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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #31 Georgia

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 15, 2016

#31 Georgia Bulldogs

2015 Recap:
Georgia may have had the quietest 10-3 season at the FBS level last year, one that turned out to be Mark Richt's final one at Georgia. Two of the three losses were shellings, 10-38 against Alabama and 3-27 Florida, not to mention the thrilling 9-6 win over Missouri. In the past Georgia has fallen short of the mark but thrilled us with talent. 2015 saw Georgia win some games efficiently while the level of excitement dropped a couple of pegs.


Coaching:
It will be the debut of Kirby Smart for the Bulldogs as Athens will welcome the long time Alabama defensive coordinator with open arms. Smart has been one of the most sought after coordinators for a few years and his hiring, especially by an SEC school, should come as no surprise. Mel Tucker is tasked with leading the defense with Jim Chaney tabbed as the offensive coordinator.


Offense

Georgia seems to have a never ending supply of running backs. When Todd Gurley went down with a devastating injury Nick Chubb stepped in as a freshman and the offense didn't miss a beat. When Gurley was a top 10 pick in the draft, Chubb was set for stardom and he also suffered a devastating knee injury last year. Chubb is back and ready to go but Sony Michel came in and produced over 1,000 yards for the Bulldogs meaning depth is far from a concern toting the pigskin. The offensive line is not quite as deep as in years past but sophomore Kendall Baker seems poised to become the breakout star and future NFL commodity. The receivers are paced by reterning starter Terry Godwin but tight end  Jeb Blazevich is the most potent target, especially in the red zone. Throwing the ball will be the concern in Athens as Grayson Lambert is back for his senior season, year one in Georgia after his transfer from Virginia was rocky. Freshman sensation Jacob Eason is listed #2 on the depth chart and the leash for Lambert could be short.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Nick Chubb RB 2nd Round 2017 (Early Declaration).

                                       Kendall Baker OT 2nd Round 2019.


Defense

Kirby Smart may be the head coach but we all know he is defensive minded at heart and he inherits a talented group of youngsters. Georgia ranked #7 overall in total defense a season ago and was #1 in the nation against the pass allowing a miniscule 156.5 YPG. All SEC safety Dominick Sanders is back to improve upon his six interception campaign and he will be joined by his three teammates from last season as the entire starting secondary is intact. Quincy Mauger, Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish combined for 147 tackles with 13.5 stops coming for a loss. Of the group only Mauger is a senior this season as the other three all enter their junior campaigns. The starting seven in front of the secondary are all brand new but the line has a lot of raw young talent, especially Trent Thompson at defensive tackle. Thompson was the consensus top defensive tackle entering college from the high school ranks last year and some even believe the top defensive recruit in the nation. Look for Natrez Patrick to step up and become the leader of the linebacking corps.

Best Draft Prospects: Trent Thompson DT 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration).

                                      Dominick Sanders CB 3rd Round 2018.


Special Teams:

Gone is kicker Marshall Morgan and his 64 career field goals (including going 5-8 from 50 yards and beyond). Rodrigo Blankenship gets in task of trying to replace one of the best kickers in the schools history. Blankenship is a walk-on while punter Marshall Long is also a freshman. With the tightly contested SEC games, having strong special teams games are paramount and the Bulldogs duo is not instilling confidence. What helps is having Isaiah McKenzie back as one of the most dependable and electric punt return men in the entire land.


Schedule:

Georgia opens the campaign with a neutral site game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Smart gets to avoid Alabama on the docket while Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech shape up as home contests. Road games include Missouri, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Florida. It's your typical SEC schedule packed with tough contests.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

Hard to evaluate right now with a new coach at the helm but Kirby Smart is battle tested and he has a defense capable of stealing some games. The injury bug has bitten this team hard in the last 2-3 years and Georgia has a ton of talent starting but the depth chart is thinner than in years past. This team could score anywhere from 6 to 11 wins, there are so many factors that can go either way for Georgia. I think an 8 or  9 win campaign in the SEC is realistic for this bunch.

DJ Boyer