LOS ANGELES — The moving and shaking that will be a constant with Georgia’s roster over the next couple of weeks has begun.
Though many players had implied or were assumed to be heading to the NFL after the end of the season, official announcements were starting to trickle out Tuesday. The most notable one came early afternoon from junior defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Carter is projected as a top-5 pick in April’s NFL draft. Accordingly, nobody reasonably expected him to return to Georgia for a senior season.
“I can’t thank coach Smart and his staff enough for their commitment to helping me develop into the best version of myself on and off the field,” Carter wrote on his social-media accounts. I also want to thank my position coach, Tray Scott. My teammates present and past have built bonds that will last a lifetime and memories that will live on forever.”
Carter recorded only two tackles in the national-championship game and one in the semifinals. But his presence in the middle of the defense after missing all or parts of six games in the middle of the season reinvigorated Georgia’s pass rush. Sitting at 14th in the SEC in sacks per game, the Bulldogs averaged 4.2 in the postseason and recorded 28 in the eight games following Carter’s return to action.
In the end, Carter finished with a modest 32 tackles and three sacks. But NFL teams are jockeying for position to draft the 6-foot-3, 310-pound down lineman from Apopka, Fla.
Also expected to be heading toward the exit are left tackle Broderick Jones, tight end Darnell Washington and cornerback Kelee Ringo. Each has implied an imminent departure, but none had made an official announcement as of Tuesday afternoon.
Two players who also are leaving are tight end Brett Seither and outside linebacker Mekhail “M.J.” Sherman. They are entering the transfer portal, according to the website On3.com, which operates the leading “portal tracker” in the industry. Both players’ departures are understandable considering extremely limited play the past two seasons.
Georgia is awaiting word from several other draft-eligible, third-year players. Underclassmen have until Jan. 16 to inform the NFL of their decisions.
About that 15-0
The Bulldogs are one of three FBS teams in the modern era to finish a season with a school-record 15-0, joining Clemson (2018) and LSU (2019).
Monday’s victory tied the school record for consecutive wins, with 17 dating to last season’s CFP semifinal/Orange Bowl win over No. 2 Michigan. From 1945-47, Georgia had a stretch where it won 17 games in a row.
The Bulldogs are 5-1 in the CFP under coach Kirby Smart, including 2-1 in CFP Championship games. Georgia improves to 11-2 all-time while playing as the No. 1-ranked CFP team, including 6-0 this season.
Georgia improved to 5-0 all-time against TCU, including 3-0 in the postseason, winning the 1942 Orange Bowl, the 2016 Liberty Bowl and Monday’s championship game.
Georgia moved to fifth from 13th in the nation in scoring offense over the postseason. The Bulldogs averaged 52.3 points in their last three games against LSU, Ohio State and TCU. Those 157 points gave them an average of 41.2 for the season.
The 616 points on the season is the most in a season of 12 or more games. It’s one-tenth of a point behind Georgia’s highest scoring average of all time, which was 41.3 points in 13 games in 2014. Monday’s 65-7 score represented the largest margin of victory in a championship game in college football history.
Accordingly, the Bulldogs were incredibly efficient at scoring points once they were in the red zone. Georgia were a perfect 6-for-6 when reaching TCU’s 20-yard line Monday, with five touchdowns and one field goal. The Bulldogs entered the game ranked No. 1 in the nation at 97% in red-zone scoring. They have now scored 81 of 83 times (97.6%), including 57 TDs and 24 FGs.
Defense comes through
TCU entered Monday’s game ranked fifth nationally in scoring (41.1). Georgia held the Horned Frogs to seven points and 188 total yards on 51 plays. That made them the seventh team this season that the Bulldogs held to a season-low points. TCU’s previous low was 17. Accordingly, Georgia moved up to fifth nationally in scoring defense at 14.3 ppg.
Sophomore DB Javon Bullard was named defensive player of the game after accounting for all three of Georgia’s takeaways. He had two interceptions and a fumble recovery, which led to 17 points.
The leading tackler was sophomore Smael Mondon with five. Georgia had five sacks. With one more Monday, freshman defensive end Mykel Williams ended up leading the team with 4.5 on the season. Freshman defensive tackle Bear Alexander, senior outside linebacker Robert Beal, senior defensive back Tykee Smith and freshman linebacker Jalon Walker also recorded sacks.