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Georgia Football: Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker

Ian BergCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2013

Georgia Football: Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker

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    Georgia enters the spring with a lot of energy surrounding the finish to 2012. The Bulldogs ended the year with a win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl and were just four yards away from defeating Alabama in the SEC title game, which would have propelled them into the BCS National Championship game.

    Despite finishing with 12 wins and a Top-10 ranking, the Georgia faithful are looking for more as the team heads into spring practice. There are a number of key position battles that will go down in Athens, and with the spring game is set for Saturday April 6, this will be your guide the news and developments from between the hedges.

     

    Note: This slideshow will be updated with the latest news, position battles, injuries and more.

Latest News

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    Update: April 8

    Georgia concluded spring on Saturday with the annual G-Day game taking over Athens.

    Hutson Mason took the lead for the Georgia Black team offense and had a solid day. The redshirt junior played well once he settled in, but an early interception haunted him after the game.

    He told the media (via ESPN) “I thought that the pick earlier was the worst decision that I’ve made at Georgia, but definitely this spring. That was just pathetic. I’ve got to throw the ball away.”

    He finished the day 16-of- 27 for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

    Aaron Murray quarterbacked the red squad finishing the game 12-of-18 for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

    Ramik Wilson led the Black team with tackles, finishing the game with eight tackles, and one sack. Kosta Vavlas led the Red team with 12 stops. John Taylor had a great day for the Red team finishing with seven tackles and two sacks.

    It was a solid day for the Bulldogs with Mark Richt telling the media (via News4Jax.com) "I thought it was a great day. The guys played hard. I thought we looked like a really well-conditioned football team. Overall, I really like how things are going this spring."

    The Bulldogs have two days of spring remaining with those practices expected to come Tuesday and Thursday. 

     

    Update: April 5

    Georgia lost its top receiver for the remainder of spring when it was announced on April 4 that Malcolm Mitchell would undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee (h/t Athens Banner-Herald).

    According to the report he will be back by August ready to contribute.

    Sterling Bailey has been one of the rising stars for Georgia along the defensive line this spring, and his hometown paper the Gainesville Times put together a great piece on him and his race to the top.

    When he was asked about his rise, the hardworking Bailey responded “It’s nice hearing good things from the coaches, but I’m not going to let it get to my head. I’m just going to keep working and try to improve.”

    Bailey went on to say that the Bulldogs will be better than expected next season, telling Bill Murphy “I think people will be surprised by our defense and how many great athletes we have and how fast this group is.”

    You can check out the rest of the article by Murphy here: East Hall grad Bailey looking to make showing in Georgia spring football game

     

     

    Update: April 2

    Georgia has moved into the heart of spring practice and the defensive line has been a point of emphasis for the Bulldogs.

    Georgia added defensive line coach Chris Wilson to the fold this year and he is bringing a new look to the defensive front. Wilson believes in cross-training his line, and often placing them in different positions during a game to get the best unit on the field.

    Wilson spoke with the media recently and had this to say about his coaching style (h/t The Telegraph):

    My whole deal is I don't box guys in. Because you're always trying to find a way to get your best players on the football field. I don't classify guys as just a nose and just an end. They're all Xs at the end of the day, and we want to put them in the best position to make plays for us. And those guys really give us a little flexibility.

    There will be players that work at multiple positions, and the rotation is expected to have at least seven regular players by fall.

    Sterling Bailey and Mike Thornton are names to watch along the line as spring continues. 

     

     

    Update: March 29

    John Theus returned to the practice field for Georgia for the first time this past Thursday since having offseason foot surgery (h/t Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

    The massive tackle started every game for the Bulldogs last fall at right tackle, and the assumption is that he will do it again this fall. When asked about his return, Theus said “It definitely felt good to get out there. No limping. The recovery definitely went well. I’m back out there now, and I’m just trying to get back into the swing of things.”

    He is currently taking reps at the No. 2 spot behind Kenarious Gates.

    Getting this leader back on the field was a big score for the Bulldogs this week. 

     

    Update: March 27

    Hutson Mason finally got his chance to show off his abilities to run the Georgia offense in the first scrimmage of spring. Aaron Murray was away at an awards banquet (via AP), forcing the junior into action.

    He had a modest day, finishing 14-of-23 for 186 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Of all the quarterbacks he had the best day by far. Christian LeMay was 1-of-11 for 13 yards (via Ledger-Enquirer).

    Coach Mark Richt did have the back of his quarterbacks a bit, telling the media (via Ledger-Enquirer) “There's a bunch of dropped balls today. I don't know if they were all LeMay's that were thrown, but a lot of them were."

    Overall the practice was defensive heavy, with a lot of newcomers showing promise. Tray Matthews continues to be a name that is brought up in discussion when talking about incoming impact players.

    Defensively Ramik Wilson is a name to follow. He finished the scrimmage with seven tackles.

     

    Update: March 8

    The Bulldogs stepped into the first day of practice with shoulder pads on Thursday, marking the final practice before spring break. The Bulldogs practiced for two hours according to the athletics department release (Examiner.com).

    When asked about spring developments, Mark Richt had this to say about his team:

    I think our team looks like we are in good condition. We had a good offseason from January until now. We went back to doing more mat drills than what we’ve done in the past, and I think that really paid off. We spent a little bit more time with agility and quickness and trimming some of these guys down.

    (Todd) Gurley looks trim. He looks like he has great endurance and more quickness than he had by the end of last season. There are a lot of guys like that. I see a team that’s not as big, but I think we’re trim, fit, strong and athletic. We’ll see if we’ll be able to hold up in the toughness area.

    The Bulldogs return to practice on March 19. 

    Other news of note from spring was the $240,000 a-year raise given to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. He now makes $575,000 a-year, and received a three-year contract with the raise according to this Atlanta Journal-Constitution report. 

    Update: March 6

    The Bulldogs have begun spring practice this week with a few changes to note.

    Alexander Ogletree made it known last Wednesday that he will no longer be medically able to play for the Bulldogs. He was a fullback in the Georgia offense and became a solid contributor for the Bulldogs last year.

    When asked about the progression of the team on Tuesday, head coach Mark Richt had this to say (GeorgiaDogs.com):

    After reviewing the film of Saturday's practice, we realized we were not running as hard to the ball as we thought we should, so we got that straightened out today. It's hard to make too many assessments when you're in shorts and you're installing. We're looking forward to Thursday when we can put on the pads and play a little football.

    Thursday is when the big boy football begins. Check back for updates from the first pads practice. 

Offensive Position Battles to Watch

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    Running Back

    Todd Gurley (So.) vs. Keith Marshall (So.)

    The Bulldogs are blessed with two of the best running backs in the country returning to the backfield next season. Who earns the start may not be a major concern, as they both will get carries, but the primary load carrier will be the highlight of the offense.

    Todd Gurley has the lead in the race and is expected to be the starter.

    Projected Starter: Todd Gurley

    Actual Starter: TBD

     

    Left Tackle

    Kenarious Gates (Sr.) vs. Mark Beard (Sr.) vs. Watts Dantzler (Sr.)

    The left tackle position was being rotated between Gates and Beard last year, with Gates finishing as the incumbent favorite. There may be a need on the inside at guard that could cause Gates to shift, but if not, then he should be the starter.

    Watts Dantzler is another factor that could show up if the Bulldogs decide to slide him over from right tackle to add to the competition. 

    Projected Starter: Kenarious Gates

    Actual Starter: TBD

Defensive Position Battles to Watch

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    Free Safety

    Connor Norman (Jr.) vs. Marc Deas (Jr.) vs. Tray Matthews (Fr.)

    Heading into the spring the free safety position is looking to be owned by Connor Norman, but Marc Deas is a strong contender for the starting job behind him.

    So far it has been no surprise that Tray Mattews is getting a solid look to start at free safety, and his talent should make him a strong contender to win the job. 

    Early enrollee Quincy Mauger may also be a factor in the spring, but the main competition is expected to between Deas, Mattews and Norman. With Norman's experience, he should take the spot, but this should be a major battle.

    Projected Starter: Connor Norman

    Actual Starter: TBD

     

    Strong Safety

    Corey Moore (Jr.) vs. Josh Harvey-Clemons (So.)

    The strong safety position was an issue to the start of last year, with Bacarri Rambo sitting on the sideline for the first few games. Corey Moore was expected to step up, but he missed a number of plays.

    Josh Harvey-Clemons is a very good player for the Bulldogs and will also challenge for the position. He will see playing time regardless if he gets the starting nod. 

     Projected Starter: Josh Harvey-Clemons

    Actual Starter: TBD

     

    Nose Tackle

    Mike Thornton (Jr.) vs. John Terry (RFr.)

    With the loss of Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins, this spring the Bulldogs need to find a replacement at nose tackle.

    Georgia is loaded with talent but the challenge will be deciding between the more athletic Thornton and the larger Terry.

    This will be the competition to watch during spring. 

    Projected Starter: Mike Thornton

    Actual Starter: TBD

Early Enrollees Report Card

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    Brice Ramsey, QB, 6’3”, 197 lbs—4-Star

    Brice Ramsey is walking into a stacked backfield at Georgia, but starting in the spring should provide him with an edge early in his career. He appears to be headed for a redshirt season, but a solid spring will place him firmly in the discussion for the starting position in 2014.

    Ramsey was only 7-of-17 for 62 yards and four interceptions during scrimmages this spring, but the young signal-caller brings more than stats to the table. He is a talented player, but he hit a stiff learning curve this spring.

    He has impressed teammates with his demeanor, and that helps boost his grade. 

    Spring Grade: C

     

    Tramel Terry, WR, 6’0”, 192 lbs—4-star

    Tramel Terry is a prized receiver in the 2013 class for Georgia, but will sit out this spring with a torn ACL

    Spring Grade: N/A

    Tray Matthews, S, 6’1”, 192 lbs—4-star

    Tray Matthews is walking into an open competition at the safety position and has a real shot at leaving spring as the starter for the Bulldogs at the position.

    Matthews is strong against the run and has solid skills in zone coverage. Don’t be surprised to see Matthews exit the spring as the starter at safety. He will have hiccups as a freshman, but his overall skills will make him the right choice.

    Matthews worked with the first-team defense for most of spring, and is expected to be in the starting rotation this fall after an impressive spring. He is filling a major void on the defense, and will be a head-hunter for the Bulldogs. 

    Spring Grade: A

     

    John Atkins, DT, 6’4”, 300 lbs—3-star

    John Atkins is a JUCO transfer looking to make an impact for the Bulldogs immediately. Atkins will be behind Mike Thornton and John Terry to start spring, but he will have an open shot at the job just like they do.

    Atkins is a unique mix of size and athleticism. He is very similar to Thornton in body type and style of play.

    This spring has been a learning experience for Atkins as he has taken on a backup role for the defensive line. He will be a backup heading into the summer. 

    Spring Grade: C

     

    Reggie Wilkerson, CB, 5’11”, 175 lbs—4-star

    Reggie Wilkerson was a stud shutdown corner in high school and is headed to Georgia to become one of the next star defenders in the 3-4 scheme on the outside. This spring will be a great learning period for Wilkerson, but the depth is settled on the at cornerback for the Bulldogs.

    He will end spring with a lot of knowledge, but he will most likely be tagged as a redshirt.

    Reggie Wilkerson had a solid spring for the Bulldogs and has become a factor in the playing time discussion. A depleted secondary needs playmakers, and Wilkerson has fit the mold this spring. 

    Spring Game: A

     

    Ryne Rankin, ILB, 6’1”, 230 lbs—3-star

    Ryne Rankin is an athletic interior linebacker that has good size to play in the middle of the 3-4, and he has the field vision to make an impact early in his career.

    The Bulldogs have a lot of talent already at linebacker, so there shouldn’t be a need to throw Rankin into the fire early. He will transition into the college game this spring and spend the summer and next fall preparing for a 2014 debut.

    Rankin has been a steady performer this spring, but the linebacker position is stacked with talent. A solid spring will lead to looks, but he still appears bound for a redshirt season in 2013. 

    Spring Grade: B

     

    Reginald Carter, ILB, 6’2”, 230 lbs—4-star

    Reginald Carter is a rising star for the Bulldogs at inside linebacker. Georgia is not worried about playing freshmen, so a strong spring could put Carter in the driver’s seat to playing time.

    There isn’t a major need for impact players at the position entering the year, but Carter has all the skills to be a major impact regardless.

    Despite a lot of depth at linebacker, Reggie Carter has become a well-known commodity for the Bulldogs defense this spring. He is a rising star for the this defense and will head into spring looking to make an impact for this defense in 2013. 

    Spring Grade: A

     

    J.J. Green, CB, 5’9”, 175 lbs—3-star

    J.J. Green is a corner and wide receiver and could play both for Georgia in the future. Neither position is open for incoming freshmen to really make a solid impact, so Green seems destined for a redshirt season.

    It will be good for Green to spend a solid year in a college weight-training program to fill out his 175-lbs frame.

    Green has been another strong performer in the secondary and on offense this spring. He is a solid athlete that has opened the door to play both sides of the ball, and after a few plays in the spring game at offense he looks set to play a dual-threat role for the Bulldogs. 

    Spring Grade: A

     

    Josh Cardiello, OG, 6’3”, 285 lbs—3-star

    Josh Cardiello is an incoming freshman for the Bulldogs along the offensive line and is expected to be a possible future star. He is a bit undersized to start the year however, so a strong spring and summer session will be big.

    Even if he gains a few extra pounds in the next few months, he appears headed for a year on the scout team.

    It has been a solid spring for Cardiello, but the Georgia offensive line is a set rotation. He will redshirt this fall as he learns the center position. 

    Spring Grade: B

     

    Jonathon Rumph, WR, 6’5”, 215 lbs—4-star

    Jonathon Rumph is one of the hidden gems that landed in Athens during the early enrollment period. He is a lengthy JUCO receiver that comes out of Holmes Community College.

    He didn’t choose Georgia to sit on the sideline, so expect Rumph to make a hard push for playing time this spring. Georgia is talented and experienced at receiver, but this guy will be tough to keep tied down all season.

    After making a 20 yard touchdown grab in the G-Day game Rumph solidified his place in the receiver rotation. He has proven that his frame and athleticism will make him an asset for Aaron Murray next fall. 

    Spring Grade: A

     

    Aulden Bynum, OT, 6’5”, 270 lbs—3-star

    Aulden Bynum is a huge offensive tackle that comes to Georgia with a lot of expectations. He is lengthy and has a solid powerbase. He works blocks low for his height and drives defenders well in the run game.

    Despite his raw talent, Georgia is stacked with talent along the line. No matter how strong his spring is, he will pull a redshirt.

    Aulden Bynum has been steady this spring, but he will head into summer as a backup that will likely redshirt for 2013. 

    Spring Grade: B

     

    Chris Mayes, SDE, 6’4”, 330 lbs—3-star

    Chris Mayes is another JUCO transfer for Georgia and is a sizable defender for a defensive end. In the Georgia 3-4 scheme, he could be a solid floater from outside to inside depending on the scenario.

    Look for him to challenge early for playing time this spring and to be a major letdown if he heads into summer with solid gains in the lineup.

    Chris Mayes had a strong spring that concluded with a solid G-Day performance where he played in the offensive backfield constantly. Mayes efforts have earned attention, and should put him on the field this fall for the Bulldogs. 

    Spring Grade: A

    Quincy Mauger, S, 6’0”, 195 lbs—3-star

    Quincy Mauger is an impressive player at the safety position, but he appears to be a few steps behind fellow incoming freshman Tray Matthews. Between Matthews and the current depth chart, Mauger is headed for a redshirt after this spring unless he becomes a superstar in 15 practices.

    Mauger was a non-factor this spring at safety. He took a backseat to early enrollee Trey Matthews and appears to be bound for a redshirt. 

    Spring Grade: C

Sleepers to Watch

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    Sterling Bailey, DE

    Sterling Bailey has been limited in his action over the past year as a redshirt freshman, but he heads into this spring looking to make an impact. The Bulldogs are a loaded defense, but Bailey is a strong player for the rotation.

    Bailey will play alongside starters Ray Drew and Garrison Smith and should exit spring as the top player coming off the bench for the fall.

     

    T.J. Stripling, OLB

    T.J. Stripling is one of the players on the Georgia linebacker corps that is battling for playing time heading into the spring.

    Last season he recorded eight tackles and one sack, but he was limited in his action due to the talent that started ahead of him. This year he could have a breakout season, and it will start this spring.

    The Bulldogs are replacing a lot of talent at linebacker, so look for Stripling to exit spring with a lot of attention.

     

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