Georgia football: 5 biggest storylines ahead of Saturday's G-Day spring game
Georgia fans get their first extended look at the new Bulldogs on Saturday since they all lined Lumpkin Street and surrounding areas and celebrated the national championship in January.
Some household names and familiar faces return, but there are plenty of question marks and a sort of passing of the torch at certain positions. Sure, some notable players will not appear on Saturday, mostly at tight end, but there will be plenty of intriguing developments to see unfold on offense and defense.
Here are the 5 biggest storylines ahead of Saturday’s G-Day game:
Backup QBs (yes, Stetson Bennett is the starter)
It’s already been an eventful spring for the quarterbacks, as there were early whispers about Carson Beck possibly asserting himself as a potential starter before Stetson Bennett appears to have reclaimed his incumbent position. Brock Vandagriff is also in the mix as it appears to be another season of plenty of chatter around the starter and backup. Of course, the number of reps will be closely watched, especially if they’re not equal. But the greater storyline for G-Day is which QB has the best chemistry with a wide receiver or 2. It’s not uncommon for a 2nd- or 3rd-string quarterback to develop a noticeable connection with one particular receiver. Not even a coach’s decision on reps can get in the way of timing, and unspoken chemistry.
The recent departures of the likes of Amarius Mims, Clay Webb and Owen Condon, while not dramatic moves to the starting lineup, will shine some light on how the depth chart will unfold. Georgia largely has the starting lineup set along the line, with expectations being LT Broderick Jones, LG Xavier Truss or Devin Willock, C Sedrick Van Prann, RG Warren Ericson or Willock and RT Warren McClendon. Tate Ratledge could eventually return to the lineup during the season as he recovers from a foot injury.
Mims’ absence is the largest void on the second unit, but there are viable options, including Micah Morris, Earnest Greene and Austin Blaske along with some mixing and matching with the first unit. The greater conversation about this unit will be how it gets the running game going, an underlying issue as the Bulldogs have not had a 1,000-yard rusher the past 2 seasons. That’s a glaring issue for a program that proudly calls itself “RBU.” The Dawgs haven’t finished in the top 4 in SEC rushing since leading the league in 2018.
Expanded roles for RBs
In that same vein, to build a more consistent running game, Kendall Milton and top returning rusher Kenny McIntosh will be the prime running backs after they largely gave way to Zamir White and James Cook. McIntosh was Georgia’s 3rd-leading rusher last season with 328 yards and 3 touchdowns. White led Georgia with 864 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. Milton and McIntosh have seen these expanded roles coming, and now it’s time for them to step into them and produce. Milton has battled injuries in his career, so shaking those this season will be important. McIntosh is more of the pass catcher of the 2 players and could cause matchup problems for defenses. Also, keep an eye on Daijun Edwards, who has impressed teammates this spring.
Jermaine Burton’s departure to Alabama highlighted a definitive change in go-to players on the outside. For starters, Ladd McConkey and AD Mitchell, while freshmen, got loads of experience last season and made clutch plays at key times.
One week ago right now: 2nd & 18#GoDawgs | #2ndand18 pic.twitter.com/qdtGpcBhEz
— Jon Tweets Sports (@jontweetssports) January 18, 2022
There are several other experienced players, but they have big question marks from a health standpoint. That group is made up of Kearis Jackson, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, Arian Smith and Dominick Blaylock. The good news is Georgia has increasingly seen true freshmen contribute early, and that could be the case for Chandler Smith, or De’Nylon Morrissette and Georgia also has other young receivers in Jackson Meeks, Cole Speer and Dillon Bell. Receiver may be the biggest question mark on the team, but there are options to emerge by fall camp.
Kelee Ringo and some question marks
If the biggest question mark isn’t at wide receiver, it’s at cornerback. Kirby Smart made sure to get the point across to Kelee Ringo that the rest of his career can’t simply rest on the memorable pick-6 in the national championship. He has to continue to develop. Ringo won a starting job and earned loads of experience last season, but Georgia must integrate youngsters Kamari Lassiter, Nyland Green and Daylen Everette. Cornerback has been busy with turnover at Georgia, both in NFL departures, and position coaches. The position is now coached by Fran Brown, but he’s the third coach in as many seasons after Charlton Warren left for Indiana in January of 2021, and was replaced by Jahmile Addae, who has since left. Depth was hit hard by the transfer portal, where Georgia lost Tyrique Stevenson, Jalen Kimber, Ameer Speed and Lovasea Carroll.