The Georgia Bulldogs begin spring football practice today with a new No. 1 quarterback, a new No. 1 tailback and with no pressure of being the preseason No. 1 team for a second straight year.
Nearly 20 scholarship players will sit out the 15 workouts due to injuries, which will limit the amount of contact work, but Georgia coaches believe much can be accomplished between now and the G-Day game April 11. Here are five places to start.
Georgia quarterback Joe Cox
1. Can Joe run the show?
Matthew Stafford’s early departure to the NFL has opened the door for Georgia fifth-year senior quarterback Joe Cox, whose loyalty is admired and whose ability will be scrutinized these next few weeks and months.
“I knew the situation coming into Georgia and how they were going to bring in the top guys every year,” Cox said. “It just so happened that the year after I came the top guy of all time came, and I had to wait a little bit longer. It was frustrating at times, but I never once really hung my head.”
There isn’t anything in the playbook Cox doesn’t know by now, but he admits taking most of the snaps will be an adjustment.
Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Cox and Stafford are similar in intelligence and came from programs that threw the ball. Bobo does not expect Cox to match Stafford’s arm strength.
“I’m hoping off production in practice that Joe might be more accurate and complete more passes,” he said. “We may not have the bigger plays downfield with the big arm on the skinny post, but I think he’s capable of doing that.”
2. What about those freshman quarterbacks?
Georgia fans also will have eyes on Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, two of Rivals.com’s top dozen quarterbacks nationally who enrolled in January.
“Personally, I’d like to redshirt both of them, but who knows?” Bobo said. “I say that, but a lot of that depends on how (backup quarterback) Logan Gray progresses and if we feel we have enough depth. We don’t want to burn a guy’s redshirt just because they’re in the same class and want separation for our advantage.
“We’re going to do what’s best for both kids, and if one of them is ready to play and we feel like he’s going to help us as a backup or possibly play some, we’ll play him.”
3. Will King hold court?
The projected tailback battle between Caleb King and fellow sophomore Richard Samuel won’t materialize due to a wrist injury Samuel suffered in the Capital One Bowl that will sideline him all spring. King could distance himself some, as his chief competition will be 5-foot-7 redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas.
“I don’t think there is any question we are going to have high production from our tailback position,” head coach Mark Richt said. “It’s just going to be interesting to see who comes to the forefront in that role.”
4. What can the line accomplish?
Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Tanner Strickland and Justin Anderson are the prominent offensive linemen who are healthy, while Trinton Sturdivant, Josh Davis, Chris Davis and Vince Vance are sitting out. Those absences could create opportunities for redshirt freshmen A.J. Harmon and Jonathan Owens and early enrollee Dallas Lee.
Bobo said Boling will work at left tackle this spring but that Sturdivant will return to that spot this summer.
“If our two best guys are at left tackle, we’re not going to leave one as the backup,” he said. “If he’s one of the best five, then we’ll get him on the field.”
5. Can the defense generate momentum?
Akeem Dent has moved to inside linebacker, Darryl Gamble has moved to strongside linebacker and ends Justin Houston and Demarcus Dobbs are eager to make that position more productive this fall. The biggest hope for Bulldogs defenders this spring, however, is to get some pride back after yielding 30 or more points a record five times last year.
“We need to get our passion back for the game,” said injured defensive tackle Jeff Owens. “It’s not hard to get back. It’s fun to be out there playing. When I get back on the field, I’m going to let loose.”
Video: SEC Spring football practice preview with Jay Greeson and Darren EppsTimes Free Press sports columnist Darren Epps and sports editor Jay Greeson look at the upcoming SEC Spring football practice.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...