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Don’t Worry, Be Happy
If you’re still upset about UGA’s disappointing loss to Texas in the Sugar Bowl, we’re here to help you move forward. Here are five things to be happy about today if you’re a Bulldogs fan:
Friends in high places. UGA has gained a believer in Kirk Herbstreit, the former Ohio State quarterback who is now an ESPN broadcaster. He’s one of the most powerful influencers in the landscape of college football. Herbstreit lobbied hard on behalf of the Bulldogs for a spot in the Playoff, and he did not back off that belief after the lackluster performance in Sugar Bowl. On Wednesday, Herbstreit tweeted this in response to a question about the Bulldogs: “Before the bowls were played absolutely still think UGA should’ve been in the top 4. They got beat (by Texas). It happens. Doesn’t change my thoughts pre bowls. Give Texas credit (they) played very well. Big win for them.”
The QB controversy is over. UGA quarterback Jake Fromm struggled mightily in the Sugar Bowl, but inserting his backup (Justin Fields) never really seemed to be considered by the coaches. Why is that? Barring a miracle, Fields is gone, via an NCAA transfer. While you always hate to lose such an elite talent as Fields, it’s probably for the best for the program – and Fields. This team will be Fromm’s for the next two seasons, win or lose. He won’t have to worry about being subbed out if he’s in the midst of a hot streak or if he makes some bad plays. Fromm can now be fully focused on countering the blueprint that Texas used to win the Sugar Bowl that will surely be copied by many future opponents. That blueprint is to stifle UGA’s rushing attack and make Fromm beat you with his passing skills. Will Fromm be up to the challenge? The answer to that question will be what largely determines the Bulldogs’ national championship chances in 2019 and 2020.
Youth on defense. UGA played 23 different players on defense in the Sugar Bowl, and unfortunately none of them were the nation’s best defensive back (Deandre Baker, who bypassed it for the NFL Draft) or the team’s best pass rusher (D’Andre Walker, who was injured). But more than a third (eight total) of those players were freshmen, led by cornerback Divaad Wilson, who played 65 snaps in his first appearance of the season after recovering from a knee injury. The youthful defense played solid, especially considering it got put in tough positions due to offensive turnovers or breakdowns on the punt team. Yes, Texas won the game, and the Longhorns earned it. But bigger days are ahead for the Bulldogs in the next few years, and those wide-eyed freshmen you saw on the field in the Sugar Bowl will be a central core to those great expectations.
The No. 1 recruit in the nation is headed to UGA. No, I’m not talking about Justin Fields, the freshman QB for the Bulldogs (for the moment, at least). Fields was the nation’s No. 1 recruit for 2018. The top overall prospect in this year’s class is Nolan Smith, a 5-star defensive end from Savannah. Despite the accolades, Smith hasn’t garnered anywhere near the attention of Fields, probably because he doesn’t play the high-profile position of quarterback. But Smith could immediately be a difference-maker for UGA’s defense next season. Smith has lived up to his acclaim this week so far with competing against other elite prospects in practices for the 2019 All-America Bowl high school all-star game. Smith is so confident in UGA coach Kirby Smart and the future of the program that he was the first commit to sign with the Bulldogs on early signing day, despite the fact that Georgia hasn’t had a defensive coordinator in a month.
Tons of elite talent. This probably isn’t mentioned enough by the media or the fans. The Bulldogs had arguably the greatest recruiting class in school history last year. How did they follow it up? By putting together the nation’s second-best class for this year, trailing only Alabama. UGA’s 22 commits include five 5-stars, which is more than the Crimson Tide (3). You know how hard it is to recruit elite classes in back-to-back years when today’s top prospects google and study the depth chart more effort than they do for homework? It’s very hard. This is the main reason, despite the criticism that Smart has gotten for his in-game coaching decisions, that I feel that UGA is just starting its golden era of football. As ESPN’s Lee Corso always says, “the team with the most talent wins the game 80% of the time.” We’re only in Year 3 of Kirby. The Bulldogs have never had this much talent on the roster at one time. The good days are coming.