With Ramik Wilson’s announcement that he won’t skip his senior year for the NFL draft, there’s one thing you can say about next year’s Georgia team – inexperience won’t be an excuse.
… And Wilson’s big talk is supported by the 2014 schedule, which is very manageable, and this fact: Georgia is due to return 17 of the 22 players who will start in next week’s bowl game, including quarterback Hutson Mason, whose long apprenticeship to Aaron Murray ended two games early. Throw in place-kicker Marshall Morgan, a first-team All-SEC pick, and the punting combination of Collin Barber and Adam Erickson, and that number grows to 19 starters.
That number doesn’t include Malcolm Mitchell, perhaps the team’s best receiver, who tore his ACL on the second series of the season. It also doesn’t include receiver Justin Scott-Wesley or tailback Keith Marshall, key contributors who tore their ACLs in the fifth game of the season. Those three are expected to be healthy for next season, with Mitchell a particularly huge lift.
That’s almost a mirror image of how 2013 looked before the season started. Next year, the defense loses only one starter, Garrison Smith. Meanwhile on offense, Aaron Murray is gone and the offensive line has to replace three starters. And Seth’s right about the schedule. September starts out tough, with two straight top 25 opponents, but from there, LSU gets swapped for Arkansas and Auburn comes to Athens.
The good thing about that is that the coaching staff, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, won’t be consumed with personnel decisions all the way until the season opener, which should give them the opportunity to focus on other things, such as making sure special teams aren’t such a sore spot. Mark Richt wanted continuity going into 2014. Let’s see what he can do with it.
Oh, and staying healthy would be nice.