Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Georgia DL commit Aubrey Solomon

UGA is closer to the level of Alabama, Clemson than you might think

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. It’s National Championship Day. Georgia isn’t playing, but the Bulldogs might be closer to a title-caliber team than you might think.

Closer than you think

The national championship is Monday night. The rematch between Alabama and Clemson looks to be a dandy, so I think we should all take a day off from worrying too much about Georgia football — note, I didn’t say no worrying at all — and just enjoy the game. But before I quit thinking about Bulldogs football for the day, I wanted to take a moment to show, based on the teams in the title game, Georgia might not be too terribly far off from the level of a playoff challenger.

The first thing I want to note is coaching. I know a lot of people who lost faith in Kirby Smart after a single 8-5 season. A lot of people were ticked off about that record, partially because of the way UGA lost some games and partially because of overblown expectations. But when you look at the coaches in the playoff, you see a mediocre first season is pretty par for the course.

Pretty much everyone knows the Nick Saban story at Alabama. In his first season, Saban went 7-6, including a loss to UL-Monroe. He wasn’t the only playoff coach who didn’t fare well in hist first season. Dabo Swinney, who made the jump from insurance salesman to wide receiver coach to head coach in less than a decade, went 9-5 in his first full season at Clemson and 6-7 the season after. The Tigers have won at least 10 games in the six years since. Chris Petersen went 8-6 and 7-6, respectively, in his first two seasons at Washington before turning the corner and winning 12 this season. Point being: Don’t let UGA’s poor showing this season dishearten you too much. This doesn’t mean he’s the next Saban or Swinney, but Smart has plenty of time to get better, and he probably will.

Second, UGA was already recruiting at a national title level. Bud Elliott of SB Nation devised what he calls the “Blue-Chip Ratio.” Basically, the ratio of 5- and 4-star to 3- and 2-star players goes a long way toward determining how good a team can be. Generally, teams above a 0.5 ratio have the best chance to win a national title. Twelve teams met that criteria in 2016, and UGA was one of them, coming in at 0.52.

So, UGA already has the talent to be considered elite. It may not be on the level of Bama, which sports a 0.77 ratio, but the Bulldogs are in the ballpark. The 0.52 is tied with Clemson, and you might have noticed that the Tigers are in the title game. But UGA seems to be finally climbing the ladder toward Bama with its current recruiting class, which has an 0.83 ratio. If this kind of talent is the rule, not the exception, under Smart, it should be within the next four years that UGA is competing for the playoff. Jimmies and Joes, not X’s and O’s and all that.

The final thing I want to note is defensive line play. Paul Myerberg and Daniel Uthman had a great piece in USA Today going over the necessity of a dominant defensive line to a team’s championship hopes. “If you get overwhelmed up front, it’s a wrap,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “You’re going to be on the losing side of it. It takes the ability to hold at the point of attack and win your fair share to have a realistic chance to win it.”

As the piece notes, to be competitive on a consistent basis, you have to constantly reload on the defensive line, like Clemson and Alabama have done the last few years. While UGA has neither a completely dominant defensive line nor a truly top DL recruit committed — although Aubrey Solomon could change that — fans should be happy about how the Dawgs unit is developing.

Most importantly for Georgia, it’s DL is young. Only NT John Atkins is a senior. Julian Rochester and DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle will each be here for two or three more seasons, while Trenton Thompson will be in Athens for one or two more. Ditto for soon-to-be sophomores Jonathan Ledbetter and David Marshall. This gives UGA a two-fold advantage on the line: One, the players are young and have time to develop into a top unit. Two, Smart has time to recruit replacements before these guys leave. And if Smart keeps recruiting like he is now, there shouldn’t be any drop-off.

So, when you see either Alabama or Clemson — you probably know fans of these teams — celebrating Monday night, try not to fret too much. There still is a ton of work to be done to get there, but Georgia isn’t that far off from being in the running for a title.

Basketbrawl

UGA hoops beat Missouri, 71-66, this weekend, but who cares about that? All I care about is COACH FIGHT!!!

Dawgs in the playoffs

While the rest of the Giants receiving corps was busy dropping everything that came its way in a wild-card playoff loss to the Packers on Sunday, former Bulldog Tavarres King caught his first-ever TD on a 41-yard strike from Eli Manning. And, for the love of God, do some research Joe Buck, just because you’ve never heard of him doesn’t mean it’s his first year in the league.

ICYMI

Good dog

May the national championship be as exciting to all of us as a tennis balllauncher is to this good dog.

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