Love Them While You Can (Win Now)
Since the USFL contracted with Herschel Walker and he became the first underclassman to leave college early for a professional football league, many of the University Georgia’s greatest gridiron talents have played Between the Hedges for relatively short periods of time.
Stud wideout AJ Green started and played well all season as a true freshman in the final campaign for #1 NFL pick Matthew Stafford and top runnner Knowshon Moreno. AJ was hurt the back half of his sophomore season and then suspended for selling a jersey most of the first half of his final year, as a junior.
Stafford was the solid starter several games into his true freshman year when JTIII failed to produce in an epic home meltdown against Tennessee. Moreno had infamously been redshirted as a freshman, dominated to the tune of a final #2 national ranking as a redshirt freshman once he got the rock, and then he hurdled his way into the big leagues while too often used as a decoy for the pass-happy Stafford pre-draft vehicle. Hard to deny that big Texas gun. We should’ve.
If we had consistently fed him the ball as a redshirt sophomore, we wouldn’t have set those big number passing records and probably wouldn’t have finished ranked #10. We started that season #1, then plummeted. Florida flat out blew us out, but we kept firing. See, Moreno never lost a game when he ran the ball a ton in college. I wouldn’t have looked at the score. He would have worked until the clock ticked zero.
Speaking of would you just look at the stupid clock, can you only imagine Larry Munson calling last year’s SEC title tilt when he had all his faculties? Because sure Larry was good when we won and won big, but his specialty was rubbing salt in your wounds gloom and gravel-voiced doom. He would have immortalized that doom!
Where were we…oh yeah, the big bad NFL versus the golden years spent in college.
These are not exactly long and storied careers: AJ the equivalent of 2 football seasons / Stafford started just over 2.5 seasons / Moreno played 2 seasons but got a full load 1.5…
Hastings, Hampton, Quincy, Champ…all were gone as underclassmen. Garrison Hearst started without sharing carries in a major way for all of one football season. That season UGA was within a one-point loss and a two-point loss of going undefeated for coach Ray Goff, and I, a Texan myself, officially had the DAWGS bug. GEORGIA football enraptured me at school that year and would dominate my fandom from that season on, and it will through the rest of my life. The next year, talented future NFL MVP Terrell Davis started only a few games, around several injuries. UGA slipped.
Pollack stayed and was a real talent; David Greene stayed but he overproduced for his talent level. Zeier was a big numbers guy but never got the wins, without Hastings and Hearst. Some stay, some go. Look at LSU; they lost 11 early to the NFL’s latest draft and return a talented team to the bayou. Georgia’s D had mass NFL defections, too. The riches are just such a lure.
While our defense is retooled, this is one of those all-the-cards-are-lining-up offensive squads: redshirt senior Murray stuck around and Gurley was too young to declare for the league. He should be gone after the 2014 season, when Georgia will have a first-year starter at the most important position. It usually takes a QB at least one year at the helm to play to his finest, so that does not look like a national championship campaign to me. If the defense gels and special teams play exceptionally well, this does. Maybe.
Vegas says 12-1 we don’t win it all, but by the time my bet was placed it was only paying out 10-1. I took the bet. Think about this: Every other top-tier SEC program has won it all in the BCS era, which ends this year. We have been #2 and #3 and are due. Perhaps (too) past due.