ATHENS - It doesn't feel like spring as I open my back door here in Athens, and then immediately shut it. But on Saturday the Georgia football team will begin preparations for the 2013 season with a set of 14 spring practices, which lead up to G-Day on April 6.
When, presumably, it will be warmer.
The Georgia offense, fresh off a record-setting 2012, returns almost every starter. The main goal over the next month for Aaron Murray, Gurshall, Malcolm Mitchell and company is simple: Do no harm. Avoid injuries. Maybe add a few new wrinkles, and solidify the offensive line.
Here's a position-by-position look at where the Georgia offense stands entering spring practice:
WHO’S BACK: Aaron Murray, Hutson Mason, Parker Welch, Christian LeMay, Faton Bauta
WHO’S NEW: Brice Ramsey
NOT HERE YET: None.
WHAT TO WATCH: The battle to be third string. And yes, that’s a good problem for a team to have. Murray is entrenched as the starter, and Mason, fresh off successfully redshirting in 2012, is so entrenched as the backup that the team wants to find a way to get him snaps in games. But the pecking order after that is up for grabs: Welch and LeMay alternated as the No. 3 last year, while Bauta redshirted and drew praise as the scout-team quarterback. Now here comes Ramsey, a freshman who has enrolled early and will have a chance to show his wares. Ramsey is most likely to redshirt in 2013 unless he plays so well the coaches decide to give him some snaps this year. But probably not.
WHO’S BACK: Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Brandon Harton, Kyle Karempelis.
WHO’S NEW: J.J. Green (athlete).
NOT HERE YET: A.J. Turman, Brendan Douglas.
WHAT TO WATCH: This mirrors the quarterback situation – the need to find out who’s third and fourth on the depth chart – but with bigger ramifications, and probably a longer wait. Gurley and Marshall are set. But with the transfer of Ken Malcome there’s no obvious third option on campus, and unlike the quarterback spot, the third and even the fourth options are likely to get real playing time. The most likely guy candidate is Turman, a four-star recruit, but he doesn’t arrive until the summer. So in the meantime Harton (a former walk-on) and Karempelis (still a walk-on) can try to establish themselves behind the Gurshall tandem. Meanwhile, two of the early enrollees – Tramel Terry and J.J. Green – can also play tailback. But Terry is out for the spring after ACL surgery. Green is one to watch.
WHO’S BACK: Merritt Hall, Quayvon Hicks, Zander Ogletree.
WHO’S NEW: None.
NOT HERE YET: Douglas.
WHAT TO WATCH: Hall came from nowhere last year to become the surprise starter, earning a scholarship along the way, and never did anything to lose his grip on the job. But Hicks, who saw spurts of playing time as a freshman, has great size (6-2, 260) and will try to use the spring to make a move. Then there’s Ogletree, who has been the source of online rumors about his status. He’s still listed on the roster, and UGA hasn’t confirmed anything. If he’s still on the team, he will also be a factor here. If he’s not, then frankly it’s not a huge deal.
WHO’S BACK: Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett, Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, Justin Scott-Wesley, Rhett McGowan, Blake Tibbs.
WHO’S NEW: Jonathan Rumph, Tramel Terry, J.J. Green.
NOT HERE YET: Rico Johnson, Reggie Davis, Uriah LeMay.
WHAT TO WATCH: Rumph and Green are intriguing talents who bring very different skill-sets to the table. Rumph at 6-5 becomes the team’s tallest receiver, while Green at 5-9 would be more of a speed guy when he’s at receiver. Green’s principal position could end up being cornerback, or even tailback. Rumph, however, should be an immediate factor during spring practice, especially with Bennett and Terry both out after knee surgeries. For that reason, it will take until the preseason to get a really good gauge on who will comprise the main rotation at receiver (usually six-to-seven players). But it’s a sure bet Mitchell will be a starter. Conley, Wooten and Scott-Wesley will get serious reps during spring practice, as each competes to join Mitchell and Bennett as starters in a three-wide set. Blake Tibbs, who redshirted last year, will also get a full-fledged look.
WHO’S BACK: Arthur Lynch, Jay Rome, Ty Flournoy-Smith.
WHO’S NEW: None.
NOT HERE YET: Jordan Davis.
WHAT TO WATCH: This position is one of the most stable on the team. Lynch and Rome gradually became big factors in the offense as last year went on, and will just try to continue the momentum. Perhaps Rome makes a run at Lynch’s starting job, but ultimately it’s not a big deal because both will play. Flournoy-Smith, who played mostly on special teams as a freshman, has some off-field trouble to deal with, after last Friday’s misdemeanor arrest on a charge of filing a false arrest report. That usually triggers a one-game suspension, meaning Flournoy-Smith wouldn’t be available for the season opener at Clemson, unless mitigating circumstances are ruled.
WHO’S BACK: Kenarious Gates, David Andrews, John Theus, Chris Burnette, Dallas Lee, Mark Beard, Austin Long, Xzavier Ward, Watts Dantzler, Greg Pyke, Zach DeBell, Hunter Long.
WHO’S NEW: Aulden Bynum, Josh Cardiello.
NOT HERE YET: Brandon Kublanow, DeVondre Seymour.
WHAT TO WATCH: The left side of the line. Left tackle and left guard are fairly open as spring begins, and could be resolved by the time spring ends. Gates is likely to start at one of the spots, it’s a matter of whether Beard (or Ward, or someone else) plays better at left tackle than Lee (or Austin Long or someone else) plays at left guard. The right side is basically set with Andrews at center, Burnette at right guard and Theus at right tackle. But Burnette is out for spring practice, so assistant coach Will Friend will have both guard spots to play with this spring and see who should be out there at Clemson. Friend also wants to find a backup center, which could end up being Kublanow once he arrives in the preseason, but during the spring Cardiello will get a look there. This spring is key for Ward, Danztler and Pyke, each of whom has a chance to make a move into the main playing rotation.
Coming Tuesday: A position-by-position look at the Georgia defense entering spring practice.