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The story line for the start of the 2012 season will be how Georgia deals with suspended defensive players. Of particular concern is the Week 2 contest against the Missouri Tigers.
AJC.com reports the Bulldogs will be without the services of cornerback Sanders Commings (two games) and linebackers Alec Ogletree (2-4 games) and Chase Vasser (2 games) because of offseason issues.
Safety Bacarri Rambo will also reportedly miss multiple games to start the season, though Richt has been quiet on the details of his suspension.
The Bulldogs should be fine against Buffalo, a Mid-American Conference team that managed only three wins last season. Buffalo will be an important tune up for the replacement players as they look forward to Missouri the following week.
To replace Commings, Malcolm Mitchell—last year’s freshman phenom wide receiver—has shifted to cornerback to help the depleted secondary. Though he spent the entire spring and fall working with the defense, Mitchell will see action on both sides of the ball this season depending on the need.
Richt was quoted on AJC.com via Chip Towers in reference to Mitchell, “He’s a great competitor. He loves practice, he loves preparation, he loves to win the drill no matter what it is. He loves the challenge of learning a defense, so he won’t have any trouble there. He has great change of direction, he has good ball skills, he’s muscled up since he’s been here. He has a lot of great tools to be a great cornerback.”
Expect sophomore Damian Swann to also chip in and help out at cornerback during these suspensions.
Replacing the suspended Vasser will be a bit more of a challenge for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Ramik Wilson is listed behind Vasser on the depth chart, but converted defensive ends Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew could also help fill in at the OLB position for the first two games.
Probably the hardest to replace will be senior All-American safety Bacarri Rambo. Sophomores Corey Moore and Conner Norman are listed as second string safeties, but Damian Swann could also take some reps at safety.
Also, five-star recruit Josh Harvey-Clemons has practiced at safety and the nickel cornerback positions.
The Missouri game will be a tester for the Dawgs as they deal with these suspensions. It's a similar situation to last year when injuries forced new players to start at linebacker at the beginning of the season.
Because of the playing time afforded to Michael Gilliard and Armarlo Herrera, UGA ended up with a ton of depth at linebacker, one of the strongest positions on the Bulldogs' defense in 2012.
If Georgia can get past Missouri, the secondary could be loaded with depth moving forward.