Now that the deadline for players to declare for the 2018 NFL draft has passed, Georgia is headed for an unusual College Football Playoff distinction.
Since the playoff’s inception in 2014, the Bulldogs are just the third qualifying team not to lose an offensive player with eligibility remaining.
The others are Ohio State, which won the inaugural playoff in 2014, and Oklahoma in 2015. Apart from those three, the other 13 playoff qualifiers lost at least one underclassmen on offense to the draft.
In some cases, those losses have been heavy. After the 2016 season, for example, national champion Clemson lost quarterback Deshaun Watson, running back Wayne Gallman and wide receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott. All four had completed their degree requirements and did not have to apply for “special eligibility” like most early entrants, but they could have returned to Clemson had they chosen to do so.
Georgia didn’t escape the early entry period entirely unscathed – the Bulldogs did lose two key defenders in Butkus Award-winning linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive tackle Trenton Thompson.
Of course, as Bulldogs fans know well, just because they didn’t lose early entrants to the draft doesn’t mean there won’t be holes to fill on offense. Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel completed their eligibility as seniors, as did wide receiver Javon Wims and offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, and 2016 starting quarterback Jacob Eason elected to transfer. To some extent, Georgia didn’t lose players early because many of their top stars had no eligibility left to lose.
That means a lot of work ahead for coach Kirby Smart, although bringing in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class certainly won’t hurt.
Georgia had only one offensive player, junior receiver Terry Godwin, who had a serious choice to make about his draft status. Not surprisingly, he remained in school and will enter 2018 as the Bulldogs’ leading returning receiver.
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