Georgiadogs.com released the depth chart for the season opening matchup at Clemson on Saturday night. And the levels of experience between the returning offense and expected defense are night and day.
Quickly, a look at Clemson's side. Their offense is pretty well experienced, with 3 seniors and two juniors up front among the expected starting OL and TE. Senior Heisman candidate Tahj Boyd lines up alongside fellow senior RB Roderick McDowell in the Tiger backfield, while he has a trio of 6'+ juniors starting at WR in Sammy Watkins, Charon Peake, and Martavias Bryant.
They have a senior kicker and sophomore punter, with Watkins expected to return most kicks. Defensively, we'll face a 4-3 that has an all-junior defensive line, led by Carver (Columbus) DE Corey Crawford. Their LBs each started 7 games last year, seniors Spencer Shuey and Quandon Christian outside, with junior Stephone Anthony inside. Their DBs are in question. Sophomore Travis Banks is joined by junior Robert Smith at S, but the CBs are to be determined. All 4 of Garry Peters, Bashaud Breeland, Darius Robinson, and Martin Jenkins have started games for Clemson previously in their careers, but their depth chart lists each position as having one "or" the other at starter and backup.
Georgia contrasts this with an offense loaded with experience. Michael Bennett and Malcolm Mitchell start at SE and FLK, with backups Justin Scott-Wesley and Chris Conley behind them. Clemson's experience at CB should help them as Georgia can rotate WRs in and out all game without much drop off from the first guy to the 6th or 7th guy in the pecking order. As expected, Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome are 1-2 at TE, with Murray and Mason 1-2 at QB. TB is Gurley then Marshall, with both having added weight as #3 is listed 232 pounds and #4 at 219. 257 pound sophomore Quayvon Hicks gets the nod over former walk-on Merritt Hall at FB. While the OL starts from left to right, Gates, Lee, Andrews, Burnette, and Theus, backed up by (from LT to RT again), Beard, Dantzler, Long, Houston, and Houston. Xzavier Ward is listed as 3rd string RT.
While everyone on the offensive two deep, except for the recently reinstated Kolton Houston, has seen a good number of plays for the Dawgs before, the defense is filled with new comers. Senior Garrison Smith stands out on the DL, and he's listed alongside junior Mike Thornton at nose and sophomore Sterling Bailey at DE. Bailey has struggled to play with numerous injuries since arriving in Athens, while Thornton barely played behind John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers these last two season. Backing up those three will be junior Ray Drew (listed behind Bailey), and a pair of guys who will be getting their first snaps in red and black, 6'4, 321 pound JUCO Chris Mayes backs up Thornton in the middle and 6'4, 336 pound John Taylor at DE after Smith.
Attempting to replace the huge playmakers departing at LB are sophomores Jordan Jenkins and James DeLoach outside, and juniors Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera inside. Herrera and Jenkins both started a lot of games last year, while DeLoach came on strong this spring and Wilson has been used all over the last two years where he could find time. Behind DeLoach is sophomore Josh Dawson, but other than him the backup LBs are all true freshman. Leonard Floyd, one of the stars of camp, is listed at both OLB spots after joining this summer from Hargrave Military Academy. Reggie Carter enrolled early from South Gwinnett, and that helped him land the spot behind Herrera inside, while Indianapolis native and highly rated Tim Kimbrough didn't arrive until this summer but still won the job behind Wilson.
Going against the large, talented group of Clemson WRs will be a handful of true freshman and a walk-on. Junior Damien Swann gets the nod at one CB spot and I wouldn't be surprised if he shadows Watkins all over the field, while senior Connor Norman starts at SS. The former walk-on will be backed up by junior Corey Moore, and possibly be replaced by Josh Harvey-Clemons next week after the 6'5 sophomore serves a one game suspension. Sophomore Sheldon Dawson was technically beat out for a starting spot at CB, although assuming Clemson starts in a spread, and we don't start in Grantham's preferred 3-4 alignment, he will be on the field for the first snap as the nickel CB. Half of the defensive backfield's 2 deep is true freshman. Tray Matthews returned yesterday to practice, and is expected to start at FS, with Kell's Quincy Mauger backing him up. Brendan Langley, who was starting alongside Mauger last year for the Longhorns out of Marietta, beat out Dawson at CB. The 6'1 freshman impressed with his physicality in the fall, and he'll need it going against the powerful 6'2 Peake and 6'5 Bryant for Clemson. Another Atlanta area product, Sandy Creek's Shaq Wiggins, will also see plenty of action at CB.
On special teams, Nathan Theus beat out Trent Frix for the starting long snapper job. Colin Barber returns at punter, and Malcolm Mitchell appears to have won out over multiple players at both KR and PR. Todd Gurley is listed #2 at KR, while Rhett McGowan and Damien Swann are behind Mitchell at PR. K Marshall Morgan is listed as the starter there, although many suspect he'll be suspended. Interestingly though, the man most expect to be taking the FGs and XPs instead Saturday, Adam Erickson, who walked on from Athens' own Clarke Central High School, is also listed as the starting holder. Behind Erickson on the K depth chart is sophomore Patrick Beless, out of Marist.