The Georgia football program is in good hands under Kirby Smart, who proved in 2019 just how elite a football coach he is.
In the opinion of many, most likely including Kirby Smart himself, the 2019 season for Georgia football was a mix of disappointment, excitement, and frustration. Despite winning the division for the third straight year and making another trip to the SEC Championship game everyone felt that Georgia could have accomplished so much more.
Offensive struggles were pinpointed as the main reason for the lack of success despite the number of elite offensive players Georgia had on their roster. If it wasn’t for Georgia’s nationally top-ranked defense a trip back to Atlanta would not have been possible.
It is hard to believe that a season that consisted of 12 wins and a division title would be classified as a disappointing season, but when a team recruits at the level Georgia does and experiences some of their recent successes, the expectations get higher.
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Looking back on the season though, 2019 seemingly proved that Kirby is indeed an elite coach.
Before the season started, Dawg fans watched Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley, and Isaac Nauta forgo their senior seasons to begin their professional football careers. All three were also starters and played huge roles in Georgia’s receiving game.
Following the NFL draft, former Dawg Jeremiah Holloman was dismissed from the team due to an off-field incident. Another starting receiver gone.
Heading into the 2019 season, Georgia had lost its top four receivers and a major gap to fill in the offense. Smart was able to snag graduate transfer in Lawrence Cager from Miami to help fill the void which would pay off in a major way down the road.
This forced offensive coordinator James Coley and junior quarterback Jake Fromm to rely on a group of young inexperienced wide receivers along with a grad transfer to get the job done. Offensive struggles became very apparent early in the season and the ultimate reason why Georgia’s playoff hopes were cut short in Atlanta by LSU and their own juggernaut offense
Georgia finished the year ranked 61st nationally in total offense, compared to 2018 when the Bulldogs were ranked 14th nationally. This was a major dropoff in offensive production yet Coach Smart still managed to lead his team to 12 wins, a division title and a Sugar Bowl victory over No. 7 Baylor.
Part of what makes an elite coach is the ability to adapt and put your team in position to win games. Smart realized how good his defense was (ranked 4th nationally) and continued to lean on that group to suffocate offenses on a weekly basis.
All 12 wins may not have been flashy or looked pretty but the ultimate job of a head coach and a football team is to win games and Kirby Smart did just that. Even after South Carolina completed the upset over the Dawgs in Week 7, Smart rallied his troops and found ways to win six straight games to make the trip back to Atlanta.
Not many coaches could have won their division — less yet 12 games and a New Year’s Six bowl — with the offense Georgia had, but Smart found a way to get it done, and ended the 2019 season on a positive note.
The 2020 season starts now, and from the looks of the new players Georgia is bringing in on offense and the number of key returning players they have on defense, the Bulldogs could be looking at another run at the College Football Playoff.
One of the few remaining questions is Jake Fromm and what he intends to do in regards to his future. Fromm’s return could be the final piece needed to get the Dawgs back in the playoff. With Tua Tagovailoa opting to enter the NFL Draft, Fromm may decide to go one more season as a Dawg.
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Kirby has his team in a great position heading into the upcoming season and one that could become what every Georgia football fan has been waiting for since the days of Vince Dooley and Herschel Walker.