ATHENS — Georgia has taken over the top of the SEC football ranks, with Kirby Smart forging his own dynasty.
The Bulldogs have won the last two national championships, and there are more than just whispers of “three-peat” with roughly half the starters returning from last season’s 15-0 squad.
The offseason has obviously gotten off to a difficult start for Georgia with the tragic Jan. 15 deaths of offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy.
Coach Kirby Smart and the team have rallied together amidst the grief and sadness, pressing forward into what’s expected to be a challenging offseason.
From a football perspective, focus has not been an issue for Smart’s recent teams, with a high standard firmly in place.
Still, there are offseason issues, and here are the top 3 priorities to take note of:
Priority No. 1 — the biggie, keep Monken
Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken has done more to elevate a program to a championship level than arguably any assistant coach in the nation the past two seasons.
Monken’s brilliant schemes and play calling have given the Bulldogs a leg up at each turn, and his ability to design plays around his personnel and quarterbacks is unprecedented.
WATCH: Todd Monken stays humble, but keeps it real with Georgia presentation
Monken squeezed the most out of a former-walk-on, and he has developed a deep and talented QB room filled with players ready and capable of setting future records of their own.
The NFL, however, could come calling to bring Monken back with 10 openings for offensive coordinators.
Monken is well-paid at Georgia and has stated his comfort working with Kirby Smart and Mike Bobo, but with two CFP title rings on his fingers the 56-year-old Monken might still carry NFL dreams.
UGA fans will and should hold their collective breath.
Priority No. 2 — replace unique talent
Kenny McIntosh quietly became one of the most versatile threats in recent SEC history, on par with the running and pass-catching versatility Percy Harvin once brought to championship Florida offenses (Two of only 3 SEC players with 800+ plus rushing, 500+ receiving and 10 TDs).
McIntosh will be tough to replace, but he’s not the only unique talent Monken was able to scheme with this season.
RELATED: Kenny McIntosh carries offense with pass game off second straight game
Darnell Washington, UGA’s 6-foot-7, 285-pound tight end was a physical mismatch who could block like an offensive tackle but also catch passes even when covered. Washington’s departure is one less headache for defenses.
Georgia thought it found its “X” replacement for A.D. Mitchell, but Mississippi State transfer Rodarius “Rara” Thomas was arrested on Monday on a felony charge of false imprisonment, calling into question his future in the program.
Priority No. 3 — handle success
The Georgia victory parade certainly had its detractors, with a couple of instances of less-than-ideal interaction and somewhat controversial edgy presentation speeches that caught dignitaries off guard.
Smart will also have to find a new narrative to motivate his team after last season’s notion that “no one believed” in the team. The Bulldogs were a preseason No. 3 pick and were favored in every game, and yet UGA players said in the locker room after the title game that some had picked them to go 7-6 according to staff members.
Now, there is zero doubt Georgia has changed the program narrative and carries the weight of a rare and historic two-time defending national championship program.
Everyone believes, and expectations are high.
Can the Bulldogs handle the fruits and benefits of success? Several players will be on preseason All-American and Award Watch lists, and Georgia players will hear about their greatness throughout the offseason.
Smart said the day after beating TCU 65-7 that, “I am concerned about our season next year,” and that he would be thinking about it on the flight home.
“What’s important now,” Smart said. “W.I.N. — that’s our motto.”
There are several other priorities for Smart and his staff, who have been working as hard as ever on the recruiting trail, and it’s a sure bet work is already being done to address all of them.