Monday Mailbag

Jonathan Branch tackles questions in the 2013 version of the Dawg Post mailbag.

Yes, it's back.

For me, it's back for the first time.

Over the next few weeks, we'll have a mailbag each Monday. What better way to start your week, right? And people say Mondays aren't fun.

I took a break from watching The Walking Dead premier and on-demand episodes of The Americans long enough to answer all of your questions. For those expecting the Fletcher Page-like word count, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed, but no worries, there's plenty of good stuff below, like what's the deal with Toby Johnson, my prediction for the starting defense come September and even a little about Dean's gargantuan feet.

Enjoy, and see you next week.

Jarich5 leads off with: How do you see OT shaking out over the next two years? Will Gates stay at left tackle next year? Who do you think takes over when he's gone?

Georgia could move John Theus over to left tackle AFTER next season. Coaches haven't hinted at that, but it's a question that has been raised before several times. I think Theus remains at right tackle for 2013, and Will Friend could continue rotating his line with Mark Beard and Kenarious Gates at left tackle and Gates and Dallas Lee at left guard. Gates is better at guard than tackle,

Mark Beard made big strides toward the end of last season and still has two years remaining. Xzavier Ward is a one to keep an eye on to play right tackle, should Theus move to left in 2014. They would certainly like to figure out a way to make Kolton Houston eligible, but that becomes less and less likely each day. If they ever can, pencil him in the two-deep instantly. Also, Devondre Seymour has a lot of upside and could contribute down the road.

cdc99 drops in with a couple of questions: Q1) In your recruiting grades you mention Tray having a shot at starting with Corey Moore at the safety spots. Where does JHC fit into this? Is he growing into an LB? The thought of a 6'5" safety is pretty awesome.

On my drive back from Lake City on Signing Day, I tuned in to a Georgia football radio show. The host of the show offered concern that Josh Harvey-Clemons was too tall to play safety.

Like you, cdc, I think a 6-foot-5 safety would be enticing if he has the ability. I don't think there's a maximum height limit for positions.

I believe he has the hips, the athleticism and, of course, the talent to play safety, but coaches want him to move up and play linebacker. In order to do that, he has to bulk up because he is one tall glass of water. I would say the 230 pound range would suffice (235-240 would be ideal), so long as he gains adequate muscle mass.

Word on the street is that mat drills are making life very difficult for him right now (as is the case for almost everyone), but a strong offseason of strength and conditioning could have him getting a look at linebacker.

For now, he will play safety. I just cannot see him playing free safety at 15-20 yards from the line. Coaches could give him a look at strong safety, letting JHC and Corey Moore battle it out for the starting spot. But no worries, this is not a Brandon Miller 2.0 situation. Todd Grantham will find (or even create) a position for him. He could cross-train this spring, with hopes that if he packs on the weight, he can make a seamless transition to backer in the fall.

Q2) Can you expound upon your knowledge/opinion of Shaq Fluker? Seems like we didn't hear a lot about him, but I remember seeing film on him and he looked pretty good.

I think Shaquille Fluker could be a special player for the Bulldogs immediately. Georgia coaches did a good job of snagging this guy, and there will be some teams in the SEC wishing they had taken a chance on him.

On film, you'll see that he plays remarkably fast with great downhill speed, and he delivers some punishing hits. He will probably get a look at free safety but has the ability to play either of the safety spots with his physicality and closing speed. He can be a dangerous blitzer and he possesses good ball skills that could lead to big plays in coverage. Coach Lakatos has a good one to work with here.

brinson2020 asks, How do you see the D-line shaking out to start next season?

I'm 66% certain I know the answer to this. Garrison Smith at defensive end, John Taylor at nose, and (insert name here) at the other end position.

Ray Drew will be the top candidate, but can he get the job done? That remains to be seen. He's had a few bright moments, but he clearly hasn't done enough in practice to warrant significant playing time thus far. It will be interesting to see if that changes this spring/fall. If not, James Deloach could play heavily with his hand in the ground. Mike Thornton and John Atkins could also some playing time opposite Smith.

At nose guard, Taylor has the leg up, but Chris Mayes will give Grantham the 1-2 punch he likes to have in the middle. I asked a starting offensive lineman about Taylor over the weekend, and his eyes lit up. He raved about his size, power and quickness. Georgia appears to be in good shape replacing John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers in the middle.

Willbeezy chimes in: Thanks for bringing the sack back....

You're welcome. I've been wanting to bring the sack back for a while, but now is a good time since basketball is bringing a ton of traffic to the site (You go, Mark Fox!).

...And I told myself I wouldn't get sarcastic...Onward we go.

...Who, in your opinion, will be "THE" impact player next season out of the new class we got coming in?

This class had a handful of guys that could make a big impact as early as next season. As I mentioned earlier, Fluker could be a big-time player and I'm very high on Brendan Langley, but I'm going to go with Jonathon Rumph on this one. He reminds me of Cordarrelle Patterson with a little less bulk. Rumph doesn't have insane speed, but he's got good hands and can be very dangerous in the red zone.

With the graduation of Marlon Brown and the proliferation of Georgia's aerial attack, Rumph should have plenty of opportunity to display his skills in a rotation with Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett, Chris Conley and Justin Scott-Wesley.

It's a sore subject, but in retrospect, Rumph would have been a good target for a jump-ball in the waning moments of the SEC Championship last December. He brings that additional threat that should help Georgia in 2013.

Cdc99 just couldn't get enough and comes back with a third question: Since we are losing Tree, Gilliard, and Robinson that's a lot of snaps available in the middle. Which ILB's from this class play the most next year?

Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough have the best chance to play the most in my opinion. Carter is already on campus, along with Ryne Rankin, but I believe Rankin may see the field early on special teams while trying to work his way into the rotation. Johnny O'Neal could also play in goal-line and against the run. Shaun McGee could work inside or outside, so I'm a little hesitant to commit him into the rotation right now.

So, in order: Carter, Kimbrough, O'Neal, Rankin, McGee*.

Muscogeedawg brings a gun to a knife party: Need the first Top 10 2014 players in state and a little thumbnail on each.

No rest for the weary. Dean released the Dawg Post Top 14 for 2014 this week, and I'm sure we'll see some Chad Simmons updates as soon as he finishes his well-deserved post-Signing Day power nap.

I can name a handful of guys that are near the top of my list, though.

Norcross OLB/DE Lorenzo Carter (Possibly the most impressive player I saw play in 2012. And yes, I attended a Grayson game). Cedartown RB Nick Chubb. Tucker DT Elisha Shaw (I'm very high on this kid). Sandy Creek WR Demarre Kitt. St. Pius X DB Nick Ruffin. Norcross LB Kevin Mouhon. Carrollton DT Dontavious Russell. Liberty Co. ILB Raekwon McMillan. Albany OLB Juwan Young. Camden Co. CB Kalvarez Bessent.

Nostradawgus has three questions: Q1) DeLoach / Dawson / Hicks - does one or more get moved to DE, if for no other reason like Drew, they simply outgrow their current OLB / FB position?

I mentioned a few questions back that I think DeLoach will play a good bit at end this season. I don't think Dawson makes a move to end necessarily, but he could get a few snaps here and there with his hand in the ground. I cannot see Hicks moving in the near future. He can, and I believe will, be a very solid fullback for Georgia.

Q2) Ramik Wilson - ILB or OLB? I'll say inside, especially in short-yardage situations, but Grantham has to love that he is versatile enough to do both.

Q3) 2 Broke Girls - Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs . . . .or Jennifer Coolidge?

Beth Behrs, by a mile. Then Coolidge and Dennings in a tie. Is that weird?

BigBandMan asks: Out of our 32 recruits for 2013 --- Your estimation as to how many fail to qualify, how many are redshirted, and how many are likely to see significant playing time (including special teams).

As of right now, the only questions mark in terms of qualifying appears to be Seymour. But North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphires believes he has a chance to make it to campus this fall instead of going the prep school route. Dean reported last week Leonard Floyd is in good shape, and that's big for UGA as he'll play in game one. Other than that, there may be one to top up (there always seems to be at least one, doesn't there), but pinpointing who would be a slippery slope I'm not trying to head down.

As for redshirts, there are a few I can estimate. I'm 50-50 on Rankin and Reggie Wilkerson but both could contribute on special teams and a few scrimmage snaps. Aulden Bynum is a good candidate for redshirt, along with Shaun McGee. Brice Ramsey will almost certainly redshirt, barring a myriad of unfortunate events. Brendan Douglas, Quincy Mauger, Reggie Davis, Uriah LeMay, DeAndre Johnson and Jordan Davis could get redshirted due to the amount of depth already at their respective positions. Georgia returns its entire two-deep on the O-line, so Josh Cardiello, Brandon Kublanow and DeVondre Seymour could also head for a redshirt. J.J. Green could play some punt returner, but if he doesn't earn a returner job, I think he may redshirt. Kennar Johnson is a relative unknown, but could definitely be used on special teams and potentially at safety. Depending on his recovery from ACL surgery goes, Trammel Terry could redshirt, though Georgia would like to use him as soon as they can, and I'd say the scary-fast Rico Johnson is probably a 75% chance to redshirt.

For those I didn't name, they'll probably play and play a good bit. Matthews, Fluker, Carter, Kimbrough, O'Neal, Rumph, Mayes, Atkins, etc...

bpadgett09 writes: How do you predict our 2013 season going. It seems that first month with Clemson, LSU, and South Carolina is the make or break for sure. Can we lose to South Carolina and win the east again?

I think Georgia has very realistic shot at 10 wins with a good chance of returning to Atlanta. For as much attention as the defense got in 2012, the offense will get even more in 2013. The showdown with Clemson could break the scoreboard, but it's also the first game of the season when offenses are almost never in a rhythm and make all those silly mistakes that cause fans to scream at the television set. LSU will be a challenge, but the Tigers may have been more devastated on defense by the draft than Georgia. Never mind the pedestrian offense the Tigers had in 2012, they will need Zach Mettenberger to be lights-out to keep up with Georgia. Here's my take on South Carolina: Jadeveon Clowney has been the best player in college football since 2012 began. He's good. Georgia knows that. But Marcus Lattimore was good, and despite his injuries, he was always healthy against the Bulldogs. Georgia can survive a loss to South Carolina, only because South Carolina has proven—more often than not—to slip up somewhere in the schedule. The Gamecocks have a three-game stretch in October that goes: at Arkansas, at Tennessee and at Missouri. Next season could look a lot like 2012, with any combination of Florida, South Carolina or Georgia finishing with one or two SEC losses and a tie-breaking deciding who wins the East.

Hpdog writes, Does Toby Johnson have a committable offer from UGA, and if so, are we in the hunt, and when is he planning to announce?

If Mark Richt did a mailbag, I would submit this question. Maybe Dean Legge Enterprises could pull that off.

But since Richt has other, "more important" things, I guess I'll do the dirty work.

Things have definitely been hot and cold with Johnson the last three or four months. The belief was that Georgia had cooled on him leading up to signing day, perhaps for fear he could not get admitted or his rehab from injury wasn't on the pace they would like, but Johnson told me that he did receive a letter of intent from Georgia on Signing Day. We will know for sure come February 19, when Johnson plans to sign with his school of choice.

Pawnpusher asks, Q1) With this recruiting class, who has a legit chance at starting game one?

Shaq Fluker or Tray Matthews at safety. Jonathon Rumph at wideout (depending on the package they use). Reggie Carter at inside linebacker. Brendan Langley at nickel corner.

Q2) Also, do you know why Vonn Bell didn't even give us a sniff?

While Bell played his high school ball in Georgia at Ridgeland, his domain was in Tennessee. Georgia was the first team to offer him and recruited him early, but the one of the Bulldogs' first commits of the 2013 class was Tray Matthews. The Bulldogs had an elite safety in tow and started looking for some junior college players like Shaq Fluker and Kennar Johnson that could play immediately. Not that Bell couldn't, but I think a big part of this class was getting a large number.

Georgia coaches likely felt that investing time in one player, when they felt they had a top caliber safety already on board and getting Bell would've been an uphill battle against Ohio State and Tennessee, may not have been the wisest decision. Instead, they diversified their investments and still did pretty well.

Jawjudawg with the perfectly-timed follow-up: So who is the better safety, Tray Mathews or Vonn Bell?

My employer has Vonn Bell ranked higher, and I haven't seen anything to really disagree with that. I do think both are very talented, and they are very different styles. Matthews is a physical safety that tackles well, whereas Bell is a little bit more of a finesse, coverage-type safety. However, when deciding who is better, be prepared to split hairs. There's a reason the teams that recruited Bell the hardest also offered Matthews. They are both special players at the safety position.

Georgiaballer jumps in with questions about the defense: Who are your 11 starters on defense at this point? How will the defense compare to last seasons? Can Jordan Jenkins be as productive and disruptive as Jarvis?

DE – Garrison Smith

N – John Taylor

**DE –Ray Drew/James DeLoach

OLB – Jordan Jenkins

MLB – Amarlo Herrera

MLB – Ramik Wilson

OLB – Josh Dawson

CB – Damian Swann

**FS – Shaq Fluker/Tray Matthews

**SS – Corey Moore/Josh Harvey-Clemons

CB – Sheldon Dawson

**I cheated here. These will be position battles to watch when fall camp arrives. All four of the safeties listed have talent and potential, but which will rise to the top? The ones I expect to win the battle are listed first.

Georgia will still be talented on defense. They may not have the NFL draft hype and get the preseason fluff that last year's team had, but that's because so many of the 2013 starters will be first-time starters. The only issue is that some of the newcomers will be have to learn and run Grantham's complicated schemes quickly.

Jordan Jenkins may be a better athlete than Jarvis Jones (Jarvis, if you're reading this—and I know you are—please don't sack me for this). Jones was a tremendous football player, but he's a guy that is not a combine freak. Jordan Jenkins is both, and having Jones mentor him last season should pay dividends in the near future for Jenkins and Georgia.

Graydog takes his turn at 21 questions: Q1) On Defense, what position do you see as the strong suit for us?

Outside linebacker looks good with Jordan Jenkins and Josh Dawson. Davin Bellamy will add another explosive edge-rusher to the mix. Despite losing Branden Smith and Sanders Commings, Sheldon Dawson and Damian Swann are extremely talented. Swann was, in my opinion, one of the top five players on Georgia's defense in 2012 (Jarvis, Bacarri, Alec, Shawn and Damian – in case you're wondering).

Q2) Do you think it is possible for us to see a lot of 4-3 sets due to personnel and not having that 350+ nose tackle?

No. It would not surprise me to see some 4-3 looks mixed in, but it won't be to make up for a lack of size up front. John Taylor is in the same mold as John Jenkins, and offensive linemen will admit he's a tough one to block.

Q3) With that, is CTG known in his history of coaching adjusting to his personel or trying to make personel fit in his system? Q4) Is he versatile?

Grantham will adjust to his personnel, but he is also in charge of recruiting that personnel, so he tends to get what fits. In the case of Jarvis Jones last season, he lined him up in all kind of ways against Missouri. Grantham will do whatever it takes to win and, like any good coach, he does a good job of using his personnel to get the best results.

Personally, I think CTG would serve best with this team watching the old superbowl NY Giants Defense where they have a lot of hybrid end/OLB and end/DTs from a 4-3 (Kind of, seems like they had 5 guys like Jarvis Jones and Jordan Jenkins rushing the QB every play) and they get after the QB. My opinion is the best players on our D are the OLB/DE body types that could wreak havoc. I would love to see a Defensive tackles on the field like a Taylor or Smith with Drew, Bailey, Jenkins, Josh Harvey-Clemons, and T.J. Stripling/Leonard Floyd/Shaun McGee/Josh Dawson types, and get up the field making plays in the backfield.

That's an interesting approach. However, with so many teams opening up to four- and five-wide receiver sets, Georgia runs in a nickel package almost as much as it does the base 3-4. In that scenario, Grantham sometimes takes out an end and lines up an outside backer over the tackle. Then, you have two down linemen, and two edge rushers. Cornelius Washington was used this way quite a bit, and he reminds me of some of those Giants' studs you referenced.

Q5) Do you think even with our schedule that our offense can carry us or should carry us, until the defense comes on and Q6) with that do we have a good chance to get back to the sec e champ game in your opinion if so?

Yes. And Yes.

dunkaroos8 asks: How much of an impact will JHC play next year? Which safety do you think will step up and have a huge year?

JHC is a popular guy. But he's talented, so I can understand why everyone is wondering if, when and how he'll show up on Saturdays come September.

Harvey-Clemons will play. There's no doubt about that. The one thing that's tough to do is tie him down to a specific position right now. He could be at free safety, or any of the linebacker spots. Grantham will surely spend some time in July and August figuring out some different ways to mix him in.

As for safeties that will step up, I've noted Shaq Fluker a few times, and with some experience in Grantham's system, things could click for Corey Moore this season.

JMTullDawg asks: Have you heard anything about Kolton Houston and his quest to become eligible to play next season? What percent chance do you think he has of ever playing a down of football for UGA? Where would he rank amongst our current group of OL - top 3, 5?

Houston would likely be one of the top six offensive linemen if he could play. He would probably battle for time at tackle and give Will Friend something to cheer about. But right now, there is really no way of knowing when, or if, he'll beat the threshold to become eligible. It's a sad situation. I give him a 20% chance of playing, but honestly, that number is completely arbitrary.

Dangerrangers6969 strolls to the party with three questions: Q1) If Todd Grantham leaves UGA for another job who would they turn to for a new DC?

This was a time-sensitive question. I apologize for the delay, but I never expected Grantham to leave during the most recent wave of rumors. The Eagles position was unlikely; if Grantham was who Chip Kelly wanted, it would've happened during the initial wave.

And the Saints were giving him consideration and an interview, but Rob Ryan was their top guy from the get-go.

If Grantham leaves down the road, hopefully Dean gives them permission to speak me.

Q2) Is Mark Fox on the hot seat?

I suppose this is a little time-sensitive as well. If you had asked me this two weeks ago, I would've said it was scorching. He may have bought him some time with this five-game winning streak he's put together. Regardless, Greg McGarity will have to re-evaluate the Georgia basketball program at the end of the season. Things need to be corrected, and a five-game winning streak doesn't change that.

Now, watch them make a miracle run in the SEC tournament and make me look dumb. But, what are the odds of that happening?

Q3) Do you think the UGA baseball team will make it to The CWS this year?

No. There have already been a few setbacks with season-ending injuries to centerfielder Connor Welton and catcher/DH Brett DeLoach.

The non-conference schedule is weaker than the 2012 football team's non-conference slate. So don't be surprised if this team gets off to a hot start and show signs of promise before the SEC teams start rolling in. That could give them some confidence, but like football, the conference is loaded, and Georgia could find itself in the middle of the pack and finish somewhere around eighth in the conference.

TNLogDog wraps us up with a couple questions: Q1) Of all the new freshmen that came in early, who will shine in the spring game?

Tray Matthews should see some substantial playing time in the G-Day game, and I think he, along with Jonathon Rumph, have the best chance to turn some heads and give fans something new to look forward to come August.

Q2) When Dean is juiced up on diet coke and ya'll are interviewing players after a game, how many times has he stepped on your toes with his gigantic boat feet?

I've developed keen peripheral vision that allows me to see his size 16 Nikes and all that neon trim before he can squash my human-sized feet.

But, hey, you know what they say about guys with big feet!

They wear big socks.

Cue the rimshot, and kill the music. I've done all I can do here. Hope y'all enjoyed it as much as I did.

Send any questions to my inbox or on the Porch. Same place, same day next week.

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