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You can read the entire Georgia preview in Athlon Sports' 2011 SEC magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
SEC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mark Richt, 96–34 (10 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike Bobo | DEF. COORDINATOR: Todd Grantham
It may be too much to expect Isaiah Crowell to be the next Marcus Lattimore. The Georgia football offense may need just that, however.
Quarterback Aaron Murray had a fantastic freshman season, but the offense still faltered at times. That was thanks to the 10th-ranked rushing attack in the SEC, a huge disappointment considering a veteran group of tailbacks and offensive line.
So now Crowell, the ballyhooed freshman from Columbus, Ga., enters the scene. If the result is a more consistent running game, Georgia should be back in business and compete for the SEC East crown.
Of course that assumes no sophomore jinx for Murray, who won’t have A.J. Green or Kris Durham to throw to this year. He still has tight end Orson Charles (26 catches, 422 yards in ’10), but if other receiving targets don’t emerge — junior Tavarres King likely will be the top option at wideout — Murray’s numbers could take a dip.
Then there’s the offensive line, which also needs to be better. It could be, considering senior starters at center (Ben Jones) and tackle (Cordy Glenn). But the loss of projected starter Trinton Sturdivant, who suffered yet another torn ACL, was a setback.
So it doesn’t all rest on Crowell — but he certainly figures to help.
Georgia will play in its first SEC Championship Game since 2005.
Georgia enters the second year of Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense anticipating an improvement — for two reasons.
First, the players should have a better understanding of the schemes. Next, while the two best players from last year (Justin Houston and Akeem Dent) are gone, Grantham believes he’s getting the right personnel to fit his system.
It starts at nose tackle, where junior college recruit John Jenkins, a 6'4", 340-pounder, provides the big, physical presence the team lacked in the middle of the line last year. DeAngelo Tyson, who filled that role, now moves to his more natural defensive end position.
The secondary returns almost intact, which may or may not be a blessing. It was an inconsistent unit last year, prone to giving up the big play, especially on third down. Alec Ogletree, one of the unit’s bright spots last year at safety as a freshman, was shifted to inside linebacker.
The other question is who will replace the playmaking ability of Houston, who had a team-high 10 sacks. Jarvis Jones, a transfer from USC, could fill that role at one outside linebacker spot. Stud recruit Ray Drew will be given a chance to fill the other outside spot.
Aaron Murray, QB Started all 13 games as a freshman, passing for 3,049 yards — the second-most ever for an SEC freshman.
Orson Charles, TE Averaging 16.2 yards per catch in his career, and at 6'3" and 240 pounds has the speed to make plays in the open field.
Bacarri Rambo, S The junior had 82 tackles last year, along with three forced fumbles and three picks. Can play either safety position.
|Sept. 3rd||Boise State (Atlanta, GA)|
|Sept. 10th||South Carolina|
|Sept. 17th||Coastal Carolina|
|Sept. 24th||at Ole Miss|
|Oct. 1st||Mississippi State|
|Oct. 8th||at Tennessee|
|Oct. 15th||at Vanderbilt|
|Oct. 29th||Florida (Jacksonville, FL)|
|Nov. 5th||New Mexico State|
|Nov. 26th||at Georgia Tech|
There may not be a better combination of special teams performers in the nation. Kicker Blair Walsh is as dependable as they come (he hit 20-of-23 last year), punter Drew Butler (the son of longtime NFL kicker Kevin Butler) is a former Ray Guy award winner, and Brandon Boykin has three career 100-yard kick return touchdowns.
The Bulldogs dipped last year, then they lost their best players on both sides of the ball, among other starters. The optimism rests with the influx of recruits, the return of Murray, the second year in the 3-4 defense, and a favorable league schedule that does not include Alabama or LSU — the two top teams in the West. This might not be a vintage Georgia team that is capable of competing for a national title, but the Bulldogs should be in the hunt to win the relatively mediocre SEC East.
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