|ABC Michigan State vs Georgia|
Kyle King, of DawgSports.com , answered some questions for us about Georgia football.
BS: The Dawgs went 10-3, winning an SEC East title. How would you rate this season overall for Georgia?
Kyle King: Gratifying, but not satisfying. After three straight seasons of declining returns, culminating in the 6-7 disaster of 2010, it was pleasant, to say the least, that the Bulldogs rebounded to win ten games, claim the East, and save Mark Richt’s job, particularly in the wake of Georgia’s 0-2 start this fall.
However, the season was not entirely satisfying, because the Bulldogs showed in the first half of the SEC Championship Game how close they are to being an elite team, yet they learned in the second half of the SEC Championship Game how far they still are from playing on Alabama’s and LSU’s level. The signs are strongly encouraging, but the Red and Black aren’t yet as good as they can be.
BS: QB Aaron Murray leads the Bulldog offense. What can you say about his progress and who are his top weapons?
Kyle King: Technically, Murray regressed a bit statistically, albeit not enough to warrant accusing him of being in a sophomore slump. If anything, he is to be forgiven for his slight numerical decline, given the lack of depth on the offensive line, the middle-of-the-pack running game, and the absence of A.J. Green. Changes to the Georgia offense appear to have affected the sharpness of his play, but Murray remains a solid starter for the Bulldogs.
His former high school teammate, Orson Charles, continues to be a useful weapon, even if the wealth of talent Georgia boasts at tight end is not always utilized as effectively as it could be. Malcolm Mitchell has distinguished himself among the several standouts in a young receiving corps, and, if the freshman from Valdosta can stay healthy, Mitchell is fully capable of filling Green’s huge shoes as the Bulldogs’ deep threat.
BS: The defense has been exceptional, giving up under 20 points a game. What makes this unit so good and who are the key players?
Kyle King: The credit belongs to the coaching staff, and to Mark Richt for hiring them after cleaning house following the 2009 campaign. Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense took a year to take hold in Athens, just as the similar system implemented by Grantham’s old boss, Nick Saban, took a season to cement itself in Tuscaloosa, and both linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and secondary coach Scott Lakatos have worked wonders with what previously was an underperforming defensive unit.
On the field, the Georgia D is loaded with talent and is developing depth, but the standouts at each position are Jonathan Jenkins on the defensive line, Jarvis Jones in the linebacker corps, and Brandon Boykin in the defensive backfield. Jenkins gave Grantham the nose tackle rotation he needed to plug the middle and make the 3-4 work, Jones has been lethal as a quarterback-seeking missile off the edge, and Boykin is a playmaker in the secondary, in the return game, and (occasionally) on offense.
BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?
Kyle King: It seems strange to say that the SEC freshman of the year needs to have a breakout game, but I nominate Isaiah Crowell. The first-year tailback has shown flashes of brilliance and lived up to a large part of the hype that accompanied him during the recruitment process, but there are questions about Crowell’s durability and decisionmaking.
Even so, though, Crowell has a chance to finish the autumn with the second-highest season-long rushing tally ever compiled by a true freshman tailback at Georgia, and, while there is no danger that he will cause anyone to forget Herschel Walker anytime soon, Crowell could springboard a spectacular and stable sophomore season with a solid performance against Michigan State.
Thanks a lot to Kyle King. Check his work out at www.dawgsports.com and follow @dawgsports