We will know two games in ...
by Jeff Dantzler
Alabama, the 2009 national champion
is not on Georgia’s schedule, nor
were the Crimson Tide a year ago.
LSU, the 2007 national champion, is
not on Georgia’s schedule, nor were the
Fightin’ Tigers last season. The four
teams who had the worst four records
in the Southeastern Conference last
season – Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Tennessee
and Kentucky, all of whose
league wins with the exception of the
Wildcats victory over South Carolina
came against one another – are on
Urban Meyer, who guided Florida
to a pair of national championships and
a trio of 13-1 campaigns since 2006, is
no longer at the Gators’ helm. Former
Georgia defensive back and Texas defensive
Will Muschamp is steering the Gators’
Heisman Trophy winner Cam
Newton, who accounted for an astounding
51 touchdowns on Auburn’s
run to the national championship, is
bound for the National Football
You would get little argument for
any fan, follower, player, coach or administrator
that the Bulldogs 6-7 campaign
of 2010 goes down as one of the
most disappointing in Georgia’s proud
and storied football history. No Bama.
No LSU. Florida goes 8-5. Tennessee
goes 6-7. Tech goes 6-7.
And so does Georgia.
Mark Richt has led the Bulldogs to
great heights in his decade-plus tenure,
highlighted by two Southeastern Conference
championships and five consensus
top five finishes – including a
No. 3 in 2002 and No. 2 in 2007 – over
a six-season stretch bookended by the
aforementioned final rankings that are
the program’s highest since the Golden
Era of 1980-83.
But the disappointment of last year
that reached a maddening crescendo
with a head-pounding 10-6 Liberty
Bowl loss to Central Florida from Conference
I woke up and it was 1974.
As a quick historic reference, that
promising Georgia team went 6-6, lost
in a freezing rainstorm to Tech and then
fell in the Tangerine Bowl to Miami. Of
That disappointment, underachievement
and poor performance led
Vince Dooley and Erk Russell to rally
the program as underdogs and “Junkyard
Georgia responded in 1975 by
posting a 9-2 regular season and Cotton
Bowl berth highlighted by a sweep
of Florida, Auburn and Tech.
One year later, the Bulldogs won
the SEC championship, again sweeping
the “big three” and finishing with a 10-
1 regular season mark that earned a
Sugar Bowl date for the national title
So the big question, will the Bulldogs
of 2011, like the “Junkyard
Dawgs” of 1975, resiliently respond
with a championship caliber campaign?
Optimism is high around the program,
based largely on a recruiting class
that is generally regarded as one of the
country’s top five, and one of the SEC’s
Headlining the crop is tailback Isaiah
Crowell of Columbus, the Peach
State’s top prospect, and a potential difference-
maker early in his career.
Going back to 1980 and the emergence
of the greatest college football
player ever, Herschel Walker ran for
1,616 yards and the led the Bulldogs to
a perfect 12-0 season and the national
and SEC championships.
Since the Goal Line Stalker, several
Bulldog runners have shined as freshmen,
including Tim Worley, Keith Henderson
and Rodney Hampton.
Knowshon Moreno was unfortunately a
redshirt freshman in 2007, as he led
Georgia to an 11-2 record, No. 2 national
ranking and victories over Alabama,
Florida, Auburn, Tech and
undefeated Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.
Meanwhile, last season’s two SEC
Championship Game combatants,
Auburn and South Carolina both featured
magnificent freshman tailbacks,
Michael Dyer, who broke Bo Jackson’s
Tiger freshman rushing yardage record,
and Marcus Lattimore, arguably the nation’s
Is Crowell in the class?
Can he be Georgia’s next great
Well, we’ll know early.
Richt said on signing day that
Crowell may even touch the football on
the first play of the season.
It’s a lot to put on a freshman,
but if Crowell is an elite back, most of
Georgia’s offensive question marks – replacing
Trinton Sturdivant, A.J. Green
and Kris Durham – will become moot.
A great tailback combined with sophomore
signal caller Aaron Murray, a talented
passer and runner, would give
the Bulldogs a dangerous backfield
But if Georgia is to become a legitimate
national player and SEC championship
contender in 2011, perhaps
most important is overall defensive improvement
– particularly against the
If you can’t stop the run, you can’t
win big, especially in the rough and
And in Georgia’s big games last
year, Georgia was buried in the run
game. Lattimore, in his second collegiate
contest, ran for 184 yards on 37
carries. Georgia couldn’t stop Mississippi
State on critical fourth quarter
third downs. Colorado had an average
back run for 148 yards. Florida had its
finest rushing performance of the season.
Auburn, led by Newton and Dyer,
absolutely gashed the Bulldogs.
Thanks to fumbles, Georgia was able to
overcome a monster rushing performance
by Tech, and the Bulldogs chalked
up a 42-34 victory over the Yellow
Jackets. The other aforementioned performances
were all losers of course. As
was the Liberty Bowl, where Georgia
gave up 100 yards rushing to a Central
There is hope though on the front
The emergence of Kwame Geathers
and the signing of junior college defensive
tackle John Jenkins – providing the
Bulldogs hope that he could follow in
the footsteps of Alabama’s Terrance
Cody and Nick Fairley of Auburn –
gives Georgia the potential for vast improvement
and a much more stout defensive
This is a must.
So is improvement at linebacker.
The Bulldogs are aiming for newcomer
impact here as well.
Highly touted sophomore Alec
Ogletree has moved up from safety.
Jarvis Jones sat out last season, after
transferring from Southern Cal following
a neck injury. Richard Samuel redshirted
last season after sliding over
Justin Houston, who will soon be
Georgia’s first defensive player drafted
in the first round since Thomas Davis
and David Pollack following the 2004
campaign, leaves a big void on defense.
He’s a stellar play-maker and saved the
day in the win over Tech.
Winning the running game and
coming up with explosive plays are the
biggest factors in Georgia making the
jump this season.
It’s a unique schedule as arguably
the two toughest contests show up out
of the gate, as the Bulldogs play Boise
State at the Georgia Dome and then
host South Carolina.
Everyone will know how good
Georgia is two games in. If things don’t
go well, the schedule does set up for
the Bulldogs to get back in the picture.
If things do go well in the first two, the
stage may well be set for the Bulldogs
to make a run at a second appearance
in the Georgia Dome.