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CFN SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UGA’s Spring
UGA OT Trinton Sturdivant
UGA OT Trinton Sturdivant
Posted Mar 9, 2011

With spring ball kicking in, we start to roll out the thoughts and the analysis from each team's off-season sessions. Check it out as CFN's SEC Bloggers give you five different perspectives on some key questions facing the Georgia football team this spring. Who's going to block, and who will they be blocking for? How young is this roster, really? And who's left to play linebacker?

CFN Note: We would like to send our thoughts and prayers to Johnathan Taylor, his family and the Georgia baseball community. We hope the surgery was successful, and that Johnathan makes a full recovery.

Barrett Sallee: On what to expect from Aaron Murray

The collective blood pressure of Bulldog Nation skyrocketed on February 21 - that was the day news surfaced that quarterback Aaron Murray had broken his foot playing soccer. Luckily for Georgia fans, the initial reports were incorrect; Murray had only sprained his ankle. But there’s a very good reason that Bulldog fans had a momentary freak out - Murray is that important to not only Georgia’s season, but Mark Richt’s future between the hedges.

Quarterback was a big question mark going into the 2010 season, and Murray answered that question emphatically, posting a better freshman season than virtually every quarterback in Georgia history, including Matt Stafford, David Greene and Eric Zeier. Not bad company, to say the least.

With A.J. Green gone to the NFL and a running game that’s sketchy (to say the least), Murray will be the straw that stirs the cocktail this season in Athens. The Bulldogs hope that true freshman Isaiah Crowell will be the solution to the running back problem that has been prevalent since Knowshon Moreno left for the Mile High city. However, it’s unlikely that Crowell will be able to step in immediately and stabilize the running game from Day 1. With games against Boise State and South Carolina right out of the gate, Murray will have to break camp at the top of his game. If he suffers from a sophomore slump in 2011, it will spell disaster in Athens. And goodbye for Richt.

Gabe Harris: On what position is undergoing the biggest overhaul

Off the field and on, no position is going to look as different in 2011 as the offensive line. After four seasons in Athens, Stacy Searels has left Georgia to take over as Texas’ offensive line coach. Many fans in Athens are welcoming the change from Searels to Will Friend, who left UAB to take over the Bulldogs’ OL. Friend is no stranger to the SEC having played at Alabama and serving as a graduate assistant at Georgia in 2003 and 2004.

On the field there look to be multiple position changes including moving from one side of the ball to another. Seniors Trinton Sturdivant and Ben Jones will stay at their respective LT and C positions heading into the spring. After that every other position is up for grabs. Senior Cordy Glenn is moving from RG to RT, while Sophomore Kenarious Gates and Senior Justin Anderson are the early favorites for the guard positions. Anderson was a guard last year but not the offensive kind - he played 2010 as a nose guard for the Bulldogs.

Georgia needs its OL to step it up, as the most important spring practice of the Mark Richt era begins.

Russ Mitchell: On who’s going to block for Crowell

For three years now we have lamented the state of the hyper-inflated Georgia offensive line. And for good reason as it has consistently underperformed. Now as Gabe points out above, there are some new players (and coaches) and positions, and “new” can be the cause of distraction as often as reward.

However, the one thing that stands out to us is a six letter word, and it isn’t Athens or Hedges - it’s senior. As in Senior OT Sturdivant and Senior center Jones. Jones is at the top of his game. Sturdivant arrived at Georgia with the highest of expectations, though injuries have hampered him. He says he’s 100%, and time will tell. But like Jones, he’s still a senior.

Glenn takes the RT job and Anderson one of the guard spots. Yes, both are switching positions - indeed, Anderson is switching sides of the ball. But for those of you scoring at home, that’s four seniors starting in the trenches for the Bulldogs’ offense come the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Classic. And we’ll take an SEC-caliber senior over a superstar underclassman nearly every time (unless his name is Lattimore).

Not that it’s going to be easy... First, there’s now a multi-year legacy of ineptitude - and trends are hard to break. Second, Boise State will likely send a front seven to Atlanta comprised of, you guessed it, seven seniors of their own - and by the way, a unit that finished 2010 ranked seventh in the nation against the run. Third, South Carolina is no slouch up front either (run defense ranked 12th in the nation last year). And then there’s the rest of the SEC.

But even with these hurdles and the musical chairs, UGA brings to 2011 a wealth of experience on the offensive line. IF, that is, they can remain healthy - which for the Bulldogs has lately been anything but a given.

Billy Gomila: On who’s left to play linebacker

Not your typical 3-4 crew. Marcus Dowtin and Christian Robinson saw a good amount of playing time last year, and super-prep sophomore Alec Ogletree will slide down from safety. Two of those guys will likely take over inside, and none fit the typical size you want. Inside ‘backers in the 3-4 usually spend a lot of time filling gaps and fighting off blockers, and that’s not something you want 220-pounders doing.

It would, however, open up things nicely on the outside for USC transfer Jarvis Jones, for whom the sky’s the limit. Not to mention heralded freshman Ray Drew to step into Justin Houston’s shoes. Drew brings a very similar build to Houston, and was one of the top prep pass-rushers in the state of Georgia last season. He has as good a shot of early impact as any freshman defender in the league.

Brian Harbach: On how young is this roster, really?

Is there a difference between youth and experience? If your answer is yes, than the Georgia roster is just inexperienced... If your answer was no, than than Georgia is both young and inexperienced.

Either way you look at it, UGA is in another transitional year under Richt, and this is without a doubt the most important season of his tenure in Athens. When examining the UGA roster/expected starters, there’s clearly a lack of experience - however, it’s not like those players are young. Starting quarterback Aaron Murray is a third year sophomore, the best receivers (Marlon Brown, Tavarres King and Orson Charles) are all upperclassmen, and the secondary touted four returning starters (three of them upperclassmen) until sophomore Alec Ogletree was moved to linebacker.

So where is the so-called youth on this team? Inexperience at some key spots is prevalent, but no worse than most other SEC teams before spring practice. The assumed youth movement is based on the “Dream Team” recruiting class that UGA landed, and readily hyped, this February. Key recruits like RB Crowell, DE/OLB Ray Drew and DB Damian Swann are expected to play immediately at impact positions. People raising questions about Georgia’s youth are looking for excuses in a team that has run out of them.

From the first scholarship through number eighty-five, this is one of the most talented teams in the country. Youth or inexperience will not be a factor if this roster meets its own expectations; otherwise it will crash and burn in 2011.

Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.

SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On MSU’s Spring, March 6, 2011

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