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Holloway: Bulldogs show depth and talent

POSTED: April 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

ATHENS — Mark your calendar — Jan. 8, 2009

Bulldog fans, go ahead and check out South Florida hotel rates.

On Saturday, at a chilly, rainy Sanford Stadium, the world got its first look at Georgia football 2008. But the minds of most of the red-and-black clad were already set on more tropical climes — Miami, the location of next year’s BCS title game, to be exact.

That’s the way it’s been since the Bulldogs wrapped up their 2007 season on a Sugar Bowl high, and with a No. 2 ranking, after routing Hawaii 41-10 just three months ago in New Orleans. And during Saturday’s annual spring game Bulldog fans were given no reason to think differently.

Of course the game and the 17-3 final score in favor of the Red team don’t count for a thing, and it’s hard to read much into a team playing against itself, but this is a team with few question marks and fewer full-blown weaknesses.

I’ve never watched a national championship team practice in April, but if you told me that’s what was on display here Saturday, it’d be hard to dispute.

At the end of 2007 there was little argument that Georgia was among the best teams in the country. During the bowl season BCS hype, it was mentioned numerous times by pundits that if the two best teams were chosen to play it would have been Georgia taking on USC, instead of LSU vs. Ohio State. And as much as the Bulldogs improved over the course of 2007 — going from a team that scored only 12 points against South Carolina to a team that scored a combined 87 points against Florida and Auburn – they’ve only gotten better.

There’s NFL-caliber talent all over the field, starting with junior quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Just two years ago at this venue he was the fresh-faced wonderkid with the Texas-sized arm. Now, he’s the veteran of two SEC seasons and a proven leader in the huddle – he showed as much Saturday, driving the Red team 40 yards in 1:18 for a field goal just before halftime. He’s still got the big-time arm, but he’s reined in the gun-slinging since his freshman year when he finished with seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Then there’s Knowshon Moreno, who quickly ascended to fan-favorite status as a redshirt freshman with more than 1,300 rushing yards in 2007. He won’t have Thomas Brown to share the load with anymore, so in steps Caleb King — another redshirt freshman, who showed Saturday why many believe he’s poised to be 2008’s breakout sensation.

And the beat goes on.

It’s a pattern that plays out all over the Bulldog roster.

Lose a Sean Bailey, gain an A.J. Green.

Lose a pair of NFL defensive ends, plug in a Sugar Bowl MVP, then replace him with any one of five others that are chomping at the bit.

Lose a handful of offensive linemen, then have their replacements leading a unit that’s putting up 38 points per game in the final six contests of 2007.

That’s how you become the healthiest program in the deepest conference in the country. It’s why even in the dark days, like when the Dogs dropped four of five during Stafford’s freshman year, the sun was still peeking from behind the clouds.

These days, regardless of Saturday’s dreary conditions, the forecast for Georgia football is as clear and bright as a summer day in San Diego. Or, in this case, a January night in Miami.



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