Can’t say I argue with this:
That means regression is coming in 2022. It’s unavoidable. I mean, Georgia just had 5 defensive players in the 1st round of the NFL Draft and 8 defensive players total. The Dawgs rank No. 122 out of 130 FBS teams in percentage of returning defensive production. That doesn’t include the loss of defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. Even a 5-star factory like the one Kirby Smart built in Athens is going to take a step back.
The question is obvious — how significant is that step back?
But, yeah, it’s the how much aspect that’s hard to gauge. (At least for me.)
I do think O’Gara makes some interesting, and likely valid, points when he notes that in the Smart era, Georgia has yet to produce back-to-back seasons when defensive scoring finished in the top ten nationally, as well as that it’s not logical to expect a program that has to replace five first round NFL draft picks to do so without missing a beat. But I think he’s playing up Lanning’s departure more than is justified, in my opinion. Not to say Lanning didn’t do a great job, but this year’s defensive brain trust is an experienced group that carries over from last season.
Besides that, when you look at Georgia’s regular season competition, what programs are likely to feature offenses improved over last year? On paper right now, the only one I feel confident projecting to be is South Carolina’s, because of its upgrade at quarterback.
There’s one other X-factor O’Gara doesn’t take into account, although I’m not sure how to factor it in, either. If Georgia’s offense is about to take off this season, how much of an effect will it have on how Georgia’s defense plays in the second half of lopsided games? You got me.
After all that, I don’t find myself disagreeing significantly with his take:
The most likely scenario is that UGA allows at least 15 points per game against Power 5 competition. Shoot, even UGA’s 2017 national runner-up defense allowed 16.9 points per game against Power 5 competition. I’d say that’s about best case scenario for the 2022 squad. Clemson basically posted that number last year and still finished with the No. 2 defense nationally.
What I think will be of greater interest than the overall average is whether the average declines as the season progresses, which would be an indication that the relative lack of experience compared to 2021 is being shaved away. What are your thoughts on defensive regression in 2022?