The SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs have some roster shifting, coming off an excellent, upper-class-dominated 13-2 campaign. Questions begin to be answered in Athens the spring.
- HAMMER THE ROCK – Establishing sophomore D’Andre Swift at feature runner will be key for Georgia this spring with the greatest rushing duo in NCAA history departing Athens for the NFL, but the rest of the cupboard is far from bare. With heavy doses of Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien, Swift won’t get overworked. James Cook (Dalvin Cook’s little brother) and the injured Zamir White are on deck.
- HAWK IT UP – Stellar transfer J. R. Reid at safety and lockdown senior corner Deandre Baker provide an established cornerstone for young talent like Richard LeCounte to emerge as ball hawks, attempting to fill big shoes of starts and stats leader Dom Sanders. Mel Tucker’s defense is predicated on making big plays on the ball. LeCounte played some in 2017, but now the other young guys will also get a real shot in the defensive backfield.
- GREAT WALL OF GEORGIA – The Dawgs offensive line is where you’ll see the biggest impact of the past two top-flight recruiting classes. Talent is pouring and no position has its two-deep set. O-line guru Sam Pittman took in a complete line as part of this haul’s No. 1 recruiting class
- ATTACK THE BALL – Wide receiver Riley Ridley flourished as a freshman playing with Jacob Eason, then had some spark moments but not much catch production with Jake Fromm. Getting them in synch is key, as last year’s number one Javon Wims and his range and glue-hands are gone. Jeremiah Holloman will have a shot to shine on the edge, while Ahkil Crumpton slips into the slot a la “Joystick.” After making some of the biggest plays in Georgia history, Terry Godwin readies for more. Mecole Hardman came on but must avoid drops that plagued him earlier in 2017. Jake Fromm will be without Chubb and Sony, and he loves to throw 60-40 and 50-50 balls that guys have to really attack to get.
- SPREAD IT AROUND – Sure, all eyes are on Fromm as he enters the spring in complete command of the oftense. Isaac Nauta’s potential reemergence as a consistent pass catcher – with more balls to go around after player matriculation – could become the security blanket Fromm needs to take it to the next level, with more passing. It’s hard to forget Nauta’s talent and what he did when given the chance as a freshman. Swift is an excellent route runner and receiver, whose role in the passing game can grow.
- SHAKE IT OFF – The overtime loss in Atlanta has been called Georgia’s most painful event, by some. As new leaders take the reins, a solid blend of optimism and realism must spread through the ranks. Physicality and toughness are the standards. When teams lose an award-winning middle linebacker that could make all the plays in a running duo that could dominate teams, and natural production/leadership void occurs, that must be filled. This is the time period Kirby Smart may be most remembered for the head coach, as early successes can often be fleeting. The Bulldog faithful now get to see a football team lead by almost all his talented recruits.
- SHORE UP THE MIDDLE – The softer schedule is such that Mel Tucker’s defense can have time to gel, but replacing Roquan Smith, John Atkins, Trent Thompson, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy – all with younger players who’ve been in more subordinate roles – will clearly be tough. Spring is key for player development, and Tucker too has a chance to cement his legacy by filling the right pieces into place, for Kirby.