Georgia opens 2015 as the favorite to win the SEC East title. The Bulldogs finished spring without an answer under center, but the offense will revolve around a heavy dose of talented sophomore running back Nick Chubb. And until the passing game is sorted out, Georgia should be able to lean on Chubb and one of the SEC’s top defenses. With games against Auburn and Alabama, the Bulldogs also have one of the SEC’s toughest crossover schedules.
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Previewing Georgia’s Offense for 2015
It’s a season of change and uncertainty for Georgia’s offense, which has been among the nation’s most prolific this decade. The only constant is the running game. Nick Chubb rushed for 1,547 yards as a true freshman, and he backed up Todd Gurley for five games. Chubb is back, as is fellow sophomore Sony Michel and junior Keith Marshall, both of whom battled injuries last year. Georgia leaned heavily on its running game last year, and there’s no reason to think it won’t again, so Chubb could make a run at the Heisman.
It also helps that four starters are back from an offensive line that emerged as a strength last season.
Those are the knowns. The unknown is Georgia’s new offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, and how his NFL breeding will translate to the college game. Another unknown is at quarterback, where for the first time in nearly a decade Georgia entered the summer without knowing who the starter would be.
Sophomore Brice Ramsey has the strongest arm, while junior Faton Bauta offers mobility and better accuracy. The competition could carry well into the preseason. The receiver spot is also a concern, with injury-plagued senior Malcolm Mitchell the only proven commodity. So for plenty of reasons, the passing game in general is a concern heading into 2015.
Previewing Georgia’s Defense for 2015
Georgia’s defense saw marked improvement last year under a revamped coaching staff, and coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was rewarded with a raise up to $1.3 million annually. But there’s still plenty of work for Pruitt to do.
The cause was helped when outside linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins elected to return for one more year. That gives Georgia one of the best pairs of outside rushers in the country. Throw in Lorenzo Carter, the dynamic sophomore, and it’s a fearsome trio.
Trent Thompson, rated the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit by 247Sports, should bolster a defensive line that has been solid but lacked star power. If Thompson lives up to his potential right away, Georgia could have one of the best front sevens in the country.
The questions are at inside linebacker and cornerback, where longtime starters graduated. If playmakers can emerge there, Pruitt will be ecstatic. Otherwise he’s just hoping for dependability.
The past few years, Georgia could have been a national contender with a better defense. The talent on this side of the ball is starting to catch up with Georgia’s offense. It’s not quite enough on paper to make this a preseason top-10 defense, but the potential is there.
Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
Previewing Georgia’s Specialists for 2015
Isaiah McKenzie was recruited to give Georgia a home-run threat on special teams, and the 5'8" speedster delivered as a freshman last year. He returned two punts and one kickoff for touchdowns and will be a threat to equal or exceed that this season. Marshall Morgan also gives Georgia one of the better kickers in the country, as he’s converted 84 percent of his field-goal attempts the past two seasons. The question is at punter, where senior Collin Barber (career average of 41.5 yards) has been inconsistent.
Once again, Georgia has the talent to make a run at the SEC title and the College Football Playoff. The question is whether the offense can be as good despite the changes, and whether the defense continues to improve. If both happen, the Bulldogs will have a special season. If not, the Bulldogs should still have enough to have a solid season. But that will do little to allay a fan base that has tired of being good, but not great.