ATHENS — Georgia’s four permanent captains have taken four different approaches where their Sugar Bowl futures are concerned.
It’s no one’s place to say what is right or wrong. Each individual has the right to decide for themselves and amongst their family members.
That doesn’t make the decisions any less interesting or consequential, in terms of how it affects teammates and the Bulldogs chances of beating Baylor on Jan. 1 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Much of the feel-good last year’s Georgia team built up went out the window when a seemingly listless Bulldogs’ team rolled over and played dead for Texas in a 28-21 Sugar Bowl loss.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, in hindsight.
The defensive coordinator had already left, the offensive coordinator was eyeing a return to another SEC school, the best player came on the trip but sat out the game, and the quarterback of the future had already decided his future would be somewhere else.
There are issues with this season’s team as well — all teams have issues — but the Georgia bowl season started on a positive note when senior safety J.R. Reed announced he is playing in the Sugar Bowl.
Reed’s decision might have influenced fellow safety Richard LeCounte, a junior mulling his future but committed to finishing the season fighting alongside his teammates in the Sugar Bowl.
The first bowl season setback came on Tuesday, when junior offensive tackle Andrew Thomas announced he’s done at Georgia. Thomas is a projected Top 10 pick, but still, it comes as somewhat of a surprise.
Thomas has been a role model and leader of the proud offensive line room.
And, sure enough, moments after Thomas made his announcement, redshirt sophomore Isaiah Wilson said he’s leaving Georgia and not playing in the bowl game, either.
Could losing both starting offensive tackles have anything to do with whether or not the quarterback decides to play in the Sugar Bowl?
Jake Fromm, the third permanent captain, has not announced or indicated anything.
It’s a deafening silence from the player Smart has propped up as the face of the program and stood behind at each turn.
Fromm has been under fire the second half of the season, handling difficult questions at each turn and avoiding blaming personnel even after it became apparent that without Lawrence Cager, Georgia’s passing game would be limited.
And then there’s junior tailback D’Andre Swift, the biggest surprise of the captains, so far.
Many thought Swift would be on the first train to Philadelphia and headed for the NFL after carrying the program on his back this season.
Swift hasn’t looked like himself the past two games, fumbling twice and nursing a soft shoulder.
The fact Swift is using the game as part of his timeline indicates the Bulldogs’ star runner will play against Baylor if his shoulder is healed adequately.
That’s obviously great news for Georgia, provided he runs with the same aggression he showed down the stretch of the SEC portion of the schedule.
Swift, when he’s on his game, is the best running back in the nation.
Swift’s cutting ability is elite, and his quickness, top-end speed, vision and hands are on par with NFL running backs.
Most impressively, Swift added a power element this season that could lead some NFL teams to see him as a three-down back.
There are still questions: durability, consistency and ball security have been issues at times.
But the leadership Swift showed down the stretch, and his willingness to take on eight-man fronts and lead his team to a third straight SEC East Division title has impressed.
There’s still time for Swift and other players to change their minds. But watching how the four captains handled their decisions has provided an interesting start to the Georgia bowl season.