Legge Grades the Dawgs

ATHENS – Dean Legge grades the Dawgs who are just past the midpoint of the season.

Offensive line: Most expected more from this offensive line, and with good reason. One has to wonder what Trinton Sturdivant would have added to the team had he remained healthy for the season. Still, with or without Sturdivant Georgia has struggled too much for a steady run game to develop, and for that alone I can't give them a high mark. The offensive line is protecting Joe Cox well, but the run game needs to look much more like the end of the Vanderbilt game than the other six games of the season.

Grade: C-

Tight ends: Aron White and Orson Charles have proved that they are weapons when used. It is harder to know just how great the tight ends are at blocking but, I have to knock them down a level (along with the offensive line) because if the tight ends were blocking as well needed for the run game Georgia would have, well, a run game. Still, it is hard to penalize Charles and White – the duo has provided a steady stream of plays when thrown to. Charles is the fourth-leading receiver for the year – but is the second in terms of receiving yards. White is the sixth in terms of catches. The tight ends are doing their job.

Grade: B+

Running Backs: This group needs to put it up… yesterday. If Georgia is going to have a successful end of the season the running backs need to get it together. To be fair, Georgia spent much of the early part of the season trying to figure out who their running back was. When they realized no one back could get the job done they had to figure out who could do what well in games, and get them in that situation. Washaun Ealey and Caleb King seem to be the duo of the near future at running back – but expect Richard Samuel and Carlton Thomas to have their chance to make plays, too. It is hard to know if or where Dontavius Jackson figures into the equation, but he might get a hard look if the rest of the Dawgs continue to struggle on the ground. Fred Munzenmaier and Shaun Chapas, at fullback, don't seem to be having quite the season they did last year. Munzenmaier does, however, understand what to do with the ball in short-yardage situations. I will be interested to see what, if anything, Charles White brings to the table at fullback. Overall this bunch needs to step it up more than any other group on the team – specifically the tailbacks. With a run game Georgia can beat every team remaining on their schedule. Without a run game Georgia will beat Tennessee Tech, but struggle to hang with Auburn and Kentucky and are sure to lose to both Florida and Georgia Tech.

Grade: F

Quarterbacks: Joe Cox has been either hot or cold the entire season. His most balanced game, like the team itself, came against Vanderbilt. The Dawgs don't need the Cox that lit up Arkansas to win games, but they can't have the Cox that struggle against Oklahoma State, LSU and Tennessee, either. Cox must control turnovers – if he doesn't control turnovers the Dawgs are doomed. Georgia has taken a little better care of the ball of late, but they still turned it over three times against Tennessee. The run game must help Cox out – he is not able to win the games by himself. But he has shown that he can execute, and do it well, when he has a running back performing. His best performances of the season seem to come when he has a running game. His most difficult games are easy to pick out: Oklahoma State, LSU and Tennessee – all of Georgia's losses – were games where Georgia did not run the ball effectively. The Dawgs didn't have over 100 yards rushing in those games. Give Cox a run game, and you will get a win: Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Arkansas were all games where the Dawgs had more than 100 yards. Those were Cox's best games, too. Hum, so there is something to that play-action pass thingy.

Grade: C

Wide Receivers: A.J. Green makes up for a lot – including at the wide receiver spot. A.J. Green is the best receiver in the country – I don't think I need to go on more than that statement. I really was looking for more from Mike Moore this season. I'm not saying he having a bad season – because he's not – but I think he could be doing more. I'd like to see performances like the one he had against Arkansas, and even against Tennessee (before the turnover). Moore has not scored a touchdown since the South Carolina game. Orson Charles has more receiving yards than Moore – that's what I mean by wanting more. I'd like to see Moore have more production. Tavarres King showed just what he is capable of at the end of the LSU game and during the win over Arkansas. But King missed the Tennessee game and had only a six-yard catch against Vandy. King could be doing more, too, but let's see what happens when he's fully recovered for the Florida game. Freshmen Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten in particular have shown flashes of talent, but they still need to develop. In the end A.J. Green makes up for a lot.

Grade: A-

Overall Offense: Get the run game going – that's all I care about. Offensive line here is my challenge to you: I know… I know the backs are limited, but just win on the line by such a great margin that they can make a play – you have to because the season rides on it. Also, if the Dawgs could figure out a way to get the ball to A.J. Green even more – that would be great. He's the only real playmaker on offense… get him the ball as much as he can take it.

Overall Grade: D+

Defensive line: Georgia's defensive tackle position is one of the deepest spots on the team, and it has shown during the season. The Bulldogs are tied for fourth best in the conference in rushing yards per game, and the defensive line has allowed only three rushing touchdowns in 25 red zone attempts by the opposition – one of the better percentages in the SEC in that category. Kade Weston has had one of the better seasons of any Dawg this season. The defensive ends have really picked up production since Justin Houston arrived on the scene after the South Carolina game. The Dawgs had only two sacks in the first two games of the season, but have had 12 sacks in the five games since Houston returned – including the four he is responsible for himself. The Dawgs had only six tackles for loss in the two games without Houston – they had six alone in the game he returned, and have had 36 since his return. Houston's return has mattered… a lot. I can't complain a ton about the defensive line. It would be great if the would stone opponents more, but I can't place too much blame on them alone.

Grade: B+

Linebackers: Rennie Curran is consistent, but he's not made a ton of plays. Marcus Dowtin is probably the best up-and-coming linebacker at Georgia, but he's been hurt lately, and the Dawgs really need him back. Darryl Gamble needs to be more steady, and it would be nice to see him work some of his big-play ability back into his game soon. Beyond Curran, who leads the SEC in total tackles with an impressive 72, I feel a little underwhelmed. Darious Dewberry and Gamble have forced a fumble each, but no one at linebacker is being confused as a ball hawk, or someone the opposition needs to fear. This group needs to make more plays. Curran is doing his part – he's leading the conference in tackles. No, he's not perfect, but he's doing what's asked of him. The other linebackers need to start making plays.

Grade: C-

Secondary: I am unimpressed. Reshad Jones is playing better than he did last season – that much I can say. Jones is the team's second-leading tackler, and had an important interception against Vanderbilt last weekend. He's broken up four passes – best on the team, and had a couple of quarterback pressures and a forced fumble. More than anything Jones is more under control. Brandon Boykin is going through what a first-year starter in the SEC goes through: he's being picked on. Boykin may be getting beat at times, but at least he's made a couple of interceptions (on in the red zone) and is responsible for some serious playmaking on special teams. Boykin is also the team's fourth-leading tackler – that's not a good sign for a defense. Prince Miller, a senior, has only two pass breakups and 14 tackles on the season. I expected more of Miller – he needs to pick his game up. After all Miller shows the ability to make plays on special teams – that needs to transition over to his play on defense. Bryan Evans has been a wreck on defense – Bacarri Rambo needs more time in the secondary as he is a playmaker for sure. I expect Rambo to start sometime soon. In the end the secondary is not getting the job done. Georgia's pass defense ranks second to last in the SEC by allowing an alarming 238 yards a game. Giving up yards is one thing, but failing to make big plays is another. Combining those two things is a recipe for a signal caller to go Jonathon Crompton on you… and that's not meant to be a complement. I expect to see more and more of Rambo and more of Branden Smith as time moves on. Both are playmakers, and make things happen when in the game.

Grade: F

Overall Defense: This defense has been put into some bad spots to be sure. Their worst game, like the rest of the team, was the Tennessee game. The defense played well enough to win against most everyone else except Arkansas. Still, they have allowed 37 or more points three times this season – not nearly good enough. The group still has been average when dealing with the offense putting them in bad positions (and that has happened so much this season and last that you would figure the unit would be very used to it), and the defense does not make game-changing plays. The offense has started, it seems, to correct some of the turnover problems they had at the start of the season – the defense now needs to force at least two turnovers a game from here on out. I am underwhelmed defense – impress me.

Overall Grade: C-

Special Teams: The lone bright spot of consistency comes from Georgia's special teams. Sure, the kickoff coverage is 105th best in the country, but the Dawgs are getting better at kicking the ball out of the end zone – Blair Walsh leads the SEC with nine touchbacks this season. That unit should look to get a turnover to flip the game on the Gators to make up for the return allowed against LSU late in the game. Georgia's punt return team is third best in the SEC, and Prince Miller is the #13 punt returner in the country. That unit is also responsible for a punt block this season. Georgia's kickoff return is eighth best, but Brandon Boykin has taken two returns to the house – the Dawgs are the only team in the SEC with more than one kickoff return for a touchdown this season – Boykin is a real problem for the opposition. Georgia's return average is so low because of the "pop up" ball that has been used of late to limit Boykin's returns – that as well as Branden Smith's two-yard return in the South Carolina game. The Bulldogs, Drew Butler specifically, are the number one team in the country in net punting. Butler is averaging a 49.4-yard punt, which is ridiculous, and his teammates are allowing only four yards a return – not bad… actually pretty good considering how far they are being asked to run compared to most punt units. Blair Walsh is one if, if not the, best kickers in the SEC. He's missed one kick – an important one against LSU – all season long. But he's hit a game winner – and that accounts for something. He is one of only five kickers in the SEC not to miss an extra point attempt this season. Walsh is a rock. Throw in A.J. Green's blocked kick in the Arizona State game, and one could say that special teams have saved the Dawgs over and over this season (or you could say A.J. Green has saved the Dawgs over and over – that would be correct, too).

Overall Grade: B+

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