AT THE end of last season, in which they went 10--4 and won the SEC East, the Bulldogs had to feel good about their prospects for 2012. Ten starters from a unit that ranked fifth nationally in total defense would be returning, and running back Isaiah Crowell, an SEC all-freshman performer, would provide balance to an offense led by quarterback Aaron Murray. But in the off-season Crowell was dismissed from the team after his arrest on felony weapons charges, and four members of the defense—including All-America safety Bacarri Rambo—either have been or are expected to be suspended for multiple games to start the season. The potential for a great season still exists, but so does the possibility of a down one.
JOSH HARVEY-CLEMONS Richt went to great lengths—and to church—to nab the Valdosta, Ga., product who could help out the depleted D at linebacker and in the secondary. The 6'5" 207-pounder could also see action as a red zone receiver.
KEN MALCOME The team's fifth-leading rusher in 2011 could benefit the most from the departures of Crowell and second-leading rusher Carlton Thomas, who transferred. Malcome, a 6-foot, 224-pound redshirt sophomore, is a power runner who was named the most improved offensive player in spring practice.
THE DEFENSIVE suspensions will hurt. With the longest expected to be four games, there is no guaranteee that the Dawgs will get to their Game 6 SEC East showdown at South Carolina unscathed, the big test being a Week 2 matchup against Missouri under the lights at Faurot Field. The offense, too, will require time to hit its stride. Murray has plenty of able targets, but the key to the group's success—and the season—hinges on finding a replacement for Crowell. Without a running game to keep defenses honest, Georgia's pass-happy O can only take the team so far—though the absence of LSU and Alabama from the schedule helps.