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If you could take one offensive and one defensive player from any other 2000s-era UGA football team, and place them on this upcoming team, who would they be?
– Jordan Green
This seems like an excellent way to begin Signing Day week. Let’s have some fun with it.
One part of the answer is easy,and not worth overthinking: A.J. Green would be the dream addition to the Georgia offense in 2018.
This is, by the way, assuming the player as he was at Georgia, not as he has become since then or would be now. Either way, Green seems the obvious choice.
Yes, Matthew Stafford has the gun for an arm and David Greene was a great leader who won a lot of games. But Jake Fromm proved himself this past year, and Justin Fields has all the talent. Georgia should be just fine at quarterback.
The offensive line loses only one starter, so maybe you think about a George Foster, Max Jean-Gilles or Jon Stinchcomb. But there’s a good chance Georgia’s offensive line, which largely got the job done in 2017, is as good or better this year without any help.
Tailback? Knowshon Moreno would be nice. But D’Andre Swift should be pretty good in the No. 1 role. Now, it’s a two-tailback game so Georgia shouldn’t turn away Moreno if he comes back to fulfill his final two years of eligibility, but …
Georgia lost its leading receiver from 2017, Javon Wims, who happens to be the same height as Green. Wims made a bunch of tough catches and helped Fromm stretch the field horizontally, and extend drives. Plug Green in that spot, and … well, we were about say “Georgia doesn’t miss a beat,” but in all fairness, it’s A.J. Green. Georgia would be better. Much better.
So what about the defense? That should draw plenty of debate.
Maybe a hard-hitting safety to help a secondary losing three starters? Thomas Davis would apply. So would Sean Jones.
Georgia also needs two new outside linebackers. Justin Houston and Boss Bailey are out there. Houston was more of a pass rusher, while Bailey was an all-around force, but Houston was really good at the pass-rushing thing.
David Pollack could play some outside linebacker, but he was mainly a defensive end. It’s hard to project someone who played in a 4-3 scheme to Georgia’s current scheme, but Pollack was a football player, period, and a three-time All-American.
Georgia’s biggest need this season might be at inside linebacker, so if it could get the 2003 version of Odell Thurman, that would be tempting. Actually, Thurman is on the team now, as an intern on the strength and conditioning team, and those that have seen him might argue they could sneak him in there now and be fine. Rennie Curran and freshly minted Super Bowl champion Dannell Ellerbe could help here, too.
There are actually many really good options here, showing how stacked Georgia was on defense that decade. Quentin Moses (rest in peace) or Charles Johnson to help the line, Tim Jennings as a shutdown cornerback to pair with Deandre Baker. And a few other good safeties were around, such as Greg Blue, Reshad Jones, Tra Battle …
In retrospect, it seems strange to go this long without naming Geno Atkins, who has become an All-Pro in the NFL. And he was pretty good at Georgia, too, although not as decorated as some of the others we’ve named.
There’s no wrong answer here. If the criteria is which player you take based on his career production at UGA, then ultimately we’d lean Pollack. He wasn’t a three-time All-American for nothing.
But if you could pick any player at his peak powers, bottle that up and plant him on the Georgia defense this year, Thurman would be the choice. Imagine his skills sliding into Roquan Smith’s role. Georgia coaches may look over at Thurman this spring and wistfully think just that.
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