SEC East: Georgia

With the top three 2005 rushers back for another year, Georgia's football team should have a potent ground game this fall. Conversely, with D.J. Shockley out of eligibility, career backup Joe Tereshinski and true freshman Matthew Stafford will try to prop up the passing game.

Can you say "Pound the rock?"

Head coach Mark Richt can. Richt always seems to have a potent passing attack but that's because he always seems to have a potent passer. David Greene handled the job brilliantly for four years, then Shockley surpassed expectations as a senior last fall. Tereshinski started one game as a fill-in last fall (vs. Florida) and Georgia scored a season-low 10 points. He's not the answer.

Stafford likely will be. But can a freshman handle the job? Probably. Greene was a redshirt freshman when he assumed command in 2001, and he promptly led the Dawgs to an 8-4 record that included a come-from-behind upset of No. 6 Tennessee in Knoxville. Stafford participated in 2006 spring drills and should be ready to take the controls by Game 3 at UAB if not sooner.

Fortunately for Georgia, the Dawgs won't have to ask Stafford to do too much too soon. With three proven tailbacks in Thomas Brown (736 yards last fall), Danny Ware (492) and Kregg Lumpkin (335), Richt may not call a passing play until midseason. For the ground game to carry the Dawgs, though, capable replacements must be found for three starters from the 2005 offensive line, including 340-pound behemoth Max Jean-Gilles. Tight end Leonard Pope, who recorded a team-high 39 catches last fall, will be missed, as well.

Georgia must replace three defensive backs who are now playing in the NFL – safety Greg Blue, corners Tim Jennings and DeMario Minter – but the front seven should be solid. Defensive end Quentin Moses is being touted as a potential superstar.

Georgia's SEC records the past four years have been 7-1, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. If the Bulldogs can find a way to pound the rock while their young quarterback learns to throw the rock, another 6-2 is possible. But 5-3 seems a lot more realistic.

TOMORROW: My take on Urban Meyer's Florida Gators.

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