Fall has arrived in the Classic City and your University of Georgia Bulldogs are preparing for their home opener in beautiful Sanford Stadium.
But before you get your football Saturday rolling, allow me to run through the 5 things I think you’ll see when the Georgia Bulldogs take the field against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
1.) Aron White. I sort of hinted at this one during Wednesday’s Over/Under segment. If it were me, I’d take the over on both. The Gamecocks’ Eric Norwood is an excellent football player with an NFL future. But if the Gamecocks' 252 pound linebacker/defensive end hybrid exhibited one weakness against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in last week's opener, it was looking a little lost when he had to get out in space and cover the tight end. NC State, being NC State, was wholly unable to take advantage of this obvious chink in Norwood’s armor. And that was after Jessie Palmer pointed it out on the ESPN boradcast. Look, how obvious does an open receiver have to be for even Palmer to notice him?
Getting the ball to the tight end should help Joe Cox establish some confidence and find a rhythm. The other benefit is that forcing Sakerlina’s linebackers to respect the pass will help prevent them from stuffing the line and stifling the run, the strength of their defense.
2) Joe Cox. He’ll start. Even though Coach Richt did manage to give a beat writer or two a brief coronary when he walked in Thursday afternoon and announced that the ‘Dawgs' starter this week would be . . . Aaron Murray. He was just joking of course (for now). But Kyle is right that you should expect to see Logan Gray. The fact that we didn’t see more of him in Stillwater was a little surprising, and I would chalk it up to the coaches being hesitant to pull Cox before he established some type of rhythm. Of course, that rhythm never emerged, Joe Cox has an aching shoulder, and we need to have a contingency plan in place with a long, long season looming.
Right or wrong, D.J. Shockley is still the gold standard by which all first time QB starters under Mark Richt are judged. But it’s easy to forget that Shockley didn’t just show up on the morning of the Boise State opener in 2005 and walk onto the Sanford Stadium turf fully formed as a signal caller. He brought tremendous physical talents to Athens, and had already received tutoring from his father Don Shockley, respected by many as one of the top high school coaches in the Atlanta area.
But perhaps more than that, he had played significant snaps over several seasons in Athens. He had triumphant moments (Clemson 2002) and he tasted adversity (Georgia Tech 2004, during which he made Joe Tereshinski, III look like Dan Marino). There’s just no substitute for that experience.
That’s why I hope that Logan Gray gets on the field for significant snaps tomorrow. If Joe Cox gives us the best chance to win, play him. But let’s not forget that as maddened as some of us were by Coach Richt’s sometimes inexplicable (at the time) pullings of David Greene for his backup, those intervals helped mold the quarterback who led us to the 2005 SEC Championship.
3) Stephon Gilmore and Akeem Auguste. They are South Carolina’s starting cornerbacks. They have a total of 2 career starts between them, both of which came in the opener against NC State. I agree with Kyle that the Georgia passing game will be critical to the outcome of this one. While we are clearly unproven at receiver, South Carolina is in a similar boat across the line of scrimmage. The bonus pick in this area of the game will be Tavarres King. FOB (friend of the blog) Darius Dawgberry has been singing King’s praises for some time now, and after the Oklahoma State game the coaches chimed in. Look for us to try to get him open on some combo routes designed to confuse the Gamecocks’ young corners.
4.) Devin Taylor. You’ve probably never heard of Devin Taylor, and that’s ok. After tomorrow I am afraid we’ll all know exactly who he is. Taylor is the redshirt freshman from Beaufort who started in place of the suspended Clifton Geathers last week at defensive end. He responded with a forced fumble, a blocked punt and three tackles for a loss (one of them a sack). That was in his first college football action, and for it he was named the SEC defensive lineman of the week. Along with Clifton Geathers and Cliff Matthews, Taylor will see time on a defensive end unit that will give our offensive line as much as they can handle.
5) UGA 24, USC 13. In the wake of last week’s loss, I stuck my neck out and predicted a double digit Georgia win at home. Of course, that was when I thought we had a veteran quarterback who simply suffered from a virus and would be fine with a little rest and home cooking. Now I think we have a veteran QB with a sore arm who’s one bad half and one good drive from his understudy away from a genuine quarterback controversy. That being said, I remain undeterred. I think this Georgia team will play with a huge chip on its shoulder, which under Mark Richt has been precisely the right mindset for success. Both teams will score more than they did last week, and more than they traditionally have in this series, since neither offense is as bad (and neither defense is as good) as they looked last week.
That’s my 5. So who and what else will we see tonight?