Doubts, and a theory

Feel the love.

So let me get this straight: Georgia won nine regular-season games last year with a veteran head coach, a veteran (albeit transfer) quarterback and a fully healthy Nick Chubb. Now they have not only a first-year head coach but a first-time head coach, who is walking into one of the most high-pressure jobs in college football without having ever coached a game? And he’s doing it with (likely) a true freshman at quarterback and Chubb coming off injury? And we expect the Dawgs to actually be better than they were last year? Especially when you add in a brutal schedule that includes an improved Tennessee, cross-divisional games against Ole Miss and Auburn and an opener against an 11-win North Carolina team? Plenty believe Georgia will be good in time under Richt [sic] (I’m a bit more dubious than most), but they feel like a nine-win team at best this year.

While there is some stuff in there I disagree with — for one thing, the schedule isn’t any more brutal than last year’s — I can’t quibble with his nine-win projection.  And he’s not the only pundit less than impressed with Georgia’s chances in 2016, as you can see from his stable mate Stewart Mandel’s latest top-25 projections, which leaves Georgia off entirely.

Lest we forget, Georgia is coming off a weird 2015, in which it finished unranked despite being a 10-win team in a P5 conference.  That’s not an easy thing to do.

And yet, there are plenty of pundits and folks who do stat projections who see better things ahead for the Dawgs this season.  Are they right?  Or is Georgia simply that hard to get a solid handle on right now?

I’m leaning towards the latter, to be honest, and I have a theory about why.  First off, I don’t question the coaching change as much as the writer of the quote above does.  Certainly you have to say Kirby is a question mark until we see him in action, but even the most diehard cynic would have to admit that spending almost a decade around Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa had to result in some knowledge rubbing off.  On top of that, there are clear areas where the staff has been upgraded, and I can’t really point to a single area where I feel like Smart has settled for a less able coach than his predecessor.

That leaves the talent base, the players.  And here’s where I think the ambiguity rests.  Georgia recruits well, we tell ourselves.  Certainly, as I noted in that post about Pick Six Preview’s SEC East projections, it’s recruited at least as well as its divisional competitors have.  But I think most of us have mixed feelings about the talent on the roster, or perhaps more accurately, the depth of talent on the roster, especially when you factor in experience.

And that I think has its roots in Mark Richt’s neglect in maintaining roster numbers a few seasons back, but maybe not in the way you think.  Because, to his credit, Richt did finally wake up about that and take big steps to correct it.

The problem he ran into — and the one Kirby Smart will have to deal with this season — is Georgia’s 2013 recruiting class.

That class, if you’ll recall, was a big one, with 34 kids who signed, although only 32 wound up enrolling.  Despite the class size, though, it only finished 12th in the 247Sports composite rankings.  That was only good for seventh-best in the SEC.

But even that’s not the real story, as we sit here today.  The real story is the way that class subsequently vaporized.  Take a look at the list of those enrollees.  It is staggering to see how few of those four-stars ever became significant contributors, let alone starters, not to mention how many of them are no longer on the team at all, a mere three years later.  And much the same can be said for the three-stars.

That’s had the result of blowing an enormous hole in the roster.  So a class that was assembled in part to address a numbers gap has had the opposite effect.  And these are the kids who should be stepping up now as juniors and seniors to assume major roles on the team.  Instead, we’re seeing the scrambles of the next three classes being used to make up for what’s not there.

The quarterback situation Smart’s got is a perfect example of that.  Brice Ramsey is part of the class of 2013 and to date he’s made more of an impact as a punter.  Christian LeMay washed out and so Richt found himself last season in a hole at the position, which he attempted to plug with a graduate transfer.  Smart is trying to solve the problem with that same transfer, who is coming off a mediocre season, Brice Ramsey, or a true freshman.  It’s not exactly your ideal situation.

But it’s the hand he’s been dealt and it’s the reason I’m willing to give Kirby Smart some time.  At least as long as I think he’s making good use of that time, anyway.

28 Comments

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28 responses to “Doubts, and a theory

  1. “At least as long as I think he’s making good use of that time, anyway.”

    That is exactly where I am. If I can see improvements in game management (no unnecessary timeouts on defense, please!), special teams (time to earn that name, Shane), and focus (no brain cramp / face plant losses), I’m very willing to support the program’s direction even with no trip to Atlanta. If we see a Bama/Louisiana-Monroe (hint: tech) type of loss while Kirby adjusts, I will be very unhappy. If we play poorly in Jacksonville again … I don’t want to think about it.

  2. Bright Idea

    Trying to win or lose college games on paper before the season starts is an effort in futility. Guessing does not account for turnovers or how a QB might play, but with Lambert we do have a pretty good idea. Georgia has enough players to hold its own in every game but how they and the opponent plays that particular day is a mystery. Only Bama and LSU own rosters good enough to just get off the bus and count on a win on talent alone, and we see how that’s working for LSU. They seldom play great.

    • Irwin R. Fletcher

      I think developing ideas about how the season might go based on what we know (stats, roster, etc.) is a little more in depth than ‘guessing.’

      Anyway, it always cracks me up…an experienced coach gets a new coordinator and its going to be a bump in performance…but a new coach gets same coordinators and yet it becomes about inexperience in the HC. I think Kirby will have some learning curves…but I really don’t think he’ll come in as seemingly ill-prepared as Richt seemed to be on issues like game and clock management.

      I guess my point is that you take the same roster replace Schotty and Sale with Chaney and Pittman and replace Pruitt with Mel Tucker and Kirby Smart… I think the ‘pundits’ would be predicting an SEC Championship under Richt or at least a better record than 2015. No way Mandell wouldn’t have them in his top 10-15.

      No…I think the key to this season is the hole the 2013 class left us in (which I think I’ve mentioned before in the comments…) and how well the subsequent classes can fill those gaps. Guys like Trent Thompson, Lorenzo Carter, Malkom Parrish, Godwin, Roquan Smith, N Patrick, D’Andre Walker, Roundtree, etc. have got to produce rather than promise. And let’s face it…the national and even the regional guys don’t know much about these dudes. Interesting that Mecole Hardman and Ben Cleveland were running with the 2s yesterday, too.

  3. @gatriguy

    Completely agree. The damage done by that 2013 class has been insane. But we wouldn’t have been there if Richt had kept the numbers up in the years leading up do that. It’s like he never thought ahead in terms of attrition and it finally bit him in the ass.

  4. Noonan

    Aaron Torres is remarkably ignorant for a college football writer. Nick Chubb only played in 4 of our 9 regular-season wins. Also, our veteran quarterback is still on the team and will almost certainly start game one.

  5. Atticus

    UGA has recruited more ESPN 300 players than TN, Ole Miss, UF and UNC, all of which are games that would go either way. TN hasn’t beaten anyone ranked in years. Ole Miss lost a pile of talent. UNC has to prove they can play defense. UF has no QB. So the odds of losing 3 of those 4 would be lower in my opinion. Aub sucks and Gus will be done soon, Mizz has major recruiting issues and a new coach, SC, KY, Vandy and the scrubs including GT shouldn’t be losses. Only way we should go 9-3 or 8-4 is if Chubb and Sony cant come back quickly or the QB situation is s disaster.

    • Otto

      UF didn’t have a QB going into last year, and they found one. The QB situation in Gainesville actually looks better now than it did a year ago.

      Overall I view this season as tougher than last year. UF and UT should improve, UGA gets a break with dropping Bama picking up Ole Miss but UGA picks up another P5 program with UNC. As posted above winning on paper means little when the whistle blows.

      • W Cobb Dawg

        But has any fu QB ever been in a game? At least Lambert’s had a couple seasons on the field. Ramsey’s started a couple games. And if Eason doesn’t start, we might have the top backup QB in cfb.

        Truth is, McElwain found Gus’s lucky horseshoe and ran with it last year. CMR and booch handed wins to fu. Other than a huge upset at ole miss they’re a .500 team.

        • Otto

          I think you discount how well their QB played before being ruled ineligible. Time will tell if they are Gus lucky or if their staff is that good.

          Del RIo has starts, Franks was just behind Eason in most recruiting rankings. I don’t see their QB situation as any worse than UGA’s.

  6. GL

    We had a “fully healthy Nick Chubb” last year? Interesting

  7. 86BONE

    You guys remind me of Brandel and Frank before a major! It is going to be a long season(tournament), and we won’t know until they Tee it Up!!
    Relax for another month, enjoy your families, chill out at the lake or beach with a few cool water sandwiches…

  8. D.N. Nation

    Nick Chubb played half the season and the team got taken to OT against a Sun Belt team. Meh on ’15 UGA, regardless of what happens this coming season.

  9. tbia

    Honestly, how in the hell does Auburn keep getting fluffed every year. They still have no qb in an offense that is all about the qb.

  10. TMC DAWG

    The upgrade in coaching is going to be immense. I believe we are going to see a TOTALY different team in the dome? In every aspect.

    • doofusdawg

      Agree. It will be most noticeable on offensive side of ball. If defense is on par with last year then we should have a great year.

  11. Jack Klompus

    Senator, I’ve thought the same thing about the recruiting. 7 of the top 11 from that class aren’t with the team any more. Ramsey, Kimbrough, Kublanow and Reggie Wilkerson are the only ones left and of the top 15 only 3 will start this year- Bellamy, Kublanow and hopefully, Reggie Carter. That is crazy…

    • Jack Klompus

      To add a little insult- only 5 of the 34 will start (if Reggie Davis does)- Mauger is the other. Oye.

  12. rchris

    Senator, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  13. W Cobb Dawg

    I like the staff. I like the attention to detail. The schedule is favorable. The few injured players we have look to be healing quite well, thank you. The 2015 and 2016 classes have added a lot of young talent since that 2013 recruiting debacle. We’re deeper at QB, RB, TE, LB and DB than anyone in the division. Seems to me we may already have the makings of the 9-deep OL that we wanted to develop. We actually have a deep DL too, although they’re very young and unproven. We have talented skill players like Godwin and Imac to build around. Our biggest problem is actually at kicker. The division title is very much within our grasp.

  14. SRQDawgs15

    I’m over trying to convince people that UGA should or will win 10+ games this year. Some people truly believe we will not, others are only happy when they have something to be miserable about. But one piece in this analysis cannot go untouched. Either the author of that piece is a complete moron or he is purposely being disingenuous with this part of the comparison “Georgia won nine regular-season games last year with…..a veteran (albeit transfer) quarterback” While stating that in 2016 we will be “doing it with (likely) a true freshman at quarterback….” Somebody let this guy know that the veteran QB who helped give us that masterpiece of an offense last season is still on the damn roster! He’s just not good enough to start….and he shouldn’t have been last year either! Others have touched on the absurdity of saying Chubb was healthy last year and the fact that the schedule looks to be easier in 2016, not harder. If this guy sees 9 wins with his arguments, I’ll gladly take the over. Seriously, look at the schedule….who on it is a better team than UGA?

  15. UGA may be a 9-win team at best. Some believers may think an underachieving team with a new coach, a schedule that might have more bark than bite (UNC’s vaunted rushing D + Ole Miss the week after they play Bama + Tennessee at home the week after they play Florida), and a returning Chubb is worth an extra win somewhere on the schedule. That’s why the over/under is at 9.5. Split the baby, and make the money.

    The difference between 9 and 10 wins in the SEC can be distilled down to Old Lady Luck.

  16. Michael

    BTW, Mandel claimed victory in the podcast this week on the “Georgia helmet in Montana” issue. That came out of him leaving Georgia out of his college football royalty category. He pointed out that the 13 teams he picked for royalty are the top 13 in the all-time AP poll that was released this week and that Georgia is #15. Now, that’s a better argument than “is the Georgia helmet recognizable,” but he does have a point (finally).

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