Summer Stock: Georgia Bulldogs

Aaron Murray leads what should be a very potent Georgia offense in 2011. Nelson Chenault/US Presswire

This is the first article in our "Summer Stock" series, a three-week look at the programs generating the most buzz coming out of spring practice.

Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham wants you to look at the stats.

His Dawgs' D was fifth in the SEC in scoring defense last season, 48th nationally in passer rating allowed, 56th in rush D and 19th in turnover margin -- not great numbers, to be sure, but certainly respectable. They are "middle of the road," as Grantham puts it, and better than some might have expected from a team that was largely deemed a disappointment after a 6-7 season in 2010.

In reconciling this disparity, it's not a leap to conclude that perhaps last year's Georgia squad was better than its record showed, a hypothesis seemingly confirmed by this fact: In all seven of the team's losses, the Bulldogs were leading or within one possession during the fourth quarter.

"It's pretty obvious that we didn't finish well," head coach Mark Richt said.

And that's why, if there is a rallying cry or theme for Georgia's 2011 season, "Finish" is it. The Bulldogs, after all, were witnesses last year to another SEC team that faced some early challenges, only to narrowly escape before going on a dominant national championship run -- the Auburn Tigers.

"Both teams played in some close early games," Grantham said. "They won 'em. We lost 'em."

So it only makes sense that the team receiving some early hype as "this year's Auburn" has identified finishing as its No. 1 area for improvement in 2011. Granted, Cam Newton is not walking through that door in a red No. 2 jersey, but what is coming through Georgia's doors is plenty impressive; namely, the top returning passer in the SEC, a talented defense entering Year 2 in Grantham's 3-4 scheme and a recruiting class already dubbed "the Dream Team" for its depth and star power.

Couple that with an SEC schedule more forgiving than most, and it's easy to see why preseason prognosticators, loyal fans and even Richt himself feel like the Bulldogs are capable of meeting their goal: an SEC East championship.