With players and coaches still getting used to their new 2002 Southeastern
Conference championship rings, the focus already has shifted to Georgia's
chances in 2003.
As spring practice begins this morning at Sanford Stadium, Coach Mark Richt
has to replace every starter from the offensive line. Also gone from last
season are the Bulldogs' three starting linebackers, top defensive
tailback, fullback, leading receiver, punter and kickoff specialist.
That leaves a lot of big holes. The answers to these five questions may go
a long way in determining if Georgia can maintain the momentum established
in its 13-1 2002 season:
Can Tony Milton replace Musa Smith at tailback?
Like Smith, Milton is a physical runner, but Milton may have better
potential to break free for long runs. Even while rushing for 1,324 yards
last season, Smith did not have a run as long as 40 yards.
A surprise could emerge on the depth chart behind Milton. Michael Cooper,
who will be a redshirt freshman in 2003, is a top breakout candidate. Tyson
Browning, who has the best speed in the group, could prove he can be more
than just a specialty back.
Milton played capably as a fill-in starter against Kentucky. Also working in
his favor is his blocking and the durability he showed by playing in all 14
games last season.
Freshman Kregg Lumpkin, who has the size-speed combination Richt wants in a
feature back, will get a long look in the summer and may prove to be
Milton's top competition.
How does Georgia replace seven seniors on the offensive line?
Richt says this is the top priority of the spring. Even so, of the areas
that suffered heavy losses, this also boasts the most potential.
There will be no seniors on juniors on the line next season, but the new,
young starters may have a higher upside than the seniors they will replace.
If such second-year players as tackle Max Jean-Gilles and guards Josh Brock
and Bartley Miller build on their freshman seasons, this unit could be as
strong as the 2002 line by November. Even so, it is fair to expect some
growing pains in the form of missed assignments along the way.
The big question is center. The line will not be able to build chemistry
until a starting center emerges. Russ Tanner or Randall Swoopes are the top
With Jean-Gilles sure to become a fixture at one tackle, the
question is the other tackle spot. The two tallest players on the roster
-Dennis Roland (6-9, 301) and Daniel Inman (6-7, 302) are the leading
Who will win the starting jobs at linebacker?
This may be the most difficult question of the spring and
For the sake of putting out a depth chart, Thomas Davis - a promising
sophomore with a knack for big plays - is listed as a starter at one outside
linebacker spot. Davis spent much of last season at safety. Derrick White
and Odell Thurman likely will lead the competition at middle linebacker.
Tony Taylor is listed as the other first-string outside linebacker. Two
juniors, Derrick Holloway and Arnold Harrison, will compete with Taylor and
The new starters could be undersized, raising concerns about the run
Who needs to make a strong impression on the coaching staff?
With Michael Johnson out with a shoulder injury, Fred Gibson playing
basketball and Terrence Edwards awaiting the NFL draft, there is room for
someone to make an impact at receiver. An obvious candidate is Reggie Brown,
who is entering his junior season.
Brown made five starts and caught 23 passes last year - sixth on the team.
He could make a statement this spring that he is the player to watch at
split end, but he also is participating in track.
If Brown doesn't step up, sophomores Mario Raley and Bryan McClendon could
seize the opportunity.
Who could be a surprise star this spring?
The two-quarterback system with David Greene and D.J. Shockley will
continue, but redshirt freshman Joe Tereshinski could steal the show - if
only for the spring.
Richt wants to give younger players a long look in scrimmage situations, and
Tereshinski could benefit from that exposure.
Other players who might boost their status with a strong spring: tailback
Mike Gilliam, safety Olaolu Sanni-Osomo (who may not be exposed to full
contact as he recovers from last year's knee surgery), fullback Chris
Hickman, receiver Cedric Haywood, defensive tackle Gerald Anderson and
punter Lee Jackson.