Georgia Bulldogs spring football preview for 2014

Georgia Football spring practice start date: March 18

Spring game (G-Day): April 12

Defense will be the theme of this year’s spring drills, as Georgia returns 10 starters to that side of the ball from a year ago. The Bulldog defensive unit has been rather underwhelming for the past two seasons under former coordinator Todd Grantham. As a result, coach Mark Richt opted for change in January and brought in Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Whether Pruitt can duplicate his success in Tallahassee remains to be seen, but he won’t suffer from a lack of quality football players. Richt has reeled in impressive recruiting classes with great consistency throughout his tenure in Athens, and the Dawgs aren’t often outmanned when it comes to on-field talent.

Offensively, Georgia officially enters the post-Aaron Murray era, as the record-setting, four-year starter has graduated to the NFL. Senior Hutson Mason appears to be the strongest candidate to replace Murray, but the Dawgs will likely lean on workhorse running back Todd Gurley to carry the bulk of the offensive load this fall.

Returning Player to Watch:

Chris Mayes, Nose Guard

Like his predecessor, Pruitt runs a 3-4 defense. Solid play from the nose guard position is vital to the scheme, and Mayes will be required to consistently control the middle of the line of scrimmage. He played extremely well in the latter portion of 2013, but could face competition this spring from both John Taylor and Ray Drew.

Incoming Player to Watch:

Jacob Park, Quarterback

As an early enrollee, Park is already on campus in Athens and ready to compete with the other quarterbacks this spring. The four-star recruit was named South Carolina’s Mr. Football for 2013, and he comes in with a reputation as a strong leader and a relentless competitor.

Player Under Most Pressure to Succeed:

Hutson Mason, Quarterback

This obvious choice here is Mason. Anytime you have a new quarterback taking over for a revered player like Murray, the newcomer will be under the microscope. Mason has waited patiently for the past three years as a backup. He went 1-1 as a starter last season after Murray was lost to injury, but he’ll have to fend off a trio of talented backups this spring.

What to Watch for in the Game:

Will Mason be able to hold on to the starting quarterback position?

Mason has a decided edge on Brice Ramsey from an experience standpoint. Park, meanwhile, is obviously green and isn’t likely to come in and wrestle the position away from a senior. If Mason does what’s asked of him and efficiently runs the offense on G-Day, he shouldn’t have much to worry about.

How much of a difference will Pruitt make with the defense?

Only so much stock that can be placed into a spring football game: there isn’t a real opponent and the stakes of the contest are usually quite low. That being said, Georgia fans will undoubtedly be looking for any small hint of improvement from Pruitt’s unit. With a veteran defense returning, factors such as timing, effort and consistency will be on many Dawg fans’ minds as they take in G-Day 2014.