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What position will make the biggest surprise impact in 2018? I say receiving corps. Mecole Hardman will be the playmaker, followed by Riley Ridley and the biggest surprise impact player. Drumroll please ……… J.J. Holloman (see 2017 spring game)
― Jerry J. Blash
Poor Terry Godwin. All he did last year was make the best catch by a Georgia player in seven years, and he’s the team’s leading returning receiver in 2018, and people are already forgetting about him. Tsk, tsk.
Otherwise, Jerry, your summation of the top tier of receivers seems pretty fair. Hardman is indeed a playmaker, Ridley seems likely to step in for the departed Javon Wims – as he did in the National Championship Game – and Holloman is a good candidate to push for more playing time. (Godwin, meanwhile, could push for the unusual distinction of being the team’s second-leading receiver in all four of his college seasons.)
So if all that happens – and none of these ideas are a reach – would it really make the receiving corps a surprise? For that reason, Jerry, I’ll agree with your optimism about the receiving unit, but not agree that it’s the answer to your question. That’s a good thing, frankly. Wims’ departure could hurt, but college teams lose good players every season. Georgia is in good shape at receiver other than Wims.
What will be the surprise unit? Not offensive line, where optimism runs rampant already. In fact the O-line could end up being a disappointment if it turns out the loss of Isaiah Wynn looms large. Running backs? D’Andre Swift could be a star, and that wouldn’t surprise anybody, but will someone behind him emerge so Georgia has another Nick Chubb and Sony Michel-like tandem? I’m not sure. Tight ends? Maybe, but let’s believe it when we see it.
The defense has so much to replace, that I’m sure one of those areas – secondary, defensive line, outside or inside linebacker – will end up doing surprisingly well. But I’m not ready to project with much confidence which one it would be. Ask me again after spring practice.
Special teams is a tempting answer. Punter Cameron Nizialek doesn’t return, but kicker Rodrigo Blankenship and return man Hardman do, and Scott Fountain’s elevation to special teams coordinator should help alleviate any continuity concerns with Shane Beamer’s departure. Georgia should continue to be very deep – some 5-star and 4-star recruits will be on those units – so that should help continue the progress the special teams units made in 2017.
But here’s my answer: Quarterback. And it gets back to Jerry’s original point, but also other reasons.
Jake Fromm was pretty good as a freshman and should be better as a sophomore. Or he’ll be beaten out by Justin Fields, and if he does so, it won’t be because Fromm didn’t work hard in the offseason. Fromm or Fields will have experienced and talented receivers to throw to – including Isaac Nauta, Swift and other tailbacks. If the team doesn’t establish that solid group behind Swift, it might rely more on the passing game. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney knows that going into the season, and although the overall philosophy of Georgia football is to run the ball, they’ll spend the offseason gearing more around the passing game.
That’s all just a guess. And again, ask me about this one more time after I’ve had a chance to take in spring practice. But for now, I’d be pretty optimistic about Georgia’s ability to pass the ball and, dare I say, we could see some Aaron Murray-like numbers coming out of Fromm in 2018.
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