ATHENS — Many of the Georgia football fans who have been following along closely this spring have already moved on to the subplots and even the 2022 storylines.
But for many, including fans from other SEC schools, it will be a chance to check and see just what’s up with Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs.
Yes, Georgia is among the national championship favorites again this offseason, just as one might expect from a program riding a string of four-straight Top 10 finishes and five straight recruiting classes ranked in the nation’s Top 5.
And yet, the prevailing offseason storyline at Georgia involves two of the more dynamic, yet underrated, offensive figures in college football — transfer quarterback JT Daniels and offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
It’s hard to understand how a former high school national player of the year and an OC who set an NFL franchise passing record with two journeymen quarterbacks could be relatively underappreciated on the college landscape.
Let’s start right there with that being the first of 3 things to know and be ready to talk about when Georgia football comes up at the tailgate.
1. JT Daniels is ‘The Man’
The trust Daniels has earned from Kirby Smart and Monken, and the role he plays in the locker room and the practice field cannot be overstated. The quarterback sets the tone, and Daniels has quickly established himself among the best Georgia has ever had.
You heard that right — Daniels has earned the respect of such legends as Eric Zeier, D.J. Shockley and Buck Belue. But more importantly, his teammates and his head coach believe in him because of what he has accomplished and how he carries himself.
Daniels is the key to a championship season for the Bulldogs, plain and simple, the team’s most valuable player. Get your No. 18 jersey Saturday and beat the rush.
2. Receiver depth tested
There’s no getting around it, Georgia took a hit when go-to receiver George Pickens suffered a torn ACL earlier in spring drills that will keep him out most if not all of next season.
Smart has emphasized recruiting at the receiver position, aware that to open up the Bulldogs’ offense the program would need bona fide big-play, pass-catching threats at receiver, tight end and tailback. The versatility of backs like James Cook and Kenny McIntosh will soften the blow of losing Pickens, as will the quality depth at tight end.
But Georgia is counting on its receiver depth to get healthy and rise to the occasion, as a handful of players are nursing injuries (Jermaine Burton, Justin Robinson, Dominick Blaylock, Marcus Rosemy) and need to get better quickly. Veterans like Kearis Jackson and Demetris Robertson need their best seasons to date. If newcomer Adonai Mitchell continues to push, he could become a factor.
3. Secondary issues
The secondary was a question mark going into spring drills, and it’s a question mark going out, albeit not as big of an uncertainty. Georgia added West Virginia honorable mention All-American Tykee Smith to a secondary that’s losing five players to the NFL draft.
Smith is a good start, but the Bulldogs likely need to add a transfer cornerback to add some experience and depth to a talented, but young, unit. Second-year cornerback Jalen Kimber has impressed, while former top cornerback recruit Kelee Ringo has made strides coming off labrum surgery last fall. Veteran Ameer Speed has put his best foot forward.
As challenging as the secondary situation is, the Bulldogs can know they have three of the best coaches in the country working to develop the players in Smart, new secondary coach Jahmile Addae and analyst Will Muschamp. There’s competition, intensity and fun energy every day in the defensive backfield.
The 2022 subplot
If you want to push the envelope and raise eyebrows with your Georgia football friends just ask them who they think the quarterback will be in 2022.
There’s not a right or wrong answer, and right now it looks like a no-lose situation with young stars Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff emerging. It’s also fair to make a case for Stetson Bennett, lest anyone forget he was leading Florida 14-0 when he suffered a sprained AC joint in his shoulder.
Beck and Vandagriff both have franchise QB potential, but they are very different on and off the field. The G-Day Game should provide some examples of how different they are, though, it’s important to note Beck has been on campus a year, and Vandagriff is still very new to the system.