Jacob Eason won't win the Heisman Trophy this weekend and Nick Chubb isn't walking away with the Doak Walker Award. However, Saturday could go a long way toward refueling some hope into Georgia’s fan base when it comes to the Bulldogs' offense.
Let's just cut straight to it: Georgia's offense wasn't much fun to watch in Year 1 of the Kirby Smart era. Headed by true freshman Eason and overseen by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, Georgia ranked 11th in the SEC in 2016 in both total offense (384.7 YPG) and scoring (24.5 PPG). The offensive line was a mess, there was no true, go-to receiver and Eason had a case of being a true freshman starting in the SEC.
All that amounted to mostly snooze fests when the Dawgs had the football, despite Chubb and Sony Michel rushing for a combined 1,970 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
However, some of the sins from the past could be forgiven on Saturday. Not everything will be pardoned, but if the Bulldogs can show the kind of improvement that Smart and his players have hinted at this spring (especially against a defense that had nearly all 10 of its returning starters practicing this spring), fans -- and media alike -- will start to really take this team even more seriously when it comes to being the 2017 SEC East favorite.
“It’s kind of too early to tell now. It’s just the spring, we have a long way away from the season, but we have made a lot of progress this spring,” Chubb recently told reporters about the offense. “I’m excited to see what will happen. I know we’re doing well right now.”
The offensive line has been better (despite losing three starters), Eason has grown and looked much more comfortable (thanks in large part to true freshman Jake Fromm pushing him literally every step of the way), and the offense has spent most of the spring ahead of the defense.
Smart wants to get more out of his running game, and he's gotten it for most of the spring. He even thinks he can spread his running game out more and use his backs in the passing game better. That also would allow versatile receiver Terry Godwin to make more plays in space, whether he's lining up in the slot or maybe even coming out of the backfield in some sets.
That should all be music to Bulldogs fans' ears, but Saturday should be aesthetically pleasing to those folks as well. The fans want to see Eason zip NFL throws to his receivers over and over again. People want to see him and Chubb have plenty of time to work in and out of the backfield. They want to see Fromm sling it around and calm any potential future fears if anything were to ever happen to Eason.
And they want to see a go-to receiver step up. Receiver by committee is fine, if it works, and it didn't really work last year. Outside of Isaiah McKenzie’s 633 yards, Godwin was the only other wide receiver to hit 300 yards last year. McKenzie is gone, and it's time to find a legitimate go-to receiving threat for Eason to confidently rely on week in and week out.
Godwin can line up just about anywhere, but he's so much better in space. Riley Ridley has shown signs of being a deep threat, but he was also inconsistent as a freshman and injuries have held him back. Maybe former juco transfer Javon Wims will show his potential, or early enrollee Jeremiah Holloman will live up to the spring hype he's been receiving.
There's also athletic freak Mecole Hardman, who was a backup cornerback last year and has been taking reps in the slot. There's a ton of excitement surrounding Hardman, especially with him getting offensive reps, so showcasing that on Saturday will just put Georgia fans in a tizzy.
Spring games are all about fun, but they do hold some truth to them. A good sign for Georgia would be a good offensive performance. It won't tell us everything, but it would say a lot.