By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Four months seem like an eternity.
Once the kids are out of school and you visit the grandparents or attend a couple of reunions and make a run to the beach it should be only days before practice begins in earnest.
Around here there’s never any offseason, and The Clemson Insider wants to help bridge the gap until the “Dawg” Days of Summer are over with a steady diet of news and information.
Today and each Monday for the next 12 weeks, we’ll make a run through the Tigers’ schedule. We’ll put each team under the microscope, flip over the rocks and give you a sense of what’s ahead.
We begin – tah-dah – withGeorgia.
There a couple of perspectives when you look at this game but, obviously, any chance for an extraordinary season demands beating two SEC teams at the start and finish.
Georgianurtures lofty aspirations of its own every year, and this one isn’t any different.
Clemson fans love playingGeorgiabecause of the schools’ proximity. The passion was fed during a run of games in the late 1970s and ’80s, an 11-year stretch in which both programs won national championships and were 5-5-1 head-to-head.
Before and since, Georgia has owned Clemson. The Bulldogs have won the last five meetings and own a 41-17-4 record in the all-time series. The Tigers last win against Georgia came in 1990, when they embarrassed the Bulldogs, 34-3.
SinceGeorgialost seven key pieces of its defense, this year’s game has the potential for erupting into a shootout featuring two of the nation’s top quarterbacks and scads of talent at the offensive skill positions.
8 p.m. Aug. 31, Clemson Memorial Stadium
2012 record: 12-2,
Final ranking: 4th USA Today Coaches, 5th AP
SEC record: 7-1 (East Division champion)
The series: Georgia leads 41-17-4 including wins in the last five. The Bulldogs last opened its season at Clemson in 2003, a 30-0Georgia win.
Resetting the offense
Returning starters: 10
QB: Aaron Murray became the first SEC quarterback, with a shot at a fourth, to throw for 3,000 yards for three straight seasons. He was second nationally in passing efficiency last season and his 126 career touchdown passes – including 36 in 2012 – set a Georgia and SEC record.
RB: Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall teamed to rush for more than 2,100 yards and 25 touchdowns as freshmen Gurley’s 1,385 were second only to Herschel Walker as a Georgia freshman. Playing second fiddle,Marshall averaged 6.5 yards per carry.
WR: Malcom Mitchell caught 40 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns a year ago after starting the four games on defense. Michael Bennett started three of the first five games before tearing an ACL. Junior college transfer Jonathan Rumph (6-5 and 215 pounds from Cayce) caught two touchdown passes in the spring game.
OL:Georgia returns all five starters, and Richt said after spring practice that he has more depth than this time a year ago, beforeGeorgia set a school record averaging 37.8 points per game including eight of 40-plus points.
TE: Arthur Lynch caught 24 passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns as a junior, but Georgia anticipates the emergence of 6-6, 265-pound sophomore Jay Rome, whose father played basketball and a year of football at Clemson.
Restocking the defense
Returning starters: 1
LB: Of the seven defensive starters Georgia lost to graduation, and to the NFL, were linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, both first-round picks. Junior inside backer Amarlo Herrera, the top returning tackler, was fifth on the team last season with 70. Sophomore Jordan Jenkins (6-3, 257) started six games. Chase Vasser should be good to go off a shoulder injury that required surgery.
DB: Corner Damain Swann led the team with four interceptions including two inGeorgia’s win overNebraska in the Florida Citrus Bowl. Swann totaled 53 tackles, including two sacks and recovered two fumbles. At 6-5, Josh Harvey-Clemons is an imposing figure at safety. Of the 13 players who enrolled in January, three were defensive backs including safety Trey Mathews. In baseball terms he’s a “closer.”
DL: Garrison Smith, the only returning starter, had 57 tackles. John Taylor, Ray Drew and Sterling Bailey are also in the mix at defensive end. Mike Thornton hunkers down at nose with Chris Mayes.
Returning starters: 2
PK: Marshall Morgan scored 87 points on 63 of 67 PATs and 8-of-14 field goals as a freshman.
P: Colin Barber, as a freshman, averaged 41.5 yards on 60 punts including 19 inside the 20-yard line.
Returns: Putting the ball in Malcolm Mitchell’s hands seems to be the intent here.
Bottom line: Since Mark Richt became head coach in 2001, Georgia has a 49-8 record against non-conference opponents.