Georgia football has hit that offseason lull where finals have finished and summer conditioning has yet to start.
But a lot has taken place since the Bulldogs recorded a 31-23 win over TCU in the Liberty Bowl. Spring practice has come and gone, which featured what appears to be an improved squad on both sides of the ball.
Nothing is certain, however, until everyone gets a first glimpse of the 2017 Bulldogs when they kick their season off against Appalachian State on Sept. 2.
Until then, here is a look at three of Georgia’s biggest winners now that the spring is behind this year’s team.
Sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason
Before spring practice began, head coach Kirby Smart said he couldn’t wait to see the “competition” between Eason and freshman Jake Fromm play out at quarterback.
More than anything, it was a way for Smart to let Eason, who started 12 of Georgia’s 13 games in 2016, know he couldn’t afford to let up in any way when it came to the starting quarterback position.
Eason kept the correct mindset and apparently took to the high-energy Fromm’s approach to the film and meeting rooms. Eason not only improved in this area but exited spring practice as the clear No. 1 quarterback.
Eason has a better grasp on the playbook, a more sound understanding of how to run the offense and has been given more control at the line of scrimmage.
This should go a long way as he enters his second year with the Bulldogs.
“It comes with experience. That’s a big thing,” Eason said. “They’re giving me a lot more control with that. I feel a lot more comfortable with that than I would have last year. Last year I was still trying to figure out which way to turn on a given handoff. This year, there’s a lot more comfort in doing a lot different things as a quarterback”
Junior inside linebacker Natrez Patrick
Roquan Smith wasn’t able to participate at practice during the spring due to an upper body injury. With Simth, Georgia’s leading tackler in 2016, out, Patrick stepped into a leading role on defense throughout the five weeks of practice.
And Patrick not only appeared bigger and stronger, but he spoke in a much more vocal and demanding tone when it came to his defense.
When Smart spoke about the offense showcasing its physicality against the defense, Patrick stepped up and stated the need for improvement across the board. Whether it was a result of this or not, Georgia’s defense began playing better toward the end of spring practice.
Patrick recorded 59 tackles a year ago and that came while missing three games due to injury.
He will seek to step up even further as not only one of Georgia’s top tacklers but as a go-to leader on defense. With 10 starters back on that side of the ball, Patrick understands that his group could be in store for a special season.
“We know as a defense what we have to do,” Patrick said. “We know, as a defense, what our expectations are and we know, as a defense, where we want to go.”
Senior wide receiver Javon Wims
Wims may not be one of Georgia’s faster receivers. But one thing Smart said following Georgia’s G-Day game was that Wims’ 6-foot-4 and 215-pound frame leaves him open in situations where he may otherwise seem covered.
And it is clear Wims has earned Eason’s trust. At G-Day, Wims caught four passes for 96 yards on seven targets. He earned a start with the Black team – the first-team offense – and has worked on furthering his relationship with Eason.
Wims and Eason have gotten together after practice on multiple occasions to work on timing and familiarity. Coming from a junior college, it took some time for Wims to adjust to the life of an SEC receiver.
Now that he’s picked up on it, Wims believes he should show even more improvement than he did over the course of the 2016 season.
“I was inconsistent last year,” Wims said. “I didn’t play a lot in the beginning and I started playing a lot towards the end. Now, we’re going to be very familiar with each other.”