At second glance: More observations from Georgia-North Texas

semerson@macon.comSeptember 23, 2013 

You don't see everything in the press box, and you don't have a rewind button. Therefore, more observations, analysis and notes after watching the TV copy of Georgia's 45-21 win over North Texas:

- There's so much attention and worry on special teams, I thought I'd keep a close eye on which players are on each unit and what it might say:

Kickoff personnel: Sheldon Dawson, T.J. Stripling, Blake Sailors, Kosta Vavlas, James DeLoach, Connor Norman, Quincy Mauger, Reggie Carter, Chase Vasser, Johnny O’Neal, Marshall Morgan.
Punt coverage: Notable personnel included Justin Scott-Wesley. Connor Norman had a big open-field tackle on first punt. The up-men are Arthur Lynch, Quayvon Hicks, and Josh Dawson, so they're not skimping on protecting Collin Barber. (Lynch blamed himself for the punt block, saying he switched to the wrong protection before the play.)
Punt return: Notable personnel include Scott-Wesley, Norman, Shaq Wiggins, Stripling, J.J. Green.
Extra point block: On the edges were Tray Matthews, Brendan Langley and Damian Swann. (So they’re going after it.)

- OK, let's delve into the kickoff return touchdown by North Texas' Brelan Chancellor: The kickoff by Morgan wasn’t bad, with decent hang time and to the 1-yard line. It would obviously still be better for Morgan to boot it through. But two things; Chancellor is legitimately really fast, and Georgia’s coverage team was beat badly. Reggie Carter and Sheldon Dawson were run by in the middle of the field - that’s not a good way to earn playing time - and Quincy Mauger, Kosta Vavlas and Morgan couldn’t get Chancellor at the point he broke it open.

- Something that may deserve more credit: Swann shows good judgment on punt returns. He’s not explosive, at least not yet, but he catches balls rather than let them hit and potentially roll another 10-20 yards. That’s a big reason he’s out there. There was also another punt where he picked it up after one bounce and managed to get a couple extra yards.

- Moving along to the defense: Freshman cornerback Brendan Langley had a much better game, and while you may attribute that to the opponent, keep in mind he spent some time lined up against the same Brelan Chancellor who showed his skills and speed on that kickoff. (But Langley did whiff on an open-field tackle on a receiver screen.)

- It was actually Damian Swann who was beat on North Texas’ only offensive touchdown. Swann’s good, but he’s just not at shut-down corner status yet.

- Ramik Wilson was better too. Sometimes when you rack up tackles it’s just being the next guy in, but Wilson had a tackle-for-loss on a second-down run that was all him. He was around the ball on a lot of plays, even when he wasn't in on the tackle. You get the sense things are speeding up for him.

- Leonard Floyd is a beast of a pass-rusher. That much we know. But he affected the game more than just the two sacks. On North Texas’ first drive, which reached nearly midfield, Floyd had a clear rush on quarterback Derek Thompson and caused Thompson to rush his hrow. It was in coverage, allowing Amarlo Herrera to knock it away and force a punt. Then in the second half Floyd nearly had a third sack, hitting Thompson as he threw, almost leading to an interception. Floyd is a bit rougher in pass coverage, but he's becoming too valuable a pass rusher to take off the field.

- During the first quarter, North Texas nearly had a long completion into Georgia territory off a flea-flicker. At the time, from my view in the press box, I thought Tray Matthews had knocked it away, but on replay the receiver was bobbling it from the start. At a minimum, however, credit Matthews for being there and not buying the fake. I also noticed Matthews coming closer to the line on some runs, showing an improved awareness. Then in the third quarter Matthews was at the line of scrimmage on a first down on what looked like could have been a blitz, but also some run contain. The play went the other direction, but it showed improved confidence by Todd Grantham in his freshman safety’s judgment and reaction ability.

- Matthews’ interception in the third quarter was pure luck. It was miscommunication by Thompson and his receiver, and there wasn’t much pressure before the pass was thrown. Matthews was just in the right place at the right time. But hey, he made the catch.

- Quincy Mauger was in at strong safety later in the first quarter. He was kind of quiet while in there, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It seems like Grantham was telling Mauger and Corey Moore to prove that they don't have to rely on Connor Norman's knowledge and experience at the strong safety spot. The results were inconclusive, in my mind.

- A few other individual defensive observations: Josh Harvey-Clemons isn’t making big plays yet but was around the ball a lot more. Jordan Jenkins is playing a lot better than his stats indicate. Ray Drew is getting a lot of snaps at end, more than I expected this season. That’s thanks to Garrison Smith playing at the nose so much of the time.

- I've been pointing out for awhile that Georgia is basically a 4-2-5, but even I’m struck by how little time Georgia spends in the base 3-4. That second outside linebacker is hardly on the field. The previous estimates were that Georgia was in the nickel defense 60-75 percent of the time, but so far this season it’s seemed like 95 percent. Will that change this weekend when LSU and its more traditional pro-style offense comes in? A little bit, but probably not that much.

- Finally, Georgia's defense needs to watch the tight end. There was a long completion over the middle on third down that set up North Texas’ lone offensive touchdown. It has the potential to be a basic problem of the defensive alignment, because Leonard Floyd is so raw in pass coverage he’s spending most of his time blitzing, while Harvey-Clemons is often on a receiver. On that long North Texas completion, Amarlo Herrera was stuck trying to catch him in the middle of the field, while the safeties were spread to the side.

- Now, the offense. Justin Scott-Wesley had a quiet game, while Reggie Davis was the speedster receiver having the big game. But when Davis came to the sideline after his 98-yarder, the first person there chest-bumping him was Scott-Wesley. (By the way, Murray said after the game that Davis is so fast that he just hurled it out there for Davis to run toward and catch, but on review Murray’s throw hit Davis pretty much in stride.) Scott-Wesley did have a nifty catch in the third quarter, coming back on a slightly underthrown pass and reaching down for the catch.

- A lot of people think of a potent passing attack coming out of the spread, but on Georgia’s second series it opened in the traditional I-formation, play-faked, then Murray hit Chris Conley on a 44-yard catch. Of course everyone forgot about it because three plays later Murray threw his interception.

- Speaking of that interception, on TV review there’s really no discernable reason Murray threw that pass. It was a sea of white shirts. There were another couple throws in the second half that could have been picked off. Still, the completion percentage (22-for-30) speaks for itself, and so do the 400-plus yards. Murray just seemed to be trying a bit too hard to make things happen. That’s not unusual for him. When you don’t have the luxury of a few seconds in the pocket every pass, you take chances. It's a habit that has built up over four years of not being able to depend on great protection. It’s no accident that Murray was so good against South Carolina, when his linemen blocked their butt off.

- So, about the line: Not a terrible day, but not a good one either. At one point in the first half North Texas only rushed four, no blitzers, and Murray still had to scramble soon after the snap. As for run defense, much like the Clemson game there wasn’t much of a push up the middle. Maybe it’s because the lineup from the South Carolina game (Kolton Houston at left guard and Theus at right tackle) wasn’t used. Maybe David Andrews and Chris Burnette had a down game. And it was obvious that North Texas stacked the box on running downs. The outside rushing lanes weren’t really there either. It looked like North Texas had it scouted well, which shouldn't be surprising considering its coach was an assistant at Florida.

- Andrews had another drive-killing (or at least drive-hurting) penalty: A holding call on first down, when Georgia was driving after North Texas had tied at 21. A couple years ago the running joke on the line was that Justin Anderson was good for at least one false start penalty per game. Now it’s become Andrews, but they’re not five-yarders.

- When Georgia’s offense needed a spark it opened things up, going to the play fake and outside short pass. Bennett caught consecutive swing passes at one point. It was a play fake that resulted in a 25-yard completion to Lynch down to the 1. Now, is it a good thing that you need to do that against North Texas, rather than impose your will on the line? Well, that’s just life for the Georgia Bulldogs these days. Some games, the blocking is there, and when it is the offense is pretty much unstoppable. Some games, that blocking is very, very inconsistent.

- Finally, if anything vitally insightful happened on Georgia's final defensive and offensive drives, you won't read about it here. My apologies, but I forgot to set the DVR to record the show immediately after the game. Sorry, I was rusty after the bye week. But hopefully everything else included in here was informative.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service