ATHENS, Ga — The 2011 football season is officially underway as the Georgia Bulldogs begin camp with their first practice this afternoon. The players reported on Tuesday, went through physical’s and other preparations on Wednesday, but will finally take the field today.
As camp begins it is time to take a look at some key positional battles that will be decided during fall camp preceding the season opener against Boise State.
One of the things that was constantly said by the coaching staff back during spring practice this year was in regards to competition, and the fact that competition makes you better.
Heading into fall camp there are several question marks surrounding key positions, and below are the battles that will be under the spotlight heading into the 2011 season opener against Boise State.
Defensive Nose: In February junior college nose tackle John Jenkins announced his decision to attend Georgia, and many thought that he was going to be the starter at nose without question.
But then in the spring sophomore Kwame Geathers impressed coaches and was named the defensive MVP of spring practice before a stellar G-Day performance where he played very well against senior center Ben Jones.
There’s no question that Geathers and Jenkins will see the playing field in 2011, but the battle in the fall will determine who gets the starting position.
The play of the defensive line is what makes the SEC better than every other conference, and in order to be good, you must have a very strong second unit. In addition, when you run the 3-4 defense the nose position is the most important piece and the fact that Georgia has two very talented players there, will make everyone else on the defense better.
Running back: Many thought that when Isaiah Crowell announced his decision in February, that while he might be behind Caleb King and Washaun Ealey to start the season, he eventually will be the star of the Bulldog running game.
However, things changed after Washaun Ealey transferred and Caleb King was ruled academically ineligible. Now, many fans will look at Crowell to be the answer at running back.
His competition consists of former running back turned former linebacker turned running back again Richard Samuel, redshirt freshman Ken Malcome who sat out most of spring practice due to injury, and junior Carlton Thomas.
Samuel and Malcome will fight Crowell for the first carry of the Boise State game, and Samuel has been given the early edge due to the fact that he is the veteran of the group. Thomas will be suspended for the first game against Boise State because he violated team rules during the off-season.
Offensive line: Just like the running backs, the offensive line has had their fair share of attrition. Freshman Brent Benedict and junior A.J. Harmon have transferred, Tanner Strickland graduated with eligibility remaining, and Trinton Sturdivant went down with another injury and will miss the entire 2011 season.
What remains of the offensive line is worrisome to Georgia fans, and it should be. Rimington Trophy candidate Ben Jones and preseason All-SEC first-team tackle Cordy Glenn will lead the offensive line, but the three other positions will all have new faces.
Sophomore Kenarius Gates is the projected left guard, Chris Burnette is projected as the right guard, and senior Justin Anderson is projected at the right tackle.
Anderson started his Georgia career on the offensive side of the ball, but played on the defensive line last year before suffering a season-ending injury in the first game versus Louisiana-Lafayette. Prior to spring practice, Anderson made the switch back the offensive side of the ball.
The front five hasn’t changed much since G-Day, but the depth behind them is the cause for concern. There are several talented freshman that will compete and try to earn back-up spots during fall camp.