Sunday, May 7, 2017

Why Georgia will be vastly improved in 2017

First, a caveat: I never subscribe to the theory that returning more starters than other teams makes for a great season. It greatly depends on who is returning, and who is gone.

This was my contention when everybody was picking Tennessee to do great things last year. Sure, they were returning some solid college players (Dobbs, Kamara, Malone, etc.). However, there were very few players that I felt were anything more than that; solid.

Now, look at what Georgia lost, compared with what's coming back, and further, look at where some of those players were in their careers last year. Lastly, consider who is not returning.

It's no secret now that Georgia had one player taken in the NFL draft (free agent signings notwithstanding). Isaiah McKenzie was the only player leaving Georgia that NFL teams felt strongly enough about to use a draft pick on. There were a few of Georgia's senior O-Linemen that have, for the moment, caught on as free agents, but time will tell if/how long they'll last. (I do understand the notion that Georgia was forced to play a couple folks out of position)

The key here is that Georgia had no fewer than 4, and possibly 5 juniors who decided to return who would have been drafted: Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, and possibly Dom Sanders.

Chubb, by all accounts, looks to be much closer to his pre-injury self this year, making he and Michel arguably the best tandem of running backs in the country.

Bellamy and Carter were inconsistent last year, but the ability is there, and with another year of seasoning, should be at least as good and hopefully better.

With the rest of Georgia's front seven, there was an abundance of raw talent, flush with freshmen and first-year starters last year. Obviously, Trent Thompson will need to be back healthy, but there is just so much depth filled with talented guys who were just getting their feet wet.

Jonathan Ledbetter is starting to round into form after a 6-game suspension last year, and guys like Tyler Clark, David Marshall, Julian Rochester will be more than capable of making plays and providing depth.

The linebacking corps, which includes All SEC candidate Roquan Smith in the middle, is athletic and experienced.

The Secondary, which added the surprising JR Reed, seems far more settled than it was going into last year (when guys like Juwuan Briscoe, Rico McGraw, and Reggie Wilkerson held some seniority, but were by accounts neither willing nor able to fit in with the new staff's demands).

I just see a talented and deep defensive unit.

The offense is full of a lot more "ifs," but they are ifs that weigh in Georgia's favor if you go by history.

2nd year QB, 2nd year impact players like Riley Ridley, Isaac Nauta, and Mecole Hardman's probable switch to the slot among others. A larger o-line with everyone seemingly settling in to positions for which they are best suited. A LOT of competition coming in at WR (JJ Holloman already seems set to challenge for significant playing time, for example).

Granted, these are still "ifs." If Eason makes the strides that a lot of QBs do from their true freshmen to sophomore years (or, hell, if Jake Fromm somehow beats him out because he's just that good), and if the o-line is more dominant and consistent, and if some WRs step up and become legitimate threats, and if Cheney and staff are able to better identify potential mismatches, etc. and so on.

The best thing, though, is that if nothing else, there is going to be far, far more competition at every spot on the field, especially when the bumper crop of freshmen O-linemen show up in the summer and fall. That's just something that Georgia hasn't had much of in recent years.

Now, here's where some folks chime in with "show me," or, "I've heard this all before. I want to see it on the field." That's certainly fair enough, but as the first game is almost 4 months away, this is all we can go off of for now.

I will say that I haven't been overly optimistic about a Georgia team in several years. I didn't expect much last year (figured we'd beat Vandy, though). I just see a team with more talent and experience, as well as a team where both the coaches and players have a better idea of who they are and what they can be.


  1. ...and if your Grandma had balls she'd have been your Grandpa!

  2. Agree, the defense is rock solid and deep. And we don't face an offense that is going to be able to dominate them. For that reason alone, the offense will be put up more points as they will get us the ball back in better field position. The OL won't be great, but should be improved. Same for receivers. Mecole will be good as an IMAC replacement but there will be some fall off in his first year. You didn't mention kickers or punters, but that is an area of weakness. The grad transfer should help on FGs and kickoffs but while he is statistically better, he hasn't played in an environment like this before. Punting should be slightly better, but still not a strength. I feel 10-2 is the most likely record, could be one up, or one down from that.