I’ve been somewhat detached from spring practice this year, mainly because we’ve learned how the messages will be predictably positive. Nothing wrong with that in the spring – we’re still undefeated – but it doesn’t make for much in the way of interesting discussion. Do you buy into the hype and start framing the next season through that lens, or do you play the pessimistic contrarian? You’re not on solid footing either way. But G-Day, itself heavily scripted, at least gives us the chance to see live football.
(G-Day is only one of the events going on this weekend in Athens. Football, baseball, softball, and tennis will all be in action. You needed an excuse to drive to Athens? For the run-down and for travel tips, check this post over at Bernie’s.)
We’ll start with the offense.
There’s no mystery about Aaron Murray, though I wonder if we’ll see evidence of the things he’s worked on during his much-discussed spring studies.
After Murray, fans will be eager to see who establishes themselves as Murray’s successor. Hutson Mason is back from a rare junior redshirt season as the top backup, and he’ll receive the most scrutiny at G-Day. True freshman Brice Ramsey is an early enrollee, and he’ll be competing for the #3 spot with Christian LeMay and Parker Welch. Coaches will have a decision to make about Ramsey’s freshman season, and I imagine we’ll spend the season with a provisional redshirt on him as we did with Mason a year ago. Unfortunately redshirt freshman Faton Bauta has been limited by tendinitis, and I’m not sure we’ll see him at G-Day.
With the entire starting offensive line returning, you’d think there wouldn’t be much to talk about. One development is starting to gain traction: competition at the tackle position. John Theus, who started 2012 as a true freshman at right tackle, has worked at left tackle…and he wouldn’t mind staying there. A move by Theus could create some decisions along the rest of the line.
Does Gates flip to the other side? We started to hear about Xzavier Ward towards the end of last season, and he has apparently continued his development into spring. Will he content to start at right tackle? If Ward can win the job, does Gates move back inside to his more natural guard position where he played in 2011? There’s room for Gates at guard now with Burnette out injured, but would Gates displace Burnette or Lee at guard in August? That says nothing of the Long brothers or Dantzler who have been in the program long enough now to expect to contribute. Depth is a great problem to have, but it still presents a few decisions for Will Friend: does he stick with the combination that did so well a year ago, or does he shake things up to try to turn a very good line into one of the best in the nation?
The loss of King and Brown opens the door for younger receivers to step up, but our picture of the receiver position is still incomplete. Two top options, Bennett and Mitchell, are out for the rest of spring. Some familiar reserves like Wooten, Scott-Wesley, and McGowan will have plenty of chances to impress. If one player has stepped up this spring, it’s been Chris Conley. Conley, last seen sprinting 20 yards clear of the nearest Nebraska defender, is hardly an unknown, but he seems poised to take the step King did from nice role receiver to primary target.
I’m most interested in seeing what JUCO transfer Jonathon Rumph can do. At 6’5″ he’s a big target, and he’s going to be plugged in right away to help with the depth issues at this position. He’s earned comparisons to Marlon Brown, and we’ll see if he’s ahead of where Brown was as a junior. Coaches considered taking the redshirt off freshman Blake Tibbs last year, and this will be his first chance to make an impact on the fans.
Lynch and Rome are established as the two top tight ends, and this is about the most drama-free position on the team. We should get to see more of sophomore Ty Flournoy-Smith.
Gurley and Marshall are set, but we haven’t heard much about what comes next. Malcome is gone, and a couple of possible contributors are freshman who haven’t enrolled yet. At G-Day we’ll see a steady stream of walk-ons and reserves like Harton and Karempelis, and newcomers J.J. Green and A.J. Turman will make their Georgia debut.
Fullback is also up in the air. Ogletree is gone. That leaves Merritt Hall, who saw lots of time in 2012 but is slightly banged-up, and Quayvon Hicks, who looks the part but has yet to win the job.
Top Three Things to Watch
- Which offensive line combinations are used?
- Which quarterbacks look most ready to back up Murray?
- With Bennett and Mitchell out, which young receivers will make the most of G-Day?