“Quality, I possess so stay impressed
When my voice goes through the mesh
Of the microphone that I am holdin’
Copywritten lyrics so they can’t be stolen
If they are SNAP!”
– “The Power” by Snap
That really has no relevance to the mailbag, the first question, or anything in here. I just like the song a lot.
OK, the mailbag:
The 2007 Dawgs struggled mightily in the first half of the year, also going 4-2, before they made a run at the NC. Chances history repeats?
– Allan Harvey
There’s one reason to believe it can: The schedule. Georgia should definitely be favored in four of its remaining six games, and might be in one more (Auburn at home.) The Florida game is the biggest hurdle, but it’s not a huge hurdle. So could you see Georgia going 10-2 and in the SEC championship game against Alabama or Texas A&M? Of course.
But, at the risk of being a very, very wet blanket, let us count the reasons to be skeptical, and the differences between this year and 2007.
Tennessee would still have to lose two more SEC games. It’s likely to fall Saturday against Alabama, but its remaining conference schedule is even easier: at South Carolina and Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Missouri at home.
Would Georgia actually be able to beat Alabama or Texas A&M? Not the Georgia team we’ve seen the first half of this season. But maybe there will be a ton of improvement, especially from Jacob Eason and the young but talented defenses.
Even if Georgia runs the table and wins the table, would a two-loss Georgia team get in the playoff over four unbeaten or one-loss Power 5 teams? Georgia does rank No. 14 this week in schedule strength, according to the respected Jeff Sagarin ratings. But that will go down the second half of the season.
OK, now for those of you still with us, and not deriding this Georgia dream scenario, some other major differences between 2016 and 2007.
- Freshman quarterback. (Matt Stafford was a sophomore.)
- First-year head coach.
- Major kicking woes. (Brandon Coutu was a junior who had such a good year, making 16-of-21 field goals, he was named a team captain at the end of year.)
- At the mid-point of the 2007 season, Georgia had a point differential of plus-56, having routed Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and Western Carolina, and squeezed out a road win at Alabama (in Nick Saban and Kirby Smart’s first year in Tuscaloosa). The losses were by four to South Carolina and by 31 at Tennessee. This year’s team enters the second half with a point differential of minus-14.
I’ve learned never to say “never” in this business. Could I see it happening? Sure. Contrary to what others say, I still maintain this team has a lot of talent, it’s just young talent, and the second half of the season is when it could all come together. Throw in a manageable schedule, and no, I can’t today rule out a trip to one of those national semifinals.
But given what we’ve seen so far, I can’t rule out the Music City Bowl either.
Side note No. 1: The opening music lyrics, considering the first question, could have been a song about setting your sights high, like “St. Elmo’s Fire,” or “I Hope You Dance.” But it’s Vanderbilt week, and a short week because of the Sunday game, so I think what we all need isn’t silly inspiration, but a late-‘80s techno-rap song that basically tells us to wake up and run 10 miles or else we’ll be knocked in the head with a crane truck.
Playcalling has been predictable, a lot like last year. Not a lot of formations or imagination. Worried that this is an offensive coordinator issue, not a freshman quarterback issue. Maybe a wide receiver issue? We’ll lose the kid from Cartersville (Trevor Lawrence) with 30 yards passing in a game. One example: Sony Michel in the slot? Probably a good option.
– Chris Arp
I’m not a recruiting maven, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Georgia loses out on Lawrence simply because of Eason and Jake Fromm’s presence. Actually, the fact Georgia is still in it with Lawrence considering all that speaks well to Georgia’s recruitment of him. But anyway …
What I’ve noticed the past few weeks is Jim Chaney properly adjusting his scheme to account for the run-blocking deficiencies, and it’s worked. It took them a few weeks, but they realized they didn’t have the size on the line or at receiver to block well with traditional plays. So now they’re pulling the linemen a LOT, and being more creative with the run calls.
So now we’ll find out what adjustments Chaney can make with the passing game. There were actually some well-designed plays at South Carolina that Eason just missed: Isaac Nauta wide open down the left side near the end zone, and Terry Godwin down the right side for what should’ve been a touchdown. But they did run a lot of non-shotgun plays, apparently a crash course to try to get Eason better taking drops, and their hope is that pays off soon. That’s the key right now: Eason is very good out of the shotgun, but when you have elite tailbacks you can’t run shotgun most of the time.
Michel out of the slot is a good idea, something Mike Bobo explored early in the season two years ago, then Michel got hurt. Receiver is an issue, with McKenzie the most experienced guy, but you’d think the depth at tight end would make up for that.
The book is still very much out on Chaney, I believe, but most of the passing game problems lately are probably because of inexperience at quarterback.
In 2012, Keith Marshall was rated over Gurley; Gurley was the star. 2014, Michel is rated higher than Chubb; Chubb is the (brighter) star. 2016 and Holyfield gets injured to start the season. Does he need to start worrying about career playing time at UGA? (preseason I said Herrien would be the better back but lack evidence as proof)
– Keith Saporsky
If you can produce any evidence you said that, we’ll consider hiring you here as an analyst. I’m not sure how many saw this coming, other than people close to Herrien. Back in the spring I was interviewing Tyler Simmons and his family, and Tyler told them Herrien – his former teammate at New Manchester High School – had gotten his grades. They were excited, and Simmons swore that Herrien would play at Georgia. I confess that I didn’t buy into that, and for about the 1,000th time in my life I was wrong.
Keith, your larger point is accurate, though I think it’s overstated that Michel was rated higher than Chubb. They were both five-stars, and Michel was only a few spots higher on the 247Sports Composite. The gap between Holyfield and Herrien, however, was a chasm. And when I saw Holyfield in the open practice, the first time I’d seen him myself, I was convinced he’d be the third back this year. I don’t remember making any note of Herrien. That’s me, an eagle-eyed analyst!
Still, I wouldn’t bury Holyfield yet. He was on track to get a lot of playing time, then hurt his ankle, and Herrien made great use of his opportunity. He scored a touchdown on his very first carry as a college football player. And he’s looked too good since then to come out.
Holyfield was Wally Pipp’d. It’s as simple as that. But only now. Chubb and Michel may be off to the NFL after this year, and while some more talented freshmen are on their way in, Holyfield should get every chance to move back up the depth chart.
Side note No. 2: Someone in the media room made a Wally Pipp reference the other day and a younger writer asked what that meant. Now please understand: It’s a reference to something that happened in 1925 and I’m not THAT old.
In your opinion, what is preventing the defense from getting more pressure / sacks on the QB? Understanding the schedule / dual threat QBs faced, it still seems a bit lackluster. Is it adjusting to a new scheme? Is it the lack of twists and blitzes? Are the players just being a little hesitant (except Walker)?
– Charles Forrester
(For those that say, Hey Charles, they had five sacks last game, I point you to my Second Glance, when I pointed out two of those came on the final drive, and in general South Carolina had time to throw. Just backing you up, Charles. Now let me try to answer your question.)
Georgia isn’t sending a ton of pressure, for one thing. It’s mostly four-man rushes, picking certain spots for secondary blitzes. You’re also seeing Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy start a lot of plays on the line, as part of that four-man rush. The strategy seems to be to use four men to rush five and push the pocket, and have even odds against the pass in the secondary. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins did some of that too, but still managed to get off blocks fairly well.
Here’s something of note: Georgia coaches (and hence players) say they don’t look at sacks as much as they do “affecting the quarterback.” So QB pressures would seem to matter more. Last year Georgia had 88 pressures in 13 games, a rate of 6.8 per game. This year it’s 40 in six games, a rate of … 6.7. Basically the same. (And last year’s defense supposedly “protected” the secondary.)
Was it obvious that Quincy Mauger didn’t get an interception on that pass a couple of plays before the last SC touchdown? Seemed like Georgia would have asked for further review. Get it ruled a pick and the game is basically over at that point. Course, then Terry Godwin doesn’t get his TD return, but still.
– Jay Stone
It sure looked like an interception in real time, and from what I could tell on the re-watch. But was there irrefutable evidence? Not enough to overturn, is my guess.
Smart said after the game that he didn’t think a replay review would overturn it, because tie goes to the receiver. He also said he assumed that when replay didn’t stop it to review that it meant they didn’t see enough evidence to even look at it.
Side note No. 3: Many of you are probably wondering why, as Georgia plays Vanderbilt this week, I haven’t chosen a song from The Commodores. My reply: … Actually I’ve deleted what I was going to write because I don’t want to offend listeners of cheesy easy-listening music that’s quite terrible.
Longtime listener/first-time caller. My question is about DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle. Is he injured or has he fallen out of favor in the defensive front rotation? After starting the first few games, he didn’t get many snaps against UT and didn’t see the field at all against USC. Met the young man this summer and was quite impressed with him. Hope to see No. 96 back out there soon. I’ll hang up and listen …
– Kevin Atwill
Thanks for the call. Stay on the line for a chance at a free set of steak knives.
Hawkins-Muckle didn’t play at South Carolina because he was “a little banged up,” per Smart, though Hawkins-Muckle (yes I’ll type the whole name every time) did make the trip. Anyway, he was suited up and practicing Tuesday and Wednesday, so presumably he’s fine. But will he walk back in and start, as he did the first three games? Probably not, and playing time’s going to be awfully tight now with Jonathan Ledbetter’s return.
Without Ledbetter, Georgia has been playing eight defensive linemen. That’s not included Michael Barnett, who had looked good in the spring and early preseason, hasn’t played at all this year. Smart was actually asked about Barnett this week:
“It’s not that he’s not doing anything right or doing something wrong. He’s competing. He’s trying hard. He’s just not in the lineup of the guys we’re rotating in. He’s been really close a couple weeks,” Smart said. “He continues to work and he practices hard, but it’s just we’re only able to play seven or eight of those guys. That’s the deal there.”
Will Van Halen ever produce any new music again? UGA is on its way to producing another NC in my lifetime so I’m hoping.
– Eddie Whitaker
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear “Van Halen” is a somewhat obscure episode from a somewhat obscure show, “NewsRadio.” Phil Hartman’s character, an arrogant and out of touch host named Bill, has just given David Foley’s character, Dave, a book.
Dave (reading): “Crazy from the Heat.” By David Lee Roth. Wasn’t he in Van Halen?
Bill: “I’m not sure what city he was from, I just know he was in some sort of rock group …”
OK, guess that’s not as funny in print. Go watch “NewsRadio” on Netflix, or wherever. It was a great show, and I still miss Phil Hartman.
Oh, as for whether UGA will win a national championship in your lifetime. I guess I’ll need to know your age. I’m 40. In my lifetime? Maye. In my three-year-old son’s lifetime? You’d think.
Side note No. 4: Periodically there comes a time in the mailbag where people ask basketball questions, and some in the football universe decide to click away to one of Jeff Sentell’s recruiting stories. Well, here’s your warning: Time to click.
It feels like patience towards Mark Fox to build a program the right way is starting to pay dividends. Although no 5 *s, the roster looks the best it has in quite some time. Agree? Will that translate into more fans starting to support the basketball program so that we can recruit and retain talent and coaches?
– Charles Forrester, again
I’m not sure about the most talented – the 2010-11 team with Trey Thompson, Travis Leslie, Gerald Robinson and Jeremy Price, and Marcus Thornton coming off the bench may edge it out. But this team is way deeper, and should be the deepest of Fox’s tenure. And who knows, we may look back on this team and say it was the most talented: J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten as a good outside-inside duo, Derek Ogeide perhaps blossoming into a good center, Tyree Crump a good shooter and scorer … and that’s not even including Juwan Parker, Pape Diatta, Mike Edwards and Jordan Harris.
This should be a good team. An NCAA tournament team. And fans seem to feel that way: As of last week they were a scant 68 tickets away from selling the most season tickets in program history.
Any updates on basketball recruiting? Prospects to keep an eye on?
Five-star Wendell Carter, a power forward from Atlanta, is visiting Athens this weekend. It’s not clear whether he’ll sign in the fall or spring. History would indicate Georgia shouldn’t be favored for an elite prospect, but he’s visiting, so we’ll see.
Center Garrison Brooks, a four-star from Auburn, Ala., is heavily considering Georgia and North Carolina. Again, you wouldn’t put Georgia in the driver’s seat considering the competition.
Nobody is signed for the fall signing period, and that’s obviously discoursing if it ends up that way. However, one would think Fox has earned the benefit of the doubt: Frazier and Maten were three-star prospects, and Ogeide, Crump, Harris and Jackson are sophomores and freshmen who were all top 100 on some people’s list. So while Georgia isn’t getting the eye-popping signee yet, it seems recruiting has improved.
What is the secret to a creamy risotto?
– Russell Sauve
I have the perfect recipe: Two tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, a cup of water, a pinch of minced garlic, and a car to take you to a nice Italian restaurant.