ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia's offense, led by quarterback Aaron Murray, has been overmatched at times this spring when lining up against a defense that returns nine starters.
Georgia is rebuilding its offensive line. That has led to some ugly matchups against All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and massive defensive tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers.
The Bulldogs ranked fifth in the nation in total defense last season, and most of the top players from that unit will play for the Black team in Saturday's G-Day spring game. Murray, tailback Isaiah Crowell, receiver Tavarres King will lead the first-team offense on the Red team, according to G-Day rosters released on Wednesday.
The challenge for the offense is nothing new.
"It's definitely a challenge every day," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Tuesday.
"There are a lot of veterans over there. Some of them have been playing three years. It makes it harder for us but I think it's going to make it better for us in the long run. It makes us fight every day in practice and it's going to help us in the fourth quarter in the fall."
Bobo said Murray, who set a school record with 35 TD passes last season, may play only one quarter. Hutson Mason will play behind Murray.
Christian LeMay is the probable starting quarterback for the Black team. Bobo said some quarterbacks may play on both teams.
"Everyone cares because there are a lot of guys out there playing for jobs," Mason said.
Georgia plans to hold out Mason as a redshirt this season. LeMay could move up as Murray's top backup.
Bobo said Mason, a junior, has not practiced as if he doesn't plan to play in 2012.
"From day one he's been competing his tail off like he wants to be the starter, and that's the only way he's going to get better," said Bobo of Mason. "He has done that from the first day of spring. Day in and day out, he's trying to say 'I'm the best guy on this team' and that's the only way he's going to get better."
Georgia lost center Ben Jones and tackles Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson from last year's 10-4 team.
Offensive line coach Will Friend has tried different combinations this spring. He said his current starting five includes tackles Kolton Houston and Kenarious Gates, guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee and center David Andrews. Houston opened spring practice as a guard.
Watts Dantzler and Austin Long were other options at right tackle before Houston's move.
King said the line is "coming together so much, it's pretty amazing."
"The first couple of days our big D-line was just blowing them off the ball and just moving them around," King said. "Now we kind of see our guys learning from that and not making the same mistakes. It looks great."
Players who have been suspended for the start of the season will be available to play on Saturday.
Cornerback Sanders Commings was suspended by coach Mark Richt for two games following an arrest on a domestic abuse charge. The other starting corner, Branden Smith, is facing at least a one-game suspension for his arrest on possession of marijuana.
All-America free safety Bacarri Rambo also could face a marijuana-related suspension. Alan Ingram, Rambo's coach at Seminole County High School in Donalsonville, Ga., said last month Rambo inadvertently ate marijuana-laced brownies on a spring break trip to Florida and will be suspended for the first four games.
Georgia has not issued a statement on Rambo's status.
Strong safety Shawn Williams left a scrimmage last week with a knee injury but is not expected to need surgery.
Bobo said Tuesday freshman tailback Keith Marshall may miss Saturday's game with a hamstring injury. Bobo had positive reviews for sophomore tailbacks Crowell and Ken Malcome.
Crowell was the SEC Freshman of the Year after he ran for 850 yards despite missing two games. A failed drug test resulted in a one-game suspension.
"Isaiah has practiced well every day," Bobo said. "He continued to get better, becoming more consistent and more dependable, somebody that you can depend on. I think that has been his goal. He's really done a nice job. He knows his assignments a lot better."Comment on this story
Bobo said Malcome is playing with more confidence.
"He has always been a physical looking guy who has played kind of timid, not really knowing what to do and unsure of himself," Bobo said. "But last year I think the confidence he got playing at the end of the season has helped him in the spring. I'm really pleased with his progress and his attitude."
Malcolm Mitchell, one of the team's top receivers as a freshman last season, has moved to cornerback this spring and may be held out on Saturday with a hamstring injury.