Georgia Football: Previewing 3 Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp

Andrew HallCorrespondent IIIJuly 24, 2014

Cornerback Damian Swann will have to fight to keep his starting spot.
Cornerback Damian Swann will have to fight to keep his starting spot.Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

There are certainly questions surrounding the 2014 Georgia Bulldogs, but very few have to do with the depth chart. 

On the offensive side of the ball, coordinator Mike Bobo will rely on a fifth-year quarterback (Hutson Mason) and a host of returning talent in the backfield and lined up as receivers.  Defensively, the Dawgs front seven acquitted itself fairly well in 2013, and most of the key components from that unit (and its backups) will be back under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

There are still, however, a few unsettled rotations.  Here's a closer look at the Dawgs' three biggest position battles heading into fall camp.



There's a few things Georgia fans already know about Jeremy Pruitt.  He's been a part of each of the last three national championship teams.  He wants to simplify the defense and educate players fundamentally, according to Jon Cooper of Saturday Down South.  And he wants competition. 

In his opening press conference, Pruitt had the following to say, per

There's one thing about football coaches. Everybody may not agree with who we always play and all of that, but I think we always try to play the best players. We'll do that, and we'll give everybody an opportunity. I think competition is great. I think it's great, so we'll try to figure that out. The thing about it is that the guys who are the best in the spring aren't always the best in the fall, so it's who can do it over time. We've never arrived.

With that in mind, it's no surprise that the cornerback positions are very much open—especially given recent personnel departures. 

Shaq Wiggins, who started several games last season as a true freshman, has transferred to Louisville.  Brenden Langley, who was also a true freshman in 2013 and started the team's first four games, has moved to receiver.

Senior Damian Swann, a starter of 27 consecutive games, is back and is likely to hold down one starting position, but that leaves room for someone else to step up. 

Sheldon Dawson and Devin Bowman (both juniors) are the most experienced returning cornerbacks with 47 combined game appearances, but both were beat out by true freshmen last season.  Aaron Davis started the spring game as a walk-on redshirt freshman in April, and former running back J.J. Green is also in the mix.

CB Sheldon Dawson
CB Sheldon DawsonMark Humphrey/Associated Press

Ultimately, Green seems like the most likely candidate to lock down the other full-time spot, given his truly elite athleticism.  If that comes to fruition, then look for Dawson, Bowman, Davis and JUCO transfer Shattle Fenteng to compete for the nickel spot on passing downs.  Obviously, the hope is that all of these players develop into capable assets in the secondary.



The safety position is equally convoluted.  Corey Moore, a senior who's the most experienced returning player in the position group, seems to have the inside track to a starting spot now that Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews have both been dismissed.  But that's far from a guarantee.

Also in the mix is Quincy Mauger (a starter of seven games a freshman in 2013) and two defensive backs coming off of injury-induced redshirt seasons, Reggie Wilkerson and Tramel Terry. 

Incoming freshman Dominick Sanders is also in position to compete for meaningful playing time, according to several Georgia veterans.  Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald reported last week that both Todd Gurley and Ramik Wilson mentioned Sanders as a top newcomer.

"He covers ground quick," Wilson told Weiszer.  "He goes up and makes turnovers and that's what we need.  He's going to push for somebody's spot."

Green was once a running back. Now he may be a cornerback or a safety.
Green was once a running back. Now he may be a cornerback or a safety.Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

To further confound things, J.J. Green (a projected starter at the nickel cornerback position) was listed as the starter at strong safety on Georgia's depth chart in the 2014 media guide, according to Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This is Corey Moore's year, and he'll likely get the lion's share of reps at one of the safety positions thanks to his experience.  That being said, look for all of his younger counterparts to also contribute this season.  This unit is actually much more talented than it gets credit for.


Offensive Line

There aren't a lot of question marks on Mike Bobo's depth chart, but the offensive line unit may still be under construction.

John Theus, a junior, will occupy the left tackle position, where he's been an off-and-on starter since his freshman campaign.  David Andrews will hold down the center position, where he's started every game over the past two seasons.  Kolton Houston, who made his debut last season after a long battle with the NCAA over a banned substance, will be back at right tackle.

The guard positions, however, remain up for grabs.  Coming out of spring practice, Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow had the inside track for the starting spots, but with so much surrounding depth and experience, that could change. 

Can Watts Dantzler win a starting spot at guard?
Can Watts Dantzler win a starting spot at guard?Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Watts Dantzler, a senior, has appeared in 22 games and could challenge for either guard spot or back up either tackle position.  Look for him to make a push in his final collegiate season.  Mark Beard, who started two games back in 2012, could also compete for significant playing time.

Ultimately, the primary starting unit will likely feature Pyke and Kublanow, but if for some reason the starting five has an issue developing cohesion and chemistry, don't be surprised to see Beard or Dantzler sneak in.