Monday Mailbag

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

Let's get right to it in this week's edition of the Monday Mailbag.

cdc99 leads off with a recruiting question: How big of a miss was Bessent to Alabama? How many CB's are we targeting after hauling Wiggins, Langley, and Wilkerson?

You certainly never want to lose a talented in-state kid this early to Alabama, but that doesn't mean the Bulldogs are in bad shape. Bessent and his teammate, Chris Williams, decided to pledge to the Tide this month in a bit of a package-type deal. Williams, a safety, was not high on Georgia's list, and even if that cost them Bessent—a Florida fan growing up—there are other fish in the sea.

After a big haul of corners in the 2013 class and limited numbers in the upcoming year's class, I could see Georgia bringing in a couple more cornerbacks in this class. It just so happens there are a few players in Richt and Co.'s backyard that could help fill those vacancies in next year's class. Four-stars Nick Ruffin of St. Pius, Malkom Parrish of Brooks Co. and Wesley Green of MLK are all talented playmakers with an offer from Georgia. D.J. Smith (Walton High – Marietta, Ga.) is a recruit who could play corner or safety and is high on Georgia's list.

PayneHall writes: Take us through your biggest concerns on the 2013 football defense. Start with the safeties, please. I mean with a true freshman and a third year player who hasn't played significant minutes running with the first team, that would be the place to start, right? The June Juco's might be some help, eventually, but it's going to be a cram course to have them ready by Clemson and that flying circus.

Payne, you hit the nail on the head by asking me to start with safeties. Georgia coaches will keep a keen eye on the developments at the safety position this spring as early enrollees like Tray Matthews and Quincy Mauger have their heads spinning around the Woodruff Practice Fields. Then there's the Josh Harvey-Clemons situation. JHC could workout at strong safety this spring and end up at outside linebacker in the fall. All the teaching defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos is going through now will have to be repeated in the fall when JUCO transfers Kennar Johnson and Shaquille Fluker hit the scene. According to Lakatos, Corey Moore has taken the steps to become a steady contributer; now it's just a matter of making it happen.

Right now, there are no clear-cut starters at either the free or strong safety position, but there's enough talent in the secondary that whomever manifests himself as the starter will be able to make plays. Tray Matthews could very likely be that guy at free safety. For Matthews, the size and skill are there; it's just a matter of learning the speed and the concepts. Then add a guy like Shaq Fluker, who's had a taste of college football at a lower level, and you could have a nice battle in fall camp. Same goes for strong safety, where Corey Moore and JHC could be in a battle.

I think coaches are aware that no one will necessarily earn a position this spring, so they're taking things slowly and making sure the newcomers and the lettermen understand exactly what they should be doing. I think this is the biggest concern this offseason (though defensive line would be second, no doubt) the safety position, but if the players on the roster come August understand and grasp the mental aspects of the game, Georgia's defense will be in much better shape than some people expect.

EmotionalFescue drops in with a few questions: Q1) Based on practice observations, do you see J.J. Green sticking around at tailback or is this a temporary position brought on by lack of depth?

No, I do not believe J J Green will be a long-term fixture at tailback. Mark Richt has indicated he'll get mixed in with slot receivers at some point in the near future. On Signing Day, Green said he was meeting with receivers, but when Brandon Harton and Keith Marshall sat out the first few spring practices with injuries, Green spent most of his time with the tailbacks. However, once Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman arrive in the fall, Green could be seeing his time split between backs and receivers. Georgia's in no need of an every-down back; they have one in Todd Gurley. But Green brings a little different weapon to the table, and Georgia will experiment with him to see how his traits best fit their schemes.

Q2) Is Faton Bauta settled in at QB or are there any grumblings about him moving positions?

There's been no indication that a position move is in the works/discussion at the moment. That could always change. It wouldn't surprise me if it did happen at some point, but I've heard nothing to believe that a change is likely or even an option at the moment.

Q3) Which Offensive lineman who didn't play at all or very little last year is performing the best in spring with a chance to see major action come this fall?

Not sure if he fits your criteria, but Austin Long is a strong candidate for extended playing time when the fall rolls around. Long, of course, was highly recruited out of Tennessee but injuries have slowed his progress. He picked things up at the end of last season and during bowl practices, and it appears he's carried some of that momentum into the spring. With Chris Burnette and John Theus out with injuries, Long has had more reps in practice and is working at right guard with the first-teamers. A dark horse in this would be Xzavier Ward, who appears to be progressing at tackle.

Q4) Special teams updates are great - how have Marshall and Barber looked and who's returning punts and KOs?

I cannot offer much insight on this topic, as we've been kept mostly in the dark in terms of special teams. The first scrimmage is supposed to take place on Tuesday, so I'll see if anything happens on that front during the scrimmage. Stay tuned to the Porch.

Willbeezy writes: What position do you think has to step up for this year to be a good/great and who do you think must/will step up in that position?

I mentioned the safeties will be an important factor if the Georgia defense is successful in 2013. I believe Tray Matthews, Shaq Fluker and Josh Harvey-Clemons will need to step up and fill the holes Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams left behind.

Also, defensive tackle is an issue, simply because of inexperience at the position. John Taylor is plenty big to follow in the footsteps of John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, and Chris Mayes and John Atkins are certainly in the same mold. It's now a matter of what they can do with the pads on. I believe Taylor is one to watch here, but Todd Grantham will need Mayes and/or Atkins to contribute early and often in order to do what he wants to do with the defense.

hpdog writes: Hadn't seen or heard much about Josh Dawson or John Atkins. What do you see/hear as to how they are doing, and where they are on the depth chart?

Right now, Josh Dawson is running with the No. 2 unit at outside linebacker. He's a bubble guy that will see playing time in the fall, but may not be the starter at OLB. Georgia needs John Atkins (see above) to come along at the defensive tackle position this spring because the starting spot is wide open. Coaches love Atkins' size (6'4", 300 lbs.), and he can even work at defensive end on occasion in first down or second down situations, as well as goal line.

That's all for this week's edition of the sack. Head to the Porch with any question's for next week's mailbag.

Until next time, enjoy your week.

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