Potential Will Get You Nothing

ATHENS – And then there was one. Mark Richt looks at his offense and sees plenty of potential, but with so many playmakers now departed for the NFL, there's a concern opposing defenses will simply see A.J. Green as the Bulldogs' lone true playmaker.

Potential is one thing, but even Richt acknowledges that Georgia will need to have some new faces step up if the Bulldogs' offense hopes to intimidate defenders the way it did last year with Knowshon Moreno leaping would-be tacklers, Matthew Stafford stretching the field with his cannon arm, and Green teaming with Mohamed Massaquoi to form the SEC's top receiving duo.

"If you only have one guy that everybody knows, if you stop him, you stop their offense, that's a problem," Richt said.

The battle to replace the lost production of so many superstars is already moving ahead at full speed.

While the Bulldogs have as many as five candidates for the running back job and a replacement for Stafford already set, the wide receivers offer a mix of talent and experience that makes the race for playing time particularly intriguing.

"That's what the spring is for to see who's going to compete, who's going to step up when it's crunch time," wideout Michael Moore said. "I'm not going to say who's going to do it or how many people are going to do it, but we'll find out. Right now, everybody's fighting to get playing time."

Last season, Moore was the benefactor of the large shadows cast by Georgia's numerous offensive playmakers. With Massaquoi and Green each approaching 1,000 yards receiving by year's end, defenses were so perplexed by how to handle the duo while still shutting down Moreno that Moore's appearance on the field was hardly more than an afterthought.

The results were impressive by Moore's historical standard. He finished his junior season with nearly six times as many receptions as he had accumulated in his first two years at Georgia and led the Bulldogs with six catches for 97 yards in their bowl victory over Michigan State.

This season, however, Moore is hoping to improve his production while handling a far bigger piece of the pie on offense.

"Mohamed was a special guy, and it's hard to replace someone that talented," Kris Durham, who will miss the 2009 season with injury, said. "There's a lot of talented guys on the receiver corps this year. We've got a lot of talent, and we just need to spread it out so they can't really key on one guy."

That may not be the exact philosophy quarterback Joe Cox is taking this spring, but he does admit that Georgia will need to be a bit more creative this year if it hopes to prevent defenses from focusing on Green.

As Green's legend grew following several big games and dozens of acrobatic catches last season, the attention he commanded from the opposition increased accordingly. Still, with Massaquoi on the other side of the field, stopping Georgia's passing game was no easy task, regardless of which receiver earned double coverage.

That won't be the case when the Bulldogs kick off the 2009 season. Green will clearly be a focal point for defenses, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

"It's good knowing that teams are going to be thinking a lot about A.J., but it would be even better if we can get to the point where we have three, maybe four guys on the field that people are saying, ‘How are we going to cover these guys?'" Cox said. "That's what we're trying to get. We're trying to find those guys."

Without a marquee name alongside Green this season, Cox said the Bulldogs are experimenting with a few other twists to keep defenses on their toes.

"We're going to focus this year on moving guys around a lot more," Cox said. "Guys learn different positions, it builds depth, and it gives the receivers a better understanding of defenses, too."

Depth may not be that much of a concern.

In addition to Durham and Moore, who will provide plenty of experience, freshman Tavarres King and redshirt freshman Israel Troupe have both shown flashes of potential after coming to Georgia as highly touted recruits. Junior Tony Wilson has been hampered by an ankle injury that kept him off the field for much of last season, but his leadership and physical style could make him dangerous if he can return to full health.

The wild card in the mix could be incoming freshman Marlon Brown, who won't arrive on campus until June, but will bring with him a reputation that has many fans expecting a repeat of the success Green enjoyed during his first season a year ago when he led the SEC in receiving.

That type of production is the exception to the rule, however, and Richt knows finding someone to fill the void left by Massaquoi in the passing game won't be a simple task.

What he does know, however, is that the answer is coming eventually.

"It takes time to really see," Richt said, "but I think we've got more than one playmaker."

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