After this season, three Georgia football stars — left tackle Andrew Thomas, quarterback Jake Fromm and running back D’Andre Swift — can forgo their final year of eligibility and potentially be selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft.
There aren’t too many college football programs who can afford to lose that type of talent. On the surface, the Bulldogs look like an exception to that rule. After all, head coach Kirby Smart hasn’t had a recruiting class rank below No. 3 in the past three years.
But Georgia isn’t invulnerable. To start, no amount of five-star commitments can guarantee a worthy successor to Fromm. Since taking over for Jacob Eason in 2017, the junior has thrown for 5,364 yards and 54 touchdowns, all while outlasting Eason and Justin Fields for the starting job in consecutive years.
Eason and Fields are now gone. This year, redshirt sophomore Stetson Bennett and freshman D’Wan Mathis are behind Fromm on the depth chart. At least for now, neither Bennett nor Mathis look the part of a quarterback who can lead Georgia to the College Football Playoff.
That’s why the Bulldogs must act now. They boast perhaps the best left tackle in the country, one of the two best quarterbacks in the SEC and one of the best running backs in the nation.
Fromm and Swift are Heisman Trophy candidates, and Thomas was named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, awarded annually to the best offensive lineman in college football. It may be a long time before Smart coaches an offense with similar top-end skill.
Thomas played in 657 snaps last year, which was fourth in the nation among all offensive linemen despite losing some time to a left leg injury sustained against South Carolina. Pro Football Focus predicts Thomas to go No. 5 overall in the 2020 NFL draft.
Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman has been busy trying to find the next version of Thomas. He has received commitments from five-star tackle Broderick Jones and four-star tackles Tate Ratledge and Chad Lindberg in the class of 2020.
But the offensive line might lose players other than Thomas. Right tackle Isaiah Wilson, right guard Ben Cleveland and left guard Solomon Kindley are all draft eligible after this year.
No matter how robust the pipeline, large amounts of upheaval on the offensive line rarely foreshadows a trip to the national championship.
Running back is a different situation. Swift is talented, but Georgia has consistently proven to be a breeding ground for successful running backs.
Immediately preceding Swift were Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Immediately succeeding Swift will be James Cook, Zamir White, Kenny McIntosh and 2020 recruit Kendall Milton.
Zach Evans, the No. 6 overall recruit in the class of 2020 according to the 247Sports Composite, is also considering the Bulldogs.
But with Swift in the backfield, Thomas leading the way and Fromm under center, the Bulldogs have a good opportunity to get over the hump and beat Alabama in the SEC Championship this year.
While it’s not guaranteed all three players will turn pro, Georgia need to take full advantage of their talents this season. If not now, then when?