The Bulldogs took a hit on June 29 when returning starting running back Isaiah Crowell was arrested on charges of carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a weapon in a school zone and an altered identification, two of which are felonies.
The 2011 team leader in rushing yards, Crowell was dismissed from the team later that day and is now attending Alabama State. Due to suspensions, Georgia is also expected to be without safety Baccari Rambo, linebacker Alec Ogletree plus cornerbacks Sanders Commings and Branden Smith for at least its season opener against Buffalo.
Quarterback Aaron Murray returns as the starter after throwing for 3,149 yards and a UGA single-season record 35 touchdowns last season as a sophomore. He was on target vs. Auburn,completing 14-18 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns.
Tavarres King returns as Murray's favorite target from a year ago. He led the team receptions (47), yards (705) and touchdowns (eight) as a junior. King scored one of his touchdowns against the Tigers last season along with catching two passes for 43 yards.
Tavarres King led Georgia in receiving in 2011.
Marlon Brown will likely fill the starting role of Malcolm Mitchell, who is expected to spend a majority of his playing time at cornerback this year. Brown, a senior, recorded one catch against Auburn last season for 25 yards. Appearing in 12 games with five starts, the 6-5, 222 wideout caught 15 passes for 234 yards and three scores during the 2011 season.
With the dismissal of Crowell, Georgia will look for production from Ken Malcome, a 6-0, 226 redshirt sophomore who rushed for 174 yards on 42 carries.
The door is open for five-star recruit Keith Marshall to contribute early. He was ranked by Scout.com as the No. 1 tailback prospect in the country in the 2012 signee class. The Bulldogs also signed four-star tailback Todd Gurley.
The Bulldogs defense shined in nine of their 10 wins in 2011, holding opponents to under 21 points in each of those contests. Georgia has nine starters returning as the Bulldogs look to improve on last year's total of 10 wins.
Jarvis Jones is one of the best linebackers in the SEC.
Shawn Williams, who led the team in tackles last year (72), and Rambo, who finished second in the country and first on the team in interceptions (eight) a season ago, return to give Georgia one of the best safety duos in the country. With the return of cornerback Commings, the Bulldogs will make the it hard for any team to successfully throw the ball down field.
Running the ball isn't expected to be much easier to do against Georgia in 2012 with three starting linebackers and three starting linemen returning. Tackle John Jenkins is expected to lead the front this season after starting seven games last year in a split-time role, recording 28 tackles, six tackles for a loss and three sacks.
Georgia's linebacker corps is led by All-American Jarvis Jones. The 6-3, 241 junior enters the 2012 season after leading the team in tackles for a loss (19 1/2) and sacks (13 1/2) while finishing second in tackles (70). The junior recorded five tackles against Auburn in 2011, adding two for a loss and two sacks.
Jones isn't the only linebacker for the Bulldogs who enters this season with All-America-type talent. Alec Ogletree returns after only playing in eight games last season--starting all eight--recording 52 tackles, 7 1/2 for a loss and three sacks. The 6-3, 236 junior recorded a team-leading six tackles against the Tigers last season while also recording two for a loss.
Key Players to Replace: Running back Isaiah Crowell led the team in rushing yards (850) and scores (five) in 2011 on 185 attempts. Cornerback/kick returner Brandon Boykin led the team in all-purpose yards last year with 1,203 while adding four touchdowns, 55 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and three interceptions.
All-Star Candidates: Quarterback Aaron Murray (238-403, 3,149 yards, 35 TDs); wide receiver Tavarres King (47 receptions, 705 yards, 8 TDs); safety Shawn Williams (72 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 INT); linebacker Jarvis Jones (70 tackles, 19 1/2 TFL, 13 1/2 sacks); safety Baccari Rambo (55 tackles, 8 INT); cornerback Sanders Commings (55 tackles, 4 TFL); Alec Ogletree (52 tackles, 7 1/2 TFL, 3 sacks)
Bacarri Rambo returns to Georgia's strong secondary.
Series Results: Auburn leads 54-53-8
Sept. 1--Buffalo at Georgia
Sept. 8--Georgia at Missouri
Sept. 15--Florida Atlantic at Georgia
Sept. 22--Vanderbilt at Georgia
Sept. 29--Tennessee at Georgia
Oct. 6--Georgia at South Carolina
Oct. 20--Georgia at Kentucky
Oct. 27--Florida vs. Georgia
Nov. 3--Ole Miss at Georgia
Nov. 10--Georgia at Auburn
Nov. 17--Georgia Southern at Georgia
Nov. 24--Georgia Tech at Georgia
Key Games for Georgia
Georgia at South Carolina--The Bulldogs fell to South Carolina in their second game of the season in 2011 before winning nine in a row to win their division. Georgia has been historically dominant over the Gamecocks, leading the series 46-16-2 and allowing an average of 12.8 points during the 64 meetings. With South Carolina likely going to be Georgia's toughest divisional opponent in 2012, a win over the Gamecocks would be a major step forward in the quest to secure a spot in the SEC Championship Game.
Florida vs. Georgia--The Bulldogs ended Florida's three-game winning streak in 2011 in this divisional rivalry called The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. In such a heated rivalry the two schools do not even agree on how many times they have played each other. With UGA saying it leads the series 48-40-2 and Florida saying the Bulldogs have only won 47 times, the 2012 meeting may all-but-officially clinch Georgia's ticket to Atlanta to play the winner of the SEC West.
Georgia Tech at Georgia--Georgia leads the series against its ACC rival 62-39-5. Clean, Ole-Fashioned Hate was the nickname given to this rivalry, in which Georgia has won the last three contests. With the amount of starters the Bulldogs have returning, it should be hard for the Yellow Jackets to earn a victory in Athens this year.
Coach Mark Richt received a contract extension after the 2011 season.
Worth Noting: Georgia's three returning running backs, Ken Malcome, Brandon Harton and Kyle Karenpelis, rushed for a combined 484 yards on 148 attempts last season.
The Challenge For Auburn: After only recording nine first downs and 195 total offensive yards in the 2011 contest, the Auburn offense played like its 45-7 blowout loss indicated. Considering the defensive starters who return for the Bulldogs, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler will need to figure out a method for attacking the defense that former coordinator Gus Malzahn was unable to find. The Tigers, who enter the season with a deep backfield, will certainly need to establish a run game after only rushing for 51 yards on 25 attempts last season if they want a good chance to win the 2012 contest.