Tuesday, December 13, 2011
2012 roster: The offense
We'll do this in three parts. The offense here. Then the defense. Then special teams and an overall summation.
Of course, we aren't there yet, but in our minds, the 2012 offseason began as soon as LSU ended. Bowl prep doesn't mean jack to 2011's season aside from good feelings in the winter and a cherry on top. But it is the beginning of the hard work needed to keep progressing in the right direction in 2012. The usual disclaimer that some of these guys may go pro (Orson?), or otherwise depart the program for any of the millions of reasons kids leave like playing time (Mason?), homesickness, grades, girls, drugs, and on and on and on. There will be a few more additions in the signing class, like a WR, another RB, and some more OL. But as of now, this is what we got on the roster for next year's offense.
QB-Aaron Murray (Jr), Hutson Mason (Jr), Christian LeMay (rsFr), Fauton Bauta (Fr)
This spot shapes up pretty well, especially is Mason continues to stick around. You return arguably the best QB in the SEC in Murray. He still has issues with learning to throw it away, and reducing his mistakes and turnovers, but he's still a very good QB and does a great job when he has a decent running game to take pressure off. He could improve his deep accuracy, and reduce his tendency to stare down primary receivers, but that should come over time. Mason and LeMay give some great backups, with LeMay on the old Richt at FSU plan of bide your time behind a good vet, learn the system, take over as a JR, and do it all over again once that guy moves on. Bauta provides a little extra depth here, and may stick, although with Brice Ramsey in the pipe, we still think he eventually moves to a TE/FB role, or to LB after a year.
RB-Carlton Thomas (Sr), Richard Samuel IV (Sr), Xander Ogletree (Jr), Brandon Harton (Jr), Boo Malcome (So), Isaiah Crowell (So), Keith Marshall (Fr), Quayvon Hicks (Fr)
Not a bad depth chart already, especially if Crowell can have a strong winter and summer and come back even better and more focused. He is the key to this thing, as even with supreme talent in Marshall around, you don't trust a freshman, let alone a 190 pound freshman to carry the load. Enrolling early will be a big boost for Marshall, but it's still hard to expect him to be a 200+ carry, 1000 yd guy immediately. Carlton Thomas has proven an effective #2, if he sticks around and has his act together. Samuel, in spite of that Florida game, still has issues with vision, breaking tackles, etc in terms of natural ball carrier stuff, and we think he joins Xander at FB giving a strong 1-2 punch there of blockers and guys who can do work with the ball passing or on the quick handoff, while Hicks redshirts. Harton is decent deep depth, and the wild card is Malcome. He showed some solid flashes against Tech and LSU. He's long been considered a good talent, but his injuries and other issues have kept him off the field. With the way the position shapes up right now, he could be anywhere from starter, to 4th string, to transferring elsewhere as he almost did midseason. This is the big ? offensively, and we need a good answer to complement Murray. The good thing about that ? is there's plenty of talent to answer it, especially if we add a Mike Davis, Todd Gurley, among others to the mix. As physical as the SEC is, and as suspect as some of those guys have seemed, you can't have enough quality ball carriers.
TE-Orson Charles (Sr), Arthur Lynch (Jr), Jay Rome (rsFr), Ty Smith (Fr)
Personally, we are a big fan of the balance you can get froma 2 TE set, and the mismatches you can exploit with playmaking big guys like Charles, Rome, etc. More depth would be nice, but as we do things, this is a pretty good group. Lynch is a good player, and can hold down the spot if Charles goes pro. Rome has similar playmaker skills as Charles, and thanks to the depth that gave us the luxury of redshirting him, he'll be that much bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter when he finally does take the field. The NFL is going to basketball body TEs, and Mark Fox's reserve PF certainly fits that athletic big body mold. Ty Smith is one you hope redshirts, but unless we add a JUCO (and we may need to if Charles goes), he might be forced in to action because of the thin depth chart.
WR-Marlon Brown (Sr), Tavarres King (Sr), Rantavious Wooten (Jr), Michael Bennett (So), Malcolm Mitchell (So), Chris Conley (So), Sanford Seay (rsFr), Justin Scott-Wesley (rsFr), Blake Tibbs (Fr)
When Richt got to town, he talked about wanting to have 10 quality WRs to run his no-huddle, spread attack. That group represents 9 solid players. Brown came on strong this past year, and with good health should be even better as a SR leader. King had his ups and downs, and while he really needs to work on those hands, he still makes plenty of plays. Wooten redshirted after a bad car accident, and has shown flashes of ability with his speed and quickness although never consistent with it. Seay, Scott-Wesley, and Tibbs provide depth. We may add one more player to the group, but after the emergence of the Three Wise Men, do we really need it? Michael Bennett, Tampa Mitchell, and Chris Conley produced better than any trio of freshman pass catchers Georgia has ever had. Mitchell brings the speed and big play ability you want, while Conley and Bennett have the size and hands to work short and intermediate stuff to perfection. Combine those three, with Brown, King, and the others, and you've got plenty of ability on the perimeter. If the staff things someone won't be back, we might need one more. But as is, that's as strong a group as you're gonna see, and we probably would be better off adding another RB, another TE, and some big uglies.
OL-Austin Long (Jr), Dallas Lee (Jr), Kenarious Gates (Jr), Chris Burnette (Jr), Kolton Houston (So), David Andrews (So), Hunter Long (So), Watts Dantzler (So), Zach DeBell (rsFr), Xzavier Ward (rsFr), Nate Theus (rsFr), Greg Pyke (Fr), Chester Brown (Fr), John Theus (Fr)
Ideally, you want over 15 and closer to 20 guys here, considering some will wash out. Adding 2 more this class is what the staff seems to want, as they've gone hard for guys like Florida OT Avery Young, and some JUCO OTs. They are targetting OTs because we've got good depth inside, and if Kolton Houston gets his eligibility mystery squared away, it's great depth.
Dallas Lee can handle C if need be, but was coming on strong at G before breaking his leg. David Andrews served as Ben Jones' understudy this season, and seems destined to take over the C spot next year, allowing Lee and Burnette to stay at G. Burnette and Kenarious Gates would seem like the battle for the other G spot opposite Lee, with Gates able to slide out for RT if that forms the best 5. Expect Watts Dantzler to be a big part of that battle for starting RT with Gates and others. As said above, if Houston has his eligibility worked out, that's a strong backup for both G spots. Hunter Long adds more depth there inside, and can play C or G. Nate Theus was brought in as deep snapper, but at his size can probably help some on the interior OL if need be. And while ideally, you want all freshman lineman to redshirt, Greg Pyke and Chester Brown both seem to have the size and tenacity to help at G immediately if need be.
That leaves the bookends as the main issue to be answered. You assume Dantzler and Gates can form a good battle to decide RT, with hopefully a finally healthy Austin Long joining them. But LT is the key spot on an OL, and our biggest ?. If John Theus were able to enroll early, that'd be a big boost, but since Bolles doesn't allow that, it puts him a bit farther behind than you'd like. Dantzler, Gates, or Long might work in there, and probably do in spring, but they are more RTs than blindside protectors, especially Dantzler and Gates. Ward and DeBell have the long frames you want in that left side end, but both have been said to have trouble adding weight after being under 275 when they enrolled. They may well get closer to the 290+ range you'd want them in after another 9 months in S&C and at the training table, but if they'd shown themselves to be studs by now, someone would have said so. That's why we're looking at Avery Young, to hope between him and Theus one works, but like Theus although he's a great talent, he wouldn't early enroll which leaves you crunched to get them up to speed in the summer (Trinton Sturdivant was a great true FR LT, but he early enrolled). That's why they've targetted some JUCOs, who could be here come January in S&C and get a spring practice under their belt to learn the system, as well as summer workouts. We'll add two more OL to this class, at least one of which will be an OT, if not both since we have plenty of depth inside. People point to this as a problem area, but with 3 returning starters, as well as Andrews or Dantzler to fill a 4th spot, this group looks as good and deep as it has in the Richt area. The only question is who fills LT, and if we add a Mark Beard or other elite JUCO by the end of the month, them plus Theus (and maybe Young too) should be more than enough to occupy that spot.
All in all, this unit looks like it could be one of the best in the country. We need to figure out LT, and have Charles return, but it's got talent all around, and should be a strong group capable of averaging 30+ pts per next year.