There is plenty to like about Georgia's football outlook entering spring practice.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 12-win season that was capped with an impressive Sugar Bowl smothering of Baylor, and multiple key components from the nation's top-ranked scoring defense elected to come back for their senior seasons. This past Wednesday, Georgia wrapped up the No. 1 signing class nationally, the second top crop for the Bulldogs in the past three years.
Georgia has developed a stout level of consistency with three consecutive Southeastern Conference Eastern Division titles, but the Bulldogs also have noticeable uncertainty moving forward with recent changes at offensive coordinator and quarterback.
Head coach Kirby Smart, who will begin his fifth set of spring practices in Athens on March 17, isn't viewing this offseason as anything out of the ordinary from the standpoint of change.
"Having both coordinators leave last year was much greater than this offseason," Smart said last week in a news conference. "We're still in the offseason, so all things are not done yet. Being able to reinvent yourself, being able to reinvent your program and developing the players in it are what's going to set you apart and make you different. There are still moves to be made for us from a hiring standpoint and moving people around.
"It's a work in progress, and I do think winning the Sugar Bowl was a big bump for us."
The Bulldogs dumped the Bears 26-14 despite the absences of starting tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson and with running back D'Andre Swift playing just a handful of snaps. All three elected to enter April's NFL draft with eligibility remaining, as did quarterback Jake Fromm and left guard Solomon Kindley.
Georgia's offense sustained one final blow last month when Cade Mays, who played all five spots on the offensive line last season, entered the NCAA transfer portal and immediately resurfaced at Tennessee.
Todd Monken is now Georgia's offensive coordinator, having replaced James Coley, who endured his share of criticism last season as the Bulldogs finished a disappointing 50th nationally in scoring offense (30.8 points per game) and 61st in total offense (408.1 yards a contest). Coley was reassigned at Monken's hiring but since has left to become Texas A&M's tight ends coach.
Monken served as offensive coordinator of the NFL's Cleveland Browns this past season, and the hope of Bulldogs fans is that he will provide more dynamic plays and enhance the abilities of sophomore receivers George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock while maintaining an effective ground attack.
"I think everybody wants to hear some grand speech about opening this up and doing that," Smart said. "What you need is to be productive offensively, score points and have explosive plays, which is what we talk about consistently. Certainly I'm excited, and I know the kids are excited for an opportunity and looking to see where that goes, but I can't honestly say where that is right now."
Smart and Monken were together briefly at LSU in January 2005, when Les Miles was replacing Nick Saban as head coach, but Smart left Baton Rouge to become Georgia's running backs coach under Mark Richt. He then rejoined Saban in 2006 with the NFL's Miami Dolphins, with Monken serving as LSU's receivers coach and passing-game coordinator in the 2005-06 seasons.
An even more curious transition could be at quarterback, where Fromm helped the Bulldogs to a 36-7 record the past three years with two Sugar Bowl appearances and one Rose Bowl trip. The heavy favorite to become Georgia's 2020 starter is Jamie Newman, a graduate transfer from Wake Forest whom Pro Football Focus recently rated as the third-best returning quarterback in college football behind Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields.
"We had researched the entire year with the thought that Jake would have the opportunity to come out early," Smart said. "We had a pool of 30 to 40 guys, whether they were transfers or grad transfers, and that included high school kids. Certainly we are excited about (early enrollee) Carson (Beck) and what he can do for our team.
"Once Jamie went into the portal and we knew that he was going to be a graduate transfer, we started the communication immediately. It was a process of finding out if what he wanted aligned with what we wanted, and it also was waiting and seeing what Jake was going to do. Jamie has been very mature about the process."
Georgia has set its G-Day spring game for April 18.
Next season will be here soon enough for the Tennessee men's basketball team, but this year still has some promise