Special treat this morning. Paul Westerdawg from Georgia Sports Blog and Doug from Hey Jenny Slater join us to answer burning questions in anticipation of Saturday's Tennessee-Georgia game at Neyland Stadium.
1. Okay, so once again the Bulldogs have like 18 great running backs. What are the differences between Thomas Brown, Knowshon Moreno, and Kregg Lumpkin? Which of the three should strike the most fear into the hearts of Vol fans?
Doug. It's tough to say. Before this past week, I would've told you that Thomas Brown was the more rugged, straight-ahead kind of guy who just runs right through people, while Moreno is more of a slashing, maneuvering guy with better speed, but now that TB has broken off a pair of 40-plus-yard TD runs against Ole Miss, it's clear he's got some moves and some speed as well (though Ole Miss's front seven isn't exactly a steel curtain). Kregg Lumpkin falls somewhere in between -- he's got some of the strengths of both of those guys but also some of their weaknesses relative to one another. He's almost fully recovered from an injury sustained against Oklahoma State, if what I hear from Athens is any indication, but I don't know that he'll see many touches against the Vols.
Brown has had some success against Tennessee the past couple years, so with his big-game experience I'll give him the slight edge as far as which of the three present the biggest threat this weekend. But Moreno is awfully close. Let's just say I don't think John Chavis will be breathing any sighs of relief to see either one take the field.
PWD: Thomas Brown is a 5'8" 200 lb funny shaped scat back with great strength for his size. Last week was the first time he's followed his blocks and let the holes develop for him in quite some time. In the first two games of the season, it looked like his uniform was coated in Velcro because he went down so quickly when a defender touched him. However, he is playing lights out the past two weeks. He's a better pass blocker than Moreno.
Moreno is Cadillac Williams circa 2001. He's makes great cuts, has redonkulous change of direction ability and good (but not breathtaking) speed. Both Moreno and Brown have excellent hands out of the backfield. Moreno is the most exciting freshman player at UGA since Eric Zeier in '91. Realistically, he's showing the most ability at the running back position since Robert Edwards circa 1995 pre-broken foot in Neyland Stadium. If the freshman heavy OL plays as well as it did the past two games, I'm expecting great things from the RBs against your questionable run defense.
Lumpkin has 1 workable hand so he's a non-factor.
2. Georgia gained 328 yards rushing against Ole Miss last week, yet recent stories suggest that the offensive line isn't any good. That's sandbagging, right? If not, where's the principal weakness?
PWD: It's not that the offensive line is "bad" or "great." They are talented and VERY, VERY young, which means they are wildly inconsistent. We have 14 offensive linemen on scholarship. Twelve of those kids never played a snap in Sanford Stadium before the 2007 season. Of those 14, only six will play against the Vols barring injury. We have a couple more who are "available" but they aren't far enough along as redshirt freshmen to play in a game like this. We will start three freshman OL (two of them are true freshmen), and our only OL backup who will play is a JUCO soph who only has about 3 years of experience playing football at any level.
Basically, Stacey Searels (our new OL coach) is working miracles. They show flashes of greatness, but their play is inconsistent. That's why you're seeing 3,000 screen variations from UGA this year. We have to do things to protect our OL. Oh...and Ole Miss can't tackle a light post. Thus all the yardage.
Doug. Again, I think part of the reason for our dramatic success against the Rebels was the fact that their defense just plain sucks. Our O-line hasn't necessarily been a model of consistency, but I think they're run-blocking all right; Brown and Moreno are both averaging about five and a half yards per carry at the moment. Against good defensive fronts, though -- South Carolina's being a prime example -- they still don't seem to be really controlling the line of scrimmage yet, and there have been times when Stafford and the line haven't quite been on the same page. Still, Richt and Bobo have done a pretty good job of not giving the O-line more than it can handle in terms of play-calling, and overall I think we're in better shape now than we were with an equally inexperienced line in 2003.
3. It sounds like your team's a little beat up, what with middle linebacker Marcus Washington out with a separated shoulder, safety Kelin Johnson nursing a concussion, and o-lineman Scott Haverkamp questionable with an ankle injury. Which injury concerns you the most?
Doug. In terms of this game in particular, it's vital that Kelin Johnson be 100 percent -- last year Erik Ainge carpet-bombed us like he was a B-52 and we were Vietnam, and it's clear that the passing game is the strength of the Vols' offense again in '07. But I think Kelin will be ready to go on Saturday. Washington's injury is probably the biggest concern right now simply because we don't really have a lot of depth at linebacker; it seems like we've been shuffling people around at that unit all season long, and I expect we'll continue to do that this week. Brandon Miller and Dannell Ellerbe both ended up having pretty good games against Ole Miss, though, so I'm optimistic that we're not going to completely collapse there.
PWD: Haverkamp didn't play vs. Ole Miss or Bama. So it's nothing new. Washington is a physical guy, but he's a step or two slower than UGA middle linebackers of the past 10 years. He's more like Tony Gilbert than Odell Thurman, Kendrell Bell, Tony Taylor or Will Witherspoon. We'll end up with more speed at LB with him out by shifting Dannell Ellerbe over from Will to Mike. Johnson is the bigger loss because he's a great leader. But his backup, Reshad Jones, is a more physically gifted kid. The injuries don't worry me as long as we don't lose anyone else on "Bloody Tuesday" (our most physical day of practice).
4. Georgia got out of the gate well with a 35-14 win over Oklahoma State and then lost 16-12 to Steve Spurrier (we don't call them "South Carolina" on RTT). What did the Gamecocks do that the Cowboys did not?
PWD: The Cowboys are poorly coached, and they apparently didn't watch a minute of film on us. The scouting report on UGA is simple:
1. Run delayed draws straight at us and hope our talented DTs don't step up.
2. Run stretch plays behind your OT directly at our smaller DEs. Then use those plays to set up Play Action crossing patterns.
3. Blitz the hell out of us on defense.
4. Hope we drop passes and don't make you pay for blitzing.
Against OSU, they tried to run wide on us and roll their QB out using slow developing plays. Our super fast DEs ate them up. SC didn't do any of that dumb stuff. They ran right at us. UT will do the same. We also caught the ball extremely well vs. OSU. Stafford had some shaky passes, and the WRs dropped at least six passes by my count. Georgia lost b/c Georgia couldn't pass and catch. Not because of anything genius that Spurrier did.
Doug. Well, they played defense, which I hear is kind of important. I hadn't expected Carolina's front four to be as dominant as they were; they never really let us establish any kind of rhythm or identity on offense, though I think we played into their hands by going too pass-happy in the second half.
5. Does home field mean anything anymore in this series? As in anything good?
Doug. Not from where I'm sitting -- but if it helps any, it's not just you. As you no doubt heard in the wake of the Dawgs' win over Alabama on September 22, Richt has done a masterful job of preparing his teams to go on the road, to the tune of a 23-3 record in true road games since he arrived in Athens. Matt Stafford has yet to play a game at Neyland, but he has won games in Auburn and Tuscaloosa, so it's not like he's brand-new at this. And David Greene had only started three games period before he won in Knoxville as a redshirt freshman in 2001, so I'm confident (though not overconfident) that Richt will have his guys ready to go on Saturday, Stafford included.
PWD: It isn't the home field that has defined the past four or five games. It's been the intangibles. Will UT quit in 2007 like they did in 2003 after the Sean Jones fumble return? It was only 13-7 at that point, but the Vol team acted like it was 40-0. They rolled over and died. In 2005, the Vols laid down early again. If you guys will be nice enough to quit for us, that would be really helpful.
In 2004, Georgia was coming off the monstrous win vs. the defending national champs. We took the Vols for granted, and a highly motivated Vol team looking for revenge after the 41-14 game in '03 took it to us. In 2006, the Vols did everything right and the UGA defense just got steamrolled.
I think the intangibles in this one are even. The Vols are desperate for victory, and they will play like caged animals. The Dawgs are hungry for redemption after being humiliated last year. The tougher team mentally wins
6. Think Clue. You know, Mr. Mustard in the study with the wrench. Substitute a Tennessee or Georgia blogger for the perp and a kitchen appliance for the object, and add an action and the event that will trigger the crime of passion. Come Saturday afternoon, which of us is doing what, with what, where, and for what reason?
Doug. Jai Eugene of Loser With Socks, in his garage, taking a sledgehammer to his Phil Fulmer Signature Deep Fryer after Mikey Henderson returns a punt for a TD.
If that does end up happening, please don't be too hard on him. Appliance abuse is a devilish temptation; it ensnares the best of us.