Mailbag, Part 1: Georgia's non-offensive scoring

semerson@macon.comDecember 11, 2013 

10.19.13 UGA at VU 14

Georgia freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins runs back an interception against Vanderbilt, in what proved to be the Bulldogs' only touchdown via defense or special teams in the 2013 regular season.

TED MAYER

So this became one of those weeks where it became a good idea to do the mailbag in two parts. There were a lot of worthy submissions, for one thing, but it's also a slow week (hopefully) for news. Plus, do you really want to keep hitting your "Pg Dn" button? I didn't think so.

Here's the first installment. The next one will be published shortly.

Here's my question: Was UGA the only team in the country whose defense and special teams (with the exception of field goals) scored no points in the regular season? How does that compare to other SEC teams?
- John in the ATL


Actually, Georgia did get one defensive touchdown: Shaq Wiggins' pick-six in the Vanderbilt game. But otherwise, it was a pretty barren year. I went through each team's stats and here's how many non-offensive touchdowns each SEC team scored:

Alabama: 7
Auburn: 5
Tennessee: 5
Missouri: 4
Texas A&M: 4
Ole Miss: 3
Florida: 2
Arkansas: 1
Georgia: 1
LSU: 1
Mississippi State: 1
Kentucky: 0
South Carolina: 0
Vanderbilt: 0

So how does Georgia compare to itself in previous years. I looked that up too:

2012 - 3
2010 - 2
2010 - 5
2009 – 4
2008 - 4
2007 – 1
2006 – 7
2005 – 3
2004 – 1
2003 – 4
2002 – 7
2001 - 3

Are there any Dawgs who you thought got totally screwed in the All-SEC voting? I was surprised there weren’t a couple more on the Honorable Mention at least.
- Scott Davis

Not really, as far as the AP media vote, but only because of the voting process: We could only vote for first teams, so it would have been a stretch for someone to put someone like Ray Drew, Garrison Smith or Chris Conley on there. Amarlo Herrera had an argument, being second in the SEC in tackles. But Wilson’s stats were better (tackles and sacks), and do both inside linebackers from the SEC’s ninth-ranked defense deserve to be first-teamers? Had I been able to vote for a second team, I would have considered putting Smith and Herrera on my ballot.

Now, the coaches poll has more leeway – I believe they vote for first and second-teamers – so it was a bit surprising to see Gurley not on the second team, for instance. But the coaches' list didn't do honorable mentions this year, so we really don't know how many votes, if any, went to Drew, Smith, Herrera or Aaron Murray.

One other thing: Coaches could not vote for their own players. So Mark Richt's ballot was devoid of any Georgia players. The media were under no such restrictions.

The extra month of practice for Hutson as THE man has to be a positive, right? Him prepping for this game will be akin to prepping for next year’s season opener vs. Clemson. That is the best thing about this month upcoming to me. Now, the game may be a total disaster if the rest of the team sleepwalks, but I think the month of prep is going to be useful in the long run. What say you?
- Scott Davis, again

Yes, Mason essentially a three-week head start helps, but I think the game experience is more vital. Remember, Mason has been getting reps for three years, and while it will be useful now to get more snaps with the first-team receivers, right now he won’t be getting that with Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley. So this isn’t a pure preparation for Clemson, in terms of practice, but these are two games for Mason to get real-time experience, which he wouldn’t have gotten if Murray had been injured.

Seeing Laremy Tunsil earn your freshmen of the year vote and 2nd team honors really cast a spotlight on the biggest question mark for next year's team, the O-line. Obviously, Tunsil's presence would have benefited this year's team but his absence looms even larger next year. How optimistic are the coaches in next year's line and progression for the non-starters. Which name should we be watching during the spring, and are any of this year's recruits (Wynn) likely to see time as Freshmen? I know many Dawg fans are dreaming of a Shockley or even Tee Martin like year for Mason, but it will be another year of could have, should have, if he spends too much time on his back or is injured due to a lack of protection.
- Jason in Asheville, N.C.

The loss of Tunsil is one that could end up costing Georgia the next few years. I have little doubt he would have started at left tackle this year, and at least the following two years. Kenarious Gates could have spent his senior year at guard, where I think he's more suited, and next year Mark Beard could also have shifted inside, where he also might be more suited.

All that said, the offensive line wasn't terrible this year. It was just inconsistent, and it had some very good performances: South Carolina, LSU and Kentucky stand out. But losing three senior starters will leave a void. The good news for Georgia is their likely replacements (some combination of Beard, Watts Dantzler, Brandon Kublanow or Kolton Houston) all got some playing experience this year. I could see next year's line being fairly similar to the past few years. The question is whether Mason can be as good as Murray at overcoming the times when the line is struggling.

Will Mason's lack of arm strength shrink the field, diminishing offensive productivity and smothering Gurley's hope of being a Heisman candidate next year? Will we see more tight end play as a result of the potentially shortened field and if so will that be Rome or somebody else?
- Keith, Athens

Oh, I don’t know if it’s that dire. Mason has a weaker arm than Murray, but his quicker release (due to quicker decision-making) could make up for that. Don’t get me wrong, Murray was the starter for a reason. But you saw in the second half of the Georgia Tech game that the offense can flow just fine with Mason at the helm, and when you’re getting all that skill-position talent back from injury next season, it should help the offense in general. Rome will be one of those helped, but mostly just because Arthur Lynch won’t be blocking his starting spot. I could see Rome replicating Lynch’s numbers (the top for any SEC tight end this year).

Blake Tibbs has been in the system for two years and Jonathan Rumph is coming off a somewhat disappointing season, both saw limited action this year, do either have the intangibles to break through next season?
- Erskine, St. Matthews, SC

It could be tough for both. Rumph’s issue is staying healthy and running the right routes. If he does both of those he could break the rotation. But with Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and Tramel Terry presumably being healthy, joining Conley, Michael Bennett and Reggie Davis, there’s still going to be a lot of competition.

With the receiver injuries in 2013 which affected the passing game, do you expect a change in coaching strategy as far as getting more reps (practice and game) for receivers down on the depth chart?
- Erskine in St. Matthews, again

It’s a good question. Of course it’s not like there’s unlimited time to practice: The NCAA mandates 20 hours a week, and you want your first and second team groups to get as many reps as possible. There’s only so many reps you want to give your starting quarterback with your No. 7 and No. 8 receivers, for instance, when what you really need is your starters and top reserves to be in sync.

The 2014 OL, do you see M. Beard taking one of the tackle spots and moving K. Houston inside?
- Erskine in St. Matthews, one final time

Beard starts out as the favorite at left tackle, with Houston either at left guard or right tackle. But that’s subject to change.

JJ Green proved himself to be a solid SEC player this year. However, he has a high chance of never earning the starting running back job at Georgia. I know he was brought in with thoughts of him playing cornerback. Why don’t they shift JJ Green to cornerback for the bowl practices and work him in as much as they can in the game to see if that is a position where he could be a starter and make a bigger impact. Our secondary underperformed so much this year that this could do 2 things. First it would send a message that their jobs are on the line and second it will give the coaches an opportunity to see if this is his best position to make a big impact at Georgia.
- Paul Langan, Macon

They won’t move Green to cornerback … for bowl practice. They want to win the game and Green is still one of the top two backups at tailbacks. However, you are correct on the long-term situation, and where Green plays in spring practice remains an open question.

I still think that undersigning has cost us this year and I hope that we don't make that mistake again this year. If you look at the teams that are playing in the championship every year, you will see that they sign 25 or more every year. Who knows how many Butch Jones will sign this year, but I'm convinced that Tennessee is going to be a team to deal with next year and years to come. I'm not sure that offering 5-year scholarships is going to do any good or not, especially if we don't have enough scholarship players come game time. What do you think?
- Larry Tucker

It's not really a matter of under-signing, it's the attrition. And I think you're also overstating the undersigning thing, and how much teams other than Georgia oversign.

Yes, Georgia only signed 19 players two years ago. But the problem was that two days after signing day Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders, two guys who probably would have started in this year's secondary, were booted from the team. Plus, Georgia signed 33 players this past year, using back-counting towards 2012 and "future-counting" against the 2014 class. So Georgia has already proven it will oversign if needed.

Yes, Tennessee is trying to get creative with the SEC signing rules, counting players who signed financial aid agreements during the season - the loophole in the rules. But I suspect that loophole will be closed pretty quickly. And Tennessee, like any other program, is still inhibited by the 85-scholarship limit. The SEC signing rules are supposed to limit a team to on average 25 players per class. So if a team signs 125 players over five signing classes, that's still 40 more than the scholarship limit. Frankly, I don't see the need to over-sign unless you've really screwed up your roster - which Tennessee, thanks to all the coaching changes, had done. Georgia isn't in that position now, having oversigned one year to make up for a bad run of attrition.

Part II of the mailbag will be posted on Thursday. If you have any late questions, feel free to send them to semerson@macon.com.

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