UGA football: Some questions answered, others linger for Bulldogs

The best thing about spring for Georgia coach Mark Richt, here jogging off the field after the G-Day Game, is the Bulldogs escaped without a single serious injury. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The best thing about spring for Georgia coach Mark Richt, here jogging off the field after the G-Day Game, is the Bulldogs escaped without a single serious injury. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

ATHENS – Georgia wrapped up its spring practice with a surprisingly exciting G-Day Game on April 14, won by the offense-oriented Red team 32-31 over the Black.

But, truthfully, there is really not much anyone can take out of a spring scrimmage. Did the offense look good or was the defense bad, etc.? Georgia coach Mark Richt probably put it all in perspective the best when he talked this week about the Bulldogs’ spring accomplishments.

“The most exciting thing for me might have been the fact that no one had an injury that would last more than a week or two after spring ball,” Richt said. “Right now the entire team should be healthy beginning in June to go through the entire off-season program. So if we don’t have any setbacks this summer, when we roll into camp it might be the first time since I’ve been at Georgia that we don’t have somebody in the red cross area. So that’s good.”

Cornerback/wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring), freshman tailback Keith Marshall (hamstring) and safety Shawn Williams (knee) all missed the spring game with minor injuries, while offensive linemen Zach DeBell (ankle) and Xzavier Ward (knee) and defensive end Sterling Bailey (foot) sat out while recovering from preexisting injuries.

But there were a few tangible conclusions we could make from the 15-practice spring period:

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER(S)

The good news for Georgia is there were several candidates in this area. But for the sheer expanse of improvement made, Justin Scott-Wesley has to be at the top of the list.

The redshirt freshman wide receiver was completely raw as a skill player when he arrived from Camilla as a true freshman last summer. And despite splitting his time with the track team – he’s a multiple state championship sprinter – this 6-foot, 220-pound athlete showed great promise and turned a lot of heads both in the practices and the spring game. Scott-Wesley led the Red team with three catches for 46 yards, including a 21-yarder for a first down on third and long that required him to go up high and haul in a pass over his outside shoulder with senior cornerback Branden Smith on his inside hip in tight coverage. Scott-Wesley competed his way into the playing rotation for this fall.

Honorable mentions: Offensive lineman Kolton Houston, linebacker Ramik Wilson, tailback Ken Malcome and tight end Jay Rome.

POSITION BATTLE RESULTS

Georgia was left with three major voids on the offensive line due to the graduation left tackle Cordy Glenn, center Ben Jones and right tackle Justin Anderson. The most important of these position battles ended up not being one as junior Kenarious Gates (6-foot-5, 328 pounds) grabbed the left tackle job by the throat and never let go.

Meanwhile, Houston (6-5, 291) turned out to be the unexpected winner of the sweepstakes at right tackle. After missing all last season with NCAA “eligibility issues,” Houston was expected to earn playing time at one of the guard positions. But midway through camp, line coach Will Friend decided to give him a look out wide and the former Under Armour All-American from Buford out-performed Watts Dantzler and Austin Long at the position and came out as the starter.

Sophomore David Andrews (6-2, 280) appears to have held onto the center job. But Friend continues to experiment by working larger players in there such as Chris Burnette (6-2, 313) and Dallas Lee (6-4, 303) in the hopes of eventually settling on the five best overall players. Also, 5-star signee John Theus will be thrown into the mix in August.

“There’s no question we made a lot of progress up front,” Richt said. “As the spring went on, we got a little more settled in the top five. . . . We have other guys fighting for spots, and we have freshmen who can come in and fight for a position as well.”

DEEPEST GROUP

Georgia enjoys more quality depth on the defensive line – followed closely by linebackers — than at any other position on the field and it’s for that reason that the Bulldogs have to be in the SEC championship conversation.

Georgia features a pair of 350-pound noseguards in John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers that are the envy of any of the top programs in college football, much less the SEC. Meanwhile, under-appreciated end/tackle Abry Jones is back, Cornelius Washington proved to be a beast in his move to defensive end from outside linebacker and Garrison Smith, who played a lot of quality snaps late last season, was un-blockable at times.

Combine that with an All-American pass rusher in Jarvis Jones at outside linebacker, seasoned veterans Alec Ogletree, Michael Gillard and Christian Robinson at inside linebacker and versatile up-and-comers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, and the Bulldogs feature one of the most formidable front sevens in football.

AREA OF CONCERN

It didn’t look like it at the end of last season, but Georgia’s defensive secondary is suddenly the biggest question mark. The Bulldogs already knew they would be without Hornung Award winner Brandon Boykin, who will be selected in the early rounds of this week’s NFL draft. But then All-America free safety Bacarri Rambo and cornerbacks Sanders Commings and Smith ran into off-season trouble and face multiple-game suspensions early in the season. So shaky is the situation that UGA’s coaches made the bold decision to move Mitchell, their most explosive offensive play-maker, from wideout to corner to shore up depth.

Meanwhile, Georgia is relying on a pair of freshman signees in Collin Barber and Marshall Morgan to step in punter and place-kicker, respectively. That’s a challenge in itself but especially when replacing such special teams stalwarts as Drew Butler and Blair Walsh.

QUESTION GOING INTO SUMMER

Soon after news leaked of Rambo’s impending suspension due to a failed drug test, there was rampant speculation that several other players were facing disciplinary action due to similar violations of athletic department policy. Georgia has already lost 10 players to transfer, dismissal or suspension, so the Bulldog Nation will be holding its collective breath in hopes that the team remains intact come September.

209 comments Add your comment

Hey Hey Hey We're the Monkees

April 25th, 2012
4:08 pm

Opposimg Qbs are in for a lot of hurt this fall.

Frank Lane

April 25th, 2012
4:11 pm

I am more excited than worried.

PAAAWWWWLLL!!!!

April 25th, 2012
4:19 pm

PAWWWLLLLL!!! where do I send my check to the alabama state police to make sure they arent bothering our boys.. guess them daawgs dont pay their ossifers enough… PAWWWWLLL!!!

piermontdawgny

April 25th, 2012
4:20 pm

It’s the Year of the Bubba!
ooops, I mean it’s the Year of the Dawg!

First Duh

April 25th, 2012
4:20 pm

Top Row Dog

April 25th, 2012
4:23 pm

4 positive responses before a turd,nerd, or roll tidered trolls by.

Brian

April 25th, 2012
4:23 pm

GO Dawgs!!! Get past Mizzou and its all downhill from there. We will beat SC by 2 TDs. Florida by 3 Tds. What is that last team we play every year? Is there a football team in Atlanta besides Ga State and the Falcons? Did not think so

dawgfan

April 25th, 2012
4:25 pm

Not worried about the secondary. They will be fine. All the shuffling around and “experimenting” on the O-line sounds like business as usual and is cause for concern. We never have any stability there.

Oh well. Let’s just blame it all on Aaron Murray.

BankerDawg

April 25th, 2012
4:26 pm

I don’t know if the secondary is the biggest “area of concern” chip. It’s true that losing Rambo and Cummings is unfortunate, but we have other very talented back ups that can hold us together while they are out. That’s the benefit of recruting properly. Plus, the front end of our schedule is week and it will be a good time to get these guys some reps. For me, the main “areas of concern” are:

1). Aaron Murray: I’ve read the article Bill King wrote praising him and all the posts surrounding the topic. The bottom line is he needs to learn not to hurt his own team and learn to throw the ball away.
If he can transform into the game manager we need him to be, we have a good chance of doing something special with the schedule we have. If not, we will have a simialr year to last year. No more benefit of the doubt with him, he’s a Junior and we need a higher level of decision making from him.

2). Offensive Line: we’ve been spoon fed this nonsense every spring for the last 5 years. There is no reason for me to beleive that we are going to be any better with the patch work O-line we’ve fielded cosnsistently. I don;t understand why the coaches dont “get it. Theus was highly touted, but hasnt proved squat on the field yet. Again, I hope I am wrong but I do not have high hopes this year. We’ll see.

3). TB’s: For no other reason than Richt plays senority over talent. He believes that you “earn” a chance to play if you have been in the program long eneough. BS! Put the best person on the field. I don;t expect Marshall or Gurley to get that many reps unless we have another “my ankle hurts” season from Crowell. That sounds harsh, and it probably is, but this kid gives us the best chance at 100 yrds per game than anyone Ive seen yet. He’s got those type of skills when he’s healthy.

All in all, I am trying to reign in my hopes for this year. For me, and some of you may disagree, I am reserving judgement until I am proved wrong. Yea, I hope we win every game. We very well could but there are too many “if”s right now for me to even consider any championship talk.

G-Dawg

April 25th, 2012
4:26 pm

6′2″, 280 lbs wont cut it against some of the huge NTs in the SEC. I sure hope Andrews has great mechanics and leverage to overcome this obstacle.

dawgfan

April 25th, 2012
4:28 pm

If Aaron Murray is to transform in to the game manager that we need him to be we will have to establish some semblance of a running game. You are putting the cart before the horse pal.

Brian

April 25th, 2012
4:29 pm

The Boise State center was small last year but Geathers or Jenkins never got around him.

Bulldawagman49

April 25th, 2012
4:29 pm

G-Dawg

April 25th, 2012
4:30 pm

In game adjustments are a must for Bobo.

BankerDawg

April 25th, 2012
4:30 pm

dawgfan: that’s bs. He can;t protect the ball because we have a crapy running game? That doesnt make any sense.

G-Dawg

April 25th, 2012
4:30 pm

We’re not Boise State.

BankerDawg

April 25th, 2012
4:31 pm

Agreed G-Dawg…but don’t hold your breath.

McDawg

April 25th, 2012
4:31 pm

Rambo is our playmaker on D – at some point his absence will cost us-questions is by how much

Brian

April 25th, 2012
4:32 pm

My point is thats its more about technique than size for Andrews.

dawgfan

April 25th, 2012
4:33 pm

“6′2″, 280 lbs wont cut it against some of the huge NTs in the SEC.”

Good point. What do you want to bet that Andrews rarely has to go up against Jenkins and Geathers in practice? We’re too busy “experimenting” and working on the cute stuff for these guys to learn how to man up and block somebody. Then we wonder why the O-line gets its arses kicked by teams like LSU and Michigan State.

Thanks.

Brian

April 25th, 2012
4:34 pm

I wish Clinton would have said he ate a pot brownie instead of not inhaling. That would have been classic.

dawgfan

April 25th, 2012
4:36 pm

dawgfan: that’s bs. He can;t protect the ball because we have a crapy running game? That doesnt make any sense.

You said you wanted him to be a better game manager. He needs a running game to do that. We do not have one against good teams. Without a running game the entire offense is on Murray’s shoulders. He’s too busy trying to make plays and get us down the field to manage the game. He needs a running game and he needs an O-line with some sack.

Thanks.

kingdaddy

April 25th, 2012
4:39 pm

G-Dawg…4:30
Yep, yep, We have to stop being so predictible, especially in the second half…

Chris

April 25th, 2012
4:40 pm

UGA winning the MNC. I’ll believe it when I see it, and I hope I live long enough to see it. Just don’t know if this team and its coaches can when the big games anymore. Sure hope I’m wrong.

Go Dawgs!
GO BRAVES!

dawgustus

April 25th, 2012
4:41 pm

Fortunately the secondary should be back to strength when we hit the meat of a pretty soft schedule, MO being the only early worry (but their QB will likely be less than 100%). OL has to be the biggest concern as usual and if GDay were any indication, they will have problems if any of the first five get injured. Having good depth at TB should help make up for any shaky line play however. Losing Mitchell as a WR hurts a lot so some WR’s need to step up. Bennett is solid and Conley showed promise but you need more than 3 WR that can play.

BankerDawg

April 25th, 2012
4:49 pm

“He’s too busy trying to make plays and get us down the field to manage the game. He needs a running game and he needs an O-line with some sack..”

That’s the problem..he’s too busy trying to make plays to manage the game. All I’m saying is it’s ok to throw the ball away, it’s ok to punt sometimes. Murray, unfortunately, has not accepted this yet. I know he is trying to make plays for the team, but he single handidly has cost us points in close games that we should have won because of his decision making. That has nothing to do with the TB’s. However, it does have something to do with the O-line. I will concede that point.

kingdaddy

April 25th, 2012
4:54 pm

We will have a running game as long as we aren’t running it up the gut. When they start stopping us outside, then we go back up the gut. We have the RBs this year, that can go inside outside. Quit being so negative. People who are negative all the time, are losers. People who say, “we can’t do this or that “are also losers. This is a new year and a new team, what do you base your expert ,negative opinions on? If you say history, then you’re saying things never change. In that case you’re an idiot. Alabama was bad before they got good. Florida was good before they got bad. Be positive or be negative, it’s your choice…

BankerDawg

April 25th, 2012
4:56 pm

dawgustus – I hope Mitchell gets some offensive time as well. He’s our biggest deep threat guy and you’re right, we can’t afford not to have him off the field. Conley and Bennett should be studs, I’m hoping that Wesley and Marlon Brown have big years. Why did we get away from using FB’s and TE’s in our offense? Bobo is just awful.

BankerDawg

April 25th, 2012
5:01 pm

Kingdaddy: calling someone an idiot for voicing a different perspective than your own show’s your own intellectual depth, or lack thereof. This is not the “if I think it, and beleive it, it must be true” blog. That’s over on the GA Tech page. These problems that we all have identitifed have been pervasive in our program for the past 5 or so years. They are not new. I, and some others on this page, am not being “negative”. The artticle points out areas of concern..thats what we’re talking about. And who cares about Florida or Alabama? They have nothing to do with what we are talking about.

pj

April 25th, 2012
5:05 pm

If we can find a way to beat Missouri in their sec home debut, these suspensions won’t matter. I don’t consider Buffalo or Fla Atlantic as threats. If we can be 3-0 headed into the home games against the Tennessee teams, we will be fully stocked for the meat of our schedule. That is – if everyone behaves this summer…

Destin Dawg

April 25th, 2012
5:10 pm

What about Xzavier Ward and Mike Thorton for O line guard.. Etc. ??? !!!

oakisland

April 25th, 2012
5:17 pm

We need to practice the screen pass, we didn’t do it very well the last couple of years.

kingdaddy

April 25th, 2012
5:17 pm

Bankerdawg
I think you’re just feeling a little bit guilty about slamming your team. Are you saying you know for a fact that this team can’t win? I didn’t personally attack you yetttt. Before you accuse me of censorship of opinions, you should understand, I fought to give you the right to complain. Throw some positives in with your negatives and then you will have relavance. Until then, you’re just a negative troll…

kingdaddy

April 25th, 2012
5:33 pm

Banker
save your attacks for the enemy. Go take some Midol and readjust your panties. If you don’t want to pull for the Doggies, feel free to support another team that you like everything about. Good luck with that, you seem kind of hard to please…

beanster

April 25th, 2012
5:38 pm

I agree oakisland. The majority of screens run last year were U-G-L-Y. With the capable TBs that we have, that play should be their bread and butter. Hopefully the lighter OL will be able to get the job done better than last year’s group.

Tide Pride

April 25th, 2012
5:41 pm

Question dog fans – What do the following schools have in common?
Michigan State
LSU
South Carolina (2)
Boise State
Central Florida
Auburn
Florida
Colorado
Mississippi State
Arkansas

Answer: You all ready know this – these are the schools that have beaten UGA in football over the last 18 months!!!!!

Super6

April 25th, 2012
5:42 pm

Bob

April 25th, 2012
5:48 pm

I’m looking forward to this season. If we don’t win at least 10 games with our schedule, Richt is gone to the mission field. On the other hand, we have a chance to be really good with a little luck with no injuries/arrests/defections. Watts Danzler is a good kid…size. potential, etc…but, he played in the weakest region of GHSA football and needs to be challenged.

just the truth

April 25th, 2012
6:02 pm

Nice write up. Hopefully we’ll see the same write up about the other team that’s only 6 miles from the AJC.

Bigdsel

April 25th, 2012
6:05 pm

Already not all ready. Mr tide pride.

kingdaddy

April 25th, 2012
6:20 pm

I think the leaner, more athletic OL will be perfect for sweeps, screens and roll-out passes. When you get them used to chasing you outside, you bust a long one up the middle. Hope to see some two tightend sets with one of the tail-backs running behind Lynch at Full-back. We have to run the ball this year to set-up the pass better and take some pressure off of Murray…

Basstringerfish

April 25th, 2012
6:36 pm

PJ…your last line…Amen. We can sustain where we are right now, but I don’t think we can take much more…here is my number one concern…we are one unfortunate injury to the center of having one of two things happen: we have a walk on next up…or we reshuffle the line and the dominoes “may” fall…

TampaGator

April 25th, 2012
7:20 pm

TIde Pride….

Everyone in the SEC starts off with a 0-0 record next fall (including the almighty Crimson Tide)…..and none of the outcomes of the games played during the 2012 season will be determined by any of the games the teams played during the previous 18 months!!! So….what exactly was the logic or purpose of the answer to your post question? Georgia will likely begin the 2012 season as a projected top 5 team in the BCS. So will Bama. So will LSU. South Carolina will not be far behind. Florida will most likely be in the top 20. The SEC will be a much better conference from top to bottom next year. It will not be an easy road to the title for any team, including you Tide.

RTR22

April 25th, 2012
7:21 pm

NFL Draft Night and the true “Dream Team” the Bama class of 2008 is once again front and center.
3 First Round picks in 2011 and another 5 in 2012 with several others selected as well.

2 Undefeated regular seasons, 2 National Championships, 1 SEC Title and 48 WINS/4 yrs, another
SEC record for the red elephants. Roll Tide and most of all thanks for representing the CT as champions on and off the field. Good luck

Last 15 years

April 25th, 2012
7:21 pm

Bama is 1-3 against the Dogs. No wonder they always bring up 2008.

Boulder Molder

April 25th, 2012
7:24 pm

yeah, yeah, whatever. same crap, different day. 8-5 and a trip to Nashville.

Boulder Molder

April 25th, 2012
7:26 pm

hey last 15 years, how’s that record against Florida? not so shiny?

Boulder Molder

April 25th, 2012
7:27 pm

The goal is crystal footballs, not participation ribbons.

78Dawg

April 25th, 2012
7:38 pm

Does anyone think Alabama and Auburn don’t have off-field issues? You just don’t hear about because they pay people off for being quiet..They will do anything to brush things under the rug! Cam Newton? When you bury your head in the sand you can’t hear a thing…………

LagDawg

April 25th, 2012
7:48 pm

Recruiting too many baby fat kids for the OL. The OL makes the offense run and I think UGA need to be pursuing more top caliber OL, but with a nobody as the OL Coach, it seems to me that Aub, Fla, Ala, Stanford and USC are signing them all. With the lack of top OL, one would think that the top players would be flocking to UGA but, you have to actually recruit the best to get the best. There is not enough emphasis being placed on recruiting better OL for the offense, but Grantham seems to be doing quite well stocking up the DL and also we can’t seem to recruit better WR. Yea UGA gets one maybe every other year but, a stable of them would be nice. 2013, at least 3 top WR need to be brought in. I know it is early but, they are dissappering off the board very fast. UGA has done a decent job recruiting so far this year but, seems to me that the only meaningful OL they are recrutiing is Tunsil out of Fla. They put all their chips on Avery Young last year and missed out. With such a great need for OL, the top twenty should have been offered and pursued. The recruiting still needs to get better. With the opportunity to bring in at least 33 recruits in 2013, and the lack there of brought in for 2012, the recruits need to be a higher quality than the David Andrews and the Watts Dantzlers. I don’t care if there parent played for UGA or not, IF they are not good, don’t recruit them. The time is out for just giving out schollys just to have a body on the sideline. If they can’t produce cutem’ loose. It’s time for CMR to step up and get this team to the NC level and that also goes for the coaches as well. Talk is cheap and its been since 1980 and I am tired of saying maybe next year. In order to be Champions, you have to recruit, coach and play like champions.