Pace aside, this offense might be even better in 2013. Bobo was relying on a pair of freshman running backs and really did have to deal with a rotating supporting cast in the receiving corps. But freshmen turn into sophomores, and receivers get healthy.
Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, whose last names combine to rhyme with "Herschel," gained 2,144 yards and scored 25 touchdowns last year. Gurley was a strong every-down power back with some explosiveness, while Marshall was a homerun hitter with a little bit of power. They are basically the entire show this year -- the Nos. 3-5 running backs are gone, so if Gurley or Marshall gets hurt, more true freshmen are getting carries -- but what a show that is. Oh yeah, and basically the entire two-deep on the offensive line returns, with 101 career starts.
And if healthy, this receiving corps could be ridiculous, as well. Malcolm Mitchell has the potential to fill in for the explosive Tavarres King, Arthur Lynch was a revelation at tight end, Michael Bennett was in the middle of a breakout season in 2012 when he hurt his knee, four-star junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph joins the mix (along with two four-star freshmen), and if you want to get an idea for Chris Conley's potential, just watch the above clip a few more times. His technique is still a work in progress (but hey, whose isn't?), but that speed is just ridiculous.
We see a lot of four-star freshmen, redshirt freshmen, and sophomores on the Georgia roster here. But we also see a whole lot of empty space at the top of each unit. Georgia must replace four of its top six linemen, four of its top five linebackers, and four of its top five defensive backs.
And despite all of those upperclassman stars -- Jones, John Jenkins, Kwame Geathers, Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams, Sanders Commings, Branden Smith -- this was still only a good, not great, defense for most of the year. Yes, there were suspensions and injuries involved, and yes the unit caught fire late in the year. But it caught fire mostly because of players who are now gone.
As high as I am on Georgia's offense, I'm equally wary of Georgia's defense. It will still pass the eyeball test by all means, and it might eventually find a high level of play, but look at the Dawgs' schedule below. Three of their four toughest games happen before October. Do you really, honestly think this defense will find an elite level of play that quickly with this many new pieces? I don't.
Whatever Georgia's potential is in 2013, the Dawgs must reach it from the opening bell, or else they'll be Hearnes'd by late-September. There are plenty of wins to be found on the back end of the schedule, and I would be pretty surprised if this team didn't end up at least 10-3, but if they aspire to more than that, then on August 31 Malcolm Mitchell will have to be a full-on, Tavarres-esque No. 1, Jordan Jenkins will have to be capable of pulling a Jarvis Jones on Clemson's Tajh Boyd, a new set of big, imposing tackles will have to immediately play to their recruiting potential, and a young secondary will have to be ready for a steady line of fire from Clemson's incredible offense. And then, seven days later, Jadeveon Clowney comes to town.
Mark Richt is proof that patience can pay off. He was a victim of poor timing a decade ago, and he was the beneficiary of a patient athletic director when he was going 14-12 from 2009-10. Now entering his 13th year in Athens, he has in place a program that almost feels self-sustaining. The recruiting is great, the weapons are legion, the coordinators are good at their jobs, and unless fortunes drastically change (which happens from time to time), Georgia is set up for quite a few top-15 finishes moving forward.
But despite the offense, the combination of a green defense and a rough early slate will probably prevent the Dawgs from reaching last year's late heights. Richt just has to hope that, the next time his timing is right, Georgia can gain about five more yards.
UGa's biggest advantage
The Dawgs just have so many damn offensive weapons this year. It's ridiculous.
Mizzou's biggest advantage
The Georgia defense is a massive question mark heading into the season. Injuries and inexperience make the secondary quite vulnerable at the start of the season (especially in the opener against Clemson), and while this game is in mid-October, MU could still find some fortune in throwing the football. The Tigers will need all the passing yards they can get to keep up with the Georgia offense.
Because of Georgia's defensive vulnerability, this could turn into a bit of a shootout if Mizzou's offense is up to the challenge. But one has to figure the Dawgs eventually pull away. Give me something like Georgia 42, Mizzou 24. This could be a pretty fun game to watch, but the odds aren't good that the result will be that fun.