Fall camp for the Georgia Bulldogs hasn't just been about getting players ready for their season-opening bout with the Clemson Tigers. This year—even more so than in recent history—camp has been vital in giving the Georgia coaching staff an opportunity to tweak the depth chart.
On both sides of the football, head coach Mark Richt, his coordinators and their assistants are fine-tuning the lineup. These are the changes you need to keep an eye on.
Heading into fall camp, Georgia's offensive line figured to be comprised of returning starters at center (David Andrews) and tackle (John Theus and Kolton Houston) and whichever Bulldogs put a stranglehold on the two guard positions. That assumption has already proven false.
Senior OL Watts Dantzler was working at right tackle next to Greg Pyke (right guard). pic.twitter.com/f5SHi1a3pI— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) August 4, 2014
Watts Dantzler, a senior, was projected to contend for playing time at the guard position but has emerged as the starter at right tackle—at least for now. The rise of Dantzler has pushed Kolton Houston inside to a guard spot.
Richt told Nick Suss of The Red & Black there are at least five capable linemen, but an emphasis on cross-training on the line has remained a point of emphasis.
"You’d like for a left tackle to know what a left guard does," Richt said. "In case you have injury, you can move a guy in or move a guy out. If he knows what the guy is doing next to him, it’s just easier to do that."
Adding Dantzler to the starting lineup maximizes size and experience on the offensive line and also allows Houston, who struggled at times against the outside pass rush from his tackle spot in 2013, to move into the interior.
Assuming Greg Pyke ultimately holds on to his spot at right guard, the Bulldogs offensive line could be one of the most impressive—at least in stature—in the country.
|John Theus||Left Tackle||6'6"||313||27||22|
|Kolton Houston||Left Guard||6'5"||287||13||6|
|Greg Pyke||Right Guard||6'6"||321||2||0|
|Watts Dantzler||Right Tackle||6'7"||320||22||0|
Quayvon Hicks had something of a breakout season as a fullback in 2013. He promptly turned around and spent spring practice cross-training as a tight end. With Jay Rome, Georgia's lone returning tight end with game experience, continuing to battle injuries and miss reps, Hicks' efforts will prove invaluable.
"Quayvon has become a legitimate tight end,” Richt told Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s not just a fullback trying to be a tight end. To me he’s really become a tight end who can still play fullback. That’s an advantage to him.”
Georgia's offense always relies on the tight end, and although no formal change has been made on the depth chart, it is evident that Hicks will be featured at the position. Rome, if healthy, is still likely the starter, but Hicks is no longer an emergency option.
Of course, that rise may not be entirely unexpected. Although he was rarely used in the passing game last season, Hicks did turn five receptions into 67 yards.
Hicks' emergence as a viable option at tight end makes this offense better, if for no other reason than his ability to provide yet another safety valve for new starting quarterback Hutson Mason.
Damian Swann, a two-year starter, will start at cornerback. That's actually news in and of itself under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt, who's brought open competition, wouldn't even concede that much following spring practice. Now, according to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, Swann is winning his new coach over.
"Damian’s very smart,” Pruitt told Weiszer. “Football comes easy to him. He’s got a very high IQ for football. He’s very instinctive. He’s got good ball skills. He’s got good initial quickness, can change direction.
And for what it's worth, Pruitt's impressing Swann as well. "Who wouldn't want to play for Pruitt?" Swann asked, per Weiszer. "He's done it before."
That assurance that Pruitt has done big things before should keep Georgia fans from panicking even as the Dawgs struggle to secure starting spots.
Outside of Swann, the rest of the secondary is unknown, but a few names are starting to stand out.
Juco CB transfer Shattle Fenteng is a big guy that can run. Should be interesting to see what he can do. pic.twitter.com/QJL0quZDIt— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) August 2, 2014
Shattle Fenteng, a JUCO transfer, looks like an early contender to start opposite of Swann, while J.J. Green, a former running back, appears to be the early leader for the star/nickel position.
At the safety spots, Quincy Mauger and Corey Moore are the most experienced Dawgs, but walk-on Aaron Davis and true freshman Dominick Sanders are coming on strong.
This may be the last position group to settle on a firm rotation, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it's also the group most in need of improvement.