Special-teamers don't often get a lot of attention unless they a) play for Frank Beamer or b) screw up. Fortunately, Georgia hasn't had much of the latter problem the last few years despite a couple of underwhelming records. A bevy of senior talent comes back to take one last crack at helping the Dawgs to an SEC title.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
1. Branden Smith (5'11", 169), Sr.
2. Carlton Thomas (5'7", 170), RJr.
3. Malcolm Mitchell (6'0", 185), Fr.
Who's coming back. Every leading special-teamer from 2010 is back, headlined by kickoff terror Brandon Boykin, who passed on the NFL for a chance at grabbing the all-time SEC record for KO return touchdowns; punt returner and triple threat Branden Smith; and kicker Blair Walsh and punter Drew Butler, both of whom continue the Dawgs' string of accurate, cannon-legged players at their respective positions. It's anyone's guess as to what's going to happen next year, as all of those players are seniors, but for right now the Dawgs have easily the most potent special-teams arsenal in the SEC, perhaps the nation.
Who's not. A.J. Green's departure is a loss that will be felt in more than just the receiving corps, as he provided a worthwhile change of pace in the punt-return game. So did wide receiver Logan Gray, who, despite his reputation as a fair-catch impresario, was actually second on the team with six punt returns last year. Other than Smith, Bacarri Rambo and Derek Owens are the only returning players who had any punt returns at all in 2010.
Who's new. The Dawgs' heralded 2011 recruiting class was chock full of incredibly athletic players with experience at a number of positions, including special-teams duty. The two who appear most likely to see ST playing time this year are Valdosta's Malcolm Mitchell, who played defensive back in high school but is already being talked about as a receiver candidate at Georgia, and Justin Scott-Wesley, a wideout who declared for Georgia back in May from atop a victory podium not long after setting a new state record in the 100-meter dash. Scott-Wesley is considered a bit raw for the Georgia receiving corps, but his speed is the kind of talent that prompts coaches to try and figure out some way to get him on the field.
Outlook. Spring-practice junkies won't find many juicy depth-chart battles in special teams this year, as Walsh, Butler, Boykin and Smith all have their starting jobs pretty well locked up. The interest will be mainly in where Georgia's blue-chip recruits manage to slot in behind Smith and Boykin. Starting expertise aside, there's not a whole lot of depth at either position, and that could present an opportunity for players like Mitchell, Scott-Wesley, or perhaps even WR recruit Sanford Seay -- another actual track star with a 4.4 40 to his credit -- to get some return opportunities. One other factor is whether Mitchell becomes a figure of importance in the receiving corps; if that happens, the amount of attention devoted to Scott-Wesley for kickoff returns could increase. The general consensus seems to be that he needs to fine-tune his route-running a bit more before he can become a factor at WR, but his speed may be too valuable for Mark Richt to redshirt this season.