June 8, 2007
Countdown to Kickoff: Georgia Bulldogs
Countdown To Kickoff: A Preview of Alabama's 2007 Opponents
Game Four: Georgia at Alabama
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
When: September 22, 2007
Series record: Alabama leads, 35-24-4.
Last meeting: 2003: Alabama 23, Georgia 37
2006 Record: 9-4 (4-4 in SEC)
Head Coach: Mark Richt has compiled a won-loss record of 61-17 in six seasons at Georgia. Prior to being hired at Georgia, Richt served as an assistant to Bobby Bowden at Florida State coaching quarterbacks for 11 years (1990-2000) and as offensive coordinator for seven years (1994-2000).
Returning Starters: 12 (Offense: 7, Defense: 4, Specialists: 1)
2005 by the numbers: Scoring offense: 25.2 ppg; Pass offense: 184.4 ypg; Rush offense: 127.4 ypg; Total offense: 311.8 ypg; Scoring defense: 17.6 ppg; Pass defense: 150 ypg; Rush defense: 108.2 ypg; Total defense: 258.2 ypg.
When Georgia has the ball: The Bulldog offense may be loaded with talent but it also ranks as one of the youngest and least experienced units in the SEC. Embodying the young-but-talented Bulldog offense is its leader, quarterback Matthew Stafford who struggled mightily in 2006 throwing 13 interceptions and 7 touchdowns. Stafford showed major improvement during the spring solidifying his status as the starter and giving the Bulldogs hope that the 2007 offense can be more reliable and productive than its predecessor.
Stafford will be forced to rely on a young and inexperienced offensive front this season that will include two freshmen and a junior college transfer among the starting lineup. The Bulldogs' two returning starters, center Fernando Velasco and right tackle Chester Adams, each played guard last season. On the left side, freshmen Trinton Sturdivant and Chris Davis looked impressive in the spring but will start their first games this fall having never played a snap of college football. Junior college transfer Scott Haverkamp earned the starting honors at right guard after competing against plenty of strong competition.
The Bulldogs most experienced unit is undoubtedly at running back where senior Kregg Lumpkin has rebounded from his early-career knee injury to grab the starting job. Serving as lead blocker for Lumpkin is junior fullback Brannan Southerland whose versatile skill set makes him arguably the best fullback in the conference.
At wide receiver, speedy senior Sean Bailey returns after taking a year off to recover from knee surgery and looked in the spring as if he hadn't lost any of the playmaking ability that made him a deep threat in 2005. Junior Mohamed Massaquoi and senior A.J. Bryant each bring a wealth of starting experience back to the wide receiver corps as well.
Tight end has always been a key position in Mark Richt's offense and junior Tripp Chandler figures to step right into the role of multi-talented playmaker this fall.
What will Georgia do offensively?: For this first time in his tenure at Georgia, Richt will hand over the playcalling duties to his offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo. Though the offensive philosophy won't likely change much, the Bulldogs ran more three and four wide sets in the spring than in the past and will likely utilize the running backs a fair amount in the passing game as well. The Bulldog staff came out of the spring with a great deal of confidence in Stafford's ability as a passer so look for the same pro-style, well-balanced attack the Bulldogs are known for under Richt.
Match-up to watch: Alabama defensive ends Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood vs. Georgia offensive tackles Trinton Sturdivant and Chester Adams.
The big question: How will Stafford handle his first road game of the season in Tuscaloosa?
When Alabama has the ball: Like the offense, the Bulldog defense is loaded with tremendously talented players who have yet to prove themselves on the field yet in the SEC. Returning just four starters on defense will be a challenge for the Bulldogs but thanks to the solid program Richt has built, it will likely be a matter of reloading rather than rebuilding.
The lack of experience is greatest in the defensive front seven where the Dawgs return just one starter, defensive tackle Jeff Owens. The Bulldogs set out this spring to replace not one but two All-SEC defensive ends. Senior Marcus Howard stepped up despite his diminutive stature at 220 pounds and impressed his coaches this spring with his determination and hard work on every snap. Opposite Howard will be sophomore Roderick Battle who fought off the competition to earn the job in the spring.
Working at nose tackle will be sophomore Kade Weston who in six games as a starter last season earned Freshman All-American honors.
At linebacker, the Bulldogs must replace all three starters from 2006 including Tony Taylor, Danny Verdun-Wheeler and Jarvis Jackson. Senior Brandon Miller saw playing time at both outside spots last year and this spring took over as the full-time starter in the middle while a pair of inexperienced newcomers earned the starting roles at the outside spots. Sophomore Darius Dewberry saw limited work his freshman year but earned a spot in the starting lineup thanks to a strong spring while redshirt freshman Akeem Dent will anchor the strong side.
The experience and leadership on the Bulldog defense lies in the secondary where senior Kelin Johnson and junior C.J. Byrd provide an intimidating presence at safety that ranks among the best in the conference. At corner, the Bulldogs feature four players with plenty of experience including senior playmaker Paul Oliver and sophomore Bryan Evans who started four games last season. Behind the starters, junior Ramarcus Brown and sophomore Asher Allen have each proven themselves on the field and figure to feature heavily in the rotation this year.
What will Georgia do defensively?: The Bulldogs employ a traditional 4-3 scheme and allow their safeties plenty of freedom to blitz and play run support. With their strength and experience residing in the secondary, expect Georgia to play plenty of man coverage to help give their young defensive front an opportunity to make plays.
Match-up to watch: Alabama wide receivers DJ Hall and Keith Brown vs. Georgia cornerbacks Paul Oliver and Bryan Evans.
The big question: Can the Tide's experienced wide receivers hold their own against a physical Georgia secondary?
Georgia special teams: The Bulldogs return one of the nation's top placekickers in Brandon Coutu, who Richt has called a legitimate Groza Award candidate after his rebound this spring from a torn-hamstring. At punter, junior Brian Mimbs takes over for long-time star Gordon Ely-Kelso though he'll be challenged in the fall by both Coutu and scholarship freshman Drew Butler. Senior receiver Mikey Henderson handles the punt return duties while corner Asher Allen and running back Knowshon Moreno start at kickoff return.
9/2/06 Western Kentucky (W, 48-12)
9/9/06 @ South Carolina (W, 18-0)
9/16/06 UAB (W, 34-0)
9/23/06 Colorado (W, 14-13)
10/30/06 @ Ole Miss (W, 14-9)
10/7/06 Tennessee (L, 33-51)
10/14/06 Vanderbilt (L, 22-24)
10/21/06 Mississippi State (W, 27-24)
10/28/06 vs. Florida (L, 14-21)
11/4/06 @ Kentucky (L, 20-24)
11/11/06 @ Auburn (W, 37-15)
11/25/06 Georgia Tech (W, 15-12)
12/30/06 Chick Fil-A Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (W, 31-24)
9/1/07 Oklahoma State
9/8/07 South Carolina
9/15/07 Western Carolina
9/22/07 @ Alabama
9/29/07 Ole Miss
10/6/07 @ Tennessee
10/13/07 @ Vanderbilt
10/27/07 vs. Florida (Jacksonville)
11/24/07 @ Georgia Tech
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