As 2022 begins, the Georgia Bulldogs have a goal on their back as the defending college football champions. As such, a lot of people are talking about what Georgia has in store this fall — including some coaches who face the challenge of slowing the Bulldogs down.
As in previous years, Athlon Sports’ 2022 Season Preview includes anonymous quotes from opposing coaches on all Power 5 programs in the magazine. Steven Godfrey, a contributing writer for Athlon, explained on the Split Zone Duo podcast that when he composes the anonymous quotes, he takes out the harshest, most positive quotes that have been given to him, leaving a middle ground that’s fairer to read for the team in question .
With Georgia clinching its first national title since 1980, it’s no surprise that the first comment was about how the Bulldogs will play after winning it all.
“They finally got over the hump and killed the narrative. Now what?” said one coach. “Are they a one-off deal or are they going to be the first SEC program that can really, really hang and bang with Bama year after year? The expectations there aren’t to win a one-off title and to go back to nine and ten wins.”
Another predictable topic of conversation was the super senior quarterback Stetson Bennett. Bennett entered the year as the Bulldogs’ backup before filling in for an injured man JT Daniels earlier in the year and retained the starting role through the end of the season, and while there were a few bumps along the way, Bennett made enough games to help the Bulldogs win it all.
Bennett had the option to leave Georgia after the year but ultimately chose to stay in Athens for another try. One coach has 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 expects a rise that may not be possible. Remember that there were times last season when they won despite this offense.
The Georgia coaching staff has seen significant changes this offseason, nowhere greater than in defensive coordinator. Dan Lenning resigned from his position as the Bulldogs’ defensive play-caller to take over at Georgia; Will Muschamp and Glenn Schuman takes over these tasks in his place.
While Lanning certainly played a role in the Bulldogs’ defensive performance, one coach was more concerned about the talent leaving Athens to play on Sundays.
“Losing Lanning isn’t really going to hurt, but losing those NFL players at the top will fucking hurt,” the coach said. “[Will] Muschamp is at his best when he’s got the one job, and he’s bringing the young guy with him [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 stressed that the calculus may need to change a bit in 2022. Given that Georgia lost five picks in the first round from defense, the coach in question explained that offense won’t be offered the chance to play it safe, quite like it did a season ago.
“They’re packed with elite guys coming in but they won’t have the luxury of that defense from last season. Ultimately they have to open up the offensive and push Stetson Bennett,” said the coach. “They won a national title in the most convenient way 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 a lot.”
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