And I've also pointed out some reasons to feel pretty comfortable with the 2017 slate of games. The home schedule may not offer much at first glance, but I'm encouraged that playing teams like App State and Samford under Sanford Stadium's lights should provide a better atmosphere than last year's game against Nicholls State. And hopefully the scoreboard takes it easy on our nervous system as well.
So most of the questions/concerns I have are on offense and special teams:
- What will Eason in year two look like?
IfWhen a game comes down to a kick, do we have someone the coaches trust and have prepared for just such an occasion?
- Will Chaney call plays for an offense that is working on the same page consistently?
- The offensive line can't be worse than last year, but exactly how much better will it be with so much youth?
- Can Mecole step in for McKenzie in both the return game as well as the dependable slot receiver position that we depend on so much?
Those are the big ones right now. For that last question, I'm encouraged when I read things like this from Terry Godwin:
“Whenever the ball is up, he’s going to go get it,” Godwin said of Hardman. “When you see that burst of speed, I mean, I haven’t seen anything like that in a long time. He has something special.”
A lot of people were wondering last year where Hardman was and why he wasn't getting more looks with the ball in his hands. I certainly hope he makes the coaches sorry they kept him on defense last year. It might leave a sour feeling in our guts for what might have been last year, but it could sweeten our tea a bit if he can produce like we seem to be counting on him to.
As for Eason, I'm not concerned at all really. It's good to have Ramsey back as insurance, and I think Fromm has the talent to step in if needed this season. And he certainly has the game to challenge Eason in the future.
But this is Eason's season to shine. On the latest Waitin' Since Last Saturday podcast, Lietch and UGA beat writer Emerson discuss the pressure on Eason in the offseason. They point out something that we tend to forget - #10 won a game against Missouri with his arm, and should've won one against Tennessee as well. I would also add that it was his throw to McKenzie that turned the tide against the Tar Heels in the opener.
So we know what he can do in pressure situations and we've seen him make all the throws. Can he have the time to make all the reads this season? Will his deep ball provide a more consistent threat to stretch the opposing defense? Will the receivers drop less passes that are on target?
I think our quarterback is poised for a great season. I think our offensive line is built more for what Pittman and Chaney are aiming for up front. Hopefully that means we can use Nauta and Blazevich as receivers more. And it sounds like Chubb 2017 is back to his old 2015 self, and behind him is enough talent to fill the entire SEC East with starting tailbacks.
We saw what quarterbacks like Greene, Stafford, and Murray were able to do in their second season. They all did so with a competent if not good offensive line, well rounded running backs and receivers to keep defenses honest. If Eason is afforded the same luxuries those guys had, it could be a lot more fun to watch the offense this season than it has since Murray graduated.