Georgia Football: Position-by-Position Fall Camp Preview

Brian Jones@Brian_L_JonesContributor IJuly 21, 2013

Georgia Football: Position-by-Position Fall Camp Preview

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    Now that the SEC Media Days are over, the Georgia Bulldogs can focus on their next task, which is fall practice. The players will report to Athens on July 30, and the first practice will be on August 1.

    There are a lot of expectations for the team, especially with the Bulldogs being projected to win the SEC East for the third consecutive season. So there will be a lot of media attention when they get fall practice started.

    After a very successful spring season, the Bulldogs are looking to make more strides before they play their first game of the season on August 31 against Clemson.

    Here’s a position-by-position fall camp preview of the Bulldogs.

Quarterbacks

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    Aaron Murray has a lot to prove to himself and the rest of the Bulldogs this season. After making the decision to return for his senior season, he has worked hard to make it his best season yet.

    Murray has led the Bulldogs to 22 wins the last two seasons, but he comes into fall camp hoping that he can get the Bulldogs to the BCS title game, which was almost a reality last season.

    After a very successful spring season, the coaches are very confident in what Hutson Mason can do on the field. Don’t be surprised if Mason sees more time than usual with the first-team offense in fall camp.

    Meanwhile, Christian LeMay needs to have a good fall to show the coaches he has developed into the player they expect him to be. Finally, Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey have done good things at spring practice, but they need more time to develop.

Running Backs

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    Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were one of the best running back duos in the nation last season. They come into fall practice looking to get bigger, stronger and faster, which is not a good thing for the rest of the teams in the SEC.

    What will be interesting is who is going to back the duo up.

    Brandon Harton is an experienced back who can get the job done. He rushed for 101 yards on 23 carries against Kentucky in 2011.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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    The wide receivers and tight ends for the Bulldogs could be the most talented group in the country; they will look to be a dominant force in the SEC.

    The good thing about this fall is that Malcolm Mitchell will be at receiver full-time instead of working at cornerback liked he did last year. Mitchell is Murray’s deep threat, and he should have his best season in 2013.

    The coaches will be glad to have Michael Bennett back on the practice field after he missed half of last season with a torn ACL. Bennett, Mitchell and Chris Conley make up the best receiver trio in the SEC.

    As far as the tight ends go, Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome return, and they will be more difficult to defend this season. Lynch has improved his receiving skills, while Rome has improved as a blocker. And Lynch was voted by the media members during the SEC Media Days to the Preseason All-SEC First Team last week.

Offensive Line

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    Another unit that brings all its players back is the offensive line. However, there could be some minor changes to the lineup at the start of the season, which makes fall practice a crucial time for the big men up front.

    John Theus is the key to the success of the linemen, and he could switch from right tackle to left tackle this season. If that happens, Kenarious Gates will move to right tackle from left tackle or see time at guard.

    David Andrews had a strong 2012 season at center and show no signs of digressing. Dallas Lee and Chris Burnette are strong at both guard spots.

    Backups Xzavier Ward and Mark Beard are solid. Both players are capable of stepping in to the starting lineup at any point in the season if one of the starters goes down.

Defensive Line

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    While the offensive line will look the same from last year, the defensive line will look completely different. Defensive end Garrison Smith is the only returning starter, but he is another player who could have a breakout season.

    Sterling Bailey and Ray Drew will compete to see who will start for the other defensive end spot. Both players had strong spring seasons, so it could be a situation where both will share time, at least in the early stages of the season.

    As for the nose tackle position, three players will be in the rotation instead of two, which was the case last year with John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers. That could mean Mike Thornton, Chris Mayes and junior transfer Toby Johnson will get plenty of looks with the first team during fall practice.

Linebackers

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    Even though the linebackers will look different with Alec Olgetree and Jarvis Jones gone, this is the most talented unit on the defensive roster.

    The four linebackers slated to be starters heading into fall practice are inside linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson and outside linebackers Jordan Jenkins and James DeLoach.

    Jenkins and Herrera are poised to have stellar 2013 seasons. They will have to be leaders for the defense. Meanwhile, DeLoach and Wilson are inexperienced, but if they feed of the energy of Herrera and Jenkins, both can be very successful in 2013.

    The one new player to watch is Ryne Rankin, who is a true freshman. He could see some time in the rotation if he builds off of what he was able to do in the spring.

Defensive Backs

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    The unit that has the least amount of experience is the defensive backs, who return only one starter, Damian Swann.

    Swann, who had four interceptions his freshman season, will have to play like he did last year in order for the secondary to be successful.

    Josh Harvey-Clemons will handle the strong safety duties, but he will also be the hybrid linebacker/safety when the Bulldogs use a defense that helps attack a spread offense like Clemson. With Harvey-Clemons suspended for the Clemson game, though, the coaches will have to find someone to replace him. That could mean Corey Moore could step in since he is the starting strong safety when Harvey-Clemons plays the “Star” position.

    Sheldon Dawson will start at the other corner, while Tray Matthews will start at free safety. Both players will have their share of mistakes because of their youth, but both are talented enough to get the job done.

    Finally, watch for true freshmen Quincy Mauger, Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley. Because of the lack of depth at the position, all three players have a chance to see playing time this season.

Specialists

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    Kicker Marshall Morgan and punter Colin Barber showed glimpses of how good they can be last season, but both were widely inconsistent.

    The coaches certainly hope that, with the two being sophomores this season, they will improve their game and be consistent—especially Morgan, who struggled to connect on extra points early in the 2012 season.

    Meanwhile, Malcolm Mitchell is slated to return kicks this year, but Todd Gurley is another option, as he returned one for a score in last year’s season opener.

    And Rhett McGowan is the punt returner. While he’s not explosive like Mitchell, he makes better decisions when it comes to calling for a fair catch, when to let the punt go or go for the return.