But I wouldn’t be gloomy ol’ MB if my every thought was sweetness and light. I’m willing to concede that this season could come undone … if all (or most of) this happens.
1. Isaiah Crowell is overrated. I don’t think he is. But not everyone can be The Next Herschel Walker. The Bulldogs have searched for three decades and haven’t quite found another. (Although Tim Worley and Rodney Hampton and Garrison Hearst and the pre-surgical Robert Edwards and Knowshon Moreno were pretty good. And Terrell Davis would have been had Ray Goff gotten him the ball.)
Since Signing Day, Mark Richt has acted if Crowell, borrowing from the soccer coach Jose Mourinho, is indeed “a special one.” When asked last month if he feared his backfield, without the washouts Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, would suffer, Richt said, “I don’t know there was a time last year when I thought our backs were playing lights-out.” The implication was that this season might be such a time. But that’s a lot to ask of any freshman. If not the new Herschel, Crowell needs at least to be the new Hearst.
2. A.J. Green and Kris Durham prove irreplaceable. Even if Crowell is great, we shouldn’t expect these Bulldogs to become the 1980 Bulldogs. Richt’s is a finesse offense. His quarterback will throw the ball a lot. At issue is whether Tavarres King and Marlon Brown and Malcolm Mitchell and Rantavious Wooten — all of whom are talents — can supply the production lost with Green and Durham.
Given that Green was the greatest wide receiver in Georgia history, the guess here is that there’ll be some decline. But let’s not forget Orson Charles, who’s technically a tight end but who often aligns himself as a slot receiver. He might be the best tight end in Bulldog annals. (And yes, that’s saying something.) He’s the key to the passing game.
3. Todd Grantham is overrated. He has a big reputation and gets paid a ton of money and gives expert (if ineffective) choke signs, but he hasn’t yet proved he’s a top-shelf collegiate defensive coordinator. (Then again, he has only been a college DC for one year.) His 3-4 looked good on occasion last season, less good on other occasions. Auburn ran through it, but Auburn did that to a lot of defenses, Alabama’s included. Georgia Tech ran through it without its starting quarterback, but Paul Johnson can have that effect.
There’s no reason Georgia shouldn’t have a big-time defense. It has seasoned defensive backs, gifted linebackers and the requisite nose tackle (in either Kwame Geathers or Jonathan Jenkins) it lacked last season. If the Bulldogs can’t stop people this season, it’ll be because Richt hired the wrong man to replace Willie Martinez.
4. It starts 0-2. Georgia could lose to Boise State this Saturday. It could lose to South Carolina the next week. (For the record, I don’t think it will lose either game.) Should that doomsday scenario occur, would the season still be worth playing? Or should Georgia just fire Richt and hire Kirby Smart on the spot?
Wait a second. Even at 0-2, Georgia would still have a chance to right itself. Its two toughest games would be behind it. Mississippi State has to come to Athens. Tennessee and Florida are in major flux. From 0-2, it wouldn’t be unthinkable to see the Bulldogs — who are a young team, and young teams tend to get better as they go — win nine or even 10 games. There might indeed be life after doomsday.
5. It has simply forgotten how to win. This is the biggest concern. Check Georgia’s stats from last season and you’ll get the drift. The Bulldogs outscored opponents by 130 points. They outgained opponents by 734 yards and had 10 fewer turnovers. And yet they finished with a losing record.
This happened because Georgia lost every game that was in doubt in the fourth quarter save Georgia Tech. (Another stat: Georgia outscored the opposition in each of the first three quarters on the season — but was outscored 92-68 in the fourth.) The Bulldogs shouldn’t have been 6-7, but they were. Was 2010, as Richt has suggested, just one of those bizarre years, or was it the clearest indication yet that Georgia is no longer Georgia? And if that’s the case, can even a Dream Team save this program?
By Mark Bradley