The 2017 Georgia Bulldog football season was one of the best seasons for the programme in years. Led by seniors Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter, and Davim Bellamy, along with Butkus Award winner Roquan Smith, the Dawgs had many successes, such as taking over South Bend, blowing the Gators out of Florida, capturing the SEC championship, and finally getting to smell the roses in Pasadena. Finally, a season of highs ended with the lowest of all lows – watching DeVonta Smith pull in a forty-one-foot pass from Tua Tagovailoa to beat Georgia in the National Championship. Although the 2017 season ended so badly, expectations are high in Athens, and there are many reasons for Dawg fans to be optimistic for the 2018 season.
Class Kirby Smart was a man on a mission on the recruitment path for the class of 2018. His class of seven five-stars was the most in the country and helped Georgia sign the top class in the country. It featured eleven players who were in the top three of their respected positions coming out of high school, and that included four who were number one in their position. The 2018 class consisted of the nation’s number one guard, Jamaree Salyer; the number one outside linebacker, Adam Anderson; and the number one double-threat quarterback, who many believe should have been the best overall player, Justin Fields. Zamir White, the nation’s top running back, was also signed but will miss the 2018 season after tearing his ACL during preseason practice. Other big names like the number two defensive back, Tyson Campbell, as well as the number two outer linebacker, Brenton Cox, should play early and often. The top class in Georgia history is fully capable of filling not only the gaps left by the 2018 graduating class, but much more.
- Defense Line
The offensive line was a strong part of Georgia’s run in 2017, so it’s hard to imagine it getting any better. It will make you better. The Dawgs lost first round pick Isaiah Wynn to the Patriots, but sophomore Andrew Thomas is more than ready to slide into the left tackle position. A true freshman, he started all fifteen games for the Dawgs at right tackle and was able to hold his own. Every other position is up for grabs, although it seems like there are some clear frontrunners for every position. If something unforeseen happens, Ben Cleveland becomes the starting right-hand watch. He landed that spot in the regular-season Auburn game last year and never looked back. At 6’7 and 340 pounds, it’s hard to get bigger than Big Ben, isn’t it? wrong. At 6’8″, 350 Isaiah Wilson is an absolute mountain of a man and looks set to be the frontrunner for the right tackle spot. Wilson came in as the No. 5 offensive tackle in the 2017 class but struggled with the Georgia heat last year. He has adapted and is looking to get his name out there. Right now in the middle is Lamont Gaillard. Gaillard is a very solid blocker and consistently gets the ball to the quarterback with no problem. If his name isn’t mentioned often, it means he’s doing something right, and that’s the case with Lamont Gaillard. Perhaps the widest open spot on the line is the left guard. However, it should be Kendall Baker’s place to lose. Baker is a 6’5, 310 lb senior. His experience will be beneficial to a young but talented and powerful offensive line. If one of these novice five doesn’t perform or goes down, there are plenty of young guys like former five-star Cade Mays and Trey Hill who are ready to play. The average projected starter is 325 pounds, so there’s a lot of meat for that stable of backs in Athens to fall behind.
- “Easy Schedule”
The reason I say “easy” is because in the SEC nothing is easy, but Georgia’s schedule is very favorable. In week one, they play Austin Peay before heading to South Carolina in week two. The Gamecocks will be bolstered to play a top three team at home, but Georgia’s surplus of talent will prove more than enough to take care of the Gamecocks. Week three is another matchup with Middle Tennessee before heading to Missouri to take on the Tigers. Mizzou may have the best quarterback in the country in Drew Locke, but with the lack of a team around him on either side of the ball, Georgia will mostly take over in the trenches and in easy. However, it will be a great test for high school students and can be a great learning experience. Week five: Tennessee comes to town. Tennessee” The problems run deeper than just their coaching staff, so expect another big win for Georgia. Vandy is Vandy for week six. Week seven is starting to get a little trickier. The Dawgs travel to Death Valley to face the Tigers of LSU. Death Valley is always a tough place to play, but Georgia showed in 2017 that they can play anywhere, and Dawgnation should show up strong as that’s the hotspot game for 2018. The Dawgs will win it. So Georgia enters their week eight bye with a nice 7-0 record before travelling to Jacksonville. Florida will be better than 2017 in many ways, but their situation is much like Tennessee and they will fall prey to the Dawgs again. Kentucky just can’t match Georgia anywhere on the field. From a talent standpoint, Auburn is the only team on Georgia’s schedule that can match them across the board. With more depth and the home advantage they will receive in Athens, the Dawgs will be the preferred choice. The last two weeks of the regular season are UMass and Georgia Tech, so there are two easy wins to close out the regular season. If the Dawgs can stay healthy, it’s hard to watch them lose a match and next to impossible to see them lose two.
- More talented people in general
Georgia is losing a lot of talent and valuable leaders in graduation and design, but the strong recruitment of recent years has made Georgia ready to reload. It has a slew of inside linebackers ready to fill in for Roquan Smith. Deandre Walker and Jonathon Ledbetter, along with freshman Brenton Cox, are ready to take and potentially improve on the holes of Lorenzo Carter and Davim Bellamy. The secondary will replace Dominick Sanders, Malkom Parrish, and Aaron Davis with younger but more talented players such as Richard Lecounte, Tyson Campbell, Tyree Mcgee, and Deangelo Gibbs. Future first rounder Deandre Baker will hold on to a corner spot. On the offensive, real-life sophomore Jake Fromm will have a year under his belt, and he’ll have more weapons as Demetrius Robinson joins an already-loaded receiving corps that includes Terry Godwin and Mecole Hardman. The best running back duo in history is now in the NFL, but there will be no loss in the running game. Deandre Swift has already shown what he can do, and Elijah Holyfield has been waiting for his chance to show what he can. The attacking line mentioned earlier will give these ridges huge holes to burst through. This is arguably the most talented team on paper that Georgia has ever played.
- The X Factor
Every team has its own secret weapons, and so does Georgia. The Dawgs have three players who can give them an edge in close-matched games. James Cook is a fast and explosive running back. The 5’11, 190-lb. back came in as a four-star in the 2018 class and will give Georgia’s offence a huge boost with his sweeps and catching the ball from the backfield. He will be a great goal threat that can help the attack in those close and contested matches. Georgia also returns a large portion of their 2017 success in kicker Rodrigo Blankenship. was pretty much automatic with field goals, scoring twenty of the twenty-three he attempted, including a fifty-five yarder in the Rose Bowl that seemingly heralded Georgia’s comeback. The Dawgs will benefit from both Blankenship’s field goals and his deep kick-off. Georgia also brought in double-threat quarterback Justin Fields. Justin Fields isn’t your run-of-the-mill double-threat quarterback. Weighing 6’3 and 230 pounds, he runs a dash of less than 4.5 meters. What sets Fields apart from other double threats is his arm. He won Elite 11 MVP by not throwing any interceptions and scoring a touchdown on seventy percent of his team drives in an event he couldn’t scramble. His special arm and special legs will create a spark for the Georgia attack when needed. He won Elite 11 MVP by not throwing any interceptions and scoring a touchdown on seventy percent of his team drives in an event he couldn’t scramble. His special arm and special legs will create a spark for the Georgia attack when needed. He won Elite 11 MVP by not throwing any interceptions and scoring a touchdown on seventy percent of his team drives in an event he couldn’t scramble. His special arm and special legs will create a spark for the Georgia attack when needed.
The 2017 season was nicknamed the “Revenge Tour” because the Dawgs dominated every opponent who defeated them the previous year. Georgia has now got its “payback” on every team. The only team they haven’t taken revenge on is the Alabama Crimson Tide. A match-up in Atlanta for the SEC Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoffs is very likely, and Kirby Smart’s squad will be significantly strengthened, along with Dawgnation, who should re-populate the Mercedes Benz Stadium. It will feel like a home game for the Dawgs, and they will be very hard to beat. It’s hard to say who Georgia’s playoff opponents will be, but they won’t be as strong as Alabama, and the Dawgs would have to be preferred in both games to win. Add that to the motivation they’ll have to not lose again, and they’ll be very hard to beat.
The 2017 Georgia football season was one of the best in years, but the Dawgs are poised to make 2018 the Year of the Dawg and make this season even better.