- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve taken a look at Georgia’s depth chart and its recruiting efforts by position. We’ll wrap up today by discussing who we’ll be watching this season and the areas Georgia must address between now and signing day, plus over the next couple of years:
2012 depth chart: Georgia returns 15 players who started the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska -- 10 on offense, three on defense and both kickers -- led by quarterback Aaron Murray, tailback Todd Gurley and the entire offensive line. The Bulldogs lost three defensive underclassmen -- All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and nose guard Kwame Geathers -- to the NFL draft and a total of 12 key defensive contributors.
Who’s ready to move up for more playing time?: The defense obviously must reload this season, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is quick to point out that the group might lack experience, but it has plenty of talent. Nose guard will be one of the key positions to watch this spring, with Jonathan Taylor, John Atkins (Thomson, Ga./Hargrave Military) and Chris Mayes (Griffin, Ga./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College) all competing for playing time. Inside linebacker -- where early enrollees Ryne Rankin (Orlando, Fla./East River) and Reggie Carter (Snellville, Ga./South Gwinnett) are already in the fold -- and defensive back are also positions of interest. We’ll be interested to see whether rising sophomores Sheldon Dawson and Josh Harvey-Clemons can step into leading roles during the spring.
* High-profile commits: The five highest-rated prospects among the 18 four-star players on Georgia’s commitment list are No. 6 cornerback Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), No. 9 athlete Tramel Terry (Goose Creek, S.C./Goose Creek), No. 7 quarterback Brice Ramsey (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County), No. 10 safety Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga./Newnan) and No. 7 overall junior college prospect Jonathon Rumph (Cayce, S.C./Holmes Community College), a 6-foot-5 receiver.
Additional targets on the board: Georgia is still in the running to land No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia), No. 1 inside linebacker Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), No. 2 defensive tackle Montravius Adams (Vienna, Ga./Dooly County), No. 4 running back Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), No. 25 defensive end Davin Bellamy (Chamblee, Ga./Chamblee) and No. 4 overall junior college prospect Toby Johnson (College Park, Ga./Hutchinson Community College), a defensive lineman.
2013 gameplan: Because offensive line does not appear to have a terribly strong talent pool in 2014, landing Tunsil in this class would be an extra valuable finishing touch on this recruiting class. Georgia has already added a number of linebackers in this recruiting class, but a player with Foster’s capabilities would also be a big deal.
Lastly, Ken Malcome’s recent decision to transfer created some depth concerns behind freshmen Gurley and Keith Marshall. Georgia has already received a commitment from A.J. Turman (Orlando, Fla./Boone) in this class and recently offered a scholarship to Vanderbilt commit Johnathan Ford (New Hope, Ala./New Hope) in case Kamara decides to sign with Alabama. Signing only Turman would leave Georgia in treacherous territory at tailback if Gurley or Marshall were to suffer an injury, as Turman and former walk-on Brandon Harton would be the only other scholarship tailbacks.
And 2014?: The running back class in 2014 appears to be strong, and Georgia will have to make some headway with that group, particularly if it signs only one tailback this year. Gurley and Marshall will be juniors in 2014 and one or both could elect to enter the NFL draft after the season. Keep an eye on a pair of backs whose signatures will become hot commodities -- Sony Michel (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) and Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown) -- as the Bulldogs look to restock their tailback depth chart.
Some other names to know as Georgia prepares to finish its 2013 class and moves on to 2014: defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), defensive tackle Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), tight end Jeb Blazevich (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) and quarterback DeShaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville).
What about 2015?: Any number of issues can affect Georgia’s recruiting needs between now and signing day 2015, but receiver, offensive line and defensive back could be back among the top areas on the Bulldogs’ recruiting wish list by then. Georgia has four receivers -- Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett, Chris Conley and Rumph -- who would be seniors in 2014 should they exhaust their eligibility. Meanwhile, they will have possibly undergone a complete turnover from the 2013 starting offensive line by 2015, as center David Andrews will be a senior in 2014 and right tackle John Theus -- another potential NFL draft early entrant -- will be a junior.
7hSam Khan Jr. and Derek Tyson