Trends UGA Must Reverse in 2014

hedges'Defense Doomed Dawgs in 2013
Todd Grantham left Georgia earlier this year for the opportunity to work with Bobby Petrino at Louisville.  The question remains whether the new Cardinals defensive coordinator wanted to leave Athens, or was he simply getting the hell out of dodge?

Athlon Sports notes Georgia gave up a school record for points last year, allowing the opposition an average of 375.5 yards per game.  This total is the highest per game yardage given up by the Bulldog defense since coach Richt has been in Athens.

The Football Must Bounce Georgia’s way (Good Luck Would be Nice)
The Dawgs’ negative turnover margin (-7) kept them from building momentum last season.  UGA lost games in agonizing fashion, and four out of their five defeats were by less than six points.  Had Georgia been able to stay even remotely healthy, 2013 could have been a banner year for Bulldog Nation.

Avoid the injury Bug
The University of Georgia had a rash of injuries throughout last season.  The Bulldogs played multiple games without their top two running backs and three best receivers.  Eight wins may be considered a disappointment on the surface, but in reality it was a minor miracle.

A More Favorable Schedule
In 2013, Bulldog Nation made the trip to Death Valley in week one. This year, the Dawgs welcome the Tigers in the first game of the 2014 campaign  before traveling to South Carolina. Without former quarterback Tahj Boyd, Clemson should beware of Dawg in just over 90 days.

The Bulldogs drop LSU, add Troy, and get a bye-week before heading to Jacksonville on November 1.

College Football Playoff Changes the Dynamic of Winning a Championship
Next season signals the beginning of the highly anticipated College Football Playoff.  The Dawgs are among a select few legitimate threats from the Southeastern Conference which have a quarterback with starting experience on their roster.  The new postseason format means earning a national championship will be even more difficult, but Georgia’s winning tradition means they are always in title contention.

Transfer Trouble for UGA Football?

jeremy_pruitt_bcsTransfers May Cause Depth Issues on Defense
Bulldog Nation has plenty of reason to be excited about new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.  A proven winner, Pruitt has the experience needed to put the bark back into the bite of the Georgia defense.

Still, a coach is only as good as the talent he is instructing.  With the recent news that UGA defensive back Shaq Wiggins decided to transfer, only one member of the Bulldogs secondary has started more than a single game.

Wiggins’ decision to continue his college experience elsewhere is unfortunate.  With that said, Bulldog Nation wishes him the best of luck.  The Dawgs have no use for an athlete who lacks the desire to play between the hedges.

Jeremy Pruitt Rebuilding UGA, Not Reloading
Jeremy Pruitt’s ability to coach up a defense will be tested this fall.  Coach Pruitt certainly has the championship experience to warrant his new position, but, as Pruitt recently told the Macon Telegraph, his defense is getting back to basics. “There’s some good, there’s some bad, but all of it we control”.  He also stressed the importance of lining up correctly, knowing what to look for, and having proper technique.

CBS Sports notes the Bulldog defense finished number 11 in the Southeastern Conference in defensive pass efficiency.  Shaq Wiggins led the team in interceptions in 2013.  Wiggins’ team leading total of two picks speaks volumes about the team struggling to create turnovers as opposed to his individual ability.

Give Bulldog Nation a Reason to Bark Again
Winning cures everything.  It is unreasonable to expect a team to compete for a national championship every year, but five losses did not set well with anyone in Bulldog Nation.  The Dawgs’ new defensive coaches are tasked with bringing consistency back to a Georgia defense that appeared lost by the end of Todd Grantham’s tenure.

Upon his introduction as Georgia’s defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt revealed that he had been hoping for the chance to work with Mark Richt at UGA for more than a decade.  Now that his wish has come true, coach Pruitt must make the most of it.

Georgia’s New Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt – Thoughts

jeremy_pruitt_ugaJeremy Pruitt Brings Instant Credibility
Dating back to 2012, Jeremy Pruitt has been a member of the national championship winning coaching staff for three-straight seasons.  Among the challenges facing Georgia’s new defensive coordinator is fixing a UGA secondary that gave up a lot of yards in 2013. Pruitt’s experience as the defensive backs coach at Alabama and Florida State should serve Bulldog Nation well.

The Hire of Jeremy Pruitt Helps Boost Morale
While there were probably not many tears shed when Todd Grantham decided to head to Louisville, his departure left Georgia with a hole to fill.  Jeremy Pruitt’s past success indicates he can improve the young Georgia defense in a hurry.  In 2013, Pruitt’s FSU defense held the Clemson Tigers to 14 points in “Death Valley”.

Georgia has Some Pieces in Place
One of the most appealing aspects of the Pruitt hire is his experience in a 3-4 defensive scheme very similar to UGA’s previous defensive coordinator.  Georgia’s defense is far from broken.  Rather, the Dawgs have areas which require a tune-up.   Linebacker Amarlo Herrera is probably the most consistent player in the unit, and he will continue to get better.

Leonard Floyd was a difference maker rushing the passer from the linebacker position last season, and Jordan Jenkins continues to show flashes of brilliance playing outside linebacker. The Dawgs are ready to go up front, but the defensive backfield has lingering questions.

Dawgs Reloading, not Rebuilding
The excitement surrounding the hire of Jeremy Pruitt is refreshing, though it will be up to the players to execute on the field.   UGA last won the Southeastern Conference in 2005, but the Dawgs are consistent contenders for the SEC title.  The University of Georgia is among the winningest football programs in the country, so it is nice to see Mark Richt and Greg McGarity reloading as opposed to picking up pieces.

Farewell to Todd Grantham
It is impossible for me to root for a football team coached by Bobby Petrino.  Even so, best wishes to Todd Grantham in his efforts at the University of Louisville.  He spent every offseason in Athens job hunting, so I hope he is happy in his new home.  Bulldog Nation is certainly pleased with his replacement.   Does anybody know if Todd Grantham likes motorcycles?

College Football Thoughts – Conference Championship Week

ohio_state_urban_meyerUndefeated Ohio State Should be Ranked Ahead of one Loss Auburn
If the Buckeyes can best the Spartans on Saturday night, Urban Meyer and company deserve to play for a national championship.  The Ohio State University has won 24 football games in a row dating back to 2012.  On the contrary, Auburn needed back-to-back Christmas miracles to make it into the SEC Championship Game.

Should Sparty stun the Buckeyes this weekend, the winner of the Southeastern Conference title showdown between Auburn and Missouri will likely play Florida State for college football’s ultimate prize.  Even though anything can happen in college football, I feel confident FSU will defeat Duke.

The Targeting Rule Needs to be Amended, but it is not Going Anywhere
Safety is the number one priority at every level of football.  The changes to the targeting rule are representative of the emphasis on protecting players from concussions.  As far as properly enforcing the rule, referees have been pretty hit or miss.

There have been some excruciatingly bad targeting calls this season, along with cases where obvious fouls went undetected, such as in Navy versus San Jose State.

Wave Ryder is the Midshipmen defender at the center of the play in question, apologies in advance for the low-quality of the video below.  Searching for Wave Ryder highlights brings up a variety of topics in Google.



One aspect of the targeting rule in need of further examination is the 15 yard penalty assessed regardless of whether the ruling is upheld.  Logic dictates this penalty serves as incentive for defenders to go low when attempting to make a stop.  Still, it is unfair to impose an automatic first down on an overturned targeting infraction, because doing so can change the complexion of a contest.

Todd Grantham Will Coordinate Georgia’s Defense Until his Contract is up
The unrest in Athens continues to grow due to UGA’s inability to get the opposition off the field consistently.  Do not hold your breathe for a change on defense.

As current associate head coach and defensive coordinator of the Bulldogs, Todd Grantham is not going anywhere until the end of his current contract. Unless, of course,  he receives a better job offer.  The former NFL assistant stands to make $850,000 a year for the next two years.  His contract expires at the end of 2015.

This season has been about dealing with injuries and breaking in new players.  While Grantham’s aggressive 3-4 defense can be frustrating to watch, having a negative turnover ratio certainly does not help.  According to Sports Illustrated, coach Richt is adamant his coaching staff will remain intact.  As a loyal Dawg, I hope Todd Grantham does not spend his offseason waiting by the phone for job offers.  Still, if he wants to leave, adios.

Picking Winners
The 2013 college football campaign has been filled with twists and turns. Conference championship weekend should be no exception.
Predictions (Automatic Qualifier Conference Championship Games Only).

ACC: Florida State 34, Duke 13.
Big Ten: Ohio State 34, Michigan State 21.
Pac-12: Stanford 31, Arizona State 17.
SEC: Missouri 35, Auburn 28.

Georgia Versus Florida: Rivalry Renewed

florida_georgia_rivalry_2013Aaron Murray Facing Florida – Chasing History Again
Despite Georgia’s mediocre win-loss record, 2013 has been a historical season for quarterback Aaron Murray.  The Georgia passer has a chance to write more in the record books if he can lead the Dawgs to victory over the Gators for the third time in his career. Surprisingly, this feat has only been accomplished by two other UGA quarterbacks dating back to the 1940s.

According to an article on ESPN College Football Nation, other than Buck Belue in  1979-1981, one must look back over half a century to find a Georgia quarterback who was able to beat the Gators at least three times.

Written by David Ching, the article states Hall of Famer Johnny Rauch is the only other Bulldog quarterback to ever earn three victories over the Gators. Rauch beat UF four times, from 1945-1948.  If the Bulldogs defeat Florida this Saturday afternoon, Aaron Murray will become the third Georgia quarterback to best Florida three times.  The stat is a little less surprising when one considers how rare it used to be for a freshman or sophomore quarterback to start in college football.

Harsh Reality Check for Todd Grantham
In 2010, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was heavily criticized when CBS television cameras caught him grabbing his throat, and encouraging the Florida kicker to choke.  Ironic, considering Grantham’s defense has specialized in gagging for the better part of the past two seasons.

The UGA defense faces a struggling Florida offense in week ten.  It would be wonderful if the Dawgs are able to play stout and earn a victory without making UF QB Tyler Murphy look like a Heisman candidate.

Thanking the Missouri Tigers (and Sending a Grunt to Steve Spurrier)
Both Georgia and Florida fans should send the Missouri Tigers a thank-you note this week.  Missouri’s 17 point choke job against the South Carolina Gamecocks leaves the Southeastern Conference door slightly ajar.  However, the eye ball test reveals UGA and UF are too banged up to chase a division crown.

This game has been dubbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Pity Party” for 2013.  The team that comes up short will be faced with a .500 record and a disappointed fan base.

The Georgia Bulldogs Need Their Gurl Back
If the Dawgs can count on the returns of receiver Michael Bennett and running back Todd Gurley for the trip to Jacksonville, Bulldog Nation should be favored to win.  As of this writing, both Bennett and Gurley are expected to play against Florida on Saturday.

The Georgia-Florida Clash Encompasses Everything Great About College Football
Regardless of how many off the field scandals college football endures, there is nothing better than a passionate rivalry.  We have chronicled the history of the Georgia-Florida Football Classic, but each year brings about a new chapter.  2013 is about pride, and for the team that is victorious, it is about salvaging the season.

Georgia Bye Week Thoughts



Mike Bobo Must Put the Game on Aaron Murray’s Shoulders
Georgia decided to run the football on the third down play preceding the botched snap that will live forever in Vanderbilt lure.  I hate to play the role of Captain Hindsight in Georgia’s loss to the Dores, but I do not understand why offensive coordinator Mike Bobo did not give his senior quarterback Aaron Murray the opportunity to put Vandy away.

Aaron Murray did not play well in Nashville, but, he is Georgia’s best offensive weapon. #11 should have been given the ball in crunch time.  Instead, Murray was forced to try and save the Dawgs’ backside when UGA’s special teams imploded for the umpteenth time.

Todd Grantham Signed a Contract Extension in June of 2012
Bulldog Nation is still waiting on the Georgia defensive coordinator/associate head coach to earn the money he received.  For better or worse, Todd Grantham’s contract runs through 2015.  If Georgia’s defense does not improve over the second half of the campaign, UGA should consider how much a buyout would cost.

The Telegraph posted an insightful look at the manner in which Todd Grantham should address his critics. Before college football season began, we hypothesized Todd Grantham would hold the key to Georgia’s season.  Inexperienced defense or not, coach Grantham’s unreliable key is part of the reason UGA is locked out of the championship chase.

Injuries Have Ruined Georgia’s Championship Chances
While defense and special teams have been a constant issue, the injury bug has been flat out cruel to the Bulldogs.  Wide receiver Chris Conley, as well as safety Josh Harvey-Clemons both suffered an injury during the loss to Vanderbilt.  It seems if it were not for bad luck, Bulldog Nation would have no luck at all this year. One cannot grieve forever.

The Georgia players and coaching staff have to exhaust every avenue to turn this season around.  Bulldog Nation can strive to finish the season 9-3, or struggle to the lowest tier Southeastern Conference bowl game tie-in.  At present, enjoy the week off, and take solace in other teams beating up on each other.

41-26: The Missouri Tigers Outscore the Georgia Bulldogs

georgia_sec_championship_lossFaith Testing Defeat
Georgia’s 15 point loss at home to Missouri during week seven of the 2013 college football season put an end to the Dawgs’ national championship aspirations for the year.  However, it is still great to be a Georgia Bulldog.  Aaron Muray and the UGA offense nearly led Georgia to a comeback victory over the Tigers.  It was not to be, as mistakes put the Dawgs down midway through the fourth quarter.

Whether Georgia rebounds and finishes 10-2, or stumbles to an 8-4 season, the support of Bulldog Nation will remain.  Now that allegiance has been pledged, it is time to vent a little frustration.

Pee-Wee Football
If last year’s defensive effort against the Tigers of Mizzou was grown-man football, this past Saturday’s defense can only be described as pee-wee football.  The Georgia Bulldogs missed tackle after tackle, while being consistently outplayed by Missouri’s potent offense.  Credit must be given to Mizzou quarterback James Franklin for playing an outstanding game.  It is unfortunate he is out for the remainder of the regular season with a separated shoulder. The versatile Tigers will miss him dearly.

There is no excuse for giving up 28 points in two quarters of football. Almost two months into the season, Georgia’s defense has shown only minor signs of improvement.  Last week, I wrote patience is a virtue, but it is difficult to be patient when your team struggles to execute basic fundamentals. The reason for the highlights below below begins about 46 seconds into the video. At the 6:10 mark in the second quarter.  Cue the Benny Hill music.

The Georgia D adjusted, and played better in the second half, but they cannot expect to only show up for the final two quarters and still be able to win a football game. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham needs to get more out of his personnel.

Aaron Murray Says Turnovers Killed Georgia
Aaron Murray told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution turnovers ended the Bulldogs comeback chances.  The most heartbreaking gaffe was probably when Georgia running back Brendan Douglas fumbled inside the Missouri ten yard-line late in the first half.  The mistake squashed any momentum UGA could have carried into the locker room.

To be fair, QB Aaron Murray coughed up the football to end the previous series, which Missouri promptly picked up and returned for a touchdown.  The error left the Bulldogs in dire straits, as Bulldog Nation found themselves in a 28-10 hole they could not climb out of. UGA committed four turnovers in the contest, Missouri did not give away the ball.

Dawgs Prepare to Hunker Down Against Vanderbilt
Georgia remains in contention for a third straight SEC East crown.  If the Bulldogs plan on making it to Atlanta, Mark Richt and company must find a way to right the ship. Coach Richt believes injuries are no excuse for losing, but they sure do make it more difficult to achieve victory.  Georgia’s Southeastern Conference fate likely rests on the ankle of tailback Todd Gurley.

It’s Great To Be a Georgia Bulldog

aaron_murray_bulldog_nation
Keep the Faith
Throughout the first five games of the college football season, drama and excitement have been synonymous with Georgia football.  As USA Today points out, three of Georgia’s four wins in 2013 have been determined in the final minutes.  Even the contest with North Texas featured multiple lead changes.

Pessimists will argue that many of the nail-biting moments were signs of a flawed team that struggled to put away the opposition.  However, we here at UGAMADDAWG choose to believe there are greater forces at work. This Georgia Bulldog team is special.

In light of the recent injury bug, I have taken it upon myself to encourage Georgia Bulldog football fans everywhere to keep the faith.  Some of my reasoning is outlined below.

Aaron Murray’s Last Stand
Prior to the 2013 campaign, Athlon Sports rated UGA starting quarterback Aaron Murray as the sixth most overrated quarterback in college football.  The article also pointed out that Murray is a diminutive passer. You have got to love any writer that uses a ten dollar word to describe someone as short.   This season, Murray seems poised to lead his Dawgs to win the SEC crown that has eluded him during his time in Athens.

No matter how much adversity befalls this football team, Aaron Murray under center gives the Bulldogs a chance to win.  Now the all-time leading passer in Southeastern Conference history, Murray has developed into a young man that can carry the team on his shoulders.



Chris Conley is Awesome
The one-handed catch made by Chrs Conley against Tennessee may have been the catch of the year thus far. The UGA wide receiver has been grabbing everything thrown his way, and Conley seems determined to leave his paw print on Georgia football far beyond what happened in the final eight seconds of the 2012 SEC Championship Game.

Todd Gurley Needs to get Healthy
Georgia running back Todd Gurley is a difference maker.  With respect to Keith Marshall, Gurley is a man among boys.  If UGA is going to get back to Atlanta for a third straight year, the Dawgs need to be able to hand the ball to TGII.

Georgia’s Young Defense is Only Going to get Better
Georgia’s defense is filled with potential.  At some point, experience will help the Bulldog D realize its potential.  Patience is a virtue, and Bulldog Nation must stay patient with coach Grantham and the personnel that he puts on the field.

Emotional Mark Richt
This final point goes back to the LSU game in week five.  Coach Mark Richt got visibly emotional watching his football team overcome the LSU tigers.  Mark Richt wants to win a national title; he has been busting his ass in Athens for over a decade.  While a crystal ball does not define Mark Richt’s career, it would catapult his legacy into legendary status.

Football Season is a Wonderful Time of Year
No college football team, not even that one in Tuscaloosa, should measure success by a national championship alone.  Unrealistic expectations can ruin magical moments if Bulldog Nation does not remember to enjoy the ride.

The University of Georgia absolutely strives to field the best football team possible. Even so, there is a lot of luck involved in winning a national championship.  The difference between Alabama’s third national championship in four years and Georgia’s first in three plus decades was less than ten yards.  Keep the faith, Bulldog Nation.

Georgia Versus Clemson – Ten Days Away

georgia_clemsonYou Can Cut the Tension With a Knife
With kickoff a mere ten days away, anticipation is building for Georgia’s 2013 season opener against the Clemson Tigers, and concern is starting to creep in between the hedges.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution continues to report on the Bulldogs depleted defensive backfield.  A game that I previously believed would be an opportunity for Georgia to make a bold statement is now a contest that I hope the Dawgs can find a way to win.

Expect a Shootout in Death Valley
Clemson starting quarterback Tajh Boyd led the Atlantic Coast Conference in touchdown passes in 2012, with 36 touchdowns.  In all likelihood, the Tigers will look to strike Georgia’s secondary early and often, as Boyd also led the ACC in yards per attempt.  The Dawgs must put a lot of pressure on the Clemson signal caller to relieve the aerial assault.

UGA quarterback Aaron Murray had 36 touchdown tosses of his own last year. As he continues to rewrite the Georgia passing record books, the final chapters will be penned beginning on August 31. Murray will be behind a very experienced offensive line that is capable of protecting him and giving him the time he needs to make good decisions with the football.

Unease in Athens
The reality is even if the expected starters are able to make a full recovery by game day, they are still very inexperienced.  Clemson’s offense is nothing if not high powered, and the Tigers have proven that they can score very quickly.  Defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Todd Grantham will play a big role in the outcome of game one.

Georgia and Clemson each have questions to answer in the defensive secondary.  As a result, it is a fairly safe bet that they are going to combine to score 70-80 points before the final whistle blows.  Hell, Clemson gave up 70 points to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl.

The match-up between the Dawgs and the Tigers will end in favor of the team that can win the turnover battle.  According to College Football Statistics, Clemson had a total of 21 giveaways in 2012.  By comparison, Georgia turned the ball over 19 times. With UGA’s young defense, the Bulldogs absolutely have to avoid beating themselves.  Bulldog Nation is eager to take a bite out of Howard’s Rock.

Georgia Bulldogs Spring Football Thoughts

ray_drew

Defensive end Ray Drew will look to make an impact this fall.

The Young Georgia Defense Must Realize Their Potential
Spring is in the air in the form of football practice for the Georgia Bulldogs. Among the most intriguing developments between the hedges in the coming months will be whether or not defensive end Ray Drew,  from the draft class once dubbed the “Dream Team”, can maximize his potential on the field for the Dawgs.

Todd Grantham has Something to Prove
Todd Grantham’s offseason of discontent is over and he can now focus on his commitment to Georgia.  Grantham should be motivated by the fact that his defense never truly reached their potential last season. Coach Grantham will be dealing with a lot of new faces on defense in Athens this year. Here’s hoping the Georgia defensive coordinator is committed to making 2013 his best year between the hedges.  That being said, Todd Grantham likely has other job aspirations and will not be an assistant in Athens much longer.

Avoiding off of the Field Issues
As with every Georgia football offseason, it would be nice not to read about any Bulldogs in the police blotter. Unfortunately, Dawg alum Alec Ogletree was pulled over by police and charged with a DUI last month in Arizona. Ogletree was the first member of the 2012 Georgia Bulldog roster to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft. Alec Ogletree leaving early is just as well for Bulldog Nation because he would have missed at least the first half of this coming season according to Georgia’s own drug policy.

Georgia’s Quest for a National Championship Continues
The Georgia Bulldogs have signed Mark Richt to an extension, adding a year (and a $400,000 raise) on to his current deal which means that he will be the head Dawg until at least 2017. Coach Richt has brought the Georgia program to the heights many were hoping for when he was hired in 2001, but it remains to be seen whether Mark Richt can lead the Dawgs to a national title. The quest for a championship begins with preparation in the offseason by working hard when not as many people are watching.