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Clemson versus UGA: Where do we go now?

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Just another perspective on the aftermath of game 1 in Athens.

Scott Cunningham

You readers are probably coming at the UGA game aftermath from all kinds of directions.  You could be anywhere from "we were just too inexperienced on offense at this point, but we will be fine" to "we are terrible on so many levels we might not win 8 games."  I've tried very hard to step back and look at this thing from as logical a standpoint as I can, and this is what I've come up with.

1.  The right side of our OL is still a big problem.  I know this is no news flash for folks, but Gore and Webster/Norton got worked over in the second half.  It didn't help that Chad broke out his coot game call sheets.  It didn't appear that we did much to help that side out with the TE, but not having game film to double check that I can't say for sure.

2.  Make the CHOICE now.  If Adam Choice is indeed the most talented back on the roster (that's healthy), which isn't hard to imagine at this stage, it makes no sense for the staff not to give him serious work this week in a cupcake game and get him ready.  The current situation reminds me a bit of 2004 when we started out trying Yusef Kelly as the #1 back but as the season went on, Reggie Merriweather clearly was the best back on the team and just about carried that team to a respectable finish after a miserable start.  In all honesty, running back has traditionally been one of the spots it is EASIEST to play as a true freshman.  Davidson is OK, hopefully Gallman will get more of a look, but if Choice brings the package of size and speed we've heard about, he needs to get in there sooner and not later.  The D.J. Howard we saw in 2011 against Auburn is no longer in town, so let the ship sail on that one.

3.  The defense is OK.  The 45 points and well over 300 yards rushing is horrible, but what the defense did for three quarters against the level of horses UGA brings on that side of the ball was pretty impressive.  UGA's early scores were aided by penalty and good field position, and a team like that is going to hit some plays on anybody, but as long as our offense was doing something, ANYTHING, the defense was holding up fine.  UGA was on pace for maybe 150 yards rushing for the game (the target winnable number in my preview) until they broke the three big runs late.  Not having Crawford didn't burn us until Barnes went out.  Then we really felt it.  UGA totally avoided dealing with Grady Jarrett after the first couple of series and attacked the perimeter over and over again.  To be honest, if I saw a corner the size of Martin Jenkins, I'd attack him in the run game too (tough as he is, he's just small).  I'll reserve final judgement when they face FSU's offense at (hopefully) full strength.

4.  Special Olympic teams are back again!  I blame this part of the game more than anything else in the loss.  It was the biggest mismatch by FAR in the game when you figure how UGA was able to convert a kick, run a kick back when I think I could have scored from the lane that was created, and dominated the punt game.  Pinion was OK, other than the kickoff fiasco (why kick it anywhere NEAR Gurley?), but Humphries gave us nothing, Green was average at best on kick return, and the field goal attempt was like something from a B team game in high school.  We did have a good plan in the first half and it was working, but gifting them an easy TD on a return after we took the lead back was akin to the 2012 FSU game when we did something similar and allowed them to get to the half and expose our weak areas.  We should have been up by 10 or 14 at the half had we played reasonable special teams.  Dabo gets the big foot in the mouth award for bragging on how athletic in the kicking game we were going to be, at least after this game.  Playing a team with equal or better talent, you cannot get smoked in the special teams department.  Paging David Dunham!

I won't get into the QB talk too much, but Cole has to show he can take a top off the defense on a throw or we have no choice but to go with Watson.  The arm talent difference is pretty obvious so I think we are going to see a 2002 type switch before too long.  Stoudt would be fine if we had Sammy back to make the screen game a major threat, but teams are going to sit on that big time and see if we can go deep with any kind of success.  Guys like Peake and Williams have to be money and not have the drops we saw on Saturday.  I will say it was very exciting to see #4 in action and I'm looking forward to a lot more of that.  He should get 50% of the SC State game at minimum along with Choice.

Thankfully the ACC is pretty bad overall and we can mask a lot of ills against most (particularly the wolfpeckers and Deacons and Orange).  We have another chance to show something in Tally, but there is a LOT of improvement needed prior to that one for sure.