Your Georgia Bulldogs return to the practice field today to kick off the 2017 football season. When last we saw our intrepid heroes spring practice was wrapping up, and G Day answered a couple of questions about what we can expect this season. We know for example that Charlie Woerner really is a threat in the passing game. That Elijah Holyfield can eat up carries if necessary, and that Natrez Patrick is going to be a stellar pass rusher.
But there remain some areas of concern for the Red and Black headed into fall, questions that will determine exactly how far this team can go in year two of the Smart era. For my money three of the biggest questions are:
- Who steps up on the offensive line? The UGA offensive line struggled mightily in 2016. Gone from that unit are starting left tackle Tyler Catalina, preseason All-SEC guard Greg Pyke, and center Brandon Kublanow. Coming in are six freshmen, all rated four or five star prospects. That’s in addition to several redshirt freshmen and other underclassmen who didn’t start last season but may do so in 2017.
Pat Allen and Solomon Kindley appear to be in at the guard spots. But could freshmen Netori Johnson and Justin Shaffer push for playing time at guard? Will Ben Cleveland or Isaiah Wilson take time from Dyshon Sims at right tackle? That type of competition could only be good news.
2. Can the defensive line take a step forward? The Bulldogs return every significant contributor from a unit that was a surprise strength in 2016. Trenton Thompson appears to be back from offseason shoulder surgery. Daquan Hawkins-Muckle and John Atkins return as additional productive veterans. And last season’s solid freshman group of Julian Rochester, Michail Carter, and Tyler Clark look to take a step forward in year two in Athens.
New defensive line coach Tray Scott is also onboard with something to prove. There will come a time in 2017 when the Classic City Canines must control the line of scrimmage to win against a good football team. Will these guys be up to the challenge when that time comes?
3. Is Jacob Eason ready to seize control? All in all the five star freshman had a pretty solid first collegiate season. 2430 yards passing and 16 touchdowns, not to mention a handful of truly clutch late-game performances, were a nice start to his UGA career. Sure, we’ve heard about Eason competing with this year’s superfrosh, Jake Fromm. But make no mistake, this is Eason’s team. Is he ready to shoulder that load? Can he consistently manage the Bulldog offense, and his own adrenaline and emotions, when the game is on the line, not to mention every single day in practice?