Richt: Returning Dawgs Can Still Impress

ATHENS – Mark Richt was asked a week ago about the status of his tailbacks entering spring practice.

The Georgia head football coach spoke a little in general, then added:

"You just want to see them prove that they can hold off the young pup coming in."

He was talking about Isaiah Crowell, the stud tailback recruit from Columbus. But he also could have been talking about Ray Drew, John Jenkins, Malcolm Mitchell, Damian Swann … it's a long list.

Georgia's success on the recruiting trail was a bonanza for the program, but it also makes spring practice, which begins Thursday, a bit anti-climatic. All of the above players are expected to contribute, and perhaps start.

But Richt isn't canceling practice. Here are the top storylines for Georgia's spring practice:

1. The other quarterbacks.

Last year's quarterback competition is a distant memory: Zach Mettenberger was dismissed shortly after spring practice, and Aaron Murray's performance in the 2010 season gave him a stranglehold on the job.

So most eyes this spring will be on Christian LeMay, the freshman quarterback who enrolled early. Could he end up being the top backup to Murray, allowing the team to redshirt Hutson Mason? Or will Mason re-claim the No. 2 job?

"Right now the biggest thing for LeMay is knowing what to do. You can't compete at any position until you know what you're doing, but especially at quarterback," Richt said. "Murray and Hutson are ahead of him in that regard."

2. As the tailbacks turn

It might be mild surprise that Washaun Ealey and Caleb King are still around. Ealey was suspended from team activities for a few weeks this semester, while King was academically ineligible for the Liberty Bowl. That was on top of each being arrested last fall, and being disappointments on the field.

That's a big reason the Bulldogs made such a big play for Crowell. But he's not here yet, so in the meantime Ealey, King, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome still have a chance to make an impression.

Malcome will be the most interesting one to watch, since he redshirted last year and, unlike Ealey and King, doesn't have any blotches on his resume'.

3. Alec Ogletree's move to linebacker

When last season ended, one of the defense's reasons for optimism was the emergence of freshman Alec Ogletree at safety. But defensive coordinator Todd Grantham didn't see a potential all-SEC safety, he saw a potential all-SEC inside linebacker.

So Ogletree is there now, teaming up the middle with returning starter Christian Robinson, who has been anointed the defensive captain.

There's also a ripple effect to Ogletree's move: It opens up a spot at safety, where two players who failed to hold the job last year – Jakar Hamilton and Shawn Williams – have another chance. And at inside linebacker, Ogletree supplants Richard Samuel, the converted tailback who redshirted last year.

4. Replacing the stars

As expected, receiver A.J. Green and outside linebacker Justin Houston departed for the NFL draft. That leaves the Bulldogs looking for a new top receiver and edge-rush specialist.

Both likely replacements were on the team last year, but only one played: Receiver Tavarres King doesn't have Green's size, but he has speed and experience. He didn't wade in when asked if he needs to be the No. 1 guy.

"What I stress to the (other receivers) when I meet with them, I talk to them one-on-one and things like that. I just let them know that they can be the guy," King said. There's gonna be so many opportunities out there on the field that anybody can step on there and be the man in any game."

On defense, Jarvis Jones will get a lot of attention as the potential play-maker that Georgia is losing in Houston. Jones sat out last year after transferring from Southern California.


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