2015 CFB Preview – Georgia

    Georgia BulldogsGo to Team Page BulldogsGo to Selection Page           Okay, so we know what Georgia is. By Pete Fiutak |

    July 1, 2015

    Georgia
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    Okay, so we know what Georgia is.

    By Pete Fiutak | @PeteFiutak

    This is once again going to be another really, really good team that should flirt with a top ten ranking. There’s going to be a ton of NFL talent on both sides of the ball, there will be some moments when this looks like one of the best teams in college football, there will be talk of a Mark Richt hot seat despite all the success, and once again, Georgia is going to come up with a heartbreaking loss or two that keeps it from finally turning the corner.

    Consistent winning seasons aren’t always enough for some programs – ask Nebraska – but coming up with three campaigns in the last four years with ten wins or more is impressive by any measure, especially in the SEC. This year’s Bulldog team might not have anything special compared to past Richt squads, but someday all the right breaks have to go this program’s way.

    But the team has to make its own good fortune, too.

    There was nothing that could’ve been done about the rash of injuries in 2013, but last year the Dawgs lost a shootout to a mediocre South Carolina team, and was inexplicably trampled over by Florida. They did what they needed to do against Arkansas, the destroyed Missouri in Columbia, and they destroyed Auburn. They were good enough, and they were certainly better than a Mizzou team that won its second straight East title. But that’s the way it is in the SEC world – being very, very good isn’t necessarily going to be good enough.

    It’s going to be even more of a fight now with the rest of the East starting to catch up a bit.
    With Tennessee and South Carolina better, and Florida likely to have an offense now, the division will be tougher to deal with, but that shouldn’t matter. Georgia is supposed to be strong enough to get through the lesser of the two divisions – it’s supposed to be the lead dog in the pack. It’s supposed to be to the East what Alabama is to the West, and it can be.

    The schedule can’t be used too much as an excuse with almost all the rough games at home – although getting Alabama on the slate is a bad break. There’s more than enough talent on defense to be even better, and the one big concern – the passing game – should come around given time to operate thanks to an always fantastic ground game led by a scary-good stable of backs.

    But even though there’s enough in the bad to win the East, and even though the team should be just good enough to think about going go the playoff, it’s Georgia.

    It’s going to win ten games, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch on both sides of the ball.

    And then 2016 will supposedly be the year.

    What You Need To Know About The Offense: New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has an easy task – give the ball to Nick Chubb and keep on giving the ball to Nick Chubb. The Georgia running back situation is once again phenomenal with Chubb leading the way and with a slew of very, very talented options behind him. The line loses mainstay center David Andrews, but overall it should be another strong, tough group that paves the way for another big rushing season. The passing attack will be a big question mark without any truly established playmakers at receiver and with the quarterback situation still a work in progress. There are good options in the derby, but no one has taken the quarterback gig by the horns.

    What You Need To Know About The Defense: Jeremy Pruitt did a great job in his first year at the helm of the defense, turning in a great year with a pass D that finished fifth in the nation and was outstanding on third downs. The best part is that it was a young group of defensive backs that’s still growing and improving around safety Quincy Mauger. The stars are at linebacker where the 1-2 punch of Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd should wreak havoc on opposing backfields all season long. The line needs a bit of an overhaul, but Georgia is a factory for solid linemen – they just have to hold their own while the linebackers do the heavy lifting.

    What to watch for on offense: Will the passing game be able to hold up its end of the bargain? Everything else will be in place from the running game to the defense to the special teams, but to go from ten-win good to playoff great, Georgia has to be offensively balanced and needs to at least throw a scare into teams down the field. Last year’s passing attack didn’t crank out a ton of yards, but it was ultra-efficient. No matter who the quarterback is, the Bulldogs have to take some of the pressure off of Nick Chubb and the backs – and they have to take advantage of the defenses that’ll cheat up to make stops.

    What to watch for on defense: The linebacking corps will be dominant. This will be even more of an attacking defense with the linebackers flying into the backfield on a regular basis. The team’s top two tacklers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson are gone, but there’s absolutely no worries about replacing 225 tackles of production. The return of Leonard Floyd for another year before he dominates at the next level is a good place to start, and Jordan Jenkins should once again be among the best in the SEC. With the emergence of Lorenzo Carter as the next great Bulldog linebacker, and with other excellent parts of the puzzle ready to fill in the rotation, look out.

    The team will be far better if … the running game always works and the run defense is always a rock. The Bulldogs roll best when they’re in control of games, and that comes from their punishing offense and attacking defensive front. The ground attack failed to hit the 200-yard mark two times last season – the losses to Florida and Georgia Tech. On the other side of the ball, the two worst days last year by the run defense came against … Florida and Georgia Tech. Over the last 29 losses under Mark Richt, Georgia ran for 200 yards or more just twice.

    The schedule: LSU will be tough, and there are no layups from the West, but getting Alabama and Auburn from the other division is a bad break.
    – Four of the first five games are at home with the road game at Vanderbilt. South Carolina and Alabama aren’t easy home dates, but the Dawgs have to take advantage.
    – There are only two true road games before mid-November. Going to Vanderbilt and Tennessee isn’t bad, and, of course, the Florida game is in Jacksonville, but it’s a relatively favorable slate.
    – Who better to face before dealing with Georgia Tech than Georgia Southern the week before? Throw in the road game against Auburn, and the Dawgs will face three of the nation’s top rushing teams over the last three weeks.
    – WATCH OUT FOR … Georgia to be better and a bit more relaxed in mid-September. There isn’t a true killer in the first few games like there usually is – facing ULM and Vanderbilt. There’s time to prepare for South Carolina.

    Best offensive player: Sophomore RB Nick Chubb. Georgia belongs in the team photo for Running Back U. Wisconsin might be cranking out stars on a yearly basis, and Miami might have the NFL resume, but the Bulldogs always come up with tremendous production from whatever ultra-talented superstar recruit it gets for the backfield. Chubb is the next in line, coming up with a fantastic 1,547-yard, 14 touchdown season and looking ready to start doing even more. Of course, it’s Georgia, so there are other great backs waiting to fill in when needed – Chubb won’t have to do it all by himself.

    Best defensive player: Senior LB Jordan Jenkins and/or Junior LB Leonard Floyd. There’s no wrong answer here between two of the best all-around defenders in college football. Floyd is the dynamic explosive athlete who has the NFL scouts drooling over his pass rushing abilities and all-around upside. Jenkins is a bit more of a thumper, but he’s a hybrid pass rusher who can be a force into the backfield when needed. Combined, these two form the backbone of another killer Bulldog D.

    Key player to a successful season: Senior WR Malcolm Mitchell. The quarterback situation will work itself out. There are three decent options in Faton Bauta, Brice Ramsey, and to a lesser extent, Jacob Park – one of them will turn out to be great. Now they need someone to throw to. Mitchell hasn’t been able to stay in one piece over the last two years, but he needs to become a go-to target who can be relied on to come up with a few deep plays now and then. There’s a boatload of speed in the Georgia receiving corps, but the production has to follow.

    The season will be a success if … Georgia wins the East. The goal each and every year should be an SEC championship and the playoff, but as long as the program takes back its division, it’ll be fine. Not great, but fine. There are only three difficult road games going to Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech – obviously the last one has nothing to do with the SEC race. The Bulldogs can lose to the Tigers, and they can lose to Alabama as long as they take care of South Carolina at home and Florida in Jacksonville. That means …

    Key game: Oct. 10 at Tennessee. Four of the first five games are at home, and while two of them are against South Carolina and Alabama, the Bulldogs have to take advantage of the start to the season. Losing to the Crimson Tide doesn’t matter as long as the wins come against the East, and the date with Tennessee in Knoxville is the nastiest one on the East schedule. The last four games in the series have been tight, but Georgia won them all on the way to a run of six wins in seven years. Beat South Carolina at home, beat Missouri at home, don’t get run over in the Cocktail Party, and win in Tennessee. Do those four things, and the East should be Georgia’s.

    2014 Fun Stats:
    – Third Down Conversions: Georgia 81-of-163 (50%) – Opponents 75-of-190 (39%)
    – Fourth Down Conversions: Georgia 12-of-15 (80%) – Opponents 12-of-19 (63%)
    – First Quarter Scoring: Georgia 159 – Opponents 51

    Players You Need To Know

    1. RB Nick Chubb, Soph.
    While the world was waiting for Todd Gurley to be healthy, and come off suspension, and then get hurt for the year, and then leave early, Chubb was busy coming up with all-star production turning into a next-level back on his own. The 5-10, 220-pound bowling ball stepped in as a true freshman and was every bit as productive – at least as a rusher – as Mr. Gurley would’ve been if he had stayed in one piece, tearing off 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns averaging 7.1 yards per pop. With a tough running style through the interior, and with enough speed to hit the home run, Chubb was dynamic whenever he had the ball in his hands. When the team needed him the most, he ripped off eight straight 100-yard rushing days to close out the season, finishing off with a phenomenal 33-carry, 266-yard, two score day against Louisville in the bowl win. He has the hands to be used more as a receiver, and he has the build to be a workhorse who carries the mail 30 times or more when he has to. He’ll be part of a rotation to stay fresh, but the ability and talent are there to be in the Heisman hunt if he can build off his outstanding debut.

    2. LB Jordan Jenkins, Sr.
    Jenkins was a superstar recruit who started out his college career on fire with 31 tackles, and followed it up with a strong 45 stop season on the outside with five sacks, a team-leading 12 tackles for loss and 23 quarterback hurries. Last season he did even more as an all-around factor making 70 stops with five sacks and a whopping 21 quarterback hurries – he was always being disruptive. The 6-3, 253-pounder is a pass rushing machine with NFL upside as a perfect hybrid who can fit into any system. He’ll be used as an outside linebacker, but he can line up as a defensive end at times and can be used in a variety of ways. If the coaching staff wants to turn him loose, he could be a double-digit sack producer.

    3. LB Leonard Floyd, Jr.
    The star of last offseason had everyone buzzing, and he showed why with a fantastic sophomore campaign. The 6-4, 231-pound Floyd was unstoppable as a speedy pass rusher on the outside coming off a 55 tackles, 6.5 sack season with a team-high 23 quarterback pressures in his first year, and he followed it up with another 55 tackles with six sacks. A blur off the ball, he’s a speed rusher when he has to be, but he’s also turning into a stronger run defender with first round draft potential. When he gets a first step and catches a lineman leaning the wrong way, look out. Named the team’s MVP of the defense, he’s a factor who takes the pressure off of everyone else – get ready for big sack numbers as even more of a pass rusher.

    4. OG Greg Pyke, Jr.
    The line did a great job last year of blasting away for the running game. Left tackle John Theus is a talent, and Brandon Kublanow is now a veteran left guard. However, it was the 6-6, 313-pound Pyke who earned Second Team All-SEC honors as he grew into a force for the ground attack. The Maryland native wasn’t a superstar recruit, but he has turned out to be an athletic bid man who can mix it up and get out for the ground game. While he’s a guard, he could be used as a right tackle if needed with the right frame and good enough feet.

    5. RB Sony Michel, Soph.
    As always, Georgia has an embarrassment of riches at tailback. Keith Marshall is going to be a factor whenever he gets healthy, A.J. Turman was the spring game star, and Nick Chubb is going to be the main man, but Michel showed in his true freshman season why he was a five-star prospect and worthy of getting the ball more. At 5-11 and 212 pounds he has good size and nice pop, and he can bring the quickness and speed in the open field with a 75-yard scoring dash against Troy – coming up with 155 yards and three touchdowns on just ten carries in the rout – and he spelled Chubb for stretches late in the season. While he mostly produced in mop-up time, he has the skills and the hands to be used more as a receiver, and to get ten touches or so in the rotation once he’s 100% after suffering a collarbone injury.

    6. S Quincy Mauger, Jr.
    Able to play either safety spot without a problem, the 6-0, 200-pound Mauger earned all-star honors despite being a spot starter in the secondary for the second straight season. Decent in his true freshman season with 57 tackles and a pick, he came up with a better year when the ball was in the air with four picks to go along with his 51 tackles. He made his biggest mark against Missouri with two picks, but he was a steady producer throughout the season as mostly a strong safety, even though he’ll likely be more of a free safety this year.

    7. LB Lorenzo Carter, Soph.
    The next big deal linebacker, Carter was a top-ranked recruit as both a defensive end and outside linebacker, and he’s going to do a little bit of both. Good right out of the gate, he was a spot starters as a true freshman coming up with 41 tackles with 4.5 sacks showing off the speed and upside to be a terror in the backfield. At 6-6 and 242 pounds he’s a future defensive end with the frame to add about ten more pounds of good weight, but he’ll be dangerous no matter where he lines up. Dominant at times this spring, he’ll fit into the rotation in some way, especially on passing downs.

    8. QB Brice Ramsey, Soph.
    It’s hard to say he has any sort of edge in the quarterback derby, but he has the most experience. The 6-2, 213-pounder saw a little time last season in mop-up duty, throwing for 333 yards on the season with three touchdowns. However, he was thrown into a key spot in the bowl game against Louisville after Hutson Mason got hurt, and he did a great job of handing the ball off to Nick Chubb. He struggled a bit throwing the ball, but he has a live, accurate, big arm and can move just enough to not be a statue. If he can consistently stretch the field, the gig is his.

    9. QB Faton Bauta, Jr.
    With excellent mobility, Bauta brings something different to the quarterback derby. He saw a little bit of time last year but mostly ran, getting a few carries in the win over Kentucky, but he got every chance this offseason to take over the job. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, the Florida native has good size and a good enough arm to be more than just a dual-threat option. He’ll get meaningful time throughout the year even if he doesn’t win the starting nod.

    10. PK Marshall Morgan, Sr.
    The All-SEC performer was one of the nation’s top kickers two years ago hitting 21 of 23 attempts while showing off a huge leg from 50+ yards. While he stepped back a wee bit last season, he still connected on 16-of-21 shots with one of the misses getting blocked. He wasn’t used as much from deep with just one 53-yarder coming against Charleston Southern, but he has the range to be tried out and used anywhere under 60 yards. He’s a weapon who should be a difference-maker considering his experience.

    Head Coach: Mark Richt
    15th year: 136-48
    Schedule
    Sept. 5 ULM
    Sept. 12 at Vanderbilt
    Sept. 19 South Carolina
    Sept. 26 Southern
    Oct. 3 Alabama
    Oct. 10 at Tennessee
    Oct. 17 Missouri
    Oct. 24 OPEN DATE
    Oct. 31 Florida (in Jax)
    Nov. 7 Kentucky
    Nov. 14 at Auburn
    Nov. 21 Georgia Southern
    Nov. 28 at Georgia Tech
    Ten Best Georgia Players
    1. RB Nick Chubb, Soph.
    2. LB Jordan Jenkins, Sr.
    3. LB Leonard Floyd, Jr.
    4. OG Greg Pyke, Jr.
    5. RB Sony Michel, Soph.
    6. SS Quincy Mauger, Jr.
    7. LB Lorenzo Carter, Soph.
    8. QB Brice Ramsey, Soph.
    9. QB Faton Bauta, Jr.
    10. PK Marshall Morgan, Sr.

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