Averaging 35.4 points per game in 2017, the Georgia offense increased that figure to 37.9 last year and finished in the top-20 nationally of scoring offense for the second consecutive season. While seeing top talents bolt for the NFL and relying on highly-regarded recruits to replace them is the norm in college football’s best programs, the challenge to repeat its success offensively over the past two seasons for Georgia in 2019 comes with a considerable amount of new faces taking on prominent roles.
After 2017, the offense lost key starters in OL Isaiah Wynn, RB Sony Michel, RB Nick Chubb and WR Javon Wimms before WR Mecole Hardman, WR Riley RIdley, C Lamont Gaillard, TE Isaac Natua, WR Terry Godwin and RB Elijah Holyfield departed after last season. Even offensive coordinator Jim Chaney left for the same position at Tennessee after last season.
With so many new players and coaches being worked into the mix, Georgia’s most proven offensive starters will be relied heavily upon in a season filled with high expectations that have become the new norm in Athens under head coach Kirby Smart.
Let’s examine those returning starters and their strengths and weaknesses entering the 2019 season.
Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle
Thomas is a stud! A four-star recruit, Thomas has started all 28 games at left tackle since he set foot on campus. A 2018 All-SEC First Team Selection, Thomas was a Second Team All-American as a true sophomore. Thomas has the makings of a high first-round selection and NFL franchise left tackle for years to come.
Pros - You ask the prospect making machine to create an offensive tackle and they come out looking like Thomas. Thick frame with very little bad weight and long arms. Mobility stands out, especially his short area quickness. Springy footwork when challenged with wide, speed rushers. Does such a great job framing rushers in space and setting up roadblocks up the arc. Has terrific length and he knows how to maximize it. Wonderful job of playing with extension and winning with first contact. Does well to place and fit his hands. Varies his strikes.Timing and location of his punch is precise. Delivers powerful punches that stun pads. Easily absorbs power and sets a sturdy anchor. Pocket width won’t be compromised in pass protection. Brings the fight in pass protection and has experience executing a variety of sets. Love how he rolls his hips into contact as a drive blocker. Outstanding power throughout his frame. Executes with good leverage, posture and body control. Has started every game across his first two seasons in Athens. Experienced executing pro concepts and techniques.
Cons - Can stand to be more deliberate about bringing his hips and feet around to seal run lanes when working laterally on zone concepts. Only average on pulls/climbs and the angles he takes to connect with moving targets can stand to improve.
D’Andre Swift, Running Back
In a season where he battled injuries throughout, Swift racked up 1,049 rushing yards (6.4 average) and scored 13 total touchdowns. He added 32 receptions in a shared backfield with Elijah Holyfield.
A delight to watch on film, Swift checks all the boxes and profiles as a potential first-round selection next spring.
Pros - Slapped together nicely with a thick lower half. Natural low center of gravity combines with outstanding power in his legs that leads to terrific contact balance. Wonderful body control. Physical runner that always finishes his touches. Unique ability (for his frame) to dissociate his upper and lower half. Smooth and controlled above the waist while his legs are execute dynamic cuts. Capable of extending his plant foot well outside his frame. Generates excellent burst off his cuts. Does well to allow blocks to take form and work off them. Vision is sound and he angles his frame well to attack creases. Sound in every aspect of pass pro - diagnosing, cutting, squaring, anchoring and chipping. Natural hands and catches the football cleanly with consistency. Routinely snags the football away from his frame. With 49 receptions in his first two seasons, Georgia has prioritized getting him chances to contribute in the receiving game. Knows where to sit and make himself available to his quarterback.
Cons - There are times he lacks creativity in space. While there are reps where he makes terrific cuts and illustrates tremendous elusive skills, other times he has ample space to make a move and opts to plow into the tackler.
Jeremiah Holloman, Wide Receiver
Four of Georgia’s top-five leading receivers from last season are now catching passes in the NFL, leaving Holloman as the most experienced returning receiver. On a run-heavy offense that spread the ball to a number of targets in the passing game, Holloman is coming off a season in which he caught 24 passes for 418 yards and five touchdowns. Holloman has good chemistry established with quarterback Jake Fromm and there is an obvious trust that exists between the two given the amount of times Fromm trusts Holloman to adjust and makes plays on the ball against man coverage. He should see a large jump in production this season.
Pros - Long, athletic build. Savvy in the contact window dealing with contact and clearing press coverage. Illustrates good hand usage at the top of routes that combine with deceptive footwork to create separation out of breaks. Long strides enable him to eat up turf quickly. Does well to stack corners. Makes excellent route adjustments when working against zone to find soft areas. Illustrates good ball skills, tracking and adjusting naturally. Outstanding ability to extend his arms and secure the football firmly outside his frame. Showcases terrific body control when working along the sidelines and in contested situations. Competitive and decisive after the catch.
Cons - Doesn’t appear to be overly sudden or dynamic as a route runner, relying more on technique and physicality to get open. Is guilty of being too patient and waiting on the football instead of attacking it at the catch point. That patience has exposed QB Jake Fromm’s modest arm strength on several occasions when targeted on out-breaking patterns. Doesn’t showcase much in the way of creativity or elusiveness with the ball in his hands.
Jake Fromm, Quarterback
I recently wrote about Fromm and his quest to be a top quarterback prospect and he’s undoubtedly the single-most important player to Georgia’s success in 2019.
In two seasons as Georgia's quarterback, Fromm has tallied 5,376 passing yards, 54 touchdowns and a 64.9 completion percentage while leading the Bulldogs to a 24-5 record in games he's started. Fromm should continue to illustrate command and comfort leading the UGA offense, but he will need to adjust to a new supporting cast and offensive coordinator.
Pros - When studying his film, the most notable strength of Fromm's game is his football intelligence. He illustrates an obvious feel for working his progressions, hitting throws with anticipation, processing coverage and understanding where space/leverage will be. Playing against elite competition in the SEC, he's been tested against the best defensive talent and coaching in college football. He knows where his matchups are most favorable and is confident. There's a lot to like about his approach, decision making and execution of Georgia's offense.
From an accuracy perspective, Fromm has some really exciting touch throws down the field. No, he doesn't have a cannon for an arm but his processing skills combine with fairly consistent ball placement that leads to big plays in the passing game. Fromm does well to lead targets into space and maximize their ability to create separation. Especially against Florida and Alabama last year, he made some terrific reads with perfectly-placed throws that lead to big plays.
While he often has a low release point, Fromm has a quick, compact and efficient throwing motion. There isn't any wasted or elongate motion with his release.
With two SEC East Championships, an SEC Championship, Rose Bowl Victory and National Championship appearance in two seasons as a starter, Fromm is building an impressive resume in the best conference in college football. Thrust into action as a true freshman, Fromm held his own in 2017 and was even better in 2018.
Cons - I'm nervous the primary concerns with Fromm can't really be improved upon. Simply put, he has physical limitations. While Fromm can hit throws on the run, he isn't going to wow anyone with his mobility. Fromm is a pocket-passer that hasn't proven to be effective working off-script or finding ways to extend plays. His arm strength is only average, requiring those strong mental processing skills to off-set any shortcomings in terms of velocity. While his arm isn't Nathan Peterman or Ryan Finley noodley, he leaves something to be desired when dialing up his fastball.
To Fromm's credit, he is self-aware when it comes to his lack of arm strength and mobility. While some quarterbacks struggle to determine what they can and cannot get away with, Fromm takes care of the football and gets it out on schedule. Fromm will eat the football at times, but he doesn't put Georgia in bad situations, searching for athletic ability that doesn't exist.
While I mostly like Fromm's upper body throwing mechanics, he is guilty of some flat-footed throws and failure to generate throwing power from the waist down. His trail foot often lags and there is no rotation. The disappointing aspect of that note is that Fromm doesn't generate enough zip on some throws while there is an easily identifiable way to get more zip on his passes. The moments that Fromm does get in trouble and he exposes the football to turnovers is when he attempts to work the football between zones or on out-breaking routes and he doesn't put enough on his throws, leading to unnecessary contested situations.