Young pups to step up

Seven offensive starters are gone from Georgia's 2005 football team, including SEC Offensive Player of the Year D.J. Shockley at quarterback, All-America guard Max Jean-Gilles and superstar tight end Leonard Pope.

Six more starters must be replaced on defense, including standout defensive backs Greg Blue, DeMario Minter and Tim Jennings.

No one in the Southeastern Conference lost as many top-notch players as the Bulldogs, yet head coach Mark Richt flashed a big grin as he stepped to the podium this week at SEC Media Days in Birmingham. He has won three SEC East titles the past four years and, despite the heavy graduation losses, he isn't expecting a drop-off in 2006.

"I do believe we've got just as good a chance to win this year as any season that I've been at Georgia," said Richt, who has an imposing five-year record of 52-13. "I think we've done a pretty good job of recruiting over the years, finding guys who can help us win when their opportunities come up.

"I think fans sometimes look at our seniors who are leaving and our (incoming) recruiting class, and they tend to forget all of those other recruiting classes in between."

Preseason All-America defensive end Quentin Moses says the Bulldogs always have a backlog of capable players waiting to fill the holes created by graduation. He's seen it happen many times before.

"When Boss Bailey and Tony Gilbert left, they (fans) were like, ‘Man, who's going to play linebacker?'" Moses noted. "Then here comes Odell Thurman and those guys stepping up. When Charles Grant left, nobody talked about David Pollack but he came in and had 14½ sacks and was SEC Player of the Year.

"We lost (safety) Sean Jones, then you heard about Thomas Davis. Then Thomas Davis left, and we had Greg Blue. There's always going to be somebody step up at different positions. And when you don't have that standout guy at one position that everybody's talking about across the nation, you'll have somebody at another position stepping up.

"Every year Coach Richt puts so much emphasis on teamwork and togetherness that you don't even worry about it when you lose those great players."

And that, in a nutshell, is why the Dawgs have won three of the past four SEC East championships and two of the past four league titles.

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