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NCAA Football Preview - Georgia Bulldogs

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*** NCAA Football Preview - Georgia Bulldogs ***

From The Sports Network By Pat Taggart, College Football Staff Writer 2003 SEASON IN REVIEW: In three seasons at Georgia, Mark Richt has established himself as one of the nation's elite coaches. The 2003 team finished with an 11-3 mark, and the season opened with three lopsided victories. On September 20th, the offense struggled in a 17-10 loss to the eventual national champion LSU Tigers. Then, after a perfect 4-0 month of October, Georgia suffered a heartbreaking 16-13 defeat in Gainesville to Florida. Three more victories followed that setback, but the whipping in the SEC Championship Game at the hands of LSU landed the 'Dawgs in the Capital One Bowl against Purdue. The result of that contest was a thrilling 34-27 overtime triumph, sending the squad into this new season with plenty of momentum. 2004 ANALYSIS: OFFENSE: Many teams enter this season with quarterback questions, and Georgia is fortunate not to be on that list. David Greene is regarded as the top signal caller in the SEC despite the fact that he had only 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions a year ago. The veteran did throw for more than 3,300 yards despite injuries to his receivers and less than stellar protection, so don't be surprised to see his touchdown total climb considerably this fall. Michael Cooper started at tailback last season, and he will again be the man since Kregg Lumpkin tore an ACL and is out for the season. Lumpkin ran for 523 yards as a freshman in '03 and will be sorely missed. At receiver, Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown provide Greene with one of the better duos in the SEC. The area of the offense that should be most improved is the line, as four starters are back in place. Based on continuity and experience alone, the difference between this season and last with regard to the overall performance of the group should be significant. DEFENSE: There are six returning starters back for the UGA defense, and they are spread evenly with two up front, two at linebacker and two in the defensive backfield. Without question, the top defensive player for the squad is end David Pollack, a two-time All-American who decided to put the riches of the NFL on hold for one more year. Pollack's sack total dropped from 14 to 7.5 a year ago, but he was still a high energy force who has limitless potential for this season and the future. Will Thompson is back to man the other end position, and that will help Pollack tremendously. The middle linebacker spot will eventually belong to Odell Thurman, as the junior made 121 stops a year ago, including 12 behind the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, he will miss the first three games due to a violation of team rules. Thomas Davis posted 138 stops in 2003, and he is back in place to man the free safety position. With three potential NFL stars, the Georgia defense is loaded with playmakers. SPECIAL TEAMS: Billy Bennett is gone, and that is certainly bad news considering that he set the NCAA record for field goals in a season (31). Freshman Andy Bailey will take Bennett's place, and the youngster obviously has some large shoes to fill. Gordon Ely-Kelson is back after a decent debut season, and Tyson Browning will return kicks. The special teams have been tremendous under Richt with eight blocked punts and eight blocked field goals, and those numbers will increase this season for sure. OUTLOOK: Take one look at the Georgia schedule and its easy to understand why the team is considered a serious contender for the national title. Only four of the 11 games on the schedule for the Bulldogs will take place on the road, and those games are against South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Auburn. The squad has the good fortune of playing LSU, Tennessee and Florida in Athens. The bottom line is that with Greene leading the offense and Pollack spearheading the defense, every game is winnable.
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