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Georgia Football: 5 Players to Watch in Bulldogs' Spring Game

Andrew HallCorrespondent IIIApril 9, 2014

Georgia Football: 5 Players to Watch in Bulldogs' Spring Game

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    Georgia QB Hutson Mason hands the ball to RB Todd Gurley.
    Georgia QB Hutson Mason hands the ball to RB Todd Gurley.Associated Press

    With Georgia's annual G-Day spring game just a few short days away, fans anxiously await the opportunity to witness the team's progress firsthand.

    On the defensive side of the ball, there's plenty to monitor as new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and his band of new assistants will roll out the first rendition of the Dawgs' new defense. From what's been said thus far, the scheme is faster and simpler than what was coordinated by Todd Grantham in years past.

    Offensively, senior quarterback Hutson Mason is continuing to settle in as he embraces his role under center as a full-time starter. He has plenty of weapons to utilize, but is he developing lasting chemistry with his fellow offensive stars?

    With so many moving pieces and a plethora of personnel expected to see the field, fans should focus on these five players as a litmus test of Georgia's spring improvements. 

    Here are the five Bulldogs to watch in Saturday's spring game as prioritized by their potential impact this fall.

Todd Gurley, RB

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    Background

    Despite battling injuries for much of 2013, the junior running back has been nothing shy of spectacular over the past two seasons. To date, the multifaceted player with a potent combination of size, speed and vision has accounted for more than 2,900 yards of offense and 34 total touchdowns.

     

    What to Watch For

    The level of Gurley's participation was debated heading into the opening days of spring practice.  According to Seth Emerson of Macon's The Telegraph, head coach Mark Richt felt Gurley could be limited in spring practice as he continued to regain healthy legs.

    Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, however, took a different stance: "I've already talked to Todd about how we're going to push him in practice," he countered.

    Gurley has participated and has come on strong—particularly in Georgia's second scrimmage, when he rushed for 67 yards on just 10 carries.

    Fans need to watch for signs of the "old" Todd Gurley. Patience and vision have always been two of the Heisman candidate's greatest traits, but the Georgia faithful want to see explosiveness and endurance. 

    A strong showing by Gurley on Saturday bodes well for his prolonged recovery.

     

    Expectations for the Fall

    If healthy, many expect to see him in New York for the Heisman ceremony next December. Given his track record as a runner and receiver out of the backfield, that prediction isn't overly lofty.

    More importantly, however, Gurley gives Georgia's high-profile offense a consistently productive athlete that few teams have been able to contain. That's invaluable to a relatively new quarterback like Hutson Mason.

Hutson Mason, QB

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    Quarterback Hutson Mason
    Quarterback Hutson MasonJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Background

    Mason played well as a backup to Aaron Murray while patiently awaiting his opportunity to start. That chance came two games earlier than expected when Murray's 2013 campaign was ended prematurely by a knee injury.

    Over his three-year career, Mason has thrown for 1,324 yards and eight touchdowns.

     

    What to Watch For

    Mason orchestrated a dramatic comeback in his first start against Georgia Tech last season and nearly completed another such rally in the Dawgs' bowl game loss to Nebraska. While he executed well at times, he clearly had the look of a new starter.

    Last year, he seemed to be playing the role of starting quarterback more so than he seemed to own it.  In other words, he looked like a placeholder. If he can improve chemistry with his receivers and master checkdowns within the offense (a skill that defined Murray), he will demonstrate absolute control.

    Watch for Mason's timing with receivers on quick routes to be noticeably improved in the spring game, and although he may not be forced into many audible situations, look for him to be the most knowledgeable player on the field.

     

    Expectations for the Fall

    With some of the best receivers in the conference and arguably the best running back in the nation returning, Mason should reap the benefits of Mike Bobo's prolific pro-style attack. If the offensive line shapes up, expect Mason to put together a 3,000-yard season of his own in the wake of Murray's departure.

    Mason's development from placeholder to star, however, will greatly impact the upside of this offense. The more mastery he demonstrates, the more likely the Bulldogs will be to return to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship Game.

Brendan Langley, DB

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    DB Brendan Langley
    DB Brendan LangleyJohn Bazemore

    Background

    Langley started each of Georgia's first four games as a true freshman cornerback last season. However, he was ultimately overtaken by fellow freshman Shaq Wiggins and played in just five of Georgia's final nine games (with no starts). 

    He registered 12 total tackles in 2013.

     

    What to Watch For

    Langley has been all over the field for the Bulldogs this spring. He opened spring practice as the starter at cornerback (supplanting Wiggins) on the opposite side of the field from senior Damian Swann. More recently, however, he's been moved to safety.

    As of this week, he is lining up at safety with the second team, according to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.

    Langley's talent is undeniable, and at 6'1" he has the potential to be a lockdown corner or a roamer from the safety position. He's a sure tackler (he registered seven takedowns in the season opener against Clemson last year) but struggled with Grantham's scheme.

    It will be worth watching Langley just to see where he ends up on Saturday. He may play at cornerback and safety, but Pruitt seems set on getting him on the field as he's one of the team's best overall athletes. While he's been cross-training thus far, the spring game will provide better insight into where he'll settle in the fall.

     

    Expectations for the Fall

    The expectation for Langley next year largely depends on which position he winds up playing. In any event, expect to see him early and often in Georgia's reinvigorated defensive secondary. After all, the emphasis under Pruitt has been on getting the best players on the field as often as possible.

Leonard Floyd, LB/DE

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    LB/DE Leonard Floyd
    LB/DE Leonard FloydScott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Background

    A freak athlete, Floyd was one of the few pleasant surprises on Georgia's defense in 2013 when he registered 55 tackles (9.5 for a loss) as a freshman.

     

    What to Watch For

    Last year, Floyd played primarily as an outside linebacker under Grantham. Now, he's transitioning into a hybrid role that will see him play with his hand on the ground as a defensive end at times.

    "It's a harder role, because I'm in the trenches more and in a three-point stance more than I was last year," Floyd told David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "Yet I don't have to think as much. All I have to think about is rushing the quarterback."

    The idea of Floyd, who stands 6'4" and is a master of maximizing his length and creating leverage, pinning his ears back and chasing quarterbacks should get Georgia fans excited. After all, he led the team in sacks as a freshman.

    He is a unique talent, and watching him take ownership of a new position will be one of the highlights of G-Day.

     

    Expectations for the Fall

    With a more concentrated responsibility and a lower demand for cerebral play, Floyd will excel under Pruitt. Expect him to surpass his sack total from last year (6.5) handily. A double-digit sack campaign may be in the cards.

Brandon Kublanow, OG

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    OG Brandon Kublanow
    OG Brandon KublanowDave Martin

    Background

    Kublanow played in nine games last year—including each of the Dawgs' final eight contests—as a reserve offensive lineman. Currently he's vying for one of two open guard positions.

     

    What to Watch For

    The greatest testament to Kublanow's potential is the fact that he saw the field last season as a true freshman despite a veteran-heavy offensive line rotation. 

    At 6'3" and 290 pounds, he is now positioning himself as a staple of Georgia's offensive line for the next three years. And he appears poised to take ownership of either the left or right guard position.

    He is the youngest of Georgia's potential offensive line starters, and his ability to adjust to game-like speed and work alongside veteran starters like Kolton Houston, David Andrews and John Theus is worth watching this Saturday.

    The sooner he can establish himself as the starter at one of the guard positions, the sooner this offensive line will begin to develop lasting cohesion.

     

    Expectations for the Fall

    Most likely, Kublanow will be a starter when the regular season begins. And with three returning starters on the offensive line, he could be one of the team's most improved offensive players by season's end if he embraces the leadership and tutelage of older players.

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