ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Richt was asked a week ago about the status of his tailbacks entering spring practice. The Georgia football coach spoke a little in general, then added:
“You just want to see them prove that they can hold off the young pup coming in.”
He was talking about Isaiah Crowell, the stud tailback recruit from Carver. But he also could have been talking about Ray Drew, John Jenkins, Malcolm Mitchell, Damian Swann it’s a long list.
Georgia’s success on the recruiting trail was a bonanza for the program, but it also makes spring practice, which begins today, a bit anticlimactic. All of the aforementioned players are expected to contribute and perhaps start.
But Richt isn’t canceling practice. Here are the top storylines for Georgia’s spring practice:
1. The other quarterbacks
Last year’s quarterback competition is a distant memory: Zach Mettenberger was dismissed fter spring practice, and Aaron Murray’s performance in the 2010 season gave him a stranglehold on the job.
So most eyes this spring will be on Christian LeMay, the freshman quarterback who enrolled early. Could he end up being the top backup to Murray, allowing the team to redshirt Hutson Mason? Or will Mason reclaim the No. 2 job?
“Right now, the biggest thing for LeMay is knowing what to do,” Rich said. “You can’t compete at any position until you know what you’re doing, but especially at quarterback. Murray and Hutson are ahead of him in that regard.”
2. As the tailbacks turn
It might be a mild surprise that Washaun Ealey and Caleb King are still around. Ealey was suspended from team activities for a few weeks this semester, while King was academically ineligible for the Liberty Bowl. That was on top of each being arrested last fall and being disappointments on the field.
That’s a big reason the Bulldogs made such a big play for Crowell. But he isn’t here yet, so, in the meantime, Ealey, King, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome still have a chance to make an impression.
Malcome will be the most interesting one to watch, because he redshirted last year and, unlike Ealey and King, doesn’t have any blotches on his resumé.
3. Alec Ogletree’s move to linebacker
When last season ended, one of the defense’s reasons for optimism was the emergence of freshman Alec Ogletree at safety. But defensive coordinator Todd Grantham didn’t see a potential All-SEC safety; he saw a potential All-SEC inside linebacker.
So Ogletree is there now, teaming up the middle with returning starter Christian Robinson, who has been anointed the defensive captain.
There also is a ripple effect to Ogletree’s move: It opens a spot at safety, where two players who failed to hold the job last year -- Jakar Hamilton and Shaun Williams -- have another chance. And at inside linebacker, Ogletree supplants Richard Samuel, the converted tailback who redshirted last year.
4. Replacing the stars
As expected, wide receiver A.J. Green and outside linebacker Justin Houston departed for the NFL draft. That leaves the Bulldogs looking for a new top receiver and edge-rush specialist.
Both likely replacements were on the team last year, but only one played: Wide receiver Tavarres King doesn’t have Green’s size, but he has speed and experience. He didn’t wade in when asked whether he needs to be the No. 1 guy.
“What I stress to the (other receivers) when I meet with them, I talk to them one-on-one and things like that,” King said.
“I just let them know that they can be the guy. There’s going to be so many opportunities out there on the field that anybody can step on there and be the man in any game.”
Former Carver star Jarvis Jones is the potential playmaker that Georgia is losing in Houston. Jones sat out last year after transferring from Southern California.