Five Georgia Bulldogs Whose Impact Will Determine 2009 Success
Georgia football is finally about "Georgia." In years past, the team has been blessed with tons of tremendous talent—from David Greene to David Pollack. D.J. Shockley to Matthew Stafford. Herschel Walker to Knowshon Moreno. Terrence Edwards to Reggie Brown.
Georgia has never been without the big name at the big position—until now.
As the new season approaches, the emphasis is on team—even the media guide is devoid of a face, instead favoring the "G" on the signature red helmet with UGA hovering stoutly above the nameless players.
However, for all the non-hype, there is still little doubt that there are a few guys who will need to maintain or regain their big play status if the Dawgs are going to have success this year.
Most feel the time for this team is not now, but next year in 2010. However, the vibe in Athens, Georgia says there is no time like the present to shock the college football world.
So, who are the guys that need to be on point in 2009? Look to the list below for the answers.
Jeff Owens, Defensive Tackle
Owens is the leader of the Georgia defensive line. Period.
Say what you will about the presence of Geno Atkins, Jeff Owens is the glue that holds this line together, and his presence, both vocally and physically, was missed last season as the Bulldogs gave up 24 points per game on average.
The play of Atkins, although solid, was affected by Owens' absence, as opposing offenses double-teamed him at the line of scrimmage and rendered him largely ineffective. The lack of a pass rush from our ends didn't help assuage matters much either.
If Owens can return to form this season, opposing offenses will have to account for both him and Atkins—a task that will not come easy considering the amount of athleticism and talent both possess.
Further, the return of Owens is key to the success of the linebackers, particularly Rennie Curran, who stands to reap the benefits of gaps left open by opposing tackles who are working to handle both Owens and Atkins.
Trinton Sturdivant, Left Tackle
Sturdivant anchored the line that went to and won the Sugar Bowl in 2007; he was also the man on the line when the Dawgs last faced Oklahoma State in that same season.
He was the first true freshman to start at left tackle in 18 years, and once there, he did not disappoint.
This season will see him return from a torn ACL, and his presence will be of great importance to Joe Cox, Logan Gray, and Caleb King.
At 6'5", 306 pounds, Trinton is a beast to get through, but his footwork and athleticism make him a challenge for even the most gifted defensive tackle.
He will be the leader of a line that has more experience and more talent than the Dawgs have seen in years. If they all can remain healthy, they could dominate nearly every opponent they face this season.
Aron White, Tight End
Mohamed Massaquoi is gone.
Michael Moore was great against Michigan State, but does he have the skills to maintain that level of play the whole season through?
Georgia needs another weapon to complement A.J. Green, and it's likely a true freshman could step up and be that guy (Orson Charles, Marlon Brown, or Branden Smith are all possibilities).
However, in the meantime, Georgia will need another legitimate option—look no further than Aron White.
The tight ends have been mediocre since the exits of Leonard Pope and Ben Watson, but this promises to be the season that the Dawgs bring the tight end back to life, and White could be the guy to make the position glamorous again.
He's a bit undersized at 6'4", 227 pounds, but he has great speed and excellent hands; he showcased both in the Capitol One Bowl last season, where he caught a 21-yard pass for a score.
His play in the G-Day game was further proof of his possibilities on the field this year (he caught three passes for 50 yards), and he's been doing a lot of talking in the offseason, stating that he is ready to make the tight end big at Georgia once again.
If he can supply that extra target for Joe Cox and become a legitimate concern for opposing defenses, it will lessen the pressure on Green, and that could lead to more than a few scoring opportunities for the Dawgs and White.
Joe Cox, Quarterback
The knock on Stafford was his lack of leadership. He could put the ball where he wanted, when he wanted, but he was also very enamored of that truth—sometimes leading him to make unnecessary and careless mistakes with the ball.
Cox is not going to do that to his team.
He may not have the gunslinger mentality or the cannon arm, but he's got the intangibles that cannot be taught. Ability to lead, great poise in the pocket, a team mentality—he's got them all in spades.
If he can maintain his moxie and approach each game with the same measured intensity that his coaches have come to adore him for, then he may surprise quite a few people this season.
Truth be told, a national championship team doesn't have to sport a Heisman contender to win a championship; just ask Craig Krenzel and Tee Martin.
The cannon arm is useless if the guy can't rally his team when they are down by seven in the fourth with five minutes to go. Cox is a leader; the arm won't matter as much if he makes the plays, and there is no doubt that he can and will make the plays.
Blair Walsh, Kicker
There won't be a high-powered offense this season, and the Dawgs will likely win their games in gut-wrenching fashion—which is to say there may be quite a few close games this season.
Walsh proved that he is always good for an extra point, but he will need to get more with his field goal percentage this season (15-of-23 last year).
He has the leg, as evidenced by his 52-yard kick last year versus Georgia Southern, but there are still some questions as to whether he has the "ice in his veins" that is needed to make the big kicks when called upon.
If he can tighten up his approach and become the kind of kicker that the Dawgs can depend on when the game comes down to it (a la Jason Butler and Billy Bennett), then it will make a world of difference in how the games are called down the stretch when the deficit is small.
There are a few in the Classic City of Athens, Georgia who believe that the Dawgs have a chance to win it all this year—maybe they do, maybe they don't—but one thing is for certain, whatever the outcome: It could start with these five.
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