Dried and true
The unquestioned team leader is quarterback Aaron Murray, who organized a lot of the summer workouts and is considered by Bulldogs coaches as an extension of the staff. Murray is on the verge of smashing every major SEC career passing mark, but his chief reason for returning was to lead Georgia to an SEC title. He has almost every piece back from a record-setting offense and seems very motivated by the way last season’s league championship game against Alabama ended.
Green as in go
Todd Gurley was incredibly productive and incredibly consistent as a freshman last season, rushing for 1,385 yards and eclipsing the 100-yard mark nine times. He had 16 receptions for 117 yards, and coaches have looked to get him more involved in the passing game in his second season. Also in his second go-round is outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who broke through a year ago with 31 tackles, eight tackles for loss and five sacks but will no longer have opposing offenses keying on Jarvis Jones.
1 Fifth-year senior quarterback Aaron Murray elected to return for one more season, with his chief desire being to lead the Bulldogs to their first SEC title since 2005. Murray has thrown for 10,091 yards and 95 touchdowns in his first three seasons as the starter, and he could hold the SEC career marks in both of those categories by the time Georgia collides with Florida on Nov. 2.
2 The tailback tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall erupted last season as freshmen, combing for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns. They combined for 294 yards against Tennessee but for only 76 yards in the loss at South Carolina. Gurley and Marshall each played in all 14 games last season, though durability was an issue down the stretch for Marshall, who had two carries in the SEC title game.
3 Georgia’s record-setting offense last season came behind an offensive line that vastly exceeded expectations. Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee, David Andrews, Chris Burnette and John Theus were able to start every game a year ago, with the exception of Burnette missing two games due to a shoulder injury. Xzavier Ward, Mark Beard, Kolton Houston and Watts Dantzler give the Bulldogs good depth.
Clemson provides a marquee opener this Saturday, but the game Georgia needs most is next week’s visit from South Carolina. Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks have won three straight against the Bulldogs for the first time ever, though Georgia has bounced back the past two seasons to win the SEC East. Scheduling had a role in that, but this year’s schedule is more favorable for South Carolina considering Georgia has LSU as its rotating foe from the West Division.
The Bulldogs have a lot of new defenders for their opening gauntlet after losing 11 multigame starters off last year’s unit. Defensive end Garrison Smith, linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Jordan Jenkins and cornerback Damian Swann provide returning talent, but there are so many unknowns. This year’s defense is believed to be leaner and faster, but can all that experience be replaced? Again, it won’t take long to find that out.
Perhaps the biggest challenge Jones faces in year one is changing the collective attitude of a program that is 28-34 in the past five seasons and four SEC wins the past three. Though players have embraced putting last season long behind them, the Vols had opportunities in the fourth quarters of five SEC games in 2012 and found a way to lose each time. Can Jones instill the blue-collar identity of his previous teams in the Vols in less than a year?
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 ...