Seth Emerson does a fine job covering Georgia athletics for the Macon Telegraph:
Q: Why do you think Georgia has a tendency to look flat at times? I’m thinking specifically about the South Carolina and Kentucky games.
That’s a great question. The biggest concern I’d have right now if I were a Georgia fan would be why does it take some sort of extra motivation for my team to play at its best? The three best games the Bulldogs have had this year were at Missouri (when the “old man football” comments were made), vs. Vanderbilt (when last year’s postgame incident loomed) and vs. Florida (after the “playing soft” comments by not only Shawn Williams, but TV analysts.) The only explanation, and it’s the simplest one, is that not only is Mark Richt not a rah-rah, emotional type, but the team’s top two players – Aaron Murray and Jarvis Jones – also aren’t fiery guys. And a team tends to feed off its head coach and best players. That doesn’t make the even-keel approach wrong. After all, this team is still 7-1 and in the hunt for an SEC and perhaps BCS title.
Q: What does Georgia do defensively to help free up Jarvis Jones to make plays? Who has successfully, somewhat, schemed Jones to slow him down?
Jones was out for two games, and six of his 8.5 sacks came in two games (Missouri and Florida). It’s not that he’s been feast-or-famine. Opposing teams have done everything they can on him, whether it’s double-blocking or stunting him, or audibling to the other side. The main way it’s worked is when the other edge rushers haven’t been effective. But now freshman Jordan Jenkins, playing the other OLB spot, is really playing well, and senior DE-OLB Cornelius Washington, who had been quiet, is starting to assert himself more. If those guys require attention, then Jones is going to get the single-blocking matchups he desires.
Q: How productive has Georgia been at wide receiver? I know there was a key injury. How have the other guys elevated their play?
A: Georgia hasn’t had a go-to receiver, a la A.J. Green, which has actually been a good thing. Michael Bennett was the team’s leading receiver through five games, then tore his ACL the Tuesday before South Carolina. But his injury coincided with Malcolm Mitchell – the leading receiver last year, who started this season at cornerback – moving back full-time to offense. So it’s still a deep, dangerous unit. Mitchell ended up being the key guy down the stretch against Florida, and scored the decisive touchdown to make it 17-9. Mitchell is the top playmaker, but seniors Marlon Brown and Tavarres King are also effective, and junior Rantavious Wooten is capable of making plays in space. Simply put, if Aaron Murray has time to find an open receiver, someone’s going to be open, and Georgia is going to do well.
Q: From the Georgia perspective — team, fans, everyone — what is the thinking about an Ole Miss team that is playing better but is not that far removed from a 16-game SEC losing streak?
A: The fact that Ole Miss went in to Arkansas and won – as down as the Razorbacks are this year – certainly got people’s attention. Still, you can’t separate the Rebels from the team that struggled so much the past few years. So people still expect that Georgia, if it plays near to its best, should win this game. But they also know that Ole Miss is improved enough that if the Bulldogs have an emotional letdown, or stumble around, things could get very hairy.
Q: What has allowed the freshman running backs, specifically Gurley, to have so much early success?
A: They’ve been calling them “Gurshall” – combo of Gurley and Marshall, and rhyming with Herschel – but lately it’s really just Gurley. Either way, the pair have been a huge improvement over last year because a) they’ve stayed healthy and out of trouble, and b) they are capable of big plays. Isaiah Crowell was effective last year when he was healthy, but he didn’t have that breakaway ability, and since 2010 a run of 15 yards seemed like an explosion. Gurley and Marshall have changed that, showing the ability to not only get past the line, but to get that extra gear and take it a long way. Gurley has 10 touchdowns, and Marshall have five, which combined would tie Herschel Walker’s school record for touchdowns by a freshman.