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The biggest early challenge for every ‘new’ Georgia football coach
Four coaches on Georgia’s staff this year will be taking on new roles, as James Coley and Dan Lanning were both promoted to be offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively. Meanwhile Todd Hartley was brought in to coach tight ends and Charlton Warren will coach defensive backs.
With Georgia football entering 2019 as one of the best teams in the country, each of these “new” coaches will face some challenges in year one. If Coley, Hartley, Lanning and Warren are able to navigate them, Georgia has a chance to win the national title. Below, we take a look at the biggest challenge each coach faces in his respective “new” role:
Offensive coordinator James Coley
For the second season in a row, Coley will have a new title, as he was named Georgia’s offensive coordinator after Jim Chaney departed for Tennessee. Coley has served as an offensive coordinator before, as he held the worked in the role at both Florida State and Miami.
An early test for Coley will be finding a new crop of receivers for Jake Fromm. Other than Jeremiah Holloman, no returning wide receiver had more than 10 catches last season. Georgia did bring in graduate transfer Lawrence Cager from Miami, in addition to George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock, who the No. 4 and No. 5 wide receiver in the 2019 recruiting class. Talent won’t be the issue for Georgia, but the group of pass catchers has some big shoes to fill from the 2018 squad.
Tight ends coach Todd Hartley
Georgia didn’t wait very long to bring the former Georgia grad on to the coaching staff. Hartley will fill the role vacated by Chaney, as he also coached the tight ends position. Hartley has a strong reputation as a recruiter, which really helps given tight end is a big position of need for Georgia. Hartley played a key role in helping the Bulldogs beat out Alabama for 2019 tight end Brett Seither. The Bulldogs also brought in graduate transfer Eli Wolf from Tennessee.
Tight end is arguably Georgia’s biggest question mark heading into 2019. Only senior Charlie Woerner qualifies as a proven commodity for the Bulldogs. In addition to Wolf and Seither joining the program, Georgia brings in freshman Ryland Goede and brings back redshirt freshman John Fitzpatrick. Tight ends have played a key role in Coley’s offenses in the past, so it will be interesting to see what the position produces in this coming season. As for the recruiting front, if Hartley must help Georgia land 5-star athlete Arik Gilbert in the 2020 recruiting cycle.
Defensive coordinator Dan Lanning
Georgia finally named Lanning as the defensive coordinator on Friday, over two months after Mel Tucker left the position to become the head coach at Colorado. Lanning received a nice pay bump, as he’ll make $750,000 next year as the defensive coordinator after serving as Georgia’s outside linebackers coach this past season.
Lanning isn’t a splashy hire, but Georgia didn’t need that at this position. Kirby Smart is still going to have a very heavy hand in shaping Georgia’s defense. And because of his presence, that likely prevents the Bulldogs from landing a big-name defensive coordinator. Fortunately, Smart is also one of the best defensive minds in all of college football.
As for Lanning, he’s got to find a way to create more negative plays with the front seven. Georgia finished tied for 95th in the country in tackles for loss last season. Both Clemson and Alabama finished in the top 10 country, with Clemson leading the country in the category. Georgia’s recruited better than anybody when it comes to the front seven, as it has landed a 5-star prospect at defensive tackle, defensive end, inside linebacker and outside linebacker in each of the past two recruiting cycles. Georgia needs to see its production match that level of recruiting hype.
Defensive backs coach Charlton Warren
Much like Lanning, Georgia took its time in hiring Warren. But the hire by Smart is nonetheless a good one. Yes, Warren has bounced a round recently, as this will be his fifth different school since 2014. But Warren is very well regarded in the coaching community and did good work at Florida this past year.
Georgia paid top-dollar to get Warren, as he’s now the highest paid defensive backs coach in the country. In his first season at Georgia, Warren will have to find a replacement for Jim Thorpe winner Deandre Baker. But the Bulldogs bring back a number of talented defensive backs, led by safeties J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte. Georgia also brought in 4-star defensive backs Lewis Cine, Tyrique Stevenson and D.J. Daniel to provide even more depth.
Jake Fromm and D’Andre Swift Heisman Trophy odds
Georgia has two of the best offensive players in the country returning in 2019, with quarterback Jake Fromm and running back D’Andre Swift coming back for their junior seasons. And the Georgia duo both have some of the top Heisman Trophy odds in the country. Both Fromm and Swift have 12-to-1 odds to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy according to Betonline.ag.
Only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts have better odds than Fromm and Swift. Clemson running back Travis Etienne, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor also have 12-to-1 odds. Lawrence is the favorite as he holds 7-to-2 odds.
Fromm and Swift both improved as sophomores, and will look to do so again as juniors. Fromm threw for 30 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions, while completing 67 percent of his passes. Fromm will largely be working with a new group of pass catchers in 2019, as Georgia loses four of its top five pass catchers from 2018.
As for Swift, he led Georgia in rushing with 1,049 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 32 passes last season, flashing his ability as a pass catcher. He will likely take on a bigger role as Georgia will have to replace running back Elijah Holyfield, who declared early for the 2019 NFL Draft.
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