Battle of the Titans: UGA's Offensive Line against the 'Bama Front Four
This could be one for the ages as up to seven starters will be drafted next April with at least four hearing their names called in during the initial 75 selections. Unfortunately for the Dawgs there top blocker, George Foster, may be sidelined with injury, but for the sake of match-ups we'll assume he's in the line-up. Alabama has three seniors on the defensive line that will be chosen during the draft's initial day next year with an another junior who will contend to be a first round choice in 2004. Jarrett Johnson, an intense and heady lineman constantly around the action, is a bit undersized for defensive tackle but his motor and football instinct will catch the fancy of league scouts . His sidekick, Kenny King, is also a tad small but may be a better athlete and holds more upside. Both hold a first day grades and each offers the versatility to be moved out to defensive end. The senior with possibly the greatest future at the next level is Kindal Moorehead, an athletic and powerful end that can be used at a variety positions up front. Moorehead constantly drives opponents up the field and off the line of scrimmage, also displaying the ability to chase or pursue the action from the backside. He does have a history of injuries and is a little slow to react or find the ball at times. Our number one prospect would be Prop 48 junior Antonio Bryant; a massive tackle but fluid athlete that bull-rushes opponents up the field or shows the ability to chase them out to the flanks. Bryant has a great amount of upside potential should he get himself into top game shape and learn to focus. It is to his advantage to stay with the Tide and play out all his eligibility. Trying to block this bunch is a group of solid prospects starting with George Foster, an athletic and technically sound tackle that can play on either the strong-side or weak-side and may even project to guard at the next level. Needing to work on the details of his game (blocking angles, blitz awareness) Foster is a solid developmental prospect someone could look to in round three. Jon Stinchcomb is much like his brother, Oakland Raider first round pick Matt Stinchcomb; an intelligent lineman that plays with terrific fundamentals, even better intellect and completely understands the position. Like his older brother, Jon's a bit limited athletically, undersized and has had injury problems recently. He is a "get what you see" type prospect but a very servicable player deserving of the middle rounds. On the interior are a pair of wide bodied powerhouses. To our minds guard Alex Jackson is vastly underrated as he destroys defenders blocking for the run or pass and plays with a nasty attitude. His inability to cover any amount of range will push him into the later rounds. The situation is the same for Kevin Breedlove, a strong run blocking guard best in very confined quarters. Tackle Kareem Marshall is big and powerful, easily handling opponents at the point of attack once engaged in a block but is rather clumsy and haphazard in his movements needing to refine all aspects of his game. That said, his athleticism and sheer size give him a nice amount of upside potential and late round consideration.
Can the UGA linebackers exploit the Tide's offense
Three years ago we thought Boss Bailey was the best linebacker in the land; that was until a freak knee injury sidelined him for all but one game in 2000. Bailey came back nicely in 2001 but did not display the upfield explosion or game crunching tackles behind the line of scrimmage, ala LaVar Arrington. Part of that was the scheme employed by UGA and the other may have been a little tentativeness on Bailey's behalf but this much is true; Boss Bailey is a top-flight linebacker worthy of a top 20 pick in next year's draft. A great athlete, Bailey moves around the field as though he were a free safety, covering as much ground as most centerfielders. He displays a nose for the ball and is tremendous in pass coverage, but also effective standing his ground and defending the run. A legitimate 230-pounds with growth potential; he should flourish on the weak-side as an NFL rookie and could eventually grow into a strong-side linebacker that plays over tight end. For his part middle linebacker Tony Gilbert is a solid run defender with a straight line burst of speed but limited lateral agility and the ability to play in space prevents him being anything other than a late round pick. If this pair is sent up the field can the Tide line slow down the blitz? It may be a tough task; Alonzo Ephriam is a thick, wide body on the pivot but lacks any lateral blocking range, the same which can be said of teammate Marico Portis. As a result both are free agents. For their part Alabama has a pair of solid junior linebackers to watch in Brooks Daniels and Cornelius Wortham, a duo with good prospects at the next level.
Make or Break Season: Gerald Dixon & Terrance Edwards
Gerald Dixon is known as a cornerback with solid cover skills but slow of foot. Terrance Edwards is a quick and competent receiver that impacts the game when he wants to. Both square off this weekend and each needs to start to stand out if they are going to be drafted next April. The Dawgs have a pair of outstanding receivers from the underclassmen ranks. True sophomore Fred Gibson and sensational receiver not eligible for the draft but Damien Gary will be, and is a wide out not mentioned enough as he projects well to the next level. For Bama's part Sam Collins, a nice sized receiver with some speed, is starting to turn the corner now that he's seeing the field more, and is going from a non-factor in the draft to late round consideration.