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December 16, 2008
Looking ahead to 2009
To some, the bowl season is the official capper to the 2008 football campaign. For some, it's a new beginning.
At least that's the way members of the Georgia Bulldogs are approaching their Capital One Bowl date against Michigan State.
"Even though I won't be here, it would be great to help the guys start the New Year on the right foot," senior defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "The season didn't end like we wanted with the loss to (Georgia) Tech, but we can get back on the right track and start feeling about next season with a win here."
As Asher Allen points out, a win would also give the Bulldogs their sixth 10-victory season in seven years.
"That would really be a big deal," he said. "That's really what we're shooting for."
But what about next year?
Of course, much depends on whatever quarterback Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and Jeff Owens decided to do as it relates to the NFL. Whatever happens, the 2009 Bulldogs will feature a different look.
Particularly if Stafford and Moreno are displaying their talents in the NFL:
Should that that happen, the quarterback job will be Joe Cox's to lose. A junior, Cox has served as Stafford's understudy for the past three years and with his talent and knowledge of the system, would be the first choice to try and fill Stafford's shoes.
Redshirt freshman Logan Gray would also figure into the picture, and could well see some plays designed for him like they were for D.J. Shockley during David Greene's senior campaign with the Bulldogs.
Incoming freshman Aaron Murray could also get a look, but he'd have to play awfully well to get serious consideration. Barring injuries to Cox and Gray, a redshirt would be the likely route. Should Stafford return, it's guaranteed.
Should Moreno turn pro the job to determine the Bulldogs' starting tailback could turn into a free-for-all between Caleb King, Richard Samuel, Dontavius Jackson, Carlton Thomas and possibly incoming freshman WaShaun Ealey.
At least the offensive line will, barring injuries, be in excellent shape as the Bulldogs are not expected to lose a single player.
Injured linemen Trinton Sturdivant and Vince Vance are both expected back for the start of preseason drills, and as long as they stay healthy, the talent level and depth at Georgia's disposal will be as great as it's been in a number of years.
Bruce Figgins is still scheduled to have off-season shoulder surgery, but as long as he can recover will be the apparent replacement for senior Tripp Chandler with redshirt freshman Aron White also receiving an increased role. Even so, there will also be plenty of opportunities for some younger players to earn their stripes, including incoming freshman Arthur Lynch.
Defensively, Irvin and Owens (if he leaves) will certainly be missed. Returnees Geno Atkins and Kade Weston will give Georgia a solid starting duo, but Brandon Wood, DeAngelo Tyson and Ricardo Crawford will need to continue to improve and should, with verbal commitmentsAbry Jones and Derrick Lott possibly getting an early chance to playing time.
At defensive end the Bulldogs graduate both Jeremy Lomax, but Georgia will have plenty of players back to try and pick up the pace from this past season, including Roderick Battle, Demarcus Dobbs, Justin Houston, along with current redshirts Cornelius Washington and Jeremy Longo. Also look for current Hargraves standout and 2008 signee Toby Jackson to make a huge impact at this position when he arrives on campus.
At linebacker, look for Darryl Gamble to take over for the graduating Dannell Ellerbe at Mike linebacker, although the Bulldogs will also return Marcus Washington who sat out all of last year with a shoulder injury.
In the secondary, John Knox will get the first crack at replacing C.J. Byrd at strong safety. The rest of the defensive backfield starters – free safety Reshad Jones, wide corner Prince Miller and short corner Asher Allen will all return.