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15 Thoughts Already Looking Ahead

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All this good news regarding returning upper-classmen is just too much to keep in. In my best George Costanza voice, "I'm bursting, Jerry! Bursting!"

Good to have you back!
Good to have you back!
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

1. How important is it that 5 key pieces of the football team will return next season?  MaconDawg said it was no real surprise that John Theus and Malcolm Mitchell would be back and I agree.  Having Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins on the roster is simply an awesome early Christmas present.

2. With the NCAA's decision to allow Kolton Houston another year of eligibility, our offensive line - despite losing David "Boss" Andrews -  looks to be ready to pick up where they (mostly) left off in 2014.  When was the last time we could say that we had a good to great, cohesive unit for a second consecutive season?  Now, we have the luxury of playing some guys off the bench, provided we stay healthy.  We've got recruits in the pipeline as well.  Finally, we are building the kind of depth that is sustainable and are not having to play guys who are simply not ready.

3. I gotta believe that the happiest fellas on the team regarding all this good offensive linemen news are our cadre of incredible running backs.  Can Keith Marshall return to form?  "Oh, but Dave...we have enough running backs..."  You can NEVER have enough running backs.  Heal up Keith.  We want to see you back to doing this again, and here's hoping we will.

#4 can catch the ball a little...

4. Back to Thought #1 for a moment, regarding Jenkins and Floyd.  How are we going to get Lorenzo Carter, Jenkins and Floyd on the field at the same time?  Jenkins is the biggest of the bunch, but Carter is probably still adding muscle and some weight.  Could Jenkins be moved from an edge guy to more of a Mike linebacker in certain situations?  I think Jeremy Pruitt will have some options regarding mixing and matching personnel for different situations next season.  Defensive alignments next season might be quite extraordinary.

5.  I am looking forward to seeing what Tim Kimbrough can do in an increased role, probably at ILB.  He may be the hardest hitter on the team.  I realize he was not a Todd Grantham recruit, but the kid can play.

6. All of this is tempered somewhat by our defensive front.  Prior to 2014, D-line and linebacker were the lesser of the defensive concerns.  This is now the greater area of concern headed into 2015.  Stirling Bailey, Josh Dawson, James DeLoach and Chris Mayes will be seniors.  John Atkins will be a sophomore and red shirt freshman Lamont Gaillard will get a look depending upon his conditioning.  Incoming commit Trent Thompson might be good enough to crack the rotation sooner than later.  Still, Tracy Rocker has some coaching to do.

7.  When I read the different blogs and mainstream articles on the future of this team, most point towards 2016 as "The Year."  Given the uncertainty of a new starting quarterback - and I will go on record and state that we will upgrade at this position in '15, teething pains notwithstanding - we have scary (good) offensive potential in 2015.  (Someone throw some ice water on me now, please)...

8.  ...especially if Malcolm Mitchell can get through an entire spring and August without suffering the kind of bizarre maladies that have plagued his entire career at Georgia.  He's such a difference maker when healthy.  The kid deserves a break.  Can Justin Scott-Wesley provide the kind of threat he did in 2013?  There are more than a few folks that think Charlie Hegedus is the X-Factor in the receiving corps. People rave about his speed.

9What if:

  • Brice Ramsey is as good as we think he can be?
  • Malcolm Mitchell can stay and play healthy?  All year long.
  • JSW returns to pre-injury 2013 form?
  • Charlie Hegedus - still a virtual unknown - becomes our newer, faster version of Michael Bennett or Chris Conley?
  • Nick and Sony avoid the sophomore slump?  (It's a real thing, folks).
  • Isaiah McKenzie protects the ball a little bit better?
  • Jeb Blazevich gains a bit more weight and just holds steady?
  • Jay Rome gets healthy?
  • Reggie Davis improves?
  • Shaq Williams continues his ascension?
  • We can effectively replace David Andrews at center. 

Whew.  That's a lot of "what ifs?"  But, what if?

10.  Nick and Sony.  Sony and Nick.  I hope these two names instill as much terror into the hearts and minds of the Conference as Hall and Oates did to me during the 70's.  ROCK AND ROLL!

Sony...

Nick...

11.  As great as Nick Chubb is - and he is great - a healthy Sony Michel, more than anything, has me dreaming of sugar plums Sugar Bowls as we prepare for next season.  These two guys compliment each other so well.  I would say it's almost unfair, but nothing in college football ever seems fair, so it's totally fair.

12.  Brice Ramsey is going to throw a few interceptions.  He's also going to complete some passes that his predecessor was simply incapable of completing last season.  Mike Bobo can coach a certain amount of aggression into his game if the bullet points, noted above, work out.  Actually, the talent on this team can make an average quarterback look pretty damn good.  I think he's a confident kid and should be sleeping well with the knowledge that his blockers will be intact.  The Alabama game on October 3rd is going to be a pretty big deal.

13. Still, it all comes back to the defense.  All questions on personnel, positions and the mixer that everyone is about to be tossed into after the bowl game, we will be better than we were in 2014.  How much better?  That's the proverbial gazillion dollar question.  We made strides in 2014, but didn't turn a corner.  Well, that corner is approaching faster than we realize.

14.  In a few weeks we are about to play in another ho-hum bowl game that, frankly, we absolutely deserve to be in.  I think this team is going to be very motivated and we might see a redemptive performance.  I will be watching this game with far more interest and enthusiasm than I did a year ago when we lost to Nebraska in the latest iteration of the "Who Cares" bowl.  This time 'round, the game has personal meaning.  I think we whip the snot out of Louisville.

15. Our condolences go out to the Auburn Family today, and to the family of Jakell Mitchell.  Horrible doesn't begin to describe this.  I hope the perpetrators are brought to justice swiftly.

UPDATEAn arrest has been made.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.  I'm going "across the pond" in a few days to celebrate the season with my wife and our extended English family.  It's not a bad place to be this time of the year and I have a favorite pub all picked out so I can have a pint or twenty two.  My 5 English nephews are all getting new Georgia apparel for Christmas.  You never know where our next great recruit will come from, perhaps a kicker?

As Always, GO DAWGS!