Here are five things UGA fans may want for Christmas:
5. A new defensive coordinator: This doesn’t seem too high on anybody’s list. Do you realize it has been more than three weeks since Mel Tucker left for Colorado? Nobody seems to be panicking, or even giving it a second thought. I don’t know if UGA coach Kirby Smart is privately thinking what another SEC head coach said publicly about his coordinator vacancy to make headlines. But Bulldog fans seem to “trust in Kirby” that it will all work out. And with good reason, as Smart, the defensive mastermind, will direct operations until Tucker’s replacement is hired. Who will that be? My best guess is someone with less experience rather than more, that Smart can both mentor and keep around the program for multiple years. Obviously, a top job requirement will be sharp recruiting skills.
4. Justin Fields: I went back and forth on this. But ultimately Fields was an easy choice for the list because Smart has made it very clear that Georgia would like Fields to stay, even though it seems unlikely at this point. I think the overwhelming majority of UGA fans would be perfectly fine with Fields staying, if that’s what the head coach wants. For those who may take an opposite stance, I think those are mainly folks who are primarily upset when any high-profile player (and not specifically Fields) even hints that they may not want to be at Georgia. For the record, I’ve been on the Fields bandwagon. I think he’s a “generational” talent in the same class as Matt Stafford, as far as potential and raw talent. While I’m also a big fan of Jake Fromm’s accomplishments (still blown away by that sick NFL-like TD pass to Riley Ridley in the SEC Championship), I wish Fields had been given more opportunities during the season. But UGA’s coaches decided differently for reasons they believed in, and you have to respect that. Here’s the bottom line: So much in life, as we all learn, is about timing. It’s sort of like dating, when it may be a “right person” but perhaps not at the “right time.” Maybe this just wasn’t meant to be Fields’ moment at UGA right now? Maybe I’m wrong? Honestly, to this day, I’m still surprised that Fields signed with the Bulldogs one year ago after a freshman quarterback (Fromm) led the team to the national championship game.
3. A recruiting “surprise” in February: Despite last week’s ridiculous success in the early period, perhaps nothing provides momentum heading into the offseason such as landing an unexpected elite talent on the regular signing day (Feb. 6). It could even be a transfer. In a perfect world for theatrics, it would be somebody who is barely mentioned right now, or not really on the radar. On a related note, I will say this about Kirby Smart: He has taken his share of his criticism for some of his coaching decisions during games, even during yesterday’s NFL games. But Smart is only 43 years old, and he’ll be just fine with more experience. However, his recruiting skills are already world class. He’s operating at a historic level that UGA has never seen before. The Bulldogs may not get every top prospect they go after, but Smart is simply not going to be outworked on the recruiting trail. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years of covering college football recruiting. He’s tireless and relentless when it comes to pursuing future talent, and it’s obviously a job requirement for his assistants, too. EPSN’s Lee Corso always says, “the team with the best talent wins the game 80% of the time,” and I firmly believe it. This is the No. 1 reason I think Georgia is just at the very beginning of a golden era for the program. It’s just getting started, folks.
2. A 5-star quarterback in the 2020 class: Nothing will help UGA fans more to move past the Fields drama than if Smart can land an elite quarterback for next year’s class. You can see this one coming a mile away. It will be the No. 1 priority, if Fields follows through with his transfer request (and it may still be No. 1 if Fields stays, as he could transfer during or after next season, too). Last week, I thought Smart and his staff did a Hall-of-Fame job with “patchwork recruiting” in signing two quarterbacks on extremely short notice. Dwan Mathis is raw 4-star with some potential, while Stetson Bennett is a former walk-on who put up average stats in junior college this season. They were both solid additions, and give UGA instant depth. But the Bulldogs need a headliner for 2020. This would solve a lot of things all at once.
1. UGA’s top juniors decide to stay: A main reason that UGA reached last year’s national championship game was because Smart convinced elite talents such as Lorenzo Carter, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to stick around for their senior year. Smart has that same challenge over the next three weeks. If he’s able to convince most of UGA’s key juniors to return, then the Bulldogs’ chances of competing for next year’s national championship will dramatically increase. Those key juniors include tight end Isaac Nauta, receiver Riley Ridley, receiver Mecole Hardman, safety J.R. Reed and running back Elijah Holyfield. You can’t blame any legit top NFL prospect for leaving college early these days due to injury risks and life-changing financial gains, but UGA would obviously benefit with key leaders and veterans around for 2019. Eligible juniors have until Jan. 14 to make their intentions known for the NFL Draft. This is easily No. 1 on the Christmas list for UGA fans because it directly impacts next season’s success.
Any UGA fans with a better Christmas list? Please post it below. Happy Holidays from DawgNation.