Georgia Football: Mark Richt's Biggest Challenges for the Bulldogs in 2014

Brian JonesContributor IMay 18, 2014

Georgia Football: Mark Richt's Biggest Challenges for the Bulldogs in 2014

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    Every coach will have challenges they will go through each season. But the great coaches know how to battle through them and come out on top.

    Mark Richt has seen his share of challenges since taking the UGA job in 2001. And he’s still standing tall and has won a lot of games along the way.

    This year will be no different, as he will have his share of challenges in order to win the SEC East.

    But what are the biggest challenges that will determine the Bulldogs' 2014 season?

    Here’s a look at five challenges that Richt will have to overcome in order to get back on top of the SEC.

Solidifying the Secondary

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    The first challenge is something that haunted the Bulldogs all year, and that’s the secondary.

    With new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, the Bulldogs will have a (somewhat) new look to the unit.

    Damian Swann and Tray Matthews are still there, but after that, it’s a whole new ballgame.

    Player like Aaron Davis and J.J. Green are looking to make an impact. And let’s not forget about the newcomers such as Dominick Sanders and Shaquille Jones, as they want to see some action this season.

    No matter who is out there, the unit has to be better. And based on the performance that was displayed during the spring game, getting better is not a guarantee.

Finding the Right Backup Quarterback

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    Another concern is the backup quarterback position. Richt hopes he will never have to use either Brice Ramsey or Faton Bauta this season, but losing Hutson Mason for a significant amount of time could happen.

    Both players looked strong during spring practice, but neither of them stood out. Bauta was the backup for Mason the final games of last season, so he has the experience. But Ramsey is a better fit into what the Bulldogs want to do on offense.

    It’s something that has to and will be settled before the first game. Not only will the backup be first in line if Mason goes down, but he will also have the inside track for the starting job in 2015.

Beating Missouri

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    Missouri has given the Bulldogs fits the past two years. UGA won in 2012 but lost to the Tigers by two scores last season.

    The Bulldogs will travel to Columbia this year, and while the Tigers lost a lot of talent, they are still a very good ballclub, especially with quarterback Maty Mauk under center.

    The biggest challenge for the Bulldogs in that game is containing Missouri’s defensive line. They no longer have Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, but this year’s defensive line is a senior-heavy group, and Markus Golden could be the new sack king for the Tigers.

Making Sure Players Stay Healthy

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    One of the big reasons the Bulldogs went 8-5 last season was the fact they lost key players to injuries.

    Malcolm Mitchell, Todd Gurley, Michael Bennett, Justin Scott-Wesley and Keith Marshall are just a few of the players who went down for a significant amount of time or for the entire season. Odds are that won’t happen again, but if it does, the Bulldogs will be in a world of hurt and wins will be harder to come by.

    Richt should not change anything he does when it comes to working his players before or during the season, but for the players who are coming back from injuries, he may want to have them not do as much work as they have in the previous years.

Beating South Carolina

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    And Richt will need all the help he can get in the early stages of the season because they will have to travel to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks.

    Losing Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw hurts, but running back Mike Davis returns, and he’s one of the best in the country.

    But no matter who the Gamecocks lose from a talent standpoint, they will give the Bulldogs fits all game long because head coach Steve Spurrier knows how to get under their skin. If the Bulldogs overcome this challenge unscathed, they will have a very good chance of winning the SEC East.