Georgia Football: Experience Doesn’t Matter to Jeremy Pruitt. Who’s got a problem with that?


Per Nick Suss over at The Red & Black, three newcomers are getting starting nods in Georgia’s secondary:

  • Shattle Fenteng – Corner
  • Dominick Sanders – Star
  • Aaron Davis – Safety

 

To be fair, Fenteng has two years of junior college experience and Davis was a walk-on last year.  But this lineup (the three above joined corner Damian Swann and safety Corey Moore) surprised many and made some nauseous.

But is this really shocking and inherently negative?  I contend no.

For starters (pun completely 110% intended), four players who started multiple games last year are no longer in the secondary:

  • Josh Harvey-Clemons – 11 Starts at Safety/Star – Dismissed, Transferred to Louisville
  • Tray Matthews – 6 Starts at Safety – Dismissed, Transferred to Auburn
  • Shaq Wiggins – 8 Starts at Cornerback – Transferred to Louisville
  • Brendan Langley – 4 Starts at Cornerback – Now Playing Receiver

 

Combine that attrition (29 total starts) with a change in position coach, defensive coordinator and general mentality and this slate was as wiped-out as it possibly could have been.  Hell, that slate was white-washed, bleached and polished by Pruitt and his insistence on open competition.

In his introductory press conference, the new DC offered the following (per GeorgiaDogs.com):

There’s one thing about football coaches. Everybody may not agree with who we always play and all of that, but I think we always try to play the best players. We’ll do that, and we’ll give everybody an opportunity. I think competition is great. I think it’s great, so we’ll try to figure that out. The thing about it is that the guys who are the best in the spring aren’t always the best in the fall, so it’s who can do it over time. We’ve never arrived.

 

Oddly enough, Pruitt all but predicted his future depth chart shake-up.  The “we’ve never arrived” concept was likely instrumental in Shaq Wiggins’ departure.  Yes, Wiggins wanted to refine his improv skills and otherwise craft a repertoire of characters and impressions in anticipation of a future Saturday Night Live tryout, but I doubt he was too thrilled about having to compete for his spot all over again.  Something tells me the “seriousness” of Georgia practices wasn’t entirely based on Pruitt’s demeanor.  Some of it was likely a byproduct of players competing fiercely for playing time.  It’s hard to do that with a smile.

And if Pruitt always wanted to play “the best players,” then perhaps the very recruiting class that he helped close with a last-minute push is making an impact as he expected.

Dominick Sanders was a relatively late offer and late commitment to the Dawgs.  His offer and his pledge came after the arrival of Pruitt.  When he first committed I was most excited about his ability to play safety or cornerback.  Now he’s playing a hybrid DB role.  Pruitt, the consummate educator who demands a lot out of players, may have seen an under-coached DB with loads of potential in Sanders.  It appears that potential is being realized.

Shattle Fenteng was on Georgia’s radar before Pruitt arrived in Athens, but with his size and speed didn’t we all hope he’d be better than returning cornerbacks who either a. struggled to get on the field or b. struggled on the field?  If he’s the best at the position and that’s why he’s playing, then Georgia fans are getting exactly what they hoped for.

As for Aaron Davis, he’s precisely the kind of player that Todd Grantham never would have looked at.  A walk-on who was still overcoming injury issue when he arrived on campus, Davis was never going to be one of Grantham’s chosen few.  He was never going to see the field.  Pruitt, embracing competition and “giving everybody an opportunity” as promised, discovered what appears to be a diamond in the rough.  Back in April, Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph called Davis a “symbol” of the new Georgia defense.  That may or may not prove accurate when the opening whistle blows next Saturday, but it’s certainly not inherent cause for alarm.

Georgia’s playing new guys.  Since when is that bad?  Self-absorbed stars with inconsistent performance are gone.  Their departure made room for newcomers to step up.  For the first time in several seasons, Georgia has a coordinator capable of recognizing the opportunity created by a transition.  Who cares about experience?

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

 

Looking for Georgia Bulldogs football highlights on your phone?  Download the UGA Vault for free from the iTunes App Store.  Just click here. It’s that easy.

 

 

Georgia Football: Stephen A. Smith’s Hot Take on Georgia Arrests and Applying it to Other Facets of the Program


Last month, Stephen A. Smith spoke at the Sam Mitchell basketball camp in Columbus, Ga.  The full video is at the bottom of this article, but while speaking he addressed Georgia’s offseason arrests.

A couple of dudes getting arrested is not a reflection on the University of Georgia.  That’s just the reality.  On far too many occasions we’ve seen some things that may transpire and all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh my Lord.  What’s the problem?  It’s like an epidemic.”  That’s simply not true.

 

This is no new take, but if Stephen A. Smith is going to say it best by saying nothing at all, let’s have some fun with it.

Stephen A. Smith on Georgia’s Special Teams mishaps:

A couple of long-snappers snapping the ball over the head of a punter is not a reflection on the University of Georgia.  That’s just the reality.  On far too many occasions we’ve seen disasters like this happen and all of a sudden it’s like “Oh my Lord.  What’s the problem.  It’s like an epidemic.”  That’s simply not true.

 

Stephen A. Smith on defensive backs falling down (literally) on the job last year:

A couple of highly trained athletes falling down while trying to run and change direction is not a reflection on the University of Georgia.  That’s just the reality.  On far too many occasions we’ve seen that the grass is too damp and all of a sudden it’s like “Oh my Lord.  What’s the problem.  It’s like an epidemic.”  That’s simply not true.

 

Stephen A. Smith on Bobo’s old affinity for draw plays on third-and-long.

A couple of very predictable play-calls is not a reflection on the University of Georgia.  That’s just the reality.  On far too many occasions we’ve seen Georgia come up several yards short and all of a sudden it’s like “Oh my Lord.  What’s the problem.  It’s like an epidemic.”  That’s simply not true.

 

 

 

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

 

Looking for Georgia Bulldogs football highlights on your phone?  Download the UGA Vault for free from the iTunes App Store.  Just click here. It’s that easy.

 

Georgia Football: Dawgs Will Win SEC East Despite Loss to South Carolina – Laying it on the Line with the SEC Roundtable


Earlier this week I went on the SEC Sports Roundtable podcast.  The video is embedded below or you can check out episode 129 on iTunes.

After discussing the current state of Georgia Football, we worked our way through the Georgia Bulldogs football schedule and I came up with just one predicted loss: South Carolina.

Ultimately, I predicted that South Carolina would lose two games over the course of the season and miss out on a trip to Atlanta at the expense of a 1-loss Georgia team.

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

 

 

Looking for Georgia Bulldogs football highlights on your phone?  Download the UGA Vault for free from the iTunes App Store.  Just click here. It’s that easy.

Auburn Football Preview: The One in Which I Call Auburn the SEC’s Second-Best Team and Auburn Fans Call Me Butt-Hurt


DudeYouCrazy Preseason SEC Ranking: 2

 

The 2014 Auburn Tigers in One Question

When does karma become a factor?

 

Yes, I’m Trolling in the Deep Right Now

I hate Auburn.  You all know this.  The day Auburn does things the right way, contends for a national championship with a quarterback that was never in trouble at a rival SEC school and offers punishment on par with what’s right is the day my hatred subsides.  That’s also the day hell freezes over.

This summer, Nick Marshall (Georgia fans know him as the player involved in the theft of teammates’ property when he was a Bulldog) was cited for marijuana possession.  As punishment, the player with a squeaky-clean past who apparently left Georgia just because he wanted to play quarterback (not because he was dismissed) will miss at least one snap in the season-opener against Arkansas.

That’s punishment.  That’s Auburn.

I’m not going to waste time detailing all the allegations from the past decade or so and the validity of claims surrounding the Tigers’ team, but you can read a non-inclusive summary here.  It’s not pretty.

Georgia players make headlines for their petty check fraud crimes and driving with suspended licenses.  Give me those alleged shortcomings over Auburn’s transgressions any day.

I say all of this to drive home the notion that Auburn is long overdue for a letdown.  The miraculous 2013 season was certifiably undeserved.  That luck couldn’t have happened to a less deserving program.

In football terms, Auburn was two once-in-a-lifetime plays away from ending the 2013 season with a 9-3 mark and heading to a Chick-fil-A Bowl.  In karmic terms, that’s got to even out at some point.  Doesn’t it?

 

Lots Coming Back On Offense

Auburn has a lot coming back.  Quarterback Nick Marshall was an unknown quantity this time last season, but now he’s a household name.  He threw for just shy of 2,000 yards and 14 TDs last year while running for over 1,000 yards and 12 TDs.

Tre Mason is gone and takes with him over 1,800 yards and 23 TDs.  The general consensus is that the Gus Bus will roll on just fine without him.  That may be the case, but let’s remember that Mason was really, really good in 2013.  Let’s also take a moment to recall that Malzahn-orchestrated offenses haven’t always been as glorious as they were last year.

We like to remember the teams that contended for national titles, but Malzahn was coordinator in 2009 when Auburn averaged 25 points per game in SEC play and only surpassed 24 points in a conference game on two occasions (Mississippi State and Ole Miss).  That team finished 3-5 in the SEC.

In 2011, Auburn’s offense boasted the following point totals:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

 

That’s about as mediocre and inconsistent as it comes.  Gus Malzahn ran that offense.

In 2012, Malzahn’s went to Arkansas State as a head coach.  The Wolfpack’s offense (led by Rhett Lashlee, who is now Auburn’s OC) made a mockery of the Sun Belt Conference.  So there’s that.

Understand me: I’m not saying Malzahn/Lashlee can’t orchestrate a high-powered offense.  They obviously did that last year.  I am saying, however, that last year’s offense is not the only type of product these two gurus have ever fielded.

So I don’t think we’re quite at a point where we can comfortably say that losses like Mason and Greg Robinson (the 2nd overall selection in the NFL Draft) are meaningless.

Auburn returns really impressive weapons at wide receiver, but as long as Marshall is only attempting 17 passes per game (his average in 2013) and completing less than 60% of them (59.4 last year), I’m not sure how worried foes are going to be about 10 combined completions to the likes of Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis, Marcus Davis and Quan Bray.  Let’s give each of those guys two catches per game and 21.5 yards per catch (what Coates averaged last year in leading the SEC in YPC), and I don’t think defensive coordinators are pulling their hair out trying to prevent 172 yards through the air.

Which is exactly why the loss of Mason could become important.  Mason got 317 carries last season for a reason.  No other running back got more than 91 for the same reason.  Mason was the best back there.  Can he be replaced?  Certainly.  But this was a Heisman candidate.  He ran the football 46 times against Missouri because he was the best player on the team.  His 304 yards and four touchdowns confirmed that.

The bottom line is this: I don’t know how much better the offense is going to be in 2014.

There are three ways you could interpret that sentiment, all of which are equally defensible:

  1. I mean how could it be much better? It was already tremendous.
  2. Who knows what to expect from Gus? Maybe there’s a new ceiling we don’t know about.
  3. It probably needs to be better to contend for a national title.

 

Defensive Questions

Plausible justification #3 is especially true in light of what Auburn has on the defensive side of the ball.  Perhaps the greatest testament to the offense in 2013 is that Auburn overcame one of the less capable defenses in the conference to win the SEC.  Consider point totals surrendered against conference foes contrasted to opponents’ SEC scoring averages.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

 

Six of Auburn’s nine SEC foes worked the Tigers’ defense for more points than normal in SEC play.

That sentiment might matter as much as the departure of Dee Ford (10.5 sacks last year) and the injury to Carl Lawson (Ford’s projected replacement).

The general mediocrity of Auburn’s defense in 2013 may matter more than who’s back and who’s coming in.

 

The Schedule

Make no mistakes, Auburn will open the season 4-0.  Sure Arkansas isn’t the easiest season-opener in the world, but Nick Marshall won’t be on the sideline for long.  Furthermore, the trip to Kansas State in mid-September is not the pitfall that folks want it to be.

Things get interesting with the following stretch:

  • October 4: LSU
  • October 11: at Mississippi State
  • October 25: South Carolina
  • November 1: at Ole Miss
  • November 8: Texas A&M
  • November 15: at Georgia

If we take the “others receiving votes” spots in both the AP and Coaches polls, here’s how those teams rank:

Team AP Poll Coaches Poll
LSU 13 13
Mississippi State 36 29
South Carolina 9 9
Ole Miss 18 19
Texas A&M 21 20
Georgia 12 12

 

There’s no way Auburn makes it through that stretch unscathed.  Equally unlikely: Auburn beating Alabama on the road.  This is a 2-3 loss regular season for the Tigers, at best.

And that may be a reflection of the conference and luck running up as much as it is an indictment of this football team.

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

 

Looking for Georgia Bulldogs football highlights on your phone?  Download the UGA Vault for free from the iTunes App Store.  Just click here. It’s that easy.

South Carolina: An SEC-Produced Oddity


Only in the SEC can a team have three straight 11-win seasons and have no conference/national championship trophies or a Heisman to show for it. Not even a BCS bowl.  South Carolina did just that.

Might I add they’re only one of three programs to finish in the AP top-10 in the past three years as well (Alabama & Oregon being the other ones)?

I’m just waiting for the Gamecocks to make something of all their success. They’re the ticking time bomb.

All-SEC running back Mike Davis will return and will be in talks with UGA’s Todd Gurley and Alabama’s TJ Yeldon as being the best RB in the SEC. The Gamecocks have four out of five starters on their O-line returning, which means quarterback Dylan Thompson should have no problem being covered.

Thompson has been waiting patiently for his starting spot behind predecessors Connor Shaw and Stephen Garcia. He’s 3-0 as a starter so far and Steve Spurrier seems confident that Thompson will add more wins. Thompson will be putting his entire college career into one season, which should make his determination a lethal weapon.

South Carolina has been known for their strong defenses. They finished in the nation’s top-15 in scoring defenses for the past three years. Jadaveon Clowney departing early for the NFL will hinder their defense, but I think they’ll still have a solid D.

All-SEC linebacker Sharrod Golightly and Kaiwan Lewis are returning. Safeties Brison Williams, Chaz Elder, and Kadetrix Marcus will make up for the inexperience on the defensive line and in the secondary.

There’s no denying that Steve Spurrier is a great coach. It’s only a matter of time before the Gamecocks experience the same type of success that Spurrier had at Florida. This could be the year they getting tired of waiting for their trophy.

-Ashley Barnett

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