That's ju' boy repping the backpack. Man, I need to get a haircut. Thanks to Mark Bradley for the picture.
I’ll admit, the best part of being a part of this blog is that, unlike most well-distinguished and respected publications, we at WUOG don’t believe in “deadlines” and “quick turn-arounds”. We understand that our beloved readers are so dedicated to our writings that they will sit in front of the computer screen for hours, maybe even days, waiting for the next hot blog post from one of our extremely talented writing staff. We’re just that good. With that attitude in mind, let’s move on to what brought you out here in the first place.
UGA opened up camp Monday with a lot more questions than answers. In no particular order, here they are:
-Was redshirt-freshman quarterback Aaron Murray ready to be the starter after seeing zero snaps last season?
-Is the 3-4 defense really the remedy for such lack-luster defensive performances over the past couple years?
-Will distractions, such as an NCAA inquiry, player arrests and dismissals, and the Damon Evans saga be too much for Mark Richt to handle?
As I said, a lot of questions. But let’s be real here, none of these questions will be answered until the season is underway. If any of us were looking for answers at the first day of fall practice, we’ve essentially gone to the wrong place.
However, this esteemed sports writer has some “impressions” of what those answers may be down the road. First let’s start with Aaron Murray.
Is Aaron Murray ready?
According to everybody, he is. And when I mean everybody, I mean everybody. Almost every player was asked for their take on Murray, including defensive players. As if defensive-end-turned-linebacker Justin Houston didn’t have enough on his brain, some reporter asked what they thought of the former U.S. Army All-American. As one would expect, Houston replied that he’s “focused on the defense”.
Still, it was easy to see that above every other issue, the quarterback one was the most pressing. To his credit, Murray handled the swarm of reporters very well.
While he probably realizes that there will be a lot of attention coming his way, he maintained that he will simply try to be the facilitator, putting the ball in their playmakers hands.
“Extraordinary plays come from the simplest ones,” said Murray. “Just gotta make the plays.” He added later, “It’s like a chess match. They make their first move and you have to counteract their’ s.”
Not bad words from the young wipper-snapper (I’m one year older than him). Murray admitted that he’s talked to former Georgia quarterbacks David Greene and Matthew Stafford and understands the pressure he’ll be taking on when September 4th rolls around. However, Murray insisted that he’s going for his own legacy while he is here.
“I can’t be David Greene, I can’t be Matthew Stafford,” said Murray. “I can only be Aaron Murray.”
From all indications during practice, Aaron Murray might just work. I’ll admit, I was a little taken aback by Murray’s height, especially after seeing Clint Boling and thinking about Murray peeking over the O-line during games. But, then again, didn’t Drew Brees just win a Super Bowl this year?
During practice, Murray looked pretty accurate, which has always been one of his strenghts. The ball did come out a little shaky here and there, but Murray looked confident, and that may be the most important factor in Murray’s progression when it’s all said and done.
What can we expect from this 3-4 defense?
While it’s hard for me to guess what exactly we’ll see from this new defense, I can say one thing I expect to see. A deep rotation. If you haven’t read it already, there’s a good article from Chris Low talking with new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. One of the bigger things that stood out for me was Grantham’s plan to use a rotation system to keep his players fresh and focused the entire game. Houston seemed excited that his job as linebacker would simply focus attacking opposing offenses. However, he seemed equally excited that the system focused on using the entire defense team.
“We have a lot of rotation going on, so hopefully that’s for the better,” said Houston. “The more people we have…the more rested we will be in the fourth quarter.”
If any of you guys remember the loss to Kentucky last season or Georgia Tech the year before, words like this have to be encouraging. Under Willie Martinez, the Bulldogs almost appeared gassed at the end of games, whether it be giving up plays in the air or running game. While the “best” players won’t be on the field at all times, you can rest assured that they will be when the fourth quarter starts.
Didn’t get a good look at the defense during practice, mostly because it was a lot of setting up looks and not much defending of anything. I think as scrimmaging opens up, we’ll have a better idea on what to expect from this defense.
Granted, this was my first time around Mark Richt on such a close level, so I might be completely off-base here. But, the guy just seemed a little frazzled. Maybe he hadn’t eaten yet or something, but you could definitely sense a feeling of relief from him as he walked up to the podium. After seven player arrests, with three being dismissed, and an athletic director nightmare, Richt seemed happy to finally start football back up again. I’ve never been behind the whole idea of Richt being on the “Hot Seat”, but I’m sure even he can sense fans, alumni, and journalists alike waiting the get the burner going.
As expected, Richt declined to discuss the NCAA investigation, but he did say all players were clear to practice.
Well, that’s all I pretty much have to say about the beginning of fall practice. They gave all the media folk a practice schedule so I’m planning on dropping by Butts-Mehere a little more throughout the pre-season to supply some updates here and there. We’re also looking into getting some players on the airwaves here at the ‘ole station, so look out for that.