Bama (Natl Champ)
Alabama Crimson Tide (National Championship)
L, 23-26

     There are many reasons to be down right now as a UGA fan: a disappointing 2008 season, a lackluster win in the Capital One Bowl, the announcements that Stafford and Moreno will both enter the 2009 NFL draft, the announcement that Tebow will return for Florida, and the pain of watching Florida hoist a 2nd MNC trophy in 3 years. This will, no doubt, be one of the longest off-seasons in memory; however, there will certainly be plenty of headlines and discussion to keep us busy (hopefully very little of the legal variety). So with that, let's kick off the off-season banter with an outlook for the 2009 team.

     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

QBJoe CoxLogan Gray
RBRichard SamuelCaleb King
FBShaun ChapasFred Munzenmaier
TEAron WhiteBruce Figgins
WRAJ GreenTavares King
WRMichael MooreKris Durham
LTTrinton SturdivantJosh Davis
LGChris DavisCordy Glenn
CBen JonesBen Harden
RGClint BolingTanner Strickland
RTVince VanceJustin Anderson

DERod BattleJustin Houston
DTJeff OwensKade Weston
DTGeno AtkinsDeangelo Tyson
DEDemarcus DobbsCornelius Washington
WLBRennie CurranMarcus Dowtin
MLBDarryl GambleMarcus Washington
SLBAkeem DentDarius Dewberry
CBAsher AllenBranden Smith
CBPrince MillerVance Cuff
SReshad JonesJohn Knox
SQuintin BanksBryan Evans

Special Teams
PDrew Butler
PKBlair WalshJamie Lindley
KRBranden SmithCarlton Thomas
PRBranden SmithCarlton Thomas