It’s the first first week of a full slate of football, and nobody knows anything. I mean: look at the spread on Arizona and Hawaii then look how that turned out. (Ed. note: and that was with Hawaii turning it over six times.)
Well, we do know a few things. One: the Georgia Bulldogs are the third-best team in the country, and part of that top tier of programs (along with Alabama and Clemson) that regularly duke it out in the CFP for a national championship. This year will be more of the same based on their last three (19, 18, 17) recruiting classes, maybe the best offensive line in the country, and a veteran QB.
However, UGA is breaking in a new offensive coordinator, lost five starters in most of the skill positions, and lacks experienced depth at almost everywhere on the field. Does that mean they will be bad? That they will be worn down and lose games? That they won’t be undefeated going into the SEC Championship game? Nope.
Let’s look at why.
This is Jake Fromm’s team. He’s the undisputed QB1 after two years of fending off calls for the backups instead of him- first for replacing an injured Jacob Eason and then for five star true frosh, Justin Fields.
But in 2019, Fromm has all the confidence. After a very impressive 2018 where he threw for 2,761 yards on a 67% completion rate and a stupid TD to INT ratio (30-6), he expects to show off in an offense under new OC James Coley that will showcase his skill. Plus, he’s really handsome. Look at that header photo- the scruff, those icy blue eyes, that bow tie. This is the look of a man who knows what he’s going to do this year.
The key to Fromm’s success will be Coley’s offense. Coley has coached under Saban, Al Golden, Jimbo Fisher, and now Kirby Smart (one of those names is not like the other, one is just not the same). From 2010-2012, Coley was OC for Fisher at FSU (and previously at GA for Fisher at LSU), but it was name only. Fisher’s aggressive micromanaging of the offense (and most everywhere else) led a mass exodus of assistant coaches at the end of the 2012 season. Coley moved on to Miami for three seasons before the Golden staff was canned in favor of Mark Richt. Since, Coley has been with the Dawgs as WR then QB coach until this season.
Coley tends to rely more heavily on the pass than the run, and if his experience in the Fisher offense says anything, it will be a fairly complicated passing offense based on reads instead of predetermined targets. It uses spread principles like finding mismatches in space, but it does it via a pro style appearance where the QB has to make presnap reads and be on the same page with WRs on who will break into what space.
At FSU, under Fisher’s tutelage, Coley’s unit scored 29.2 points per game for 41st in the country. In 2011, it was worse for 28. ppg and 49th in the NCAA. In 2012, it jumped to 35.5 and 22nd overall. In his first full time OC position at Miami, Coley’s unit average 30.2 ppg for 48th in the NCAA. In 2014, 28.2 for 61st, and in 2015, 26.3 for 76th. [All stats courtesy of College Football Stats]
He will also continue the Fisher/Smart via Saban offensive pace of play. Last year, Georgia ranked 101st last year with number of snaps per game, meaning snapping the ball regularly with under eight seconds on the play clock. But they were 8th in the country in points per play, meaning they were very efficient, and they scored a lot averaging 38.1 points per game.
Additionally, them Dawgs averaged 464 yards per game. They moved the ball under previous OC Jim Chaney (who moved on to Tennessee), and it should continue under Coley. UGA has much better players than he had at FSU or UM.
Another reason for predicted success? The OL. The offensive line brings back four starters and four other lineman with experience. The shortest two starters check in at the dominative height of 6’4” while their tallest lineman is 6’7” RT Isaiah Wilson. I suspect Fromm will not see the ground much and that the run game will thrive with whoever is in the backfield.
Speaking of the run game, ever notice how UGA always has an incredibly talented running backs? In the last four years, they have produced Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel. Expect more of the same.
Last year, they had two thousand yard rushers in Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift who combined for 2,000+ yards on the ground and 17 TD’s. Both averaged almost 6.5 yards per carry. This year, Holyfield is gone and Swift will carry (more puns, not less!) the load. He’ll be spelled by Senior Brian Herrien while underclassmen James Cook and Zamir White (five star Frosh) could become breakout stars if they see touches.
The biggest hit for the Bulldawgs is at the wideout position, who lost six players off their depth chart, three of which were their top three pass catchers. Yikes. They did pick up two transfers in Lawrence Cager from Miami and Eli Wolf from Tennessee.
Consulting multiple depth charts, it looks like Demetris Robertson, a 6’0” 190lbs JR is the only consensus starter. Other potential starters will be Matthew Landers (6’5”, 220lbs SO), Jeremiah Holloman (6’2”, 200lb JR), 6’0” 200lbs freshman Kearis Jackson. Point is, the WR core is inexperienced but has depth and talent (because UGA).
Not many programs can lose the depth of skill positions and still be confident they will put points on the board. However, the Dawgs have a maybe the best OL unit in the country, a top three NFL QB prospect, and a 1,000 yard rusher at RB1. Despite Coley’s struggles at FSU and UM (which may be more a product of Jimmies and Joes rather than X’s and O’s), the Dawg offense will score and make it look easy.