There’s usually at least a couple of breakout players every spring, though that doesn’t necessarily translate into anything big come the season, as Carlton Thomas found out last fall. Amid a reduced roster of running backs, the diminutive Thomas turned a lot of heads last spring and was just about the only offensive highlight of the G-Day game with his 20-yard TD run just before the final whistle.
But come the fall and the early-season problems with the offensive line and the running game, Mike Bobo didn’t seem to quite know what to do with Thomas. He played in just seven games and his big days for the season were running six times each against South Carolina and Vandy for 22 and 27 yards, respectively. He also caught a handful of passes.
Of course, this year’s spring breakout star might have more luck and play a bigger role in the coming season.
Looking at the roster and trying to figure which player might be primed to step up this spring is a guessing game, of course, based in part on potential with a healthy dash of wishful thinking thrown in. Let’s face it, there are players we’d love to see separate themselves from the crowd.
Orson Charles, for instance.
It took a while for the hybrid tight end/receiver to start making much impact last season, but by the end of the year he was at least a part-time starter and had a tantalizing showing against Kentucky, catching a career-high four passes and scoring a touchdown. The Dogs need him to become an impact player in 2010, and starting off that way in the spring would be a good way to announce he’s ready.
Who else might grab some of the spotlight this spring? How about junior college star transfer Jakar Hamilton, who has a chance to stake a claim to one of the safety positions. Hamilton calls himself the “Hitman” and talks about wanting to become Georgia’s next big hitter. I’m looking forward to seeing what he shows us this spring.
Maybe one of the wide receivers playing alongside and behind A.J. Green will step up. If so, I know a lot of fans would love for it to be Marlon Brown, who came to Athens as a highly hyped recruit but lagged in picking up the system and had only two receptions last year, both in the Knoxville debacle. If Brown is the real deal, now would be a good time to start showing it.
Perhaps one of the linebackers in Todd Grantham’s new 3-4 scheme will be a breakout spring star. Darryl Gamble didn’t quite live up to his 2008 promise last season, but as one of the likely starters at inside LB, he’ll be in a prime position to try and fill the gap left by the departure of Rennie Curran. And while everyone’s expecting Justin Houston to become a QB-terrorizing star at outside LB, it’d be a big boost for the Dogs defense if Cornelius Washington did likewise. His big game last season was against Auburn, when he had three tackles, including a sack. A strong spring showing might be in order for him.
Which Dog do you expect a big spring from? Or who do you think most needs to step up their game by G-Day?
TOP QB BATTLE?
Of course, most eyes will be on the quarterback battle this spring, though frankly I’m not really expecting any one of the three candidates to run away with starting job this early.
It’s interesting to note, though, that CollegeFootballNews.com picks Georgia’s as the nation’s top QB derby of the spring. And that they think it’s a two-way battle between Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray, leaving Logan Gray out of the mix.
Here’s CFN’s summation: “While no one in Athens is banking on the second-coming of Matt Stafford this quickly, a small learning curve from the freshmen would be awfully nice. At 6-5 and 230 pounds, Mettenberger is a classic pocket passer, with the arm strength to make all the throws, including hitting a streaking A.J. Green in stride. Can he, however, avoid the rush, an incessant concern in the SEC? For Murray, that’s not so much of a problem. Easily the more athletic of the two, he’s able to extend plays when the pocket collapses and make throws on the move. Plus, he has a quick release and good zip on his throws, performing with the poise and confidence of a more seasoned hurler. Which second-year freshman has come further since bowl practices? Spring drills will begin to answer that in Athens.”