Well folks, we finally made it. We have arrived at the bye week in the Georgia Bulldogs’ 2016 college football season. This is of course a natural juncture for us to look back and reflect on this first sliver of the Kirby Smart era in Athens. This morning we begin by looking at some of the potential surprises that have emerged through Georgia’s first seven games.
Jacob Eason. It isn't terribly surprising that Jacob Eason will be starting when the Bulldogs travel to Jacksonville. A lot of folks saw that one coming.
Not as many saw him starting by the second game of the season, and I think even fewer saw him closing in on a potential 3000 yard passing season. Skinny had thrown for 1366 yards through seven games. But if Georgia makes a bowl game Eason would have six games to throw for 1634 more yards, about 272 per contest. that will not likely happen if he has any more 29 yard games like the one against South Carolina. But if he strings together the type of 340+ yard game we saw against Vandy, it's all but assured.
That points to the biggest issue in Eason’s game right now, the inconsistency you expect from a true freshman thrown into the fire. Missed reads. Mechanics breaking down under pressure. These are things that can be fixed. His talent however is clearly as advertised, and that is very exciting.
Isaiah McKenzie. Everyone knew that Jim Chaney needed to find was to get Isaiah McKenzie the ball. I don't know that anyone expected him to be leading the team in receiving and have made a series of absolutely jaw-dropping, critical plays. Take a moment and imagine what this season might look like if McKenzie weren't added late in the and to UGA’s 2014 recruiting class. Or, actually, don't. It’s sort of scary.
Youth movement on the defensive line. Georgia lost a lot of experience up front with the graduation of Sterling Bailey, Chris Mayes, Josh Dawson, and James Deloach. While none of those guys was a first team All-American, they combined to form a very steady, effective veteran front in 2015. Georgia could have easily taken a big step backward on the defensive line in 2016, however, what we have seen instead is the continuing development of a unit whitch should form a strong core for at least the next 2 to 3 seasons.
Nick Chubb. Nick Chubb has made a habit of surprising everyone around him. But somehow he's managed this season to surprise both to the upside and the downside. Chubb has gutted out 586 yards despite losing time to a high ankle sprain and running into 8 man fronts behind an offensive line that's struggled to get the job done. While he doesn’t look to have quite the burst he did pre-knee surgery, to me he’s looked further along than anyone has a right to be after the kind of surgery he had.
Isaac Nauta. You might have believed me if I told you the freshman from Buford would be a contributor this season. You would have been hard-pressed to predict that he would have racked up 15 receptions for 198 yards through seven games, almost triple the output of all other Bulldog tight ends combined. The fact that the Red and Black’s third leading receiver is a true freshman tight end says great things about his abilit, but maybe not so much about what's going on around him.