In a week, the Georgia Bulldogs have gone from the universal excitement of opening a fresh spring season to carefully peeking around the corner wondering what else might go wrong. Despite being only a few practices into the 15 sessions, that cloud will not serve to block the positive light that should be the story of Georgia's spring.
Before spring ball opened on March 18, the only question for Dawgs folks was whether Todd Gurley, Georgia's star running back, would be full go. Then, as spring ball opened, so too did the bad news. As Georgia prepares for what should be a very productive set of practices, the light quickly shifted to the negative.
The day the Dawgs got out on the field was the day the news broke of four Bulldog arrests, as Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph reported. An arrest that served only to add to the Georgia spring semester arrests that have grown into a now tiresome "Mark Richt has lost control of..." meme.
Georgia's arrest issue is more an ominous cloud that adds to the growing discussion of arrests in Athens. However, Malcolm Mitchell being sidelined for the spring is a real impediment to the Bulldogs' spring progress. Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that it is the left knee, not the right knee Mitchell had repaired in 2013.
While Mitchell is expected to be back for fall camp, having the receiver healthy for spring was critical to the quarterback transition process. Hutson Mason is going to be the starter and gaining experience. Even the noncontact experience Mitchell was slated to get is critical to his development. It was also essential for Mitchell, who has been battling injuries his entire career in Athens.
The arrests and Mitchell's injury are the loud, early stories out of Georgia, while the rest of the team grinds it out to make progress. Nationally, it has shifted the focus from the rebuilding offensive line that has plenty of talent. On the big stage, it has moved eyes from the backup quarterback battle, the Dawgs' most underrated contest during the spring session.
And, of course, while national folks talk discipline, they're missing the first steps of a defensive renaissance in Athens.
Jeremy Pruitt is getting back to basics in an effort to turn Georgia's defense from a collection of talented pieces into a strong, technically sound defensive group. Pruitt's teaching-focused approach to defense is the biggest bright spot for a Georgia team that needs improvements at the fundamental levels of defensive football.
The discipline and the injury to Mitchell are concerning, but with so much positive on the table for the Dawgs, Richt and his team have plenty to champion this spring. On offense, a new quarterback, plus a backup quarterback battle, means each scrimmage should be a proving ground for the new faces to prove their worth.
Defensively, with all of the talent returning in the front seven, Georgia should, with Pruitt at the helm, be eyeballing tremendous improvements. The tale for the Dawgs' D should be about turning the linebackers group from side-to-side tacklers into a downhill, physical group of aggressive players.
This is a Georgia team that should find its way back into the SEC title game thanks to improvements that start this spring. Given the uncertainty, especially at quarterback, in the SEC West, if the Bulldogs can make it to Atlanta, this team could be building the foundation for an SEC champion unit.