ESPN’s SEC Blog is conducting a poll on who was the biggest star of the spring in the SEC, and as this is written Georgia’s Tray Matthews is leading the vote.
It’s no wonder. As ESPN’s Chris Low puts it, Matthews “is only a true freshman who enrolled early” but he “played well enough this spring (and handed out enough bone-crunching licks) that he enters preseason camp as one of the starters at safety.”
Starting a true freshman at safety might be worrisome in a lot of cases, but Mark Richt noted recently that Matthews arrived in Athens “ready to play” and focused on winning a starting position, and “It may be tough to knock him out of the box.”
The hard-hitting Matthews was definitely the talk of spring practice among Georgia’s coaches and players and seems the natural answer when I’m asked, as I have been several times recently, who I see as one of the Dogs likely to have a breakout season in 2013.
But he’s not the only player who looks capable of breaking out of the pack to have a big season for Georgia.
Over on the offensive side there’s flanker Chris Conley, who finished last season with a lot of momentum after getting more playing time because of injuries. The rising junior had six touchdown catches last season, with two of them in the bowl game against Nebraska, including a beautiful 87-yard play. He also had a very productive spring. With defenses probably keying on Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett, Conley is likely to get some great opportunities as Aaron Murray’s third receiver.
Back on defense, another couple of players could have breakout seasons. Todd Grantham is very high on sophomore James DeLoach, who looks to be the likely starter at one of the outside linebacker spots (with Jordan Jenkins, who’s already considered a star-in-the-making, at the other).
And then, of course, there’s Josh Harvey-Clemons. The coaches are so high on the sophomore that they plan on starting him at strong safety and, more importantly, in the hybrid linebacker-safety “star” position when Georgia’s in its nickel defense, which is likely to be most of the time early in the season. Grantham basically guaranteed this spring that Harvey-Clemons will be one of his starting 11 this fall, no matter what, which is quite a vote of confidence.
Other players to watch? Expectations are growing for speedy receiver Justin Scott-Wesley and rangy G-Day star Jonathan Rumph. And a lot of folks can’t wait for the day that heralded receiver-tailback Tramel Terry, who appears to be recovering nicely from a torn ACL, takes the field.
Who do you see as the Dogs’ potential breakout stars?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg