Monday, July 23, 2012
One good reason: Georgia
By Edward Aschoff
Our "One good reason" series is back, and we're looking at the Georgia Bulldogs.
Let's see what the Bulldogs can do in 2012:
Georgia will win the SEC: The Bulldogs' defense is loaded.
The Bulldogs have some elite talent coming back on the defensive side of the ball. Ten starters return from a group that ranked fifth nationally in total defense last season. Sure, this team will likely be without four key starters -- safety Bacarri Rambo, cornerbacks Branden Smith and Sanders Commings, and linebacker Alec Ogletree -- at the beginning of the season because of suspension, but it's not like the Bulldogs lack capable bodies to fill in early. Malcolm Mitchell, who played cornerback in high school, moved over to corner this spring and should have an immediate impact, while sophomore Damian Swann has the potential to be a budding star, and he'll get his chance to show it early. Veteran Shawn Williams is still back at safety, as well.
And look at that front seven. Jarvis Jones leads a talented, experienced linebacking corps after being arguably the best at his position last year, racking up 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. The scary thing is he insists he'll be even better in 2012. What helps take some pressure off of him is the Bulldogs feel they have another solid pass rusher in Cornelius Washington, who moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. Fellow end Abry Jones had a very solid spring, while nose guards John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers should absolutely swallow up the middle. Getting Ogletree back will make this front group even better.
This group is big, athletic, fast and feels even more comfortable in Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme. Another top-10 finish is expected.
Why it won't: There too many questions with the running game.
Isaiah Crowell was never spectacular during his very short Georgia career, but he when he was at 100 percent and was all in for the Dawgs, he was the best option at running back. After making strides this spring he was dismissed in June after his arrest on felony gun charges. Now, the Bulldogs will turn to senior Richard Samuel, who has moved back to running back and has 768 career rushing yards, and a handful of youngsters, starting with sophomore Ken Malcome and frosh Keith Marshall. Malcome was used sparringly last season, but had a very productive spring, leaving as the co-starter at running back. Marshall enrolled early with a load of hype, but might be used more on the edge than up the middle. The Bulldogs are also hoping to get a lot out of incoming freshman Todd Gurley and junior Brandon Harton returns as well.
Right now, we don't know what Georgia will get out of this group. There is depth, but none of these backs are truly proven. Georgia ranked 49th in rushing last year with Crowell in the lineup, but in the biggest game of the year -- the SEC title game against LSU -- the Bulldogs mustered just 78 rushing yards -- most of which came in garbage time -- with Malcome leading the way with 37 yards.
Georgia will need much more than that to get to Atlanta and get out of the Georgia Dome with a win. The good news is that only two of Georgia's 2012 opponents ranked within the top 40 in rushing defense last year, in Missouri (30th) and Vanderbilt (36th), but expect Auburn, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee to be better against the run this fall. If the Bulldogs can't get the ground game going on a consistent basis and against better defenses, an SEC title will be hard to come by.