Offense: So much attention has been devoted to the fact the team lost seven senior offensive linemen, including all five starters, that it is easy to overlook the fact the unit also must replace its leading rusher and receiver from last season — Musa Smith and Terrence Edwards, respectively. Even so, there is a strong returning nucleus of skill players, including quarterbacks David Greene and D.J. Shockley, receivers Fred Gibson, Michael Johnson, Damien Gary and Reggie Brown, and tight end Ben Watson. The line will not have any seniors or juniors but still will have good talent, led by tackle Max Jean-Gilles and guard Josh Brock. Tony Milton is the favorite to replace Smith at tailback. Milton is regarded as a dependable back and a good blocker, but true freshman Kregg Lumpkin has more size and speed and could see significant playing time and even take the starting job after he recovers from a hamstring injury. Another new starter will be fullback Jeremy Thomas, a former walk-on who solidified his job with a solid spring.
Defense: There is exceptional talent, depth and experience across the defensive line and in the secondary, though the list of available cornerbacks will be short the first two games due to the suspensions of Tim Jennings, DeMario Minter and B.J. Fields. When the suspended players return, the secondary should be a strength, especially at safety, where rover Kentrell Curry and free safety Sean Jones are all-star candidates. Curry,
who could miss as many as three games with a stress fracture in his right leg, and Jones are expected to fill the same leadership void on the defense left by 2002 seniors Boss Bailey and Tony Gilbert. Another leader is defensive end David Pollack, the coaches pick for 2002 SEC Player of the Year. Pollack will be targeted for more double-teams by blockers this year, possibly opening the way for the other starting end, Will Thompson, or tackles Darrius Swain, Kedric Golston and Ken Veal to step up with more big plays. There will be three new starters at linebacker — Odell Thurman in the middle, joined by Thomas Davis and Tony Taylor. Davis could emerge as a Bailey-like force in creating havoc with his speed.
Pivotal game: Sept. 20 at LSU. Georgia plays South Carolina the week before visiting LSU, the team expected to contend with Auburn for bragging rights in the SEC West. If Georgia can win the 3:30 p.m. ET game in Baton Rouge, it then will have an off week before playing host to Alabama and could be at or near the lead in the SEC East entering November games against Florida and Auburn.
Alumni will be happy if: While Richt is 2-0 against Tennessee, he has not snapped the program’s recent history of losses to Florida. Georgia is 1-12 in the series since 1990, including five straight losses, and most fans likely would rank Florida as the most important game of the season.