UGA: Status of the Football Program

UGA: Status of the Football Program

Han Vance on Georgia football. Usually around this time of year, I like to give an overall status report on the Georgia program as a whole: We’re in good shape, as you’ll read. I also included my 2021 NFL Draft coverage herein.

Go Dawgs! Coach Kirby Smart has established Georgia as a Top Ten every year team, peaking at national runner-up status for the 2017 football season. In that same year, Kirby won his only SEC. This is a championship caliber team, considering returning talent in key roles. Traditional rivals Auburn, Florida and Georgia Tech have been bested in this era. One primary goal remains unobtained.

Kirby missed the SECCG last season but has had a decent time with the Gators, owning the Vols, Chickens and any other SEC East one- or two-year upstarts, losing to the lesser East programs once apiece in his still short head coaching career. Five years. He’s 3-2 at the Cocktail Party, badly needing a win in the series in the 2021 season to avoid slipping to .500. Georgia should be favored this year in Jacksonville. 4-2 is so far from 3-3.

The 2021 opener is winnable, maybe, but Clemson will come in as a favorite. The winner in the Queen City of Charlotte – see y’all Uptown – vaults into a tip-topish pole position, behind Bama, probably. Definitely able to absorb a loss and win it all. The loser has zero margin for error as no team with two losses has ever made the college football playoff.

Not on the schedule yet always looming, the defending national champions to our neighboring state have beaten Kirby in three games in which he’s led, a lot. He’s due to control the clock and the momentum one time, and keep the lead and beat Nick Saban, the greatest coach in college history, hopefully. When you throw in 0-2 versus LSU, another recent Natty winner, that 0-5 is glaring. And, the Gators did get us last year, so did the Tide. But both Florida and especially Bama have massive key personnel roster turnover. The guys you saw doing big things against Georgia on TV last year during the pandemic are in the NFL now.

Georgia only had one first round draft pick this year, as cornerback Eric Stokes secured the bag, with Green Bay. Fellow corner Tyson Campbell was first overall in the second round, the same slot Georgia legend Nick Chubb was taken in, by the way. Campbell joins in Jax the two outgoing Clemson legends, the ACC’s all-time leading rusher Travis Etienne, and the number one overall draft pick QB Trevor Lawrence, of Cartersville, Georgia. Clemson could have a bit of identity crisis, with both departing from their backfield at the same time. Although the Clemson starting QB has had some relief work, he’s replacing a program hero.

My fellow alumnus from Marietta High (where I went my freshman year) and of UGA (the only college I ever went to, 1990-1993, 1996-1998), pure speed rusher Azeez Ojulari was perhaps the steal of the draft, as the NY Giants got the sure first round-level talent at pick 50th overall. They foolishly knocked him because of his height (almost 6-3) and he slid.

Kirby Smart set the school record this season for total Georgia players drafted at eight in all this season, a great statistic for the sixth-year head coach, leading his alma mater. Solid linebacker at Georgia from his first G-Day on, Monty Rice went out in the 3rd to the Tennessee Titans. Mountain Ben Cleveland also went 3rd (Baltimore), as did tall former FSU transfer tight end Tre McKitty, joining former number one overall draft pick Matthew Stafford with the LA Rams. Matt is in the glaring celebrity spotlight now, after spending his whole career to-date in Detroit. Amazing Bulldog safety Richard LeCounte goes out in the 5th (Cleveland). High-performing blocker at center Trey Hill went in the 6th (Cincinnati).

The SEC set the all-time record with 65 draft picks this year. Georgia’s regime is producing professional numbers. We are putting plenty of guys in the pro ranks, a metric that shows talent in recruiting and player development. Recruiting alone has been amazing with two #3 rankings and two #1 national rankings. Kirby has Georgia in #1 for 2022 recruiting, currently.

The nice NY6 bowl wins over then-undefeated Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl and a Big 12 runner up in Baylor at the sUGAr, were nice culminating second-tier trophies, but no Georgia fan will be happy at less than an SEC title. While every Georgia fan craves the elusive national title (1980-unanimous and 1942-split), this feels like a year the Dawgs can do it. I’m surely anxious to see what second-year OC Todd Monken and JT can do with this time together.

JT Daniels, a Heisman candidate, and his returning receiving options even minus all-world talent WR George Pickens, lost to leg injury. Kearis Jackson, Jermaine Burton and a recovered Dominick Blaylock, who was a key contributor as a true freshman and didn’t play st all last year, after getting injured in the blowout at the SECCG, in ATL to LSU.

Tight end Darnell Washington and how much he gets the ball may well be the key to the season this run for glory. He’s big and was the number one “athlete” coming out of high school a season back from Vegas, baby. He’s money! JT $ is money. This could be the year.

RBU has a chocked running back room, as the stable features five ball carriers: Zeus, Zamir White returns and looks lighter and quicker than he’s been on the field at Georgia. James Cook decided to come back too and is dangerous in the open field and out of the backfield on pass plays. One of the several heroes late in the Peach Bowl was RB Kenny McIntosh who is now an upperclassman, he showed great instincts and hands in the rally and is in synch with JT. McIntosh topped stats at not going down on initial tackles, a very nice stat. While, Daijun Edwards ran hard and looked good in the limited action he saw his true frosh year, literally looking like he could be a feature back of the future, good.

Rose Bowl residuals really set to pay off, as I expect Kendall Milton to lead Georgia in carries this season, as the Californian gives UGA an all-Cali, bro, backfield. WR Jermaine Burton is also Cali, though (like Azeez and me) he at one point attended Marietta High. California knows how to party. Keep it rockin’. Keep it rockin’.

Nolan Smith and Nskobe Dean are poised to fully come into their own for the Junkyard Defense as stars this year, on the edge and at the middle. Speaking of edge, an even quicker Adam Anderson will be Georgia’s feature pass rusher in 2021. Mammoth Jordan Davis and his huge industrial chains he rocks, are back for your Georgia Bulldogs.

The safeties are solid, led by slobber knocker Lewis Cine, but the key area of concern is the corner. Georgia lost its top four cornerbacks. Stokes and Campbell played a whole lot of football at UGA before each going pro early as juniors. Kirby has developed DBs well, and the new defensive back coach Jahmile Addae gives an immediate boost. He comes over from the nation’s top coverage team last year at West Virginia, hard to do in the passhappy Big 12.

2020 third-team All American Tykee Smith follows Addae over from West Vaas a transfer, now a junior. He could definitely bolster the unit, who didn’t look good at G-Day.

The G-Day game weekend was when we filmed the pilot for my new TV show “All College Report,” where I deeply immerse in the cultures of various college towns and larger cities which host major collegiate sporting events. It follows the super fan lives of college football and men’s college basketball’s key supporters, showing the passion. This show is a part of yet transcends sports. Debut viewing of the pilot “Ep 1: Athens Near Pandemic’s End” is scheduled for Saturday June 5th. Subscribe on YouTube to channel “Han Vance” to be sure you get to view this exciting premiere.

If you’re fans of the later career work Anthony Bourdain did or other cool travel and culture shows, such as “True South” (food) or “Elvis Goes There” (movies), you’ll enjoy what I do from the launching point of major college sports. “All College Report” – alumni Han Vance (host/writer/creator) leads the project. With alumni Heather C producer; filmed by JSM Productions; edited by Michael Santini; alumni Maceo DuBose co-producer; LVictory wardrobe consultant; alumni April Dos Santos location producer; alumni Cindy Fasick location producer; Matt Fasick location producer.

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