College football has become a fortress of immediate gratification. Long gone are the days when a coach would take over a program and grind out solid seasons before one day catching lightning in a bottle for that one special campaign the alums talk about for years.
No, in major college football you win now or you watch the next guy try to do it while you wait by the mailbox for your monthly buyout payment. You get your best players for three seasons. Your top assistants are subject to annual poaching. And scandals of the academic, criminal, and personal variety are no longer quietly kept out of the public eye. Everything every college fan loves about his or her favorite college football program could be swept away in the metaphorical blink of an eye.
So maybe It seems a little strange to be forecasting what UGA football might look like in five years. Because really there are no guarantees. But it is an interesting thought experiment while we wait for actual football to return in three months. So here are four things I believe you may be seeing out of UGA football in the year 2022.
- A new AD. By 2022 Greg McGarity would have passed 70 years of age and have been on the job in his second stint in Athens for a dozen years. I expect he will have left to do what retired athletic directors do: collect state retirement, play golf with alumni, and attend cocktail parties. Which looks a lot like what active athletic directors do, but without having to answer questions about their various mediocre coaching hires.
- A new kind of UGA quarterback. Though it's still not taken root in Athens, the move to more mobile QBs has become established elsewhere. Regardless of who is calling the plays in Sanford Stadium by then, I expect that Georgia will have moved away from the diminishing ranks of true pro style signal callers and will be led by a guy who is dangerous with his feet as well. Given the number of excellent mobile QBs who continue to leave the state to play where their talents are appreciated, this counts as good news.
- Red pants. We gotta bring them back eventually, right?
- Kirby Smart. This one may be the only real controversy on the list. But here's my guess. With Jacob Eason a steady hand at quarterback and the talent from the class of 2017 Smart would have to be pretty dumb not to have a good 2018. Even if junior Jake Fromm takes over in 2019 the Red and Black should still be reaping the benefits of Smart’s first full class. And there should be a strong 2019 class emerging into playing roles.
Smart isn't leaving Athens voluntarily. You don't take the job at your alma mater as a stepping stone. So I expect that in 2022 we’ll either be seeing Kirby Smart trying to recapture the glory of strong second, third, and fourth seasons in Athens, or we’ll see him in the midst of a years-long streak of good football fueled by a mix of veteran talent and youthful immediate contributors under a veteran coach who understands the nuances of his job far better than when he started it.
Florida will be hitting an upswing after hiring a new coach for the 2019 season (losing football or debilitating sunburn, the details of Jim McElwain’s demise are of no consequence to me). Nick Saban will be playing golf and working part time (only 9 hours per day) as a consultant in the NFL, and Auburn will remain a yearly alternating mix of hot garbage and creditable football. Kentucky will be Kentucky and Vanderbilt will be Northwestern with a drawl. And there's a very good chance Will Muschamp will be continuing his life of not-so-quiet 8 win desperation in Columbia.
So the SEC East may remain Georgia's to lose on a nearly yearly basis. If Kirby Smart does lose it in 2022, I’d hate to hear what SB Nation TV analyst Mark Richt has to say about it. Until later......