The Bulldogs rank No. 3 in Athlon's Top 25 for 2019
This is Kirby Smart's fourth year as Georgia’s head coach, and the feeling around the program is different. It's calm. There's a sense that things have truly settled in. The offseason saw two big changes, as both coordinators left, but when Smart replaced them both from within, he opted for continuity, showing confidence in himself and his process.
The first three years of Smart’s tenure saw him change the culture, reach the national championship game, and then experience the distractions and outside pressure that come with becoming a national power. But there's now a sense that Georgia is truly ready for that pressure — and it doesn’t hurt to have three top-3 recruiting classes stacked on top of each other.
As Georgia begins another season of high expectations, there will be questions. None of them, though, will be about the talent base. It is as strong as any team in the nation.
Previewing Georgia's Offense for 2019
There is no question anymore: This is Jake Fromm's team. There is no Justin Fields or Jacob Eason looming behind him, and there will be no rotating with the backup. This season is all about Fromm taking the next step — becoming one of the nation's truly elite quarterbacks and leading the team to a national title.
Much of that also applies to D'Andre Swift, who is set to become the latest illustrious Georgia tailback, as long as he can stay healthy. The dynamic Swift will be used in plenty of different situations, run and pass. The only question is who gets the carries behind him, and that largely depends on the health of Zamir White, the freshman who was poised for a big role last year before his second ACL tear in less than a year. (It was a different knee.) If White is healthy and close to 100 percent, he will be a big factor in the offense.
The receivers and tight ends are a bit more of a question mark, after the loss of the team's three leading receivers last season, plus several other contributors. But between steady junior Jeremiah Holloman, former five-star Demetris Robertson (who struggled to see the field after transferring from Cal last summer) and a host of other speedy players, Fromm should have plenty of weapons.
There is no question, meanwhile, about the state of Georgia's offensive line: It is loaded, as O-line coach Sam Pittman has recruited at an elite level. Left tackle Andrew Thomas will anchor a line that is deep and should open plenty of holes for the tailbacks while also giving Fromm plenty of time to throw.
That brings us to James Coley, promoted to offensive coordinator after Jim Chaney bolted for Tennessee. Coley's previous play-calling experience came at Miami from 2013-15, and while there were ups and downs, Coley did not have nearly the same talent level at Miami that he will this season, especially at offensive line and running back.
Previewing Georgia's Defense for 2019
Georgia has had a first-team All-American each of the past two seasons (Roquan Smith and then Deandre Baker), but while there may not be a player of that caliber (yet) on this year’s defense, the talent base is deeper and better.
There are six players who were five-star recruits, as well as this year's top junior college recruit, edge rusher Jermaine Johnson. The best player in the group may be Nakobe Dean, the freshman inside linebacker already being compared to Smith in his sideline-to-sideline ability. But Georgia's depth is strong enough that even Dean may not start right away.
There are questions, especially at cornerback, where Georgia looked vulnerable in the Sugar Bowl when Baker sat out. That's why the return of strong safety J.R. Reed, a fifth-year senior, is so huge, as he will anchor the back end of the defense.
The defensive line also needs to be better. It should be bolstered by five-star freshman Travon Walker, as well as sophomore Jordan Davis, whose emergence at nose tackle in the latter half of last season was a boon to the run defense. It would also be huge if Tyler Clark, who had a quiet junior season, finished his career strong.
Previewing Georgia's Specialists for 2019
Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship is already a folk hero for his exploits during the College Football Playoff his sophomore season. He now has a chance to cement his name in Georgia football lore, as well as the record books, and he also wants to make up for the missed field goal in the 2018 SEC Championship Game that opened the door for Alabama's comeback. Punter Jake Camarda returns after a solid freshman season. The question is at the return spots, vacated by Mecole Hardman and Terry Godwin. There is no shortage of speed on this year's team, so candidates abound. It’s just a matter of who gets the jobs and whether they can be dependable.
No one within the program will come out and say it, but everyone knows what's left for the Bulldogs to do: beat Alabama and win the national championship. Perhaps in that order. Perhaps in the same game.
Georgia has had Alabama on the ropes twice in a row, and that was before improving the talent base to the point where it is now. That doesn't mean it will happen, as the Bulldogs are painfully aware.