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October 20, 2006

Defensive Talent vs. Years Past

Our defense is struggling partly because of coaching. But it is also struggling because of talent. It isn't all "Willie Martinez is teh Suxors." There are other issues at play on defense. Some of it boils down to this is a rebuilding year talent wise. It happens.

(NOTE: I'm not ripping on our players. I'm simply stating an opinion, and I'm comparing them to other Dawgs. I'm not questioning anyone's work ethic or heart. Some of this was taken from a post last week about linebackers I made on the Porch. Sorry if it's rehashed to you.)

We're missing guys like Witherspoon.

Consider the Linebackers:
SAM: B. Miller/Verdun-Wheeler is a talent downgrade from Boss Bailey. But that's not all. You have to go back to '97 or '98 when a Luckie brother was manning this position to find a time when we had lesser talent at such an impact position. The current guys here just don't have the talent, speed, strength and/or violence combo that the position had for several years. Dewberry is fast and does appear to have the elite physical tools. However, for whatever reason, he isn't seeing the field in meaningful snaps. We're willing to throw a FR QB out there with the game on the line to sling it all over the field, but we're not willing to rotate a guy with wheels in on 3rd and 8 to blitz the QB? I don't get that.Look at how Auburn used Tray Blackmon in his first start. They used his athetic ability balls to the wall. If our existing guys aren't going to do much in coverage, then why not pull them out and let the faster, young guy blitz? The Good News: Dewberry will get more chances in the Spring.

MIKE: Jarvis Jackson is a talent downgrade from Odell, Tony Gilbert, Kendrell Bell and Will Witherspoon (who played MLB some in '98). Again, you have to go back to a Luckie brother in '98 to find a guy that has struggled more at MLB. And really, I'd take Greg Bright and Randall Godfrey before Jarvis which takes us back to around '91. (Technically, you have to go back to Taylor playing hurt and out of position last year, but the point is the same). Granted, Jarvis has been hurt all year. Granted, he's a warrior who's fighting through the pain. But he lacks the speed of some of those guys or the violence and strength of Gilbert to enforce the middle. Marcus Washington also lacks speed. The Good News: Speed is being redshirted.

WILL: Tony Taylor isn't having a bad year. He could actually make 3rd Team All-SEC or honorable mention All-SEC. That said, he's not Will Witherspoon or even Orantes Grant. You have to go back to around 1995 to find a guy that you'd take Taylor over. The Good News: Ellerbe and one of the Akeems bring more speed here. If Ellerbe can stay out of trouble, he could be the answer here or elsewhere. Better coaching might help improve all three spots.

He was glorious.

Consider the Safety Combo:
The combo of Tra Battle and Kelin Johnson doesn't really compare to the past combos of Blue/Battle, Blue/Davis, Davis/Jones, Jones/Curry, Curry/Phillips, and Phillips/Bierra. You have to go back to when guys like Kirby Smart (God bless the guy for his INTs vs. UF in '97) and Trey Sipe were playing flag football with Jamal Lewis to find a combo that is weaker than this pair. The Good News: Willie Martinez has a great track record of coaching Safeties. We are putting them into the NFL, and it's not just guys that the previous regime coached. There is also talent in the pipeline in the form of Byrd and R. Jones among others. The Bad News: Byrd continues to not start. A move that baffles me.

Consider the DTs:
Three of our top four defensive tackles are a Soph and two freshmen. Our lone senior defensive tackle, Ray Gant, that can contribute at a high level has been banged up virtually all season. The young guys have big time talent. That said...they simply aren't Sullivan, Stroud and Seymour....YET. The Good News: We have the bodies to make this work out HUGE in the near future. The Bad News: We don't have a time machine in Butts-Mehre.

Who has two thumbs and doesn't blitz?

The CBs:
I look at the CBs and I see a comparable product to what we've had the past several years. They aren't Jennings and Minter of 2005 or Bryant and Thorton of 2002, but they are comparable to the Jennings and Minter of 2004 and most CB tandems that we've had over the past 10 years. They would look a helluva a lot better if the QB didn't have all day. The Good News: All our CBs will be back next year. Also, Martinez has done an excellent job with our CBs over the past few years. The Bad News: We have a some young guys out there learning on the fly. Sometimes bad things happen. It's football.

We need more of this. Image: Jim Hipple

The DEs:
Moses simply isn't making plays. That's not earth shattering news. Johnson is making plays, but not as frequently as he was earlier in the year. We need more out of these guys. The Bad News: If Johnson bolts for the league, we're downgrading here next year in a catastrophic fashion. The Good News: we have a talent / speed upgrade next year at every position on defense except DE. So we can weather it if CJ did leave.

If you look at the talent situation this year, and all you come back with is..."Richt won with Donnan's players." Then you missed the point. Donnan would've loved to have players like Owens, Weston, Atkins, Johnson, Moses, Dewberry, Oliver, Allen, Remarcus, Byrd and R. Jones. Donnan recruited only 1 player from last year's SEC title team, and I'm not sure that Will Thompson was the reason we won the title. We've won these past 5 years because of more reasons than "JD gave Richt players."

If you look at the overall situation this year, and all you come back with is..."Richt only won because of Van Gorder." Then I'd argue that you're missing some bigger picture issues. As many others have said, Richt has an overall infrastructure in place that WILL continue to be successful. That doesn't mean it doesn't need tweaking.

Frankly, we just picked a lousy year to have a defensive talent rebuilding year, a razor thin OL that is very banged up, WRs with the yips, and a FR QB. If any one of those four things doesn't happen this year, we're a 6-1 team with a tough close loss to UT. We're not 5-2 team wondering which end is up.

The team does need to overall haul a variety of things, but let's not put this all on the coaches. And frankly, it's not fair to put it all on the players. Some of it is just the fact that we haven't caught the breaks we needed to catch.

Before the season, I said:"If we stay healthy along the OL, get smart play from the QB and avoid the dropped passes of the past, we could win the East or better."

Well...none of those things have happened. We are what we are. But we can get better. I still think we upset AU, UF or GT. (and yes, right now GT would be an upset)


(note: yeah, I recycled the two thumbs line. So what.)


Anonymous said...

As for as the linebackers go...almost everyone you mentioned is or was playing in the NFL.
That is some talent. Doesn't happen every year, but we have been spoiled for sure!

Growing Pains stink.....

Anonymous said...

None of that explains the defensive meltdowns vs. Auburn and WVU last year.

I agree to some extent about the talent issues you raise... but then you go on to note that you're puzzled that we haven't seen more of Dewberry and Byrd this year. And how much of the perceived lack of speed at LB results from kids being out of position? After all, it ain't like Tony Gilbert was any faster than Jarvis Jackson.

I don't want to say that the defensive staff got complacent this year, but I do feel that going in to this season there was a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude - after all, Georgia is the defending SEC champ! - that's come back to bite these guys in the butt.

All I can hope is that the last two games have been a wake up call.

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

I've been trying to figure out whom Willie Martinez's face reminds me of, and looking at the picture in this post I finally figured it out; Steve Carell. Slap a red Georgia hat on Michael Scott from "The Office" and you'd have him.

Anonymous said...

Quit whining Georgia fans. You've had your fun in the sun. It can't happen every year. "Every dawg has his day", so sayeth the genius Corey Smith.

Unknown said...

"None of that explains the defensive meltdowns vs. Auburn and WVU last year."

I'll not even argue WVU but Auburn was hardly a meltdown. We were two pretty evenly matched teams and one blown coverage more or less ended the game for Georgia. Somebody had to lose that game. We don't do ties anymore.

One thing a lot of people are forgetting is that this UGA team lit up Tennessee for an entire half two weeks ago. There were even a couple of circus catches invovled from our receiving corps. I highly doubt we'll take all of them or even two of them, but an upset over Florida, Auburn, or Ga Tech wouldn't surpise me. If we can get the pieces in place and keep them in place for 60 football minutes, we can beat anybody we play this year.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I don't believe "It can't happen every year." Sure it can.

Second, I disagree with you about talent at LB. I think we are covered up in talent at that position. In fact, I think we are at least as talented as we have been in the past with the exception of safety. Tra plays as hard as anyone, but he's, well, samll. They say 175, but that's prolly dripping wet, in full gear, and a couple of fishing weights. I thought K. Johnson was going to be the next Blue or Davis, but that hasn't happened, and I am not sure that Byrd the physical guy we've been used to; to me, he looks more like a cover guy than a come-up-and-play-the-run guy. Which leads me to:

Third, I think the coaches, like the senator said, are playijng tth same way as if we had a killer safety, and they are getting burned. Plus, we are as sloppy at tackling as we ever have been. Even Charles Johnson, who is clearly a grreat talent has been opting for going high, and then having the qb duck under the grab and get away. Maybe they will make some adjustments; we have very little chance if they don't.

Unknown said...

We did not have a meltdown against AU.

We lost because we fumbled twice inside our own 20 yardline, and both were converted into Touchdowns.

You lose 9 out of 10 times in evenly matched games when you do that.

The defense struggled with AU's ground game in the 1st quarter because Golston was playing with 1 arm in a massive brace. Try playing DT with 1 arm sometime. And Taylor had a bad arm and a bum ankle. They ran at Taylor and Golston every play early. We were just banged up.

Even still the defense didn't lose that game. The offensive turnovers KILLED us. And the phantom offensive pass interference call on Pope was brutal.

Yes, Greg Blue shouldn't have been in the box on 4th and 10, and yes Battle took a bad angle. but that play didn't cost us the game.

The fumbles did.

Anonymous said...

I just pray that maybe Moses and Johnson will one day start giving us the Greg Waters v. Florida performance they are capable of on a weekly basis.

Trey said...

If 506 yards of total offense including 227 yards rushing isn't a meltdown, then I really don't want to see what happens when the defense is at its worst.

The turnover battle was net zero, as each team turned the ball over twice. The fumble that Auburn scooped up and returned for a touchdown came only after they fumbled it away at the 11 after driving 84 yards in 7 plays. This was the drive after UGA's go-ahead touchdown when a defensive stop and subsequent score on offense after the good field position would have sealed the deal early in the fourth quarter.

Methinks defenses of yore made these kinds of stops when they were most in need. To me, that is the difference between today's defense and those of yesteryear.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if it's talent, but the inconsistent LB play has hurt us for 2 years now. Look at Vandy and Ole Miss games this year and the WVU game last year. LB's are missing tackles they should easily make by taking bad angles, or just being out of position. On one of Vandy's TD's Jackson (I think it was Jackson) flat out did not do what he was supposed to do at LB, which is fill the gap at the goal line. He went down the line for some reason, and the back went right through the hole, which would not have been there had he been where he was supposed to be. Not that the play was a difference maker, it's just emblemtatic of the problems we've had at that position.

Anonymous said...

Love teh Kirby Smart line.

Anonymous said...

Wait, you mean we don't have linebackers like Witherspoon every year, linebackers like that don't grow on trees or come around every day? Well damn, dropping crazy unknown knowledge bombs like that... it's amazing you aren't getting PAID to write these things!

Go back and check the recruiting classes pal, the talent is there. Even with a few hit or miss recruits factored in as usual, we're STILL far more talented than Vandy and Ole Miss and Colorado and...

It's been a YEAR in the making now, what exactly will it take to open your eyes to how bad Willie sucks? ANOTHER loss to Vandy? Giving up 750 yds in one game? A bowlless season?

Yeah it's not just Willie, but he's our most obvious flaw at the moment.

And exactly realist, you can overcome turnovers when you aren't getting absolutely thrashed on the f***ing ground all-night-long like we were against AU and WV. Your entire post was spot on. There is no fire anymore, no fight in these Dawgs.

Plus ANYBODY who listened to more than 17 seconds of that ridiculous Corey Smith faggotry and didn't turn it off laughing/vomiting would hold one up close IMVHO.

Anonymous said...

You make good points, but in an earlier post, you claimed that our talent was second only to Auburn. I've said all along that we should take this year for what it is...a transition to next year.

Anonymous said...

You are a fool if you think there is any correlation between recruiting class rankings and reality. Players are just prospects when they come out of high school and nothing more. No class should be ranked until they are juniors in college. Odell Thurmond was a two star recruit and Thomas Davis was completely under the radar. We signed them because we couldn't get any of the high profile defensive players to sign with us at the time. The same defensive cordinator approved offers on our current set of linebackers. His name was VanGorder. There is an old saying in football that goes like this. Good LB's are born, not produced by coaching. You can't coach a defensive prospect to hit, or react properly if it isn't part of their personality. Coaches make a lot more recruiting mistakes for obvious reasons than they make trying to coach the prospects.

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