Georgia averaged a school record 37.8 points a game last football season, and the Bulldogs have 10 offensive starters returning.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Aaron Murray is poised to rewrite the SEC’s career passing record book. Talibacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are ready to prove last year’s freshman success was no fluke. And a receiving collection headed by Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley along with tight ends Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome is eager to contribute as well.
Logic would dictate Georgia is on the verge of an incredibly explosive season, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo isn’t relying on that kind of thinking as the Bulldogs open preseason practice today.
“The main thing I’m looking for is attention to detail on our side of the ball,” Bobo said last week. “We do have experience and we do have returning players who have made big plays in games, but we’re going to take nothing for granted. Every detail will be of utmost importance.”
Georgia went 12-2 last season and came the closest to playing for a national championship since the top-ranked Bulldogs lost the Sugar Bowl to No. 2 Penn State after the 1982 regular season. A mere 5 yards kept the Bulldogs from rallying from a 32-28 deficit against Alabama in December’s SEC championship, and the Crimson Tide would go on to roll Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS title game.
A day before the Alabama-Notre Dame matchup, Murray announced on Twitter that he would return to Georgia.
“We’ve all grown so much the last two seasons, and we’ve put Georgia back on the map,” Murray said. “It’s been great to be a part of that, and hopefully we can continue to get better.”
Here are five questions facing the Bulldogs as they begin August camp:
<em>1 </em><strong>How will the offensive line shake out?</strong>
The Bulldogs have all five starters back, but only center David Andrews seems set. Kenarious Gates, John Theus and Xzavier Ward will vie for the two tackle spots, while the recent eligibility addition of Kolton Houston, who has practiced at tackle, could result in a three-way battle at guard that includes returning starters Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee.
<em>2</em><strong> Will the kickers improve?</strong>
Punter Collin Barber and kicker Marshall Morgan return after freshman seasons that contained ups and downs. Barber was 10th in the SEC in net punting but improved as the year went on, while Morgan made 8 of 14 field-goal tries and missed four extra points.
<em>3 </em><strong> Can depth develop on the defensive front?</strong>
The Bulldogs had talent last season, but the lack of depth showed when Alabama rushed for 350 yards, including 198 in the second half. Garrison Smith, Sterling Bailey and Ray Drew are the top ends, with Mike Thornton leading Chris Mayes and John Atkins at the nose spot.
<em>4</em><strong> Who steps up as the defensive leaders?</strong>
Smith is the lone projected defensive senior starter, but junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera has displayed leadership skills along with junior cornerback Damian Swann.
<em>5</em><strong> How will the secondary look against Clemson?</strong>
Starting strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons is suspended for the Aug. 31 opener. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham could have Corey Moore or Connor Norman join freshman Tray Matthews in the lineup, or it could result in more opportunities for the youthful cornerbacks.
<em>Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.</em>