going to cost UGA a game at some point? His refusal to have a dedicated special teams coach is simply stubbornness at this point and it has really moved beyond just being frustrating.
You’re preaching to the choir, but there’s not really much that can be done in that regard midseason, is there? While NCAA limitations on the number of coaches means you’re never likely to see a full-time special teams coach at Georgia, I think having one person in charge overall would be preferable to Mark Richt’s current piecemeal approach.
Bubba King (no relation) writes: Bill, Love the Blawg. I look forward to every post. I’m a homer, like you, but I’m not completely blind and I am very concerned about a few things I have seen on the defensive side of the ball. Grantham needs to realize that this is not the NFL, especially in home games. I understand that you want your best 11 on the field at all times, but an Abry Jones at 75 percent is not doing the job that Garrison Smith at 100 percent can … it is not possible! Garrison has not only stepped up when his number has been called, but he’s excelled. Abry has not recovered enough from his high-ankle sprain, and it was evident in the way he played against Tennessee, when he played high all day and was a non-factor in rush and passing defense. We have 85 scholarship athletes (sort of), and we should not limit ourselves to playing 65 like Grantham has been accustomed to.
And on a related note, Steve Segrest writes: Our run defense is really puzzlesome. What do you think is going on here? Is it x’s & o’s (scheme) or are some players having a sub-par year so far? Never thought I’d see Big John or Kwame get overpowered on running plays up the middle. Have teams figured out our schemes? Not seeing much from of DEs. LBs seem to be making a lot of tackles in space (after 5 or 6 yard gains), where our front 3 have not stuffed the line. Are LBs not filling as fast? Think back to the 1st half of the LSU game and compare that to now.
Well, after years of certain defenders playing because of seniority, whether they were any good or not, I’m certainly not going to complain about Grantham’s approach of mixing and matching to get the best 11 on the field. But considering how the defense has underperformed so far this season I think Bubba may have a point. And, yes, I think Georgia’s defensive front hasn’t played up to its potential. Overall, the Dawgs haven’t completely gelled as a defense, probably because people haven’t been playing at their regular position. I think this affected the linebackers against Tennessee’s running game. Overall, the suspensions may have been a lot more disruptive in that regard than we thought. Let’s hope this week the defense finally lives up to expectations.
Lamar Westbrook writes: Hey Bill, love your coverage of the dogs! Did Georgia not use Branden Smith last year in the return game? I remember him and Boykin doing the returns. Anyways, Georgia has a huge problem in the return game and if they don’t straighten it out, it is going to cost them. Way too many mistakes!
After Malcolm Mitchell’s recent misadventures fielding punts, Richt was asked why Branden Smith hasn’t been used, as he was some of the time last year, and he said that Smith had some of the same issues as Mitchell in terms of decision-making and holding on to the ball. Apparently Richt now has decided to go with Rhett McGowan as the safest option, and I have no problem with that. He might not have the breakaway potential of Mitchell or Smith, but he seems more confident back there and he’s had one decent return so far.
A. Holland writes: Hey Bill. I keep finding myself frustrated with the tackling fundamentals of our defensive players, and the hole in the middle of our defense that subpar RBs keep taking advantage of. I feel like our huge nose guards should be eating up at least two blockers every play, which should make it easy four our linebackers to make a play. Also, It’s nice that Jones can come off the edge and put pressure on the QB with ease, but maybe we need him to help sure up the middle. Now, about the tackling. I keep seeing our guys diving at the feet of an on coming ball carrier instead of breaking down, wrapping the guy up, and driving him back, or just arm tackling in general. The other thing is the “shoulder bump” tackle I see a lot of guys doing. The problem with this is that it give the ball carrier a couple more positive yards 99% of the time. I feel like Grantham needs to take some time and address the basics. Hit the guy with the ball, wrap him up, and drive your legs. Could it be that our guys are just scared to hit? What are your thoughts?
No, I don’t think anyone is scared. Most of those guys love to hit. But you’re right that the tackling in the Tennessee game left much to be desired, and I’m sure the defensive coaches noticed that when they watched the film. Hopefully some of that work on fundamentals was taken care of this week in practice.
Ted Pennel writes: Bill, don’t get me wrong. I am enjoying this year immensely and haven’t missed a home game yet and really think we could go all the way. Having said that I have been trying to get an idea of 2013 schedule so I can schedule my off weekends from work. I’ve gotten nowhere. Any ideas when SEC will decide on schedule? I suspect there are more than a few trying to sort this out for hotel reservations etc. Thanks for your help and always look forward to your Blawg.
Thanks, Ted. While the SEC has decided on a scheduling approach in which teams will play their six divisional opponents, one permanent opponent from the other division and another cross-division opponent that will rotate among the other six teams, they haven’t announced yet when the 2013 schedule will be released. I asked UGA sports information chief Claude Felton about that this week and he replied: “From what I hear out of the SEC office, it’s getting closer for 2013. Hopefully soon but that’s about all I know. I know it’s been in the works for months trying to get it worked out.”
I’ll answer more Junkyard Mail next week. Do you have something you want to discuss concerning the current football season or UGA athletics in general? Got a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg