Quality programs are always going to have to deal with early departures to the NFL, and Georgia is no different. You simply say goodbye and reload. Georgia has 12 returning starters in 2019, 6 on each side of the ball, which isn’t a lot. But there are plenty of youngsters ready to step up into starting roles as well, guys who got plenty of playing time a year ago.

The Bulldogs have a veteran quarterback returning in Jake Fromm and a stable full of top running backs that goes at least 5 deep. The receiving corps has a lot to prove, which is saying something for a top 3 team. Everything is up for grabs.

Defensively, top stars Deandre Baker (first-team all-American cornerback) and D’Andre Walker (sack-leading linebacker) are gone, so others have to become stars. There are plenty of options though, thanks to 3 consecutive great recruiting classes.

Here’s a look at their projected starting lineup and how I expect it to perform:

Backfield

QB: Jake Fromm
RB: D’Andre Swift
RB: Brian Herrien/James Cook

Skinny: This might be one of the best groups in the country, with a veteran quarterback and several running backs who can be superstars. Georgia will want to run the ball a bunch, and this group will provide plenty of fireworks. This is Fromm’s third year as a starter, and he’s an accurate passer and a great leader.

Offensive line

LT: Andrew Thomas
LG: Solomon Kindley
C: Trey Hill
RG: Ben Cleveland
RT: Isaiah Wilson

Skinny: This group has plenty of talent, and they’re prepared to dominate this season, especially in the running game. What’s great about this group, too, is that there’s plenty of depth, with guys like Cade Mays and Jamaree Salyer who can play a variety of spots.

Wide receivers/tight end

WR: Demetris Robertson
WR: Tyler Simmons/George Pickens
WR: Dominick Blaylock
TE: Charlie Woerner

Skinny: The wide receiver group is unproven, with the top 5 pass catchers from a year ago all gone. Robertson has the resume to be a star, but now it’s time to show it. He didn’t even have a single catch last year. Pickens, who is 6-3, was a 5-star recruit and No. 4 receiver in the class. He’s already turned heads in camp and it’s only a matter of time before he emerges. Blaylock, another dynamic true freshman, isn’t a starter now, but we’ll list him because we’re thinking he’s the guy who will have a huge breakout camp. He was the No. 5 receiver in the country, behind Pickens. Woerner could have a big year from the tight end spot.

Defensive line

DE: Malik Herring
NT: Jordan Davis
DT: Tyler Clark

Skinny: Georgia was good against the run last year, but getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks was a real problem. A Georgia team that finished the regular season with an 11-1 record was dead last in the SEC in sacks per game. D’Andre Walker (7.5) led the team in sacks by a wide margin, but he’s gone. Herring needs to have a big year. True freshman Nolan Smith will help too, though it’s still not certain exactly where he might play.

Linebackers

Sam: Walter Grant
Will: Monte Rice
Mike: Tae Crowder
Jack: Azeez Ojulari

Skinny: These guys might be the starters, but there are another half-dozen guys who will see plenty of playing time in one of the deepest units on the team. Not only is there plenty of talent here, but there’s also a lot of versatility. Several guys can play multiple linebacker spots. Ojulari was pushing Brenton Cox before his dismissal anyway, so there’s no drop-off at the Jack either, and there’s plenty of young talent ready to go, as well.

Secondary

CB: Eric Stokes
CB: Tyson Campbell
S: Richard LeCounte
S: J.R. Reed
Nickel: Mark Webb

Skinny: LeCounte and Reed might be the best pair of safeties in the country, and they’re great in the passing game and against the run. Stokes made a name for himself last year by replacing Campbell in the starting rotation. Campbell, a 5-star recruit, will bounce back and have a big sophomore season. This group will be the difference in winning some close games this year.

Special teams

K: Rodrigo Blankenship
P: Jake Camarda
KR: James Cook
PR: Demetris Robertson

Skinny: ¬†Georgia is capable of big plays with all this speed and talent, and that should equate to special teams this year, too. Picking just one return man option is a bit of a crap-shoot. The kickers are great, and that’s no understatement. Blankenship has a big leg and is consistent.

Final thought …

Georgia is in position to contend for division, conference and national titles this year, thanks to a deep and loaded roster. There are a few holes, however, and they’ll need to be filled quickly.

The biggest concern, of course, is at wide receiver, where the top 5 pass catchers from a year ago are gone. Tyler Simmons is the top returning receiver, and he had only 9 catches in 2018. That group has a lot of young talent, but at least 2 or 3 guys need to step up and be starters.

The kicking game is solid with Blankenship and Camarda, and the return game should be fine, too, with plenty of options available to replace Mecole Hardman, who was great a year ago.

All of these outstanding recruiting classes should start to pay dividends this season. There is plenty of depth at running back, the offensive line and the front 7 on defense. That should allow Georgia to not miss a beat if someone goes down with an injury.