3 reasons Georgia’s offense will change this offseason
ATHENS — Georgia’s offense is in for some offseason changes, but there’s no way to know exactly how big or what it might look like.
What we do know is that the philosophy won’t change much — if at all — under Coach Kirby Smart.
The Bulldogs are going to be balanced, be able to run the ball when necessary, prioritize efficiency and look to make explosive plays.
It’s a pretty sound approach, especially when one considers Georgia is 35-7 over the past three seasons with three straight SEC East Division crowns and a national championship game appearance.
Smart’s approach is merely a matter of common sense, like, putting the ball in the hands of your best playmaker(s) as often as possible.
That’s exactly what the Bulldogs did this season. It led to another Top 5 ranking, complete with three wins over Top 15 teams.
Here are the three reasons the offense will change in 2020:
1. D’Andre Swift’s (likely) departure
Most are aware Georgia relied on Swift and the ground game this season on account of an inexperienced receiving corps that was plagued by injuries from the onset.
Swift’s dominance in the offense was staggering: Swift had 221 touches (195 carries, 24 catches, 2 kick returns) for 1,448 yards.
Next closest on the touch list was senior Brian Herrien with 125 touches for 749 yards (103 carries, 16 catches, 6 kick returns).
There’s going to be a lot of slack to pick up with Herrien and Swift (likely) moving on.
The leading returning players in the touches category:
• Redshirt freshman Zamir White (63 for 358 yards; 60 carries, 2 catches, 1 kick return).
• Sophomore James Cook (48 for 265 yards; 28 carries, 16 catches, 4 kick returns).
White has not yet shown the same versatility, cutting ability or vision as Swift.
Cook’s off-field incident last weekend begs questions about his future.
Speaking of reliability, leading returning receiver George Pickens is another key returner the Bulldogs need better judgment from.
2. Offensive staff infusion
James Coley’s formula for success is the same as the head coach’s, which is to design an offense that makes the best use of the talent on the football team.
“You coordinate to your players,” Coley said last fall. “Players, not plays. It’s a little cliché in the coaching profession, but it’s the truth.”
Some crow Georgia needs to emulate offenses at LSU and Alabama, but those in tune recognize UGA (or any program) needs the same sort of talent those programs have in the receivers room to replicate the same sort of success.
Still, change will come with former Ole Miss head coach and co-offensive coordinator Matt Luke in the offensive meeting room.
Luke, who has worked with some of the most noted offensive minds and coordinators in the coaching profession, from Phillip Fulmer, to David Cutcliffe, Hugh Freeze and Rich Rodriguez, will be instrumental as a position coach and contributor in brainstorming sessions.
Coley and Luke will work closely together during offseason modifications to the Bulldogs’ base offensive package around the team’s skill position talent and quarterback’s ability.
Once Georgia knows if Jake Fromm is returning — a fluid decision not expected until after the bowl game — the plans for the pass game can begin in earnest.
Smart recognizes changes in the game, and last season was evidence that even the best and most disciplined of defenses needs offensive firepower behind it.
“You have an offense that’s built around the players you have,” Smart said. “It’s not a matter of what is your offensive philosophy. It’s what is the best way to win the game.”
The Bulldogs’ head coach accepted blame for not doing a better job accumulating explosive talent in the receivers room.
It’s a safe bet that landing impact players at wideout, by whatever means possible, is at or very near the top of the offseason recruiting list.
St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Marcus Rosemy is a top target on the 2020 recruiting list, an impact player likely to garner immediate reps and targets.
Georgia will maintain an ability to run the football, and the backs will remain involved in the pass game given the limited experience returning at tight end and receiver.
But the formations and tempo bear watching, particularly if Smart adds the sort of receivers that can win one-on-one matchups.
In fact, Georgia schemed aggressively for LSU, but simply wasn’t able to execute.
“There’s a lot of plays that they run, that we run,” Smart said. “They have a lot more success with it. They have guys getting open one-on-one and catching the ball.”