- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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2011 overall record: 10-4
2011 conference record: 7-1 (T-1st)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 0
OT Cordy Glenn, C Ben Jones, CB Brandon Boykin, TE Orson Charles, K Blair Walsh, P Drew Butler, OT Justin Anderson, DE DeAngelo Tyson
Sept. 1 Buffalo
Sept. 8 at Missouri
Sept. 15 Florida Atlantic
Sept. 22 Vanderbilt
Sept. 29 Tennessee
Oct. 6 at South Carolina
Oct. 20 at Kentucky
Oct. 27 Florida (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
Nov. 3 Ole Miss
Nov. 10 at Auburn
Nov. 17 Georgia Southern
Nov. 24 Georgia Tech
2011 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Isaiah Crowell* (850 yards)
Passing: Aaron Murray* (3,149 yards)
Receiving: Tavarres King* (705 yards)
Tackles: Shawn Williams* (72)
Sacks: Jarvis Jones* (13.5)
Interceptions: Bacarri Rambo* (8)
1. Mitchell joins defense: Georgia’s coaching staff planned to experiment with receiver Malcolm Mitchell as a two-way player even before several members of the Bulldogs’ secondary ran into disciplinary trouble. Now Mitchell’s services are a necessity on defense rather than a luxury. He will probably play defense almost exclusively in the first few games and convinced his coaches that he should fare well there after becoming one of the Bulldogs’ breakout offensive stars last year as a freshman.
2. Washington, Drew shift to end: Georgia’s depth was a bit thin at defensive end, but outside linebackers Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew cross-trained there during spring practice, which should also bolster the Bulldogs’ pass rush off the edge. Washington lamented that he was picking up the position slowly during the spring, but he had worked his way into a starting position and earned widespread praise for his work at end by the G-Day game.
3. Tight end turnover: With Orson Charles leaving Georgia after his junior year and Aron White and Bruce Figgins exhausting their eligibility, one of the Bulldogs’ least experienced positions is tight end. However, Arthur Lynch and redshirt freshman Jay Rome made it clear that the position is still in good hands. Rome, ESPN’s top-rated tight end in the 2011 signing class, caught a 66-yard touchdown in the final minute of the G-Day game.
1. Offensive line: Coach Will Friend began determining a pecking order on his rebuilt line this spring, but the competition will likely carry over into the season. When the Bulldogs closed spring practice, Kenarious Gates and Kolton Houston manned the tackle spots with Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee at guard and David Andrews at center. That lineup is subject to change, particularly with stud offensive line signee John Theus set to join the competition when he arrives this summer. Mark Beard, Watts Dantzler and Austin Long are also worth watching.
2. Special teams: Not only was Georgia’s kick coverage incompetent last season -- the Bulldogs were 116th nationally in punt return yardage defense and 88th against kickoffs -- but the Bulldogs must replace longtime starting kicker and punter Blair Walsh and Drew Butler. The Bulldogs signed Marshall Morgan and Collin Barber to take over for the departed kickers and Coach Mark Richt promised that the Bulldogs will work more on live kicking situations in preseason camp than perhaps any previous time in his tenure.
3. Secondary: This appears to be a temporary problem, with starters Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo and Branden Smith facing possible disciplinary suspensions to open the season. Mitchell’s shift to cornerback will help Damian Swann and Devin Bowman hold down the position until Commings and Smith return. Depth will also be an early issue at safety without Rambo. Commings, who will sit out the first two games, has safety experience, but few other Bulldogs have played significant downs at the position besides Rambo and Shawn Williams. Corey Moore is a player to watch here.