Welcome back to the UGA mailbag, where each week we invite readers to ask our experts (low bar) about Georgia football, UGA athletics or whatever springs to mind. This week we received questions about Jim Chaney’s play calling, the play calls made by Jim Chaney, as well as the offensive game plan as called by Jim Chaney.
Well, OK, some other subjects came across our screen. Like what happens at quarterback when Jacob Eason returns. (Which is also related to … the play calling of Jim Chaney.) Some of you went off script and asked questions about who will redshirt this season, the offensive line, the scholarship situation, and obviously a Gordon Lightfoot reference.
But first, let’s go to the subject du jour:
I’m one of those pitiful #firebobo fans who was sorely mistaken and you have every right to bring it up repeatedly when he succeeds, as you do. My question is how, with my past, do I articulately blast Jim Chaney for not game-planning for your best assets? With YPC avg of 4.8 and 5.6., would you say 13 carries is enough? The App St game I believed Chaney was saving them so he could have them for close games. That’s why he didn’t let them run more, yet they had MORE carries.
— Jon Crenshaw
Oh, don’t beat yourself up. Pat yourself on the back for admitting the mistake and learning from it. Just as I should for writing at the end of 2013 that retaining Todd Grantham was a good idea. As it turns out, Grantham leaving and being replaced by Jeremy Pruitt was the best thing for the Georgia defense. (At least as far as the actual production of the defense. Other matters we shall leave for another time.)
It’s hard right now for me to bury or praise Chaney, given that Georgia’s offense has done enough to be 2-0, but that the defense is chiefly the reason for the second one. There’s also the fact we’ve only seen two games, so more plays could be in the can, waiting to be sprung on SEC opponents. But I also have a hard time believing they didn’t do everything they could to beat Notre Dame, so the offense you saw out there is, for better or worse, as good as Georgia can be right now. Which was … eh.
There is no real identity for this offense quite yet, as my colleague Chip Towers wrote on Tuesday. And as I wrote on Wednesday, what could be happening is they’re still trying to figure out how to adapt to their personnel. They have to run the ball because they have great tailbacks, but if other teams stack the box, they have to throw the ball to keep them honest, and the quarterbacks are more comfortable in shotgun/spread offenses.
So ultimately to answer your question, Jon, or to at least try, my guess is they just don’t feel great about their interior line blocking right now, as evidenced by the shuffling at guards. And coach Kirby Smart also has said the outside blocking needs to get better, which was an issue last season. The task now is to get more creative about the plays they use to try to spring running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and/or get more creative with when they call run plays.
Has anyone introduced our above-average TE group to the OC?
— Scott C. Davis
I wasn’t the only one to notice that Isaac Nauta seeming frustrated walking off the field after a failed third down on Saturday night. Nauta was expected to be a big part of the offense this season, and perhaps still will be, but so far he only has 3 catches, with just a 9-yard catch at Notre Dame. The tight ends have 6 of the team’s 27 receptions.
Had Jacob Eason not been hurt, I suspect Nauta, in particular, would have been a bigger part of the Notre Dame game. There would have been more downfield throws – not necessarily all complete – thus opening up the middle for Nauta.
Perhaps backup quarterback Jake Fromm needs a bit more time to get used to the offense. Then, you’ll see the tight ends employed more, as they often are a check-down target. The more up-tempo the offense goes, the more likely Fromm might be to throw to the tight ends to catch the defense in a mismatch. But Georgia didn’t use much tempo at Notre Dame.
One thing that does have me concerned: I didn’t realize our inefficiency from the tailback position in the I formation until stats revealed by DawgNation. I acknowledge we have gone through OCs year by year, but that has been our “bread and butter” for so long and has kept us known as Tailback U. We have to find a way to make the formation work. Is it as important as I think that we fix this? If so, how do we accomplish that?
Yup, I counted just six plays run out of the I-formation last week, and they fairly telegraphed the intention. Five were runs, including the Christian Payne short yardage runs. (And giving Payne a shot on those is something Chaney deserves credit for, by the way.) The one pass out of the I-formation resulted in a sack.
We’ll see if Georgia uses more I in the future or shows more pass out of it. It’s another example of why Georgia is still trying to figure out its offense. While the Bulldogs might not have the run blocking they need, not only do they have the tailbacks, they also have a good fullback in Payne. They don’t want to waste either.
Side note: I hope this covers the many other questions about the play calling that were received. If not, don’t worry. The mailbag runs every week the rest of the season.
Internally, does the coaching staff still view Eason as “the guy”? I feel like they do and that most of the QB controversy noise is fans.
— Brooks Case
Former Georgia cornerback Aaron Murray summed up my feelings pretty well – what should happen and what will happen – in this story: “I think a lot of it is going to depend on where they are as a team. If they’re rolling and they’re winning, and things are going smooth, I don’t think you want to disrupt the ship. … If things are going rocky, and Fromm has been up and down, and the team feels confident that Eason’s healthy and is ready to roll, I’m sure they will go back with him.”
The coaches probably view Eason as “the guy” right now, but a lot can happen over the next few weeks. And I believe it will be at least a few weeks until Eason is ready.
I read an excellent article by Mark Schlabach about Jake Fromm that said Fromm grabbed the reins this summer and led voluntary 7 on 7s. Two questions. Why didn’t Jacob Eason grab the reins and lead summer workouts? If Fromm led summer workouts shouldn’t he have been named the starting quarterback for the season?
— Henry from Dakota, Ga.
You’re assuming Eason didn’t also lead and participate in summer workouts. Two quarterbacks can, just as Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason both did. There’s no question Fromm has been lauded for his leadership abilities – we’ve written plenty about that too, before and after he got here – but that’s just one factor that goes into the quarterback competition. I never got the vibe that it was a close call between Eason and Fromm before the season.
It could be a question soon, though. Let’s see it play out.
Three-part question about UGA’s offensive line: first, participation report showed only six linemen played against ND, how do these young guys who aren’t “game ready” get better if they never play? Second, we still struggle to run the ball consistently, if it’s 3rd and 1 or 3rd and 2, would that not be the time to use the 330-pound guys? Lastly, if a 4- or 5-star recruit knew they were coming to UGA to stand on the sidelines for a year or two, why would they?
Entering the season Smart said coaches were looking to play as many as eight or nine offensive linemen, and the rotation approached that in the App State game. But you’re right, it was only six at Notre Dame – and frankly, that’s not unusual. It’s fairly rare for teams to sub liberally on the offensive line. Cohesion is important.
Kindley is once again working with the first team this week, and I think he would have been starting and playing most snaps the first two games if his ankle weren’t bothering him. So we’ll see going forward if that helps the inside run game.
As for your last question, playing time is a recruiting issue at every spot, and at every school. But most recruits, no matter the position, are always pretty confident they’re going to play right away, even if it’s not realistic. And the standard answer to those who would be worried about not playing right away is if you’re not confident enough you can beat out the current guys, then we don’t want you anyway.
Knowing what we do now (great front 7, clunky offense, above average special teams) what SEC teams present toughest matchups going forward?
— Ye Olde Jachino
It’s probably still ridiculously early to overreact to what we’ve seen from other teams, but for what it’s worth, Mississippi State’s offense looks pretty good so far, racking up 1,014 yards over the first two weeks. That doesn’t make it necessarily a tough matchup for Georgia, but if any opponent can get a few scores and put it on Georgia’s offense to win the game, then it could get dicey.
Tennessee and Florida do not look very strong right now, but both games against them are away from Athens. The Auburn and Georgia Tech games are too. And keeping in that theme, I’m not sure the Vanderbilt game will be a walkover. It certainly wasn’t last year.
That said, Georgia certainly is the prohibitive SEC East favorite right now. But there’s a long way to go.
Longtime reader of the mailbag, and poster on the board, great work. Who do you think will have more rushing yards this week, Chubb, Michel, or Swift? A lot of murmurs going around suggesting that we may be saving the legs of our big guys for our “big” games. I’m not sure if I buy into this theory. Thanks! (Maybe you can play Kansas’ Carry On Wayward Son if you need some inspiration, or perhaps Cake The Distance…)
Actually, I’m not a huge fan of either of those songs. My favorite Kansas song is “Dust in the Wind,” because I’m just a melancholy dude. My wedding song was Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” which isn’t exactly a happy wedding song. Anyway …
It wouldn’t shock me if Sony Michel is held out of this game, or at least has his carries severely limited. It doesn’t look like the ankle injury is that serious, but it’s not like Georgia doesn’t have other tailbacks who can get the job done against an FCS defense. That’s another reason that Chubb might not reach double-digit carries. This game has D’Andre Swift, Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield written all over it.
Who is the guy that Kirby goes to on the sidelines in the red visor? Can be seen on TV talking to him between plays/in crucial situations.
I believe you’re referring to Kevin Butler, the student-assistant kicking coach, who had a decent playing career himself back in the day. The reason Smart and Butler confer in those situations is Smart is preparing for kicking decisions – field goal or go for it – and is asking Butler what he thinks based on warm-ups, when Butler watched Rodrigo Blankenship kick from certain distances.
It seems to me that Georgia has trouble blocking for the run without Solomon Kindley in the game. Is there any thought of moving Andrew Thomas to left guard and replacing him with Ben Cleveland? The reason I ask I was watching the replay of Christian Payne’s two yard run attempt and the Notre Dame player just threw Kendall Baker out of the way before grabbing Payne for no gain, this also happened to Chubb one time.
That’s an idea that has some merit, as Thomas did play some left guard in the preseason, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. They like Thomas at right tackle, and I suspect they’d like to see him develop as a tackle. Maybe they also didn’t love what they saw with Thomas at left guard in the preseason.
What is the status of Robert Beal? What is his number and has he contributed on special teams at all. Unless I missed it I don’t recall hearing his name mentioned during either game.
— Orrin Cheely
Beal, who arrived a few days late to preseason practice because of his academic situation, hasn’t played in the first two games. We’ll see if he gets in the Samford game, which may tell a lot about the plans for him this season.
Who is looking like they will redshirt?
This weekend may tell for sure, but for what it’s worth the newcomers who didn’t play against Appalachian State were offensive linemen Isaiah Wilson, D’Marcus Hayes and Netori Johnson, outside linebacker Robert Beal and defensive backs Tray Bishop, Latavious Brini and Eric Stokes.
I always enjoy reading your articles about the current situation with Georgia’s scholarship numbers. How soon could the coaching staff know if Sage Hardin will receive a medical disqualification and how do you think that will impact any other walk on players receiving a scholarship (much like we saw with Roderigo Blankenship after Chauncey Manac decided to leave the program)?
— David Lindquist, Cumming, Ga.
The same red tape exists as it did with putting Blankenship on scholarship after the semester had started, and it may be more of a headache two weeks into the season. But if they were able to do it for Blankenship last week, they probably can do it for now for, my guess would be, Christian Payne.
I realize that the Sage Hardin Medical RS frees up a scholarship within the 85 but my question is “Is there any special dispensation granted by the NCAA to replace a MRS player without it impacting the 25 annual rule?” That is with UGA limited to 24 signees this year (due to blueshirt). Does the Hardin situation offer any relief to make it 25?
Nope, the 85 and the 25 numbers are separate. Once you sign, you count. You are correct that blueshirts (David Marvin and Ahkil Crumpton) count toward the 2018 class, but I’m not totally sure on 24 being the limit for the 2018 class. I’ll probably crack the numbers on that when we get closer to signing day – which is December now. At least one signing day.
When was the last time UGA started four straight night games?
Patrick Garbin, the unofficial historian of Georgia football and a writer for UGASports.com, reports that it’s been since 1994.
Georgia basketball question time
The SEC conference schedule was released and it appears UGA has a very favorable schedule for 3 reasons. 1. We only play Kentucky once. 2. We have zero 9 p.m. weekday games, the closest being 8:30 vs TA&M. 3. UGA has four Saturday home games. However, the majority of these games are on the SEC Network indicating a lack of confidence in this year’s team. Where do you think Georgia will place in the preseason rankings?
— Steve Shockley
The great thing about your questions, Steve, is they also include information that has probably slipped through the cracks while we’re all paying attention to football. That’s half the reason I keep running them.
Georgia probably will be picked lower in the SEC than it has in past seasons when it was usually has been projected between fourth and sixth in the preseason. Kentucky, Florida and Texas A&M will be in most people’s top tier, and Missouri has vaulted in there with the hiring of coach Cuonzo Martin and the recruits he brought with him. Alabama and Auburn are getting some buzz, as is Vanderbilt in Bryce Drew’s second year. You potentially could see Georgia picked as low as 10th, which I think is more reflective of a stronger conference, not the team slipping.
And finally …
Seth – In the spirit of “snarky Brian Kelly” can you help me answer this question? Since the Bulldogs beat repeatedly missed the fact that Mark Webb Jr. was practicing with the DBs (and not WRs) over the past two weeks, who else have you missed catching and how are you going to ensure this doesn’t become a trend? For example is Deangelo Gibbs even on the team anymore? It’s been crickets.
Feel free to answer, “Nothing. I just go to work and write my columns.”
— Steve Bolger, Fort Worth, Texas
Let’s see: Rodrigo Blankenship is now working at quarterback, John Atkins is punting, Jacob Eason is practicing but it’s with the volleyball team. Think that’s it but lemme check my notebook.
Seriously, in our defense, the media only gets a certain amount of time at practice, and there are 85-plus names to check off. So a lot of times you really have to prioritize according to injuries and key guys you know about, or have heard about possibly happening. So yeah, Webb slipped through the cracks. And Smart was just giving us a hard time about it, tongue in cheek. As people can probably tell, the relationship between the coach and the beat corps is pretty good right now.
Oh, and as far as I know, Gibbs is still on the team. He just hasn’t been a factor with the emergence of J.R. Reed at the star and also the team using Lorenzo Carter there.
Actually, a better note to end on
A sort of PSA if you will … the University of Notre Dame, and specifically, the people (fans, university officials and employees, police) were unbelievable. My traveling party was treated like royalty every second we were in town. I’m confident in Athens, but hope you help implore to the Dawg Nation that we all return the favor in 2019. The hospitality given outright made the trip. A legendary weekend.
Well said. It was as memorable a couple of days as I’ve ever had in this business, and I’m sure it was that way for a lot of people.