ATHENS, Ga. — In separate interviews, Georgia tailbacks Caleb King and Washaun Ealey have said all the right things about their competition for playing time.
They just want what’s best for the team. They’re OK with a tandem, etc.
When told that, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo grinned.
“They say that,” he said. “But I know those two guys; they want to start.”
Starting still matters. Georgia still has several spots open. Most are on defense, where only five starters return and a new system is being implemented. The offense is largely settled, as are the key special teams spots. Here’s a look at the toughest competitions:
Ealey probably has the edge, based on last year. But no starter has been named, and because the two have similar styles, the competition will be intense.
“They’re still competing,” running backs coach Bryan McClendon said.
This spot was a bit uncertain before sophomore Tavares King, first on the depth chart after the spring, was suspended for the first game after an alcohol-related arrest. Then it got worse with sophomore Rantavious Wooten’s left knee injury, which has him uncertain for the opener. And Kris Durham, a 6-foot-5 senior, has missed the past two days after dinging his shoulder, the same one he had surgically repaired last year.
Who does that leave? Logan Gray, the converted quarterback, has drawn praise for his work so far. Sophomore Marlon Brown, who is 6-5, also has been a hit with the coaches for his pass-catching.
“We’ve got to get more than two (or) three guys ready to go,” Bobo said. “Especially early in the year, it’s going to be hot. We’ve got to get all those guys ready to play.”
Aron White started 12 games last year, but the Bulldogs are so loaded at the position that he is being pushed, and the team could even use some double tight end sets.
“With all the talent we have in the room I would hope so,” sophomore Orson Charles said. “But, as of right now, we’re just working on the plays, just getting better from last year.”
Demarcus Dobbs will start at one end. Senior Brandon Wood and sophomore Abry Jones still appear to be even for the other spot.
Much of this depends on whether Akeem Dent (toe surgery) is ready. If not, Marcus Dowtin and Christian Robinson are in good position to start. When Dent can play, Dowtin and Robinson will be in a head-to-head matchup or an outside player could be moved to compete there.
But defensive coordinator Todd Grantham didn’t appear eager to do so, even with Dowtin (scooter accident), Richard Samuel (leg injury) and Mike Gilliard (undisclosed injury) sitting out of Wednesday’s practice.
“Not really, because they’re injuries that are a nuisance right now,” Grantham said. “But, when you look at game-time status, for the first game, they are probable, they’ll be fine.”
Brandon Boykin, a junior, is the only returning starter. The academic issues keeping Branden Smith off the practice field could be temporary. If the sophomore returns, he probably slides back into the second or third corner spot.
Senior Vance Cuff is a starter or a nickel back. But Smith’s status could open the door for Jordan Love and Sanders Cummings. Grantham praised both. Head coach Mark Richt has singled out true freshman Derek Owens a few times.
Bacarri Rambo almost certainly will start, but where is the question. If junior college transfer Jakar Hamilton, a free safety, is more impressive, Rambo would be at the strong spot. If Nick Williams, a strong safety, wins out, then Rambo shifts to free. But all three will play, and true freshman Shawn Williams has been getting a look, too.