Bulldogs talented, but is talent enough?
The chatter has already begun.
On Internet message boards and at coffee shop counters from the foothills of Appalachia to the blackwater swamps of the Suwannee, Georgia Bulldog fans have begun their ritual song of summer. It's an upbeat little ditty with lyrics that fall somewhere between eternal optimism and a painful, uncomfortable, unhealthy obsession.
For it is during these muggy months, with school out and a fresh football schedule tacked firmly to the wall, that Georgia fans convince themselves that this is the year.
It has been 32 fall seasons since the Dawgs brought their only Associated Press national championship back to Athens. In the years since they have watched as Tennessee and Auburn won one national title apiece, while Florida and Alabama won three and LSU took home two. Even Georgia Tech has won a national championship since Georgia's lone title.
But this is the year. Yes, the returning defense is far too strong, the offensive backfield is filled with future NFL playmakers, the lines are big and fast and mean, and the Dawgs have a bumper crop of incoming freshmen, a powerhouse recruiting class that portends great things for the season ahead.
Those are the words being sung this summer. But they were also the lyrics to the song back in 2002, and 2004, and again in 2007 and once more in 2008.
This time they really mean it. This time is different. This time there is Aaron Murray at quarterback and Todd Grantham leading a Junkyard Dawg defense unseen since the days of Erk Russell.
This time there is freshman running back Keith Marshall, the top tailback recruit in the nation and the second top runner to commit to Georgia in a row. Of course, last year's top Dawg, Isaiah Crowell, spent a lot of time limping to the sideline with this injury or that, when he wasn't being suspended for allegedly smoking banned substances.
But all that has evaporated in the summer heat. All is forgiven as the season begins anew.
There is Jonathan Taylor, a four-star freshman defensive lineman who is the size and power of a small pickup truck, and John Theus from Jacksonville, a 295-pound offensive lineman with speed to burn.
The list goes on: freshman linebacker James LeLoach at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds and ready to rumble; John Atkins, 6-4, 300 pounds of defensive line terror; and Mark Beard, 6-4, 290 pounds, and capable of opening holes a grandmother could run through.
They are all expected to hit the weight room early and be on the field by August, wearing and seeing red: ready to return Georgia to its rightful spot at the top of the national rankings.
But somewhere in the distance there is a chirping little voice: nasal and clipped. It's Steve Spurrier, repeating the words that have stuck in the Bulldogs' craw for years.
"Why is it that during recruiting season they sign all the great players, but when it comes time to play the game, we have all the great players?" Spurrier once famously asked. "I don't understand that. What happens to them?"
It's a question that Dawg fans have asked themselves throughout many a November weekend.
But never in the summer, for that is the season of dreams, where every score in blank and every incoming freshman an All-American in waiting.
Expect the volume of the song to increase between now and opening kickoff on September 1. That is when reality sets in.
That is when the music stops, and the Georgia team that is projected to win the SEC East actually has to perform on the field.