On the Beat: 5 Georgia players that must step up in spring drills

Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter strip-sacks Kentucky quarterback Will Levis on a play that ultimately
Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

ATHENS — A team’s identity is shaped by its players, and Georgia football is no different even after winning the CFP Championship Game last season.

The Bulldogs will start the season favored to repeat as SEC East Division champions and quite likely in each regular-season game.

But there are a lot of shoes to fill between now and the Sept. 3 opening game against former UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and the Oregon Ducks.

Here are five players Georgia needs to step up this spinrg to help the Bulldogs forge a strong identity heading into summer workouts:

1. Jalen Carter

Carter is the most dynamic player returning to the team, but he has yet to step into a leadership position and there have been questions about his maturity.

Coach Kirby Smart has yet to send Carter out to talk with media, which has been a red flag of sorts in past instances.

If Carter can become the hardest worker on defense, in addition to the most dynamic, it will increase the chances for the 2022 team to win the program’s first SEC Championship since 2017.

2. Jamon Dumas-Johnson

Affectionally known to teammates as “Pops,” Dumas-Johnson can bring the pain from the inside linebacker position.

Dumas-Johnson’s 6-foot-1, 235-pound measurements are deceptive in the sense he hits like a 250-pounder

Playing in 14 of 15 games last season, the former St. Frances Academy (Baltimore) produce made the most of his limited reps with 22 tackles and 2 sacks.

3. Kamari Lassiter

Coach Kirby Smart liked what he saw from Lassiter when the American Christian Academy (Tuscaloosa) product first hit the field last fall, and he ended up playing in all 15 games on special teams and as a backup DB.

Georgia desperately needs a corner to step up opposite Kelee Ringo this season with Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick moving on.

It’s still possible UGA adds a transfer at cornerback after spring drills, and the portal figures to heat up again after the April 16 G-Day Game.

4. Kenny McIntosh

McIntosh has shown what he can do as a runner and receiver, and now he’ll need to apply himself as a team leader.

McIntosh figures to split the majority of the work with Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards, both of who have shown the same sort of NFL upside.

The 2022 Georgia football team looks to be run-oriented with a dominant offensive line, and that will mean McIntosh, Milton and Edwards will need a tremendous offseason to be in peak condition to avoid injuries.

5. A.D. Mitchell

Mitchell is only a sophomore, but already, he’s been tabbed as the most dangerous wideout on the team and among the best in the SEC.

All the talk about Mitchell being a fast-twitch and instinctual receiver proved true last season, and now he’ll have to find success with added attention from defenses.

Mitchell’s work ethic has brought him this far, but like departing receiver George Pickens, Mitchell will need to ratchet things up another level now that he’s a marked man.

On the Beat

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