Questions loom as Dogs open spring practice (updated)

Marlon Brown, your time is now. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Marlon Brown, your time is now. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Well, the Ray Drew affair has reinforced one thing for us. Just as the rule in nutrition is that if it tastes great, it’s usually bad for you, the same goes for college football: If it’s something that would make a fan smile and say, “That’s great,” then it probably violates some NCAA rule.

So now we know: A recruit isn’t free to have whoever they want at their signing ceremony. Next thing we’ll hear is that the bulldog puppy Isaiah Crowell held up has been declared a “representative of the university’s athletic interests.”

But enough of that. Drew and the rest of the 2011 recruits who didn’t enroll early won’t be around yet, but Mark Richt’s Dogs begin spring practice Thursday, followed by an 11-day break before the sessions pick up again, finally culminating in the G-Day game on April 16. And while the ultimate answers to some of the compelling questions looming over the state of the program won’t be answered until the incoming freshmen join the team, we should know more after the spring about these areas:

The defense, and how key personnel changes will shake out. We’ve already discussed last week how the recent move of Alec Ogletree from safety to inside linebacker leaves the secondary unsettled. Will the erstwhile “Hitman,” Jakar Hamilton, reclaim the other safety spot opposite Bacarri Rambo? Spring drills should provide a good indicator. Meanwhile, the reworking of the linebacking corps under new coach Kirk Olivadotti is a major project, with Justin Houston, Darryl Gamble, Akeem Dent and Marcus Dowtin all gone. The lone returning starter, Christian Robinson, will call the signals and the coaches are expecting big things from Ogletree and transfer Jarvis Jones. Cornelius Washington will get a chance to lay claim to the other outside linebacker spot before Drew joins the competition. And it’ll be interesting to see if converted tailback Richard Samuel is able to garner much playing time at linebacker. Meanwhile, Kwame Geathers will be keeping the nose guard position warm for big JUCO transfer John Jenkins, who’ll need a reliable backup. The end result of all this won’t be evident until well into the fall but will have a lot to say about how successful the Dogs are in 2011.

The tailbacks, and who’ll emerge as either the main challenger to Isaiah Crowell taking over the starting spot or, more likely, be Crowell’s main backup. Junior Washaun Ealey, recently reinstated from a suspension, was up and down last year and Caleb King had trouble staying in the lineup between injuries and suspensions. If those two falter, Ken Malcome, who drew a lot of praise in practice during his redshirt year last season, might make a move. Let’s hope little Carlton Thomas gets more use catching screen passes rather than futilely trying to run up the middle. Richt has said he just wants to see the returning backs “compete” and “prove they can hold off the young pup coming in.” Who knows, maybe the competition will give Georgia a fearsome two- or three-back attack. Most of us would settle for one consistently reliable back, however.

Will the offensive line finally live up to expectations under new coach Will Friend? The Dogs have experience here, as Trinton Sturdivant, Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones return, senior Justin Anderson is back on the OL and sophomore Kenarious Gates showed promise starting three games last year. There’s not a lot of playing time on the bench, however. Hopefully the change in leadership and a new strength and conditioning regimen will put an end to the Dogs’ offensive front getting pushed around late in games the way it did last year.

Who’ll replace A.J. Green and Kris Durham in the receiving corps? We know Tavarres King is pretty much a given to take over Green’s spot at flanker, but will Marlon Brown finally step up as the other wide-out? Will Rantavious Wooten and Israel Troupe remain forgotten men? What about Michael Bennett, who redshirted last year? Or early enrollee Chris Conley? A lot of folks are betting incoming freshman Malcolm Mitchell will be hard to keep out of the lineup once he learns the routes. But with so little experienced depth at wide receiver, will the Dogs split out hybrid tight end Orson Charles more? Will Aaron Murray throw to the fullback more with former tight end Bruce Figgins at that position? Mike Bobo needs some answers to keep his offense balanced. And speaking of Murray …

Who’ll end up as as Murray’s backup at quarterback? Last year’s backup, sophomore Hutson Mason, and highly touted early enrollee Christian LeMay will get a chance to show their stuff this spring, but this is a question that likely won’t be resolved until the end of preseason drills in August and perhaps beyond that. LeMay has a lot of talent but hasn’t played football in more than a year, so this could prove to be one of the more interesting competitions on the team. The loser likely will redshirt unless needed.

Because of the pressure for the Dogs to bounce back from their first losing season in many years, this is likely to be the most important spring practice of the Richt era. Here’s hoping the head coach gets the answers he needs.

UPDATE: The situation at tailback already is looking a little intense. On Thursday, Mark Richt again summed up the challenge facing Washaun Ealey and Caleb King this fall when Isaiah Crowell joins the competition for playing time. “Isaiah is a very talented guy,” Richt said. “He’ll get a chance to show what he can do, and these other guys need to just solidify as much playing time as they can before he shows up, because we’re going to see what he can do.” [Emphasis added.]

Ealey didn’t talk to reporters after Georgia’s first spring practice, but King did and he doesn’t appear to be blinking at all in the glare of the spotlight Crowell is bringing to the position. Obviously referring to Richt’s comments about Crowell possibly “running that rock in the Dome” against Boise State, King said, “I understand what’s happening right now. Of course they are — I’m not going to say ‘boost it up,’ because he’ll probably come in here and be a great player — but I think it’s more for the fans, so they can be excited for next season. He’s still got to come in and work hard, because I know the rest of us are working hard.”

And that can only be a good thing for the Dogs in the long run.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

104 comments Add your comment

42-34 Dawgs STILL Run This State!

March 10th, 2011
10:28 am

D A DoubleU G

March 10th, 2011
10:30 am

Time for the receivers to step it up. (Marlon Brown) Tavarres King has proven to be a great receiver. Now that AJ will no longer by the #1 target, Tavarres will get a good shot at showing us that he is more than capable of being a go-to-guy.

Defense, defense, defense!!!! I wish John Jenkins could be at Spring Practice. I have high hopes for a satisfying turnaround on D with the “new” linebackers and a true nose guard coming in.

I am as excited as ever for 2011……. but i do think 2012 is the year for all Dawg fans to circle!!!

GO DAWGS!!!!
177 Days til’ kickoff!!!!!

Saint Simons

March 10th, 2011
10:33 am

Tech trolls…….

please view this before continuing on to try and bash our program (which absolutely OWNS you)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KDrPUcUsFY

Thank You!!

(((((42-34))))) hahahahahahahaha

devildawg

March 10th, 2011
10:33 am

devildawg

March 10th, 2011
10:34 am

gomdawg

March 10th, 2011
10:39 am

First GOOD LUCK GEORGIA BASKETBALL TEAM WE ARE PULLING FOR YOU. Now football I see Georgia having a very good year ( I hope we learn how to get 4 quarters out of our players ) Good Luck team.

Paul H

March 10th, 2011
10:40 am

Get it done Dawgs. New era begins today!

Macobulldog

March 10th, 2011
10:54 am

I really want to see what Richard can do on the defense I keep hearing stories of him hitting so hard that the ref in high school told him to take it easy. Ken Malcome may be the man to beat more than Crowell but or CMR may of had a come to Jesus talk with Ealey and he may just be more focused (Which I hope). Hope to see you guys G-day

Delbert D.

March 10th, 2011
10:55 am

Lemay needs to redshirt unless Murray goes down for more than a couple of games. Emergency QB status, behind Mason.

TROJAN

March 10th, 2011
10:57 am

In the past few years, we have heard that Bobo would develop plays for Carlton and others to utilize thier specialized talents and abilities, yet what happens is we see 170 lb running backs running up the middle and Logan Gray dropping back and passing out of the pocket.

That’s crazy.

Cobb Dawg

March 10th, 2011
10:58 am

Bill: What do we know about T.J. Stripling’s status?

Spokesman for the SEC East

March 10th, 2011
11:03 am

Paul H, a new era starts every spring in Humpthens.

Dawg_Mike

March 10th, 2011
11:04 am

who will be our fair catch and our regular punt returner?

DawginLex

March 10th, 2011
11:10 am

Spokesman,

you should reference my troll list of 20 oft used sayings regarding UGA. It saves time and energy. Just reference a number.

It also keeps us from having to read your 3 year old same old crapola over and over again

Red Clay Hound

March 10th, 2011
11:11 am

Good question Cobb Dawg. It would be great to get some information on the injury status of all players to see if they are participating in the Spring.

Spokesman for the SEC East

March 10th, 2011
11:12 am

Lex just you commenting makes my point.

Floundering Fox Hounds Batman !

March 10th, 2011
11:19 am

Dawgs will punch their ticket to the NIT in just a few hours.

Bawbie

March 10th, 2011
11:20 am

Fire Dave Perno !

Bill King

March 10th, 2011
11:22 am

Cobb Dawg:

T.J. won’t practice this spring. He’s still rehabbing an injury.

DawginLex

March 10th, 2011
11:23 am

Spokesman,

Oh so now you are trying to make a point when you call Athens humpthens.

I get it now.

Who is your team?

Bubbatavious

March 10th, 2011
11:24 am

No lunch pale kids on this team. Nothing but limelight grabbers , jail blotters and a midget QB. Like Fran said UGA is in Big Big trouble !

circle year 2013

March 10th, 2011
11:28 am

New coaching staff next year with new ideas. One year for implementation for schemes to flourish. 2013 will be the year !

DawginLex

March 10th, 2011
11:30 am

Fran Tarkenton is a 15 minutes of fame grabbing, vacuum cleaner/party ring/diet drug/exercise equipment/herbal vitamin salesman looking for any free exposure he can get. He has no spine, no guts, no balls and no character or else he would have sought out Coach Richt for a private conversation before doing a drive by shooting on the radio.

bruce mac

March 10th, 2011
11:31 am

Floundering, don’t you wish your piece of crap team could punch a ticket to the NIT? Yech stays home for the tourney, get used to it D.A.

vdunkndunk

March 10th, 2011
11:35 am

I was also wondering about T.J. Stripling and how he’s doing.

Dawg 39

March 10th, 2011
11:44 am

My biggest concern has been & continues to be the OL & the running game. The rest of the pieces appear to be slowly coming togwther. Just 1 person’s opinion.

Preston

March 10th, 2011
11:45 am

Doesn’t matter.

Richt loses more games than the year before 7 out of alst 8 seasons, 90% chance Georgia goes 4-8.

#1bamafan

March 10th, 2011
11:50 am

I do believe the DAWGS will have a solid team next year. They do need to move back towards a good ground game and solid, stingy defense. I do not believe that Crowell will be in the running back mix for 2011. RTR

G'Vegas Dawg

March 10th, 2011
11:55 am

The pup that was used for IC’s announcement belongs to Mike “Big Dawg” Woods of Colbert. He, in no shape, form, or fashion, is a representative of the UGA athletic dept. Hopefully the NCAA (or the University) won’t spend thousands of $$ and hours investigating that….

Replace Rambo

March 10th, 2011
12:15 pm

Rambo needs to sink down the depth chart. Guy seems to have lost his edge after the injury against Auburn in 2009.

Jumbo

March 10th, 2011
12:22 pm

G’Vegas Dawg. The pup that IC used did not belong to “Big Dawg”. It was a descendant of his dogs bloodline. i.e. Its father belonged to Mike Woods. Secondly, im sure he could be associated to the University for he is a Season Ticket holder and donates money to the university of Georgia, therefore could be considered by NCAA standards a “booster” Got it.

dawg gone

March 10th, 2011
12:25 pm

circle year 2013 trolling much?

Chris

March 10th, 2011
12:38 pm

I agree with Trojan. For the past few years, we have been hearing about special packages and then in his post season press conference, Richt talked about ‘cutting edge’ football and yet we get Carlton Thomas up the middle or Logan Grey fair catching the ball (when’s the last time we even tried to block a punt or even attempt that awesome play fake David Greene used to execute?).
When Richt got here, he ran a version of the two minute offense the entire game and that’s the last time I’ve seen him do anything ‘innovative’.
Having said that, my understanding is that Christian LeMay is smaller but in the mold of a Terrell Pryor/Vince Young type quarterback. He’s most likely redshirted but if not, don’t you have to consider some elements of the spread offense when the kid does get to play?

G'Vegas Dawg

March 10th, 2011
12:50 pm

I think this year at the first sign of offensive struggles we will see Richt have more input on what is being run. It may not be made public, but, I don’t think he will sit idol and watch the season go down in flames if that begins to happen. At the very least he will be orchastrating (sp?) what type of play is being run. I thought Bobo did a better job than most people gave him credit for last year. I’m still not sold on him being a SEC OC, but, I don’t think many can argue about his ability to develop QBs.

Fire Mark Richt

March 10th, 2011
12:54 pm

It’s all about the defense. The offense will sputter at times and shine at times, but the defense has to be consistently good to win in the SEC. Auburn last year was a fluke in that regard, but even their defense got things together down the stretch and came up huge against Oregon.

dawg gone

March 10th, 2011
1:01 pm

Bill good article hoping we can answer a lot of these questions and get thru spring ball without any major injuries…Go Dawgs!

plagarism

March 10th, 2011
1:29 pm

Dennis

March 10th, 2011
1:50 pm

Don’t forget you lost the #7 rated QB in the nation in Logan Gray. Even though he didn’t chunk it he still caught a few.

Really?

March 10th, 2011
1:59 pm

Enter your comments here

Really?

March 10th, 2011
2:00 pm

Rambo? RAMBO!?

Really?

March 10th, 2011
2:02 pm

rambo should be last….on the depth chart to make Gatorade. The guy couldn’t tackle a 90 year old woman with osteoporosis. There is no way, NO WAY there isn’t someone on the depth chart of 100 that can’t tackle better than this guy.

sogadog

March 10th, 2011
2:56 pm

Before Crowell is declared starting tailback, he needs to graduate from high school. I remember a five star running back named Richard Samuel who never developed. Crowell may do the same.

1eyedJack

March 10th, 2011
3:07 pm

sogadog, I believe Samuel was a 5-star “Athlete” who insisted on trying to play RB instead of his more natural position of LB.

Averyboy

March 10th, 2011
3:40 pm

What exactly did Ealey get suspended from????? Not practice???? Not any games???? So supposedly the big, bad, new Richter suspends the kid indefinately AGAIN but this time he is “back” on the team after a week of ……what???? What did he get suspended from except some off season workouts (oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo). THuga will suk again this season because you don’t have coaches who understand discipline.

KeepDreaming

March 10th, 2011
3:52 pm

Two things: 1. I dont belive Bacarri Rambo deserves to have one of the safety spots in lockdown. Both he and the self proclaimed ‘hitman’ have a lot left to prove to DawgNation imo. 2. I love the Murray to Figgins idea!! I will be extremely disappointed if we dont get to see that early and often.

Thank you, Go Dawgs!, and that is all…

KeepDreaming

March 10th, 2011
3:54 pm

Sogadog: I belive you meant a “5 Star Running Back like Jasper Sanks”

Rad Penties

March 10th, 2011
3:59 pm

Attention, everyone, especially dawgtards. We will now observe a moment of silence in memory of Saint Jan Kemp, who exposed the shameful practices at UGA that were initiated and carried out by slimeball Vince Dooley. Dooley’s image as a coach and a nice guy were forever shattered during the trial, not to mention the one million dollars that dawgtards had to pay Saint Jan. These practices of recruiting morons and coddling them for four years, them tossing them out like garbage, are still going on, but at least the world knows what’s happening in Athens now.

And now, the moment of silence…
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Thank you, you may resume your normal activities now.

bruce mac

March 10th, 2011
4:44 pm

Hea Rad, suck on this you loser. Go get a job and worry about yourself instead of obsessing about everything Red and Black. It must suck to be you and live your failed life.

kyle

March 10th, 2011
4:47 pm

So much ‘talk” from Richt and Bobo in the spring about certain players who play great and all these special packages they have set up, but then year after year…nothing like that ever happens in the season. I’ll believe it when i see it. I stopped buying the spring “talk” a while ago

Ohio-on-the-Gulf Dog

March 10th, 2011
4:47 pm

Ten Keys to Georgia’s 2011 Season:

1) Avoiding being sacked 25 times. It’s hard to win when your TD to sack ratio is 1:1. Why is it Texas thought Stacy Searels was such a great hire?

2) Scoring first. It sets the tone for the rest of the game.

3) Not losing the Fourth Quarter. Okay, it wouldn’t have made a difference against Auburn and South Carolina, and we did beat Colorado, Florida, and Arkansas in the Fourth Quarter. But we would have beaten Mississippi State and UCF and finished 8-5 rather than 6-7.

4) Opening kick-off to last down intensity. I knew we were in trouble in the Liberty Bowl when our kick-off team let down after the block-in-the-back called on the opening kick-off. UCF’s opening TD was called back, but it set the tone for the rest of the game. See 2) above.

5) Avoiding stupid penalties. Pass interference or holding when you’re being beaten and thereby avoiding a big reception or big loss is one thing. But hitting out of bounds, too many men on the field, encroachment, and delay of game penalties kill. Even facemask penalties are understandable. But stupid penalties are the result of improper coaching. If the whole team has to be taken back to Football 101 to halt stupid penalties, then so be it.

6) Bruce Figgins. His transition to fullback is Georgia’s single most important position change. His presence in the backfield should cut down on the sacks, open more holes for running backs, and create defensive uncertainty as he can run with or catch the ball out of the backfield.

7) Winning THIS game. Each week’s focus must be on the game before us. Not Auburn or Georgia Tech towards the end of the fall. This game. And yes, that includes New Mexico State, but especially Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt.

8) Everyone, AD to waterboy, staying out of jail. Football players’ arrests are just one indicia of a team’s lack of self-control. When the AD runs afoul of the Gendarmerie, it indicates a program-wide lack of self-control.

9) Confidence (but not overconfidence) September 3 at the Georgia Dome. Georgia’s athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster than Boise State’s. Both teams should be highly motivated. But they have to beat us convincingly for them to achieve the national acclaim they want. If we can only keep it close, we should win because our special teams are better than theirs.

10) Beat Florida. More than Tech, more than Auburn, more than South Carolina, more than Tennessee. We gotta beat Florida. That’ll put an end to their using our UCF loss against us. At least for a year.