College Blitz: Bulldogs Three Keys to the Season

College Blitz: Bulldogs Three Keys to the Season

August 25th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

1. Developing a secondary

It's not uncommon to lose three prominent members of the secondary through graduation, but it is rather unique to have two former defensive backs transfer to Louisville [Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons] and one to Auburn [Tray Matthews]. Senior cornerback Damian Swann and senior safety Corey Moore give new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt a decent base from which to work, and there are young hopefuls such as walk-on Aaron Davis and former tailback J.J. Green. Communication issues repeatedly doomed Todd Grantham's fourth and final secondary, but Mark Richt has complete confidence that Pruitt will make the best calls possible to assist a developing last line of defense.

2. Winning in Columbia x 2

Georgia's path to a sixth SEC East title will likely have to run through Columbia - both in South Carolina and Missouri. The Bulldogs have lost in their last two trips to South Carolina, including a 35-7 throttling at the hands of the Gamecocks two years ago. The Sept. 13 trip to Williams-Brice Stadium will be the first hostile environment quarterback Hutson Mason will have encountered since taking over last November for Aaron Murray, who had his worst career game there two years ago. Georgia was successful in its first trip to Missouri two years ago due to the fourth-quarter heroics of outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, but the Tigers strolled into Athens last year and prevailed 41-26.

3. Improving the return game

The Bulldogs ended last season with Marshall Morgan as arguably the nation's hottest kicker, but their return game was abysmal in 2013. Georgia finished last in the SEC in both return categories, averaging 18.6 yards on kickoff returns and 2.9 yards on punt returns, with their kickoff-return average enhanced by J.J. Green's 48-yard run in the Gator Bowl. The punt-return average was especially woeful compared to Alabama (13.4) and Auburn (13.1), but Mark Richt believes freshman receiver Isaiah McKenzie could be the answer. "Isaiah is a very dynamic return man," Richt said. "He has the ability to make people miss one, two or three times on the same play. He's got some swag."