TIGER RAG PREVIEW: Georgia Bulldogs

Today is the fifth installment of a 15-part series in which Tiger Rag previews LSU's opponents and other members of the SEC. Today, we spotlight Georgia. Tomorrow, we focus on the Kentucky Wildcats.

Normally a powerhouse out of the SEC East, the Georgia Bulldogs had one of their more disappointing years in 2006, finishing 4-4 in the conference to tie for third with Kentucky in the east.


Even during the "off" year, head coach Mark Richt's Bulldogs still managed to go 5-0 in non-conference play, and topped Virginia Tech 31-24 to win the Chick-fil-A Bowl.


Georgia's defense, which allowed 258.2 total yards per game a year ago to rank third in the SEC, will have to replace seven starters, including three of the team's top five tacklers, in 2007.


The offense will welcome back plenty of experience, but must rebuild on the offensive line after losing three of five linemen and a tight end from last year's squad, which amassed 311.8 yards per game to finish 10th in the SEC.


Even with the number of starters lost during the off-season, Richt, who has won 61 games in his six years at Georgia, has still managed to enter the preseason as the 12th ranked team in the country.


Defensively, the secondary will be the most experienced area of the field for the Bulldogs this year, with seniors Kelin Johnson at strong safety and Paul Oliver at cornerback both returning after starting every game a year ago. Johnson finished third on the team in with 60 tackles and picking off two passes, while Oliver was ranked fifth in tackles with 57 and added three interceptions.


At the top of the depth chart to fill in at the other spots in the defensive backfield are sophomore free safety C.J. Byrd and sophomore cornerback Bryan Evans. Evans accumulated 26 tackles and six pass break ups in 12 appearances last season, while Byrd saw time in all 13 games and had eight tackles.


In the middle of the defense, senior Brandon Miller will be the only linebacker with starting experience in 2007, after playing in every game, including five starts, and tallying 23 tackles during his junior season.


Tony Taylor, the team's MVP last season after leading the Bulldogs in tackles and interceptions, leaves some big shoes to fill at outside linebacker. Looking to fill in will be junior Dannell Ellerbe and sophomore Darius Dewberry, who combined for 13 tackles last year when both served primarily as members of the Georgia special teams.


The Bulldog defensive line, which allowed 108.2 rushing yards per game last season, will have to reload this year, but will welcome back experience at tackle in junior Jeff Owens and sophomore Kade Weston. In 2006, Owens had 26 tackles, one sack and 19 quarterback hurries, while Weston pitched in with 13 tackles and 14 hurries.


Both defensive end spots are up for grabs this season, with the leading candidates being senior Marcus Howard and sophomore Roderick Battle. Howard and Battle both saw time as reserves last year, accumulating 11 tackles and four tackles, respectively. Battle also added a pair of sacks during his freshman campaign.


On offense, Georgia returns experience at all the skill positions, including 2006 starters at quarterback, fullback, split end and tailback as well as veteran Sean Bailey at wide receiver, who missed last season with an injury.


Bailey caught for 364 yards and four touchdowns during the 2005 season, including a pair of scores in the SEC Championship game.


Junior split end Mohamed Massaquoi, the team's second-leading receiver a year ago with 366 yards, will be back in 2007 to help out the receiving corps, while Kenneth Harris and A.J. Bryant will serve as experienced backups, combining for 556 yards last season.


Junior Trip Chandler will likely assume the role as starting tight end, catching two passes for one touchdown as a sophomore.


In the backfield, Brannan Southerland will return as the veteran starter at fullback, while senior Kregg Lumpkin will be back at tailback. Southerland was Georgia's leading scorer last year with 54 points off seven rushing touchdowns and two through the air.


Lumpkin led the Bulldogs on the ground with 798 total rushing yards for six scores, and was the third-leading receiver with 116 yards.


Sophomore Matthew Stafford will once again hold the reigns offensively at quarterback, after a freshman season where he completed 52.7% of his passes for 1,749 yards and seven touchdowns while tallying 13 interceptions.


On the offensive line, Georgia will need to replace three starters this season, and will be under the direction of a new line coach in Stacy Searles, who comes to the Bulldogs from LSU.


Senior guards Chester Adams and Fernando Velasco are the lone return starters, though junior Scott Havercamp and sophomore Vince Vance both enter with junior college experience.


Filling in the holes on the line could likely be red-shirt freshmen Chris Davis at center and Josh Davis at tackle.


On special teams, senior place kicker Brandon Coutu, the 2005 SEC scoring leader who has made five field goals longer than 50-yards in his career, will return for the Bulldogs this season. As a junior year, he went 17-17 on extra points and 10-11 on field goals, missing half the season with an injury.

New to the kicking game will be junior punter Brian Mimbs, who has yet to make a kick at the college level.

For kick returns, the special teams welcomes back Asher Allen, who led the team in kick off returns with 420 total yards, and Mikey Henderson, Georgia's punt return man who averaged 14.7 yards per return with two scores, including one for 86 yards.






All-Time Series vs. LSU: LSU leads 14-10-1

First Meeting: 1928, LSU 13, Georgia 12

Last Meeting: 2004, Georgia 34, LSU 14 (SEC)


Location: Athens, Ga.

Stadium: Sanford (92,746)

Head Coach: Mark Richt, 61-16, 6 years and overall





2006 Record: 9-4, 4-4 SEC (T-3rd East)

Final '06 Ranking: 23rd AP

Returning Starters: 12; 7 offense, 4 defense, kicker

Last Bowl Appearance: 2007 Gator Bowl – Georgia 31, Virginia Tech 24

Last Conference Championship: 2005





Total Offense: 311.8 ypg (10/90)

Rushing Offense: 127.4 ypg (7/71)

Passing Offense: 184.4 ypg (9/79)

Scoring Offense: 25.2 ppg (7/53)

Total Defense: 258.2 ypg (3/8)

Rushing Defense: 108.2 ypg (3/27)

Pass Defense: 150 ypg (2/5)

Scoring Defense: 17.6 ppg (4/20)





Rushing: Kregg Lumpkin – 162-798, 6 TD, 4.9 ypc, 61.4 ypg

Passing: Matthew Stafford – 256-139, 1749, 7 TD, 13 Int., 134.5 ypg

Receiving: Mohamed Massaquoi – 30-366, 2 TD, 30.5 ypg

Tackles: Kelin Johnson – 60

Interceptions: Paul Oliver – 3





Date                    Opponent                                 '06 Result

S-1                  OKLAHOMA STATE                 ---

S-8                  at South Carolina                   W, 18-0

S-15                WESTERN CAROLINA               ---

S-22                at Alabama                           ---

S-29                OLE MISS                             W, 14-9

O-6                  at Tennessee                       L, 35-51

O-13                at Vanderbilt                        L, 22-24

O-27                vs. Florida (Jax)                    L, 14-21                     

N-3                  TROY                                  ---

N-10                AUBURN                               W, 37-15

N-17                KENTUCKY                            L, 20-24

N-24                at Georgia Tech                     W, 15-12



Offense at a glance:


Matthew Stafford, who was one of four quarterbacks fighting it out for the starting spot last year, had the starting job locked up. The top issue going forward is the offensive line.


The Bulldogs will have three new starters in their front five – one a true freshman. While the group came together well during spring ball, starting a true freshman at tackle is a glaring concern. Still, Chester Adams, Chris Davis, Fernando Velasco, Scott Haverkamp and true freshman Trinton Sturdivant held their own against Georgia's defensive line, but it could take a little time to mesh considering their inexperience dealing with each other and new offensive line coach Stacy Searles.


Georgia returns nearly all of its skill position players on offense. Running back Kregg Lumpkin will have to hold off Thomas Brown, who was the starter before tearing his ACL last year, and up-and-comer Knowshon Moreno. Brown did not practice during the spring, but has all but been cleared for the fall. Moreno looks like the future at running back. He had a very good spring, and it's hard to imagine he won't get his fair share of carries in the fall.


Georgia has never had a lack of talent at receiver, but has had a lack of production. At some point this group, led by starters Mikey Henderson and Mohammed Massaquoi, will have to be consistent in order for Georgia to be able to win the SEC. A.J. Bryant, Kenneth Harris and Kris Durham, like Massaquoi and Henderson, are all capable of being game breakers – now they need to show it. It appears Tripp Chandler will replace Martrez Milner at starting tight end, but none of the other tight ends participated in the spring because they were hurt.



Defense at a glance:


While the Dawgs lose two outstanding defensive ends and good linebackers, the defense will be as fast as ever and may surprise some in the conference.


Finding out who will replace the departed defensive ends may take some time. Marcus Howard and Roderick Battle, listed as the starters, are both small for SEC-level ends. Look for Jarius Wynn to make a push into the starting lineup at some time during the year; Kiante Trip could surprise, too.


Georgia's interior defensive line will be stout this year as starters Kade Weston and Jeff Owens provide the anchor for that unit. But those two could be replaced by several capable backups, including Gino Atkins, Corvey Irvin, Brandon Wood and Ricardo Crawford. That group forms one of the bigger defensive lines in the SEC.


Look for the Dawgs' linebackers to be much faster this season. Akeem Dent made an impact this spring and is listed as a starter at one outside spot. Darius Dewberry is listed opposite him, with former outside linebacker Brandon Miller starting in the middle. Miller's production improved tremendously after the move inside.


The secondary may be the best in the SEC. C.J. Byrd is the lone new starter, but played well during spring drills. Byrd and senior Kelin Johnson form the type of  hard-hitting safety combination the conference has been used to seeing from Georgia over the last few years.


They, however, don't hit as hard as their backups, Quintin Banks and Reshad Jones. Paul Oliver and Bryan Evans are the starters at the most talented spot for the Dawgs – cornerback. Oliver is a NFL Draft first-round candidate for 2008 while Evans may be the fastest player since Richt took over – both can cover.


- Dean Legge, Dawg's Illustrated

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