2012 depth chart has Georgia looking again like an SEC contender

Linebacker Alec Ogletree (9), here with fellow 2012 returnees Jarvis Jones (29) and Cornelius Washington, could be Georgia's next All-American on defense. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Linebacker Alec Ogletree (9), here with fellow 2012 returnees Jarvis Jones (29) and Cornelius Washington, could be Georgia's next All-American on defense. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia currently is slated to return 17 of 22 starters from this year’s 10-3 squad when it defends its SEC Eastern Division championship next season. That’s obviously a big reason for optimism.

That nine of those starters will be back from one of the nation’s stingiest defenses is cause for excitement. That the three losses on offense are all on the line is cause for concern. The Bulldogs also will be completely revamping their special teams, with the graduations of punter and holder Drew Butler and place-kicker Blair Walsh. That will be no small undertaking.

Of course, it’s all relative. One must also consider that South Carolina, which beat the Bulldogs 45-42 in Athens and ultimately knocked them out of the Capital One Bowl, also returns a lot of starters. The Gamecocks will have 16 starters back if wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive end Devin Taylor choose to return. They are also replacing their specialists.

So with all that in mind, following is a quick look at the team Georgia will return in 2012. Let me know what you think of the Bulldogs’ chances of repeating as East champions and returning to the Georgia Dome in 355 days.

OFFENSE

Georgia appears poised to reload on offense in 2012, but its success will be dependent upon the development of a very young offensive line. The Bulldogs are extremely blessed at the skill positions, with the leading producers back at every spot barring early departure for the NFL.

Quarterback

  • Jr. Aaron Murray
  • Jr. Hutson Mason OR
  • RFr. Christian LeMay

Comment: Murray will be one of the top quarterbacks in the country as a junior. The backup situation is going to be interesting. Mason has openly discussed the possibility of transferring. LeMay, who was redshirted last season, was considered the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the country when he committed in high school.

Fullback

  • Jr. Zander Ogletree
  • Fr. Quayvon Hicks

Comment: Ogletree (5-10, 224) is undersized but proved capable in a backup role as a freshman. Hicks marks a return to the traditional pro-style fullback role that has characterized UGA backfields under coach Mark Richt. Georgia got away from running the football at this position this past season.

Tailback

  • So. Isaiah Crowell
  • Sr. Richard Samuel
  • Sr. Carlton Thomas
  • So. Ken Malcome
  • Fr. Keith Marshall

Comment: Let the competition begin. Production plummeted the last quarter of the season due to injuries for Crowell and Samuel and disciplinary setbacks. Richt pronounced the competition for playing time open for bowl practices and it will surely continue in the spring, when the ballyhooed Marshall joins the fray.

Split end

  • So. Malcolm Mitchell
  • Sr. Marlon Brown
  • So. Michael Bennett
  • RFr. Sanford Seay

Comment: There is unlikely to be a position as a stockpiled with talent as is this one. Mitchell, an All-SEC freshman, will be one of the league’s most explosive playmakers. Meanwhile, Bennett and Brown are big targets with a penchant for making tough catches.

Flanker

  • Sr. Tavarres King
  • So. Chris Conley
  • Jr. Rantavious Wooten
  • RFr. Justin Scott-Wesley

Comment: King was Georgia’s second-leading receiver with 40 catches and leading scorer among wideouts and probably is underappreciated as a consistent threat. Conley came through with a midseason redshirt removal. Scott-Wesley was so impressive as a redshirt the Bulldogs came close to doing the same with him.

Tight end

  • Sr. Orson Charles
  • Jr. Arthur Lynch
  • RFr. Jay Rome
  • Fr. Ty Smith

Comment: The health and welfare of this position will be impacted by Charles’ decision to turn pro early or not. Charles earned All-America honors and was the Bulldogs’ leading receiver and be the best in the country as a senior. But even if he leaves the position appears to be in good hands. Lynch is one of the team’s strongest players and Rome is a fleet-footed receiver along the lines of Charles and Aron White who the Bulldogs bit the bullet on as a redshirt.

Center

  • So. David Andrews
  • So. Hunter Long

Comment: Line coach Will Friend repeatedly referred to Andrews as the most seasoned and capable of Georgia’s freshman group. He better be, as he’s replacing the team’s most valuable player of 2011 and Rimington Award finalist in Ben Jones. Chris Burnette is capable of sliding over from guard to play here and that might be the best bet.

Left guard

  • Jr. Dallas Lee
  • Jr. Kenarious Gates

Comment: Lee played surprisingly well after overcoming an asthma-like condition that sidelined him for almost a year. He had taken over the starter here before a broken leg versus Florida sat him out for the remainder of the regular season. Gates started seven games here but will likely be needed at tackle.

Right guard

  • Jr. Chris Burnette
  • So. Kolton Houston

Comment: Burnette started 11 games in 2011 and was sidelined by injury for the other two. But expect this to be an intense competition as Houston was competing to be a starter before he ran afoul of NCAA policy and had to sit out the entire season. Houston can also play tackle. Burnette can also play center.

Left tackle

  • Jr. Kenarious Gates
  • Jr. Austin Long
  • RFr. Xzavier Ward
  • Fr. John Theus

Comment: The biggest question mark on offense heading into 2012 is at this critical position. Cordy Glenn proved to be a warrior in handling these duties in 2011 but the Bulldogs gave up 29 sacks nonetheless. Gates has played here occasionally and practiced often. Long has been injury prone and there’s nothing but youth behind him. Ward is extremely athletic but coming off ACL surgery. Theus is a five-star signee who will enroll early.

Right tackle

  • So. Watts Dantzler
  • RFr. Zach DeBell

Comment: The gargantuan Dantzler was a pleasant surprise as a true freshman and earned awards for his dedication in the weight room. DeBell is super athletic and has added size and strength during his redshirt year. Georgia needs to recruit some depth.

DEFENSE

Georgia should field one of the best defenses in the country again in 2012. Nine starters return from a unit that was third in the SEC and top 10 nationally, including All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones. The Bulldogs lose defensive end DeAngelo Tyson and all-everything cornerback Brandon Boykin. Otherwise the defense is back intact.

Left defensive end

  • Sr. Abry Jones
  • So. Mike Thornton

Comment: Jones was probably under-appreciated in 2011, leading the down linemen with 45 tackles and collecting four sacks and seven tackles for loss. Thornton came on toward the end of the season and brings quickness to the position.

Noseguard

  • Sr. John Jenkins
  • Jr. Kwame Geathers

Comment: When healthy, there is no better duo at a defensive line position in the SEC. Jenkins improved dramatically from the beginning of the season to the end and he should prove a, even more dominant force in 2012. The future looks bright as the Bulldogs bring in freshmen Jonathan Taylor and John Atkins.

Right defensive end

  • Jr. Garrison Smith
  • Jr. Derrick Lott

Comment: Smith came on like gangbusters in 2011 and proved a more-than-capable fill-in when DeAngelo Tyson went down with an ankle injury for most of the final three games of the season. Lott is an impressive physical specimen who appears poised for a breakout season. Georgia has several other defensive linemen committed.

Will outside linebacker

  • Jr. Jarvis Jones
  • So. Ray Drew
  • Jr. Chase Vasser

Comment: All-SEC, All-American, SEC sack leader in first season — enough said about Jones, the dynamic transfer from Southern Cal. By the end of the season, defensive coordinator was playing Jones all over the place. Drew is a star in the making and will command playing time. T.J. Stripling, Brandon Burrows and Dexter Morant may or may not figure in here or the other outside ‘backer spot.

Sam outside linebacker

  • Sr. Cornelius Washington
  • Jr. Reuben Faloughi
  • So. Ramik Wilson
  • RFr. Sterling Bailey

Comment: Washington is a force who was starting to come into his own in 2011. Grantham mentioned Bailey among the players who impressed him most during a redshirt year. Wilson can play inside and outside. Signee Kent Turene could figure into the linebacker mix.

Mike linebacker

  • Sr. Mike Gilliard
  • Sr. Christian Robinson

Comment: Gilliard took advantage of an early-season ankle injury to Robinson and emerged as the Bulldogs’ second-leading tackler and an 11-game starter. Robinson found a role as a third-down specialist and rotated regularly. Together they combined for 102 tackles.

Mo linebacker

  • Jr. Alec Ogletree
  • So. Amarlo Herrera

Comment: Ogletree missed six games and almost all the opener when he broke a foot on the second defensive series of the season. He showed how much the Bulldogs missed him with 25 tackles an multiple behind-the-line plays in the final four games. He could be Georgia’s next All-American. Herrera started seven games as a true freshman and can play any  of the second-level positions.

Boundary cornerback

  • Sr. Sanders Commings
  • Jr. Jordan Love
  • So. Chris Sanders

Comment: The versatile Commings, who also three games at safety, was an unsung hero among the defensive backs. Rarely out of position, the only improvement he needs to make is holding onto the football when takeaways come his way. Love and Sanders will battle for playing time.

Field cornerback

  • Sr. Branden Smith
  • So. Damian Swann
  • RFr. Devin Bowman

Comment: Smith brings a wealth of experience to the field, having started seven games as the Bulldogs’ nickelback and contributing both on offense and in the return game. Swann could have started in a lot of other secondaries and figures to fill Smith’s previous role as a versatile multi-tasker.

Free safety

  • Sr. Bacarri Rambo
  • So. Nick Marshall
  • So. Connor Norman

Comment: Rambo is a legitimate star, having already earned All-America honors as a junior and leading the SEC interceptions in 2011. He should be a candidate for Thorpe Award. If he can master Georgia’s defensive schemes, Marshall has the potential to be even better. Marshall can also play corner.

Strong safety

  • Sr. Shawn Williams
  • So. Corey Moore
  • So. Marc Deas

Comment: Williams proved to be an enforcer along the lines of Thomas Davis and Greg Blue. He’s one of the team’s hardest hitters and best tacklers but needs to improve in pass coverage. Moore was a special teams regular as a freshman.

SPECIALISTS

Punter

  • Fr. Collin Barber
  • So. Adam Erickson

Comment: The Bulldogs are putting a lot of stock into Barber to come in from Cartersville High and be able carry the torch left by Drew Butler, an All-American and Ray Guy Award recipient. Walkons such as Erickson will be the only other options.

Place-kicker

  • Fr. Marshall Morgan
  • Sr. Jamie Lindley

Comment: Senior-season struggles aside, Georgia most certainly will miss record-setting kicker Blair Walsh. The Bulldogs went back to South Florida to replace Walsh, grabbing another Chris Sailers’ protégé in Morgan from Miami. Georgia chose Morgan over a pair of in-state standouts in Austin Hardin of Marist (committed to Florida),and Calhoun star Adam Griffith (Alabama). So there will be much pressure on Morgan to perform.

Snapper

  • Sr. Ty Frix
  • RFr. Nathan Theus

Comment: The snapping duties appear to be in good hands with Theus, a graduate of the Ray Guy Kicking Academy, set to succeed Frix.

923 comments Add your comment

Denver Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:19 pm

just get ready…

ole dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:20 pm

I pity the offense that goes against that D! Pretty strong.

JacketFan

December 13th, 2011
1:25 pm

Looks like another preseason #1 for mutts. Congrats, men! You’ll have another Pre-Season MNC for your imaginary shelf.

Twilb Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:26 pm

See you in the Dome Dawgs!

Twilb Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:26 pm

JacketFan = Loser

Nooga Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:27 pm

The talent is there, it’s up to the coaching staff todo the right things. If Bobo can finally get his act together the Dawgs should be really good.

Spike

December 13th, 2011
1:28 pm

One more year, Orson!!

slydog

December 13th, 2011
1:29 pm

I would not have put recruits who have not signed an LOI on this depth chart but seeing as it’s a projection anyway, it’s not a big deal. Right tackle looks a little weak though. I have a feeling 3-4 guys will have to change positions along the O-line. Where the heck is T.J. Stripling? Combine this depth chart with the schedule, and you have another 10-2 team and no worse than 9-3. I think UGA’s schedule will be soft in some places, but harder as far as the conference. Why? Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Florida will be better. South Carolina, IF Connor Shaw is worth 2 cents, will be just a notch below next year without Alshon Jeffery. And Missouri has a spread offense we have never seen, plus, they will be better after breaking in a new QB. And please, will someone start Chris Conley over Tavarres King.

Pensacola Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:29 pm

What about Bennet at tight end. Why did you leave him out?

Un-Tank

December 13th, 2011
1:30 pm

slydog

December 13th, 2011
1:31 pm

JacketFan

December 13th, 2011
1:25 pm

Looks like another preseason #1 for mutts. Congrats, men! You’ll have another Pre-Season MNC for your imaginary shelf.

Looks like another pre-season with no projections or expectations at all for the yellow bugs.

Bulldawg Charlie

December 13th, 2011
1:31 pm

That’s okay, JacketFan. You guys suck preseason AND during the season. 10 of 11, nerd.

reality DAWG

December 13th, 2011
1:31 pm

GREAT updates. Kinda hinted at but who are some of the diamonds in the rough that have been warriors on the scout team and look ready to break out …. IE Jarvis for this year

slydog

December 13th, 2011
1:32 pm

Bennett is a WR

extra point

December 13th, 2011
1:32 pm

I want to see more of Malcome in the bowl game. Let’s see if he’s the power back we need. He would be a great asset to the finesse running game we now use.

Spike

December 13th, 2011
1:33 pm

JacketFan.. Suck it, you losers. We sure have enough to beat your sorry a$$ each year. Enjoy El Paso.

G-Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:34 pm

Wilson and Turene should get more looks at the Mike and Mo positions. Dont forget about Harrow at the Safety position, maybe eventually move to ILB position during his career if he continues to physically develop, a sound hard hitting player. Swann might even get some looks at the Safety position. Wheres Stripling??

slydog

December 13th, 2011
1:34 pm

Jarvis Jones was only on the scout team because he had to redshirt after transferring. If he had signed with UGA his freshman year, he would have saved Willie Martinez’s job…lol.

slydog

December 13th, 2011
1:34 pm

On the real though, Jones would have started from day one.

G-Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:35 pm

Got a feeling Orson will come back for his final year!!!

slydog

December 13th, 2011
1:35 pm

Chip, where is T.J. Stripling?

artful codger

December 13th, 2011
1:36 pm

Forgot the loss of one more on offense … Figgins. Not that he touched the ball that much … but a big body who could block.

Dawgdreamer

December 13th, 2011
1:36 pm

You have to say first to be first! First!!!!

dawg bitesu

December 13th, 2011
1:37 pm

We have a real chance to win it all next year. Hope some star recruitecome to UGA.

slydog

December 13th, 2011
1:38 pm

I got a feeling Orson is a 1st rounder and is gone bye bye. Remember Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma? Torn MCL because he passed up the draft as the #1 projected TE.

cpj

December 13th, 2011
1:38 pm

@ JacketFan Just don’t get rid of your joke of a coach.

Trex

December 13th, 2011
1:38 pm

Pre season rankings mean nothing. UGA must get stronger in the offseason and faster both offensively and defensively.

I am a UGA fan, but the East was weak, and UGA struggled. Not that the team has experience, only time will tell.

UGA has talent, but can the coaching staff develop that talent in the classroom, as students, as atheletes and as good citizens.

No doubt all of the ingredients are there, but time will tell, and a year is a long but yet short time away.

Go Dawgs, the expectations are very lofty.

Aloha Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:38 pm

Sounds like we got the talent.

Coaching is where we lag behind.

I sure hope that they do not extend Richt and Bobo… They are pretenders as far as being bona fide coaches is concerned…

GATech77

December 13th, 2011
1:38 pm

You forgot to mention that the schedule is a lot different next year. USC in Columbia, Auburn in Auburn, and oh yeah, Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

ARdawg

December 13th, 2011
1:39 pm

We RUN this state

DawgInaTruck

December 13th, 2011
1:39 pm

No way to make any predictions this far in advance but it is easy to be optimistic about our future. The attitude and conditioning of the TEAM as a whole is so much better than it was only a year ago and the talent level continues to get better as well.

We are 10-3 (with a cool bowl game left) and are playing a ton of kids. I believe we will look back at 2011 as a turn-around year that will be remembered fondly for some time.

Mtn Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:39 pm

What ever became of T.J. Stripling?

Adams

December 13th, 2011
1:41 pm

Schedule is a big factor also. Boise State will be replaced by Buffalo and Alabama may be replaced by Missouri leaving South Carolina as the only ranked team on the schedule. The game is in Columbia but UGA has never lost 3 straight games to USCe.

ARdawg

December 13th, 2011
1:41 pm

Chip

You mentioned T King had the most catches, certainly the most passes thrown to him, who had the most drops? I’d wager King

Red Stick

December 13th, 2011
1:42 pm

Chip,

There is no doubt that Georgia will be the East favorite next season.

Players who have been out of HS 3 years are eligible for the NFL draft. Doesn’t this make Jarvis Jones eligible? Just wondering.

Geaux Tigers
SEC Champions

artful codger

December 13th, 2011
1:43 pm

Hard to statify drops due to questionable passes, etc

ARdawg

December 13th, 2011
1:44 pm

Red Stick

J Jones is eligible for the draft but declining he said earlier in the season. He has 2 years college eligibility left

cpj

December 13th, 2011
1:44 pm

@ A Murray Well there was Ga tech. no wait, they suck.,

ARdawg

December 13th, 2011
1:45 pm

artful

Perhaps, but he had a bunch

DawginLex

December 13th, 2011
1:46 pm

Game at Columbia looms as the toughest game on the schedule next year other than…wait for it…Vandy at home.

Yep, Vandy

They will be the 3rd best team in the East next year over UF,UT and KY.

If we play Mizzou instead of Bama, this schedule is easy. Sorry, but it is.

Mtn Dawg

December 13th, 2011
1:46 pm

Auburn was ranked when we GATA.

ATLER (RAMBLIN WRECK)

December 13th, 2011
1:46 pm

Here we go with the ugag writers’ B.S. again. Must be that time of the year.

baddawg

December 13th, 2011
1:46 pm

Where is Brandon Burrows, Marc Deas, Dexter Morant and TJ Stripling on this chart? Also, you think they will keep tiny Carlton Thomas(bad influence) around if they get another RB commit? Would rather have Harton(Heart-on) than tiny Tom weed!

Hope is easy

December 13th, 2011
1:46 pm

The schedule will not be nearly as accommodating……7-5 or 8-4.
Also, Jarvis will reconsider if first round estimates start rolling in.

artful codger

December 13th, 2011
1:48 pm

ARdawg … I agree, and there should be competition as to who starts the position. Doesn’t matter much, they rotate heavily.

007

December 13th, 2011
1:48 pm

We could lose all 5 offensive linemen & it wouldn’t matter. They couldn’t block Betty White.

JaxDawg05

December 13th, 2011
1:48 pm

Chip, do you want your t-shirt with UGA’s final season record in red or black for you to wear in your ESPN piece next year?

hmmm

December 13th, 2011
1:50 pm

Wonder how many on this chart will be kicked out, fail out, or bail out before next season?

Scraping Teeth

December 13th, 2011
1:51 pm

Go DAWGS! GATA!

Trolls your mom is calling you upstairs for snack time! Run along now.

ARdawg

December 13th, 2011
1:51 pm

artful

They do rotate heavily and should IMHP but, King seems to be a favorite target of the play callings. Had me cringing a number of times in the last few games. Seeing Murray flail one and then seeing it was to King, I got into the habit of closing my eyes