Since several Dawg blogs and the geniuses over at Dawgbone continue to link to this blog, I guess I owe it to the blogosphere to say SOMETHING about the state of the Dawgs right now...
The problem is that I just don't know what to say.
After the South Carolina loss, I was frustrated, because I thought it was a winnable game that we let slip away, but I also knew that South Carolina was a pretty good team, it was the first road game, blah, blah, blah.
After the Arkansas loss, I was angry, because I thought that for the most part our players played well enough to win, only to be hampered in their efforts by poor game planning, especially on the offensive side of the ball (and this is coming from somebody who has been a Bobo apologist most of the time).
After last week, well...I'm just confused. I don't really understand how we got to this point. Taking a step back and really looking at the way we've played, I don't think this is a BAD team, per se...and I don't think I'm the only one. These posts at Dawgsports.com by Macon Dawg and T Kyle King say a lot of what I'm thinking about the quality of this team. It's not that we are terrible at anything, we just don't seem to be really good at anything. There just seems to be something "off", and I don't really know what it is.
I don't know...this post is threatening to go off the rails, since I'm really at a loss as to what to say about this team at this point (obviously), so let's see if we can work it out stream-of-consciousness style, mmm-kay?
- Aaron Murray has definitely been the brightest spot of the season so far. There's not a throw he can't make, as far as I can tell, he really hasn't made the kind of freshman mistakes we were expecting, and he has proven to have maybe been underrated as an athlete. And the heart he has shown, well...he makes me proud to be a Dawg. There is no quit in this guy.
- Kris Durham has been a revelation in the time he's gotten to play due to the absence of A.J., and Tavarres King has stepped up, as well. But we haven't gotten any real production out of any of our other WR, and the tight ends, inexplicably, have been a non-factor. Yeah, not having A.J. has hurt, but I think it was Blutarsky who pointed out that there are many teams in the past who have managed to get the ball to All-American level tight ends without the benefit of an All-American wide receiver.
Plus, if A.J. being gone screws up our offensive philosophy and game plan that much, what does that say about our chances next year when A.J. is in the NFL?
The passing game is one of the areas that you look at and just wonder why we haven't seen more production...nobody is playing poorly, and even the o-line has been fairly effective in pass protection (don't worry...we're coming back to that group in a second), and yet we're really not putting points on the board.
Part of that issue, of course, is that we seem to shoot ourselves in the foot so often when we have the chance to put the ball in the end zone. We have had at least 4-5 situations this year where we have either touchdowns called back or had the ball in obvious scoring situations only to blunder it away, either by turning the ball over (Washaun's two back breaking fumbles) or just putting it in reverse (the sequence last week when we went from 1st down at their 29 to 4th and 22 and a punt come to mind).
Moving on...told you this was stream-of-consciousness.
- The lack of running game has been by FAR the biggest disappointment to me. Our O-line is getting manhandled at the point of attack on a consistent basis....how is that possible? Our most respected and experienced coach coaching our most experienced and accomplished position grouping...and they have been horrendous. I have NO idea what is going on here. Maybe all of the people screaming about our strength and conditioning program are on to something? That doesn't seem right, either, though, because this exact same group was pretty dominant in the last half of 2009. If it was a S&C problem, wouldn't that actually get WORSE over the course of a season? I don't know...I'm stumped.
All of the running backs have been disappointments for various reasons...Ealy can't hold on to the ball and really hasn't shown any kind of big-play potential, King can't stay healthy (again), and poor Carlton Thomas keeps being asked to try and run the ball up the middle. Apparently Bobo hates him and wants to see him maimed. I may be mis-remembering, but have we even tried to throw a screen pass to Thomas, or a swing pass, or even a toss sweep to get him to the corner? It seems like every time we are running one of those plays it is to Ealy, when I think Thomas's skill set is more conducive to that than what we are asking him to do, which is take on defenders that outweigh him by anywhere from 50 to 150 pounds.
I'm sure this stupefying lack of success in the run game probably has something to do with why the passing game isn't working, either.
And although we have cut down on penalties and turnovers, it seems like every time we DO make a mistake, it is at the most crucial and costly times. It's not "We had 2nd and 2 at the 40, now it's 2nd and 7 at the 45". Instead, it's "We had a touchdown, and now we don't", or "We picked up big yardage on 3rd and 4 to convert, but instead now it's 3rd and 14".
One more thing on the offense...Bobo is SO predictable in 2nd and long situations. EVERY time it's 2nd and long, we run the ball up the middle. Now teams are expecting it, and it inevitably puts in 3rd and medium to long situations, and that's not where you want to be (duh).
- As for the defense, well...it's been about what I expected. We don't quite have the personnel we want, especially at CB and nose tackle. Not that Boykin, Cuff, Tyson, etc. aren't quality football players...they just aren't the body type you look for when you run this kind of scheme.
I've seen a lot of people complaining about lack of effort, or guys "not wanting to be there", but I don't think that's the case...I think it's that they are still thinking rather than reacting, which slows everybody down.
Bottom line, the defense has played well enough to win all three of these games, in my opinion....they are being hampered by the offense's absolute lack of consistent success.
- Special teams have been fine, but not the overwhelming advantage many of us thought they would be. There have been several times when we really needed a game-changing play in the return game, like we got several times last year, but those plays just haven't come yet.
Drew Butler has been solid, but he hasn't seemed himself at times for some reason. Blair Walsh continues to be money when given the opportunity, we just haven't given him many.
The kickoff coverage seems to be much improved...guess that's what happens when the guys on the coverage team don't look so much like me.
- I love Coach Richt. I want so badly for him to get this ship righted and pointed in the right direction, because I don't think you can find a better person and role model to run your program. I am sincerely dreading the day when he is no longer our head coach.
But...I'm running out of ammunition to support him when it comes to on-field results, and let's face it: those results are ultimately what he is being paid for and what drives everything else.
Here's how "hot" I think his seat is:
If we lose three more games or more, I actually think he may be in trouble this year.
If we lose two more games, and those games are Florida and Georgia Tech, I think he keeps his job but is on VERY thin ice.
If we lose two more games, but beat Florida or Tech (and lose the other one), I think this is categorized as a rebuilding year and we go into next year hearing more hot seat talk, but he is still relatively safe.
Beat Florida and Georgia Tech, and I think he's safe even if we lose one or two others.
I do think the Vandy and Kentucky games may be must-wins, as well...we've lost to perennial bottom feeders WAY too often the last few years, and the Miss. St. game is another example.
OK, enough rambling....
Bottom line...we are in a precarious situation, no doubt about it, and one that Coach Richt has never faced, as a player or a coach. Now is the time for the Dawg Nation to rally TOGETHER and support this team harder than we ever have, not turn on the team and each other and devour ourselves. We still have a chance to salvage pride out of this season, if nothing else.
It starts Saturday in Boulder. Go win the game, and on top of that, go make a statement.