After a 1-3 start, 0-3 start in SEC play, there are so many questions for my alma mater's most beloved sport (UGA football). What is the real root of UGA's concerns? Should Mike Bobo be released/demoted or should the head coach himself be asked to leave? Are the problems of UGA's play valid with a redshirt freshman at the helm and with an entirely new defensive scheme? Does having a really good WR make that much difference? How much longer do we, the Bulldog nation, wait around with these mediocre results?
Here are some observations from a hopefully humble and objective UGA football fan, I hear there are not many of us around. (In our defense, what team's fans don't have high expectations when the season starts, so sue us for being optimistic about our team at the beginning of the season.)
Some observations thus far:
-When you look on the UGA sideline, what do you see? A stoic Mark Richt. Now it looked as if Richt was going to come out of his shell in the beginning of 2007 after turning over offensive playcalling duties. Somehow though, UGA played very flat that year being blown out by Tennessee in Neyland, not scoring a single TD against South Carolina at home, and squeaking by Alabama, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. Richt tried to remedy this by having his players show some emotion and celebrate when they scored against a top 10 Florida, and it worked pretty well that game. He also got Sanford Stadium hopping when he brought in the black jerseys for a top 10 Auburn, and that worked also. The Dawgs rode that momentum to a monster last half of the season and a preseason #1 ranking (no SEC east title though because of the lack of emotion in the beginning of the season). However, that's where the momentum stopped. It seems that wearing black jerseys and dancing does not help a team's morale over the long run because the dawgs have now become emotionally flat since 2008. When you see the teams that are consistently playing well, I tend to notice a coach that is investing his emotions into the game, a la Nick Saban or Urban Meyer. Somebody needs to light a fire under the Dawgs' collective asses, and it needs to happen with some urgency.
Is there a difference in these coaches' expressions and respective team performances?
-The whole, 'Beating ourselves' thing is still prevalent. UGA turns the ball over and commits penalties way too many times. Refs seemed to love to flag UGA in 2008 and 2009 ever since the dance party at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, but the refs have seemed to cool down. I even thought that this season would be different after seeing how few penalties UGA received in the first 1.5 games of the 2010 season. After seeing the Mississippi State game, I feel as if UGA has slipped back into old ways again. If UGA could stop shooting ourselves in the foot, then we would have a win or two more each season. Who do we blame this friendly fire on? I say the coaches. Players will be boys, and they will make dumb decisions on and off the field at times. As a coach though, one has to teach the mental fortitude to prevent one's self from hurting the collective. How do I know it is the coaching? UGA has the same hooligans as every SEC team (except Vandy), and somehow UGA comes out worse than the rest of the SEC in penalties and dumb mistakes.
-Installing a new defensive scheme and breaking in a new QB are pretty valid concerns. As far as the defense is concerned, they seem to allow big runs a lot. Once the linebackers and D-linemen get more accustomed to blitzing, then that will put more pressure on opposing pass offenses and allow more concentration on stopping the run for Todd Grantham. I've seen blitzes not work out because the linebacker wasn't able to get there quick enough; UGA's LB's will see better blitzing lanes eventually. However, fundamentals on tackling is the #1 concern for UGA defense. I have seen UGA defenders just jump up and push the ballcarryer, in the middle of the field no less, without wrapping up the ballcarrier. I feel like being a defensive coach when I see these horrendous looking tackles, and I want to scream, "WRAP UP!!!" It's as simple as that D players. As far as the new QB is concerned, Aaron Murray shows promise. I thought he would be able to do more at this point since he was an early enrollee since the spring of 2009. I'm liking what I see out of him though. Maybe having AJ Green back will help get more WR's open.
-The O-line should be better at setting up runs. Many times I have seen defenders burst through to stop the run. Maybe teams know that UGA is a run first type offense, but our O-line should still get a better burst off the ball to open holes for our RB's. As experienced as our O-line is, UGA needs to have a better running game.
-Washaun Ealey: protect the ball! Two fumbles inside the redzone in the first four games?! To Washaun's defense, he did seem fazed when fumbling against Miss. State, but one should just hold on to the ball and be tackled safely after making a good play. Being hit by three guys simultaneously might not yield good results like agains Miss. State. Please stop worrying about how many TD's you get and just protect the ball.
My two pennies about the coaching staff: keep everyone around for one more year. I know UGA is now kings of "next year." I'm calling the 2011 season a probationary period. Do not fire Bobo. At the very most, give playcalling duties back to Richt, but keep everyone for one more year. At the end of 2011, then an executive decision will have to be made. This way, we, Dawg nation, avoid hasty mistakes, and Murray and the new D are given a year's grace period to get everything under their belts. It does not matter how experienced the O-line, WR's, or any other unit is; 2011 is the end if positive results are not yielded. A national title or even SEC title does not have to be won to stay in power at UGA, but a good year (9-10 wins in the regular season) needs to happen. If positive results do not happen, then I'm sure Kirby Smart or Will Muschamp will be happy coming back to UGA.
As far as the rest of 2010 is concerned, maybe getting AJ back will help more than I though 1 WR could help. Maybe UGA will play spoiler like Florida did in the Ron Zook years, sorry Florida fans: I had to bring up the Zooker. It'll be interesting to see what happens at the Colorado white out. Tennessee is also a team struggling to find an identity and some consistency at this point. After playing the weaker SEC teams this season (Tennessee, Vandy, and Kentucky), I'm not looking forward to seeing UGA play Floriday, Auburn, and Georgia Tech. Richt has turned things around in the middle of the season before. Even though UGA's seasonal hopes have been dashed, that's not to say the Dawgs can't have a little fun (from the way they've been playing, it looks like we, Dawg fans, are in for a long season though).
Have fun, build character, and GO DAWGS!