Georgia Bulldogs: Adam Erickson

Five key points: UGA-Clemson

September, 1, 2013
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CLEMSON, S.C. -- Let’s take a look at five factors to consider in Georgia's 38-35 loss at Clemson on Saturday, and let's look ahead as well.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesDespite an injury, Todd Gurley still rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns in Georgia's loss.
1. Injuries hurt Bulldogs: Georgia rolled up 35 points and outgained Clemson 545 yards to 467. It did so without All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley available for a chunk of the game and also without receiver Malcolm Mitchell for nearly the entire game.

Not that Bulldogs coach Mark Richt was willing to use that as an excuse afterward.

“Moving the ball’s fun and all that, but winning the game’s what it’s about,” Richt said. “We’re not going to celebrate that.”

Gurley and Marshall actually sustained their injuries on the same play, with potentially devastating effects for the Bulldogs. Gurley strained his quad while completing a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and then Mitchell suffered a right knee injury during the post-touchdown celebration.

“He got hurt after Gurley scored and in the end zone, [Mitchell] jumped up to celebrate with him,” Richt said. “When he came down, he hurt his knee.”

Richt was unsure about the status of either player for next Saturday’s South Carolina game, although he said of Mitchell’s injury that “I’ve got a feeling his might be worse than Todd’s.”

2. Gurley still runs tough: Despite the injury, Gurley returned to the game -- to his coach’s surprise -- and ran effectively in the second half.

“I really was surprised he came back into the game to be honest with you,” Richt said. “He came back earlier in the game after that and just was not effective at all. He came back later in the game and was able to do a little bit more of what Todd is capable of.”

After rushing four times for 81 yards in the first half, Gurley carried eight times for 73 more yards after intermission, finishing with 154 yards and two touchdowns. And he did much of that damage on runs between the tackles.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Gurley ran 11 times for 142 on designed runs between the tackles, including three runs of 10 yards or more. Unfortunately for Georgia, the rest of the Bulldogs ran 19 times for 75 yards on between-the-tackles runs, with only 14 coming in the second half (2.0 ypc).

3. Young defense struggles: Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said afterward that he was pleased with the effort shown by the many newbies in his lineup, but lamented that many of their mistakes -- such as missed tackles and a blown coverage on a wheel route -- were typical of inexperienced players.

Perhaps the most costly missed tackle came in the first quarter when Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins broke away from Damian Swann’s tackle attempt and went 77 yards for a touchdown. But that wasn’t the only example.

ESPN Stats and Information reports that Watkins accounted for 102 yards after the catch against Georgia -- the third-best YAC game of his career trailing the 137 and 105 he posted against Auburn and Florida State, respectively, in 2011.

4. Murray’s turnovers costly: Georgia raced up and down the field in the first quarter, but a number of protection issues hurt the Bulldogs and quarterback Aaron Murray in the second.

Clemson accounted for three of its four sacks in the second quarter alone -- and one of them led to a Tigers touchdown. Stephone Anthony knocked the ball away from Murray at the Georgia 20 and Spencer Shuey recovered at the 16. Five plays later, the Tigers scored a touchdown to make it 21-all.

“The fumble was unfortunate,” Richt said. “We’ve got to squeeze the ball better. That was a tough turnover right there, and it cost us a short field and seven points.”

Georgia was soon in prime scoring position after Justin Scott-Wesley recovered a Watkins punt fumble at the Clemson 30, but Tigers defensive end Corey Crawford surprised Murray by dropping into coverage and picking off Murray’s first-down pass at the 17.

Richt credited Clemson and Crawford for a good play call and an outstanding play on the interception.

Clemson punted after the second Murray turnover, but the Tigers had stifled one of the Bulldogs’ best scoring opportunities of the quarter.

“As [Murray] let the ball loose, he didn’t see the guy on the back side -- and off of a play fake … it’s not like you dropped back in the pocket and can see the whole field. So he just did a good job of being in the right spot and made a nice catch.”

5. Win no longer probable after botched FG: This season ESPN is introducing a number of new methods of statistically analyzing the sport -- one of which measures win probability through the course of the game.

Find an explanation of the set of new metrics here:

Clemson held the advantage for most of the game, although Georgia became the more likely victor -- with a 53-percent likelihood of victory -- late in the third quarter when it trailed 31-28 and earned first-and-goal at the Clemson 5. When the Bulldogs failed to reach the end zone after three straight runs, their win probability dropped to 40 percent. And when holder Adam Erickson couldn’t corral Nathan Theus’ high snap on a potential 20-yard, game-tying field goal, Georgia’s chances for victory dropped to 30 percent.

Georgia trimmed Clemson’s lead to three points late in the final period, but that missed opportunity late in the third was the Bulldogs’ best chance to seize the game, according to ESPN’s new metric.

Sloppy play costs Georgia in opener

September, 1, 2013
9/01/13
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CLEMSON, S.C. -- Although it’s easy to point to a botched field goal try as the difference in No. 5 Georgia’s 38-35 loss to No. 8 Clemson on Saturday, the Bulldogs know there was more to it than that.

“I thought we did some good things and we did some things to get you beat,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose team has no time to lick its wounds with a game against No. 6 South Carolina on tap next Saturday. “We’ll find out how good we are next week.”

There were penalties from the Bulldogs on Saturday. One of the nation’s most-penalized teams over the last several years, Georgia had nine for 84 lost yards against Clemson -- including two costly infractions in the fourth quarter that short-circuited the Bulldogs’ comeback attempt.

There were two turnovers by quarterback Aaron Murray -- a fumble and an interception -- in the second quarter that took the wind out of the Georgia offense’s sails after accounting for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone.

And there was a simple lack of execution at some crucial junctures that altered a game the Bulldogs certainly could have won.

“We did a lot of good things tonight, but there were a lot of things that we didn’t do so well -- some first-game mistakes and they ended up costing us there in the game,” said Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, whose team accumulated 545 yards of total offense, but surrendered four sacks and two turnovers. “But I just told the guys we ran out of time there at the end and it hurts, but we’ve got to look at the tape, we’ve got to correct and we’ve got to get better.”

The sequence that led to the botched field goal was particularly costly. Georgia earned first-and-goal at the Clemson 5 after a 35-yard completion to Chris Conley late in the third quarter. The Bulldogs then ran three straight running plays -- a 2-yard run by Keith Marshall, a 1-yard run by Todd Gurley and a third-down dive for no gain by Quayvon Hicks -- before settling for a 20-yard field goal try by Patrick Beless that would have tied the score at 31-all.

One problem: On his first field goal snap of the season, new snapper Nathan Theus shot the ball high to holder Adam Erickson, who was unable to corral the snap and was forced to fall on it for a 6-yard loss.

That was an enormous letdown after Georgia had battled its way back into the game and failed to gain the equalizer.

“Momentum is a big thing and that was huge momentum for us, a big boost for our guys,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “That turned out to be one of the deciding plays of the game, obviously.”

As were the plays that immediately preceded it, since they could have given Georgia its first lead since Hicks’ 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.

“We had to get points in the red zone coming in and we wanted touchdowns and we weren’t able to do it right there,” Bobo said. “We ran the ball down there and I wanted to keep running it and I’ve got to look at the tape. We just didn’t execute what we had called and unfortunately we didn’t get the three points. That happens. We still had a chance to win after that, so we had our opportunities and just penalties killed us there on the next couple of drives.”

Even after the field goal mistake, Georgia’s defense forced a Clemson three-and-out, with a punt giving Georgia possession at its 43 early in the fourth quarter. The Bulldgos were quickly flagged for a devastating 15-yard penalty for chop blocking, however, and ended up punting.

Clemson scored on the next drive to go up 38-28 midway through the quarter, making a holding penalty that nullified a 14-yard Gurley run on the Dawgs’ ensuing drive even more costly, as another Georgia punt there nearly put the game out of reach.

The Bulldogs drove for a quick touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but when they failed to recover an onside kick and had already used all of their timeouts, Clemson was able to run out the clock and walk away victorious.

“We killed ourselves with penalties tonight,” Murray said. “It’s tough to convert third-and-long. Penalties are a big reason why we lost tonight.”

With the loss, Georgia finds itself in a fairly familiar position, which might have been why there seemed to be little panic within the Bulldog contingent during postgame interviews.

The Bulldogs dropped their first two games of 2011, including their SEC opener against South Carolina, and finished the regular season with a 10-game winning streak. They took a 35-7 pounding last season at South Carolina and once again won out.

Both times they earned a spot in the SEC championship game by claiming the Eastern Division title. And next Saturday will still play a major role in whether they can return to Atlanta for a third straight season, regardless of what happened against Clemson.

“I don’t see anybody in there ready to jump off a bridge or anything,” Richt said. “I think they all know that happens in football if you play a really good football team and you get beat. And if you do, then you move on and you continue to play well and you get better and you make corrections. We’re still learning a lot about this team.”

Kicking game could be an adventure

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
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CLEMSON, Ga. -- With potentially a new snapper, holder and kicker, No. 5 Georgia’s kicking game could be an adventure in Saturday’s opener at No. 8 Clemson.

Although Georgia coach Mark Richt refused throughout the preseason to announce whether kicker Marshall Morgan would face a suspension following a June arrest for boating under the influence, the sophomore did not handle the opening kickoff.

That honor went to Collin Barber, who kicked the ball into the end zone and Clemson’s Sammy Watkins returned it to the Tigers’ 24-yard line.

Morgan was one of five kicking specialists who made the trip to South Carolina, however, and did participate in pregame warmups to a limited degree. Walk-ons Adam Erickson and Patrick Beless handled the bulk of the field-goal tries during warmups. Walk-on kicker Thomas Pritchard and punter Barber are also on the Bulldogs’ travel roster.

The Bulldogs are breaking in a new long snapper, Nathan Theus, following four-year starter Ty Frix’s graduation. And if Erickson handles field goal and PAT duties, their holder will also be new against Clemson since Erickson was last season’s holder.

Walk-on defensive back Lucas Redd held for Erickson during pregame warmups.
Editor’s note: DawgNation's post-spring positional analysis continues this week after focusing on the offense last week. Today we examine the special teams players:

Returning players/stats: K Marshall Morgan, So. (8-14 FG, 63-67 PAT, 87 points); P Collin Barber, So. (60 punts, 2,488 yards, 41.5 yards per punt), P Adam Erickson, Jr. (8-296, 37.0 ypp); KOR Malcolm Mitchell, Jr. (16 returns, 360 yards, 22.5 yards per return); KOR Todd Gurley, So. (7-243, 34.7 ypr, 1 TD); PR Mitchell (11-57, 5.2); PR Rhett McGowan, Sr. (9-75, 8.3); PR Damian Swann, Jr. (5-37, 7.4) S Nathan Theus, So.

Newcomers: Tramel Terry, Fr. (ESPN's No. 89 overall prospect of 2013. No. 9 athlete. Enrolled in January); Reggie Davis, Fr. (No. 45 wide receiver. Expected to enroll this summer); J.J. Green, Fr. (No. 58 CB. Enrolled in January); Rico Johnson, Fr. (No. 122 WR. Expected to enroll this summer)

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Marshall MorganRadi Nabulsi/ESPNGeorgia coach Mark Richt seems to have more faith in kicker Marshall Morgan (13) for the 2013 season after putting him through the paces this spring.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Kicking in the SEC as a true freshman is rarely a smooth ride -- and Marshall Morgan can attest.

Performing as a place-kicker in a packed SEC stadium versus the far smaller audiences at the average high school football stadium simply requires an adjustment period, and some players never make an adequate transition.


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About Them Dawgs: Collin Barber

December, 16, 2012
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Editor’s note: Each day between now and Georgia’s Capital One Bowl date with Nebraska, we will review the season for a key Bulldogs player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at punter Collin Barber.

No. 32 Collin Barber
Freshman/Punter
57 punts for 2,371 yards, 41.6 avg., 60 long

Role in 2012: Barber arrived on campus during the summer and won the punting job by the time the regular-season opened and did a fine job in his first season as a college player.

The good: Barber and pooch punter Adam Erickson rarely had a huge swath of green space to punt into thanks to Georgia’s offensive efficiency this season. That probably affected their yards-per-punt averages, as most of the time they punted it high to prevent a return or tried to drop it inside the opponent’s 20-yard line to give them poor field position. Both players were effective in that endeavor, with 27 of Barber’s 57 punts resulting in a fair catch and 18 leaving the opponent inside its 20.

The bad: Georgia finished in the middle of the pack in net punting -- 59th nationally at 36.78 yards per punt -- but Barber and Erickson limited opponents’ chances to even attempt a return. Opponents returned only 14 kicks all season for a total of 156 yards -- 70 of which came on South Carolina star Ace Sanders’ return for the only touchdown against Georgia’s punt team this season. Still, the Bulldogs could use a little more distance on the punts in the future in addition to the height.

Crystal ball: Barber is just the second freshman punter to start under Richt (the first was Gordon Ely-Kelso, who averaged 39 yards per punt as a freshman in 2003). Barber’s numbers were OK and figure only to improve over time. He and Erickson definitely helped their coverage team prevent big plays. After the South Carolina game, when Sanders broke the long return, the Bulldogs punted 32 times in seven games, but opponents totaled only 35 punt return yards.

Film review: Georgia vs. Alabama 

December, 3, 2012
12/03/12
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Let’s take a look at three key plays from No. 6 Georgia’s 32-28 loss to No. 2 Alabama in the SEC championship game on Saturday.


Dogs pull off fake punt

The score: 0-0

The situation: Georgia faced fourth-and-10 from the Alabama 36 on the first play of the second quarter.

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Editor’s note: Georgia’s football season is halfway over and the Bulldogs will take this weekend off before resuming SEC play next Saturday at Kentucky. We’ll take a look at a different position group each day this week and evaluate how it performed in the first half of the season in our DawgNation midseason report cards.

ATHENS, Ga. -- A year after special teams play was a glaring weakness for Georgia, it was more of a mixed bag for the Bulldogs in the first half of this season.

Todd Gurley returned Georgia's first kickoff of the season for a 100-yard touchdown against Buffalo, but South Carolina’s Ace Sanders returned a punt for a touchdown last week that all but eliminated Georgia’s chances for victory.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- As the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 SEC) prepare for a key SEC East game at No. 6 South Carolina (5-0, 3-0) on Saturday, here is a selection of quotes from the Bulldogs’ coaches and players from throughout the week:

“We just try to come out there and play our game. We’re not trying to be like nobody else. But it’s a cool thing.” -- Tailback Todd Gurley, on the nickname ‘Gurshall’ that Georgia fans have bestowed on Gurley and freshman backfield mate Keith Marshall, a reference to legendary Bulldogs running back Herschel Walker

“Keith does a great job of pressing the hole on the zone plays and then his cuts are not two or three steps. They’re one-step cuts and he’s going vertical. Sometimes he’s moving so fast I feel like he’s almost going to fall down. It’s hard for a defender to stop when he’s pressing and his step is so fast and so vertical, I think that’s what makes him so dangerous.” -- Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, on Marshall, who broke touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards last week against Tennessee

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Marshall Morgan experienced another couple of hilly points on his rollercoaster ride as Georgia’s place-kicker last Saturday.

In the Bulldogs’ 51-44 win against Tennessee, the freshman’s problems with extra points continued -- he failed on one attempt after banking it off the left upright, having already chipped three successful PATs off the left upright in previous games, plus Tennessee’s Daniel McCullers blocked another PAT try -- and yet he also contributed one of the biggest momentum-shifting plays of the game.

Morgan’s 50-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer helped Georgia tie the score at 30-30, helping the Bulldogs right the ship after a dismal second quarter eliminated a big early advantage.

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Notebook: UGA tries to solve punt issues 

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Malcolm Mitchell is essentially a rookie punt returner -- and the Georgia sophomore admits he has made some rookie mistakes that could have proven costly.

Mitchell says the trick to his new responsibility is to quickly determine when to rein in his natural aggressiveness and when the smart move is to play it safe with a fair catch and hand the ball off to Aaron Murray and the offense.

“It’s just something to get used to,” said Mitchell, who is averaging 7 yards per return -- including a long of 22 yards on his first opportunity last week against Vanderbilt. “Of course when you’ve got an opportunity to make a play happen, you want to take it, regardless of what the situation is. What you’ve just got to know, punt return is a job that’s either you take it home or get as much yardage as you can or you fair catch it and get the offense on the field so they can do that.”

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Solid debut for UGA special teams 

September, 2, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- One of Georgia’s greatest areas of emphasis during the offseason was improving its atrocious results on special teams -- particularly in covering kicks.

So how did the Bulldogs fare in their first time out after inserting more starters and key players on the special teams units? Pretty well, actually.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia coach Mark Richt played it coy when asked about safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree being listed atop the depth chart for the Bulldogs’ game against Buffalo on Saturday.

“We’ll just have to wait and see. Time will tell,” Richt said about what to expect from the two players Saturday, provoking uncomfortable laughter from the media members gathered in the room. “I’m glad we can laugh about that.”

Although Richt has never acknowledged a punishment for either player, suspension rumors have surrounded Rambo and Ogletree since the spring, when both players reportedly failed drug tests.

(Read full post)

Richt, Bobo offer position updates 

August, 25, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- With roughly a week left before Georgia opens the season against Buffalo, the Bulldogs’ coaching staff is still sorting through its final starting personnel decisions.

Coach Mark Richt said Friday evening that the staff has essentially nailed down the lineup for the Sept. 1 Buffalo game, but that some positions on the special-teams units might still be up for grabs.

“I think we know who’s starting at every position. Some of that on defense just depends on what personnel group jumps out first. But I’m pretty sure," Richt said. "Now in the kicking [game], I wouldn’t say that’s etched in stone. I wouldn’t say even the return men. The names we’ve been talking about are the guys that are going to be doing it, but just to say who’s going to be the first one, I wouldn’t say we know that 100 percent.”

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s staff didn’t waste any time trying to forge a bond between the new kicker-punter tandem to replace Blair Walsh and Drew Butler.

When freshman kicker Marshall Morgan and punter Collin Barber arrived on campus this summer, they roomed together on campus and struck a fast friendship.

“Me and Marshall have become really good friends,” Barber said after Thursday’s practice. “We’ve roomed together and we see each other every day and depend on each other. We’ve gotten to where we can depend on each other and hold each other accountable.”

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