Still, I look to find a reason to believe.

Jason Butt makes a case that Georgia should see three areas of improvement from last season to this one, and you know what?  I think he’s right on all three counts.

Breaking them down, he starts with special teams.

Kickoffs proved difficult for Georgia a season ago. Place-kicking took a while to get into form. Punting was inconsistent throughout the entire year.

While the struggle was real in 2016, this season should have a much different outlook.

Word is that Wofford graduate transfer David Marvin can absolutely boot the ball into the end zone on kickoffs. That was evidenced by Marvin nailing 37 touchbacks with the Terriers in 2016. Georgia’s kickoff coverage unit struggled at times last season. One cure for those woes would be for the opposition to not return many kicks.

Smart worked diligently in the offseason to bring in experienced depth at both place kicker and punter to foster competition and to give him better options than he had going into 2016.  If Butt is right about Marvin and Nizialek turns out to be a contributor at punter (he showed good hang time at G-Day, but that was without facing a rush), that would make for some real improvement.

One other thing about special teams worth considering is that with the promise of this year’s recruiting class, overall team depth and talent has been upgraded, and some of that should flow into the coverage and return teams.

On to the next area:

Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman has too good of a track record for the offensive line not to make considerable gains in his second season on the job.

Early on in 2016, the Bulldogs struggled to move men off of the line of scrimmage in Pittman’s dual blocking scheme. The line’s struggles made running back Nick Chubb look human at times, which was something no one thought they would ever see.

But while Georgia has to replace three contributors from last year’s line, two reasons exist as to why there will be significant improvement in 2017.

Size matters up front in Pittman’s scheme and Georgia will be a bigger group…

… The other factor going Georgia’s way is the fact that this is the first time since 2014 that the line will have the same position coach returning to the program. Continuity is a big deal in college football. Sims even admitted as such shortly after Georgia arrived to Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl.

The Bulldogs spent a lot of last season growing accustomed to Pittman’s scheme and terminology. That’s now in the past, with Georgia’s linemen able to focus more on executing than thinking through each particular call.

Agree, agree, agree.  Add in that depth should be considerably improved, especially if Isaiah Wilson lives up to the hype, and I buy into the offensive line taking a noticeable step forward.  (Read my previous post to see what that should mean.)

The third area Butt cites is something that maybe doesn’t get as much attention as the first two — probably because it wasn’t nearly as much of a disappointment last season as were special teams and the offensive line — but should nicely complement what I expect to be an effective front seven.

Georgia’s secondary began the 2016 season showcasing a few deficiencies. It came to a head against Ole Miss, when former Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly went off for 282 passing yards and two touchdowns.

If Ole Miss didn’t get out to such a big lead early, the damage could have been worse. But as the season went along, Georgia improved as a secondary. A lot of this had to do with the emergence of Deandre Baker, who was inserted into the starting lineup in Week 5 against Tennessee.

… The Bulldogs, however, improved considerably in the back end and finished the year second in the SEC in pass defense at 183.8 yards through the air per game.

But the Bulldogs shouldn’t be in a position where they are working out some early kinks. With four defensive backs returning and a slew of potential quality contributors at the star position, Georgia will be in good position in the secondary from the first game on.

If you’ll recall the situation Pruitt inherited in his first season as defensive coordinator, it’s taken Georgia several seasons to stabilize the defensive backfield.  As Butt notes, even last year was an ongoing process at the beginning.  (Don’t forget that Maurice Smith was a late 2016 arrival, and wound up being a steadying influence at the star position.)  This year, the secondary appears to be in good shape from both a talent and experience perspective and that can only help the front end of the defense.

Maybe it’s just a form of irrational exuberance on my part, but I like what I see from all three spots.

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40 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

40 responses to “Still, I look to find a reason to believe.

  1. Got Cowdog

    Yummy Kool-Aid.

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  2. Godawg

    Add in a healthy backfield, a QB with a year’s experience under his belt and, hopefully, some receivers who can catch. They should be able to improve on the 26 ppg in 2016 and win some of those games that got away.

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    • Uglydawg

      And…one would imagine that with an improved defense and ST’s, the offense will get to see the ball more often, which should mean more points.

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  3. dawgtired

    I’m no coach so maybe someone knows if this gives credence…but I wonder if the issues in the DB area slowed the effectiveness of the OLBs, ie Carter and company. I expected more from Carter by now. I keep hoping for an emergence…

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  4. Macallanlover

    None of us know at this point, but don’t be surprised if Thomas becomes the freshman OL that plays the bigger role this fall. Not saying Wynn doesn’t become the better talent in the next 2-3 years but Thomas looked the more polished and capable in the January all star games. Wynn played his HS ball in Brooklyn, not sure he faced a lot of talented defensive players. That isn’t a knock ion him, just makes me skeptical that he will add as much his first year. Possible both see action as the season goes along, can’t wait to see them develop in the next few years. Feel much more optimistic about the OL as I look forward than I have in a decade.

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    • Otto

      Bulldaawgillustrated: Having so many freshmen as potential contributors along the offensive line is usually a signal that a team is at least year away from challenging for a division championship. However, if offensive line guru Sam Pittman can mold his youngsters into a stable unit, getting to the SEC Championship Game is a real possibility, but don’t overlook the “if.”

      https://www.bulldawgillustrated.com/projecting-georgias-2017-offensive-line-depth-chart/

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      • Macallanlover

        That is certainly a logical generalization, and I certainly think it is an absolute to be a great OL. But I am not sure we have to be great to get to Atlanta, and I think we could be pretty dang good by the beginning of December. We aren’t without talent and experience starting out, we have enough to allow a couple of true frosh to get some time by working them in as opportunities present themselves. Looking at some of the All SEC projections for OL, a few of them showed some talent as a freshman. We don’t have to get help from all of new OL studs, we have some folks back, and some young bucks that were on campus all of last year but played little, or none at all. Agree with your thought, but not so sure we are as weak as many feel along the OL, and we have seen a true freshman contribute early before and work out just fine (Sturdivant). Not the greatest formula to use, but we can be good enough early until our OL gets better and can compete with the better front sevens we will face. The only early test they face is ND’s front group.

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        • Otto

          The Center and LT maybe returning players but are 1st year starters at the 2 anchor positions for the OL. Miss. St will be interesting as I see the game being strength on strength and weakness on weakness.

          UGA can win the east but I still put the team at 3 SEC losses. If one of those flips to a W, it is possible. Florida is the competition but they get their 2 west opponents at home.

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          • Macallanlover

            Maybe, we will see. I think the OL is measurably better, but not a dominating force by anyone’s standard. Partially because even the relocated guys were in the new system last year, and they should be stronger. Also expect some top freshmen to work themselves in for some real time play, and a couple of them are really good, imo.

            Don’t know where you see that many losses, I will say if we lose three SEC games in 2017, it won’t be because we have a talent problem (OL or not), we have a coaching problem. This talent, and depth, surpasses every one on our schedule. Can see 1 or 2 losses, including the OOC games, outside chance of 3 but not three losses in conference. Ugh!

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      • Doesn’t say anything about a soft schedule?

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    • DoubleDawg1318

      You mean Wilson. Wynn is a senior

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  5. Russ

    If we can improve on the handbags and glad rags that was our offensive line last year, I think we’ll see Chubb and Michel running like a mandolin wind. It sure seems like a long time.

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  6. reality check here

    UGA should be better. There are plenty of athletes. Coaching? Time to perform.

    My recollection is Richt won 8 games his first year. The next year we took off. It is time.

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  7. AusDawg85

    Here are my 3 areas of improvement: Beat Florida. Beat Tech. Beat Vandy. Even having to mention that last one turns my stomach.

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  8. John Denver is full of shit...

    Rod Stewart approves

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  9. 3rdandGrantham

    Guys, this is an 11 win team this year who will be a real threat to Bama in the SECC. And as I’ve said once or twice over the past few months, the fun begins starting now. Sure, there are certainly concerns: Cheney, the OL, WR development, etc., but overall we’re in great shape and the rest of the SEC east is down.

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    • PTC DAWG

      IF our OL was a year further in, I would totally buy the “could challenge Bama” line…..I hope they come along quicker than I think.

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    • MGW

      I really don’t think Chaney can be called a problem yet, not with any certainty. I think last year Smart either gave him a directive to keep it conservative for the sake of the freshman QB or for the sake of winning with defense. Even if he didn’t, doing something with that O is a tough job for anyone when you can’t keep your QB upright, and then when you do its a freshman running the O, and when he gets the ball out to a receiver, the receiver doesn’t catch it as often as he should. Another one not mentioned often is that when the line does get a good push for the backs, the receivers were undersized trying to block downfield.

      Could someone else out there have done more with that directive and those issues? I’m sure. Were those issues a big deal? Absolutely.

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      • Macallanlover

        Don’t know where you get the Smart intervention info, but I think that was a meme dreamed up by someone on the outside. KS has very little offensive background and hired someone he felt was an expert, why would he challenge the plan? Especially after the results showed we were struggling. I think Chaney has to be held accountable as he seemed to have no answer or ability to adjust. But I think Smart has to be held accountable if it doesn’t change early this season because he held onto him when many questioned Chaney as being the guy for us going forward.

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        • Reipar

          Maybe he got it from Smart with his exert our will comment. If you don’t like Chaney you don’t like Smart.

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        • MGW

          Intervention? He’s the head coach. And he’s certainly not a head coach who just hands the keys to the offense off to the coordinator and gives him carte blanche to do whatever he wants. He’s got a plan for the team, and part of that is a plodding, powerful, clock eating offense.

          Quick question: how would you have preferred he worked around a bad line, a freshman QB as the best option, and receivers who can’t catch or block?

          Run the triple option? Run the spread (which still requires receivers to catch the ball)? Cause Smart ain’t having either of those.

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          • Macallanlover

            Perhaps he operates that way, we don’t know the exact roles they play, or options they decided on, or dismissed. You claim to, I don’t. I will say KS has to own the ineptness regardless of how much, or how little, rope he gives Chaney since he chose him, and could decide to intervene, or even dismiss him. One thing about it, they are both of the line to make it better in 2018…..no excuses like the ones you listed above.

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  10. engrdawg

    The offensive line still worries me.
    Leading up to G-Day we heard a lot about how the offense was beating the defense and how the line specifically was better. Even Kirby said the defense was getting “ran through.”
    Then the Senator nicely summed up my impression of the line at G-Day: “Holy crap, was the offensive line a major disappointment, or what? No push and very inconsistent pass protection looked like a rerun of 2016.”

    We should see improvement, but we also should’ve seen improvement during the 2016 season.

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  11. Skeptic Dawg

    This team is not yet ready to compete for the East, much less the SEC. The 3 areas listed certainly need improvement, no one would argue otherwise. Of those 3, the least likely to show improvement is the OL. 3 new starters and the potential of freshman playing significant time do make equate to a successful SEC OL. In addition to those areas mentioned, the Dawgs must have improved QB play (extremely doubtful to be seen in 2017), improved DL play with increased pressure and QB sacks, and a significant jump in WR play. With a poor OL and questionable QB play it is not likely to see a big leap in this department. This team must also find the heart and effort to stop someone in the redzone. This all adds up to a disappointing season…8-4 with losses to Carolina, Auburn, ND and of course Florida. I have accepted the fact that Georgia has developed into a mediocre football program and nothing more.

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  12. I agree with most but think the OL is at least another year from being champion caliber. We’re only gonna go so far until they get there. I think we already know how far having good/great everything else will get us. On the cusp and blaming everything on one dropped pass or one questionable coaching decision or one questionable ranking decision. At some point we’re gonna have to be good enough and tough enough asking the LOS.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Debby Balcer

    Rod Stewart reference nice!

    Like