Georgia coach Mark Richt will begin preparing his Bulldogs for the upcoming season when preseason practice begins this afternoon. The Bulldogs are coming off an inconsistent 2009 campaign that saw them score an upset over instate rival Georgia Tech but suffer a tough home loss against Kentucky.
Staff writer David Paschall looks at five questions facing the Bulldogs as they start practice this afternoon.
1. Can Aaron Murray take charge of the offense?
Murray will look around the huddle and see nothing but returning starters. The redshirt freshman quarterback must perform well to continue gaining the admiration of his teammates, and he must stay healthy.
Logan Gray has switched from quarterback to receiver, leaving freshman arrival Huston Mason from Marietta as the only backup.
"It's scary starting any season with a new quarterback who hasn't played a lot, and the fact we don't have any depth at that position is very scary," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "That's where as an offensive football team that we really have to depend on our offensive line this year."
Murray missed 21 practices last season with triceps tendinitis. He was Rivals.com's No. 3 quarterback in the 2009 signing class, trailing only Southern Cal's Matt Barkley and Texas' Garrett Gilbert.
The other freshman quarterbacks who started during head coach Mark Richt's nine seasons in Athens have been David Greene and Matthew Stafford, who turned out quite all right.
"We have to help Aaron understand that he does have a very strong core of people around him and he does not have to make a spectacular play every time the ball is snapped," Richt said. "He needs to do his job. He needs to put the ball on the money."
2. Will quality depth develop behind A.J. Green?
Green is an obvious superstar, but he heads a crop of receivers that is low on depth. Senior Kris Durham is the veteran but is having to bounce back from missing last season with a torn labrum, while Tavarres King averaged 20.9 yards a catch a year ago but is suspended for the opener.
Greatly aiding Georgia's passing game will be tight ends Orson Charles, Aaron White, Arthur Lynch and Bruce Figgins. Charles and White combined for 36 receptions and seven touchdowns last season and can shift outside if needed.
3. Which tailback will have the better camp?
Washaun Ealey and Caleb King ended last season on a tear, combining for 349 yards in the upset win at Georgia Tech. King was sidelined most of this spring, which gives Ealey the top spot entering camp.
Determining which tailback will start may be the most overblown aspect to Georgia's season in upcoming months, as each is expected to get plenty of chances to show his stuff.
"They both want to prove they are the starters and get the majority of the carries," Richt said. "They have a great camaraderie. We're really in good shape offensively when it comes to running the football."
4. How will the 3-4 defense look without Akeem Dent?
Dent will miss the next month after undergoing toe surgery last week. He was singled out more than any defender this spring by new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, so will this be a big setback as the Bulldogs continue to adjust to a 3-4 scheme?
At least they have those 15 spring practices from which to draw.
"The second time through is going to feel like a much easier transition for what we want to accomplish," Grantham said. "The more you know about a system and understand your role and the concepts, the faster you can play. It still gets down to the players playing fast.
"We want to be aggressive. We want to attack, and we want to be relentless in our pursuit to the ball."
5. Who will claim the safety spot opposite Bacarri Rambo?
Every camp has that one position that changes from hour to hour, and this could be it. Nick Williams came away with first-team status in April after battling junior college transfer Jakar Hamilton, and that's a competition that could resume as early as today.