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Georgia football winners and losers following 2019 SEC Championship game defeat
Winner: Jackson Smith
Loser: Kirby Smart’s Mark Fox impression
When Mark Fox was the Georgia basketball head coach, he would from time to time bring up the players who were no longer on the team. Most often, it would be Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who declared early for the 2013 NBA Draft. It was often done to reinforce that he had a very talented player and didn’t anymore.
The problem with this was that given Caldwell-Pope’s talents, he was never going to be a four-year player in Athens. Fox had to know he was going to have to replace Caldwell-Pope’s production sooner rather than later.
This is what makes Smart’s comments about losing four pass-catchers to the NFL as a reason for the wide receiver struggles so maddening.
After the loss to LSU on Saturday, a game in which the Georgia wide receivers once again struggled, Smart brought up the fact that Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley, Isaac Nauta and Terry Godwin were all drafted last year.
“The first two years, Jake’s numbers were better,” Smart said. “So the indicator of that was four wide receivers were on our sideline that were drafted that are playing in the NFL. So right now, I don’t know if we have four wide receivers that are going to be playing in the NFL at this time next year.”
Hardman was a 5-star recruit. So was Nauta. Godwin was a senior last season. It should not have come as a surprise that these guys would all be in the NFL following the 2018 season. In Smart’s time, Georgia has lost plenty of players to the NFL under Smart and the Bulldogs didn’t have as much of a problem replacing the likes of Isaiah Wynn, Roquan Smith and Deandre Baker.
For the LSU game specifically, the Georgia wide receiver core was decimated. Lawrence Cager was out with an ankle injury. George Pickens was suspended for the first half. Then Dominick Blaylock and Kearis Jackson both picked up injuries. For the LSU game alone, those losses are going to be hard to overcome and that’s understandable.
But the wide receiver position was a concern all season. It got worse toward the end of the season, but the problems with the position group were years in the making. And that falls at the feet of Smart.
Loser: Georgia football 2020 wide receiver room
And it’s not like the wide receiver room is going to be fixed next year. Yes, it’s fair to assume the likes of Pickens, Jackson and Robertson get better. But this position group suffered a significant loss when Blaylock tore his ACL on Saturday.