Following Georgia’s Liberty Bowl win Bulldog fans got mixed news about what the 2017 team will look like. To no one’s surprise, receiver and kick returner Isaiah McKenzie will forego his senior season to enter the NFL draft. McKenzie could theoretically improve his reliability as a kick returner by coming back. But let’s be honest, he’s not going to get any taller. Unless the laws of physics take a holiday, he’s not likely to get any quicker.
McKenzie isn’t likely an every down possession receiver any more in the NFL than in college, and likely less so. But he’s a guy you find ways to get the ball to in space, and NFL teams have shown a penchant over the past few years for finding and financially rewarding those big play guys, even if their measurable aren’t impressive. I can’t really fault this decision.
What was a little bit of a surprise was safety Dominick Sanders’ decision to return for his senior season. Sanders was the most productive, consistent defensive back in Athens this season, and it would have been no surprise to see him headed to the pros. Frankly that would have been my bet if you’d asked me. His return goes a long way toward shoring up one of the only areas of the team that might have suffered serious attrition this offseason.
The return of juniors like Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, and now Sanders provides Georgia an enviable nucleus of senior leadership going into 2017, the kind of veteran core that Georgia probably hasn’t had since 2012. That won’t do anything to decrease expectations in year two of the Kirby Smart era.
But then, it will do a lot to help things on the field. Another point worth considering? How strong a vote of confidence this is by Georgia’s veteran players in favor of first year coach Kirby Smart. These guys weren't recruited by Smart and didn't have to hang around after a rough 8-5 season. I think they call this “"buying in.”