Georgia Football: 4 Reasons Why the Bulldogs Will Be a Top 10 Team in 2014
Spring practice is starting for teams across the country, and that means the experts are already predicting who will be the top teams for the 2014 season.
One expert, Brian Fremeau of Football Outsiders (subscription required) really likes the Bulldogs and has put them at No. 9. He said they have a strong talent base and will be the front-runners in the SEC East.
Based on what happened last season, 2014 will be a much better season for the Bulldogs despite not having Aaron Murray under center. They will have a stronger nucleus and will be ranked in the Top 10 when it’s all said and done.
And here are four reasons why that will happen.
Experience on Defense
The first reason is the returning starters they have on defense. Garrison Smith is the only starter from last year who will not return, which means the defense should be improved from last year.
But when looking at the defense closer, the front seven was solid. Ramik Wilson led the SEC in tackles, and Amarlo Herrera was third. Also, the Bulldogs did lead the SEC in sacks, as four players had at least five or more sacks in 2013.
The one area of concern for the defense this season is the same as the weakness for them last year, and that’s the secondary. There were a lot of young players on the field for the Bulldogs last year, so they will be more mature.
Whether they will be better relies on the second reason why the Bulldogs will make it into the Top 10.
Defensive coordinator Jeremy Puritt has won everywhere he has been. Granted, he was only offensive coordinator for Florida State for one season, but he was a reason the Seminoles won the national title.
Pruitt believes in the 3-4 scheme, but his playbook will not be as complex as when Todd Grantham was the coordinator. Also, Pruitt played defensive back at Alabama, so he knows how to prepare the secondary every time they are on the field.
The Bulldogs won’t be an elite defense in 2014, but they will make tremendous strides from where they were in 2013.
As for the offense, they will have a chance to be special even without Aaron Murray.
Hutson Mason is slated to take over in 2014, and he ended the 2013 season with solid numbers in backup duty.
Mason completed 60 percent of his passes and threw for 968 yards and five touchdowns in five games. He led the Bulldogs to a come-from-behind win against Georgia Tech and nearly did the same thing in the loss against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
The fact that Mason got significant playing time last year will pay dividends in 2014. He did not start against cupcake teams. He won a game against an archrival and almost completed a rally against a top team in the Big Ten.
So once the 2014 season begins, Mason should and will be ready to go.
Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall
The good thing for Mason is he will have a dangerous and skillful set of running backs to work with this upcoming season.
Keith Marshall is coming back from an ACL injury, and Todd Gurley will be healthy after fighting through an ankle injury.
Both players are looking for bounce-back years, and they should be able to do it if they stay healthy. If they can be the explosive players they were in 2012, Mason’s job will be a lot easier, and the offense will be the most dangerous in the conference.
When push comes to shove, it is still too early to say who will be ranked in the Top 10 this upcoming season. The Bulldogs have the talent, depth and experience to be one of the 10 best teams in the country, but it’s a matter of going out on the field and executing.
Mason has to play at a high level, the skill players and the offensive line have to help Mason out, and the defense has to buy what Pruitt is selling. If those things happen consistently this season, expect the Bulldogs to be a contender for the SEC title and in the discussion for being one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.
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