Prediction: 11-1 Birth to the College Football BCS Playoffs
First things first: that Lincoln riley comment
I am going to address Oklahoma Head Coach Lincoln Riley's dig at Georgia's offense very briefly to get it out of the way. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy celebrity feuds from time to time. However, seeing that the Sooners do not match up against the Bulldogs in the 2018 regular season, Riley's comment seems less like a weighted shot the Dawgs' SEC defense and more like a Jack Russell Terrier barking at a Labrador from the other side of a metal fence–neither will have to face repercussions for their words in the near, foreseeable future. Let me be clear, I'm not saying Lincoln Riley is a Jack Russell Terrier, but when it doesn't serve to preface a showdown between bitter rivals, trash talk, regardless of its validity, is merely noise that belongs in gossip columns. In fact, Georgia does not have single Big 10 or Big 12 match-up in their regular season.
While the Sooners did manage to put up 48 points against their defense in the 2018 Rose Bowl, the Dawgs still pulled off a 54-48 W in overtime, thanks to the effectiveness of their coaches' game-planning and the dominance of their weaponized offense.
QB Jake Fromm (So.) - Recently injured his non-throwing hand in a wake-boarding accident, but there is little evidence that Kirby Smart will replace him with Justin Fields (Fr.). Fromm's timing with his explosiveness receivers looked off in the spring. This will improve with more reps moving into the fall, as timing with your receivers in the passing game is pivotal for success.
OC Lamont Gaillard (Sr.) - After making an effective transition from the defensive line, Gaillard has been instrumental in leading this highly productive offense,
allowing for the Dawg's running game to rush for 3,876 yards in the 2017 season (1,390 more than in 2016), and has recently been named to the watchlist for the Remington Award. A Dawg Nation favorite for his humility and football IQ, this 6'2", 300-pound Center will undoubtedly be a revered veteran and leader that the Bulldogs will lean on.
RB D'Andre Swift (So.) - As a freshman tailback/all-purpose back, Swift ran for 618 yards and 3 touchdowns on 7.6 yards per carry, not to mention 153 receiving yards and a touchdown on 17 total receptions. Named the No. 10 Running Back in college football by USA Today, the five-foot-nine powerhouse* is expected to be an unstoppable force for the Dawgs.
WR Mecole Hardman Jr (Jr.) - Hardman became a big time play maker and one of Kirby's strongest offensive weapons his Sophomore year in some of UGA's most competitive match-ups. Following his 80-yard TD catch during the 2018 CFB National Championship against Alabama, the 20 year-old receiver is expected to be a top performer this Fall.
WR Terry Godwin (Sr.) - This past year, Georgia lost a number of its star players to the NFL, such as ILB Roquan Smith and DT Trenton Thompson. Luckily, Godwin, remembered this season for his one-handed leaping catch at Notre Dame, will be returning for his senior year, joining several other returning starters to solidify Georgia's receiving core as a dynamic force this season.
CB Deandre Baker (Sr.) - For this lock-down corner, who didn't allow a single touchdown to his receiver throughout the 2017 season, returning to Athens for his senior year is about more than honing his skills and improving his secondary before entering the league. Since the National Championship loss to Alabama this past January, Baker has been highly motivated "to come back and do something great with [his] teammates" by helping to mold much of the young talent of the 2018 Georgia Bulldogs.
DT Tyler Clark (Jr.) - In the 12 games Tyler started this past season, this 6'4", 300-pound D-Tackle from a tiny town in the South of Georgia managed 41 tackles and was also a disruptive force as a pass-blocker. With several top defensive performers lost to the NFL and a cavalry of green athletes in need of solid leadership, there's a lot of pressure on Clark and other returning defensive players to pick up the extra slack against other SEC systems.
S J.R. Reed (Sr.) - Recently named in Athlon's 50 Most Underrated Players, Reed, a Tulsa transfer/redshirt sophomore with little to no name recognition for himself made big waves in his 2017 season with 40 solo tackles (79 total), 5 pass breakups, 6 quarterback pressures, 2 interceptions, a forced fumble and 2 recovered fumbles. As the son of former NFL Receiver Jake Reed, resiliency and a hunger for success run in this ascendant defensive back's blood. Georgia fans should sleep well putting their trust in Reed to lead the Dawgs in the secondary.
K Rodrigo Blankenship (Jr.) - Nicknamed "Hot Rod," Blankenship won hearts across the nation during the postseason for nailing a 55-yard field goal while memorably wearing goggle behind his helmet. Blankenship however, is more than just a fan favorite, as Hot Rod's ability to consistently 30 to 50-yard game-winning field goals will end up being one of Georgia's most solid weapons.
Despite the setback of losing a number of instrumental starters on both sides of the football, Georgia will continue to dominate in their SEC match-ups, which are their primary competition for the regular season.
In fact, many opinion leaders in college football including Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer agree that Georgia is up to par with Alabama, and it's difficult to imagine a CFB Playoff without these to two SEC power houses.
With the amount of both offensive and defensive (and Hot Rod, too) that Kirby Smart has in his artillery, Georgia's regular season will be exciting for fans to watch. However, if the Bulldogs are aiming to claim a National Championship, they will need to focus considerable energy in developing their underclassmen.
In the long run, the UGA football program under Head Coach Kirby Smart has laid a foundation that will separate itself from the rest of the SEC East. It's likely that we will be seeing a lot of the Bulldogs in post-season match-ups for many years to come.
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