BUFORD, Ga. -- At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, ESPN Junior 300 linebacker Ben Davis certainly looks the part of a big-time college football linebacker. And at the Atlanta Nike regional camp on Sunday, Davis played like it, too.

The Gordo (Ala.) High School product was one of the most impressive linebackers in attendance, which is why many schools around the country have made Davis a top priority. Prior to the camp, however, Davis took a short detour over to Athens, Georgia, to check out the Bulldogs on Saturday.

BUFORD, Ga. -- Temperatures in the 50’s on a rainy day didn’t keep more than 400 prospects from coming out to the Nike The Opening Atlanta Regional Camp on Sunday with hopes of receiving an invite to The Opening in Beaverton, Oregon.

Though the performances of the prospects were at the forefront, there were plenty of recruiting notes and some subtle messages delivered by prospects before the event began.

One of the best pictures of the day was ESPN Junior 300 wide receivers Tavares Chase and Kyle Davis. They could become rivals at the next level with Chase being committed to Clemson and Davis to South Carolina. The kink in the chain is the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Davis being a very "soft" verbal to the Gamecocks with Georgia, Auburn, and Tennessee all being in the mix. Though Chase was decked out in Clemson gear, Davis was very neutral. In this case, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words considering Davis sounded like anything but a solid pledge Sunday.

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BUFORD, Ga. - Despite the cold and rainy weather conditions, more than 400 prospects from all over the Southeast made the trip to Buford High School for the Nike The Opening Regional Camp on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeMalik Henry
Miller Safrit/ESPNFlorida State quarterback pledge Malik Henry was among the prospects earning invitations to The Opening.
With less than ideal conditions for throwing the ball, several quarterbacks and wide receivers -- including Malik Henry, David Moore, Josh Imatorbhebehe, Freddie Swain, Tre Nixon and several other players -- had standout performances at the camp.

Swain, the No. 214 prospect in the ESPN Junior 300, was one of the most impressive receivers and took home the wide receiver MVP as well as an invitation to The Opening. The 6-foot, 170-pound athlete from Citra (Florida) North Marion High School took advantage of his trip to Atlanta by visiting the University of Georgia on Saturday before attending the Nike camp. The visit turned out to be a success for the talented receiver.

“I just got offered by Georgia yesterday on my visit,” Swain said. "It was a lot of fun and I got to meet with coach Richt. He just said to keep working hard and he’ll see me in the spring.”

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SEC morning links

March, 19, 2015
Mar 19

It's tournament time. Before you call in sick for work (wink, wink), how about we take a quick look around the SEC?

Tweet of the day

There goes Steve Spurrier hatin' again ...

The path of a righteous journalist is paved with a straight and narrow avenue of objectivity. It should be the central mindset of any journalist trying to perfect his or her craft.

However, there are times when you just can't help but cheer. The professionalism needed for your job isn't flushed away, though. Not in these situations.

I'm not talking about rooting for a team or a particular outcome for a game. I'm talking about rooting for a specific athlete, more importantly, rooting for the return of a specific athlete.

[+] EnlargeKeith Marshall
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsKeith Marshall has seen action in only eight games over the past two seasons due to injuries.

That brings us to Georgia running back Keith Marshall, whose infectious smile and soft-spoken manner will have you taking a budding interest in him from the start. The once elite recruit, who dazzled as a freshman in 2012, has spent the last two years dealing with various injuries, including a devastating knee injury that cut his 2013 season short after just five games. It's hard not to feel for him.

Last year, Marshall played in just three games -- rushing for 24 yards on 12 carries -- after injuring both his knee and ankle in the Dawgs' blowout win over Troy on Sept. 20. The scene of him limping near Georgia's locker room on crutches after the game was heartbreaking. What would be even more unfortunate was the fact that Marshall wouldn't hit the field again for the Dawgs in 2014.

It doesn't matter what you do or what team you root for, it has to tug at your heart when you see something like that.

But here we are at the start of Georgia's spring practice, and Marshall is running around full-go. There's no hesitation, no limp and no holding him back.

Marshall is in a situation of no limitations and I think he is getting back in playing shape,” coach Mark Richt said after Tuesday's practice.

And now we reach the point where you can't help but root for Marshall to stay healthy and get back to the level that made him such a formidable rushing option for the Dawgs back in 2012. Marshall is one of the good guys, a tremendous player when healthy and a fine human away from the playing field. Adding Marshall back to Georgia's backfield could give the Bulldogs one of the best running back units in the country. Don't forget that sophomore-to-be Sony Michel returns after rushing for 410 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Add a third weapon to the bunch like Marshall, and Georgia might not even need to throw the ball this fall.

“He’s back. Keith Marshall is back and I’m excited about that," star running back Nick Chubb told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I look forward to Keith having a great year.”

Opponents might differ on that as it relates to future contests against Marshall, but as a whole, I think most people who know Marshall -- or at least know his story -- are rooting for him to bounce back in 2015.


Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien speaks with SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy at Georgia Pro Day.
[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsTodd Gurley did not participate in Wednesday's pro day at Georgia but hopes to be ready for full contact in July after tearing his ACL last November.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Count Todd Gurley among the football players who admire Chris Borland's decision to retire from the NFL.

Gurley, an NFL draft-bound Georgia running back, gave his thoughts on Borland's sudden retirement after just one season with the San Francisco 49ers. Borland, a 24-year-old standout linebacker, cited safety concerns and his long-term health as the reason behind his decision.

"It definitely was a surprise because what did he play, only one year? But everything happens for a reason,'' Gurley said. "God has a plan, and I'm pretty sure [Borland] has a plan. Big ups to him. He did what he felt was right. I definitely support him. And I think he has a bigger plan other than football. At the end of the day, it's not all about [football], but it's definitely what got us here.''

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Georgia football coach Mark Richt talks with SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy at UGA Pro Day.

Greg McElroy and former UGA RB Todd Gurley discuss rehab and training before the NFL Draft.

Greg McElroy and SEC Now discuss key players from UGA Pro Day.

Offseason spotlight: Georgia

March, 18, 2015
Mar 18

It's been a while since our next mention in this week's series has had the spotlight on him. But after dealing with back-to-back knee injuries, one of Georgia's top offensive weapons heads into the 2015 season with a chance to reclaim the title as one of the SEC's best wide receivers.

Spotlight: Malcolm Mitchell, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, redshirt senior

[+] EnlargeMalcolm Mitchell
Jason Getz/USA TODAY SportsMalcolm Mitchell is one of the most potent weapons in the SEC when healthy.

2014 summary: Plagued by a nagging knee injury he suffered during the offseason, Mitchell played in eight games last season, starting three. The UGA Comeback Player of the Year finished the season ranking third on the team with 31 catches, accounting for 248 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Mitchell saw his first significant action since the 2013 opener (when he suffered his devastating ACL injury) in Georgia's 34-0 win at Missouri on Oct. 11. Mitchell had a team-high six catches in that game and also led the Bulldogs in receptions with six in Georgia's 38-20 loss to Florida.

The skinny: If healthy, Mitchell could be one of the SEC's best receivers in 2015. He's a tremendous athlete who has played both sides of the ball during his career, but saw his production shrink after a freak ACL injury he suffered in the 2013 opener against Clemson. Mitchell was a shell of his former self last season, as he dealt with another knee injury that cost him the first four games of the season, but with Georgia's top two receivers from last season gone, the spotlight is back on Mitchell. He's the most talented and the most experienced receiver returning for the Dawgs, as the top three receivers behind him combined to catch just 18 passes last season. While there is talent behind him -- and a healthy, focused Justin Scott-Wesley has proved in the past to be a dangerous weapon in Georgia's offense -- Mitchell will be relied upon early to be the guy at receiver for the Bulldogs, especially with a new starting quarterback taking over this season. A lot of the focus will be paid to the quarterback position during the offseason, and Mitchell's play could go a long way into helping create more confidence for each of the quarterbacks vying for that starting spot. Mitchell was a deep threat when healthy, as well as a valuable safety net and someone who wasn't afraid to make physical plays over the middle of the field. It'll be interesting to see how healthy he is this spring and how much he'll be able to do on that knee after adding to the wear that was already there in 2014. It'll also be interesting to see how he responds to getting back on the field mentally. Knee injuries are both physically and mentally tough to come back from, especially when you've suffered consecutive ones, so we'll see if there's any hesitation in Mitchell's game when he starts going this spring.

SEC morning links

March, 18, 2015
Mar 18

1. What is going on in Starkville? Last Thursday, offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins was arrested on a simple assault warrant. But now, according to a report from SB Nation, it looks like the wrong player might have been arrested. The report shows two affidavits from the victim accusing Brandon Bryant and Grant Harris of assault, not Jenkins. Mississippi State released a statement Tuesday refuting the report, though it’s still unclear what happened. Head coach Dan Mullen, who addressed the media after practice, said they are still investigating the situation and would handle all team discipline internally. This latest incident comes on the heels of the spring break attack involving quarterback Dak Prescott, and the arrest of wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson. Clearly, this is not the way the Bulldogs wanted to begin spring practice.

2. SEC East rivals Georgia and South Carolina also kicked off spring practice Tuesday. The Bulldogs got their first taste of new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and the only notable difference between him and his predecessor Mike Bobo? “He’s a lot nicer.” That was according to All-SEC running back Nick Chubb. Meanwhile, there was a new sense of urgency at South Carolina’s first practice after last season’s disappointing 7-6 finish, and the attitude impressed head coach Steve Spurrier. “There’s not a sense of ‘We’re pretty good,’ let’s put it that way,” Spurrier said. And similar to Schottenheimer at Georgia, new defensive coordinator Jon Hoke brought a new scheme and energy to the Gamecocks practice.

3. The sports world is still stunned by Chris Borland's decision to retire. The San Francisco 49ers linebacker just finished his rookie season and had star written all over him. What does this mean for the future of the sport? Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who recruited and coached Borland while at Wisconsin, has been concerned about player safety for years. He had a chance to say “I told you so” this week but instead used it as a platform to drive his point home. “We have an obligation to do what’s right,” he said. “I can’t understand how some guys can’t see that.” As Matt Hayes of the Sporting News writes, maybe it’s time that we start taking Bielema a little more seriously, regardless of which side you’re on when it comes to hurry-up, no-huddle offenses. After all, player safety should be the No. 1 concern.

Tweet of the day

Georgia isn't the perfect team, but an argument can be made that the Bulldogs might be a quarterback away from winning the SEC Eastern Division and more in 2015.

Sure, questions remain on defense, especially up front and at linebacker, and the receiver situation has to be ironed out behind Malcolm Mitchell, but finding the right quarterback to lead this team might be exactly what Georgia needs to make a strong title run this fall.

[+] EnlargeBrice Ramsey
David Stephenson/AP PhotoBrice Ramsey has a live arm and more game experience than his competition.

Finding that quarterback won't exactly be easy for coach Mark Richt or new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. There's a three-man race for the starting position taking place in Athens, and the hope is that one of them can push Georgia's passing game back to a more elite level this year.

The contenders: Redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey, redshirt freshman Jacob Park and redshirt junior Faton Bauta.

On paper, Ramsey, a one-time four-star prospect, is the early favorite. He's the only quarterback on the roster with real, extensive game experience. Serving as Hutson Mason's backup last year, Ramsey threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, while seeing work in eight games. Ramsey certainly showed a lot of arm strength during his relief duty. I'm not calling him Matt Stafford, but when his arm is in control it's a thing of beauty.

But he also showed that he can be wild with the football, too. Of course, for young quarterbacks with monster arms that's natural. Ramsey will have to work through that and have to develop some better chemistry with his receivers, but he also won't be handed the job this spring. Oh no, Richt envisions this thing being a highly contested battle among the three.

"I'd say it's more 1A, B and C," Richt said earlier this month. "It really is a matter of giving all those guys an opportunity to get reps and try to make it as equal as possible. I'm sure we'll be rotating who's No. 1 on any given day as far as who works with that unit. I'm sure every quarterback will get reps with the ones and the twos."

A heavy rotation is certainly a smart way of going about things, but it can get bunched up when you have three. Remember, three's a crowd.

Which brings us to Park. Now, he redshirted last year, giving him a year to learn from the older guys, get his body ready, and allowing him to sit and watch. Sometimes just watching what others do and learning visually can do wonders for a youngster.

Now, the former South Carolina Mr. Football will get to learn by going through the motions, and his athleticism gives him an advantage over his quarterback mates. He's shifty, but throws a nice ball both stationary and on the move. While the Bulldogs aren't going to run a spread offense this year, Park's ability to extend plays with his feet will give him an element the others doesn't have as much of. He also has impressed with his attitude and work ethic.

Many believe this is really just a two-man race, but you can't count Bauta out of it. He's the old man of the group, but that just means he has seen a lot more and has spent more time learning. He learned from both Aaron Murray and Mason, and while he only played in two games last year (throwing for 48 yards) he won't be spooked by the anxiety that comes with any quarterback race. He might be limited a little more in the talent department compared to the other two, but sometimes you just need someone who can take care of the football. Don't dismiss the mental game when it comes to finding a quarterback.

Now, when that quarterback will actually be found is a mystery. Richt has already made it clear that he isn't setting a date on that and I think he'd be surprised to name a starter this spring, especially with a new offensive coordinator running things.

"With the amount of transition and learning going on, I'm not certain we'll be able to make that determination at that point," he said. "The big thing is to give these guys opportunities, see how they handle it and evaluate and try to make that determination when we get there."

No. 1 Greg Little has visit plans 

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The top ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, Greg Little, has been committed to Texas A&M since June 20 of 2014, but that hasn’t kept many of the nations top programs from attempting to knock down the door in hopes of swaying the 6-foot-6, 308-pound Texan.

The nation's No. 1-ranked offensive tackle made a first visit to someone other than the Aggies since committing in February, making the short trip north to take a look at the Oklahoma Sooners. As it turns out, that will be just one of many hurdles the Aggies have to clear to sign the 2016 Under Armour All-America Game selection.

"Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, UCLA and USC are coming at me hard,” Said Little. "And Auburn and Florida, too. The first week of June, I’m going to take visits to the Southeast. I’ll go to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida and some other schools like that. Then in the middle of the summer I’m going to go to the West Coast to see USC, UCLA and Stanford. I want to try and get up to Ohio State, too."

Little, who lists the Aggies and Bruins as the schools he talks to the most, says building a relationship with new offensive line coach Dave Christensen is going to be key for keeping his commitment to Texas A&M.

"[A&M] is telling me to just be patient. They have a new O-line coach, so we have to build a good connection. I just have to get to know him, because I think we have only talked a couple of times. I need to get to know him a little more."

For Texas A&M fans hoping or expecting Little to make a final declaration by the end of the summer, that is unlikely to happen.

"I will probably have a true final decision after my senior season. Probably at the beginning of January."

Following the Nike Opening Dallas Regional on Sunday, Little was one of 13 players invited to the The Opening to be held July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters.

Quick take: There are a couple of key factors to look at with the recruitment of Little. First is his relationship with teammate and class of 2015 Texas A&M signee Kyler Murray. Murray is a pied piper of sorts on the recruiting trail, and this is certainly true when speaking about Little. As long as Murray shows up on campus and suits up for the Aggies, and does not choose to go the MLB route if selected in the first round of the June draft, Texas A&M stands a good chance to sign Little. Should Murray end up going to MLB, and Little does not feel comfortable with his relationships with the Aggies' offensive staff, then all bets are off.

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Opening spring camp: Georgia

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17

Schedule: The Bulldogs open spring practice Tuesday and will conclude with Georgia's annual G-Day spring game on April 11, at 2 p.m. ET inside Sanford Stadium.

[+] EnlargeBrice Ramsey
David Stephenson/AP PhotoBrice Ramsey, who played in eight games and threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns last season, is the early favorite to start at QB for the Bulldogs.

What's new: Georgia has a few new coaching faces on the offensive side of the ball. After 14 years with the Bulldogs, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo departed to become the head coach at Colorado State. Bobo also brought offensive line coach Will Friend with him to CSU. The Bulldogs replaced Bobo with former St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and replaced Friend with former McNeese State co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Rob Sale. Georgia also lost wide receivers coach Tony Ball to LSU and moved running backs coach Bryan McClendon moved to receivers coach. Former Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Brown was hired to the same position with the Bulldogs.

On the mend: While running back Keith Marshall is returning from another knee injury that plagued him in 2014, it sounds like he's getting closer and closer to 100 percent and should be fine for the spring. Still, it's worth monitoring how much he's used. Linebacker and pass-rusher Leonard Floyd is still recovering from shoulder surgery that he underwent before the bowl game. Fellow linebacker Davin Bellamy could be limited this spring after also undergoing offseason surgery.

New faces: The Bulldogs welcomed in eight early enrollees, including UAB linebacker transfer Jake Ganus and junior college transfer linebacker Chuks Amaechi. Early enrolled freshmen: safety Johnathan Abram, defensive end Michael Barnett, tight end Jackson Harris, defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, linebacker Natrez Patrick and safety Jarvis Wilson.

Question marks: Georgia will likely be the SEC Eastern Division favorite this season, but the Bulldogs do have a few questions that need to be answered before the season starts. The biggest question is who will replace quarterback Hutson Mason. Redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey, who was the backup last season, is the favorite heading into spring, but he'll have to fight off junior Faton Bauta and redshirt freshman Jacob Park, who was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2014 recruiting class. Center David Andrews is also gone, creating a big hole along the offensive line. There is no favorite to this point, but senior Hunter Long and sophomore Isaiah Wynn will immediately compete for the spot. Georgia also has plenty of questions along the defensive line, where the Bulldogs brought back just five scholarship players before Barnett and Ledbetter enrolled early. The Bulldogs must find another reliable figure in the secondary to replace Damian Swann and must replace longtime inside linebackers starters Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson.

Key battle: This has to be quarterback. Mason wasn't a world beater last season, and the Bulldogs need to get back to having more of a consistent downfield threat in the passing game. Ramsey, who played in eight games in 2014 and threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, is the early favorite to replace Mason, but don't think he won't have to work for the job. Park was one of the nation's top quarterbacks coming out of high school last year and has a great combination of arm strength and mobility. The former South Carolina Mr. Football is arguably the team's most athletic quarterback and should push Ramsey every step of the way. Then there's Bauta, who has played in just six games during his career and has thrown for 46 yards. Bauta will be in the race, and while he isn't as decorated as the other two, he can't be counted out.

Breaking out: Not to put any pressure on a true freshman, but the Dawgs need to have a presence on the defensive line ASAP, and Ledbetter has a chance to be key figure early. The fact the former four-star prospect enrolled early really helps Georgia, but defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt won't have a problem throwing him into the fire on Day 1, even though Ledbetter won't turn 18 until mid-September.

Don't forget about: Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell is back from his knee injuries, and if he can finally be healthy, Mitchell will compete to be one of the league's best receivers. He's a monster athlete who totaled 1,237 receiving yards during his first two years and even tried to play both sides of the ball as a sophomore. With Chris Conley and Michael Bennett gone, Mitchell returns as the most accomplished receiver. Georgia's top three returning receivers behind Mitchell combined for just 18 catches last season, and Justin Scott-Wesley has dealt with injuries and suspensions, so Mitchell will be expected to bounce back as the Dawgs' top receiving threat.

All eyes on: The offense. While the defense has been the preseason talk of discussion the past couple of years -- and has its own issues to deal with again -- the offense has plenty of unknowns that need to be cleared up somewhat this spring. Quarterback is the biggest issue, but finding some reliable receiving threats will also be important to getting this offensive going in 2015. Many fans weren't very excited about Schottenheimer's hire to replace Bobo, so you better believe the pressure will be on him to get the offense going this spring. Even with all the criticism Bobo faced during his time in Athens, he was a very successful coordinator and Schottenheimer has big shoes to fill.


Peach State: Top Tier Recruiting Ground?
California, Florida and Texas are largely considered the "Big Three" in college football recruiting. But national recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to explain why Georgia deserves to be in the top tier and has numbers to prove it.