Aaron Murray is back for a third season, and Ken Malcome looks like Georgia fans always hoped Ken Malcome would look.
Does all this mean the Bulldogs’ offense, which was third in the SEC last season, could be even better in 2012? Not necessarily, but it’s a good start.
The loss of Isaiah Crowell, however, was a pretty big blow for the Bulldogs. Crowell, who back all indications was headed in the right direction on the field, was dismissed after being arrested on felony gun charges in June.
The Bulldogs will have to figure out how to move along without him. That starts with their signal caller.
Murray, Georgia’s junior quarterback, once again is expected to battle Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson for the All-SEC quarterback distinction. Murray threw for 3,149 yards and 35 touchdowns last season, and he showed no signs of regression this spring, being named the team’s co-MVP on offense.
“It was a goal to get better this spring, and I think we definitely exceeded our goal with how good we could become,” Murray said. “We are excited for the future.”
Even with four-star signee Keith Marshall sidelined most of spring practice due to a hamstring injury, optimism about Georgia’s depth at tailback returned after a frustrating 2011 season – then came Crowell’s arrest and departure. Still, depth, which was the Bulldogs' enemy at running back in 2011, should be better this fall.
The biggest surprise in the spring was Malcome, a former four-star prospect out of Southwest DeKalb High School. Malcome, who briefly left the team last year, will likely enter fall camp as the co-starter along with Richard Samuel, who returns to the spot after playing fullback and linebacker during his career.
“I don’t know for sure how he’s going to finish, but he’s on a great track right now,” Richt said of Samuel. “It does my heart good to see guys who are struggling, who think it’s over; they stick it out; they decide to do it the Georgia way, and then all of a sudden you see how good a guy can be.”
Samuel, a former starter at tailback, could line up at fullback at times in 2012 to give the Bulldogs flexibility in play-calling and formations.
The running backs’ performance, of course, will also depend on the development of an offensive line that is replacing two NFL draft picks in Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn.
Kenarious Gates (left tackle), Dallas Lee (left guard), David Andrews (center), Chris Burnete (right guard) and Kolton Houston (right tackle) exited spring as the offensive line starters, but the Bulldogs feel like they have four other players ready to contribute up front.
“Overall, I thought the offensive line improved throughout the spring,” Richt said.
The receiving corps returns mostly intact, meaning Tavarres King will once again lead a group of players (including Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley) still looking to prove themselves as consistent contributors.
“My job is easy carrying these guys and taking them under my wing because they just want to be the best,” King said. “We got better as an offense (during the spring). I am excited to see where it goes from here.”
At tight end, Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome will have to replace the production of Orson Charles and Aron White, who combined for more than 50 catches and 600 yards.
The Bulldogs don’t want to think about would happen in the event of an injury to Murray, but “football is a violent game,” Richt said, so they do have a plan. Christian LeMay, who made strides in the spring, will be the backup quarterback as the team attempts to redshirt Hutson Mason. However, if Murray suffers a long-term injury, the Bulldogs likely will replace him with Mason.
“Like we have been telling him all along, ‘You have go to prepare like you are going to play,’” Richt said. “He has to stay on the ready.”