Starter: *GARRISON SMITH, Sr., 6-3, 299
Backup: JOHN TAYLOR, R-Fr., 6-4, 336
Starter: MIKE THORNTON, R-Jr., 6-1, 290
Backup: CHRIS MAYES, R-So., 6-4, 321
Starter: STERLING BAILEY, R-So., 6-3, 282
Backup: RAY DREW, Jr., 6-5, 276
Starter: JAMES DELOACH, So., 6-3, 265
Backup: CHASE VASSER, Sr., 6-3, 219
Starter: RAMIK WILSON, Jr., 6-2, 232
Backup: RYNE RANKIN, Fr., 6-1, 222
Starter: *AMARLO HERRERA, Jr., 6-2, 244
Backup: REGGIE CARTER, Fr., 6-1, 229
Starter: *JORDAN JENKINS, So., 6-3, 246
Backup: JOSH DAWSON, So., 6-4, 254
*MARSHALL MORGAN, So., 6-3, 200
PATRICK BELESS, R-So., 5-9, 162
Starter: COLLIN BARBER, So., 6-2, 200
Backup: ADAM ERICKSON, R-Jr., 5-10, 171
Starter: *MALCOLM MITCHELL, Jr., 6-1, 190
Backup: *TODD GURLEY, SO., 6-1, 232
*MALCOLM MITCHELL, Jr., 6-1, 190
Backup: DAMIAN SWANN, Jr., 5-11, 178
Gone are Cornelius Washington, John Jenkins, Kwame Geathers and Abry Jones, and gone is defensive line coach Rodney Garner, who is now at Auburn. Chris Wilson is the new position coach after coming over from Mississippi State, and the only returning starter is senior end Garrison Smith, who took over when Jones went down midway through last season. Mike Thornton, who is 50 pounds lighter than either Jenkins or Geathers, is the new starting nose.
Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree were first-round picks in April’s NFL draft, but the Bulldogs may not endure a steep slide due to the return of Jordan Jenkins on the outside and Amarlo Herrera inside. Jenkins had eight tackles for loss and five sacks as a freshman, but now he won’t have opposing offenses focused on Jones, and Herrera is the team’s top returning tackler with 70.
Bulldogs coaches are hoping sophomore punter Collin Barber and sophomore kicker Marshall Morgan will be more productive the second time around. Barber ranked 10th in the SEC but improved throughout his first year, launching a 60-yard punt against Ole Miss and a 51-yarder against Georgia Southern and averaging 47.2 yards against Auburn and 44.8 against Alabama. Morgan was just 8-of-14 on field-goal tries and missed four extra points, though he did end the year by making 31 straight PAT attempts. Malcolm Mitchell and Todd Gurley handled most of the kickoff returns a year ago, as did Mitchell, Rhett McGowan and Damian Swann on punt returns. The plan is for a lot of players to rotate in both roles this year as well.
Starter: SHELDON DAWSON, So., 5-11, 190
SHAQ WIGGINS, Fr., 5-10, 165
Starter: TRAY MATTHEWS, Fr., 6-0, 196
CONNOR NORMAN, R-Sr., 5-10, 201
Starter: JOSH HARVEY-CLEMONS, So., 6-5, 212
COREY MOORE, Jr., 6-2, 214
Starter: DAMIAN SWANN, Jr., 5-11, 178
BRENDAN LANGLEY, Fr., 6-1, 181
Since Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams, Sanders Commings and Branden Smith have moved on, there is no area of the team that needs more of an overhaul. Junior cornerback Damian Swann is a great rock from which to build, and sophomore cornerback Sheldon Dawson could be effective at the opposite spot. Sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons and freshman Tray Matthews comprise a talented but young safety tandem. Harvey-Clemons is suspended for this week’s opener, so junior Corey Moore and senior Connor Norman, a former walk-on, should get a lot of time alongside Matthews in Death Valley. The primary backups at cornerback are all newcomers, with junior college transfer Kennar Johnson and freshmen Shaw Wiggins and Brendan Langley having surpassed redshirt sophomore Devin Bowman from Ridgeland.
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 ...