Georgia Football: Projecting Who Will Win the Bulldogs' Open Starting Positions
Preseason practice for the Georgia Bulldogs is less than two months away, and there will be some interesting storylines that will develop as soon as they hit the field.
However, the top storyline will have to be the starting positions that will be open when players report to campus.
On offense, there are only a couple of starting spots that have yet to be determined because the majority of starters from last season make their return for the 2014 year.
The defense has 10 returning starters coming back, but defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has made every position on the unit wide open.
So the defense that was on the field last year will look a lot different this year. Here’s a projected look at who will win the Bulldogs’ open starting positions.
The only two starting spots on offense that are open are the two offensive guard positions, and the winners of the race could be Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow.
Pyke made strides during the spring practice, as he was named Most Improved Player on offense. Kublanow also made improvements this spring, and he has experience, as he played in nine games as a freshmen last season.
Other candidates who are in the running for the two spots are Zach DeBell, Mark Beard and Hunter Long. But based on their experience, talent and ability to work with David Andrews, Kolton Houston and John Theus, Pyke and Kublanow are the best choices at both offensive guard positions.
This will be an interesting battle because both Chris Mayes and Jon Taylor are the top two nose tackles (according to observations made by Brian Jones while attending the spring game), and both did well during the spring.
However, despite starting in eight games last season, Mayes will likely end up losing the starting job to Taylor because he is quicker and has a little more size.
Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker told Gentry Estes of Dawgs247 (subscription needed) that Taylor was one of the players who gained the most when it comes to progression. And he also said that he loved Mayes’ effort this past spring despite not being with the No. 1 team that much.
Mike Thornton and Toby Johnson are other nose tackles to watch who will compete for the starting job.
There is really only one defensive end spot up for grabs, and James DeLoach is likely going to take it. DeLoach won Most Improved Player on defense this spring after moving from defensive end to outside linebacker. Rocker loved the way DeLoach worked, and he should provide much-needed speed at the position.
But Ray Drew is not going to be left off by the coaches. After having his best year in 2013, Drew should be a major player in the defensive line rotation. Drew made seven starts and tallied six sacks, which was the second-best mark on the team.
Because of his experience and experience alone, Damian Swann will win one of the cornerback spots.
As for the other cornerback position, walk-on Aaron Davis won the spot this past spring, and he should be able to hold on to it.
Swann had some bad moments last season but is still a very solid cornerback, and Pruitt should be able to get him to play like he did as a freshman.
Pruitt’s philosophies have worked for Davis, who came out of nowhere and impressed coaches and players. He has a chance to win SEC Freshman of the Year if he continues to grow and play like he did in the spring game, where he intercepted a pass and forced a fumble.
With Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons gone, the safety positions are in question right now. But odds are J.J. Green will win the starting strong safety spot, while Corey Moore will play free safety.
Green played running back last year because of the injuries to Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. He can play cornerback or safety, but because of the lack of depth at the safety position, Green will likely play as a strong safety and will have a chance to make an impact like he did at running back last year.
Moore made seven starts last season and recorded 50 tackles and one interception. Out of all the safeties on the roster, Moore has the most experience, and he will have to be a leader of a younger secondary.