What We Are Hearing

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Lots of details to try work out in this edition of What We Are Hearing. I can’t get a legit read on Sony Michel’s shoulder injury. You hear Mark Richt say on his radio show on Monday: “Sony’s got a left shoulder injury. It shouldn’t be anything that needs to be operated on. I would say he won’t play this week, and we’ll just see how he goes from here.”

On Sunday Richt said that the school had not gotten results back from the MRI, but "I can't imagine him playing anytime real soon.”

I’ve heard anything from six weeks (about the Florida game) to two months (Auburn game or after) to the rest of the year (much harder to believe). I’m not sure if folks just don’t know what’s going on, or if they are trying to stamp out a leak they’ve got in the program on the injury front.

Long story short - I would bet for Sony to play just after the Florida game, or maybe, maybe in that game. That’s my bet. Before that game - no, I don’t think that’s going to happen

Was told over the weekend that Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell will play on Saturday. JSW was expected, but Mitchell being “good to go” as one person put it, will change the offense for a couple of different reasons.

But before I get into that I want to preface that he can changer the offense only if he’s close to what he was, and that’s the real question: Are JSW and MM close to what they were? Because Keith Marshall isn’t close to what he was… and that’s something that has to be taken into account. It, again, depends on who you talk to on that front. Some folks are pretty skepticcal that Mitchell can be what he was.

“Everyone is thinking about Malcolm from the Florida game in 2012 or the Auburn game in 2011… I’m not sure that’s what we are going to see,” one insider said. “Listen, I hope and pray we see that - believe me - I am just not sure we are going to see that.”

A different insider: “Man, he’s good to go; it is going to change things.”

I didn’t realize how important that Mitchell was to Hutson Mason until after I interviewed the quarterback on Saturday after the game. Mason is eager to have Mitchell out there. Obviously the biggest thing is that Mitchell has the quicks and speed, and really the wiggle, that the current receivers don’t have. Speed is one thing; quicks are another. But no one has wiggle that Mitchell has - and that’s something Georgia needs to recruit going forward. Too many of Georgia’s receivers are similar - very good, but nothing exceptional. They can all be stopped without the threat of Mitchell (or someone who can stretch the field in some way) outside.

Conley and Bennett, in particular, have have some spectacular plays in their careers - no question. But Georgia is not “Georgia” with them at No. 1 and No. 2 WR.

“We have been surviving,” said one insider. “I’m telling you - surviving is not thriving.”

That might change - might. The one thing that we still don’t know is if Mitchell can be the Mitchell of old. I think, personally, that’s asking a lot. But, the offense will change some no matter what. The explosion of the Georgia offense might not just be fastballs from the run game any more. Put it this way: a knockout artist still needs a jab; a baseball closer can’t just throw heat the entire time… you need something else to be special.

Make no mistake - missing Sony Michel for some time will hurt the explosion of the team - but one would almost be willing to trade two running backs (Marshall and Michel) for two receivers.

Georgia isn’t balanced, and that, to me, means that it is not itself. Did you know that four of Georgia’s top receivers are TRUE FRESHMEN? That’s not normal and just not going to work. Bennett and Conley will look much, much better when they are going up against the No. 3 and No. 4 defenders in the future. The matchup game will shift from a lot of man on the outside, which has been working for the opposition, to nickel trying to cover three wide.

In theory, and we are talking about theory because it hasn’t happened yet, Georgia’s offense could be getting a major numbers game advantage in the next few weeks. If Georgia can comfortably go three wide (and with Conley, Mitchell, Bennett and JSW/Rumph they feel like they can) the defense has a decision to make.

They can go man on the three receivers with one safety and leave seven in the box; they can go zone with five defensive backs and six in the box, which seems crazy because dealing with Gurley is obviously not easier than dealing with Mason; they can do some combination of the two and try to split the baby defensively.

The point, however, is that now decisions are going to have to be made defensively. Clemson loaded up and stopped Georgia for a time, but fell apart in the fourth. Tennessee matched up OK with Georgia - slowing the pass game more than anyone the entire season, but they didn’t have the lead late and rallying back from double-digits twice in the fourth was a lot to ask on the road. South Carolina beat Georgia, but not because of the offense, which scored 35. Still, the Cocks slowed Gurley enough (allowing 131 for Gurley and 217 to Georgia) to win.

“The funny thing is that as bad as the passing has been no one has stopped us,” an insider said. “What happens if there is a pass game that’s a threat in some way? That’s crazy. But that they (no one) can stop us right now without the pass like we usually have is just crazy.”

Now defenses, which are not overwhelmingly strong in the SEC East, are going to have to pick how much they are going to respect Mason and company.

This is all with the understanding that Brice Ramsey, the backup QB, has the longest throw of the season - a 39-yard pass from Conley in the 66-0 blasting of Troy. Mason is going to throw the ball further down the field… yes, but he’s not to suddenly be Aaron Murray circa late 2012 when he was gunning down the field to Marlon Brown and Tavarres King. It is still going to be a controlled passing game. Bennett and Conley are going to look a lot better. But with some real speed on the outside now Georgia is going to take shots… That’s going to happen.

I explain all of that and will come back with this: This is what “should” happen - it is not a guarantee. The closest thing to that in this offense is turning around and giving the ball to the guy averaging 9.7 yards a touch and 196.5 yards a game.

And, yes, Brice Ramsey is going to get his looks in games in the near future. But don’t expect him to be the savior. That he is a special talent is irrelevant to the football gods’ treatment of freshmen quarterbacks. As Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray about that. Ramsey isn’t going to be good - he’s going to be great. But if he’s going to grow up in front of us - and 93,000 other people - we are going to see the sausage get made, and that’s never pretty.

Recruiting quick notes:

Georgia is giving Montavious Atkinson from Langston Hughes a lot to think about. he will likely take an official visit at Georgia. Folks close to him say that the Dawgs are making a real push. Pruitt and the staff have made it clear that he’s got a spot in Athens as a safety.

D’Andre Walker and Atkinson are likely to end up at the same school. They are not a package deal, but they would like to play at the same school. Walker is most interested in Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee.

Darius Slayton hung out with Lorenzo Carter, Quincy Mauger and Davin Bellamy. It seems he’s really comfortable at Georgia, and that is what seems to set the Bulldogs apart from other places. They took a lot of time to talk with him about offense this trip. It looks like if he picks Georgia that he might play receiver.

It is coming down to crunch time for Micah Abernathy. He was at Georgia officially and this weekend Tennessee - it will come down to those two schools. Dawgs may have a slight edge. His decision is likely very soon - maybe a week or a week and a half. He’s comfortable with Butch Jones, who signed his brother at Cincinnati. But Georgia has done a good job of showing how he will fit in at defensive back for them. He can do a lot of things and play a lot of places in the secondary at Georgia.

Again, the only real common school for both Slayton and Abernathy is Georgia. They are not a package deal, either.


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