There is simply no way anyone can say the 2009 UGA offense will be more prolific than the 2008 version when losing Stafford, Moreno and MoMass. However, it may well be more efficient and steady. It all starts up front where the young pups of the last couple years will now return 9, yes, that's not a typo, 9 offensive lineman with starting experience. Sitting here in January, I would project the starting five in Stillwater on 9/5 to be Sturdivant at LT, C. Davis at LG, B. Jones at C, Boling at RG and Vance at RT. I see that as probably the best starting 5 in the SEC. Their backups include Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson who will both challenge hard for a starting spot and will be impossible to keep off the field. Also providing depth will be K. Tripp, Josh Davis and Tanner Strickland. I could see incoming freshman (and potential valedictorian) Chris Burnette challenging for playing time in a normal year, but short of the same injury plague from last year, I see him taking a redshirt.
That O-line could make any skill players look good, but the Dawgs are certainly not bereft of talent there either. The coaches will just be looking for someone to step up and take the reins in a stocked stable of very talented running backs. Caleb King and Richard Samuel are the big names, but don't sleep on Dontavious Jackson, jitterbug Carlton Thomas and incoming freshman Washaun Ealey (provided he qualifies). The top two wide receivers will be AJ Green and Michael Moore, but Tavares King, Kris Durham, Tony Wilson and Israel Troupe will make their presence felt. I also look for tight end Aron White to pack on a few more pounds and build on his brief taste of success in 2008.
Of course that leaves quarterback. Stafford's cannon will be on display on Sundays, but that doesn't mean we won't be throwing it around. The job is Joe Cox's to lose, and, though not blessed with the physical talents of Stafford, Cox is a proven winner (a la David Greene). He NEVER lost in high school and has had his moments in a Bulldog uniform. Cox will not be able to replicate some of Stafford's throws, but I don't think he needs to for UGA to be successful.
You can't overstate the magnitude of getting Jeff Owens back in the middle of the defense. An All-SEC talent, Owens biggest impact is being the heart-and-soul leader of the defense. His presence was certainly missed in both ways from the 2008 team. Along with Atkins and Weston, the D-tackles will be solid. The ends are the biggest question on the D. It is now time for a couple guys to make the transition from talent and potential to production and results. Rod Battle is the senior and will be expected to lead by example (if he can stay healthy), but Neland Ball, Cornelius Washington and Toby Jackson will be the young guns looking to make a splash.
The linebacker corps will lose Ellerbe, but they played well when he was hurt last season. Curran should make some All-America teams in 2009, and Dent, Dewberry and Gamble will be significant contributors. Young guys like Robinson, Dowtin and White are very athletic and will add solid depth.
The secondary should be a strength in 2009, provided Asher Allen and Reshad Jones don't declare for the draft in the next 3 days. Allen has really turned into a solid corner, and could land on an All-SEC team. On the other side, Prince Miller will be pushed by Vance Cuff, Brandon Boykin and incoming true freshman Branden Smith. At safety, Quentin Banks and John Knox will battle to replace CJ Byrd. Reshad Jones could continue UGA's recent tradition at safety, but I'm still not sold. He will start and make some plays; I just hope he continues to mature and progress mentally.
Projected Opening Day Two-Deep
|QB||Joe Cox||Logan Gray|
|RB||Richard Samuel||Caleb King|
|FB||Shaun Chapas||Fred Munzenmaier|
|TE||Aron White||Bruce Figgins|
|WR||AJ Green||Tavares King|
|WR||Michael Moore||Kris Durham|
|LT||Trinton Sturdivant||Josh Davis|
|LG||Chris Davis||Cordy Glenn|
|C||Ben Jones||Ben Harden|
|RG||Clint Boling||Tanner Strickland|
|RT||Vince Vance||Justin Anderson|
|DE||Rod Battle||Justin Houston|
|DT||Jeff Owens||Kade Weston|
|DT||Geno Atkins||Deangelo Tyson|
|DE||Demarcus Dobbs||Cornelius Washington|
|WLB||Rennie Curran||Marcus Dowtin|
|MLB||Darryl Gamble||Marcus Washington|
|SLB||Akeem Dent||Darius Dewberry|
|CB||Asher Allen||Branden Smith|
|CB||Prince Miller||Vance Cuff|
|S||Reshad Jones||John Knox|
|S||Quintin Banks||Bryan Evans|
|PK||Blair Walsh||Jamie Lindley|
|KR||Branden Smith||Carlton Thomas|
|PR||Branden Smith||Carlton Thomas|