5 candidates to be the face of the Georgia Bulldogs in 2022
Georgia lost loads of talent from the national championship team, but the Bulldogs are stacked enough to turn the page to the next wave of talent. And some of the stars who emerged during the historic run are ready to accept the spotlight from the opening kickoff.
By stacking recruiting classes for several years, the cupboard is full in Athens, and it’s time for several players to grow into more prominent roles.
The returning starting quarterback normally is a shoo-in to be the face of the program, but it’s well-documented that Stetson Bennett is not your average QB, especially in the minds of a considerable number of Georgia fans. So let’s go around the roster and check out other possibilities.
Here are 5 candidates to be the face of the 2022 Georgia Bulldogs:
TE Brock Bowers
Coming off shoulder surgery in the spring, which will cause him to miss spring practice, Bowers will get a chance to be fresh come the opener against Oregon.
Bowers couldn’t have had a much better freshman campaign as he led the team in receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns. In the final category, he set a school record with 13 scores. With Jermaine Burton gone, and George Pickens off to the NFL, the tight end position in general will continue to have a prominent role in the Todd Monken offense.
Bowers’ world-class work ethic will also help his recovery from surgery.
LB Nolan Smith
While the NFL is on hold, leadership on the 2022 team got a gigantic boost with his return, as Smith is the leading returning tackler (56) after he led the Bulldogs with 2 tackles for a loss in the national championship. Smith also had 3 QB hurries and a sack on top of a big performance in the Orange Bowl. He led the Bulldogs in tackles (8) in the win over Michigan, and also had a career-high 7 QB pressures vs. the Wolverines.
Smith was already a vocal leader last season, so his return, and putting off the NFL, will be to polish his skills for the next level.
Smith played in 14 of 15 games, and finished with 9 tackles for lost yardage, which was second on team, 3.5 of those coming on QB sacks, along with 27 QB pressures.
WR AD Mitchell
Another veteran returnee who will draw plenty of attention as the main deep threat outside alongside Ladd McConkey. It will be tough for him to keep up his clutch reputation, but Georgia fans wouldn’t mind if he did.
Mitchell started 12 of the 15 games he appeared in last season, and played more total offensive snaps last season (53 percent) than any other Bulldog wide receiver. But he may be most remembered in the 2021 season for his clutch catches in the College Football Playoff.
Mitchell made 2 catches for 50 yards in the national championship Game, including the go-ahead 40-yard TD in the fourth quarter. He also made 2 catches in Orange Bowl win included an 18-yarder for a first-quarter TD. Clutch catches were a theme all season, as he made a season-high 5 receptions for 65 yards in win at Tennessee, including 4 of them of those catches (2 on third down) during a key second-quarter TD drive.
DB Christopher Smith
A shoulder injury last season forced him to miss time, and he’ll take his 4 years of experience and return as one of the more seasoned defenders on the back end.
Smith in the 2021 season will be remembered for having one of the early highlights of the season, his first career interception was a big one against Clemson with 2:58 left before halftime. Smith picked off a pass and returned it 74 yards for the Bulldogs’ first score of the 2021 season. But he produced all season, including in the national championship game, with a career-high 7 tackles and an interception in Georgia’s 33-18 win over Alabama, along with a key 3rd-down pass breakup for the Bulldogs’ defense.
DL Jalen Carter
Personality, and by extension media relations, for a defensive lineman will be key to being the “face” of a defense, but Carter certainly has everything else in his 6-foot-3 and 310-pound frame. As far as impactful plays on a big stage, it doesn’t get any bigger than a blocked field goal in the national championship, and that’s exactly what Carter did. He swatted a 48-yard field goal with 3:18 left in the third quarter and Georgia trailing Alabama 9-6.
The ferocious Carter collected 33 QB pressures, which was 2nd-best on the team, with 3 QB sacks, and 8.5 tackles for a loss.
Georgia never seems to have a shortage of defensive lineman talent, and Carter is simply the next man up in a long line of QB wreckers.
Special Teams did it again‼️ @breadmanjalen#GoDawgs#NationalChampionship pic.twitter.com/AfIEZXPOXf
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) January 22, 2022