Previews 2011: Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia BulldogsPreviews 2011: Georgia

 

This is a make-or-break season for Georgia head coach Mark Richt. Anything short of a trip to for the SEC Game – or at least a 10-win season and a tie atop the division – will likely result in Richt losing his job. Bulldog fans are tired of being patient, and they see a talent-stocked roster headed by a gunslinger quarterback and are thinking title. The problem for Georgia is where there’s a hole, it’s a big one. The have no proven players at wideout or running back, and the secondary, while veteran-filled, didn’t play nearly as well in 2010 as its statistics indicated.

 

Returning Offensive Starters: 4 (LT, C, TE, QB)

Returning Defensive Starters: 7 (RDE, RILB, LOLB, RCB, LCB, FS, SS)

Returning Specialists: 2 (PK, P)

 

Projected Overall Record: 10-2 (UF, USC)

Projected SEC Record:                  6-2 (UF, USC)

Projected Record:                3-2 (UF, USC)

 

Ratings (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr)

Quarterbacks:                Vg                           Defensive Line:    Av

Running Backs:                Fr                            Linebackers:          Vg

Wide Receivers:                Fr                            Defensive Backs: Fr

Offensive Line:                Ex                            Special Teams:   Ex

 

OFFENSE

Georgia runs as pure a version of the pro set as possible. The are one of the last defenders of the fullback position, and everything they do runs through play-action. But there is a major talent shortfall at running back this year, and the Bulldogs badly need a wide receiver to step up as a unit leader.

 

QUARTERBACKS (rating: Vg, 2nd SEC East, 3rd overall)

Georgia trails South Carolina in the unit ranking, but it’s not due to the starter. Aaron Murray is the best young quarterback in the conference, throwing for 3,049 yards as a true freshman with three times as many touchdowns (24) as interceptions (8). Where the Gamecocks beat the is in depth. Hutson Mason is his backup for now, but Mason is a big step down from Murray. True freshman Christian LeMay will likely take the backup job over eventually. Greg Bingham and Parker Welch round out the group, but neither is likely to get onto the field unless there’s a massive injury outbreak. Murray could be a future Heisman candidate, but he needs to be more consistent. It’s understandable for a freshman to display some unevenness, however.

 

(rating: Fr, 5th SEC East, 11th overall)

Georgia had Washaun Ealey, but lost him to after a checkered season. Caleb King was then set to step into the starting role and perhaps justify the hype he received in high school, but grades claimed his senior season. Now it’s true freshman Isaiah Crowell and a cast of unknowns. Crowell selected Georgia over Alabama in a hotly-contested recruiting battle, and he figures to get every possible carry. Richard Samuel had to be moved back over from linebacker just to have someone to compete with Crowell. Crowell is a typical SEC back in terms of size and speed, but Samuel is a bigger back, albeit not quite as elusive. Redshirt freshman Ken Malcome may get a handful of carries, while scatback Carlton Thomas rounds out the group. But Thomas is currently suspended, with no certain return date. Georgia also lost both fullbacks from last year’s team, leaving converted tight end Bruce Figgins ahead of Alexander Ogletree as the top players of note. If Crowell goes down with an injury, this will get ugly.

 

(rating: Fr, 5th SEC East, 9th overall)

Were it not for the presence of tight end Orson Charles, this might be the least impressive wide receiver corps of any legitimate SEC contender. Charles, though, is a mismatch in the passing game – a tall, fast leaper who is much more athletic than most and even some safeties. His backup, Aron White, could start for any other team in the conference. Sophomore Arthur Lynch and true freshman Jay Rome round out a stellar group. But there’s nothing at receiver to help them out. Tavarres King and Marlon Brown will start,  but both players are questionable. King gets jammed too easily and is inconsistent game-to-game, while Brown has good size but allows himself to be dominated by smaller DBs. Rantavious Wooten, Israel Troupe and Michael Bennett have been in the system for a varying number of seasons, but none has yet to make an impact. True freshmen , Sanford Seay and Chris Conley all figure to get long, early looks.

 

(rating: Ex, 1st SEC East, 2nd overall)

Left tackle Cordy Glenn and center give the two of the best players at their respective positions in the conference. Right tackle Justin Anderson has had plenty of experience as a reserve over the years and finally gets the chance to be the man at his position. The new starters are left guard Kenarious Gates and right guard Chris Burnette. The real question here is which Georgia line will show up. Following the 2009 season, most everyone thought the had the best line in the conference. But the 2010 season was a debacle thanks to injuries, and they hit again in the when Trinton Sturdivant was again lost to an ACL tear. Most observers, however, see big things for this line and believe they are being undersold heading into 2011. The real issue is depth. Kolton Houston and Dallas Lee will back up the guard slots and David Andrews will bolster the center position. Andrews is a true freshman. True are also on the at tackle, where Watts Dantzler will be the second-team left tackle. and Hugh Williams are available at right tackle, although Williams is much too light. Signee Zach DeBell won’t be on the bench for long. Provided Burnette can handle right guard and the starters stay healthy, look for a bounce-back year from the Bulldogs.

 

DEFENSE

 

The 3-4 defense continues to be a popular renaissance, and Georgia is onboard as well. Georgia was a respectable 23rd in total defense in 2010, but gave up too many big plays, particularly in the passing game. The coaches are expecting a big improvement in 2011 as the players continue to become more comfortable with the scheme change.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE (rating: Av, 3rd SEC East, 6th overall)

Georgia has the nosetackle position covered with sophomore Kwame Geathers and JUCO transfer John Jenkins. Together, the two combine to top the 700-pound mark on the scales. Fortunately for opposing offenses, they won’t be on the field together much. DeAngelo Tyson returns at strongside end, while Abry Jones handles the other side. All three starters are beefy, as are top backups Derrick Lott and Garrison Smith. But Georgia has the same problem Alabama does – pass rushing, and this group isn’t likely to improve upon 2010’s mediocre numbers. The should, however, be strong against the run.

 

(rating: Vg, 2nd SEC East, 3rd overall)

Christian Robinson and Cornelius Washington give Georgia experienced players at weakside and strongside linebacker, respectively. Alec Ogletree is an interesting choice for an inside linebacker. A converted safety, he’ll bring speed to the position. USC transfer Jarvis Jones gets the Jack linebacker slot. But all eyes are on freshman Ray Drew, who is as big as a defensive lineman but who has the speed of a linebacker. Think Rolando McClain as a true freshman. The beef continues with Reuben Faloughi, also over 260 pounds. Mike Gilliard, Chase Vasser, Brandon Burrows, T.J. Stripling and Amarlo Herrera round out a deep unit full of size and speed. This unit has the potential to be special.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS (rating: Fr, 5th SEC East, 9th overall)

Despite having four starters return, this is the biggest question mark of the Bulldog defense. Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith return at cornerback, with Sanders Commings at free safety and Bacarri Rambo at strong safety. Jakar Hamilton, who was set to start at free safety, cracked an ankle and will miss the season, which brings Commings back over from cornerback. Shawn Williams is also in competition for that job. Jordan Love and true freshman Damian Swann provide depth at corner, while Marc Deas and true freshman Corey Moore will bolster the safety positions. Consistency is the biggest issue, not just with the Boykin-Smith cornerback duo but especially with Bacarri Rambo at strong safety. Rambo doesn’t have top-line speed and makes too many mistakes. Georgia’s raw pass defense numbers were fine in 2010 (17th overall), but the were just average in efficiency defense and gave up too many game-changing plays.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS (rating: Ex, 1st SEC East, 1st overall)

There’s nothing to fear here for Bulldog fans. Blair Walsh is arguably the conference’s best kicker and Drew Butler the conference’s best punter. Each has a cannon legand performs well in the clutch. Branden Smith and Brandon Boykin are accomplished kick and punt returners. The cover kicks well. This should be the overall strength of the team.

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