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Q&A with Dawg Sports

Streeter Lecka

The 2013 season is right around the corner, and that means it's time to queue up the opponent Q&A's again. In my opinion, now is the best time for Q&A's. No games have been played so we don't have any film to study. Unless you are following Georgia's practice reports, you don't know what to expect out of a Georgia defense that has had a tremendous amount of turnover. Thanks to Vineyarddawg from Dawg Sports for a very good set of answers.

STS: Between the NFL draft, injuries, and suspensions, Georgia is missing a lot of talent on defense. Is there anyone that has stood out during fall camp that could help ease the growing pains caused by all those losses?

Dawg Sports: Yeah... about that... (collapses into fetal position) (starts sucking thumb)

The hard truth is that this year's defense just doesn't have the same talent that last year's squad did. There's just no way around that. On the other hand, last year's squad did somewhat underperform at times in spite of some amazing individual performances by Jarvis Jones, Bacarri Rambo, and Alec Ogletree. That has led some to speculate that, due to the lack of "individual superstars," this year's defense might have more "chemistry" and be more of a "team unit." Me, I think that's just a way to put a positive spin on the fact that our defense is young and inexperienced.

We've brought in several JUCO guys in the secondary and defensive line, and they look to be pretty good, but none of them have ever played a major college football game in a hostile venue like Death Valley. Who knows how they'll respond? Our best returning player is probably LB Jordan Jenkins, who played beside Jarvis Jones last year and caused a lot of havoc in his own right. We'll be looking to him to be this year's Jarvis Jones... but here's the rub: he ain't Jarvis Jones. In the same vein, Damian Swann is not Ogletree or Rambo, though he is a great player, too. On the D-Line, we'll be looking to one of those big JUCO's, Chris Mayes, to step up. Mike Thornton is listed as the starter, but Mayes will definitely play, and he has the huge frame that a 3-4 NT really needs.

STS: The secondary seems like it has been hit especially hard. Is there still talent in the back 4? How do they plan to contain Watkins, Bryant, and Peake?

Dawg Sports: The secondary is, unquestionably, the position group with the least returning experience on the team. (Stop salivating, dammit.) The aforementioned Damian Swann (he of the blown pass coverage in Amari Cooper's TD in the SECCG) is returning at CB, but he's the only significant contributor we have back. Our two starting safeties on the current depth chart are Connor Norman, a former walk-on, and Tray Matthews, a true Freshman. (I SAID STOP SALIVATING, DAMMIT)

I have no idea how we're going to contain Watkins, Bryant, and Peake. At this point, I'm guessing pass interference. If we can keep up with them enough to knock them down, that is.

STS: Clemson's #1 goal on defense needs to be to slow down Gurshall. Is there a weakness along the offensive line that they should look to exploit?

Dawg Sports: Our offensive line is actually supposed to be even better than they were last year. We have more depth this year as guys with injuries return, and our group of sophomores and juniors has become a group of juniors and seniors, which is usually a good thing. Our weak spot last year on the line was RT John Theus, who started all season as a true freshman. If you go back and look at game tape, you'll see that we almost always ran up the middle or to the left. That's because Theus was frequently getting crushed on the right side, and for pass plays or when we did try running to the right, we had to bring in an extra blocker to cover for what he would inevitably miss. Theus was apparently an outstanding performer in the spring and in the fall, though, and he's still listed as the starter at RT. (He's also gotten some work at the all-important LT slot, but he's listed at this point on the depth chart back on the right.)

I'd be hard-pressed to name a weak spot on this year's O-line, unless it's Theus again. We even have a "feel good/screw the NCAA" story in that group this year, as Kolton Houston finally won his 3-year struggle to get the NCAA to clear him after an unscrupulous doctor injected him (without his knowledge) with a PED in high school that, because it was done incompetently, had not gotten flushed out of his system in years. He's only listed as a backup currently, but we're hoping he'll get a few plays in some home games so the Bulldog faithful can cheer him on. There are quite a number of stories on the Kolton Houston debacle that you can find by googling it... and, of course, none of them makes the NCAA look particularly like human beings.
(Sorry that I don't have any bad news for us/good news for you on this question.)

STS: Aaron Murray has been great throughout his career, but did struggle big time against South Carolina last year. What did Carolina do to throw him off his game?

Dawg Sports: That South Carolina game is yet another example of the annual "head scratcher face-plant" game that Mark-Richt-coached teams always seem to produce. Sometimes it has been against Tennessee, sometimes it has been against the Gamecocks, and once it was against Colorado (reaches for the Mylanta), but it seems that about once a year, a great Georgia team takes the field sometime in the middle of the season and simply forgets how to play football. That game in Columbia last year started incredibly poorly for us, as well. The first four drives of that game were: 1) SCAR touchdown, 2) Georgia interception on the 34 yard line (on an unlucky deflected ball), 3) SCAR Touchdown, and 4) Georgia punt, which was returned for a SCAR touchdown. After less than 10 minutes of game time, we were losing 21-0 and reeling in a hostile SEC environment.

From that point, our running backs (who were still freshmen facing their first real adversity situation at that point) just couldn't run the ball, and if you can't run the ball, it doesn't really matter how good Aaron Murray is at passing the ball. (Clowney might have had something to do with that, too.) Marcus Lattimore just leaned on our defense all night, and we never got back on track after that disastrous start. Murray had a tough game, but I don't know that any of it was really just on him. Our team got their butts whipped to a man that night. There was poor running, poor blocking, and poor tackling. Everybody sucked.

STS: The talent on both teams seems to be fairly even. Like most tight games, this could come down to coaches dialing up the right calls in key situations. Do Georgia fans have confidence in Mike Bobo and Todd Gratham to make the right calls?

Dawg Sports: FIRE BOBO... oh, sorry, that was a knee-jerk reaction. I think Todd Grantham had pretty much still been in his "honeymoon period" as DC through last year. The underperformance of last year's defense relative to preseason expectations, however, has caused some people to start to question Grantham's ability. I don't think there's widespread dissatisfaction with Grantham yet, primarily because we had such great success as a team last year and there were some magnificent individual performances. So, I'd say UGA fans are still fairly confident in Grantham's ability to gameplan against a team's tendencies and weaknesses. If we start to allow a lot of big numbers, though, don't be surprised to hear people calling him out.

As for Mike Bobo... well, the offensive coordinator position is probably the most-maligned coaching position in college football. Any time your offense fails to score on any possession, people think you're a bum. Before 2012, Bobo was probably the coach most Georgia fans loved to hate the most. His play-calling seemed to lack nuance, tended to be rather predictable, and he was extremely fond of what we like to dub "first and bomb" and "calling a draw on 3rd and 7." One does not argue with success, however, and in 2012 Mike Bobo headed what was probably the most prolific offense in Georgia history. Therefore, he now has a newfound host of defenders that have, seemingly, come out of nowhere. To my eye, however, his play-calling style didn't really change that much last year. There were still running plays to set up the play-action pass, and there were still "first and bomb" plays and "draw on 3rd and 7" plays. The difference was that in 2012, the players executed those plays with much greater efficacy, so they simply worked. (One of the calls Bobo was most panned for, by the way, was the "non-spike" at the end of the SEC Championship Game. I 100% agreed with his call not to spike the ball, however, since at that moment we had the best defense in the country on its heels. Why call a timeout and allow them to get reorganized? In the moment, it was a great, and gutsy, call.)

That's a long explanation, but I think it boils down to the fact that a lot of Georgia fans probably trust Mike Bobo significantly more than they did last year. I'm still wary, however, of what he will do if our running game isn't as dominant as it was in 2012.