SEC: Sanders Commings

Georgia Bulldogs spring wrap

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
9:30
AM ET
GEORGIA BULLDOGS

2012 record: 12-2
2012 conference record: 7-1 (first, SEC East)
Returning starters: Offense: 10; defense: 4; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: QB Aaron Murray, RB Todd Gurley, CB Damian Swann, WR Malcolm Mitchell, OLB Jordan Jenkins, OL Kenarious Gates, OG Chris Burnette, ILB Amarlo Herrera

Key losses: OLB Jarvis Jones, LB Alec Ogletree, S Shawn Williams, S Bacarri Rambo, NG John Jenkins, CB Sanders Commings, WR Tavarres King

2012 statistical leaders (* - returner)
Rushing: Gurley * (1,385 yards)
Passing: Murray * (3,893 yards)
Receiving: King (950 yards)
Tackles: Ogletree (111)
Sacks: Jones (14.5)
Interceptions: Swann * (4)

Spring answers

1. Safety starters: With 2011 All-Americans Rambo and Williams completing their college careers, the Bulldogs entered the spring with two big holes at safety. It appears sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons and January enrollee Tray Matthews have all but claimed the starting positions, however. Harvey-Clemons was named the Bulldogs’ defensive MVP of spring practice, and Matthews generated the most buzz of anyone this spring with his ability to deliver crushing hits. Georgia’s inexperience along the back end of the defense is not ideal, but the two youngsters could become a pleasant surprise.

2. Newcomers contribute: Matthews wasn’t the only early enrollee who made his mark during the spring -- and many of those 13 newcomers will play big roles in the fall. Others like defensive lineman Chris Mayes, linebacker Reggie Carter, cornerback Reggie Wilkerson and running back/receiver J.J. Green all but ensured that they will contribute this fall by acquitting themselves nicely while learning how to function as college players. Keep an eye on another early enrollee, receiver Tramel Terry, once the Bulldogs open preseason practice. Terry did not practice this spring while recovering from a torn ACL suffered late last fall, but he could be healthy by August and could become yet another valuable freshman.

3. Returning weapons: With almost everyone returning on offense -- only King and receiver Marlon Brown are gone among the key contributors -- the Bulldogs should be able to score with as much efficiency as last season’s group that set a school record with 529 points. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo already knows what players including Murray, Gurley, tailback Keith Marshall and Mitchell can do. This spring, players like offensive MVP Chris Conley, G-Day standout Jonathon Rumph and Green also flashed the potential to make the offense even more potent.

Fall questions

1. Starting quickly: A defense that must replace 12 key performers was a pleasant surprise this spring. But can Todd Grantham’s rebuilt defense reload quickly enough to hold its own against the likes of Clemson, South Carolina and LSU? Georgia faces all of those teams before the end of September. Grantham’s defense underperformed a season ago despite a wealth of NFL-ready talent. The talent is still there, but the defensive coaches have their work cut out with so many inexperienced players needing to be ready for the season-defining early schedule.

2. Offensive line rotation: With Burnette out for the entire spring and offensive tackle John Theus out for the first half of the practices, offensive line coach Will Friend had plenty of reason to shuffle his lineup -- and that’s exactly what he did. Friend’s group returns everyone from last season, including four players who started all 14 games, but he did not seem prepared to guarantee any starting jobs at the end of the spring. It’s possible that the shuffling could continue in August, and he might allow a greater number of linemen to play once the season begins.

3. Sack specialists: Jones led the nation with 24.5 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles last season while serving as the Bulldogs' top pass-rusher. Sophomore Jordan Jenkins appears to be first in line to replace him -- and he has already informed his predecessor that he intends to eventually break his school sack record -- but Jones set an awfully high bar for Jenkins to attempt to clear. In order to make Grantham's 3-4 defense function correctly, the Bulldogs need Jenkins and some of the defensive linemen who will be stepping into larger roles to keep applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Damian Swann’s hair isn’t thinning and he doesn’t wake up each morning with chronic back pain, but he does feel like the resident old guy in Georgia’s secondary.

The rising junior cornerback spent his first two seasons surrounded by veterans, but entered this spring as the only defensive back in the Bulldogs’ arsenal with any valuable field experience.

It’s a different feeling for Swann, who is going from student to big brother/teacher, but as spring practice winds down, he’s more comfortable with being the guy who is looked up to in this defense.

[+] EnlargeDamian Swann
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsDamian Swann broke up five passes and led the team with four interceptions last season.
“It was a challenge [to take on more responsibility this spring], but now it’s going to be even more challenging because I’m kind of the lone defensive back, period, that has established himself in this system,” Swann told ESPN.com Thursday. “A lot of people might look at it as me having to make more plays than I did last year, which is fine because that’s what I want to do.”

He also wants to make sure all the holes left by the departures of corners Sanders Commings and Branden Smith, along with safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams are properly filled. These weren’t run-of-the-mill players, either. These were strong, veteran starters that any SEC team would have loved to have.

Now, the Bulldogs have to replace them with a slew of youngsters, mostly freshmen, and Swann feels somewhat responsible for guiding them this year. He isn’t looking to be a father figure, just the best big brother he can be.

Still, taking on a leadership role and having to teach has felt odd at times considering Swann wasn’t even sure how much playing time he was going to get last season.

After playing sparingly as a freshman in 2011, Swann began 2012 as a starter only due to a rash of suspensions in the secondary. With Commings sitting for two games to start the year, Swann said he wasn’t surprised by his heavy playing time, but when Commings returned, he still found himself in the starting lineup. Then, when the Tennessee game arrived in Week 5, he was named the strong corner starter and would stay there all season.

He expected to move back to the nickel at some point, which was fine, but taking over one of the top corner spots left him a bit speechless. He went from 60-70 plays a game to 80-90, which was a lot for a youngster like Swann.

“That was a big push for me, just being a sophomore playing all those snaps in the SEC,” Swann said with a laugh.

Swann started 14 games last year and led the team with four interceptions and also broke up five passes. He even recorded two sacks, recovered two fumbles and forced two fumbles.

Quietly, Swann played a big part of Georgia’s defense last season, but he’s looking for an even bigger role in 2013.

“I want to be the guy that lives up to the expectations, that wants to be in the spotlight, that wants to cover your best receiver,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge for me, but I’m willing to accept that.”

Swann is actually in an interesting spot. He starts off as the team’s top player in the secondary, but he might not get all the attention he wants this fall. Offenses usually tend to pick on the younger guys, so Swann might not have passes thrown his way as much as he’d like.

That means his teaching skills will have to be that much better as he tries to coach up the pups around him. The good news is after all the time he got last season, Swann thinks he’ll have more time to help than worry about his own game once fall arrives.

“Last season might have been the best thing that could have happened to me and to Georgia because imagine if I wasn’t to play and we graduated all those guys,” he said. “Now, it’s going to a whole entire brand-new secondary with hardly any experience. Me playing as much as I did puts us in a better situation.”


ATLANTA -- In what lacked the defense of a usual SEC game, No. 2 Alabama outlasted No. 3 Georgia 32-28 to claim the 2012 SEC championship. Alabama is now headed to Miami to face No. 1 Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7.

Alabama's game-winning score came on a 45-yard pass from AJ McCarron to a wide-open Amari Cooper with 3 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

It was over when: After driving down to Alabama's 8-yard line, Aaron Murray threw a pass to Chris Conley at the 5-yard line that was tipped. Conley came down with the ball with 5 seconds remaining, but time expired before Georgia could run one last play.

Game ball goes to: If you looked up the word "workhorse" in the dictionary, you'd find a picture of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon next to it. Lacy rushed for 181 yards on 20 carries and had two touchdowns. He registered 176 of those yards through the first three quarters, averaging 10.4 a carry during that time. Alabama's offense was at its best when Lacy touched the ball the majority of times on drives. Yeldon, only a freshman, carried the ball 25 times for 153 yards and a touchdown. His first-down run on third-and-5 on Alabama's final scoring drive set up the Tide's game-winning touchdown.

Stat of the game: Alabama (12-1, 7-1 SEC) outrushed Georgia 350-113 and averaged 6.9 yards per carry in the process -- a new rushing record for the SEC championship game. Georgia (11-2, 7-1) averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. That makes three consecutive games in which Georgia's defense surrendered 300-plus yards on the ground.

Best call: On the first play of the second quarter, Georgia coach Mark Richt stepped out of his shell and called a fake punt on fourth-and-10 at Alabama's 36-yard line. Tight end Arthur Lynch took the snap and zipped a pass to cornerback Sanders Commings for 16 yards. Two plays later, Murray threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jay Rome to give the Bulldogs the early 7-0 lead.

What it means for Alabama: The win assures the Tide of making their second straight national championship game and third in four years. Alabama, which is second in the BCS standings, will face top-ranked Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami.

What it means for Georgia: The Bulldogs will miss out on a BCS bowl game and could be headed to the AT&T Cotton Bowl to take on a Big 12 opponent. The last time Georgia was in the Cotton Bowl was 1983, when the Bulldogs beat Texas 10-9.

DawgNation links: Midseason grades

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
3:10
PM ET
David Ching writes Insider: Expectations for Georgia’s secondary this season -- coming off a terrific 2011 -- were rather enormous, and surprisingly the defensive backs have done anything but live up to the hype.

Ching Insider: We’ve said it before: Following a spotty-at-best special-teams effort in 2011, Georgia’s unit has delivered a mixed bag so far this season. New kicker Marshall Morgan has been spectacular at times and wobbly at others, and for the whole group there’s still a ways to go.

Ching Insider: Wrapping up Georgia’s bye week, DawgNation takes a look at three strengths and three weaknesses among the Bulldogs’ upcoming opponents.

SEC players of the week

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
11:50
AM ET
The SEC league office has announced its top performers for Week 5:

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
  • Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Manziel set an SEC and Texas A&M record with 557 total offensive yards in the Aggies’ 58-10 win against Arkansas. He accounted for a school-record 453 passing yards on 29-of-38 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions and also rushed for 104 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Manziel’s total offense and passing yardage total is the most by a freshman in FBS play this season. Manziel threw to 12 different Aggie receivers against the Razorbacks and hasn't thrown an interception in 124 pass attempts this season.
Co-DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
  • Sanders Commings, CB, Georgia: Commings tallied five tackles (four solos) and had a pair of interceptions in the final six minutes of the game to help Georgia defeat Tennessee 51-44. His first pick was near midfield at the six-minute mark and his second preserved the Georgia win with seven seconds left in the game.
  • Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss: Nkemdiche had 11 tackles, three for loss including a sack, and two forced fumbles in Ole Miss’ 33-14 loss at Alabama. The Rebel defense limited the Crimson Tide to season lows in points and yards.
Co-SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
  • Christion Jones, WR, Alabama: Jones returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in Alabama’s 33-14 win over Ole Miss. It was the eighth longest return in school history and gave the Tide a 13-7 second-quarter lead. For the game, Jones had 161 all-purpose yards, 142 on kickoff returns and 19 receiving yards on two catches.
  • Marcus Murphy, TB, Missouri: Murphy returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown in Missouri’s 21-16 win at Central Florida. His return put the Tigers ahead 14-10 midway through third quarter. For the game, he had three punt returns for 70 yards and a 33-yard kickoff return.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK
  • Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: Matthews helped keep quarterback Johnny Manziel sack-free against Arkansas, allowing the freshman signal-caller to break SEC and school records in Texas A&M’s 58-10 win. Matthews was part of an offense that gained 716 total yards; 498 through the air and 218 on the ground. Only two of Texas A&M’s 79 offensive plays were for lost yardage for minus-3 yards. Matthews was not flagged and graded out the best of the Texas A&M offensive linemen against Arkansas.
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK
  • Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Clowney was credited with four tackles, including 2.5 for loss with a sack, in South Carolina’s 38-17 win at Kentucky. South Carolina limited Kentucky to just 70 yards in the second half after yielding 173 in the first half. Clowney’s sack came on a third-down play forcing the Wildcats to punt.
Tri-FRESHMEN OF THE WEEK
  • Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: Gurley rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns, including a 51-yard run, in Georgia’s 51-44 win over Tennessee.
  • Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia: Marshall rushed for 164 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns and also caught a 15-yard pass in Georgia’s 51-44 win over Tennessee.
  • Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Manziel set an SEC and Texas A&M record with 557 total offensive yards in the Aggies’ 58-10 win against Arkansas.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 5

September, 30, 2012
9/30/12
9:00
AM ET
Here's a look at the SEC's best from the weekend:

Sanders Commings, CB, Georgia: There wasn't much for Georgia's defense to be happy about in that 51-44 shootout with Tennessee, but Commings came up with some big plays for the Bulldogs. He intercepted two of Tyler Bray's passes, including the one to seal the game when he jumped in front of Bray's final prayer with only seconds remaining in Saturday's game. Commings also registered five tackles.

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: The freshman receiver came through in a big way in the second quarter of Alabama's 33-14 victory over Ole Miss when he grabbed back-to-back touchdown passes from 16 and 12 yards out. Cooper was quarterback AJ McCarron's favorite target on the night, as he caught a game-high eight passes and led all receivers with 84 yards.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: You can tell Lattimore is just getting stronger every time get gets out on the field. After carrying the ball just five times for 12 yards in the first half against Kentucky, Lattimore grabbed 18 carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. For those counting at home, he finished the day with a season-high 120 yards. He also caught three passes for 16 yards in the 38-17 win.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: It was just another day for Manziel, as he and his teammates walked all over Arkansas' defense. The redshirt freshman wanted a victory badly, and he did all he could to secure the Aggies' 58-10 blowout. He completed 29 of his 38 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball 14 times for 104 yards, including a long of 52 yards, and a touchdown.

Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia: Another freshman makes our list. Todd Gurley might have the better stats on the season, but Marshall was key to the Bulldogs' success Saturday, as he carried the ball 10 times for 164 yards and scored touchdowns from 75 and 72 yards out. His 72-yard scamper late in the third quarter eventually stood as the Bulldogs' game-winning score.

Mike Bobo, offensive coordinator, Georgia: Hats off to Georgia's playcaller. Bobo hasn't exactly been a fan favorite in Athens, Ga., but he made Tennessee's defense look silly with the way he game planned for Saturday. He helped the Bulldogs be extremely balanced in their plays and created the right mismatches to help Georgia run all over the Vols' defense. Georgia registered its third straight 500-plus-yard game by totaling 560 yards against the Vols. The Dawgs rushed for 282 yards and threw for 278. Through five games, there's no question that Georgia has the SEC's best offense, and Bobo's play calling and roster management has been a big reason why.

SEC lunch links

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
12:31
PM ET
Making the rounds on a Wednesday:

DawgNation links: Jones nabs spotlight

September, 9, 2012
9/09/12
4:36
PM ET
David Ching writes: With four defensive stars still suspended in a high-stakes SEC opener on the national stage, Georgia could count on, among plenty of others, linebacker Jarvis Jones, who rallied the Bulldogs with his seemingly endless stifling of James Franklin and Mizzou in their conference debut.

Ching Insider: 3 up, 3 down

Ching Insider: Random thoughts on Georgia at Missouri -- Finally, against Missouri and after four years of waiting, Georgia fans might’ve seen receiver Marlon Brown’s big breakout game?
video

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia will be without All-America free safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree for perhaps the game where they can least afford for them to be absent. Saturday night’s visit to Missouri pits the Bulldogs against perhaps the most explosive offense they will face all season -- and they’ll do so without four defensive starters.

Georgia coach Mark Richt announced weeks ago that starting cornerback Sanders Commings and outside linebacker Chase Vasser would be suspended for the first two games and now ESPN.com has confirmed that Rambo and Ogletree will join them on the suspended list as continued punishment for failing offseason drug tests.

All four players started games last season -- Commings started all 14, in fact, and Rambo started 13 after being suspended for the opener against Boise State -- and would have played key roles against Missouri’s passing attack.

(Read full post)

Mizzou game the concern with Mitchell 

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
4:50
PM ET
ATHENS, Ga. -- Sophomore Malcolm Mitchell's absence is not likely to affect the outcome of Georgia’s game against Buffalo on Saturday -- after all, Mitchell’s Bulldogs are favored by between 37 and 38 points depending on which bookmaker you prefer -- but Georgia fans no doubt hope his sprained left ankle heals quickly.

[+] EnlargeMitchell
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesUGA fans are hoping Malcolm Mitchell will return in time for Missouri.
The Bulldogs are already without suspended senior cornerback Sanders Commings, who started all 14 games last season, for the Buffalo and Missouri games. The purpose of Mitchell’s springtime shift to cornerback was in part to offset Commings’ absence and to add extra depth in the secondary.

If he’s unavailable for next week’s visit to Missouri -- Georgia associate athletic director Claude Felton said “no projections [have been made] at this point on his availability” for the visit to Mizzou -- the Bulldogs’ secondary will be on even shakier ground.
LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. knows exactly what Georgia is going through.

Last season, he watched an extremely talented Tigers team deal with a myriad of distractions during their national title run. Even though LSU made it to the big game, Beckham said the path taken was extremely tiresome at times.

“It sucks that you have to wait all that time for the season to actually get started, but you have to do things to keep yourself out of trouble,” Beckham said. “If it’s an extra workout or staying with teammates, you have to do it.”

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comDespite a tumultuous couple of months, the Bulldogs had "a very productive and great offseason," Aaron Murray said.
Georgia needed that advice long ago, as the Bulldogs ran into a rash of off-field trouble this spring that leaked over into the summer. What made matters worse was the fact that key starters were involved:

  • Cornerback Sanders Commings was charged with domestic violence/simple battery on Jan. 21. Corner Branden Smith was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession during spring break.
  • All-America safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree were suspended for reportedly failing drug tests.
  • This summer running back Isaiah Crowell was dismissed after he was arrested and charged with a felony count of possessing a weapon in a school zone, a felony count of altered identification mark and a misdemeanor count of possession/carrying a concealed weapon.
  • Potential starting linebacker Chase Vasser will serve a two-game suspension following his DUI arrest in May .

Senior defensive end Abry Jones was extremely bothered by the off-field garbage. As things piled up, his patience began to dissolve as he watched a team with so much talent risk throwing everything away with humiliating off-field transgressions.

“It’s real frustrating,” Jones said, “but at the end of the day, when you see people who can’t really control themselves off the field [you realize] it was people who weren’t really in it for the whole team the whole time.”

The Bulldogs are now hoping to take a chapter from LSU’s playbook and make an SEC title run while ignoring the noise surrounding them.

“The off-field distractions are very unfortunate and the things that happened to those guys are very unfortunate,” senior receiver Tavarres King said. “But we’re keeping the main thing the main thing, and that’s winning ballgames, progressing as a team and getting better.

“It’s pretty frustrating, but you get a hold of those guys and you bring them back.”

Getting better and focusing began when the spring nonsense brought things to a boiling point inside Georgia’s locker room. The coaches were flustered and players felt betrayed. That’s when quarterback Aaron Murray and some of the other veterans stepped in to rally the team together.

Murray said the players held multiple meetings in which they discussed how they were wasting the riches in front of them. The silliness not only embarrassed the program but it would eventually keep the Bulldogs from another SEC run if it didn’t stop.

The more meetings they had, Murray said, the more focused and cautious players became away from the field. A real sense of urgency fell over the team, Murray said.

Even after Crowell’s arrest and subsequent dismissal, Murray said players kept moving and had an extremely productive offseason.

“We just want to go out there and play,” he said. “It’s been a long offseason, but it’s been a very productive and great offseason. Guys have worked hard and they just want to go out there and play football.

“It’s definitely been the most successful summer that I’ve been a part of because of the amount of work everyone put in and the amount of time [people put in]. Everyone was extremely focused and understood the goals that we had and were ready to do what was needed to accomplish those.”

Now, it’s time to see how this team reacts when the meat of the season arrives and players get antsy. Games start taking a toll and players need release. How will this team respond?

Maybe the Dawgs should take some advice from a former teammate and someone who witnessed a similar situation in 2011.

“They’ve been through a lot this offseason,” said LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was dismissed from Georgia in April of 2010. “It’s a lot of guys that I know [who got in trouble] and I played with them. They just have to keep focused and stay tough. People are going to say things that they want to say about them -- just like what I went through. You just have to stand by your beliefs and know that you’re capable of doing it.”

With its personnel, Georgia is totally capable of making another run to Atlanta, if not further. But this team has to overcome the distractions that turned their offseason into a circus away from the field.

Coach Mark Richt knows it will be a challenge, but he also believes that he has the right guys to get the job done.

“We got a bunch of awesome guys that are working their tail off for a tremendous season and a tremendous outcome and those are the guys I’m focusing the most on right now,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s going to let what happened slow them down.”
It's as if Georgia just can't escape off-field storylines during the offseason.

First, we saw the spring arrests of cornerbacks Sanders Commings and Branden Smith. Then, safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree reportedly failed drug tests. Commings is set to serve a two-game suspension, while the others are likely to miss time as well this fall.

Oh, and then there was the whole Isaiah Crowell incident that left the Bulldogs without its starting running back entering fall camp.

[+] EnlargeUGA tackle Kolton Houston
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comThe Bulldogs will be without their No. 1 right tackle, Kolton Houston, until an anabolic steroid leaves his system.
Then, came Thursday's events. One incident could be classified as bad luck, as redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Kolton Houston was ruled ineligible because he again tested positive for a steroid he was given after he underwent shoulder surgery before enrolling at Georgia in 2010.

The other? Well, it was another suspension, as Mark Richt announced that potential starting linebacker Chase Vasser will serve a two-game suspension to begin the year following his DUI arrest in May in Atlanta.

While the latter has to infuriate Richt, Houston's situation must be frustrating. Houston, who won the starting right tackle spot this spring, is still testing positive for an anabolic steroid, 19-norandrosterone, that Georgia's medical staff says he unknowingly took after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2009. Georgia's staff has continued to test Houston since he first tested positive for the steroid in April 2010 and insists that he hasn't used the drug again.

Unfortunately, enough of the drug still remains in his system. Georgia pleaded its case to have the NCAA make an exception for Houston, but the NCAA said no way.

"He's been tested probably more times than anybody in the history of college football," Richt told reporters at Georgia's preseason media day Thursday. "We're 100 percent certain he has not continued to take this thing, but it's just never gotten far enough out of his system for him to be declared eligible to play."

Added Georgia associate athletic director for sports medicine Ron Courson: "My hope is to restore his eligibility as soon as we can. ... We feel like we're so close," Courson said. "He's served his penalty. Let's not quibble about two or three anagrams. There's no performance-enhancing aspect. He's paid his due."

Unfortunately, the NCAA can't make an exception for Houston. He's already escaped a lifetime ban after his second positive test, and while you have to feel for Houston, making an exception for him would open up a new can of worms for the NCAA. The NCAA doesn't want to have to deal with similar cases each year because you never know which ones could be true or fabiricated.

I'm not saying Houston's is fabricated, but if he were allowed to play, what's to stop other athletes from experimenting to see if they can use a similar story to slip by the NCAA?

It also means that Georgia's line, which wasn't in the best shape exiting spring, has more concerns to work through. Though Houston had yet to play a down for the Bulldogs, he was still viewed as one of Georgia's top linemen. Richt said sophomore Watts Dantzler now moves into the starting right tackle spot. The bottom line is that this line has to accelerate its development and get some of those youngsters more prepared.

While Houston's situation is out of Richt's hands, he has to make sure that ones like Vasser's stop. This team has too much to lose and can't let boneheaded incidents slow it down.

Georgia has one of stricter discipline policies in the league, but maybe Richt has to do more because you have to wonder if some of these players don't care. If it's so strict, why do off-field incidents continue to pile up in Athens? You could argue that law enforcement there is a bit stricter, but at the end of the day it's the athletes who make these decisions.

I wouldn't blame Richt if he went to bed with his cell phone off.

Georgia has to stop the silliness or its season will be a major disappointment and, unfortunately, Richt will have to shoulder most of the blame from fans.

One good reason: Georgia

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
5:00
PM ET
Our "One good reason" series is back, and we're looking at the Georgia Bulldogs.

Good reasons:
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.
We continue to rank all the positions in the SEC and turn our attention to groups of defensive backs the conference has to offer.

Past rankings:
On to the league's secondaries:

[+] EnlargeTyrann Mathieu
Dale Zanine/US PresswireTyrann Mathieu is a force to be reckoned with in the LSU secondary.
1. LSU: The Tigers bring back a load of talent here. Tyrann Mathieu and his Honey Badger persona return, but he might not be LSU's best pure corner. While Mathieu has a true knack for finding the ball, no matter where he is, junior Tharold Simon, who replaces Thorpe Award winner Morris Claiborne, might have the best cover ability on the team. Junior safety Eric Reid takes the back end of the field away and will challenge to be one of the nation's top safeties this fall. The coaches are still waiting for safety Craig Loston to break out, and his solid spring was an encouragement. Keep an eye on safety Micah Eugene, who turned heads this spring.

2. Georgia: The Bulldogs have some depth concerns and some players will face early-season suspensions, but the Bulldogs are loaded at the top. Bacarri Rambo is one of the nation's best safeties and he has a very solid partner in Shawn Williams, who led the Dawgs in tackles last year. Seniors Sanders Commings and Branden Smith are back, but will likely sit out the start of the year because of suspension. That leaves Malcolm Mitchell, who moved from receiver, to fill in and he's no stranger to defense. The coaches are also excited about youngster Damian Swann, who will play early.

3. Alabama: With three starters gone, this group is drawing a lot of comparisons to the 2010 unit that struggled at times. However, this batch of DBs insists it'll be more prepared this fall and shakes off the comparisons. Veteran Robert Lester is back at safety and is an All-SEC-type player. Junior cornerback Dee Milliner has 16 career starts under his belt and is an underrated talent, and the coaches are expecting to get a lot out of junior college transfers Travell Dixon and Deion Belue. Keep an eye on safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, who has the talent to be a star in this league.

4. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs own one of the league's best corner duos in seniors Johnthan Banks and Corey Broomfield. Banks might hold the title as the league's best returning cover corner. Darius Slay is also another corner to watch, as he has some legit playmaking ability. Junior safety Nickoe Whitley is back as well and he would have had better numbers if not for a ruptured Achilles tendon that cut his 2011 season short. He grabbed four interceptions in nine games and should be 100 percent this fall.

5. Florida: This group was pretty young last year, but now has some quality experience under its belt. Safety Matt Elam is the best of the bunch and should challenge to be the league's top safety this year. Sophomore Marcus Roberson had a solid freshman season and has the makings to be a top cover corner in this league. The other corner spot is up for grabs, but keep an eye on sophomore Loucheiz Purifoy, who the staff is very excited about. Josh Evans had a good spring at free safety, but he'll have his hands full fighting off sophomore De'Ante Saunders, who started nine games last year.

6. Missouri: The star of this group is junior corner E.J. Gaines, who recorded only two interceptions, but he broke up 16 passes in 2011 and is bonafide All-SEC candidate. Across from Gaines is senior Kip Edwards, who returns for his second year as a starter and has 37 games to his credit. Edwards turned into a solid cover man toward the end of last season. Seven players return with starting experience, including safeties Kenronte Walker (four starts), who was named the team's most improved safety this spring, and Braylon Webb (four), who had a strong freshman year.

7. South Carolina: The Gamecocks are down three starters, but they aren't without talent. Senior safety D.J. Swearinger, the lone returning starter, is one of the league's top safeties and is solid against the pass and the run. Vet Akeem Auguste returns after missing all of last year with a foot injury, and he's back at corner after moving to safety in 2010. The questions begin with sophomores Victor Hampton (corner) and Brison Williams (safety). Hampton has the talent to succeed, but has some maturing to do. Williams struggled in his only start last year, but the staff really likes his upside.

8. Vanderbilt: Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson are gone, but the Commodores still possess some pretty good talent in the secondary, starting with corner Trey Wilson, who had a solid 2011 in Hayward's shadow. The coaches like what they've seen from junior corner Andre Hal, and safety Kenny Ladler could be a real player at free safety. Expect Eric Samuels and Javon Marshall, who have both see plenty of field time in their careers, to get into the safety rotation this fall.

9. Auburn: The Tigers' secondary took some lumps last year, but certainly has experience back there. Three veteran starters are back with 33 combined starts from a year ago. Fifth-year senior cornerback T'Sharvan Bell didn't go through spring while he recovered from knee surgery, but has the talent to be a top corner in this league. Juniors Chris Davis (corner) and Demetruce McNeal are both back and sophomore Jermaine Whitehead, who had a solid freshman campaign, will get time at safety.

10. Tennessee: Tennessee gave up 7 yards per attempt last year, but things could turnaround this fall. Tennessee has a lot of game experience at corner, including senior Prentiss Waggner, who is the leader of the group. Sophomore Brian Randolph had a solid freshman campaign and junior Brent Brewer is returning to the other safety spot after suffering an ACL injury in late October. Izauea Lanier was ruled ineligible this summer, meaning Marsalis Teague and Eric Gordon will compete with Justin Coleman for a corner spot.

11. Arkansas: Sophomore Tevin Mitchel had a solid first year in Fayetteville and is on course to have a true breakout year this fall. Junior Eric Bennett is holding down one of the safety sports and started 13 games in 2011 after moving from cornerback last spring. The staff is still waiting on senior corner Darius Winston to live up to the hype that followed him from high school. Freshmen Kelvin Fisher Jr. and Davyon McKinney will get their chances to play this fall and help with depth.

12. Ole Miss: The Rebels should be better against the pass this year and things start with veteran safety Charles Sawyer, who has All-SEC quality and should have had at least three more than the four interceptions he recorded last year. Former JUCO transfer corner Wesley Pendleton had an impressive year last season, but looked even better this spring. Nickolas Brassell is gone, but the coaches hope to get more out of former freshman standout Senquez Golson, and junior Brishen Mathews returns from back injury to take the hybrid Husky position.

13. Kentucky: The Wildcats must replace two starting corners, but the coaches feel good about senior Cartier Rice and redshirt freshman Marcus Caffey. Caffey, who moved from running back, might have the most upside and was one of Kentucky's top players this spring. Senior starting safeties Martavius Neloms and Mikie Benton are back. Neloms had a solid spring and racked up 71 tackles last year. Behind them, the Wildcats are full of unproven youngsters.

14. Texas A&M: This is where the Aggies could really struggle. Texas A&M ranked 109th nationally in pass defense last year and could start three sophomores in its secondary this fall. Senior safety Steven Campbell can be a real playmaker for this group, but he's struggled to stay healthy during his career. Senior Dustin Harris has shown flashes on defense, but left spring as a backup to sophomore Deshazor Everett. Sophomore Floyd Raven, who was impressive this spring, has the edge over JUCO transfer Tremaine Jacobs at the other corner spot. The coaches are hoping this is a more athletic group in 2012.

Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell was arrested on weapons charges by Athens-Clarke County Police early Friday morning.

The rising sophomore was arrested and charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor, according to the jail booking report. He was charged with a felony count of possessing a weapon in a school zone; a felony count of altered identification mark; and a misdemeanor count of possession/carrying a concealed weapon.

Crowell was arrested at about 2:20 a.m. ET after being stopped at a vehicle checkpoint near campus, and he was booked at 3:37 a.m. His bond was set at $7,500, but was increased to $9,500 Friday afternoon.

This is yet again another Crowell-related distraction for the Bulldogs. If things weren't rocky enough after his up-and-down freshman year, Crowell's future with the Bulldogs could be in jeopardy now. Last year, Crowell was benched during the first quarter of the Vanderbilt game for disciplinary reasons and was later suspended for the New Mexico State game after reportedly failing a drug test.

This spring, Crowell vowed to turn things around, and those around him said they had seen a lot of change from the youngster, especially in the maturity department. This, however, appears to set Crowell back a ways.

Georgia's policy is to immediately suspend players from their respective teams if they are charged with felonies. You can bet that coach Mark Richt will absolutely do that with Crowell.

The fact that there was a gun -- with an altered ID number -- in the car that Crowell was driving is a major red flag. We obviously don't know all of the facts, or if the gun was his, but driving a car with a concealed weapon that's basically been tampered with lies on Crowell and his judgment.

That poor judgment could cost Crowell a lot when it comes to being a member of Georgia's football team.

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Crowell
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comRising UGA sophomore Isaiah Crowell was jailed following an early Friday morning arrest.
This isn't the first distraction the Bulldogs have dealt with this year. Rising senior cornerback Branden Smith was arrested in early March in Abbeville, Ala., and charged with marijuana possession. Sanders Commings was charged with domestic violence/simple battery on Jan. 21 after police accused him of striking his girlfriend during an argument in downtown Athens, Ga.

Safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree also are expected to be suspended to start the 2012 season after reportedly failing drug tests.

For a team looking to win the SEC and more, the Bulldogs aren't going into fall the right way.

While sitting with Richt in his office this spring, I asked him about Crowell and his jump from his freshman year to his first spring in Athens. Richt said he had certainly seen a difference in the way Crowell approached practice and his obligations away from the football field. He saw a tougher player who battled harder through the nicks he received in practice. He saw a more focused individual away from the field, as well.

But you could also tell that Richt was waiting to see what would happen after the spring. The pressure had certainly gotten to Crowell last year, but it seemed like he was managing it better. But what about summer, when the coaches aren't around?

So far, things haven't gone the way Richt would like.

If the charges are upheld and Crowell finds himself in a more difficult legal situation, Richt also will be in a tough situation. Will it be time to let the troubled back go? Will it be time to move on from the former top high school prospect?

The answer isn't clear right now, but what is is that Richt's other running backs will have to take even more advantage of the carries they receive once fall practice starts, regardless if Crowell is cleared. The coaches seem excited about their two high-profile backs they signed this year in Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Marshall enrolled early and impressed this spring, while Gurley was expected to contribute from the start.

Don't forget about redshirt sophomore Ken Malcome. He had a very solid spring and actually was listed as a co-starter with Crowell coming out of spring.

When Crowell is at his best, there's no denying the talent he has. But there's also no denying the headaches he's caused this program. Having a mature, focused Crowell would be a plus for the Bulldogs, but too many distractions can ruin a team, especially one with title hopes like Georgia.

Richt could have a tough decision on his hands regarding Crowell's future.

SPONSORED HEADLINES