The Georgia Bulldogs have started fall camp, and they have a lot of work to do between now and August 31, which is when they start the season at Clemson.
The majority of the work is on the defensive side of the ball because 12 starters are gone from last year, including linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree.
But the new players who are coming in have a ton of talent, and they should help the fans forget about the players who have moved on.
But in order for that to happen, the Bulldogs have to get some things accomplished during camp.
The first thing they have to do is solidify the defensive line and secondary, which I mentioned in my previous article. Defensive end Garrison Smith and cornerback Damian Swann are the only returning starters from each unit. So there has been and will be a ton of competition for starting positions.
For the nose tackle position, Chris Mayes, Toby Johnson, Michael Thornton and John Atkins are fighting for the spot. For the other defensive end position, it’s a two-man race between Sterling Bailey and Ray Drew.
Defensive line coach Chris Wilson will have a rotation going on the defensive line to keep the players fresh. But it’s just a matter of which group he wants to start the game with and how often he wants to rotate players, which will depend on the ebbs and flows of each game.
For the secondary, Josh Harvey-Clemons is slated to start at strong safety and nickel cornerback, but he’s suspended for the first game of the season. This means Connor Norman or Corey Moore will get a shot. Both players are veterans and should help fill the void that will be left by Harvey-Clemons.
Tray Matthews is impressing coaches and players at free safety, while Sheldon Dawson is doing the same at cornerback. However, true freshmen Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley have been getting a lot of work during practice and could find themselves in the mix quickly.
As the starting lineup for the defense comes together, they will have to develop chemistry in order to be successful. With many new players being together for the first time, they have to make sure they are on the same page consistently.
With the Bulldogs starting the season against Clemson, they’re going to face an offense that is explosive and dominant. In order to stop an offense like the Tigers, all 11 players will have to work together, which is why each practice the defense has from now until the end of the month is important. If it can’t develop any type of cohesiveness, it will be a long season for the defense and the rest of the Bulldogs.
But even if the defense can develop chemistry, there will be times it will take its lumps because of the inexperience. The defensive players have to learn to be disciplined and not make mental mistakes.
One of the reasons the Bulldogs lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship game last year was the fact that they could not stop the run. And they couldn’t stop the run because they played undisciplined football. The players on defense this year need to listen to their coaches and not try to do too much. The offense will win some battles. The defense just needs to win the war.
With the Bulldogs having 29 practices before the season begins, the defense will be ready for the 2013 season. There is no telling if the Bulldogs will be better than last year, but if they get the starting lineups and rotation established, develop chemistry and play disciplined football, they will have a strong season.
And that will lead to the Bulldogs being relevant in the BCS at the end of the year.