EXPERIENCE: The Bulldogs return 11 starters and 42 lettermen.
TEAM STRENGTHS: The Bulldogs can go tailback by committee and present defenses with a variety of problems as 81 percent of their production in the ground game (1,713 yards) returns. If they want to hammer between the tackles, then Danny Ware (6-1, 216, junior) or Kregg Lumpkin (6-1, 220, junior) can provide power and the ability to get the tough yards. Ware ran for 492 yards last season. If they want a darter that gets into the secondary quickly on counters or pitches, then Thomas Brown (5-8, 183, junior), who led Georgia with 736 yards, is the man. Then there is freshman Knowshon Moreno (5-11, 205), who might be good enough that Richt won't redshirt him even though there are plenty of tailbacks. The hope is that the running game will be so good that one of the inexperienced quarterbacks can grow into the job.
The offensive line should be very good with tackle Daniel Inman (6-7, 328, senior) and center Nick Jones (6-3, 295, senior) returning and experienced backups like Ken Shackleford (6-5, 315, senior), Fernando Velasco (6-4, 325, junior) and Chester Adams (6-4, 320, junior) stepping into starting roles. Inman is very good in pass protection but the other four are questionable. However, all five are fine run-blockers and that's where the emphasis will be, at least early in the season.
Mohammed Massaquoi (6-1, 198, sophomore) had an outstanding year as a true freshman with 35 catches and Martrez Milner (6-4, 240, senior) averaged more than 20 yards per catch (14 receptions) while backing up Leonard Pope last year.
Defensive end Quentin Moses (6-5, 248, senior) is a nightmare for offensive coordinators. He had 11.5 sacks for 93 yards in losses as a junior. He's quick enough to beat any tackle in the league one-on-one and he's strong enough to fight through double-teams.
Georgia has the best crew of linebackers in the league. Jarvis Jackson (6-2, 218, senior) moved to the inside and Tony Taylor (6-1, 238, senior) moved to the weak side in the spring to take advantage of his pass rushing abilities. Brandon Miller (6-4, 238, senior) plays the strong side. He's very good against the run even though he has problems in coverage. Danny Verdun-Wheeler (6-4, 244, senior) is an experienced backup for all three linebacker positions.
Georgia's defense ranked fifth in the SEC and 18th nationally. The Bulldogs were ranked second in the SEC in pass defense and second in turnover margin.
Punter Gordon Ely-Kelso (6-2, 215, senior) averaged 42.9 per punt last year with a net of 40.1 yards. Placekicker Brandon Coutu (6-0,185, junior) was the SEC's leading scorer last year. He hit on 23-29 on his field goal attempts with a longest field goal of 58 yards.
TEAM WEAKNESSES: Joe Tereshinski (6-3, 217, senior) got one start (loss to Florida) and threw 49 passes in 2005 while backing up D.J. Shockley. He didn't exactly overwhelm anyone in the spring but neither did redshirt freshman Joe Cox (6-1, 200) or true freshman Matthew Stafford (6-3, 225). Tereshinski will likely be the caretaker at this spot until either Cox or Stafford prove they have a grasp of the offense. Stafford has the strongest arm of the two but Cox has a year in the system and he has a championship pedigree from Charlotte (NC) Independence. Until Richt finds one quarterback that can execute the offense, the order of the day will be don't do anything stupid that costs a game.
Mohammed Massaquoi is a reliable move the chains receiver and Milner is great down the middle from his tight end spot but there is not a proven receiver that can stretch defenses deep and that could be a problem. Georgia should expect to see a lot of eight in the box defenses until someone steps up and shows he can be a deep threat from the wide receiver position.
Moses is a man among boys on the defensive line but there's not a lot of experience to go with him. Sophomore Jeff Owens (6-3, 280) got increased playing time as the season went along last year and redshirt freshman Kade Weston (6-5, 308) has tremendous potential but they are trying to replace Kedric Gholston and Gerald Anderson, who were two of the best defensive tackles in the SEC last year.
Tra Battle (5-11, 167, senior) is a proven commodity at the rover position in the secondary but there will be new starters at the other three positions. Paul Oliver (6-1, 205, junior) picked off three passes in nickel situations last year but he'll be in a new role as a starter at corner. The other two positions in the secondary are up for grabs and in the spring these two spots posed serious questions.
THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS IN 2006: It's not imperative that any of the three quarterbacks becomes a star in 2006. What is a must is that they have to understand that their job is to manage the game and let others take care of winning. As long as they don't do anything stupid, Georgia will be okay on the offensive end.
The Bulldogs have to find some production in the middle of the defensive line. The new guys have talent but talent alone doesn't cut it in the Southeastern Conference. Owens and Weston have to grow up quick and get some push up the middle to free up Moses on the edge. Moses is a leading candidate for defensive player of the year in the SEC.
THE SCHEDULE: Even with question marks at quarterback and on the defensive line, Georgia will be in the thick of things in the SEC race thanks to a highly favorable schedule. There's South Carolina in Columbia on the road in game two and if Richt can get past old nemesis Steve Spurrier in that game, it's not until the Florida game that the Bulldogs have to play a tough game outside of the state of Georgia. The Gators in Jacksonville are formidable, particularly considering the fact the Bulldogs have won only two of the last 16 games. Georgia has to face Auburn on the road, too, but the Bulldogs have had their share of success there. The home schedule includes patsies such as Division I-AA Western Kentucky, UAB, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State. Georgia gets Tennessee in Athens and that's a plus. Colorado could be tough early in the season if the Buffaloes can find playmakers to adapt to a new offense.
OUTLOOK FOR 2006: Even with question marks at quarterback, defensive line and secondary, Georgia figures to be a contender for the SEC Eastern Division championship. Inexperience is a problem but there is not a lack of talent or potential. The schedule isn't all that demanding, particularly in the early going, so if Richt can buy time for the young guys to grow up, then Georgia could be quite formidable by the end of the season. The Bulldogs have an advantage of at least one not so difficult opponent before every tough game. They get Western Kentucky the week before South Carolina; Ole Miss the week before Tennessee; Mississippi State the week before Florida; and Kentucky the week before Auburn. Expect the Bulldogs to go conservative, at least in the early going of the season, helping the defense by eating up clock with the running game and playing field position with outstanding special teams. If a quarterback emerges, the equation changes considerably.
NEXT UP: Vanderbilt, November 4 at Nashville, Tennessee