ATHENS — You may have heard Kirby Smart’s latest “call of the Dogs.” It came at the end of his news conference last week on National Signing Day.
Never one to pass up an opportunity, Smart reached out to the Bulldog Nation to once again fill up Sanford Stadium for G-Day. You’ll recall that Georgia fans did that for him in his first year, the spring of 2016, when they turned “93K Day” into something that was probably more than that. Smart has acknowledged here and there that the atmosphere that day created the foundation for a lot of the positive recruiting work that has been done in the two years since. And there has been some exemplary work done.
With several other new coaches coming into the league this year, Smart is anticipating that they’ll be orchestrating a similar ploy. So that’s Georgia’s coach interjected a little “call of the Dogs” at the end of his presser asking for the Bulldog faithful to respond in kind.
“As we all know, every team that gets a new head coach in the SEC, what is the mantra? What is the battle cry? For their fan base to turn out and really represent their teams,” Smart said last Wednesday. “We need our fan base, who has done everything we’ve asked them to do, to turn out April 21st at 4 o’clock and be out there for G-Day in what we expect to be another sellout, packed opportunity to go out and represent University of Georgia and show these kids in recruiting that it does matter and it is special here.”
Self-perception is another unique gift that Smart has displayed during his short tenure at UGA. He knows that his cache with the Georgia fan base is at an all time high at the moment. He’s got them eating out of the palm of his hand at the moment. He can get them to do almost anything he wants.
In this case, he wants them to pack out Sanford Stadium again for G-Day. He hasn’t given a clever nickname like 93K II or anything like that. But from a competitive standpoint, he wants to match whatever fuss they’re planning to make in Knoxville for the Orange & White game and in Gainesville for their Orange & Blue Debut.
Pretty savvy, actually.
I’m also kind of excited for Georgia’s annual spring game — and specifically the three or four weeks of spring practice that lead up to it — but for other reasons. I’m very intrigued about seeing how this 2018 team comes together, and that extends to the coaching staff as well as the players on the field.
I actually expect the makeup of the Bulldogs’ 2018 squad to be quite a bit different than the group we just saw go 13-2 and reach the National Championship Game last season. To start with, I expect this one to be very offense-oriented. That’s an easy determination to make, what with the Bulldogs losing so many key players and starters off the defense. Conversely, most of Georgia’s offense comes back, with the exception of those three very notable figures: Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn.
But I believe that have a chance to be a very, very good offensive football team. And, lest we forget, they weren’t too bad last year. After playing 15 games — the last three in the conference championship and College Football Playoff — the Bulldogs finished third in the SEC in both yards (435.3 ypg) and points (35.4 ppg). I see the potential for them to be even better on offense in 2018.
Obviously, Jake Fromm comes back as the starting quarterback, and based on the arc of improvement we saw him make as a true freshman, he has the potential to be significantly better in year two. Meanwhile, he’ll have freshman sensation Justin Fields pushing him. And certainly the Bulldogs will have a whole “Fields Package” to unleash anytime they want.
Making this whole concept particular intriguing is all the changes that are apparently afoot with the offensive coaching staff. Smart has yet to make any announcements detailing exactly how the staff is going to be broken down as far as responsibilities. But based on what we think and what we know, it will be significantly different next season.
Word is that James Coley will move from coaching wide receivers to coaching quarterbacks. Coley, of course, was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Miami before he joined the Georgia staff. Meanwhile, Smart hired away Cortez Hankton from Vanderbilt, presumably to coach wide receivers as he had been doing in Nashville. Smart recently brought back from Mississippi State Scott Fountain, whose background was as tight ends and special teams coach, to replace Shane Beamer, who left for Oklahoma. We’re left to assume that Sam Pittman, who did a bang-up job as Georgia’s offensive line coach, will continue in that role. Same with running backs coach Dell McGee, who was just named recruiter of the year in the nation.
So where does that leave Jim Chaney? I’m assuming as a sort of “walk-around offensive coordinator.” We’ve seen that done before in some other places. Whether it’s him or Coley who will be calling plays on Saturdays will be interesting to see. But, one has to admit, Chaney did a pretty good job of that last year. So it’s not a given that anything different would necessarily be better.
I’d imagine when it’s all said and done there will be some new titles for everybody as well. I’d imagine Coley, who had an offer to become offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, didn’t stay around for nothing. In addition to a nice raise, I’d imagine he’d at least become passing game coordinator, if not co-offensive coordinator. Maybe McGee becomes “running game coordinator” and I’d imagine Pittman could take on additional title of “assistant head coach.”
That’s just me speculating. I imagine all that will come out from Smart soon enough.
The good news, is those guys on that side of the ball have a lot to work with. I envision Georgia throwing the ball and throwing it more effectively in Year 2 under Fromm. After all, that’s pretty much all the kid did at Houston County. And the Bulldogs actually have a very experienced receiver and tight end corps to work with.
D’Andre Swift, for all intents and purposes, should be able to give the Bulldogs the tailback pop they’re used to. And what he may lack for ability in between the tackles, Elijah Holyfield and Bryan Herrien can replenish. And that’s without seeing what freshmen Zamir White and James Cook bring to the table.
I like the line with Andrew Thomas possibly moving to left tackle and Isaiah Wilson moving into right and the rest staying pretty much the same. And, again, that’s without discussing the potential of incoming freshmen such as Jamaree Salyer, Cade Mays and Deontrey Hill.
There’s a lot to work with on that side of the ball. Watching it all shake out should be fun to watch.
That’s enough to make somebody want to go watch a spring intrasquad game.