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Ashway: Smart not inspiring a leap of faith in Georgia football
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Forsyth County News

It’s requiring an ever-greater leap of faith to believe in Kirby Smart.

It seemed impossible to imagine that Georgia could top the hideous performance it turned in against Vanderbilt a fortnight ago.

Consider it done.

Georgia’s annual Florida fiasco came with a new twist this year.  The final score of 24-10 stood much closer than the statistics warranted.

By the time the fourth quarter mercifully wound down, even casual observers had long-since been convinced that Georgia’s offense could remain on the field until December without ever scoring again on the mighty Gator defense.

In a stark preview of things to come, the second quarter provided this insight: Georgia gained 38 yards on 14 plays.  Four possessions netted two first downs.

And now for the second half:  six possessions resulted in another pair of first downs.  Georgia gained 49 yards in 23 plays.


The University of Georgia, self-proclaimed “Tailback-U,” amassed 21 yards rushing on 19 attempts.  That’s more like “Wossamotta U.”  Not since the days of Selma Callaway have we seen such a determined lack of progress in Georgia’s backfield.

To be fair, since the NCAA inexplicably counts sacks in with rushing yardage, the backs fared slightly better.  Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Brien Herrien rushed 14 times for 30 yards.

Slightly better indeed.  They once gained that much on a single drive.  Or play.

Okay, suppose this is the case.  Suppose that Georgia doesn’t have the linemen required to play the type of game that coach Smart envisions.  I believe offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and offensive line coach Sam Pittman both prefer huge road-leveler linemen of the type Georgia used to recruit.

And suppose they’ve decided that they’re going to teach their method, their system, even though they currently don’t have the personnel to carry it out.  Eventually, they’ll recruit players who can, and they’ll be taught by those players already familiar with the system.

 Fine.  You sacrifice short-term gain for long-term goals. That’s reasonable, and about all the Dawg faithful have to grasp onto right about now.

But must it be this bad?  Must your best offensive lineman, a senior leader, be the one who leaps offside on second and goal from the 2 on Georgia’s initial possession, reducing a touchdown to a field goal?  Shouldn’t Greg Pyke be setting a better example?

And couldn’t Chaney do anything beyond making the offense look hopelessly predictable?

After Georgia’s surprising touchdown drive, the initial two plays of the next series were Michel up the middle for four yards, and Michel over right guard for a loss of one.  The highly anticipated third down pass fell incomplete, as quarterback Jacob Eason was hurried.

Next series, same as the last:  Herrien over right tackle for no gain, and Herrien over left tackle for four.  The highly anticipated third down pass fell incomplete, as Eason was hurried.

And, as always, we have the special teams.  With a designated coach, by the way.  This time, no long kickoff returns allowed, and no kick returners stepping out of bounds at desperate locations.  Nor did the punt returners spin around in circular patterns, as if mystified by the entire concept of fielding a punt.

No, this time it was the punters.  A 20-yard boomer by the ironically named Marshall Long set up Florida for its go-ahead touchdown.  That earned Brice Ramsey a try.  A year ago, Ramsey averaged 41.9 yards per punt.  This year, the staff preferred Long and his 39.3 yard average.

On Saturday, both punters averaged 32.0 yards per kick. Florida averaged 47.8.  The Gators gained the length of the field on punts alone.

The point of this exercise being that the new staff hasn’t done a terribly impressive job of making the best of the situation at hand.

The old system under the old regime produced nice teams.  But it was never going to compete at the championship level.  Looking at the recent recruiting results now, and hearing Mark Richt discuss how rejuvenated he is at Miami (at least prior to four straight losses) leaves no doubt that it was high time, or past time, for a change.                                           

Now, if Smart believes he needs to tear everything down and rebuild it brick by brick to create a consistent championship contender, then Georgia fans should be all in.

But it’s terribly difficult to believe there’s a Master Plan when the current product lies in such shambles.

Back in 2007, Nick Saban took over a 6-7 Alabama team and brought home his first edition with a 7-6 record and Independence Bowl win.

A year later, he went 12-2.

Guess that took a leap of faith, too.