Pre-Spring Offseason Forecast: Georgia

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With the offseason officially underway, SDS will examine what’s next for spring football for all 14 teams. Next up, Georgia.

What’s changing

The biggest change Georgia must endure in the coaching realm is losing defensive line coach and recruiting ace Rodney Garner. Todd Grantham also flirted with the NFL, but he decided to remain at Georgia, which is great news for a defense that loses nine starters. To replace Garner, Richt hired former Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson. Everyone knows Garner could recruit with any coach in the country, but 2012’s defensive line was one of the more underachieving units, even with monster nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers. Losing Garner hurts more in recruiting than coaching, and Wilson could be a better position coach for the long run.

Position of concern

One of the heartbeats to Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense is the nose tackle, and Georgia lost their first- and second-string players in John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers. And between the two, Georgia lost 700 pounds of mass in the teeth of the defense. The one guy the Bulldogs want to replace both players is already on campus in redshirt freshman Jon Taylor. Taylor is 6-4, 315 pounds and is perfect for the nose, but he has no experience. Early enrollee JUCO transfer John Atkins will also get his shot to play nose, too. There is a little depth, but this group needs SEC game experience.

Emerging spring player prediction

Although Jordan Jenkins played a crucial role as a true freshman on defense, he’ll be the talk of the spring because of the noticeable development from his first to second year. Jenkins could be as good or better than Jarvis Jones in the long run – blasphemy I know. He has more upside just because of how physical he plays, his size and how athletic he really is. Aside from a select few, the coaching staff will talk about Jenkins exiting spring as the one player they can count on for 2013 on defense.

Three signees to be excited about

1. Tray Matthews, S: Matthews could see the field early because of Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo’s absence, and he’s a fantastic athlete. Matthews could make the biggest impact of any true freshman in 2013. He’s already enrolled and will get his feet wet this spring.

2. Shaq Wiggins, CB: In addition to Matthews, Shaq Wiggins will get playing time in the secondary, too. Wiggins was arguably the state’s top corner prospect, and while he’s slightly smaller than coaches would like at 5-9, 160 pounds, he makes up for it with his covering and play-making ability. Wiggins is underrated as a high school prospect.

3. Brice Ramsey, QB: Although Ramsey won’t be making an impact in 2013 unless Aaron Murray gets injured, he’s the quarterback of the future. Ramsey has a Howitzer for an arm and is the perfect quarterback for Mark Richt and Mike Bobo’s offense. As an early enrollee, Ramsey will get his feet wet in just under two weeks.

Biggest key to spring

Much has been made about Georgia’s nine starters lost on defense, including Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and others, but it’s a chance for Richt and Grantham to really evaluate the players currently on the roster and develop them to succeed more as an overall unit. The players are there now – players like Garrison Smith, Jon Taylor, Ray Drew, Jordan Jenkins, Damian Swann, Ramik Wilson and others who have loads of talent, but developing that talent is the biggest key. And although big names and high draft picks aren’t on the roster, count me in the minority of thinking that this unit will be improved and more complete.

Previous Offseason Forecasts:

Photo Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • “And although big names and high draft picks aren’t on the roster, count me in the minority of thinking that this unit will be improved and more complete.” Agreed. Richt teams are often times enigmas respecting strengths and weaknesses. The parts that we think will be sound and carry the team through the season always seem to end up liabilities (i.e. last year’s DL and defense as a whole) while the “big pre-season concern” seems to pull through (i.e. last year’s OL/run game). A coaching deficiency? Maybe. I expect this defense to be better than most people will give them credit for pre-sesaon simply based on the squeaky wheel principle — which seems (to this coaching outsider) to be Richt’s North Star in coaching. Super invest in developing the supposed weakness to the neglect of the supposed strength. Again, just my outside opinion. But look for this defense to be hungry and out to prove something in the vacuum left by the NFL/eligibility exodus on that side of the ball. I anticipate they’ll turn heads by season’s end.

  • I think I other thing that favors a better defense is what should be an even better offense this season. If Murray and Co. can start fast and put up big points in the first half as they did in most games last season, teams will have to become more one dimensional to keep up. While this may cause a shootout vs Clemson I believe it will be an advantage vs Scar, LSU, and UF who had struggles with the passing game.

    • Also: last season you saw Bobo passing early and using TG3 and the power running game to pound out the clock in the second half. If we can get early leads there’s no reason why we won’t see more of the same this year and the OL SHOULD be able to sustain even more of those late drives. If successful the effect this has on our D should be tremendous and allow for some very aggressive defensive schemes to close out games.

      • Sustaining those long drives late has always been a bane for Bobo and Richt. Obviously, Gurley and a “more-veteran” OL should make that easier (unless, of course, the squeaky wheel means the offense is put on the back-burner this Spring/Fall). I’m not too keen on the “put ‘em way behind early” methodology as a huge help to your defense. Eventual, the defense finds itself in a must-stop-’em situation, particularly against good teams. I have a feeling that Clemson wouldn’t be the only shoot-out we’d see if that’s the approach taken. Lest we forget, stingy defense and good offense have won the NC the last 7 years — not explosive offense and fair-to-midlin defense.

        • So wait…you don’t think jumping out to a lead helps your defense? When teams are forced to pass most DCs (especially Grantham) are drooling. We were the 2nd stingiest pass defense in the sec last year. It was the non existent run defense that got us into those “must stop em” situations. Scoring early and controlling the clock better late with a more experienced OL could do nothing but help the D become “stingy” enough to have more success IMHO

        • Don’t get me wrong here…nobody’s arguing that an explosive offense is ALL that you need…but it damn sure doesn’t hurt!