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July 28, 2011
Opportunities at hand
There would seem to be depth issues on the offensive line, question marks at wide receiver and a returning backfield with just one tailback (Carlton Thomas) who carried the football at all during the 2010 campaign.
But when asked what his biggest area of concern heading into fall practice that kicks off next Wednesday, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo didn't bat an eye.
Concern? What concern?
"If you want to address that as an area of concern, I think it's more about opportunity for a lot of people," Bobo said. "Obviously, there's the productivity, we lost in yards with losing the top two rushers and top two receivers. We've got to find guys who can make plays, but I was just telling someone else that the playmakers that we do have coming back, Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, Orson Charles, Israel Troupe, Aron White, Rantavious Wooten and with Richard Samuel now back on offense, we've got some players. These are guys who have made plays in this league and have made productive plays.
"They have not made as many plays as the four (Caleb King, Washaun Ealey, A.J. Green and Kris Durham) that we lost but they have experience in the league at making plays so that gives you confidence and I'm excited about it."
Of course, when your quarterback is the caliber of Aaron Murray, it tends to allay some of the concerns.
But still, there are questions that remain.
While King (27 catches for 504 yards), Charles (26-422) and White (9-125) have each made their share of big plays over the Bulldog careers, will Georgia be able to count on the likes of Wooten, Brown, Troupe and Samuel to step up their respective games?
Bobo believes so.
"When you lose guys that gives other people a chance to make plays and I feel there is enough talent here with your quarterback coming back, now in his second year and gone through some growing pains, that I think we've got a chance to be more productive at the skill positions," Bobo said. "Would we like to have some of them? Yes. But they are not with us and it does no good to say 'Hey, what if we had them?'"
Ken Malcome is one of those players Bobo spoke of who will be receiving an opportunity.
A groin injury limited Malcolm's spring to around 10 practices which kept the former Southwest DeKalb standout from establishing himself heading into preseason drills, where he will battle Samuel, Thomas and heralded freshman Isaiah Crowell for early playing time.
"Ken is a guy we felt good about going into spring ball but he had so many injuries. I bet he missed 10 practices and had about four or five where he could go about full speed," Bobo said. "I wish I had a better idea coming out of spring about where Ken is and how much he can contribute but it's more of an injury thing as to why he was behind (Brandon) Harton. He had a great spring, practiced every day and ran hard. Ken is going to be given the opportunity this fall and I'm still excited."
Up front, Bobo has his fingers crossed though.
Like the backfield, the offensive line has seen its share of attrition with Trinton Sturdivant (ACL), Tanner Strickland (elected not to return), Brent Benedict (personal reasons) and A.J. Harmon (personal reasons) no longer part of the squad, following the graduation of Clint Boling and Josh Davis.
The Bulldogs currently have Cordy Glenn (left tackle), Kenarious Gates (left guard), Ben Jones (center), Chris Burnette (right guard) and Justin Anderson (right tackle), but none of the players currently behind them have yet to play in a game. "We're not very deep, but you only need five. I think it was 2002 and we only played with five linemen that year and one other year we played with six. You would like to have more depth, but I feel good about the three seniors we have. I feel good about some young guys in Chris Burnette and Kolton Houston and we're getting some good reports from the training room that Dallas Lee is doing 100 times better and hopefully we will see him on the field in the fall."
New faces are all but certain to help out at wide receiver where King, Brown, Troupe, Wooten, and Michael Bennett are veterans set to be joined by freshman Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley, Justin Scott-Wesley and Sanford Seay.
Mitchell has already received high praise from teammates for his work during summer pass skel, while junior cornerback Branden Smith is once again expected to get his share of offensive snaps.
Senior cornerback Brandon Boykin might also get a snap or two. There could be more.
"You're always talking about different guys that you would like to see on both sides of the ball. Coach (Todd) Grantham is the same way, 'Hey, we'd like to have that guy.'" Bobo said. "I think we've just got to get in practice and see where we are at, do we have enough guys at certain positions and it's going to be the same on defense. There are certain guys we signed that can play both ways, offense and defense. There are guys on our team that can play both ways, we've just got to evaluate those guys to see where they fit and give us the best chance to win."
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Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports and he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.