We skip ahead to the end of September, and LSU's trip to Athens. Helping us out will be the good Senator Blutarsky, of the Bulldog site Get the Picture.
1. With Aaron Murray and the Gurshall tandem back, Georgia's expected to be among the SEC East contenders again. What's the tone been like in Athens so far this spring?
I would describe the tone in Athens as cautiously optimistic. Everyone expects the offense to excel. There are questions about the defense, but most seem to fall into the when, not if category (of course, given the early schedule, that's kind of a big deal). The most interesting thing I've seen on the team's attitude was a beat writer piece that indicated the players seemed to have taken more from how they prepared for the 2011 Boise State game than from last year's SECCG loss. We'll see. In the meantime, we'll be watching for offseason suspensions -- they're sort of the canary in the coal mine when it comes to team focus.
2. How does that impact expectations for the 2013 season?
Realistically, this team has a legitimate shot to return to the SECCG for the third straight year. Some things will have to fall into place, but that's not any different for the other contending teams in the East. If the Dawgs get through the first third of the season no worse than 3-1, the championship buzz will turn serious.
3. Much like LSU, the Dawgs are replacing a ton of veterans on the defensive side of the ball. How's the transition gone to a bunch of new faces?
Mixed, but overall, not as badly as I feared. G-Day revealed that there is more defensive line depth than expected. The starters at linebacker look pretty solid, too. It's the secondary that's still unsettled, particularly from a depth standpoint, but there are some kids coming in the fall that will be expected to shore that up. One good thing back there is that a true freshman, Tray Matthews, was the talk of spring camp at safety. He looked the part at G-Day.
4. Aside from the defense, what areas of concern are y'all watching over at Get The Picture?
The offensive line is the biggest concern. Given that all of last year's starters return, the spring results were disappointing. The coaches are making it sound as if at least three positions on the line are up for grabs. As a freshman, Marshall Morgan had a shaky season as place kicker. It would be nice to see some consistency from him.
5. Offensively, Georgia has known commodities in Murray, the tailbacks and Malcolm Mitchell. Any other emerging stars (on either side of the ball) that have broken out this spring?
I mentioned the true freshman safety, Tray Matthews, already. Many expect Jordan Jenkins to emerge as the next great pass rusher under Grantham. Moving into Jarvis Jones' spot, he had a solid spring. The other name on defense to watch is Josh Harvey-Clemons. He's a lanky playmaker who will be playing some safety and some hybrid safety/linebacker, depending on whether Georgia's in its base 3-4 or playing a nickel package. Grantham loves him and wants him on the field as much as possible.
On offense, given that there's so much quality experience returning, there aren't too many opportunities for newbies, but one player who emerged at G-Day, wide receiver Jonathan Rumph, definitely opened some eyes. He's got a good chance to work himself into the rotation if he can bulk up a little and contribute as a blocker. The other offensive player to watch is lineman Xzavier Ward, who is making a serious push to start at right tackle.