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Monday, July 1, 2013
DawgNation roundtable: Breakout player

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- Summer is the time when college football fans daydream about the limitless possibilities for their teams in the upcoming season. This summer, in particular, has been a time for Georgia fans to let their imaginations run wild, as the Bulldogs have no shortage of positions up for grabs on a team that should contend for a third straight SEC East title.

With that in mind, our DawgNation roundtable question for the week concerns identifying players who will step into larger roles as the Bulldogs fight to return to Atlanta. Our question:

Todd Gurley had to rank as Georgia's top breakout performer in 2012, quickly winning a starting job as a true freshman and rushing for 1,385 yards. Do you see a Georgia player enjoying that kind of breakthrough performance this season? And if so, who do you pick and why?

Kipp Adams: Expecting anyone to pull off what Gurley did last year, one of the best seasons in school history for a true freshman, might be too much to ask. But several new starters for Georgia have the opportunity, and more importantly the talent, to break out in 2013. I will go with the best combination of both, safety Tray Matthews.

A true freshman like Gurley last year, the 6-foot, 196-pound Matthews was considered one of the best in the country coming out of high school, and his decision to enroll early was a wise one as he was the talk of spring practice. Matthews has the talent and pretty much has locked up the free safety spot heading into fall practice, but it will be his ability to quickly pick up the different coverage packages that will seal his fate as a difference-maker this season.

Bacarri Rambo’s legacy at Georgia was tying the school record with 16 career interceptions. Matthews will have a chance to make his own mark early and often this season for the Bulldogs.

Radi Nabulsi: My first inclination is to answer Jordan Jenkins, but it is easy to argue he had a breakout season last year as well, eventually starting at outside linebacker. It will be fun to watch him for an entire season.

Jordan Jenkins
Georgia is looking for sophomore Jordan Jenkins to replace Jarvis Jones as one of the SEC's most feared pass-rushers.
Another player I think will become a household name for Georgia fans at least is Matthews. While I expect big things out of Jay Rome, James DeLoach, Mike Thornton and Sheldon Dawson, my gut feeling is that Matthews’ penchant for big hits and big plays will help to fill the void left by Rambo and Shawn Williams.

I would have answered Josh Harvey-Clemons to this question five weeks ago, but after the decisions he has made I think the safer pick is Matthews. Georgia is rebuilding the defense and there is a lot of playing time available in the secondary. Scott Lakatos is going to have to rely on a lot of new faces. Some may crack under the pressure or the strain. Somehow I think Matthews will welcome the spotlight.

David Ching: We might tend to overlook Harvey-Clemons because he got himself in some disciplinary trouble and will miss the first game. I still think he’s going to become a major weapon for Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham once he’s back on the field.

We’ve already spilled plenty of digital ink on Harvey-Clemons’ versatility and how his athleticism is going to help him fill multiple roles -- safety, nickelback, outside linebacker -- in Georgia’s defensive scheme. That’s still going to be the case, even if he hurt the team by getting himself suspended for the Aug. 31 trip to Clemson.

We posed the question to the posters on our user forum, The Pound, and receiver Chris Conley earned the most attention. Here is a sampling of the posters’ responses: