SDS kicks off a series looking in-depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2014. Next up: Georgia Bulldogs.

SEC Subplots 2014:

1. Will this be Georgia’s year?
Aren’t we always asking the same question every season? Mark Richt yet again returns big-time talent and a loaded offense. Georgia’s problem has never been talent, it’s been winning the big games. The Bulldogs have the most players of any SEC team in the NFL’s top 100 players for 2014. Despite losing Aaron Murray, this could be Georgia’s best chance yet, and the Bulldogs’ roster is loaded with weapons everywhere.

2. Becoming his own player
The best thing going for Hutson Mason is the fact that he doesn’t have to be Aaron Murray. Mason doesn’t have to throw for 3,500 yards, and he can’t set any SEC or school records in one season. If Mason can manage the offense similar to what AJ McCarron did at Alabama, Georgia’s offense will be balanced and explosive. Mike Bobo is telling Mason something like, “You don’t have to win the games for us; just don’t lose them.” Basically, as long as Mason doesn’t turn the football over, the offense will always give the team a chance in big games. Complete a high percentage of passes and make the big plays when given. That’s what Mason can accomplish to help make Georgia a real contender this season. With a loaded backfield, experience along the offensive line and big-play receivers, Mason just needs to settle in and play his role.

3. What’s Todd Gurley’s legacy?
Are we witnessing greatness? Is Todd Gurley one of the five best running backs in SEC history? There’s little separation from Gurley and Alabama’s TJ Yeldon right now, but winning a championship could solidify Gurley winning a Heisman. When healthy, Gurley is the best back in America, and he’s a massive part of Georgia’s plan to win this season. With ample depth behind him in Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel — one freshman will likely redshirt, Gurley has a chance to stay completely healthy this season, as Richt and Bobo can lighten the load. Gurley has a chance to leave this conference a big-time winner and cement himself into SEC history as one of the all-time greats.

4. Addition by subtraction
Georgia lost Todd Grantham and three defensive secondary starters since 2013 ended. Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews were both dismissed, while corner Shaq Wiggins transferred to Louisville on his own. Now, Jeremy Pruitt’s in charge of the new-look defense, and Damian Swann remains the veteran of the group that’s seeing preseason shuffling to find the right four or five players. The front seven will be stout, headlined by college football’s top linebacking corps featuring Ramik Wilson, Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Amarlo Herrera.

Can the defense get better collectively with losing two of its top talents in Harvey-Clemons and Matthews? If so, Jeremy Pruitt could be in line as college football’s fastest rising assistant.

SDS Takeaway: Georgia’s schedule is manageable, and they are in the right division to berth a spot in Atlanta this year. While there is some concern on how well Hutson Mason will handle the burden at quarterback, the secondary remains the biggest concern for Mark Richt. Finding the right pieces in Jeremy Pruitt’s secondary is paramount, but perhaps on the forefront of Richt’s mind is fixing the special teams. Marshall Morgan is a boss kicking field goals, but Georgia’s overall special teams has a ways to improve this season.