For the 2013 Georgia Bulldogs, the goal is simple: finish the drill.
That has been the motto for head coach Mark Richt since he arrived in Athens in 2001, but after the way the Bulldogs lost to Alabama in the SEC championship game last year, they know they have what it takes to bring it to the next level.
Based on the players they have coming back, the Bulldogs should make another run at the SEC title and possibly the BCS championship. However, they have to overcome losing 12 starters on defense. They'll also have to battle through the first four weeks of the season where they will face three teams ranked in the preseason Top 15.
Can the Bulldogs finally reach the mountaintop or will it be another season where they will come up short?
Here’s a full preview of the Bulldogs' upcoming season.
The 2012 Bulldogs got the season off on the right foot as they won their first five games of the year, including a 41-20 thumping of Missouri in its SEC debut, and a wild 51-44 win over Tennessee at Sanford Stadium.
The Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the year in Game 6, when the South Carolina Gamecocks ran over them 35-7. However, Bulldogs bounced back and won the next six games, including a 17-9 victory over Florida, which virtually helped the Bulldogs clinch the SEC East.
Georgia played against Alabama in the SEC title game and came up five yards short of stealing the victory over the Crimson Tide and playing in the national title game against Notre Dame. But the Bulldogs had to settle for the Capital One Bowl, where they defeated Nebraska 45-31.
The Bulldogs finished the 2012 season with a 12-2 record, which is the first time since 2002 the school has won 12 games or more.
The reason for the success is the play of the offense, as it scored nearly 39 points per game and rushed for over 182 yards per contest.
The defense was not as strong as expected but got the job done. The unit surrendered 19 points per game, which ranked sixth in the conference. The Bulldogs' weakness was stopping the run, giving up 182 yards per game and 17 touchdowns.
Overall, the Bulldogs had a very strong season. But they know if they had played better in a couple of games, they would have had the crystal football in their possession at the end of the season.
Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer give their thoughts on the Bulldogs and the upcoming season in this video.
Offense: 10 Defense: 3 (Starters in italics)
1. SR Aaron Murray 6'1", 208
2. JR Hutson Mason 6'3", 202
3. SO Christian LeMay 6'2", 200
1. SO Todd Gurley 6'1", 232
2. SO Keith Marshall 5'11", 219
3. FR J.J. Green 5'9", 183
1. SO Merritt Hall 5'11", 226
2. SO Quayvon Hicks 6'2", 257
3. JR Taylor Maxey 5'10", 220
1. JR Michael Bennett 6'3", 205
2. SR Rhett McGowan 6'0", 180
3. SO Justin Scott'Wesley 5'11", 206
1. JR Malcolm Mitchell 6'1", 190
2. JR Chris Conley 6'3", 206
3. SR Rantavious Wooten 5'10", 176
1. SR Arthur Lynch 6'5", 254
2. SO Jay Rome 6'6", 254
3. JR Hugh Williams 6'5", 234
1. SR Kenarious Gates 6'5", 237
2. JR Mark Beard 6'5, 300
1. SR Dallas Lee 6'4", 295
2. JR Watts Danztler 6'7", 307
1. JR David Andrews 6'2", 295
2. SO Hunter Long 6'4", 312
1. SR Chris Burnette 6'2", 314
2. FR Greg Pyke 6'6", 326
1. SO Xzavier Ward 6'7", 278
2. SO John Theus 6'6", 298
3. JR Kolton Houston 6'5", 280
1. SR Garrison Smith 6'3", 299
2. FR John Taylor 6'4", 336
1. JR Mike Thornton 6'1", 290
2. SO Chris Mayes 6'4", 321
3. FR John Atkins 6'4", 321
1. SO Sterling Bailey 6'3", 282
2. JR Ray Drew 6'5", 276
1. SO James DeLoach 6'3", 265
2. SR Chase Vasser 6'3", 219
3. JR Brandon Burrows 6'3", 235
1. JR Ramik Wilson 6'2", 232
2. FR Ryne Rankin 6'1", 222
1. JR Amarlo Herrera 6'2", 244
2. FR Reggie Carter 6'1", 229
1. SO Jordan Jenkins 6'3", 246
2. SO Josh Dawson 6'4", 254
3. SR T.J. Stripling 6'6", 237
1. JR Damian Swann 5'11", 178
2. SR Blake Sailors 5'11", 179
1. SO Sheldon Dawson 5'11", 190
2. SO Devin Bowman 6'0", 180
1. SO Josh Harvey-Clemson 6'5", 212
2. JR Corey Moore 6'2", 214
1. FR Tray Matthews 6'0", 196
2. SR Connor Norman 5'10", 201
3. FR Quincy Mauger 6'0", 200
1. SO Colin Barber 6'2", 200
2. JR Adam Erickson 5'10", 171
1. SO Marshall Morgan 6'3", 200
2. SO Patrick Beless 5'9", 162
The Bulldogs have been fortunate to not have too many injuries to key players this offseason.
However, the injury bug did hit a couple of young players who were expected to contribute this season. Defensive backs Reggie Wilkerson and Paris Bostick both suffered season-ending injuries during the summer. Wilkerson tore his ACL and Bostick suffered a turf toe. Both players had surgery in June.
Tramel Terry, a standout wideout in high school last season, suffered an ACL injury in a high school all-star game back in December, could be ready to go for the season opener. The coaches have not set a date on when Terry will return, but he has been running around camp with a brace on his knee.
Other than that, the Bulldogs have suffered minor injuries during camp, but all players who are eligible will be ready to go when the season kicks off on August 31.
When a team is coming off a 12-2 season, there are plenty of players to watch on both sides of the ball.
On offense, all eyes will be on Aaron Murray, who is looking to end his career in Athens with a few trophies hoisted above his shoulders. Murray threw for 3,893 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2012. If he puts up similar numbers, he could end his career as the conference’s all-time leader in completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Another player to watch on offense is Todd Gurley, who led all SEC running backs in yards (1,415) and touchdowns (17). Gurley has the power to run over defenders and possesses near elite speed to score at any given place on the field. Gurley, along with Keith Marshall, will continue to give defenders headaches this season.
On defense, Jordan Jenkins becomes the main man as he tries to fill the void left by Jarvis Jones. With five sacks last season, Jenkins showed that he can be the next great pass-rusher for the Bulldogs, and they need that in order to have any success.
The secondary will have a new look to it, but Damian Swann returns and will lead a young unit with little experience. Swann benefited from watching and learning from Sanders Commings, Branden Smith, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams. And because of that, he was able to pick off four passes last year.
Now it’s time for Swann to teach players like Sheldon Dawson and Tray Matthews to take their game to next level. If the young players can play like Swann, the secondary will be a dangerous group.
Head coach: Mark Richt
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: Mike Bobo
Defensive coordinator/assistant head coach/outside linebackers: Todd Grantham
Wide receivers: Tony Ball
Tight ends: John Lilly
Running backs: Bryan McClendon
Offensive line: Will Friend
Inside linebackers: Ken Olivadotti
Secondary: Scott Lakatos
Defensive line: Chris Wilson
Mark Richt has done a solid job keeping his coaching staff intact for the last couple of years. There has been some minor changes during that span, and the newest member of the coaching staff this season is defensive line coach Chris Wilson, who takes the place of Rodney Garner, who is now coaching at Auburn.
Wilson spent the last three years at Mississippi State as the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. He has coached in the college ranks since 1993 and will help the defensive line reach new heights this season and beyond.
Conference games in italics
August 31 at Clemson
September 7 vs. South Carolina
September 21 vs. North Texas
September 28 vs. LSU
October 5 at Tennessee
October 12 vs. Missouri
October 19 at Vanderbilt
November 2 vs. Florida (at Jacksonville)
November 9 vs. Appalachian State
November 16 at Auburn
November 23 vs. Kentucky
November 30 at Georgia Tech
When push comes to shove, every SEC game for the Bulldogs is important. But the most important games are at the beginning of the schedule. The Clemson, South Carolina and LSU games will set the tone for the rest of the season.
If the Bulldogs came come away from those three games unscathed, they have a legitimate shot of winning the SEC. If they lose two of the three, then the Bulldogs will like be playing a New Year’s Eve bowl game.
On offense, the Bulldogs run a pro style, which means they run the ball first and throw off of play action.
The Bulldogs did a good job of that thanks to the play of Murray, Gurley and Marshall. With Gurley and Marshall able to make plays on the ground, Murray is able to make plays through the air. And with receivers such as Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley, the Bulldogs offense will be hard to defend for any unit that goes against them.
And let’s not forget about the offensive line. All five starters return from last year, and they also get Kolton Houston back in the mix. Houston was ruled ineligible the last three years and could be have a starting job once he gets his feet wet.
The tight end spot is also a strength for the Bulldogs. Arthur Lynch is preseason First-Team All-SEC player, while Jay Rome is a player on the rise.
The Bulldogs run a 3-4, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham likes to be aggressive when it comes to stunts and blitzes.
The anchors for the front seven will be defensive end Garrison Smith and outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins. Those two played solid football last year and will be looked at as leaders this season, since the group lost 12 starters from last year.
But the leader of the defense and one of the leaders of the entire team is inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera. In 14 games last year, Herrera notched 70 tackles and one interception. He was consistent throughout the year and could have a breakout 2013 season.
Damian Swann will anchor a very young secondary. With two sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles last year, Swann has a knack for making a big play. The rest of the secondary, which features Josh Harvey-Clemons, Tray Matthews and Sheldon Dawson, will look to do the same this season.
There are already enough playmakers on offense for the Bulldogs, but J.J. Green could make his way into the rotation.
Green has been working as the No. 3 running back since spring practice and has responded well. He has elite speed and can run between the tackles.
But Green can also play wide receiver, cornerback and return kicks. The coaching staff will have a place for him no matter where he plays, and he will be expected to give the Bulldogs a spark just like Branden Smith did the last four years.
Another X-factor for the Bulldogs is the player who won’t be playing in the Clemson game.
Josh Harvey-Clemons will not only play strong safety, he will also be the nickel corner and could possibly see time at linebacker.
The coaches want him on the field as much as possible because he has all the tools to be a very good defensive player. He will be tested right out of the gate when he comes back for the South Carolina game on September 7.
Just like any other season for the Bulldogs, there will be a ton of storylines as they play through the 2013 campaign.
The first is Aaron Murray. Can he win the big games and lead his team to the SEC title? If he can do that and break records at the same time, he could go down as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game for the Bulldogs.
The Todd Gurley-Keith Marshall combo is another story to watch. Can the two duplicate the same success they had in 2012, or will they have a sophomore slump?
But the biggest storyline of the season will be the defense. With new starters all over, can this group be better than what it was last year when it featured players like Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and John Jenkins? Can Josh Harvey-Clemons be the player everyone’s expecting? Will Jordan Jenkins be the next great pass-rusher?
All these storylines will make a very interesting season for the Bulldogs.
And speaking of an interesting season, the Bulldogs should end up with an 11-1 record just like last season.
With the firepower they have on offense, they will be able to score close to or over 40 points per game just like last season. They will get past the first part of their schedule and go 4-0. They should have no problems with Tennessee, Missouri and Vanderbilt before falling to Florida at the beginning of November.
The Bulldogs will win the next four games and face Alabama for the SEC title. And this time the Bulldogs will come away with the win.
Despite having the one loss, the Bulldogs should have enough to play in the BCS National Championship Game. Who they will play and the outcome of the game remains to be seen. But despite the new starters on defense and the tough start to the schedule, the Bulldogs are still a dangerous club that has everything it needs to make a run at the crystal ball.