The Florida Gators were yesterday; today it’s time for the Georgia Bulldogs. Our SEC East team-by-team scouting report continues with a trip to Athens, where Mark Richt and company are looking to shake off the stench of a disappointing season. The South Carolina Gamecocks host the Dawgs on September 13 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Last Year: 8-5 (5-3 SEC)
Head Coach: Mark Richt (13th season)
Key returnees: QB Hutson Mason, TBs Todd Gurley, J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas; WRs Chris Conley, Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett; TE Jay Rome; C David Andrews; OTs Kolton Houston and John Theus; PK Marshall Morgan; LBs Ray Drew, Leonard Floyd, Amarlo Herrera, Jordan Jenkins and Ramik Wilson; DE Garrison Smith
Key departures: QB Aaron Murray (graduated); TE Arthur Lynch (graduated); S Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews (both dismissed); CB Shaq Wiggins (transfer)
Why they’ll win the SEC East
Apart from Lynch and Murray, the Bulldogs won’t lose a terrible amount of offensive starters from last season. One fly in the ointment could be WR Malcolm Mitchell (who was injured during spring practices), but Conley, Bennett, Gurley, and the now-departed Lynch answered the bell as Murray’s primary targets last season. Add the return of the bulk of the offensive line, a seasoned and talented linebacker corps manned by seniors Herrera, Jenkins, Wilson and all-SEC freshman pick Leonard Floyd, and the #7 recruiting class in the country headlined by #3 RB and top-15 overall player Sony Michel, top-five D-ends Lorenzo Carter and Keyon Brown, four-star JUCO corner Shattle Fenteng and a host of others. This team certainly has the experience and talent to win the division in 2014.
Why they won’t win the SEC East
While the Dawgs don’t lose too many offensive starters, the loss of Murray, one of the top QBs stats-wise in SEC history, stings (understatement). With Mason the presumptive starter in 2014, it’s up to him to prove that he’s not just Aaron Murray‘s backup (and he’s certainly shown flashes of what he can do). Issue #2: the depleted secondary (see above): the loss of three key backfield players, two of them to disciplinary reasons, doesn’t leave a whole lot of options for the staff to work with. (By the way, secondary coach Scott Lakatos resigned in January.) And, of course, there’s the whole issue of whether or not Richt’s players can stay out of trouble.