After a few injuries in camp there is a dark cloud over Athens, but it’s not over for Georgia Football.
There is a dark cloud that has moved in over Athens. The city’s occupants have run for cover as the sirens have hit a fever pitch. This storm looks like nothing we have ever seen. The shear strength of the winds being produced is sure to blow the University of Georgia right off the map. The Fat Lady is tuning up her voice and getting ready to belt out the ending notes for Georgia football and its season. It looks like the curtain is just about ready to drop.
Wait, that’s not a storm; that’s just a mild drizzle, a mild inconvenience. Those aren’t tornado sirens, but fans shouting “The End is Near.” What is going on? Why all the panic? Why is everyone running for cover three weeks before the start of the season? Why are they calling for the end of the season before a game has even been played? Why are they already giving up on such a promising season? What catastrophic thing must have happened?
At that moment, there is an announcement over a loudspeaker “Darnell Washington and Tykee Smith have both sustained injuries and could be out for a month or longer.” All the chaos starts to make sense. A sinking feeling begins to take over. Is this the end for Georgia football? Did hope once again play a cruel joke on this fanbase? Why can’t things ever be easy for this team? All the negative thoughts began to take hold.
But just then, a glimmer of light shown through. Something inside whispered, “There are others.”
How Georgia football can weather the storm at Tight End.
The loss of Washington and Smith are big losses, but they aren’t the end of the world. This is why you recruit at the level Georgia football does, and they have some dudes behind them. Let’s start with John Fitzgerald, who is no slouch. He isn’t the playmaker that Washington is, but he is significantly better as a blocker. Last year Fitzgerald received an 81.9 run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription needed) compared to Washington’s 72.6.
However, when it comes to the playmaking ability of Washington, Georgia football may have to look elsewhere to fill those shoes. Washington’s receiving grade as a true freshman was 61.7. The good news there is Brett Seither was pretty close with a 58.2 as a true freshman himself. That is not to say that Seither is a 6-7 280 pound monster like Big O, who is a terror in the open field. However, it is saying that Seither may be able to make some plays in his absence.
Speaking of true newcomers making an impact, don’t count out Brock Bowers. The former 5-star (95.32) from Napa High School has gotten some lofty praise from Todd Monken in camp. Here is an excerpt from an article by Mike Griffith on how Monken plans to use Bowers:
But the variety of ways Todd Monken plans to use the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Bowers should keep defenses on their toes against what promises to be a very versatile Georgia offense.
“You have Brock Bowers who is a consummate ‘F,’ ” said Monken, referring to the H-Back-like position Bowers will perform out of, lining up tight, split wide, or even in the backfield.
“You can hand the ball to him if you wanted to, he played fullback in high school.”
Bowers’ speed is sure to catch defenders off guard, as he’s clocked a 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash.
The cupboard is far from empty at tight end for Georgia football. Losing Washington does hurt, but again, it’s not the end of the world. Georgia has the guys to weather this storm. Again, this is why Kirby Smart recruits at the level he does. You have to have depth like this to compete in the SEC week in and week out. Teams are going to get beat up. It is just the nature of the beast.
How to weather the storm at STAR.
Let’s look at the STAR position where Smith was expected to start this season. This one seems a little easier to predict as Latavious Brini was the starter before Smith got on campus. Brini started at STAR in the Peach Bowl and was given a 71.2 coverage grade against Cincinnati. That is pretty solid. No, that’s not the All-American level of play most were expecting from Smith. However, Georgia has the athletes around Brini to make up for it.
William Poole is the guy behind Brini. His career coverage grade has hovered around the 65-66 range. So he’s a tad below-average, but not to the point of being a detriment to the team if he has to enter the game. Again, like was mentioned about Brini, Georgia football has the athletes around these guys to help them out, especially when you are looking at their pass rush.
Push comes to shove, Smart could decide to slide Dan Jackson or David Daniel into the STAR position from time to time. Jackson has had multiple interceptions in practice, and Daniel has also flashed at camp. So there are a few options for Georgia at the STAR position. Again, and this deserves repeating, this is why you recruit at the level Smart and company do. Football is a brutal sport, and you are going to need depth.
Losing players like Washington and Smith is not ideal. However, it is not worth jumping off the ledge before even one game has been played. Let the season play itself out. Sure, some of us have talked a lot of mess on social media, and now you’re worried that the team won’t back it up in week one. Or you have placed bets that have you worried. That isn’t Georgia’s problem. Step back from the ledge. Come out of your storm shelter. Take a look around. The sun is shining. The sky is far from falling, Chicken Little.