So did yesterday’s weather get you in the mood for some spring football or what?
And here we are, on the eve of the first day of spring practice at Georgia.
Practice opens Thursday afternoon, with the first session being squeezed in just before UGA’s spring break. The second practice won’t come until March 16. Spring drills end April 10 with the G-Day intra-squad game.
Here are what I expect to be the top five storylines of the Bulldogs’ spring practice (and please add your own below):
1. The quarterback derby. (Duh.)
Georgia has no quarterback in the program who has ever started a college game, making for what offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo calls a “wide open” competition among redshirt freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger and junior Logan Gray. It’s going to be fun to watch how this unfolds.
“The main goal for those guys is to give them equal reps with the No. 1 unit and for each guy to go out there and try to improve every day,” Bobo said. “The big thing for them is to worry about improving themselves, not worry about where they are on the depth chart.”
The rest of us can worry about that. (And here’s a separate story previewing the QB competition.)
2. Installing the new defense.
After two years of consternation in Bulldog Nation about the defense’s play, the spring brings a fresh start. Three of the four defensive coaches are new, including coordinator Todd Grantham, who is installing a 3-4 alignment in place of the former 4-3. The change means many players will be learning new roles and new positions.
“I’m excited to get spring practice started, looking forward to getting on the grass and coaching these guys up and seeing what they can do with some pads on,” Grantham said. “I’m looking forward to . . . letting them fly around a little bit.”
3. Remaking the secondary.
While not directly affected by the switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4, the secondary is starting anew, too. There’s a new defensive backs coach, Scott Lakatos, who players say brings a new approach. Even the footwork is different, they say. Three of last season’s four starters are gone, all except cornerback Brandon Boykin.
“In the secondary, it’s going to be a little different philosophy,” head coach Mark Richt said. “The boundary corners in our old scheme were counted on to do a lot of run support. I don’t know if we’ll be doing quite as much of that. So that might change who plays to the boundary, who plays to the field. . . . We’re just going to be mixing and matching with these guys a little bit just to see who can do what.”
4. Respecting the football.
Of all the things that went wrong last season, the turnovers were the most recurring and most insurmountable. Georgia committed 28 turnovers -– 17 interceptions thrown and 11 fumbles lost -– and only 12 of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams committed more. Ball security will be an urgent priority on the practice field.
“Anytime you struggle as a football team and lose five games — which is not acceptable, we know it’s not acceptable –- you’re going to soul-search for what we can do better,” Bobo said. “The first thing we can do better is block better, take care of the ball better and not turn it over.”
5. Spotting fall’s stars in the springtime.
As with baseball spring training, part of the fun of spring football is identifying future stars. (Or, as Bill King’s Junkyard Blawg puts it, breakout Dawgs.) Spring can mislead, of course, but it also can portend larger roles and greater successes for certain players.
Here are a few emerging players I’ll be watching in that context. Cornelius Washington at outside linebacker. Rantavious Wooten at wide receiver. Branden Smith at cornerback. Orson Charles at tight end. DeAngelo Tyson at the nose. Maybe Richard Samuel at linebacker, depending on the speed of his learning curve. And, of course, the quarterbacks.
OK, your turn. Please add or amend a storyline.
And please follow me on Twitter for updates throughout spring practice.