Georgia fans are going to way overrate D.J. Shockley going into this season. Maybe playing with the first team in practice and getting plenty of reps will help him, but the bottom line is that he's been a 43% passer for the past two seasons. And it isn't as if Mark Richt hasn't designed packages for him before. I've heard the Charlie Ward comparison made, but that simply illustrates that the media still fixates on skin color: "Richt coached Charlie Ward and he was black and mobile, so surely he can do the same things with D.J. Shockley!" Shockley still hasn't shown an ability to read a defense and as of the end of last season, he still displayed the tendency to make bad situations worse by retreating and then either taking a disastrous sack or throwing the ball up for grabs.
Georgia's offensive line and running backs should be very good in 2005, so the key to the offense will be whether Georgia can maintain the threat of big plays in the passing game. Otherwise, the Dawgs are going to be running against eight- and nine-man fronts all season. Georgia's new receivers are going to have to answer questions as to whether they can beat man coverage and Shockley is going to have to show that he knows how to get the ball to them accurately. D.J. has shown flashes over the past several years (Clemson '02, Tennessee '04, and the first half of the '04 Tech game all come to mind,) but he needs to be far more consistent.
As for the defense, the million dollar question is how Georgia's defense will be affected by Brian Van Gorder's departure. Right now, I don't have much of an opinion. I'll need to think about this a little. With Tennessee and Florida both looking very strong offensively and suspect on defense, Georgia has a chance to win the division if they get a very good performance from the defense. The talent is there. Richt has recruited very well on the defensive side of the ball for the past several years, so the losses of Thomas Davis, Odell Thurman, and David Pollack could be a little overrated. The play of Georgia's safeties last year in pass coverage was a little suspect, including Davis, and we should know pretty quickly if they have improved in that area when Boise State comes calling in the opener.
Maybe I place too much importance on recruiting, but I'll be very interested in seeing whether Georgia's big-name defensive recruits of the past several years distinguish themselves this year. I'm talking to you Mudcat Elmore, Paul Oliver, Darius Swain, and Brandon Miller. None of you are projected to start. Now, with all of the focus on 1) other teams in the conference and 2) the players that Georgia lost from the '04 team, it's time for you to put up or shut up. (Cliche alert! Cliche alert!)