Three key questions for Dawgs

Charles Odum takes a look at Georgia's three most importaint questions for the 2003 season.

Can the offensive line come together fast enough to give Georgia a chance in its early stretch of SEC games against South Carolina, LSU, Alabama and Tennessee?

It's impossible to lose every starter on the line, and two senior backups, and not feel the loss. But Georgia has the chance to recover on the line more quickly than some may expect.

Thanks in part to the addition of a strong freshman class of linemen, Georgia's depth has improved to the point that offensive line coach Neil Callaway can list three players at every position.

A key has been Russ Tanner taking a firm hold of the starting center job. Max Jean-Gilles and Daniel Inman give Georgia two big, tough starting tackles, and Dennis Roland will play behind both starters. Jean-Gilles is a rising star. Playing behind starting guards Josh Brock and Bartley Miller will be true freshman Zeb McKinzey and Ryan Schnetzer. Other freshmen who have a chance to play this year are center Nick Jones and guard Trey Chandler.

By November, if not earlier, the starters should be established.

Is there enough talent and depth at tailback?

Georgia coaches hoped to see true freshman Kregg Lumpkin push starter Tony Milton, but on the first day in full pads Lumpkin suffered a pulled hamstring. Lumpkin may still compete for playing time or even the starting job, but his injury further solidified Milton's status atop the depth chart. Milton showed his toughness by playing through injuries to appear in every game last year.

He probably won't put up all-star numbers, but he is a tough blocker who may keep the starting job as long as he is healthy.

With Tyson Browning suspended for the first three games, Michael Cooper will have a chance to play as Milton's top backup. Like Milton, Cooper does not boast the speed of Lumpkin, but given an opportunity he could be effective as a punishing, physical runner.

The unit needs Lumpkin's big-play ability. Without the freshman, this is an average group at best.

Who might emerge as a surprise this season from the freshman class?

Freshmen need talent and opportunity to make an impact in their first season, and there will be an opportunity for cornerbacks Thomas Flowers, Mikey Henderson and Paul Oliver to play immediately.

Three veteran backups — DeMario Minter, Tim Jennings and B.J. Fields — will be suspended at the start of the season. Minter and Jennings will miss the first two games, and Fields will miss only the season opener. The loss of Jennings, who stepped up with a strong showing in spring practice, is especially disappointing.

The freshmen have proved early in practice they are not intimidated when matched with such veteran receivers as Fred Gibson, Damien Gary and Michael Johnson, and that confidence will be needed if they are to provide help against Clemson's strong corps of receivers.

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