It now appears that Orson Charles could be the only Georgia player who’ll leave early for the NFL. If that is indeed the case, the Bulldogs will be positioned nicely for 2012.
They could have lost Jarvis Jones, who’s their best player, and also Bacarri Rambo, who’s one of their five best, but both have said they’ll return to school. And coordinator Todd Grantham, whose name has already surfaced as an Atlanta Falcons’ possibility, e-mailed esteemed colleague Chip Towers and confessed a desire “to be at UGA for a very long time.”
(For the record, I’m not sure Grantham is a fit in Flowery Branch for a rather basic reason: He runs the 3-4, and the Falcons, as Mike Smith noted Monday, have spent four seasons drafting for the 4-3.)
We say again: If Georgia enters the 2012 season with 15 starters returning — including nine on defense — the Bulldogs should and will be a Top 10 team.
Others say so, too. Esteemed former colleague Mark Schlabach ranks Georgia No. 6 in his ESPN lookahead. Andy Staples of SI.com slots the Bulldogs at No. 9. And Brett McMurphy of CBS Sports has the Bulldogs ranked third, behind only LSU and Southern Cal.
I’m on record as picking the Bulldogs to go 11-1 in the 2012 regular season and to win the SEC — and not just the SEC East. The Outback Bowl loss, bad as it was, didn’t change that belief. I should, however, note that a post-Outback post to that effect met with scorn from many of you who claim to be Georgia fans. My point, then as now, was: Nine months from now, who’s going to care about what happened in Tampa on Jan. 2?
And why, since you asked, would I pick Georgia to win the SEC championship game when it just lost the SEC championship game by 32 points? Because seasons change, and so do results. Did not Alabama lose to Florida in the Georgia Dome in 2008, Tim Tebow’s junior season? Did not the Tide beat Tebow and his Gators under the same roof the very next year? (And if Georgia should happen to play LSU again, we’ve just been handed evidence that the Tigers are not invincible.)
Seasons change, I say again. Georgia was lousy in 2010 and got good again in 2011. It will be even better in 2012. Carp over the Bulldogs’ schedule all you want, but things don’t appear much different for 2012. If they won 10 games this time, they should win more next season. So say I.
By Mark Bradley