Georgia started spring practice last week, and things are well underway around the SEC. Thirteen of 14 teams have started spring practice, with Kentucky bringing up the rear in starting this week.
Georgia has all the makings of an SEC Championship team in 2014. Yes, they’re going through a defensive transition from Todd Grantham to Jeremy Pruitt, but the Bulldogs will be much better off. Replacing Aaron Murray will be tough, but they have enough playmakers returning on offense around Hutson Mason that he should be okay.
Here are five UGA players who are ready for bigger roles in 2014:
Leonard Floyd, LB (SO)
2013 stats: 55 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 22 QB hurries, 2 FF
Buzz: Floyd had a big impact as a first-year player, but he could become the defense’s most impactful player under Jeremy Pruitt. His 6-4, 220-pound frame has coaches salivating over his ceiling, and his athleticism is off the charts. His youth showed at times last season, but he is the premier pass rusher on the team. I love Jordan Jenkins, but Floyd could be the biggest key in 2014. He’s ready to take a leadership role for the Bulldogs’ defense. Remember how nasty Christian Jones was in FSU’s defense? I give you Leonard Floyd.
Hutson Mason, QB (SR)
2013 stats: 67 of 110, 968 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs
Buzz: Ready or not, Hutson Mason takes over UGA’s offense. Two things are going for Mason: 1. He gained valuable experience replacing Aaron Murray last season and 2. There’s a host of playmakers around him to help ease the transition. You also have to figure opposing offenses won’t average nearly 30 points per game either. So, where UGA had to rely on Murray to put up points, they won’t have to rely on Mason for the same type of numbers. Mason should be fine, and he’ll be ready for a big role in 2014.
Tray Matthews, S (SO)
2013 stats: 36 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 4 breakups, 1 FF
Buzz: Tray Matthews will surely face some type of punishment after being arrested prior to the start of spring practice, but UGA can’t afford to be without him for too long. Matthews played well as a freshman, but he certainly played like a freshman at times. Matthews hits like a truck, and he struggled to stay healthy. Once he gets healthy, and assuming he doesn’t miss a massive amount of time because of a suspension, he and Damian Swann should help lead the secondary.
John Theus, OT (JR)
Buzz: John Theus played very well as a freshman, but he seemingly was lost in the mix as a sophomore. Theus started at right tackle for the Bulldogs as a true freshman, but he split time with others in 2013. Now that left tackle Kenarious Gates has graduated, Theus becomes the player who should replace him. This is what Mark Richt recruited Theus for: to be his future left tackle. He’ll play a major role in 2014.
Shaq Wiggins, CB (SO)
2013 stats: 19 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 INTs, 4 breakups
Buzz: Although Georgia’s secondary was two missed tackles away from being terrible last season, one of the bright spots was Shaq Wiggins. The freshman corner showed he’ll be a future factor at corner for the Dawgs’ defense, and that starts this spring and will continue into the season. Wiggins is my favorite to win the starting job opposite Damian Swann.
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