My outlook on the 2018 Georgia Bulldogs

Published 4:17 pm Friday, July 20, 2018

Since I’ve started this season’s series of preview articles for my favorite high school team, the Bainbridge Bearcats, I wanted to give a lookover of my favorite college football team (and favorite athletic team, period), the Georgia Bulldogs.

We are entering Kirby Smart’s third year as head coach up in Athens, and if the team’s progress from 2016 to 2017 is any indication of a trend, fans should buckle up for a fantastic season.

Lots of pundits and talking heads want to point to the talented list of recent graduates that Georgia had as a setback. Stars like Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter, Roquan Smith and Isaiah Wynn are gone, and there will never be another version of them to ever grace the field at Sanford Stadium on Saturdays. But there will be others like them, and there may be some better than them.

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Kirby has made clear the importance of good leadership. He is such a master of developing championship mindsets in his players, and setting up expectations that are not only met, but exceeded. I have the utmost confidence that Georgia will not see a setback in leadership this season. Jonathon Ledbetter, Tony Godwin, Jake Fromm and Deandre Baker are just a few of the big names who have played their hearts out for the Dawgs, and who will pick up the torches left by those of yesterseason.

The pressure to win the SEC East and eventually the SEC Championship is very real for Georgia. I loved Kirby’s perspective on that pressure at SEC Media Days this week.

“Pressure is a privilege,” he said.

That’s so true. When that kind of pressure builds up, it’s because the expectations are there. We know Georgia has elite players, a brilliant coaching staff and an upwards trajectory that has opponents across the country shaking in their cleats. The pieces are in place. Now it’s up to Georgia to show everyone else they belong in the conversation. That’s pressure, indeed, and it should not be taken for granted.

The Dawgs offense will lean a little more toward the passing game this season, I think. With catchers like Tony Godwin, Mecole Godwin, Riley Ridley and Cal transfer Demetris Roberson on the roster, I expect to see Jake Fromm connecting with all of them for huge plays. The ground game won’t take a step back, either. D’Andre Swift is a sophomore, and combines his natural talent with the knowledge and leadership left behind from Chubb and Michel. Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien are studs as well, and I think Georgia’s two elite freshmen, Zamir White and James Cook, are going to prove themselves worthy of Georgia’s nickname of RBU.

As exciting as Georgia’s offense should be, defense is where I’m most curious to watch. A lot of great players are gone, and a lot of great players are stepping up to fill that void. I expect the young buck Brenton Cox to get some early playing time on the line of scrimmage, but the rest of the defensive line has me a little antsy. At linebacker, I’d like to see Natrez Patrick, who routinely found himself in trouble last season, make the most of his new opportunities and become a vocal and strong leader. But it’s the defensive backs I’m most excited about. Richard LeCounte, Deandre Walker, freshman Tyson Campbell, J.R. Reed and maybe one or two more surprise players has me drooling for a full-on pass game lockdown unit.

This is Georgia’s “SWAT” team. After the infamous 2nd-and-26 situation the Dawgs found themselves in at the National Championship, I have a feeling Kirby and these players will do everything in their power to keep receivers covered in a blanket of red and black.

Special teams should be one of Georgia’s strongest areas, just as it was last season. Rodrigo Blankenship returns for his junior season, and will continue to kick the ball a mile. He’s become a college football icon, at this point, and one of my favorite Dawgs of all time.