Team Speed Kills takes a look at two-deep talent across the SEC, using the Rivals rankings and weighting the backups to count 75% of what starters do, and the results for the red and black probably won’t surprise you too much.
On offense, Georgia’s getting pretty good bang for the buck.
The Bulldogs had one of the nation’s best offenses last year, and it should have another great one this year. So what’s the deal with the lower rating? For one, two members of the two-deep did not get star ratings as high schoolers: starting FB Merritt Hall and backup TE Rhett McGowan. They got one star apiece from me for these purposes. Second, UGA just has some three-star guys in their starting lineup: WR Michael Bennett, TE Kenarious Gates, C David Andrews, and OT Xzavier Ward. The second line only has one five-star and three four-stars as well. Bennett plays better than a three-star, obviously, and Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley at the least are four-star guys who play like five-stars. The consistency of scheme, quality coaching, and experience on that side of the ball means that the performance will be well above what the recruiting stars would suggest.
Not sure why Year2 got sucked in on the Ward hype, which means that Georgia’s rating average is actually a little higher than what he computes, as both Theus and Houston (and how weird is that to type in here?) rated more than three stars coming out of high school, but his overall point is accurate. And, again, beating a recent dead horse, how much of that overperformance should be credited to what Coach Ball has gotten out of Georgia’s receivers?
On the other side of the ball, it’s a familiar story by now.
And yes, that is Georgia in third. All of the concerns about the Bulldogs’ defense this year come from basically two places. One, nearly everyone you’ve heard of from last year’s unit is gone. Two, we haven’t yet seen Todd Grantham deal with turning over the core of a defense like this. He doesn’t just yet get the automatic vote of confidence that Nick Saban, John Chavis, or Will Muschamp already do. By recruiting rankings anyway, the defense actually rates quite a bit higher in talent level than the offense does, and it would be even higher if one of the backup safeties wasn’t Connor Norman (who wasn’t rated in high school). The Bulldogs are reloading talent-wise; it’s up to the coaches to do the rest.
Again, I don’t think that assessment is unfair at all. I don’t know how well the defense rolls out early on, but I do expect to see a solid unit as the season progresses. There’s just too much talent to expect otherwise.
One side note – I keep coming across stuff that makes me see similarities between Georgia’s and Texas A&M’s chances this season. Obviously you never know how things will play out, but it’s hard for me to understand how anybody in the preseason projects a wide difference between the two programs. It’s not so much that I’m judging one to be better than the other – although Georgia certainly projects to have a higher upside on defense than A&M – but to think (hey, SI!) that TAMU is the third best team in the country and Georgia no better than twelfth is something that deserves an explanation.