Gurley, Bulldogs Roll Over Clemson in Season Opener
Aug. 30, 2014
Game 1: Georgia (0-0, 0-0 SEC) vs Clemson (0-0, 0-0 ACC)
Raise The Curtain On 2014
Georgia raises the curtain on another season, the 121st in Bulldog history, on Saturday. Georgia's all-time record in season openers is 90-27-3. The Bulldogs have won 14 of their past 17 season openers including 10-3 under coach Mark Richt. Saturday marks the 64th meeting (41-18-4) with Clemson, including a 2-1 mark under Richt. The Bulldogs have won five out of the past six meetings with Clemson.
10-3 In Season Openers In The Richt Era
The Bulldogs debut at #12 in the Associated Press (AP) and USA Today Coaches preseason top 25 polls while their season-opening opponent Clemson checks in at #16 in both polls. This is the second straight year Georgia and Clemson will meet in a top-20 showdown to open the season. The Bulldogs have faced the Tigers four times when both teams were ranked in the top 20. The teams are tied at 2-2. Those meetings came in 1982, 1984, 1987 and 2013. Georgia won the first two while the Tigers picked up wins in the final two. This year will mark the second straight and only third overall time in school history that Georgia will open its season versus two consecutive top-20 opponents (2011: #5 Boise State, #12 South Carolina; 2013: #8 Clemson, #6 South Carolina). Georgia went 0-2 in 2011 and 1-1 in 2013. After #16 Clemson this year, Georgia has an open date and then will travel to #9 South Carolina on Sept. 13.
Under the direction of Mark Richt, Georgia owns a 52-10 record against teams from outside the Southeastern Conference. They are 36-1 at home since 2001. In 2014, all four of Georgia's regular season non-conference foes will come to Sanford Stadium. Georgia last opened a season in Athens against Clemson in 2002, a 31-28 Bulldog victory. This win helped jump-start the momentum for Georgia's 13-1 season that finished with an SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl victory.
Pruitt Leads New Defensive Staff
Georgia overhauled its defensive staff following the 2013 season. Mark Richt hired Jeremy Pruitt, who was the defensive coordinator for the 2014 national champion Florida State Seminoles, to lead the unit. The Bulldogs filled out their defensive staff with Tracy Rocker (Defensive Line/Will Linebackers), Kevin Sherrer (Sam Linebackers/Star Position) and Mike Ekeler (Inside Linebackers/Defensive Special Teams Coordinator). Rocker came to Georgia after serving on the Tennessee Titans' staff while Sherrer was the South Alabama defensive coordinator in 2013. Ekeler coached the ILBs at Southern California last season.
Georgia has six returning starters on offense that helped set a school record by averaging 484 yards per game in 2013. That tally ranked fourth in the SEC. The Bulldogs ranked fifth in the league in scoring offense at 36.7 thanks to scoring at least 35 points eight times last season. Georgia's 58 touchdowns last year ranked second in school history, trailing only the 2012 team that set the mark with 72.
Captains Versus The Tigers
Coach Richt announced the captains for Saturday's game will be quarterback Hutson Mason and center David Andrews on offense, end Sterling Bailey on defense, and Vavlas on special teams.
An Opener Vs. The ACC Again
For the second consecutive season, the Bulldogs will open against Clemson from the ACC. Last year, Georgia traveled to Clemson, S.C., and fell to the eighth-ranked Tigers 38-35. The 2013 matchup marked the first time in the last six tries that Clemson topped the Bulldogs. The last time Georgia squared off against the Tigers in Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs edged Clemson 31-28 in 2002.
First Up In The SEC
Since 1992, Georgia has opened its SEC schedule up against South Carolina in every season but one. In 2012, the Bulldogs traveled to Columbia, Mo., rather than Columbia, S.C., to start their league play. Georgia beat Missouri 41-20 in the Tigers' first ever SEC game. This season, the Bulldogs again play their first SEC game versus South Carolina and the matchup will be held in the Gamecocks' home stadium. Georgia beat sixth-ranked South Carolina 41-30 in Sanford Stadium last season.
HEAD COACH Mark Richt
Head Coach Mark Richt
UGA/Overall: 126-45 (14th year)
Hometown: Boca Raton, Fla.
College: University of Miami, '82
Birthdate: Feb. 18, 1960 in Omaha, Neb.
Wife: Katharyn Francis
Children: Jon (24), David (19), Zach (18), Anya (17)
Years as college coach: 30
Florida State: Grad. Assistant (1985-86); Volunteer Assistant (1987-88)
East Carolina: Offensive Coordinator (1989)
Florida State: Quarterbacks (1990-2000); Offensive Coord. (1994-2000)
Georgia: Head Coach (2001-current)
The Mark Richt Record
*Includes 2-3 in SEC Championship games
After 2013 Experience, Mason Ready For Starting Role
Senior QB Hutson Mason is prepared to be the Bulldogs' signal caller to start 2014 after making his first two career starts to end the 2013 season. His first starting experience came in the regular season finale versus Georgia Tech in Atlanta due to the season-ending injury to 2013 senior QB Aaron Murray.
Mason finished 22-for-36 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception during the win against the Yellow Jackets. The Marietta native led the Bulldogs back from a second-quarter 20-0 deficit to pick up a 41-34 double-overtime victory. He also started the Gator Bowl against Nebraska.
In 2013, Mason appeared in five games and was 67-for-110 for 968 yards, five touchdowns and three picks. He also started the second half during the rout of Kentucky after Murray sustained his ACL injury and finished 13-of-19 for 189 yards and a touchdown pass and added his second career rushing touchdown.
In 2012, Mason made the decision to redshirt to create a one-year difference in eligibility with Murray. Redshirt sophomore Faton Bauta is the only other signal caller with Bulldog experience. Bauta appeared in three games with four rushes for 30 yards, but has yet to attempt a pass. Georgia's other two quarterbacks include redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey and early enrollee freshman Jacob Park.
Mason's Career Numbers
Versatile Gurley Returns With Marshall
Junior Todd Gurley has proven to be a viable option as both a running back and a receiver during his career. Last year, he led the Bulldogs with 989 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in only 10 games, including an average of 6.0/carry. Gurley wound up third on the team in receiving with 37 catches for 441 yards and a team-best six touchdown catches. He led the team in both rushing and receiving touchdowns. Gurley accomplished this feat despite missing three and a half games due to an ankle injury sustained in the second quarter during the win over #6 LSU.
In 2012, true freshmen roommates and North Carolina natives Gurley and Keith Marshall became Georgia's weapons in the backfield. Marshall looks to be recovered from a right knee injury versus Tennessee last October that ended his season. Marshall played in only five games and finished with 252 yards and one touchdown. Marshall exploded for a career-high 164 yards versus Tennessee in 2012. He has three 100-yard games in his two years as a Bulldog.
Georgia has a trio of talented tailbacks in addition to Gurley and Marshall. Sophomore Brendan Douglas played in 12 games last year and finished with 345 yards and three touchdowns. Two highly-rated prospects in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are also in running back coach Bryan McClendon's group for the coming season.
Targeting An Assortment Of Receivers
One of the keys to the offense's success in 2013 was its passing efficiency, and the ability to spread the ball around. The Bulldogs are banking a healthy backfield will help loosen up their receivers and allow this trend to continue in 2014. Georgia had a different leading receiver in seven of its 13 games last year.
Georgia returns its top two receivers from last season in seniors Chris Conley and Michael Bennett. Conley had 45 catches for 651 yards and four touchdowns while Bennett had 41 yards for 538 yards and four scores. With Malcolm Mitchell still recovering from a knee injury that ended his 2013 seasons, opportunities have opened up for redshirt sophomores Kenneth Towns and Blake Tibbs. Each had two catches last year and Towns scored against Kentucky. Sophomore Reggie Davis and seniors Jonathon Rumph and Michael Erdman are also expected to contribute to the Bulldogs' aerial attack. In addition, true freshman Isaiah McKenzie progressed during the preseason camp and should be in the lineup this fall.
A combination of four tight ends (H-back) will also give Hutson Mason more targets. Junior Jay Rome, junior Quayvon Hicks, redshirt freshman Jordan Davis and freshman Jeb Blazevich will also get looks.
A Few Holes To Fill Up Front
Georgia has to replace three departed seniors on the offensive line in 2014. The Bulldogs' starting offensive line for the last six games in 2013 featured: senior Kenarious Gates at LT, senior Chris Burnette at RG, senior Dallas Lee at LG, junior David Andrews at C and sophomore John Theus at RT. Andrews along with senior CB Damian Swann have started a team-high 27 consecutive games.
Andrews, Theus, senior T Kolton Houston, who started six games and played in all 13 last year, and senior T Mark Beard, who took the field during 12 games in 2013, are Georgia's foundation on the line for 2014.
Sophomores Brandon Kublanow and Greg Pyke are the leading candidates to see action at the guard spots. The versatile senior Watts Dantzler has shown the ability to play both tackle and guard for the Bulldogs.
Also, two freshmen arrived in the summer are expected to contribute in Dyshon Sims and Isaiah Wynn. They have seen time at guard during the preseason camp. Last year, the Bulldogs ranked fourth in the SEC in total offense (484.2/g) and fifth in scoring at 36.7 points/game.
Pruitt Headlines New Defensive Staff
Georgia's defensive staff underwent a complete overhaul following the 2013 season. This marks the first time since 1964 that the Bulldogs have an entirely new defensive staff. Georgia's defensive coordinator this season is Jeremy Pruitt. He directed Florida State to last season's BCS national championship. Eight regular starters from last year's team return on Georgia's defense.
The rest of the new defensive staff features Mike Ekeler (Inside Linebackers), Tracy Rocker (Defensive Line/Will Linebackers) and Kevin Sherrer (SAM Linebackers and Star position). Ekeler comes to the Bulldogs after serving for a year as Southern California's linebackers coach. Rocker arrives after a three-year stint coaching the defensive line for the NFL's Tennessee Titans. Rocker was the 1988 SEC Player of the Year and Outland and Lombardi Trophy winner during his career at Auburn. Sherrer starts with Georgia after serving as South Alabama's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach for a season. Pruitt and Sherrer coached together at Hoover High School (Ala.) earlier in their careers.
Linebacker Quartet Leading The Defense
Senior ILB Ramik Wilson led the SEC in tackles with 133 (10.2/g) and will be joined at his position by sophomore Tim Kimbrough. Wilson's best career performance came in the road loss to #7 Auburn. The Tampa, Fla., native racked up 18 stops, including a sack and two tackles for loss. In school history, there have now been three Bulldogs to lead the SEC in tackles (Whit Marshall, 1995, 128; Rennie Curran, 2009, 130).
His partner on the inside, senior Amarlo Herrera, ranked third in the SEC with 112 stops (8.6/g). Herrera has started 30 games in his career, including all 13 in 2014, and has tallied 219 tackles in that three-year span.
The Bulldogs also have a talented youthful duo at outside linebacker. Sophomore OLB Leonard Floyd, who is an ESPN Preseason All-American, proved to be another playmaker as he led all SEC freshmen with a team-high 6.5 sacks. Floyd blocked his first field goal versus #7 Auburn. He finished the year with 55 tackles. Junior OLB Jordan Jenkins finished 2013 with a team-high 12 tackles for loss and five sacks.
One of the nation's top recruits looking to make an impact this year is freshman outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter.
Sacking The Opposition
Georgia ranked second in the SEC with 33 sacks on the season, trailing only SEC Eastern Division champ Missouri who finished with 41. The Bulldogs return players who accounted for 26 of the team's 33 sacks. In addition to Leonard Floyd's team-high 6.5, senior DE Ray Drew managed another half dozen sacks.
Youthful Secondary Aiming For Improvement
Jeremy Pruitt, who is also the team's Secondary coach, is determining the rotation in his backfield with a group of talented underclassmen. Georgia had seven different starting lineups in the defensive backfield last season.
Along with seniors Damian Swann and Corey Moore and sophomore Quincy Mauger, there will be numerous new faces in the Bulldog secondary. Georgia's prospects to play in the secondary include junior Shattle Fenteng, redshirt freshman Aaron Davis, sophomore J.J. Green and true freshmen Dominick Sanders and Malkom Parrish. Green switched to defense after racking up 403 yards rushing and three touchdowns at tailback last year. Junior CB Devin Bowman also made strides during the preseason but was slowed with a hamstring injury late in camp. Swann is expected to make his team-high 28th consecutive start.
The Bulldogs had seven picks in 2013 and that ranked 13th in the SEC last year.
A Look At The Specialists
All-SEC First Team junior PK Marshall Morgan along with senior P Adam Erickson and junior P Collin Barber have served as Georgia's specialists over the last two years and will be called on again in 2014.
Morgan had one of the best seasons by a kicker in the SEC last year. He led all kickers in scoring average at 10.3 points/game. Morgan ranked second in scoring for kickers with 113 points in just 11 games, trailing Missouri's Andrew Baggett who collected 120 in 14 games. Morgan made an SEC best 22 field goals in 24 attempts last year. He was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award and named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week three times in 2013. His two misses on the year were from 52 yards out versus North Texas and from 39 yards at Tennessee.
Morgan enters this season having made a school record 17 straight field goals. This is one shy of the SEC record held by former Tennessee kicker Fuad Reveiz (1984). Barber ranked sixth in the SEC in punting at 44.1 on 29 punts last year. He also ran five yards for a first down on a fake punt from the Georgia 34 yard line at #6 Clemson. In two seasons, Barber has punted 89 times for an average of 42.3 yards with a long of 61 against North Texas last year. Erickson won the starting job for the final three games of the 2013 season. He finished last season with a 40.5 average, including a career-long 52-yarder at Georgia Tech. Erickson, an Athens native, also gets the call to "pooch" punt. Overall, he has 21 punts for an average of 39.2 yards.
*tied for the longest in the nation in 2013
Aiming For Better Returns
Georgia finished 14th in the league in both kick returns and punt returns in 2013. The Bulldogs averaged 18.6 yards on kickoffs and only 2.9 yards on punt returns. Georgia employed various personnel in the return game. The Bulldogs welcome back leading kick returner sophomore J.J. Green and junior Sheldon Dawson. They had seven returns each with Green averaging 24.0 yards and Dawson averaging 24.9.
In the punt return game, sophomore Reggie Davis had 14 for 46 yards (3.3 average) while senior Damian Swann had nine for 28 yards (3.1).
Restructured Special Teams Duties
The offensive special teams will be coordinated by tight ends coach John Lilly and include kickoff return, punt return and extra point/field goal. Defensive special teams will be headed by new inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler and include kickoff, punt return block, and extra point/field goal.
Inside The Numbers From 2013
Georgia's Overtime Record (6-4)
H: 0-0; A: 4-2; N: 2-2; SEC: 3-2
Nov. 16, 1996 Georgia beat #20 Auburn 56-49 (4 OT) in Auburn, Ala.
Nov. 27, 1999 #20 Ga. Tech beat #16 Georgia 51-48 in Atlanta, Ga.
Jan. 1, 2000 #21 Georgia beat #19 Purdue 28-25 in Tampa, Fla. (Outback Bowl)
Nov. 11, 2000 #22 Auburn beat #14 Georgia 29-26 in Auburn, Ala.
Jan. 1, 2004 #11 Georgia beat #12 Purdue 34-27 in Orlando, Fla. (Capital One Bowl)
Sept. 22, 2007 #22 Georgia beat #16 Alabama 26-23 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Oct. 30, 2010 Florida beat Georgia 34-31 in Jacksonville, Fla. @ EverBank Field
Jan. 2, 2012 #12 Michigan St. beat #18 Georgia 33-30 (3 OT) in Tampa, Fla. (Outback Bowl)
Oct. 5, 2013 #6 Georgia beat Tennessee 34-31 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Nov. 30, 2013 Georgia beat Georgia Tech 41-34 (2OT) in Atlanta, Ga.
First-Time Starters In 2013
Georgia had seven first-time starters in the 2013 season opener at #8 Clemson, including three true freshmen on defense. The Bulldogs had 17 on the year. OLB Leonard Floyd, CB Brendan Langley and FS Tray Matthews all started for the Bulldogs as first-year players against the Tigers. Floyd returns on defense, Langley now plays offense and Matthews has transferred to Auburn.
The True Freshman Experience
The most true freshmen to play in a season opener during the Mark Richt era was 13 coming back in 2012. Last year, 10 played in the first game of the year at Clemson. Fourteen true freshman played overall in 2013.
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