So it wasn’t an ideal year for any Georgia football fan, as the team went 7-5 in Kirby Smart’s first season as head coach.
But beyond just wins and losses, Georgia did get some great gifts this season, many of which were surprises. And with today being Christmas, we decided to pick out the best five gifts Georgia football fans got this season. And while some were expected, others were complete surprises.
5. Rodrigo Blankenship
At the beginning of the football season, Georgia had no kicker and it was a big time problem. But over the course of the season, Rodrigo Blankenship emerged as the kicker Georgia needed. He connected on 13 of his 16 attempts this year, including going 4-for-4 against Kentucky while hitting the game-winning field goal.
Due to his glasses and ability to hit field goals, Blankenship emerged as a folk hero of sorts. And with being only a redshirt freshman, Georgia fans will get to enjoy his talents for at least another three seasons.
4. Another year of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel
Few could’ve seen this coming at any point of the season. Due to the limited NFL shelf life of NFL running backs, if you’re talented enough to leave college early, you do it. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are both forgoing bowl games to avoid extra bowl games and be healthy for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Which makes Chubb’s and Michel’ decision to return all the more refreshing. In an age when these two could’ve gone power, and everyone understand it why they did, the duo decided to return to Georgia for their senior seasons. With them back in the fold, Georgia could have one of the most potent rushing attacks in the nation next season.
3. Landing 5-star offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson
There are plenty of great recruits Georgia is getting this year from Jake Fromm to Richard LeCounte. But there isn’t a bigger need or recruit that the Bulldogs needed to land than Isaiah Wilson.
Wilson is the first 5-star offensive tackle Georgia has landed since John Theus, who signed during the 2012 class. Theus turned out to be an All-SEC caliber lineman multi-year starter for the Bulldogs. Given the need for offensive lineman, Wilson certainly fits that case.
2. Positive signs from Jacob Eason
Look, nobody seriously believed that the freshman quarterback would come in and play like Tom Brady. He was always going to have some growing pains in his first season.
But there were games where Eason showed signs of being a really good quarterback. There was the Missouri game, where he completed a late fourth quarter comeback. And after turning the ball over late in the Tennessee game, he responded with a beautiful bomb to Riley Ridley that should’ve won Georgia the game.
Eason still has some things to work on, but for Georgia to pretty clearly have its quarterback of the future is a great gift.
This may be an odd gift, but it may be the most-lasting. Under Mark Richt, Georgia fans knew what they were going to get. A top 15 recruiting class, a 10-win season, a couple of head scratching losses and want for something more.
But now under Kirby Smart, there’s a feeling that anything can happen. Sure the wins and losses haven’t come yet, but Nick Saban nor URban Meyer won a championship in their first seasons at Alabama and Florida. And Smart’s already got the Bulldogs firmly entrenched with the No. 3 recruiting class in the country.
Next year’s offense brings back nine starters, and as many as 10 could be back for the secondary. While returning starters doesn’t always translate to success, ask Tennessee fans about that, Georgia has a really good chance to re-enter the national conversation under Smart.
Hope can be a dangerous thing for fan bases, but it was what can also keep fans going in turbulent times. And Georgia fans have a ton of hope this Christmas.