2012 Georgia Bulldogs have reasons to be optimistic, pessimistic

FIVE REASONS . . .

Georgia lost its last two games of the 2011 season, the final one an excruciating affair that actually came down  in triple overtime to Michigan State. But the Bulldogs also won 10 games in a row, captured the SEC Eastern Division championship and reached the SEC title game for the first time since 2005.

Even after the recent decision of All-America tight end Orson Charles to enter the NFL draft a year early, the Bulldogs will welcome back 16 starters in 2012, including nine on the No. 5-ranked defense. So there will be high expectations again for Georgia. Here are some reasons to believe they’ll meet those expectations, and some reasons to believe they might not.

Reasons for optimism

  1. Defense wins championships. At least that was the message delivered by Alabama and LSU. The only two teams ranked above Georgia in total defense played for the national championship, which the Crimson Tide won in a shut out. The Bulldogs’ return two All-Americans on that side of the ball in outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Bacarri Rambo, while the seven other returnees all have all-conference potential. Leading the way will be third-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who will be carrying a new three-year contract.
  2. New blood in backfield. If competition breeds success, then the Bulldogs’ tailbacks should be in position to have a lot of it. Injuries and disciplinary issues blunted an otherwise productive first season for Isaiah Crowell, whose 850 yards rushing were enough to get him named SEC Freshman of the Year. But Georgia is looking for more, so it went out and signed the nation’s No. 1 running back prospect for the second year in a row. Keith Marshall of Raleigh, N.C., is a 5-11, 190-pound speedster whose GPA (4.29) and 40-yard-dash time (4-3) are almost a perfect match. Georgia added a commitment Friday from Todd Gurley, another 4-star running back from North Carolina. So those guys will compete with Ken Malcome, Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and Brandon Harton for playing time. Expect the competition to be intense.
  3. Wide receiver corps returns intact. Entering 2011, who would catch Aaron Murray’s passes was one of the Bulldogs’ biggest question marks. As it turned out, Georgia’s receivers ended up being one of the team’s most consistent groups. The Bulldogs’ top five wideouts – who accounted for 2,204 yards between them – all return, including explosive playmakers Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell. Some highly-touted newcomers will join them in the fall.
  4. Aaron Murray’s arm. The Bulldogs’ rising junior quarterback has thrown for 6,198 yards and 59 touchdowns in his first two seasons as a starter and there’s no reason to believe he won’t top the 3,000-yard mark for a third consecutive season. If he could raise his career completion percentage (60) and lower his interception totals (22) even a little bit, Murray could become the truly elite quarterback most project him to be.
  5. Scheduling break: Georgia was supposed to play its second game of the season on the road against South Carolina and Game 6 on the road against defending champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa. But the SEC had to reshuffle schedules to accommodate new members Missouri and Texas A&M. Now the Bulldogs head to Columbia, Mo, in Week 2, don’t play the Gamecocks until Week 6 and will not have to face the Crimson Tide at all. With a non-conference slate that includes Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern and missing Bama, LSU and Arkansas from the West again, a path appears to have been cleared to another big win total.

Reasons for pessimism

  1. Special teams issues. Georgia was horrible on special teams in 2011, a fact made even more shocking considering the optimism that abounded coming in. But nobody expected former All-American place-kicker Blair Walsh to have the worst season of his career or anticipated the drop off in the respective units’ coverage or protection abilities. Richt is confident that the talent will improve among the players on the various units. But breaking in a new place-kicker in freshman Marshall Morgan and a new punter is going to be a challenge.
  2. O-line rebuilding. Offensive line coach Will Friend worked wonders last season in transitioning Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson into the tackle positions and negotiating injury issues at guard despite little depth. But that line’s weaknesses were exposed against top teams such as Boise State, LSU and Michigan State and now the Bulldogs will have to break in two more new tackles, along with team captain Ben Jones.
  3. Aaron Murray. Murray is listed twice here because, as good as he is most of the time, he could be really bad at others, especially in big games. As much as Murray improved in his second season as a starter, he regressed as far as giving up catastrophic plays. Murray delivered four “pick-six” interceptions in 2011 and his second-half fumbles against Michigan State and LSU in the SEC Championship changed the direction of those games.
  4. No more Brandon Boykin. The Bulldogs are going to miss their do-everything all-star probably more than they even know. As evidenced by his MVP performance in the Outback Bowl, Boykin was truly a force to be reckoned with on offense, defense and on special teams. Fellow cornerback Branden Smith is in position to fill that role in 2012, but it may be years before an athlete as versatile as Boykin comes through UGA again.
  5. The Wild West. Even if Georgia repeats as SEC East champions – a determination the 11-win South Carolina Gamecocks will surely have a say in – it will have to get through one of the wicked witches of the West to a BCS opportunity. Alabama, Arkansas and LSU are expected to reload for next season. And Auburn’s record in years after the Crimson Tide has won a national title is astounding.

118 comments Add your comment

NC

January 13th, 2012
2:04 pm

ARdawg

January 13th, 2012
2:04 pm

Foist

Go Dawgs

Billo

January 13th, 2012
2:04 pm

1st and i don’t care if you don’t like it…PUNKS!!!

ARdawg

January 13th, 2012
2:05 pm

Maybe not foist then. Congrats NC

Billo

January 13th, 2012
2:05 pm

rbga7

January 13th, 2012
2:07 pm

Come on Gurley!

ARdawg

January 13th, 2012
2:07 pm

I liked Murray as a freshman. I’m discounting last year as the Sophomore curse. I won’t however have much in the way of patience for him next year. It’s time to pooh or get off the pot with Murray

tgueboy

January 13th, 2012
2:08 pm

ARdawg

January 13th, 2012
2:08 pm

I take it Gurley was a “no-go”?

beanster

January 13th, 2012
2:09 pm

Gurley is all Dawgs!!

Biggest Dawg

January 13th, 2012
2:11 pm

I would like to hear about how CMR will motivate the team at halftime…..seems to be the most critical part of the puzzle.

homer

January 13th, 2012
2:13 pm

next year is totally the year!

(repeat every year)

Austin

January 13th, 2012
2:13 pm

Gurley picked the Dawgs! We’re loaded at TB.

mike

January 13th, 2012
2:14 pm

GO DAWGS!! We got Gurley!! Backfield should take a shot of improvement

ARdawg

January 13th, 2012
2:16 pm

Schweet! I did not know about Gurley. *in my best Johnny Carson voice* I, I, I did not know that

roughrider

January 13th, 2012
2:16 pm

Running the ball depends on the o line.

ARdawg

January 13th, 2012
2:17 pm

Biggest Dawg

Amen

DawginLex

January 13th, 2012
2:21 pm

Excuses are gone boys

Marshall
Crowell
Gurley
Samuel
Malcome
Thomas

4 and 5 star running backs galore. 14 offensive linemen that can all play.

Run the ball. Rotate the QB’s. No turnovers. Let D do its thing.

Frank Lane

January 13th, 2012
2:21 pm

I am optimistic.

bucket

January 13th, 2012
2:21 pm

Hey Chip, what is up with all the noise about some of the draft eligible players reconsidering their options. We need everyone back to truly make a run in 2012-13.

DawginLex

January 13th, 2012
2:23 pm

bucket

Presser at 3 today

smith
Washington
commings

all 3 to announce intentions

Also, Hutson Mason will be there as well. Rumor is he has decided to stay. Why would he go to a UGA presser to announce he is leaving UGA?

clint_atl

January 13th, 2012
2:24 pm

roughrider, well put. I thin we sometimes get too excited about the RB and tend to forget that it all starts up front with th O-line. If the LSU or Bama lines are living in the backfield I don’t care if Marshall, Gurley, or the great Herschel are running the ball it will be a long day.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

January 13th, 2012
2:24 pm

Well Crowell just recieved another shot across his bow. Marshall first now Gurley. Lets see how the young man reacts now to competition like he probably has never faced before.

Rabun Dawg

January 13th, 2012
2:24 pm

Someone needs to tell the Dogs that the games continue past the 1st 30 minutes, and you do have to show up for the 2nd 30 minutes and continue to bring your “A” game. If you look at Ala., they play hard for the entire 60 minutes, no drop off after the 1st 30, and it always has been that way with them. With what UGA has returning, and the favorable schedule again, this team must be the favorite along with USC East to win the Eastern half of the SEC. On the other hand, is our coaching up to the task? I have to wonder about that.JMHO

bucket

January 13th, 2012
2:25 pm

Thanks DawginLex. That’s what I heard, too. I thought the issue was already settled about the defensive guys.

bucket

January 13th, 2012
2:29 pm

@ Rabun Dawg – I share some of your frustration, but the fact of the matter is that Alabama and LSU are playing with a lot more players than we are. Our coaches are coming up with good schemes for some of these games (LSU is a great example), but the depth is killing us in the second half. Some of that problem is recruiting, some of it is attrition, some of it is shortening the rotations, and some of it is our refusal to oversign. All of these issues need to be addressed.

Jalex49

January 13th, 2012
2:32 pm

I hope the juniors decide to come back and I am excited about last year’s group of players and how they may contribute. This class could open a few eye-brows with their talent level.

GO DAWGS!!

Gurley + Marshall

January 13th, 2012
2:33 pm

With these 2 studs and ICro, Georgia’s O will be the best in the SEC! Mark this down–the Dawgs will win the SEC in 2012—the O will be unstoppable.

BobDog

January 13th, 2012
2:37 pm

@bucket

I like it that we take the high road and don’t oversign. Sooner or later that will catch up to Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas. I just hope sooner than later.

gtfanfrom1951

January 13th, 2012
2:41 pm

I love the way the dawg fans drink the kool-aid….. 4 comits that can not get in school!!!!

9 Losses in a Row to teams finishing AP Poll Top 25 - not since beating Georgia tek # 13 in 2009. 7 Losses in a Row to teams finishing AP Poll Top 10 - not since beating Auburn # 9 in 2006.

January 13th, 2012
2:45 pm

Well, the optimistic part is that we cannot do any worse than we have been doing against the better teams.

At 0-7 against teams finishing in the AP Poll Top 10 since after we beat Auburn # 9 way back six seasons ago in 2006 (seven seasons ago now next season 2012,) there is no where to go but up.

At 0-9 against teams finishing in the AP Poll Top 25 after we beat Georgia tek # 13 in 2009, there is no where to go but up.

GOOD NEWS.

On the other hand, we could not be doing, in fact worse. Aaron Murray has lost every game as our Starting Quarterback against every team finishing in the AP Poll Top 10 and finishing in the AP Poll Top 25. If he finally wins one, he will be 1-9, and the prospects of him playing more than 1 in the regular season up-coming in 2012, are non-existent.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

January 13th, 2012
2:46 pm

Sogtfanfrom1951….its all doom and gloom on the Tech boards then? Certainly no reason to drink any Kool Aid for that joke of a program.

bucket

January 13th, 2012
2:47 pm

@ BobDog – I agree with the stance as well, but until Commissioner Slive stops it we are going to continue to be on the short end of the stick.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

January 13th, 2012
2:49 pm

Not a fan of AM but how many times are are you going to manipuate that Top 25 record? First it was he hadnt beat one. Then he beat Auburn, make it 1-9 still not good, but now it is moved to Finished in the top 25. Continued use of that really makes ya look goofy even though you have valid points.

Nom Nom Nom Chucks Taylor, or Norris if he is avaliable

January 13th, 2012
2:52 pm

When do we hear about that 5 star Offensive Coordinator? Sure could use that kid.

Jerome

January 13th, 2012
2:55 pm

I’m optimistic. Our defense is set. Our defense will win us a lot of games next season. Probably most of them. But I don’t care as long as you win.

As far as offense, ehhh they can be explosive and hot but in big games we get lost. Gotta step it up. Our O-line needs to get nasty and physical in order to succeed. Our young receivers are going to be even better with a year of experience.

We’re gonna be good. Can we win a title? We’ll see.

Jerome

January 13th, 2012
2:56 pm

Remember, Georgia is a very young team. Not a lot of seniors this past season. Had a lot of freshmen, sophomores, etc. Seems like we’re reloading in recruiting. Could be glory days.

athenborn

January 13th, 2012
2:57 pm

He forgot to add, the is no team in the country trying to lure Bobo to become thier OC. Bobo is the second best OC for GA with Mark Richt being the best. Richard Samuel said he had no problem returning to RB since very little had changed. It’s clear Bobo has no creativity. Richt should never put his second OC in charge. Do the job himself or get someone better than he is and that’s not Bobo.

9 Losses in a Row to teams finishing AP Poll Top 25 - not since beating Georgia tek # 13 in 2009. 7 Losses in a Row to teams finishing AP Poll Top 10 - not since beating Auburn # 9 in 2006.

January 13th, 2012
3:00 pm

Aaron Murray as a Freshman was our Best Player and there was no 2nd best player on the entire team, not close.

Aaron Murray had the Heebie-Jeebies Sophomore Slump. He was totally horrendous.

Blair Walsh had the yips. Imagine making 21 field goals to set The SEC Record for Mark Richt beating Richt’s earlier Record with Billy Bennett setting for field goals, his entire career. And, missing 14 field goals.

Between Blair Walsh 40% Field Goal Percentage 21 made 14 missed with the yips and Aaron Murray 41 % of his Starts Losses 11 Losses out of 27 games because he had the Heebie-Jeebies – well, we just need to find a football psychologist, since we obviously have no clue how to bring in a Motivational Speaker (Why doesn’t Mark Richt let fiery Todd Grantham, only, speak to the team pre-game ?)

9 Losses in a Row to teams finishing AP Poll Top 25 - not since beating Georgia tek # 13 in 2009. 7 Losses in a Row to teams finishing AP Poll Top 10 - not since beating Auburn # 9 in 2006.

January 13th, 2012
3:04 pm

There is Nothing Goofy about valid points, Especially since all I have ever posted is the record against teams who finished in the AP Poll Top 10 and Top 25. Go find me one post where I posted any other measure.

Or, better yet, go read Ben Dukes blog today. As a former Bulldog, he makes the same Exact Point.

Aaron Murray sucks.

bucket

January 13th, 2012
3:15 pm

Just heard that everyone (but Orson) is coming back! Anyone else heard that?

SugarHillDawg

January 13th, 2012
3:16 pm

Hey DawginLex, who told you ALL those lineman can play? I hope you’re right BUT………………..

Jerome

January 13th, 2012
3:20 pm

Had Orson come back we would have only lost Ben Jones, Justin Anderson, Cordy Glenn, Brandon Boykin and DeAngelo Tyson. I don’t consider losing Justin Anderson a bad thing because he often got beat and couldn’t really protect. The only guys we’ll miss dearly is Ben Jones, Brandon Boykin and maybe, maybe Cordy Glenn because he could really block. Other than that, we have upgrades.

JB

January 13th, 2012
3:20 pm

A few things holding us back.
A. We have OL issues. I’m not smart enough to say if it’s talent, coaching or both.
B. An attitude to pull the parachute out with any kinda of lead or momentum.
C. Richt/Bobo love to run a scripted offense based on down, distance and field position.
D. We need some depth in the program. Saban is cutting players and we’re giving walk ons scholarships.
E. Kinda get better on special teams.

Vance Duly

January 13th, 2012
3:20 pm

From the list above, I believe the o-line is the biggest obstacle to 2012 being a great season for the Dawgs. We’ve not had a great o-line in many years. But, Coach Bobo’s overly conservative late-game play-calling, predictability in certain situations, and insistence on taking his foot off of the gas pedal when we have a lead, will likely cost us a winnable game or 2 this season, even with the weaker schedule. If we’re dominating by the pass, Coach Bobo changes the focus to the run. We play “not to lose” too often. A spectacular o-line can compensate for these Boboisms, but we’ve not had one of those in years. Coach Bobo HAS to study his own tendencies and improve for us to have a shot at a BCS title game in this decade. GO DAWGS!!!

Jerome

January 13th, 2012
3:21 pm

Our entire team is basically back for 2012 and that’s only good news. Now let’s hope that we have no arrests or anything this offseason. We did great with that last off-season. Let’s keep it up. No trouble. Just some hungry young men ready to fight come September. GO DAWGS!

Terry

January 13th, 2012
3:22 pm

gtfanfrom1951, Better to be drinking Kool-Aid, than P!ZZ & Vinegar. LOL

JB

January 13th, 2012
3:23 pm

Bama losing 8 senior starters and 3 junior starters declared. ( I said earlier they would lose 4 jr’s.) The have to replace 11 starters. We’ll see

Jerome

January 13th, 2012
3:26 pm

The last time we had a “great O-line was 2005 when we won an SEC title 34-14 over LSU. Our O-line was dominant. Go on youtube and watch our victory over Boise State in the opener and watch how our O-line just mauled and pushed them back literally 5 yards off the ball. That’s dominant O-line play gentlemen. Nothing pleases me more than to see an O-line just push a D-line backwards.

JB

January 13th, 2012
3:26 pm

Wish Richt would send Bobo this summer to spend a day or two with Chip Kelly to” talk football”