Big Dawgs on Campus
All American and Butkus award finalist Jarvis Jones will lead the Bulldogs Defense in what should be a tight battle for the SEC East.
2011 Record (SEC): 10-4 (7-1)
Returning Starters (Off/Def/ST): 15 (6/9/0)
Ryan Trapp | Staff Writer
The Bulldogs return nine starters from a defense that allowed just 268.5 yards of offense per game last season, third fewest in the FBS. The unquestioned leader on that side of the ball is All American linebacker Jarvis Jones, who led the SEC with 14 sacks last season, tallied 70 tackles and 49 quarterback hurries, and was a Butkus Award finalist. He’ll take the field alongside Alec Ogletree and Amarlo Herrera and look to wreak havoc behind their immense defensive line. Clogging up the middle for the ‘Dogs heavy-hitting defense is the big, 6’6” 350 pound frame of tackle Kwame Geathers and talented junior college transfer John Jenkins. There is a good deal of talent in the secondary as well, but it could be several games into the season before we see the back four in full force. All American safety Bacarri Rambo is the top dog in the last line of defense, but he could miss up to four games with an early season suspension. Corner Sanders Commings could also miss time, leaving this group thin and relatively inexperienced. But even this could be a blessing in disguise for the Bulldogs, who can season up some younger talent against a soft early season schedule. Only Alabama’s defense forced more three an outs then Georgia last season, and the combination of size and speed on this year’s unit should keep them near the top in that category as well in 2012.
Quarterback Aaron Murray has topped the 3,000 yard passing mark in his first two seasons under center, but head coach Mark Richt thinks the junior has plenty more to show. He connected on a school record 35 touchdowns last season and the durable signal caller hasn’t missed a start or significant time either of his first two years in Athens, but he wants to show he can win the big ones. Against winning FBS teams in 2011, the Murray-led Bulldogs were just 4-4 and he tossed 11 of his 14 picks. There’s depth at receiver; seniors Tavarres King and Marlon Brown return on the wings where they bring back a combined 934 receiving yards and 11 scores, but some questions surround who’ll be lining up in the backfield. The dismissal of AP freshman of the year Isaiah Cromwell last spring has left the door open for redshirt sophomore Ken Malcome and true freshman Keith Marshall. Malcome actually sat atop the depth chart when the team broke camp in spring, showing what the coaches of the runner’s ability even with Cromwell in the picture. Marshall, a five star recruit and the second ranked running back prospect of the 2012 class, has turned heads on and off the field since enrolling last spring. They’ll need to fill some holes on the line (losing three to the NFL draft), but their talented backfield and Murray’s quick release should keep Georgia ahead while Coach Richt puts the right pieces in place.
ROAD TO THE BCS
The Bulldogs do have one of the easier schedules, avoiding Alabama, LSU and Arkansas for the second straight year. They do play South Carolina, where they’ll have to contain Marcus Lattimore, and host the Florida Gators October 27. Still, there’s a chance this team can be 12-0 and heading to an SEC title game come December, where they’ll likely have to get past either one of the SEC West’s big three.
BURNING QUESTION: Can they stay focused all season long?
Georgia might have a weaker schedule than any of the other top-10 teams, but will need to show more mental fortitude to make it to their second straight SEC title game. The Bulldogs have had one of the more tumultuous offseason of any program in college football, losing players due to suspensions and dismissals on both sides of the ball. There’s no questioning this team’s size and talent, but players like Murray and Jones will have to become more active leaders and examples off the field to make sure they can field their full talent week after week.
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