Georgia Football: Projecting Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart
Having wrapped up spring practice, the Georgia Bulldogs are now looking ahead at the opening of fall camp. Although individual improvements are necessary over the coming months and many of these pieces are still moving, it's not too early to begin projecting the Bulldogs' depth chart for the regular season.
New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt still has his work cut out for him as he sifts through a plethora of defensive players hoping to improve the unit's performance. Meanwhile, Mike Bobo's calling as offensive coordinator is to find depth on the offensive line that will maximize the potential of Georgia's many playmakers.
Here is a projection of Georgia's post-spring two-deep depth chart.
Starter: Hutson Mason
Backup: Faton Bauta
Other Contenders: Brice Ramsey, Jacob Park
Mason's place as a starter is not surprising given his long, proven history as former quarterback Aaron Murray's top backup. Furthermore, his performance in two starts at the end of 2013 gave him a leg up on any potential competition. That being said, Bobo offered a ringing endorsement of the fifth-year senior when he called his spring "outstanding," according to Seth Emerson of the Ledger Enquirer.
Bauta's emergence as the top backup was a little less expected, but based on his G-Day performance, the redshirt sophomore is ready as the Dawgs No. 2. Bauta completed 16 of his 28 attempts for 232 yards and two touchdowns during Georgia's spring game.
Starter: Todd Gurley
Backup: Keith Marshall
Others Contenders: Brendan Douglas, A.J. Turman, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb
Assuming Marshall returns to full health—or something close to it—Georgia's top two running back spots will be occupied by the same duo as the past two seasons. And when both players are healthy, the tandem is one of the best in the country.
Brendan Douglas will likely open the season in the third spot, but don't be surprised to see either of the true freshmen (Michel and Chubb) find the field before the year is out. Turman may prove to be the odd man out.
Starter: Merritt Hall
Backup: Quayvon Hicks
Hall and Hicks have traded looks at fullback over the past two years. Hall is the better blocker in space, while Hicks is the better offensive weapon—both as a runner and as a receiver.
However, a lack of depth at the tight end position led to Hicks cross-training this spring, and that trend will most likely continue into the fall. That should open up the starting spot to Hall while allowing Hicks to utilize his unique combination of size, strength and vision more effectively downfield.
Starter: Jay Rome
Backup: Quayvon Hicks
Other Contenders: Jordan Davis
Rome is by far the most experienced tight end on the roster, and assuming he recovers from offseason foot surgery, the 6'6", 254-pound athlete could be an elite threat. He's a decent blocker and incredibly explosive coming off the line of scrimmage. He also boasts tremendous hands and a knack for attacking the ball while it's in the air.
Meanwhile, Hicks will add a more versatile option as a tight end/H-back, and Jordan Davis should see playing time during obvious passing situations and red-zone scenarios.
Starters: Chris Conley, Malcolm Mitchell
Backups: Michael Bennett, Justin Scott-Wesley
Other Contenders: Reggie Davis, Jonathon Rumph
If all goes according to plan, all six of these guys will have big years in 2014. Conley, Mitchell, Bennett and Scott-Wesley all boast multiple years of production, while Reggie Davis had a breakout year as a true freshman last season. Rumph, the biggest receiver of the bunch, should also be a threat this season.
This depth chart may shuffle often, but look for Conley, Mitchell and Bennett to compete all season long for the affection of new starter Hutson Mason. One of those guys will lead the team in receiving yards.
Starters: Kolton Houston, John Theus, David Andrews, Mark Beard, Greg Pyke
Backups: Watts Dantzler, Brandon Kublanow, Josh Cardiello, Zach DeBell, Xzavier Ward
Before spring practice began, offensive line coach Will Friend told Seth Emerson of the Ledger-Enquirer, "We're gonna take some guys and they're gonna work more than one spot."
That certainly proved to be the case, as practically every player listed above (with the exception of David Andrews) saw time at multiple positions this spring. When it was all said and done, Houston, Theus, Andrews, Beard and Pyke seemed to emerge as the starting five, but positioning is still not finalized.
Dantzler and Kublanow offer experience as backups, while Cardiello has tremendous future potential. The success of the group, however, will depend on cohesion, chemistry and health.
Starters: Ray Drew, John Taylor, James DeLoach
Backups: Sterling Bailey, Mike Thornton, Toby Johnson
Other Contenders: Lorenzo Carter
James DeLoach may be the surprise of the bunch, given his previous lack of on-field experience and his arrest just before spring practice, but assuming he's not suspended, he seems destined to start at defensive end opposite returning starter Ray Drew. John Taylor will anchor the middle in 3-4 schemes while Mike Thornton and Toby Johnson may see time in the middle in four-man front scenarios.
Sterling Bailey had a strong spring and is the most likely candidate to sneak into the starting lineup. Lorenzo Carter could have an early impact as well once he arrives in the fall, but his ability to transition from high school to college remains to be seen.
Starters: Amarlo Herrera, Ramik Wilson, Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins
Backups: Reggie Carter, Ryne Rankin, Davin Bellamy, Johnny O'Neal
Georgia's linebacking unit is arguably the strongest position group on the team—even stronger than running back. Floyd and Jenkins are tall, long athletes capable of getting outside pressure on quarterbacks and disrupting passing lanes in the flats. Meanwhile, Wilson and Herrera led the SEC in tackles last season.
Carter and Rankin are sure-tackling backups at the middle linebacker positions while Bellamy and O'Neal appear to be the outside backers of the future.
This group is deep, talented and hungry. Expect to see a lot of guys playing at these spots as keeping legs fresh in Pruitt's faster system is a priority.
Starters: Damian Swann, Tray Matthews, Corey Moore, Shaq Wiggins
Backups: Brendan Langley, Quincy Mauger, J.J. Green, Aaron Davis
Other Contenders: Reggie Wilkerson, Sheldon Dawson
Truth be told, any player on the list above could wind up starting in the defensive backfield. There is that much uncertainty. Fortunately, the headcount at the cornerback and safety positions is substantial.
Based on in-game showings alone, Swann, Matthews, More and Wiggins seem to be the four most talented defensive backs on the roster, but Pruitt shook things up this spring. Davis, a walk-on, found his way into the starting lineup on G-Day, Green moved over from running back and Langley played all over the field.
This unit is still very much a work in progress. Only Swann seems likely to have a position locked up (he'll be a third-year starter).