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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
Meeting: 1928, LSU 13,
Last Meeting: 2004, Georgia 34, LSU 14 (SEC)
Location: Athens, Ga.
Head Coach: Mark Richt, 61-16, 6 years and overall
2006 IN REVIEW
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
2006 STAT BREAKDOWN (SEC/NCAA)
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-29 OLE MISS W, 14-9
O-13 at Vanderbilt L, 22-24
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
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.
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
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