Han Vance on Georgia football: 12:42 on Thursday night when I first began to think of talking football to you. I couldn’t fall asleep, even though the MGMT Friday morning work alarm was set for 4:45 a.m.
While the dark side of being a sports socialite is called losing, there are, you could say, fifty shades of gray. Opposing fans, angst, worrying, overspending, heartburn, ticketing and technology snafus, big American college football weekends can definitely go wrong a number of ways, and it is easily overwhelming if you don’t plan it right. While Thursday is the unofficial start of any football weekend – the necessary strategizing and sometimes grueling clock-seems-to-have-stopped anticipation – this is something wholly different.
I guess I just miss football that much right now. After my Dawgs came within a play of eternal glory in my hometown of Atlanta, I’m overly anxious to get back to football. Honestly, synchronized teams with that perfect mix of fresh youth and veteran experience and hunger don’t exactly come around that often. The 2017 SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs had one of the most memorable seasons ever and will go down in history as one of the greatest single-season teams to not win the national championship. By virtue of who the amazing leaders on the team were and the fact that the title slipped away in overtime, to the actively most dominant program and coach in college football history, hard to argue against Georgia’s epic year.
Those Dawgs were special. That was then. This is now. Put a bow on it, because we are starting at square one. That’s the winning attitude Kirby Smart hopes to imbue upon this year’s much younger team. Physicality and toughness, in every sense of the word, at the dawn of a new year. Mark Richt’s key guys are gone, and this is the chance for Kirby to cement his name as an outstanding head football coach, by following up early success with success.
I’ve noticed the top teams not called Bama – who’ve now won 5-of-9 national championships – get over the hump, eventually, by staying at or near the top. Clemson and Ohio State, on the national landscape, regularly appear in the College Football Playoff. Florida State was there near the top for a few years, before Clemson took over the ACC. Oklahoma has been in the CFP a couple of times already, without capturing a recent crown. It’s plainly key to get into the CFP as often as possible and do so by winning your league as often as possible. This is how Kirby establishes a dominant program.
Certainly, nothing detracts from Ol’ Georgia’s latest SEC crown. Can UGA find a way to repeat after a full dozen years between titles? Can Jake Fromm captain the young guys back to Atlanta? Could he have the audacity to win the toughest conference again? With or without winning the league, can he lead Georgia back into the playoff and get another legit crack at winning it all? I think Fromm is the guy to do it, and as such, he is actually the player I’m most excited to see.
Kirby sees a young team looking for an identity, and a player is said to develop most between his freshman and sophomore years. Let’s see that tough kid who got his first career start in week two of a collegiate career, on the road at Notre Dame. Looking for marked progress from him, with a veteran receiving core having to come into its own. This is his team, now.
Think of this: the three brightest QB stars at Georgia under Richt had one close shot apiece at winning it all: Stafford, Greene, Murray. Each came within range of one national championship season. By winning the league and even claiming a top-tier bowl win in Pasadena as a true freshman, though, Fromm is well ahead of the pace of any of the three in terms of team achievement. Stafford struggled as a freshman, after finally winning the starting gig, eventually going number one in the NFL draft. Greene was 13-1 his (redshirt) sophomore year, on his way to the at-the-time most wins in college football history for a starting quarterback. Murray left school with all the SEC passing records, but his redshirt freshman year saw the team struggle mightily when all-world wideout AJ Green got suspended. I’m simply not hearing enough hype around Jake Fromm. The sky is the limit for Georgia for years with young Fromm at the helm.
Spring football is just a taste for the fans, the alumni. A game for the guys to lace them up and run out Between the Hedges and compete. Rabid fans frothing for Elijah Holyfield to finally be unhinged and hammer the rock. Excitement about the number one recruiting class, and of course top recruit Justin Fields.
The wild ride of last season has come to its full conclusion, folks, with this team taking the field and the NFL draft a weekend away. While a mostly new defense post-Roquan is starting it up, the number one and two things Smart has been able to do are recruit well and coach up defenses. Mel Tucker and Kirby will get them ready, regardless of how they look Saturday.
Have to love the direction the program is heading in up front on offense with “The Great Wall of Georgia” continuing to be built. This team will run to win.
Just a little reminder of what it means to be a fan of Georgia, with such a long break of anything real between January and September. It’s nice to have a spring game.
It’s not even summer yet, y’all. And summer seems to drag on forever for a diehard Georgia fan. At least for one sunny day in April, we can say: “It’s Saturday…In Athens!