The 2017 football campaign is finally here. March 21 marks the official start of year two of the Kirby Smart era as spring football practice begins for Georgia. Whether the team made news with their impressive 2017 recruiting class, opening the new indoor athletic facility, or the talk of Coach Smart’s way of doing things, Georgia football kept fans intrigued this offseason. One thing is for sure; Georgia is pushing the limits and showing the rest of the SEC they’re ready to compete.
CHANGES, CHANGES AND MORE CHANGES
Georgia unveiled its new Indoor Athletic Facility (IAF) on February 14. The Athletic Association held a grand opening ceremony that included a tour of the $30.2 million dollar project. Carl Parks, UGA alumnus, current Athens Touchdown Club President, long time UGA sports supporter and a member of the Magill Society recently touched on the IAF.
“One really has to go inside and experience this magnificent edifice to appreciate it,” Parks said. “The grand opening was a special opportunity for Magill Society members to do that, and we are rewarded with jaw-dropping sight lines and impressive technology”
Parks also commented about the importance of the facility.
“Listening to the comments by current and former players, recruits and coaches, it’s obvious how important the IAF will be to enhancing our on-field success, even in ways most of us haven’t contemplated,” Parks explains. “Those comments also make me realize how much we’ve missed those benefits for the last five years, while most all of our opponents have had that competitive advantage.”
Another renovation the UGA Athletic Association set in motion is the West End Zone project at Sanford Stadium. By Georgia adding this project to the mix, it gives coaches another selling point for recruits and their parents. By the 2018 football season, Georgia football will have amenities to take official recruiting visits to another level.
“The West End Zone project is another giant step forward and will strengthen our recruiting, provide state-of-the-art locker rooms and amenities for our team as well as a big investment in the fans’ game day experience,” Parks said. “As great as all this is, we seem to always be playing catch up. With the Magill Society model and success, I hope we can have an aggressive and comprehensive facilities plan which will in short order become the envy of our competition.”
YEAR TWO OF SMART AND CO. WITH A NUCLEUS OF EXPERIENCE AND TALENT
After an 8-5 finish last season, some fans showed some skepticism towards the Kirby Smart hire. However, year two for new coaches seems to be when they shine. To start his second season at the helm, Smart and his staff nailed down the number three recruiting class in the nation. By doing this, Smart proves he knows what he wants and how to get the players to buy into the new way of Georgia football.
“Coach Kirby Smart and his staff made a tremendous start with our exceptional top three ranked 2017 recruiting class,” Parks said. “I am very excited about the direction of our football program. 2017 should be an opportunity to win the SEC East and provide a platform for SEC and CFB championship seasons between the hedges in the near future.”
When Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Lorenzo Carter, and Davin Bellamy announced they would return for their senior season, fans noticed. Parks weighed in on the significance of the four staying and what it means to the future of the program.
“Those four young men are great players and just as important they will provide essential on and off-the-field leadership for our many emerging young stars like Mecole Hardman and our truly exceptional freshman class,” Parks said.” Hardman is a game changer and playmaker in the manner of Isaiah McKenzie. I expect a true freshman to seasoned sophomore breakout year for QB Jacob Eason.”
While the return of the Big Four for their senior year is excellent for this season, it has certainly elevated the expectations of the Bulldog Nation. However, all indications point to Smart continuing to implement his process into the Georgia program and taking it a step higher in year two.
SIC’EM 17 … THE CLASS OF THE FUTURE
The 2017 Georgia football recruiting class goes down as one of the best-recruiting classes in modern Georgia football history. The class donned the name Sic’Em 17, and the recruits called themselves savages. 2017 became a class of another level when Richard LeCounte III let the Bulldog Nation know the class would make history.
Sic’Em 17 completed with a total of 26 signees and ranked No. 3 in the nation, according to rivals.com. Georgia has not landed a top-three team signing class since 2002.
Not surprisingly, the 2017 class continues to receive rave reviews from the Georgia fan base.
Long time Georgia fan, Steve Burnett from Roswell weighed in on whom he believed would make a contribution early. “I would expect Jeremiah Holloman and D’Marcus Hayes to contribute right away” Burnett said.
Burnett’s favorite recruit is Richard LeCounte. “He is a Georgia boy that bleeds red and black, and he was the “pied piper” of this class,” Burnett said. “Meaning he was an active as any member of Kirby’s staff when it came to recruiting this 2017 class.”
Lucas Rogers, a student, and Bulldawg Illustrated recruiting analyst weighed in as well. “I think D’Marcus Hayes steps into a great position to take the starting left tackle spot and with him being a junior college transfer, he already had a little of a head start,” Rogers said. “But from the high schoolers that were early enrollees, I would say, DeAngelo Gibbs. He has a good chance to contribute with his size and athleticism.
And how about these bold predictions about the 2017 class…
“J.J. Holloman will be Georgia’s most explosive receiver by the end of his freshman season,” Burnett said. “Holloman goes for over 500 yards receiving and about 4 TD’s,” Rogers predicted. “And I like Richard LeCounte, just the way he is a leader for this class is amazing,” he said. “He has that alpha dog mentality. I would not bet against him in anything.”
“I expect to see a significant impact from DeAngelo Gibbs,” Drake Jennings (from Cumming) said. “I know he can play any spot on the field and I am excited to see where we play him and how he will contribute. And Robert Beal will lead the team in sacks.”
The 2017 class as a whole also can make a statement for the future of Georgia football. The recruits from this class are setting a precedent for future classes and what Coach Kirby Smart wants to bring to the program.
“This class is a new beginning for Georgia football,” Rogers said. “The thing is there can’t be just this amazing class and then mediocre classes after this. You have to keep up the recruiting to make sure you build depth. Depth is critical but Georgia is off to a great start under Kirby, and I think it will continue.”
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