10. Schedule: 8 games in the state of Georgia (yes, even Tech at the Joke by the Coke is a UGA home game), travelling no farther west than Oxnard and no farther north than Nashville and getting the weaker of the SEC West, delightful. Yes, UGA starts out against Boise and South Carolina, 2 top programs and a lot of people are predicting a 0-2 start. I like to disagree. Let’s start with the Kick-off Classic. Boise is starting 9 new guys this year. On offense outside of the QB they lost a lot of production personnel and on defense the secondary took a hit as well. UGA is bigger, faster and hungry. This is a scary game, but not as scary as most people are talking. I like UGA to win in a 7-13 point spread. We had Carolina in the bag until we folded in the 4th last year. This year, it is in Athens and I will talk about 4th quarter collapse a little later in this rant. After the first 2 games, the schedule is an SEC dream.
9. Tight Ends: “Tight End U” continues the tradition. Orson is a beast. Aron White, Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome as well will be there to add strength, speed, size and versatility to the position. With the changes in the backfield, look for Murray to do more play action and hit the Tight End in the flats and also with the speed, look for burns on slower defensive coverage.
8. Pass Blocking: 90 SEC starts on the offensive line. Yes the line has had offseason hits, but look for the depth that was so highly touted last year to come into play this year. UGA is HUGE on the line and that will tire out Defensive lines allowing more time for Murray and bigger holes for the running backs to exploit. Plus with the addition of Bruce Figgins to Fullback from Tight End, Murray should spend more time on his cleats than his
7. Mark Richt: Everyone is talking about CMR being on the “hot seat” and I think that is true, but I also believe CMR is well aware of this. Firstly you cannot ask for more class than Richt and he is doing something right, his record speaks to that. I like the changes he has made in the offseason. I may be a homer, but I see a NC for UGA under Richt long before the seat gets blazing.
6. Special Teams: Best Kicking Duo in the country and the return unit with Boykin and Smith. ‘nuff said here
5. Defense: If last year was a groing year for CTG new scheme then with the growth of the unit (Geathers and Tyson), the new recruits (Big John Jenkins), the second year where the secondary understand coverage responsibilities, and the revamped linebackers (Ogletree is going to be a full field coverage and bone breaker) this year could bring back fond memories of Erk’s Junk Yard Dawgs of the past
4. Strength and Conditioning: UGA lost games in the 4th Quarter last year. I do not believe that will be the case under CJT this year. The rumors about players leaving to find better matching schools this offseason, IMO, are the result of a tougher, more demanding program to ensure that UGA will be in every game until the final second. I think we will see a faster, stronger, leaner team than we have in many years. “Finishing the Drill” will not need to be a slogan any more, these Dogs will.
3. Quarterback Corps: Some say this is the number one reason, but I am reserving that for two special areas, but look for Aaron Murray to have a better sophomore year than his freshman year. I think he will have more dedicated, hungry players around him, better time to pass and as always his feet are just as dangerous as his arm. With the backs-up (read that as playing pressure) of Mason and LeMay, I can see this area of UGA football only improving.
2. Running Backs: Surely you are now thinking that I am a complete idiot, right. UGA lost the number one running back from last year and now it is the number 2 reason to be optimistic. Yes and here is why. By letting Ealey go, UGA improved. Gone is his huddle dancing, his lack of discipline and his 5-star mentality. Left is King, Malcome, Thomas and Crowell. At fullback UGA moved Figgins from Tightend to shore up Ogletree. I think UGA will see better production, better blocking and more versatility. May not have a 1000 yard rusher this year, but they will improve on last year’s disappointing 142 yds/game (73rd in the nation).
1. And FINALLY the number 1 reason UGA fans can be optimistic: DISCIPLINE: 2010 UGA was awarded the Fulmer Cup in an embarrassing duo as the best party school in the nation. Since October 2010 UGA football has been incident free. I do not know what message was sent, but it was delivered with an anvil. A few players have sought other opportunities, a recent resignation of a recruiting coordinator, plus with CJT busting them in the weight room this appears to be a more focused disciplined team. I do not think that UGA fans will be forced to watch personal celebrations, huddle dancing or read about brawls off the field (touching wood of course). I think the coaching staff realized that this has been a weak area for a few years and may lead to more disastrous results than a mediocre record if not addressed. As I said earlier, I think they did address it and results will show on the field in 60 days.