To lead off, I haven't seen anything official, but I fear Jeff Owens is out for the year with a knee injury. We'll have to wait for an MRI for a definitive answer, but the rumors aren't optimistic. Richt said he didn't expect him back "anytime soon" and there was mention of a medical redshirt. If so, that is very bad news. We have depth, but Owens was our best run stopper. Someone needs to step up and fill Jeff's big, big shoes. (Image: georgiadogs.com)
What looked really good:
- Knowshon. Take all of his red practice jerseys away and keep him in green. He looked primed. His first run was the best nine yard run you will ever see and he embarrassed a DB by crushing him on a screen pass. The other backs looked good at times, but Samuel had a fumble and Caleb completely wiffed a protection that almost got Stafford blindsided. All the backs ran well and I'd expect the battle for the No. 2 spot at running back will continue.
- The receivers. Not a lot of obvious drops and I thought MoMass displayed excellent hands. I can only remember a couple of balls that could have been caught that weren't. A.J. and Durham each almost made great catches deep in traffic, but came up a tad short. A.J. on fade routes is going to score a lot this season. When Southerland comes back, we should be terrifying in goal line situations. Demiko, Durham, and Mike Moore looked much more reliable than last year.
- Blair Walsh placekicking. When you nail your first college field goal with room to spare, and from 52 no less, you've had a good day. I hope it looks just as simple in Baton Rouge, down by two, with five seconds left. Speaking of special teams, I thought Asher Allen looked real good on punt returns (even if he had a muff) and Reshad Jones can go if Asher's too overworked.
What looked like slop:
- Defensive line penalties. I lost count of offsides penalties. Jeremy Lomax was offsides twice on a single play, inducing the Willie Martinez furor gauge to redline, popping his eyes out of their sockets. Got to do better than that boys. I know you want a good jump, but after three yellow hankies, just start looking at the dang ball.
- Tackling. It may be that we have grown accustomed to sure tacklers, but our DB tackling was completely substandard. We wanted to nudge rather than wrap guys up. On a single play in the first quarter, three of our guys missed a GSU receiver. That has got to get better. It's early and I'm confident that Willie will get that worked out.
- Blair Walsh kickoffs. I don't know if Walsh will be our kickoff guy all year, but he had some very short kickoffs. I understand that we prefer to kick the ball in the corner, cut off the field and force a short return, but I doubt we want the kickoff to be fielded at the twenty. Walsh's first kick was great, driving the ball well into the end zone. The short kick, though, is going to get us hurt. Walsh himself had to make a tackle on a long GSU return.
Everything else was average. Considering the O line was playing together for the first time, they did fine, especially in pass protection. But, they struggled at times to open holes against a D line they should have blown off the ball. It was a good start, but nothing to get too excited about. We'll get a better feel for the line when Boling returns.
Some of you will no doubt bring up Stafford's career day. I agree that for most of the game, he looked sharp, but he missed two wide open guys on a single play in the first quarter before Walsh's long field goal. He also floated a couple of other balls that went incomplete. The completion percentage was good and he didn't turn it over. He was solid, but nothing spectacular.
One coaching decision I didn't get at all was inserting the second team backfield on our third possession. Those guys looked confused and Samuel quickly turned it over. I understood the Shockley, Greene rotation was to get D.J. some snaps and show the defense some different looks, but Stafford and Cox don't draw similar comparisons. Let Stafford have it until the game is in control. I hope that Cox is not a regular fixture on the third possession. It's no knock on Joe, who I think did a good job, but Stafford is clearly our starter. Don't bring in the back up just to bring him in.
Overall, it wasn't anything special. Even Uga VII slept through a good portion of the game. I didn't think that it was appreciably different than other openers against Georgia Southern. Get a big lead, get a bunch of penalties, get somebody important hurt, and then let the scrubs give up some TDs. Keep it in perspective, though. It's the first game and it's got to be hard to get excited about playing GSU. We played a lot of young guys and some of them played like freshmen. (Imagine that.) We'll be fine.
So, was that the performance of a No. 1 ranked team?