College Football Top-25 Preview: University of Georgia Bulldogs (Additional Analysis from Kim Nash of The Lady Sportswriter)

Writer’s Note: Throughout the winter, spring and summer leading up to the 2012-2013 College Football Season I will be gathering information on my top-25 teams in the country. The teams will be in no particular order but you can check The Locker for the complete list when camps start.  

There was a lot to be learned for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. 

Not to say that every other team in the nation didn’t learn anything but in Athens that curriculum had to be picked up quick. Mark Richt has put together an impressive career at Georgia but in an era where winning quickly is the norm the faithful were becoming restless.

Fact: Richt has won over 100 games during his tenure as head coach of the Bulldogs.

Fact: His last two seasons have produced a combined (14-12) record including (7-9) in conference play. 

Fact: The Bulldogs have two Southeastern Conference championships under Richt. 

Fact: The last one came in 2005.

So you get the picture? This conference has produced the last six national champions. In a conference with as much bad blood as this one, Georgia, whose immediate rivals Auburn and Florida, have three titles between them was under a lot of pressure to turn things around in a hurry. Factor in a new athletic director who brings a penchant for winning (two national championships a piece in football and basketball while at Florida) and that made the seat real toasty for the affable Richt. Even when that seat got hotter after a loss to Boise State in the Georgia Dome and South Carolina he didn’t panic.

How did he and his team respond?

They won ten straight games, including a comeback victory over Florida and a resounding statement game against Auburn. During the streak we saw the “Dawgs’ learn a few new tricks. they learned that they are capable of winning in their conference. They learned they have the personnel to compete with anybody in the country. They learned that they have a defense as vaunted as any you will see. Most importantly, though, they learned that with this group they have a chance to accomplish something they haven’t accomplished since 1980. We are getting ahead of ourselves because as coach Richt always points out the goals never change, both in order or importance; Eastern division, conference and then see where you land.

As for that “higher” goal I won’t say it out loud. The ghost of Herschel Walker looms large enough without me adding to it.

Q&A with Kimberley Nash of the Lady Sportswriter: 

On the commitments of running backs Keith Marshall (ESPN150 #5/Millbrook, Raleigh, NC) and Todd Gurley (Rivals #42/Tarboro, Tarboro, NC): 

We were salivating over them down here. Marshall, we definitely heard about his above-board character. Marshall also did a great job getting Gurley to come our way. He had over 2,600 yards to go along with 33 touchdowns. 

On which is better: Gurley or Marshall:

Let’s put it this way, Gurley beat out Marshall for player of the year. Note: Marshall is still the higher rated player in some rankings and is very, very good.

On the differences in style between the two backs:

Gurley is power and speed whereas Marshall is speed and finesse. They hope to be a formidable 1-2 punch for us in 2012.

On Isaiah Crowell and his issues:

Crowell is kind of a victim of being overly pampered at a soft school. Crowell actually wanted a buffer [between himself and the feature spot]. He wasn’t comfortable with the spotlight and the responsibility [year one] of being “the guy.” Trust me; he’s happy about the new blood. But hopefully it makes him work harder to get better. The kid has the talent to be a good one if he does. 

On Jarvis Jones and his emergence:

Hard to believe he and Jarvis came from the same place. Jarvis is the real deal. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and a totally different outlook. I think his experience at SC (University of Southern California) changed him for the better. 

On the Bulldogs Offensive Line situation going into ‘12:

O-line is a big question mark right now. Lost a couple of quality starters, but if [offensive line coach Will] Friend can whip the talent we have into shape they should be decent. The main thing is finding a left tackle to protect Aaron [Murray] better. We weren’t very good in pass protection last year.

On recruits on the horizon who could make an impact on the “O-Line”:

We’re still looking at Avery Young (ESPN150 #61/Palm Beach Gardens High School, Palm Beach, Fl). He’s got long arms and is built to play that position but he needs some weight on him to handle SEC defenders. We are currently in his top-2. John Theus (ESPN150 #28/ The Bolles School, Jacksonville, Fl) is already on campus and looking good for spring reps. He is a beast, too. He’ll be a candidate right along with Watts Dantzler (true sophomore). 

The defense looks to be stacked coming back but Brandon Boykin graduated. Who fills that void?

No one in my opinion but we could find pieces to step up and replace that versatility a bit. We are looking for Branden Smith who will surely look to shine for sure. Add to that list, Corey Moore and Sanders Commings as well. 

To win the SEC East Georgia must:

Get better on special teams and get more consistency out of Aaron Murray. Fans will be looking for more competition out of the QB spot with Christian LeMay off the redshirt. Murray is a good guy, great leader, but he’s shown he can’t handle the pressure in big games thus far. Fans are getting tired of him falling short against the big boys. Part of Murray’s problem is he’s not progressing. How much of that has to do with [offensive coordinator Mike] Bobo is debatable, however.

Which brings me to the next question: With Richt and Grantham getting extensions is Bobo’s seat the hottest?

Bobo has yet to be placed in the conversation as far as extensions go. What does that tell you? He is Richt’s guy but he lost favor with everyone else a long time ago. I figure he will get at least one more season to do something with this offense before serious conversations about his future start to happen. 

Why not make that move now? Wouldn’t it seem appropriate with all the pieces coming in and expectation high in Athens to take the next step to move on now?

Well, not really. Who would Georgia have picked up to replace him at this juncture? Bobo’s done just enough to not be a disaster and that was enough to give him one more year-especially given the schedule. Even more how much the offensive line contributed to the offense’s struggles is still a conversation many consider having. not to mention the lack of a running game for the better part of seven games. The part you have to look at Bobo is his adjustments during the course of a game. That being said, he didn’t throw the interceptions or fumble the ball. That goes right back to the consistency of play on the field.

Early predictions for Georgia in 2012-2013:

I want to see how they do against Missouri, but I can’t see less than 9-10 wins this season. 

Check out The Lady Sportswriter blog for all things pertaining to Georgia Bulldogs football and other news in college athletics

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