After a couple of weeks away from the blog due to hurricane stuff and a bunch of overtime (thanks for stepping in, MaconDawg) I’m back for another installment of 15 Thoughts. What an awesome thing to witness in spectacular high-def last night.
First, a little dig at a trolling member of the opposition’s community from an earlier thread:
You must have then blinders on brotha. You have no idea what is coming at you guys tomorrow.
I will be laughing when there is nobody left in the stands tomorrow but State fans!!!! Damn that’s going to be so freaking funny.
(Comments by T-Dawg81)
Both your comments were, (ahem) overrated. Have a nice life.
I have never understood what motivates a grown man (or woman) to come over to someone else’s house party and poop in their living room. Dude graduated in ‘81? You’re older than me, man. Act it. Anyway, you’ve been unbanned if you care to rebut. Just don’t show your butt.
1. Where to begin? Of course you have to start with the defense. Everyone was swarming to the ball all night long, but Roquan Smith is a defensive Sidewinder Missile launched from the rocket rails of Mel Tucker’s fighter jet that is seemingly never out of position on any play, is as sure a tackler as we’ve had since Jarvis Jones, and is always around the ball. He’s a pleasure to watch.
2. Every now and then a true difference maker winds up in your program and imparts real dynamic change immediately. That player is J.R. Reed. This kid is about as good of a tackling cornerback in run support as I’ve seen in watching 4+ decades of Georgia football. Reed had 10 tackles and 3 pass breakups. In fact, all of our corners are really great at playing a physical brand of run support. Aaron Davis is steady as a rock. And the young guys rotating in are learning by example. This unit is improving.
3. Deandre Baker, #18 in your program; #1 in our hearts, had himself a game. He was pressed into man-to-man coverage all evening and was excellent, breaking up a couple of pass attempts on very accurate throws, and tallying the season’s first pick, which was a beautiful thing to watch as he read Nick Fitzgerald’s eyes and broke on the ball. This set up Thought #9...
4. As beautiful as Baker’s pick was, Dominick Sander’s 13th career interception (putting him in a 5-way tie with Kirby Smart, Scott Woerner, Jeff Sanchez and Ben Smith) was one of those moments when a deflected pass hung in the air for a few impossible seconds and Sander’s leap, catch and run was better than anything Xbox Live could muster. That was a “jump outta your chair and scare the cat” moment for me. The interception drought is over. We’re gonna get a whole bunch more, methinks.
5. Nick Fitzgerald got some yards on designed QB runs, but by halftime that guy had to be hurting. He certainly doesn’t lack for bravery. Nick was taking a beating, and Roquan Smith’s hit on Fitzgerald on a drop-back early in the first quarter could be felt all the way down in Broward County.
6. We rotated our defensive line all night long. These guys stayed fresh and Mississippi State simply could not utilize their backs as planned into the interior of the line. Depth is crucial at any position, but true depth on the defensive line is causing teams to try and test the edges, and we’re just too fast.
6a. Kudos to our guards for basically neutralizing State’s nose tackle, Jeffrey Simmons. I didn’t hear his name called much. And pocket protection for Jake Fromm was outstanding.
7. Going forward, the blueprint for true success is getting an early lead and forcing teams to get out of their comfort zone against a defense that is not going to give up yards and points easily. At 14-3, I felt fairly comfortable. At 21-3, I was “happy drankin.” You know, that is the opposite of angry, nervous, upset, the last 3 or 4 season style of drankin’ (also known as Tennessee sippin’). There’s nothing better than “happy drankin’.” Just do it at home if possible.
8. Jim Chaney, you sexy beast you. I have tried to refrain from too much criticism thus far of our offensive coordinator because his body of work is just too small to be objective in Athens, but was beginning to have some doubts, as were many of you. Perhaps you still do. Last night, his play-calling could not have been better. We’ve got a lot of weapons. The baby steps are over. We’re walking with a purpose now. Soon, I believe we’ll be running.
9. As much as I loved it the perfectly executed flea-flicker on our first offensive play of the night, and the Wild Dawg that actually worked, these were not my favorite calls. Immediately after Deandre Baker’s interception mid-way through the 3rd quarter and facing 3rd and 1, Mississippi State sucked up all their coverage at the line expecting some sort of run: QB keeper, perhaps the full back trap or a pitch to the deep back. Nope, Isaac Nauta sprinted off the line wide open and the only question as to whether or not this would be a big gainer was a slightly high pass from Jake Fromm. Nauta corralled the overthrow, and bulled his way into the endzone 41 yards later. Icing, baby. That was an exceptional call from Chaney.
10. Jake Fromm is the man until he isn’t. I don’t know what that means exactly, but he truly was perfect despite 2 drops and a single throw away while under pressure...which, in the context of how that play was unfolding, was perfect execution because he’s learning to be imperfect. Two weeks ago, he would have forced that ball over the middle. Last night, he has shown how far he’s come in such a short amount of time.
11. Rotating running backs like we can is a luxury that we might be able to enjoy for years given the fact that, outside of Sony and Nick, all those guys are young and we have at least one, possibly two, super-recruits coming into the fold for next season at that position. Brian Herrien played a lot last night. D’Andre Swift is a long-touchdown waiting to happen (where was the horse-collar on his fumble? Oh, never mind. It’s Marc Curles officiating crew and he hates us). Nick Chubb does what Nick does and Sony Michel, always steady, was rotated in sparingly from my vantage point probably out of an overabundance of caution, yet still averaged almost 5 yards a pop on 7 carries. I don’t recall seeing Elijah Holyfield in the backfield at all. Running back by committee is a grinding force. On the night 42 carries for 203 yards. Back in the day, ol’ Herschel would do that all by himself. What this running back rotation does is keep these guys fresh all year long. Depth is a wondermous thing...
12. Our receivers are getting better. Yeah, we had 2 drops, but their route running is improving (love the “under-throw” to Wims again). It was good to see Mecole Hardman grab a quick slant and nearly break it all the way. That’s gonna happen. The chemistry between Fromm and Godwin/Wims is really cookin’ at the moment.
13. The kicking game has become a real strength. Cameron Nizialek has yet to shank a ball and is getting the kind of hang time that allows for blanket coverage by the time the punt returner fields the ball. Hot Rodrigo Blankenship continues to force the other team to go 75 yards against a tough defense. His long 49 yard field goal was dead solid perfect and will certainly boost confidence.
14. I don’t think Todd Grantham wants to face us anymore. No one can work a piece of Juicy Fruit like that guy, though. Skillz.
15. So, on to Tennessee for a 3:30 mid-afternoon CBS tilt in KneeLand Stadium. I watched all of their game versus a really bad UMass team yesterday. I am sure that Butch Jones, who is now coaching for his life, will have the Life Champions of the Brick Masons Union of Knoxville up as much as they can next week. I also know that our defense has faced the most athletic QB’s they’re going to face during the regular season, and from what I saw Tennessee’s Quinten Dormady and, possibly, Jarrett Guarantino will be under a tremendous amount of pressure. These guys aren’t about to try and run. The Vols are not a good team and I’m not trying to be disrespectful. Still, we’ll get their best, I’m sure. And that’s how it should be.
Tennessee’s running back John Kelly is very good, and has rushed for 450 yards/6 TD’s on the season. But there is a significant drop off after that. Against poor/average defenses, they’re scoring 10/10 in scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone, but against Florida could only muster 3 points in 3 trips inside the 25. If we get out to any kind of a lead on the road next week against a team and fanbase that, right now, is expecting to get handled...well...
We’ll all be happy drankin’.
Good to be back. As Always,