Dan Wolken of USA Today expects a lot of Georgia football on 2017, so much so that he questions whether Kirby Smart is a good coach if Georgia doesn’t win the SEC East.
Wolken was asked if the SEC East was a division that any team could win, to which Wolken responded, “Let’s not give Georgia that much of a pass… If Kirby Smart doesn’t win the East next year, he’s a clown. I’m sorry. Point blank. They are so far above the rest of that division in terms of talent right now with the players that they’ve got coming back.”
That’s quite the endorsement of the 2017 Georgia football team, but it’s also quite the criticism of Smart. Wolken was also critical of the rest of the SEC East calling Tennessee “a joke” and saying that Florida is “not really good right now”.
After short analyses of the rest of the East, he directed his attention back to Georgia by saying “they are so much more talented than the rest of that division right now, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear any excuses.”
“If Kirby Smart doesn’t win the East next year, he’s a clown. I’m sorry. Point blank. They are so far above the rest of that division in terms of talent right now with the players that they’ve got coming back.”
Wolken was only saying what a lot of people, especially Georgia fans, had to be thinking. After a great recruiting class, the return of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and a quarterback competition that will make the passing game better, Georgia will enter the 2017 as the best team all around.
Defensively Georgia has been one of the best teams in the SEC over the last two seasons. With players like Richard LeCounte, Robert Beal and Jaden Hunter joining an already deep roster, the 2017 defense has a chance to be one of the best in school history.
Offensively Georgia’s weakness was obviously the offensive line, so the Bulldogs signed six of the best linemen in the 2017 recruiting class. The Bulldogs also preserved redshirts for the two linemen they signed last year, including Ben Cleveland. With depth and more talent, Georgia’s offense line should be much improved over last year.
Wide receiver was also a weakness because of the lack of size and overall youth. Isaiah McKenzie moving seemingly made that position more worrisome. But three of the top four receivers return. Terry Godwin will be a junior, and newcomers Javon Wims and Riley Ridley will be a senior and sophomore respectively.
The Bulldogs signed Jeremiah Holloman, Mark Webb and Trey Blount who each have the talent to be stars quickly between the hedges.
Jacob Eason returns after what was the best season for a true freshman quarterback in Georgia history. But he’ll be facing competition from Jake Fromm. Who ever wins that battle, the competition will make both quarterbacks much better.
Of course Nick Chubb and Sony Michel return for their senior years so running back will not be a concern. Neither will tight end since all four contributors return including rising senior Jeb Blazevich and rising sophomore Isaac Nauta.
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Meanwhile around the SEC East, Florida salvaged their 2017 recruiting class in the final week before signing day. But they merely reloaded on defense. No one looks like a guy who can elevate the offense which was pretty bad in 2016.
Tennessee had reason to worry that they missed their chance when they didn’t win the SEC East in 2016. They needed more than a decent recruiting class to have any reason to be confident going into 2017. But decent was all they got with 23 of their 28 recruits being three-star players.
South Carolina looked pretty good late last year, but Will Muschamp’s first recruiting class in Columbia didn’t turn any heads. Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky will still be their same old selves. Good enough to beat you but not enough to win the division.
That just leaves Georgia as the best all around team in the SEC East. Comparing Georgia’s 11 on the field to anyone else’s and Georgia should be favored against everyone else in the division. So there is nothing you can disagree with Dan Wolken on.
If Georgia can’t win the SEC East in 2017, there won’t be any excuses, no one else to take the blame. And Georgia fans will have to wonder if Kirby Smart really is the best guy to be the head coach of Georgia football.