5 biggest concerns I have about Georgia for 2021
This is it.
This has to be the Georgia football team that wins the program’s first national championship since 1980, correct?
The prognosis heading into the upcoming season is certainly a good one. The schedule (outside of Clemson to open the season and maybe Florida) doesn’t present many red flags. The quarterback picture is set with JT Daniels (eventually) having plenty of targets at his disposal, while an elite run defense should pick up right where they left off. The secondary, of course, saw some new faces too as a couple of known quantities in Derion Kendrick and Tykee Smith enter the fray. Despite some departures from the linebacking corps, for the most part, it’s “next man up.” The running back depth is as good as it’s been in a while.
So, make room in the trophy cabinet, right?
Let’s be honest: At some point, Georgia, at minimum, has to find a way back to the College Football Playoff sooner rather than later. It didn’t bring Kirby Smart to Athens to finish 2nd to Alabama just about every year in the SEC Championship or to simply get to New Year’s 6 bowls. The high level of recruiting this program has done and the talent that has come through the door since his arrival has to pay off.
Will this be the year, though?
Here are 5 concerns I have for the Dawgs going into the 2021 season:
1. The health of JT Daniels over a full season, and Georgia’s situation at backup quarterback if something does go wrong
I’m confident that Daniels will be able to match the lofty expectations. Not to be pessimistic, though, but that right knee is still a concern, and one ill-timed hit could turn the season upside down.
Who does Smart turn to if Daniels is injured? We know Stetson Bennett’s ceiling already, but does Smart still favor him over redshirt freshman Carson Beck, who’s thought to have the edge at QB2?
Let’s hope Georgia doesn’t get to that point.
2. The offensive line improving enough from a rough spring
This was something that Smart underscored earlier in the year, and this group will need to be ready out of the gate with a pivotal game against Clemson to start the season. Frankly, the health of Daniels — and how the running game fares — depends on it.
The Dawgs received a bit of tough news, too, as center Warren Ericson has been dealing with a hand injury. He’ll be fine, but every practice rep he missed impacts the rest of the line, too.
3. The running game taking the next step forward
Smart has spoken about how critical the run game is to Georgia’s success. Georgia was good, not great at it last season, finishing 4th in the SEC in rushing yards per game.
Granted, they won’t need to record 300-yard games week in and week out, but games like Cincinnati and Mississippi State will need to be more of an exception rather than the rule. This group is good enough to get the job done, but the question is if it can.
The running game will come into focus almost immediately, too, given Georgia’s growing injury situation among its receivers.
4. How a young group of defensive backs adapts to the college game
Derion Kendrick brings plenty of experience to one cornerback slot, and while 5th-year senior Ameer Speed figures to be the option on the other side, the drop-off in age is fairly steep from there. Jalen Kimber played 3 games last year and could edge out Speed to get the call, but outside of that, there’s Kelee Ringo, a former 5-star who missed all of last season, along with Kamari Lassiter, Lovasea Carroll and Nyland Green, all true freshmen.
Having a good camp and practicing well against your teammates is nice, but there’s nothing that can substitute for real, live game experience. They’ll be tested out of the game against Clemson. While I’m confident in the abilities of the newcomers, will they be ready if and when they’re called upon?
5. Georgia losing to Clemson, and being forced to be perfect the rest of the way in order to make the College Football Playoff
Yes, it’s a favorable schedule, as are the chances of Georgia getting to Atlanta with a “0” in the loss column if they beat Clemson in Charlotte. But it, the players and fans know that a loss sets up a potential landmine situation with them needing to be perfect the rest of the way to make the College Football Playoff, including possibly beating a team that has its number in old nemesis Alabama.
That’s a bridge we’ll cross if and when we get to it, but the possibility’s still there.