ATHENS – The news came one after the other on Tuesday morning: Brice Ramsey was leaving Georgia to pursue a graduate transfer, and so was Reggie Wilkerson. After bidding the duo a fond adieu, there was a natural reaction among Georgia fans: So what happens now?
Neither player’s departure was very surprising. In fact, after signing day we updated the team’s roster numbers but pointed out that both Ramsey and Wilkerson were set to graduate and could transfer.
In both cases, it was more a matter of when the decisions would come. Now they have, and as Georgia prepares for spring practice next week, let’s delve into the ramifications:
1. WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE GEORGIA AND THE 85 LIMIT?
The NCAA says no team can have 85 players on scholarships at one time, and for awhile there Georgia was facing a roster crunch beginning when the rest of the signing class arrives this summer.
But Kirby Smart said on signing day that “we’ll be fine with the 85.” And at this point, it looks like the Bulldogs are very close.
By this reporter’s unofficial count – no team publicizes its numbers – Georgia is now at 87 committed scholarships for the upcoming season. Yes, that’s two over, but it comes with some caveats: It includes long snapper Trent Frix, who was awarded a scholarship last year but could return to walk-on status. It also assumes that Trent Thompson will return to the team.
That count also includes David Marvin, the place-kicker transferring in from Wofford. Marvin is blueshirting, which means his signing doesn’t count until the 2018 class, but he would normally count against the 85 scholarship amount. There’s some clarity lacking on whether Marvin being a graduate transfer would effect that. But at this point we’re counting Marvin towards the 85.
There are 27 incoming players on scholarship, including Marvin. Here’s the list of returning players.
Seniors (17): RB Nick Chubb, RB Sony Michel, TE Jeb Blazevich; TE Jordan Davis, WR Javon Wims, WR Shakenneth Williams, OL Isaiah Wynn, OL Dyshon Sims, OT Aulden Bynum, NT John Atkins, ILB Reggie Carter, OLB Davin Bellamy, OLB Lorenzo Carter, DB Aaron Davis, CB Malkom Parrish, S Dominick Sanders, SN Trent Frix*.
Juniors (17): TE Jackson Harris, WR Terry Godwin, WR Michael Chigbu, WR Jayson Stanley, G-C Lamont Gaillard, OL Kendall Baker, DT Trent Thompson, DT DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, DE Jonathan Ledbetter, DL Keyon Brown, ILB Roquan Smith, ILB Juwan Taylor, ILB Natrez Patrick, ILB-S Rashad Roundtree, OLB D’Andre Walker, CB Deandre Baker, S Jarvis Wilson.
Sophomores (22): QB Jacob Eason, RB Brian Herrien, RB Elijah Holyfield, TE Isaac Nauta, TE Charlie Woerner, WR Riley Ridley, WR Tyler Simmons, DL Tyler Clark , DL Julian Rochester, DL David Marshall, ILB Jaleel Laguins, DL Michail Carter, CB Tyrique McGhee, CB Mecole Hardman, DB J.R. Reed; P Marshall Long, OL Pat Allen, DE Justin Young, ILB Tae Crowder, OL Sam Madden, OL Sage Hardin, OL-DL Michael Barnett.
Redshirt freshmen (4): OL Solomon Kindley, OL Chris Barnes, OL Ben Cleveland, OLB Chauncey Manac.
That list also doesn’t include place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship and fullback Christian Payne, both walk-ons who would be considered for a scholarship if room opened up. And it’s possible that Frix could fall in that category too – or even Aaron Davis, who originally came to school as a walk-on in 2013, but has long since been starting and on scholarship.
Either way, without speculating on who it might be, it’s fairly easy to anticipate some more attrition between now and the summer, especially after players have had the chance to evaluate things during spring practice.
2. WHAT ABOUT QUARTERBACK DEPTH?
It’s not good. It’s pretty worrisome to only have two scholarship quarterbacks, one of them a true freshman and the other a sophomore.
It’s also not unprecedented.
Back in 2010, Aaron Murray was a redshirt freshman who ended up starting every game. His backup was Hutson Mason, a true freshman who was the only other scholarship quarterback on the team. There was also Logan Gray, but he switched to receiver before the season.
So while this year’s situation is far from ideal, it’s manageable. Jacob Eason will in all likelihood start again, with Jake Fromm ready to pounce if Eason falters or gets hurt. It would take both getting hurt for the depth to become a real problem, at least as far as playing time.
Where it could hurt more is practice, where you tend to need good scout-team quarterbacks, and just have enough guys to run drills. But even then, Georgia is hoarding walk-ons, bringing in Stetson Bennett this year, and bringing back Sam Vaughn and Parker McLeod (who was a scholarship quarterback at Alabama before leaving the team, then resurfacing at Georgia last year.)
This isn’t a good situation for Georgia to be in for one year, which is why Smart and Jim Chaney are hitting the recruiting trail hard. But for one season, it can be managed.
3. WHAT ABOUT PUNTING?
Ramsey has filled in the last two years and could have competed to do so again. But if Marshall Long is healthy, he’s the favorite to be the main punter.
Long broke his kneecap late in the season and missed the final five games. He’ll also miss spring practice, but the hope is he’s good to go this season.
If not, or if Long falters, the team has brought in graduate transfer Cameron Nizialek from Columbia, an FCS school, as well as some other walk-ons.
4. AND THE DEFENSIVE BACKS?
Wilkerson had a chance to compete for a role this year, but if he had a great chance he wouldn’t be transferring. He offered versatility, but understandably he didn’t want to stick around this year just for the chance to be a valuable backup with a chance of cracking the lineup.
Georgia does have one vacant starting spot in the secondary, nickel back, and Wilkerson could have been a candidate there. But there are a number of talented youngsters (Richard LeCounte, Deangelo Gibbs, Tray Bishop, etc.) as well as veteran Aaron Davis, all of whom could be tried at that role.