Georgia Football: 4 Bulldogs Who Are Poised for a Breakout Season in 2014
In some regards, an awful lot is known about the 2014 Georgia Bulldogs.
Hutson Mason, who started the final two games of last season at quarterback, is coming back to throw to a handful of familiar receivers. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will lead a host of talented running backs behind an offensive line that returns three starters.
Much is needed on the defensive side of the ball, but the majority of last year's key personnel will return in 2014.
Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera will anchor the middle of the field, while talented pass-rushers Ray Drew, Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd will chase quarterbacks.
Even the defensive backfield, which has been plagued by premature departures, returns Damian Swann, Corey Moore and Quincy Mauger—three players who started at least seven games last season.
Ultimately, however, the fate of this team will be decided by less-heralded players who rise to the occasion and establish themselves as household names among Bulldog fans.
Just in time for the holiday weekend, here are four Georgia players poised for breakout seasons in 2014.
Reggie Carter: Inside Linebacker
Last season, Ramik Wilson led the SEC in tackles. However, in the middle of August, he was still being pushed by Reggie Carter, a true freshman at the time, for a starting spot.
Seth Emerson of Macon's Telegraph offered the following assessment of the inside linebacker positions:
One inside linebacker spot seems secure with Herrera. But the other one is currently occupied by Wilson, who has played sparingly his first two years and is getting pushed in the preseason by freshman Reggie Carter.
Carter didn't win the starting job in 2013, but he did appear in eight games (including one start) for the Bulldogs.
This season, expect his role to be expanded.
A few nagging injuries limited him last year, but if he's fully healthy this fall, expect him to be shuffled on and off the field with regular frequency.
After all, the speedy, swarming defense that new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt favors will require depth and capable substitutes.
Reggie Wilkerson: Defensive Back
Reggie Wilkerson enrolled early at Georgia as a member of the class of 2013 and went to work immediately.
In the G-Day game last April, he registered three tackles, including a sack of Aaron Murray.
Unfortunately, his impressive offseason was derailed by a torn ACL that required surgery last June.
As a result, he redshirted in 2013.
Wilkerson was initially slated to play safety for the Bulldogs. However, with the arrival of Pruitt and the departure of players like Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaq Wiggins and Tray Matthews, that assignment could be up in the air.
At 5'11" and 171 pounds, Wilkerson is on the small side for a safety. Don't be too surprised to see him play cornerback or even the star position at some point during his career.
Wilkerson will likely struggle with the learning curve as he gets back into meaningful football at the SEC level in 2014.
However, by the end of the season, he may be a focal point of an improving secondary.
Marshall Morgan: Kicker
Marshall Morgan has appeared in 24 games over his two-year career with the Georgia Bulldogs, but he's flown largely under the radar.
So much of the rhetoric surrounding Georgia's special teams was negative in 2013 that it completely ignored Morgan, who quietly developed into one of the nation's best kickers.
After struggling as a freshman in 2012, Morgan connected on 22 of 24 field-goal attempts last year. He even booted a 56-yard kick through the uprights in a close game against Tennessee.
Another campaign like that will put Morgan in the national spotlight, especially if Georgia is a contender in the SEC.
Jay Rome: Tight End
When Jay Rome arrived in Athens in 2011 as the nation's fifth-best tight end recruit, per the 247Sports Composite, big things were expected.
Unfortunately, the past three years have not gone exactly to plan for Rome. Injuries and the emergence of Arthur Lynch as an All-SEC performer limited the athletic tight end to just 20 catches for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
However, the odds are in Rome's favor this year—if he can stay healthy.
After all, Georgia does not return a single tight end with in-game experience other than Rome. What's more, it should be noted that Rome possesses every skill necessary to be successful in this league.
Expect a 500-yard campaign from the redshirt junior this year.