Brant Sanderlin/AJC
Georgia TE Isaac Nauta

5 sneaky, important Georgia Bulldogs

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant Georgia football news and takes every Monday through Friday.

Top Dawgs – players more important than we might think

Spring practice is finally upon us, so it’s time to take stock of the important players on Georgia’s roster ahead of the unofficial kickoff of Kirby Smart Season 2: Electric Bugaloo.

But the question of who the most important players on the roster are is too simple. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are obviously important, as is Jacob Eason. Defensively, you’ve got Dominick Sanders and his ballhawking, Roquan Smith and his ability to be in on every tackle, as well as Lorenzo Carter, who needs to create chaos in the backfield more than he did in 2016 for the defense to truly dominate.

The more interesting question is, which players are more important than we might think? I’ve compiled a list of five, in no particular order. Let me know where you agree and disagree down in the comments section.

Jake Fromm — There are a lot of fans who think Fromm will somehow beat out Eason for the starting QB job. I’m not one of them. And I think if it did happen, it would probably mean things have gone badly awry in Athens. But it is crucial that Fromm is ready and capable of playing at a high level.

Georgia has no QB depth outside Fromm. Should Eason go down, Fromm is it. And hopefully, he’s good enough that if the worst happened, the drop-off under center wouldn’t be too significant. He needs to be like the fire extinguisher under your sink: You hope to never use it, but it makes you feel better to have it.

Julian Rochester — We all hope that everything is OK with Trent Thompson and his medical situation, but the fact of the matter is we don’t know his status for 2017. Rochester is the next man up at DT. It’s imperative that he’s ready to be a regular starter in case, for some reason, Thompson isn’t able to make it back. And if Thompson is back, Rochester will have had a spring running with the first team to hone his skills. He has the potential to be a major player for the defense next season.

Isaac Nauta — The two areas where Georgia is weakest on offense — catching and blocking — are two areas where Nauta can directly contribute. He’s UGA’s top returning receiver and seems to have a better connection with Eason than any other pass catcher. That connection will be relied upon heavily in 2017.

Georgia is also going through wholesale changes on the offensive line, and a lot of young blood is expected to see action. Any slack that Nauta and his fellow tight ends can pick up will be a tremendous boon for Georgia.

Dyshon Sims — I don’t think Sims is the best player on Georgia’s line or the most talented. But he is the most versatile, which makes him critical to what UGA is doing up front. His ability to move from spot to spot and be fairly comfortable in any of them will allow Sam Pittman to maximize talent in the trenches. And without experience to rely on, talent is what will have to get UGA’s offensive line through 2017.

Rodrigo Blankenship  — Georgia was one of the worst teams in America at finishing drives last year, ending the season 120th in points per trip inside the 40. That’s partially an offensive problem and partially a special teams issue. Georgia simply couldn’t depend on its kicker to make kicks in tight spots. The more dependable Blankenship becomes on field goals, the better chance Georgia has of winning a good many football games.

Tracy Rocker was fired by Georgia

We’ve finally received some clarity on Tracy Rocker’s departure, and what happened is what most had guessed: He was fired.

Chip Towers of DawgNation obtained a termination letter from AD Greg McGarity to Rocker sent on Feb. 6, which confirms the former UGA coach was shown the exit. “The decision has been made to discontinue your services as associate head coach,” McGarity wrote, according to documents obtained by Towers. “The University is hereby terminating your agreement of January 1, 2016. Please consider this advance written notice of your termination.”

Also of note regarding Rocker, he was the only coach named in the three minor NCAA violations Georgia self-reported, according to Towers. However, Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph reported on Twitter that Rocker’s dismissal and the violation aren’t related.

Georgia swim & dive finishes fourth in the nation

The Georgia women’s swimming and diving team finished fourth at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships this past weekend in Indianapolis. It’s the ninth season in a row Georgia has finished in the top 5 nationally.

And the Bulldogs nabbed that fourth-place finish in stunning fashion, winning silver and setting a school record in the 400 relay to edge fifth-place Texas by half a point.

The NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships begin on Wednesday in Indianapolis.

UGA women’s tennis snaps Gators’ streak

Georgia women’s tennis scored quite the upset last Friday, handing the No. 1 Florida Gators their first home defeat in 163 matches.

“Ellen (Perez) and (Elena) Christofi on No. 1 and No. 2 ran through their opponents to give us three points really quick,” Georgia coach Jeff Wallace said. “The rest of the matches were just battling, but Mariana (Gould) found a way to get that match. She had a match point that (Kourtney) Keegan fought off, then she finally closed it out in that tiebreaker. It was great tennis, really exciting.”

Georgia then traveled to Columbia, S.C., on Sunday and defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks, 4-0, to move to 11-3 on the season.

Gymdogs finish fourth at SEC Championships

Georgia gymnastics finished fourth at the SEC Championship in Jacksonville, Fla., this past weekend. Lauren Johnson notched a career-high score of 9.9 on bars, while Sydney Snead had a pair of 9.9s on vault and bars, and Ashlyn Broussard scored a 9.9 on vault. The Gymdogs will learn their NCAA regional destination Monday at 4 p.m. ET.

ICYMI

Good dog

Dogs on top.