Georgia Bulldogs’ Reload, Not Rebuild
The defending SEC Champions have their work cut out for them for the upcoming season. The Bulldogs have to replace loads of talent, including one of the best rushing duos college football has every seen. However, people seem to have the wrong idea. This season will be about Georgia’s reload, not rebuild.
The quarterback room is top notch; there is no question in that. Jacob Eason transferred to Washington, but freshman sensation Jake Fromm is returning as the starting quarterback. No college football fan could possibly have gone this far without hearing his name. He took over for Eason once he went down with a knee injury in the first game of the season. Fromm took the team and never looked back. In 2017, he passed for 2,615 yards on an efficient 24:7 touchdown to interception ratio.
Fromm is the starter for 2018 with little doubt, but depth is key in the SEC. Justin Fields provides just that. The five-star quarterback looks to get reps this fall as well. A dual threat, he is far too dynamic to keep off the field. Fans have already seen injuries can happen, like Jacob Eason last season, so Fields will need to be ready. With Fromm taking more strides and getting more freedom and Fields as a second option, Georgia’s passing game has the potential to be lethal.
The legendary duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are gone, and Georgia looks to reload the position again. The Dawgs have gone a long time without a top backfield, and that doesn’t look to change this season. Rising true sophomore D’Andre Swift hopes to be the next great Georgia running back. Last season as a third option, Swift ran for 68 yards on a crazy 7.6 yards per carry, along with three touchdowns. The only question mark with him is if he can hold up while being the number one option, but it could be running back by committee.
Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien are two experienced, more than capable backs. Holyfield has been patient in his time at Georgia. He has had opportunities to transfer but has stayed. He has also been tremendous on the field when given the chance. We have all seen the pictures. The man is a weight room junkie. In 2017, Holyfield did not see much action, but he made the best of it by running for 227 yards on an impressive 7.1 yards per carry. Brian Herrien had a beat up season, being the only back for Georgia to not average a least five yards a carry. Herrien is shifty and has the speed to be a force. His freshman campaign in 2016 was promising, so he looks to pick up the pace in 2018 for his junior season.
Along with talented returnees, Georgia also has a couple highly touted recruits coming in. Four star all purpose back James Cook just recently got to Athens, but he should see the field at least a small amount. Then there is the number one running back from the 2018 class, Zamir White. He is coming off an ACL tear from his senior year, but seems to be making a great recovery to be ready in time for the season. Georgia will only look to reload like they always do in the backfield.
Javon Wims was Jake Fromm’s go-to target last season, but he is the only key contributor the Dawgs lose at receiver. Terry Godwin returns for his senior season and looks to make a name for himself as the next number one guy. Last season, Godwin caught 38 passes for 639 yards. Slot receiver and kick returner, Mecole Hardman, also returns, giving Fromm an electric playmaker. Riley Ridley did not see much action in the first half of the year, but he shined when the lights were brightest in the national championship, even outplaying his NFL bound brother, Calvin.
Javon Wims gave the offense a large red zone threat through fade routes, and Georgia will have to replace that. Upcoming redshirt freshman Matt Landers could just that. Standing at 6’5, Landers provides the perfect candidate to take over Wims’ role. At tight end, former five star Isaac Nauta has struggled to find his footing at the college level, but he has shown bits and pieces of promise. So has Charlie Woerner, even though he is more of a blocker. While the running game finds its groove, the passing game for the SEC champs should be more than capable of covering for it.
Head coach Kirby Smart was onto something when he said a team should be built from the inside out. Him and Sam Pittman are building a brick wall upfront. Georgia loses their top offensive lineman in Isaiah Wynn, but it could still be even better in 2018. Four starters from last season return, and Smart looks to just plug in another five-star in place of Wynn. Lamont Gaillard returns and is on the Outland Trophy watch list.
Guards Soloman Kindley and big man Ben Cleveland also return, along with impressive freshman Andrew Thomas at tackle. The other tackle position is up for grabs. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Wilson has been getting the first team reps as of late, but incoming freshman Cade Mays could see the field also. The offensive line should be a great strength for Georgia this season, and it will surely help with the absence of Chubb and Michel.
With less than a month until kickoff, Georgia has a very interesting D-line situation. There are veteran leaders and potential break out stars. Senior Jonathan Ledbetter has taken over the role as leader of not only his position, but the team as well. He is vocal and experienced, and wants to continue the tradition of “savages”. Junior Tyler Clark came up big in the second half last year, especially in the Rose Bowl and National Championship. His partner in crime, Trenton Thompson, has moved onto the NFL and his hole needs to be filled, so who will step up? Notre Dame graduate transfer Jay Hayes is a solution for the biggest concern at the line, filling holes up front. Junior Julian Rochester is another big body that can fill in for Trenton Thompson. A potential breakout star could easily be five-star Brenton Cox. It will be hard to crack the depth chart, but his athleticism makes it more than possible. He played in every game last year, and is very reliable. Georgia should be in great position to dominate upfront, on both sides of the ball.
Its no secret the linebackers are the biggest question mark for the SEC champs, losing their three best players in Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, and Davin Bellamy. They not only lose talent, but also leadership. Georgia does return their sack leader in Deandre Walker, and experienced but troubled Natrez Patrick. Roquan will be hard to replace, but Monty Rice and Juwan Taylor are talented and capable. Rice led the spring game in tackles with 14. Sophomore Walter Grant reminds Dawg fans of a young Leonard Floyd, and he could make a huge leap this season. Walker and Grant will most likely replace Carter and Bellamy. Georgia has highly touted freshmen coming in everywhere. Five-stars Adam Anderson and Channing Tindall are big and fast bodies. They will both most likely see action. These young kids look to continue the Wolfpack.
The final play of last season will live in fans’ memories forever. Blown coverage to lose the championship is not ideal, and Smart is still not impressed with his secondary. Deandre Baker skipped out on the NFL to return as the group’s leader and as the SEC’s top corner. He even did not give up a touchdown all of 2017. Ballhawk Dominick Sanders is gone and will need to be replaced. Richard Lecounte appeared in 10 games last season, and has spent time in Smart’s doghouse, per se. He will need to get it together in order to start like he did in the spring game. J.R. Reed returns at safety and was more than impressive last season. He solidified himself as a dependable asset to Smart. Malkolm Parrish graduated, but it could be a blessing in disguise. He was small for a corner, which made him an easy target. Tyrique Mcgee appeared in every game last year, even started two, and is a bigger body than Parrish. Him and Baker will make it tough for opposing quarterbacks.
The Georgia Bulldogs are the defending SEC Champions, and the national runner-ups. As everyone knows by now, they have lost a lot of talent, as noted. People have the wrong idea that the Dawgs are rebuilding. Georgia will definitely be back in the playoff hunt. Like head coach Kirby Smart said, “We aren’t going anywhere.”
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