Behind defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, the Dawgs find themselves with high expectations going into 2012. We've got Georgia sitting at #6 in our Pre-Spring Top 10 and most other sites seem to be on the same page as we are.
You can check out the Georgia Spring Media Guide here. Spring practice is scheduled to start Tuesday March 20th with Georgia's annual G-Day game scheduled to kick-off on April 14th. What will interest us the most during the spring?
Isaiah Crowell meet Keith Marshall
Last year, the Georgia backfield was a mess. Washuan Ealey was banished to Jacksonville State and Caleb King couldn't get the grades to stay in school. This caused Georgia to go into the season with their best options being a true freshman (Crowell) and a RB turned LB turned RB (Richard Samuel). This year, Georgia has a lot more options.
The Dawgs will have familiar faces like Richard Samuel (240 yds rushing in 2011), Carlton Thomas (361 yds) and Boo Malcome (174 yds) to help out with depth. Those three guys could see significant playing time in 2011 but all eyes will be on Isaiah Crowell and the incoming freshmen tandem of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Gurley won't be arriving on campus until after spring so now it's Marshall that will be pushing Crowell. We talked a bit about Isaiah earlier this off-season and it will be very interesting to see how he matures and develops throughout his sophomore year. Competition breeds success and Georgia has a lot more competition at the running back position this year then they did in 2011. How the depth chart looks after the spring will be very telling.
Malcom Mitchell in the Middle (of the defense)
Malcolm Mitchell had a phenomenal year as a freshman in 2011. He was second on the team in receptions with 45 (one behind Tavarres King) despite playing in only 11 of 14 games. Mitchell was a difference maker when he was on the field. With the issues that have cropped up in secondary for Georgia, Mitchell will now be asked to return to his high school days and play on the other side of the football (as well as offense).
Mark Richt has said that Mitchell will see the majority of time on defense this spring so that he can learn the defense but that he will most likely play both ways this fall. The progression of Mitchell on the defensive side of the football has to be one of the most intriguing storylines in the entire country. Can he live up to or approach the inevitable comparisons to Champ Bailey? Outside of Mitchell, it will also be intersting to see who can step up at corner to compete with him and sophomore Damian Swann.
Replacing the Hogmollies
A lot was made last year of Georgia having the biggest offensive line in all of college football. It was a go-to move for many of the announcers. As you and I know, big doesn't always been better. That being said, Georgia will need to replace three starters on the offensive line that include the center and both of the tackle positions. The thought among fans is that incoming freshman John Theus will battle for playing time when he gets to campus after spring but much of the line-up will be set this spring.
The newcomer to watch this spring is JUCO Mark Beard. He will likely be given every opportunity to step in a win a starting spot on the OL. Georgia does return guys that have experience on the line like Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee and Chris Burnette. They also have promising talent like David Andrews and Watts Dantzler. Who will step up to form the first line of Aaron Murray's defense? The offensive line could be the difference in this season for the Bulldogs and it starts this spring.
Those are the three biggest storylines that we will be watching this spring. Some other things to watch....
- Who will step up and replace TE Orson Charles?
- With Malcolm Mitchell moving to defense for the spring will another receiver catch the coaches eye?
- With Hutson Mason possibly red-shirting to put distance between him and Aaron Murray....how will Christian LeMay and Faton Bauta look?