Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Looking forward, looking back

A commenter to my post on the seven things I am looking for in training camp poised a good question: You are not worried about the offense, at all?

Let me start by saying, yes.  Points 1 and 4 are directly related to the offense.  However, when you are returning 10 starters, plus at least three other guys that probably would start for most any other program in the conference (Ealey or King, Sturdivant and Aron White), I have a lot less to worry about with the offense than I do about other things.  Plus, the offense usually looks better in training camp.  I do want to address the specific points brought up in the comments.

1. No fumbles no interceptions no penalties.  Hey, I get to use reversion to the mean in a post.  Actually, I think I'll answer that without using reversion to the mean. Seriously, who doesn't worry about turnovers.  I think Rod Blagojevich was actually talking about a football when he uttered his famous "I've got this f'ing valuable thing and I'm not just going to give it away" phrase.

His hair is better than Derek Dooley's.
However, I am not as worried about turnovers as I am turnover margin.  However, I do note in point 4 that radio silence from the coaches on protecting the ball, indicating the running backs in particular are protecting the ball, is a good thing.  Besides, creating turnovers is just as important as preventing them.  For example, Texas had a TO margin of +.64 last season, but tied for 99th in the country with Georgia (and others) at 28 total turnovers.  However, they made up the difference big time by picking up 12 fumbles (compared to Georgia's 2) and led the country with 25 interceptions (compared to Georgia's 10). 

Now, we can debate the reasons for those numbers, including several bounces that didn't go our way on opponent's fumbles, but overall, the reason Texas and schools with aggressive defenses get so many turnovers is that they are in a position to do so.  I just don't think that was happening last season for Georgia and hope it will with Coach Grantham's new scheme and approach. 

Furthermore, I don't look for Murray to throw much more than 20-25 times a game.  At that rate, even if he replicates Cox's int/att ratio, he'll have around 11-12 ints, which is one or two fewer than that bum that started in 2006 with no experience. If that is the case, I feel pretty good about the TO ratio being better.  If you take that and combine it with what I was talking about in point number 1 about Murray having great situational awareness, I feel that number will be much, much lower.  Murray has two things going for him that Joe Cox didn't.  First, he is mobile.  He can use his feet to get out of trouble, something the Ginger Assassin just couldn't.  Second, he won't be asked to carry the team, so we'll see many fewer forced throws, even early in the season.  As a bonus, Orson Charles and he have been playing football together for six years.  I feel great about Charles' emergence as the starting TE and what that means for Aaron Murray's mindset.

Finally, I worry about penalties on both sides of the ball.  Defensive penalties, especially with a new scheme, have the potential to be a bigger deal.  However, after the past two seasons, any talk of penalties from training camp is just background noise.  It is like hearing Vince Dooley poor mouth this week's opponent.  It means nothing to me.  That being said, if we cut down on stupid penalites, such as offsides, lining up improperly, and late hits that would be a nice start for the offense.  Cutting out un-necissary holding (as opposed to holding to keep your QB from dying) would be great as well, but again, that concern is partially wrapped up in having the RB's blocking skills getting praised by the coaches.

2. Scoring plus + 20 points advantage. I am going to assume the comment was directed towards the need to have a much bigger ppg advantage than 4 and score more that the 15ppg I posited in my final point.  Let me just say that I see your point and think we'll put points on the board.  In 2009, an SEC team had a new QB with many, many parts to their offense coming back.  That team was Alabama.  I know McElroy was a junior, meaning he had a couple of seasons to learn the offense.  Murray has been in Athens for 19 months.  He is, for all practical purposes, but for playing time, a redshirt sophomore.  You add that together with a terrific offensive line, two running backs that will be capable of carrying a large load and wide receiver/tight end combo that will draw four defenders just about every play, I feel good about hitting the 28 ppg mark pretty easily.
He'll help with scoring, too.

 Looking at it differently, if Blair Walsh threatens Billy Bennett's FG record this season (31), he'll account for around 7.5 ppg.  At that point, we are just three offensive touchdowns a game away from hitting 28 ppg.  You throw in the random defensive score and the very real possibility of Branden Smith returning a couple of kicks or punts for TDs and the 28ppg doesn't seem far fetched. 

My point with the list was to talk about the things I am looking for out of training camp.  I am cautiously optimistic about this season, but I am much more worried about defense than offense.

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