This week’s DawgNation Roundtable discussion centers on the outstanding players in the SEC who stand between the Bulldogs and another division title. We recently mentioned some of the skilled Georgia players we are going to keep an eye on, so it is only fair to ask: “Which opposing player are you most excited to see this fall?”
David Ching: I will be most intrigued to see James Franklin and the Missouri offense this fall, largely because it will be the first opportunity to gauge whether the Tigers can actually compete in the SEC.
Georgia visits Missouri on Sept. 8 in the former Big 12 program’s first game as an SEC competitor. Many observers have circled the matchup as a potential trap game for the Bulldogs, who will likely enter the season with a top-10 ranking. Franklin and the high-powered offense are the reason the Tigers might have a shot to pull off the upset.
Last season -- his first as a starter -- Franklin passed for 2,872 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 981 yards and 15 scores. His dangerous run-pass ability reminds me of former Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley, who, in the Bulldogs’ 2005 SEC championship season, turned in one of the most impressive campaigns by a Mark Richt-coached Georgia quarterback.
Franklin has that kind of game-changing ability, and Todd Grantham’s depth-depleted defense will have its hands full in trying to contain the Tigers’ talented quarterback.
Radi Nabulsi: Having watched several recruiting battles through the years, my first thoughts about an upcoming season are almost always in regard to freshmen that Georgia lost to other schools. How well will Travis Blanks do at Clemson? How will Dillon Lee fare at Alabama? For this question my first thought would be about opposing freshmen such as running back Matt Jones of Florida or Chaz Elder of South Carolina. But, despite my inclination, it is another Gamecock who draws my attention.
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore fascinates me whenever he gets in a game. As my friend Kit Kitchens described him, Lattimore is “comic-book-style exclamation point with a football in his hands.” He runs with power and speed, plus he has great vision and a crushing stiff-arm.
He also runs for days whenever he plays Georgia. Lattimore racked up 182 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman against the Bulldogs in a humiliating loss that was highlighted by innumerable missed tackles. Last season in Athens, as the defense looked for redemption, Lattimore added another 176 yards and a touchdown to his Georgia-drubbing legacy.
Against Mississippi State on Oct. 15 last year, Lattimore tore a knee ligament and was done for the season. He had surgery shortly after the injury and has since been rehabbing his left knee. Steve Spurrier expects Lattimore to be healthy by the start of the season.
The South Carolina game is the biggest roadblock to Georgia repeating as division champs. Lattimore is the Gamecocks’ biggest weapon; as he goes, so goes South Carolina. A healthy Marcus Lattimore could again give Georgia fits.
Kipp Adams: With so many intriguing talents in the SEC, I was torn between South Carolina's former No. 1 overall prospect Jadeveon Clowney, Missouri's five-star freshman phenom Dorial Green-Beckham and Vanderbilt's breakout running back Zac Stacy, whom I met while covering former UGA offensive lineman Ben Jones in high school (the two starred together at Bibb County in Centreville, Ala.).
But when pondering Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, former Under Armour All-American Da'Rick Rogers and heralded juco signee Cordarrelle Patterson, I recalled wide receiver Justin Hunter. As a freshman, Hunter made four receptions at Georgia for 110 yards and a touchdown, and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. He also showcased his outstanding athleticism on the track team during the spring, breaking the Tennessee freshman record in the long jump at 26 feet, 1 ½ inches. Last year, he set a Volunteers team record for most yards in the first two games with 302, but suffered a torn ACL versus Florida that would end his season.
At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Hunter has yet to play a full season, but he returned for spring practice and made several plays during the scrimmage. If he is fully recovered and stays on the field through his junior season, Hunter could emerge as one of the top wideouts in the country, and vault up the draft boards. He has first-round draft potential written all over him, and with Rogers and Patterson on the field, the Bulldogs' secondary will have a tough time doubling up on Hunter.
shanep512: I want to see Marcus Lattimore. Will he return to his original form? Is he going to be better than he was before he was injured? Will the passing game make it easier or harder for him to get going? I think he is the best running back in the SEC right now, even though there are a few younger guys who could overtake him if they get their heads on right. Lattimore could be a Heisman contender, but so could Aaron Murray. When Georgia plays South Carolina, the game -- SEC East crown and possibly the national championship -- will be decided by whoever performs better between these two.
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