2009 Spring Football Preview

ATHENS - Dawg Post's Preview of Georgia's 2009 Spring Practices.

The biggest two questions going into Georgia's spring football will be the most obvious – Can Joe Cox effectively take over for Matthew Stafford? Can anyone step in for Knowshon Moreno?

Cox will have to hold off Logan Gray, but it seems he's got what it takes to be the signal caller at Georgia. The second question is a little more difficult to answer. No one player will be able to replace Moreno. Caleb King has not stepped up the way many thought he would – for one reason or another – and Richard Samuel had some costly fumbles late in the 2008 season.

Still, players will have to be replaced across the board in Athens (like in every other school in the country) and younger players will have to step up and take a spot from others.

Quarterback

Fifth-year senior Joe Cox will get his chance to do his best impression of D.J. Shockley starting in March. Like Shockley, Cox will have to replace a Georgia legend. Cox will have to get out from underneath Stafford's shadow as fast as possible. If he's not already started doing that, it may be too late. Cox can't make every throw Stafford can, but he probably won't have to. He may not have a go-to running back, but he will have a much better offensive line to work with, and will have solid, and sometimes spectacular, receivers. The starting quarterback job is, too, about leadership, which is something Cox has. If he is steady there is no reason Georgia can't play for the SEC Championship, but that work must start in the spring.

Logan Gray is in an interesting situation. Now the legit back-up quarterback at Georgia, how often will Gray get onto the field for special teams duties? Is he, or the coaching staff, willing to risk an injury to him in order to have him return punts? Gray, right now, has the chance to win the starting job from Cox. But if he does not do so in the spring, or if the competition does not close a little, Gray could be moved to a position where he can play on the field more often – he's too good not to play.

Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger are about to have the most difficult transition they've had so far in football. Don't expect much from these two youngsters, but know this: one of these two – perhaps even both – is the future quarterback at Georgia. Still, expect nothing from these two this fall.

Tailback

Knowshon Moreno is gone (moment of silence entered here…). Now someone, and it is hard to tell who, must step up. Caleb King and Richard Samuel will get their chance to do so this spring, but it is unclear at this time if either will have enough to pull down the starting job once and for all. King was a celebrated running back coming out of high school. He got hurt his senior year in high school and has never been the same since. King must improve his blocking – it really hurt the team later in the season. Samuel's problems were much more obvious – he fumbled the ball in the third quarter to give Georgia Tech all the momentum they needed to win. Reports from inside the team are that Samuel had trouble holding on to the ball in practice. Samuel, a very young player, has time to overcome his problems, but he will miss spring practice recovering from an injury.

Carlton Thomas, after redshirting his first year in Athens, will get his shot to tote the rock this spring. Thomas is not the most traditional candidate to win this spot, but expect to see him used in formations that can take advantage of the running back in the passing game. Dontavius Jackson, also a redshirt freshman, will miss some of spring practice with an injury. He's got good speed, but has not had a chance to shine so far. Still, Jackson could make a splash this spring as a traditional tailback when he's not recovering from his knee injury. Kalvin Daniels, a walk-on, will get heavy carries in the spring. He won't be the starter, but he will be talked about a fair amount.

Fullback

Brannan Southerland, after a very long and impressive career at Georgia, is gone. His injuries during the 2008 season opened up the door at fullback, and Shaun Chapas ran with it. He started six games, and had 145 total yards – including an important 37-yard reception in the Tennessee game. Chapas should not be challenged as the starting fullback, but Fred Munzenmaier will get his chance to solidify the back-up spot. Both will be used extensively on special teams. Justin Fields will miss spring ball recovering from surgery for his ACL injury.

Tight End

Tripp Chandler's career at Georgia ended, and now someone must replace him as the starting tight end. Chandler's production at the spot was not nearly what others were in the past, but no one knocked him out of the starting spot over the last two years, so there is some work to be done here.

Bruce Figgins, the player most would consider the favorite to be the starter, is sitting out spring ball recovering from a shoulder surgery. Aaron White will have a chance to work with the number one team the entire spring as a result. White really came on at the end of the 2008 season. He is going to have to be relied on in special teams and at this spot, but he's going to have to play well to make this a battle in fall camp. Byrce Ros, who sat out much of his redshirt season banged up, will also have a chance to show his stuff this spring.

Receivers

A.J. Green won't get much work during Georgia's annual G-Day this spring. Everyone knows what he can do. He will be the go-to receiver for the Dawgs in 2009 and 2010. He will likely be the Dawgs' top offensive weapon for the next two seasons.

Still, Green needs a little help. Mohammed Massaqoui is gone, but Mike Moore is emerging as a serious threat in Georgia's passing game. Moore seemed to disappear his first three seasons, but he's become a serious threat since then. After collecting only five receptions in two seasons, Moore exploded in 2008 for 23 for 354 yards. He ended 2008 with five starts.

Kris Durham was hurt during much of the 2008 season, but he, too, could have a big 2009. He had three starts last season with ten receptions for 167 yards. Durham has all the tools to be a big deal. He, like Moore, is about to play his last year at Georgia. The time is now for Durham.

Israel Troupe and Tavarres King both played in 2008, but were a little too young to make an impact. King, in fact, redshirted mid-way through the season after an injury in September. Troupe will have to be a force on special teams, and could pattern himself after Moore, who has a similar body type. King, on the other hand, needs to add more mass, which he has been working on. Other than that, King just needs to figure out a way to get onto the field. King's hands, like Durham's, are tremendous.

Offensive Line

If Georgia's offensive line looks this fall anything like it will almost certainly look in the spring, Georgia could be in trouble. Multiple players, including several probable starters, will be out this spring recovering from injuries. Trinton Sturdivant (ACL), Vince Vance (ACL), Josh Davis and Chris Davis will all miss the entire spring with injuries. That makes for a rather interesting offensive line to work with this spring.

Clint Boling and Justin Anderson will work at tackle. If two players other than Boling get the job done there expect Boling – the top offensive lineman at Georgia – to move back to guard. Anderson was banged up at the end of the 2008 season, so he still may be getting used to coming back.

Inside, the Bulldogs feature a pair of youngsters in Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn. Both started as true freshmen last season, and should benefit from that experience this spring. Tanner Strickland seems to be the player who will most benefit from Chris Davis being out this spring as he is listed as a starter on the depth chart. Strickland has had a more traditional trajectory for a college football lineman – he's waited his turn. Strickland will have to play well this spring to win a starting job for the fall. He's solid going forward, but needs to work in passing situations, which could be where the Dawgs are headed on offense. Kevin Perez is likely running out of chances to play at Georgia. If he can't make waves this spring, or if he gets into any more off-the-field trouble he might not be around in the future. Ben Harden remains a bit of a mystery, too.

Two redshirt freshmen, A.J. Harmon and Jonathon Owens, will get their shot to shine this spring. Harmon moved over from the defensive line during the year – expectations are higher for him than Owens. Still, Owens is a player who can be used during obvious running situations and probably do well.

Defensive Line

If there is an area at Georgia that could improve compared to what it was last season, it is on the defensive line – specifically at end. Georgia did not get the pressure needed to pull off the type of defense Willie Martinez likes to run. Battered and bruised by the end of the year, Georgia's defensive ends will be limited this spring as a slew of the players on the line recover from the 2008 season. Rod Battle, Neland Ball, Matt DeGenova and Cornelius Washington will all miss spring ball recovering from surgeries performed after the season ended. Battle was a starter on one side of the ball, and Ball would have fought for the starting spot on the other, but they will both be unable to perform. That means Demarcus Dobbs moves into a starting role now that Jarious Wynn has left. Justin Houstin will take over where Jeremy Lomax left off. Georgia is expecting big things from the sophomore from Statesboro. Those two players will get the lion's share of the snaps this spring at end, but redshirt freshman Jeremy Longo could get some valuable work this spring if he can stay healthy.

At defensive tackle, Georgia will have to wait for fifth-year senior Jeff Owens to return this fall. That means Kade Weston will get his shot to work with the first team nearly the entire spring. Weston will work opposite Geno Atkins, who has been a dominant force when working with Owens. Brandon Wood will back up Atkins in the fall, but he will miss this sping. Ricardo Crawford seems to still be lost in the shuffle. Sophomore DeAngelo Tyson could use this spring to jump some in the depth chart. He seems destined to be a starter soon.

Linebackers

Rennie Curran will have his chance to shine as a leader starting this spring in Athens. The best linebacker on campus, Curran will have to fill the leadership shoes Dannell Ellerbe left with his graduation. Darryl Gamble made plays during the 2008 season, but needs to work on being more dependable in every-down situations. He will likely start at Sam. That means Akeem Dent will start in the middle with Marcus Washington backing him up. Charles White will finally get his chance to get back out on the field after missing both of the last seasons with either a redshirt or injury. He will be needed for depth and on special teams.Marcus Dowtin came on pretty strong at the end of the 2008 season. He is listed as Curran's backup this spring. Steady back-up Darius Dewberry will miss spring after post-season surgery. He will be missed at linebacker and on special teams. Akeem Hebron, who seemed destined to a breakout 2009, will miss spring, too, after a surgery. Christian Robinson, who redshirted 2008, will have his chance to shine this spring as well. It is hard to know if Nick Williams will play safety or linebacker, but he will play something. Right now he's listed as the backup at Sam. He could get some hard looks at safety, too.

Cornerbacks

For one reason or another Asher Allen decided to leave Georgia a year early to declare for the NFL Draft. In doing so Allen makes way for a starting spot opposite Prince Miller. Bryan Evans played safety most of the end of 2008, and it is expected that he will remain there. That means sophomore Brandon Boykin, redshirt freshman Sanders Commingsand junior Vance Cuff will have to fight it out for the starting spot beside Miller. Georgia is thin at corner as a result of Allen's departure.

Safety

Reshad Jones thought about the NFL, but decided better of it. He will need to perform better his junior season to pick up his NFL stock for the 2010 NFL Draft. While Jones has everything needed to be a star at Georgia and beyond, he needs to correct the little things first – that is what spring is all about. Bryan Evans will likely start opposite Jones, but several redshirt freshmen will be fighting to push for playing time. Still, John Knox is listed as the backup behind Evans. Quintin Banks is the backup behind Jones.

Bacarri Rambo is very, very talented, but has never played. Sophomore Nick Williams will be on the field – perhaps at safety, perhaps at linebacker… maybe even both this spring (he is listed as a linebacker on the depth chart). Mikiri Pugh needs to stay healthy to get as many snaps as possible for his future. He redshirted last season.


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