We received some bad news a couple of weeks ago when Georgia Bulldog beat writer David Hale of the Bulldog Blog announced he was leaving to take a gig as a Philadelphia Phillies beat writer (talk about a double stake to the heart). A few weeks ago he gave his readers a homework assignment to answer questions about the Dawgs. I haven't turned mine in yet so I figured I would just type it up here:
1.) How much should Aaron Murray throw the football?
How much "should" he throw it? Well the answer to that is not much. It's not that I don't have faith in Aaron or his receivers but I love the power running game. We have the most returning OL starts in the nation coming back this year. We have two really solid full backs. We have a dearth of talented tight ends. And we have Washaun Ealey and Caleb King. King fought through injuries last year (including having his jaw wired shut for half the season) and still posted a 5.2 ypc average, ran for over 500 yds and scored a team high 7 rushing TDs. He averaged 79 ypg in games where he had 10 or more carries. King's tag-team partner Washaun Ealey posted a 5.7 ypc average and 79 ypg in the 9 games he played in.
The passing game should be ran off of the running game. If we are able to throw the ball when we want to instead of when we need to then Aaron and the Dawgs offense will be a lot more successful this year.
2.) Who should get the carries out of the backfield?
I like a tandem backfiled of King and Ealey with the hot guy getting the carries. I'd like to say 50/50 but honestly you just go with the guy who is in the groove and then sub when needed.
3.) How do you handle the tight ends?
It's really hard to keep Orson Charles off the field. He's a rare athlete for that position and he's going to be a difficult match-up for anybody on the defensive side of the football because of his strength and quickness. I also really like Aron White. I would work them as the top 2 TEs. I would like to see some two TE sets or sets where Orson is split out as a receiver. Arthur Lynch and Bruce Figgins should play I'm just not sure how much they will see the field backing up Charles and White.
4.) What happens if Trinton Sturdivant is healthy?
If Sturdivant is healthly then it's a huge win for Georgia. You simply play the offensive line that gives you the best chance to mash the football down your opponents throat and the one that helps you protect the QB the best. It also provides opportunity to rest guys during the game.
5.) What do you do with Richard Samuel?
I think you have to red-shirt Samuel. Unless he has adapted to the position so well that he will see significant playing time then I think it's beneficial to him and to Georgia to red-shirt him this year.
6.) Where does Darryl Gamble play?
The answer to this probably depends on how comfortable the coaching staff is with Cornelius Washington at OLB. Washington really came on towards the end of the year with big games against Auburn and Texas A&M but he's switching from DE to a 3-4 OLB. I think Gamble plays some OLB in certain situations and plays ILB when Washington is on the field.
7.) Branden Smith or Vance Cuff?
I love the up-side of Branden Smith so I'm going to go with him. He made more of an impact in special teams and on offense last year but I think he has a skill set that can help the defense cause more turnovers. I would also like to see him get more action this year because I feel that with the young talent we have it's 2011 and 2012 when we will once again make a strong run at the SEC title and any and every snap he gets this year will help him down the road.
8.) How much action does Smith see?
The answer to this question will be his ability to hold onto the football and how good the offense is without him. Brandon Boykin is the #1 Kick Returner so Smith will see spot duty there. I think Smith should be the Punt Returner. He has such explosiveness that he could out run guys and hit seams running given the right blocking. I would like to see him play some on offense in almost all of the games each year, even if used as a decoy. You can believe that South Carolina will recognize when he's on the field and make sure they pay attention to him. He's a weapon so he should be used as one more thing that gives Georgia the opportunity to score and one more thing that our opponent has to game plan against each week. I also think that his time on offense could be predicated by how confident the coaches are with Sanders Commings or a guy like Alec Ogletree seeing time at nickel if Smith is tired or out of fumes on a hot day due to playing offense, defense and special teams.
9.) Which freshmen should play?
We have so many offensive returners that I don't see any freshman having a major impact on the offensive side of the football but there are two guys I would like to see get some playing time. The first is QB Hutson Mason. He will be third on the depth chart behind Aaron Murray and Logan Gray but I think he needs some snaps early in the season in case something horrific happens. The other guy is Zander Ogletree. I'm not sure if the coaches will put him at LB or FB but if he's put at FB then he needs some snaps because both of our FBs are seniors.
On the defensive side of the football I think the positions that will get the most opportunity for freshmen to play are LB and DL. So on the DL I think Mike Thornton and Garrison Smith are guys that will probably see some action. At LB I think T.J. Stripling is a guy to watch. I also think Alec Ogletree will get on the field. I don't know if it will be on special teams or if he will break into the nickel package (like Brandon Smith did last year) and see more action as they year goes on.
10.) What happens if Georgia loses to Florida?
The question was posed more as a Mark Richt question. I just don't see the Florida game as the pivotal game in Richt's career this year. I think most have already penciled in a loss to Florida this year so a loss is not going to surprise anyone. I think it matters more what happens in the other 11 games on the schedule. If Georgia can manage it's early tough match-ups (South Carolina/Arkansas) I think the schedule lines up a lot more favorably then it did last year. As long as Georgia shows improvement this year then I don't think the Florida game matters in terms of Richt's standing.
So there it is my homework is done. As I look at the team I am more and more excited for the season to start. We have a lot of talent returning and expectations from around the country are low for us. The schedule sets up nicely after the South Carolina/Arkansas game. If we get past those two games we could be in for a very good season, if we split those two game the schedule still sets up favorably to have a very positive year.