Players on campus now who could benefit the most from the change that Kirby Smart is bringing to Georgia.
?1. Lorenzo Carter - Where did this guy go during in the fall? How could he not play a bigger role in the Bulldogs’ defensive system? Was it a sophomore slump, or was Carter failing to do things he needed to do to get onto the field more? Hard to know the answer to that question, but Carter should benefit from Smart being the head coach if for no other reason than getting a fresh start to his career.
2. Greg Pyke - Somehow a player considered a high-level NFL prospect was no longer starting at the tail end of the 2015 season. Amazing. If you needed an example outside of the QB spot to show just how dysfunctional Georgia was on offense, look no further than Grey Pyke. Someone that gifted can’t be a backup - ever. Coaches have to motivate and get the attention and imagination of their best players. Pyke falls in that category.
3. Brice Ramsey - Not that hard to see that Ramsey has one best chances of anyone on the roster to benefit from a fresh start with a new coaching staff. Will he take advantage of it? Time will tell. One thing is certain: Change of some sort (personnel or production or both) has to happen at quarterback. Don’t ignore that Smart is a long-time close friend of Mike Bobo, who was a huge fan of Ramsey while he was in Athens. No matter who the starting quarterback in 2016 is (Jacob Eason is hardly out of the question to start, but that would be only the second time this century a true freshman has started at QB at UGA), that person must be more productive. Georgia’s 2,406 total yards passing in 2015 was the second worst total in the last quarter century of football. But you don’t need stats to know UGA was horrible in the passing game, you just needed to watch the games, and that must improve.
4. Trenton Thompson - Obviously a star in the making, Thompson is one of the young killers on the defensive side of the ball who could benefit most from the transition to Smart. Thompson, no matter the coach, was going to have a big 2016, but Smart’s use of the defensive line seems to suggest that Thompson could become an even bigger part of the plans in 2016.
5. Natrez Patrick - Alabama’s linebackers have had to be not just productive, but also be playmakers. Guys like Patrick should salivate to play in a system where the defensive line takes up the bulk of the attention of blockers. Linebackers in Smart’s system have had to be the playmakers, and so often they’ve turned out to do just that - make plays.
6. Tim Kimbrough or Reggie Carter - See above.
7. Jeb Blazevich - Again, the dysfunction on the offensive side of the ball could also be spotlighted by the fact that Georgia’s tight ends were vitally ignored in 2015 - another in a long list of indictments against the previous staff. Still, Blazevich has the ability to be an All-SEC player, and he could benefit from some new thinking on the offensive side of the ball.
8. Dominick Sanders - Hard to think that Sanders will “benefit the most from the change”, but he’s a heck of a playmaker, and playmakers have really worked out well at Alabama in Smart’s time. Sanders might be the top overall playmaker on the defensive side of the football. Look for Smart to take advantage of Sanders’ ability to change games with his ball skills.
9. Sage Hardin - A little bit of a reach here, but if Hardin can come in and play center or right tackle Georgia’s offensive line can be set pretty quick and with some pretty solid guards. Hardin is smart and has the body (6-6, 281) to make it work at the SEC level. Now he’s just got to do it… there is no reason he can’t.
10. Jonathan Ledbetter - This guy was committed to Smart and the Tide before flipping to UGA the summer before the 2014 season. Ledbetter played in six games this fall, so you should expect to see more of him in 2016. He made tons of plays in high school. He needed to develop, and will have to continue to do so to maximize his potential.