Lessons learned from Georgia’s spring practice

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SDS will be looking at each SEC team’s spring practice and address concerns entering and exiting on both sides of the ball.

Offense

Concern entering spring: Get through spring healthy and progress as a unit
Concern exiting spring: Offensive line uncertainty

With 10 returning starters on offense, it was imperative this sexy unit stayed healthy and progressed through spring practice. The third best scoring offense in the SEC had to replace leading receiver Tavarres King, and that’s it. However, now, there is much ado about the offensive line. The biggest question may be the uncertainty surrounding the line because of increased depth and talent or a dull performance overall by the starting five. Really, the only spots hammered down are right guard Chris Burnette and center David Andrews. Xavier Ward was a star this spring and was called ‘the best tackle’ by Mike Bobo. John Theus returned from foot surgery and moved to left tackle. Every other trench position is kind of up in the air, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Who’s Murray’s backup?
The entire offense certainly is stacked, but one area of concern may be the backup quarterback job. Behind Aaron Murray, it gets a little blurry. Hutson Mason certainly had a tough start to spring as the No. 2 guy, and Christian LeMay played terribly in the G-Day game and fell on the depth chart. Walk-on Parker Welch looks like the No. 3 signal caller behind Murray and Mason. Speaking of Mason, he hasn’t faced live bullets yet from an SEC defense, but he looks – at times – more than capable of running the offense and even showed some wheels in the spring game. Let’s just hope Murray stays healthy, right?

Defense

Concern entering spring: Replacing so much lost talent and experience
Concern exiting spring: Defensive line

Losing three defensive linemen, and stars Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo, is unsettling for any team and coach. But Georgia’s defense really showed flashes during the spring game and left me feeling encouraged. This defense is fast and super talented, but they are just really inexperienced. Mike Thornton takes over the coveted nose guard position, with Garrison Smith and Sterling Bailey as the first-team defensive ends. Backups Ray Drew and John Taylor are more than capable here. But only Smith has the majority of the playing time, and until this defensive front is battle-tested, there will be questions. I’m not worried about linebackers Jordan Jenkins, James DeLoach, Amarlo Herrera or Ramik Wilson. All four will form a strong linebacking corps, headlined by the sacker Jenkins. Corners Damian Swann and Sheldon Dawson will form a strong corner duo, and with early enrollee Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons at safety, the secondary should be fine. I’ll maintain my prediction: 2013’s defense will be better than 2012 even without the star-studded names.

Defensive MVPs
Georgia had two youngsters and safeties in early enrollee Tray Matthews and rising sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons turn heads this spring. Matthews can cover ground in a hurry and bring the wood when he gets there, and he always seems to be in the best position even as a youngster. Harvey-Clemons was the spring defensive MVP, and he’ll also play the Star position. Both are young superstars in the making that all SEC fans should be excited to see.

The Wilson factor
Chris Wilson takes over the microscoped defensive line unit for Georgia. After Rodney Garner left for Auburn, several deep sighs were heard all around Georgia. But I actually think Wilson will be a better coach than Garner. Obviously Garner is a great recruiter and can go head-to-head with anyone for any one prospect, but Wilson stands to make a bigger impact with the progression and development of an inexperienced defensive line. If his unit can stop the run better than last season, another championship run weighs in the balance.

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

COMMENTS

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  • As I look over the out come of spring, the defense does not bother me as much as after last season. G Smith has locked down DE, thornton (nervous of his size) at nose and bailey and drew fighting for the other DE. Jenkins Herrera and Deloach at backers, Swann, Matthews, and JHC in the secondary. We do not have as many holes to feel as I once thought. Of course there is depth to worry with…but we did not SUB nuch last year. If we are 20% better than last years defense then I like our chances against ALA in the SECCG…thoughts???

    • I pretty much agree. 20% better probably would’ve equalled one of these two things …

      1. Stopping Eddie Lacy OR
      2. Covering Amari Cooper

      … and that game goes the other way.

      • Hell cooper only got open when we were bringing the house to stop the run. It was the Bama OL that made the difference in that game. That was total domination up front.

  • Based on what I saw I agree with about everything. In fact I feel like I may have subliminally wrote this. But I will say there is an upside to the OL struggling. To me it says good things about our Defensive front plus I knew with Theus and a couple of others banged up all spring they hadn’t had a whole lotta time to come back together as a unit. I think they will be fine after the dust settles from camp and we head to Death Valley. If this team survives September the rest of the Nation better lookout.