Entering 2022, the Georgia Bulldogs have a target on their backs as college football’s defending national champions. As such, plenty of people are talking about what Georgia has in store this fall — including some of the coaches who face the challenge of slowing the Bulldogs down.
As in past years, Athlon Sports’ 2022 season preview features anonymous quotes from opposing coaches about all of the Power 5 programs in the magazine. Steven Godfrey, a contributing writer for Athlon, has explained on the podcast Split Zone Duo that when writing up the anonymous quotes he takes out the single harshest and single most positive quotes he’s been given, thereby leaving a middle ground that is a fairer read of the team in question.
Given Georgia is coming off its first national title since 1980, it’s no surprise the first comment included was about how the Bulldogs will play after winning it all.
“They finally got over the hump and killed the narrative. Now what?” one coach said. “Are they a one-off deal, or are they going to be the first SEC program that can really, truly hang and bang with Bama year in and year out? The expectations there aren’t to win a one-off title and go back to nine and 10 wins.”
Another predictable topic of conversation was super senior quarterback Stetson Bennett. Bennett entered the year as the Bulldogs’ backup before stepping in for an injured JT Daniels Early in the year and maintaining the starting role through the end of the season, and while there were a few bumps along the way Bennett made enough plays to help the Bulldogs win it all.
Bennett had the option of leaving Georgia after the year but ultimately decided to stay in Athens for another go around. One coach expressed caution about what Bennett’s return could mean for the Bulldogs.
“The quarterback is back, but one of the worst things that can happen after a successful season or a title run is when a good-but-not-great QB comes back,” the coach said. “Everyone is expecting an advancement that might not be possible. Remember, there were times last season when they won in spite of this offense.”
The Georgia coaching staff experienced considerable change this offseason, nowhere bigger than at defensive coordinator. Dan Lenning stepped down from his position as the Bulldogs’ defensive play-caller to take over at Georgia; Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann will handle those duties in his place.
While Lanning certainly played a role in how the Bulldogs’ defense performed, one coach was more concerned about the talent that left Athens for a chance to play on Sundays.
“Losing Lanning isn’t going to really hurt, but losing those NFL players on the front sure as hell will,” the coach said. “[Will] Muschamp is best when he’s got the one job, and he’ll bring along the young guy [Schumann] because Will works so well with Kirby [Smart]. That won’t be a problem.”
Smart has always been known as a defensive-minded head coach, but one coach emphasized the calculation may have to change somewhat in 2022. Given Georgia lost five first-round picks off the defense, the coach in question explained the offense won’t be afforded the chances to play it safe quite like they could a season ago.
“They’re loaded with elite young guys coming in, but they aren’t going to have the luxury of that defense from last season. So eventually, they’re going to have to open the offense up and push Stetson Bennett,” the coach said. “They won a national title in the most comfortable way possible for their head coach: The best defensive players in the country doing their thing and then playing a safe offensive game. That will have to change some.”
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