It was an outstanding year for the Georgia Bulldogs, even if it ended in heartbreaking fashion with an overtime loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game.
There’s plenty for Georgia fans to be excited about moving forward, as coach Kirby Smart has taken the Dawgs to impressive heights in his two years at the helm.
Next year should be another great one, as there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate threat for the Bulldogs in the SEC East.
Therefore, another SEC Championship Game (and College Football Playoff) appearance isn’t out of the question, but it’ll take some hard work from some familiar faces.
Here are five who have a chance to be the face of the Georgia program in 2018:
1. Jake Fromm, QB
Fromm took over for 2016 starter Jacob Eason in Week 1 and never looked back, leading the Dawgs to the SEC title and National Championship Game.
No, he wasn’t the SEC’s best passer, but he didn’t need to be with Sony Michel and Nick Chubb carrying the load offensively.
He’ll need to do more to have success in 2018, but he’ll have all offseason to work as the starting quarterback, so he could be even better for his sophomore campaign.
2. Kirby Smart, coach
Smart is losing a heck of a senior class that was recruited by former coach Mark Richt, from RBs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to several linebackers. Also, star LB Roquan Smith likely will declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.
However, the Bulldogs got some major contributions from Smart’s 2017 recruiting class, and he has the nation’s No. 1 2018 class, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Georgia plug in some new players and continue to find success.
If that happens, Smart will have his program set up to be successful no matter how many players graduate, transfer or leave for the NFL each year.
3. D’Andre Swift, RB
Swift is already getting some dark-horse Heisman Trophy hype, as he’ll be counted on to replace a lot of Chubb and Michel’s production.
Swift is a dual-threat back and is comfortable coming out of the backfield to catch passes, so he has all the skills necessary to become a household name in 2018.
He’ll have some help from guys like Brian Herrien, Elijah Holyfield, Zamir White and James Cook, but Swift should be the guy in Athens next season.
4. Tyler Clark, DL
One name that fans heard a lot during the Rose Bowl and the National Championship Game was Clark’s, as he recorded five tackles in each game. Against Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield in the Rose Bowl, he had two tackles for a loss and a sack.
He doesn’t have the name recognition that a guy like Trenton Thompson has, but if he builds on the momentum he has from this year’s Playoff, he could be a star in 2018 and beyond.
5. Mecole Hardman, WR/KR
In the National Championship Game, Hardman had a huge effort, running for a touchdown and also catching an incredible 80-yard touchdown pass, tiptoeing the sideline and making it all the way to the end zone.
He’s also a dangerous return man, so it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see him develop into an Isaiah McKenzie type of threat next year.
The Bulldogs would be wise to get him the ball as much as possible, and he’s proven he can do great things when he’s given a chance to make plays.