I know it is insanely early for any type of preseason rankings for next year but as you may know by now Athlon has Georgia ranked number 5 in the country for next year. That is of course good for third in the SEC. Here are the reasons why I think they are right to predict Georgia will be a top five team next year.
1. Returning players - Georgia only graduates 2 starting defenders, Tyson and Boykin, off a top five defense. Right now the only player that I consider a real threat to leave the defense early is Rambo. That would be a tough loss but with the front seven Georgia will have back whoever the new starting safety is would have time to grow into the role. On offense there are a few more that will be lost to graduation in Figgins, Glenn, Anderson and Jones. Orson Charles is the only offensive player with a good chance to leave early. Figgins replacement, Alexander Ogletree has already played quite a bit this year. Tight end is pretty deep so while losing Charles would not be a good thing it wouldn't hurt much. Losing Jones and Glenn hurts but Anderson was not a great tackle. Truthfully Glenn was not the greatest tackle either as he was more of a guard playing tackle. Georgia will have three part times starters back on the line in Lee, Burnette and Gates which helps ease the blow of losing three starters. What Georgia will lose in experience they will make up for with more depth and having two tackles that are more of true tackles instead of guards playing tackle. All in all Georgia returns a great number of this years team and should continue to improve over this years team.
2. Schedule - While the full schedule is not out for next year due to the addition of two new teams in the SEC this much is sure, Georgia does not open against a team near as good as Boise State. The South Carolina team that beat Georgia this year will not be the same one early next year as Lattimore will be coming off of ACL surgery as well as Alshon Jeffrey and Ingram being in the pros. Worst case scenerio we play an Alabama team that will lose quite a few parts from this years team. Best case scenerio we drop Bama and keep Ole Miss on the schedule. Our none conference schedule is Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. The best thing about Georgia Southern is they run the same offense as Tech and we play them back to back. The defense and skill positions should be able to carry the offensive line early and give them a chance to develop.
3. Grantham - We saw in year two what Grantham could do with his the right players in place. Next year the defense should be deeper and Jenkins will have a full off season to develop into even more of a dominate force. The only possible question mark on defense may be the safety position of Rambo leaves early. They are already a top 5 defense and should be even better next year.
4. Development of the freshmen - This year Georgia got huge contributions from Crowell, Mitchell, Conley, Bennett, and Herrera all had really good years. Malcome started coming on late in the year. Many other contriubuted on special teams. Including walkons Georgia had 52 freshmen and redshirt freshmen on the team this year. By my rough count 30 of those are recruited scholarship players. Considering Georgia was down to about 70 such players on the entire team this year that is a huge part of the team that is very young. Next year the ones who played with have more experience. The ones who redshirted will add depth that wasn't there this year. All of them will be in better shape with a full off season in the S&C program.
Obviously things can change with teams as players go pro early or transfer but this is a team on the rise. This year ten wins was a needed but not fully expected result. Next year the team will and should have high expectations. Honestly ten wins should be the base for expectations next year.