BRANT SANDERLIN/AJC
Jim Chaney will be back, Jacob Eason will be too, but how much else will be different for Georgia's offense in 2017?

DawgNation Mailbag: How much will Georgia’s offense change?

In a West end town a dead end world
The East end boys and West end girls
In a West end town in a dead end world
East end boys and West end girls
West end girls
– Pet Shop Boys

Yeah, I have to be honest, that song kept going through my head as I sat in the athletic board meeting on Tuesday. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. You can try to concentrate on the work at hand, but sometimes there are too many shadows, whispering voice, faces on posters, too many choices.

So obviously that brings us to ….

With all the proverbial hype surrounding the program lately. I believe it is very unjustified as of now. I don’t see us becoming an elite team till we get an offensive identify. And I still don’t think we have the O-line yet to be able to run the ball straight at teams as it seems Kirby Smart is insistent on doing. Jacob Eason still never looked comfortable running a pro style offense. I think this team is better suited for a pro spread type of offense similar to Mike Bobo’s last years. What are your thoughts on Georgia’s offense and what do you expect to see?
– Cedrique Chaney

Too often, fans are overly optimistic in the offseason. Cedrique, obviously I don’t have to worry about that with you. (And I’m assuming you’re no relation to the offensive coordinator.)

Not that your points aren’t valid. Last year’s offensive personnel was better suited to the kind of offense that Bobo ran to such success in 2013-14, and why they ran a more traditional pro style in 2016 still isn’t entirely clear. The next step is just to find out what it will look like in 2017. Jim Chaney said before the bowl game that he and Smart would sit down and discuss things. You have to assume they have by now, and I’ll be interested to ask Smart soon about his overall vision for the offense.

Smart has said that his goal was to be a versatile offense. And one thing that doesn’t get mentioned a lot about last year’s team is that it was, at least in that it could go from a shotgun and spread attack and switch to an I-formation run-oriented team, week to week, or even drive to drive. It just wasn’t as good going straight ahead. Jim Chaney did try to do both. The issue was first not being able to run straight ahead (probably an offensive line issue) and then not reacting to it by just going with a mainly spread-out attack. Was that because that’s just not what Smart and Chaney are going to be about? Did they think it was more important to establish an identity? Or was it believing too much in the straight-ahead approach?

These remain relevant questions, in my mind, because Georgia’s offensive personnel will look very similar this year. Same quarterback (just more experienced), same two star tailbacks, same high-quality tight ends, but again questions at receiver and offensive line.

Which brings us to …

All this talk about O-line, while warranted, overshadows the view that we couldn’t run outside either. These big bodied wideouts coming in, along with a healthy Charlie Woerner may produce blocking good enough to put up unprecedented rushing totals. Would certainly make a superstar of Eason as well.
– Steve Jeffrey

I don’t completely buy the premise that Georgia couldn’t run outside. It didn’t exactly run that way at will, but it was better running in that direction. It should have done it more; I remember asking Chubb whether the problem was not going outside more, and he kind of smiled and evaded the question, understandably.

There still existed a fundamental problem that impacted the offense overall: The best wide receivers (undersized Isaiah McKenzie and Terry Godwin) were not the best blockers. So bigger receivers, such as Michael Chigbu and Jayson Stanley, were usually in there in running situations.

Riley Ridley (6-foot-1) and Javon Wims (6-5) were still learning the ropes, so with more experience they might be better all-around players this year. Chigbu and Stanley were only sophomores last year, to be fair to them. And as you mentioned, taller wide receivers are coming in, and perhaps Woerner being healthy will help. (I still believe he may be better used outside rather than a pure tight end.)

Side note: If when, why, what, how much have you got? Have you got it, do you get it? If so how often? Which do you choose, a hard or soft option? In a West end town a dead end world.

If people expect 2018 the year UGA can truly compete for a conference and maybe national championship, does Chubb and Michel returning hurt those chances a bit?  I know they will mention the young dawgs, but would think that on field time for Brian Herrien, Elijah Holyfield, and D’Andre Swift would be more valuable.
– Logan Duckworth

I’ve seen this line of thinking from others, and I respectfully disagree. The best way to get better as a program is to win, and Chubb and Michel give the team the best chance to win. That lifts everything, including recruiting. I know recruiting went well this year, but Smart and his staff were selling hope and playing time. There’s only so long you can do that. You need to sell winning. And they know that, which is why they didn’t try to talk Chubb and Michel from coming back.

I do get the concerns that you don’t have a tiered tailback depth chart, as in a senior ahead of a junior, then a sophomore and freshman, etc. It’s two seniors this year, and if they stay healthy they’ll get the majority of the playing time. But that doesn’t mean the guys behind them can’t still develop in practice or in limited game experience. Look, if freshmen tailbacks can come in and be successful right away – Todd Gurley did, as did Chubb, and Isaiah Crowell before them – then Herrien, Holyfield and Swift can do just fine in 2018 even if they don’t start in 2017.

Seth, the burning of Solomon Kindle’s redshirt troubles me. Our players trust our coaches to do the responsible thing. This is a betrayal of that trust. Let’s be realistic and assume Jake Fromm does not beat out Eason. Does Smart have a plan for preserving Fromm’s redshirt. Will he keep Ramsey around to make this possible? All it takes these days is for Eason to lose his helmet and miss one play, and there goes a year of Fromm’s eligibility.
– Hugh Nash, Jr., Nashville, Tenn.

Well, the decision on Ramsey isn’t really up to Smart. I’m sure he’d keep him around if he could, it’s just up to Ramsey whether he wants to go somewhere else for a better chance to start. If he does leave, you make a good point about Fromm being one play from going in and burning his redshirt.

But I’m sure there will be a plan, just as there was when Hutson Mason was behind Aaron Murray that one season (2012). If you recall, Mason and the staff agreed he would redshirt, but that if they were in contention for a championship and Murray suffered a long-term injury that the redshirt would be burned. It didn’t happen, and only after the SEC championship did Mason not prepare as if to play. I’m not sure that scenario will be in play for Fromm. Eason may only have two years left at Georgia, so even if Fromm never redshirts, he could still have two years as the starter.

But all this looking far down the road. We don’t know who else Georgia will sign at quarterback, how quickly Fromm will adjust to college, how good Eason will be this year. A lot of factors still to play out.

Side note No. 2: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we’re all modern men, we’ve got no future, we’ve got no past. Here today, built to last, in every city, in every station. From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station.

THE BASKETBALL SEGMENT 

I’m over the fact that we’re not making the NCAA tournament, but what are the chances we make the NIT?  I’m assuming we lose to UK and on the road at Alabama is a 50-50 at best.  Hopefully we finish strong to close out the season with three winnable games, and at least one win in the SEC tournament but does that get us into the NIT?  It’d be great to get Crump and Harris some postseason minutes and build momentum for next season.
– David Knowlton

I wouldn’t quite give up on those NCAA chances quite yet. Georgia was ranked 51st in the RPI as of Thursday, and its overall resume’ puts it outside the bubble. But win Saturday and Georgia will suddenly be in a lot of people’s brackets. Even with a loss there, a strong finish (say 3-1 over the final two weeks) and things are interesting. As disappointing a season as it’s been, Georgia still has decent computer numbers, especially strength of schedule.

The bubble is weak this year, as it seems to be every year. But the NIT is also harder to get into these days. So Georgia has a chance to make the NCAAs, but could still easily miss the NIT.

It’s just hard to predict what Georgia will do at this point. When it won at Tennessee with Crump playing so well, you could see the narrative down the stretch developing. Then Crump hardly plays against Mississippi State and Georgia gets a bit of a lackluster win. If recent history is any indication, Georgia may be about to finish strong, which it’s done under Mark Fox the past three years. And as pedestrian as the overall and SEC records have been, Georgia has only been beaten soundly in two games in SEC play (Alabama and Florida), and was that close to wins over Kentucky, Florida and Texas A&M.

Which Georgia team will show up down the stretch? I suspect this team will finish strong, but will it be strong enough?

Side note No. 3: You think you’re mad, too unstable, kicking in chairs and knocking down tables, in a restaurant in a West End town. Call the police there’s a mad man around, running down underground, to a dive bar in a West end town.

LIGHTNING ROUND

Looking forward to seeing our new, young DL coach go to work, but I am curious to know what happened with coach Rocker. Crickets from everyone at Dawgnation and the other sites, as well. Feels like an orchestrated silent treatment. Enlighten us.
– Stewart, Austin, Tex.

Trust me, it’s not orchestrated, at least from a media standpoint. I’ve reached out to Rocker several times, to no avail. He’s chosen not to talk about it, Smart hasn’t talked about it yet either – because it happened after signing day – and sources around the building haven’t shed enough light. At this point I don’t think anything salacious happened, and it could very well have been a mutual decision. 

What is your “way to early” prediction for the Dawgs 2017 season?
– Charles, Columbus, Ga.

I think I’ve said this before every single recent Georgia season: This looks like a 10-2 type team, not quite great enough to win the SEC championship, but good enough to win the SEC East. But whereas last year I saw it as a 10-2/9-3 type team, this one I tilt more towards 10-2/11-1. The defense returns almost everybody, the offense returns the star tailbacks and the quarterback. The questions are at offensive line, receiver and special teams.

Will the pulling of Toneil Carter’s and Larrell Murichson’s scholarship offers at the last minute have a significant negative impact on recruiting in the future?
– Geoffrey

Those situations by themselves won’t have significant long-term consequences, I wouldn’t think, unless they become the start of a pattern that results in a lot of negative publicity. I know Aubrey Solomon’s mother mentioned it, and the Rodrigo Blankenship situation, but she also said Georgia finished second to Michigan, and if that’s true I don’t think that would be the final straw in deciding to go that far north or stay closer to home. Georgia also wouldn’t be the only program doing such things. Alabama seems to go through these issues regularly, and even UConn pulled a scholarship offer this recruiting cycle. A lot of people do it, though it doesn’t make it all right.

Seth, why is it that offensive linemen tend to play the whole game and defensive linemen rotate in and out. In the 4th quarter you often see the offensive line wearing down the defensive line.
– Edmond Scully

It’s a good question, because they’re similar in size. But the easy answer is that you burn a lot more energy pushing and going forward, as defensive linemen do, rather than defending and going backward, as offensive linemen do. (But preferably not that far backward.)

 

UGA and its fans, including me, largely enjoy sticking to the excellent traditional football uniforms aside from an occasional black jersey or pants color tweak. However, what do you think of the idea of adding to the buzz of G-Day by rolling out very unique uniforms for that scrimmage? It’d add excitement to G-Day for players, recruits, and fans alike without rocking the boat in the regular season. This seems like a no-brainer to me. Let the seniors vote on their favorite designs each spring. Please help push this to Coach Smart if you agree.
– Austen Bannan

If it’s okay with you, I might not push this quite yet. I’m still trying to find the right time to ask about the removal of the bones from the helmet. (Yes, I receive all your questions about it, just trying to find the right opportunity amidst all the other team and player-related questions there have been since last August.) But my short answer, Austen, is that I wouldn’t hold my breath. Coaches take the spring game seriously, not as serious as regular-season games, but still enough that it would probably depend on just how unique you’re talking.

And finally …

In light of the new additions to be made to the west end zone area of Sanford Stadium, any insight as to what changes, if any, will be made to the east end? Perhaps adding more seats, moving the Bulldog statue, etc.
– Nathan Manahan, Alpharetta, Ga.

Honestly, if this was mentioned at the board meeting, I missed it. The full attention was on the west end zone project. The Bulldog statue will stay in the stadium, whether it stays there or moves to the west end. But as for what replaces that area, there’s not much to replace, which was the point of trying to expand what’s there. I don’t believe more seats would be added because the part that’s being taken out is under the bleachers.

Final side note: I looked for a song about East End girls. Luckily for you, I couldn’t find one.