Bulldogs’ lineup, not goals, to change in 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Georgia defense that was loaded with projected NFL talent will retool if not rebuild in 2013.

Freshmen tailback Todd Gurley doesn’t think that means the Bulldogs will take a step back next season.

He remembers the doubts that existed on offense heading into this season when the line was the big question mark and Gurley and Keith Marshall were the new kids on the block in the backfield.

“We put up crazy numbers and broke school records,” Gurley said. “We’ve got guys that are ready to step in that are on the scout team, and I know there’s going to be a couple of freshmen next year that are going to come in and show out.”

Georgia, which came within five yards of reaching the BCS national title game and finished 12-2, is losing its four leading tacklers and eight of its top 11, assuming that outside linebacker Jarvis Jones turns pro.

“We’re going to work hard and compete and we know it’s going to be fun because these seniors that we have here now leaving, they kind of went through this a few years ago,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Tuesday after Georgia’s 45-31 Capital One Bowl win over Nebraska. “The difference is the young players that we have here now have kind of heard it even though they haven’t played it, so they kind of know a little bit. The biggest thing to me is when you watch the transition from Year One to Year Three, that game wasn’t going great right there, but we found a way to win it. We showed more mental and physical toughness in the second half to win the game. That’s why you win 12 games in year. That’s what we’ve got to work with the guys coming up to develop that mental and physical toughness to win ball games.”

Defensive end Garrison Smith, linebacker Amarlo Herrera and cornerback Damian Swann could be the only three starters returning to a defense that often was accused of failing to live up to its talent level. Nose guard Kwame Geathers would make it four, but he may enter the NFL draft.

The Bulldogs will also get an infusion of talent from an incoming recruiting class that currently stands at 30.

“I think we’re going to be very athletic. I think we’re going to be a fast defense,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who will be entering his 13th season. “I think we’re going to have guys with the skill sets to go get it done, and then it’s just going to be a matter of how quickly can they begin to play championship-style defense. That’s going to be the big push.”

Georgia showed it already may have a championship-style offense. The Bulldogs averaged a school-record 37.8 points per game.

If quarterback Aaron Murray returns for his senior season, he would be a Heisman Trophy contender on an offense that would be one of the most explosive around despite losing leading receiver Tavarres King. If not, junior Hutson Mason is waiting in the wings after a redshirt season.

Murray completed 63.7 percent of his passes — just shy of the 65 percent rate that was the goal — but it was still the second-best percentage in program history.

Murray needs 20 touchdown passes to become the SEC’s all-time career leader, passing Danny Wuerffel’s 114, but he could enter the draft after leading Georgia to back-to-back SEC championship games and the third 12-win season in program history.

Georgia will return its dynamic 1-2 punch of Gurley, who rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, the sixth highest total in program history and second most ever by a freshman, and Keith Marshall, who rushed for 759 yards. It also will return its entire offensive line.

“I think we built a lot of positive momentum from this year,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “If we’ll take that same mindset into this offseason of if we work to get better every day we’ll have a chance to do some good things next year. If we let a bunch of people pat us on the back and say we’ve arrived, then we won’t.”

Georgia didn’t get to a BCS bowl, but Murray tweeted late Tuesday night that he was heading to New Orleans to go to the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night. He was invited as a member of the AFCA Good Works team to take part in a youth football clinic..

Georgia was ranked No. 6 in NationalChamps.net 2013 “Early Bird Preview,” but that was “based on linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree returning for their senior years.”

Ogletree announced after the bowl that he will enter the draft. Jones could make his jump to the pros known in the next few days.

Georgia has promising young talent in outside linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Josh Dawson and safety Josh Harvey-Clemoms. Defensive linemen Mike Thornton and Ray Drew will step into more prominent roles.

“We’re not losing everybody,” Richt said. “There are still some very good defensive players that will be sticking around and a lot of young ones that are waiting in the wings and have been working hard preparing for their moment.”

Georgia won’t open next season with any warm-ups. The Bulldogs play at Clemson in Atlanta and South Carolina in Athens the first two weeks. Both will be coming off 11-2 seasons.

“It’s going to be a new football team next year with a new identity, and we don’t know what that identity is,” Bobo said. “If we’ll learn from this team last year from January until January of how they improved every day, we’ll have a chance to do some good things again.”

2016 WR recruit from Florida accused in UGA dorm burglary

by Marc Weiszer

An arrest warrant has been issued for an elite wide receiver prospect out of Florida who attended Georgia’s Dawg Night camp last week. Darnell Salomon of Miramar, Fla.... Full Story

Follow marcweiszer

marcweiszer

@sravanthi_meka I’m told Family Violence is not a separate charge, but can impact the prosecution of the charge.

3 hours ago