As Georgia’s preseason continues, continuity remains the theme for the Bulldogs. This time, however, continuity appears in Georgia’s preseason rankings. The USA Today Coaches poll had Georgia ranked No. 5 when it released the results last month. On Saturday, the Associated Press released its preseason poll, ranking Georgia at No. 5 as well. The Bulldogs spent the preseason strengthening the offense, rebuilding the defense, and analyzing its newest additions to the team, including a few standout freshman players. Many stories emerged for the Bulldogs over the past few weeks, but five are highlighted below.
1. Leonard Floyd
One of the biggest stories coming out of Georgia’s preseason is the value of Floyd to Georgia’s defense. Floyd, a transfer from Hargrave Military Academy, could end up being one of Georgia’s vital outside linebackers this upcoming season, due to his size and ability. At 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, Floyd poses a threat to opposing offenses. During one of Georgia’s scrimmages, while recovering from a broken left hand, Floyd made four tackles, along with a tackle for loss. He has been praised by defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, as well as head coach Mark Richt, for the amount of effort and power he puts into practice.
Floyd will play opposite Jordan Jenkins, one of Georgia’s current OLBs, creating a promising duo on the defensive side of the ball.
2. Safety Absences
Heading into the preseason, Georgia knew its defense needed more rebuilding than its offense, which will look very familiar to last year’s group. During fall camp, however, injuries to the secondary put into question the health of a few promising players. The Bulldogs will already be without sophomore safety Josh Harvey-Clemons in the season opener, due to a one-game suspension that was established in the spring. Losing Clemons has the Bulldogs also losing a potentially versatile player, which could be key in going after Clemson’s offense. 6-foot-5 Harvey-Clemons has the ability to play as a linebacker, in addition to safety; his absence takes away that option.
Safeties Corey Moore, Shaquille Fluker, and Tray Matthews are also posing questions for Georgia’s defense, based on events occurring during camp. Going into camp, 6-foot-2, 214-pound Moore was expected to start at strong safety during the regular season, and he impressed coaches during the first few days of practice. In the midst of camp, Moore suffered a knee sprain and has not practiced since August 7th. Last season, Moore appeared in all 14 games, ending the season with 14 tackles. His one start of the season came on offense against Ole Miss. In addition to Moore, Fluker, a junior transfer, is recovering from a lumbar strain, while Matthews is dealing with a sprained shoulder.
Georgia’s two preseason scrimmages brought up the issue of turnovers, particularly in the first scrimmage. Murray threw four interceptions in total, with three interceptions coming in the first scrimmage. When the Bulldogs completed their second scrimmage, Murray had only thrown one interception. Overall, Murray completed 27 of 36 passes for 371 yards. The offense’s ability to change the turnover issue from the first scrimmage to the second indicates the turnovers were just a minor glitch.
Because the offense needs time to readjust in the preseason, turnovers will most likely not be a pressing issue for Georgia as it heads into the regular season.
4. Defensive Backs
Georgia’s freshmen DBs, particularly Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins, have shown much promise for Georgia’s defense. Langley is a 6-foot-1, 181-pound cornerback from Marietta, Ga, and Wiggins is a 5-foot-10, 165 pound cornerback from Tyrone, Ga. Langley was ranked as the No. 26 overall prospect in Georgia by ESPN.com, while Wiggins was ranked as a No.5 prospect in Georgia by ESPN. Langley and Wiggins provide Georgia with various options, considering the two guys are built very differently; Langley is taller than Wiggins, but Wiggins has the speed and agility needed in the secondary.
With Harvey-Clemons’ absence in the upcoming Clemson game, teams will get a chance to see what Langley and Wiggins can do for Georgia’s secondary.
5. Houston’s return
For three years, Houston battled the NCAA after failing a drug test in 2010. A shoulder surgery Houston underwent in high school caused an anabolic steroid to remain in his system and show up on the drug test. On July 25th, Houston received the news that his most recent drug test was clear, and he would regain eligibility. His return brings into question whether he will start during the regular season. With sophomore John Theus putting up a fight to start at right tackle, after starting at that same position last year, Georgia has the ability to use Houston at right guard. As Houston readjusts to the system, his role for the Bulldogs will become clearer.