Georgia Football: Bulldogs’ 2013 Secondary Woes – Personal Problem or Personnel Problem?
For just a moment, forget everything you know about Georgia’s secondary in 2013.
If you’re a Bulldog fan, I bet that was quite a relief.
In particular, forget who lined up in the defensive backfield and go on a journey with me. In this alternative adventure, Georgia’s secondary will be rebuilt thusly:
- Based on recruiting rankings (with seniority being favored).
- With position groups being favored over specific coverage assignments.
In other words, we’re going to imagine what Georgia’s roster could have been with the best cornerback recruits playing cornerback and the best safety recruits playing safety. There’s no distinction between cover, boundary or nickel cornerbacks. There’s no differentiation between free and strong safeties.
The goal is simple: get the most talented defensive backs on the field.
With that in mind, here’s a rough sketch (literally) of what Georgia’s secondary could have looked like in 2013:
What Could Have Been
Now, here’s some more detail on the players on the two-deep depth chart listed above.
- Player #1 was recruited as a 5-star Athlete, but he was pegged as a safety from the start for Georgia. In 2013, he was a sophomore.
- Player #2 was recruited as a 4-star Safety. He was the third-best safety recruit in his class. In 2013 he was a senior.
- Player #3 was recruited as a 4-star cornerback. He was considered the best cornerback in his recruiting class. In 2013 he was a junior.
- Player #4 was recruited as a 4-star cornerback. He was considered the fifth-best cornerback in his recruiting class. In 2013 he was a junior.
- Player #5 was recruited as a 4-star cornerback. He was considered the third-best cornerback in his recruiting class. In 2013 he was a junior.
- Player #6 was recruited as a 4-star safety. He was considered the fifth-best safety in his recruiting class. In 2013 he was a junior.
- Player #7 was recruited as a 4-star safety. He was considered the fifth-best safety in his recruiting class. In 2013 he was a freshman.
- Player #8 was recruited as a 4-star cornerback. He was considered the 21st-best cornerback in his recruiting class. In 2013 he was a freshman.
Now, that’s one heck of a lineup. Every player on that two-deep depth chart was a 4+ -star recruit coming out of high school. Six of the eight players ranked in the Top 5 in their respective recruiting class at their given secondary position, and one of the other two was considered the second-best Athlete in his class.
With this lineup, Georgia would have started one senior, two juniors and one sophomore.
Alas, that lineup never happened. Here’s where those eight players actually were in 2013:
- Player #1 did play safety for Georgia as a sophomore. He is Josh Harvey-Clemons.
- Player #2 played some safety as a freshman before moving to linebacker. He now plays linebacker for the St. Louis Rams. He is Alec Ogletree.
- Player #3 played some defensive back as a sophomore, but for the most part he’s been a wide receiver for the Bulldogs. This year he tore his ACL celebrating a Todd Gurley TD. He is Malcolm Mitchell.
- Player #4 played defensive back for Georgia as a freshman. He was dismissed from the team, went to JUCO and this year he led the Auburn Tigers to the BCS National Championship as a quarterback. He is Nick Marshall.
- Player #5 started one game as a freshman for Georgia, 14 for the Dawgs as a sophomore and 13 in 2013. He is Damian Swann.
- Player #6 has played primarily as a reserve at the safety position for Georgia. He is Corey Moore.
- Player #7 started at safety for Georgia when he was healthy as a freshman in 2013. He is Tray Matthews.
- Player #8 started as a true freshman in his first several games in 2013. He is Brendan Langley.
In essence, the following players failed to contribute for Georgia’s secondary in 2013 for the following reasons:
- Alec Ogletree bulked up, moved to linebacker and balled out. As a rookie he ranked 25th in the NFL with tackles (117), 3rd in the NFL in forced fumbles (6) and returned an interception for a 98-yard touchdown.
- Malcolm Mitchell played – and played well – as a receiver. Despite missing significant time over his first two years, Mitchell registered 1,237 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 85 catches.
- Nick Marshall was involved in a robbery of a teammate and immediately dismissed from Georgia’s team. He was never wanting to compete as a QB behind Aaron Murray and was slated to contribute as a sophomore at defensive back before he got into trouble.
Who’s to blame for three of Georgia’s most talented four DB recruits not panning out in the 2013 secondary?
No one! Ogletree grew and played well at a new spot. Mitchell’s speed was a tremendous asset for Aaron Murray on the outside for two years when Georgia’s secondary was stacked. Marshall screwed up, but everyone recruited him and he’s obviously capable (now) of contributing to a team.
With that much talent out, the onus of Georgia’s pass defense was put on very, very young players. This is how the lineup ended up in 2013:
Pressure was put on freshmen like Tray Matthews, Brendan Langley, Shaq Wigging and Quincy Mauger. Trouble ensured.
Was coaching an issue in 2013? It’s hard to say no (though I don’t think it was quite as disastrous as some would say). But a healthy portion of Georgia’s struggles were a result of youth and immaturity. And a healthy portion of that inexperience was a result of bad luck and semantics.
That’s all I got/