Georgia ends spring with no guaranteed defensive starters

Georgia ends spring with no guaranteed defensive starters

April 18th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

University of Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) is brought down by Georgia's Ramik Wilson (51) at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Georgia wrapped up spring football practice Thursday afternoon, and questions on the defensive side of the ball are as abundant as when the Bulldogs started.

Coach Mark Richt is confident in the leadership and talents of senior quarterback Hutson Mason, senior center David Andrews and junior tailback Todd Gurley. The defense has nine starters returning, but 15 spring workouts did not secure any certainties.

"I don't know if anybody has nailed down a starting position," Richt said in a post-practice news conference. "I would be shocked to get a lineup any time soon."

Senior inside linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera combined for 245 tackles last season, and Richt said even they are not immune. Wilson led the Southeastern Conference last season with 133 tackles, and Herrera ranked third with 112.

"I'm not going to say for sure anybody on defense now, because I'm not sure," Richt said.

While defensive spots remain up for grabs under first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, the offense should have a much healthier arsenal by the time preseason camp starts. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo expressed frustration with a lack of receivers this spring, but Richt said Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley should be able to work without limitations at some point in June.

Backup tailback Keith Marshall should be at full strength in June as well. Marshall, Mitchell and Scott-Wesley suffered torn ACLs last season, with Mitchell tearing his right ACL in last season's opener and returning briefly this spring before injuring his left leg.

Richt said cornerback J.J. Green and tight end Quayvon Hicks did well in their new roles this spring but need more polish, as do most on the roster.

"We've got a long way to go, but they at least know what the coaches expect of them," he said.

This will be the first summer under a new NCAA guideline in which there are eight mandatory hours each week of strength and conditioning, and that can also include film study.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.