2017 Record: 13-2 (7-1) – Lost in National Championship
2018 Coaches Poll Top 25 Rank: No. 4
It’s hard to imagine a more painful way to lose the national championship than the way Georgia did, suffering a gazillion bad breaks and then blowing a coverage late to fall in walk-off fashion. Heartbreaking for sure, but Georgia’s window is far from closed.
The offense loses running back Sony Michel, running back Nick Chubb, wide receiver Javon Wims and left tackle Isaiah Wynn, but returns most of a strong offensive line as well as four of the best receivers in the country. Terry Godwin will lead a receiver room made up of speedster Mecole Hardman, Calvin Ridley’s brother Riley and Cal transfer Demetris Robertson, a former five-star recruit.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm will have a bevy of options in the passing game, especially when you consider tight end Isaac Nauta and running back D’Andre Swift in the equation as well. Speaking of Swift, he and Elijah Holyfield should soften the blow of losing Chubb and Michel, as both players offer high-end potential as well, even if they aren’t as polished as runners just yet.
Defensively, the Bulldogs will miss Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy, but return cornerback Deandre Baker, safety J.R. Reed and defensive linemen Tyler Clark, Jonathan Ledbetter and D’Andre Walker. The secondary should be as good if not better, but the run defense will remain a question mark until the linebackers prove they can replace Smith.
Georgia might not be as experienced as they were a year ago, but they are loaded with talent and appear poised for another run at a national title, especially if Fromm takes a big step in his development.
Top 5 Draft-Eligible Prospects
1. S J.R. Reed
Reed might not be the flashiest or most explosive safety in the draft, but he’s a sure tackler and a quick processing safety who does his job well. Can Reed show more splash-play ability and ball production this season at Georgia? The NFL covets safeties with range and versatility, and Reed has a great chance to play himself into a top 75 draft spot with a strong 2018 campaign.
2. WR Terry Godwin
Godwin is one of the best blocking wide receivers in the 2019 class, and has the technique and athleticism to be a top 100 prospect. Will he become the true no. 1 receiver with Wims departing for the NFL? Or does his production profile continue to hover in the 30-catch range, without much big-play potential?
3. WR Riley Ridley
Ridley has just 26 career catches, but he’s made the most of his opportunities with some big-time plays and performances. Ridley enjoyed a coming out party in the national championship game, where he looked like Georgia’s best receiver instead of their no. 4. Finding consistency, refining technique and earning full-time reps will be the goals for Ridley this season.
4. CB Deandre Baker
In the eyes of most, Baker is Georgia’s top prospect by a country mile, but I’m not so sure. I remain skeptical of cornerbacks who can’t run and don’t have great size or athleticism, at least in terms of projecting them to a first round value. Baker needs strong ball production in man coverage and better-than-expected athletic testing at next year’s Combine to crack the top 50.
5. WR Mecole Hardman
Speed sells, and Hardman has plenty of it. His overall development as a receiver isn’t as far along as Ridley or Godwin, but when you have a trump card, sometimes teams will overlook other weaknesses. Hardman’s size is an issue he can’t do much about, but the more polished he is as a route runner, the better his pro projection.
Others to Watch: C Lamont Gaillard, OG Kendall Baker, TE Isaac Nauta, RB Elijah Holyfield, IDL Tyler Clark, IDL Julian Rochester, IDL David Marshall, EDGE D’Andre Walker, EDGE Jonathan Ledbetter, CB Tyrique McGhee.