Can Georgia replace ‘The Human Joystick’?

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 13.51.34

The Human Joystick. The guy that moved through opposition players like they were nothing, with the screams of joy emanating from the fans behind him. The human highlight reel. The one-of-a-kind for that season.

And now, Georgia fans, Isaiah McKenzie is gone. And with him will be his numbers.

Georgia fans will talk about reloading after McKenzie’s decision to opt for NFL riches after his junior year, but it’s going to be really, really difficult.

McKenzie not only brought a receiving threat to the table (663 yards, 7 TDs on 44 receptions, going for an average of 14.4 yards/ reception), but also brought a running threat too (134 yards, 2 TDs on just 19 carries, averaging 7.1 yards/play). He also returned 23 punts (for 245 yards and a touchdown).

If you want to take this as total, the hole that McKenzie will leave will be even bigger. He accounted for 26% of all total receiving yards, 20% of all receptions, and – this is the most galling – 43% of all total throwing touchdowns. Thanks to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, his loss won’t be felt hugely in the Georgia backfield, but still.

For a moment, take away the fact that the Dawgs have a young offensive line, and this could be yet another season where red-clad fans see opposition linemen run through their line, and let’s just look at the talent coming back to Sanford….

WHO FROM THE RETURNERS REPLACES HIM?

  • Sony Michel (RB): We liked how he was used out of the backfield over the last couple of years. He’s a definite game-changer. Had 149 yards receiving on 22 receptions. The problem for Georgia will be whether they can keep Michel healthy. He’s had injury problems for the last two years. Which is unfortunate, for a man of his talent.
  • Terry Godwin (WR): Underimpressed in just about every game last year. He had 38 receptions for just 397 yards and no touchdowns. That’s hardly a massive return for the five-star recruit. His averages from 2015 to 2016 barely improved. But Godwin’s going to be the No.1 receiver in Athens next year – and will have to prove it.
  • Riley Ridley (WR): Ridley’s freshman season in Athens was a pretty productive one. He had 238 yards on just 12 receptions – although we’re a little worried that he was actually targetted 22 times. He’s also injured his foot, so he’ll definitely not play the Spring Game and probably be out until mid-summer.
  •  Jeb Blazevich/ Isaac Nauta (TE): Smart’s use of the TE is very Saban-like, and the increasing use of them continues bring a new dimension to the attacking game.
  • Javon Wims (WR): The former JUCO transfer started only 3 games but still had 190 yards on 17 receptions. And no fumbles.

WHAT ABOUT THE FRESHMEN?

There are things to be excited about for the Bulldogs. 6ft 2 incoming freshman (and four-star recruits) Jeremiah Holloman and redshirt freshman Mark Webb ought to bring in some size out wide for QB Jacob Eason, and both Matt Landers and Trey Blount are both considered to be a little raw.

SO IN OTHER WORDS….

McKenzie will be pretty much irreplacable in 2017 with what he brought to the offense. There aren’t a lot of players that were a three-headed hydra of offense like he was. We expect UGA to go more towards the run this year – despite having Eason’s cannon. The reason? The offensive line. We’re not sure if he’ll be as lucky in his second year to survive as he was in his first.

 

 

Georgia has a 5-star day at National Signing Day

Usually when it comes to Georgia fans, they like to swear in the general direction of Mark Richt.

They blame him when the Bulldogs lose. They blame him when the Bulldog players get arrested. They blame him when the Bulldog players get injured.

But now, Georgia fans are actually happy with Mark Richt- especially after National Signing Day.

The Georgia coach landed No.14 player on the ESPN 300 list DE Lorenzo Carter (despite the close attentions of Florida, LSU and Florida State), which definitely got the fans buzzing – especially those who had been critical of Richt for not filling out his staff after defensive co-ordinator Todd Grantham decided to leave for Louisville.

The 6ft 5, 324lb player said: “The defense is going to be nasty, and I want to be part of it”, at his press conference. Some think he might even play OLB. Whatever happens, Jeremy Pruitt’s pretty happy.

Pruitt also recruited five secondary players – including one safety and four cornerbacks. A number of them might see action as close as the Clemson game bearing in mind the team’s current woes in that department.

Earlier in the day Richt added two five-star running backs in tailbacks Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. Both are thought out of as ‘five-star talent’. Chubb was described as having ‘Todd Gurley-type talent’. Georgia fans can only hope.

Not only that, but Richt also shored up his offensive line with Kendall Baker, Dyshon Sims and Jake Edwards, as well as tight ends Jeb Blazevich and Hunter Atkinson. Atkinson committed to Cincinnati before he was recruited by UGA.

And also, the Athens media have now christened a new ‘return specialist’ (if returning WR/punt returner Malcolm Mitchell wasn’t enough) in Isaiah McKenzie.

Offensive co-ordinator Mike Bobo said: “His No. 1 job is gonna try to be that punt returner, kick returner for us….It could be the difference in one ballgame, and obviously help us on offense if we can sometimes just get 10 yards on the punt return. That’s the first down for the offense. And field position is so crucial, it sometimes doesn’t matter how effective you are as an offense, the percentages go down if the field position isn’t in your favor. It’s hard to go 80 yards on anybody, I don’t care who you’re playing.

The Bulldogs ranked 8th in the National Rivals Rankings.