Why not us? That’s been the big question for die hard Bulldogs dreaming the biggest of dreams for the Georgia football program. Refreshingly, Kirby Smart has asked the same question. It is Georgia’s time to rise.
Alabama, Florida and LSU have won multiple national championships in the 21st century. Auburn won a national championship and played for another in the 2010s. Florida State won it all in 2014. Clemson, with a Heisman finalist quarterback from Gainesville, Ga., played for the big prize this past season.
It would be one thing if it was Michigan, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Texas and Oklahoma doing all this damage. But it’s Georgia’s rivals and neighbors. So why not the Bulldogs?
Smart’s arrival and the energy, excitement and enthusiasm around the program has been electric.
Longtime, legendary high school football coach Billy Henderson, when building Clarke Central of Athens into a powerhouse had a simple slogan, “it can be done.”
That’s as applicable as “why not us?”
Everything is in place for Georgia to consistently be amongst the nation’s best. There is history, tradition, money, the support system and of course, the fertile recruiting grounds of the state of Georgia.
Both Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban, two of the greatest coaches in Southeastern Conference and college football history, both said what many have thought, that Georgia is either the best, or second best job in the league.
The Bulldogs have been good and very good, and occasionally great. But consistent greatness, elusive and being sought by all the country’s premier programs, it is within Georgia’s grasp.
Dare to be great.
Rebuilding the Bulldogs depth and talent base is at the top of Georgia’s to-do list. Taking the recruiting from good to very good to occasionally great — sound familiar — to consistently great is a must. There’s no reason, with the talent in this state and all of the Bulldogs resources that Georgia can’t consistently clean up.
The Bulldogs are on their way.
Smart’s initial class, much of it having already committed to Mark Richt and his staff, goes down as one of the most successful first year crops in SEC annals. The foundation for a lights out 2017 class is in the works. And so on.
Georgia’s football future is supernova bright … the boldest of gridiron dreams; they are within the Bulldogs’ grasp.
As for this season … there are a lot of question marks.
Despite all of the questions, it is realistic that Georgia can contend for a spot in the SEC Championship Game, beat Tech, and have a legitimate chance to win each and every Saturday.
But back to the questions.
At quarterback, who will the starter be? Will the starter in the Georgia Dome for the season opener against North Carolina be the planned signal caller throughout the season? This is a second straight campaign that the Bulldogs have been unsure who the quarterback will be, which is par for the course around the SEC the last two years. But true freshman Jacob Eason is here, took part in spring practice, and is in the spotlight. Do the Dogs roll with Eason out of the gate?
The biggest question mark is the health of Nick Chubb. He and Sony Michel are a dynamic one-two punch, amongst the country’s best. Take Michel out of the picture, and Georgia is a 6-6 team a year ago with a pair of embarrassing in-state losses. Michel and Chubb healthy together give the Bulldogs the juice to overcome a lot of issues and have a special season. Great tailbacks cure a lot of ills.
At receiver last season, there were two consistent threats, fifth year senior Malcolm Mitchell, now a New England Patriot, and rising sophomore Terry Godwin. There were some recruiting misses in between, obviously. So who will start opposite Godwin? There are true freshmen and returnee candidates, but a big question.
Once again the offensive line is a major concern. It was a consistent Achilles heel in the Mark Richt era, and rebuilding the front is the top priority on the recruiting trail. Georgia is expecting Tyler Catalina, a graduate transfer from Rhode Island to start. True freshman blue chip early enrollee Ben Cleveland could as well.
Newcomers starting up front, luxuries . . . not necessities. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman is one of the best in the business. With the position a top priority and Pittman’s expertise, by 2018, Georgia might be heading into the season with one of the league’s best offensive lines. But this season, there are a lot of questions.
Defensively, the Bulldogs must replace six of seven starters up front. There are heavily recruited players who got their feet wet as true freshmen, but will they emerge as front line standouts in 2016? Will Lorenzo Carter fulfill his potential displayed as a freshman in 2014 and rebound from a sophomore slump?
The secondary is in good shape, but will another play-maker with stellar ball skills emerge next to Dominick Sanders, one of the SEC’s top turnover creators.
Then there is special teams, which has been a constant state of angst for years in Athens. This too is a top priority for Smart and his staff. Bringing Shane Beamer in was a coupe. His father Frank carved out a Hall of Fame career as Virginia Tech’s longtime legendary coach, with the kicking game his calling card. Again, like with the offensive line, there are a lot of questions, like who will kick? But the plan is, say heading into 2018, for Georgia to have one of the SEC’s best kicking games.
As for the schedule … with all of these questions, three of the first four are away from home, including road tests for the first two SEC games, at Missouri and Ole Miss. That’s not easy. Then SEC East favorite Tennessee comes to Athens. And so on. It’s always tough in the rugged SEC, so it’s not like there will ever be an easy path. Plus Tech is always buzzing about, aiming to break Bulldog hearts.
Elite teams thrive by conquering the greatest of challenges.
Georgia is on rocket fuel, and building a roster to the full potential of this potential giant of a program is underway, with the end result the realization of grand dreams and promise.
There are a lot of questions for this year though.
Follow Jeff Dantzler on Twitter at @jeffdantzlertv