Three Keys to Success in 2020 For Georgia Football
Kirby Smart's tenure as Head Football Coach at the University of Georgia has raised the bar in terms of expectations around the program. Both internally and externally it is no longer acceptable just to compete for championships and make it to Atlanta. Kirby Smart, the coaching staff, the team, and yes the Georgia fan base expects to win each and every game.
Success, true success, can only be claimed by winning the national championship, a feat that has eluded UGA for 40 years. Today, we at Dawgs Daily on SI.com explain what a national championship season in 2020 would look like.
JAMES COOK BREAKS OUT
Obviously quarterbacks are the straw that stirs the drink and for Georgia to reach the pinnacle of the sport, the Dawgs are going to need Jamie Newman, and, or J.T. Daniels, to play at an extremely high level. However, electrifying playmakers that are legitimately a threat to score each and every time they touch the football, that are matchup nightmares for opposing defenses, and that are used creatively in space have been the hallmark of all the national champions in the College Football Playoff era. James Cook needs to be that guy for UGA in 2020.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Travis Etienne, Damien Harris, Wayne Gallman, Derrick Henry, and Ezekiel Elliot were all feature backs for national championship teams. Cook would need to be used much more in the vein of Edwards-Helaire and Etienne in order for Georgia to win it all. Edwards-Helaire and Etienne had 55 and 37 receptions respectively in the 2019 season. Cook is not going to get as many carries as those two, but he doesn't need to.
Cook is far more capable of running the ball in between the tackles than he's had the opportunity to show in his first two seasons at Georgia, and certainly, he'll have more traditional running back touches in 2020, but Georgia needs to get Cook out in space and do so often.
James Cook is a supreme athlete that has the explosiveness, the size, and the abilities to make it hard to defenses to account for him when used properly. If Todd Monken and the Georgia Bulldogs don't simply put Cook on the field to either run or fake a jet sweep, as has predictably been done in the past, the rising Junior from Miami will fully be able to display his playmaking prowess. If Georgia can get Cook 100 carries and 50 catches, the staff will have succeeded in distributing the ball to a dangerous athlete and we at Dawgs Daily on SI.com predict they'll get a great return on investment out of those 150 touches.
RODRIGO BLAKENSHIP ISN'T MENTIONED MUCH
Rodrigo Blankenship will always be revered in Georgia Bulldogs lure. The fabled rec-specs wearing kicker is a true legend for the program and was a big part of the success that the Dawgs have enjoyed during Kirby Smart's tenure. People will forever speak fondly and reminisce on Blankenship's heroics during his time in Athens. If Georgia is going to win it all, there needs to be very little mention of 'Hot Rod' in 2020.
Jared Zirkle will likely be the replacement for Blankenship. The Specs grew into a social media and internet phenomenon but that is far from the norm for kickers. Most of the time with special teams, lack of notoriety equals success. If Zirkle can come in and make what Georgia hopes will be very few field goals attempted and a ton of extra points, then all will be in place for a title run in terms of special teams.
KEELE RINGO, MJ SHERMAN, AND JALEN CARTER STAY BACKUPS
Georgia didn't sign a ton of defensive prospects in the 2020 class. However, of the ones that they did sign, there was a solid concentration of very high-profile 5-Star caliber players. Keele Ringo, MJ Sherman, and Jalen Carter are the most heralded entering into their freshman year at Georgia. As is the case most of the time, and especially in how recruiting is covered today, the Dawg faithful are very excited about these players and the impact they could make. We at Dawgs Daily on SI.com believe that the less these three players are relied upon, the more successful of a season Georgia will have.
Sometimes incoming talent is just undeniable and it supplants the incumbent at a respective position. At cornerback Georgia has Eric Stokes, DJ Daniel, and Tyson Campbell returning. The defensive line is manned by Jordan Davis, Malik Herring, Devonte Wyatt, and Trevon Walker, and Azeez Ojulari, Jermaine Johnson, Nolan Smith, Adam Anderson, Walter Grant and more are back at outside linebacker. If Ringo, Carter, and Sherman respectively break into the forefront of these position groups, then even as talented as these young freshmen are, it means that the veterans have not lived up to their potential and the coaching staff is willing to move on.
Don't mistake this for me saying they aren't going to play. Ringo, Sherman, and Carter are all extremely talented and they will contribute this year. However, the SEC is the SEC. The likelihood of starting off with Alabama is more and more likely. The cupcake games are probably going to get thrown out the window. Starting freshmen always tends to be problematic when you are relying that heavily on 18-year-olds that are adjusting from being away from home, taking college classes, and playing at a much higher level than ever before.
Like Travon Walker last year, I'm sure all three of these players will shine at certain points of the year. But, if the veterans returning can hold down the lion share of the work and let these players learn, adjust, and come along slowly, well not only does it likely mean that Georgia's defense was dominant once again and gives them the best possible chance at a championship, but it also sets them up better beyond 2020.
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