Georgia Bulldogs Football: Will Jones, Ogletree Be Replaceable?
Although the Georgia Bulldogs still have a football game to play on Jan. 1 against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, speculation about next year's team's chances of making another run towards a national title has taken center stage.
Winning the SEC East for a third straight season will be a tall order considering the emergence of Will Muschamp's Florida Gators and Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks.
Georgia's biggest worry, however, might be in-house. The Bulldogs are set to lose seniors John Jenkins, Cornelius Washington, Abry Jones, Christian Robinson, Mike Gilliard, Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams, Sanders Commings and Branden Smith from what was arguably the most talented defensive unit to ever grace the sidelines of Sanford Stadium.
They will also most likely see talented juniors Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree depart for the NFL Draft, where they could both land as first-round selections.
While the offense, which scored more points in 2012 than any other Bulldogs team in history, will return everything including the nucleus in rising senior Aaron Murray, the defense will be everything but a completely new entity.
There's reason to believe, however, that Jones and Ogletree have clones, if you will, waiting in the wings.
Georgia's experience at defense in the past two seasons has made the once-called "Dream Team" recruiting classes more of an afterthought.
Included in the Dream Team 2.0 class from 2012 are linebacker Jordan Jenkins and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons.
Jenkins and Harvey-Clemons could not be more mirror images, in a less matured form, of Jones and Ogletree, respectively.
Jordan Jenkins had a successful 2012 campaign as a freshman, earning considerable playing time in the aftermath of a season-ending injury to Chas Vasser. Jenkins compiled 30 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and four sacks as a true freshman. Jenkins will undoubtedly move to the position left vacant if Jones leaves, and will bring a similar skill set.
Harvey-Clemons had a quieter role. He was recruited to Georgia as a linebacker after playing defensive end in high school, but his thin build sent him to the defensive back unit when he arrived in Athens.
A bulkier Harvey-Clemons will undoubtedly remind fans of Ogletree, who wowed fans with his talents as the 2012 season progressed.
This isn't to say that Jones and Ogletree will be easily replaced, but Georgia fans should remember these two were just as highly touted in the recruiting process.
Georgia will also finally get to see a full season from the heir-apparent at defensive end, as the Pastor of Disaster, Ray Drew, will finally take over as a full-time starter at defensive end.
Drew, Jenkins and Harvey-Clemons are names that should excite a fanbase that is currently sulking over the frightening departure of 11 upperclassmen on defense.
John Jenkins, who raised his own draft status with a great year in 2012, will be replaced by Kwame Geathers, who will finally have a chance as a senior to start at nose tackle. Geathers, the brother of Cincinnati Bengals standout Robert Geathers, was actually considered the top option at the position at the start of last year. He has the same size and athleticism as Jenkins.
Georgia also likely will not miss Abry Jones or Washington as much at the other end position, because Garrison Smith, arguably the best defensive end from this year, will return.
Where will the biggest concern be? Georgia's secondary will be very young and inexperienced. Freshman recruits Shaq Wiggins and Tray Matthews will likely take cornerback and safety, respectively.
The Bulldogs' depth at the corner and safety positions will be a huge concern. Devin Bowman, who has played safety and corner, could emerge as a starter at either position, but don't underestimate the raw talent of Wiggins and Matthews. Corey Moore will finally get a nod at safety, while Damian Swann will return after having an excellent sophomore campaign.
This Georgia defense will be very, very young, but that's not to say it won't be just as talented. Quick learning could be the difference in 2013 between another shot at an SEC title or a dip back into mediocrity in the very deep SEC.
Here's a look at Georgia's complete starting depth for 2013, pending changes. First time starters are in bold. Starters who were not full-time starters are italicized.
QB: Aaron Murray
TB: Todd Gurley
FB: Merritt Hall
TE: Artie Lynch
WR: Malcolm Mitchell
WR: Michael Bennett
T: John Theus
G: Chris Burnette
C: David Andrews
G: Dallas Lee
T: Kenarious Gates
DE: Garrison Smith
NT: Kwame Geathers
DE: Ray Drew
RE: Jordan Jenkins
LB: Amarlo Herrera
LB: Josh-Harvey Clemons
LB: Chase Vasser
CB: Damian Swann
S: Tray Matthews
S: Corey Moore
CB: Shaq Wiggins
K: Marshall Morgan
P: Colin Barber
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