Archive for August, 2009

Hot Button: Is UGA’s Martinez a good defensive coordinator?

He's no Kevin Ramsey, but who is? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

He's no Kevin Ramsey, but really, who is? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The answer to the above question depends on definition. If by “good” we mean, “Way better than Kevin Ramsey,” the answer is yes. If by “good” we mean “one of the finest defensive coordinators in the nation,” the answer is no.

Willie Martinez suffers most by immediate comparison to his predecessor. In 52 games under Brian VanGorder, Georgia yielded 30-plus points only in the 2003 SEC championship game against an LSU team that would win the BCS title. In 52 games under Martinez, Georgia has yielded 30-plus points 11 times.

The average score of a Georgia loss in four seasons under VanGorder was 21-12. Not once in any of the 10 losses with BVG as DC did the Bulldogs score 20 points themselves, meaning those defeats were more related to offensive failings. Now look:

The average score of a Georgia loss in four seasons under Martinez has been 32-23. Five times in those 12 losses the Bulldogs have scored 30-plus …

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Dawgs in denial? Last year’s Georgia Tech score: 42-all

A typo? Sure. But a Type A typo if ever there was one. (Photo by M. Bradley)

A simple typo? Sure. But a Type A typo if ever there was one. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Doing my due diligence on Willie Martinez’s defense, I ran across an eye-opening score on Page 163 of Georgia’s 2009 media guide. The score from last year’s Georgia Tech game is reported as Georgia 42, Tech 42. Which would be a tie. Which would be, from the UGA perspective, wholly preferable to reality.

We all know Tech and Georgia can’t even agree on which side has won how many games in the bitter series: Georgia claims 59 victories against 37 losses and five ties; Tech claims 39 victories against 59 losses and five ties. Still, it’s not often we see a loss turn into a tie. (Although Georgia folks still insist a win became a loss in 1999 when Al Ford and his crew failed to see Jasper Sanks not fumble.)

So this was pretty odd, and definitely amusing. Even Claude Felton, Georgia’s Hall of Fame publicist, laughed off the typo. “I guess we felt like a tie was better than a loss,” he e-mailed. …

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Tech’s Morgan: “We want to win the ACC championship”

Derrick Morgan: Even if you hold him, you can't contain him. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Derrick Morgan: Even if you hold him, you can't really stop him. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Most of the other Jackets trudged the two blocks from their practice field to the locker room, but Derrick Morgan, the splendid defensive end, rolled up in an SUV. A young woman had happened by and had offered Morgan and two Georgia Tech teammates a lift, and they weren’t inclined to say no.

“In the nick of time,” Morgan said, smiling. “That walk after practice feels long.”

What this tells us: Derrick Morgan is a pragmatist. He’s not one to traffic, so to speak, in posturing. Why walk when you can ride? Why jump up and down shouting, “Hey, look at us,” when you figure your team has the wherewithal to make people notice yet again?

Some Tech folks were disappointed the Jackets weren’t ranked higher than No. 15 in the coaches’ and Associated Press preseason poll. Morgan wasn’t among them. “I didn’t think we’d be that high,” he said. “We were embarrassed by LSU [in the Chick-fil-A Bowl]. I …

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5 legit reasons Georgia Tech might disappoint in 2009

This was Jaybo Shaw with his collarbone intact. He'll be missed. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Jaybo Shaw with his collarbone intact. He'll be missed. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

1. Jaybo Shaw broke his collarbone in practice. Losing your backup quarterback is a big deal when you run the spread option. Josh Nesbitt is going to get hit 30 times a game, and Shaw — who started a game and won it in Nesbitt’s stead last season — is fully capable of doing it again. Or was capable. Now there’s no telling when he’ll be back.

2. The special teams aren’t exactly special. Georgia Tech missed eight of 20 field goals last season and two PATs. It lagged its opponents in punt return average, kickoff return average and net punting. The kicking game essentially lost the Chick-fil-A Bowl. A team that wants to play in a BCS game will have to make a big kick of some kind along the way.

3. There are trap games on the card. Tech plays at Miami on Thursday night a week after it plays host to Clemson on Thursday night, meaning the manufactured emotion inherent in any ESPN production will …

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5 bogus reasons Georgia Tech will flop in 2009

I wouldn't put too much stock in one bowl loss, were I you. (AJC photo by Ben Gray)

I wouldn't read too much into one bowl loss, were I you. Just sayin'. (AJC photo by Ben Gray)

1. Opponents have caught up to Paul Johnson’s offense. Were that the case, wouldn’t Georgia Tech have struggled later in 2008 as more tape of the Jackets became available? Yet in their final two regular-season games against opponents of comparable if not superior talent (Miami and Georgia), they rushed for an aggregate 877 yards and scored 86 points.

2. LSU showed everyone else how to defend Johnson’s offense. What the Chick-fil-A Bowl showed was that if, in the course of one half, you boot the opening kickoff out of bounds and fail on an onside kick and whiff on a fake punt … well, you’re in trouble against a good team. The Jackets lost 38-3 but were only outgained by 10 yards.

3. The defense lost too many players. The D is missing four starters — defensive linemen Michael Johnson, Vance Walker and Darryl Richard, plus cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels. And technically (ha! pun!), Rashaad …

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5 reasons Matthew Stafford left UGA without a title

Matthew Stafford after his final fling: Three bowl wins, no SEC titles. (AJC photo by Pouya Dianat)

Matthew Stafford's final fling: Three bowl wins, no SEC titles. (AJC photo by Pouya Dianat)

1. He never quite grasped the need for a quarterback to be a leader. (For someone who does grasp that need, see Matt Ryan of Flowery Branch.)

2. He never fully understood that a quarterback can lose a game faster than he can win one. When in doubt, he trusted his arm. Sometimes his arm let him, and his team, down.

3. He never worked behind a top-shelf offensive line. That wasn’t his fault, but he compounded the liability by throwing too often off his back foot.

4. He was never as accurate as someone with his arm should have been. He completed 57.2 percent of his passes at UGA; David Greene completed 59 percent. Greene also threw fewer interceptions over four seasons than Stafford did over three.

5. He played at the same time as Tim Tebow.

(And with that, our all-Georgia Tuesday is complete. The first installment: 5 reasons Georgia should be concerned about Joe Cox. The second: 5 reasons …

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5 reasons UGA shouldn’t be worried about Joe Cox

Joe Cox: A coat, a tie and a sense of leadership. (AP photo)

Georgia's Joe Cox: A coat, a tie and an innate sense of leadership. (AP photo by Butch Dill)

1. He  was considered the No. 1 QB from the day Matthew Stafford turned pro. When last Georgia went into a season without a holdover quarterback, Mark Richt threw the competition open to four candidates, Cox among them

2. He has the respect of his mates in a way few quarterbacks — D.J. Shockley would be an exception — ever do. Asked after spring practice to name the team leader, 107 of 110 Bulldogs famously voted for Cox. The other three voted for Ralph Nader.

3. He seems, as A.J. Green has said, to have “the complete confidence” of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.  Three years ago, Joe Tereshinski III was considered just “a game manager.” The playbook seems more open now.

4. He has two hugely gifted receivers in Green and freshman Marlon Brown, which means every throw won’t have to be on the button.

5. He should be working behind a better offensive line than Stafford ever had. And …

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5 reasons UGA should be concerned about Joe Cox

Joe Cox: Is he just a workout wonder? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia's Joe Cox: A Saturday hero or just a workout wonder? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

1. He last threw a pass that mattered Sept. 30, 2006.

2. The Colorado comeback victory over which he presided in relief in 2006 came against a team of Buffaloes that finished 2-10. The victories were over Texas Tech and Iowa State.

3. He has no Knowshon Moreno to make play-action fakes work to maximum effect. Maybe Caleb King will assume such stature. Then again, maybe not.

4. He doesn’t throw the deep ball like Matthew Stafford, which is why he spent most of three seasons backing up Matthew Stafford. (The longest of Cox’s 33 collegiate completions — 34 yards.) And Georgia’s best player is A.J. Green, who does his best work on deep balls.

5. His first start of 2009 will come on the road, which is a major thing for a quarterback. As Mark Richt said, by way of explaining his program’s success in opposing venues: “It all starts with the quarterback.” And Cox has started one collegiate …

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Mularkey on Falcons’ offense: Do what we do, only better

What are Tony Gonzalez's strengths? Only everything, Mike Mularkey says. (AP photo)

What are Tony Gonzalez's strengths? Only everything, Mike Mularkey says. (AP photo)

Flowery Branch – We know what can happen when we assume, but here’s a case study. Outside consensus holds that the Falcons’ offense will be both expanded and expansive in 2009, what with Matt Ryan being an established pro and Michael Turner being a money back and Tony Gonzalez being aboard. Lots more plays! Lots more looks!

Said Mike Mularkey, the offensive coordinator: “We’ve taken out about 30 pages of the playbook. Last year we didn’t know who we had and what we had, so we put everything in. This year, from OTAs [organized team activities] on, we’ve said, ‘We don’t have to expand anything. We just have to do it better.’ And that’s we what want to do: Just do what we do good, and do it better.”

Those concerned that the addition of the All-Pro Gonzalez might induce Mularkey to overpass don’t know Mularkey. (And shouldn’t that be the title of the Falcons’ pruned playbook? “A Bunch of …

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Live from Flowery Branch, and I’m still a bit antsy

Jerious Norwood made the Rams' David Vobora turn the other cheek. (AP photo)

Jerious Norwood made Rams linebacker David Vobora turn the other cheek. (AP photo)

Flowery Branch – Last week I thought the Falcons had looked kind of peaked (pronounced “peak-ed”), as we say in Kentucky, against the Lions. This week I’m thinking they looked almost too good (the starters, at least) against the Rams. The point being: I’m going to find something to sweat even if I have to stay up all night to find it.

I’ll admit: This never-consecutive-winning-seasons deal has gotten me all a-twitter. (As we say on Twitter.) I’m afraid they won’t be ready. I’m concerned they’ll peak — not to be confused with looking peaked — too soon. I half-expect the starting cornerbacks for Game 1 to be Bruce Pickens and Charles Dimry.

In its final “Letter from Camp,” USA Today leads with the no-consecutive-winning-seasons thing. Jarrett Bell calls it “one of the weirdest factoids in all of sports,” and I wouldn’t disagree. But here’s what I want to know. Why were the Falcons the last of the …

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