5 Questions For Georgia Football: Spring Practice Edition
5 Spring Practice Questions for Georgia Football
After losing to the Gator Bowl to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Georgia Bulldogs had some soul-searching to do. The season was one of disastrous injuries, near-misses, bad defense and even worse special teams play. Mark Richt seemed to age another year every week and the bowl game culminated one of the more forgettable times in his career.
Flash forward to March 2014. Spring practice begins soon, the fans are buzzing, and the slate is clean. Personnel changes abound among the players and coaching staff. Early enrollees and redshirt freshmen are ready to prove themselves. Bench press maxes go up and 40-yard dash times plummet. That is the beauty of SEC football, every team miraculously improves in the month of February, and the "this is our year" discussions cover message boards like early morning dew.
In Athens, the Dawg faithful are clamoring for a more meaningful performance than 8-5. Fans are tired of holding their breath when the punt team trots on the field or a third-and-long play presents itself to a porous secondary. Richt's teams in the past were known for solid special teams play and hard-hitters roaming the flats, prepared to ring the bell of any receiver between the hash marks. That was not the 2013 team at all.
The problems will need to be addressed and the holes left by graduating seniors will need to be filled. How Richt and the coaching staff responds will be interesting to see. Here are five questions for Georgia football as spring practice begins.
5. Who Will Replace Josh Harvey-Clemons?
Troubled safety Josh Harvey-Clemons has been dismissed and will need to be replaced. Harvey-Clemons was already suspended for the first three games of the season, so the starting job was up for grabs anyway. Veteran Corey Moore looks to get the nod, but newcomer Shattle Fenteng may have something to say before the season starts.
4. Will the Injured Dawgs Return to Form?
The 2013 season was rife with injuries. Losing Keith Marshall, Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell early limited the Bulldog offense and put more pressure on Todd Gurley, who sustained injuries of his own and missed some games mid-season. These recovered Dawgs and their production will be a welcome sight for Richt.
3. Who Will Step Up on the Offensive Line?
The only two players that have locked up starting positions are David Andrews at center and John Theus at one of the tackle positions; the other three positions are wide open. Kolton Houston, Mark Beard, Watts Dantzler and Hunter Long have experience, but incoming freshman Isaiah Wynn has the ability to play early.
2. Will Jeremy Pruitt Shape Up the Maligned Defense?
Todd Grantham is gone. Dawg fans called for his head all season and he got the hint, moving on quietly after the end of the season. Enter Jeremy Pruitt, the former architect of the vaunted defense of the Florida State Seminoles. Pruitt looks to shake things up and stresses fundamentals over scheme, a change from the former regime. It will be interesting to see if this different philosophy results in marked improvement.
1. Can Hutson Mason Lead the Offense?
Hutson Mason is the starter after four years of waiting. His play is crucial to the Dawgs' success and Georgia fans got a dose of the future when Aaron Murray went down with injury last season. Mason is a pocket passer with a keen knowledge of the playbook. However, if Mason does not respond quickly, Faton Bauta may be called upon to lead the way.