Let’s get right to some Junkyard Mail …
Jon writes: I am very excited about what the next football season entails for Georgia, especially with Aaron Murray returning and most of the power offense from last season returning. Over the years I have come to love Murray’s aggressiveness. It has led to over 10,000 career passing yards and over 90 career touchdowns, but it also comes with 32 career interceptions. I don’t want to get too much into how it seems Aaron seems afraid/timid in big games because he played a great game against Alabama, but it seems uncharacteristic of a 3-4 year starter. Do you think that the offensive line having more experience this year will allow him to finally show every game just how great he is? Or should I be expecting to see the same 3/1 touchdown/interception ratio? As always, Go Dawgs!
I don’t think I’d use the words “afraid” or “timid” to describe Murray in the big games where he’s struggled. In some of them, in fact, the problem has been he’s seemed so wired that he hurries throws, overthrows receivers and throws unwise passes that get intercepted. We’ve seen this several times against the Gators in Jacksonville, though I was encouraged that last year after struggling in the first half (with three interceptions), he bounced back in the second half with key throws when the game was on the line. In other games, it’s looked like Murray didn’t trust the protection provided by his offensive line — and rightfully so. I’m thinking of last year’s South Carolina game, in particular. But after that rough first half in Jacksonville, Murray went on to throw 20 touchdowns against only three interceptions, including five TDs in the bowl game. In terms of how he did in big games, I’d say even though Georgia wound up losing, Murray stepped up in a big way against Alabama, and I’m hopeful he’ll continue to build on that in his final season at Georgia. I don’t think you’ll see as many interceptions where he just plain throws it where he shouldn’t, but there are going to be picks. Keep in mind that quite a few have occurred when the ball has been tipped at the line. Bottom line: Murray slung it for 3,893 passing yards in 2012 and became the first quarterback in SEC history to pass for 3,000 yards in three seasons. And with a pretty loaded receiver corps (see below), the outlook is good for him continuing that trend.
BCD writes: Hey Bill, I’m thinking the #1 priority for the Dawgs is to enter the Clemson game with no players suspended. As talented as we were, we had chemistry issues once the “stars” returned [last season]. We can play better D with a group of hungry puppies, who are all eligible.
You’ve touched on one of my two major concerns about the coming season, especially the first month when Georgia’s schedule features games against Clemson, South Carolina and LSU. One concern, of course, is the large number of new starters we’ll have on defense. Even if nobody gets suspended or injured before the season starts, it likely will take a few games for the new defensive lineup to fully gel. And, unfortunately, three of their sterner tests will come in September. If, on top of that, Todd Grantham winds up with players having to sit out some of those games like last year, it’ll be an even bigger challenge. Of course, suspensions also could play havoc with the offense, which looks pretty formidable and is likely to have to carry the load, at least early in the season. Let’s hope the results of last year’s drug test given immediately after spring break serves as a cautionary deterrent for this year’s players.
Derek Grantham writes: Who is gonna be our #1 receiver next year? How is the whole receiving corps looking for next year?
To answer your second question first, even with the departure of Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, the Dogs’ receiving corps is looking extremely good for the 2013 season. Although the starters are likely to be Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett (back from an ACL injury), Georgia likes to rotate at least half a dozen receivers and so the returning Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, Justin Scott-Wesley and former walk-on Rhett McGowan are likely to see plenty of playing time. The coaching staff also seems very high on junior college transfer Jonathan Rumph, an early enrollee who replaces Brown as the tallest receiver and is probably the newcomer who stands the best chance of playing regularly early on. Georgia also has some true freshmen who might get consideration as the season progresses. As for who the No. 1 receiver will be, that’s probably going to be Mitchell, at least to start with, but he’s also likely to draw double coverage a lot of the time, which may present Bennett and Conley with some great opportunities. Conley’s touchdown catch in the bowl game against Nebraska was one of the best-executed pass plays we saw last season. Also, tight ends Artie Lynch and Jay Rome are likely to be an increasing factor in Georgia’s passing game.
Mac Martin writes: Who are the starting ILBs and OLBs next year beside Jordan Jenkins and Amarlo Herrera?
Good question. While Jenkins appears a lock at the one outside linebacker position and Herrera probably calling the defensive signals at the Mike position, there are several possibilities for the other two spots. Chase Vasser has the edge in experience and might well be the initial starter at the other OLB spot, but Grantham has indicated that both James DeLoach and Josh Harvey-Clemons are likely to get some consideration. Harvey-Clemons played mostly as a backup as a safety last year because he didn’t have enough weight on him, but he got some time at linebacker late in the season and Grantham seems anxious to use him there. The most likely starter at the other inside linebacker position is Ramik Wilson. It’s always possible, of course, that one of the freshmen like Davin Bellamy will make a move.
Montana Hamby writes: Now that the recruiting class is full and we know exactly who is coming and going from the roster, what do you think the first string defense will look like? Which freshmen will start? Which transfers will compete early? … And Mike Kendricks writes: As we all know between the NFL and graduation our defense is taking a hard hit. Has Coach Richt prepared and recruited well enough to off set the the key losses on defense?
Answering Mike first, I’d say Mark Richt and his staff did a pretty good job of signing players at the positions of need, though a couple of those that got away would have gotten strong consideration as early starters. As for Montana’s question, besides Jordan Jenkins and the other likely starters at linebacker mentioned above, we’re probably going to see Garrison Smith and Ray Drew as the defensive ends, redshirt freshman Jonathan Taylor and rising junior Mike Thornton are the frontrunners at nose guard, but JUCO transfer Chris Mayes, early enrollee John Atkins (who played prep school ball last year at Hargrave Military while qualifying academically) and late JUCO signee Toby Johnson will get a shot as well. Damian Swann is expected to start at one of the cornerback positions, with sophomore Sheldon Dawson the likely new starter at the other corner. Devin Bowman, Reggie Wilkerson and Shaq Wiggins will get playing time, too. Corey Moore is the likely starter at strong safety. If Harvey-Clemons moves to linebacker, the free safety position should be an interesting battle. Connor Norman, who started the first two games of the 2012 season, most likely will start out as the favorite there, but Tray Matthews, Shaquille Fluker, Marc Deas and Quincy Mauger could get playing time as well. Newcomer Brendan Langley could see the field as nickel back. Which freshmen will start? By the end of the season, I’d say Matthews and Wiggins would be the best bets.
Matt Cafaro writes: Bill, Like everyone, including Dennis Dodd at CBSSports, I think the Dawgs’ offense can possibly be record-setting next year. While I don’t know if we can get to TAMU heights (Bobo just isn’t that kind of “never-let-his-foot-off-the-gas” kind of play caller), I think it’ll be a big year. And while I don’t think the defense will be as bad as many forecast, I wonder: Just how many points per game will the Dawgs have to score to go 11-1 or 10-2 and win the East? 35 points per game? 38 points per game? 40? Of course, we need to take into account that one game per year every Mark Richt team seems to have where they just don’t show up (Hmm … Saban’s teams never seem to have that one game, do they?). But other than that, how prolific will a prolific offense have to be to win a third straight Eastern Division?
Last season, Bobo’s offense averaged 37.8 points and 467.6 yards per game, and considering the expected fall-off on the defensive side, it seems probable that Murray and Co. will have to do at least that well this year to have a chance at repeating in the East. (Of course, if the defense proves surprisingly stout and holds down opponents’ scores, a slightly less productive output might do. But that’s asking a lot considering only one true defensive starter returns.) On the plus side, with just about everyone except a couple of receivers back from last year’s starting offense, Gurshall in the backfield, and Bobo showing an increasing tendency to mix it up and incorporate things like the spread and the pistol into his playbook, most college football observers are expecting Georgia’s 2013 offense to be as explosive as last year’s. (Of course, it must be noted that this time last year those observers all were predicting the Dawgs’ 2012 defense would be among the nation’s best, and that didn’t happen.)
TerryDawg writes: Since I’m one of those Young Alumni that UGA is aiming the 2,000 former student tickets at, how will I be able to participate? Will the ticket office automatically contact all alums from the past five years, or is there something we need to do to be included?
Tim Cearley of the UGA ticket office tells me: “Yes, eligible alums will be contacted by both the UGA Bulldog Club and UGA Alumni Association in coming weeks about participating in this program. The most recent email addresses on file will be used to contact them.” Good luck getting tickets, Terry!
SWIM DOGS ‘SHAKE’ IT UP!
The UGA men’s swim team may not have actually gotten a No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 this week, but they certainly had a hand in Baauer topping the chart with his “Harlem Shake.” As of this week, Billboard changed the rules for its singles chart and started including YouTube views as one of the metrics used to calculate the chart, along with sales and radio play. Because of the current YouTube craze, with thousands of videos using the track being posted, “Harlem Shake” debuted on the chart at No. 1. And a big part of the song’s 103 million views on YouTube is the UGA swim team’s “Harlem Shake” video, which has topped 24 million views. The memorable UGA video, done at the bottom of a swimming pool, also made Billboard’s list of the 10 best “Harlem Shake” videos.
UGA MIRACLE MARATHON
The student charity group UGA Miracle’s 18th annual Dance Marathon benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is taking place from 10 a.m. Saturday until 10 a.m. Sunday at the Tate Student Center’s Grand Ballroom, with more than 1,000 participants spending the 24 hours raising money for the the hospital’s young patients. Since its beginning, UGA Miracle has raised more than $3.1 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Some of those students have gone further and signed up for a challenge to stay on their feet for the entire 24 hours. Among them is my UGA freshman daughter Olivia, who serves on one of the committees that organized this year’s marathon. Here, she explains what it’s all about:
This weekend I will be attending and working at UGA Miracle’s Dance Marathon. This is a 24-hour event to celebrate the lives of the children we benefit through our fundraising. UGA Miracle raises money for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where we specifically benefit the Rehabilitation and Orthopedics Department. Many of you have helped me reach and surpass my goal of raising $300. (Thank you so much!) Every penny goes to CHOA and can truly change the lives of many children. I will be at all 24 hours of the event, dancing, competing, and of course, serving delicious food every four hours. But I have also chosen to take part in the Standing Challenge for all 24 hours. No sitting, no resting. I am choosing to stand to honor the kids who are not as fortunate as me. I am blessed with the ability to walk and play the sport I love — Ultimate Frisbee. I am standing this weekend to support and honor the kids who might never be able to walk or play a sport they love. I can’t imagine my life without sports and I don’t know that I would have the amount of courage these kids have as they face an uphill battle everyday. I’m also honoring the kids who have fought and overcome other issues such as injuries or cancer.You never know how lucky you are until you are faced with one of these tough issues. I have been so lucky and so blessed to not face any of these so far in my life and I admire the strength and courage of children who go through these issues with a smile on their face.
Makes a Dad proud!
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