Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reasons for Optimism

There are plenty of reasons to get fired up about the '09 season for the Dawgs...

1. The O Line - Almost back to full health, the hosses up front should be the best line we have seen in Athens in a looooooong time. Given Searles' track record and the talent he has to to work with this year, I don't expect our offense to drop off in production the way you would expect after losing your QB and RB to the 1st round of the Draft. As much as any offense would love to have Massaquoi, Stafford and Knowshon lining up every Saturday, this OL is going to open up holes for our backs and give Joe Cox the time he needs to pick apart defenses. Before all the national publications and average Joe-Fans tell you that we are going to suck without 1, 7, and 24, think back to 1998 - would you have thought UT would win the national title after losing golden boy Peyton (not to mention WR Marcus Nash and LB Leonard Little) to the NFLand Jamal Lewis to injury in the 4th game??? Hell, no...

2. The D Line - Jeff Owens is gonna be huge for Willie and his D this year. Remember 2007 with Atkins and Owens plugging the middle so our D-Ends could make all those plays? Well, it is going to be much of the same this year. With the opposing offensive lines being forced to commit 3 players to block Owens and Atkins, watch out for Justin Houston to emerge as the next great DE from UGA. And, as we all know, that is HUGE for Willie and his scheme.

3. AJ Green - He was a true freshman last year and wasn't even healthy. Look out, folks - this guy is ridiculous. He will know the offense better, be 100% healthy and have a full year of experience. If nothing else, he is going to open up the field for some other players to make some huge plays for us this year.

4. Attitude - We will never know for sure until the fall rolls around, but the players are saying all the right things so far and staying out of trouble. I think they are embarrassed and pissed off about the way we lost our 3 games last year. It sounds like Rennie Curran (among others) is making it a personal mission to get the D ready to play in 2009. There is no doubt about it - the talent is there on the defensive side of the ball. And, the coaching staff has gone back and re-evaluated how to get our edge back on defense. I don't think we will see a soft-minded defense again this year. Look for our defense to play pissed off all year long.

5. 2008 Florida Gators - I hate to talk about the Gators winning the title last year, but bare with me here..... In 2007, the Gators were coming off of a national title and their top 2 players were true sophomores. Everybody loved the Gators - they were pre-season #3 in the USA Today and #6 in the AP. After Florida had 2 tough losses to Auburn and LSU, we had that great win over them at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which was by far the best sporting event I have ever witnessed in person). Then, the damn Gators embarrassed themselves and the entire SEC by losing to a Michigan team that couldn't beat Appalachian State in the Big House. The one constant for Florida that year was that their defense sucked ass and lost them several games...... That all sounds a little too familiar for fans of the 2008 Dawgs. Now, Florida went on to bust their asses in the off-season and and got a hell of a lot better, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Will the Dawgs do the same thing? I don't know, but the 08 Gators (especially on D) are proof that things can change quickly in the span of 1 year...

2009 is gonna be a good year for the Dawgs. We didn't live up to the expectations in '08, but we have learned from our mistakes and we will have one hell of a run this year. I can't wait for the fall...

14 comments:

Bop said...

Add another thing...Leadership.

I think this is one of those things that is undervalued some times in team sports, and we lacked it bigtime last year.

Something tells me Owens, Cox and company might just will this team to some shocking wins this year.

JJ said...

Bop.....I don't want to sound contrarian, but I'll take an assload of talent over leadership any day of the week. Of course, I'd prefer to have both.

And I'd take a fundamentally sound defense over either of them at this point.

Not certain where I'm going with all of this, but I guess my point is that I'm less optimistic about this season since I can remember (about 25 years.) Much of that is probably because I'm just getting old, but also like to think it is because my standards have changed. In the 1990's, I'd go into every season thinking UGA was a 10 win team no matter what kind of roster they'd trot out there. Now a days, 10 wins is just average for this program, and that is a good thing.

Regardless, I've got a long way to go before I believe that next year isn't going to be a step back, or at least a blip on the radar. I'm thinking it will be 2011 before things are solidly back on track.

That isn't to say I don't like Joe Cox and whoever might line up behind him. I just don't like the idea of Joe Cox having to bail Willie's ass out every week like 7 and 24 did most of the time last year.

RB said...

Bop... I totally agree with you. That's what I meant by attitude. There are players in Athens that want to do exactly as you said - will this team to W's.

RB said...

JJ .... We had an assload of talent last year with no leadership - That didn't get us very far. Talent is rarely a problem for the Dawgs. Look back at the Donnan years. Perfect example of talent with no leaders....

As for bailing Willie out, I hear ya. I am not his biggest fan, but I will defer to Coach Richt and give him 1 more year with the hope that injuries altered our preparation to the point that our defense didn't play with the edge necessary in our league.

JJ said...

Didn't get us very far? UGA won 10 games and people were ready to jump off Sanford Bridge! Without that assload of talent, UGA would not have played in a bowl game. Period. I'd say that assload of talent actually got us pretty far.

Once again, and I will go to my grave on it....."lack of leadership" had nothing to do with losing 3 games in 2008. It was the shittiest defense EVER to play Between the Hedges. E-V-E-R. (Look at the numbers.) The only game the offense had anything to do with was in Jacksonville.

I'm not sure how I can look at the defense and think that it will be any better this year. I'm used to being an optimist when it comes to this type of thing, but I'm not sure how anybody can just flip a switch and make this thing right. Especially when all you've done to rectify the situation is promote the guy in charge of your least fundamentally sound position.

If you think all this leadership is going to will UGA to a Championship level, I have a feeling you are going to be sorely disappointed by mid-October.

DRM said...

JJ, I don't know the exact reasons for not living up to expections in 08 and I don't know if the Dawgs will win 13 games in 09 but wen choosing talent over leaders and leadership I think you are way off. And you contradict yourself. U want talent over leadership you say? But you also say that you were happy with 10 wins in the 90's but now 10's is almost a dissapointment. That doesn't make sense! Cause most can argue that the talent level under donnan in 90's was no different than under Coach Mark Richt. The only difference would be leadership(coaching) starting from the top down. And the difference in results is not even comparable, considering we never even finished 1st in our division back then. Didn't all 11 defensive starters in 2000 under Donnan make it to nfl at some point? As we all know , back from the 90's days, Stroud and Seymore, they have been 2 of the top defensive players in the nfl the last 10 yrs. Those 2 scenarios show great examples of talent. Where were the titles? Obviously we can't trot the players from North Springs High School out there and hope the leadership is enough to take out the likes of UF, AU, and LSU. But bottom line, most of the top teams in the country have pretty damn good talent and to say that you would sacrifice leadership for some extra talent is just gonna put the Dawgs back to 3rd and 4th in our own division.

Bop said...

Two things...

First, I do think there is a lot to be said about a leader or two willing a team to victories. Boss and Tony Gilbert come to mind. Al Wilson at UT was as good as I've ever seen at it. I can't exactly explain it, but Owens, Cox and Ben Jones seem to fit the bill as the same type of players.

Secondly, I think you are dead on about a few things JJ. The defense was anemic. Absolutely pathetic. You also touch on a very interesting subject. One that is mind blowing really. Our LB's have been so unsound with their fundamentals ever since our new co-coordinator showed up in town. It's as though they don't even understand their fits (which is the basis of our scheme). I have no confidence whatsoever in him. Every single LB has underachieved under his coaching. Sure, Curran was amazing in '07, but I'll argue it was strictly on instinct his rookie year.

Bop said...

I'm supposed to be the pessimistic one. At this rate JJ, I won't make it to September without you convincing me we are ok.

I wish I hadn't even thought about our defense. Especially LB.

JJ said...

DRM: leadership and coaching are 2 different issues, at least in the conversation I am having here. The difference between the 1990s and the current decade is simple: Goff/Donnan vs Richt. The conversation doesn't need to go further than that. But another major difference is talent in depth. We had talented starters under Donnan, but we had guys 2 and 3 deep that shouldn't have been playing Division 1-A football. Those guys don't even give a sniff from UGA these days.

I also don't share the same definitions of the leadership stereotype that I think most people do. When most people think of Pollack, Greene and Shockley, the first thing that comes to mind is that they were/are "great leaders", when in actuality all 3 of those guys were extremely talented. Pollack was a physical specimen. Sure, he had a "great motor" and was "terrific in the locker room", but he was also fast and quick and did all the things that you want from a first round draft pick. NFL teams don't draft guys in the first round based on how they act off the field and whether or not their teammates look up to them. I don't know why Shockley and Greene weren't drafted higher or why either one of them haven't panned out, but QB is just a weird position in the NFL. Still, both of those guys are far more talented than Joe Tereshinski III, or for that matter what I've seen thus far from Joe Cox.

JJ said...

Bop, there is no doubt that this would be a championship level team with a better coached defense. I completely agree with RB that there is talent there, but that talent either isn't ready to make a major contribution (see Williams, Comings, Robinson, Rambo, Pugh, about half the incoming freshman class), or it plays a position (LB or DB) that you cannot count on to perform consistently for a myriad of reasons (there isn't enough bandwidth on this site for me to list them all.)

In short, I do not anticipate that Joe Cox will not lose UGA any games in 2009. But this offense is going to have to win some shootouts in '09. Who is better suited to move the Dawgs up and down the field in that kind of game? Cox, Gray, Murray?

RB said...

JJ - I agree - our D was terrible last year.

My point was that having an assload of talent does not appear to be a problem in the foreseeable future. But having all the talent in the world won't matter if there is no leadership.

JJ said...

RB - where UGA's talent may be lacking next season (at least compared to what we are used to) is in 2 key positions - QB and RB. The Dawgs need stronger options than what they currently have there (see Stafford/Moreno) to overcome said horrible defense. Therein lies my concern for 2010.

A good, deep OL (assuming they get healthy in a hurry) can mask alot of deficiencies on offense, but I'm not convinced they are there just yet.

JJ said...

By the way, I hope nobody thinks I've decided that UGA is going in the tank. Long term, UGA is in better shape than all but maybe 5 programs in college football. I just think 2009 is going to be a major struggle. Not an '08 Tennessee type struggle, more like '05 Oklahoma.

What makes me even more bearish is the way I think UGA might lose some games in '09. I walk away from a 17-14 loss much more encouraged than do a 41-38. I think we're going to see alot of games in the 30s and 40s.

Amanda said...

Control Temper, Good Attitude must be exist.. Amanda Vanderpool