Bulldogs Blog

Camp preview: Breaking down position battles

In the three days leading up to the opening of practice, The Blog will have a breakdown of each position as it stands heading into practice. We'll take stock of the position group as camp begins and offer up one man's prediction of how it'll look in the Georgia Dome.

We start this morning with the gentlemen that will comprise the backfield:

QUARTERBACK

The battle: Obviously, Aaron Murray is set as the starter. The question here is whether Hutson Mason serves as the backup again, or Christian LeMay beats him out.

The skinny: Who is best ready to play right now isn't the only factor here. Mason has talked before about his "sticky situation,"; that being that like Murray he's a sophomore; but has a redshirt year to take. The staff will want to redshirt either Mason or LeMay, and probably prefers Mason to back up because of his experience. But what if LeMay, building on his spring experience, shows he’s ready to play too.

Best bet: Mason begins the season as the backup to Murray, but LeMay is kept on reserve. The Bulldogs aren't likely to be in a situation where they want to rest Murray against Boise State or South Carolina. So the decision on whether to burn Mason or LeMay's redshirt can probably wait until the third week, and perhaps by then the decision will be clearer.

TAILBACK

The battle: You may have heard, but Georgia has a big-time recruit at this position. (Crowell, we believe. ... Isaiah Crowell.) You also may have heard that the two leading rushers from last year have left the program. That leaves Richard Samuel, back after his sabbatical at linebacker, along with redshirt freshman Ken Malcome and junior Carlton Thomas, but Thomas is suspended for the opener.

The skinny: Samuel starts the preseason No. 1 on the depth chart, according to head coach Mark Richt. He cited Samuel's experience as the reason, so with a few good practices and scrimmages Crowell could supplant him. Either way, it's a good bet that each will get carries against Boise State. Malcome and - yes, really - walk-on Brandon Harton could be factors too. But for now this is a two-man battle.

Best bet: All along, even when Caleb King and Washaun Ealey were still around, I felt Crowell was the favorite to start. But now I'm not so sure. The coaches are talking up Samuel a lot, which may just be a push to Crowell to make sure he works hard to earn the spot. But when push comes to shove - and trying to beat a top 10 team on national television - I could also see the coaches wanting to go with experience. Practices and scrimmages will have a big impact on this, but for now I'd bet Samuel gets the start and has about a 60-40 split with Crowell on carries the first week. Don't count out Malcome, but he has to make some tangible progress first.

FULLBACK

The battle: Zander Ogletree, who got a few snaps as a freshman last year, is the most experienced, at least at fullback. Senior Bruce Figgins has shifted over from tight end, and the two enter spring in an even-up status for the starting gig. Dustin Royston is a solid No. 3 on the depth chart and will get practice reps.

The skinny: The coaches love the idea of a 6-foot-5, 250-pound Figgins in the backfield. The question is whether the Columbus native can a) carry the ball, and b) learn the different blocking schemes. Figgins offers a tantalizing combination of size and receiving ability. The smaller Ogletree knows the position and can carry the ball.

Best bet: It really is a 50-50 shot between Figgins and Ogletree, and barring injury, it’s doubtful one of them will have a Secretariat-like win for the job. I'll guess Figgins does enough to start against Boise State, especially since the coaches are talking up his hybrid fullback-tight end role. But Olgetree and Royston will also play. And don't be surprised to see massive nose tackle John Jenkins in on some sets, a la Terrence Cody at Alabama a few years ago.

Next up: Receivers and tight ends.

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