ATHENS — Georgia, to no one’s surprise, is considered one of the favorites to make the College Football Playoffs next season on the strength of JT Daniels and more than 95 percent of the offensive production returning.
An ESPN pay-site article came out recently and suggested the Bulldogs’ biggest concern is how a loss to Clemson in the opening game might put added pressure on the team the remainder of the season.
The biggest question, author Heather Dinich suggested, is Kirby Smart’s ability to coach his team there.
Smart is 10-6 against Top 10 teams — half of those losses coming to Nick Saban — and yet it’s his coaching ability that ESPN chose to call into question.
It’s fair to say everyone has different opinions, but here are three more realistic, and more immediate hurdles, and while the main one involves coaching, it’s not the head coach position.
It appears imminent Smart will hire his old friend Will Muschamp in an analyst role.
While another set of veteran eyes will no doubt serve a purpose, it doesn’t fill the biggest need, which is for Smart to find a younger coach who can relate well to players and recruit effectively.
That’s what makes the current opening so pressing, as many top candidates are getting hired by other schools.
The cornerbacks’ coach hire
Most everyone assumed Smart had a shortlist of talented defensive backs coaches who would want to come work at his side, but the position remains vacant with National Signing Day quickly approaching.
While Alabama coach Nick Saban has been able to hire former head coaches to fill positions, like former Houston Texas Bill O’Brien becoming the Tide’s OC, Smart is looking at less experienced assistants for the position.
Ford doesn’t have any collegiate coaching experience, but he had experience working with the Washington Football Team (2017) through the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship and in 2019 as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns.
Sorting out backfield
The decisions of James Cook and Zamir White to return for another season means a loaded backfield that will be more competitive than ever once Kendall Milton, Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards and incoming tailback Lovasea Carroll have a complete spring behind them.
There’s still only one football, and presuming everyone stays healthy — which didn’t happen last season — there could be some issues with making sure players get the opportunities they were promised.
Spring drills will enable UGA to sort it out more, to the extent there could be some attrition at the position once players have a better idea of what their roles will be.
The offensive line obviously needs work after getting beat up by Cincinnati, but there are so many four and five-star prospects stacked up, it’s hard to imagine UGA being anything less than excellent up front on offense.
The secondary, however, has become a pressing issue with 8 players leaving in the past year for the NFL or transfer destinations.
It’s the position group Kirby Smart helps oversee, so the head coach is dialed in and once he makes the hire to replace Charlton Warren the wheels should be in motion.
It would seem more likely than not UGA will add a cornerback through the transfer portal, as well as on national signing day.