Georgia lost plenty of talent and experience from last year's team, but don't expect the Bulldogs to take too much of a step backwards. Kirby Smart's roster is littered with dynamic athletes and hightly regarded recruits and his offense should put up plenty of points behind a poised quarterback, solid offensive line and a bevy of explosive playmakers. The defense is replacing six starters and a couple of key reserves, but the cupboard is far from bare for coordinator Mel Tucker. There are some question marks with this team, but there's no doubting the talent, and the schedule is manageable. If some of the younger guys grow up quickly, there's no reason to not expect Georgia to make another run at a national title.
RELATED: GEORGIA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Previewing Georgia Football's Offense for 2018
Get full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, and national rankings. Click here to buy a copy today or visit your local newsstand!
Kirby Smart wants Georgia to be known as a physical, run-oriented team, and that was the character of the offense that almost won a national championship last year. But this year's team has the potential to be much more balanced.
The two star tailbacks, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, are gone, but the team still has D'Andre Swift, freshman Zamir White and other talented backs. And it has a bigger and more experienced offensive line that can create holes.
The Bulldogs have a returning QB in Jake Fromm who showed last year that he could do plenty of good things with his arm. He was accurate (62.2 percent completion rate) and better than given credit for on long throws. Georgia also has solid playmaking receivers (Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin and Riley Ridley).
This also assumes that Fromm is the starter the whole way this season. True freshman Justin Fields was a five-star recruit who enrolled early and gives Georgia a great dual-threat option, the kind Smart has hungered for since seeing Clemson's Deshaun Watson carve up his defense at Alabama. Georgia's offense, in other words, has the potential to carry the team, in a way it hasn't since earlier this decade.
Previewing Georgia Football's Defense for 2018
Georgia lost eight of the players who started on defense in the College Football Playoff, including all four linebackers. That included Roquan Smith, a once-a-decade-type inside linebacker. That doesn't mean Georgia can't still be very good on defense in 2018, though. Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker have plenty of talent to draw on. They have a base that includes shut-down cornerback Deandre Baker, safety J.R. Reed, defensive linemen Jonathan Ledbetter and Tyler Clark - as well as inside linebacker Natrez Patrick, who battled off-field problems but is back for his senior year.
There is also plenty of talent coming up through the system, whether it's bench players from last year - outside linebackers Walter Grant and D'Andre Walker - or five-star recruits such as cornerback Tyson Campbell.
The main questions will be in the secondary, particularly opposite Baker, and defensive line, which isn't as deep as last year. And, of course, the impact of the loss of Smith's playmaking ability and all that veteran experience and leadership.
Previewing Georgia Football's Specialists for 2018
In the postseason, placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship made two field goals of 50-plus yards, which no one had ever done. He's back for his junior year and could be an All-American. Georgia also returns Hardman, who didn't have a return touchdown last year but always seemed very close to breaking one. Punter will be an issue, however, after the loss of Cam Nizialek and his strong right leg. Of course, if the offense is as good as Georgia hopes, Nizialek's replacement may not be called upon much.
Georgia doesn't have the experience coming back that it did last year, but it may have as much talent. It's just younger and inexperienced talent, and that does matter, and would be a reason not to expect another CFB Playoff run. Then again, the schedule is far from daunting. Georgia has to go to LSU, and September games at South Carolina and Missouri could be troublesome. Auburn visits Athens.
Georgia should be a heavy favorite to repeat as SEC East champion. Everything else probably depends on how quickly the defense reloads.