The 2017 college football season concluded in heartbreaking fashion for the Georgia Bulldogs, losing to Alabama in overtime in the national title game. But it was a historic run nonetheless, and one that Bulldog fans should always hold in high regard. The good news is that Georgia’s best days on the gridiron may just lie ahead. Head coach Kirby Smart has the Bulldogs poised to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come, and the 2018 season could be special indeed.
Georgia ranks No. 4 in Athlon Sports' Way-Too-Early Top 25 Rankings for 2018. And the Bulldogs are already being heralded as one of the favorites to make a return trip to the College Football Playoff. But just in case Dawg fans need further motivation to be optimistic for the 2018 season, here are three more reasons that might help ease any concerns.
1. The program is in great hands
The Bulldogs began the 2017 season ranked No. 15 in the AP Poll with serious question marks at several key positions. There was a fair amount of skepticism swirling around their second-year head coach as well.
That doubt would soon be erased, as Smart would proceed to lead his alma mater to a record-tying 13-win season, an SEC title, a Rose Bowl victory, and the school’s first appearance in the national championship game in 37 years. For his efforts, he earned SEC and Maxwell National Coach of the Year honors.
While Smart has set the bar very high in terms of expectations moving forward, he’s already proven that he is up to the challenge. The program is clearly in great hands and well positioned to have a bright future under his direction. That alone should give Georgia fans plenty of reason to be optimistic for 2018 and beyond.
2. A formidable offense
The Georgia offense showed tremendous improvement in 2017, and it could be even better in '18. The Bulldogs return as many as eight starters on that side of the football, as well as offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Quarterback Jake Fromm should show marked improvement in his second year under center. And he will have plenty of help with four starters back on the offensive line and three of his top four receivers returning.
The Bulldogs do have big shoes to fill at running back with the loss of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. But in typical Georgia fashion, there is no shortage of outstanding talent in place to fill the void. D’Andre Swift has already given us a glimpse of the future with his impressive freshman campaign. Talented running backs Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien also return. And if that weren’t enough, the Bulldogs have the No. 1- and No. 3-ranked running backs from the class of 2018 in Zamir White and James Cook, completing what should be one of the top backfields in the nation this fall.
3. Reloading on defense
The Bulldogs will lose top-flight talent at every level on defense next season. Most notably, SEC Defensive Player of the Year Roquan Smith. However, the cupboard is far from bare on that side of the football heading into 2018. And this isn’t as much of a rebuilding process for the Georgia defense, as it is reloading.
Several key contributors return, including standouts DT Tyler Clark, DT Julian Rochester, DE Jonathan Ledbetter, LB Natrez Patrick, LB D’Andre Walker, DB Deandre Baker, DB J.R. Reed, and DB Tyrique McGhee to name a few. Additionally, you should see the emergence of several top defensive prospects from the highly-regarded 2017 recruiting class. And there are plenty of quality re-enforcements on the way via a stellar 2018 recruiting class as well. The Georgia defense should once again be among the best in the country under the tutelage of Kirby Smart and coordinator Mel Tucker.
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.