Yesterday, I mentioned the Dawn of the Dawg post that, among other things, put us on high alert about North Carolina’s defense.
Georgia loses the opener because “North Carolina’s defense figures to continue its upward trend under defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who turned the Tar Heels’ defense around in a big way last season. I expect that to continue in 2016, and that should give Georgia a loss in week one.”
I’m thinking if North Carolina wins the opener, it’ll be because of what happened on the other side of the ball. The Heels will be bringing a lot of offensive firepower into the game.
… That means that an offense with four returning starters up front and three at receiver shouldn’t miss a beat. Oh, and those three receivers were the Heels’ top three wideouts, combining for 140 receptions for 2,080 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Don’t forget that Hood is one of just five returning Power 5 running backs with at least 1,000 yards, 10 touchdowns and an average of 6.0 yards per carry.
We know what the bad news is: Georgia’s defense, at least from this distance, looks to have a ways to go on settling on an effective front seven, especially on the d-line. But there is some good news, too.
Georgia had great success with its secondary statistically a season ago as the Bulldogs led the nation in passing yards allowed with an average of 156.5 per game.
Of course, that number might have been skewed some since Georgia did face run-heavy teams Florida, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, as well as a cupcake early on in Louisiana-Monroe. But even against teams that could throw the ball, Georgia more than held its own for the most part…
This is Georgia’s most experienced unit, which will need to aid the large number of new players stepping into bigger front-seven roles. Sanders cemented himself as a leader and was lauded in this area by head coach Kirby Smart early during spring practice. The Bulldogs will need Sanders, who has started every game except one in his career (last season’s Florida game, in which he was suspended for a half for a targeting violation in his previous outing), to continue posting numbers such as the team-best six interceptions he had in 2015.
Mauger also brings valuable experience to the safety position and is someone who can rotate down to nickel back if need be. On the outside, Parrish locked down the No. 1 cornerback spot once again this spring and could be joined by Juwuan Briscoe as the top two. Briscoe ran with the first team during Georgia’s G-Day spring game and earned one of the program’s most improved player awards after its conclusion.
McGraw picked up where he left off as Georgia’s top nickel defender, and Davis appeared to slide into a primary backup role.
That’s a relief. Because Smart and Tucker are going to need all the help they can get from their secondary.
One big reason Georgia will need its back end to lock down receivers, especially early in the season, is the fact that the front seven is breaking in a ton of new players. It won’t be easy replacing pass-rushers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins, thus making the secondary’s job of keeping opponents covered that much more important.
Or, for Bellamy and Carter to step up and take charge. Or, even better if we’re really being greedy here, for both. I’m okay with greed.