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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #3-Georgia

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 21, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#3 Georgia Bulldogs

 

2012 Recap:

Georgia came away with 12 wins including a defeat of Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Many forget that they came up 4 yards short of besting Alabama in the SEC Champiosnhip game, where time expired as they were inside the five.

 

Coaching:

118 wins in 12 years for Mark Richt as he has quietly become one of the most successful coaches in the sport. Richt never minces words and is not a shy individual, and one of these years he will break through and take the Bulldogs to the BCS title game. This could be the year if the defense can replace some of the lost talent since they have more than enough offensive firepower.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

What Georgia has at quarterback and running back is very, very special. Aaron Murray is the most underrated quarterback in this draft class. With A.J. McCarron winning national titles and Johnny Manziel winning the Heisman as a freshman, Murray flies under the radar. Murray will be entering his 4th year as a starter and his completion percentage and touchdown passes have risen every year. Murray threw for 36 TD’s with only 10 INT’s last year and he has thrown for 95 touchdowns in three seasons. Murray has 10,091 yards in his three seasons and seems to have finally shaken off the “doesn’t perform well in big games label”. The only knock on Murray from a pro standpoint is he stands just under 6’2” and is 210 pounds. Murray isn’t especially small in stature but he isn’t the huge prototypical size teams like to see either. Murray needs to work on his footwork and his velocity on a few passes but he can make all the throws necessary and makes very good decisions when reading a defense.

The great problem for Georgia is teams cannot just drop extra players in the secondary because if they do they get a taste of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at running back. Both were freshman last year but posted monster numbers (Gurley 1,385 yards and Marshall 759 yards with a combined 25 rushing touchdowns). Gurley, like Murray is currently listed as a 2nd round prospect for 2016 and is the top running back in the SEC. Fellow sophomore and Alabama back T.J. Yeldon is the running back I would put at #2 overall in the conference and #3 would be Gurley’s backup in Marshall, who is also a 2nd round prospect. The SEC has not seen a running back duo this highly regarded since Felix Jones and Darren McFadden were both drafted in the first round back in 2008. If opposing defenses load up against the pass the running backs hurt them, and if they stack the line Aaron Murray picks from a multitude of targets and shreds the defense. Georgia was one of only 3 teams in the nation (along with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State) to average over 7 yards per play a season ago, leading the nation at 7.09.

Best Draft Prospect: Aaron Murray QB 2nd Round 2014, Todd Gurley RB 2nd Round 2016 and Keith Marshall RB 2nd Round 2016 (Both running backs are likely to leave early or we could see Gurley leave early and Marshall stay around for his senior season).

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett will be the starting receivers and while neither was technically a starter last year there is no problem at receiver; in fact it may be an upgrade. Michael Bennett had 24 catches in only 5 games last season and Malcolm Mitchell looked like he was going to ascend to the #1 receiver once Tavarres King left for the NFL. Mitchell posted 40 catches and has a ton of raw athletic talent, but he also shows good instincts in the return game and should be the kick returner for 2014. While the receivers have talent and some depth with backups Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley, it is the tight end position that should be the most effective for the offense.

Arthur Lynch is the complete package and is capable of taking over long periods or stretches of a game. Backup Jay Rome could possess the same type of qualities when given a chance and he will have two years to start once Lynch is drafted, who is currently projected as a 3rd rounder for the 2014 Draft. Lynch can block, work downfield and is a fantastic red zone target. He is not the greatest prospect in any area but there is nothing he cannot do. He is the complete prospect and in my estimation one of the most underrated prospects at any position for the 2014 draft.

Best Draft Prospect: Arthur Lynch TE 2nd Round 2014.

 

Offensive Line:

Georgia has a long standing reputation for producing big and burley linemen and you couldn’t pick a better year for Georgia to return all five starters from last season. Right guard Chris Burnette at 6’2” 315 is currently grading as a 4th round prospect for 2014. Aside from Burnette I do not see any top tier prospects along the line, although most will have camp invites and a chance to make rosters as free agents. That being said this is a solid line that plays well as a group and has cohesiveness. Kenarious Gates could go as high as the 6th round for 2014 but he is more than likely on the fringe of being a 7th round/undrafted free agent signee. Left tackle John Theus had an up and down freshman season but he has the ability to be chosen somewhere in the first three rounds for 2016. Dallas Lee and David Andrews are the other starters at left guard and center and the offensive line averages 317 pounds so size is definitely not an issue. Xzavier Ward and Greg Pyke are backups in key roles along the line this season and could be starters by 2014. Georgia has one of the top three offensive lines in the SEC and it will definitely be one of the strengths of the team for the upcoming season.

Best Draft Prospect: Chris Burnette OG 4th Round 2014.

 

Defense

Defensive Line

Garrison Smith is the only returning starter along the defensive line as the tall order will be replacing Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins up front. Georgia primarily runs the 3-4 and actually rarely strays from the formation unless playing a 3-3-5 which they tend to do in conservative or obvious passing situations. Smith had 57 tackles and 9 quarterback pressures but only 1 sack a season ago, which may have been because Jarvis Jones was making all the plays (24.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks). Sterling Bailey and Chris Mayes will be taking most of the snaps with Smith along the front line with Mike Thornton, Ray Drew and John Taylor all contributing. Smith is a legitimate NFL caliber selection likely to get picked in the 7th round before the undrafted free agents. This is an important year for Smith to prove he can make an abundance of plays with Geathers, Jones or Alec Ogletree no longer around him.

Best Draft Prospect: Garrison Smith DE 7th Round 2014.

                       

Linebackers:

You would think after losing Alex Ogletree and Jarvis Jones, both players who went in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, that Georgia would have been decimated at the position but that isn’t the case. Between Ogletree and Jones, Georgia will be missing 196 tackles with 36 for loss, 17 sacks, 41 quarterback hurries and 8 forced fumbles. Yet Jordan Jenkins remains and he is currently being graded as a 1st round prospect for 2016 (although he is likely to leave in 2015). As a freshman Jenkins had 50 tackles with 8 quarterback hurries, but now with the other playmakers gone from a season ago Jenkins will be the beneficiary and should post some monster numbers and likely garner some All-America consideration. I don’t know what is in the water at the University of Georgia but this place has suddenly turned into Linebacker University. The best asset Jenkins may have is covering tight ends and backs coming out of the backfield. Junior Amario Herrera returns and he could be an all conference selection by the end of the season and is an NFL prospect for 2015, perhaps 5th round at this point. Ramik Wilson will also play inside while sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons will start at the STAR position which is the Georgia hybrid linebacker/safety spot.

Best Draft Prospect: Jordan Jenkins 1st Round 2016 (likely to leave in 2015).

 

Secondary:

In the secondary we have a little more uncertainty as again only 1 player that started last year returns to the lineup and that is in the form of Damien Swann. Swann had 4 interceptions last year with an additional 5 pass breakups and the interception total led the team. Swann is seen as a 4th round prospect who plays a lot larger than his 5’11” frame would indicate. Swann is magnificent in the air and times his jumps perfectly. Often he drew matchups based on the oppositions height as Georgia would stick him on the taller receivers and he held his own.  Swann will be playing alongside Sheldon Dawson who is approximately the same size. It’s a bit of a mystery as to what Georgia will get out of Dawson as he saw the field last year but mostly he was an extra back and even played some safety. The ‘Dawgs will be playing more zone this season especially with two new safeties, the lanky Corey Moore who will start alongside freshman Tray Matthews. Matthews was the prized five star recruit for the incoming class and was a top 20 player overall nationally. Speed may be a bit of an issue with Matthews but hitting apparently is not. Connor Norman will be seeing a lot of time at both safety spots as most of the backups have little to no experience as well. Georgia has the best chance of any SEC team to take down Alabama but there are areas on defense which are concerning.

Best Draft Prospect: Damien Swann CB 4th Round 2015.

 

Special Teams:

Placekicking was an adventure last year, not something that is usually associated with Georgia football as some top notch kickers have come through the program in the last 15 years. Collin Barber has a decent first year as the punter but there is room for improvement. Malcolm Mitchell was all over the map as a return man last season but word is he looks worlds better this spring and Georgia is excited about the return game.

Best Draft Prospect: Malcolm Mitchell PR/WR 3rd Round 2015.

 

Schedule:

Georgia starts the year at Clemson and that could set the tone early as the Tigers have big expectations for 2013. LSU and South Carolina come in September and both are at home. If Georgia goes into October without a loss they could have the season they are looking for. The toughest game remaining would be the first week of November against Florida but Georgia always drops one game every year they shouldn’t when they start looking ahead or suffer a concentration lapse. The Bulldogs have to ensure teams like Tennessee or Vanderbilt do not score the upset against them.

 

Draft Outlook:

This team is loaded even with all the draft picks from a season ago. They have 3-4 players who could be 1st rounders. I only have 1 projected thus far but a lot of 2nd rounders right now, as Georgia is always loaded with draft talent.

 

 

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