Monday Mailbag

Dawg Post's Jonathan Branch tackles questions in another edition of the Dawg Post mailbag.

We continue our mailbag this week with questions about 'Gurshall,' top position groups in the 2014 recruiting class in the state of Georgia and some more depth chart questions.

So let's get to it...

Aspendawg comes out swinging with a handful of questions regarding underclassmen and injuries: Q1) How are Dawson and Bowman coming along? Q2) Do we think they can contribute solid playing time?

Josh Dawson will be counted on next season. He is one of the more experienced returnees and gives Georgia a lot of flexibility. He can play the outside linebacker position, maybe help out at middle linebacker on goal-line situations or even play a little end when necessary. At this point in the year, I would pencil him in at outside linebacker, with a good to very good chance of starting.

Devin Bowman got thrown in the mix last year with Sanders Commings out for the first two games and afterward, when Commings returned to play safety in place of Bacarri Rambo. Spring and fall camps could feature a battle between Bowman and Sheldon Dawson for the starting cornerback spot opposite Damian Swann. Bowman obviously proved enough to get in the rotation last season, and with another offseason, should solidify his spot in the two-deep at cornerback, at the very least.

Q3) Is the Rev going to finally get it together and be a force this year, or is he more so just a fill-in guy that relieves others?

I think Ray is the early leader for the starting defensive end spot opposite Garrison Smith. I'm not ready to say he'll be a force. He should be the starter, based on the amount of resources and expectations Georgia has in him. Last season, whenever Drew was mentioned, coaches would use words like "He better be ready..." or "...we hope he's ready." Certainly not a ton of confidence in those words, but sometimes when players realize what's in front of them (Drew is, after all, at the midway point in his college career), the light comes on.

Q4) I think you may have discussed briefly, but how are Bennett, Terry, and Bellamy doing with recovery (I guess Bellamy probably hasn't started his yet)? How is Pike, Ward, DeBell, Burnett and the others on the online progressing with their injuries and strength and conditioning?

While I'm not ready to commit too much in the way of injury progress, based on what I know from last season and the sheer mindset of many of the players, I'd say Georgia should be in good shape in terms of recovery/rehabilitation. Bennett was a little ahead of schedule back in December. Terry is determined to try and get on the field this fall and working with Bennett during recovery should help his mental focus. Burnette was still in a sling last week and, as reported, will miss spring practice, but I would think he should be ready to go by July. Bellamy should be fine by the time he enrolls and fall practice rolls around.

As for DeBell, I think he's fully recovered, but he could still add some strength to be an every-down player. Ward is a guy that could be the next-man-up should an injury occur to a tackle. He's an athletic tackle, with a nimble lower body, but he's also on the slender side. Hopefully we'll get a better idea of Greg Pyke's status when spring practice rolls around.

coop4hsman writes: Having grown up just a few miles from the Jenkins County line, I'm interested to hear your opinion on Johnathan Taylor. Given the disappointment our NTs seemed to be last year, do you think a Taylor/Mayes/Atkins combo at NT can be as productive or more productive than what we had in 2012? I always suspected that with Taylor coming from Jenkins Co. High, it would take him a while to develop the kind of technique it takes to be a difference maker in the SEC.

In short, I believe John Taylor has the size and power Grantham wants out of his nose guard. Replacing John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers with little experience will not be easy, but the combination that Georgia has put together is capable of getting the job done.

In last week's mailbag we talked a little about the defensive line, and here's the excerpt on Jenkins:

I asked a starting offensive lineman about Taylor over the weekend, and his eyes lit up. He raved about his size, power and quickness.

Gunter2011 rolls in with a few questions: Q1) Who has a bigger sophomore season, Jordan Jenkins or "Gurshall?"

Man, that's two on one. I have to say the Gurley and Marshall. For Gurley to be a powerful back, coaches did a good job of keeping carries to a minimum for the season. He carried the ball 13 or fewer times in seven of Georgia's 14 games last season. Marshall will have a season of solid experience under his belt and another year under strength coach Joe Tereshinski. Both Gurshall and Marshall are running track (and running well, too) this offseason and could put on an even better show in their sophomore season this fall.

Jenkins is the heir apparent to Jarvis Jones' role of the dynamic pass-rushing linebacker. The crazy thing is that Jenkins may have a better basic skill set to play the position than Jones, one of the best defensive players in Georgia history. Jenkins spent a season learning from Jones and even roomed with him on road trips.

Think back to 2010, when Alabama and Florida led for Jenkins' services as a recruit. There's a reason Grantham put the full-court press on Jenkins and eventually landed him. He's a special player and should be a household name for most Georgia fans by the end of the season.

Q2) How do you see the receiving group shaping out this season, Will Bennett come back stronger?

On paper, the receiving corp that Georgia will return ranks at, or near, the top in the conference. Michael Bennett should be back to full speed, giving Aaron Murray that dangerous third-down threat and solid safety valve. Malcolm Mitchell won't be putting the position on the back-burner in order to play defense come the fall, giving Murray a deep-threat playmaker. Chris Conley reminds me of Tavarres King with his top-end speed and good hands and route-running.

Justin Scott-Wesley arrived on the scene late last season, showing signs that his "raw" label may be wearing off. If so, ‘JSW' is yet another burner in the receiver rotation. Newcomer Jonathon Rumph could fill the need for a taller receiver, capable of red zone jump balls, and other freshmen like Rico Johnson or Trammel Terry (if he recovers) could get in the mix.

Lest we forget the tight ends—Artie Lynch and Jay Rome—who should see some more designed plays this season. The pair collectively caught a touchdown in each of the last three games in 2012.

Q3) Does A.J. Turman get significant carries this season?

Depends on how you define "significant." He could spell Marshall and Gurley at times, or Georgia could throw the ball 35 to 40 times a game and go with a no-back look. Turman has a body to take hits in the SEC, so he should see carries this season, but how "significant" ones? Barring injuries, I would think few.

Cool4me99 writes: Will our uncertainty with our coordinators end up hurting us with recruits? Like I know Kirby Smart at Bama is linked to jobs every offseason, but he has been there over six years and most people feel Saban truly runs the defense...With us, Coach Grantham seems like he is looking for the next best thing, and even with Bobo's loyalty, he might want a head coach job if offered. Do you think that in the end it hurts our efforts because recruiting seems based very much on relationships, not so much the school itself sometimes?

This has been brought up many a times during the offseason. The perfect storm of the Todd Grantham rumors, the Rodney Garner-to-Auburn move and Georgia's perceived poor recruiting finish led to the question of whether all the coaching hullabaloo affected the recruiting front. It's a warranted question. Staff turnovers occur all the time, and those come into play during recruiting.

There may be an individual or two in a class that can be affected by the rumor (see: Grantham) of a coaching change, but as a whole, recruits look at the here and now in terms of coaches. They know coaching moves are a part of the game. Very few staffs stay completely the same for a four-year period.

I would say that actual coaching moves (see: Garner) during a player's recruitment could hurt a lot during the recruiting process, simply because the liaison between school and player is no longer just that. But if there's enough time, teams can make that ground up.

Also, I don't know that Grantham is actively "looking" for the next best thing, but if a promotion or a move up the ladder is in his best interest, he (like most people) will entertain the thought. The same goes for Bobo. The Grantham-to-Philly appeared to be nothing more than hearsay and the Grantham-to-Saints deal never came to fruition. Thus, Grantham was still calling prospects like Davin Bellamy, and in the end, Georgia got the best end out of the deal, keeping Grantham and adding Bellamy.

So do I think the rumored moves or reported interviews damage Georgia's efforts? No. Recruits think more along the lines of "Who's the new guy?" than "Will this guy be here my senior season?"

Shawnyoungblood writes: I am a little concerned with depth at the D-Line positions. I know we have a few guys listed as DE's but most of them will play OLB'er. I think we only have 8 scholarship guys who will play the true D-line positions in the 3-4. Should this be a concern or can some of those linebackers move up and play DE to shore up the positions if we have some attrition? I wish we had gotten a few more of those DL recruits!

Linemen are a prized possession on either side of the ball, so it's okay to want more D-Line recruits. Obviously, it would not have hurt Georgia to bring in one or two more on signing day, but now, they have to make do. I'm not sure how many linebackers could make the move up to end, but James DeLoach (6'3", 270) would be a viable option to move in my opinion. Josh Dawson could also play with his hand in the ground every now and then. Other than that, Garrison Smith, Ray Drew, Mike Thornton, Sterling Bailey and possibly John Atkins will be the rotation.

GEORGIAN writes: It seems like every year in Georgia, the recruiting class is remembered for being really strong in a couple of positions. Last year was a exception, because it was so strong across the board, but the D.lineman in Georgia, were very talented, and deep. What do you think the 2014 class will be known for ? Thanks.

Running backs would be a good place to start. Norcross' running back Myles Autry, Thomas County Central's Adam Choice, Cedartown's Nick Chubb and Walton Academy's Stanley Williams are a strong group of running backs.

Linebackers are likely a close second right now. Bryson Allen-Williams, Korie Rogers, Juwon Young, Raekwon McMillian and Kevin Mouhon are all top-level prospects, and Lorenzo Carter could be included in this group as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

JMTullDawg writes: Todd Gurley is the best UGA running back since _____? I'd say Garrison Hearst, but I'm interested to know what you think. Also, how does Keith Marshall's talent and athleticism stack up amongst other RBs of the Richt era?

Right now, Gurley is the best back since Hearst, but his ceiling could be higher. I think everyone in the country has seen what Gurley can do. Now other teams must figure out a way to stop him. But against the two best defenses Georgia faced in 2012 (Bama and Florida), Gurley had 50 carries, 240 yards and three scores. He seemed to get better as the season progressed, rushing for over 100 yards in five of Georgia's final seven games.

Marshall is without a doubt the fastest back when talking top-end speed in the Richt era. He's fast but sometimes to a fault. There are times where his body lean and balance get a little off-kilter and cause him to stumble. That was one of the few issues in his freshman season and should be worked out soon enough. He is, as you said, the biggest home run threat Richt has had.

jawjudawg writes: Do you think NCAA Division 1 football players should be paid because they generate so much money for the schools or do you think that the scholarship is enough?

Yes. Without getting too bogged down in the details, playing a college sport is a full-time job. Nowadays, we (fans and media) expect players to be on their best behavior, go to class, do their school work and give people something to cheer about on the field on the weekends. If that goes well, fans show up and spend money.

Television deals are brokered. Universities roll in Brinks trucks filled with what football is raking in for them.

If this were a fair practice, the (I'm making this up) College Football Players Union would not allow its players to continue playing. There would be a lockout until players receive proper incentives relative to the tons of money they generate. I'm not saying they should be paid a lot, but a fair stipend won't greatly affect the integrity (or lack thereof) of the NCAA.

pawnpusher writes: Would you be surprised if Douglas got more playing time than Turman at the RB position?

Yes.

jawjudawg comes back to write: Why is the mailbag from last week on Auburn Tigers' board? You mean this?

I guess I'm syndicated, jawju.

I think the higher-ups believe everyone should be fortunate enough to enjoy the Monday Mailbag. You can see it here on the Clemson site. The Florida State site. Even Colorado.

Okay, so that wasn't serious.

The best answer I can give is that it's how the system works.

hpdog writes: Are you aware of any good NCAA program that does not have a Recruiting Coordinator? Why would we do this? Why not name someone like McClendan or Lilly, give them a raise, and move forward? Are you hearing anything on this topic?

I don't think whether or not someone holds that title makes a drastic difference. As it stands, coaches are sharing some of the load of the "recruiting coordinator," but really, the hiring of Daryl Jones as on-site recruiting director lessened the need for a true recruiting coordinator. Jones and his staff can handle the job of a recruiting coordinator until Richt makes an official statement on who will take over that role.

tst2803 writes: I'd be interested in an accounting of kids UGA turned away because of "silent" commits (use whatever terminology applies) who switched, and that have come back to bite us in the derriere....at least from a perspective of a full 85 roster complement.

The beautiful thing about recruiting is that it keeps moving forward. I was speaking with someone recently about why Georgia didn't just take a few more wildcards in this class late with a few spots left available.

The short answer is they still keep those scholarships and those scholarships will still be used, just at a different time. It could be for walk-ons or it could be for an early enrollee in the upcoming class. After all, counting backwards helped Georgia get in a strong class of early enrollees in 2013.

As for the idea of saving spots for "silent" commits, coaches will stick with the prospect they want if they feel he is going to choose Georgia. Sometimes, like in 2013, coaches had a good feeling that was probably the correct feeling to have, but something else came along. That certainly affects the numbers count, but again, recruiting keeps moving forward. If you try to go back and change things, you'll end up missing on the next big thing.

That's it for this week.

Tune in next week. Same day, same place.


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