2014 football signing classes are a long way from final, the coaching carousel hasn't stopped spinning, and we don't yet know who will be joining Jadeveon Clowney in speeding toward the NFL. But that hasn't stopped some from issuing their preseason prognostications for 2014 ere the 2013 season is even cold.
As Kyle Commenter pointed out this morning, ESPN has the 'Dawgs #11 based on Hutson Mason's not awful performance in the last few games of 2014, the presumed return of injured offensive stars, the maturation of the young defense, and a schedule which will surely have Steve Spurrier kvetching to anyone who will listen. CBSSports has Coach Richt's crew at #10, citing many of the same reasons, plus a pretty good tailback.
I'm sure that like me you groan at the notion of anything approaching positive expectations for Georgia football right now. But let's skip Paint It Black on the iTunes shuffle and take off the black glasses for just a moment. Pretend we're talking about someone's else's football team. If I told you that Team X was returning 10 out of 11 starters from the youngest defense in the SEC, had a redshirt senior starter at QB, and photoshopped a healthy Todd Gurley into another uniform and showed you his highlights, you'd probably think that team had a chance to be pretty good.
My sense is that Georgia has a chance to be pretty good in 2014. Privately, I told the Dawg Sports staff after the 2012 SEC Championship Game that I just didn't see the stars aligning for the 'Dawgs again until 2016. I figured the 2014 defense would be passable but that Hutson Mason would be way closer to Cox than Shockley. Then in 2015 someone other than Todd Gurley would be taking the majority of the tailback snaps from the third new starting QB in three years, flanked by a young receiving corps. Finally, in 2016 an experienced QB might pair with a veteran defense pulled from the 2013 and 2014 signing classes to give the 'Dawgs a shot at doing something special.
But this season has changed my view. I thought Hutson Mason was far better (when he wasn't running for his life or throwing a soaked football as he was for much of the Gator Bowl) prepared than I expected. And the experience of having two and a half games in the captain's chair will prove invaluable next season. There are still challenges. The Bulldog special teams are a mess, no one has stepped up to claim the left tackle spot, and the utter lack of progress by the secondary as this season marched on is frightening.
But as outside observers are clearly noting, Georgia has some things going in its favor. Not the least of which may be that it's difficult to imagine so many things going against the 'Dawgs all at once once again as converged in 2013.
Until later . . .