Few position battles of note as Georgia enters its new golden age


“Eating rainbow stew with a silver spoon underneath that sky of blue; we’ll all be drinking that free bubble up and eating that rainbow stew.”

Merle Haggard – Rainbow Stew 1981

Georgia Bulldog fans figure to feast on rainbow stew in 2018.

The roster is loaded with youthful talent. The coaching staff is arguably the most stable in college football, especially at the very top where Kirby Smart appears an Athens lifer. The schedule sets up agreeably, with the handful of challenging games spaced evenly. NOT playing in the SEC Championship Game with a trip to the College Football Playoff at stake would probably signify a bigger surprise than reaching that showcase.

Dawg fans should soak in those blue skies and wash down all the good vibes with that “free bubble up” because it does not get any better than it is right now.

When Georgia last won a national championship in 1980, those good times seemed likely to last. They did for a while, but the Dawgs have not won another title since, and before last year’s magnificent run, had only been in contention a few times.

Vince Dooley came close in 1981 and 1982. Ray Goff and Jim Donnan followed Dooley, but neither head coach made a serious charge at a championship. Mark Richt fielded legitimate challengers in 2002, 2007, and 2012, but always came up short.

So, for nearly forty years, Bulldog football fans probably felt like too many Fridays fell on a 13th. They crossed paths with too many black cats, or walked under ladders at every other intersection. Breakfast was a time to spill a salt shaker and ignore a chain letter.

Those days are gone for the foreseeable future.

The 2018 team features only a few position battles, and the talent is deep enough at those slots that it’s more a matter of choosing from a stocked pantry than scraping by with leftovers. Here is an overview of a few intriguing competitions.


Right Tackle

While more attention focuses on sophomores Ben Cleveland and Solomon Kindley at right guard, the bigger question is whether mammoth redshirt freshman Isaiah Wilson can lock down right tackle.

Wilson was the most ballyhooed of Georgia’s 2017 offensive line class, but could not get on the field his rookie year. If he excels at tackle, Cleveland and Kindley will likely split time at guard, or Kindley might compete for the left guard nod. If Wilson falters, Cleveland would probably move to the edge with Kindley alongside, although five-star recruit Cade Mays could make a move at tackle.

Left Guard

You know a team is loaded when a senior who started the final 14 games of a championship season faces a battle for his job. That is the situation for Kendall Baker, and the competition speaks to the depth and talent accumulated by offensive line coach Sam Pittman and the rest of the Georgia staff.

Baker must fight off a host of potential challengers including Kindley, sophomore Justin Shaffer, redshirt freshman Netori Johnson, and highly-touted true freshmen Trey Hill and Jamaree Salyer. Coming out of high school, Salyer was considered a generational type player, and he is expected to contend for playing time immediately.

Running Back

Much attention is given to rising sophomore D’Andre Swift after he rushed for nearly 600 yards and showed brilliant speed and elusiveness in 2017. Even with all-time stalwarts Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield, Georgia employed a running back-by-committee strategy that is only likely to increase this season.

Juniors Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien have shown durability and toughness, while incoming freshman Zamir White and James Cook were among the most highly rated high school running back recruits. The Dawgs feature a lot of weapons in the backfield, but offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will need to develop a feel for utilizing all of them.

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