… Jake Rowe’s written something to remind you about the half-full side.
The new decade got off to an incredibly crazy start and it’s something that carried over from the end of 2019. When the Bulldogs arrived in New Orleans to take on Baylor in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, they did so without several players who had played key roles throughout the season. For one reason or another (early entries into the 2020 NFL Draft, academic trouble, injuries, and undisclosed issues) more than 10 players who had been heavy contributors or starters in 2019 were present.
When toe met leather in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the unofficial count of scholarship players not participating in the game was 18 and that’s not counting D’Andre Swift, who played just a handful of snaps in UGA’s 26-14 win. Somehow, some way, Kirby Smart and company found a way to win that game and since, one key player has transferred, three more have left school early for the NFL draft, four defenders have announced that they’ll be returning, and the Bulldogs have added a pair of graduate transfers.
Yeah, that’s a lot. But what should we make of it all?
… The attrition came fast, furious, and in weird ways but isn’t this why Smart is so relentless as a recruiter? Isn’t it why he seems to always have an eye on the transfer portal? Had the Bulldogs gotten a couple of offensive linemen to stay, things would look much brighter in Athens but it isn’t like they’re turning to walk ons to replace All Americans. Every team in America likes to talk about the “next-man” up mentality and UGA put that on display in the Sugar Bowl against a talented, well-coached Baylor team. Now it has roughly 40 practices to get it all figured out before it takes on Virginia on Labor Day in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s work, work, and more work between now and then.
If there’s one thing Smart’s truly accomplished at, it’s grinding. Maybe we ought to keep an open mind about 2020 until we see what comes of those forty practices. I know this much: there are very few teams in America that wouldn’t trade places with what he’s got to work with.