I don't know...maybe it's because I broke out my usual "Game Week Friday" shirt today. But I am seriously jonesin' for some football right now.
So much, in fact, that I am actually going to break the steady stream of TV-related posts and post my 2nd Annual See How Little Scott Actually Knows Post...yep, it's time for a little position-by-position breakdown.
We will start with the offense for today, and honestly...that may be all I do. I am afraid to even try the defense. How many different ways can I come up with to say "I have NO idea what is going to happen here, since we have seen barely even a hint as to what the defense is actually going to look like...and, no, G-Day doesn't count"?
Oh, and if you want to see how close I was to being right last year (yeah...not that close. In particular, check out the sections on QB, DT, and LB if you are feeling particularly masochistic), here are the links to my offense and defense previews from last spring.
Just like last year:
Bold = Projected starter
Italics = incoming freshman
* = Expected redshirt (my expectations, not necessarily the staff's)
Aaron Murray, Logan Gray, Hutson Mason*
Wow. What seemed to be a really deep, if deeply unproven, position 3-4 weeks ago now seems awfully shaky. If Logan Gray chooses to transfer, we are looking at a season of holding our breath, hoping Murray is A) healthy, and B) effective.
Having said that...doesn't EVERY team have to hope for that out of their starting quarterback?
Obviously, we only have to worry about the depth issue if Aaron gets hurt or plays his way out of the starting role. If Logan stays, I feel like we can maybe still compete with him, though I think it reduces the number of winnable games by 1-2 (no, there is absolutely no scientific backing to that theory...just a gut feeling). I do NOT feel comfortable that we can be competitive with Hutson Mason as our QB at this time.
So, it all comes down to Aaron Murray. We haven't seen much of him...only high school tape (which was pretty freaking amazing), and a couple of G-Day outings. Last year, I thought he was the most impressive of ALL the quarterbacks on G-Day...this year, not so much. But the coaches rave about him, and he does have a lot of the physical tools: a super-quick release, ability to throw on the run, and a strong and accurate arm.
The negatives are obvious: Number one, he is freshman. It takes a special freshman to perform consistently week after week in the SEC. A lot of people forget that even David Greene was benched at times early in his freshman year...in particular, I remember leaving Sanford Stadium after the South Carolina game in '01 extremely concerned about our QB situation, having watched David Greene struggle mightily and Corey Phillips look utterly clueless when called upon for relief duty. So...expect growing pains. Expect some bad decisions.
The other concern that I have is his height. Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com assured listeners of their weekly podcast last week that Aaron is a legitimate 6'0 plus maybe a half inch or so. That's taller than I thought, but he still seems short out there. I saw enough batted balls last year to last me a lifetime, so I'm hoping that's not an issue again.
As for Logan...I share his concern that any talks of there being a "package of plays" for him is just lip service, based on what I saw last year. I would like for us to find a way to take advantage of his athleticism, but it doesn't appear that the coaching staff trusts him enough to make plays with his arm, so I don't know if that will happen or not.
Hutson Mason put up huge numbers in high school, but has faced criticisms that those numbers were a result of the system he played in rather than a reflection of his own potential as a legitimate SEC quarterback. He worked almost exclusively out of the shotgun in HS, so he would definitely have to adjust to being under center in Bobo's system. Again, all I've seen is HS tape...and to me, he looks like a project. Barring disaster, he will redshirt this year and work on getting bigger, stronger, and more accurate.
Incomplete. It's a cop out, I know, but we have yet to see any of these guys take meaningful snaps.
Caleb King, Washaun Ealy, Carlton Thomas, Dontavious Jackson, Ken Malcome*
Ahhh...this one feels better. I have Caleb listed as the starter, and he probably will be, but I expect that he and Ealy will see virtually equal playing time this year. Normally, I am all about finding the one feature back and giving him the ball 25 times, but you can't argue with the results from the second half of last year when these two were splitting time and Running the State. Along with the O-line, these two are the absolute key to the Dawgs offensive success next year.
Carlton Thomas is a guy who we hear about a lot in practice reports, but hasn't yet really put it together on the field. My belief is that can at least partly be attributed to how he is being used...he's just not a guy who can consistently run between the tackles. Hopefully, we can find ways to get him "in space", because his strength is definitely avoiding tackles, not breaking them.
D-Jax has had a hard time staying healthy, but I think he is a nice option off the bench...he ran hard in the G-Day game, and he certainly had the HS credentials.
Ken Malcome may just work his way onto the field, despite the numbers in front of him. His HS tape reminded me of a bigger version of Knowshon...an excellent cut-back and run downhill type runner.
Shaun Chapas, Fred Munzenmaier, Charles White, Xander Ogletree*
Chapas and Munzenmaier return for their 17th year of eligibility, and we can expect more of the same from these guys. Chapas really came on at the end of the year as a blocker after struggling somewhat early on. Both of them are pretty good weapons in the passing games, and both are money in short yardage situations.
Charles White moved over from linebacker this past year, so I don't know much about his skills as a FB...he certainly has the body type for it.
UGASports.com has Ogletree listed as a tailback, but I am almost certain he will be a fullback. He is not as athletic as his twin brother Alec, but I think he may grow into a pretty decent weapon over time.
Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Chris Davis, Josh Davis, Trinton Sturdivant, Tanner Strickland, A.J. Harmon, Chris Burnette, Jonathan Owens, Dallas Lee, Kolton Houston, Austin Long, Ben Harden, Brent Benedict*, Kenarious Gates*
Man, that's a lot of folks....the staff has done a really good job at building depth here, although three of those five starters will be gone next year. I hope to see some underclassmen step up when given the opportunity to play this year, because we are going to be counting on them in a big way in 2011.
I said it last year, and I'll say it again...Clint Boling is one of the most criminally underrated players in the country. Some NFL team is going to be VERY lucky next year when they pick him up. He not only plays four different positions, he excels at all four. Look for him to anchor the line this year at the LT position.
If this group stays healthy (a big if over the last several years), there is absolutely no excuse for them not to be one of the more dominant units in the SEC. That starting group was absolutely beastly for much of the last half of '09, and there is definitely some quality depth behind them. Sturdivant, in particular...it's difficult to expect much from him after his second consecutive devastating knee injury, but man...if he is actually healthy, that's a HUGE plus, obviously.
As for the incoming freshmen...Brent Benedict was a BEAST in HS, but is recovering from a major knee injury of his own. Kenarious Gates was a late signee, and is the definition of "project". Both of these guys will redshirt.
Orson Charles, Aron White, Aaron Lynch, Bruce Figgins
It says a lot about the depth we have at this position that a guy like Bruce Figgins is 4th string.
Orson is a matchup nightmare, and I think he may be even more effective this season since he gets to play with his old QB from high school. I would say that 30-35 catches and 6-8 touchdowns are not unreasonable expectations, and that's a huge year for a TE (for comparison sake, he ended up with 23 catches and 3 TD as a true freshman last year).
Aron White has proven that he can be a weapon at times...he just needs to do a better job minimizing the drops. Interesting stat...in only 16 career catches, he has 6 touchdowns. Pretty good ratio there.
Arthur Lynch didn't have many balls thrown his way last year, but he did see the field in some jumbo sets and on special teams. His John Mackey-like touchdown in the G-Day game showed that he can do more than just block...although he blocks EXTREMELY well.
Figgins has had well documented troubles getting on the field the last couple of years, but the guy is a beast as a blocker and has decent hands. On most teams, he would be the surefire starter...on this team, he is just quality depth. Wow.
A.J. Green, Tavarres King, Kris Durham, Rantavious Wooten, Israel Troupe, Marlon Brown, Michael Bennett
Well, any group that includes the best in the country at his position is probably going to be pretty effective. That's what A.J. Green is, when healthy...the best wide receiver in the country. The issue is that we haven't seen him play "healthy" for very long stretches since he's been here...he was hampered by a nagging hamstring injury his freshman year, and then missed most of the end of last season with various ailments. If he can stay on the field and play close to 100% this year, he is a gamechanger even when we don't throw the ball his way...look for a LOT of open field for the previously mentioned tight ends to run around in when he is on the field due to the attention that opposing defenses absolutely have to give him.
The other thing I love about A.J. is his downfield blocking...not only is he surprisingly good at it, considering his thin frame, you can tell he really enjoys it. Gotta love that in your All-Universe wideout. I sincerely hope that we are able to take advantage of him this season, since he is obviously NFL bound in 2011...it would be a real shame to go through a period of Matt Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, and A.J. Green on campus for extended periods without even a divisional title to show for it.
Tavarres King is a solid #2 guy...great speed, decent hands, can definitely stretch the field. I'm hoping that Kris Durham can step in and give us those tough catches and yards that the shamefully underrated Mike Moore was giving us the last couple of years. Wooten looks like the real deal, Troupe showed signs of life last year...hopefully Marlon Brown can build on what was supposedly a strong spring and start fulfilling some of his endless potential. If he does, look out...this team is really loaded with offensive weapons.
Michael Bennett will see the field in some capacity this season, I suspect...the numbers are too thin otherwise.
A- (with the potential for even better)
Well...it's not hard to see, from looking at my position grades, what I think the real key is to the offense is in 2010. There are weapons EVERYWHERE, and the O-Line should be one of the best in the country....it all boils down to quarterback play. If we can just get a season out of Aaron Murray where he doesn't shoot himself in the foot too often, I think this offense has tremendous potential.
Obviously, turnovers and penalties have been a problem the past couple of seasons...I have no way of knowing if that is going to change this year or not. The Ginger Assassin, God love him, was a turnover MACHINE...unfortunately, due to Aaron being a freshman, I don't necessarily see a big dropoff in interceptions this year. So, we need our running backs to hold on to the ball (moving Samuel to LB will help, in my opinion), and our O-Linemen need to act like the veterans they are (three seniors and two juniors on the starting 5) and stop making stupid mistakes.
Some pretty big IF's...but an awful lot of potential, too.