2010 CFBZ Prediction: 2nd Place in SEC East
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 3rd Place in SEC East (6-7, 3-5)
The 2010 season is one that everybody affiliated with the University of Georgia wants to forget. Everything that could go wrong, just about did go wrong. There were a myriad of off the field issues before the season started (which included one of the candidates to be their starting QB getting booted off the team). The star receiver (A.J. Green) was suspended for the first 4 games of the season for violating NCAA rules. The running backs couldn't stay out of trouble, couldn't stay healthy and couldn't hold onto the football. The highly touted Offensive Line was an epic failure. Even the new mascot, UGA VIII, who just debuted this year was diagnosed with cancer.
Some thought Georgia had a chance to win the SEC East this year because Florida was thought to be preparing for a down year. But after starting 1-4 all Georgia could think about was winning one game, much less a conference title. One writer in Alabama has had Mark Richt on the hot seat for the past 2 or 3 years, well that time has come as his first losing season in Athens has just finished up. I am a graduate of the University of Georgia and I blog about Georgia for this very site so sometimes I'm not always unbiased. Because of that I went outside to get another opinion on the state of football in Athens. Once again we are joined by our friends at the Leather Helmet Blog as they give us their opinions about the 2010 season and take a quick peak at 2011.
Who were the most surprising players this past season?
Without a doubt the most surprising player for the Dawgs this year was Aaron Murray:
That stat-line says it all. When you consider he played the first 4 games without A.J. Green, Murray's performance is even more impressive. The off-season was spent planning ways to get the ball to Green. Green removed himself and Murray still produced a better passer rating than Stafford - not bad.
Alec Ogletree, a true freshman DB, became a starter after mid-season and will be a player to watch next year. There were others who were positive surprises but this was not a season that will be remembered for superlatives at UGA.
The biggest surprise for Georgia fans this year was the abject failure of the offensive line (making Murray's performance even more impressive). The Dawgs began the year with an experienced unit that had come on toward the end of 2009 and was expected to be a strength in 2010. If Georgia can not run the ball consistently there is little chance that the passing game will be effective. Richt's passing game relies on play action and play action does not work without a running game.
Many observers feel the offensive line problems (and D-line to some extent) are a result of a strength and conditioning program. S&C was allowed to become less effective over the past 4 years. Richt fired his S&C coordinator (and close friend) who came from FSU with him. We will see in the opener against Boise State if the problem was conditioning.
If you could have a "re-do" from any game this year which would it be and why?
Georgia lost seven games. There is no one game that, if magically changed to a win, would have turned the season around. However, I would have to pick the most embarrassing loss - Colorado. At least UCF was a conference champion and won 10 games. Both games were appalling failures.
Who are you looking most forward to watching in 2011?
Murray would have to be my first choice. He will build on the spectacular numbers he put up this year and that will be fun to watch. The most interesting group to watch will be the defense in 2011. There was definite improvement by Todd Grantham's defense in 2010. The second year will produce even more improvement, especially if he can land the type of body he needs for the nose position. S&C changes will bring defensive aggressiveness back to levels that Georgia fans demand. Combine better conditioning, more aggression and better familiarity with Grantham's 3-4 and there should be much better production from the defense.
Which players need to elevate their game the most in 2011?
Georgia is not in position to think that if this player or that player has improved stats in 2011 there will be dramatic improvement in the record. In the SEC games that UGA lost they were beaten across the line of scrimmage and that is where players must elevate their games. There is a contingent of Dawg fans who believe UGA is operating with a talent deficit to the elite of the SEC. Their contention is that recruiting has suffered over the past few years and poor talent evaluation is responsible for the Dawgs' problems. I do not believe that to be accurate. There are talent differences in UGA, Florida, Alabama and LSU but differences are minor and vary from year to year. Georgia has adequate talent in place or arriving in 2011. It is the coaching staff (including S&C) that will determine Georgia's fate. Coach Richt said in his end of the year presser that his team "was close." He's right but he and his staff have got to get the team in championship condition then instill the attitude of junkyard dawgs and sic 'em on Boise in September. Another year like 2010 will send Richt to ESPN.
2010 was a huge disappointment to every Dawg fan. In your eyes what are the biggest changes that need to be made in 2011?
Coach Richt has two problems to solve - offensive and defensive line play. He has to correct problems on both lines of scrimmage. With the exception of the nose position talent is in place. Both lines have to undergo a transformation in conditioning. That conditioning regime will go a long way toward putting fire back into line play at Georgia. But to get his team to ready compete for the SEC East title, Mark Richt is going to have to change. He will have to move out of his comfort zone. The competitive fire that he says is burning inside him needs to flash-over and scorch his team. His offensive linemen have to know that if it's 4th and 1 on the 2 - he is going to go for it and they had better not let anyone touch the ball-carrier before that yard is gained. Failure can not be an acceptable outcome.
I hope he is successful. I'm not betting the rent.