Friday night I was at the Georgia Dome watching the Atlanta Falcons open their 2010 preseason by beating Kansas City 20-10, and boy howdy, am I glad to have football back. Even if it was just an exhibition game. That was tied 3-3 at halftime. Meaning both teams were handily outscored by the pee-wee squads that took the field as part of the halftime festivities. And college games won't start for another 17 days.
But we're definitely hitting the home stretch of the seemingly interminable offseason. Some random musings as the honest-to-god start of the season approaches:
· One thing the Dawgs can be relieved about, regardless of whatever else is happening in Athens: We have an athletic director. And a pretty good one, by all reports. Greg McGarity wasn't solely responsible for the Florida Gators' athletic success during his 18 years as associate athletic director under Jeremy Foley, of course, but the fact remains that the Gator sports teams were good at quite a lot of things during his tenure -- football obviously being one of them, but not the only one. And that's important at a place like Georgia where we, too, expect to field competitive, if not elite, squads across the board. Also important is the fact that McGarity knows the culture in Athens and across the UGA fan base and looks like a guy who can be counted on to represent us well. Welcome home, Greg.
· As far as reports from this past week of practice are concerned, it's basically one of those glass-half-full/half-empty things: Either you're pleasantly surprised that the defense looked damn good for most of the week, or you're biting your nails that the offense seems to be taking its time getting everything put together. My feeling is you basically have to look at these things like the G-Day Game -- because anything that's done particularly well on one side of the ball automatically implies some failing on the other side of the ball, you might as well take it all with a healthy grain of salt and not work yourself into a froth over it until the first game actually starts.
· So let's talk about that first game: Obviously we'd all like Georgia to deal Louisiana-Lafayette a 70-0 beatdown on Sept. 4, but let's say for the sake of argument that we're not going to get treated to anything quite that dominant. Which would you rather see -- a semi-ugly opening day in which the offense has a lot of dust to shake off and the Dawgs win something like 34-13, or a track meet in which the offense has its way but gets chased for most of the afternoon by an opposing offense we just can't seem to get off the field? (For analogies of what I'm talking about, think of the penalty-laden '03 home opener against MTSU for the former situation, the following year's opener against Georgia Southern for the latter.)
From just a cursory look at ULL's roster and statistics, I think I'd be marginally more comfortable with the ugly(-ish) defensive battle, even if that meant the offense didn't play all that well. Coming into this season, we all know that the switch to the 3-4 defensive alignment is the biggest question mark for the Bulldogs; a good opening game by that unit would, if nothing else, set the tone psychologically for a group of guys who are talented and hungry but have a lot to prove. If the offense finds themselves still working out some kinks on opening day, meanwhile, I don't think that'd be the end of the world. Lafayette's D was nothing special last year, but they do bring back eight starters; given past seasons, I'd also expect us to be playing a very vanilla offense as Richt and Bobo keep their cards close to their chests with the Gamecocks on deck.
Of course, maybe I'm being unnecessarily pessimistic to be reducing it to these two flawed choices in the first place. I'll be discussing this game in greater length as the season's opening weekend draws closer.
· Going back to the NFL for a minute, it's been interesting to check back in with the former Bulldogs who are about to embark on their rookie seasons in the pros. Despite going as an undrafted free agent to the Ravens, Prince Miller was a busy guy in Baltimore's first game, a 17-12 win over Carolina; he had a 22-yard kickoff return, three punt returns totaling 25 yards, and three tackles. Former teammates Reshad Jones (two tackles against the Buccaneers) and Jeff Owens (one tackle and a forced fumble against the Jaguars) also got to taste victory in their first preseason outings; Rennie Curran had one tackle for the Titans in a close loss to the Seahawks.
Georgia's preseason star, however, has to be Geno Atkins, currently making a very good case for himself as a DT with the Bengals: In two preseason games he has 10 tackles (four solo) and 2.5 sacks. One of his solo sacks came against Tim Tebow in last night's game against the Broncos, which has to warm the heart of even the most NFL-apathetic Dawg fan.
· On the other side of the ball in that game, I'd be remiss if I didn't applaud Dawg legend Champ Bailey, who wasn't on the field for the Broncos for very long but harassed the Bengal passing game pretty much the whole time he was there. (Judging by the Bengal QBs' stat lines, he was one of very few Broncos who did.)
· Finally, on a personal note, I moved into a new place in Columbus a few weeks ago and have been doing my best to both decorate the place as a good Dawg should; given that this is my first actual house since I left Athens more than a decade ago, I've also been trying to put my surfeit of usable space to good use and assemble a suitably impressive "man cave." And then I go check Dawgsports after getting back into town from Atlanta on Sunday evening and see that T. Kyle King has already put me to shame. Well met, Mr. King. I'll be showing up at your doorstep before you know it. (Are you a vodka man?)