ATHENS, Ga. — And then there was one.
Georgia coach Mark Richt looks at his offense and sees plenty of potential, but with several playmakers from last year’s team departed for the NFL, opposing defenses could see A.J. Green as the Bulldogs’ lone offensive threat.
Potential is one thing, but even Richt acknowledges Georgia will need to have players emerge if the Bulldogs’ offense hopes to intimidate defenders the way it did last year with Knowshon Moreno leaping would-be tacklers, Matthew Stafford stretching the field with his arm and Green teaming with Mohamed Massaquoi to form the top receiving duo in the Southeastern Conference.
“If you only have one guy that everybody knows, if you stop him, you stop their offense,”Richt said. “That’s a problem.”
It’s unlikely Georgia will find its solution this spring, but the battle to replace the lost production already is moving full speed.
While the Bulldogs have as many as five candidates for the running back job and a replacement for Stafford already set, the wide receivers offer a mix of talent and experience that makes the race for playing time particularly intriguing.
“That’s what the spring is for: to see who’s going to compete, who’s going to step up when it’s crunch time,” wideout Michael Moore said. “I’m not going to say who’s going to do it or how many people are going to do it, but we’ll find out. Right now, everybody’s fighting to get playing time.”
Last season, Moore was the benefactor of the shadows cast by Georgia’s playmakers. With Massaquoi and Green each approaching 1,000 yards receiving by year’s end, Moore’s appearance on the field was hardly more than an afterthought.
The results were impressive by Moore’s standard. He finished his junior season with nearly six times as many receptions as he had in his first two years at Georgia and led the Bulldogs with six catches for 97 yards in their bowl victory over Michigan State.
This season, however, Moore hopes to improve his production while handling more responsibility.
That’s the same attitude rising senior Kris Durham has adopted.
What Durham doesn’t expect, however, is for one player to shoulder the entire burden.
“Mohamed was a special guy, and it’s hard to replace someone that talented,” Durham said. “There’s a lot of talented guys on the receiver corps this year. We’ve got a lot of talent, and we just need to spread it out so they can’t really key on one guy.”
That may not be the philosophy quarterback Joe Cox is taking this spring, but he does admit that Georgia will need to be more creative this year to prevent defenses from focusing on Green.
“It’s good knowing that teams are going to be thinking a lot about A.J., but it would be even better if we can get to the point where we have three, maybe four guys on the field that people are saying, ‘How are we going to cover these guys?’” Cox said. “That’s what we’re trying to get. We’re trying to find those guys.”
Cox said the Bulldogs are experimenting with a few other twists to keep defenses guessing.
“We’re going to focus this year on moving guys around a lot more,” Cox said. “Guys learn different positions, it builds depth, and it gives the receivers a better understanding of defenses, too.”
Depth may not be that much of a concern.
In addition to Durham and Moore, freshman Tavarres King and redshirt freshman Israel Troupe have shown flashes of potential after coming to Georgia as highly touted recruits. Junior Tony Wilson has been hampered by an ankle injury that kept him off the field for much of last season, but his leadership and physical style could make him dangerous if he can return to full health.