5 key players for Dawgs...

Charles Odum reviews five of Georgia's most signifigant players for the 2003 season.

Name: Russ Tanner

Position: Center

Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 290

Class: Redshirt sophomore

Following the transfer of Randall Swoopes, Tanner is being counted on to provide stability as the new starter. Tanner will be the lineman who has to identify and call out defensive schemes to the rest of the line. He also has to show he is strong enough as a blocker to protect Georgia quarterbacks against inside pass rushers, and in preseason practice he showed that he has gained size and strength in the offseason. If Tanner can't handle the job, Georgia may have to call on former tight end Michael Turner, guard Josh Brock or true freshman Nick Jones.

Name: Tony Milton

Position: Tailback

Ht./Wt.: 5-10, 200

Class: Redshirt sophomore

Milton played in every game, including one as a fill-in starter when Musa Smith was injured, and so he is not a complete mystery as he enters the season favored to hold a starting job. Still, Milton has to prove he is durable enough to handle an increased workload and is effective enough as a runner to take some pressure off the passing game. Milton is a solid blocker and receiver. Though he does not boast true breakaway speed, he may be more of a big-play threat than Smith. Even if freshman Kregg Lumpkin earns a share of the job, Milton likely will be counted on in goal-line and other short-yardage situations, due to his blocking skills and reputation as a tough runner. But Lumpkin may not be fully recovered from a hamstring injury for the start of the season.

Name: Fred Gibson

Position: Wide receiver

Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 205

Class: Junior

Despite an inconsistent sophomore season in which he briefly lost his starting job due to problems with poor blocking and fumbles, Gibson is viewed as one of the SEC's top play-makers and the best bet to succeed 2002 senior Terrence Edwards as Georgia's leading receiver. Gibson worked on his strength in the weight room and gained about 10 pounds since last season, leaving him about 20 pounds heavier than when his freshman season. Due to Georgia's depth of talent at the position, Gibson may not always lead the team in receptions, but he should be the most dangerous deep threat and also could make a big impact on kickoff returns.

Name: Odell Thurman

Position: Middle linebacker

Ht./Wt.: 6-1, 230

Class: Sophomore

Thurman is not very big by middle linebacker standards and may not match 2002 senior Tony Gilbert as a run-stopper in his first season, but Thurman has good speed and great instincts. His play-making skills showed in the G-Day spring game when he recorded seven tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown. He won the spring award for Best Tackler and should be a fixture at middle linebacker the next three seasons.

Name: Bruce Thornton

Position: Cornerback

Ht./Wt.: 5-11, 195

Class: Senior

Thornton signed with Georgia as a highly recruited running back, but he was moved to defense after his redshirt freshman year. Thornton has all the skills, but his lack of experience at cornerback showed early in his career when too often he was in position but couldn't make the play. He refined his skills last season, when he intercepted two passes, and he has to be a stabilizing factor this year, especially early in the season when three backups will be serving suspensions. Thornton's goal is to compete for the SEC lead in interceptions, and now that he has the experience to go with his talent, he may realize that goal.


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