2006 A Rebuilding Year for Dawgs?

ATHENS – Five months ago, Georgia's players were insulted when many analysts called 2005 a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs. They better get used to it.

In seven months from now, when the 2006 season begins, they'll probably be hearing it again. Counting tight end Leonard Pope, who has announced his decision to leave school early and enter the NFL Draft, the Bulldogs will have to replace 12 starters from this year's SEC Championship team, including quarterback D.J. Shockley, two All-Americans and three other All-SEC first-teamers.

The Bulldogs' argument is that, in Mark Richt's five years, they have risen above the level of rebuilding.

"I hope that we've gotten to that point, but every year is a new challenge and our league is a very tough league," Richt said. "You could be a heck of a football team and lose three or four games by one or two points and people don't think too highly of you."

Georgia, which lost its three games this year by a combined eight points, won their second SEC title in four years and had double-digit victories for the fourth straight year this season. Monday's 38-35 loss to West Virginia will cost the Bulldogs a fourth straight season of finishing in the top 10, but that doesn't lessen what the team did accomplish, several players said after the game.

"To come out there and get beat by a good team like West Virginia I don't think spoils our season any," senior receiver Bryan McClendon said. "We're still SEC champs and still have a 10-win season so that still goes on."

The good news for Georgia is they have an heir apparent at most of the positions where they are losing players.

"We've got a lot of good players coming back," Coach Mark Richt said. "We're losing a lot more seniors this year than we did a year ago, but we've got some talented guys who are excited about their opportunities. Now, will they be able to produce as well? Will our seniors coming up be able to lead? Right now, I think we've got very good ingredients and very good seniors who can play. We'll see how they can lead."

While the Georgia coaches will be trying to replace Greg Blue, DeMario Minter and Tim Jennings in the defensive backfield and Max Jean-Gilles and Dennis Roland on the offensive line, the only position battle most fans will care about is at quarterback. Rising senior Joe Tereshinski will enter spring practice as the starter, but Joe Cox, Matthew Stafford and Blake Barnes will get a chance.

"Quarterback is like any other position," Richt said. "You feel like you're going to find a guy who can get the job done. We've got some guys who have a chance to play pretty good for him (on the offensive line). We're not sure of our tight end situation yet. We know our running back situation should be good. Whoever we put in there will be surrounded by good people. Hopefully they'll be able to handle the pressure."


All positions are based on projections of Josh Kendall. All classes listed reflect the player's status next season.


Split end
Mohamed Massaquoi So.
Split tackle
Daniel Inman Sr.
Split guard
Zeb McKinzey Jr.
Nick Jones Sr.
Tight guard
Chester Adams Jr.
Tight tackle
Ken Shackleford Sr.
Tight end
Martrez Milner Sr.
Joe Tereshinski Sr.*
Thomas Brown Jr.
Brannan Southerland So.
Sean Bailey Sr.**


Defensive end
Charles Johnson Jr.
Defensive tackle
Jeff Owens So.
Defensive tackle
Ray Gant Sr.
Defensive end
Quentin Moses Sr.***
Strongside linebacker
Brandon Miller Jr.
Middle linebacker
Tony Taylor Sr.
Weakside linebacker
Jarvis Jackson Sr.
Paul Oliver Jr.
Thomas Flowers Jr.
Tra Battle Sr.
Kelin Johnson Jr.

Brandon Coutu Jr.
Gordon Ely-Kelso Sr.

* Tereshinski will enter spring practice in March as the team's starter, but this position is wide open. Incoming freshman Matthew Stafford and redshirt freshman Joe Cox will have a good shot as well. Rising sophomore Blake Barnes is the darkhorse in the race.
** If an injury forces Bailey to redshirt, Kenneth Harris will get the first shot at this role.
*** Moses is considering turning pro early, which would leave this spot to Marcus Howard or Roderick Battle, or Ray Gant, if the Bulldogs can find someone else to play tackle in Gant's place.

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