Georgia Spring Game: Position Battles
By Dan Mathews
Saturday afternoon Georgia takes the field for their annual G-Day Game. There are plenty of questions that need to be answered in certain position groups and I think it comes down to five areas of the field.
Three jobs are up for grabs on the Georgia offensive line as they head into the 2014 season and that is precisely the first thing I will be looking for on Saturday. John Theus is all but certain to be the starting left tackle when Georgia takes on Clemson in their season opener ‘Tween The Hedges.’
Even though Georgia knows that Theus will be a starting offensive lineman and the same goes for senior center David Andrews, a lot of questions remain with this position group.Offensive line coach Will Friend has voiced his concern about the guard spots. So much, in fact, that senior offensive lineman Kolton Houston told me after Tuesday’s practice that he got some work in their previous scrimmage at left guard. Up to this point, Houston had been getting most of his work at right tackle and looked like a sure thing to be a starter at that spot.
Now, this brings up the right guard spot and who could factor into winning that position. Redshirt sophomore Greg Pyke has been getting the majority of the snaps at this spot and should be with the first-team offense, playing this position on Saturday.
So right now, the main question seems to be where Kolton Houston will play on this offensive line. That question could be closer to being answered after people get to see this team inside Sanford Stadium on Saturday. Then you can start looking to who starts at either right tackle or left guard.
Other OL To Watch: OT Mark Beard, G Brandon Kublanow, G/T Xzavier Ward, OT Zach DeBell, OT Watts Dantzler (if cleared to play after his concussion).
This group was decimated by injuries in 2013 and quarterback Hutson Mason surely didn’t have enough time to develop a complete report with them. That means that jobs could be won going into the fall.
Wide receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell still are recovering from torn ACLs. They won’t play Saturday. It does help that Michael Bennett and Chris Conley are back for their senior seasons. However, both players dealt with injury issues of their own last season and will need to bounce back in a huge way for this offense to be successful.
The opportunity is also there for receivers like Jonathan Rumph to gain playing time. Georgia fans will remember him for the strong G-Day 2013 he put on tape. That said, injuries last season kept him from developing into the receiver the Bulldogs hoped to see.
Other WRs To Watch: Kenny Towns, Michael Erdman, Blake Tibbs, Reggie Davis.
This will be an interesting group to watch in 2014. Main contributor Arthur Lynch graduated and Jay Rome missed a good amount of 2013. Rome has missed all of this spring due to a foot injury, so offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has enlisted fullback Quayvon Hicks as an H-back, which head coach Mark Richt said will be the “hybrid role” most ascribe to the position.
Redshirt freshman Jordan Davis could play for the Bulldogs in 2014. The only problem with Davis is that he’s 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. That means he’ll be used primarily as a pass-catching tight end. Mike Bobo’s offense is pro-style and relies on the balance of a sound running game and a good passing game. Georgia needs guys who can block at this position. Bobo already has said this spring that he anticipates freshman playing at tight end. This means that four-star Jeb Blazevich and three-star Hunter Atkinson will need to bury themselves in the iPads when they hit the dorms this August.
Other TEs To Watch: Jared Chapple.
This group makes the list of things to look out for at G-Day for two reasons. One is that Jeremy Pruitt has taken over as both the defensive coordinator and secondary coach. So he’s looking to continue the stellar reputation he has built from stops at Alabama and Florida State. Two, this secondary was terrible on third downs in 2013 and got out of position numerous times, leading to catastrophic results many times during that 8-5 campaign. So you have to believe that no one's spot is safe. Pruitt has said as much this spring.
Cornerback Damian Swann is back for his senior season after a terrible junior campaign. Some would even wonder if he’s recovered from the long touchdown surrendered to Alabama’s Amari Cooper in the 2012 SEC Championship Game. On the other side, it’s been a revolving door of cornerbacks getting their chance this spring. There’s a trio of players getting significant looks outside in Devin Bowman, Aaron Davis and converted running back J.J. Green. The latter also has gotten a look at safety, which Pruitt has been doing with all the defensive backs, because he wants the players to know all the positions. Pruitt said no depth chart exists right now.
Tray Matthews has been getting a majority of the first-team looks at free safety. He ran with the third team during Tuesday's practice. He also likely will be suspended for at least the season opener against Clemson because of the check-cashing trouble he and three others got into. Corey Moore has been getting looks at strong safety and played there quite a bit in 2013.
Other DBs To Watch: FS Quincy Mauger, CB Brendan Langley, CB Shaq Wiggins, CB Reggie Wilkerson, S Tramel Terry (converting from offense), CB Sheldon Dawson, FS Lucas Redd.
This is another group that has some question marks around it going into Saturday’s spring game. Not because of a lack of production or youth, like in the secondary. There's a new line coach in Tracy Rocker and Pruitt also has liked moving some things around with this group.
At the defensive end spots, Sterling Bailey and James DeLoach have been the stalwarts through spring practice. DeLoach is in the same boat as Tray Matthews in that he could be suspended for the check trouble.
Some Georgia fans might be wondering, where is Ray Drew? He has been running with the third team, for reasons no one knows. Coming off his 2013, many would have thought this could have been another great campaign for the once-touted signee.
John Atkins and Mike Thornton have been splitting snaps on the interior. Don’t forget about Chris Mayes and the fact he’s also getting looks from Pruitt and Rocker at this position. This is a position that was manned at times by graduating senior Garrison Smith in 2013. So again, this could be a position to look out for on into the fall.
Other DL To Watch: DE Toby Johnson, DE Jon Taylor, DE Josh Dawson.
So there it is from top to bottom, the most important position battles. If the Georgia Bulldogs are successful in 2014, they'll have to find solutions by the time they play Clemson on Aug. 30.