Curtis Compton/AJC
Georgia freshman QB Jacob Eason

UGA’s biggest questions this offseason

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. College football season is no more, and the long, dark offseason has begun. I think I might cry.

The big questions

Welp, college football season is over. It sucked when UGA’s season ended, but at least there still some college football remaining. Now, we have nothing until spring practice. Well, we have seven NFL playoff games remaining — go Falcons — but for those, like me, who consider themselves college football fans first and foremost, today is a pretty crappy day.

Of course, in college football it’s never really the offseason. There’s always something to talk about. And today we’re talking about questions. Specifically, the biggest questions for the Georgia Bulldogs in the eight months between now and when the 2017 season kicks off.

How will the offensive line shape up?

The one thing that there is no question about is that UGA’s offensive line was its biggest weakness this season. The lack of size didn’t fit that well with the power run system Kirby Smart and Jim Chaney want to use. It hurt Nick Chubb and Sony Michel’s production, and it kept Jacob Eason from being able to sit comfortably in the pocket to deliver throws. Aside from the lack of size, the unit just wasn’t that talented.

With Chubb and Michel returning for another season, it would be a shame if the offensive line failed to put it all together. But even if the line isn’t a finished product yet next season, it should take significant strides. I figure one or two of the uber-talented offensive line recruits — say Netori Johnson or Isaiah Wilson — or one of the big boys that came in the class of 2016 — say Ben Cleveland — steps into one of the spots vacated by Brandon Kublanow or Tyler Catalina “Wine Mixer.” Sam Pittman was regarded as one of the best O-line coaches in the country before coming to Georgia. It should just be a matter of time before he gets his whole unit in fighting form.

Will Jacob Eason take the next step?

Eason was simply OK in his first season in Athens, throwing for 2,430 yards, 16 TDs and 8 INTs. He showed all the potential you’d expect from a player as hyped as he was out of high school, but Eason didn’t seem to put all the pieces together. He seems to struggle when deciding whether to stand in the pocket or throw the ball away at times, and he lacks touch on his passes. Those are things that can be fixed with a year of experience to look back on and an offseason to address those problems.

Will his receivers take that step, too?

One thing that will determine whether Eason takes that next step is how much his receivers progress over the offseason. Yes, Eason lacked touch at times, but the receivers dropped their fair share of catchable balls as well. And Georgia’s top receiver from this season, Isaiah McKenzie, left for the NFL. The first player who needs to take his game to the next level is Terry Godwin. He’s the most experienced receiver on the team now and should receive a bigger role. Riley Ridley and Javon Wims both need to work on the drops, but each has potential. The biggest potential connection for next season is Eason and his roommate, Isaac Nauta. They linked up well this season, and an offseason of fine-tuning should get them even more in sync.

Will the defense become even more cohesive in Smart’s second year?

The verdict still is out on Smart as a head coach, but there is now no doubt he is one hell of a defensive coach. He showed it in all his seasons at Alabama and he showed it last season with the Bulldogs. As the season wore on, the defense got progressively better, putting together one of its best outings in the Liberty Bowl win against TCU. The more familiar the defense got with Smart’s system, the better it got. I was particularly impressed with players such as Lorenzo Carter, Trenton Thompson and Roquan Smith as the season progressed. Considering the progress that was made from September to January, one has to expect another significant leap in the offseason.

Which players from the highly touted Class of 2017 will look ready to play early?

Fans always wonder which recruits will vie for early minutes, but it will weigh even heavier on Bulldog fans’ minds this offseason, as Smart is putting together one of the best classes in UGA history. The aforementioned names on the offensive line should push for playing time, as should defensive backs such as Richard LeCounte III and DeAngelo Gibbs. UGA is thin in the secondary, so those guys have the easiest path into the depth chart. Look out at receiver as well. Like I said earlier, no UGA wideout covered himself in glory this season, so it’s easy to see someone such as Jeremiah Holloman or Trey Blount take some snaps early and often.

When you’re in denial that the season is over

ICYMI

Good dog

Today’s good dog was photoshopped two ways to Sunday.

Good dog. Good tweets.

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