ATHENS — Georgia has a defensive depth chart.
If that doesn’t seem like news to you, you haven’t been paying attention to the Bulldogs since Jeremy Pruitt took over as defensive coordinator. He left spring practice saying he wouldn’t have a depth chart until Georgia opens the season against Clemson on Aug. 30 and maybe not then. His point: The competition for playing time is ongoing.
So why now? Well, the bottom line is the Bulldogs simply had to have a depth chart to include in their 2014 media guide, which came out this week. I picked up my copy on Thursday.
Interesting cover, by the way, in that among the six individuals featured on the front is Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox. It’s that shot of him dressed up as a member of the ‘Spike Squad” for last year’s game against LSU. He shares the cover with Ramik Wilson, Todd Gurley, Marshall Morgan, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett. They’ll likely have more of an impact on the upcoming season.
But back to that depth chart. First of all, as Pruitt made so clear at the end of spring practice and in speaking engagements over the summer, there’s no reason to put much stock in the starters listed there or the order of their backups. All that will be determined in the 28 practice opportunities that begin on Aug. 1. But for the sake of conversation and a leaping-off point for SEC Football Media Day, which begin Monday, let’s talk about some surprises and possible revelations therein.
- J.J. Green is listed as the starter at strong safety. This is interesting on a couple of fronts. We all know he won the job going away at the “star,” or nickelback, position. But here he’s listed as one of the two starting safeties in Georgia’s base package of four defensive backs. It was generally assumed that Georgia’s safeties going into the first game would be senior Corey Moore and sophomore Quincy Mauger. Both logged a lot of time in the back third last season. But here at least Mauger is listed as the backup to Moore at free safety. And Mauger is bracketed with an “or” at second-team with senior walk-on Lucas Redd. Converted wideout Tramel Terry is listed as the backup to Green at strong safety, so it would follow that he’d move up to first team when the Bulldogs went to a nickel and Green moved to star. This depth chart does not reflect the off-season change of Reggie Wilkerson from corner to safety, so unclear here where he stands.
- Redshirt freshman Aaron Davis is still listed as the starter at boundary corner, ahead of junior Sheldon Dawson. Of course, none of the incoming signees are represented on the depth chart, and Shattle Fenteng and Malkom Parrish, among others, will certainly be involved in the competition there. Junior Devin Bowman is listed as the backup to Damian Swann at the other cornerback position.
- The starting defensive line is reflected as Sterling Bailey and James DeLoach at the tackles and Mike Thornton as the noseguard. Probably the biggest surprise up front is that Ray Drew and Toby Johnson are listed third team, though that is where they were working last time we checked during spring ball. I don’t see any of that as terribly significant, however, as Pruitt and line coach Tracy Rocker have talked about rotating liberally up front. With John Atkins, Chris Mayes, Jon Taylor and Josh Dawson to also utilize, that’s understandable.
- The starting punter’s job is listed as an either/or between junior Colin Barber and senior Adam Erickson. Nathan Theus is the No. 1 snapper ahead of Trent Frix.
- Offensively, there are probably more asterisks than people would like to see. Seven players have asterisks next to their names, and they signify “recovering from injuries.” As a result, walkon Kyle Karempelis is listed as third-team tailback behind Todd Gurley and Brendan Douglas. Keith Marshall (knee) and A.J. Turman (ankle) are fifth and sixth, respectively, on the tailback totem poll. But Marshall has reiterated this summer that he is recovered and will be ready to fully participate in camp.
- Likewise, Malcolm Mitchell is behind Chris Conley and Kenneth Towns at the “Y” receiver, Justin Scott-Wesley is third team at the “X,” and Jay Rome is listed fourth at the “H” position (note, not tight end) behind Quayvon Hicks and two walkons.
- Interesting that junior John Theus is listed as the starter at both left AND right tackle. Each distinction is followed by an “OR,” with Mark Beard as the next guy on the left side and Kolton Houston on the right. But Houston is also listed as the starter at left tackle, without an “OR” qualifier. He’s ahead of Brandon Kublanow, who many have predicted as the starter there. Sophomore Greg Pyke is the starter at right guard.
- Sophomore Faton Bauta and freshman Brice Ramsey and bracketed as the No. 2 quarterback behind Hutson Mason. So that will a competition to keep an eye on. One of the most overlooked factors about Aaron Murray as Georgia’s four-year starter at quarterback was his ability to stay in games. Mason will do well to display similar durability.
OK, that’s just a few quick thoughts. Like I said, these preseason depth charts serve many purposes, not the least of which could be to provide motivation for the players listed on them. Certainly the one that comes out on the Tuesday prior to the opener against Clemson will look markedly different than this one.
Here’s the defensive depth chart as it appears in the 2014 media guide. Take it for what it’s worth: