The Georgia Bulldogs kicked off their spring practice season earlier this afternoon with their first organized team practice since defeating Louisville in last year’s Belk Bowl.

The Dawgs have turned the page from last year’s three-loss season that included losses to in-state rival Georgia Tech and division rivals Florida and South Carolina, and will now look ahead to 2015, a season in which they’re once again considered favorites to contend for the SEC East crown.

However, in order to do what they could a year ago and win the division belt, Georgia must shore up a few position groups on both sides of the ball. The ongoing competition at quarterback has been well-documented; the shakeup in the secondary has not.

Georgia ranked second in the SEC in pass defense last season, allowing opponents to amass only 170 yards per game through the air. Since then, the Bulldogs have bid farewell to senior defensive back Damian Swann, the unquestioned leader of the group.

The Dawgs return the rest of their primary contributors in the secondary from last season, but those players all match tremendous talent with a tremendous lack of experience. Granted, many of the players in question gained experience last season, but that was all with Swann commanding the group.

Now the group needs a new commander, someone to keep the entire unit organized, especially when facing spread offenses requiring complex coverage schemes. Who will it be? Finding out is one of the goals of this spring practice season.

Candidates to assume leadership of the secondary include rising junior safety Quincy Mauger and rising sophomores Malkom Parrish, Aaron Davis and Dominick Sanders.

Mauger, the team’s starting strong safety, would appear to be the frontrunner among that group considering his extra year in Mark Richt’s program compared to the three rising sophomores. He’s also Georgia’s leading returning tackler among defensive backs (51 tackles in 2014), as well as the team’s returning leader in interceptions (4 last season).

What makes Mauger unique (beyond his obvious advantage in terms of experience) is his ability to play a more traditional safety role or to creep down into the box to serve as a physical run-stopper. That versatility could also allow him to assume a leadership role, considering he’s familiar with a number of different roles a defensive back may fill in Jeremy Pruitt’s defense.

Sanders, a safety, and Davis, a corner, tied for the team lead among returning players in pass breakups last fall. Sanders was touted as a ball-hawking safety when he arrived at Georgia, and he’s already begun to follow that path, as evidenced by his five pass breakups last season. Davis is a solid cover corner who only stands to improve as he develops his game during his Georgia career.

It would be a lot to ask of either player to assume a leadership role in their first season without the only on-field leader they’ve known at Georgia (Mauger). But if either player shows he’s made tremendous strides since the end of last season, he could be in the running to be a player Pruitt leans on for on-field guidance this fall.

Having leadership already in place in the secondary for the start of spring practice would have been nice, sure, but the cyclical nature of college football doesn’t always allow for such luxuries.

Spring ball is the ideal time to solve dilemmas like the one Georgia faces in its inexperienced secondary, and determining whether Mauger or someone else is capable of leading the group this fall is certainly high on the Dawgs spring priority list.