It's hard to imagine that the 2010 season for Georgia would have ended up with 6 wins and 6 losses. It seemed that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong early in the season. Whether it was kids getting trouble, Georgia turning the ball over at the most inopportune times or guys cramping up at pivotal moments of the game. Georgia started off an unthinkable 1-4 losing heart breakers to Arkansas and Colorado and fumbling away games to South Carolina and Mississippi State. Georgia bounced back on the second half of their schedule going 5-2 losing another heart breaker in OT to Florida and losing to the #1 team in the Nation. Georgia has a lot of work to do to get back to being a top tier team in the SEC and in the SEC East. Georgia is now 14-11 over the last two years so let's take a look at the report card for this season and see where Georgia needs the most help in getting back to the top.
For most people, myself included, this was the biggest question mark for the Bulldogs offense coming into the season. During the off-season Zach Mettenberger was booted off the team for misdemeanor sexual battery and lying to his head coach (but hey, he found a landing spot with LSU and Les Miles) and it left Georgia with only 3 scholarship QBs, one of which would move to WR after losing the QB race. Redshirt Freshman Aaron Murray was chosen as the starter and Georgia fans were excited but didn't really know what to expect. So how did Aaron Murray do? He was flat out, bar none, the best freshman QB in the NCAA this year. No disrespect to guys like Taylor Martinez, Jake Heaps, Jeff Godfrey, Danny O'Brien, or Nathan Scheelhaase but Murray was the man. Murray finished with 24 TDs versus only 6 interceptions (his 24 TDs tied him with the likes of Eric Zeier and D.J. Shockley in Georgia folklore and he is fast on the trail of Matthew Stafford's junior season). Murray also rushed for 4 TDs. Murray finished with a 61.8% completion rate and had an efficiency rating of 162.72 (which ranked him in the Top 10 Nationally for all QBs ahead of guys like Ricky Stanzi, Dan Persa, Tyrod Taylor, Terrelle Pryor, Brandon Wheedon, Christian Ponder, and Jake Locker). It's hard to imagine Aaron Murray having a better freshman season. It really makes you wonder how bad everyone else was that caused us to be 6-6.
Going into the season I was pretty excited about our tandem of RBs but my excitement didn't come to fruition. Washaun Ealey and Caleb King both had off-field problems that kept them from playing in all of the games and neither guy really found themselves this year. Both guys showed flashes of being very good SEC caliber RBs and both guys fumbled the ball at critical points in games causing us to have the record that we do. The only reason that the Georgia RBs don't get an "F" from me on their grade is because Shaun Chapas is such a great FB.
The biggest disappointment here was having A.J. Green miss the first 4 games of what is basically his "senior" season. It's so difficult because as a fan you have to play the "What If" game. What if we had him against Arkansas? What if Colorado wasn't his first game and he didn't cramp up in the game due to inactivity? I think if we had A.J. that minimally we are 8-4 but we didn't have him. Once A.J. got in the games he was amazing. Despite missing 4 games he still tied for 5th in the SEC in catches and his 9 TDs tied him for 1st in the SEC (a league with Alshon Jeffrey, Julio Jones and Randall Cobb). The breakout star this year of the WR corps was Kris Durham. Durham averaged an SEC best 21 yards per catch and it just seemed like he came down with every tough catch that he needed to. Tavarres King also had a decent year with 23 receptions, an average of 20+ ypc and 3 TDs. TE Orson Charles started to break-out towards the end of the year and finished with 24 catches and 2 TDs. The new Strength & Conditioning coach has told Orson that he's going to put 50 pounds on him AND make him faster. Looking to next year, Georgia needs Tavarres King to step up and be the #1 receiver and they need guys like Marlon Brown and Logan Gray to step up and be #2 and #3 targets unless a freshman comes in and takes the world by storm. I would also like to see more Brandon Smith and possibly some Nick Marshall at receiver next year with the absence of A.J. and Durham. Overall, I can't really think of the receivers letting us down more than once this year (this is where I don't mention Aron White's drop against Florida that became an interception). I'm very satisfied with the play of our receivers, I just which we would have had A.J. and would have utilized Orson more in the offense.
Going into the year this was the position that everybody thought would be the biggest strength of the team. Well, they were wrong. The OL for the first half of the season was terrible. The biggest issue was the run blocking as they couldn't open holes for anybody and just got whipped at the line of scrimmage. Some changes were made and in the second half of the season they seemed to play pretty well but you still had plays where the RBs were getting blown up as they got the ball handed off to them and that should never happen. This unit needs significant improvement next year.
They say that the game is won in the trenches, on the OL and on the DL. Those were the two aspects of the game where the Dawgs got whipped the most this year. The likes of South Carolina, Mississippi State and Colorado just whipped the Dawgs on the line of scrimmage. The biggest issue for Georgia is that they simply didn't have the bodies to play Todd Grantham's 3-4 on the line. Georgia is in desperate need of help from the JUCO ranks to bolster the DL and DE positions (just ask Auburn/Alabama how a great DL/DT JUCO guy can make an impact for your team).
I thought Georgia's LBs played pretty well this year and got better as the season went on and they got more accustomed to the 3-4 defense. Justin Houston made at least one All-American team and finished as the SEC sack leader with 11. Akeem Dent blossomed into a defensive leader and finished with 121 tackles, which although aided by not being able to get off the field on 3rd down was 2nd in the SEC. I also thought that Christian Robinson and Marcus Dowtin played well at times. The biggest opportunity for next year is finding a replacement for Houston if he goes pro and finding someone to play opposite him if he stays. It should also be noted that next year we will see the greatest tandem of LBs in the history of the Georgia Scout Team, Richard Samuel and USC transfer Jarvis Jones, getting a chance to break the starting line-up. I have a feeling that Jones could be special.
The secondary started 3 new guys this year at the beginning of the year and one of them (Jakar Hamilton) lost their job towards the end of the year. First of all the good, true Freshman Alec Ogletree started getting more reps as the season went on and started the last few games. Ogletree has a build similar to Reshad Jones but I think he's got the skills to end up being a much better player for us. Another pleasant surprise was Sanders Commings. Commings came on strong at CB after Brandon Smith got hurt and Vance Cuff didn't step up. Commings brings a physical stature and play that the rest of our CBs don't and I think he's a good fit for what Grantham wants to do. The most up-and-down guy in the secondary was Bacarri Rambo. Sometimes Rambo looks great and sometimes he's just horribly out of position. It should be noted that he's only a sophomore and I still have confidence that he can be a really good player for us as early as next year. The last of the secondary is Brandon Boykin. Boykin is our best player in the secondary but didn't really stand out this year good or bad. Maybe that's because other teams stayed away from him. Needless to say I hope he stays in Athens for his senior season. Next year, we could be really good with a secondary of Commings/Boykin/Smith/Rambo/Ogletree and with a couple of top notch recruits coming in. But this year it just didn't feel like our secondary got the job done, although statistics might not agree with that as Georgia finished 20th in the Nation against the pass in terms of yardage (but did give up 7.8 yards per attempt which was 95th).
Georgia is blessed to have two of the best kickers in the Nation in Drew Butler and Blair Walsh. Walsh was very consistent as he hit 18 of 21 and all of his xtra points but one. Butler averaged 44 yards per punt. In kickoff returns we actually took a small step back this year in averaging about a yard less and only had 1 return for a TD versus 3 from last year (although one of those was in the bowl game last year). We also averaged about a yard less in Punt Returns but Brandon Smith averaged 14 yards per returns versus Prince Miller's 11 ypr last year. One huge improvement was kickoff coverage as our opponents only averaged 19 yards per return this year versus 25 yards per return last year and also in punt coverage where our opponents only averaged a paltry 5 yards per return (versus 10 from last year). Overall the Special Teams was very good this year.
Grading the coaching is probably the toughest aspect of this. Overall, I don't think that the one the field coaching reflected our 6-6 record this year. I really can't remember any spots where coaching cost us on the field. I guess the biggest aspect of this would be in personnel, like having Washaun Ealey on a critical 3rd down trying to pass block for Aaron Murray against Arkansas. I thought that Mike Bobo did a pretty good job this year. Sure we all want more from our coordinators but Georgia put up 34 ppg this year. I think the biggest knock on Bobo and the Georgia offense was the lack of killer instinct. Georgia got up big on teams like Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Auburn. Georgia held on against Kentucky and GT but Auburn came roaring back and won that game fairly convincingly. When Georgia got multiple TD leads they tended to go conservative instead of stepping on the other teams throat. From a defensive perspective I think most of us are disappointment in how the defense performed overall. I think it's obvious that Todd Grantham does not have all the pieces to fit this defense. I guess the biggest fear is how long it will take to get those pieces. The two biggest areas that seem to need to be addressed right now is recruiting and strength & conditioning. A change has already been made in the S&C department so we will see how that affects our on the field play next year.