There’s rebuilding and then there’s reloading. Most Tennessee Vols fans would probably agree that their 2018 football program is starting a rebuilding process.
The Georgia Bulldogs — despite graduating 17 seniors, having six drafted to the NFL (three in the first round), coming off a 12-1 season which included a SEC championship and a trip to the national championship game — are definitely reloading for the 2018 campaign.
Head coach Kirby Smart, who watched his team roll over Tennessee 41-0 last year, brings back plenty of experienced talent. He also has some of the nation’s top five star recruits in his freshman class.
The quarterback position is anchored by returning starter Jake Fromm. Fromm completed 63 percent of his passes as a freshman. His toughness and composure surprised his opponents in 2017 as he navigated his way through the SEC schedule.
Justin Fields, a five star recruit and the nation’s number one player from the 2018 class, could challenge Fromm for playing time. That’s going to be a fascinating dynamic to follow through training camp and beyond.
The running game lost Sony Michel (#31 overall to the Patriots) and Nick Chubb (#35 overall to the Browns) to the NFL draft. That yardage may prove to be tough to replace. Stud freshman Zamir White, recovering from an ACL injury last season, very well could carry the load this season. Returning contributors D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield bring depth to the position.
The offensive line returns four of five starters. Isaiah Wilson, another five star player, could anchor the line at right tackle. The Bulldogs also return freshman All-American Andrew Thomas. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (#23 overall to the Patriots) was a key departure up front for the Bulldogs.
Wide receiver Javon Wims, , will be replaced by starters Terry Godwin and Mecole Hardman. 6-5 redshirt freshman Matt Landers could also be a factor.
On the defense, LB Roquan Smith (#8 overall to the Bears) and LB Lorenzo Carter (#66 overall to the Giants) are gone to the big time, but the ‘Dawgs are loaded with senior inside backer Natrez Patrick who returns along with sophomore Monty Rice. OLBs D’Andre Walker and redshirt freshman Robert Beal are solid players. Five-star freshman Tyson Campbell should have an immediate impact in the defensive backfield.
Georgia is the easy favorite to win the SEC East and will host Tennessee on September 29th. The Bulldogs sights are set on a national championship and even with NFL draft losses, they seem prepared to make another run.