(Note: Updated 3/18/10)
We're less than a week from Day 1 of spring practice, and we were pretty much told that we shouldn't expect anything resembling a depth chart from the coaches any time soon. That's not a big surprise since so much is still yet to be determined, and we won't know how the pieces of Todd Grantham's new 3-4 fit together until we're at least a week or two into the spring.
But while the final depth chart is far from settled, Georgia's new defensive coaches have met with players individually and told them where they'll be working primarily this spring. And while we haven't confirmed each of those details, we can start to piece together a decent idea of how the roster will look this spring and into the fall.
So, while I caution you that this is in no way official, here's my best guesses as to how the Georgia depth chart will look when the season begins in September. I've noted where players have confirmed their positions.
# = will miss or be limited this spring.
* = incoming freshman, won't be on campus until June.
(Note: With perhaps one or two exceptions, I didn't include walk-ons on the depth charts.)
Starter: Aaron Murray
Reserves: Zach Mettenberger, Logan Gray, Hutson Mason*
Notes: The word from the coaching staff is that this is an open competition this spring, so it's hard to say who will win the job for sure. Still, the reports on Murray have all been glowing, and the common wisdom among pundits seems to be that Murray will land the job eventually -- perhaps as soon as the end of spring practice. If that happens, there's a chance that Gray could move to receiver.
Starter(s): Caleb King and Washaun Ealey
Reserves: Ken Malcolme*, Dontavius Jackson, Carlton Thomas
Notes: There will likely be a starter named at some point, and that's likely to depend on how far Ealey has come in his blocking ability. But the nominal distinction of starter and backup doesn't mean much with these two. Both are likely to see a good bit of playing time, and Ealey said he'd like to see both end up with 1,000 yards on the ground in 2010.
Starter: Shaun Chapas
Reserves: Fred Munzenmaier #, Charles White, Zander Ogletree*
Notes: Chapas has been a foundation of the Georgia offense for the past two seasons and has this job locked up. He's playing for a shot at being drafted this year, so expect him to be at his best. Munzenmaier should see a few touches, particularly in short-yardage situations, but will be limited this spring. White and Ogletree are the heir apparents at fullback, and could benefit from a bit of action this season, too, as neither has worked at the position in a college game-day situation before.
Left tackle: Clint Boling
Left guard: Cordy Glenn
Center: Ben Jones
Right guard: Chris Davis
Right tackle: Josh Davis
Reserves: Trinton Sturdivant #, Tanner Strickland #, Chris Burnette, Dallas Lee, Kolton Houston, Justin Anderson #, Brent Benedict*, Kenarious Gates, A.J. Harmon, Austin Long #, Ben Harden, Jonathan Owens
Notes: If Sturdivant returns healthy, that could shake things up a bit. Mike Bobo said he plans to view Sturdivant as a luxury, but if that luxury is ready to go in the fall, he'll be at left tackle. So, if Sturdivant moves to left tackle, then what happens? Boling would seem likely to move to the right tackle spot, spelling Josh Davis. But Davis performed well last year and was a big piece to the puzzle of Georgia's resurgent running game. Chris Davis, who has battled a painful hip injury for two seasons, might seem the more likely candidate to come off the bench, but Josh Davis probably doesn't have the size to play right guard as effectively. So does Boling move to right guard, where he played significantly in 2007? Or does Josh Davis go to the bench? And where does this leave Justin Anderson, who has fought for playing time and could be an asset at either guard or tackle? This could be a more interesting battle than most fans expect, but the real fireworks can't start until we see who's healthy come August.
Starter: Aron White
Reserves: Orson Charles, Arthur Lynch and Bruce Figgins
Notes: White will likely be the starter in name only. He'll get plenty of playing time and plenty of throws his way, but Charles is too good to keep off the field. Expect to see a number of two tight end sets, often with Charles split out wide. Both Lynch and Figgins are excellent run blockers, and there's a good chance all four of these guys will get a decent amount of action this season.
Starters: A.J. Green and Tavarres King
Reserves: Kris Durham, Marlon Brown, Rantavious Wooten, Michael Bennett*, Israel Troupe, Chad Gloer
Notes: Durham has experience at all three wide receiver positions -- split end, flanker and slot -- and will likely be used in a variety of roles. Brown needs to show he's matured since last year, but his physical skills are obvious. Troupe and Wooten each had their moments in the sun last year, and with a fairly shallow depth chart at the position, every one of the WRs is likely to see a fair number of balls thrown their way this year.
Starter: DeAngelo Tyson
Reserves: Mike Thornton*, Kwame Geathers, Derrick Lott
Notes: This one involves a fair bit of speculation, but Tyson was often cited as the best candidate for the job when Grantham was first hired, and Thornton, Geathers and Lott are probably the best fits at the position among the reserves in terms of body size. None of these positions are confirmed at this point.
UPDATE: Richt and Grantham confirmed Tyson and Geathers will be the primary NTs, but said all the D linemen will crosstrain. And even more intriguing, Claude Felton, Georgia's SID, confirms that the position will be called "nose" rather than nose tackle or nose guard.
UPDATE: As of 3/18 Rodney Garner confirms that Tyson is his projected starter at nose, but said that Tyson, Tripp, Wood and Jones have all cross-trained at both nose and end. Garner said Geathers is the only D lineman who has worked exclusively at nose.
Starters: Abry Jones, Demarcus Dobbs
Reserves: Brandon Wood, Kiante Tripp, Brandon Burrows*, Dexter Morant*, Garrison Smith*
Notes: Dobbs is pretty likely to end up at D end, and Jones expressed a desire to play the position -- which he did in high school, also running a 3-4 on occasion. Those two seem like the most likely candidates for the starting gig, although that's far from settled. Wood could move to NT and that's not out of the realm of possibilities for Tripp either, but neither of those two could secure significant playing time last year and will have to earn a job this season. Of the newcomers, Smith is the most likely to see immediate playing time. He was a defensive tackle in high school, but his 6-4, 250-pound frame makes him a better fit coming off the end.
UPDATE: Grantham says Dobbs and Abry Jones will be at D end, along with Brandon Wood, Derrick Lott and Kiante Tripp. Again though, all will crosstrain.
Starters: Darryl Gamble, Marcus Dowtin
Reserves: Mike Gilliard, Chase Vasser, Akeem Dent, Akeem Hebron, Christian Robinson, Richard Samuel
Notes: Gamble told us Thursday that he and Dent were both set to play inside linebacker, but he said he wouldn't mind playing outside, too. Those two will both work at the "Mike" position, which Gamble said will essentially be the QB of the defense. The heavy burden put on this position means that Dent and Gamble, the two seniors, are probably the best fits. Dowtin said he actually wanted to play outside, but that Grantham thinks he's a better fit at the "Mo" linebacker position. He said Robinson was likely to be at the "Mo" as well. Hebron remains a wild card, Vasser is probably a safe bet to be working here, and Gilliard could probably play inside or outside.
Starters: Justin Houston, Cornelius Washington
Reserves: Reuben Faloughi, Montez Robinson, Jeremy Longo #,
Richard Samuel, Nick Williams , Demetre Baker*, Jalen Fields*, T.J. Stripling*
Notes: Gamble said Thursday that Houston, Washington and Robinson were all working at OLB along with "a few of the incoming guys." Of that group of incoming freshmen, the most likely to be at OLB -- and also the most likely to see immediate action -- is Stripling. Faloughi has also said he is being moved from DE to OLB, and it could be an exceptional fit for the walk-on with a frame similar to Quentin Moses. Richard Samuel remains the real wild card here. He's just transitioning from tailback, and Dowtin said he could play a little of both inside and outside linebacker. Or there also remains a real chance he could redshirt.
UPDATE: Grantham says Samuel will be at OLB for now, along with Montez, Houston and Washington. Richt confirms that Nick Williams has been moved from linebacker back to safety.UPDATE: As of March 18, Samuel had been moved to inside linebacker, where head coach Mark Richt said his skill set would be a better fit due to the position's reliance on speed and cover skills.
Starters: Bacarri Rambo, Jakar Hamilton
Reserves: Marc Deas*, Alec Ogletree, Makiri Pugh, Quintin Banks, Shawn Williams, Nick Williams,
Notes: Rambo is a virtual lock for the starting job, and Hamilton probably has a leg up because he enrolled early and is a bit farther on the learning curve having played in junior college at GMC. Williams is a nice player who had some good moments on special teams last year. He could be a surprise and push for a starting gig. Banks is the veteran of the group and a vocal leader that new DBs coach Scott Lakatos would probably like to have out on the field. The problem has always been staying healthy for Banks, and he'll need to show he can be a bit more durable before the Dawgs invest too much hope into him.
UPDATE: Richt confirms Nick Williams has been moved back from linebacker to safety, where he began his career. In nickel packages, Williams could still work some at linebacker. Richt also says Sanders Commings will begin spring at safety, although he could see action at corner, too.
UPDATE: Sanders Commings has spent virtually all of spring practice at corner, not safety. Shawn Williams has taken the majority of the first-team reps at safety during spring practice.
Starters: Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith
Reserves: Jordan Love, Vance Cuff,
Sanders Commings, Derek Owens*, Sanders Commings
Notes: Boykin is the secondary's lone returning starter, and if he can build on a solid freshman campaign, he has a chance to be an All-SEC performer. Smith appears to be the likely next in line to fill the vacancy left by Prince Miller's departure, but after splitting time between offense and defense a year ago, he still needs to show a bit more consistency before he has the starting job locked up. Cuff is the veteran of the group and has a ton of speed. Love missed much of last year with a toe injury, but his size makes him a good matchup. Both should see plenty of action in nickel situations. Commings has great height, too, and has bounced between corner and safety during his two years at UGA.
UPDATE: Richt says Sanders Commings will work some at corner still, but will open spring at safety. Richt also said that the new scheme will require the boundary corner to work less in run support, which could shake up how the starting jobs are set.UPDATE: As of March 18, Sanders Commings is back to working mostly at corner. Brandon Boykin said that's been virtually all of Commings snaps so far, and said new DBs coach Scott Lakatos' desire to use taller corners makes Commings a valuable asset at the position.
Kicker: Blair Walsh
Punter: Drew Butler
Snapper: Ty Frix
Kick returner: Brandon Boykin
Punt returner: Branden Smith/Carlton Thomas
Notes: Aside from the loss of Prince Miller and a tussle for the starting punt returner job, Georgia will bring back one of the best special teams units in the country. And if Smith, Thomas or another of Georgia's speedsters can handle the PR job, this area could be a huge strength for the Dawgs in 2010. And, who knows… maybe the directional kicking will improve, too.