Georgia Football: Power Ranking the Strongest Positional Units for 2013
The Georgia Bulldogs report to camp a month from now and they are looking to keep improving because they will be a marked team coming into the 2013 season.
The reigning SEC East Champs come back with a lot of fire power on offense, which makes them a contender to win the East once again. However, they do have some questions marks on the defensive side of the ball, and that will be a central focus for head coach Mark Richt and his coaching staff.
There is no question that the team's strengths have the ability to carry them far. But the weaknesses could hold the Bulldogs back from where they want to be, which is on top of the SEC mountain.
Here’s a look at which positional unit is the weakest and which is the strongest.
No. 7: Secondary
The reason the secondary is the weakest unit on the Bulldogs roster is youth and inexperience.
Cornerback Damian Swann is the only defensive back that is returning as a starter and had a strong 2012 season. Sheldon Dawson is slated to start at the other cornerback position while Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews are penciled in as the starting strong and free safety, respectively.
Swann is a junior, Dawson and Harvey-Clemons are sophomores and Matthews is a true freshman. Because of lack of chemistry, the four will have their share of growing pains to start the season. But if they can work together and become more comfortable as the season progresses, the secondary should be a strong unit at the end of the year.
No. 6: Defensive Line
Like the secondary, the defensive line comes into the season with little experience.
Defensive end Garrison Smith will be the leader of the unit and should be able to build on a solid 2012 campaign. Mike Thornton will start at nose tackle while Sterling Bailey will man the other defensive end spot.
John Taylor, Ray Drew, Chris Mayes and John Atkins should all see action in the rotation as well. This group has the potential to be a very complete defensive line. What it comes down to is can Thornton and Mayes have the same success at the nose tackle position like John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers did the last two seasons?
No. 5: Linebackers
The linebackers (inside and outside) are the strongest unit on the defensive side for the Bulldogs.
Despite losing Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, the Bulldogs still have Amarlo Herrera and Jordan Jenkins, who played well last season and could break out in 2013.
James DeLoach is expected to start along with Jenkins at outside linebacker while Ramik Wilson will start along Herrera at inside linebacker. All four players can fly to the football and can make impact plays.
However, if one of them goes down, there is not a lot of depth left, and that is a huge concern moving forward.
No. 4: Offensive Line
The offensive line will be much more improved than last season because all five starters are back.
But there may be some minor changes to the starting lineup, because Xzaiver Ward made a push this spring to start at right tackle.
Odds are that John Theus will win the battle against Ward, but there is also the chance that Theus could start at left tackle and move Kenarious Gates to right.
As for the two guards and center position, Dallas Lee, Chris Burnette and David Andrews are as solid as it gets, and there will be the strength to the offensive line.
No. 3: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The wide receivers and tight ends could be the deepest units on the roster.
With Malcolm Mitchell returning to receiver full time, he and Michael Bennett will make a formidable duo and could break records if everything goes according to plan.
But the backup receivers can’t be forgotten, as Justin Scott-Wesley and Chris Conley proved last season that they can get the job done as well. And Rhett McGowan has been a strong contributor the last few years.
As for the tight ends, the one-two punch of Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome is one of the better tight end combinations in the conference. Rome is a great contributor on the offensive line and improved as a receiver towards the end of last season. Rome showed flashes last season that he can be the next great tight end for the Bulldogs.
No. 2: Quarterback
Aaron Murray has improved his game over the last couple of seasons and has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. If Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron did not play in the SEC, then Murray would be the best quarterback in the conference.
Murray’s backup, Hutson Mason, has shown that he can take over the offense once Murray leaves in the little playing time he has seen during his career. Mason will have a great chance to lead the Bulldogs to a very promising 2014 season.
Christian LeMay, Parker Welch and Faton Bauta all bring something different to the table. How much playing time they will get over the next couple of years is a different story.
No. 1: Running Backs
The reason the Bulldogs went to the SEC Championship game last year, and the reason they have a chance to go back this year, is the play of the running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Both backs rushed for over 2,000 combined yards and 25 touchdowns last year and show no signs of slowing down.
After those two, the Bulldogs have veteran Brandon Harton as well as freshmen J.J. Green and A.J. Turman, who have not arrived on campus yet but should see some action in the fall.
The running game is vital in Richt’s offense in order for the team to win consistently. If the Bulldogs want to win even more games this season, the running backs have to be on point from start to finish.