1.What a difference an offseason has made at the QB position
Headed into last season, I was confident (borderline cocky) that no one from the East would upend the Bulldogs as long as Newman or Daniels was playing. So you can imagine my surprise when D’wan Mathis started the first game of the season and Stetson Bennett the next five. Bennett played with all-heart and gave the Bulldogs his very best every game. However, the QB seemed anemic the first half of the season.
JT finally got his first start of the season, and the rest could be the start of history. It is not just the emergence of JT and progression of his knee that is a positive sign for the Bulldogs. Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff both flashed signs that they could be ready if the Bulldogs needed them later in the season. While Carson put up the big numbers, Vandagriffs performance might have been the most important. It has just been assumed he would need a year to adjust to the speed of the game after playing at the Single-A private school ranks.
2. Despite losing George Pickens, the Wide Receiver unit has plenty of weapons.
1st round prospect Pickens went down with a torn ACL, and Jermaine Burton went down with a spring season-ending injury as well. Not to mention Dominick Blaylock is still recovering from ACL surgery from last season. For those that were healthy in the spring, their growth was noticeable. Kearis Jackson is primed for a big season, and it appears the real Demetris Robertson has finally stood up.
3. JT Has more weapons than just the Wide Receivers.
I am still convinced Darnell Washington is a government experiment. He is that rare tight end that could lead to defensive coordinators adjusting their scheme around his play. While he is an All-American candidate, he is not alone. John FitzPatrick is a solid weapon, and Brock Bowers is emerging as a third weapon at tight end.
Then there are the running backs. Zamir White, James Cook, and Kendall Milton all bring a different skill set to the table, but all share the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
The bottom line is that JT will have playmakers at every single position, and anything short of a CFP spot would be a disappointment.
4. The offensive line could be elite or a complete disaster.
No matter who Kirby replaced him with, losing Sam Pittman was going to be a blow. The hiring of Matt Luke appeared to be a homerun hire and still should be. However, it is time for him to prove his worth and this offensive line to reach their full potential. They have the talent to be elite and flashed it at times during the spring. With that said, there are still far too many missed assignments and too many inconsistencies.
For this line to reach its full potential, the class of 2019 and 2020 need to step up. Broderick Jones, Tate Ratledge, and Amarius Mims arrived in Athens too talented not to be contributors this season.
5. Georgia Defense set up for a big year
If I listed my top five disappointments in the SEC last season, the UGA defense would be in the top three. Injuries played a part, but the defense simply did not play up to their standards last season.
The good news for the Dawgs starts upfront with Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt. It is hard to imagine any offensive line in the nation slowing these two down. If Davis works on his conditioning over the summer, the anchor is set. With plenty of depth at linebacker and Nolan Smith ready to be a full-time starter, the front seven should be back close to 2019 form. The secondary is still a concern, but Lewis Cine and the unit seem to be progressing at a good speed. Everything I have heard about redshirt freshmen Kelee Ringo and Jalen Kimber has been very positive, and many believe this could be the surprise unit of the SEC.
6. This needs to be the year for Kirby Smart
Many UGA fans will remember that I was against the hire of Kirby Smart and spent the first year mocking the hire……and I was wrong. He has built a program that should be a contender every season. Last year seemed like a great year for the Bulldogs to break the glass ceiling that has been over them since 1980. However, everything quickly fell apart with opt-outs and injuries.
This season, the Bulldogs have something they have not had during Smart’s tenure and for a long time. They have a more experienced and talented roster than Alabama. Yes, Alabama could have another great season and national championship, but they have many more question marks than the Bulldogs. If Smart doesn’t win a national title this season, it doesn’t mean that his tenure has been a failure by any stretch of the imagination. However, having UGA with a decisive edge at many positions is not guaranteed ever to happen again.