Georgia football: 4 most critical position battles for 2020
The 2020 season will be one of change for Georgia football. The biggest will be behind center, as Jake Fromm left early for the NFL Draft, along with running back D’Andre Swift.
But those are far from the only ones. Three offensive linemen—Solomon Kindley, Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson — declared for the draft as well. A 4th, tackle Cade Mays, is headed to Tennessee. And that’s on top of the seniors and grad transfers whose eligibility expired. All told, Georgia must replace 11 offensive starters and 5 defensive starters, plus placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship.
While it’s “next man up” for many of the open slots (or, at quarterback, “next man in” as Wake Forest grad transfer Jamie Newman will take the reins in 2020), others aren’t as cut and dry. Here are the Bulldogs’ 4 most critical position battles ahead of the 2020 season:
Zamir White vs. James Cook or Kendall Milton or Kenny McIntosh
Losing Swift was enough, but Brian Herrien was the perfect change-of-pace back for the Bulldogs’ offensive system. We got a glimpse of how life without the duo will be during the Sugar Bowl as Zamir White went for 18 carries, 92 yards and a touchdown starting in place of Swift, but we didn’t really see anyone fill that Herrien-type role.
Keep in mind that the Dawgs’ newest running back, Kendall Milton, enrolled early and will be on hand for spring practice. It appears to be White’s job to lose, but the big questions might be who is RB2 and how heavy will the workload be? To that end, though, this will be the first time in a while that Georgia has had an open competition for starting running back, so even though White is the only one in the room with the distinction of being a former 5-star high school recruit, he’ll have to earn it just like anyone else as this is a position not devoid of talent and depth.
Projected winner: Zamir White.
Broderick Jones vs. Tate Ratledge or Chad Lindberg or Austin Blaske or Xavier Truss
Can new offensive line coach Matt Luke help the unit find another level in the midst of heavy turnover? That’s the challenge. The left tackle role was potentially Mays’ to lose after Thomas declared for the NFL Draft, but now Mays is gone, too. With 4 recruits set to come into the fold in 2020 and Xavier Truss already in-house, this will be one of the more interesting position battles to monitor.
Adding a little uncertainty to the equation is the status of Jones, a 5-star recruit who has yet to sign with Georgia but will be in for an official visit later in the month with 2 more to Arkansas and Auburn forthcoming. Several incoming linemen could also find playing time, especially behind Jamaree Salyer at right tackle in 2020.
Projected winner: Broderick Jones.
Walter Grant vs. Jermaine Johnson
Grant started most of the year in 2018, but Johnson, a JUCO transfer, bolstered the spot even more in 2019. Johnson finished with 20 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks to counter a bit of a slower season for Grant (7 tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 1.0 sack).
They’ll both rotate in and out of the Sam slot in 2020, but look for them to continue to push each other during spring and fall practices as they’ll provide a one-two punch of experience in the linebacking corps.
Projected winner: Jermaine Johnson.
DJ Daniel vs. Tyson Campbell
The Dawgs had the luxury of 2 skilled right cornerbacks in 2019 across the field from AP All-SEC 2nd-team pick Eric Stokes: DJ Daniel started 11 games and finished with 42 tackles and 8 passes defended, while Campbell battled injury that limited him to 3 starts and 9 games played, ending the year with 15 tackles.
Having both healthy is a good problem to have as it will allow the Dawgs to better rotate personnel based on the situation. However, it will be interesting to see if one separates and locks down the position full time much like Stokes has on the left-hand side.
Projected winner: DJ Daniel.