I know, Georgia faithful, it feels as though a very promising season has gone up in smoke — yet again. In a season where the Southeastern Conference clearly had no juggernaut, your beloved, my beloved, Dawgs have gone out and gotten mollywhopped by Alabama 38-10, at home, and followed that with a loss to Tennessee of all teams.
I’m sure you want to “Dawg Cuss” head coach Mark Richt while buying transfer quarterback Greyson Lambert a one-way ticket back to the Atlantic Coast Conference, where he can take defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who held the same position with Florida State, with him.
While going full DEFCON 2 may make you feel better in the interim, I’m here to tell you: This team can still make it to the SEC Championship Game.
Yes, the defense can be a bit porous on the third level, and the season-ending injury to uber-star running back Nick Chubb is enough to make a grown man cry (I didn’t cry, though; I swear it was a mist in the air), but all this team has to do is win out and it will find itself in the thick of things.
The rushing defense needs to become a point of emphasis, while the rushing attack needs to maintain its same dominance. And in my most humble opinion, I believe, at the least, the latter will hold true.
That’s right — I remain confident in Georgia’s most important aspect because it’s still set up to succeed.
First, my confidence reigns supreme, in part, because of the talent the Dawgs have along the offensive line. It’s one of the only units that can oscillate between gap- and zone-blocking principles and not miss a beat. It may not be the largest offensive line we’ve seen, but, collectively, it understands concepts, spacing and technique.
This is where sophomore RB Sony Michel comes into play.
At 5-foot-11, 212 pounds, Michel is built a lot like Chubb, which is fascinating to note as the CBS team of Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson are under the impression that he’s some kind of 175-pound scatback, or something. In actuality, Michel is a rocked-up back in the mold of FSU superstar Dalvin Cook (6-0, 203 pounds).
While Michel is lauded for the versatility in being able to work as a slot receiver and bend the edge in the run game, he will be fine pushing the pile in UGA’s between-the-tackles game, too.
This run should tell you all you need to know about Michel: navigating a Lead-Open, he managed to maneuver a breached gap while following his lead to daylight. From there, he ran through an arm tackle and even broke an ankle in the process.
He has the ability to string together moves and is virtually unmatched out in space.
I’m hearing a ton of people express that Georgia changed the game plan after Chubb’s injury. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, the film doesn’t lie: Georgia consistently called Power and other between-the-tackles jaunts. Here we see Michel executing a Split-Zone run that was immediately breached at the point of attack. After he made the initial defender miss, he pulled out a joystick-like, dead-leg move that even receiver Isaiah McKenzie would be proud of. From there it was a mix of power and finesse on his way to yet another explosive gain that most would have be stopped from the get-go.
Chubb’s loss is huge, but Michel was considered a better prep prospect. Michel unfortunately injured himself when Chubb grabbed the reins from the great Todd Gurley due to injury last season. Michel is more explosive and a scheme-specific fit for the league’s best screen team as well.
And he’s a ton-more physical than publicized.
He appears to be further along in pass-protection than most true sophomore RBs, and he can still be a factor at a myriad spots. With senior Keith Marshall, 5-11, 220 pounds, working his way back into form, and Brendan Douglas (5-11, 215 pounds) showing himself to be a viable option, the Dawgs are equipped to lay waste to rushing defenses. (And that’s glossing over spring game star A.J. Turman.)
Up next, Missouri, which, coincidentally, is the team UGA faced after Gurley was suspended last season.
Keep your eyes on the prize, Dawg Nation.