Brad Stephens brings his own Southern flavored sports perspective and humor to Bartow Sports Zone. He is a Bartow County native and an attorney in Cartersville, but he's mostly a Georgia Bulldogs' football fan. Brad is also part of the Bartow Sports Zone broadcast team and provides color commentary during the Johnny's NY Style Pizza of Cartersville, Game of the Week Friday nights in the fall. He is a co-host of the Bartow Sports Zone radio show each Friday morning 7-9am on 100.3FM and AM1450, WBHF. Stephens is author of "Reflections in Muddy Water, Layin' Drag on life's highway in Cassville, Georgia."
After a 45-14 shellacking in Oxford, Mississippi last Saturday, many Georgia Bulldog fans took to social media to voice their disbelief and displeasure over the performance of a team full of question marks. A team that has endured a coaching carousel of epic proportions. A team that has endured its lumps more often than basking in its successes. The honeymoon with Kirby Smart is over.
The issues are quite clear. The offensive line play is atrocious. The secondary is getting torched and the receivers drop passes like hungover frat boys at an intramural game. The defensive line gets no pressure on quarterbacks and the kicking game is almost a joke at this point. William Ham could not hit Stone Mountain with a beach ball. Throw a true freshman quarterback in the mix and you have the recipe for a really, really long season.
It all started long before Kirby, however. As Bulldawg Illustrated pointed out recently, the recruiting classes of 2013-14 were abominations that set Georgia back in ways that cannot be measured. Of the 31 signees from the 2013 class, 58 percent are no longer with the team. That number dipped to 30 percent in 2014, when Mark Richt only signed 20 players. These players are your juniors and seniors now. If you look at the statistics, the Dawgs were lucky to win nine games last season and will be extremely lucky to match that total this season.
Dawg fans often lament, “the talent is there!” On the contrary, it is not. At least not to the degree of Alabama or an Ole Miss team that had little trouble dismantling Georgia’s depleted roster. There is no senior leadership because there are no seniors. Many of the juniors and sophomores are starting for the first time and learning the ropes along with the freshmen, who are seeing the field more often than they should, especially on defense. Now, they have a whole new coaching staff and playbook to learn.
The Dawg Nation will have to learn patience. This is a line of scrimmage league and that is where we are hurting most, especially on offense. Our starting left tackle transferred to Georgia from Rhode Island. Two other players, Isaiah Wynn and Greg Pyke, are playing out of position. The starting right guard, Lamont Gaillard, is a converted defensive lineman. Brandon Kublanow is the senior leader at center, but spent the first half of his career at guard. The backups have little to no experience in SEC play. It will take a couple of seasons to get the personnel on the offensive line to become elite again.
It is clear that Kirby and the staff have their work cut out for them. Many of their comments prior to the season foreshadowed what was to come. We needed to get “bigger” in a hurry. We have “no depth.” Special teams is “concerning.” Jacob Eason is showing “flashes” of getting better, which is code for freshman mistakes and turnovers. This staff needs to time create a team in their own image. As one rabid Dawg fan told me, “Richt ran the team like a country club; Smart runs it like boot camp.”
Well, the culture change is going to experience another rough weekend when Tennessee comes between the hedges. The Volunteers are riding as high as they have been in 10 years. Every ounce of momentum will be firmly behind the invaders from Knoxville, as it should be. They are deeper, more talented and appear to have regained their swagger from the 1990’s. The Dawgs are expected to take another big loss at home and your guess is as good as mine about what Georgia team we will see.
It is utter confusion, but that is what happens with coaching changes. We asked for it and now we got it. Let’s take our medicine and hope for better days ahead.