Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
2019 SEC Football Preview:
'Do more' Bulldogs take focus off Tide
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks during a press conference at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days in Hoover, Ala., Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Curtis Compton /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
HOOVER, Ala. — The 2019 Georgia Bulldogs are operating with a simple slogan in an effort to get over the heartbreaking postseason losses of the past two years.
“Do more” is the Bulldogs’ motto, and it can be applied in virtually any area relating to college football, both on and off the field.
“It’s a great theme because it’s simple,” fourth-year Georgia Coach Kirby Smart said. “We like it because we understand how close we’ve been to taking the next step. And although 24-5 the last two seasons is good, it’s not good enough. It’s not where we expect to be at the University of Georgia.”
In the chase to unseat Alabama atop college football, teams such as Clemson and Ohio State have scored postseason breakthroughs against the Crimson Tide since the College Football Playoff went into effect in 2014.
The Bulldogs have only come close against Smart’s mentor Nick Saban while stashing decent hardware in their trophy case.
After defeating Auburn 28-7 for their third SEC Championship Game victory in 2017, the Bulldogs blew a 20-7 third-quarter lead against Alabama to fall 26-23 in overtime in the CFP title game.
Last year, Georgia held two 14-point leads against the Crimson Tide before falling 35-28 in the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs went on to lose to Texas in deflating fashion in the Sugar Bowl.
Not long after that, “Do More” came into being.
“Doing more looks like, ‘Hey, how can I go in and be with the players extra? How can I get with them, make sure they’re learning the playbook, knowing the signals?’ said junior quarterback Jake Fromm. “It’s staying out there extra on the grass with them, throwing some extra routes, making sure we’re on the same page. A lot of different little things. Little things add up to big things.”
Georgia players were asked repeatedly at SEC media days what it would take to get over the “Alabama” hump.
“Just focusing on our games,” safety J.R. Reed said. “We’ll focus on Bama if we see Bama. Right now we’ve got to focus on Vanderbilt … because they’re our first opponent. We can’t be looking ahead way down the line because we may not make it there if we’re doing that.
“I just want a crack at an SEC championship, a crack at the natty championship. I don’t care who it’s against.”
The Bulldogs should be in position to do more after scoring three consecutive recruiting classes ranked in the top three despite losing both coordinators — Jim Chaney on offense and Mel Tucker on defense.
James Coley is the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Dan Lanning takes over as defensive coordinator. Former University of Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman is associate head coach.
“Any time you build the infrastructure in a program, when people leave it doesn’t create a lot of doubt or anxiety in the players,” Smart said. “And certainly from my perspective, I’m very comfortable after being in our system for three years that we’ve got really good coordinators.”
Those coordinators will work with some of the deepest talent in the country.
Fromm ranked fifth nationally in pass efficiency last season and ninth with 9.0 yards per attempt. D’Andre Swift ran for 618 yards as the third-team tailback two years ago, and 1,049 yards despite losing time to injury last year. He’ll be backed up by Zamir White, James Cook and Brian Herrien to give the Bulldogs strong options at running back.
Georgia lost several top pass catchers, but former five-star recruit Demetris Robertson and rising stars such as George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock are expected to stand out among the next wave.
Andrew Thomas, Solomon Kindley and Isaiah Wilson anchor what projects as one of the best offensive lines in the conference.
“We try not to pay too much attention to it,” the left tackle Thomas said of being considered a great offensive line. “We’re still motivated because we haven’t won a national championship.”
Inside linebackers Tae Crowder and Monty Rice are the veterans of the second level, and they’re flanked by sophomores Brenton Cox and Adam Anderson.
Georgia is also expected to have one of the better secondaries in the country, with returning safeties Reed and Richard LeCounte joined by returning cornerback starter Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes.
The direction of Georgia’s season is likely to be set within the first month. The Bulldogs open the year on the road at Vanderbilt, then have Murray State and Arkansas State University at home before a visit from Notre Dame. Their crossover opponents are Auburn and Texas A&M late in the year at the end of a seven-week run against SEC opposition.
If the Bulldogs hold off what is projected to be a push by Florida, another postseason date with Alabama is a possibility.
“We don’t have Alabama on our schedule,” Smart said. “We know Alabama has been very powerful in this conference for a long time. We respect the job they do.
“I’m excited about this team coming back. The biggest thing is concerning ourselves with us and not concerning ourselves with somebody else.”
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