Georgia Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

Andrew HallCorrespondent IIIApril 11, 2014

Georgia Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

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    Georgia head coach Mark Richt
    Georgia head coach Mark RichtJohn Bazemore

    For Georgia football fans in desperate need of gridiron action, this Saturday's spring game is as good as it gets—at least until August.

    While the annual G-Day game always offers a respite for those who are tired of the long, monotonous offseason, this year's battle between the red and the black teams is particularly compelling thanks in no small part to a few vital changes.

    New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and his new staff of assistants have renovated the defense, while the offense prepares to enter its first season since 2009 without Aaron Murray under center.

    With changes brewing in Athens, here is everything you need to know about the Georgia Bulldogs' spring game.

Particulars

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    Georgia's Sanford Stadium
    Georgia's Sanford StadiumDavid Goldman

    Nickname: G-Day

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 p.m. ET

    Television Coverage: CSS and ESPN3

    Admission: Free to the public

    Format: Four 12-minute quarters with drives that start at the 25-yard line.

Position Battles to Watch

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    Three Georgia defensive backs surround a receiver.
    Three Georgia defensive backs surround a receiver.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Defensive Secondary

    The secondary is shrouded with mystery at this point, but given Pruitt's expertise as a defensive backs coach fans, can expect some clarity by season's start.  Here are the names to watch out for—keep in mind several players are playing multiple positions.

    • Aaron Davis: Somehow, this walk-on who has not seen action as a Bulldog has worked his way into the starting lineup at cornerback.  
    • J.J. Green: The sophomore played running back last year.  Already he's lined up at both cornerback and safety this spring.  He led the team in tackles in Georgia's first scrimmage two weeks ago.
    • Shaq Wiggins: Wiggins started eight games at cornerback last season as a true freshman but opened the spring as a second-teamer behind Brendan Langley.
    • Brendan Langley: Also a sophomore, Langley opened the spring as a starter at the corner position opposite of entrenched senior Damian Swann.  More recently, however, he's moved to the safety position where he has been playing primarily as a backup.
    • Quincy Mauger: Mauger started several games last year as a freshman at the safety spot and opened the spring as a starter at his position alongside Corey Moore.
    • Tray Matthews: Matthews was reassigned to second-team duties as spring opened, but much of that had to do with an offseason arrest.  Already, he's worked his way back to a starting position.
    • Corey Moore: The senior seems to have locked down a safety position but could be forced out by either Mauger or Matthews, depending on how things shake out between them over the coming months.

    The lineup in the secondary is thus far very tentatively penciled in.

     

    Offensive Guard

    Heading into spring practice, the assumption was that Watts Dantzler and Mark Beard—both seniors—would occupy the two open guard positions.  Competition for those spots has opened up, however.

    Sophomore Brandon Kublanow seems well on his way to a starting nod, and junior Zach DeBell and redshirt sophomore Greg Pyke are also making noise.

    Regardless of who takes ownership of the open guard positions, some semblance of unity needs to take shape.  Cohesion of the group is much more important for Georgia's offensive line than individual personnel.  This unit needs as many reps as possible.

Top Storylines

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    Georgia running back Todd Gurley
    Georgia running back Todd GurleySam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Jeremy Pruitt's Arrival

    Undoubtedly, the story of the offseason has been Todd Grantham's departure for Louisville and Pruitt's arrival from Florida State.  Pruitt has been on the coaching staff of each of the last three national championship teams, and expectations are undeniably high.

    Fans are looking for the return of a feared Georgia defense after Grantham's efforts seemed to saddle players with confusion far too often.  Pruitt is placing an emphasis on speed and simplicity and has spiced things up by increasing competition for spots in the lineup.

    This Saturday's G-Day game will give fans the first glimpse into the changes he's made and his coaching style.

     

    Hutson Mason Settles In

    Pruitt's arrival has taken most of the attention away from the Bulldogs offense, and that may be a good thing for Hutson Mason as he settles in as the full-time starter for the Bulldogs.

    Obviously, he has a host of weapons surrounding him and has the knowledge of the system to be successful.  Georgia fans are looking for three C's from Mason this spring:

    • Consistency: He started slowly in his two starts last season, so that needs to be rectified.
    • Command: This offense is his now; he's not merely a substitute. 
    • Chemistry: Dropped balls plagued Mason's comeback bid against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.  He and his receivers must get on the same page.

     

    Todd Gurley's Health

    Much to the delight of fans (and coaches and teammates), Todd Gurley has participated fully this spring.  Georgia fans relish every opportunity to see the star running back in action, and this Saturday's scrimmage will be no different.

    A healthy Gurley immediately makes Georgia a contender in the SEC.

What the Experts Are Saying

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    Zach DeBell is competing for a starting guard position.
    Zach DeBell is competing for a starting guard position.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Georgia's Walk-On Starter at Cornerback

    Seth Emerson of Macon's The Telegraph offers this introduction to cornerback Aaron Davis:

    He’s a walk-on. He’s only played one competitive football game in the past four years. And that one game wasn’t even on defense.

    Meet Aaron Davis, the man who, even if he never plays a down for Georgia, is the spring symbol for the change Jeremy Pruitt has brought to Georgia’s defense.

    Davis is drawing rave reviews from teammates and coaches alike. 

     

    Georgia's Offensive Line Battle

    Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald explains the revolving door at left guard and its importance:

    John Theus hasn’t budged from the starting offensive left tackle spot for Georgia this spring.

    The left guard spot next to him is another matter.

    Mark Beard. Zach DeBell. Brandon Kublanow.

    All have taken first-team reps at left guard for offensive line coach Will Friend. Even right tackle Kolton Houston has seen some there, Theus said.

    It’s one position worth watching in Saturdays G-Day game. 

Important Injuries

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    Running back Keith Marshall
    Running back Keith MarshallScott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Georgia's offensive is still recovering from a rash of injuries that derailed the Bulldogs' 2013 campaign.  A few notable players will miss G-Day.

    Keith Marshall, Running Back: Marshall made an appearance on the first day of spring practice but is staying away from contact and continuing to rehab a torn ACL.  While the idea of redshirting him has been tossed around, his recovery still seems on track for the start of the regular season.

    Malcolm Mitchell, Wide Receiver: Mitchell battled back from a torn ACL in time for spring practice only to injure his other leg during the first week of drills.  He is expected back for the 2014 season but will miss the spring game.

    Justin Scott-Wesley, Wide Receiver: Yet another victim of a torn ACL, Scott-Wesley has spent this spring running in straight lines and working on conditioning.  He will not play on Saturday.

    Jay Rome, Tight End: Rome had offseason surgery on his foot and has not participated this spring.  Obviously, he will miss G-Day as well.