ATHENS — The terms “football” and “workouts” have most every Georgia fan on edge, eager for what comes next and thirsting for knowledge.
The Bulldogs, annual championship contenders under Kirby Smart, seemingly have yet another window of opportunity to win it all this season.
The fact NFL talents Richard LeCounte, Monty Rice, Eric Stokes and Malik Herring returned for another year gives Georgia what appears to be the best defense in the nation.
But can the Bulldogs cobble together a good enough offense?
That was in question when …
• offensive line coach Sam Pittman left for the Arkansas job
• two-time 1,000-yard rusher D’Andre Swift, and 3-three QB starter Jake Fromm declared for the draft
• OL Cade Mays transferred to Tennessee, compounding the loss Andrew Thomas, Solomon Kindley and Isaiah Wilson, all of whom left early for the NFL
Smart answered some of those questions by adding former Ole Miss head coach and offensive line coach Matt Luke to replace Pittman, and acquiring Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman at quarterback along with recent former 5-star recruit JT Daniels via the transfer portal.
The offensive line remains a work in progress, but adding 5-star signee Broderick Jones in the February signing period certainly could help.
There are many other questions, most of which only time will answer.
Here’s a look at Mike Griffith’s Crystal Ball answers to some questions, and the appropriate “Magic 8-Ball” answers to others:
(Magic 8-Ball answers selected by appropriateness, not an actual shake of the supposed supernatural tool)
1. Will USC transfer JT Daniels be granted a waiver?
Crystal Ball: Very likely, on the grounds that Daniels played only one half of football last season. Also, California is under considerably stricter COVID-19 restrictions that could threaten Daniels’ immediate athletic pursuits.
2. Which QBs will “get a seat on the bus” on reduced travel rosters?
Magic 8-Ball: “Ask again later.” The answer to question No. 1 plays a large role in this, as an eligible Daniels would likely lead to the transfer of another quarterback on the roster. To this point, no one shows any signs of folding.
3. Will Dominick Blaylock recover from ACL surgery to the extent of being a major contributor?
Crystal Ball: Yes, but probably not until the second half of the season. Blaylock is a noted fast healer, but UGA will be careful not to rush him back too soon, and incoming talent figure to get early-season reps.
4. Will Ben Cleveland be back in form on the offensive line after injuries and a bowl game suspension?
Magic 8-Ball: “Cannot predict now.” Cleveland is a redshirt senior who has seen some of his closest friends move on, and his burly 335-pound frame (as listed) would not seem to fit the more athletic look UGA is moving to on the offensive line. That said, he’s a talent, and he loves being a Georgia Bulldog.
5. Can Zamir White improve his pass-catching abilities enough to be a three-down back?
Crystal Ball: Yes, but White will likely share more of the load than Swift did last season. White figures to improve from 2019, his first campaign back from a second ACL surgery. White will be adequate catching the ball, but there are better options on third-and-long in the Georgia RB room.
6. Is Jamaree Salyer the answer at left tackle?
Magic 8-Ball: “Better not tell you now.” Competition is a wonderful thing, and while Salyer is down to an impressive 309 pounds, there will be young and hungry talent gunning for the position. Salyer seems like a capable option, but there’s no depth chart at this point, and he’ll have to prove he can earn the spot.
7. Has Scott Cochran had any noticeable impact on the program in the offseason?
Crystal Ball: Noticeable? No. But inside the building, yes. Cochran was one of the finest strength and conditioning coaches in the nation for years at Alabama, so it’s absurd to think he wouldn’t have consulted with UGA’s own premier strength and conditioning coach, Scott Sinclair. An energetic coach like Cochran figures to add more electricity to what has become a younger UGA staff.
8. Which UGA players will enter the transfer portal?
Magic 8-Ball: “Concentrate and ask again.” The Magic 8-Ball may be stalling until mid-July, when coaches have opportunity to oversee activity. Any player who leaves before then has another program already recruiting him and one foot out the door. It would not be surprising to see another DB (or two) in the portal. Other positions where transfer seems likely: Quarterback, linebacker.
9. Which future NFL corners will start this season: Eric Stokes, DJ Daniel, Tyson Campbell or Kelee Ringo?
Crystal Ball: All of them — at some point this season. UGA can’t go wrong with Stokes, Daniel or Campbell. All indications are Ringo will quickly jump into the mix, perhaps pushing a cornerback candidate over to the “Star.”
10. What is the next offseason surprise from Kirby Smart?
Magic 8-Ball: “Outlook good.” The Magic 8-Ball must have taken note of Smart’s great offseason moves to this point, from his hiring of Matt Luke, Todd Monken and Cochran, to landing another No. 1-ranked class and capable quick-fix quarterbacks Jamie Newman and J.T. Daniels. Could another transfer be added to the mix?
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