It was a indeed a long weekend for Georgia football. Eventful, too. Mark Richt turned 51 on Friday. Aaron Murray played soccer on Saturday. On President’s Day Murray went from having a broken ankle, which is bad, to having a sprained ankle, which is less bad. And now we’re all back at work, and this worker feels moved to pose five questions regarding the Bulldogs, only some of which relate to ankles and European football.
1. New feature back. New line coach. Is a new offensive approach in the offing? Will Friend was hired to replace the overrated Stacy Searels, who left for Texas. Friend spent the past four seasons at UAB, and a check of the Blazers’ stats reveals … well, I’m not sure what. Last season they were 59th among FBS teams in rushing; in 2009 they were seventh; in 2008 they were 40th; in 2007 they were 104th.
Even if UAB had led the nation in rushing four of the past four years, I’m not sure it would indicate a change in Georgia philosophy. The Bulldogs have the same offensive coordinator and the same head coach, and Mike Bobo’s philosophy is essentially Richt’s. Georgia is a finesse offense, has been since 2001. It runs as a counterpoint to the forward pass. Isaiah Crowell might well break more runs than Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, but this isn’t going to revert to Tailback U. because of one recruit. The quarterback will remain the biggest man on this roster.
2. Speaking of whom: Will Murray enter the season as the SEC’s best returning quarterback? Absolutely. Cam Newton is gone. Ryan Mallett is gone. Greg McElroy is gone. Mike Hartline is gone. Jeremiah Masoli is gone. Jordan Jefferson and Stephen Garcia and John Brantley return, but none is assured of holding his starting job.
Tennessee fans will argue that Tyler Bray was just as impressive as Murray last season, but they’re wrong. Murray started every game. Bray didn’t start until November, and his numbers, while good, don’t compare to Murray’s. Georgia has had some pretty fair freshman quarterbacks — Eric Zeier, Quincy Carter, David Greene, Matthew Stafford — and not one of them was as good in Year 1 as Murray. You could look it up.
3. Won’t Murray miss A.J. Green? Well, yeah. Tony Pauline of TFYDraft.com wrote last week on SI.com that Green is the No. 1 prospect in this NFL draft class. As a rule of thumb, a team tends to miss a player of such eminence. But the Bulldogs will miss Kris Durham almost as much. Great as he was, Green averaged 14.9 yards per catch last season. Durham averaged 20.9.
4. Will JUCO nose tackle John Jenkins galvanize Todd Grantham’s 3-4? When Grantham arrived in Athens last winter, he took pains to note that his defense doesn’t require the 340-pound nose middleman — a Grady Jackson — that some 3-4’s do. But Jenkins’ signing gives Grantham a 340-pounder anyway. And Terrence Cody, who was likewise a plus-sized JUCO product, seemed to have some positive effect on the Alabama program, did he not?
5. Is Crowell really the most important member of the Dream Team? He stands to be an impact player at an impact position, but the guess here is that the key Dreamer is the defensive end Ray Drew. He could become the leader among players that, to be frank, Georgia has long lacked. He is, as you know, a licensed minister, and his call to other recruits to come join the UGA flock had real resonance.
Oh, yeah. Drew is a 5-star prospect who played defensive end at Thomas County Central but will switch to outside linebacker, which is the featured position in the 3-4. And Georgia just happened to lose Justin Houston, its best outside linebacker, to the NFL a year early.
Whenever the new man records a sack, you could say, “Ah, just like the coordinator Drew it up.” You could, but I won’t. I have my reputation as a professional writer to protect.
By Mark Bradley