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Georgia football must tweak its philosophy going forward
Under Kirby Smart, Georgia has made it a point to stockpile more talent than anyone. In the past three recruiting cycles, Georgia is the only team to sign a top-three recruiting class every year. No program has signed more 5-star recruits in that span than Georgia.
For the most part, this strategy has worked. The Bulldogs have gone 11-1 in each of the past three regular seasons and won the SEC East each time. At no point in since the SEC split into divisions had Georgia done that.
But the last three times they've played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Bulldogs have gone up a team that's able to recruit at a similar level. Each time, Georgia lost. The most recent result being the most embarrassing, a 37-10 drubbing at the hands of LSU.
And one only has to look at the individual players that bested Georgia to show that recruiting rankings aren't a good metric to determine who might be the better team. Joe Burrow was the No. 280 ranked player in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Jake Fromm was the No. 44 player in the 2017 cycle.
LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helarie who finished the regular season with more rushing yards than D'Andre Swift was a 3-star recruit. So was LSU's leading receiver on Saturday in Justin Jefferson.
"They're not 27 points better than us but we didn't show up today and win," Georgia linebacker Monty Rice said after the game. "We didn't come to play and they did."
Georgia isn't going to suddenly stop recruiting the best players in the country. That would be a terrible strategy. But based on what Georgia got out of its team on Saturday, the Bulldogs have to find a way to maximize the talents of its best players, as opposed to just relying on the depth to overwhelm a team.
The frustrations around the offense existed all season and will likely continue to do so into the offseason. Whether there is a Joe Brady-esque solution out there as far as a new coach to come in on offense will be up to Smart to decide. He is going to have to replace Sam Pittman as the offensive line coach, which won't be easy given he's perhaps the best offensive line coach in the country.
But whoever comes to help on the offensive side of the ball will have to find a way to get more out of some of the perimeter playmakers. James Cook and Zamir White both flashed at times this year, but Georgia was never able to work them in as consistent weapons. The Bulldogs will have to do that next season with Swift gone.
The biggest question on offense once again will be what can Georgia get out of its wide receivers. The group will once again face major question marks, as Lawrence Cager and Tyler Simmons graduate. The Bulldogs will also have to monitor the health of Dominick Blaylock, who tore his ACL in the loss to LSU. The expectation is for him to be back for the start of fall camp.
George Pickens did play well in the second half, but he was only able to play in the second half due to his suspension stemming from the Georgia Tech game. Georgia is going to need a full season of a locked-in and controlled Pickens in 2020 if it is going to accomplish its goals.
Rice did point out the Georgia defense didn't exactly help out the Georgia offense on Saturday. The unit did give up a season-high 37 points against LSU and struggled to contain Burrow.
The biggest area of improvement is just getting more consistent pressure. The Bulldogs did improve their sack and tackle for loss numbers from the 2018 season, but still ranked seventh in the SEC in sacks and eighth in tackles for loss. LSU ranked second and third in both categories.
Much like how coaching staff on offense will need to manufacturer more explosive plays, Georgia's coaching staff has to find a way to create more negative plays on the defensive side of the ball.
Given how LSU, Clemson and Ohio State all look and played this year, it's easy to ask why the Bulldogs can't come out and play like that. Those teams along with Alabama all have recruited at similar levels.
But those teams were all able to get a little more out of their players this year than Georgia. That's why LSU, Clemson and Ohio State are in the College Football Playoff and Georgia is in the Sugar Bowl.
As far as making wholesale changes, not everyone sees it that way. Just about every player on Saturday said the Bulldogs just need to execute better. And given the team figures to be stacked with talent once again next week, don't expect the Bulldogs to come out and look like a Mike Leach offense or a todd Grantham defense.
"Georgia just needs to be Georgia," Swift said. We had opportunities, we just didn't capitalize."
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- ESPN's Finebaum: Kirby Smart is trying to run Alabama 2.0 and it's not working'
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- WATCH Georgia RB Zamir White: All I know is hard work and grinding'
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