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2015 Fierce 40 Previews: #11 Georgia

by DJ Boyer on Sep. 5, 2015

#11 Georgia Bulldogs

 

2014 Recap:

Georgia looked poised to win the SEC east but came up short finishing 10-3 after a 37-14 victory over Louisville in the Belk Bowl. An early season stumble against South Carolina looked like it had been rectified after a shutout win against Missouri and a hard fought win against Arkansas. Georgia suffered a setback against Florida and lost a heartbreaker in OT to close the year with Georgia Tech. The highlight had to be the 34-7 trouncing of Auburn at home.

Coaching:

Mark Richt has become on the elite coaches in college football with a 135-48 record in his 14 years at Georgia. Georgia has been to a bowl game every year Richt has been at the helm, and he has five division titles and a pair of SEC titles to his name. Richt turns the keys to the offense over to Brian Schottenheimer who has served as the offensive coordinator for a few NFL teams over the last 10 years. Jeremy Pruitt leads a defense that was 17th overall and 5th against the pass in 2014.

 

Offensive Analysis

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

All seemed well for Brice Ramsey to be the starting quarterback for Georgia. At the time this article was written no official announcement has been handed down regarding the starter, but the money is on Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert. Lambert has a full two years of eligibility, but since he has already graduated from Virginia no wait was necessary, and he can begin the season as the starter. Ramsey has competition from Falton Bauta and Jacob Park as well, but this job should go to the fast-rising Lambert or the aforementioned Ramsey. Ramsey appeared in eight games last season with Fauta in three. Ramsey went 24-39-3-2 333 while Fauta was 4-5-0-0 48. At Virginia, Lambert was 154-261-10-11-1632. Lambert didn’t have the receivers or the offense behind him he will have in Georgia, so if he is the starters expect those skewed numbers to rise.

It doesn’t matter who throws the ball. As is the case with most Georgia teams, it matters who the ball carrier is. When Todd Gurley went down due to injury, and then NCAA sanctions freshman Nick Chubb stepped in and responded with 1,594 and 14 touchdowns including eight consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. The backup Michael Sony averaged 6.4 YPC and had over 400 on the ground himself. Throw in the fact that Georgia may have the best pure fullback at the NCAA level this season in Quayvon Hicks, and you have the makings of a fantastic backfield. Chubb may be only a sophomore, but he if he replicates his freshman season he may get an invitation to the Downtown Athletic Club around Heisman time.

Best Draft Prospect: Nick Chubb RB 1st Round 2017 (if he declares, part of the 2018 draft class).

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

The Bulldogs did lose their top duo of pass catchers from 2014, but no member of this team caught over 40 passes. There were eight players who had at least 10 receptions on the season, so the ball was spread around nicely, as the run game set up the pass effectively. Malcolm Mitchell is the top threat at receiver, as he has a fifth season with the Bulldogs after injuries in the past have cost him some time. Mitchell missed nearly all of 2013 with a torn ACL but rebounded last season with 31-248-3. The “Human Joystick” Isaiah McKenzie and all 5’7” 170 pounds of him will serve as a starter and should still be used in the return game where he was dynamite a season ago. Expect Mckenzie to split time with Justin Scott-Wesley at receiver, but sophomore Jeb Blazevich should be turning the corner and become the Bulldogs' top receiving target this season.

The 250-pound tight end went 18-269-2 as a freshman and can stretch the field with the best tight ends in the SEC. Behind Blazevich you have Jay Rome who has started at Georgia in the past and will have plenty of NFL consideration despite not technically being the starter at Georgia.

Best Draft Prospect: Jeb Blazevich TE 3rd Round 2018.

 

Offensive Line:

You don’t produce the quality of running backs you see at Georgia without some assemblance of a great offensive line. John Theus and Greg Pyke look like All-Conference blockers at left tackle and right guard respectively. Theus and Pyke are the lone starting 300-pounders up front, as Georgia has gotten smaller and more athletic by choice. Kolton Houston will start at right tackle where he has made 19 consecutive starts since taking over during the middle of the 2013 season.

Brandon Kublanow is coming off a great sophomore season at left guard while Isaiah Wynn takes over for the departed David Andrews at center. Pass protection may be a bit inconsistent, but this could be the best run-blocking line we see coming into the start of the season in the SEC. Youngsters Dyshon Sims and Patrick Allen will be some of the younger players that will see time and take over the reigns as starters come 2016 or if pressed into service due to injury this season.

Best Draft Prospect: John Theus OT 3rd Round 2016.

 

Defensive Analsys

Defensive Line:

The 3-4 defensive front for Georgia is one with big beefy guys who mainly try to occupy blockers and make holes and gaps for linebackers to make plays with run blitzes. John Atkins steps in as a sophomore, starting up front at defensive tackle, although we could see him move to the end position at some point during the year. Newcomer Trent Thompson is waiting in the wings, and at 320 he is more of a natural nose tackle. Sterling Bailey and James DeLoach comprise the starting ends for this team. Josh Dawson is another end that will be pushing for playing time, as he got into the act late in the season and made 17 tackles with four for loss and a sack in a limited number of snaps. With Chris Mayes and Chauncey Rivers joining in up front, it is possible that Georgia may not have a set starting three along the line. Players should rotate in and out on a regular basis, so depth and experience will not be an issue by midseason when the Bulldogs get into the teeth of their SEC slate.

Best Draft Prospect: John Atkins DT UFA 2016.

 

Linebackers:

Not many teams at the FBS level can boast a 1st round linebacker prospect, and Georgia has two. Jordan Jenkins was third on the team in tackles a year ago and is the top returning tackler with 70. Jenkins added 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks to go along with an astounding 23 quarterback hurries. Jenkins elected to come back to Georgia for his senior season, as Leonard Floyd elected to come back for his junior campaign. Floyd carried a 1st/2nd round grade last season as a draft eligible sophomore. Floyd had 8.5 tackles for loss with a total of six sacks. Floyd is a pure pass rusher and may be the absolute best at his craft at the FBS level.

Tim Kimbrough and Reggie Carter will be the new inside linebackers, and as reserves last season they combined for 60 tackles. Both are more run-stuffing specialists and they take over for a pair of NFL picks from last season in Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson. As long as the middle of the front seven holds true, Georgia should once again be a top 25 defense and become a balanced unit.

Best Draft Prospect: Leonard Floyd LB 1st Round 2016 (if he declares, part of the 2017 draft class).

 

Secondary:

All four of the players in the secondary started at least four games last season for Georgia, and between all parties they should pick up for the loss of Damian Swann. Swann was one of the most underrated cornerbacks in our opinion over the last two years of his Bulldog career. Aaron Davis and Malkum Parrish have some questions surrounding them as far as consistency and not biting on play action. Usually safeties are a larger concern with play action, but we saw the Georgia corners bite on this too often last year. Davis has the athleticism needed for the next level, but as a sophomore he seems to still be working on fine tuning his game. Parrish is also a sophomore, so Georgia did put a lot of trust in these players as freshman. Quincy Mauger and Dominick Sanders seemed very opportunistic last season with seven interceptions as a duo, but they, like the starting cornerbacks, are not seniors and are still growing as players. Mauger is a junior and seems to offer the most NFL upside at this time.

Best Draft Prospect: Quincy Mauger S 5th Round 2017.

 

Special Teams

Marshall Morgan is one of the 2-3 kickers who has an excellent chance of getting drafted for 2016. Morgan did not have a stellar 2014 campaign, but he has made a number of big kicks for Georgia and is not easily rattled. Collin Barber is back at punter, giving the Bulldogs senior starters at the kicking positions. Isaiah McKenzie took three returns for touchdowns a season ago with a pair coming on punts and another on a kickoff making McKenzie the most dangerous return man in the conference. McKenzie is too good not to have returning kicks even if he is a full-time starter at wide receiver. Kick returns against Georgia only averaged 19.2 YPR, and the punts were a measly 4.7. Both marks were near the top of the conference, as Georgia won the special teams battles in most of their games.

Best Draft Prospect: Marshall Morgan K 7th Round 2016.

 

2015 Schedule

 

Georgia looks poised to be 4-0 by the time they meet Alabama on October 3rd. The Alabama game is one that is at home for Georgia, and if the Bulldogs win they could be in the running for the conference title and a BCS or College Playoff birth. Missouri will be a home game and Georgia will have to take care of Auburn on the road, a game that may not be so easy after Auburn got dumped by Georgia last season. The quarterback doesn’t have to pass for a crazy amount of yards and break a ton of records. The quarterback needs to hold onto the ball and let the Georgia running backs do their thing. The quarterback needs to be good enough so that opposing defenses don’t continually put eight in the box against Chubb and the other running backs. Maintaining a +16 like Georgia had in turnover ratio last year (4th in FBS) will go a long way in ensuring their success.

 

Draft Prospects & Outlook

Georgia is right there with LSU and Alabama when it comes to the number of players drafted over the last 10 seasons. The individual talent is here for not only a conference title, but a run at a national title. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins make it a pair of linebackers that will be high picks and both could go in the first round. Nick Chubb and Jeb Blazevich give Georgia a pair of offensive sophomores that NFL scouts will look forward to watching. John Theus is the top lineman right now, but that could change as Georgia has at least three linemen that look like draft material for this season. Georgia could wind up having more players selected in this draft than any other SEC school.

DJ Boyer