Is Schottenheimer here to stay?

The Georgia Bulldogs have had a disappointing year thus far in the 2015 season. A season that has included a span of three out of four games of scoring 10 points or less, blowout losses to both Florida and Alabama, inconsistency at quarterback, and losing the best offensive threat in the conference when star tailback Nick Chubb went down for the season with a knee injury. This is also the same season the UGA beat the Steve Spurrier lead South Carolina Gamecocks 52-20 and had playoff aspirations. So where does this leave UGA? They can still finish the regular season with 9 wins and have the possibility of a bowl win to eclipse 10 wins, that classic Georgia season.

The question starts getting asked, can UGA win it all with Mark Richt at the helm? Will they be able to overcome the curse that seems to follow? My answer is yes, but I do not believe that it will be with Brian Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator. At the conclusion of last season Mike Bobo, former offensive coordinator, was hired away as a head coach to Colorado State University. He led Georgia to record breaking offensive seasons in 2012, 2013, and 2014. He was handed the play-calling duties from head coach Mark Richt in the 2006 Chick-fil-a Bowl against Virginia Tech and never looked back. His development of quarterbacks was felt by the success of Aaron Murray becoming the first UGA QB to pass for 3,000 yards in three straight seasons, and the first SEC QB to do it in four straight. It also shows in how he made Hutson Mason a quality signal caller, you could see his fingerprints all over it. He finally got his running back he could rely on in Todd Gurley in 2012 and his offense could not be stopped after that.

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Schottenheimer, contrastly, has an NFL resume of being pretty average and seems to take a more business approach to coaching these young men. I believe that this has hurt the development of UGA’s quarterbacks as a unit. Understand that I am making this assessment after not even a full season with Schotty at the helm, but if you look at the offseason and how it was handled, you can’t help but wonder what could have been. There was a battle for the open QB spot in the spring and they had nothing definitive about who was leading, then bringing in a transfer QB and adding to the ambiguity of the position. It seems as though there has been no progression to the offense over the course of this season as well as at quarterback. The best that the offense has been since the Chubb injury has been when they have run the “Wild Dawg” formation with wide receiver Terry Godwin taking the snaps and deceiving the defense with the unconventional look. Is there really  no scholarship QB who can run the offense well enough to take the pressure off of the defense?

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I believe that there needs to be a change at the offensive coordinator position. I think a promotion from within would be the best outcome. They could promote current wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon, current running backs coach Thomas Brown, or current tight ends coach John Lilly to offensive coordinator. This would help recruiting since there would be continuity in the same offense and it would give Richt another opportunity to develop his next great assistant from the ground up while also finding a new QB coach to help develop the position and focus solely on that. All of those candidates I mentioned are qualified and have the resume to be considered for a position like this and if you look at last season’s bowl game in particular, John Lilly called the plays since Bobo had already left for Colorado State and the offense was explosive. This season just shows what a great loss Bobo was to the UGA program and offense.

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Why is this Richt’s time?

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Most of college football fans know about the success of Georgia Head Football Coach, Mark Richt, but he may be more well-known for what he has not done. Richt is the elder statesman in the SEC, as he has been at UGA since 2001, but Richt’s main critics point to his inability to get to the “big game”, as he rarely has his team in real contention for a national title by season’s end. The famous end to the 2012 SEC Championship game against Alabama, where the Dawgs found themselves just “five yards short” of the National Championship. The others seem to be less haunting, but in 2002 against Florida, the undefeated bulldogs saw Richt bring starting quarterback David Greene off the field to make good on his promise to DJ Shockley. Only, the stage may have been too big at the time for young Shockley he threw a game changing interception which left a blemish on an otherwise great season and the SEC Championship was not enough to propel them to the BCS Championship game.

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The good news is, that coming off of a disappointing season, this is where Richt seems to be at his best. He starts the season just out of the spotlight and slowly gets his team to believe over the course of the season. This season the Dawgs will be replacing the face of the program for the last four years in quarterback Aaron Murray. His replacement, who took over for the last two and a half games of the 2013 season, Hutson Mason is a fifth-year senior who has been Aaron Murray’s backup for the past four years, and in that time, he has created a buzz throughout Bulldog nation for his accuracy in practice and his knowledge of the offense.  In recent years, 4 out of the last 6 BCS National Championships have been won by teams win a first year starting quarterbacks. The defense on the other hand, is returning 9 of 11 starters off of a struggling unit from a year ago and under the new defensive coordinator, from the reigning National Championship defense, Jeremy Pruitt is ready to maximize this group’s sterling potential.

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So, why is this Richt’s time? It’s simple, he doesn’t have to be in the top two this season, with the new college football playoff going into effect, all you need is to be in the top four. Now, I’m not saying that Richt would be incapable of leading his team to a Championship, but this format plays into his strengths. He usually has his team playing its best football by season’s end and with the new landscape of the SEC, having so many new quarterbacks, leaves the door wide open. Richt is a molder of men and it usually takes the growth of a season, so if there is an early loss, it will not derail this teams goals.

SEC Football Preview

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Keeping with the football spirit, here is the breakdown of the best of the best and greatest conference in college football history.  This is our annual SEC prediction which will show the picks for the championship as well as individual awards which will excite even the most cynical of fans.  These picks are as good as money, and you can say that you “heard it here first!”

Eastern Division Champion- Georgia Bulldogs 

With 10 of 11 starters returning on offense, the main question marks are on the defense. With how the defense disappointed last season, there could be a chance that even though there were major losses on the defensive side of the ball, the team could rank higher in total defense than last year’s squad. The main thing everyone will be watching will be quarterback Aaron Murray who needs to raise his big game poise for his team to take the next step.

Western Division Champion- Alabama Crimson Tide

I almost do not even need to write anything about our defending champions. It feels like this team is set up so perfectly to win 4 out of 5 National Championships this season. They are one of the best program dynasties that we have ever seen, and possibly the greatest. If they can get past Texas A&M and LSU, they could run the table yet again.

SEC Dark Horse- South Carolina Gamecocks

This team has the best player in the conference in Jadeveon Clowney, and a solid overall team. The Dual quarterback play has always scared me, but has become the way Steve Spurrier likes to run things. Dylan Thompson and Connor Shaw both have starter potential and the confidence to get it done. Mike Davis is a solid replacement for Marcus Lattimore, and this should fuel them to big places and potentially a BCS bowl game.

Eastern Division Surprise Team- Tennessee Volunteers

This team returns 4 out of 5 offensive lineman and the top two rushers from last season in Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane. Justin Worley is stepping in at QB and they have 8 starters returning on defense, this is enough for new head coach Butch Jones to work with. They will look more like the Tennessee teams of the past.

Western Division Surprise Team- Auburn Tigers

NCAA Football: Auburn-Spring Game

With the Gus Bus coming to town, this team can actually use the talent that new head coach Gus Malzahn actually recruited. He will be able to maximize their early potential, and I think he will build this program back to a championship level. Nick Marshall has transferred in to become a quarterback in this offense, and as a former defensive back at UGA it shows his athleticism.

Conference Champion- Georgia Bulldogs

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This probably shocked most of you, but this seems to be too perfect of a storm for Alabama to repeat, and you have to like this offense that returns everyone. The defense will be ready by this time in the season to contain the Tide enough for Murray and the offense to finish the drill.

Individual Awards:

Conference MVP- UGA QB Aaron Murray

If the Bulldogs are to win the championship, then Murray will have to be at this level and thrive. He has all of the tools and weapons to get it done.

Offensive Player of the Year- UGA RB Todd Gurley

Gurley is potentially the best running back in the nation, and his hard-nosed running could coax any deficiencies in the defense this season.

Defensive Player of the Year- South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney

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Possibly the best player in the nation, but Clowney is never satisfied, so he will stay hungrier than ever this season.

Coach of the Year- Tennessee HC Butch Jones

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The job of turning around the Volunteers is no easy one, especially with no SEC experience under his belt. He will take this team back to the rocky top.

Newcomer of the Year- Auburn QB Nick Marshall

This JUCO transfer played quarterback in high school and when he went to UGA they made him a defensive back and now he gets to play his desired position with the Tigers. He could have all the talent that Malzahn needs to make this unit go.

Full Conference Predicted Standings

This is how I see this conference playing out this season, with some usual suspects leading the way. There are 10 total bowl teams in this conference, by my calculation.

SEC Eastern Projected finish                                                 SEC Western Projected finish

1. Georgia  11-1 (7-1)                                                                   1. Alabama  11-1 (7-1)

2. South Carolina  10-2 (-2)                                                        2. LSU 10-2 (6-2)

3. Tennessee   8-4 (5-3)                                                                3. Texas A&M 10-2 (6-2)

4. Florida  9-3 (5-3)                                                                        4. Auburn  8-4 (4-4)

5. Vanderbilt 7-5 (3-5)                                                                  5. Mississippi 7-5 (4-4)

6. Kentucky 4-8 (1-7)                                                                    6. Arkansas 5-7 (1-7)

7. Missouri 4-8 (0-8)                                                                      7. Mississippi State 4-8 (1-7)

NCAA Football: Florida-Spring Practicejohnny manziel

UGA Fans should realize what they have in QB Aaron Murray

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Murray is the man, and he’s back for a final round.

This season should be a year for the record books as Fifth-Year Senior UGA QB Aaron Murray returns for another crack at an SEC Championship, and as it goes, a National Championship. He is on pace to break every school and SEC passing record by the end of October. Murray is beloved by some and taken for granted by others. He has been tagged as “the guy who can’t win the big one,” yet when he lost the biggest game of his career, the SEC Championship against Alabama for a trip to Miami, he was praised the most.

Murray has been  punching bag for the Bulldog faithful for the past few seasons to shoulder the blame in losses along with Head Coach Mark Richt and Offensive Coordinator and play caller Mike Bobo. He definitely deserves some of the blame, as any competant quarterback should, but he has been thrown around as the butt of many jokes that resemble the former GT QB great, Reggie Ball.

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That’s right…Reggie Ball, the dunce of so many jokes that when he finished his career UGA actually retired his jersey. He is famous for the throw-the-ball-away-on-fourth-down stunt that was the perfect ending to the 2004 UGA-GT game.

Murray is cut from that elite mold of quarterback, in which the failure is from not winning it all, not a silly incompletion or misread of the stadium scoreboard.

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Aaron Murray never says the wrong thing at the podium, he acknowledges his defeats, he does not gloat with his triumphs, and most of all, he never gives the other team bulletin-board material, as many others do. He is what Georgia needs for that next step and he’s coming back to do it for you Bulldog Nation, so how about hopping on and enjoying the ride this season as he gets his entire offensive line back for the first time in his career and the Dawgs return 10 starters on the offensive side alone.

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He is coming back to win a championship, and doing so he will become the son of Bulldog Nation that can be the best to play his position, and arguably the best Bulldog ever. He is the only one to have 3 seasons of passing for 3,000 yards, not only in school history, but in SEC history. He finished last season with the second highest QB rating in the country and was the most efficient in UGA history, he’ll break Danny Wuerfful’s touchdown record this season before September is over. He also has NEVER lost to Georgia Tech or Auburn and he actually has a winning record against Florida. So for his finale, don’t you think he NEEDS all of Bulldog nation behind him?

Spring Practice-UGA

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Aaron Murray is coming back to UGA.

This season for the Bulldogs was one they haven’t experienced in a while. They were relevant on the national stage all the way to the 5 yard line of the Georgia Dome in the SEC championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide. This spring the Bulldogs will be sporting a new-look defense as they had 9 players from the defense recently in the NFL combine, as they move to the next level. This defense will have leaders returning at every level of the depth chart, but most of the new contributors will be inexperienced although very talented. This brings me to this spring and the all important spring practice which is concluded by the annual G-day spring game. The players helping to usher along this transition will be Senior DE Garrison Smith, Juniors ILB Amarlo Herrera and CB Damian Swann, and Sophomore OLB Jordan Jenkins, all of whom played significant roles on the 2012 defense and look to make a bigger impact in 2013 and the future. These players will be joined by several early enrolees as UGA signed 33 on signing day and 13 of them are in Athens for spring. Perhaps the most important offseason news, Fifth-year Senior QB Aaron Murray decided to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior season. He brings a level of competency to the quarterback position that UGA has not seen before Murray, there are things that OC Mike Bobo has given him to do that former 1st overall pick Matthew Stafford never got to see, much less execute. This is big for incoming Freshman QB Brice Ramsey to be able to learn from an all-SEC caliber QB and watch him compete and prepare. It is an exciting time in Athens and to be a Georgia Bulldog; this season will be decided within the first month of the regular season as Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU are all on the slate.