Monday, July 8, 2013
DawgNation roundtable: Biggest question
By David Ching
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia has not announced whether Marshall Morgan will face any game punishment following his recent arrest, but the sophomore kicker might be out for at least the Aug. 31 opener at Clemson.
The Bulldogs were already without sophomore safety Josh Harvey-Clemons for the opener following a separate disciplinary incident -- a big blow for an inexperienced secondary facing Clemson’s high-powered offense.
That brings us to this week’s DawgNation roundtable question: Georgia already had some positional questions entering the opener at Clemson. Now a couple of off-the-field incidents have added more lineup uncertainty. In your opinion, what is the Bulldogs’ biggest area of concern for that game?
Kipp Adams: With the suspension of Harvey-Clemons, the secondary for the Bulldogs goes from an inexperienced-yet-talented group to a potential problem for Georgia. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris will be champing at the bit to employ his hurry-up, no-huddle play-calling to take advantage of a group that has only one player, Damian Swann, who has ever started a game at defensive back.
Josh Harvey-Clemons' absence is a cause of worry for the opener against high-powered Clemson.
Leading the offense will be All-American wideout Sammy Watkins, as well as quarterback and preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Tajh Boyd, who threw for more yards (3,896), touchdowns (36) and yards per attempt (9.12) than Johnny Manziel, last year’s Heisman winner.
The Tigers’ uptempo scheme is predicated on running as many plays as possible, and their 100 plays vs. LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year should create even more apprehension for Georgia than inexperience at defensive back. The LSU defense was heavily fatigued in the fourth quarter, so Georgia will need to make sure its defense is well-conditioned for the potential high-paced shootout.
The best way to counter such an offense, however, is to keep it off the field. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. With an offensive line that returns all five starters, Gurley and Marshall must control the time of possession by churning out first downs and limiting the number of plays Clemson can run, minimizing the potential disadvantage that a green defense might create.
Radi Nabulsi: My biggest question for that game has not changed.
While Georgia fans have become spoiled with great kickers and every point will be needed in the contest against Clemson, the idea of losing Morgan isn’t as bad as losing Harvey-Clemons.
Even before it was announced that Harvey-Clemons would be out for the Clemson game, I thought the biggest area of concern was the safeties. It is a critical position against a quick-strike, offensive juggernaut such as the Tigers.
The Georgia defense is rebuilding, but there are some key leaders returning who can provide direction and on-field adjustments. On the line there is Garrison Smith. Swann will anchor the cornerbacks. The inside linebackers will have Amarlo Herrera and the outside linebackers can look to Jordan Jenkins to lock down one side. But there is no returning safety with a lot of experience. These are the guys who have to make quick adjustments, think on their feet and be the last line of defense -- or the first if Todd Grantham dials it up that way. That bodes ill against Boyd and Watkins. The loss of Harvey-Clemons only exacerbates the problem.
David Ching: This doesn’t have anything to do with suspensions, but I’ll switch it up here and say that I think Georgia’s defensive front seven is still a big question for the opener.
We’ve paid plenty of attention to the absences at the back end of the defense, but Georgia will also be missing Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and John Jenkins -- two NFL first-round picks and a third-rounder -- plus Cornelius Washington, Abry Jones, Kwame Geathers, Christian Robinson and Michael Gilliard out of last season’s front seven.
Georgia has talent up front, but it’s a completely unproven bunch. If they struggle to hem in Boyd -- keep in mind how South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw ran circles around the Bulldogs’ defense as the Gamecocks built a huge early lead last season -- it will make life much more difficult for the new guys in the secondary.
We also posed the question to the readers on our message board, The Pound. Here is a sampling of their responses:
Thomas64255: “Definitely the defensive secondary. You know Clemson will try to exploit the defensive backfield. However, I believe we will rise to the occasion and successfully defend against the pass.”
bigbeast40: “I would say the defensive line. It will have a different identity than it did last year since we had a lot of beef, but now we have smaller, more athletic guys so there is question to whether they can hold up against teams’ offensive lines. It is crucial we control the line of scrimmage and make Boyd uncomfortable that first game because that will go a long way for our secondary.”
Tyhembree: “Special teams. With the likely suspension of Marshall Morgan, the kicking game will be up in the air. Field goals are one thing, but extra points and kickoff duty are also vital points in the game. Not to mention the numerous fresh faces I anticipate will be on special teams as a whole.”
tancat64: “Offensive line. If we protect [Aaron] Murray and open up holes for our backs, then Clemson will have to rely on luck to stop our offense. If they’re on early, it could spell trouble for Clemson late.”
Darryl8223: “Pass rush. Best antidote for an inexperienced secondary is to put Boyd on his backside. Also need the inside push to limit his avenues of escape. No longer have Jarvis to handle the hectoring of quarterbacks. Jenkins looks like the guy, but a group effort is going to be needed.”