The summer workouts are under way at the University of Georgia practice fields and in the new weight room. Anyone traveling down Lumpkin Street in Athens, Ga., can often catch sight of the Bulldogs going through passing drills and working on their conditioning in the heat of the day. Come August, positions will be up for grabs, and those coveted spots are often won in the offseason. With that in mind we want to look back at spring to see who has a leg up going into fall. So this week’s DawgNation Roundtable includes two questions:
“Which player had the best spring?”
David Ching: Without having watched much of the practices, it is difficult to pin down exactly who had the best spring, but here are some names that seemed to pop up fairly frequently in post-practice interviews during that period: receiver/cornerback Malcolm Mitchell, receiver Marlon Brown, offensive lineman Kenarious Gates, safety Shawn Williams, running back Ken Malcome, cornerback Damian Swann and offensive lineman Kolton Houston.
One guy whose star really seemed to be on the rise by the end of the spring was tight end Jay Rome. Not only did he make a phenomenally athletic 66-yard touchdown catch in the G-Day game's final minute, Rome caught two touchdown passes the week before in a closed team scrimmage. He will share tight end duties with Arthur Lynch, but Rome appears to be a star in the making in what little we've seen of him thus far.
Radi Nabulsi: My nominee for having the best spring would be Swann. Much of the talk of the secondary was focused on suspensions and the loss of Brandon Boykin, and rightly so. Both of those issues will factor into the early part of the season. Boykin was an all-conference player on the field and a resolute leader off of it. Replacing a starter of his caliber will be tough. That is why I think Swann had the best spring. He stepped right into Boykin’s role and didn’t miss a beat. He was praised by his teammates and coaches. There was a reason he was one of the top cornerbacks in the nation coming out of high school and when given the chance this spring, he reminded everyone of his skill set.
Kipp Adams: After being named Outstanding Walk-on for Offense after the G-Day scrimmage, 5-foot-11, 216-pound redshirt freshman Merritt Hall was named the starting fullback last week.
Richt had nothing but positive things to say to the media about Hall last week, mentioning that he displayed the toughness needed at a position at which a lot of contact occurs.
"Merritt had a great spring," Richt said. "He's learned what to do and he was striking people with a lot of enthusiasm and he would have earned the right to be the starter at the end of spring, so we put him on the board that way."
In high school Hall was no slouch, earning all-state honors as a sophomore, junior and senior. He was named the defensive player of the year as a junior for class A. He was the defensive player of the year for his region in his sophomore and senior years as well. The Bulldogs have had success in the last decade with walk-on fullbacks like Verron Haynes, J.T. Wall and Jeremy Thomas, so if Hall can hold off scholarship fullbacks like Richard Samuel, Zander Ogletree and incoming freshman Quayvon Hicks, he looks to be next in line.
shanep512: I'm going to go say that Isaiah Crowell had the best spring. He came out as a new man, showing up for all workouts and drills. He also wants to prove himself more because of incoming freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Maybe getting those guys will push him to be the best in the SEC this year.
Who stands to make the best transition to a new position, based on his spring performance?
David Ching: The first name that comes to mind is Malcolm Mitchell, who seemed to impress everyone in shifting to cornerback during spring practice, but I'll go in a different direction here. I think Cornelius Washington can become a star at defensive end. He played the position earlier in his career when Georgia ran a 4-3 base defense, and he will apparently play some defensive end and some outside linebacker this fall in Todd Grantham's 3-4. Washington has impressive speed for a big guy, and I think that is going to translate into a formidable pass rush off the edge this fall.
Radi Nabulsi: I have to go with Mitchell. More than one wideout told me that he was the hardest cornerback to beat. Add to that the fact that more than one person on the Bulldogs’ staff has called him -- off the record -- Georgia’s best cornerback. Mitchell had the biggest transition of any of the players this spring, switching from offense to defense, but he excelled at cornerback due to his incredible athleticism. The problem for Georgia is that Mitchell is also the best receiver the Bulldogs have. His big-play potential is needed on offense, but considering how well his spring went, he will make a huge impact on defense.
Kipp Adams: Some eyebrows were raised when Washington, whose five sacks were second on the team last season, was moved inside by the coaching staff. But a closer look at 2011 reveals that Washington played almost exclusively with his hand on the ground anyway, even though he was listed as a "Will" linebacker on the depth chart. With 15 starts and 10 sacks heading into his senior season, Washington has been looked upon to lead the Bulldogs defense in 2012.
The way he handled the position change during the spring was impressive on its own, and by the G-Day spring scrimmage the 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman looked like a natural on the defensive line, making four tackles, two of them behind the line of scrimmage.
Washington's play on the field has never quite lined up with his incredible physical ability, which was comparable coming out of high school to All-American Jarvis Jones. He might be a senior, but Washington will enter the fall with as much upside as anyone on the team. If he can put it all together this fall, he will join Abry Jones and John Jenkins in giving Todd Grantham a formidable defensive front.
Ipope825: Mitchell has enough athletic ability to provide an impact as a cornerback but I don't think he will have as big of an impact as Ray Drew. I think Drew will be among the top defensive lineman in the country by the end of the season because he has bulked up but is still as agile as he was before he added the weight. I think he could help the Bulldogs in having not only a top-five or top-10 rated defense, but possibly the best defense in the country.
Want to see your opinion in the next DawgNation Roundtable? Visit The Pound every Tuesday for the Question of the Week and write a brief response. Each week we will choose one answer to be included. Responses that appear in the Roundtable will be edited for clarity. We look forward to hearing from you.