Georgia returns a number of their top players on offense, including the mildly surprising return of Aaron Murray, and is bringing back all five starters along the offensive line for the coming season.
That said, the two most important returning offensive stalwarts that will be vital to the Bulldogs SEC title hopes are their young pups in the backfield.
Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall formed one of the more prolific running back tandems in not just the SEC last season, but the entire nation. Even more impressive is the fact they were true freshmen.
They combined to tote the rock 339 times for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns, operating behind a consistent and stable offensive line that Will Friend has coached to be one of the more reliable units in the conference.
Avoiding a sophomore slump will be imperative for the team to get over the hump that has plagued them in the SEC Championship Game the last two seasons. The only thing that I foresee slowing the duo down will be injuries to them, or a couple of the starting offensive linemen.
John Theus and Chris Burnette may miss all of spring practice as they recover from off-season surgery. If they are slow to get back to full health, it could weaken the right side of the line, where Georgia ran the ball so effectively last season.
It has been well documented how many defensive starters Georgia needs to replace this season, and one way to protect an inexperienced defense is to keep them off the field as much as possible.
The best way to keep your defense off the field is with a dominating ground game to chew away the clock and grind out first downs while wearing down the opposing defense. Gurley and Marshall is the perfect combination of speed, power and durability that will allow the Bulldogs to control the clock and keep their defense fresh.
Another way to help a green defense is to let them play with a lead. With Murray poised to make a run at the Heisman trophy and the super sophomores in the backfield toting the rock another 350 times this season, Todd Grantham’s defense should be able to do just that.
Murray gets the headlines and deservedly so, but Gurley and Marshall running behind an under-appreciated offensive line will be the overriding factor if they are to get back to another SEC Championship Game.