April 10, 2009

Ten things to look for at G-Day

One of the best parts about G-Day is that it gives fans an early look at what they might expect in the fall.

That's certainly the case with the 2009 Georgia Bulldogs.

With Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno both moving onto the NFL, fans quite naturally want to see how their replacements, ie quarterback Joe Cox, along with running backs Caleb King and Carlton Thomas fare for the first time without their celebrated former teammates.

Of course, the storylines don't stop there.

Below, UGASports examines 10 of the biggest things - five on offense and five on defense - to look for during Saturday's 1 p.m. contest.

How will the quarterbacks respond?

Cox is the starter. That part is undisputed. However, it's still going to be interesting to see how the rest of the offense rallies around the senior leader. It's also going to be a big day for Logan Gray, who will be getting most of the reps with Black Team against the No. 1 defense. Of course, Saturday also marks the debut of sorts for freshmen Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray, who has thrown for over 130 yards in Georgia's two scrimmages thus far.

Has Caleb King stepped up his game? Is Carlton Thomas for real?

King says he has dropped seven pounds to his current weight of 210 pounds, and according to running backs coach Bryan McClendon, has done everything he's been asked to do in his effort to become the Bulldogs' top back. Watch closely how King does with his pass protection, as that is the aspect that caused him to run afoul with coaches late last year. As for Thomas, he's been the most exciting of all the offensive players this spring, drawing raves from teammates and coaches alike.

Who are some of the younger offensive linemen that will take that next step and open assistant coach Stacey Searels' eyes?

There's a couple of candidates. We'll get our first look at A.J. Harmon, who started out at left guard but will start at left tackle for the Black squad, along with Cordy Glenn, who opens at right tackle for Red team after starting 10 games at right and left guard last fall.

Can Fred Munzenmaier really be an effective tailback?

No, Munzenmaier isn't a candidate to win the staring job but he does present and interesting option at the position. At 6-foot-2 and 233 pounds, Munzenmaier has the potential to become a very effective short-yardage back.

Which wide receivers will step up to compliment A.J Green?

There are several candidates here. Mike Moore had an excellent junior campaign, but he isn't the question. With Kris Durham out for the year with a torn labrum, the Bulldogs will need guys like Tavarres King and Israel Troupe to step up their game and both can take some big steps toward doing that with a solid showing in G-Day.

With just two healthy scholarship defensive ends, what will we truly be able to gauge?

Two things. Justin Houston is coming off a two-sack performance in Georgia's last scrimmage, and no doubt defensive end coach Jon Fabris would love to get the same type of effort Saturday. Then there's Kiante Tripp. Tripp was moved over from offense to help shore up the depth at end and finds himself a starter Saturday due to all the injuries. Watching his progress should be very interesting.

Is Geno Atkins really that dominating?

Atkins has been drawing all sorts of praise for dominating Georgia's offensive linemen during scrimmages and 11-on-11 drills. "We don't have anybody who can handle him," said head coach Mark Richt. With Georgia's issues last year rushing the passer, a dominant Atkins would go a long way to help in that regard.

Can Darryl Gamble really be an effective defensive end?

No, the junior linebacker isn't switching positions, but he did get some chances from a standup position at rush end the other day and was apparently effective. He should get a chance or two Saturday, and it should be fun to see him get that shot.

Has the tackling improved

Georgia had its share of issues in that regard and improved fundamentals, particularly in wrapping up and tackling, has been front and center in the minds of players all spring. Thus far, all signs point to improvement, but will certainly helps coaches and fans rest easy with a solid showing in G-Day.

What secondary players have taken steps forward?

Pay close attention to sophomore Brandon Boykin. Boykin is trying to take over for Asher Allen and so far he's certainly put early dibs on the job. Boykin has intercepted four passes during spring drills. Pay close attention to Sanders Commings and Makiri Pugh, too.

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