I know it’s up for me
If you steal my sunshine
Making sure I’m not in too deep
If you steal my sunshine
Keeping versed and on my feet
If you steal my sunshine
– Len, 1999
The above lyrics are not exactly very deep, though the word deep is in there. The group, Len, was a one-hit wonder brother-sister combination that got more notice for the brother and sister seeming a bit too close. Nonetheless, we begin this week’s mailbag with them for one very good reason.
That was a catchy song, and we like catchy one-hit wonder songs from the ‘90s. When given the opportunity, future mailbags will open with “Lovefool” from the Cardigans, “In the Meantime” by Spacechog, and “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba. You may consider that a challenge to relate those songs to football. We’re up to it.
Actually, another reason is because our opening question will feature this reporter Stealing Your Sunshine, because that’s kinda what we do. In the process, however, hopefully we inform and entertain you, as well as put a ridiculous song in your heads for the rest of the day.
An apology to all who submitted questions that couldn’t be answered in this installment. But please keep sending them. The mailbag will run every Thursday. On to this week’s:
By the time we get to Ole Miss and Tennessee (God willing we’re still undefeated by then), how good do you assume our team could be? Seeing that we should have Sony Michel back from injury, Jonathan Ledbetter returning from suspension and more than likely Jacob Eason having three solid games of experience under his belt.
– Dustin Williams
There’s two ways to look at this. One positive, one cautionary. And by cautionary I mean Stealing Your Sunshine. And by positive I mean Mr. Sunshine. So let’s present both:
Mr. Sunshine: Ole Miss and Tennessee didn’t look good, Georgia did, and the Bulldogs put up 33 points without Michel, who should at least be ready by the Ole Miss game, if not sooner, and potentially be better passing the ball by then, whoever’s at quarterback. And if it’s Eason, that means the coaches are comfortable with him managing the offense, which means a ton of explosive plays. And yes, the defense will probably add Ledbetter, which will strengthen a run defense that was pretty decent already against North Carolina. End result: Georgia, 5-0 going into South Carolina. Boom.
Stealing Your Sunshine: Beware the first-week over-emphasis. Remember back in 2014, when Georgia walloped Clemson, and Texas A&M routed South Carolina, and talking heads suddenly had the Bulldogs and Aggies in the playoffs? A year earlier, Georgia fell at Clemson, then rebounded to win the next four, including wins over two top 10 teams. So this year, don’t be surprised if Ole Miss and Tennessee rebound. And don’t forget, Georgia was down 10 points in the third quarter, over a team it was favored to beat, so everyone hold off the hype.
Where I fall: This had the air of a 9-3 or 10-2 team, and I’m not changing that projection …. Yet.
One of the frustrations we’ve had over the last number of years is special teams. With the hiring of Shane Beamer there was hope for improvement. It did not look that good last week against North Carolina. I think only one kickoff made it to the end zone, a kickoff return for a touchdown, and a field goal kicker who does not remind anyone who has been watching the great Georgia kickers back to Alan Levitt. We see a lot of stories about Jim Chaney working the offense and Tracy Rocker on the line. But what is going on with Special Teams? They could have lost because of special teams play? What are Smart and Beamer doing to fix the problems?
– Scott Barman
This is where I will fall somewhere between Mr. Sunshine and Stealing Your Sunshine.
There’s no way to sugarcoat how the first game went for the special teams. Beamer will now earn his money trying to fix it. Kickoff coverage will get the most attention, because there’s more that goes into that: Kicking strategy, personnel, lane discipline, etc.
But the actual kickers will be what gets the most attention. Something to remember about William Ham: He was both rusty (first real game in three years) and nervous (first college game, in a big environment. The first miss, from 41 yards, had good loft, it was just wide left. Yes, very wide left. The second one was good, and while it was a knuckleball, a lot of short field goals are. It went through.
As for punter, Marshall Long obviously had one poor punt, and his longest was “only” 47. But he was also a freshman competing in his first game. Like Ham, I suspect Long will continue to get a shot, but Brice Ramsey has done it before, and also has a booming leg.
Has Kirby solicited the student body or possibly the soccer team for a kicker just to kick the football in the end zone on kick offs? Surely there is one enrolled that could consistently perform this task? Thanks.
I also got this question a lot. And for that I turn to Marc Nolan, a kicking and punting coach in the Atlanta area, who grows rather incredulous at all this talk. His response:
“What most of them do not understand is that in High School, many of the kickoff specialists use a two-inch kickoff block and are kicking from the 40. In high school, there are NO run backs – so is another reason why these fans think we can just find a soccer player to “boot the ball”.
“This is now one reason we have been moving to the Sky Right/Sky Left or “mortar kick” where we pop the ball high to get our “gunners” down in time to pin them back. What I have been amused with is there is no to little discussion by fans on the role of the kickoff team and why they can’t cover is mortar kick more effectively.
“For instance, on a college kickoffs, where the gunners are starting at the 35 and we are kicking a ball to the opposite 25, that is ONLY 45 yards in the air. Are we saying we can’t get our “gunners” in full pads to go 45 yards in four or five seconds to cover a kickoff? Hey here’s an idea. Maybe we should go out to Butts-Mehre track stadium and find some sprinter from the track team to be our gunners?”
What happened to Mitchell Wasson? Is he on the team? Is he getting a look?
– Ken Feinberg
He’s still on the team. But from what I understand, no he’s not in the running for kicks at this point. I’m sure if the coaches felt he was a better option, he would be in the mix.
Side note No. 1: Wow, all these kicker questions, and no quarterback questions! That’s so … oh wait here we go.
What would be Coach Smart’s reasoning for continuing to start Greyson Lambert for a little bit, especially for some of these soft upcoming games (Mizzou obviously isn’t Nicholls State)? I’m not headhunting by any means, I’m genuinely curious to know Coach Smarts thought behind starting Lambert, and what strategy that holds.
– Thomas Taylor
Well, he may yet start Eason against Nicholls State. He was going first team on Wednesday – after you sent in your question, Thomas, to be fair to you. I’m not sure whether that was because Eason is now starting, or to prepare him for extended snaps, with Lambert still starting. Either way, I’m very confident Eason is being given a chance to win the role.
But, as Smart said, they have to whittle the role soon, and if they actually go with Lambert, there’s sound reasoning: The trips to Missouri and Ole Miss would be a lot for a true freshman, and Georgia still wants to win those games. Going with an experienced quarterback would give the team a better chance of winning on the road, while Eason could still get snaps, much like in the North Carolina game.
Why wouldn’t Eason be ready? Because they had to burn a timeout in the first half because Eason didn’t have a play ready, and they also sent in Lambert just to try to draw North Carolina offsides on fourth down at one point. And they also sent in Lambert to run the four-minute offense.
All that said, Eason is a smart guy and a hard worker, from everything I’ve heard, so he may pick up things pretty quickly. If he does to the staff’s satisfaction, he’ll have a good chance of starting sooner rather than later.
Why is the offense more conservative when Lambert is on the field? Is the issue, the coaches do not trust his ability to air it out or he does not elect to throw it downfield when given the chance and throws it to a WR, TE or RB running a shorter route. Lambert has shown he can throw the deep ball like he did to Reggie Davis in the Tennessee game last year. He has been stereotyped as not having a good arm which is not true.
– Tom Jackson
This a great question, Tom, because it gets overlooked in all the analysis about the quarterbacks. The sentence “Georgia’s offense is limited under Lambert” gets written as if it’s fact, but you’re right: That pass to Reggie Davis at Tennessee happened. So did that 36-yard completion to Malcolm Mitchell down the sideline early in the Alabama game. Lambert has made the throws before, and if he was some inanimate object he wouldn’t be starting. He also had a couple very good passes against North Carolina.
Lambert has a stronger arm than Hutson Mason, for instance, and that’s not a knock on Mason. Lambert’s just not as strong-armed as Eason, or even Brice Ramsey. The concern with Lambert, I would imagine, is in his not being assertive enough in the pocket and going through his reads, and the occasional pass that just misses wildly – usually low and away. Whatever the reason, it’s obvious the coaches don’t quite trust Lambert 100 percent enough to just let the offense loose.
Has Smart been asked whether inserting Eason was a critical factor in the win Saturday? Of course it’s conjecture, but I don’t think Georgia wins if Lambert plays the whole game.
– Dave Looney
Smart hasn’t been asked that specifically. I suspect he’d point out that they won the game doing what they did, and leave it at that. Going strictly by drive production, Georgia scored 14 points with Lambert, and 17 with Eason. Lambert was credited with no touchdown passes, while Eason was credited with one, albeit on the jet sweep, which was a forward hand-off.
The only real difference between the two was the Eason pass to McKenzie, which set up the go-ahead field goal. It was a critical pass, but we also don’t know what Lambert would have done on that pass. We also don’t know whether Eason might have made a freshman mistake on one of the Lambert drives.
Side note No. 2: Did you know that if you load up “Steal My Sunshine” on YouTube, the next song it cues up is “How Bizarre” by OMC. The ’90s were a great time to be alive.
I went to the game and then watched my recorded version on Sunday. From my viewpoint in row 3 of the upper deck it was clear that our receivers were consistently blanketed by the Tar Heel DB’s. ESPN commentator Brock Huard made several comments about how the UGA WR’s couldn’t get any separation during the broadcast. Do you see this as a major concern? Who do you think are our best options to get open in space beyond Isaiah McKenzie?
– Mark in Suwanee
This was a concern coming out that was overlooked. I couldn’t study it much in the second glance because I was depending on the TV copy. But watching from the press box, the plays I remember there was good coverage, and I don’t recall seeing a play where a guy was wide open and the quarterback didn’t throw it.
It’s a byproduct of two things:
1-Inexperience. It’s no surprise that the one receiver able to get separation was a junior, and perhaps the speediest guy on the field. Michael Chigbu, a sophomore, had three catches, but he’s also a physical receiver who knows how to use his body, and played some last year.
2-Not spreading the field much with receivers. Because of the double and triple-tight end sets, that made it easier for North Carolina’s defensive backs to guard Georgia’s wideouts. When you have more three and four-man receiver formations, it spreads the field and increases the chances one of them will be able to use his speed to get separation.
We used two tight ends often against UNC, but not for passes. Both Chaney and Brian Schottenheimer came in with reputations for actually throwing the ball to them. Schotty abandoned that strategy. Was Chaney trying to help a patched together O-line with blocking? It’s worth noting that last year’s line took a big step back. Are we looking at the same cause and effect limitations for this year’s outstanding tight end corps?
– Alfred Thigpen
Keep in mind, Isaac Nauta was actually targeted a few more times. He dropped one pass from Lambert, and was the intended receiver on a pass Eason overthrew to the sideline. So while the tight ends only had one catch, it could have and should have been more.
The very fact the tight ends are on the field this much means they’re going to get more passes. They’re not playing double and even triple-tight end sets just to block and be decoys. But against North Carolina there also wasn’t as much cause to put the ball in the air when Nick Chubb was churning out so many yards, and when they did pass it, Isaiah McKenzie was so potent, there wasn’t much need to force-feed the tight ends.
Overall a really inspiring effort. Not trying to take away from that, but I am curious about a couple of noticeable absences. First and foremost, any ideas why Mecole Hardman didn’t play? And what about Javon Wims?
– Scott Miller
I’m not surprised Hardman and Wims didn’t start. I’m surprised they didn’t see the field. Hardman was a surprising omission from special teams, where I thought the staff would get his feet wet, and help adjust him to the speed of the game. Wims looked to be part of the receiver rotation entering the game, but I guess with all the tight ends playing, there just weren’t enough snaps for wideouts.
Hardman and Wims will play this Saturday. Hardman has been running second team corner in practice, so he should get in whether or not he’s put on special teams.
Do you think another under-the-radar freshman steps up next week, like the way Brian Herrien and David Marshall did against UNC when called upon?
– Rafael Cruz
Side note No. 3: When I compliment someone with a great question, it doesn’t mean the other questions weren’t great. It just means … well, Rafael Cruz made me think hard before my answer, and not just about whether he’s Ted Cruz’s father and had some role in the JFK Assassination. But anyway …
Elijah Holyfield jumps out as a potential breakout freshman on Saturday – although I thought that would happen against North Carolina, and he was held out. Nauta is another candidate; while he played a lot against North Carolina, he’s capable of a much bigger game, and I think that could happen. Keep an eye on a different freshman defensive lineman balling out: Julian Rochester, Michail Carter and Tyler Clark all played against UNC, and while they didn’t stand out the way Marshall did, those three will get more snaps on Saturday, and more chances to impress.
Have you ever seen a corner blow up screens like Malkom Parrish does? It’s unreal to me how he can shed multiple blocks and almost always make the tackle for no gain. Also, why even throw screens his way at this point? UNC tried it at least twice to no avail. Thanks!
– Charles Sligh
Considering his size, or maybe regardless of it, he’s the best tackling cornerback I’ve seen in a long time. This is now two straight defensive staffs Parrish has won over just on grit and determination. He was initially recruited by Todd Grantham and Scott Lakatos, and when Jeremy Pruitt came over he saw Parrish’s height and was a bit skeptical. Pruitt was convinced fairly quickly. So have Smart and Mel Tucker.
Brice Ramsey has claimed the title of King of Understudies as a third-string QB and second-string punter. Have you seen any signs that he’ll see the field this year? I feel like it’s an obvious opportunity to have him throw out of a punting formation (that is, QB on a fake punt), but he can’t do that from the sidelines. Any updates on Ramsey?
– Chad Tiller, Brooklyn, N.Y.
He could get a chance to punt if Marshall Long doesn’t do a bit better. But much like Ham, Long was kicking in his first game, and his uneven debut could be chalked up to nerves. We’ll see. As for quarterback, Ramsey will need some injuries to play this year.
It’ll be interesting to see how things play out after the season; many will naturally assume a transfer, but Ramsey would begin next year one of the top two quarterbacks – Jake Fromm almost certainly wouldn’t jump him right away – and Ramsey also genuinely enjoys Athens and being in college. But playing time is playing time. So let’s see how this season plays out.
In my prep for Kirby coming to town, I’ve been researching Saban as much as possible. We all know about “The Process”, but I find it odd that I haven’t heard Kirby talking about it that much. Have I just missed those articles? Eason alluded to it in a one sentence tweet the other day. Is he putting his own stamp on it, bringing it entirely, bailing from it all together or just not being vocal about it? I know it’s something Kirby believes in deeply. What have you guys heard?
– Chris Hay
That’s actually a good point. Smart has echoed a lot of Saban-isms – for instance the liberal use of “organization” rather than team – but the word “process” hasn’t come out much. I haven’t asked him about it, so I’ll have to guess it either has something to do with Smart not wanting to mimic Saban’s terminology word-for-word, and/or realizing that Saban has The Process basically patented for himself … or it just hasn’t occurred to Smart to mention it. You don’t hear Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain using that term much either, for what it’s worth, and they were also Saban proteges.
I noticed that Devin Bellamy shifted down to DE a lot on Saturday. Was that just alignment to combat the speed of UNC or is this how the coaching staff will deal with depth on the DL and a lot of young guys on the DL? Do you see Bellamy with his hand on the ground a lot going forward or less as the freshman get more experience?
– Stephen Walters
That’s going to happen a lot, and it did the last few years with Jordan Jenkins. Bellamy has worked with Tracy Rocker and the defensive linemen during some practices, in preparation for that role. But he’s still primarily an outside linebacker, especially with the young D-linemen getting in the game more.
Will Sony play this week or be held out. I guess no. Maybe Missouri at earliest. What do you think?
– HM Jackson
My guess, as of Thursday morning, is Michel will be held out at least one more week. Smart didn’t sound too optimistic on Tuesday night, but maybe he’ll have an update on his radio show Thursday night. Or maybe not. (See question to follow.)
Hopefully Holyfield will be 100% this weekend along with Sony. I can see the coaches resting Sony another week so he can be full go for the conference opener against Missouri. With that said, is this week a challenge for the 3rd running back spot behind Chubb and Sony? Who will claim it?
– Andrew Crumley
Before last weekend I would have said Holyfield, but Herrien is going to make it an interesting battle. And don’t forget Brendan Douglas, who (when he doesn’t fumble) does have some decent runs, and with Michel out is the team’s pass protecting tailback. At minimum, once everyone’s healthy Georgia goes five-deep at tailback, and that’s quite impressive.
Did we not get more pressure on Trubisky because we were trying to funnel him into the pocket, or based on what you’re hearing and seeing around practice we are just going to be deficient in sacks and pressure again this season.
– Matt McCarty, Los Angeles
Side note No. 4: I will usually print your city and state when you provide it, but I will ESPECIALLY print it when it’s from very far away. Like Los Angeles.
As I wrote in the second glance, I think the lack of sacks was mostly the result of facing a mobile quarterback. Not only was he able to evade the pass rush, but Georgia’s gameplan, anticipating Trubisky’s mobility, seemed to include having the edge rushers hang back, rather than all-out blitz. Carter and Bellamy seemed to be close on some plays Saturday but were out-run. That won’t happen every week.
That said, Georgia had 21 sacks last year. Will it exceed that this year? I’ll be interested to see how Smart and Tucker approach their use of the edge rushers, because it’s related to the secondary, and what Smart mentioned in the offseason: That he felt last year’s staff “protected” the secondary by liberally blitzing the edge rushers. Does the secondary play much better this year, forcing more coverage sacks?
I haven’t seen the Georgia coach’s show where the head coach reviews the last week’s game. Richt’s last programs were like ladies’ tea parties. But aren’t we going to have anything at all now?
– Gary Moore
Smart’s radio show is now Thursdays at 7 p.m. – Richt’s had been Monday at 8 p.m. Both were an hour. The main difference, however, is Richt took fan calls, and while they were screened, critical callers were often let through, leading to some entertaining moments. Nice guy reputation aside, Richt would every once in awhile let loose a sarcastic “sounds like you coached a lot of football in your day.”
Smart, on the other hand, is only taking social media questions. Last week’s show was fairly tame, and not very newsworthy. Maybe that’ll change, we’ll see.
What do you think are the top 3 objectives, excluding injury, for the game with Nicholls?
– Scott Shepard
- Throw the ball around a lot, not just for the quarterbacks, but for the inexperienced wide receivers.
- Get better run contain on defense. It was an issue against North Carolina, and Nicholls State has a running quarterback. That’s good practice for what follows.
- Get Nick Chubb his 100 yards, then put him in cellophane wrap.
Did you know Jacob Eason is a very distant second as the most famous Lake Stevens HS alum? I’ll hang up and listen.
– Mitch Pike
This is correct: Chris Pratt, star of films and, most importantly, “Parks and Recreation.” He’s also married to Anna Faris, who is funny and a good actress.
Eason, however, may eventually catch up to Pratt on the fame meter. And if he gets his way he’ll eventually be married to Blake Lively. That’ll help too.