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

     I had my fingers crossed that this off-season would continue to be absent of discipline issues, but it seems that any collection of roughly a hundred 18-22 year olds just can't make it eight months without some sort of incident. I'm sure everyone has seen that Bruce Figgins is out for half the season, Justin Houston is out for the first two games and Tony Wilson is gone for the entire season - possibly ending his UGA career. Losing Houston is a major blow to a defense, not only in desperate need of a legitimate pass rush, but also in need of a few weeks of experience for a young secondary. Without fear of pressure from the ends, Oklahoma State and the Evil Genius will certainly look to attack youngsters Brandon Boykin, Sanders Commings and Branden Smith. Those guys will need to step up early or we could be in for a rough start to the season.

     Losing Houston early in the season will give Kiante Tripp, Neland Ball and Cornelius Washington an opportunity to earn playing time. Dobbs and Battle may or may not be legit SEC starters, but they will definitely be involved in any DE rotation and likely be the two starters for the Okie State game. In addition to Tripp, Ball and Washington, this suspension may well pave the way to seeing Marcus Washington and/or Darius Dewberry put their hand down in 3rd and long situations.

     As for Figgins and Wilson (both juniors), I think these two are largely finished with their Bulldog careers. I had very high hopes for both guys, but we all know that, at UGA, it is hard to dig your way out of the coaches' doghouse. Figgins showed great promise early in his career (looking like Ben Watson version 2.0), but this is his second offense. Combine that with the expected emergence of Aron White and Orson Charles, and Figgins will probably not see the field very much in 2009. Also, Bryce Ros is a player in a similar mold as Figgins (big, primarily a blocker), so Ros will probably get a lot of the time that Figgins would have seen when we need to go big and pound the ball. I certainly hope that I'm wrong about Figgins, but I definitely think he will be fighting an uphill battle. Wilson has been a nice piece and was expected to contribute even more this year with Kris Durham being lost for the season. Now, he is also gone for the year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him transfer to a D-II school this summer so he can get 2 more years to play.

     On a lighter note, College Football News has their 2009 UGA Preview up. I thought this was a very good reflection of our upcoming season; it even reflects the recent suspensions I just talked about. I've always thought CFN does a good job, but would still normally find several things they were off the mark about. This year, they were largely on the money with only a few minor missteps. They talk about the potential impact of incoming freshman Washaun Ealey, but don't mention Marlon Brown, Orson Charles or Branden Smith. Who knows which freshmen will truly be ready to play, but I expect Brown, Charles and Smith to be major factors this year and Ealey to more-than-likely redshirt. CFN brings up the lack of depth at WR after losing MoMass to graduation, Durham to injury and Wilson to injury/discipline. I expect Brown, Charles and even Smith to all 3 contribute at the receiver position because of the depth problem. CFN also talks about the youth at corner, but again omits Branden Smith. I think Smith will challenge for the starting position from day one, and will see significant playing time all season. My only other issue with the preview is that they do not mention Marcus Dowtin at linebacker. Dowtin contributed a decent bit last year and has the athleticism to demand playing time. CFN gave us a high grade at linebacker, and Dowtin only makes that grade stronger.