For the last Saturday of the regular season, I chatted with MaconDawg of our rival’s SBNation site, Dawg Sports. Uga also enters COFH at 7-4, while sporting a new coaching staff, and a QB with some of the most majestic hair in college football.
1. After pulling in consecutive years of top-10 recruiting classes, it's not as if Richt left the proverbial cupboard bare in Athens, so what's been the biggest struggle for UGA this season?
There's plenty of talent in Athens. The problem is that it's young talent. Obviously there's true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. But the Bulldogs have played 14 other true freshmen this season.
Georgia's biggest weakness, however, has probably been on the offensive line. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman came from Arkansas, where he worked with some of the biggest linemen in not only college, but even pro football. Georgia has some guys who fit that physical bill, but they are too young and inexperienced to really contribute until 2017.
2. On a similar note, I know a coaching / scheme change can have a steep learning curve, but from the couple of Georgia games I've watched this season, there's not an immediate visible difference in this team from years passed... Are the X's and O's under Smart still drawing on the traditional pro-style offense or are you seeing differences in the playing style?
One positive side effect of all that youth is that players like Eason haven't had to unlearn a lot. Kirby Smart said as soon as he took the Georgia job that he was committed to a pro-style attack emphasizing the run. Jim Chaney has toed that line, but he's also taken the handcuffs off Eason as the season has progressed. Georgia is actually a little more wide open offensively than last season, though with varying effectiveness.
Defensively, Georgia looks very similar under Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker to how things ran last year under current Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. That is probably not all that surprising given that Pruitt coached under Nick Saban and Kirby Smart at Alabama before coming to Athens. The Bulldogs will play a multiple front and bring run and pass pressure from a variety of angles and positions.
3. The defense stifled a generally potent Auburn squad a couple Saturdays ago in a big upset win, who are some of the guys we should be watching out for on that side of the ball this Saturday?
The Bulldog defense is led by a pair of sophomore linebackers, Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick. Another key to the Bulldogs stout run defense this season has been a young front led by sophomore Trenton Thompson, Junior John Atkins, and a group of four freshmen defensive tackles including Julian Rochester, David Marshall, Tyler Clark, and Michail Carter. Georgia also has a pair of solid edge rushers in linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy.
4. Eason has a cannon, and despite his inconsistencies as a true freshman, looks to have a massive upside that we've seen flashes of this season. He quite honestly scares the hell out of us at FTRS. What's the biggest area he needs to develop in during the remaining games and offseason?
Eason's led a couple of last minute drives to victory, and but for a miraculous play by Tennessee would have had a third. He's shown that he truly has an NFL caliber arm. The biggest things he has to continue to work on are his touch downfield and his decision making. He's had a tendency to underthrow some deep routes, almost as if he doesn't fully trust himself to just put it up and let receivers go get it. And there are times when, like most freshmen, he doesn't see open receivers because he's locked in elsewhere. But statistically speaking, Eason is well ahead of where Matthew Stafford was as a true freshman, and if you are a Georgia fan that has to be incredibly exciting.
5. What position group or mismatch of playing Georgia Tech gives you the most concern heading into Saturday?
My biggest concern is the fact that most of Georgia young defense has not faced triple option before. I am worried about missed assignments and breakdowns in discipline more than anything else.
6. It's been several years since I've spent any time in Athens, so what are your recommendations for places to eat and drink in Athens after the game?
I always recommend the Blind Pig Tavern on Washington, home of Dawg Sports' annual reader get together. Their cheeseburgers have been hailed by Garden and Gun magazine as being among the best in the South (I prefer the "Fat Elvis"). They have a variety of other tasty bar food, a fantastic beer selection, and top-notch staff.
I also recommend Trappeze, an Athens fixture known for its voluminous beer selection and fresh takes on Southern and pub classics. I recommend the trout with rosemary and Gouda grits. But honestly, if you are in downtown Athens on a Saturday night you're going to have a hard time finding someplace where the party isn't.
7. And finally, how do you see this game playing out? What's the final score?
I think the turnover battle will be key. Both teams have done a great job controlling time of possession throughout the season and something may have to give on that front. One bad scenario for each involves long drives that don't end in points. In the end I think the UGA defense creates a turnover at the right time and Georgia escapes with a hard-fought 27-24 win.
Thanks again to MaconDawg and Dawg Sports for chatting with us. Safe travels to all those traveling to Athens this weekend. Go Jackets!
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