With fall camp just a few days away for the Georgia Bulldogs, it's finally time for Dawg fans to begin talking about football. After a long offseason of coaching changes and off-the-field distractions, that's good news.
Here are the four biggest storylines for the Bulldogs as the first practice approaches.
New Defensive Regime
What do you expect from Pruitt's defense in 2014?
Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and his assistants plan to do big things with a Georgia defense that struggled mightily in 2013. Unfortunately, the challenge for Pruitt has been exacerbated by what Seth Emerson of Macon's The Telegraph called an "unintended overhaul." A few noteworthy departures from Georgia's defense:
- Josh Harvey-Clemons, Safety: Dismissed
- Shaq Wiggins, Cornerback: Transferred
- Tray Matthews, Safety: Dismissed
- Jonathan Taylor, Defensive Tackle: Dismissed
- Brendan Langley, Cornerback: Moved to Offense
Despite this unanticipated turnover, expectations are high for Pruitt in his first season if for no reason other than the fact that he is not Todd Grantham. Grantham and his scheme—which was widely viewed by fans as ineffective—left for Louisville and gave way to Pruitt, who should simplify things.
But offseason anticipation means little relative to on-field performance. Now, it's time for Pruitt to earn his keep.
Offensive Stars Coming Back
Some familiar faces will be back at full speed for Georgia's offense this fall. Running back Keith Marshall and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are all anticipated back during fall camp.
Keith looks great. I've watched him run straight ahead; he looks outstanding in that area. I don't know if he'd say he's 100 percent today, but he has no limitations whatsoever in his training. He can run routes, he can pass [skeleton], he can do anything. We think Day 1, he'll be 100 percent, ready to compete.
Georgia's offense was already expected to be one of the most explosive in the Southeastern Conference, but the return of these stars will greatly benefit quarterback Hutson Mason in his lone season as a full-time starter.
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Lorenzo Carter's Debut
Lorenzo Carter, the nation's 18th-best prospect according to the 247Sports Composite, was the crown jewel of Georgia's 2014 recruiting class. He won't get a prolonged welcome party, though. On the contrary, the Dawgs need him ready to work on Day 1.
With Davin Bellamy's arrest for driving under the influence over the weekend, per Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia is now in desperate need of a backup for Jordan Jenkins at outside linebacker. Carter will be called upon to fill that void for the first two games while Bellamy serves the standard Georgia suspension of two games for an alcohol-related offense.
At 6'5", 230 pounds, Carter has college-ready size, strength and athleticism. Over the coming weeks he'll need to master Pruitt's defensive playbook, but more importantly, he'll need to soak up everything defensive line coach Tracy Rocker can teach. Rocker, who boasts an impressive collegiate and professional coaching resume, was instrumental in Carter's recruitment. Not he'll have his chance to shape his prized pupil.
Need for a Fast Start
“I’m glad to be home, between the hedges. Our fans will be off the chain" - Mark Richt on opening game vs Clemson— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) July 17, 2014
With Clemson and South Carolina on the schedule, Georgia once again opens the season with a staggering one-two punch from the Palmetto State. Accordingly, there is very little margin for error during fall camp for the Bulldogs.
On one hand, two such challenging games present an exciting opportunity for Georgia to capitalize on diligent preparation. On the other, shortcomings and a 0-2 start could halt the Dawgs in their tracks and rudely awake the team from dreams of an SEC championship and a bid in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
On the defensive side of the ball, Pruitt must identify a firm depth chart and find answers to last year's problems—particularly in the secondary. Offensively, coordinator Mike Bobo won't be haunted by 2013's missed opportunities, but he'll need to have any new additions installed and perfected in time for the Clemson and South Carolina games.