When Kirby Smart arrived in Athens, media and fans alike, pointed toward 2019 as the year the program should begin to reach its immense potential. The Dawgs arrived early and came close to a National Championship in 2017 thanks to the tremendous senior leadership of Bellamy, Carter, Chubb and Michel. In 2018, the Dawgs came close yet again with an incredibly young team and in 2019 are poised to have the perfect mix of experience and young talent. However, to reach the ultimate goal of a National Championship the Dawgs must improve
Scheme to Push the Tempo On Offense
Jake Fromm is incredibly intelligent and Coach Coley needs to take full advantage of having an experienced signal caller, essentially a coach on the field. The best way to do that is by allowing him to get to the line of scrimmage quickly and check the offense into the correct play. In his two years in Athens, Fromm has shown glimpses of how explosive the offense can be when given the opportunity to go up tempo. With the departure of Jim Chaney, Coley now has the opportunity to put his fingerprints on the UGA offense. There is no need for a complete overhaul but tweaks are definitely needed. The biggest is preparing the offense to play with tempo. That doesn’t mean the Dawgs have to always play uptempo, but they need to be prepared to push the pace when they sense the defense is on its heels.
Find a Killer Instinct in Big Games
This is as much for the coaching staff as it is for the players. The University of Georgia football program needs to find a killer instinct in big games. In games against rivals Florida, Tennessee and Auburn who the Dawgs were clearly more talented than in 2018, the Dawgs put their foot on their throat and did not let off. However, when it came to the SEC Championship the Dawgs had the Crimson Tide on the ropes and took their foot off the gas pedal on offense. Instead of continuing to attack a struggling Crimson Tide defense the Dawgs became more concerned with running clock. With every lift in the weight room, every team run leading into spring practice the Dawgs need to compete and build that killer instinct.
Scheme to Get After the Quarterback
Since Kirby Smart arrived in Athens his mentality has been to “stop the run on the way to the quarterback”. That philosophy led to the Dawgs only having 24 sacks on the 2018 season. For comparison’s sake, Alabama had 45. Some of that was certainly due to personnel limitations, but in 2019 those limitations should disappear. With a year under their belts, Brenton Cox, Adam Anderson and B.J. Ojulari showed flashes of their potential in limited playing time. And newcomers Nolan Smith and Jermaine Johnson are poised to explode onto the scene. However, for this unit to reach their potential, the coaching staff needs to let them pin their ears back when the situation calls for it. If Kirby & Co. make that decision, the Dawgs have the talent to go from 12th in SEC in sacks to the top spot.
Get Stronger and More Physical in Secondary
In 2018, the most physical player in the secondary for the Bulldogs was Deandre Baker. He was consistently more physical than the man he lined up across from. The Bulldogs need more than just one player in the secondary who can win those physical battles against top competition. During the offseason strength and conditioning program I would argue that this unit as a whole needs to add the most strength. It was no more clear than against the big wide receivers and physical running quarterback of Texas in the Sugar Bowl – it was men against boys. The continued development of Stokes and Campbell will help as would the emergence of Otis Reese. Also, the addition of Tyrique Stevenson and Lewis Cine in the Class of 2019 should provide a boost.
As previously mentioned, a major reason the Dawgs arrived early to the National Championship game in 2017 was because of tremendous leadership. In 2018, the Dawgs had good leadership but it was not to the same level as 2017. In 2019, the leadership needs to return to the level of the 2017 team. Winter workouts are the perfect time for the corp leadership group to emerge. Names that come to mind instantly are Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift, Jeremiah Holloman, Andrew Thomas, Malik Herring, Tyler Clark, Monty Rice and Richard LeCounte. The difference in good and great leadership could make the difference between the Dawgs reaching their ultimate goal or coming up short again.
What areas do you think the Dawgs must improve in 2019 to finally bring a National Championship trophy back to Athens?