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You can read the entire Georgia preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 SEC magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
SEC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mark Richt, 106-38 (11 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike Bobo | DEF. COORDINATOR: Todd Grantham
The passing game should once again be a plus. Quarterback Aaron Murray is entering his third season as Georgia’s starter, and he has already started to break some program records. Murray also still has some solid weapons, despite the departure of tight end Orson Charles to the NFL and the possibility that sophomore receiver Malcolm Mitchell might only play offense on a part-time basis. Senior Tavarres King led the Dawgs with 47 receptions and 705 yards last season.
The running game was inconsistent last year, thanks to Isaiah Crowell’s off-field issues and lack of durability. Crowell was dismissed from the team in late June due to an off-the-field arrest. Ken Malcome or freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley will have to shoulder the workload with Crowell no longer in Athens.
But the big question is the blocking. Georgia loses three seniors from last year’s line and has no returning seniors up front. Much of the hope lies in freshman John Theus, one of the nation’s top recruits. Last year Georgia was also dealing with a patchwork line and managed to get through the season.
Can Georgia Win the SEC East in 2012?
Todd Grantham is the biggest coaching star in Athens since Mark Richt’s first five years. Two years ago, Grantham was hired to turn around Georgia’s defense, and after a so-so first year, the Bulldogs vaulted to the status of fifth in the nation in total defense.
The expectation was that there would be no drop-off in Year 3, thanks to the return of 10 starters, including two All-Americans. But then a series of off-field incidents hit the secondary, including one that involved one of the team’s best players, senior safety Bacarri Rambo.
But if the Bulldogs can survive the first few games and all those suspensions, they will have a veteran group that doesn’t lack for ambition. “We’re gonna take this thing up another level and try to be the best defense in the nation,” says outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, a consensus All-American who had 13.5 sacks in 2011.
OL Cordy Glenn
Glenn was a consensus first-team All-SEC selection and received All-American recognition last season. He was selected to the watch lists for the Outland Trophy (for top interior lineman), and Lombardi Award (for top lineman or linebacker).
Aaron Murray, QB Broke the school’s single-season record for TD passes (35) in his second season as the starter last year.
Jarvis Jones, OLB Consensus first-team All-American after leading the SEC in sacks; also a finalist for the Butkus Award last season.
Bacarri Rambo, S Ball-hawking safety was a first-team All-American last year, but faces a four-game suspension to open the season.
Malcolm Mitchell, WR/CB Sophomore is being asked to pull double duty and play defense this year.
Shawn Williams, S Rambo gets the most attention, but Williams was arguably the more consistent player.
|Sept. 8th||at Missouri|
|Sept. 15th||Florida Atlantic|
|Oct. 6th||at South Carolina|
|Oct. 20th||at Kentucky|
|Nov. 3rd||Ole Miss|
|Nov. 10th||at Auburn|
|Nov. 17th||Georgia Southern|
|Nov. 24th||Georgia Tech|
This is an area where Georgia has a lot to replace. Gone are kicker Blair Walsh and punter Drew Butler, perhaps the nation’s best kicking tandem over the past four years, as well as Brandon Boykin, the school’s all-time leader in kick return yardage. Branden Smith, who has returned punts and some kickoffs, is still around. The Bulldogs also have an assortment of speedy players, including redshirt freshman receiver Justin Scott-Wesley, to return kicks. But when it comes to kicking, the duties fall to the true freshman duo of Marshall Morgan (kicker) and Collin Barber (punter).
Georgia has some major questions — the offensive line and the secondary — but is still the favorite to repeat as SEC East champions. It has a relatively easy schedule — no LSU, Alabama or Arkansas — and it has Murray, Jones and plenty of other talent.
The key for the Bulldogs will be getting through their Week 2 clash at Missouri without their suspended defensive backs, and then the Oct. 6 visit to South Carolina. Conceivably the Bulldogs could still win the division if they lose both of those, but winning one or both of them would be a step in the right direction.
Murray’s health is also vital, as is the progress of the tailbacks.
The Bulldogs should succeed or fail based on their offense, because it’s hard to envision the defense being anything but stout.
Everything seems to set up for Georgia to get back to the SEC Championship Game — and this time the result could be closer.