Before football begins: 5 teams, 5 questions (and what about Chaney?)

Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney needs improvement from quarterback Jacob Eason and the offense as a whole. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC file photo)

It’s that time of year again when nobody really knows how good their football team is and coaches are going to extremes to limit media access and make sure as little information as possible gets out to evil, unicorn-blood-drinking sportswriters and then into enemy hands.

Closed practices/information blackout policies have become the norm. One exception – amusingly — is the Naval Academy, which actually knows something about state secrets. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy’s highly successful coach, even allows his assistants to speak to the media, explaining to the Washington Post, “I mean, they’re all grown men. If I couldn’t trust them talking to the media, how the heck can I trust them to work for me?”

This man is the exception to my belief that football coaches collectively are the most paranoid individuals on earth.

Truth is, even if every practice was open and everybody was made available to the media, we would still be guessing about the strength of teams going into this season. But most agree on what the biggest questions are. The following are mine for five teams: Falcons, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Kennesaw State:

Falcons

Question: Will Steve Sarkisian work out as offensive coordinator.

Confidence score: 4 (out of 5).

Thoughts: I understand that Kyle Shanahan’s late-game decisions in the Super Bowl sit in a special corner of Atlanta sports hell. But he was a tremendous offensive coordinator and play-caller and will not be easy to replace. Sarkisian is talented. That’s why he never has struggled to find high-profile jobs. But taking over arguably the NFL’s best offense will be a significant stress test for a man who has struggled in the past to take care of himself away from football. Sarkisian said all the right things in June about his recovery. He also appears to have the respect of Falcons players and coaches and is not likely to make significant changes to the offense. All of the major components coming back. A new offensive coordinator would’ve been a bigger issue in my view if Sarkisian replaced Shanahan a year ago, before Matt Ryan and others were comfortable in the offense.

Georgia

Question: Will the offense be better?

Confidence score: 2.9.

Thoughts: The defense will be good. The offense: not so sure. Georgia should have one of the better rushing attacks in the nation. But offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is coming off a horrible first season, quarterback Jacob Eason made expected freshman mistakes and needs to improve and the offensive line will be young. I’m still high on the Bulldogs’ potential in the SEC, but those are three major unknowns. Chaney is the biggest question because it’s up to him to develop Eason, call plays and put the offense in the best situation to succeed. Chaney, who already has held his one news conference of the season – see: aforementioned head-coach paranoia – said in June that he did some “soul searching” in the offseason and even watched tape of NFL games, including the Falcons. So at least he’s not being stubborn.

Georgia Tech

Question: Is Matthew Jordan ready to be a starting quarterback?

Confidence score: 2.5.

Thoughts: Justin Thomas was a really good quarterback. He could not only run the spread option, but hit the occasional deep pass, a skill that increases Tech’s chances of winning a game exponentially. Jordan’s strength and accuracy on the deep ball is less certain. He played well in one start when Thomas was injured, rushing for 121 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-20 upset win at Virginia Tech. So he doesn’t spook easily. But that’s not necessarily a barometer for long-term success. Jordan has two things going for him: 1) Tech running backs, led by Dedrick Mills, who’s good when he’s not suspended. He rushed for 771 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman in nine games, missing three games with suspensions and one because of injury; 2) Johnson’s offense generally functions pretty well regardless of the quarterback. The ever-present issue at Tech is whether the offense can score enough points to overcome the defense. That’s where Jordan’s arm comes in. Or the backup, TaQuon Marshall, if Jordan doesn’t work out.

Georgia State

Question: Will Shawn Elliott elevate the football program?

Confidence score: 2.5.

Thoughts: Elliott’s only experience as a head coach came as an interim at South Carolina after Steve Spurrier ducked out the backdoor in the middle of the 2015 season. He went 1-5 in an obviously difficult situation. There’s no evidence Elliott can’t handle the head job from an X-and-O/player-development standpoint. But the biggest problem at Georgia State may be the program itself. It’s been difficult for the first two head coaches (Bill Curry, Trent Miles) to acquire talent and build depth in classes. The lack of support from the student body in attendance also is concerning. Elliott will have to do something of significance to change that. The team’s move into the former Turner Field for home games could help. The size of the stadium is more conducive for a Sun Belt program than the Georgia Dome was. But ultimately it’s still going to come down to getting people excited for Georgia State football. On a related note: CBSSports.com ranked the Panthers 122 out of 130 teams.

Kennesaw State

Question: Will Kennesaw State’s program grow?

Confidence score: 4.

Thoughts: Kennesaw State has gone about football the right way. Unlike Georgia State, it had the benefit of a cozy near-campus stadium with no immediate/premature aspirations to jump the program to FBS (if ever). The Owls are staying in the FCS’ smallish Big South Conference (which has only six teams). They’re considered co-favorites to win the conference and return 16 starters from a team that was 8-3. The non-conference schedule is a bit tougher this season: one NAIA opponent instead of two, and the addition of Samford, which is the team’s season opener. Incremental growth is all anybody should expect from coach Brian Bohannon’s third-year program.

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117 comments
muuguh
muuguh

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DawginLex
DawginLex

0 HI 0 (31-0)

Can't beat the SEC in a bowl game, especially UGA

Wisconsin will win the BIG

0 HI 0 (31-0) will lose to Oklahoma and will not make the BIG title game(again)


UGA will go 10-2, beat Tech in ATL and play Bama in ATL


Tech really has not defeated UGA in ATL since 1989 without the refs making the worst call of a fumble in football history. That was not a fumble. We would have kicked the winning FG. It would go back to 1989 since GT legitimately won in ATL

OH:IO
OH:IO

@DawginLex


The Refs


Haven't played  snap and loser dog in lex is blaming the refs. 


Typical 


I prefer dog's The Turf or The Injury excuses myself.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@DawginLex Hey Lex...We run this State NOW buddy! we don't care about no stinking 1989?...you guys better get ready for App. St....They are much better than Nichollback U....and the dawgs are going to win the SEC East...might be tough because I figure after we beat the Vols we will actually be SEC Least champs?...4 in a row baby!!

DawginLex
DawginLex

@TOJacket @DawginLex 1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2015


What do all these years mean related to the UGA/GT rivalry?


That's called flat out being OWNED

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

1980???

Living in the past again, lying hypocrite?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

OK, gutless, so when are you gonna stand up like a man and accept Lex's ban bet?

Still dodging, ducking, diverting, and weaseling out like a coward?

It's been many months now since he first made the offer. What the hell are you waiting for--GT's next win in the series?

All mouth and no guts.

DawginLex
DawginLex

@DawgNole @TOJacket He KNOWS we will win this year. He can't stand the thought of not being able to TROLL with his closet suck buddy 0 HI 0 (31-0)

dawg fan
dawg fan

YAWN. More worthless preseason crap. I'm growing a little tired of the scared Nancy boy whining out of my fellow Georgia fans. "Oh gee golly. I'm real concerned about our depth in the secondary. I'd like to see Eason improve on his accuracy and think we should use the tight ends more. I'm really nervous about the season. Blah, blah, blah." Shut up!!! I'm not saying stuff like that isn't important but that hasn't been the problem with this program for past 10 years. The problem has been attitude. Why can't we just get real pizzed off that we haven't won jack squat in ages and go out and kick some freaking a** for once? This game comes down to running faster, hitting harder and blocking and tackling better than the other team for 60 minutes. I want to see a sense of urgency and a little bit of flat out anger out of this team. If we do that the rest will take care of itself.

Rant over.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@dawg fan Uh sport...it comes down to Coaching too. 2 of 3 . We run this damn State!!

dawg fan
dawg fan

Well then I think we're in good shape. Kirby has never had a losing season. Your pot bellied hero has had two, including a 3-9 stinker only a year and a half ago. Plus Fish Fry isn't even .500 against real football teams in the past 5 seasons. I'll stick with Kirby.

I once again ask dumb delusional nerds to go ahead and make that statue of your hero coach so we can all laugh mercilessly at what complete and utter freaking idiots you are.

Georgia Tech=JOKE.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@dawg fan Real football teams?...boy, you are beyond dumb, The ACC has been the premiere CFB conference for the last 2-3 years. Do you even keep up with football?...CPJ is 1-0 against the Smart guy.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@TOJacket Yes and your hero hillbilly coach is getting his fat arse kicked in the ACC.  What is your point moron? 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

When you've been dominated by your rival for decades, you sure as hell don't "run" anything to do with football in this state!

Stop lying.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket: "CPJ is 1-0 against the Smart guy."

_____________

That's a helluva sample size there, loser. 

No surprise, though, considering you were just on here lauding CPJ's 3-6 record vs UGA--as if that were something to brag about.

Raise your standards.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

Tech's old QB was impressive in the PGA-

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

Glad you asked.

I was wondering the same thing (and still am), but figured it must be so obvious that I missed it.

We'll see if RD clarifies.

HonkyKat99
HonkyKat99

Jim Chaney should wear a muumuu with a big G on it. I look for him to keel over on the sidelines during a game while clutching a box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies.

Annie..
Annie..

mÿ frïënd's stëp äünt ġëts 74 än höür fröm hömë. shë häs bëën öüt öf ä jöb för thrëë mönths... läst mönth hër ċhëċk wäs 14501 önlÿ wörkïnġ ön thë ïntërnët föür höürs ëäċh däÿ. ġö tö thïs sïtë

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.Aliyah.-

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Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

None of the football teams in this city and state of GUTLESS QUITTERS will ever win a championship.  Losers.

DawginLex
DawginLex

@Hell Horsey Your Daddy was gutless. He should have pulled out and put you down the drain so we don't have to read your drivel

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

@DawginLex I'm a fan of all the LOSERS in this town.  But remember that they're all LOSERS.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

@DawginLex Did your doctor ever call you back about those small penis pills?  Turns out they won't help you after all.

DawginLex
DawginLex

@Hell Horsey @DawginLex Why are you worried about another man's penis?


BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I DON'T SWING THE WAY YOU DO ELTON

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

Eason is not the problem. He threw a winning TD pass against MIzzou and should've had a signature win against UT last year. He wasn't the reason we lost to Vandy or Tech either. A joke of an OL and an OC who was so predictable my wife new what play was coming. No run game due to terrible OL. No passing game due to the fact that he was either running for his life or he was on his back. No legit receiver. What kind of year was he expected to have under those conditions???????? Fix the OL issues and we should be fine. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

Absolutely--and I don't hypocritically chastise others for doing so--like your miserable, lying a** does.