In year three, the Dawgs roster under Kirby Smart is one of the deepest ever assembled, and certainly the biggest.
When Kirby Smart was announced as Georgia’s new head football coach in December of 2015, there was a long to-do list on the agenda in the pursuit to make his alma mater the best football program in the country.
Whether it is recruiting – top prospects, top assistant coaches, or juniors to return – development of talent, the numerous upgrades in facilities and the thousands of “little things” that go into building a championship program, Smart’s relentless drive has the Bulldog faithful rightfully dreaming that we are squarely in the early stages of a long, golden era of Georgia football.
Not that there was a severe lack of frontline talent at Georgia – just check out a slew of NFL rosters, and Smart inherited Sony Michel, Roquan Smith, Nick Chubb and other standouts who helped lead the Bulldogs to the 2017 Southeastern Conference title – but there were some deficient areas that were a must to address for the Bulldogs to get over the hump. At the top of the list, the offensive line and special teams.
Smart, after working so long as Nick Saban’s defensive architect and ace recruiter at Alabama, knew first hand that Georgia needed to greatly improve the overall depth of talent in the program. In doing so, Smart not only had to get Georgia better. The Bulldogs needed to get bigger.
Back to Smart’s arrival, this was the season most fans were really looking towards as the first where Georgia would be a championship contender under his watch. It was assumed, back then, that Michel and Chubb would do what most great tailbacks do, turn pro after their junior year. Alas, their return for a senior season of rectifying and restoring order combined with the elevation of Smith’s play from outstanding to “all-timer,” helped key one of the most memorable seasons in Georgia lore.
Now, as we stand ready to kick off 2018, there are questions about who Georgia must replace, and their experience, savvy, wisdom, buts, moxie and of course phenomenal ability. Because of that, this season, the one where Georgia was supposed to initially re-emerge on the national scene, has the Bulldogs flying in a little bit under the radar. If you can consider a preseason rank of Nos. 3 and 4 “under the radar.”
But a lot of national pundits are anxious to see if the Bulldogs can produce a cameo.
Last season was great, the last two recruiting classes and the way the Bulldogs are stockpiling talent for the Class of ’19, Georgia should be great in 2019 and 2020. But what about 2018? This is where the depth from Georgia’s top flight recruiting should really show.
It would be a stretch to imagine a defender having the kind of season Smith had, or two of the running backs providing the punch of Michel and Chubb. And Swift, who is now the lead dog.
But the roster, one through 50 or 60 say, is one of the deepest Georgia has ever assembled.
And it is certainly the biggest.
Georgia’s highly acclaimed recruiting class of 2017, the consensus third best in the country, featured 24 prospects. Of that total, 22 of the signees were at least 6-0. The talented crop featured 14 players over 200 pounds. Where it really showed was the offensive front, the area where Georgia had to get better, deeper and bigger, and quickly. Andrew Thomas (6-5, 285), Isaiah Wilson (6-8, 354), Netori Johnson (6-4, 325), Justin Shaffer (6-4, 330) and Demarcus Hayes (6-5, 320) tipped the scales, literally and figuratively, in the trenches.
Following up that class and the special season of 2017 with one of the most highly touted recruiting crops in Georgia annals, the Bulldogs signees of 2018 checked all the boxes. This class was the consensus best in the country, and Georgia’s best since at least 1998 (that featured the younger Stinchcomb, Bailey and Edwards).
Of Georgia’s 24 freshmen this season, 23 are at least 6-0. From that group, 16 are at least 6-3. And how about this is the trenches: Cade Mays (6-5, 300), Owen Condon (6-7, 270), Warren Ericson (6-4, 290), Trey Hill (6-4, 330), and Jamaree Salyer (6-4, 306) give the Bulldogs a second straight class of highly touted behemoths on the offensive front. Georgia’s two defensive tackles, Jordan Davis (6-6, 320) and Devonte Wyatt (6-3, 300) give the Bulldogs newcomer talent, size and power up front on the stop unit.
As for the Bulldogs upcoming class of 2019, which is rated amongst the best in the country again, there is talent, and yes, a plethora of big size (see more on the 2019 class on page 51).
Smart’s Dogs are recruiting and developing, in the classroom, on the field, and in the weight room.
This is indeed a new breed of Bulldog being unleashed, where the 2018 goal of Georgia football is not just to rebuild, but to reload, and get another shot at the title.