It’s spring and while some sports fans have their minds on Major League Baseball, The Masters or the upcoming NBA playoffs, for die-hard fans of the gridiron, now is the time to begin thinking about the 2014 football season.
Football has developed into a year-around passion for many (including your columnist) and with preseason magazines set to arrive in a few weeks, now would be a good time to break down what’s happening in the world of football with some of our local teams.
•University of Georgia: The hiring of a new defensive coordinator has most Bulldog faithful optimistic about 2014 and beyond.
Anytime a new coach (or coordinator) is brought in, the enthusiasm level goes up. Most UGA fans were ready to part ways with Todd Grantham and they received a gift — literally — when he decided to become the defensive coordinator at Louisville for Bobby Petrino.
Jeremy Pruitt made his debut to a degree at Saturday’s spring game as the new man in charge of the UGA defense. Bulldog fans love the fact they were able to lure a coordinator away from the defending national champion.
Pruitt is young and has moved around a good bit, especially in the last few seasons. It will be interesting to see if he remains at UGA longer than his two previous stops. Stability for a coaching staff means a lot to any football program. Pruitt needs to show he is willing to stay a while at one place.
Will Georgia’s defense be better in 2014? Probably so, but the reason goes beyond just the coordinator. Don’t be surprised to see Grantham flourish at Louisville as the Cardinals move into the ACC.
•Georgia Tech: A big season on tap for Paul Johnson. The triple option has enjoyed a degree of success on The Flats, but not to the extent Johnson has enjoyed other places.
I always felt this offense would work at any level, but top of the line college football programs have the talent necessary to stop it. The key in combating the triple option is to have athletic defensive linemen. (This is a big part of the reason UGA has been successful against it for the most part.)
A season which produces six wins or less could spell the end for Johnson. He is stubborn about his offense which isn’t necessarily all bad (a coach has to believe in what he’s doing), but sometimes an unwillingness to even bend a little can spell trouble.
My thinking is that Georgia Tech could win nine games this fall. When the triple option works it’s a thing of beauty. It just hasn’t seemed to click on all cylinders.
•Georgia Southern: The Eagles hired former Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz to install his version of the triple option after former head coach Jeff Monken took the Army job.
Fritz likes to run the option out of the shotgun and had a great deal of offensive success at Sam Houston State, going deep into the Division I-AA playoffs.
Georgia Southern is tied to the option. The two times the program tried to go away from it, it was a failure. An interesting matchup will be when Southern ventures to Georgia Tech for an early-season contest. Georgia Southern shocked Florida last year and is moving into Division I-A for 2014.
While technically now on the same level as Georgia Tech, a win by the Eagles would still be a major upset and could spell trouble for Johnson, who ironically enjoyed tremendous success in Statesboro.
•Coming up: A look at our local high school football teams for 2014.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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