As the Georgia Bulldogs prepare for their SEC East title defense, they find themselves in good shape offensively, with 10 starters returning, including quarterback Aaron Murray. The defense, on the other hand, must rebuild following the loss of seven starters, and that will be a major storyline in the spring game Saturday.
Those losses on the defensive side included linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, as well as safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams. Those guys were the top four tacklers on the team in 2012, leaving some big holes to fill for Mark Richt and his staff before the start of the 2013 season. The Bulldogs may have found their answers at safety in Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews, but neither player brings much experience to the defense. Matthews, an early enrollee, has been impressing coaches and teammates this spring.
Georgia signed a half dozen linebackers in its 2013 class, including early enrollees Ryne Rankin and Reginald Carter; SB Nation's Dawg Sports expects Carter to be a contributor this fall, maybe even a starter:
He has been highly productive, in Georgia's largest [high school football] classification, so he shouldn't have too much of a problem adjusting to SEC caliber athletes. With a spring practice to better understand Grantham's system, and a summer to add some good weight, Carter could easily be among those competing for a starting spot when we head to Clemson on the last day of August.
With a lot of returning starters and the added stability that comes with that, Georgia's offense not surprisingly has fewer things to worry about. The unit was sharp in the team's last scrimmage -- according to Murray, anyway -- and star running back Todd Gurley came into spring camp looking leaner and quicker.
Which is not to say there aren't things to watch on Saturday; Bulldogs fans are wondering which quarterback will replace Murray in 2014, and the play of the reserves in the spring game may offer a preview of what lies ahead.
Hutson Mason is back off his redshirt season, and seems the heir apparent right now. Christian LeMay was highly touted coming out of Charlotte, but has failed to make much of an impact. He's now had enough time in the system to start making a move, and there's no time like the present to make it. Brice Ramsey enrolled early, and he has all the talent to be the QB of the future after a likely redshirt season.
Mason completed eight of 14 passes for 154 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in UGA's scrimmage last weekend. LeMay appeared in five games last season but attempted just two passes.
Georgia's spring game, which begins at 1 p.m. ET Saturday, will be televised by Comcast Sports South and ESPN3.