Star quarterback, running back, and cornerback all defecting for the NFL? Questions abound concerning your young offensive line? Coordinators' choices second-guessed after tough losses?
If you're perennial SEC powerhouse Georgia, these things don't concern you, hope is already here. They play well each year, so they recruit well each year, so they play well again the next year. Success is self-perpetuating in college sports.
As such, the roster is still stacked, despite certain departures, and it only got better on signing day. Without further ado, I'll cough up the names of those Dawgs who'll step into the spotlight this year:
C Ben Jones
Considering he was forced into a starting role as a frosh last season because of injuries to other offensive linemen, we've already seen a decent amount of this rock. So we know he's difficult to move and technically sound.
What we may not yet know is how great of a leader this kid can be. The experience he gained last season snapping the ball to a seasoned Matt Stafford is invaluable, and with the O-line still devoid of seniors, he can be just as much the brains of the operation as anyone.
He's the anchor in the middle. Look for him to solidify the line even more in '09 and hopefully help the big fellas tone down the penalties.
FB Fred Munzenmaier
This redshirt sophomore has a whole two rushing attempts to his name, but now that the steam engine that was Brannan Southerland has graduated, he'll see plenty of burn as he spells Shaun Chapas.
He's not quite as big as Southerland, but Munzenmaier still measures an impressive 6'2", 232 lbs. And the really good news is that his hands might be even better than his predecessors. Having played some quarterback in high school, he definitely has a feel for the pigskin.
Southerland was used in short-yardage situations and was adept at picking up three or four on the ground and at snatching a lob over the top for a score. Munzenmaier can do both of these things as well, and will quickly learn to block as he practices against his defensive teammates. The Dawgs won't skip a beat at the fullback spot.
WR Marlon Brown
In case you haven't read my piece on this freshly inked Dawg, I'll sum it up for you right here: I love him. A better complement for freak wideout A.J. Green, Brown will compose half of the most dreaded receiving duo in the SEC.
I made the Julio Jones comparison before, so I won't simply regurgitate here, but it does make a lot of sense. Marlon comes down with balls he absolutely should not come down with, and he makes the impossible possible with scary athleticism and ridiculously strong hands.
Kris Durham and Mike Moore are both ahead of him on the depth chart, and probably should be, but don't be surprised at all if Marlon is involved in nearly every three-wide set from the start of the season.
OT Austin Long
One barely need look past his vitals of 6'6", 270 lbs. Just those little numbers next to his name on the roster are imposing.
Long is known as an ultra-aggressive lineman, a vicious mauler who breaks through to the second level with little hesitation and, several times in his high school career, left gigantic defensive linemen on their backs in his wake.
Whether or not his style fits with a penalty-prone O-line, Long provides a massive (yet skilled) body to a position that suffered severe attrition last season. And as I already told you, he's got dudes to learn from (see Jones above) in his area.
QB Joe Cox
You didn't think I'd leave the most important position out the discussion, now did you?
So many are worried about drop off at the quarterback position, but if there's one thing for sure with Cox, it's that he's going to keep things steady. He has proven, even in his limited playing time, that he handles pressure remarkably well (perhaps better than Stafford) and rises to the occasion. Anyone recall the Colorado game of 2006?
No, Joe does not have the pure quarterback skills that Matt does. He will not be a first-round pick in the NFL in a year. He isn't an elusive, double threat like Logan Gray. And he does not have the upside of signee Aaron Murray.
But he does have a cool head, a strong arm, and the sort of demeanor one wants in their quarterback. With Joe, it's going to be less of a roller coaster (with all the highs and lows of Stafford's play) and more of a solid, smooth ride in a Cadillac.
There's a reason Georgia is such a heavily followed team. It's the same reason the Bulldogs garner such attention and anticipation every offseason. The studs just keep comin'.