Steffenie Burns/UGA
Because of the presence of quarterbacks Jake Fromm (11) and Justin Fields (1), ESPN's Adam Rittenberg predicts Georgia will have the best offense in the country over the next three years.

With rebuild on defense, will Georgia’s offense be expected to outscore opponents this year?

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DawgNation:

My perception of the 2017 Bulldogs is that the defense carried the day. In the biggest games of the year the defense stepped up and made game defining plays.

I read an article in which the writer has ranked the future Georgia offense as No. 1.  Gotta love it and few can disagree.

There has been much talk about the loss of defensive production by Roquan Smith and how will Georgia overcome his departure.  My question is: Considering the improved Georgia offense that appears to be potentially dominant, do the Dawgs really have any defensive concerns? Will the 2018 Bulldog offense be the one to provide the game defining plays? I’m aware of the double question so you pick em.

Love ya DawgNation!

Mark Andrews, Sr.

That’s a great question — or questions — and some good observations as well, Mark. And, like you, I do believe they’re related.

There is a lot here to consider, and first and foremost, that’s Georgia’s offense and defense from a year ago. I agree with you that the Bulldogs defense made a lot of game-defining plays. When you think of the sack-strips, the blocked field goals, the takeaways and third-down stops, Georgia was definitely a force on defense. That’s validated by the national ranking of sixth in both yards allowed (294.6 per game) and points allowed (16.4 per game).

But you also can’t discount how effective the Bulldogs were on offense. They were sneaky good on offense last year, and that wasn’t just running the football. Despite starting freshmen at quarterback and tackle, Georgia finished third in the SEC in both total offense (433.62 ypg) and scoring (34.92 ppg). Only Missouri and Auburn moved the ball better, and only Mississippi State (.462) was better at converting third downs than the Bulldogs (.456). So there was a lot to like on that side of the ball.

At the end of the day, though, it’s all relative. Offense, defense and special teams have a cumulative effect on how good any team can be. Obviously, Georgia was exceptionally good on all three counts last season, leading to the National Championship Game appearance.

But as Adam Rittenburg points out in the piece you cited, optimism is high for the Bulldogs offense not only in 2018, but for the foreseeable future. By and large, they remain a young unit this year, and recruiting rankings indicate an continuing infusion of talent. Even with the considerable losses of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel from the backfield, all signs point to Georgia putting up a lot of points again this season.

Just through natural progression and maturity, I would expect it to be a more diverse offense that throws the ball more with Jake Fromm. But then there’s the added factor of coach Kirby Smart promoting James Coley to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Jim Chaney, who’s now coaching tight ends, will still be calling the plays. But Coley’s Miami offenses, as you’ll recall, threw the ball a lot, and I would imagine we’ll see his philosophy reflected here at Georgia as well.

As for the Bulldogs’ defense, well, let’s just say the offense better score a lot of points. The amount of turnover on that side of the ball is significant, and I’m not just talking about All-America linebacker Roquan Smith being gone. I don’t expect that unit to just plummet to the bottom of the league, but replacing six of the front seven and three-fifths of the secondary is no small undertaking.

Granted, Georgia has recruited extremely well on that side of the ball. The problem is it generally takes defensive players more time to develop. Think about Smith. It wasn’t until the second half of his sophomore year that he really distinguished himself as an exceptional linebacker. Same with Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. And defensive back is one of the most difficult and complicated positions to master.

None of that is to predict doom and gloom for Georgia’s defense. I believe the Bulldogs have recruited well enough and have enough seasoned players waiting in the wings to be assured of remaining in the top half of the SEC in terms of talent. But logic would dictate that there has to be a dropoff not only in overall excellence, but in the unique play-making ability that a number of individuals on that side of the ball possessed.

So, yes, at times the Bulldogs may be required to outscore opponents. The good news is they should have the means to do that.

Thanks for writing.

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