The Georgia Bulldogs already have two notable reasons for optimism this spring practice compared to last March. They have an established quarterback, and they should be much more comfortable in the second year of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.
Georgia will practice just once before spring break, so its second of 15 workouts won’t be until March 22. The G-Day spring game is scheduled for April 16 at 1 p.m.
Here are five questions concerning the days and weeks ahead:
1. CAN MURRAY IMPROVE?
The greatest offensive unknown last year is now the greatest strength following Aaron Murray’s inaugural season at quarterback. He set school freshman records in passing yards (3,049) and touchdown passes (24).
Now Murray wants to avoid a sophomore slump and prove he can win the big game after a 2010 in which the Bulldogs didn’t defeat any team that finished with a winning record. His last time out wasn’t one to remember, as he threw two interceptions and didn’t deliver a touchdown in a 10-6 Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida.
“It’s going to be like any other spring to me,” Murray said. “Spring is for learning and working on your craft. I went back and watched film from last season, and there are definitely things I need to work on when it comes to my fundamentals and footwork and progressions when it comes to plays. I’ve got work to do, so I’m looking forward to these 15 days.”
2. HOW WILL THE O-LINE SHAPE UP?
The Bulldogs were disappointing up front offensively last season and get a new start under assistant Will Friend.
Trinton Sturdivant is back at left tackle after forgoing a chance to leave early for the NFL, and Ben Jones has returned for a fourth year as the starting center. Those two will be joined by Cordy Glenn, another senior who started all 13 games last season at left guard but is now the right tackle.
“The guard spots are really up for grabs,” coach Mark Richt said. “I don’t think Cordy is going to be anything but a tackle.”
Senior Justin Anderson and sophomore Kenarious Gates are the favorites at guard. Anderson has 12 career starts on the offensive line but played last season on defense before being injured, while Gates made starts at right guard last year in wins over Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
3. CAN THE TAILBACKS MATURE?
Receiver should be the biggest question among the skilled players offensively following the departure of A.J. Green, but nobody will be scrutinized more than the troubled tailback tandem of Caleb King and Washaun Ealey. King, who was suspended for the Liberty Bowl, and Ealey, who was suspended for three weeks in February, were clearly ahead of the competition the past two seasons, but that could change this summer with the arrival of Isaiah Crowell.
Crowell was rated by ESPN.com as the top tailback nationally in the 2011 signing class, so King and Ealey will have to be at their best this spring while on their best behavior.
“We know who the guys are,” Richt said. “We just want to see them improve in all areas. We want to see them prove that they can hold off the young pup coming in.”
4. IS THE D-LINE ON HOLD?
Like tailback, Georgia’s defensive line could have a different look by the end of preseason camp.
Redshirt sophomore Kwame Geathers will get most of the work at nose tackle in the upcoming weeks, but the favorite to hold that spot in the fall is Johnathan Jenkins. A 6-foot-4, 340-pounder from Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College, Jenkins will arrive this summer with a lot of accompanying hype.
“I expect him to come in here and be an immediate impact,” Grantham said.
Last season’s starting nose, DeAngelo Tyson, will practice this spring at defensive end and should nail down a starting spot there opposite Abry Jones.
5. WHO REPLACES OGLETREE?
The biggest pre-spring announcement was Grantham moving Alex Ogletree, who made four starts at safety as a freshman last season, to inside linebacker alongside Christian Robinson.
How Ogletree adjusts to his new spot will be worth following, as will the safety race he leaves behind. Bacarri Rambo is a certain starter and can play either free or strong safety, but the other starting job will be up for grabs between Jakar Hamilton and Shawn Williams, with Marc Deas hoping to get into the mix as well.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...