2009 CFN Georgia Preview
Georgia RB Caleb King
Georgia RB Caleb King
Posted May 10, 2009

Everyone expected the world out of Georgia last season, and while it was a good year, it wasn't a special one. Even with some key offensive stars gone, this year's team could be even better and could be a sneaky-tough semi-sleeper in the national title race. Check out the 2009 CFN Georgia Preview.

Georgia Bulldogs

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

- 2009 CFN Georgia Preview | 2009 Georgia Offense
- 2009 Georgia Defense | 2009 Georgia Depth Chart
- 2008 Georgia Preview | 2007 Georgia Preview | 2006 Georgia Preview

Interested in blogging about Georgia football?  Let us know

In 1997, Tennessee was loaded with star talent, led by Peyton Manning, and was supposed to go on a national title run. It didn't happen, and while the season was successful, it was considered a slight disappointment considering the high expectations. With Manning going on to the NFL, the Vols were supposed to be in a bit of a rebuilding phase, but instead they went on to win the national title by relying more on the team than on the individual.

Before the 1998 season, Tennessee was seen as a bridesmaid program. For all the NFL talent and all the incredible success and all the greatness, the Vols just couldn't get over the hump when it came to the national title.

Head coach: Mark Richt
9th year: 82-22
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 24, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Bulldog Players
1. LB Rennie Curran, Jr.
2. SS Reshad Jones, Jr.
3. DT Geno Atkins, Sr.
4. WR A.J. Green, Soph.
5. LB Darryl Gamble, Jr.
6. OT Trinton Sturdivant, Soph.
7. OT/OG Clint Boling, Jr.
8. DT Jeff Owens, Sr.
9. RB Caleb King, Soph.
10. DE Justin Houston, Soph.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 10-2
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 at Oklahoma St
9/12 South Carolina
9/19 at Arkansas
9/26 Arizona State
10/3 LSU
10/10 at Tennessee
10/17 at Vanderbilt
10/31 Florida (Jack.)
11/7 Tennessee Tech
11/14 Auburn
11/21 Kentucky
11/28 at Georgia Tech

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 10-2
2008 Record: 10-3

8/30 Ga Southern W 45-21
9/6 Central Mich W 56-17
9/13 at So Carolina W 14-7
9/20 at Arizona St W 27-10
9/27 Alabama L 41-30
10/11 Tennessee W 26-14
10/18 Vanderbilt W 24-14
10/25 at LSU W 52-38
11/1 Florida (Jack.) L 49-10
11/8 at Kentucky W 42-38
11/15 at Auburn W 17-13
11/22 OPEN DATE 
11/29 Ga Tech L 45-42
Capital One Bowl
1/1 Michigan State W 24-12

Sound familiar?

There's no question that Georgia is one of the premier programs in college football. When you win ten games and it's considered a disappointment, you know you're fantastic. You don't win 82 games in eight years, like Mark Richt has, without doing something right. However, while Florida has the potential to make it three national titles in four years, and with LSU winning two national championships in the last six, Georgia's inability to be a true player in the national championship chase is becoming more and more glaring.

The question going into this season will be if the team can improve despite losing Matthew Stafford, a No. 1 overall draft pick quarterback (like Manning was in 1998), along with a star running back talent in Knowshon Moreno, who was taken in the first round by Denver. It's possible.

Would everyone like to have Stafford and Moreno back for their senior years? Of course. Had they returned, Georgia would be a near-certain top five team going into the season, and possibly No. 2 behind Florida. But now, the offense has to rely on a tremendous stable of backs rather than count on Moreno to carry the offense. Everyone has to step up their game a little bit with Joe Cox, a serviceable veteran who could achieve cult hero status by leading the way to an SEC title (which Stafford was never able to do), at quarterback. The rest of the team has to make plays and come up with ways to win, and there won't be the reliance on the two superstars like there was last year.

The pieces are there to pull it off with a tremendous offensive line that could turn out to be the best in America, A.J. Green at receiver, a fantastic rotation at tackle, an athletic and deep linebacking corps, and roughly five running backs who could start for just about anyone. There are problems, like the lack of a pass rushing end, no sure-thing playmaking corner, and no No. 2 receiving threat whatsoever on the other side of Green. But this is Georgia; under Richt, the perceived weaknesses tend to turn into positives in a big hurry.

And then there's the pressure factor. No one will pick Georgia to win the SEC title, and no one will pick anyone but Florida to win the East. The Dawgs always seem to do a little bit better when they fly slightly under the radar, and while it's a stretch to call them underdogs going into the year, things are far different than last season when they were the preseason No. 1 pick.

Eventually it'll be Georgia's turn. The program has been too good and the coaching is too solid to not get all the breaks in one magical run. Florida is the best team in the East, and probably the country, but don't be shocked if Georgia gets just enough production across the board to pull off a bit of a stunner.

What to watch for on offense: The line. It's the walking wounded going into the fall with so many key players recovering from a slew of issues, led by star left tackle Trinton Sturdivant coming off a bad knee injury, but if everyone is healthy, there won't be a deeper more talented line in America. There's so much talent and so much versatility that the coaching staff can play around with the lineup whenever needed and get production. It happened last year with decent results, and there's no reason the line can't be better with so many key parts returning.

What to watch for on defense: The tackle rotation. With Jeff Owens back after missing almost all of last season, and with Geno Atkins choosing to return for his senior year rather than be a millionaire as a first round pick in this year's draft, the Bulldogs are loaded on the inside. Throw in 320-pound veteran Kade Weston, who's trying to get healthy after playing banged up last year, and emerging star DeAngelo Tyson, and Georgia will be phenomenal on the defensive interior.

This team will be much better if ... an end can get to the quarterback. Justin Houston appeared to be the answer after a great spring and an three-sack spring game, but he was suspended for the first two games of the year. That's not a plus considering Oklahoma State and South Carolina kick off the season. If Roderick Battle isn't healthy and productive, and if Demarcus Dobbs and Kiante Tripp can't hit the quarterback early on, the coaching staff will have to get creative with the pass rush and will have to use the linebackers more.
The Schedule: Georgia's reputation for being one of the nation's best road teams will be put to the test right away with a statement game against an Oklahoma State that'll likely start the season in the top ten and will likely finish the season in the top five offensively. Along with the OSU game, facing Arizona State and going to Georgia Tech means the Dawgs have the toughest non-conference slate of any SEC team by far ... by far. There's a tough three-week mid-season stretch against LSU, at Tennessee and at Vanderbilt (who should be better this year), but there's a week off before the Cocktail Party against Florida. Getting Auburn and Kentucky at home, along with a layup against Tennessee Tech, will make for a relatively easy November before the regular season-ending game against the Yellow Jackets.

Best Defensive Player:
Junior LB Rennie Curran. Tackle Geno Atkins is Georgia's top pro prospect and safety Reshad Jones isn't far behind, but Curran is the team's top playmaker who tackles everything in sight and will likely lead the team again in stops. He's the SEC's leading returning tackler (115) with three sacks, and with the issues on the line, he might end up spending more time being sent into the backfield.

Key player to a successful season:
Senior QB Joe Cox. The defense will find a pass rush from somewhere, and will be decent even if it doesn't, but the offense has to get a strong year out of Cox. The rest of the receiving corps, besides Green, is too average to adjust for mediocre quarterback play, so if Cox doesn't at least keep the chains moving and doesn't make teams pay for loading up against the run, the offense will go flat.

The season will be a success if ... the Bulldogs get to the BCS. There are just enough holes to keep the Bulldogs from winning the SEC title, and it'll be asking too much to beat LSU, Tennessee at Tennessee, and Florida, but there's no reason to shoot for anything less than a 10-2 regular season with a win in the bowl game. If they beat Oklahoma State in the opener, they'll only be underdogs to Florida the rest of the way.

Key game: Sept. 5 at Oklahoma State. Of course the October 31st showdown with Florida is the game of the year, but the season-opener at Oklahoma State is the tone-setter. The Cowboys get everyone of note back on offense and should be a preseason top ten team. Win in Stillwater, and all of a sudden the confidence should be through the roof and the expectations might change a bit. The team might go from thinking it's good to knowing it's great.

2008 Fun Stats: 

- First half scoring: Georgia 72 - Opponents 46
- Punt return yards: Georgia 17.2-yard average - Opponents 7.1-yard average
- Penalties: Georgia 112 for 938 yards - Opponents 66 for 558 yards

- 2009 CFN Georgia Preview | 2009 Georgia Offense
- 2009 Georgia Defense | 2009 Georgia Depth Chart
- 2008 Georgia Preview | 2007 Georgia Preview | 2006 Georgia Preview


Related Stories
Sallee Blog: Ranking The SEC Coaches
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 9, 2009
A Sit Down With Mark Richt
 -by DawgPost.com  May 18, 2009

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