For the second year in a row, Mark Richt's Bulldogs came up just shy of an SEC championship. This time, Georgia missed a chance at the national title game by just five yards. Yet, the 2013 team will look dramatically different than the last two SEC East champs. Massive defensive turnover, a huge influx of early enrollees and the return of arguably the most talented offense in the conference should make spring practice in Athens extremely entertaining.
Georgia Bulldogs 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 12-2 (7-1)
Spring practice dates: March 2-April 6
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 3
Passing: Aaron Murray, 249-of-386, 3,893 yds., 36 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: Todd Gurley, 222 car., 1,385 yds., 17 TDs
Receiving: Malcolm Mitchell, 40 rec., 572 yds, 4 TDs
Tackles: Amarlo Herrera, 70
Sacks: Jordan Jenkins, 5
Interceptions: Damian Swann, 4
Redshirts to watch: DL Jonathan Taylor, LB Leonard Floyd
JUCO Transfers to Watch: DB Shaquille Fluker, DB Kennar Johnson, DL Chris Mayes, WR Jonathon Rumph, DL Toby Johnson
Aug. 31 at Clemson
Sept. 7 South Carolina
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 North Texas
Sept. 28 LSU
Oct. 5 at Tennessee
Oct. 12 Missouri
Oct. 19 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Nov. 2 Florida
Nov. 9 Appalachian State
Nov. 16 at Auburn
Nov. 23 Kentucky
Nov. 30 at Georgia Tech
Offensive Strength: The backfield. Few teams in the nation will return a backfield combination like Georgia. Aaron Murray at quarterback and Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at running back gives Richt possibly the best passing-running options in the nation.
Offensive Weakness: Pass catchers. Frankly, there is no weakness on this UGA offense although there is no established star pass-catcher at either wideout or tight end. There is loads of upside with guys like Malcolm Mitchell and Arthur Lynch, but having to replace the likes of Tavarres King and Marlon Brown might be the only concern on offense (if there is one).
Defensive Strength: Depth. This team has loads of talent all over the depth chart. Young names like Ray Drew at end, Damian Swann and Josh Harvey-Clemons in the secondary and Jordan Jenkins at linebacker give this team plenty of elite options.
Defensive Weakness: Experience. Giving the Dawgs three official returning starters might be generous. Twelve contributors departed this defense in the offseason, including 10 of the top 14 tacklers from a year ago. That includes the top four stoppers. Finding dependable bodies and leadership will be paramount this spring.
Spring Storylines Facing the Bulldogs:
1. Find a pass rush on defense. Jarvis Jones, despite some injuries, has been one of the nation's most productive pass rushers over the last two years. Alec Ogletree, Cornelius Washington, Abry Jones and a pair of massive nose tackles must also be replaced in the front seven. Getting the right bodies into the right positions in Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme has to be the primary focus this spring. Will Ray Drew take the next step on the edge of the line? Can Jordan Jenkins become the next Jones in just his second season? There is plenty of talent but Grantham and new line coach Chris Wilson need to get their rotation in order this spring.
2. What will the secondary look like? The front will have a lot of new faces but so will the defensive backfield. Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams are gone from the safety position while Branden Smith and Sanders Commings depart on the outside. Damian Swann could become a star and guys like Harvey-Clemons could develop into All-SEC-type talents. However, there is little experience on the backend and this spring should help develop the next line of defense.
3. Stay healthy along the line of scrimmage. This offensive line could be the best Richt has had in his long tenure in Athens. That is, if it can stay healthy. Chris Burnette (shoulder) and John Theus (foot) will both miss spring practice, giving some of the young bodies a chance to get reps. Getting them healthy and keeping the rest of the starting five — Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee and David Andrews — at full steam will be important this offseason.
4. Allow the newcomers to compete. Richt welcomes 13 early enrollees in what might one of the biggest such classes in the history of college football. Two junior college prospects, one prep schooler and 10 true freshman will take part in spring practice one semester earlier than the rest of the 2013 class. Tray Matthews, Brice Ramsey and Tramel Terry were all nationally ranked prospects in this haul.
5. Finalize the pass-catching rotation. Malcolm Mitchell will be a superstar if given the chance to shine on one side of the ball. He should be Murray's top target this fall — and spring — and will be backed up by a host of talented weapons. Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome need to take the next steps in their development at tight end and someone else needs to step up in place of the injured Michael Bennett. Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, Justin Scott-Wesley and Rhett McGowan will all get plenty of reps.
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