Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. Today, we’re going to take a look at the best rising sophomores on Georgia’s roster. Don’t judge them on their performances last season. They merely were freshmen.
Top Dawgs – rising sophomores
We’ve spent the last month or so focusing almost solely on recruiting, so I figured it’s high time we got back to taking stock on who Georgia actually has on its roster. Over the next few days, I’m going to count down the top 5 members of each class at UGA, starting Monday with the rising sophomores.
Before I start, I should note that I’m basing this on who I think will perform best next season, not the best players from last season. Of course, there will be a lot of crossover, but that’s why some of these guys might not have played much yet.
1) Jacob Eason, QB — The No. 1 spot is a no-brainer. Eason was one of the best freshman quarterbacks in America last season. He has some things to work on — and needs improved play from his receivers and line — to take the next step in his progression. If he can extend plays more and play just a smidgen better under pressure, he should be one of the best QBs in American next season, regardless of class.
2) Isaac Nauta, TE — Nauta was Eason’s most reliable target last season, and I expect that connection to continue into 2017. As he and Eason improve their timing, the pair should just grow more and more prolific. I would like to see Nauta improve his blocking skills in the offseason. Not that they were bad or anything last season. But with all the questions on the offensive, some better blocking from the ends could be a boon.
3) David Marshall, DE — Marshall was one of the less-heralded recruits from the Class of 2016, but he was one of the bigger contributors. Although he didn’t put up huge stats, he showed a high motor in a backup role and provided the line with nice depth. He’ll be second string behind Jonathan Ledbetter once again next season, making defensive end one of the deepest positions on the roster.
4) Mecole Hardman, ATH — Hardman is the first guy on the list who didn’t do much last season, so I’m going out on a limb here. With the attrition in the secondary, he’ll have a larger role on defense next season. But I’m really looking forward to him as a return man. He was electric with the ball in his hands in high school. Without Isaiah McKenzie in front of him anymore, Hardman should be ready to put his explosive return skills on display.
5) Solomon Kindley, OG — There’s going to be some shifting on the offensive line this offseason, and there should be an opening at guard. Although he didn’t play much last season, Kindley did play with the first team some in practice. He seems to be the best of the bunch from the Class of 2016 linemen, so far at least, and should have the opportunity to show it.
Honorable mention goes to Riley Ridley. His drops last season still give me a lot of pause, especially with some of the talented freshman WRs coming to Athens who could jump him in the lineup. But if he figures out that aspect of his game, the sky is the limit.
Remembering Quentin Moses
By now you’ve likely heard about the tragic death of former UGA defensive lineman Quentin Moses. A lot of obituaries and tributes from teammates and those who knew him have poured out since the news broke. But the favorite thing I’ve seen so far is this 2006 piece from the Athens Banner-Herald in which Moses took it on a tour of his hometown, Athens.
— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) February 12, 2017
Could UGA be a title contender?
At least one smart analyst is asking. Gordon McGuinness at Pro Football Focus tackled the question in a recent post. His answer, based on the strength of UGA’s backfield and the weakness of its SEC East competition, a solid maybe. It might come down to the progression of Eason, McGuinness said:
The big key for Eason will be improving how he plays under pressure. As a true freshman, he completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 2,036 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on throws where he was kept clean. Things shifted entirely when he was put under pressure, though, with his completion percentage dropping to 31.8 percent, only throwing for 396 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. If you were looking at his season using the NFL passer rating, Eason’s rating dropped from 91.2 without pressure to 45.5 when pressure got there.
Go put a smile on your face and read the whole post.
A sampling of how UGA sports fared last weekend:
Men’s basketball beats Tennessee, 76-75
— Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) February 11, 2017
Women’s basketball beats Auburn, 57-51
— Georgia Basketball (@UGA_WBB) February 12, 2017
Softball finished opening weekend 5-0
— Georgia Softball (@UGASoftball) February 13, 2017
Equestrian upsets No. 2 Auburn
It's great to be a Georgia Bulldog!
— Georgia Equestrian (@UGAEquestrian) February 12, 2017
- Salary details and more analysis on new Georgia defensive line coach Tray Scott (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- One small reason to celebrate the Super Bowl (Loran Smith, DawgNation)
- Is Mark Fox really going to slow down Georgia’s offense? (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Gordon Beckham recalls UGA’s stellar 2008 season at preseason baseball banquet (Evan Greenberg, Athens Banner-Herald)
- 5 things we learned from Georgia basketball’s win against Tennessee (Brandon Sudge, UGA Sports)
- Elite linebacker says he’s visiting UGA soon (Jake Rowe, Dawgs247)
Walk yourself, freedom dog.
A strong independent dog who don't need no human pic.twitter.com/UaJXQ9RVaq
— Baby Animals (@BBAnimals) February 13, 2017