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1. I get it
Georgia blew it last year. Badly.
Mark Richt's Bulldogs spent most of the last two months playing at an absurdly high level. They crushed Missouri in Columbia, then bolted out to a huge lead and hit cruise control in Little Rock against Arkansas. They laughed at any sort of upset bid Kentucky thought it could make in Lexington, then made the most of a revenge attempt against Auburn. And in the Belk Bowl, they shoved Louisville around like a set of 11 rag dolls.
Combined with a season-opening pasting of Clemson, Georgia had the distinction of being one of the most frequently awesome teams in the country, despite losing surefire Heisman candidate Todd Gurley pretty early.
This frequently awesome team also got thumped by Florida, 38-20, thereby blowing the SEC East.
Hell, it might have been the most befuddling result of 2014. A team that allowed 443 combined rushing yards against Missouri, Louisville, Clemson, Tennessee and Arkansas, gave up 418 to Florida. Florida! A team that otherwise rushed for 167 per game!
It's hard to get that out of our heads, just like it's hard to get the thought of Tennessee pantsing Iowa in the bowl game out of our heads. And we've spent the offseason convincing ourselves the East race is a tossup. We're thinking too hard.
Could someone besides Georgia win the East? Of course. Tennessee's got loads of young talent and a potentially nasty defense. And since Missouri has one of the easier slates in the East, throw Missouri into the "could happen" pile, too. And hey, maybe Florida has some massive first-year magic under Jim McElwain. And just think of the "Steve Spurrier's greatest comeback!" potential if he pulls off his own East run at South Carolina!
All of these are possible. But Georgia's odds of winning a division title are as strong as almost anybody's in the country. Let's go ahead and walk through some rebuttals.
But Tennessee's been recruiting so well for two years. So has Georgia. For more than two years. Tennessee peaked with a No. 4 ranking in this year's 247Sports Composite. Georgia's recruiting average over the last five years ranks sixth.
But Georgia has to play at Tennessee. True. Auburn, too. And Tennessee has to play at Alabama, Missouri, and Florida. In this year's Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (college-only version available for only $6 in PDF form), Georgia's projected conference strength of schedule ranks 20th in the country; Tennessee's ranks ninth.
But Missouri's won back-to-back East titles. True. And the Tigers' conference SOS ranks only 35th. But no one's won an SEC division three times in a row in nearly 20 years (Florida, 1994-96), and the Tigers' defensive line, such a strength in recent years, is rebuilding.
But the Dawgs choke every year. No, they really don't.
- 2005: Won it
- 2006: Lost out to a better team, eventual national champion Florida
- 2007: Blew it with a dumb loss to South Carolina
- 2008: Lost out to a better team, eventual national champion Florida
- 2009-10: Weren't good enough to blow anything
- 2011-12: Won it
- 2013: Lost out to a better team, Missouri
- 2014: Blew it with a dumb loss to Florida
Georgia has been the best team in the East five times in the last 10 seasons and has won the East three times. I realize that means they should have won five times, but I'll take those odds.
But Mark Richt lost his offensive coordinator and replaced him with Brian Schottenheimer. Well ... true.
And Georgia's starting a new quarterback! Tennessee and Missouri are not. True again.
I get that picking Georgia makes you nervous. And maybe it should. But even with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator, the Dawgs are the second-surest thing in the SEC behind Alabama. And considering they play in the weaker of the two divisions, maybe that makes them the surest, period.
The Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 projects the Dawgs fourth overall -- ahead of Baylor, Auburn, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and other national favorites -- and gives them a 77 percent chance of 6-2 or better in the SEC. For other teams in the East, those are 45 percent (Missouri), 14 percent (Tennessee), 12 percent (South Carolina), and 2 percent (Florida).
Tennessee, et al, might be capable of a run. Georgia simply is.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 10-3 | Adj. Record: 12-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 4|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|13-Sep||at South Carolina||38||35-38||L||61%||6.7||61%|
|Points Per Game||41.3||8||20.7||16|
2. Rivalry games, man
There's no question the Georgia defense was better against the pass than the run. The Dawgs ranked seventh in Passing S&P+ and a humbling 65th in Rushing S&P+.
Georgia Tech found some success (as it was wont to do) with Paul Johnson's spread option, and South Carolina was able to punch away and find a soft underbelly with big Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis (31 carries, 159 yards). Tennessee with Jalen Hurd, too (24 carries, 119 yards). When Georgia looked less than elite, the run defense was why.
Still. Florida's Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor combined for 50 carries and 389 yards. Jones only once rushed for more than 114 yards the rest of the year. Taylor's non-Georgia high was 68 yards; he had 197. Georgia defenders got popped in the mouth and had no response.
Even odder: the Dawgs were in the middle of a ridiculously good stretch. They had just taken care of Missouri and Arkansas with minimal fuss (first-half score in those two games: Georgia 58, Opponent 6). After Florida, they would pummel Kentucky and Auburn.
Again, if you want to doubt the Dawgs because of this game, I can't stop you. I have minimal explanation for it. And with turnover on the defensive line, there's no guarantee Georgia will be any better at stopping super-physical run games.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||46.7%||23||Succ. Rt. +||118.7||17|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||25.8||3||Def. FP+||108.1||4|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||5.0||18||Redzone S&P+||121.3||14|
|Q1 Rk||2||1st Down Rk||6|
|Q2 Rk||17||2nd Down Rk||7|
|Q3 Rk||37||3rd Down Rk||17|
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Brice Ramsey||6'3, 213||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9518||24||39||333||3||2||61.5%||0||0.0%||8.5|
|Faton Bauta||6'3, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8799||4||5||48||0||0||80.0%||0||0.0%||9.6|
|Sam Vaughn||6'3, 189||RSFr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR|
|6'5, 220||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9112||154||261||1632||10||11||59.0%||11||4.0%||5.7|
3. All you need is competence
Positive spin: Brice Ramsey was a touted recruit who acquitted himself mostly well (with a couple of picks) in clean-up duty. Faton Bauta is the rare UGA dual-threat with a pretty accurate arm. Greyson Lambert is a veteran with 336 career passes who will likely find his supporting cast more helpful than in Charlottesville. Schottenheimer has nearly a decade of NFL experience. His main job will be to tell the new quarterback to stick the ball into the belly of the running back.
Less positive spin: Ramsey threw nearly as many picks in 39 passes as Hutson Mason did in 277, Bauta's not a good enough runner to overcome a less-than-amazing arm, Lambert was demoted at UVA, and Rams fans rejoiced when Schottenheimer left.
Neither Ramsey nor his competitors have flashed many Next Aaron Murray glimpses. To me, it feels like Ramsey, with what is easily the best pedigree, should have secured the job by now. But with three weeks or so to go, Richt is still talking about playing multiple quarterbacks in the opener. That's not the most encouraging sign.
Richt's hire of Schottenheimer to replace new Colorado State coach Mike Bobo wasn't inspiring, especially not for a fan base predisposed to hating even good coordinators (see: Bobo, Mike).
But here's where I remind myself the job of both the quarterback and the offensive coordinator will be pretty easy. All UGA needs is competence, and the running game will take it from there.
|Nick Chubb||TB||5'10, 220||So.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9835||219||1547||14||7.1||7.9||45.7%||4||2|
|Sony Michel||TB||5'11, 212||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9902||64||410||5||6.4||5.2||48.4%||2||2|
|Brendan Douglas||TB||5'11, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7988||55||230||2||4.2||2.8||36.4%||1||0|
|Keith Marshall||TB||5'11, 212||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9918||12||24||0||2.0||0.8||16.7%||0||0|
|Quayvon Hicks||FB||6'2, 251||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8795||9||85||2||9.4||11.5||44.4%||1||1|
|Isaiah McKenzie||WR||5'8, 170||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8917||8||78||0||9.8||10.4||62.5%||3||0|
|Faton Bauta||QB||6'3, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8799||6||16||2||2.7||1.7||16.7%||0||0|
|A.J. Turman||TB||6'0, 204||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9081|
|Christian Payne||FB||6'1, 232||So.||NR||NR|
4. Lose Gurley, replace him with Gurley Jr.
Schottenheimer has proven creative at creating power and deception in the run game. Odds are good that he won't overthink this offense.
What Georgia pulled off last year, losing Gurley (first to suspension, then to injury) and replacing him with somebody who was basically his equal, was mind-blowing.
Gurley gained at least five yards on 45.5 percent of his carries and showed major explosiveness in the open field. Chubb, his freshman replacement, gained five yards on 45.7 percent and duplicated Gurley's explosiveness. In a 5'10, 220-pound package that hadn't gotten much time in a college weight room.
As unlikely as the Florida loss was, this might have been even less likely.
Chubb's back for a full-season, and he's got maybe the most intriguing set of backups in the country. Sony Michel was actually a more touted recruit and, when given the opportunity, showed prowess. Redshirt sophomore A.J. Turman seems to be raising his game in camp. Throw in oft-injured former blue-chipper Keith Marshall and Brendan Douglas, and you've got plenty of fun options.
You've also got a mean line that has spent a couple of seasons developing for this season. Georgia returns four players with a combined 80 career starts. That includes all-conference guard Greg Pyke and former blue-chipper John Theus. The line's job was probably pretty easy thanks to the backs it was blocking for, but it still did that job with aplomb.
Georgia ran two-thirds of the time on standard downs last year and nearly half the time on passing downs. It wouldn't surprise me if the quarterback of choice were to pass more frequently early in the season (three of the first four games are against UL-Monroe, Vandy, and Southern), both to save the backs and to see what they've got in the passing game. But when it's time to run, Georgia should do it as well as anybody in the country.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Malcolm Mitchell||WR-X||6'1, 195||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9802||46||31||248||67.4%||14.9%||65.2%||5.4||-123||5.7||41.8|
|Jeb Blazevich||TE||6'5, 248||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9381||24||18||269||75.0%||7.8%||62.5%||11.2||57||10.9||45.4|
|Nick Chubb||TB||5'10, 220||So.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9835||21||18||213||85.7%||6.8%||47.6%||10.1||6||9.8||35.9|
|Isaiah McKenzie||WR-Y||5'8, 170||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8917||12||6||67||50.0%||3.9%||66.7%||5.6||-9||5.2||11.3|
|Jay Rome||TE||6'6, 250||Sr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9714||12||10||59||83.3%||3.9%||66.7%||4.9||-57||4.9||10.0|
|Reggie Davis||WR-Y||6'0, 170||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8778||11||6||63||54.5%||3.6%||45.5%||5.7||-12||5.7||10.6|
|Kenneth Towns||WR-X||6'3, 202||Jr.||NR||NR||10||6||45||60.0%||3.2%||60.0%||4.5||-29||4.5||7.6|
|Sony Michel||TB||5'11, 212||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9902||8||7||106||87.5%||2.6%||62.5%||13.3||26||13.5||17.9|
|Quayvon Hicks||FB||6'2, 251||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8795||8||4||31||50.0%||2.6%||87.5%||3.9||-20||2.9||5.2|
|Shakenneth Williams||WR-X||6'1, 199||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8929||7||3||61||42.9%||2.3%||85.7%||8.7||21||5.9||10.3|
|Justin Scott-Wesley||WR-X||5'11, 201||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8993||4||3||52||75.0%||1.3%||50.0%||13.0||17||13.9||8.8|
|Jordan Davis||TE||6'4, 235||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8675||3||3||66||100.0%||1.0%||66.7%||22.0||32||21.5||11.1|
|Matt Price||WR-Y||6'0, 197||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|WR||6'2, 202||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8426|
|Terry Godwin||WR||5'11, 174||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9871|
|Jackson Harris||TE||6'6, 247||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9187|
|Jayson Stanley||WR||6'2, 204||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9055|
5. The least certain UGA receiving corps in quite a while
For years, Georgia has been loaded in the receiving corps. The 2012 unit had Tavarres King, Malcolm Mitchell, Marlon Brown, Michael Bennett, and Chris Conley. In 2013, Justin Scott-Wesley hinted at a breakthrough, and Georgia passed well despite everybody getting hurt. In 2014, with the run rates dialed up in Murray's absence, Conley averaged 12.4 yards per target while Bennett and Mitchell proved solid in the possession game.
This fall, Mitchell's still around. A big-play threat in 2011-12 before injury, he could be used in a variety of ways. Plus, Jeb Blazevich was a lovely weapon as a true freshman, Scott-Wesley is a year removed from his latest injury, and big things are expected of four-star sophomore Isaiah McKenzie and five-star freshman Terry Godwin (assuming they both shake off fall injuries).
Odds are in Georgia's favor when it comes to finding receivers to take advantage of serious play-action opportunities. Still, there is less certainty than there would have been at any other point this decade. It felt like Conley and Bennett had been in Athens since about 2002, and the potential-to-production ratio has shifted more toward the former. That only adds to hand-wringing about the QBs.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|David Andrews||C||40||2014 2nd All-SEC|
|Greg Pyke||RG||6'6, 313||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8818||13||2014 2nd All-SEC|
|John Theus||LT||6'6, 303||Sr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9911||35|
|Kolton Houston||RT||6'5, 285||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9192||19|
|Brandon Kublanow||LG||6'3, 282||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9204||13|
|Hunter Long||C||6'4, 303||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8292||0|
|Dyshon Sims||LG||6'4, 293||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9084||0|
|Isaiah Wynn||LG||6'2, 278||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9456||0|
|Aulden Bynum||LT||6'5, 268||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8640||0|
|Thomas Swilley||RG||6'3, 295||So.||NR||NR||0|
|Lamont Gaillard||LG||6'2, 298||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.9358|
|Kendall Baker||RT||6'6, 310||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8997|
|Jake Edwards||RG||6'4, 284||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8665|
|Pat Allen||OL||6'4, 297||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9131|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||40.5%||57||Succ. Rt. +||103.7||51|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||34.5||5||Off. FP+||106.0||15|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.7||100||Redzone S&P+||92.8||93|
|Q1 Rk||18||1st Down Rk||19|
|Q2 Rk||23||2nd Down Rk||13|
|Q3 Rk||64||3rd Down Rk||31|
6. Opponents did not want to pass
Coaches aren't big into advanced stats, but you didn't need Excel skills to understand that running the ball was the way to go against Georgia in Jeremy Pruitt's first year as coordinator.
Opponents completed just 54 percent, with more picks than touchdowns and a passer rating that barely crept into the triple digits (105.8). Pruitt dialed up decent pressure on passing downs, but his prowess as a defensive backs coach paid the most dividends.
The Georgia secondary in 2013 was young, injured, and inconsistent. And because of dismissals and transfers, the 2014 secondary was only marginally more experienced. Damian Swann and Corey Moore were seniors, but three other regulars (Quincy Mauger, Aaron Davis, Dominick Sanders) were freshmen. Didn't matter. Georgia offered quarterbacks tiny windows, and only a few could do any damage. Arkansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee combined to complete 64 percent with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. The other 10: 49 percent, four touchdowns, 13 picks.
It was obvious that running was the only feasible method of attack, and the run rates prove it: opponents ran 7 percent more frequently than the national average on standard downs and 2 percent more on passing downs (despite an only decent pass rush).
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Sterling Bailey||DT||6'3, 282||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8873||13||17.5||2.4%||0.5||0.5||0||2||0||0|
|Josh Dawson||DE||6'4, 273||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9055||13||13.0||1.8%||4.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|John Atkins||NT||6'4, 300||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8804||10||6.5||0.9%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Chris Mayes||NT||6'4, 323||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8528||8||4.5||0.6%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|James DeLoach||DT||6'3, 284||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8684||7||4.0||0.5%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Joseph Ledbetter||DE||6'4, 240||So.||NR||NR|
|Keyon Brown||DT||6'3, 249||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9333|
|Trenton Thompson||DT||6'4, 307||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9991|
|Jonathan Ledbetter||DE||6'4, 251||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9670|
|Chauncey Rivers||DE||6'3, 272||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9312|
|Michael Barnett||DE||6'4, 276||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9049|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|WILL||6'2, 227||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7100||12||58.5||9.1%||16.5||6.0||0||1||0||1|
|Jordan Jenkins||JACK||6'3, 253||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9833||13||51.0||6.9%||9.5||5.0||0||1||2||0|
|Leonard Floyd||SAM||6'4, 231||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9167||12||38.0||5.1%||8.5||6.0||0||0||3||0|
|Lorenzo Carter||SAM||6'6, 242||So.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9911||13||29.5||4.0%||7.0||4.5||0||0||0||0|
|Tim Kimbrough||WILL||6'0, 226||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9292||13||24.5||3.3%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Reggie Carter||MIKE||6'1, 228||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8968||12||23.0||3.1%||0.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Davin Bellamy||JACK||6'5, 241||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8937||10||11.5||1.6%||2.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryne Rankin||WILL||6'1, 218||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8778||12||4.5||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Johnny O'Neal||JACK||6'2, 231||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9023|
|Chuks Amaechi||SAM||6'3, 230||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8574|
|Natrez Patrick||MIKE||6'3, 248||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9566|
|Roquan Smith||LB||6'1, 217||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9764|
|D'Andre Walker||LB||6'3, 224||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9427|
7. A lot to prove up front
When you're able to render an opponent one-dimensional, that should work to your advantage. It often did for UGA; the D did rank 17th in overall Def. S&P+, after all, allowing greater than 5.4 yards per play just twice. But if you had girth, you could punch the Dawgs in the mouth.
That was also before the Dawgs lost five starters in the front seven. New blood might not hurt, and goodness knows UGA has plenty of young blue-chippers to throw at the problem. Of the 24 linemen and linebackers listed above, 17 are former four- or five-star recruits. Still, you don't usually solve a problem by getting younger. Georgia bears the burden of proof when it comes to defending power running.
If it's a battle of pure athleticism, Georgia will win almost every time. The linebacker trio of Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd, and Lorenzo Carter all go between 6'4 and 6'6 and 231 and 253 pounds, and all have nearly safety-level speed. They combined for 15.5 sacks (and, yes, very few run stops) last season.
But a couple of smaller inside guys could make the biggest difference. Some combination of Reggie Carter, Tim Kimbrough, and UAB transfer Jake Ganus will be tasked with replacing the best run stoppers on the team, Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera. And that task will be determined by the line.
There is plenty of experience up front, with up to four seniors likely to fill spots on the two-deep. But if Georgia is to improve its run defense, it might be because of younger guys: sophomore John Atkins, redshirt freshman Keyon Brown, or even true freshmen like all-world signee Trenton Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter. The potential is obvious, but the potential was there last year, too.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Quincy Mauger||FS||6'0, 200||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8500||13||42.5||5.8%||1||0||4||4||0||0|
|Aaron Davis||CB||6'1, 190||So.||NR||NR||12||33.5||4.5%||1||0||1||5||0||1|
|Dominick Sanders||SS||6'0, 189||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8492||13||29.5||4.0%||1.5||0.5||3||5||0||1|
|Devin Bowman||CB||6'0, 182||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8622||12||15.5||2.1%||0||0||1||3||0||0|
|Malkom Parrish||CB||5'10, 188||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9659||11||15.0||2.0%||1||0||0||0||1||0|
|Tramel Terry||CB||6'0, 195||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9428||10||4.5||0.6%||0||0||1||1||0||0|
|Devin Gillespie||CB||5'10, 179||Jr.||NR||NR||5||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Shattle Fenteng||CB||6'2, 185||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8864|
|Reggie Wilkerson||CB||5'11, 176||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9087|
|Rashad Roundtree||S||6'1, 205||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9393|
|Rico McGraw||CB||6'0, 192||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9333|
|Juwuan Briscoe||DB||5'11, 193||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8777|
|Johnathan Abram||FS||6'1, 200||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8579|
|Jarvis Wilson||SS||6'2, 190||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8514|
8. Not much to prove in the back
Georgia does have to replace its best playmaker in the back. Swann pulled off a rare combination: 4.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and 12 passes defensed. He was always around the ball, playing a key role at both corner and nickel back.
Still, I can't pretend to worry about this unit. Quincy Mauger and Dominick Sanders are back at safety after combining for 2.5 tackles for loss and 16 passes defensed. Corners Aaron Davis and Devin Bowman held their own, too. And since this is Georgia, it goes without saying that plenty of former four-star recruits are waiting, be it corners Malkom Parrish, Tramel Terry, Shattle Fenteng, or Reggie Wilkerson or safety Rashad Roundtree.
Depth could be a concern -- the Dawgs are only a couple of injuries away from playing a few more freshmen than would be preferred -- but there's both potential and proven production.
|Collin Barber||6'2, 208||Sr.||34||39.3||1||13||11||70.6%|
|Marshall Morgan||6'3, 194||Sr.||98||61.0||31||0||31.6%|
|Marshall Morgan||6'3, 194||Sr.||67-68||12-14||85.7%||4-7||57.1%|
|Isaiah McKenzie||KR||5'8, 170||So.||11||28.1||1|
|Isaiah McKenzie||PR||5'8, 170||So.||19||12.1||2|
|Reggie Davis||PR||6'0, 170||Jr.||12||7.9||0|
|Special Teams F/+||9|
|Field Goal Efficiency||48|
|Punt Return Efficiency||8|
|Kick Return Efficiency||27|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||30|
9. Few worries in special teams
Isaiah McKenzie is the Chubb of return men: as a freshman, he replaced Gurley with little to no drop-off. McKenzie's legs and Marshall Morgan's feet were the main reasons for Georgia's No. 9 special teams ranking, and both return. So does punter Collin Barber, whose punts weren't incredibly long but were quite high.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|28-Nov||at Georgia Tech||19|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||38.4% (8)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||10 / 6|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||16 / 7.0|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||+3.5|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||12 (7, 5)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||10.4 (-0.4)|
10. Don't overthink this
Georgia has enough legitimate questions to make you doubt. The quarterback situation has not sorted itself out yet, the new offensive coordinator isn't the slam dunk that Pruitt appeared to be a year ago, and the run defense was downright bad at times last fall.
Still, the other East contenders have at least as many concerns and lower upside. Tennessee's offensive line isn't guaranteed to improve, and there are serious depth concerns throughout. Missouri is starting from scratch at receiver and on the defensive line. Florida barely has enough offensive linemen to fill a two-deep and has the same quarterback questions as the Dawgs, with fewer potential answers.
Georgia is not a sure thing, but the Dawgs are easily the safest bet in the East. And just because they blew it last year doesn't mean they will do it each year. Remind yourself of that, even as visions of Kelvin Taylor running wild fill your head.