David Wunderlich, whom some of you might remember as Team Speed Kills’ Year 2 in a former blogging life, breaks down the rosters of the SEC East’s three traditional powers, based on the average numerical value from the 247 Sports Composite for the players on the teams’ rosters as publicly available on their official websites as of a couple of days ago.
Cutting to the chase, of the eight position groups he ranks, Georgia tops seven of them. On a cumulative basis, it’s not close between the Dawgs and their rivals, either.
Florida and Tennessee are fairly close in talent. A scoring system that hands out three points for first place in a position grouping, two for second, and one for third would give the Vols a score of 13 and the Gators a score of 12. They’re about even, though both are far behind Georgia’s 23 points.
The only position where Georgia hasn’t accumulated the most talent is wide receiver, but even there, it’s not a place where the other two have much of a gap over the others. As Wunderlich explains,
Wide receiver has been a position of weakness at UF for about as long as quarterback has been, but the Gators win this grouping outright. The best player at the position, Antonio Callaway, is only sixth in the talent ratings too. Sophomores Tyrie Cleveland, Josh Hammond, and Freddie Swain are all above him, as are 2017 signees James Robinson and Daquan Green. The Gators have a lot to like at the position, but much of it is still more about potential than proven performance.
That said, Georgia and Tennessee are in similar situations. The Bulldogs have the solid if unspectacular Terry Godwin leading a group of unproven young talent, and the same largely goes for the Vols with Jauan Jennings and the rest there.
That all being said, what could be his most profound observation is about the defenses of the three.
Defense was largely what won Florida its two division titles under Jim McElwain, but that was also mostly with players who signed with Will Muschamp. That well is almost dry at this point and McElwain simply hasn’t recruited defenders at the same high level. The ratings for the defense show it well…
The top lines of the depth charts for all three teams are in good shape, in other words. UGA and UT are better equipped to handle injuries, though, as Florida would have to turn to some of those talented true freshman before too long.
To illustrate, the Gators finished third in all three position groups on that side of the ball. Yes, the mighty have fallen a bit.
Now, obviously, there are no guarantees to take away from this. But if you start with the premise that Georgia’s schedule is favorable, add to it rapid talent improvement in personnel compared to the other two East squads, what you’re left with in assessing the chances for any of the three to emerge as the 2017 division champs boils down to a couple of other factors.
The Gators’ starters will be competitive with the Volunteers’ and even the Bulldogs’ starters. What the talent comparison shows, however, is that UF doesn’t have much margin for error. That’s true for the defense especially. Florida can win the East for a third straight year, but it’s going to take high-quality coaching and a bit of injury luck to make it happen.
There are two relevant parts to coaching here. One is game day management; the other is player development. The Georgia staff is in its second year on the job. How it manages the learning curve in those departments, at a time when it’s typical to see improvement, will tell us much about how this coming season plays out.