So RedCrake posted yesterday, during T Kyle's vacation, on his beliefs for the upcoming season. While I originally planned a post about the nature of the CB's in Georgia's new defensive scheme (looking at both the Cowboys and UConn for background), I feel like we're getting away from what makes Georgia fans Georgia fans. We're wildly pessimistic about our footbawl, dammit. In response to RedCrake, then, here are 5 things I don't believe about Georgia football in 2010. I tend to believe, as should most UGA fans, that pessimism is more prudent than optimism. At worst, my expectations will be met, while if the best occurs, I'll be pleasantly surprised. This is always preferable to constantly being let down (optimism) in my opinion.
1. I doubt that every pundit could be wrong about us being behind Florida in terms of overall talent
I say this in the face of widespread disbelief amongst Georgia fans that we could be so bad again next year as to merit a low 20's or un-ranked opening position in the major polls. To that I say, "Why not?" Our defense is not magically going to be better (a point I will come to soon) after a short Spring session with little in the way of actual scheme implementation, plus one year of summer workouts for the entire defense. What magically makes the defense more able to intercept the ball or rush the passer than our last year's model? Yes, the scheme will hopefully be more blitz-prone than Martinez's last couple of years, but that is not something that is learned in 20 weeks of practice. If our players had the mentality to get to the ball at any costs, we would have had more INT's and sacks for fumbles lost in the last couple of years REGARDLESS of Martinez's scheme. The players, until further notice, do not magically grow a nose for the ball that did not exist in previous years.
Because of this, asking if our talent level is as high as Florida's overall level is ridiculous. Florida clearly has a high talent level, and the loss of 1st round talent to the NFL was heavy, but has happened before. Florida may take a step back, but they were clearly 2 steps ahead of Georgia the last 2 years regardless. While I imagine our offense will be talented, and hopefully productive, this season, our strengths/weaknesses line up equally with Florida's. Their offense should be decent to good, while their defense is a mystery. Similar claims could be made about Georgia's state with little decent from most level-headed fans. To me, this means Florida starts the season in a slightly better place than Georgia does (even if I don't by the Brantley hype). This also means that pundits who have Georgia behind Florida in the East might, MIGHT!, not be wrong.
2. I don't believe that Aaron Murray will be, from day 1, the best QB in the SEC.
I, unlike what seems to be a growing majority of Georgia fans, doubt that Murray will step into success just because he is the final cog in 10 of 11 returning starters on a Georgia offense that was 2nd best in the SEC at times last year. Murray, as people noted before the Mettenberger saga, did not look to be the best QB on the field at many points during the Spring, according to numerous articles written during the time. He clearly wasn't the best QB on the field at G-Day (various reasons for this have been given, but the fact remains the same), and yet today the majority of Georgia fans are 100% certain (in public) that Murray is the QB to lead Georgia to an SEC championship, as soon as this season if many are to be believed.
If this Spring proved anything, it's that Mark Richt is a shrewd operator. Hands forced by Mettenberger's actions, was Richt supposed to respond when questioned that in fact Mettenberger was the clear starter emerging from the Spring? In absolutely no universe was that a possibility, even if the fact was Mettenberger was. With Mett kicked off the team, and Logan Gray (sadly in many ways) an afterthought amongst fans and coaches, was Richt truly expected to throw his one remaining QB under the bus? That, under Richt, has never happened. Be thankful as I am that Richt is no Spurrier, in this instance we have no way of knowing the true thoughts of the staff towards the progress of Mett (who undeniably was looking really good through Spring) and of Murray. We will never really know which was the better QB here at Georgia, because Mark Richt will not sell out Murray with him being clearly the starter at this point. Even when Shockley or Greene or Stafford played poorly, Richt rarely did more than question their play on a specific day: It will be a cold day in hell before we ever hear about the actual assessment of talent between our two former QB's.
3. I don't believe our defense will be much better in 2010
As you may have guessed from #1, I find little in the news about changing coordinators galvanizing about the nature of the 2010 defense. I find it far, far more likely that we will suffer through a slow learning process that will result, by 2011 or 2012, in a vastly superior defensive unit. We likely have defensive stars on the team, but this year is most likely not the year for them to shine (on a national level, at least). I may revise this claim in the face of Houston's dominance at DE translating pretty readily to OLB in the 3-4, but I doubt that CB's and SS/FS's that couldn't intercept a ball in the last scheme (under a well received Secondary coach, which we may forget when we think about Martinez's overall performance as a Defensive Coordinator) will magically get better at that under Grantham.
In fact, I am skeptical about the change in general. Looking at the positions of recruiting on Scout and Rivals shows that true Nose Tackles do not come out of college often (Mt. Cody was a JUCO grad, if memory serves). Granted, with sufficient developmental time, our staff can eventually have a line of players ready to succeed and move on at Georgia at any given time. However, Grantham and his staff did not recruit, essentially, for this year's team. We lost 3 great DT's in last year's draft, that could have, under the new staff, served as decent DE's or NT's in the new scheme, but on the current roster, we're sadly missing in this area. Arby Jones may turn into a great player, as may any number of other potential players, but South Carolina is game 2, and their strength this year looks to be offensive. For all the people who expect an SEC title this season, remember the lack of experience that current players have under this system! Do not expect more than these players can reasonably provide.
4. I don't believe Mark Richt will beat Urban Meyer when he's supposed to
I, like many I've spoken with, think that this year is as good a chance for UGA to tag Florida as has recently been available. While I agree (see #1) that Florida remains more (per Rivals and Scout) talented than Georgia, Florida is also changing defensive coordinators, which has been the side of the ball for most (last year not counting) troubling for Richt and co. Georgia should, I repeat, have as good a shot at ending Florida's steak of dominant victories in the next couple of years as it's had since Ron Zook was there (that turned out well).
However, unlike many, I doubt this good fortune in terms of talent and staff changes will be taken advantage of. Don't get me wrong, I hope this is not the case. However, at this stage in Richt's career versus Florida, I will believe the tides have turned when I see it, and not a minute prior. If Georgia is undefeated going into the World's Largest Cocktail Party (a highly suspect proposition itself), I would still bet Florida leaves with the victory even if Florida came in 0-8. Richt has not year proven on a consistent basis he can out-coach Meyer to an significant degree. With a team that should have rolled in 2008, Georgia was dominated on both sides of the ball and significantly embarrassed in a year we started #1 in national polls (not to remind anyone of that open wound), and 2009 did not see much improvement, and in fact saw the aborted attempt at motivation that is known as the black helmet debacle. To this end, until I see Richt out-coach Meyer, I won't believe it. Mark me down as assuming Georgia starts every year at 0-1 until something is done in this situation to even the odds.
5. I don't believe that Mark Richt is safe under a new Athletic Director
In the world of change that has recently hit Athens, many have posited opinions about how the Damon Evans affair effects Mark Richt's position in the Athens community. Mark me down for believing it is a negative for Richt that a new manager may soon be in town.
Evans was, while not Richt's hiring AD, as close as you could be to that without actually being the one who pulled the trigger. Evans was under very little pressure due to Richt, and in general had to do little with regards the football coach but try and take some of the credit Richt deserves for his run so far in Athens. Evans position as a key Dooley lieutenant during his hiring process assured Richt some loyalty in a position often beset with a "what have you done for me lately" attitude. Most acknowledge that AD's like to bring in their own candidates to sink or swim with, and yet Evans, when offered (many) opportunities by the media, took very little about Mark Richt for granted, nor did he ever come close to disrespecting Richt with any lingering questions or open statements. Evans clearly was happy with Richt (who realistically wouldn't be besides national columnists drumming up topics for articles), and was not involved in the recent hot seat controversy.
However, a new AD, especially with Adams' decision to go outside the house, may not feel the same way. While RedCrake is convinced that Richt won't be Tubervilled, I find less hope in the fact that within a year of now, we will likely, if Adams gets his way, have a new director with absolutely no connection to Mark Richt. Throughout the off season, I have been constantly perplexed by the drone of articles about Richt's position in Athens. No one does anything but joke about kicking Richt to the curb around town, and yet there remains a constant and consistent opinion throughout the national media that Richt is entering a rough period concerning his job. If next season is another "failure" at 8-5 or god forbid, 7-6, Richt may find that seat legitimately hot come 2011/2012. The next AD may not be so happy to float with Richt's boat if the program truly has entered a lower point in Richt's tenure (which, like many of you, I obviously hope isn't the case), and may pull the trigger early in response. You may say this is crazy, but remember Nebraska under Frank Solich, who went 58-19 from '98-'03. That is no joke of a run, with a National Title game appearance to boot. The AD, afraid of ran reaction to lowered win totals, took the odd step of canning Solich, the heir apparent to Osborne with a great than .700 winning percentage. We all look at Mark Richt's success in Athens and laugh at rumors about his status in Butts-Mehre, but come January 2011, we may be looking at Georgia through the lens of a completely different AD with little concern for our traditions or current beliefs.