March 12, 2008

An eye on the future

To survive as a consistent winner in the ultra-competitive world of college football, it's imperative that coaches like Georgia's Mark Richt keep their cupboards stocked with plenty of usable goods.

That's a fact Richt knows all too well.
So, although the Bulldogs appear to be in excellent shape in regards to depth for 2008, it's never too early to look ahead and focus on the positions that might need a little support down the road.

After all, 2009 isn't all that far away, and beyond that 2010.

The cycle is never ending, and it's enough to drive a coach crazy if he lets it.

"There are about five or six different phases that I think helps keep our sanity. If we had to go at the pace we do in the season all the time, I'm sure that we would be a lot more burned out than you read about right now," Richt said. "What is exciting about the job is that every year there is a new group of guys. It's a new team. I know maybe 70 percent of the team is back, but it has a whole new personality. It has new leadership component, and it makes it fun, makes it exciting."

Already, the Bulldogs have five verbal commitments lined up for 2009 in what's shaping up to be another stellar class. But other positions need to be filled. Depth must be assured.

Today, UGASports takes a look at each position, the players who will be graduating and the spots Richt and his assistants will be looking to fill.

Quarterback:
With juniors Matthew Stafford and Joe Cox in the fold for this season and next, the timing is perfect for Georgia to sign two quarterbacks in 2009 and that's just what the Bulldogs are going to do.

Oconee County's Zach Mettenberger has already announced that he will sign next February, leaving one spot to be filled. Mettenberger and that yet-to-be-determined signee will serve as understudies to current redshirt freshman Logan Gray who is on track to become the Bulldogs' starter in 2010.

Backfield:
Based on Knowshon Moreno's fabulous freshman campaign, speculation has already begun as to whether or not the New Jersey native will hang around Athens for three more seasons, or leave for the NFL a season early.

Whatever he decides, Georgia's depth in the backfield will be excellent for the foreseeable future. Caleb King is just a redshirt freshman, while true freshmen Dontavius Jackson and Richard Samuel offer plenty of promise. Don't forget about ECI's WeShaun Ealy, who committed to the Bulldogs this month after rushing for 2,982 yards and 58 touchdowns as a junior last fall.

One spot that will likely be addressed is fullback, following Brannan Southerland's graduation after this year. The Bulldogs have two capable replacements in sophomores Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier, but can be expected to sign another fullback in either this upcoming class or the next.

Offensive line
There's an old football adage that says one can never have enough offensive linemen and that's certainly the case with the Bulldogs.

Look for Georgia to continue focusing on top linemen, particularly a couple of left tackle-types, which will no doubt be a priority in 2009.

As for the Bulldogs' current offensive line, Georgia is in excellent shape for both this year and next in that Vince Vance is the only junior among the core of current players expected to see playing time.

The Bulldogs are indeed blessed to have the likes of Trinton Sturdivant, Clint Boling, Chris Davis, Justin Anderson, Chris Davis, Kiante Tripp, et al for a minimum of three more seasons, plus a freshman class that includes Ben Jones, Jonathan Owens and Cordy Glenn. Still, one thing the Bulldogs won't do is get themselves in another situation where there's barely enough linemen to go two-deep on the depth chart. It's going to be a huge focus every year.


Tight end:
With Tripp Chandler a senior, Georgia was already going to need to find a replacement in 2009. Now that NaDerris Ward has decided to transfer that effort could well be doubled and it would not be a surprise for the Bulldogs to try and sign at least one tight end in their upcoming class.

Bruce Figgins and Aron White should develop into an impressive blocking-catching tandem, while freshman Bryce Ros continues his development upon his arrival this fall.

Uconn transfer Derek Richt is also in camp and will be eligible to play in 2009.

Wide receiver:
Much like the offensive line, Georgia coaches will tell you one can never have too many quality wide receivers.

Especially, when you consider the fact that Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo prefer to rotate eight players at the position, it's easy to see why this will be a constant area of need.

The Bulldogs will lose seniors Kenneth Harris, Demiko Goodman and Mohamed Massaquoi to graduation after this year, so from a simple numbers perspective it's going to behoove Georgia to continue adding new members to the flock on a yearly basis despite the fact that there's considerable depth right now.

Defensive line:
Georgia began to address this position last month with the signing of A.J. Harmon (assuming he remains on the defensive line) and DeAngelo Tyson, but more bodies will be needed considering Jeff Owens and Corvey Irvin are both seniors, while Geno Atkins and Kade Weston are juniors with just two more years to play.

Coaches hope that Brandon Wood can overcome his Achilles injury to play an integral role and that sophomore Ricardo Crawford matures into the type of player they still believe he can be.

Defensive end:
Depth isn't a problem at defensive end despite the fact that Jeremy Lomax and Jarius Wynn are seniors.

The Bulldogs only have one junior in Rod Battle, while the rest - Michael Lemon, Neland Ball, and Justin Houston are either sophomores or redshirt freshmen. That doesn't even include the three true freshman - Jeremy Longo, Toby Jackson and Cornelius Washington - who will join the team this fall.

Linebackers:
This is another position of great strength for Georgia as Dannell Ellerbe and Marcus Washington are the only upperclassmen among the 11 scholarship linebackers who will be with the team once preseason drills begin.

Georgia's current sophomore class of Rennie Curran, Akeem Hebron, Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble has the potential to be outstanding for three more seasons and should mesh nicely with redshirt freshman Charles White, along with true freshmen Marcus Dowtin, Nick Williams and Christian Robinson.

Secondary:
The Bulldogs will definitely be looking to replenish their depth at cornerback in that the core of their starting rotation - Asher Allen, Prince Miller and Bryan Evans - are each juniors and new replacements must be kept at the ready.

Georgia did sign Brandon Boykin, Makiri Pugh and Xavier Avery, although the latter could still eschew the Bulldogs for major league baseball depending on where he's selected in June's Major League draft.

The only other scholarship cornerbacks currently on the team are senior Ramarcus Brown and sophomore Vance Cuff.

Georgia will need to continue paying attention to safety where strongside starter C.J. Byrd is a senior, leaving junior backup Donavon Baldwin, along with sophomores Reshad Jones and Quinton Banks as the other players at the spot with any experience. Redshirt freshman John Knox, along with true freshman Sanders Commings and Bacarri Rambo are waiting in the wings for their chance to play.


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