The 2013 season has come to an end and the Georgia Bulldogs could not be happier.
After a fast start to the season with wins over South Carolina and LSU, things turned south with losses to Missouri, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Nebraska.
There are numerous reasons why the Bulldogs had a disappointing season, but what’s done is done and they have to move on.
The 2014 season gives the Bulldogs a new level of optimism because they will have a slew of returning starters coming back. But there are also concerns coming into the season, and it starts with the most important position.
Here’s a look at the four biggest concerns for the Bulldogs heading into the 2014 season.
The biggest concern has to involve Hutson Mason, who will take over as the starting quarterback for Aaron Murray.
Mason started two games in 2013 and played sparingly in a few more. He tallied 968 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.
He proved that he can be the guy moving forward, but can he lead the Bulldogs to the SEC East title and beyond? With opponents like Clemson, Missouri, Auburn and South Carolina on deck for the Bulldogs in 2014, it will not be an easy task for Mason and the Bulldogs. But if he continues to grow as a quarterback and his skill players and offensive line help him out, then he will have plenty of success.
Speaking of his skill players, can they stay healthy in 2014?
Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley, Justin Scott-Wesley, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley all missed either the entire season or a good amount of time due to injuries, which really set the offense back.
The argument could be made if the Bulldogs did not suffer these numerous injuries on offense, they would have been in the running to win the SEC.
So the question is can these players stay healthy? Because if they can’t stay healthy, the offense could take a step back in 2014. That being said, the young players like J.J. Green, Brendan Douglas and Reggie Davis saw plenty of action in 2013 and should be better this upcoming season. But they are not the playmakers the injured starters have been the last two seasons.
Another concern when it comes to the offense is the look of the offensive line.
With Dallas Lee, Chris Burnett and Kenarious Gates graduating, there will be at least three spots on the offensive line that will be open for competition.
Here’s what the offensive line could look like for the 2014 season:
LT Kolton Houston
LG Brandon Kublanow
C David Andrews
RG Watts Dantzler
RT John Theus
Houston saw a lot of action, along with Dantzler and Kublanow, in the Gator Bowl as he replaced Lee due to a thigh injury. So despite losing three starters, the offensive line could be better than last year because of the experience.
But due to the inconsistencies on the line, the unit could have some issues in progressing.
Another reason the Bulldogs struggled in 2013 was the play of the defense.
The unit gave up 29 points per game and 381 yards per game, both numbers were ranked in the bottom half of the SEC.
There were a lot of young players that had to see time last year because of the starters they lost for the 2012 team. So if none of the underclassmen decide to go pro (which is unlikely), the Bulldogs should have all but one starter returning.
That should make the Bulldogs defense improve automatically. But as we've seen before with the group (the 2012 defense in comparison to the 2011 defense), that is not always the case.
The Bulldogs will go into the 2014 season forgetting about what happened in 2013, but they will learn from it at the same time because that’s the only way they will get better.
The concerns the Bulldogs have are things to worry about, but Mark Richt has been through this before and always battles back to have a strong season after struggling the season before.
However, with the talent coming back in 2014, the expectations will be for the Bulldogs to get back in the mix for the SEC title.
So, can Richt and the rest Bulldogs overcome their weaknesses and be back where they were in 2011 and 2012, or will it be another sub-par season which will make the Bulldog faithful question the program’s current state?