VALDOSTA -- Enjoying success not enjoyed by the Georgia Bulldog football program for more than 20 years, expectations are high among Bulldog fans entering the 2004 season.
That level of excitement wasn't absent Thursday night at the Valdosta Area Bulldawg Club spring meeting at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club. Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was the featured speaker.
Thursday night's festivities ended a busy day at Kinderlou, which also hosted the Junkyard Brawl Golf Classic.
As part of Thursday night's event, the two recipients of the Vince Dooley Scholarship, Patrick Powell and DeShaun Harris, were recognized.
VanGorder, the winner of the 2003 Frank Broyles award given to the top assistant coach in the nation, spoke Thursday night for the third time this week to a Bulldog Club.
He likes the enthusiasm shown over 114 days before the Bulldogs' 2004 season opener against Georgia Southern.
"It's year round-football in the South. We're blessed to be at the University of Georgia where we have a state that plays a lot of good football at a lot of different levels. It's a state itself that is excited about football and the university I think over the course of a lot of years has represented the state well."
While the anchors of a defensive group that was among the nation's top five in scoring defense a year ago return -- defensive end David Pollack, safety Thomas Davis and linebacker Odell Thurman -- there are some needs to address for VanGorder and his defensive staff.
"We've got a number of players who have pretty much established themselves as starters on our defense," VanGorder said. "We've got three or four situations where we'll certainly use spring ball to establish a starter with the idea that when we start two-a-days that that second-stringer can really compete for that job."
VanGorder is counting on a five-player rotation to solidify the interior part of the defensive line.
Kedric Golston, Gerald Anderson and Ray Gant all return. In addition, Marquis Elmore and Dale Dixon will be looked to for depth purposes.
The hole to fill at linebacker was opened after G-Day when Tony Taylor suffered a knee injury that will sideline him for the 2004 season.
Derrick White, Jarvis Jackson and Danny Verdun-Wheeler are all vying for the starting spot.
"All three of those guys are good football players," VanGorder said.
In the defensive backfield, an area VanGorder is wary of, new faces are widespread.
"Overall, it's the biggest concern right now," VanGorder said.
Tim Jennings has been shifted from the short corner to wide corner.
By doing this, VanGorder not only replaces the graduated Bruce Thornton, but also moves Jennings to a position more suited for his shorter height.
"In moving him there, we can take him away from the physical side of things," VanGorder said.
With Jennings moving over, DeMario Minter is the front-runner at short corner.
Playing along side Thomas Davis at safety is still in question, as Greg Blue and Tra Battle are fighting for the position.
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