Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. In today’s edition, we discuss the decisions from some important Georgia juniors to return to Athens for their senior seasons. Welcome back.
Merry Christmas, Bulldog fans
Georgia football fans received an early Christmas gift on Thursday when a quartet of Bulldog juniors — Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy — announced their plans to return for their senior seasons. In the aftermath of the announcement, most of the attention has been focused on Chubb and Michel, and rightfully so. They are arguably two of the three most important players on this team and to get both back for their senior years is a massive coup. Bulldogs fans were girding themselves for a potential dud of an offense next season, and the announcement gives that line of thought a 180.
Considering the two defenders were always a safer bet to stay, it’s understandable that there has been more excitement about Chubb and Michel than Carter and Bellamy. But all the attention heaped on Chubb and Michel is doing a bit of a disservice to Carter and Bellamy. Just as the tailback duo will carry one of Georgia’s greatest offensive strengths into next season, the pair of linebackers will do likewise for the defense. In the process, they’ll have a good shot at turning into one of the SEC’s best units.
— Georgia Sports Now (@GASportsNow) December 15, 2016
As Georgia’s primary pass rushers, Carter and Bellamy often dictate the success of a defense. The success of your edge rusher can mean the difference between a bad defense, a good defense and a great defense. Sacks are one of the best indicators of defensive success, and now Georgia gets its two sack leaders — although they each only have 4 this season — back for another go. Both guys have had their peaks and troughs this campaign, but each one has improved as the season unfolded. Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker know how to coach the hell out of a linebacker. When they buckle their chinstraps next fall, I suspect they’ll be much better players than they are today.
You could even make the argument that the return of the linebackers is more important than the return of the running backs if only because of the depth at their respective positions. At tailback, Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield wait to tote the rock, while incoming freshman blue-chip backs Toneil Carter and D’Andre Swift would have certainly competed for minutes. Georgia is leagues deep at tailback.
Linebacker is a different story. Senior Chuks Amaechi currently sits behind Bellamy on the depth chart. Carter, at least, has an underclassmen below him in D’Andre Walker, but Walker probably isn’t quite ready for a starting gig. Georgia does have a good many talented pass rushers committed this season. It’s better to give those guys time to develop. So, even if for some strange reason Carter and Bellamy don’t improve between their junior and senior seasons, at least they’ll be upperclassmen who can hold that spot down while the underclassmen continue to develop.
With these developments, there is no denying the strength Georgia will have in the front seven next season. While Bellamy and Carter handle the perimeter, Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick will hold down the middle. In front of them, big John Atkins will eat space in the middle and Julian Rochester and Jonathan Ledbetter do battle with the offensive line. All those parts are needed, but when it fits together, that is an extremely talented front seven — one that could make games a living hell for SEC quarterbacks.
More changes in UGA’s secondary
It was only on Thursday that I was lamenting the attrition Georgia has suffered over the last few years, with much of that coming in the secondary. Over the span of a few years, UGA lost Josh Harvey-Clemons, Tray Matthews, Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley to transfers. All of them were contributors at Georgia and had varying degrees of success at the schools they left for, so these were significant blows.
On Thursday, Georgia suffered more bad luck in the secondary with news of another run of defections at defensive back. Sophomore corner Juwuan Briscoe, who started four games this season before losing his spot, and Rico McGraw, a backup nickel who was expected to start back in the preseason, both plan on leaving Athens, Smart confirmed on Thursday. Sophomore safety Kirby Coates is said to be undecided whether to leave the program as well.
The news of the losses isn’t that surprising. When new coaches come in, some of the old coaches players fit into the plans and some don’t. And, this season, with UGA up against the scholarship limit, some attrition is necessary as Smart tries to bring in as many players as possible in his first full class. Briscoe and McGraw can go somewhere where they have a better shot to see the field, and Georgia gets a few extra open spots as Smart begins to fill the program with players he recruited.
The departure of these players is certainly a double-edged sword. On one side, you have a now unbelievably thin Georgia secondary. In the here and now, Mecole Hardman needs to make some strides because he’s going to be called upon earlier than expected. That’s also the other side of the sword. Hardman will now be forced to log significant minutes in the Liberty Bowl, something he’ll surely grow from. It will also provide an early opportunity for someone like UGA commit Richard LeCounte III and could help swing top undecided backs Deangelo Gibbs and Tray Bishop in Georgia’s favor with the promise of early playing time. Overall, these transfers seem to be best for all parties involved.
Lady Dogs win again
The Georgia Lady Dogs basketball team travelled to Ohio on Thursday for a game against Cincinnati and came away with a 51-48 win to advance to 7-3 this season. Pachis Roberts led all Georgia scorers with 14 points. Next up: at home vs. Virginia on Monday.
Your Lady Dogs are headed back from the Queen City with a "W"!
Next game: vs. Virginia
-Monday, December 19
-Stegeman Coliseum pic.twitter.com/505XjFDHsJ
— Georgia Basketball (@UGA_WBB) December 15, 2016
Gym Dogs sneak peek
The Gym Dogs don’t open their season until mid-January, but you can get an early glimpse of what to expect from the squad this weekend. The Gym Dogs are holding a special sneak peek on Friday at the Suzanne Yoculan Gymnastics Complex in Athens. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the exhibition scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
— Georgia Gymdogs (@UGAGymnastics) December 12, 2016
- ‘It just didn’t feel right’: Nick Chubb on why he changed his mind and is returning to Georgia (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Sony Michel knew the reasons to turn pro but went with his heart (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Lorenzo Carter will keep ‘having fun’ playing at Georgia another year (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Davin Bellamy sees ‘brotherhood’ as motivation to return for senior season (Jordan D. Hill, Macon Telegraph)
- Towers’ Take: Nick Chubb’s family likes decision to stay at UGA (Chip Towers, DawgNation)
- Georgia likely down a receiver in the Liberty Bowl (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- What does the return of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel mean for Georgia’s prize RB recruits? (Jeff Sentell, DawgNation)
- Paul Johnson uses Wake Forest scandal as chance to zing Kirby Smart (DawgNation)
- Nation’s No. 1 prospect Trevor Lawrence has made his decision between Clemson and Georgia (Jeff Sentell, DawgNation)
I know I said Georgia’s defense is good for next year now that Carter and Bellamy are coming back, but it can always use a Bulldog who knows how to pin its ears back and make a hit.