Georgia Bulldogs: Xzavier Dickson

ATHENS, Ga. -- Here’s a breakdown of Georgia’s last seven recruiting classes and what they managed to accomplish in college and beyond:

2006
ESPN top five classes: Florida, USC, Texas, Georgia, Notre Dame
Georgia’s ranking: 4

Game breakdown: Georgia vs. Alabama

November, 30, 2012
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John TheusAP Photo/Paul AbellFreshman tackle John Theus and the rest of Georgia's offensive line will be tested by a dominating Alabama defense on Saturday.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia coach Mark Richt often remarks how he had serious doubts whether the Bulldogs’ offensive line could cut it when the team opened spring practice this year.

The Bulldogs’ veteran defense thoroughly dominated a line that had to replace three NFL draftees at first before offensive line coach Will Friend’s group finally began to make progress. And that process has continued during the regular season, with the line exceeding its coaches' modest expectations as the new lineup continued to grow more comfortable as a group.

“They’ve improved each week and we’ve got to keep going that way,” said Friend, whose players are among the biggest factors in Saturday’s SEC championship matchup with Alabama according to many analysts. “The season’s a long way from over and there’s still another month left, I guess, to keep improving and keep going. So they’ve gotten better, but at the same time we’ve got to be more consistent.”

The low point of the season was certainly Georgia’s 35-7 loss to South Carolina, when defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, in particular, helped whip the Bulldogs up front. That was a painful experience for the line, but it was also a valuable lesson for the group.

“It wasn’t that hard for them to realize what we had to work on and we needed to play better,” Friend said. “We try to be pretty honest with how we think guys played and I feel like they kind of respond better when you tell them the truth and tell them how you feel. So they knew.

“And of course, if you’ve got a good group, they know anyway, so they could tell and they saw what they needed to work on and it was just go back to work. It would have been no different if we would have played better.”

Alabama’s dominant defense is not particularly similar to South Carolina’s in structure, but it is even more effective when it comes to results. The Crimson Tide rank among the national leaders in every major defensive category and represents perhaps the biggest matchup challenge that Friend’s line will have faced this season.

“They’ve got a great defense,” Friend said. “Obviously the stats speak for themselves. When you put the tape on, you see how well they play the techniques and how hard they play and how physical they are. They’re well coached, they’re focused on what they’re doing, they play it just like their coaches want them to play it and they’re very impressive, so it’s a big challenge.”

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Chris Mayes to enroll in January 

October, 22, 2012
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In Georgia’s 3-4 defensive scheme, the value of a big, talented nose guard cannot be understated.

[+] EnlargeKwame Geathers
Kelly Kline/Icon SMIIf Kwame Geathers opts for the NFL, Georgia would need to fill a big hole.
When the Bulldogs don’t have a solid starter at nose, the defense sputters, as was evident in 2010. The following year with junior college transfer John Jenkins manning the middle, Georgia ended the season ranked No. 5 in the nation in total defense. In 2013, Jenkins will be gone and Kwame Geathers, if he sticks around for his senior year, will need some help.

Enter Chris Mayes (Griffin, Ga./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College).

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SEC SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Saturday, 8/30
Sunday, 8/31