September 23, 2012

The Report Card



Quarterback

The version of Aaron Murray we saw on Saturday was basically just a better version of the Georgia signal-caller that we have seen for the first three games. Murray was very calm and on targets from the get go. He started the game by completing 12 straight passes, and was on target in the middle of the field and outside of the hash marks. He made great decisions, and did a nice job of moving outside of the pocket to create better angles on his throws. The Tampa native didn't have to make many checks at the line of scrimmage, but when he did, they were the correct decisions. Murray will be the first to say that he was the recipient of great protection all game long, but he took advantage of the time and space to have his most efficient game of the season. Grade: A

Running back

Georgia's running backs turned in yet another electric performance on Saturday. Keith Marshall had his longest run of the season with a 52-yard touchdown carry in the first quarter. Marshall also ran with some power between the tackles and showed why many felt he could be a big play back at the SEC level. Todd Gurley turned in another 100-yard performance with 130 yards on 16 carries, and it was his third in four games this season. The Tarboro, North Carolina native continues to rack up yards after contact, and had a dominant 29-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that ended the scoring for UGA. Ken Malcome continued his good work by adding 6 carries for 41 yards. While their work with the ball in their hands was huge, the Georgia running backs also had a big game in pass protection as both Marshall and Gurley look as if they have come a long way since struggling against Buffalo in the first game of the season. Both were decisive and physical in pass protection, and that is sure to make offensive coordinator Mike Bobo happy as the Bulldogs get into the meat of their SEC schedule. Fullback Merritt Hall should also be given a great deal of credit. Hall had an excellent game as the Bulldogs used more "I" formation than in previous games and the redshirt freshman led the way. Grade: A+

Receivers

Georgia had a 100-yard receiver for the fourth game in a row, but this time it was a Marlon Brown coming up big with his second such game of the season. Brown had five receptions for 114 yards and TD. He also threw a few excellent down field blocks that allowed the Bulldogs to reel off big runs. Tavarres King pulled down his third touchdown catch on the season and continues to be a huge target for Murray when UGA gets inside the 20-yard line. Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley added one catch piece, and both went for big first downs. It seems as if it is a different Georgia receiver that stands out each week, and that is good news for Bobo and Company as the Bulldogs have a number of different targets they can turn to in crunch time. The only real mishap for this unit was a drop by tight end Arthur Lynch on a pass that could have picked up big yardage. Grade: A


Offensive line

This was the performance many in the Bulldog Nation have been waiting on. The Georgia offensive line paved the way for a second straight 300-yard rushing game for the offense, and protected Murray well all game. A great deal of the credit for the success in the run game should go to the two guards, Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee. Lee had his best game of the season and looked as if he had returned to 2011 form with some dominant blocks in space. Burnette played with a great deal of energy, and on every big run play it seemed as if he was somewhere in the second level throwing a key block. Center David Andrews continued his solid work with some impressive blocks on the interior. The true sophomore had a couple of reach blocks on the inside in which he showed a great deal of quickness and athleticism. Georgia's tackle play also continues to get better with Kenarious Gates and John Theus. Gates was dominant at times at the point of attack, and was excellent in pass protection. Theus had his most fundamentally sound game of the season, and the star freshman has gone two straight games without making the mistakes that plagued him through the first two games. Reserves Mark Beard and Austin Long saw significant action as well, and both had moments where they looked as if they are ready to contribute at any time. Neither was perfect as Beard have a couple of negative plays in a row in the third quarter, and Long missed on a couple of blocks, but both have shown that they have the physicality and confidence to step in and help Georgia if needed. Grade: A

Defense line

The play of Georgia's defensive front was never bad on Saturday, but it wasn't consistently great either. The big positive is that the interior pushed the pocket better than it had all season. John Jenkins and Abry Jones did a good job in the nickel package of forcing the pocket into Rodgers face and Garrison Smith did a nice job when he saw action. On the majority of run plays, the defensive line did a solid job in pursuit, but in at least a few instances, they allowed themselves to be cut off from the backside. This caused a few holes to open up allowing Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacey to average almost seven yards per carry. Overall it was a solid performance for the defensive line, and the group continues to play with better rush lane integrity and discipline. Grade: B+

Outside linebackers

This position has been much like the running back position on offense. Week in and week out, the Georgia outside linebackers have been the most consistently dominant on the field. All American Jarvis Jones who had a seven total tackles, three for a loss, and another sack again led this group. Freshman standout Jordan Jenkins had another solid game with the first two sacks of his young career, and Chase Vasser added four total tackles, one for a loss, and a few quarterback pressures. Freshman Josh Dawson saw significant action for the second week in a row, and he also contributed to the effort. This group is playing fast and with a ton of confidence right now. Jenkins is coming into his own as a pass rusher, and Jones continues to dominate every time out. Grade: A+

Inside linebacker

In perhaps their last game without the services of junior Alec Ogletree, the Georgia inside linebackers had an excellent performance on Saturday. Amarlo Herrera had his third straight big game with eight total tackles, one for a loss, and one pass break up. Herrera is playing excellent football right now, and is turning into the type of linebacker that is effective down hill or playing sideline-to-sideline. Those types of players are rare. Michael Gilliard appeared as if he was playing faster than he had all year, and did an excellent job both fitting against the run and dropping into pass coverage. Christian Robinson also had a solid performance and was a key factor in Georgia's adjustment to stopping the load and speed option game after Vanderbilt had some early success. Overall, this group seems to be catching it's stride right as they are getting one of their most talented members back from suspension. Grade: A

Defensive backs

The safety play on Saturday was very good once again. Shawn Williams was all over the field, and did a great job of coming up and making plays in the run game. Sanders Commings looked more comfortable at free safety than he did last week. Commings is still a little hesitant, but came up and made some tackles that he missed last week. At cornerback, Damian Swann had yet another solid game. Swann is playing very physical football from his nickel position, and has been the Bulldogs most consistent corner this season. Branden Smith was asked to play a lot of soft coverage on Saturday, but the senior did an excellent job of making immediate tackles when balls were caught in front of him. That has been a problem for Smith in the past, but his tackling thus far in 2012 has been great. After a couple of very good weeks, Malcolm Mitchell had a tough game on Saturday. Mitchell made a couple of rookie mistakes at cornerback when he allowed Vandy wide receiver Jordan Matthews to have a clean outside release on a go route, and when he got his eyes in the back field and turned his hips the wrong way. Mitchell was beaten deep on both plays, and will need to correct those mistakes before next week when Tennessee comes to Athens. Mitchell also missed a couple of tackles, but one thing coaches like almost as much as they do a complete game is a game where they have coaching points. Mitchell will have plenty to focus on this week. Still, the Georgia defensive back field allowed the majority of Vanderbilt's passing yards while the game was in hand, and this group, like the inside linebackers, should get back a key member next week in safety Bacarri Rambo. Grade: B+

Special Teams

This was the first game of the season in which the special teams let the Bulldogs down a little bit. The kick and punt coverage units were again very good. The kick return unit wasn't really given a chance to have an impact on the game due to lack of opportunity. Mitchell made one big mistake on punt return when he caught a ball over his shoulder inside his own five-yard line, but the offense bailed him out with a 96-yard touchdown drive. There was also a botched PAT attempt, which could have caused some problems in a close game. Overall, the special team's unit was decent, but the mental mistakes and missed scoring attempts will need to be cleaned up. Grade: B-

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