Or: In Which I Discuss Actual Georgia Football Topics and Attempt to Forget That July is College Football's Silly Season
I was playing in a poker game with some friends last night -- most are Georgia Tech fans so I got the added bonus of hearing their thoughts on our AD and the Jordan Love situation. Needless to say, it wasn't such a great night.
Much like the Bulldogs of the past 2 years, I made some bad decisions, had some things go wrong that should have gone right, and generally just had my butt handed to me. That's when it occurred to me that the two things really are more similar than they first appeared. Just like a poker game, each mistake, poor play, and butt kicking presents an opportunity to improve future performance. Every embarrassment offers a chance to analyze what went wrong and try to put it right in the future. Even when you prepare and play the way you are supposed to, things sometimes (or often in our case) go wrong. Each situation is a time to step back and arise scarred but smarter if you will...
The most unjustly underappreciated band in Southern Rock and prophets of Georgia's current debacle as early as 1987 (Seriously -- Half the lyrics sound like they're talking about us).
Now, some would be quick to point out that there is no guarantee that things have hit rock bottom. They would be right and that isn't really what I'm getting at. I just happen to think that there is a path to escape this (possibly bottomless) pit if the Georgia coaching staff and players choose to do so. Because I am clinging to the last shred of optimism I have in me, I believe they will.
As a Geology geek throughout my college years, I became very familiar with James Hutton and Charles Lyell. The two, in the disputed way that dead scientists often do, either coined or popularized the idea that "the past is the key to the present". In my way of thinking this principle applies to predicting aspects of the 2010 Georgia Football season because I believe that Richt and Co. are smart enough and capable enough as coaches to learn from mistakes of the past and because certain trends seem to just pop up again and again.
Georgia is certainly scarred. This season will determine if we are, in fact, smarter.
So without further ado, here are The 5 Things I Believe About the 2010 Georgia Bulldogs...
(Disclaimer: My brain, while perfectly logical on the inside, has a way of tangentially running off when transferring to my hands or mouth. Those of you who are regulars know and embrace this, for which I thank you. To those who aren't, I apologize in advance)
1. Pre-Season Rankings Mean As Much As They Did in 2008
We all know that Pre-Season rankings are garbage. Sure they're fun to read and discuss during the offseason, but we all know that being ranked 19, or 24, or 64 (if you're experimenting with mind expanding drugs) before the 2010 season means as much as being ranked #1 before the 2008 season. Anyone remember who was ranked in the high teens or twenties that year? 13-1 Sugar Bowl Champ Alabama. So lets dispense with any obsessing about what this means for our program or chances for the year. It means nothing. You know it, I know it, and that Adelson woman knows it.... and I'm not sure she understands ordinal numbering systems.
Folks who say we can't/won't win the SEC East and a Florida team that lost much more than we did will win it are, frankly, talking out of an orifice to which I am only allowed to refer using anatomical terminology in my classroom. We may end up in the top 10.... we may come in behind Western Kentucky. No one knows. This is one of the trends that needs to end. But it won't and we live in an ESPN/AJC world, so just get used to people telling you Georgia will suck. I don't think we will and I know for a fact I am at least as qualified to say so as the Mark Bradley's of the world.
2. Aaron Murray Will Be Better Than Advertised
I'm not talking about his skills either, although I do remain impressed to this day by the toughness of a young man returning to lead his team after breaking his fibula (an injury with a projected recovery time of 6 months). What I am more intrigued by is how much trouble Murray will have adjusting to SEC play. Every first time player experiences some growing pains that are to be expected but I believe that Richt and Bobo have the experience now to minimize this. They have now worked with two quarterbacks who have no game experience: David Greene and Matthew Stafford. They have experimented with and seen the results of open QB competitions with more experienced (though less talented) upperclassmen and implementing the playbook with these young QB's on two separate occasions. Call me crazy, but I believe they will call on this experience to make Murray's acclimation to the game much smoother.
3. Justin Houston Will Become a Much Feared SEC Pass Rusher
From the 2008 to 2009 Season, Houston's stats improved appreciably. Though some of this might be attributed to being a more featured part of the defense, the statistical progress speaks for itself. Between the two seasons, Houston tripled his sacks, almost doubled his tackles, and more than doubled his solo tackles. All this with 4 of his peers who will be playing in the NFL next year compiling stats of their own and participating in 3 fewer games. This is Houston's year to become the leader of the defense. A move to Grantham's aggressive scheme can only serve to provide him with additional opportunities and, considering his build, is likely a more natural fit. I think that by looking at Houston's performance the last few years in Martinez' scheme, Grantham and Belin can work with his strengths in a way that will provide him with the most opportunity to unleash a world of pain on opposing skill players. If Houston can improve on his numbers even half as much as he did from 2008 to 2009, he has the ability to be a special pass rusher in the 2010 SEC
4. Todd Grantham Will Quickly Turn the Georgia Defense Around
We've already been thrilled with the reports of CTG's more aggressive style. However, I think some of us may be surprised at how quickly he will have the Georgia defense instilling fear in our opponents once again. After all, he has a history of quick turnarounds. During his time with the Colts, Grantham helped engineer a very speedy turnaround of the defensive line. This resulted in setting a new franchise record for sacks over a two year period. And in two years with the Cowboys, Grantham was part of a defensive staff that went from 13th to 2nd in the league in points allowed. Similar statistical improvements can be seen in his time working in the college game. We may not see everything the defense has to offer this season, but the base will be there for continued improvement in the very near future.
I believe completely that Grantham has learned from and, in many ways, is the antidote to the Willie Martinez era defensive style. While many of you are fond of pointing out that just because we've hit bottom doesn't mean we're going to rise, I have a very hard time applying that type of thinking to the transition from Willie Martinez to Todd Grantham. Also, is anybody else excited about FUNDAMENTALS!!!
5. Mark Richt Will Not Become the Next Phil Fulmer/Tommy Tuberville
Its a bit ridiculous that Mark Richt is even compared with Fulmer and Tuberville when it comes to the ridiculous hot-seat business. The seasons for which Mark Richt is criticized are a 10-3 campaign in 2008 and an 8-5 season in 2009. Fulmer had two seasons in four years in which his team only won 5 games and was 0-3 in SEC Championship games in the 2000's. Tuberville had two 10+ wins seasons while at Auburn and was fired after a 5-7 season in which his team only won 2 conference games and lost to their in-state rival 36-0. In fact, Tuberville had four seasons equal to or worse than the season which is considered Richt's worst. Richt's staff has been more stable over a longer period of time (occasionally to our detriment) and has had more frequent success. Furthermore, Richt has the advantage of being the winningest coach in the history of the Georgia program proportional to the length of his tenure.
Perhaps the most important aspect for Richt, though, is that he's seen the Fulmer/Tuberville situations go down. He has the benefit of having seen what can happen to a veteran coach when things start to go wrong and how those things began to go wrong. I believe his coaching hires in the off-season are proof positive that he understands what needs to be done to keep from going down that path. We'll have to see if the results come, but I believe Richt has put himself in the position to be extremely successful with this group of coaches. I don't believe he'll become the next Fulmer or Tuberville because I simply think he won't let it happen. He has the will and support of the administration to do whatever is necessary to be successful, while Tuberville and Fulmer were obviously at odds with their administration at various points in their tenure. In short, like all good Dawgs, God loves Mark Richt. That's right folks.... worse comes to worst, I'm invoking divine intervention to keep Mark Richt at UGA.
One final note:
In the spirit of eternal hope, learning from the mistakes of the past, and new beginnings, I would like to formally petition, nay beg, the UGA Athletic Association and Sanford Stadium Staff to use this song or one like it during pre-game festivities in lieu of whatever Nickelback/ 3 Doors Down/ Kid Rock song they are planning on using with the video montage:
Come on guys.... you know you want to.