Georgia has been the most impressive program in Hoover from head coach Kirby Smart to running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel along with LB Roquan Smith. Here’s where Media Days media types will either go all-in or stay away from the Georgia Bulldogs in their vote for the top spot in the East. The most talented team in the division can also be at times one of the more unpredictable squads in the league. I find myself smack dab in the middle when considering the Dawgs as number one in the East. Ten starters return from the nation’s 16th ranked defense in 2016. QB Jacob Eason is a rising star and has the SEC’s best one-two running back punch in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Kirby Smart’s first year produced an 8-5 record which includes a 31-23 Liberty Bowl win over TCU. Simply stated, another 7-5 type season with all that skill won’t cut the mustard in Athens, Georgia. For the record, I don’t see a middling record for the Dawgs in 2017.
-Head Coach: Kirby Smart, 8-5 at Georgia.
-2016 Record: 8-5, beat TCU 31-23 in Liberty Bowl.
-Opener: Appalachian State
Loaded. That’s the only word accurate enough to describe the Bulldog backfield that includes sophomore QB Jacob Eason (2430-yards, 16 TD’s), RB Nick Chubb (1130-yards, 8 TD’s), and RB Sony Michel (840-yards, 4 TD’s). Tight ends Isaac Nauta (29-receptions, 3 TD’s) and Jeb Blazevich provide another dimension to offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s run and passing game. The Dawgs are lacking a proven deep threat at receiver. WR Terry Goodwin (38 receptions, 0 TD’s) is the team’s top returning pass catcher. No other receiver is listed in team’s top three reception leaders. LT Isaiah Wynn is talented and will anchor an offensive that lost three starters and at times struggled in 2016.
Eight returning starters in year two of Jim Chaney’s system could take on a much different look. Georgia could win the East if it can get consistent offensive line play and find a receiver to take the top off defenses that are assuredly going to load the box to stop Chubb and Michel.
Returning Statistical Leaders
-Returning Starters: 8
-Passing: Jacob Eason-204/370, 2430-yards, 16 TD’s, 8 INT’s
-Rushing: Nick Chubb-224 carries, 1130-yards, 8 TD’s
-Receiving: Terry Goodwin-38 catches, 397-yards
2016 Offensive Results
-Scoring 24.5 ppg (SEC-11th)
-Rushing 191.2 ypg (SEC-9th)
-Passing 193.5 ypg (SEC-10th)
-Total 384.7 ypg (SEC-11th)
What if I told you that the best week one SEC defense resided in Athens, Georgia instead of Tuscaloosa, Alabama? I’m not saying that’s so, but I’m also not saying it’s not. Ten starters return from the conference’s 4th rated defense a year ago. Ten, let that sink in for a minute especially when considering the level of talent that resides within its depth chart. DT Trenton Thompson (5-sacks, 4.5 TFL) leads a deep defensive line that will play in front of one of the best linebacker corps in the country. That group is led by ILB Roquan Smith (95-tackles), ILB Natrez Patrick (59-tackles), OLB Lorenzo Carter (44 tackles, 5 sacks) and OLB Davin Bellamy (51 tackles, 5 sacks).
The secondary will be directed by senior safety Dominick Sanders who is coming off a 34-tackle, 1 sack, 7 pass-breakups, and team-leading three interceptions.
Returning Statistical Leaders
-Starters Returning: 10
-Tackles: Roquan Smith-95
-QB Sacks: Trenton Thompson-5, Lorenzo Carter-5
-Interceptions: Dominick Sanders–3
2016 Defensive Results
-Scoring 24 ppg (SEC-5th)
-Rushing 143.7 ypg (SEC-4th)
-Passing 183.8 ypg (SEC-2nd)
-Total 327.5 ypg (SEC-4th)
IMPACT ON KENTUCKY
Georgia upset Kentucky a year ago in Kroger Field. Yes, I said upset. Kentucky was at the time a better team; UGA was the more talented. The Dawgs go to Auburn the week prior to UK’s visit between the hedges. Depending on how things break, this game could have an impact on the divisional race.