Spring has only deepened questions for Bulldogs

semerson@macon.comApril 6, 2012 

ATHENS -- Georgia entered spring practice with what head coach Mark Richt termed an “all hands on deck” theme. Three transfers and at least two key reported suspensions later, that’s only become more apparent.

One week from the spring game, trying to form a two-deep depth chart is a hazardous proposition. That holds true even on defense, where nine starters were returning -- and now four are facing suspensions to start the season.

The biggest question remains how much Malcolm Mitchell will play on each side of the ball, and that decision hangs over both offense and defense.

Still, some situations have received more clarity:

• Tailback: The spot is a bit less crowded.

Carlton Thomas transferred on the first day of spring practice, and it looks more and more like Richard Samuel will play fullback. Samuel isn’t out of the picture at tailback, but at the moment, Isaiah Crowell and Ken Malcome are in the best position.

Freshman Keith Marshall is a solid third, with a chance to move up, with Todd Gurley also set to be a factor when he arrives.

• Defensive end: This is one of the two spots in which Georgia needed to replace a graduating senior. Garrison Smith, who stepped in for the injured DeAngelo Tyson for the final three games last year, has had a good spring.

Former outside linebacker Ray Drew has been moved to end, and Cornelius Washington has worked at end this spring.

So no matter what happens, Georgia should feel confident about not having a dropoff at this spot.

• Receiver and tight end depth: Two freshmen who redshirted last season have made strides this spring. Receiver Justin Scott-Wesley has moved into the top rotation, showing the kind of downfield speed the team could use in Mitchell’s absence.

Tight end Jay Rome had a great scrimmage last week (two touchdown catches), bolstering confidence that he and Arthur Lynch can prove a capable tandem.

But the areas of uncertainty are numerous:

• The secondary: Both projected starting cornerbacks are facing suspension, and now so is free safety Bacarri Rambo. Freshman Damian Swann has had a good spring, and reviews on Mitchell have been positive. But the depth behind them remains a concern.

Meanwhile, Corey Moore is getting a push from walk-on Connor Norman in the effort to replace Rambo. This position looks to be in tumult for awhile, pending Mitchell’s status and the ability of the youngsters to play right away.

• Offensive line: Kenarious Gates and Chris Burnette seem to have ensured they will start again, but at what spot isn’t clear.

David Andrews hasn’t quite firmed up the center spot. Kolton Houston, who sat out last season with an NCAA issue, has moved into the discussion. Mega-recruit John Theus seemed ticketed for left tackle, but Gates has played well there in the spring.

In short, none of the five spots seems settled for a specific player.

• Outside linebacker: All-American Jarvis Jones is set at one spot, but suddenly the other one is up for grabs if Washington doesn’t move back there.

Veteran Chase Vasser is working ahead of T.J. Stripling and Sterling Bailey, who are coming back from injuries.

It looks like the incoming freshmen -- Jordan Jenkins, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Josh Dawson -- will have a good chance to earn playing time.

• Backup quarterback: The plan remains for Hutson Mason to redshirt as long as starter Aaron Murray doesn’t suffer any long-term injury. But it doesn’t appear redshirt freshman Christian LeMay or freshman Faton Bauta have done anything to prove to the coaches they can play right away. Walk-on Parker Welch seems ahead of them both.

• Inside linebacker: Starter Alec Ogletree is facing a suspension of at least a game, perhaps more, which hasn’t been announced yet. But the Bulldogs do have an experienced nucleus of players at the spot (Mike Gilliard, Christian Robinson and Amarlo Herrera).

Ogletree, however, is one of the defense’s top playmakers, so his status needs to be resolved.

• Fullback: Is Samuel definitely going to be here and not at tailback? It seems that way, but it’s not certain.

Zander Ogletree still has a chance to say something about it in the final week of spring and G-Day.

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