After a disappointing end to what was a more disappointing season, the Georgia Bulldogs’ focus is having a 2014 season that fans will remember.
But in order for them to do that, they have to put in the work this offseason, and it starts with recruiting and ends with fall camp.
The first game of the 2014 season is seven months away, but there are a lot of things Mark Richt and his coaching staff have to do between now and the opening kickoff. And if they want to have a successful regular season, the offseason has to be a successful one.
Here’s a blueprint for the perfect offseason for the Bulldogs.
The first thing the Bulldogs have to do is to have a great recruiting class.
As of now, the Bulldogs have 16 players committed, including running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. And based on their high school production, they could be the next Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley.
But the one thing the Bulldogs can’t afford to let happen is having a current commit making a last-minute decision and going to another school. The Bulldogs already lost out on Dontavius Russell, and Nate Brown declined a late offer from the Bulldogs.
However, the one player who would make the Bulldogs' recruiting class complete is defensive end Lorenzo Carter from Norcross, Ga. If the Bulldogs sign him, the class would be one of the better ones in the Richt era.
Hutson Mason will be the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. But the one thing that needs to happen is improvement from the other quarterbacks on the roster.
One of the more interesting position battles will be the No. 2 quarterback spot. Faton Bauta was the backup for Mason, but Brice Ramsey will be off the redshirt list and looking to make moves on the roster. Ramsey struggled last offseason, but with a year in the system, he should make strides.
Let’s not forget about Jacob Park who just graduated from high school last month and enrolled in Georgia this month.
No matter who the No. 2—or the No. 1 quarterback for that matter—is, he has to show the ability to lead the offense and make plays like Aaron Murray did the last four years.
There is not a lot of experience, so the coaches have to make sure they get the right guys on the field to help manage an offense that can put a lot of points on the board.
Another unit that needs to make strides is the secondary.
Because of the youth and inexperience, the group gave up a ton of big plays, which was one of the reasons the Bulldogs did not have the season they wanted.
But all the starters should be back and should show a ton of improvement even in spring practice.
There’s also a need for stability. As of now, the starting defensive backs are Damian Swann, Shaq Wiggins, Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons. In order to have success this upcoming season, they have to be together constantly. The Bulldogs had to change their secondary more times than not for various reasons. That can’t happen again in 2014.
Some fans may look at spring-practice scrimmage as an excuse to tailgate and go to Sanford Stadium for the first time in the calendar year.
But this spring practice and scrimmage will be important for the Bulldogs not only because of the position battles, but the team has to also show an overall improvement to make the fans believe they are ready to compete for the SEC title.
Players like Mason, the new-look offensive line and the secondary have to be on top of their game, and the backups also need to be efficient.
This is a very important year for the Bulldogs. They may be young in some positions, but the experience is there for them to make a run this season. Having a great spring season can pay dividends in the fall.
A plan to stay healthy can be derailed if the injury bug hits the Bulldogs like it did in 2013.
Players like Keith Marshall and Justin Scott-Wesley are not expected to take part in spring drills, but they should be ready to go in the fall. Other players who got injured but didn’t miss the entire season, like Gurley, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley, should be 100 percent when spring comes around.
There will be injuries to the Bulldogs because that is part of the game. But they can’t have the number of injuries they had last season. If they can remain healthy throughout the spring and the start of fall, the Bulldogs will be in good shape for the season opener against Clemson.
It was recently announced that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is leaving Georgia to take the same position at Louisville, according to a report by Joe Schad of ESPN.com. This comes on the heels of defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos leaving the program for personal reasons.
This means the defensive scheme for Georgia will change, and the Bulldogs will have to find a coordinator who has a system that will fit the current players on the roster.
Will the Bulldogs take a coordinator from another team (i.e. Kirby Smart or John Chavis)? And when the coordinator is hired, will they still run a 3-4, or will they go back to a 4-3?
Whatever happens they need to make a move as soon as possible because signing day is around the corner, and the Bulldogs need to keep their defensive recruits in tact as well as get a few targets they have been going after all year.