How Georgia football can clear 3 offseason hurdles and win SEC championship
Football is a game of give and take, big gains and penalty flags, turnovers and special teams plays.
There is adversity and emotion at each turn, with the potential for momentum to shift on any play.
Passionate fans, like those at Georgia, feel every bump in the road and every pocket of turbulence. The spring football liftoff has been tough between Kenny McIntosh suffering a dislocated elbow and George Pickens’ torn ACL.
But there has been enough good news to offset the bad, most notably the hard work the receivers and tight ends are putting it with JT Daniels and the quarterbacks to learn the offense.
Indeed, Kirby Smart recently pointed out the size and versatility of the offense will be determined by how much the skill players can learn. Georgia has enough quality depth in the QB room to say the quarterback position will not be what holds back the offense this season.
Here are 3 big offseason issues Georgia faces, and why they are all solvable:
1. Shallow secondary
The Bulldogs are on the verge of having five defensive backs drafted into the NFL, and there have been four others that have left the program via transfer since the end of the 2019 season.
It’s a unit that’s in overhaul mode with safety Lewis Cine the only opening day starter returning from the 2020 team.
Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei might carve up the Bulldogs for more than 300 yards passing and 3 touchdowns in the Sept. 4 showdown in Charlotte, N.C., but that wouldn’t be the end of the world for two reasons:
A) Playing a marquee opponent in Week One is an attention-getter and sets the bar high for the young and inexperienced defensive backs.
B) The schedule gets soft after Clemson
UGA’s pass coverage has a degree of complexity to it, and no matter how many practice reps players get against the Bulldogs’ talented offense, there will be wrinkles to be ironed out in season.
While Clemson has the talent to take advantage of the secondary, UAB does not, even with an experienced quarterback and veteran offensive line.
The next three opponents, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Arkansas, all have less than ideal quarterback situations and don’t have the offensive line play to contain Georgia’s pass rush.
2) George Pickens’ injury
Football is a brutal game that dictates the page gets turned quickly, but that doesn’t change the fact Pickens was headed to record-breaking status this season with 100 catches within his capable reach.
There’s no “good news” to offset the bad news, but there is some room for consolation and rational that the passing game can not only be saved, but also thrive next season.
The face Pickens’ injury happened four practices into spring, as opposed to the first quarter of the opening game, gives Smart and his staff plenty of time to adjust the offensive identity.
Not change it, mind you, but merely adjust it. Georgia will still be a pass-first team that runs Air Raid concepts, and there’s no reason to pull the Bulldogs from the ranks of national championship contenders.
It’s a deep and talented receivers room and with Pickens out, more than 100 regular-season targets become available. Smart has said he’s pleased with the relationships being built and work being done between the quarterbacks and receivers, and that will need to continue.
3. Offensive line shuffle
The fact Smart expressed some uncertainty about the offensive line is worth noting.
“We’re not the same offensive line that we’ve been in terms of experience,” Smart said on 680 The Fan earlier this week, “so we have to be able to improve in that area, and we have to be able to protect the quarterback.”
Daniels, with an offseason in Todd Monken’s offense and thousands of reps with his receivers, will be better equipped to get rid of the ball quickly.
Trey Hill and Ben Cleveland leave big shoes to fill at center and guard, respectively.
Second-year offensive line coach Matt Luke will be expected to take advantage of the talent the Bulldogs have recruited and build one of the league’s premium units.
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