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April 13, 2009

Some G-Day Thoughts


I think it's Dawgnoxious that describes G-Day as like watching an Ant Farm. Everyone has a job, but it's not totally clear what you're watching. Was that a bad play or a good play? Someone caught a pass....so someone else got burned. Someone threw an INT, but someone also made a great ball hawking steal.

G-Day went about like I expected. I might live to see another 50 G-Days, and there will be few that give less insight into what kind of team we have. Not that G-Day is ever really a leading indicator of anything. There just weren't enough healthy bodies to give us a sense for what the team will be like in 2009.

That's why I all but ignored Spring Practice this year. All of that said, here are my thoughts:
  • The QBs - I was pleasantly surprised by Logan Gray's performance. His arm looked stronger than Cox's, and he made good decisions with the ball. Cox looked unimpressive, but some of that is a reflection of his tool set. The idea put forth by many in the Dawg Nation that he throws a "more catchable ball than Stafford" is ridiculous to me. Just because you can't throw a bullet doesn't mean you shouldn't. That said, he'll look better when surrounded by all his complimentary players (ie: Moore, Sturdivant, Vance, C. Davis, Marlon, etc.).

    I've seen glowing praise for Aaron Murray's performance on message boards. I'm high Murray, but the kid completed three passes on Saturday. Anointing him as The Chosen One seems a bit much at this point. Note to Aaron Murray...do not stand next to Mettenberg on the sidelines. Zach's sheer enormity reflects poorly on you side by side. You should pay Carlton Thomas to always stand next to you.

  • The Drops - The 10 or so dropped passes don't concern me because most of the guys dropping balls will rarely be targets once the season rolls around. Aron White misjudged a few, but he's got time to work it out.

  • Defensive Ends - One of my biggest worries entering next season is DE. Martinez's system requires a strong pass rush generated by the front four. With the youth at cornerback, it will be difficult to create pressure with extreme LB or CB blitzes that put DBs on an island. So, the dominating performance by Justin Houston was especially encouraging. If he can make big time plays from the Rush End, our entire scheme will look better in '09.

  • Running Backs - I've been concerned all off season with the running back situation, and Saturday did predictably little to settle my nerves. Carlton Thomas looked promising; although, his stats were inflated on the last drive by virtue of Bobo having a more star studded line-up on the field than Martinez. It'll be interesting to see how the competition in the Fall impacts the play of Caleb King. It'll quickly become painfully obvious to all 5 backs how few snaps there will be to go around. That should raise the level of play. There is talent there. It just needs to materialize on the field.

  • Brandon Boykin - Boykin got a lot of hype during Spring practice, and he lived up to the billing. I was particularly interested in lining him up on offense. Intriguing.

  • Overall Defense - They looked good. What else can you say? They didn't allow a TD until the game was decided. If they had allowed a 24-21 type game, I'd be much more nervous.

  • Mark Fox - I was happy to see the Athletic Department fully leverage G-Day to create exposure for Coach Fox. The promotional opportunity was handled flawlessly.
I think G-Day freaked some of our fans out, and it certainly encouraged some of our enemies. However, it's never as bad or good as it looks. That's never been more true than this Spring. Let's get healthy and keep staying out of trouble. Fall camp is where the real questions will start to be answered.

PWD

22 comments:

JasonC said...

I missed the game, so I wanted to get some more thoughts on the game, specifically the lines.

Everyone has been raving about Atkins and that with Owens and Weston back, we should have a strong and experience interior DL. Do you think that will help to offset the possible lack of playmakers at DE?

I know there were a few articles talking about a videogame lineup of Owens-Atkins-Weston on the front with a 3-4 look, but do you think a 4-3 look with those guys and one of our DEs would be an interesting or effective change of pace? (especially in running situations)

Going back to what PWD said, I know it is really hard to get a true feel of the team b/c of injuries, but everyone keeps saying the OL will be awesome next year, but it looks like a depleted DL got the best of them this spring. Does that concern anyone?

Paul Westerdawg said...

The OL was missing C. Davis, Vince Vance, and T. Sturdivant. The starting lineup for G-Day was:

OT - Boling
OT - Anderson
OG - Glenn
OG - can't honestly remember
C - B. Jones

I want to say that Strickland was the other OG. But I can't remember. Regardless, it wasn't the A Team we're going to see.

As for the 3-4 stuff. It's a completely different defense involving every single person along the front 7 learning something new. I don't think we'd do it. Primarily because it still needs a badass DE/LB hybrid to make it work.

That's not what you were asking. Just saying.

As for the other question....putting Geno at Buck End for obvious running plays makes a ton of sense.

But we need speed to get to the QB. I think Rod Battle, once he gets healthy, will be fine a Buck.

Houston looked *really* good. And he's clearly still growing into his body. That's good.

JasonC said...

PWD, thanks for your thoughts.

Seth said...

I thought the running situation was decent, but not great. They made some decent runs, but nothing that would make you jump out of your seat. I was very pleased with what I saw from Carlton. Although he is a little guy, all I could think about was Sproles from San Diego.

I have never been impressed with Joe Cox, and still yearn for Logan Gray to be our starter. I think JCox could very well be a wonderful motivator in the locker room, but might be lacking crucial skills like accuracy and power on the field. When Logan was on the field, he displayed mobility in the pocket as well as a rocket arm. Two things that I did not see from JCox.

Receivers were so-so, and like you said, non-starters were dropping balls. I thought Aaron White looked pretty solid, despite the flaws you cited.

As for the defense's "strength," I don't know if I want to say that they dominated, or that the Offense sputtered. I think the quarterback roulette that occurred makes it difficult for the offense to click, which in turn makes the defense look better.

One final note- The special teams looked great. Granted, there weren't people rushing them, but they didn't miss a field goal. So we got that going for us... which is nice.

Anonymous said...

While you were pretending to be a know it all about Quarterbacking, the baseball team swept Kentucky in Lexington. Not exactly LSU, but ya gotta win the ones you're "supposed to..."

Anonymous said...

did anyone else see Reshad try to shoulder tackle Aron and bounce off like a rag doll...

The Cuatro said...

Perhaps most encouraging to me was Bryan Evans comfort level at FS... he looked great out there. Comfortable in coverage and came up to make a few sure tackles.

Dante said...

I personally thought Murray was the best looking QB out there Saturday. There were two times when he found an open guy I didn't even notice was open. He wasn't always on target and the frying pans the TEs and WRs had tied to their hands didn't help either but he was finding an open man on almost every single pass and it usually wasn't the dump off man. I don't think that makes him the chosen one but if he doesn't redshirt, I do hope he at least gets ample practice time with the first team. Most of what he was doing wrong can probably be coached out of him.

I am interested in seeing how mobile Gray is at QB. It's kind of hard to scramble when all someone has to do is touch you to make you down.

G said...

Here's my take...

While we'll obviously have a drop off at QB and Tailback. I expect every other position to exceed last year's team.

LBs with Washington, Curran, White and depth. Ellerbe wasn't the same after getting banged up. Washington was flying around as was White on Saturday. The heart of our D looks to be back to our Junkyard standards.

DLine - Atkins, Owens in the center might compete to be one of our best duos since Stroud/Seymour. Houston and even Tripp looked good in dominating the OLine and Houston's three sacks. With more depth coming to the line from injuries this summer and fall, I expect D Line will be a very pleasant surprise this year.

Safetys couldn't go backwards from last year. Evans looked comfortable back there and Rashad can only improve...Rambo looked solid on many occasions on Saturday's game.

Corner - I'm not sure what depth we have there but I have a lot of confidence in Prince Miller. Brown graduated didn't he, so he won't get beat for us every game this year. In 2008 (without pressure etc) this group gave up too many big plays. Losing Asher will hurt, but with the increased and more consistent QB pressure i believe we'll be getting, will transfer to more turnovers and better production of this group.

Kicking - Blair Walsh is another year more experienced. Kick returns, and kick coverage is another area that could only improve given our lackluster performance all of last year.

O Line - More experience, everyone back, Sturdivant returning should bode well for this group in helping Cox and our running game (which will need it). Don't underestimate the importance to our entire team and performance of having two potentially steller lines.

TEs - We lost a lot of production from these guys last year due to no emerging star and the injuries that piled up all year. Aron White looked good, agile on Saturday. Hopefully he can protect better. 90 Rich looked big, strong and caught what was thrown his way and Figgins will be coming back. Look for this position to matter again.

Receiver - With TEs performing better, a more solid OLine, we need Troup and Moore to provide consistent options. If Moore can improve over last year's numbers, then we just need Troup and Co to make up for the loss of the veteran Massaquoi.

Full Backs - Southerland was out a few games and never completely got into his Junior year groove. It's hard to believe Chapas is just a Junior and Munz is getting a lot of Spring chatter. This group will provide a nice outlet for Cox, assist greatly in our running game and be a consistent weapon for us.

Paul Westerdawg said...

G, I don't know that I agree.

We're weaker right now at:
QB
RB
FB
WR - Losing Mo Mass is a very big deal.
DE
CB - Losing Asher is a big deal

We're stronger at:
OT - HUGE
OG
C
TE
LB
DT - This is huge.
S - as you said. can it be worse?

The Cuatro said...

PWD,

I think the FB situation may be a wash. As good as Brannan was, Munz and particularly Chapas are not much of a drop off, if any.

DE is most likely a wash as well, although it's way too early to tell. I don't think we take a step back here because I don't know how we can... with the emergence of Houston and Tripp (and maybe even Washington) I think we at least equal the production of last year's group.

WR - AJ is finally healthy, and knowing that he wasn't close to 100% last year is a scary thought. Loosing MoMass is huge as you pointed out, but Moore should be much improved having shown signs of stardom against MSU, TK will be healthy, Troupe looks good, Wilson should be healthy finally as well, and we have some filthy freshman on the way. I think at least 1 or 2 guys out of that bunch will emerge to fill the hole vacated by Mass.

At safety, replacing CJ is going to be tough. He was a smart player, a sure tackler, and as reliable as anyone on the team. I think BE will do a great job at safety this year, and having him not play CB may be help our secondary more than anything. But one thing I am worried about is Reshad playing SS. I like my SS to be sure tacklers, and if G-Day is any indication, he's still having trouble grasping the concept of tackling while using his arms. I think he'll have a great year statistically, as he did last year, just not sure if I'm ready to say our safeties will be better than last year.

Crane said...

If you keep track of useless stats... We're now 2-2 in the black jersey's

fozzy said...

the black jerseys still look badaaaaaaasss. We got smoked by tech in the red jerseys. Do we have to give them up also?

mitch said...

I love the way the black jerseys look with the red helmets and silver britches. It really makes the helmet stand out, i love it.

Beave said...

PWD,

That was Tanner Strickland who started at RG Saturday.

PatinDC said...

I saw the game on ESPN. It was wierd watching. The commentators were terrible and I never knew who was doing what.

I thought Cox looked like a leader, the booth loved him. I was impressed by Gray, but I thought he did too much running. Murrary loked good to me, Mettinger looked gangley, like a puppy.


I have never seen a G-Day game before, so it was weird to watch and I wasn't sure what to look for. AJ Green seemed to be in a good place, but noone else. Aron White looked good a couple of times, but no-one else.

Not sure if the D was good or the O was bad.

Dawg19 said...

"The commentators were terrible and I never knew who was doing what."

This was a source of frustration for me. I wasn't able to go, which meant I didn't have a roster. That #90 kept making catches, yet, Nessler and Herbstreit kept yacking on about whatever conversation they were having at the moment. This happened several times with other players I didn't recognize and I'm yelling, "Who made the play, you NIT WITS?!!?"

Anonymous said...

I thought putting a LB (#50, #44) at DE on certain situations was a good wrinkle and honestly you don't have to change up the defense to do that. Call it a hybrid defense, and that position the "hippo" (ref: Charles Haley who made the "elephant" position famous for SF and Dallas), since those guys are true LB's. They can make the call based on the offense, to either stand up and come down on the line or back off to the 4 LB set. Good wrinkle.

S.E. Dawg said...

We better find a punter and fast. When the game is on the line and we need to back the opponet up as far as possible, we're in trouble. You never know what's coming off Butler's foot, may be a good one, may not. Needs to work on his leg strength.

Everyone talks about the new recruits coming in and making a contribution but they've got a lot to learn. If any of them are game-changers, the coaches may have a few plays for them.

But I believe we'll have a much better team come kickoff in the fall.

JT said...

#90 was Derek Rich who I believe tranferred in from UConn

Anonymous said...

I love the Dawgs but I won't try to sugar coat it.

It was a very sloppy offensive performance against one of the worst returning defenses in the SEC. Nine points were scored by two teams in four 10-minute quarters (not counting the gimme TD for the fans at the end).

The day was dominated by dropped balls, penalties, fumbles, poor pass routes (many were out of bounds), missed blocking assignments, RB's not finishing runs, and QB's holding the ball too long and taking sacks in critical situations.

None of us were expecting a Stafford or Moreno out there, but the discipline, accountability and consistency commitments made by the coaches and players didn't show up on the field Saturday.

Much was made about the missing OL, but the D had players missing too.

There were a few bright spots. DE might not be as big of a problem as anticipated...Justin Houston was everywhere. Our corners and our place kickers looked very good, and our LB's played well except when it came time to cover the tight end.

The team and coaching staff has its work cut out this August. Conidering the injuries, the offensive line has to develop its teamwork in a very short time and the schedule doesn't help.

This line will need to be much better than previous years as our backs have yet to show the ability to finish runs like Moreno or Thomas Brown.

Our receivers are still adjusting to a new coach and to throws coming in at a different velocity than last year. I believe we will be competent (but not great) at QB.

This will put a much greater load on our defense and special teams to win its battles and force turnovers.

Certainly the athletes are there to make a big improvement if they can play without major injury.

But we also know that punting and kickoffs are problems right now.

Four other teams in our division have significant issues to solve as well, but in most cases they exist on one side of the ball (offense).

Overall, seven conference wins are possible for the Dawgs, but so is the unthinkable (zero).

A lot needs to come together in the next few months for this team to improve.

Anonymous said...

I do not know if this point has been made but it seems to me we played the same soft defense as always which allowed the receivers to get wide open only to drop passes. Great receivers or weak defense. I hope that some of it was due to the fact it was a practice.

 
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