Georgia came within 5 yards of playing for the national championship last year. Can they overcome some heavy losses on the defensive side of the ball and make another run in 2013? Greg Poole of the Georgia Bulldog blog Leather Helmet Blog joins us today for our 2013 spring preview of UGA.
2012 was a revelation for many Georgia fans. Most of us believe that the SEC Championship Game was, in effect, the national championship game. UGA did something in the SECCG that it had not done for several years. That is, it went toe-to-toe with an elite program and took that team to the final seconds with the game very much in doubt. That game was a huge step for the program.
I, like most Georgia fans, knew that the Dawgs had the talent in 2012 to compete with anyone in the country. However, UGA fans have become conditioned over the past few years to expect the team to be a no-show in many big games.
In fact, 2012 began with such a game – South Carolina. However, leadership on the team pulled the squad back together after the debacle in Columbia and took it to the finish line – including the important win against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
A note about that bowl game.
SEC fans have long understood that anything less than an important BCS game is a chintzy consolation prize (Florida apparently had that attitude about the Sugar Bowl in 2013). SEC teams often play uninspired football in these bowls. That was certainly true of Georgia’s effort against Nebraska.
The important thing about that game was that Richt was able to marshal his forces and keep them focused enough to ensure a comfortable win even though several important players were missing from the game. The performance was a definite improvement from recent years.
The Georgia offense will be loaded (again) in 2013
The offense returns nearly intact for 2013 including QB Aaron Murray. Murray is a fifth-year senior who, admittedly, has had his ups and downs but is in position to shatter the UGA and SEC record books this year.
The entire offensive line, which was a pleasant surprise in 2012, loses no one. There will be three senior starters anchoring this unit and there will be quality depth for offensive line coach Will Friend to work with for the first time in his tenure.
There are talented running backs, speedy and talented wide receivers and solid depth at tight end. Most teams are going to have to score more than 40 points to beat Georgia in 2013.
The defense will have to be retooled. There were massive losses on that side of the ball but there is talent in place to replace those losses. For all the hype about Georgia’s defensive talent in 2012, the unit under-performed consistently IMHO.
If we look back to the SECCG, the tip pass on the last play gets all the attention but the real cause of Georgia’s loss was the inability to stop Alabama’s power running game in the second half.
Frankly, Alabama was not the only team that was able to run on Georgia. Almost all of the Dawgs opponents were able to gash the middle of the defense.
I look for UGA’s front seven to perform better this year. There will be fewer players with national hype but there is a solid core of linebackers and defensive lineman ready to step into the positions of the departed.
There may be some early issues in the secondary but I seriously doubt that any of these players will be suspended to start the season – that will be a change from recent years.
The real question here is, how successful do Georgia’s defensive replacements have to be to improve on last year’s effort?
The fact of the matter is that the Dawgs defense woefully under-performed in 2012. Going back to the season opener with Buffalo, Grantham’s defense was unable to stop mobile quarterbacks or power running games.
Suspensions early and, in my opinion, some less than team oriented attitudes allowed an extremely talented defense to perform at a pace that was no better than average much of the time.
I actually expect the 2013 version to have better stats, especially against the run. Georgia has a wealth of inside linebacker talent and the defensive lineman that will step into the shoes of the departed draftees are talented, better conditioned and hungry.
2013 presents coach Richt and his charges the opportunity to return to the de facto national championship game in Atlanta with a confidence born of experience in 2012.
For more Georgia football commentary and analysis you can follow Greg on Twitter @ecdawg_LHB.