Let’s get straight to some Junkyard Mail. …
Dr. Watson writes: Bill, Looking ahead to the fall, I’m jazzed about having Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Keith Marshall in the backfield, I feel pretty good about returning all but one starter on the offensive line, we’re stocked with loads of talent at linebacker and I think we should be in decent shape in the secondary, though we’ll certainly miss Damian Swann. I’m not sure about the defensive front, and quarterback concerns me, especially since the so-called heir apparent, Brice Ramsey, didn’t get any really meaningful snaps until the bowl game, and he looked kind of shaky there. Bill, what position concerns you most for this coming season?
And Greg Wardlaw writes: Hi, What do you think of the Georgia receiving corps for 2015? It seems the Dawgs have not recruited as well as some of their SEC opponents like Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, etc. Heck, even Louisville had a really good receiver that will be going to the NFL. We are tops in the SEC in our running game, but teams load the box because we have no deep threats at the receiver position. Are any of our recruits going to help us as far as deep threats go?
I think the good doctor summed up the situation pretty nicely. The defensive line is a question mark, especially in terms of depth, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the highly rated freshmen Georgia is expected to sign on the DL getting significant playing time, especially five-star tackle prospect Trent Thompson (who is already being pegged as a likely starter by season’s end) and maybe some of the six defensive ends expected to come in, including Jonathan Ledbetter, Natrez Patrick and Michael Barnett, all of whom are already enrolled and will go through spring practice.
I’m also a little concerned about the depth at wide receiver, Greg, though if Malcolm Mitchell remains healthy, Georgia will have one of the best deep threats. Once you get past Mitchell and Reggie Davis, however, you’ve got the inconsistent Justin Scott-Wesley, kick return specialist Isaiah McKenzie (who had some trouble finishing catches when the ball was thrown to him) and then a bunch of guys who have yet to show much. As I said earlier in the week, I have a feeling tight end Jeb Blazevich might wind up as the go-to guy after Mitchell, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a freshman wide receiver getting playing time once they learn the routes. Georgia is expected to sign several receivers, including Terry Godwin, Darius Slayton, Jayson Stanley, Michael Chigbu and, hopefully, Van Jefferson.
Overall, I think the biggest question mark is at quarterback, where the competition in spring practice should be pretty wide open. I know some folks think all that matters there is being able to hand the ball off to Chubb, but that’s oversimplifying things. With defenses undoubtedly crowding the box to stop Chubb, Georgia is going to need to be able to stretch the field and secure key first downs with the passing game. Ramsey has the strongest arm and the most game experience, though not really enough of the latter to be much of a factor. And some of his decision-making looked a bit faulty in the bowl game after he replaced the injured Hutson Mason.
Faton Batau probably knows the playbook the best and gives the Dawgs a read-option capability with his legs, but I don’t think he’s a strong enough passer to be the starter.
What it may come down to is how much progress redshirt-freshman Jacob Park makes this spring and August. He drew raves last season running the scout team. His arm isn’t as strong as Ramsey’s, but he’s considered more of a dual threat with his running ability, though not the runner that Batau is. The question will be how well Park knows the playbook.
One thing seems likely: We probably won’t see the level of ball security that five-year senior Mason provided. But perhaps we’ll see more aggressive play at QB. It will be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer handles the quarterbacks. My feeling was that Mike Bobo would have leaned in favor of Ramsey, at least early in the season, but Schotty may view things differently.
Dan the Dawg writes: Bill, my head is spinning from Scrooge McDuck, I mean Greg McGarity, suddenly loosening the pursestrings and shelling out an additional million bucks to hire a new offensive coordinator and give raises to the existing staff. Suddenly, instead of ranking far behind everyone else, the Dawgs’ staff is among the better compensated. What gives? And what’s up with the “reorganization” of Mark Richt’s coaching staff and replacing Joe T. on the strength staff and eliminating former strength coach Dave Van Halanger’s rather nebulous job as director of player welfare. Has there been some sort of sea change here, and if so, who came out on top, Richt or McGarity?
I have no firsthand knowledge of the dealings between McGarity and Richt and whether their relationship had indeed become as strained last season as some accounts would have it, but the way this has all played out could be taken by some of the more cynical among us as evidence of a bit of quid pro quo going on: Richt gets the additional money he’s wanted for his program in exchange for reorganizing the staff and swapping out some old faces for fresh ones.
Another factor in all of this could be Jeremy Pruitt, who arrived in Athens last year with all sorts of ideas about how practices and other procedures could be improved and apparently found Richt more than willing to listen to him. (I just wish one of Pruitt’s ideas had been a full-time special teams coach.)
Whatever’s behind the sudden spending spree and willingness to revamp the way things are done, I think the overall winner should be the football program itself. Georgia has managed to hold on to some in-demand coaches like Tracy Rocker and Bryan McClendon, and also bring in fresh blood. It remains to be seen if it pays off on the scoreboard, but so far I’m liking what I’m seeing.
Lamar Westbrook writes: Hello, Bill hope all is well with your family and you. It was a bad deal when Georgia lost Bobo, that guy was the reason Georgia won as many games as they did. His offense had to score a ton of points to cover for their bad defensive coordinators they hired. Check this out, let’s say you were Bobo, who was doing a good job with the offense, and you were being paid $475,000 a year and then Georgia hired some defensive guy for double the amount you were being paid, how would you feel?? My point is Georgia did not treat Bobo as good as he was and there is no way they won’t regret it!! They better hope the defense is good, because they won’t have a guy that can outscore teams like Bobo did!! Bad move Georgia, BAD!! Thanks buddy!!
A couple of points, Lamar: While I agree that Bobo was underpaid, it’s only fair to note that the trend in recent years in college football has been that defensive coordinators get paid more than offensive coordinators. Part of that may be that a lot of head coaches also call plays or have more input on the offensive side. Also, all indications are that Bobo did not leave Georgia because of the pay disparity between him and Pruitt, but because he really wanted to be a head coach.
Concerning the impact the loss of Bobo will have on Georgia’s very productive offense, that remains to be seen but I don’t expect a tremendous fall-off. The offense is likely to be much the same as under Bobo. Richt said he hired Schottenheimer because they think alike on how to run and throw the football, and the new coordinator has said his goal is to “sustain” the success Georgia has had offensively, not reinvent it. It’s notable that he said he’s going to learn UGA’s playbook and terminology rather than have the players all learn his.
Also, as I said above, I think the biggest question mark is at quarterback, and while Bobo certainly earned a reputation as a good groomer of QBs (as did Richt before him), Schottenheimer also has a lot of experience working with young quarterbacks. So, overall, while I was sorry to see Bobo leave UGA, I don’t think it’s really due to any “bad move” on Georgia’s part.
Helena Davis writes: Bill, I saw where Greg McGarity said on the radio “Hotline” this week that UGA is negotiating a neutral-site nonconference game in Atlanta for an upcoming season. How soon do you think we might see this, and do you think it’s a good idea? I’m still recovering from the Boise State fiasco in those Power Ranger uniforms!
One thing I don’t think you need to worry about, Helena, is a repeat of those awful uniforms foisted on Georgia by Nike when it met Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. McGarity himself has said several times he doesn’t want to see anything like that again. As for when the Dawgs might play a neutral-site game, the most obvious possibility is 2016, when they don’t yet have an opening opponent scheduled and the Chick-fil-A game hasn’t announced a matchup.
Is playing in such a game is a good thing? I’m of a mixed mind. On the one hand, I see the advantage of getting an early-season prime-time national television spotlight and denying same to the likes of Alabama (and the perceived recruiting advantage that comes with it). On the other hand, McGarity made it clear that Georgia would have to give up a home game in Athens in exchange for an Atlanta game, and I’m not thrilled about shelling out to sit in the rafters of the Georgia Dome for such a game as opposed to my comfortable spot in the lower level at Sanford Stadium. McGarity did say losing a home game would make another big-name concert Between the Hedges likely, which would be cool, but all things considered I’d just as soon see the Dawgs play all their nonroad games in the Classic City.
Finally, Talented UGA filmmaker Frank Martin takes a look back at the 2014 football season and what it means to wear the G in his latest video. Check it out!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.