2011 Georgia Preview – Offense
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CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Georgia Bulldog Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense didn't get the running game going, the line struggled to do anything positive on a consistent basis, and the passing game didn't work when A.J. Green wasn't rocking. Green is gone, the top two running backs – Washaun Ealey and Caleb King – are also out of the mix, and the line is battling to find the right five guys for the starting jobs. But all is not lost for an offense that wasn't all that bad averaging 385 yards and 32 points per game. Aaron Murray is one of the SEC's top returning quarterbacks and he appears ready to make the attack his, but will he be able to keep the passing game moving without Green? Orson Charles and a loaded group of tight ends will help the cause, but Tavarres King will have to grow into a No. 1 receiver.
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Aaron Murray
Passing: Aaron Murray
209-342, 3,049 yds, 24 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Carlton Thomas
64 carries, 272 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Tavarres King
27 catches, 504 yds, 3 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Freshman RB Isaiah Crowell
Unsung star on the rise: Senior OL Cordy Glenn
Best pro prospect: Junior TE Orson Charles
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Murray, 2) Glenn, 3) Charles
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, Tight End
Weakness of the offense: Running Back, Line Consistency
State of the Unit: Aaron Murray emerged as one of Georgia's top playmakers by the end of last season, but it also helped to get receiver A.J. Green back in the mix. Now, the 6-1, 211-pound sophomore might be the best quarterback in the SEC after completing 61% of his throws for 3,049 yards and 24 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He's no longer limited in terms of his knowledge of the offense; he had it down by the end of last year. Now his biggest problem in 2011 is the loss of Green, who meant everything to the inconsistent passing game. Even without his No. 1 target, Murray should have a steadier - if not more explosive - running game to count on to help the cause, and he should be a better decision maker. He's not that big, but 2009's star recruit out of Tampa has a cannon for a right arm and decent mobility and toughness. He broke his leg in high school, but he rebounded to lead his team to a Florida state title.
The No. 2 man heading into the fall will be Hutson Mason, a 6-3, 196-pound sophomore who got some work last season, completing 9-of-17 passes for 102 yards and a score, and he has the talent to step in and take over if needed. A bomber, he was the 2009 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year and finished his career with 8,265 yards and 85 touchdown passes, including a Georgia high school record for the most passing yards and touchdown throws in a season chucking for 4,560 yards and 54 scores including 522 yards in a single game.
There's a chance Mason could redshirt if Murray turns out to be a rock, but he's needed to be the key backup unless
Christian LeMay is ready for primetime. The 6-2, 195-pound true freshman was the 2009 North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year and brings decent size, mobility, and tremendous playmaking skills. As a junior he was invited to the prestigious Elite 11 camp, and while he'll almost certainly be on the sidelines for a few years, he's too talented to keep out of the backup chase.
Watch Out For … LeMay. He skipped his senior year of high school and finished his final season of studies on his own, and he spent the football season working out with private trainers. Suspended, he chose the alternative route, and now he comes to Georgia ready to try to hit the ground running.
Strength: Murray. He needed a year under his belt before expectations got too high, but now the sky is the limit for the sophomore. He ended up winning a quarterback derby by default last offseason, but the training wheels are off.
Weakness: The backup situation. All bets are off on the Georgia season if Murray goes down. This is his offense and his team right now, and he needs to play like it. LeMay and Mason have to show the offense won't skip a beat if disaster strikes.
Outlook: Murray should be a first team All-SEC performer, partly because he's that good and partly because there aren't any other obvious choices going into the year. LeMay is a big-time talent who'll soon be the franchise, and Mason is good enough to start if needed.
Unit Rating: 8.5
State of the Unit: The suspension of Caleb King for academic issues and the transfer of Washaun Ealey put a crimp in the plans to change around a mediocre Georgia ground game. The Dawgs averaged a disappointing 143 yards per game on the ground and finished tenth in the SEC, and now there's lots of work to do to find the right mix to change things around.
Fortunately, there's a tremendous upgrade in talent coming in, led by Isaiah Crowell, a 6-0, 210-pound true freshman who might be the most prepared running back coming to Georgia since Herschel Walker's heyday in the early 1980s. Garrison Hearst, Musa Smith, Thomas Brown, Knowshon Moreno and Robert Edwards were impressive, but none of them exploded one season after high school. Still, Crowell plays a lot like Edwards, who had tremendous burst and could take it to the house on any run. Crowell might not start the first game of the season, but he'll get heavy snaps and could be the starter by the time the season is over.
Can Carlton Thomas step up and shine in the gift of an opportunity he was presented? The 5-7, 163-pound junior moved into the No. 1 spot on the depth chart by default, and he appears ready and pumped to try to be the main man. Third on the team last season with 272 yards and two scores, he only averaged 4.2 yards per carry and wasn't used as much as he should've as a third down back, catching just three passes for 15 yards, but he has the quickness to handle the ball in a variety of ways. He's not necessarily going to be a workhorse, but he has enough toughness for his size to be used inside or out ... once he's back in the mix. He was suspended for the opener for violating team rules.
With the loss of Ealey and King, the Dawgs needed more help and more bodies in the backfield. In comes
Richard Samuel, who started off his career at running back, moved to linebacker, and now is back as a rushing option after redshirting. The 6-2, 234-pound power back ran for 395 yards and two touchdowns in 2009, and now he appears ready and eager for the challenge to go back to being a tough power runner.
At 6-4, and 272 pounds, Bruce Figgins is built like a tight end, which he was last year making four catches for 27 yards with two touchdowns, and now he'll work a big, tall fullback. He'll never carry the ball, and he showed he could handle the work in the backfield after getting time at fullback in the bowl game, but he'll mostly be a tough receiver and an inside blocker. He'll work in tandem with
Alexander Ogletree, a 5-10, 224-pound sophomore who saw time in almost every game last season and got a little bit of work as a big ball carrier. Mostly a special teamer, he made five tackles and should be one of the team's biggest coverage team stars.
Watch Out For … Crowell. It's all there to be special right away. It's asking way, way too much for him to do this year what Marcus Lattimore did for South Carolina last season, but he could quickly turn out to be the team's best option.
Strength: Different options. Considering the losses, the move of Samuel to the backfield gives Georgia a thumper to go along with the quickness of Thomas and the all-around ability of Crowell. It's Georgia. There are always talented backs to play around with.
Weakness: King and Ealey. It's not like the Georgia running game was anything special before, but it's still not a plus to lose the team's top two backs. Ealey ran for 811 yards and 11 scores, and King averaged 5.4 yards per carry with 430 yards and two touchdowns. There's talent in the rotation, but the Dawgs still have work to do.
Outlook: Everything can be fine if Crowell is as good as expected and if Thomas and Samuel can provide a steady thunder-and-lightning tandem. It would be nice for one to emerge from the pack to become a start, but Georgia's offense will take the production no matter how it comes.
Unit Rating: 7.5
State of the Unit: Losing A.J. Green and his 57 catches, 848 yards, and nine touchdowns to the Cincinnati Bengals is disastrous. He changed the team around after missing all of last September, and now the offense has to somehow fill a gaping hole using a variety of players to do it. While he'll obviously be missed, it'll also sting to lose No. 2 receiver, Kris Durham, who caught 32 passes for 659 yards and three scores, averaging 20.6 yards per catch.
Tavarres King, who was in the same signing class as Green, will have to pick up the slack after finishing third on the team with 27 catches for 504 yards and three scores. While he didn't make a ton of grabs, he came up with 18.7 yards per catch highlighted by a huge day against Florida, but now he has to show he can be a steady target at flanker. The 6-1, 192-pound junior set the Georgia state high school record with 1,632 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns on 99 grabs in 2007, and he has the speed and skill to be terrific. He'll be backed up by junior
Rantavious Wooten, a 5-10, 185-pound reserve who caught seven passes for 41 yards and a score. He's not all that big, but he's a smart route runner with tremendous quickness and the potential to hit the home run every time he touches the ball. He is Georgia's best returning slot receiver and needs to jump-start his career.
Also needing to shine in a bigger role at split end is Marlon Brown, a 6-5, 222-pound junior who has tremendous size and the potential to be a major factor after catching 11 passes for 133 yards and a score. He went from being a non-factor to a big, smart, dangerous option who should be a matchup problem. Also in the rotation is 6-3, 208-pound redshirt freshman
Michael Bennett, who has been whispered about as one of the team's high risers, and now, after a good spring, he should be the team's No. 3 receiving option
6-1. 190-pound incoming freshman Malcolm Mitchell could be a surprise newcomer who finds his way into the three-man rotation by the time the season is over. He has high-level SEC speed and talent, and the expectations are sky high, while fellow freshman, 6-3, 202-pound
Chris Conley is also expected to make an appearance in the mix this fall.
Junior Orson Charles will be among the SEC's best tight end, and he might grow into Georgia's best overall NFL prospect with 6-3, 241-pound size and excellent hands, catching 26 passes for 422 yards and two scores. He and QB Aaron Murray were high school teammates and are always on the same page. While Charles, a one-time superstar recruit, is just growing into the job as a key receiver, he has all the tools to be a special target with excellent deep speed and the talent to help fill the void left by the loss of A.J. Green. He'll work in a rotation with senior
Aron White, a 6-4, 239-pound veteran with 16 career starts and decent receiving skills catching nine passes for 125 yards. He's just physical enough to be a plus for the ground game.
Watch Out For … King. No one's thinking he'll be Green, but he looked the part of a go-to, No. 1 receiver this offseason and he has the skill and talent to be good enough to become a major factor in his new role. He has to shine early on to throw a scare into opposing defenses.
Strength: Tight end. Charles is a good NFL prospect with the talent and ability to do a little of everything for the Georgia attack. White is built like a huge receiver, and he can block, too. Throw in 6-5, 272-pound sophomore Arthur Lynch, and the Dawgs are loaded at tight end.
Weakness: Receiver by committee – and that's not a plus. There are good prospects and there's a nice blend of size and speed for the various spots, but there's no Green to carry the passing game. At least not yet.
Outlook: The Georgia receiving corps has to come up with several options and a few surprises, but having a quarterback like Aaron Murray will help the cause. All the Dawg targets have to do is find ways to get open and Murray will get them the ball. The tight ends are great, King should be a good No. 1, and there will be live without A.J. It just won't be as good.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: The line should've been great last season, and wasn't. Injuries were a problem, inconsistency was a big issue, and the production simply wasn't there as the Dawg running game didn't work when it had to, and there were way too many hits on QB Aaron Murray. Press the reset button and try this again. Only two starters return, but there's good talent and good potential. However, losing Trinton Sturdivant to yet another injury in the spring and Clint Boling to the NFL did nothing to help what's easily the team's biggest question mark. Georgia has to get tougher, more physical, and meaner up front. New offensive line coach Will Friend will have lots of work to do.
Senior Cordy Glenn will start at left tackle in what should be a salary drive. At 6-5 and 348 pounds he has tremendous size, bulking up a bit this offseason, after starting every game at left guard. He saw time at tackle a few years ago and was solid, and while his NFL future is probably on the inside or at right tackle, and he could end up starting the season on the right side. With tremendous strength to go along with his size, he's going to be a bulldozer to run behind on key plays, but he's not at his best when he has to get on the move. If he moves back to guard, then 6-5, 254-pound redshirt freshman
Hugh Williams will get the call. While he's smart and can move, he's undersized for the position and still has to grow into his frame.
Also back at a starting spot is center Ben Jones, a 6-3, 316-pound junior who's been steady throughout his career. He started 12 games and has been good, and now he has to be great. He earned Second Team All-SEC honors two years ago, and while he didn't exactly regress last year, he wasn't the blocker the line needed him to be. When he's right, he's built for the middle of the line with toughness, smarts, and All-America potential. Serving as the understudy and looking to take over next year is
Ben Reynolds, an undersized 6-2, 255-pound sophomore who saw a little time last year. Smart and feisty, he's a decent practice blocker, but he has to be a steady quarterback for the line if thrown into the fire.
6-2, 313-pound sophomore Chris Burnette would likely move over to center if something happened to Jones, but he'll start out the season at right guard. Very smart and very talented, he's built for the inside with the ability to get good leverage and the toughness to provide a pop for the ground game. A top recruit, he's ready to make the job his, while the backup job is up in the air after star recruit
Brent Benedict left the team after having major problems with a torn ACL.
There will be an ongoing battle for the right tackle job between A.J. Harmon
and Justin Anderson, who both failed to show much this spring with neither one taking over the job. Anderson started five times on the offensive line two years ago, moved over to the defensive side, and then moved back this spring. More of a right guard than a tackle, he'll push for time on the inside while getting a long look at tackle to use his 6-5, 342-pound size to try to make something happen for the ground game. The 6-5, 320-pound Harmon also used to work on the defensive side, while the 6-5, 304-pound
Austin Long, a sophomore, will be in the hunt after working on the scout team. A star recruit in 2009, he's smart, athletic, and promising.
6-5, 328-pound sophomore Kenarious Gates ended up starting three times last year getting the call at right guard, but he'll start on the left side this season. Bigger, he's built like a large tackle but will get the full-time look at guard. The goal was to let him redshirt last year, but he blew that halfway through the season. 6-5, 291-pound redshirt freshman
Kolton Houston is a tackle working at guard. A key scout teamer last year, he'll get a long look at both spots on the left side.
Watch Out For … The other tackle spot. Glenn will start at one tackle. And the starter at the other tackle job will be … ? Glenn will most likely get the call on the left side, but the job is there for the taking, and in a perfect world, he'll work on the right side.
Strength: The new strength program. Enough finally became enough. Georgia was always full of tremendous talents that couldn't push anyone around. Mark Richt changed up the strength program, and the early results are positive.
Weakness: Depth. The Georgia line went from very deep and experienced, to young with a lot of potential. The right tackle job is up in the air, but that's only part of the problem considering the depth issue across the front five.
Outlook: This looked like a possible positive going into the offseason, then injuries kicked in, no one took over the right tackle job, and now it's a big question mark whether or not the line can improve. The overall talent is there when the best five guys are on the field, but who are those five players? This will be a work in progress.
Unit Rating: 7
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