Georgia Football: 5 Things Standing in the Way of an SEC Championship
Now that spring practice is officially over for the Georgia Bulldogs, they can focus their attention on the 2014 regular season.
The expectations will once again be high for the Bulldogs due to the returning starters they have coming back on offense and defense. However, the expectations were just as high in 2013 and the Bulldogs were not able to accomplish their goals for various reasons.
Can this year’s team be different? Can it rise up and win the SEC for the first time in nine years?
Here are five things standing in the way of an SEC title for the Bulldogs.
The biggest thing that could prevent the Bulldogs from winning the SEC title is the one thing that hurt them last season: the secondary.
Last season, the secondary gave up 227 passing yards per game, 18 touchdowns and only tallied seven interceptions. It was constantly out of position and the players never seemed comfortable in Todd Grantham’s scheme.
This year should be different under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. However, it will be a process because the secondary did not perform up to standards in the spring game.
Once Pruitt gets the right players in place, the secondary should improve. However, it will have its share of growing pains—especially during the early stages of the season.
For the most part, the Bulldogs will have the entire offense coming back this season. With that said, they will be missing three key starters on the offensive line.
The Bulldogs will have to find replacements for Kenarious Gates, Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee. Players like Mark Beard, Brandon Kublanow and Greg Pyke, who are candidates to replace the three, have significant experience.
Add in David Andrews, Kolton Houston and John Theus, and the offensive line should be solid.
If there is a reason the offense struggles, though, it will be because the offensive line is not able to gel, which could cause some problems for the skill players.
Injuries always play a role for any team during a season. However, the Bulldogs got hit with them more times than they wanted last year, which really led to the beginning of their minor downward spiral.
From Keith Marshall during the early stages of the 2013 season to Aaron Murray toward the end, the Bulldogs could not catch a break when it came to players being healthy.
Last year’s injured players like Marshall, Justin Scott-Wesley and even Todd Gurley will be 100 percent by the start of the season, but the question is, can they stay that way for the long haul?
There are going to be injuries this season for the Bulldogs, but they can’t afford to have a handful of key starters suffer season-ending injuries like last season.
If that happens, then the Bulldogs will have another subpar year.
Even if they have all their players healthy, the Bulldogs will have to perform at a high level on Saturdays in order to be successful.
It starts out the gate when Georgia takes on South Carolina in its second game. The Gamecocks lost players like Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney, but quarterback Dylan Thompson and running back Mike Davis are more than capable than leading them to an SEC East title.
With the game being at South Carolina, the Bulldogs will have a very difficult task ahead of them very early in the season.
A loss would not eliminate the Bulldogs’ chances of winning the SEC East title, but having the upper hand in the race is always a good thing.
Later on, the Bulldogs will face the defending SEC East champions, Missouri, in another road contest.
The Tigers did lose defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy, but the defensive line should not miss a beat with Markus Golden and Lucas Vincent.
Also, Maty Mauk will take over at quarterback, and he did a solid job filling in for James Franklin, who was injured the majority of last season.
The Tigers have given the Bulldogs fits over the last two years and this season should be no different. In fact, the game against the Tigers will be more vital than the game against South Carolina—especially if both teams come into the contest undefeated.